Arkansas Politics

A scene from the 2014 Gillett Coon Supper.

An Arkansas political tradition in its 72nd year, the annual Gillett Coon Supper, is taking place Saturday evening. The gathering in the elementary school gym of the southeast Arkansas hamlet of Gillette is famous among the state’s politicos for its barbeque raccoon and has been a must-stop on the political circuit for decades.

Political scientist Hal Bass of Ouachita Baptist University says events like the Coon Supper are waning in importance in an era of unprecedented campaign spending and mass media but are still relevant.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman (4th District) speaking in 2013 at the Arkansas Capitol when he was a State Rep.
Nathan Vandiver / KUAR

Arkansas's members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted on Thursday to remove a requirement that employers with over 100 employees (50 next year) have to offer health insurance to those working more than 30 hours a week or face a penalty. The legislation would set the new standard at 40 hours a week. 

The previous class of the House passed a similar measure but this year, with the Senate in Republican hands, the legislation could head to the President's desk for the first time.

Mike Beebe
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Mike Beebe discussed his accomplishments and challenges in his next-to-last radio address last week. In his farewell address released Friday, Beebe reminisced on the social aspects and the more emotional sides of the job.

Here is his address in its entirety:

Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson has announced Larry Walther as the new Director of the Department of Finance and Administration, Jami Cook as the new Director of the Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, and State Senator Bruce Holland as the new Director of Livestock and Poultry. 

In addition, Hutchinson said he will keep Joe Fox as State Forester at the Arkansas Forestry Commission.

David Ray, former communications director for the Tom Cotton Senate campaign and the Republican Party of Arkansas, has been hired as the new state director for Americans for Prosperity’s Arkansas chapter.

“David’s life-long commitment to economic freedom paired with his understanding of the importance of building grass roots make him an excellent addition to the Arkansas team as they fight for state taxpayers,” said Teresa Oelke, former AFP-Arkansas state director and current vice president of state operations for Americans for Prosperity.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's office says past service in the Legislature counts toward new term limits lawmakers face under a voter-approved amendment.

McDaniel's office said in an advisory opinion Tuesday that years served in the Legislature are to be counted in calculating term limits under a constitutional amendment voters approved in November.

Asa Hutchinson governor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov.-elect Asa Hutchinson made plenty of news in a pre-session Q&A with reporters at the state capitol on Tuesday. Saying he wanted a “quick start” to his legislative agenda, Hutchinson touched on issues ranging from tax cuts to prison overcrowding to health care reform and education. 

"I hope to accomplish the agenda I campaigned on," Hutchinson told reporters at a capitol forum sponsored by the Associated Press Managing Editors.

Hutchinson also discussed at length his positions on the state lottery, highway funding, and ethics and elections reforms.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Gov
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Incoming Gov. Asa Hutchinson and legislative leaders are set to speak to editors and reporters from around Arkansas about the upcoming session of the Legislature.

Hutchinson, incoming House Speaker Jeremy Gillam and Senate President Jonathan Dismang are scheduled to speak at a Tuesday forum sponsored by the Arkansas Associated Press Managing Editors Association.

The 2015 legislative session begins Jan. 12. Hutchinson will be sworn in Jan. 13.

The 72nd annual Gillett Coon Supper will take place on Saturday, Jan. 10 in the tiny southeast Arkansas hamlet.

The community and political event is typically a must-stop trip on the annual political circuit. Always in early January, it is usually the first post-holiday event for candidates and elected officials.

Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson has named Dr. Gregory Bledsoe to be the state’s next surgeon general. Hutchinson made the announcement Tuesday that Bledsoe, the son of a state senator and chair of an Alabama emergency medical center, will replace Dr. Joe Thompson as the state’s surgeon general.

Hutchinson’s communication director J.R. Davis said the incoming governor is personally familiar with Bledsoe, a graduate of UAMS.