It's a chilly February day as we set out from the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River. We're in a 24-foot cypress canoe, paddling south, with John Ruskey guiding in the stern.

The first stretch of journey, just south of Helena, Ark., is far from wild. We paddle past lots of industry lining the riverbanks: Along the shore, we see grain being pumped from a giant grain elevator into barges on the river. We pass coal and petrochemical docks, too, supplying or offloading the barges that ply this river up to Minnesota, and down to the Gulf of Mexico.

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.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has set execution dates for eight death row inmates, even though the state lacks one of three drugs needed to put the men to death.

The Republican released a statement Monday saying he signed a proclamation scheduling executions for the eight inmates, though no dates were released.

The move comes days after the state's attorney general told the governor the men had exhausted their appeals and there were no more legal obstacles to their executions.

File photo. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R).
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has been elected vice chairwoman of the Republican Attorneys General Association.

The group announced Monday that Rutledge was elected to serve in the post through the 2017 election cycle. The position opened after West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey was named the association's chairman to replace former Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. Strange was appointed to fill U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' vacancy in the Senate.

Chris Hickey / KUAR News

A bill requiring public universities to allow faculty, staff and students 25 years or older to carry concealed firearms on campuses may be coming up for a vote Monday afternoon in the Arkansas Senate. HB1249 is on the calendar after being amended in recent weeks to include provisions requiring additional training and extending concealed carry privileges to some students.

Arkansas Times

Chris Hickey and Karen Tricot Steward take a deep-dive into some of the top stories in Arkansas this week, including angry constituents at town hall meetings and a Supreme Court decision to strike down a local anti-discrimination law.

Plus: Why KUAR interim general manager Nathan Vandiver, once champion of a beard-growing contest, has reservations about entering again. 

arkansashouse.org

A late attempt to significantly alter a resolution limiting attorneys fees and injury lawsuit awards failed to get approval from the Arkansas House of Representatives Friday. 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has named a new leader for the Arkansas Department of Veteran Affairs.

The governor said Friday that he's appointed retired U.S. Army Col. Nathaniel Todd to serve as the agency's director. Todd will replace former director Matt Snead, who is resigning.

Todd now serves as chief financial officer of the Central Arkansas Veterans Health Care System. He's previously worked as director of health financial policy for the U.S. Army Surgeon General and as chief financial officer for the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

The bad-boy of Enrico Fermi High School is less than welcome when he unexpectedly returns to school as a revenant zombie in Arkansas State University Theater’s production of Zombie Prom, which opens on Friday in the Drama Theatre at the Fowler Center.  After all, Rule Number 7, Subsection 9 of the Handbook of Student Life clearly states “no zombies,” according to the school’s principal, Miss Strict.

Still, Zombie Jonny, who died three weeks earlier when he flung himself into the cooling tower of the Francis Gary Powers nuclear plant in a fit of teenage heartbreak, is determined to graduate and win back the heart of good-girl Toffee and take her to the prom.

“I have to go back behind stage and I have a whole amazing crew that helps me get the makeup on and prepare for that, and it all has to happen in less than 10 minutes, so it’s going to be awesome to see it on stage,” said theater major Zac Passmore, who plays Jonny.  He was attracted to the role of the only actual zombie in the story because of its lead vocals — Zombie Prom is, of course, a musical — and the challenges of playing a larger-than-life character authentically.

Public school districts in Arkansas regularly buy and sell property, pending approval of local education boards, of course. But today, the Arkansas Senate approved a bill that would take some of that control away.

Senate Bill 308 would allow charter schools the right to purchase or lease unused public school buildings, a seemingly small concession that nonetheless raises big questions about local versus state control of schools and inspired a heated back and forth between senators this week.

Sen. Alan Clark (R-Lonsdale) said Tuesday that some public school districts let buildings sit empty, a misfortune he equated to murdering a building.

“We have had schools literally rot to the ground rather than let someone use them for educational purposes. That should never happen.”

Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D-Little Rock) had a lot of questions for Clark. She told a Senate Education Committee Tuesday that the bill is heavy handed, and she said it takes local control from public districts.

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