Arkansas Politics

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.

The Independent Citizens Commission charged with setting salaries for legislators, constitutional officers, and judges hopes to hear from some of those people at its next meeting Jan. 7. At its second meeting Tuesday (Dec. 30), commission members decided to request appearances by Speaker of the House Jeremy Gilliam, R-Judsonia, and Senate Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, to discuss legislators’ compensation and expenses.

Governor Beebe with Reporters
Nathan Vandiver / KUAR

Outgoing Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe says he's cautiously optimistic that the state will keep its compromise Medicaid expansion, warning that abandoning the program could be "politically disastrous" for its opponents.

The two-term Democrat said Monday that he believes there's a path forward for reauthorizing the state's "private option." More than 213,000 people are enrolled in the program, which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for the poor.

(left) Chair Larry Ross and (right) Vice Chair Chuck Banks talking after the first meeting of the Independent Citizens Commission.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

A newly formed panel reviewing the salaries for Arkansas' top elected officials is holding its second meeting at the state Capitol.

The Independent Citizens Commission planned to meet Tuesday morning. Voters approved creating the seven-member panel in November through a constitutional amendment that imposed new ethics rules on legislators and eased their term limits. The commission is charged with reviewing and adjusting salaries for constitutional officers, legislators and judges.

Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Lawmakers say incoming Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson's call to reduce taxes for the middle class by $100 million a year will dominate any tax cut debate in the Legislature next year.

Several other proposals are likely to be on the table. House and Senate leaders have said they plan to put forward legislation enacting the tax cut that Hutchinson made a focus of his successful bid for governor.

They predict the plan will easily win support early on in the session that begins Jan. 12.