Steve Brawner / Talk Business & Politics

Steve Brawner is a freelance journalist and contributor to Talk Business & Politics.

He is also a syndicated columnist in 10 Arkansas newspapers.

You can email him at brawnersteve@mac.com or follow him on Twitter: @SteveBrawner.

The state has saved $2.5 million in salaries during the last half of the state’s fiscal year from January 13 to June 30 as a result of a hiring freeze instituted by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, his office announced Tuesday.

Hutchinson’s office said the freeze has resulted in the state having 297 fewer state employees. Positions were frozen an average of 59 days, meaning Hutchinson’s office is reviewing all open positions. His office said 433 freeze requests are pending.

Hutchinson said his first act as governor was to institute the hiring freeze.

The number of enrollees in Arkansas’ private option shrunk by about 26,500 at midnight July 31 because those former beneficiaries did not respond to requests by the Department of Human Services for information about changes to their incomes.

According to Amy Webb, DHS spokesperson, the estimate is based on information provided to insurance carriers July 21. The information was provided to the carriers so they could try to contact their private option beneficiaries to encourage them to respond to the requests, and so they could be certain not to pay claims after July 31.

Web surfers who type in www.asahutchinson.com will be redirected to an LGBT chatroom by an Arkansan who says he’ll use the domain name in the next election to discuss Hutchinson’s record on gay rights.

The Walmart visitors center in downtown Bentonville.
bentonville.org

The Walton Family Foundation is developing what it is calling an “independent” school in Bentonville for the Northwest Arkansas region, the foundation announced in a press release Thursday.

The release said the school “will also offer a challenging curriculum, small classes, a diverse student body and distinctive architecture.”

Arkansas is one of only a few states that does not have its own dental school. That could change in a few years, as UAMS is exploring that option. But it’s not going to be easy, and it’s not going to be cheap.

“If everything went as quickly as it could go, I would say it’s at least three years from now until a student would actually enroll,” said Dr. Dan Rahn, UAMS chancellor.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, will be the next Republican presidential candidate to visit Arkansas. The Texas senator will appear August 12 at the Crawford County Lincoln Day Dinner.

The news was confirmed at the Reagan-Rockefeller Dinner Friday in Hot Springs following the appearance there by businessman Donald Trump. Trump drew a crowd of 1,000 Republicans to hear him proclaim himself the best candidate for the job because of his deal-making ability and because he won’t accept outside campaign donations.

Arkansas Medicaid officials have sent notices of termination to 25,000 Medicaid beneficiaries, almost all of them recipients of the state’s private option, informing them that they are losing their eligibility because they did not respond to a request for income verification, legislators were told Thursday.

Department of Human Services Director John Selig told members of the Health Care Reform Legislative Task Force that about 65,000 beneficiaries, again, nearly all of them private option recipients, have been determined still to be eligible.

Arkansas’ annual 2.2% growth in Medicaid spending from 2010-13 places it below the U.S. average of about 4% and in the middle of adjacent states – well below Oklahoma’s more than 5% increase but more than Tennessee and Louisiana, whose increases were below 1%.

Alia Borroho, 32, has been a business development director at an education tech startup in Little Rock. She wanted to write software code instead. After 12 weeks of classes, she’ll be able to do so.

Borroho is one of 14 students – and one of two females – attending classes at the newly opened Iron Yard Coding Academy, a chain of 14 campuses in the United States with one in London.

Office of the Governor

More than 15,000 individuals have lost state government health benefits because their family incomes vary at least 10% from their original applications and they did not respond to government requests to verify their incomes.

That’s according to a letter sent to lawmakers by Gov. Asa Hutchinson Monday. Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, posted the letter to his Twitter feed.

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