KASU

Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Jacob Kauffman is a reporter and anchor for KUAR. He primarily covers the state legislature and politics beat while juggling anchoring Morning Edition Monday through Friday. 

Jacob is a long-time Little Rock resident who started out working with Hendrix College's KHDX and the Arkansas Legislative Digest. His work has appeared on NPR, our other wonderful public radio stations across Arkansas, PBS News Hour, TalkBusiness.net, Arkansas Money & Politics Magazine, ArkansasBlog.com, and the Nashville News. He also runs KUAR's Arkansas Politics Blog.

He regularly appears on Arkansas Educational Television Network's (AETN) weekly roundtable politics program Arkansas Week. Jacob also served on the board of the MacArthur Military History Museum. If you see him you should ask him about the experience of German-Arkansans during World War I.

Phone: 501-683-7393

Arkansans on death row have filed a lawsuit arguing the state’s 10-day timetable to execute eight inmates, with a controversial drug, amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. The motion for a preliminary injunction, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, asks for a stay in executions until the lawsuit is resolved.

Rev your engines! Well, not yet. The Arkansas House overwhelmingly backed a bill on Thursday to raise the speed limit to 75 miles per hour on interstates and 65 miles per hour on other highways. If it becomes law, the five-mile per hour bump would still be subject to studies from state highway officials.

State Representative Justin Gonzalez, a Republican from Okolona, nestled between Prescott and Arkadelphia, is a fan of faster driving.

“I’d say that this bill couldn’t get here fast enough wouldn’t you agree?” Gonzalez joked to bill sponsor DeAnn Vaught (R-Horatio).

Funding for the Delta Regional Authority would be eliminated under President Trump’s first budget request to Congress. The federal agency is set up to help encourage and coordinate economic development in eight states, including Arkansas, tied to the beleaguered Mississippi River Delta region.

A scaled back education bill to create a voucher-like program – which channels public dollars to private schools through individual education savings accounts- is headed to the Arkansas House floor. On Tuesday a legislative committee approved the amended bill, which was sent back down from the full chamber earlier in the week.

Instead of a permanent system it’ll be a four-year pilot program. The amended bill also pares back the state’s investment from $6.5-million in tax credits a year, to $3-million.

An attempt to ban the smoking of medical marijuana fell short in the Arkansas Senate while a bill to ban edibles was deferred. But both measures altering the voter-approved constitutional amendment could come up later this week.

Speaking on the Senate floor on Monday, Republican Jason Rapert of Bigelow said inhaling smoke is not good medicine.

“You mark my word. People will be hurt, they will be injured, and some will die as a result of this loose amendment,” said the senator.

Arkansas drivers may soon have access to a digital driver’s license in addition to a hard copy. The Arkansas Senate advanced a bill on Monday that would create and offer a digital license as an equivalent to the physical license at traffic stops and the like.

Alongside a physical license drivers could pay $10 for a digital copy provided by the Office of Drivers Services.

A bill to open-up the sale of wine in Arkansas grocery stores to all producers, rather just small vineyards, fell three votes short in the Arkansas House. Liquor store owners lined the House gallery on Monday, opposed to the bill which would open up competition. State Representative Gary Deffenbaugh of Van Buren spoke against the bill. The Republican worried that retailers like WalMart would shut down local stores.

February marked the 100th anniversary of Arkansas recognizing women’s right to vote – at least white women, in primary elections – but a historic milestone nonetheless.

KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman spoke with Bernadette Cahill, author of Arkansas Women and the Right to Vote: The Little Rock Campaigns 1868-1920 published by UA Press and the Butler Center for Arkansas studies.

Listen in to hear how Arkansas women built a movement; why primary elections were targeted; and the state’s place in the national women’s suffrage movement.

The latest in a series of bills to exempt security details from the Freedom of Information Act has been filed in the Arkansas Legislature. Keeping information about the Governor’s Mansion secret from the public is the objective of Republican State Representative DeAnne Vaught of Horatio in southwest Arkansas.

A drug testing program for Arkansans seeking help from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, or TANF, is one step closer to becoming law. A House committee on Tuesday passed the bill to extend a two year trial run indefinitely.

A push to call for a convention of the states to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution to redefine marriage and abortion rights narrowly failed in the Arkansas Senate. Article V of the U.S. Constitution allows for states to join together to propose amendments. It’s never been used before, but speaking on the floor on Monday state Senator Jason Rapert said it’s the only tool he has left.

