Arkansas Politics

Andy Davis
Talk Business & Politics

A permanent half-cent sales tax for roads. An increase in the motor fuel tax. Registration fees, revenue transfers, and reforming the procurement process.

These are all ideas being floated to craft a highway funding plan in the Arkansas Legislature, according to Rep. Andy Davis, R-Little Rock, who is one of several lawmakers in the middle of discussions.

Davis appeared on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics to discuss a highway plan and Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s state government reorganization effort.

State Sen. Jason Rapert (file photo).
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

An Arkansas lawmaker has filed legislation that would ban abortion in the state if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its landmark 1973 decision that legalized the procedure across the nation.

Republican Sen. Jason Rapert's bill filed Tuesday would trigger the ban if the Roe v. Wade decision is overturned or the U.S. Constitution is amended to allow states to prohibit abortions. The Guttmacher Institute says four other states have similar trigger laws in effect.

Freshmen Democratic Arkansas state Representatives Megan Godfrey of Springdale and Jay Richardson of Fort Smith give the party's response to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's State of the State address Tuesday.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Democrats in the Arkansas Legislature responded to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s State of the State address Tuesday by detailing their priorities for the session that is just getting underway. In particular, they voiced concerns about the impact the governor’s proposed tax cut plan would have on the state budget.

Two freshmen representatives, Megan Godfrey of Springdale and Jay Richardson of Fort Smith, read a prepared statement saying that allocating money for highways and expanding pre-kindergarten education would benefit more Arkansans than expanding tax cuts .

Arkansas Legislature
Sarah Kellogg / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s plans for Arkansas this year include more money for teacher pay, an increase in funding for the Department of Agriculture and the third phase of a tax cut plan. Hutchinson outlined parts of his proposed state budget and goals during his State of the State address Tuesday morning.

Speaking after taking his inaugural oath in the Arkansas House of Representatives, Hutchinson outlined what his idea for Arkansas’s future looks like.

Arkansas Legislature
Sarah Kellogg / KUAR News

The 92nd General Assembly of Arkansas began Monday afternoon. Thousands of bills are expected to be considered in the coming months with proposals to cut individual income taxes and a reorganization of state government among the top issues.

Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Dan Kemp first gave the oath of office to the 100 members of the House of Representatives. He then went to the Senate to give the oath to its 35 members.

SNAP
Department of Human Services

As the partial federal government shutdown continues, ripple effects are being felt by more than federal employees. Monday the Arkansas Department of Human Services announced that qualified Arkansans will receive their Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits earlier than usual.

The money that allows low-income participants to purchase food is released monthly, and February's allotment will be distributed on January 17, according to DHS spokeswoman Marci Manley.

Arkansas Senate President Pro Tem Jim Hendren (R-Gravette) and House Speaker Matthew Shepherd (R-El Dorado) speak on their legislative priorities during a press event Friday
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

While Arkansas lawmakers have already filed bills on gun registration, automatic voter registration and other topics, one of the main issues leadership wants to fix during the 2019 session that begins Monday is ethics reform.

arkleg.state.ar.us

A former Arkansas lawmaker has been charged with conspiracy in an alleged bribery scheme with an ex-judge who admitted to lowering a jury's judgment in a negligence lawsuit in exchange for campaign contributions.

A federal indictment unsealed Friday shows that former state Sen. Gilbert Baker was also charged with bribery and wire fraud in connection to the scheme involving former Judge Michael Maggio.

Betsy Ward, president and CEO of USA Rice Federation, speaking at the Arkansas Rice Annual Meeting Tuesday in Stuttgart.
Arkansas Farm Bureau

The Arkansas Rice Annual Meeting took place Tuesday in Stuttgart. It’s a key event for industry and government leaders to discuss the state of agriculture.

Organizers say about 400 people attended the meeting, included several top state officials, state senators and state representatives.

Federal Government Shutdown Central High National Park Service
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Two major tourist attractions in Little Rock are at least partly closed becuase of the partial shutdown of the federal government.

