Associated Press

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Rep. Charlie Collins
Jacob Kuaffman / KUAR News

An Arkansas House panel has advanced a proposal requiring colleges and universities to allow concealed handguns on campus, despite complaints from school administrators and police.

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday endorsed by a 12-5 vote the proposal to require public colleges and universities to allow faculty and staff to carry the concealed weapons. A 2013 law leaves the decision up to the schools, but so far none have opted to allow guns. The proposal now heads to the House for a vote.

Members of the Ponca Nation and others (2015).
YouTube

Tribal representatives and environmentalists are promising an encampment similar to the ongoing protest against the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota to oppose the Diamond Pipeline planned from Oklahoma through Arkansas to Tennessee.

Mekasi Camp Horinek of the Ponca Nation and the Bold Oklahoma protest group said Monday there "definitely" will be an encampment in Oklahoma, but declined to say where or when.

Critics of the project say the pipeline threatens the environment, rivers and Indian burial grounds.

Arkansas State Capitol building.
Chris Hickey / KUAR News

Arkansas lawmakers have given final approval to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's $50 million plan to cut taxes for thousands of low-income Arkansans and to form a panel that will call for deeper reductions in two years.

The Senate on Monday approved by a 33-0 vote Hutchinson's proposal to cut income taxes for those making less than $21,000 a year. The plan, which takes effect in 2019, now heads to Hutchinson's desk.

The House Revenue and Taxation Committee has approved a bill extending tax relief to military veterans who retire in Arkansas.

Despite concerns about new taxes on digital downloads and changes in the tax on soft drinks and candy, the panel advanced the $13 million tax cut on a voice vote.

The bill initially took away a mobile home sales exemption to cover the cost of the tax cut. A new version of the bill ends a sales tax exemption on digital products and computer software delivered electronically.

A statue of Baphomet as a goat-headed figure flanked by two children could appear alongside the 10 Commandments at the state Capitol.
KFOR

A proposal to erect a satanic monument on the Arkansas state Capitol grounds has advanced to a public hearing.

A subcommittee of the state Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission on Wednesday cleared the proposal by the Satanic Temple to build a Baphomet statue. A date has not been set for the public hearing, but a spokeswoman said it'll likely be held after this year's legislative session.

www.psychologicalscience.org

The chancellor of the University of Arkansas flagship campus in Fayetteville is opposing a bill that would require public universities to allow staff members to carry concealed handguns.

Now, colleges and universities in Arkansas can choose whether to allow staff members with concealed-carry permits to carry the weapons on campus, but all of the state's public universities have opted not to.

A bill filed Monday by Rep. Charlie Collins of Fayetteville would eliminate the ability for public universities to opt out in most cases. Collins has said the measure is aimed at preventing mass shootings.

Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz said in a statement Tuesday that UA agrees with the current law that allows schools to opt out. He says university police do not believe that Collins' measure would make campus safer.

Abortion dilation and evacuation
Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

The Arkansas House has voted to make the state the third to ban a commonly used abortion procedure.

The majority-Republican House voted 78-10 Monday to ban a procedure known dilation and evacuation, or "D&E," a second trimester procedure that abortion supporters say is the safest and most common. The measure now heads to the majority GOP state Senate, and Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he would sign the ban if it reaches his desk.

Mississippi and West Virginia have similar bans in effect. Similar prohibitions are on hold amid court challenges in other states.

Rep. Mathew Pitsch
www.arkansashouse.org

Arkansas lawmakers have approved Gov. Asa Hutchinson's $50 million low-income tax cut plan, setting the stage for a debate over deeper tax reductions the Republican has vowed to champion in two years.

The proposal to cut taxes for more than 650,000 residents making less than $21,000 cleared the House Monday on a 90-2 vote. The Senate earlier approved an identical version of the plan on a 33-0 vote. A final vote is expected later this week before the legislation heads to the governor's desk.

Arkansas' unemployment rate has dipped back below 4 percent in the final month of 2016.

The Arkansas Department of Workforce Services said Friday that the state's unemployment rate in December was 3.9 percent, down one-tenth of a percentage point from November's numbers. The state's jobless rate has hovered around 4 percent for the past six months after starting 2016 at 4.4 percent.

The national unemployment rate was 4.7 percent in December.

An aerial view of a wildfire near Charleston, Arkansas from November, 2017.
Arkansas Forestry Commission

Arkansas forestry officials say 2016 was a relatively quiet year for wildfires, but the fires still burned nearly 30 square miles in the state.

The Arkansas Forestry Commission says there was a total of 1,248 wildfires last year, and the busiest months were February, March and November. Officials say the top two causes of wildfires in the state were fires unintentionally started by outdoor burning and arson.

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