News

State Rep. Dan Douglas (R-Bentonville).
Arkansas Times/Brian Chilson

A pair of highway funding bills – which would be referred out to voters in November – is making headway in the Arkansas Legislature. A House committee easily advanced a bond issue proposal on Thursday morning and then a new tax on gasoline. Bill sponsor Dan Douglas, a Republican from Bentonville, said he doesn’t relish the idea of a new tax but it’s needed.

“Do I like doing this? I wish we had a goose that laid golden eggs,” said Douglas, “Cause we could fund all sorts of issues but we don’t have that goose.”

Chris Hickey / KUAR News

An expanded bill allowing people to carry concealed firearms on public university campuses and other locations narrowly passed out of the Arkansas Senate Thursday. Passage came after senators voted to extract the bill from the chamber’s Judiciary Committee, where it had stalled. 

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.

Chris Hickey / KUAR News

Proposals allowing people to bring concealed handguns onto Arkansas public colleges and universities continue to be stalled in the Arkansas Senate.

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.

Little Rock School District Superintendent Mike Poore (file photo).
Chris Hickey / KUAR News

An effort to give private charter school companies priority on buying “under utilized” public school buildings is advancing through the Arkansas Legislature this week. KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman talked about the potential impact with the Superintendent of the Little Rock School District Mike Poore and whether it makes him think twice about a school closure plan.

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.

A church in Parthenon, Arkansas.
flickr.com

Severe storms and a possible tornado hit north Arkansas overnight Monday with damages shutting down the post office in Parthenon. Several homes and vehicles across the region were also damaged but there are no reports of injuries or death at this time.

In a press release the US Postal Service says a tornado has closed the office in the Ozark hamlet for the time being. The National Weather Service is still determining whether a tornado touched down.

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