Arkansas Politics Blog

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.
npr.org

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch ruled in his first big case late Thursday night. It allowed Arkansas to move forward with executions after a nearly 12 years lull.

The newest Supreme Court Justice’s vote helped reconstitute the court’s 5-4 conservative majority. Gorsuch joined Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy, and Samuel Alito in denying death row inmate Ledell Lee’s appeals. He was executed last night.

The scene outside the Arkansas Governor's Mansion before the execution of Ledell Lee.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Arkansas has executed its first death row inmate in nearly 12 years after clearing numerous legal challenges. While the death penalty is a popular form of punishment in Arkansas, a devoted few dozen protestors have been showing up this week at Governor Asa Hutchinson’s residence. 

Over the course of the day, the vigil for Ledell Lee ebbed and flowed in attendance. There was a constant crowd size of about 50 people.

Many people, including Sandra Cone, stayed for six hours until the state’s last hour execution.

Varner Arkansas Department of Correction Cummins Prison
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

UPDATE 11:30 p.m.: The Department of Correction reversed its policy without explanation and media witnesses will be able to take notes during the execution of Ledell Lee this hour.

ORIGINAL POST: If courts do end up giving the go-ahead on Arkansas’s execution plans, media will have less rights to document the execution than just about anywhere else in the nation. Three members of the media are allowed by the state to witness an execution but officials are banning the use of paper and pencil to take notes – forcing reporters to rely solely on memory.

Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

With the tax filing deadline looming, Donald Trump’s returns took the spotlight early on Monday's town hall meeting with U.S. Senator Tom Cotton and U.S. Representative French Hill. The two Republicans were met with plenty of unsatisfied constituents among the 1000 or so in attendance.

"As far as I’m aware the President says he’s still under audit and he’s going to release them when he’s done," said Cotton in response to a question. Cotton's response drew some of the loudest jeers of the day.

Central Arkansas Congressman appeared before constituents in a town hall format for the first time of the Trump era on Monday. Hill faced a raucous, but politically split crowd. He was joined by U.S. Senator Tom Cotton.

The Republican senator said he talked with Governor Asa Hutchinson that morning about executions originally slated to begin Monday evening.

“I told him that I 100 percent support his decision to execute the verdict that was rendered by a jury of his peers,” said Cotton to a mix of jeers and cheers.

Central Arkansas Congressman French Hill is holding his first town hall meeting since President Donald Trump took office at a west Little Rock hotel during the workday next Monday. U.S. Senator Tom Cotton will join him.

The state's junior Senator has participated in several town hall style public meetings, some with other Arkansas congressman, replete with hundreds of upset constituents. The event Monday will be Sen. Cotton's first town hall in central Arkansas.

Arkansas-born, best selling author John Grisham penned an editorial in USA Today calling for a stop to Arkansas’s plan to kill eight death row inmates from April 17th to 27th. One inmate has a stay on his sentence. 

File photo: US Sen. Tom Cotton touring military vehicle prototypes in Little Rock.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Arkansas’s all-Republican congressional delegation is showing support for President Trump’s air strikes in Syria. 

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, in a statement released late Thursday night, said he commends the president for “taking swift, decisive action” against an “outlaw regime.”

The state's senior U.S. Senator John Boozman said "Limited, swift and decisive action was required to deter further brutality."

Boozman also cautioned against further military action from the executive branch.

Outside the Arkansas House chamber in the state Capitol building.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

A beleaguered bid in the Arkansas Legislature to collect sales taxes from online purchases from companies without a physical presence in the state narrowly failed in the House on Monday. Representative Dan Douglas, a Republican from Bentonville, said it didn’t make sense to collect a tax on his blue jeans at a local store but not when he bought them online.

“They’re the same brand of blue jeans, the same style, the same size, used on the same fat body for the same purpose and they didn’t collect sales tax,” said Douglas. “Now is that fair?”

This edition of KUAR's Week In Review podcast tackles the winding down of the legislative session. Lawmakers retread the concealed carry debate and carve out an exception for athletic events, UAMS, and the state hospital despite NRA opposition. The online sales tax finally gets past a committee hurdle and the bathroom bill gets pushed aside for another time as does highway funding.

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