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Jacqueline Froelich / Arkansas Public Media

Nuclear Power A Split Decision For Energy Industry, Government Experts And Environmentalists

Arkansas Nuclear One , a few miles northwest of Russellville, is among 61 commercial nuclear power facilities in the U.S. operating ninety-nine nuclear fission reactors. Constructed in the late 1970s and currently owned by Entergy, Arkansas Nuclear One operates two pressurized light water reactors with the capacity to generate 1,776 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 355,000 homes and businesses. The reactors are cooled by water drawn from Lake Dardanelle. Thick white steam rising from the power plant's iconic six-story hyperbolic cement tower is visible for miles. Locals, Russellville Mayor Randy Horton says, divine weather conditions from the plume. “In the old days, we would drive to the base of the cooling towers and fish in the hot water discharge stream. It never was threatening, never been scary.” Horton says the power plant is a good neighbor, providing jobs--and lots of clean safe energy.

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Ann Kenda / Arkansas Public Media

Sales tax on soda will go up from 1.5% to 6.5% in Arkansas next year, under a bill signed by Gov. Hutchinson that aims to raise millions for military retiree tax cuts.  The increase is coupled with a tax reduction on the wholesale price for the syrup used by beverage makers, which has advocates for the poor complaining that the higher tax will be paid only by consumers.

The increase comes at a time when soda has largely fallen out of favor with consumers, as they seek healthier alternatives.  PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP) spent its advertising dollars this year on a 30 second ad during the Super Bowl promoting its new LIFEWTR premium bottled water instead of its traditional cola drinks.

J. Froelich / Arkansas Public Media

Eureka Springs, a nineteenth century Ozark Mountain health spa, could soon become a 21st century mecca for medical marijuana.

constitutional amendment allowing the use of cannabis for certain medicinal purposes was approved by Arkansas voters last November. And certain residents of Eureka Springs hope to brand their village as a medicinal marijuana destination.

Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

  This legislative session, 15 Republican state senators and more than 50 representatives signed onto Senate Joint Resolution 8 — a referendum for voters in 2018 that would cap lawyer fees and plaintiff awards in civil lawsuits. It would also circumscribe the powers of the state Supreme Court.

  If SJR8 by state Senator Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View) sounds familiar it’s because it was nearly on the ballot last year as Issue 4. The state Supreme Court struck it down just before the election. 

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / Arkansas Public Media

Teachers in Arkansas’s lowest paying districts could see a small pay bump in their salaries soon.

A bill to increase minimum teacher salary in Arkansas is headed to the Senate Education Committee. It would bring the lowest paid Arkansas teachers up $400 dollars from the current $31,000 minimum.

J.Froelich / Arkansas Public Media

The Arkansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday about whether municipal civil rights ordinances which ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity violate Arkansas law.

The case traces back to 2015 when Fayetteville and the gay-friendly Ozarks town of Eureka Springs passed civil rights ordinances banning discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. In response, the Arkansas Legislature passing Act 137, "The Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act."

Sponsored by state Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs), Act 137   prohibits cities and counties from passing civil rights ordinances that create a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in state law. The Arkansas Supreme Court is now decided whether to uphold that law.

Yang family

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday to send a case against the city of Little Rock's 911 and Metro EMS services to trial court.

The decision was based on the city's failure to adequately prove and document its insurance policy to a lower court, thereby voiding its claim to sovereign immunity, which would protect it from civil suits.

Tim McKuin

The Arkansas Supreme Court heard a case Thursday that may foreshadow legal battles over LGBTQ protections between state and local governments nationwide.

A 2015 state law banned anti-discrimination ordinances on any basis not already included in Arkansas law. Now lawyers for the state are suing the City of Fayetteville to invalidate its municipal ordinance protecting LGBTQ citizens.

Oral arguments on both sides pivoted on what constitutes an existing protected class in the state constitution.

Johnathan Reeves / KASU

About thirty people attended a meeting at the Jonesboro Public Library’s Round Room Wednesday evening to discuss the issues and challenges facing the gay and transgender populations in Arkansas under the new Trump administration.

“So we really do see that the transgender community is very marginalized.  We see that within health care.  We see that within protections,” said James Rector, field organizer with the Human Rights Campaign of Arkansas.

Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

By the closest of voice votes the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee rejected legislation from one of its own.

House Bill 1035 by state Rep. Mary Bentley (R-Perryville) would have prohibited the expenditure of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program dollars on soda, candy, chips and other junk foods.

The committee is comprised of eight members — six Republicans and Eddie Cheatham (D-Crossett) and Stephanie Flowers (D-Pine Bluff). The voice vote was so close that chair Cecile Bledsoe (R-Rogers) hesitated before calling it for the nays.

J. Froelich / Arkansas Public Media

 

Thousands of Pacific Islander children now inhabit northwest Arkansas. The youngsters are lawfully residing Marshallese migrants, brought here by their parents. Many families arrive impoverished, but with help from extended kin, parents settle in, take up factory and slaughterhouse jobs, and enroll the children in public school. 

But enrolling into the American healthcare insurance system is a major challenge for low and even middle- income Marshallese, who cannot afford workplace coverage policies or Obamacare premiums. Marshallese adults are barred from Arkansas Medicaid, known as the Private Option. And their children don’t qualify for "ARKids First!" the state's implementation of the federal children’s insurance program. But Northwest Arkansas lawmakers, along with a state children's advocacy organization, are determined to help.

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