This time on KUAR's Week-In-Review Podcast:

  • The 45th President of the United States is sworn into office. We’ll talk with central Arkansas's Congressman about want he wants to see President Trump's first days.
  • It’s week two of the 91st Arkansas General Assembly. We'll have an update on several bills involving tax cuts, food stamp restrictions, ethics bills, the lottery, and abortion restrictions.
  • And finally the Little Rock School District announces plans to close several schools, getting outrage from many parents.

Arkansas' unemployment rate has dipped back below 4 percent in the final month of 2016.

The Arkansas Department of Workforce Services said Friday that the state's unemployment rate in December was 3.9 percent, down one-tenth of a percentage point from November's numbers. The state's jobless rate has hovered around 4 percent for the past six months after starting 2016 at 4.4 percent.

The national unemployment rate was 4.7 percent in December.

Nearly 4,400 people have RSVP’d for a Women’s March to the Arkansas State Capitol, according to an organizer. The event is scheduled for Saturday morning. It is one of nearly 600 similar demonstrations set to occur across the country, mirroring a Washington, D.C. march to protest of the new presidential administration of Donald J. Trump.

An aerial view of a wildfire near Charleston, Arkansas from November, 2017.
Arkansas Forestry Commission

Arkansas forestry officials say 2016 was a relatively quiet year for wildfires, but the fires still burned nearly 30 square miles in the state.

The Arkansas Forestry Commission says there was a total of 1,248 wildfires last year, and the busiest months were February, March and November. Officials say the top two causes of wildfires in the state were fires unintentionally started by outdoor burning and arson.

Arkansas lawmakers have given their final approval to legislation delaying the launch of the state's voter-approved medical marijuana program.

The House on Thursday voted 91-0 for an amendment to the measure giving agencies until early May rather than March to finalize rules for the program. The Senate earlier Thursday approved the delay by a 27-0 vote.

The measure also delays the deadline for the state to begin accepting dispensary applications from June 1 to July 1. Supporters said the extra time is needed for the public to have input on the new rules.

Sen. Jimmy Hickey
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

If the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery ends up earning more than the current $100 million it takes to run the program annually, how will that money be spent? That’s a key concern for state Sen. Jimmy Hickey, a Republican from Texarkana.

On Thursday he gave an overview of proposed legislation to the House Education Committee that he says would provide a structure for how additional revenue is spent.

Rep. Warwick Sabin
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

An Arkansas House panel on Thursday approved two separate measures that would provide tax relief to low-income citizens.

One, a $50 million dollar cut known as the “Tax Reform and Relief Act of 2017,” would cut the marginal income tax rate for roughly 657,000 Arkansans who make less than $21,000 a year. The bill, adopted from Gov. Asa Hutchinson's plan, would also create a task force to study the possibility of further tax legislation in the 2019 session. The bill unanimously passed out of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee.

Rep. Mathew Pitsch, the bill’s lead House sponsor, tried to reassure lawmakers concerned about the impact of a decline in state revenue if the cuts were to pass. Republican Rep. Dan Douglas questioned Pitsch about what kinds of funding the state may need to reduce.

Arkansas state capitol building.
Chris Hickey / KUAR News

An Arkansas legislative committee has voted to outlaw an abortion procedure that opponents call "savage" and "barbaric" while others deem it the safest way to end a pregnancy in the second trimester.

The proposal by a legislator who is president of Arkansas Right to Life would ban dilation and evacuation, also known as a D&E abortion. The measure passed the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee on a voice vote Thursday.

Arkansas would be the third state to ban the procedure, after Mississippi and West Virginia. Similar prohibitions are on hold amid court challenges in other states.

A Little Rock man who prosecutors say ran a brothel out of his home has been sentenced to nearly two years in prison for lying to the Social Security Administration about his ability to work.

Online court documents show 61-year-old Gary Lemond Shorter was sentenced Thursday to 21 months in prison. Shorter pleaded guilty in April to making a false statement to the Social Security Administration in exchange for a second, identical count being dismissed.

arkansashouse.org

A bill to establish an official state dinosaur advanced out of a House committee Wednesday Democratic State Rep. Greg Leding of Fayetteville is the measure’s sponsor. The resolution, HCR1003, would make Arkansaurus Fridayi the official dinosaur of Arkansas.

Click here for more information on the bill and the dinosaur.

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Week In Review Podcast

Every Friday, journalists from the KUAR news team review the week's news. Listen here on our website or in the NPR One app.