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An Arkansas House committee has endorsed a proposal to allow a Ten Commandments monument near the state Capitol despite objections it blurs the separation between church and state. The Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs voted for the bill 11-3 on Friday.

It would allow a privately funded monument to the commandments to be built on the Capitol grounds, with its design and location to be approved by the secretary of state.

Gov. Hutchinson Outlines Jobs Plans, Wants Two Constitutional Amendments

21 hours ago
Asa Hutchinson governor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Only hours removed from hiring the state’s next economic development chief, Gov. Asa Hutchinson outlined his vision for an aggressive platform on Thursday that he said would allow Arkansas to complete globally for better jobs and sustained economic growth.

Minors in the state can still face a life sentence without parole after a bill that sought to eliminate the option failed to pass the Arkansas House Thursday. Rep Greg Leding (D-Fayetteville) sponsored the bill. He explained that the Supreme Court recently overturned juvenile life without parole laws in the case of Miller vs. Alabama.

“Our state is currently out of compliance and therefore our laws are unconstitutional. So we must act,” he said.

Arkansas' lottery-funded scholarships would be awarded based on the number of credit hours earned by college students under a proposal endorsed by the House.

The bill advanced to the Senate on Thursday in a 77-0 vote. Republican Rep. Dwight Tosh of Jonesboro says the change would begin in 2016 and require the Department of Higher Education to award scholarships based on credit hours instead of academic year.

Tosh says the change would give students an incentive to graduate as early as possible.

Asa Hutchinson
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says there's no room in his proposed budget for additional tax cuts, despite a renewed push to find funding for an exemption for military veterans.

Hutchinson told reporters on Thursday that a $102 million middle class income tax cut he signed into law last month and an effort to restore a capital gains break that was scaled back to help pay for that reduction are all that his proposed budget can afford.

An effort to stop signing people up for Arkansas' compromise Medicaid expansion has failed in the state Senate.

The Senate voted 15-13 Thursday against the bill to require the state to seek approval from the federal government to freeze enrollment in the "private option," which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for the poor. The program was crafted as an alternative to the Medicaid expansion envisioned under the federal health law.

State officials have said the federal government has told them they won't approve an enrollment freeze.

Arkansans who apply for certain job-training benefits and other family aid could be required to take a drug test under a bill endorsed by a House committee.

The House Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor sent the bill to the full House in a voice vote Thursday. It would create a two-year pilot program in which the Department of Workforce Services would be required to question applicants and to refer people deemed as suspicious for drug testing.

HRC Arkansas Director Kendra Johnson, HRC President Chad Griffin speaking at the Capitol next to an ad the organization is running.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

The nation's largest gay rights group is stepping up its opposition to a religious protection bill in Arkansas, with an ad targeting Silicon Valley while the state's Republican governor tries to lure more high tech industry.

TalkBusiness.net

 Gov. Asa Hutchinson will turn to the Sunshine State for his new director of economic development.

Talk Business & Politics and The City Wire have learned that Mike Preston, vice president for Government Relations with Enterprise Florida, has been tapped to be the new director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

AEDC is the state’s job development agency and works to recruit and retain businesses in the state. Former director Grant Tennille was not retained in the position by Gov. Hutchinson.

Chad Causey with Catfish Farmers of America (left) and state Rep. Michael John Gray (D-Augusta) speaking to committee members.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

More descriptive labels may be coming to catfish products in stores and restaurants after a voice vote in the House Agriculture, Forestry, and Economic Development Committee on Wednesday easily advanced a bill to the House floor. 

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