Bobby Ampezzan

Managing Editor

Bobby Ampezzan (, (501) 569-8489) is a native of Detroit who holds degrees from Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA) and the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville). He's written for The Guardian newspaper and Oxford American magazine and was a longtime staff writer for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The best dimestore nugget he's lately discovered comes from James Altucher's Choose Yourself: "I lose at least 20 percent of my intelligence when I am resentful." Meanwhile, his faith in public radio and television stems from the unifying philosophy that not everything is serious, but we should be serious about curiosity because curiosity impels discovery.


Ways to Connect

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.


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.

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.

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."

The growth in online shopping on so-called Cyber Monday is expected to be 10 percent greater than a year ago according to the firm Adobe Digital Insights —  that’s actually flatter than the 17% year-over-year average since the National Retail Federation first used the moniker “Cyber Monday” in 2005. This has coincided with the rise of handcrafted, so-called “Arkansas made” gift items on websites like Etsy, Arkansas-hypen-made-dot-com, and the state government’s own “Arkansas e-store.”

At least 3,200 state workers, and thousands more public and private sector employees around Arkansas, will not see changes to the way they account for their work hours.

A federal judge in Texas Tuesday temporarily stopped changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act the Labor Department under President Obama sought to implement in order to change workplace accounting of employees' hours and grant more overtime pay.



  Little Rock director Jeff Nichols’ movie Loving, about the Supreme Court case that extirpated anti-miscegenation laws in 1967, opens nationwide today. But what does that mean for folks in Arkansas City, where the nearest movie theater is the Hollywood in Monticello, about 50 miles away, where it's not playing anyway?

Focus Features

Little Rock director Jeff Nichols’ new movie “Loving” opens statewide this weekend. It’s based on the love story of Mildred and Richard Loving, an interracial rural Virginia couple whose marriage became the basis of a 1967 Supreme Court decision that struck down all laws prohibiting interracial marriage or mingling.

Nichols has said his own experiences attending Central High School formed some of his connection to the material. He formed some more connection when he got a call from Martin Scorcese, as he told Deadline in an interview:

“I grew up in Arkansas, and I went to Little Rock Central High, which was the site of a desegregation crisis in ’57. I graduated in ’97. So I was inundated with Civil Rights history and impact, but I’d never heard of Mildred and Richard Loving before. As uninspiring as this sounds, I got a call from my agent, who said that Martin Scorsese wanted to speak with me. He had been kind of a shepherd of this project and wanted to see it made into a narrative film.”


Representatives of the U.S. State Department met with more than two dozen teachers and nonprofit leaders inside the Ron Robinson Theater today to share work and celebrate the close of the first-in-the-nation Declaration of Learning pilot program in schools throughout Arkansas.

It was, in some ways, the culmination of an agenda set forth by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the waning days of her tenure.

The Arkansas Declaration of Learning program enlisted 26 teachers from around the state, most located in or near the population centers of Little Rock or Northwest Arkansas, but some small-town teachers as well such as Nicole Bledsoe at Mena High, Nancy Spencer of Buffalo Island Central Junior High in Leachville, and Susan Youngblood of Manila High.


Arkansans with certain ailments may look forward this morning to a prescription marijuana option in the near future. Voters approved ballot issue 6, the so called Medical Marijuana referendum, 53 percent to 47 percent last night.

Lawyer David Couch was the ballot issue’s biggest advocate. He said there are perhaps tens of thousands of Arkansans who already use marijuana for medicinal reasons, and the vote will simply move them into a “legitimate marketplace.”

On Friday, Entergy Arkansas Inc. demo-ed the Cecil Lynch Power Plant, a first step to redevelopment of the 130-acre North Little Rock site that’s located directly across the Arkansas River from the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

Nationwide, utilities are doing this kind of thing to “green up” their portfolios, so to speak. And to modernize operations.


LITTLE ROCK — Former White House reporter turned White House historian and author Kate Anderson Brower visited the capital city today as the latest Fred K. Darragh Jr. Distinguished Lecturer of the Central Arkansas Library System.

The Arkansas Public Service Commission hosted a day-long public hearing Tuesday on net metering, the industry term for people and businesses who generate their own electricity, typically through photovoltaic solar systems, and push that power back onto transmission lines.

With virtually no notice from the Arkansas Health Department and no word from the media, legislators reversed direction last month and renewed the state’s contract with Denver-based National Jewish Health and its 1-800-QUIT-NOW hotline for smokers.

A contract worth more than $1.8 million was reviewed by a Legislative Council subcommittee on Aug. 16 and accepted by the entire council three days later. The new expiration is June 30, but state Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs) says the end is nearer than that.


Last week students across Arkansas returned to the classroom, and the heavens approved. The clouds huddled close and offered the state a fill of rain. Cooler temperatures kept new school duds light and loose.

The man-made change of “season” — summer to school year — seemed to be accompanied by a very real one.

Not so for a select student demographic at places such as KIPP Delta Preparatory Academy in Helena-West Helena and eStem Public Charter School in downtown Little Rock. Oh, it rained there, too, but these schools opened days, even weeks ago.

Pride Day at American Legion Post 114 in Batesville looked a lot like a Tuesday. By mid-afternoon a handful of regulars sat at the bar sipping cold beer and ice water, telling lawyer jokes and staring absently at a Law and Order episode.


Futurists have long foretold of two energy “unicorns,” sources that are as abundant and non-polluting as they are competitive in the marketplace. The dreamier of these is nuclear fusion, fuel to the stars! It chews up abundant hydrogen — that’s nine out of every 10 atoms in the galaxy — and spits out helium, the stuff of party balloons.