Arkansas Public Media

For most questions on Arkansas's Medical Marijuana Amendment, the refrain from the state's Department of Finance and Administration as well as its Department of Health has been consistent and continual: the answers are right there in the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment.

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / Arkansas Public Media

Arkansas has the fastest growing inmate population of any state nationwide, and it's forced the formation of a task force to propose reforms. Now that task force is asking for the policymaking powers of the General Assembly to achieve its aims.

Arkansas should move low-level offenders into community programs where data shows they are half as likely to re-offend, according to a consultant's report.

Board of Corrections chairman Benny Magness says the state has no choice.

“We have to do something, because we’re not going to be able to continue to build ourselves out of this. We have to continue to look at things. And we’ve been struggling with this for ten years, to find other ways to slow this population down.”

Center for Economic and Policy Research 2008

Note: An earlier version of this story said there was no cost estimate available for paid maternity leave for state workers. In fact, a 2015 financial impact statement put the costs to the state of six-weeks paid maternity leave at $354,000, according to a story published by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Dec. 15. Neither source referred to in this story, when asked, made mention of this earlier cost estimate. 

Little Rock Democratic Rep. Clarke Tucker is re-introducing paid maternity leave, a state worker benefit he tried and failed to get through the last legislative session.

Filed Monday, House Bill 1046 would give state employees six-weeks paid maternity leave or $500 a week, whichever is more. Employees who’ve worked less than a year are explicitly excluded, as are those at public colleges and universities, many of whom have already signed contracts with ample paid leave, maternity or otherwise.

It does include qualifying part-time employees.

Bobby Ampezzan/ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Dr. Ronda Henry-Tillman's never been in such a political position. She's a surgical oncologist. That's good for generating approving smiles, not to mention a very liveable wage. On Monday, she was picked to chair the new Medical Marijuana Commission.

Well, "chair" — more like hotseat.

"Care to share how you voted on amendment 6?" a reporter asked new medical marijuana commissioner Dr. Ronda Henry-Tillman.

"You don't have to answer that if you don't want to," Department of Finance and Administration spokesman Jake Bleed interrupted. "We're all here to carry out the intent of the voter," he told her.

"We're all here to carry out the intent of the voter," she parroted.

Michael Hibblen / KUAR

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he’s secured federal approval to keep the state’s public/private healthcare partnership, renamed “Arkansas Works," but a debate on repealing the Affordable Care Act continues at the federal level, and Arkansas’s budget remains deeply dependent on federal money from “Obamacare.”

In 2014 Hutchinson was elected on a promise to dismantle the state’s Obamacare model. This week he traveled to Washington for federal approval to keep and tweak it.

Sarah Whites-Koditschek/ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Following the national election last month the din of news stories about news stories seems to have reached a crescendo. Academics and even online social media sites like Facebook are examining what, if anything, is an appropriate response to “fake” news stories. They’re light on facts, but no less alarming for it.

University of Central Arkansas political scientist Heather Yates studies the input human emotion has on politics. This year Palgrave MacMillan published her most recent book, The Politics of Emotions, Candidates, and Choices, but she’s been researching voter behavior since the 2004 election, focused on emotions and how they influence voters’ choices and even cognition.

J.Froelich

The hand, the strap, or the paddle?

Choosing the preferred instrument of pain as well as number of strokes against the bottoms of unruly public school students remains legal in Arkansas, and twenty-one other states.

“My understanding is that it’s typically a wooden paddle,” says Kristen Garner, staff attorney for Arkansas School Boards Association. She monitors public school discipline practices.  “The most prevalent is to be spanked on the rear end.”

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / Arkansas Public Media

Davida Walls never thought she would be teaching high school biology, let alone in the first few months after graduating from college at 22.

“Teaching was not my initial goal. It was kind of an opportunity that just, you know, became available so I took it.”

She is trying to decide whether to become a doctor or a nurse, and plans to apply for a program to train for one or the other this year.

Arkansas Business

First there was Black Friday, and you loved it. Then Cyber Monday (which this year generated about $3.4 million, $1.2 of which were smart phone transactions, according to an analytics firm). Did you know Saturday was claimed for small businesses? Maybe you've heard of Giving Tuesday. 

Tomorrow, thousands of Arkansans will act on the unified chorus of charities and nonprofits, and act online. They'll visit websites and click the "Donate" button. Post the deed on social media, hashtag it "WhatWillYouGive" and "GivingTuesdayAR." Friends will urge online friends they may or may not know in real life to get in on the sacrifice.

The woman leading the soft sell is Stephanie Meincke, president of the Arkansas Nonprofit Alliance, and while people should consider the tax benefits of full end-of-year donations (measured in hundreds or thousands), this is a small-contribution campaign.

"Nobody ever should be ashamed of whatever amounts they can give, and frankly, people who can't afford to give great amounts of money, give more generously than people who have a lot more."

Jacqueline Froelich

Protests over construction of the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota has triggered sympathy demonstrations across the nation, including in Arkansas. But Arkansas activists are also protesting a newly permitted 440-mile long underground oil transport project called the Diamond Pipeline.

Pages