KASU

Michael Hibblen / KUAR

As News Director, Michael Hibblen oversees daily news coverage for KUAR. He handles assignments for the news staff, helps develop story ideas and edits copy. Michael is responsible for starting a news-sharing partnership between public radio stations in Arkansas in 2009 which laid the foundation for what became Arkansas Public Media. He is also a regular panelist on AETN's Arkansas Week, where journalists discuss issues in the news.

A native of North Little Rock, Michael started in radio in 1988, spending his first five years as a DJ for music stations in central and northeast Arkansas. After a 1993 internship at the C-SPAN Cable Network in Washington, DC, he transitioned to news, working for commercial radio stations KARN in Little Rock, WRVA in Richmond, Virginia and WIOD in Miami, Florida. In 2000, Michael became a nationally heard, Miami-based reporter for CBS Radio News, covering major stories in the region, including the anthrax attack at a tabloid publisher, an international custody fight over Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez, and the 2000 presidential election recount. He was hired by daily newspaper the Miami Herald in 2003 when it partnered with NPR station WLRN, initially working as morning news anchor. Later Michael became department editor, then assistant news director. He also wrote frequently for the newspaper.

Michael returned home to Little Rock in 2009 to work for KUAR. At that time he also resumed taking classes at UALR to finish his Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication, graduating in May of 2013.

Phone: 501-683-7386

E-mail: michael@kuar.org

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is recommending Arkansas not provide all voter information requested by the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. President Trump set up the commission to investigate claims of voter fraud in November's presidential election.

In a statement Wednesday on Twitter, Hutchinson said he has spoken with Secretary of State Mark Martin and concluded the request is "too board and includes sensitive information" about Arkansas voters.

The new Ten Commandments monument at the Arkansas State Capitol was destroyed Wednesday less than 24 hours after it was unveiled. A spokesman for the Secretary of State's office says a driver intentionally sped toward the six foot tall granite tablet at about 4:45 a.m. and was immediately apprehended by Capitol Police.

To make it easier for military veterans to file claims or get other assistance, nine regional state offices have opened in Arkansas over the last two years. Governor Asa Hutchinson took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday for the final Veterans Service Office which is located in Hope.

The offices were opened in an effort by the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs and the state Department of Workforce Services. The other offices are located in Fayetteville, Forrest City, Fort Smith, Jonesboro, North Little Rock, Monticello, Mountain Home and Russellville.

Preserve Arkansas, which each year releases a list of 10 most endangered places, has released its list for 2017.  

From the group's press release:

Cemeteries, Burial Grounds, and Graveyards

Statewide

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson made it official Tuesday, announcing that he is seeking a second term in office.

"I wanted to make clear what everybody suspected, I hope, and that is that I’m running for reelection. I’m honored to serve the people of our state. We’ve accomplished a lot," Hutchinson said in an interview with KUAR. "I’ve concentrated on economic development, job creation, had some success there, and want to continue to be able to serve."

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is to talk with reporters Thursday morning about the pending executions of seven death row inmates. The governor scheduled the lethal injections over a 10-day period before the state's supply of one of the drugs used in the process expires.

What's it like inside the Arkansas Governor's Mansion as executions are carried out? As the state prepares to resume executions after a 12 year hiatus, with eight inmates scheduled to die by lethal injection this month, KUAR reached out to someone who has inside knowledge.

While courts can certainly intervene, before the execution process begins, the governor is asked by prison officials one final time whether to proceed.

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas says despite proposed changes to the federal healthcare bill introduced by Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, he still cannot back the measure. He also doesn't think it will have the support needed to pass in the Senate.

In a statement Tuesday, the Republican said:

Despite the proposed amendments, I still cannot support the House health-care bill, nor would it pass the Senate. The amendments improve the Medicaid reforms in the original bill, but do little to address the core problem of Obamacare: rising premiums and deductibles, which are making insurance unaffordable for too many Arkansans. The House should continue its work on this bill. It’s more important to finally get health-care reform right than to get it fast.

An Arkansas House committee has advanced revised legislation to greatly expand the carrying of concealed firearms in the state, but not before getting flak Tuesday from opponents of the bill, as well as gun rights supporters.

