News

Republican Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson speaking in the Capitol Rotunda.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson cautioned Arkansans to not seek premature conclusions about his decision Tuesday to seek a new Surgeon General for his administration. The sitting Arkansas Surgeon General Joe Thompson is an advocate for the state’s version of Medicaid expansion – the private option – and has served in the position since 2007.

Speaking to reporters at the Capitol Governor-elect Hutchinson said the decision is about getting a new set of eyes to evaluate the private option.

A federal judge has struck down Arkansas’s ban against same-sex marriage. 

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker has ruled same sex-couples have a fundamental right to marry in Arkansas. She ruled that the state’s 2004 ban against same-sex marriage is unconstitutional under the 14th amendment.

A Pulaski County judge had struck down the marriage ban in May and about 500 couples were married before his ruling was stayed.

The Arkansas State Supreme Court is considering a similar case but has not yet issued a ruling.

Little Rock Police
David Monteith / KUAR News

The Little Rock Police Department took action Tuesday to try and establish some good will in the community. Officers, in an event planned weeks ago, distributed 150 frozen turkeys and hams to drivers who lined up in front of the recently built 12th Street substation.

By chance, it came the day after outrage again erupted in Ferguson, Missouri as a grand jury there decided not to indict a white police officer who killed an unarmed 18-year-old. Demonstrations also took place elsewhere in the country.

Martha Shoffner
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Federal prosecutors are asking to drop their case accusing former Arkansas state Treasurer Martha Shoffner of spending thousands from her campaign on personal items and said they'll present evidence of the spending when she's sentenced in a separate bribery case.

Prosecutors on Tuesday asked U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes to dismiss 10 counts of mail fraud against Shoffner over the campaign spending accusations. Shoffner was convicted earlier this year of steering state investments to a bond broker who had given her cash over the years and is awaiting sentencing.

Arkansas lottery officials and a vendor cannot agree on terms for a contract extension.

Intralot Inc. had agreed to cut its share of revenue in a new three-year contract, but the company and the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery couldn't agree on a start date for the new pact.

Lottery commissioners were to have approved the deal Monday, but canceled their meeting, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper of Little Rock.

Arkansas Surgeon General Joe Thompson
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Dr. Joe Thompson, who has served as Chief Health Officer and Surgeon General to Governors Huckabee and Beebe, will not remain as Surgeon General in the Asa Hutchinson gubernatorial administration.

Thompson will remain in his position as director of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI), a health policy center that focuses on health data and research. According to the ACHI website, it was formed in 1998 to serve as a nonpartisan group to work on health policy, access to quality care, and health care financing.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas' attorney general says the state Crime Victims Reparations Board awarded $276,956 to victims of crime in October.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said Monday that awards were made in 204 new cases. Additional expenses were paid in 19 previously submitted cases.

Victims of violent crime may be eligible for compensation from the state's Crime Victim Reparation Program for unexpected expenses such as medical treatment, mental health counseling and funeral costs. Compensation is also available for lost wages and replacement services.

Arkansas lawmakers are considering how to address prison overcrowding in the state. A legislative committee met Monday to discuss a report which proposes the construction of a 1,000 bed maximum-security prison funded by a 30-year, $231 million “wrap around” bond issue paid for with a $2 increase on car tags.  

 

Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Gov.-elect Asa Hutchinson says a key legislative leader will be his budget director after he takes office next year.

Hutchinson on Monday named Republican state Rep. Duncan Baird of Lowell to serve as his budget director. Baird is currently the co-chairman of the Joint Budget Committee and ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination for state treasurer in May.

Hutchinson also said campaign spokesman J.R. Davis would serve as his communications director and campaign manager Jon Gilmore would be his deputy chief of staff.

While Arkansas's congressional delegation has expressed a disliking for President Obama's executive order to expand legal rights to unauthorized immigrants, some state groups who've advocated for reform are viewing the order with a mix of excitement and trepidation. Mireya Reith, director of Arkansas United Community Coalition, calls the order a long-awaited “first step forward.”

“For us, more than anything, this is a reaffirmation of family values which we hold dear in our state of Arkansas and an opportunity to really keep families together,” she says.

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