A Sleepy Week at the Legislature on Tonight’s Arkansas Week

I’m back on AETN’s “Arkansas Week” at 8 p.m. tonight along with the Associated Press’ Andrew DeMillo and KUAR’s Kelly MacNeil. We’ll go over the week that was at the General Assembly, including no raises for judges and lawyers, an attempt to reign in independent state agencies and redistricting. We’ll also go over the Arkansas delegation’s vote to repeal Obama health care and major news from Tyson Foods Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Got a big night ahead? Watch it right now online.


This Week in Arkansas Business: Education Department to Seek More Scholarship Money

This week in Arkansas Business:

At the rate Arkansas is awarding college scholarships, money in the Arkansas Department of Higher Education’s reserve fund will run out by 2013. So director Jim Purcell says he’ll ask the Legislature this January to provide more money for scholarships or allow the department to cut the number awarded.

Meanwhile, the DHE is investigating how schools waive out-of-state tuition for certain students.

The latest list of the state’s top colleges and universities shows tuition up at most Arkansas schools.

The Log Cabin Democrat in Conway lays off two staffers, leaving a newsroom of six, in the aftermath of parent company Morris Publishing Group’s emergence from bankruptcy.

Go Red Wolves! This Arkansas State University graduate is now a VP at Verizon.

The 87th General Assembly Comes to Close

From @dgoins, a shot of Gov. Beebe addressing the Senate today.

Memories: Gov. Beebe at the Senate today, by @dgoins.

What’s that light at the end of the tunnel, you say? Why, it’s the end of the 87th General Assembly! Pretty soon, all the goings on of the last three months will be a distant, bittersweet memory, leaving us with only a stockpile of pre-tax-increase cigarettes and lotto tickets — and a voluminous archive of lawmakers’ incessant blogging and tweeting.

All good things must come to end, we suppose. Or at least recess — until the fall!

Major Job Losses, State Revenue and the Legislative Session on ‘Arkansas Week’


Update: Listen to audio, see video of tonight’s show.

It’s Friday, so you know what that means: “Arkansas Week”! Steve Barnes hosts another panel of Arkansas journalists to discuss The Week That Was. On tonight’s episode, me, John Williams and Brenda Blagg try to put the whole messy affair into some perspective. The topics:

Today’s painful U.S. unemployment numbers, which showed 650,000 jobs were eliminated last month, taking the unemployment rate to 8.1 percent — the highest it’s been since 1983. But: Wal-Mart wins!

The February state revenue report. We’re still waiting for the bottom to follow out, and experts say we’ll certainly see it happen soon, if not this year, definitely 2010. On the bright side: We can still cut the grocery tax! As for the other tax cuts — well …

Concealed weapons! A snarky blog post leads to possible legislation that will limit public access to information on who’s packin’. Also wasting legislators’ time: Another fruitless go-round with the Equal Rights Amendment.

And: Legislation to limit teenagers’ driving and our slow, wobbly march to alcohol sales on Sunday.

Plus: Only a passing reference to state lottery. An improvement!

Catch “Arkansas Week” tonight at 8 p.m. on your local AETN affiliate.

Ed Garner, Little Rock Family Join the Arkansas Twittersphere

There’s a new thing on the Internets! It’s called Twitter! No one really knows what it is, and some people are mad about it, but damned if they’re not signing up for it in droves. Who’s the latest to join the Arkansas Twittersphere? Let’s see, shall we?

Rep. Ed Garner, R-Maumelle – Garner, who floated an alternative plan to raise money for the state trauma system, thought he might limit followers to legislators. But now it’s a free-for-all! Sadly, “no secret stuff.”

Jeff Hankins – The Arkansas Business president and publisher discovered Twitter over the weekend. And now he wants to know Everything. About. It. And he’s asking me. Constantly.

Jennifer Pyron, Little Rock Family magazine – Jennifer brings Twitter goodness to all the Twittering moms in Little Rock and beyond.

Aristotle, Rockfish and Mass Enthusiasm – Web developers all, and they’re Twittering. About Web developing.

Jordan Johnson – Spokesman for the Clinton Library and director of public policy for Little Rock ad firm CJRW.

Want more? Check our informally updated guide to the Arkansas Twittersystem here.

Robbie Wills on the Lottery at Capsearch.com

It’s lottery week! Yes, that time of year when everyone in town draws a little piece of paper in anticipation of seeing the little black dot, a harbinger of the coming harvest and the sacrifice we must make to insure —

Oh wait! Wrong lottery!

No, this lottery is about education, and the kids, and opportunity for everyone! Not stoning! And now that the voters have had their say, it’s time for the Ledge to get the job done. In his commentary for ArkansasBusiness.com and Capsearch.com, Speaker of the House Rep. Robbie Wills, D-Conway, talks about the next steps in setting up how the lottery will be governed and ushering our fair state into “a modern-era of lottery policy.”

We have now unveiled for public scrutiny that portion of the proposed Arkansas Scholarship Lottery Act governing the establishment and operation of the lottery. The operation of the lottery will be governed by a nine-member Arkansas Lottery Commission. This commission will be given the authority to determine lottery games, lottery ticket sales, and prize amounts. The commission’s goal will be to maximize revenues for scholarships. In the next week or so, we will propose the second half of the measure, governing the scholarship programs themselves. Through a deliberate two-step process, legislators, the citizens they represent, retailers, educators and others are having the opportunity to provide welcomed input on the creation of the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery Act.  With this collaborative effort, a new law of this state, like other models of successful lotteries in such states as Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee, will bring Arkansas into a modern-era of lottery policy, first proposed and effectively used by our nation’s founding fathers for the advancement of our people.

Much more here.


Robbie Wills’ blog and Twitter feed

It’s D-Day in the House for Beebe’s Cigarette Tax

Holy crap this is going to be close.

Gov. Mike Beebe’s 56-cent increase in the cigarette tax comes up in the House today. The action begins a 1:30 p.m. If you can’t get a seat at the Ledge (did Tolbert camp out last night to get in first?), you can watch the madness unfold on Comcast’s Channel 18 in Little Rock.

The question this morning: Do the Democrats have the votes? Democratic Rep. Steve Harrelson says yes. House Speaker Robbie Wills says hell yes. Blogger Jason Tolbert, meanwhile, names names, saying these are the swing votes.

But here’s what seems to be the conventional wisdom of the moment: If it passes, it passes with 75 votes — the exact number required to get a two-thirds majority.

It’s gonna be a squeaker. Smoke ’em if you got ’em.


Philip Morris USA raises cigarette prices ahead of federal tax