Local & Regional News

Arkansas local and regional news

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is expected to sign a bill that would halt Arkansas' plan to set up its own insurance exchange under the federal health law until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a lawsuit about subsidies.

House members voted 74-11 Wednesday to advance the bill. A Hutchinson spokesman previously said the governor would sign it.

The measure was approved in the Senate last week on the same day the nation's highest court heard arguments in a lawsuit centering on the federal subsidies granted by the overhaul.

Legislation placing new limits on the administration of the abortion pill is advancing to the Arkansas Senate for a final vote.

The Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee voted 5-2 Wednesday for a House-backed bill that would require providers of abortion pills to follow all guidelines set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

An Arkansas man has pleaded guilty in a series of attacks on a power grid in the central part of the state.

U.S. Attorney Christopher Thayer said Tuesday that 38-year-old Jason Woodring of Jacksonville pleaded guilty to the attacks between August and October 2013.

Prosecutors agreed that Woodring should receive a 15-year sentence in federal prison under the plea deal. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 18.

The Arkansas Senate has given final approval to legislation barring some sex offenders from living near churches.

The Senate voted 27-7 on Tuesday to prohibit level 4 sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet or a church or place of worship. Level 4 sex offenders are the highest category and are considered sexually violent offenders.

The legislation, which now heads to the governor's desk, would not apply to sex offenders living on property they owned prior to the measure taking effect.

Tom Cotton
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton is barely into his third month in office, but a lawmaker in his home state of Arkansas wants to let the freshman Republican run for re-election and the White House in 2020.

A bill advanced by a state Senate committee Tuesday would allow congressional and U.S. Senate candidates in Arkansas also appear on the ballot as presidential or vice presidential candidates. The majority-GOP Senate could consider the bill Wednesday.

The soon-to-be-closed ConAgra Foods plant in Batesville is to be purchased by Ozark Mountain Poultry.

ConAgra announced Friday that it will close the plant in July, leaving 250 employees out of work. ConAgra spokesman Dan Hare said the chicken-making operations at the plant will be moved to improve efficiency and competitiveness.

MSNBC

The American people should be committed to stopping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said Tuesday morning.

Cotton and 46 other Republicans sent a letter Monday to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran about negotiations between the United States and Iran on nuclear weapons.

The letter was not signed by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who sponsored a bill in the past to increase sanctions on Iran. That bill was approved and signed into law.

A legislator is proposing expanding Arkansas' anti-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity after a new law said local ordinances couldn't go beyond what's spelled out in state law.

Democratic Rep. Greg Leding of Fayetteville on Monday proposed adding the protections to state law addressing discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.

Concealed firearms would be allowed into certain polling places under a bill endorsed by the Arkansas House.

Lawmakers voted 73-17 Monday to advance the proposal to the Senate. It would allow people with concealed carry licenses to bring their guns on election day into places where firearms are otherwise allowed, such as certain churches or stores. Guns would still be barred from polling places at courthouses or schools.

The Arkansas Senate has voted to cut the lottery-funded scholarships incoming freshmen will receive and base its eligibility solely on standardized testing, days after the same proposal narrowly failed before the chamber.

The bill approved on a 22-12 vote Monday lowers the scholarship amount incoming freshmen receive from $2,000 to $1,000 and increases the amount sophomores receive from $3,000 to $4,000. The amounts received in the following years - $4,000 for juniors and $5,000 for seniors - would remain the same.

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