Arkansas Politics Blog

Arkansas Department of Emergency Management director David Maxwell (right) and Arkansas Natural Resources Commission executive director Randy Young (left) testify to a joint meeting of legislative committees on levees and flooding.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

The state agency responsible for coordinating disaster responses between a wide array of local, state, and federal organizations is getting a new director. Governor Asa Hutchinson announced on Tuesday he is bringing in former Chief of Police for the Conway Police Department A.J. Gary as director of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management.

On July 1, Gary will replace current director David Maxwell who has planned to retire at the end of June.

Libertarian Party of Arkansas Chair Michael Pakko with over 15,000 signatures to be submitted to the Secretary of State's office for ballot access. May 2016.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

The Libertarian Party of Arkansas is hoping to ride high hopes for its presidential ticket to automatic placement on the state’s ballot in future elections. On Sunday Libertarians nominated two former Republican governors, Gary Johnson of New Mexico and Bill Weld of Massachusetts, as presidential and vice presidential candidates.

Arkansas party chair Michael Pakko attended the national convention in Orlando and says the volatility of this election cycle gave those there a sense of an opening for the party.

Fort Smith Southside High School's mascot Johnny Reb.
fortsmithschools.org

The head of the Fort Smith School Board says the decision of two members to abandon an effort to bring back the Rebel mascot means the district can move on from the divisive issue and she can too. Board President Dr. Deanie Mehl told Talk Business & Politics she'll step down at the end of 2017 after 12 years on the school board.

The soon-to-be superintendent of the Little Rock School District Michael Poore making a presentation to the state Board of Education while still head of Bentonville schools in early May.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Incoming Little Rock School District Superintendent Michael Poore will begin work a little early, in a transitional role, beginning June 13. The Arkansas Department of Education made the announcement on Friday that Poore will join outgoing LRSD head Baker Kurrus in his final three weeks.

ADE says it will give the two men “the opportunity to collaborate on district matters prior to Poore starting as superintent.”

Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives Dianne Curry at KUAR in advance of the filing deadline for the primary election.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Arkansas’s largest organized labor group, the AFL-CIO, is backing Democratic U.S. House candidate Dianne Curry. The second district candidate’s campaign made the announcement on Thursday following written confirmation of a vote by the labor group earlier this month.

Curry says she hopes to boost the voice of organized labor in the coming election, “we really have to come back around to the fight for the American family.”

City Year Little Rock founding chair and Hall High graduate Wesley Clark speaking in front of City Year members at Hall High School.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

The AmeriCorps-affiliated program City Year announced on Wednesday it is sending its members to Hall High School in Little Rock for the first time this fall. A $150,000 grant from the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce and the philanthropic group Fifty for the Future will fund eight AmeriCorps positions for three years.

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

Governor Asa Hutchinson’s five-year highway funding bill is now law but legislators are already looking to 2017 to make changes. The $50-million a year plan is largely funded by surplus and general revenue funds. A number of Republican lawmakers, as well as Democrats, desire as a more dependable, dedicated user-based funding source for a long-term approach.

State Representative Andy Davis sponsored the governor’s plan but says more highway legislation is expected in next year’s regular legislative session, “I don’t think this is the end of highway bills for five years.”

File photo. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) speaking to reporters after addressing the Arkansas General Assembly at the beginning of a special session.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he’s worked with fellow Republicans to keep a transgender bathroom bill off the agenda of a special session he called to address highway funding. Instead, Hutchinson plans to work with lawmakers on legislation for next year’s lengthier, regular legislative session.

During a press conference, Hutchinson said adding the item to the special session has the potential to detract from his primary objective.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) addressing the Arkansas General Assembly at the start of a special session.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

A special session of the Arkansas Legislature is underway and the governor is still looking for more traction for his $50-million highway plan.

The Red River in southwest Arkansas.
US Geological Survey

The governor’s short-term highway funding plan is splitting the agenda with 14 other items in the special session of the Arkansas Legislature convening Thursday. Bills have yet to be filed but drafts are drawn up to re-organize the state’s levee system and to end a workers compensation fund among other items.

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