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.

Public school districts in Arkansas regularly buy and sell property, pending approval of local education boards, or 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.

Chris Hickey / KUAR News

An Arkansas House Committee has advanced a revised version of a proposed constitutional amendment to limit awards in injury lawsuits and to change state court rulemaking authority. On Thursday, the Arkansas House Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs voted 14 to 3 to send the proposal to the full chamber.

Voter ID Vote photo ID
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Arkansas House has passed a resolution that, if approved by voters, would require residents to present photographic identification in order to vote.

A proposed constitutional amendment by Republican Rep. Robin Lundstrum would also require the state to issue IDs at no charge to eligible voters if they don't already have one.

Lundstrum says the measure approved by the House on Thursday will help ensure voter security at the ballot.

The Arkansas Supreme Court has struck down a local law that protected people in the city of Fayetteville from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Arkansas is one of a handful of states where it is illegal for local governments to pass anti-discrimination laws that cover classes of people not already protected under state law.

On Wednesday, the Trump administration made big news regarding the rights of transgender students. But what exactly changed?

School Voucher Bill Would Bypass Accreditation Requirement

Feb 23, 2017

Under a bill that cleared the Senate Education Committee Tuesday on a voice vote, all private schools would be given public funds to take special needs kids if parents so choose, even if they haven’t achieved what’s called “accreditation.”

The Arkansas Department of Education says it can take four years to get that status. State Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D- Little Rock) says accreditation is evidence that the schools are doing a good job.

“I don’t think you do it by allowing kids to be put some place for four years that’s not accredited and may never be accredited.”

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