Arkansas Politics Blog

House Speaker Jeremy Gillam (R-Judsonia) speaking in the press gallery.
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / Arkansas Public Media

The 91st General Assembly is sworn in and there is some divide between Republican and Democratic leadership on whether or not members were rewarded with committee chairmanships for switching parties.

Speaker Jeremy Gillam (R-Judsonia) addressed the House chamber after taking the oath of office with an emphasis on civility and collaboration. He referenced Abraham Lincoln’s Team of Rivals, an ideologically diverse cabinet.

The 91st session of the Arkansas General Assembly pledges allegiance to the United States of America.
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / Arkansas Public Media

The Arkansas General Assembly convened for its 91st regular legislative session on Monday at noon. Both the state House and Senate are firmly in the hands of Republicans. Major issues such as tax cuts and implementing the voter-approved medical marijuana program likely will be hashed out nearly entirely within the GOP's supermajority ranks.

Huddle up by the fireplace and tune into this week's Week in Review podcast from the KUAR News team. This week we highlight some of what to look for in next week's legislative session, a bribery case in NWA with potentially far reaching implications, the opening of the U.S. Congress, Tom Cotton's take on Russian hacks, and a new state partnership with Facebook.

Take a listen and make sure to subscribe to the podcast this year to keep up to date with state news at large and all the happenings from the state legislature during the upcoming session.

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) questioning Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about Russian hacking.
C-SPAN

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton cast his personal doubt on allegations the Russian government tried to sway the Presidential election in favor of Donald Trump. During a meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, the Republican Senator questioned the idea that Russia prefers Trump in office.

Although Cotton did not quibble with findings from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta.

U.S. Senator John Boozman (R) gets sworn in for a second term.
C-Span

All six members of Arkansas's all-Republican congressional delegation were officially sworn in on Tuesday to convene the 115th Congress. In the U.S. House, the state's representatives all voted to support the successful re-election of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as Speaker. Only one of Arkansas's four members backed the now rescinded GOP effort to dismantle the independent Office of Congressional Ethics.

Arkansas Surgeon General Joe Thompson
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

In Arkansas lawmakers and health officials have been exploring the outer limits of Medicaid expansion for several years now, typically pushing for more restrictions on the insurance program for low-income residents made possible by the Affordable Care Act. And under a Donald J. Trump presidency, some conservatives are eager to push the parameters of coverage to require more from low-income beneficiaries. 

This morning NPR  took a look at Indiana's and Arkansas's alterations of Medicaid expansion.

Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood swearing in Elector Jonathan Barnett in the Old Supreme Court room at the state Capitol building on Monday.
Jacob Kuaffman / KUAR News

All six members of the Electoral College from Arkansas cast their votes for Donald J. Trump on Monday at the state Capitol. Electors met in the Old Supreme Court room and took oaths, cast ballots, and heard a few anti-Trump outbursts along the way.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) and Microsoft Vice President of Governmental Affairs Fred Humphries sign a memorandum of understanding (left to right).
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

The state of Arkansas and Microsoft signed a memorandum of understanding on Monday to further the instruction of computer science in schools. Under the agreement Microsoft, with no cost to the state, would help with professional development for computer science teachers in addition to hosting a range of workshops and events for students.

The Medical Marijuana Commission meets today.
Senate Information Office

Arkansas's newly appointed medical marijuana commissioners are slated to hold their first meeting Monday at 2:00 p.m. The five-member commission was appointed last week to help facilitate the licensing and regulation of dispensaries and cultivation centers as outlined by the voter-approved Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment.

Arkansas Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe with Gov. Asa Hutchinson and other state health officials urging opposition to two medical marijuana ballot measures.
David Monteith / KUAR News

Arkansas took a few more steps toward implementing its voter-approved medical marijuana program this week and the constitutional amendment’s architect says he has faith that a conservative administration is so far faithfully carrying it out. Although, attorney David Couch does have some reservations about what the state legislature might do to the healthcare program during next year’s legislative session.

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