Arkansas Public Media

Arkansas Public Media is a regional journalism collaboration funded by KUAR 89.1 and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is expected to appear in court Friday before Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen. She’s being sued by Alex Gray, a lawyer representing two ballot measure groups, who says she’s not letting the state’s voter-initiated referendum process work.

“Our claim is that the specific subsection the attorney general is using to reject what is now 70 of 70 proposed ballot measures, that provision is unconstitutional,” Gray says.

Actually, another subsection of Article 5, Section 1 of the state constitution — subsection B — allows for the attorney general to rewrite ballot language in anticipation of certification. Rutledge has not done that, Gray alleges in the suit.

On the eve of a major vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on the 2018 Farm Bill, both parties are scrambling to get their preferred amendments into the legislation. 

The amendments range from a new rule to allow food stamp recipients to purchase multivitamins with their benefits to a program to increase the accuracy of the grading of cattle across the country. 

Other issues include caps on payments to wealthier farmers and lower subsidies for government-backed crop insurance programs demanded by conservatives, and new work requirements for food stamp recipients opposed by advocates for the poor.

The state's two leading constitutional office holders — Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge — have had very different springs. Both face re-election contests in November, but only one has a GOP primary challenge May 22.

That may explain why he was on his knees, hands cupping an amphibian, waiting for the start of a toad race at the annual Toad Suck Daze in Conway.

Arkansas is at the forefront of a national experiment to see whether requiring work for health care coverage helps lift people out of poverty.

 

Starting next month, many who are on the state’s low-income health care program, Arkansas Works, must show they are working, volunteering, in school, or getting job training for at least 80 hours each month. The Arkansas Department of Human Services estimates 42,000 Arkansans will be impacted.

At the food pantry in Cherry Valley in rural Northeast Arkansas, clients start lining up hours before its 10am opening.  The pantry is open every Tuesday for two hours, unlike other pantries that open once or twice a month.

“In this area, they just can’t go a whole month without us,” said director Joan Ball.  

Ball and other advocates for the poor worry that business will pick up at pantries and soup kitchens if food stamp work requirements drafted as part of the 2018 Farm Bill end up becoming law.  Ball said the last two weeks of the month are already the busiest as people who’ve already spent their food stamps seek additional ways to feed themselves or their families.

Arkansas recently became the first state to require active shooter training for a gun permit.

The state began issuing "enhanced concealed carry" permits earlier this year. The law creating the new permits, which passed last spring, allows enhanced carriers to bring guns into what the state calls "sensitive places," including public university campuses, bars, churches and the state Capitol.

Fayetteville resident Jewel Hayes is at the center of a year-long conflict between lesbian feminists and transgender women over the politics of space.

She is among an estimated 13,000 transgender women and men in Arkansas facing discrimination in housing, public accommodation and the workplace who are standing up for civil rights, alongside lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer Arkansans.

But last year Hayes discovered that not all lesbians want to share  political ground with transgender women.

Over the last 15 years, residents of Little Rock have lost some hope that educational opportunity for kids of color is the same or equal to that of white kids. That’s according to an annual study on racial attitudes put out by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Anderson Institute on Race and Ethnicity.

The survey is focused on education this year, and it found that while 60 percent of whites think integration benefits everyone, only 42 percent of blacks in Little Rock agree. But all city residents increasingly agree that  school education isn’t equal. University historian John Kirk led the survey.

He says one reason whites and blacks see more inequality in Little Rock than they did in his first survey 15 years ago is that demographics of the city have changed.

In the olden days, misbehaving school children were forced to stay after school and write repetitive chastisements on dusty chalk boards. Today, many public schools offer alternative learning environments for students with behavioral and emotional problems. Bentonville Public School District in Northwest Arkansas, however, has installed two intervention-rich elementary “behavior classrooms” to help children learn how to overcome chronic disruptive behavior.

Arkansas’s agricultural producers are reacting to recent trade trouble between the U.S. and China.  While analysts have stopped short of calling it a trade war, the two countries have spent the last few weeks announcing a series of new tariffs on airplanes, cars, high tech and numerous agricultural products that include pork.

About one in four hogs raised in the U.S. is exported, according to Jim Monroe of the National Pork Producers Council.  China represents the third highest value market for U.S. pork with purchases of more than $1.1 billion per year.

“Even the tiniest penetration into the Chinese market can result in millions of pounds of volume,” said David Newman, an Arkansas State University Animal Sciences professor whose family has been involved with pork production for many years.

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