The original legislation approved by the House last month was limited to college campuses, but the Senate modified the bill to also allow guns at some government buildings, including the state Capitol, and private establishments like bars and restaurants.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is asking the Trump Administration for approval to make changes to the Arkansas Works Medicaid expansion program. They include lowering the eligibility cap, which would reduce the number of beneficiaries by about 60,000 people, and adding a work requirement for recipients.

The Republican governor’s announcement came the same day that Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives released a long-awaited plan to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law. Whether that will get the needed support for passage isn’t known yet.

Execution dates have been set for eight Arkansas death row inmates, but attorneys for the men argue their appeals have not been exhausted. The state hasn’t carried out an execution since 2005.

Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a proclamation Monday scheduling four double executions on four separate days in April. It comes after the U.S. Supreme Court last week rejected a request by the inmates to review a state court ruling upholding an Arkansas law that keeps the source of lethal injection drugs secret.

The Arkansas Senate is expected to take up a bill Thursday that attempts to resolve problems with the state’s criminal justice system. The proposal has been controversial, requiring many revisions as lawmakers have worked with prosecutors, judges and prison officials.

The goal is to resolve problems that led to Arkansas in recent years having the fastest-growing prison population in the country, according to the Council of State Governments Justice Center.

A legal showdown could be brewing over whether a satanic monument should be allowed on the grounds of the Arkansas state Capitol.

Legislation now heads to the desk of Gov. Asa Hutchinson after the state Senate gave final approval Tuesday to the bill that would require any monuments to first be approved by the legislature before going to the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission. Current law allows proposals to come through either entity, though they ultimately need legislative authorization.

The Arkansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments Thursday concerning Fayetteville’s anti-discrimination ordinance which includes protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. Justices questioned whether the city ordinance, passed by voters there in September 2015, conflicts with a state law passed earlier that year which bans cities and counties from enacting protections not contained in the state's civil rights law.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is suggesting the Arkansas Legislature might be able to wrap up the 2017 session earlier than expected. Wednesday he praised lawmakers for "setting aside peripheral issues" and focusing on important matters.

The Republican governor has seen passage of three key issues he had for this session: a tax cut for low income residents, an exemption of income taxes for the pensions of military retirees and a change to the state’s higher education funding model. Hutchinson's comments came immediately after signing the bill moves funding for public colleges and universities from being based on enrollment to a "performance-based" formula.

The Arkansas Senate has approved a bill that would require Amazon and other major online retailers to collect state sales taxes. The measure passed Monday by a vote of 23-9 and now moves to the House.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Jake Files of Fort Smith, told his colleagues that Arkansas is one of only six states that don't collect sales taxes and is missing out on potential revenue.

"In 2014 it was estimated in one study that Amazon sales alone would have brought $32 million into the state, and then I've heard anywhere up to $100 million," Files said.

Legislation that would change how Arkansas public colleges and universities are funded was approved Tuesday by the House Education Committee. It now heads to the full House for consideration.

The "outcomes-based" funding model would incorporate factors like the number of students completing degrees, how long it takes to do, and how many graduate and then get jobs in their degree field or complete another degree. State Higher Education Director Maria Markham says it would be more effective than the current model, which is based on enrollment.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s $50 million tax cut plan won approval Monday in the Arkansas House and Senate. But a final vote is needed before the legislation heads to the governor’s desk for signature. 

Speaking on behalf of the bill in his chamber, Sen. Jim Hendren, Republican-Gravette, said the plan would save money for nearly 660,000 low income Arkansans.

With President-elect Trump and a Republican Congress expected to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Arkansas hospital officials are watching the situation with a great deal of uncertainty.

Almost 11 percent of Arkansans – about 325-thousand people – now have coverage through an exchange set up through the state’s Medicaid expansion program.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson took part in meetings Monday in Washington, DC that could be key for the future of his Arkansas Works Medicaid expansion plan.

First he met with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell as he seeks a needed waiver for the program, which is a successor to the state's Private Option. He then met with members of President-elect Donald Trump's transition team.

Federal lawsuits are pending over a project to build a transmission line through Arkansas delivering wind energy from Oklahoma to the Memphis area. In this week’s issue of Arkansas Business there’s a closer look at the arguments involved in the case involving two groups of landowners who would have to sell property. 

From reporter Kyle Massey: