Arkansas Politics

Bill Clinton
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Arkansas Democratic Party has renamed its annual fundraising dinner to honor former President Bill Clinton after the names of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson were stripped from the event.

The party on Wednesday announced that the annual event formerly known as the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner would now be named after the 42nd president and former Arkansas governor.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is scheduled to headline the newly named Clinton Dinner on July 22 in Little Rock.

Trump’s Proposed Cuts To Agriculture Could Have Dramatic Impact On Arkansas

May 24, 2017
rice fields
Mickey Liaw / Flickr.com

President Donald Trump’s proposed $4.1 trillion budget includes deep cuts to the United States Department of Agriculture, and Arkansas farmers could feel the squeeze.

Trump’s budget would cut USDA discretionary spending by $4.7 billion to $17.9 billion in 2018, a 21% drop from this year, according to figures released. Farm crop insurance, research, international food aid programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program, and others could be slashed if his budget is approved.

Little Rock Nine 9
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, joined Tueday (May 23) with civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia and U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont to introduce legislation expanding boundaries of the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site.

This expansion would mean seven homes located near Little Rock Central High School would be included in the school’s national historic site designation and preserved by the National Park Service. The legislation is being introduced ahead of the city’s celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Little Rock Nine in September.

The trial of a former Arkansas state senator and two others on corruption charges is being delayed.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that a federal judge in Fayetteville on Tuesday postponed the trial of Republican former Sen. Jon Woods, Ecclesia College President Oren Paris III and consultant Randell Shelton Jr. until Dec. 4. Prosecutors say the investigation continues and more indictments are expected.

The judge also rejected Paris' request that he be tried separately in the case.

City of Monticello / City of Monticello

In the aftermath of the resignation of Monticello’s mayor, two of the city’s former mayors are in a special runoff election to see which of them will complete the remaining 18 months of the term.

In January, Zack Tucker resigned as mayor and pleaded guilty to abuse of office after misusing city funds. David Anderson, a Democrat, and Joe Rogers, an Independent, and are both vying to fill the position and become the city’s 8th mayor since 2014.

Harold Coggins, the editor of the Advance Monticellonian newspaper, covers local politics.

A Fayetteville pastor says he plans to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep Steve Womack, R-Rogers in Arkansas’s 3rd Congressional District.

Robb Ryerse, founder and co-pastor of Vintage Fellowship Church in Fayetteville, has declared his candidacy for the Congressional seat with the backing of the progressive group Brand New Congress.

Governor Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson made it official Tuesday, announcing that he is seeking a second term in office.

"I wanted to make clear what everybody suspected, I hope, and that is that I’m running for reelection. I’m honored to serve the people of our state. We’ve accomplished a lot," Hutchinson said in an interview with KUAR. "I’ve concentrated on economic development, job creation, had some success there, and want to continue to be able to serve."

Senator John Boozman
Talk Business & Politics

Arkansas’s senior senator applauded former FBI Director James Comey’s service, but understands he was a lightning rod for the criticism that led to his dismissal. That said, Sen. John Boozman, R-Arkansas, wants a more complete explanation.

Sen. Boozman appeared on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics. Saying he’s a “transparency guy,” Boozman said he wants a full explanation of Comey’s firing “the sooner the better.”

Members of Arkansas's congressional delegation, all Republicans, are responding to the unexpected firing of FBI Director James Comey by President Donald Trump. By mid-afternoon Wednesday, three of the six had released written statements while a spokesman for another offered a brief response. But the chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas called the situation a "constitutional crisis" and said the delegation should demand an independent investigation.

Senator Jeremy Hutchinson
arkleg.state.ar.us

State Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson will decide in a couple of weeks if he will run for re-election in what would be a contested race with Rep. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, and said he is seriously considering running for Arkansas attorney general in 2022.

In an interview Wednesday, Hutchinson said he conducted a poll ahead of his race with Hammer, and the results were encouraging. He is talking to family, friends and his law partners as he decides whether or not to run.

Bruce Westerman
Talk Business & Politics

U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman sat down for a conversation with Talk Business & Politics Daily. He discussed the late Fourth District Congressman Jay Dickey, who passed away last week. Westerman also previewed the upcoming week of business in the nation’s capital, noting that healthcare changes are the critical driver for tax reform and infrastructure investments.

The Arkansas House of Representatives chamber.
arkansashouse.org

For the first time in the history of polling from Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College, the Arkansas Legislature received a failing grade from state voters.

The latest survey of 550 Arkansas voters conducted on April 4, 2017, shows that more voters disapproved of the GOP-controlled legislature’s performance by a 12 percentage point margin. Voters were asked:

Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the job the Arkansas Legislature did during its recently completed session?

32% Approve 
44% Disapprove 
24% Don’t Know

Donald Trump speaking at Barton Coliseum in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

In the last two months, President Donald Trump has seen erosion in his job approval numbers from Arkansas voters, while Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s performance seems to have risen over the course of the Arkansas legislative session.

New polling from Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College shows a seven-point decline for Trump and a three-point rise for Hutchinson. In the survey, taken Tuesday, April 4, 2017, 550 Arkansas voters expressed their views.

Protesters in the Street
Chris Hickey / KUAR News

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has vetoed a bill that would have criminalized mass picketing, saying it would restrict free speech.

Hutchinson vetoed the bill on Thursday. It had been passed by both chambers of the Arkansas Legislature.

The measure, sponsored by Republican Sen. Trent Garner, defines mass picketing as people assembling for demonstrations at or near a business, school or private facility.

Arkansas finance officials say a change in corporate tax filing due dates resulted in the state's revenue in March falling just more than $50 million below expectations.

The state Department of Finance and Administration report released Tuesday says net available revenue last month totaled $345 million - $50.2 million below forecast and nearly $69 million below March 2016.

Finance officials say Corporate Returns and Extension payments that were previously due in March were shifted to April under federal and state laws.

Arkansas legislators have wrapped up the bulk of their work for the 2017 regular session. They'll come back in early May to tie up loose ends, and it is expected that they'll also have a special session in May to deal with changes in the state Medicaid program.The Legislature on Monday approved a $5.5 billion budget for the state.

The proposed Revenue Stabilization Act, which sets spending priorities based on expected revenue, was approved in the Senate on a 23-0 vote Monday. The House later approved an identical version of the bill by an 87-5 vote.

Arkansas State Capitol
Chris Hickey / KUAR News

The Arkansas Senate has approved keeping the state's hybrid Medicaid expansion another year after Republican efforts to repeal and replace the federal health law that created the program failed in Congress.

The state Senate voted 27-1 Tuesday for the budget for the state's Medicaid program that includes the hybrid expansion. The bill that now heads to the state House had failed to get the three-fourths majority vote needed on two separate votes Monday.

The floor of the Arkansas Senate.
Arkansas.gov

An effort to continue the hybrid Arkansas Medicaid expansion another year has failed in the state Senate, days after Republican efforts to repeal and replace the federal health law that enabled the expanded coverage faltered in Congress.

The Senate voted 19-1 and later 20-1 in favor of the budget for the state's Medicaid program, including the hybrid expansion, short of the 27 votes needed to advance. More than 300,000 people are on the program, which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for low-income residents.

House Minority Leader Michael John Gray
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas House Minority Leader and State Rep. Michael John Gray, D-Augusta, was elected as the new chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas. He succeeds Vincent Insalaco, who steered the state’s Democrats for two election cycles.

“To the hundreds of Arkansas Democrats who gathered today to elect new leadership, I am humbled and overwhelmed to be the next chair of the Party. To all of the Democrats across our state, I look forward to serving all of you and fighting for a brighter future for all of our fellow Arkansans. To our new officers, congratulations and thank you to all who stepped up to run,” Gray said.

Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he believes Congress will ultimately agree on a replacement for the federal health overhaul despite House Republicans failing to dismantle the law.

The Republican governor said Friday he has no doubt Congress will revisit the issue, but said he'll move forward with a plan for new limits on the hybrid Medicaid expansion Arkansas enacted under the law.