The Clinton Presidential Center said Saturday that temporary and permanent exhibits at the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum will be closed. A statement on the library and museum's website says National Archives facilities are closed due to the shutdown and websites are not being monitored or updated.

The center is located in Little Rock and is a top tourist attraction for Arkansas' capital city.

Asa Hutchinson
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Gov. Asa Hutchinson will celebrate his election to a second term with two days of inaugural events on January 14-15, 2019.

Hutchinson was re-elected to a second term as governor in November 2018 with 65% of the vote.

The two-day inaugural celebration will center around the theme “Together for Success” and will include free and paid events and activities. Dave and Sarah Hutchinson Wengel, Hutchinson’s daughter and son-in-law, are co-chairs of the 2019 Inaugural Committee.

French Hill
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

An impasse remains between President Trump and congressional Democrats that could lead to a partial government shutdown next Friday. Arkansas’s 2nd district U.S. Rep. Republican French Hill, a Republican of Little Rock, says he’s disappointed that no resolution seems to be in sight and is considering the impact a shutdown would have in Arkansas.

You can hear his interview with KUAR above.

U.S. Senator John Boozman in the Republican Party of Arkansas headquarters in 2016 during a campaign interview.
KUAR News

UPDATE: By an 87-13 vote, the U.S. Senate approved the new farm bill on Tuesday, with Arkansas's two Republican senators split on the measure. Sen. John Boozman supported the bill, while Sen. Tom Cotton was among 12 members of his party voting against it.

The bill now advances to the House. The legislation allocates billions of dollars in sibsidies to farmers and guides national policies for the next five years.

UAMS
UAMS.edu

Arkansas legislators will be meeting next week as part of an ongoing inquiry into a partnership between the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Baptist Health Medical Center-Conway. Arkansas Business delves into the conflict in this week’s issue:

Dicamba damage
University of Arkansas

An Arkansas panel has given initial approval to allowing restricted use of an herbicide that was banned following complaints that it drifted onto crops and caused damage.

The Arkansas Plant Board on Thursday approved new restrictions for the use of dicamba. The new restrictions prohibit dicamba's in-crop use from May 21 to Oct. 31. The rule includes a one-mile buffer zone around research stations, organic crops, specialty crops, non-tolerant dicamba crops and other sensitive crops for applications from April 16 to May 20.

The Delta Queen
www.save-the-delta-queen.org

After a decade in dock, the historic 1920s-era Delta Queen riverboat will cruise again.

President Donald Trump signed legislation on Tuesday authorizing the 285-foot-long (87-meter-long) riverboat immortalized in poems and songs to cruise again along the Mississippi and several other rivers.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

A banking executive and former highway commissioner has become the first African-American elected to lead Arkansas' capital, six decades after it was the center of a school desegregation crisis.

Frank Scott defeated Baker Kurrus in Tuesday's runoff for Little Rock mayor. The 35-year-old Scott is a former adviser to former Gov. Mike Beebe and served on the state's Highway Commission.

The 64-year-old Kurrus, who is white, is an attorney and businessman.

Delta Queen
www.deltaqueen.com

The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Tuesday on legislation that would allow a steamboat built in the 1920s to resume taking passengers up and down the Mississippi River and tributaries like the Arkansas River.

A bill regarding the Delta Queen has already passed in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 94-to-6.

Lee Powell, executive director of the Delta Grassroots Caucus, has been advocating for the legislation. He says the steamboat resuming operations would create 150 jobs and spur tourism. But there would also be broader benefits, he said.

Betty Bumpers
Jason Masters

Betty Bumpers, a former Arkansas first lady who advocated for childhood immunizations nationwide and pushed for limiting nuclear arms proliferation, has died. She was 93.

Bumpers, long married to former Arkansas governor and four-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers, died Friday at her home in Little Rock following a recent fall and complications with dementia, according to her daughter, Brooke Bumpers.

The Arkansas House of Representatives chamber.
arkansashouse.org

Now that bill filing for the 92nd General Assembly of the Arkansas State Legislature has opened, both new and experienced advocacy groups have begun looking for sponsors for legislation they hope will become state law.

Zachary Crow, the head of Decarcerate, an organization dedicated to reducing the prison population in Arkansas, said his group is looking forward to being more active in this session.

Robinson Center
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A new permanent exhibit tells the history of Little Rock’s Robinson Center. The auditorium opened in 1939 and has hosted important events and performances over the decades. Two years ago it reopened after a $70 million renovation and expansion.

On Friday a curtain was dropped along a wall on the second floor unveiling the 50-foot long display, with a crowd responding with applause. At the start of the timeline is a nearly 10-foot tall photo of former Arkansas Governor and U.S. Senator Joe T. Robinson.

French Hill Clarke Tucker
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The race for Arkansas’s 2nd Congressional District of the U.S. House of Representatives proved to be among the most competitive in the state. Incumbent Republican French Hill didn’t make a victory speech until almost 11 p.m. Tuesday night after it became clear he had won the election.

Final election results from the Secretary of State's office:

Republican French Hill: 131,760 (52.1 %)
Democrat Clarke Tucker: 115,749 (45.8 %) 
Libertarian Joe Ryne Swafford: 5,176 (2.0 %)

Governor Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

During an election night where many governors’ races across the country were considered toss-ups, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson enjoyed a comfortable lead going into Tuesday's election. He easily won re-election against Democratic opponent Jared Henderson.

Hutchinson’s victory was declared early in the evening, winning 65 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results from the Arkansas Secretary of State.

In an interview with KUAR News, Hutchinson outlined a few policies he will be focusing on going forward.

Ariel Martini / Flickr.com

If the casino ballot initiative passes in Arkansas on Tuesday, Delaware North, the parent company of Southland Gaming and Racing, will attempt to build a hotel and convention center in West Memphis, Delaware North Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs Jack McNeill told Talk Business & Politics. It would cost at least $200 million to build and would likely be located on the Southland property, he said.

Delta Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Republican and Democratic candidates for Congress and Governor offered differing views on President Trump’s tariffs, immigration and other issues during appearances Thursday before the Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus.

The event brought rural advocates from across the region to the Clinton Library in Little Rock. Participating were Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill and his opponent, state Rep. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock; Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford and his Democratic opponent, Chintan Desai; and Gov. Asa Hutchinson and his Democratic opponent, Jared Henderson.

Senator Tom Cotton
Talk Business & Politics

In the wake of a coordinated bomb scare targeting two former Presidents, a former Vice-president, Democratic officials and critics of President Trump, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., says Americans should appeal to their better angels and he noted that heated political rhetoric is coming from all sides.

election vote
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The race for the Arkansas Supreme Court looks largely undecided two weeks before Election Day. And, an amendment proposal to expand casinos in Arkansas has been improving its odds for passage.

A new Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll of 528 likely statewide voters, conducted on Oct. 18-19, 2018, asked:

Q: If the non-partisan race for State Supreme Court Associate Justice were being held today, and the candidates were State Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson and David Sterling, for whom would you vote?

Governor Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

President Donald Trump has seen an upsurge in his job approval rating in Arkansas and that’s boosting the Republican brand in political races headed into the Nov. 6th general election.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson leads his Democratic challenger, Jared Henderson, and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has a sizable lead on her Democratic opponent, Mike Lee, according to a new poll from Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College.

The latest survey asked 528 likely statewide voters on Oct. 18-19, 2018:

French Hill Clarke Tucker
Talk Business & Politics

A poll taken right before a controversial radio ad produced a skirmish in the Second Congressional District race shows incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, with a slightly growing lead over his Democratic challenger, State Rep. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock.

In early September, Hill had a nine point lead over Tucker in a Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College survey. In a new poll conducted Oct. 17-18, Hill’s lead is a 12-point advantage.

Arkansas House
www.arkleg.state.ar.us

The Arkansas Supreme Court has ordered election officials to not count votes cast for a ballot measure that would have imposed the strictest term limits in the country on state legislators.

Justices on Friday disqualified the proposed initiative, ruling that thousands of signatures submitted by supporters were invalid and should not have been counted. The court, however, did not rule on part of the lawsuit challenging the wording of the proposed amendment.

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