Bobby Ampezzan

Managing Editor, Arkansas Public Media

Bobby Ampezzan is a native of Detroit who holds degrees from Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA) and the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville). He's written for The Guardian newspaper and Oxford American magazine and was a longtime staff writer for theArkansas Democrat-Gazette. The best dimestore nugget he's lately discovered comes from James Altucher's Choose Yourself(actually, the Times' profile on Altucher, which quotes the book): "I lose at least 20 percent of my intelligence when I am resentful." Meanwhile, his faith in public radio and television stems from the unifying philosophy that not everything be serious, but curiosity should follow every thing, and that we be serious about curiosity.

Contact Bobby at bobby@arkansaspublicmedia.org or 501-569-8489. 

 

Dr. Ronda Henry-Tillman's never been in such a political position. She's a surgical oncologist. That's good for generating approving smiles, not to mention a very liveable wage. On Monday, she was picked to chair the new Medical Marijuana Commission.

Well, "chair" — more like hotseat.

"Care to share how you voted on amendment 6?" a reporter asked new medical marijuana commissioner Dr. Ronda Henry-Tillman.

"You don't have to answer that if you don't want to," Department of Finance and Administration spokesman Jake Bleed interrupted. "We're all here to carry out the intent of the voter," he told her.

"We're all here to carry out the intent of the voter," she parroted.

Note: An earlier version of this story said there was no cost estimate available for paid maternity leave for state workers. In fact, a 2015 financial impact statement put the costs to the state of six-weeks paid maternity leave at $354,000, according to a story published by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Dec. 15. Neither source referred to in this story, when asked, made mention of this earlier cost estimate. 

Little Rock Democratic Rep. Clarke Tucker is re-introducing paid maternity leave, a state worker benefit he tried and failed to get through the last legislative session.

Filed Monday, House Bill 1046 would give state employees six-weeks paid maternity leave or $500 a week, whichever is more. Employees who’ve worked less than a year are explicitly excluded, as are those at public colleges and universities, many of whom have already signed contracts with ample paid leave, maternity or otherwise.

It does include qualifying part-time employees.


A bill filed last week by state Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville) would ban so called sex-selective or “family balance” abortions. 

 

 

The top story this week: Gov. Asa Hutchinson signs his $50 million tax cut for low income Arkansans into law. But a disappointing state revenue report the following day prompts talk of budget  cuts.

We also have a full wrap up of legislative activities, including advancement of a bill that would require colleges to allow firearms on campuses and a debate over Sharia law that came up during consideration of another bill.

We wrap up with the full interview recorded with longtime radio jazz host and preservationist John Cain about his life as he celebrated his 80th birthday.

Democrats in the House and Senate have filed a number of ethics bills, none more than Senate Minority Leader Keith Ingram of West Memphis. But the Senate Committee set to evaluate his legislation hasn’t a single Democrat on it, and at least one Republican says he’s not enthusiastic about the amendments.

A bill that makes no mention of Sharia Law nonetheless sparked an intense debate Thursday in the House Judiciary Committee on the need for Arkansas to gird itself against such foreign influence in its courts.

It passed out of the Committee on a voice vote along party lines. It goes now before the full House.

Several medical doctors today hinted that they would not prescribe medical marijuana to patients even when such treatment is available because its risks and benefits are scientifically unproven.

Still, the Arkansas Board of Health unanimously (with one abstention and a few absences) approved the health department's draft rules and regulations for medical marijuana. It now begins a phase of adoption that includes public hearings. 

Last week Little Rock School District  Superintendent, Michael Poore, announced four school closings. Meanwhile, Dr. Anika Whitfield of the community group Save Our Schools thinks the outcry would be louder if people didn't fear their job or school would be the next in line for cuts.

“Some of the teachers and some of the parents at other schools....I believe it’s not that they don’t necessarily care, I sense a fear of 'if we speak up or speak out it could be our school next.'”

This time on KUAR's Week-In-Review Podcast:

  • The 45th President of the United States is sworn into office. We’ll talk with central Arkansas's Congressman about what he wants to see President Trump's first days.
  • It’s week two of the 91st Arkansas General Assembly. We'll have an update on several bills involving tax cuts, food stamp restrictions, ethics bills, the lottery, and abortion restrictions.
  • And finally the Little Rock School District announces plans to close several schools, getting outrage from many parents.

On Thursday state Sen. Missy Irvin of Mountain View filed a bill that’s a bit of a rejoinder to Little Rock Rep. Clarke Tucker’s maternity leave bill.

Irvin is a Republican and Tucker’s a Democrat. 

Late last year Tucker filed House Bill 1046 that would give state employees six-weeks paid maternity leave or $500 a week, whichever is more.

On Thursday Sen. Missy Irvin filed Senate Bill 125. It would also codify state employees’ rights to maternity leave, but not as an employment benefit funded by state agencies. Rather, it calls for maternity leave to be treated as any other leave for sickness or disability, and for the first time would make available hours from the Catastrophic Leave Bank, a pool of accrued annual and sick leave that employees donate unused hours to in order for other employees desperate for paid leave to draw upon.

Tucker said he’s happy the Republican Party is taking up the issue of maternity leave. It's not a threat to his own bill, though presumably both will not make it to the governor's desk.

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