Arkansas Politics Blog

Steps leading up the Arkansas Senate chamber.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

An attempt to ban the smoking of medical marijuana fell short in the Arkansas Senate while a bill to ban edibles was deferred. But both measures altering the voter-approved constitutional amendment could come up later this week.

Speaking on the Senate floor on Monday, Republican Jason Rapert of Bigelow said inhaling smoke is not good medicine.

“You mark my word. People will be hurt, they will be injured, and some will die as a result of this loose amendment,” said the senator.

Sample of Arkansas Driver's License.
Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration

Arkansas drivers may soon have access to a digital driver’s license in addition to a hard copy. The Arkansas Senate advanced a bill on Monday that would create and offer a digital license as an equivalent to the physical license at traffic stops and the like.

Alongside a physical license drivers could pay $10 for a digital copy provided by the Office of Drivers Services.

On this edition of KUAR's Week-In-Review podcast, we explore the state's decision to schedule execution dates for eight inmates over a period of ten days. The Death Penalty Information Center says that's an unprecedented timetable for executions since the U.S. resumed capital punishment in 1977.

Why the hurry?  What’s the status of execution drugs, and do the inmates have any appeals left?

A federal grand jury in Fayetteville has indicted a former Arkansas state senator who left office this year. It’s the latest development in a kickback scheme that has already brought down one other former legislator.

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

Martin Luther King Jr. Day would stand alone, separated from Arkansas’s dual observance with Robert E. Lee, under a proposal advanced by a Senate committee. On a voice vote Thursday, legislation passed to move the observance of Lee to October. Governor Asa Hutchinson led the cause to disjoin the Civil Rights leader and Confederate general.

“The fact is celebrating Martin Luther King on the same day as a Confederate general gives Arkansas a sense that you make a choice and this choice diminishes the contributions of Dr. King,” Hutchinson told committee members.

arkansashouse.org

The Arkansas House of Representatives Committee on Education advanced a bill Thursday that exempts public schools and universities from disclosing security plans and records under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

Attorney and former House Speaker Robbie Wills spoke against the bill, SB12, on behalf of the Arkansas Press Association. He said concerns about releasing school security plans to potential assailants are unfounded.

Altus Arkansas is home to several Arkansas wineries.
wikimedia

A bill to open-up the sale of wine in Arkansas grocery stores to all producers, rather just small vineyards, fell three votes short in the Arkansas House. Liquor store owners lined the House gallery on Monday, opposed to the bill which would open up competition. State Representative Gary Deffenbaugh of Van Buren spoke against the bill. The Republican worried that retailers like WalMart would shut down local stores.

Arkansas Women and the Right to Vote: The Little Rock Campaigns 1869-1920.
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. 2015.

February marked the 100th anniversary of Arkansas recognizing women’s right to vote – at least white women, in primary elections – but a historic milestone nonetheless.

KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman spoke with Bernadette Cahill, author of Arkansas Women and the Right to Vote: The Little Rock Campaigns 1868-1920 published by UA Press and the Butler Center for Arkansas studies.

Listen in to hear how Arkansas women built a movement; why primary elections were targeted; and the state’s place in the national women’s suffrage movement.

State Rep. John Payton (R-Wilburn) sponsoring legislation to limit workers compensation benefits.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Arkansas workers injured on the job and the families of workers killed on site are facing the prospect of an eight year, eight month limit on workers compensation benefits. The Arkansas House barely passed the bill to restrict benefits with the needed supermajority on Monday. It follows a 2016 law ending the state’s contribution to a compensation fund assisting employers and their insurance pay claims.

State Representative Charlie Collins argued it had to be done to help business interests, who help pay for the benefit.

Chris Hickey / KUAR News

A bill requiring public universities to allow faculty, staff and students 25 years or older to carry concealed firearms on campuses may be coming up for a vote Monday afternoon in the Arkansas Senate. HB1249 is on the calendar after being amended in recent weeks to include provisions requiring additional training and extending concealed carry privileges to some students.

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