Arkansas Government

The Arkansas panel reviewing elected officials' salaries will soon meet for the first time since the Legislature convened for this year's session.

The Independent Citizens Commission will meet Wednesday morning in Little Rock, the first of two meetings this week.

The commission is expected to hear from several witnesses, including the state budget administrator and two judges.

A day after Gov. Mike Beebe announced Lamar Davis would fill Colette Honorable’s spot on the Arkansas Public Service Commission, Gov.-elect Asa Hutchinson announced that consultant and former State Rep. Ted Thomas will take another opening on the three-member regulatory panel and serve as chairman.

Independent Citizens Commission Chair Larry Ross (right) and Vice Chair Chuck Banks.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

The panel reviewing the salaries of Arkansas' elected officials wants the Legislature's research staff to compile economic data from other states before recommending any changes.

The Independent Citizens Commission, which was created by voters last November, faces a Feb. 2 deadline to review current salaries. At its meeting Wednesday, it said it hopes to address legislative salaries first, then those of constitutional officers, then the state's judges.

For Smith National Historic Site / National Park Service

Arkansas’s second largest city, Fort Smith, will embark on 12-year, $255 million upgrade to its sewer and water treatment operations as part of a settlement regarding a decade of Clean Water Act violations. KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman talked to the Environmental Protection Agency’s chief of the Municipal Enforcement Branch Loren Denton about where untreated waste ended up and the prospects of cleaner water.

Governor Beebe with Reporters
Nathan Vandiver / KUAR

Outgoing Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe says he's cautiously optimistic that the state will keep its compromise Medicaid expansion, warning that abandoning the program could be "politically disastrous" for its opponents.

The two-term Democrat said Monday that he believes there's a path forward for reauthorizing the state's "private option." More than 213,000 people are enrolled in the program, which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for the poor.

Arkansas Surgeon General Joe Thompson
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Dr. Joe Thompson, who has served as Chief Health Officer and Surgeon General to Governors Huckabee and Beebe, will not remain as Surgeon General in the Asa Hutchinson gubernatorial administration.

Thompson will remain in his position as director of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI), a health policy center that focuses on health data and research. According to the ACHI website, it was formed in 1998 to serve as a nonpartisan group to work on health policy, access to quality care, and health care financing.

Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Gov.-elect Asa Hutchinson says a key legislative leader will be his budget director after he takes office next year.

Hutchinson on Monday named Republican state Rep. Duncan Baird of Lowell to serve as his budget director. Baird is currently the co-chairman of the Joint Budget Committee and ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination for state treasurer in May.

Hutchinson also said campaign spokesman J.R. Davis would serve as his communications director and campaign manager Jon Gilmore would be his deputy chief of staff.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Gov
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson is asking the directors of three agencies to continue in their current roles when he takes office in January.

Hutchinson announced Wednesday that he's asking Arkansas Crime Information Center Director Jay Winters; Arkansas State Crime Lab Director Kermit Channell; and Disability Determination for Social Security Administration Director Arthur Boutiette to remain.

Hutchinson said each of the three have agreed to continue as directors of their agencies.

In a statement, Hutchinson wrote:

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe is defending his plans to pardon his son for a 2003 marijuana conviction, saying he's receiving the same type of second chance hundreds of other nonviolent offenders have had.

Beebe appeared Tuesday on his monthly call-in show on the Arkansas Educational Television Network. He said he's not going to treat his son any better or any worse than others who have sought pardons during his administration.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R)
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR News

Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson says he'll likely have a different approach to the budget than priorities outlined Thursday by outgoing Governor Mike Beebe.

Beebe is encouraging legislators to delay $29.4 million in tax cuts on capital gains and manufacturing in order to meet the needs of the educational system, Medicaid and state prisons.  Beebe warned that state employees won’t get pay raises next year and agencies will lose funds if tax cuts approved in 2013 go into effect.