Michael Hibblen

News Director

As News Director, Michael Hibblen oversees daily news coverage for KUAR. He handles assignments for the news staff, helps develop story ideas and edits copy. Michael is responsible for starting a news-sharing partnership between public radio stations in Arkansas in 2009 which laid the foundation for what became Arkansas Public Media. He is also a regular panelist on AETN's Arkansas Week, where journalists discuss issues in the news.

A native of North Little Rock, Michael started in radio in 1988, spending his first five years as a DJ for music stations in central and northeast Arkansas. After a 1993 internship at the C-SPAN Cable Network in Washington, DC, he transitioned to news, working for commercial radio stations KARN in Little Rock, WRVA in Richmond, Virginia and WIOD in Miami, Florida. In 2000, Michael became a nationally heard, Miami-based reporter for CBS Radio News, covering major stories in the region, including the anthrax attack at a tabloid publisher, an international custody fight over Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez, and the 2000 presidential election recount. He was hired by daily newspaper the Miami Herald in 2003 when it partnered with NPR station WLRN, initially working as morning news anchor. Later Michael became department editor, then assistant news director. He also wrote frequently for the newspaper.

Michael returned home to Little Rock in 2009 to work for KUAR. At that time he also resumed taking classes at UALR to finish his Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication, graduating in May of 2013. Michael also enjoys researching railroad history and is author of Rock Island Railroad in Arkansas, which was published by Arcadia Publishing in April 2017.

Phone: 501-683-7386

E-mail: michael@kuar.org

Ways to Connect

Revenue and taxation committee
www.arkansashouse.org

An effort to collect sales taxes in Arkansas from online retailers has been rejected by a House committee. For more than an hour Tuesday, members of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee heard arguments for and against the bill, which was passed last week by the Senate.

Curtis Ferguson, owner of Ferguson Furniture in Benton, argued that not requiring online companies to charge a sales tax gives them an unfair advantage.

The KUAR News team took a look back at the week's top news in the latest installment of the Week In Review Podcast.

Fayetteville anti-discrimination Arkansas Supreme Court
courts.arkansas.gov

The Arkansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments Thursday concerning Fayetteville’s anti-discrimination ordinance which includes protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. Justices questioned whether the city ordinance, passed by voters there in September 2015, conflicts with a state law passed earlier that year which bans cities and counties from enacting protections not contained in the state's civil rights law.

Governor Asa Hutchinson
Governor's Office

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is suggesting the Arkansas Legislature might be able to wrap up the 2017 session earlier than expected. Wednesday he praised lawmakers for "setting aside peripheral issues" and focusing on important matters.

The Republican governor has seen passage of three key issues he had for this session: a tax cut for low income residents, an exemption of income taxes for the pensions of military retirees and a change to the state’s higher education funding model. Hutchinson's comments came immediately after signing the bill moves funding for public colleges and universities from being based on enrollment to a "performance-based" formula.

Jake Files
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

The Arkansas Senate has approved a bill that would require Amazon and other major online retailers to collect state sales taxes. The measure passed Monday by a vote of 23-9 and now moves to the House.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Jake Files of Fort Smith, told his colleagues that Arkansas is one of only six states that don't collect sales taxes and is missing out on potential revenue.

"In 2014 it was estimated in one study that Amazon sales alone would have brought $32 million into the state, and then I've heard anywhere up to $100 million," Files said.

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.

John Cain
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

John Cain, who has been a familiar radio voice for half a century in central Arkansas, marked his 80th birthday Wednesday. He is also known for his efforts to preserve African-American culture. Many longtime friends and colleagues came together at Little Rock's Whitewater Tavern Wednesday night to celebrate with live music and cake.

Cain, who is program director of community radio station KABF-FM 88.3, has also hosted KUAR's 52nd Street Jazz for more than three decades. He has been on the air in some capacity for "51 years and counting."

Rep. Mark Lowery (R-Maumelle) and Arkansas Department of Higher Education Director Maria Markham at a committee hearing. File photo 2017.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Legislation that would change how Arkansas public colleges and universities are funded was approved Tuesday by the House Education Committee. It now heads to the full House for consideration.

The "outcomes-based" funding model would incorporate factors like the number of students completing degrees, how long it takes to do, and how many graduate and then get jobs in their degree field or complete another degree. State Higher Education Director Maria Markham says it would be more effective than the current model, which is based on enrollment.

Rep. Mathew Pitsch
Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s $50 million tax cut plan won approval Monday in the Arkansas House and Senate. But a final vote is needed before the legislation heads to the governor’s desk for signature. 

Speaking on behalf of the bill in his chamber, Sen. Jim Hendren, Republican-Gravette, said the plan would save money for nearly 660,000 low income Arkansans.

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.

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