KASU

Chris Hickey / KUAR

Chris Hickey was born and raised in Houston, Texas, spending his teenage years in Camden, Ohio. He graduated from Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, majoring in English. He got his start in public radio working as a board operator at WMUB in Oxford, Ohio during his summer and winter breaks from school. Since graduating, he has made Little Rock home. He joined KUAR in September 2011 as a production intern and has since enjoyed producing, anchoring and reporting for the station. He is the composer of KUAR's Week-In-Review Podcast theme music and the associate producer of Arts & Letters

The Arkansas unemployment rate dropped to another record low for the month of April, to 3.5 percent. That’s a tenth of a percentage point drop from March. The Arkansas Department of Workforce Services reports it is the fourth month in a row the unemployment rate has dropped in the state.

In April of last year, the state unemployment rate was 4.1 percent. The latest 3.5 percent figure comes as the state’s seasonally adjusted civilian labor force also increased for the month, totaling 1,347,934 people. The unemployed totaled 47,697 in April, according to the DWS.

Arkansas Community Correction officials plan to continue operating an online portal that assists ex-convicts in their transition back to society. On Wednesday the state Board of Corrections approved a $50,000 contract for maintenance and upgrades to the Good Grid, a social media-like website. It allows former inmates to upload and build resumes and set up profiles accessible to prospective employers.

The state of Arkansas has launched a website and hotline for citizens to suggest ways the government can do a better job. Gov. Asa Hutchinson was joined by other state officials in announcing the “MyIdea Transformation Project” on Thursday.

Citizens can submit ideas on the website myidea.arkansas.gov and the Department of Finance and Administration will direct the comments to the appropriate state agency, which will have 30 days to respond.

Arkansas has carried out its final execution for the month of April.

Eight death row inmates were scheduled to die in less than two weeks in Arkansas in four double executions. Ultimately, four inmates were executed, including one double execution.

Death row inmate Kenneth Williams, 38, was pronounced dead at 11:05 p.m.  The lethal injection began at 10:52 p.m.

Williams' execution, which had been scheduled for 7 p.m., was on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed legal challenges. It ultimately denied all claims.

Two former supervisors at an Arkansas juvenile detention facility Wednesday pleaded guilty for conspiracy to assault detainees. Patrick Harris, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, announced that 42-year old Peggy Kendrick and 40-year old Dennis Fuller each entered guilty pleas for their actions at the White River Juvenile Detention Center in Batesville.

As the first 100 days of the of Donald Trump’s presidency draw to an end, Arkansas’s Junior U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton fielded questions about the chief executive and the new administration for about an hour on Wednesday.

Cotton appeared with Clinton School of Public Service Dean Skip Rutherford at the Robinson Center in Little Rock. When asked about Trump’s proposed budget, which dramatically reduces funding for a number of government programs and departments, Cotton said Congress is unlikely to implement it line by line.

The Arkansas House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday allowing state universities to prohibit concealed carry license holders from bringing handguns into “collegiate athletic events.” SB724 would also allow the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the Arkansas State Hospital to prohibit firearms. The bill passed the House on a 71-20 vote.  A previous version already passed the Senate.

The Arkansas Senate passed a number of bills Thursday regulating medical marijuana. One of those, HB1460, allows employers to establish marijuana-free workplace policies. It would allow employers to bar workers with physicians’ written certifications from showing up on the job if they are high. 

A bill that expands where trained Arkansans can bring concealed firearms is now heading to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's desk after the Legislature gave its final approval on Wednesday.

Since November, Mexican consulates around the U.S. have reported an increase in unauthorized immigrants venturing in to seek legal advice and update their citizenship papers in case of possible deportation. 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is endorsing a proposal to end the dual recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert E. Lee on the same day each year.

He took to the lectern Wednesday to say that, as Americans celebrate the slain Civil Rights icon, residents of the state are presented with a choice.

“That choice that is there, it divides us as Arkansans and as a nation,” Hutchinson said.

A late attempt to significantly alter a resolution limiting attorneys fees and injury lawsuit awards failed to get approval from the Arkansas House of Representatives Friday. 

A bill requiring public universities to allow faculty, staff and students 25 years or older to carry concealed firearms on campuses may be coming up for a vote Monday afternoon in the Arkansas Senate. HB1249 is on the calendar after being amended in recent weeks to include provisions requiring additional training and extending concealed carry privileges to some students.

State legislators are beginning to consider proposals for constitutional amendments that could eventually go to a vote of the people. Wednesday was the deadline for members of the Arkansas House of Representatives and Senate to file such proposals. In the Senate Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Thursday, lawmakers discussed two of the nearly thirty proposals filed in both chambers.

A bill to require Arkansas political candidates file their campaign finance reports through an online system advanced out of a committee in the Arkansas House of Representatives Wednesday.

Republican State Rep. Jana Della Rosa of Rogers is renewing her effort to make Arkansas political candidates’ campaign finance reports more searchable. Della Rosa filed a bill this week requiring legislative, judicial and constitutional office candidates to enter their campaign finance information electronically through a new online system.

The Arkansas Secretary of State’s office is currently installing the system. Della Rosa says the measure will allow people to more easily see who contributes to candidates.

The Arkansas House of Representatives has voted in favor of a bill requiring public colleges and universities in Arkansas to allow firearms on their campuses.

Legislation is advancing to expand the scope of telemedicine in Arkansas.

Republican State Sen. Cecile Bledsoe of Rogers is the lead sponsor of the telemedicine bill, SB146, which advanced out of the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee on Wednesday. Bledsoe explained that under her legislation, telemedicine could be legally practiced beyond official clinical settings, to anywhere a patient is located.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed into law a $50 million income tax cut that primarily affects people earning below $20,999 a year.

Under Act 79 of 2017, cuts to the affected income earners’ marginal tax rate would start in 2019. The law also commissions leaders of the Arkansas Senate and House of Representatives to appoint members of a 16-person task force to consider future tax legislation.

A revamped effort to establish a voter identification requirement in Arkansas is making headway in the state Legislature.

Republican Rep. Mark Lowery of Maumelle is the sponsor of HB1047, which would amend the Arkansas Constitution and require voters to show photo identification at the polls. It’s the second attempt to bring a voter ID statute to the state.

A $50 million income tax cut plan for low-earning Arkansans, initially proposed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, advanced out of a state Senate panel on Wednesday. The Senate Committee on Revenue and Taxation, consisting of five Republicans and three Democrats, passed the measure with no dissenting voices or votes. The bill would cut taxes for people making below $20,999 annually.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren of Gravette, who’s also the Governor’s nephew, is the lead sponsor. He said the plan would affect about 657,000 people.  

A bill to establish an official state dinosaur advanced out of a House committee Wednesday Democratic State Rep. Greg Leding of Fayetteville is the measure’s sponsor. The resolution, HCR1003, would make Arkansaurus Fridayi the official dinosaur of Arkansas.

Click here for more information on the bill and the dinosaur.

The Arkansas House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a resolution doing away with a seniority system for committee assignments.

A state-by-state study of Head Start programs shows Arkansas keeping up with national averages in per-child funding levels and hours of classroom time, but the state lags in pay and education levels for teachers. The National Institute for Early Education Research released the findings Wednesday.

Steve Barnett, the institute’s director and a professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, says in order to improve the reach and effectiveness of early childhood education, Arkansas should find more ways to partner with the federal Head Start program.

At the Arkansas Senate’s orientation Wednesday, a rule was adopted that prevents members of a minority party from taking a majority of seats on any of the chamber’s standing committees. 

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