News

Governor Asa Hutchinson John Selig Medicaid DHS Department of Human Services
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson laid out a seven-point plan Wednesday that would continue Arkansas’ participation in the Medicaid expansion through the private option while requiring recipients to participate in employer-sponsored plans and pay premiums.

Natural Gas Drilling Mt. Vernon in Faulkner County
Arkansas Times

Arkansas severance tax collections tumbled nearly 59% in the first month of state’s fiscal year 2016 as Fayetteville Shale drillers were unable to sustain production levels due to continued weak natural gas prices, spending cuts and fewer operating rigs.

According to monthly tax data compiled by the Revenue Division of the Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration, state tax revenue for natural gas production in July (the first month of fiscal 2016) came in at $3.48 million, compared to $8.4 million a year ago.

Arkansas River
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The long rain-induced nightmare for port, barge and other operators on the Arkansas River may soon be over, but the impact of heavy rains earlier this year pushed river tonnage down more than 25% in July.

Tonnage shipped on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System between January and July totaled 5.135 million in July, down 23% compared to the same period in 2014, according to a monthly report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Arkansas Department of Education has been awarded a $5 million federal grant to develop literacy and behavior resources and tools to help its students - especially those with disabilities.

The agency announced the State Personnel Development Grant on Tuesday from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs.

The five-year grant will be used to develop literacy and behavior resources and tools, including professional development and technical assistance. Arkansas was one of nine states to receive the grant.

John Correnti Big River Steel
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The CEO of the state’s first superproject, Big River Steel CEO John Correnti, was found dead on an out-of-state business trip Tuesday morning, Talk Business & Politics has confirmed.

Correnti, 68, was the driving force for the $1.3 billion steel mill superproject, which is being built near Osceola (Mississippi Co.). As a former CEO of rival Nucor Steel, Correnti was a big fan of Arkansas where he once headed Nucor’s operations in the 1990’s.

Conner Eldridge says his last week in office as the top prosecutor in western Arkansas is "bittersweet" - but the U.S. attorney wouldn't say what he plans to do once he steps down from the post Friday.

Eldridge spoke Tuesday to members of the Rotary Club in Little Rock. He touted achievements he's made in 4 1/2 years as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, including a new initiative aimed at helping children exposed to violence and crime.

Hutchinson John Selig
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

The backlog of Medicaid and private option recipients has been eliminated, and the Department of Human Services again will begin sending out notices of termination letters to private option recipients deemed ineligible because of changes in income or because they did not respond to a request to verify their income.

Leslie Rutledge Attorney General
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced the creation of the Arkansas Cooperative Disability Investigations Program (CDI), a joint state-federal initiative to prevent fraud in disability programs administered by the federal Social Security Administration (SSA).

According to Rutledge, Arkansas is now the 29th CDI unit to take part in the federal initiative, which began in 1998 to investigate questionable statements and activities of Social Security claimants, medical providers and other parties to prevent potential fraud in the federal program.

State lawmakers began discussions Tuesday on student loan debt from higher education. Democratic Rep. Greg Leding of Fayetteville requested a legislative study on the issue. It is slated for completion by the summer of 2017.

According to Tony Williams of the Arkansas Student Loan Authority, students in the state accumulated roughly $675 million in debt in the 2013/2014 school year. 

“I think what’s driving that is the cost of higher education,” said Williams. He added that debt rates have climbed steadily over the past decade and will continue to grow. 

A consulting group hired by a legislative task force says the Private Option will have a net positive fiscal impact for the state of Arkansas budget of $438 million through 2021.

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