Rick Crawford
Talk Business & Politics

U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford of Arkansas's first district says he has not seen any changes to the American Health Care Act that would alter his opposition and voiced his concerns over government’s role and the Congressional process as reasons for voting no.

“I’m not for it right now and so far I haven’t seen any of the changes that will compel me to change that vote at this point in time,” Crawford told Talk Business & Politics Wednesday. The House could vote on the proposal Thursday.

Tom Cotton
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas says despite proposed changes to the federal healthcare bill introduced by Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, he still cannot back the measure. He also doesn't think it will have the support needed to pass in the Senate.

In a statement Tuesday, the Republican said:

Despite the proposed amendments, I still cannot support the House health-care bill, nor would it pass the Senate. The amendments improve the Medicaid reforms in the original bill, but do little to address the core problem of Obamacare: rising premiums and deductibles, which are making insurance unaffordable for too many Arkansans. The House should continue its work on this bill. It’s more important to finally get health-care reform right than to get it fast.

Millions of Americans will experience major changes to their health coverage if both chambers of Congress pass the Republican health care bill that's currently under consideration in the House of Representatives.

The bill would no longer require that Americans buy health insurance, and it would eliminate the current subsidies that are used to bring down the cost of premiums. NPR's full coverage explains how those subsidies would be replaced with a fixed refundable tax credit and there would be big changes to Medicaid.

Proposal Heads To Governor To End Arkansas's Dual King-Lee Holiday

Mar 17, 2017
arkansashouse.org

The Arkansas House of Representatives voted Friday to give final legislative approval to a bill that ends the official recognition of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. on the same day. The House passed SB519 on a 66-11 vote, with five members voting present and 18 not voting.

U.S. Representative Steve Womack
Talk Business & Politics

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, says he is whipping votes for Speaker Paul Ryan’s healthcare reform proposal and hopes to see it move to the House floor as early as tomorrow.

Appearing on “Connect with Congress” through KATV Channel 7, Womack visited with Talk Business & Politics host Roby Brock on Wednesday morning.

Cotton, Crawford To Hold Town Hall In Heber Springs Saturday

Mar 2, 2017

News release from Sen. Tom Cotton's office:

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and U.S. Congressman Rick Crawford (R-Arkansas) today announced they will hold a town hall meeting Saturday, March 4, from 8:00 AM to 9:00 AM at the Heber Springs Community Center.

The doors to the Heber Springs Community Center will open to the public at 7:30 AM.

No firearms, large bags or backpacks, food, or drink, will be permitted in the Heber Springs Community Center.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) today released the following statement on Attorney General Jeff Sessions:

“Anyone who knows Jeff Sessions as I do can vouch for his integrity and honesty. There’s no scandal in a senator meeting an ambassador, which happens all the time. I’m disappointed the Democrats are distorting the facts to impugn Attorney General Sessions’s character. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s review is proceeding, and we should follow the facts where they lead.”

Steps leading up the Arkansas Senate chamber.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

An Arkansas Senate committee has advanced bills to change the medical marijuana law approved by voters in November by banning smoking medical marijuana and the selling of food or drinks containing the drug, but an effort to halt the start of the program until the drug is legalized nationwide failed.

The Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor on Wednesday endorsed and sent to the full Senate bills banning the smoking, eating or drinking of marijuana, but allowing a patient or designated caregiver to incorporate marijuana into food or drink for medicinal use.

From Sen. John Boozman's Office:

Sen. John Boozman will be holding a telephone town hall on Monday night, Feb. 27. Boozman will be holding the town hall from his Washington D.C. office starting at 7:30 p.m.

During the town hall, Arkansans can phone in with questions for the senator. Anyone who is interested in participating in the phone conversation can sign up on Boozman’s website so they can be dialed into the call.

Cotton Faces Angry Constituents At Town Hall

Feb 23, 2017

Sen. Tom Cotton faced an angry reception at a town hall forum in the Northwest Arkansas Ozarks. The crowd of 2,200 people filled the Springdale High School auditorium to capacity Wednesday to pepper the conservative Arkansas Republican with questions about everything from immigration and health care reform to President Donald Trump's ties to Russia.

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