Local & Regional News

Arkansas local and regional news

Arkansas Department of Workforce Services / Arkansas Department of Workforce Services

According to the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, unemployment in the state dropped to 3.8 percent in January, which is a record low. The national unemployment rate was 4.8 percent.

The report released Monday reflects data on jobs and joblessness from January 2016 to January 2017. The sector showing the most growth in Arkansas over the year was "professional-scientific-technical services," which added 2,400 jobs.

The same week that federal Republicans unveiled a proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the ARKids First program which they say sent the state’s uninsured rates for children plummeting from 25 percent to less than five percent.

ARKids First offers a Medicaid option for kids from low-income families as well as a second option for kids from moderate-income families.  Two parents with two kids on a household income of less than $51,273 would be eligible for ARKids B, while a single parent with one child and an income of less than $22,748 would be eligible for the Medicaid option.  The program is not often referred to as Medicaid but simply as ARKids First.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Dirk DeTurck sits in a rocker on the front porch of his rural Conway home, nervously smoking a cigarette. The retired native New Yorker and U.S. military veteran says his neighborhood, filled with petroleum field workers, is not where he intended to settle when he moved to Arkansas. He gazes north towards the Ozark foothills. In 2004 that's where he built his 5,000 square-foot dream homestead on six acres perched atop a mountain ridge in between the towns of Guy and Greenbrier in Faulkner County.

Vice President Pence has yet to begin a promised investigation into allegations by President Trump that millions of people voted illegally in November. But that hasn't stopped state lawmakers from taking action they say would limit voter fraud, even though the president's claims have been widely discredited.

Legislation to tighten voter ID and other requirements has already been introduced in about half the states this year. And in statehouse after statehouse, the debate has had a familiar ring.

California wine
www.california-wine-trails.com

After more than a month of fierce debate that brought dozens of liquor store owners across the state to Little Rock, the Arkansas Senate on Wednesday quietly approved a controversial measure that will allow Wal-Mart and other grocery chains to sell a wider selection of wines.

Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, stood out as the lone voice to speak against Senate Bill 284 on the floor. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, was passed over on the Senate calendar for several days as supporters and opponents camped around the Senate chamber to lobby votes.

education schools
arkansas.gov

Arkansas House of Representatives by the closest of margins defeated a bill that would have allowed public charter schools “right of access” to unused or underutilized public school buildings. The bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Alan Clark of Lonsdale, failed in the House on a 50-32 vote.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed into law a bill that sets up three centers aimed at reducing the incarceration rate of those with mental illness.

The governor has earmarked $5 million for three regional Mental Health Crisis Stabilization Centers, saying they will benefit public safety. If law enforcement officers suspect someone they encounter is in need of mental health treatment, the staff at the centers can offer evaluations and treatment.

Hutchinson signed the bill Wednesday. He had listed it among his priorities for the 2017 legislative session.

Voter ID Vote photo ID
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas lawmakers are putting a voter ID measure on the ballot next year as they try to reinstate a requirement that was struck down by the state Supreme Court more than two years ago.

The Senate on Tuesday approved by a 24-8 vote a plan to put the proposed constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot. The proposed amendment says the Legislature shall approve a law requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot.

Courtney Pledger AETN
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday named Courtney Pledger the new executive director for the Arkansas Educational Television Network. She replaces Allen Weatherly who died last November after leading the network since 2001.

The network, which airs PBS and locally produced programming on six broadcast stations around Arkansas, is operated by an agency of the state government.

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