Rapert proposed two separate resolutions. The first would redefine marriage as between one man and one woman. The second would say life begins at conception and effectively ban abortion.

A bill to open-up membership in the public charter school authorizing panel to anyone in the public – without requirement – sailed through the Arkansas Senate on Monday. Currently the panel that makes recommendations on whether charter schools should open, close, or expand is made up of Department of Education employees.

Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren said establishing criteria for holding the posts is a burden on the state.

This week the Arkansas Legislature pushed forward a bill to collect sales taxes on out of state, online purchases. Some retailers, like Amazon, say they support the move and will preemptively start collecting taxes in March.

Governor Asa Hutchinson is roundly praising Amazon’s announcement that the Seattle-based company wants sales tax be collected for online retailers and will voluntarily help collect them. In a statement, the Republican said the company’s decision is “laudable and good news for the state.”

A bill that would defund sanctuary campuses – of which Arkansas has none – failed Tuesday in a legislative committee. In a voice vote, members shot down the bill by state Representative Brandt Smith of Jonesboro. Smith feared “rogue professors” would force Arkansas colleges to become safe havens for undocumented immigrants trying to escape federal immigration laws.

Lawmakers in the Arkansas House voted to allow foreign governments to pay for legislators’ travel expenses. In an 83-to-8 vote on Monday, the chamber advanced the measure which peels back a ban approved by voters in a 2014 constitutional amendment. State Representative Michelle Gray, of Melbourne in north Arkansas, said free travel for legislators will benefit the state.

A bill headed to the Arkansas Senate would give the governor more long-lasting authority to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat. The Arkansas House approved the measure on Monday, which re-affirms the governor’s power to appoint a temporary, replacement Senator while extending the period of time before an election would be held.

A bill advancing in the Arkansas Legislature would effectively block an effort to erect a monument to Satan on state Capitol grounds. The Arkansas House passed a bill on Monday to prevent the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission from considering monument proposals without pre-approval from the Legislature.

The state of Arkansas may be officially recognizing more poets soon. The Arkansas House on Monday approved changes to the committee which appoints the state Poet Laureate and shortened its term. State Representative Carlton Wing of North Little Rock introduced his measure in a fitting style.

“What this house bill does is help more folks take the post.

No longer a lifetime appointment, it’s now four years at the most.

Arkansas’s federal office holders are roundly praising President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court pick. Members of the state’s all-Republican congressional delegation weighed in late Tuesday after Neil Gorsuch was nominated the nation’s highest court.

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Dardanelle) commended the pick and had a favorable first impression. In a statement, Cotton noted the pick will have an impact for decades to come.

The Arkansas House advanced a restriction on food stamps, or SNAP, that would ban the purchase of junk food.

If approved by the federal government, the measure would make Arkansas the first state to ban the purchase of junk food with food stamps. 

In what was an unusually close vote for the chamber, 55-39, state Representative Mary Bentley of Perryville pushed through her bill.

A bill to restructure how Arkansas’s higher education funding is determined is advancing to the state Senate. The switch from enrollment-based funding to productivity-based funding comes at the direction of Governor Asa Hutchinson’s office. State Representative Mark Lowery, a Republican from Maumelle, carried the bill on the House floor Monday.

The Arkansas House overwhelmingly passed a measure to enhance penalties for those who target law enforcement or first responders in a crime. State Representative Dwight Tosh, a retired state police officer from Jonesboro, indirectly referenced Blue Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter, and targeted shootings throughout the nation last year.

State Senator Eddie Joe Williams has filed legislation requiring anyone seeking unemployment benefits that doesn't have a G.E.D. or high school diploma to take adult education courses to recieve benefits. The Republican from Cabot filed the bill on Monday.

Arkansas voters took to the ballot box in November to put in place a medical marijuana program. They did so in the form of a Constitutional Amendment. But that doesn’t mean the state Legislature can't have something to say about it.

State Senator Jason Rapert, a Republican representing Conway and Bigelow talked to KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman about a bill to stop the program from going into effect unless the federal government legalizes medicinal use first.

This interview was taped on January 27.

Arkansas's congressional delegation is lining up to support President Donald Trump's moves to revive the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines. President Trump utilized the power of executive orders on Tuesday to expedite reviews of the projects and re-start processes halted or delayed by former President Obama.

Following Trump's moves U.S. Representative French Hill, of the 2nd District in central Arkansas, issued a statement praising the President. Hill referenced a direct connection to a manufacturer in Little Rock, Welspun Tubular.

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