Arkansas Politics Blog

Hemp Bill Advances In Arkansas Legislature

Mar 17, 2017
npr.org

Legislation is advancing in the Arkansas House of Representatives that would legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp in the state.

Rev your engines! Well, not yet. The Arkansas House overwhelmingly backed a bill on Thursday to raise the speed limit to 75 miles per hour on interstates and 65 miles per hour on other highways. If it becomes law, the five-mile per hour bump would still be subject to studies from state highway officials.

State Representative Justin Gonzalez, a Republican from Okolona, nestled between Prescott and Arkadelphia, is a fan of faster driving.

“I’d say that this bill couldn’t get here fast enough wouldn’t you agree?” Gonzalez joked to bill sponsor DeAnn Vaught (R-Horatio).

Delta Regional Authority Chairman Chris Masingill and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Funding for the Delta Regional Authority would be eliminated under President Trump’s first budget request to Congress. The federal agency is set up to help encourage and coordinate economic development in eight states, including Arkansas, tied to the beleaguered Mississippi River Delta region.

Chris Hickey / KUAR News

A bill that expands where trained Arkansans can bring concealed firearms is now heading to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's desk after the Legislature gave its final approval on Wednesday.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and State Senator David Wallace (R-Leachville) presenting the MLK/Lee Day bill in committee.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

After several years and multiple failed attempts, a renewed effort to remove Arkansas’s celebration of Robert E. Lee from the state holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. is headed for a final vote. An Arkansas House committee advanced the Senate-approved bill Tuesday evening on a voice vote. Arkansas is one of three states to mark King and Lee on the same day.

State Rep. Jim Dotson (R-Bentonville).
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

A scaled back education bill to create a voucher-like program – which channels public dollars to private schools through individual education savings accounts- is headed to the Arkansas House floor. On Tuesday a legislative committee approved the amended bill, which was sent back down from the full chamber earlier in the week.

Instead of a permanent system it’ll be a four-year pilot program. The amended bill also pares back the state’s investment from $6.5-million in tax credits a year, to $3-million.

State Rep. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock).
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

In a close vote Monday, a measure to create an animal abuse registry failed in the Arkansas House. The bill by State Representative Clarke Tucker would have required felony animal abusers to register - for a limited period of a time - with the Arkansas Crime Information Center.

Animal adoption centers and stores would have then had the voluntary option of consulting the list. Sellers would still not be banned from pursuing business or selling animals to those on the list. But Tucker hoped adoption centers could use the information when exercising their discretion.

File photo: Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaking to reporters at the Capitol
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

The state of Arkansas has secured a new supply of a lethal injection drug and is set to begin executing eight inmates in a 10-day period next month.

Difficulty stocking the three drugs used in lethal injections has thwarted the state’s efforts to kill inmates in the past, along with routine court challenges. But after a U.S. Supreme Court decision last month not to review Arkansas’s execution procedure the state is poised to resume executions after an 11-year lull.

On this week's podcast the KUAR News team tackles the emerging overhaul of healthcare at the both federal and state level. The Speaker of the House is moving forward with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act but Arkansas's congressional delegation has plenty of reservations about the replacement plan.

On the same as the national GOP plan unveiling, Governor Asa Hutchinson released his plan to seek new changes to Medicaid Expansion. The Republican governor's proposed waivers to the Affordable Care Act enabled plan could cost 60,000 low-income residents insurance coverage. 

State Rep. Dan Douglas (R-Bentonville).
Arkansas Times/Brian Chilson

A pair of highway funding bills – which would be referred out to voters in November – is making headway in the Arkansas Legislature. A House committee easily advanced a bond issue proposal on Thursday morning and then a new tax on gasoline. Bill sponsor Dan Douglas, a Republican from Bentonville, said he doesn’t relish the idea of a new tax but it’s needed.

“Do I like doing this? I wish we had a goose that laid golden eggs,” said Douglas, “Cause we could fund all sorts of issues but we don’t have that goose.”

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