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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.

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.

Governor Asa Hutchinson  Arkansas Works Medicaid expansion
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson wants to add a work requirement to Arkansas' hybrid Medicaid expansion and to lower its eligibility cap, which would add new restrictions to the program even as the future of the federal health overhaul remains unclear.

The Republican governor on Monday detailed changes he'll ask the federal government to approve for the program, which uses Medicaid funds to buy private insurance for the poor. More than 300,000 people are on the program that was created in 2013 as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law.

Trent Garner
Arkansas Times

An Arkansas lawmaker sponsoring legislation to allow concealed handguns at colleges is holding off on a compromise proposal that would have included age and training limits to carry on campus.

Republican Sen. Trent Garner said Monday he's deferring a proposal that would have allowed anyone with a concealed handgun 25 and older to carry if they undergo up to 16 hours of active shooter training. Garner said he'll support an alternative bill filed last week that would allow anyone with a license to carry on campus.

tornado
KATV, Channel 7 News

Storm surveys conducted by weather forecasters show that at least six tornadoes touched down in Arkansas during this week's rounds of bad weather.

Of the surveys that had been completed by midday Friday, the longest-tracked storm was on the ground for 4.2 miles south of Possum Grape, in Jackson County. It had winds of about 110 mph Wednesday morning and was rated as an "EF-1" on a scale of tornado damage.

The strongest twister of the week was Tuesday night near Kensett in White County. The EF-2 storm had winds of 115 mph.

The Arkansas Supreme Court has rejected an effort to invalidate orders setting executions for eight death row inmates, saying there's no stay preventing the executions from taking place.

The state's highest court on Thursday granted Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's request to clarify that there is no stay for the eight men who are scheduled to be put to death in April. The inmates' attorneys had argued a stay was still in place since an amended complaint over Arkansas' lethal injection law was pending in a lower court.

An Arkansas lawmaker is backing away from a broad "bathroom bill" targeting transgender people that had drawn opposition from the state's Republican governor and tourism officials, but says he'll propose another measure giving schools legal protection over their restroom policies.

Republican Sen. Greg Standridge said Thursday he's withdrawing his one-sentence bill with gender identity and bathroom privileges. A co-sponsor of the measure had said it was intended to require that someone use the public restroom consistent with the gender on their birth certificate.

Arkansas finance officials say the state's revenue in February beat expectations, and the governor says the numbers reduce the likelihood of the budget cuts that he had told agencies were possible.

The state Department of Finance and Administration on Thursday said net available revenue last month totaled $276.7 million. That's $3.2 million below February 2016, but $40.9 million above forecast.

The state's net revenue for the fiscal year that began July 1 totals $3.4 billion, which is $19 million above the same point last year and $15 million below forecast.

Steps leading up the Arkansas Senate chamber.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

An Arkansas Senate committee has advanced bills to change the medical marijuana law approved by voters in November by banning smoking medical marijuana and the selling of food or drinks containing the drug, but an effort to halt the start of the program until the drug is legalized nationwide failed.

The Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor on Wednesday endorsed and sent to the full Senate bills banning the smoking, eating or drinking of marijuana, but allowing a patient or designated caregiver to incorporate marijuana into food or drink for medicinal use.

Arkansas voters will be asked next year to limit damages awarded in civil lawsuits, cap attorneys' fees and give the Legislature power to write court rules under a measure given final approval by lawmakers.

The Senate approved by a 20-11 vote on Wednesday a resolution to put the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot next year. The measure, if approved by voters would place a $500,000 limit on punitive and non-economic damages awarded in civil lawsuits, and limit attorneys' contingency fees to 33.3 percent of the net amount recovered.

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