Arkansas Politics Blog

Governor Asa Hutchinson opened his campaign headquarters this week but he'll have to defeat his Republican primary opponent in May if he wants to make it to November. Hot Springs business owner and political pundit Jan Morgan has been taking the fight to the incumbent governor, traversing the state to talk to a host of varied groups. Morgan spoke with KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman about what separates her from Hutchinson.

Scenic Hill Solar CEO Bill Halter.
Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

While the energy sector is bracing for higher prices under the impact of President Trump’s 30-percent tariff on solar goods manufactured outside the U.S. the city of Clarksville is ready to turn on Arkansas’s largest municipal solar array. The $10 million project was constructed by Arkansas-based Scenic Hill Solar. It’ll ceremonially open on Wednesday six months ahead of schedule.

CEO Bill Halter says it was made mostly with imported parts out of necessity. He expects future arrays to be more costly with the imposition of tariffs.

A greater share of Arkansans opted to join a union in 2017 than the year before with membership rates ticking up from 3.9 to 5.1 percent of the workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 62,000 Arkansans were represented in the workplace through a union; another 74,000 non-union employees work under contracts negotiated by unions.

Take a listen to the interview above about the state of organized labor in Arkansas with the AFL-CIO’s Jessica Akers Hughes.

This weekend the Arkansas Capitol building will be the site of two rallies with two very different messages. Those in support of reproductive rights and a larger progressive presence in the 2018 elections plan to be at the Capitol Saturday. While those seeking to end abortion are set to rally Sunday – minus Roman Catholic Bishop Anthony Taylor.

U.S. Representative Steve Womack
Talk Business & Politics

An Arkansan has a newly minted role near the top of Congress’s budget-making hierarchy. U.S. Representative Steve Womack out of northwest Arkansas’s 3rd District is the new chair of the House Budget Committee. Congressman Womack talked with KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman as Friday’s government shutdown looms. Womack also addresses his initial support of the President’s immigration comments about Africa and Haiti.

Take a listen in the link above.

There's evidently some trouble in the Perry County home of state Representative Mary Bentley. Law enforcement arrested her husband Ted on Sunday morning for allegedly violating an order of protection. The Petit Jean Country Headlight newspaper (paywall) reports Mary Bentley took out an order of protection against Ted on December 6th. Deputy Danny Story told the paper Mrs. Bentley has filed for divorce. 

Arkansas Public Service Commissioner Kim O'Guinn was appointed by Governor Asa Hutchinson in Nov. 2016.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Governor Asa Hutchinson is calling on the state’s Public Service Commission and utility companies to “take the necessary steps to pass on the benefits” of Congress’s new corporate tax cut to Arkansas ratepayers. The Republican governor detailed his request to PSC Chairman Ted Thomas in a letter Thursday.

File photo: Gov. Asa Hutchinson presenting part of his Arkansas Works plan, the state's version of Medicaid expansion.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Trump administration issued guidance to states on Thursday regarding the terms of adding work requirements for Medicaid coverage and Arkansas’s governor is ready to take advantage of the policy shift. Medicaid is a health insurance program for low-income people administered by states but primarily funded by the federal government. Eligibility is largely determined by income levels, which were expanded under the Affordable Care Act.

U.S. Representative Steve Womack (R-Third Distirct)

An Arkansas Congressman has been recommended to chair the U.S. House Budget Committee. The ascension of Representative Steve Womack to the post comes as Rep. Diane Black steps aside to focus on running for governor of Tennessee. The House Republican Steering Committee announced late Tuesday it chose Womack. The move still has to be voted on by the full House GOP conference and considered on the floor for ratification.

The main campus of the University of Arkansas For Medical Sciences in Little Rock.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences is cutting 600 positions as it faces the prospect of cutting $30 million in expenses this fiscal year. Only 258 of the once-budgeted positions were filled. UAMS is the state’s largest public employer with a staff of more than 10,000 and is the only Level One Trauma Center in the state.