State lawmakers took a step toward enhanced concealed carry on college campuses Friday in spite of some pushback from firearm trainers who don’t want to be required to teach the new class for compensation they say is too low.

 

State Rep. Bob Ballinger (R-Hindsville) was among the majority of lawmakers who voted to approve the plan anyway.

“You know, when this is done, there will be less gun-free zones which are soft targets in Arkansas. There will be more people, carrying in more places, being able to protect themselves and others in more places when this rule is implemented. That’s called liberty,” he said at Friday’s legislative council meeting.

A robot scanning a Walmart store shelf.
Walmart

Despite a slight drop in Arkansas sales tax revenue between the second and third quarters of fiscal year 2017, the holiday shopping season is expected to give the state’s economy a temporary boost.

Chief Economist Michael Pakko with the Arkansas Economic Development Institute at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock said a decrease in taxable sales between the two quarters still represents a picture of overall growth.

Tiny Ips beetles, about the size of a grain of rice, are posing a risk to pine forests in southwest Arkansas. The state Department of Agriculture is advising landowners to survey property, contact foresters, and consider clear cutting infested trees. Forest Health Specialist Chandler Barton, with the state Forestry Commission, says extreme drought levels are weakening trees and making them susceptible to insects and disease.

Arkansas Center for Health Improvement President Joe Thompson (left) and Arkansas Insurance Department Commissioner Allen Kerr exchanging notes after speaking to a legislative committee.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Friday is the last day of open enrollment for signing up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s healthcare exchanges, or marketplaces

State officials are predicting more Arkansans to enroll this year than the last -despite efforts by the Trump administration to limit the enrollment period and to curtail outreach and advertisement about its existence.

The exchange has been open since November 1st and closes December 15th. Enrollees can choose between private insurance plans and determine eligibility for federal subsidies, made possible by the ACA.

Varner Arkansas Department of Correction Cummins Prison
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Five inmates have been charged in unrelated attacks the same afternoon that injured guards at two Arkansas prisons and number among a string of violent disturbances in the state's correctional facilities this year.

Four inmates have each been charged with two counts of battery in a Sept. 28 attack on two guards at the Varner Unit.

Another prisoner has been charged with one count of battery in another attack that occurred the same day at the Maximum Security Unit in Tucker.

House Chamber of Arkansas General Assembly
wikipedia.org

Seven Republicans and two Democrats with little or no political experience have filed paperwork to run for statewide office.

Three special elections are upcoming for House and Senate seats vacated after the passing of one lawmaker, and two others getting new posts in President Donald Trump’s administration.

As the Salvation Army holds its largest fundraiser of the year, known as the Red Kettle Campaign, a spokeswoman for the Salvation Army of Central Arkansas says the holiday bell-ringing tradition remains effective, despite many consumers carrying less cash.

Michelle Scroggins, director of community relations, says they haven't been seeing a negative impact on donations locally. In other parts of the country, donations to red kettle campaigns have declined.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a pioneering gospel singer and guitar player from Arkansas, will be among the 2018 inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She was born in the Woodruff County town of Cotton Plant in 1915 and achieved fame in the 1930s.  Tharpe was among six acts announced Wednesday for next year's induction ceremony and will be honored in the category Early Influences. 

Stephen Koch, host of the weekly feature Arkansongs, says given her influence, it’s an honor long overdue. He spoke with KUAR during All Things Considered.

Dicamba damage
University of Arkansas

Arkansas lawmakers have recommended state regulators reconsider their plan to ban a controversial herbicide that's been blamed for widespread damage by farmers who say it's drifted onto their crops.

A subcommittee of the Legislative Council on Tuesday voted to delay considering rules proposed by the state Plant Board to prohibit the use of dicamba from April 16 through Oct. 31 next year. The subcommittee's recommendation on Friday goes before the full council, which is the Legislature's primary governing body when lawmakers aren't in session.

Wendy Reaves (seated) speaks to members of the Arkansas Tobacco Settlement Commission with her daughter Regan and Gov. Asa Hutchinson looking on.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson says diverting money from Arkansas’s tobacco settlement to help people with developmental disabilities has cut the number of families on a waiting list by 500.

Speaking at the quarterly meeting of the state’s Tobacco Settlement Commission Tuesday, Hutchinson praised commissioners for supporting a proposal he made in September 2016.

"You embraced that idea, which I wanted to thank you for," he said.

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