KASU

Arkansas

Pixabay

The unemployment rate in Northeast Arkansas remains low.

The Jonesboro Sun reports, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Thursday released its report of their most recent jobless rate data.

Employment in nonfarm jobs in the Jonesboro Metropolitan Area rose by about 1,300 with over 55,300 people employed since November 2015.  Last year, the sector saw an increase in November with around 56,800 residents employed, bringing the jobless rate in the area to 2.9%.

Pixabay

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Soaring numbers in a monthly survey of business supply managers suggest economic conditions are improving in nine Midwest and Plains states.

Talk Business & Politics

Some Arkansas workers will get a 50 cent boost in pay on New Year’s Day when the state’s minimum wage will rise from $8 to $8.50, Arkansas Department of Labor officials said Wednesday (Dec. 28).

“This is the final increment of the (Arkansas Minimum Wage Initiative) that was passed by voters in 2014,” said Rosalyn Miller, public relations officer of the state Department of Labor.

LITTLE ROCK (AP) --A former U.S. senator who defended an impeached president and a former U.S. representative who helped draft articles of impeachment against another president are among the notable Arkansans who died during 2016.

Former governor and Sen. Dale Bumpers died New Year's Day at age 90 and former U.S. Rep. Ray Thornton died April 13 at age 87.

Pixabay

  LONSDALE, Ark. (AP) — Damon Helton had one problem when he bought a 160-acre farm in Lonsdale four years ago — he didn't know the first thing about farming.

Three years out of the military, the retired Army Ranger was still transitioning back to civilian life. He had a well-paying sales job, but it took him away from his wife and children too often.

So he bought the Farm at Barefoot Bend in Garland County.

"Then, it was like 'Holy crap, what did we just do?'" he said.

Wikipedia.org

 

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — What a difference one election can make.

The approval of a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana and Donald Trump's surprise White House win weren't just two of the biggest political stories in Arkansas. They also upended the agenda for the upcoming legislative session and are likely to dominate Arkansas' politics in 2017.

From establishing the first medical pot program in the Bible Belt to the future of a hybrid Medicaid expansion program covering thousands, the state faces plenty of questions in the new year.

Arkansas Economic Development Commission

OSCEOLA, Ark. (AP) — Production is beginning at a new, $1.3 billion steel mill in northeast Arkansas.

According to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Big River Steel has begun operations in its melt shop and hot mill at the new facility in Mississippi County. The steel mill was the first "superproject" to be approved under a 2004 state constitutional amendment that allows the state to borrow money to help lure major employers.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party said Thursday he won't seek another term, announcing his departure after three years that have been marked by Republicans making widespread gains in what had once been a Democratic holdout in the South.

Arkansas has the fastest growing inmate population of any state nationwide, and it's forced the formation of a task force to propose reforms. Now that task force is asking for the policymaking powers of the General Assembly to achieve its aims.

Arkansas should move low-level offenders into community programs where data shows they are half as likely to re-offend, according to a consultant's report.

Board of Corrections chairman Benny Magness says the state has no choice.

“We have to do something, because we’re not going to be able to continue to build ourselves out of this. We have to continue to look at things. And we’ve been struggling with this for ten years, to find other ways to slow this population down.”

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas' attorney general says the state will receive nearly $53,000 in a settlement with the owner of the Ashley Madison adultery dating website.

The agreement is part of a $1.6 million settlement that will be paid to 13 states and the District of Columbia following an investigation led by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission into a massive breach of the company's computer systems and the outing of millions of its members.  Ashley Madison is owned by Toronto-based Ruby Corp.

PINE BLUFF, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas-based Simmons First National Corp. has announced plans to buy an Oklahoma bank in a deal valued at more than $564 million.

Simmons, which is based in Pine Bluff, announced Wednesday that it would purchase Southwest Bancorp, Inc. of Stillwater, Oklahoma. Southwest Bancorp is the parent company of Bank SNB, which has 31 branches in four states.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas legislative panel has rejected a disputed $160 million contract with an Indiana company to take over the operation of seven youth lockup facilities in Arkansas.

The panel voted Tuesday not to review the Department of Human Services' contract with Youth Opportunity Investments LLC, which is set to take over the facilities Jan. 1.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Opponents of an effort to build a Ten Commandments monument near Arkansas' Capitol urged a panel to reject the statue on grounds that it could bring lawsuits, while the lawmaker behind the display said Wednesday that the only decision remaining is where to install it.

The privately funded monument is, by law, allowed to be on Capitol grounds. But the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission must issue its recommendation on the monument's location and design to Secretary of State Mark Martin before he can approve it.

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.

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.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The chief of staff to Arkansas Treasurer Dennis Milligan is retiring.

Milligan said in a statement Monday that Jim Harris is retiring after serving as chief of staff since Milligan took office in 2015.

Harris said in the statement that he needs to focus on his health.

A retirement date was not announced. Harris has previously worked in both the governor's office and for the state Department of Emergency Management.

Arkansas's newly appointed medical marijuana commissioners are slated to hold their first meeting Monday at 2:00 p.m. The five-member commission was appointed last week to help facilitate the licensing and regulation of dispensaries and cultivation centers as outlined by the voter-approved Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment.

The state of Arkansas and Microsoft signed a memorandum of understanding on Monday to further the instruction of computer science in schools. Under the agreement Microsoft, with no cost to the state, would help with professional development for computer science teachers in addition to hosting a range of workshops and events for students.

Pixabay

There have been attempts in recent years by state Democrats and advocacy organizations to increase the amount of money the state spends on its pre-K program, known as Arkansas Better Chance (ABC). Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families held a meeting Thursday in Jonesboro to inform locals about potential legislation, including ABC funding that will be considered by the Arkansas General Assembly next year.

AACF senior policy analyst Paul Kelly told Talk Business & Politics the state’s economic future is dependent upon advances in the ABC program.

Davida Walls never thought she would be teaching high school biology, let alone in the first few months after graduating from college at 22.

“Teaching was not my initial goal. It was kind of an opportunity that just, you know, became available so I took it.”

She is trying to decide whether to become a doctor or a nurse, and plans to apply for a program to train for one or the other this year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service is making $20 million available to Arkansas landowners to restore wetlands. The program to limit future development is voluntary and funded by the 2014 Farm Bill.

Randy Childress, the Assistant State Conservationist for Easements and Watersheds at NRCS, says the process of restoring marginal farmland to wetlands could take 50 to 100 years. He’s confident restoration efforts will work.

The coldest temperatures of the year in Arkansas are expected to arrive later this week.

Meteorologist Jeff Hood with the National Weather Service said the temperatures, which have already been unseasonably low, are expected to drop even lower. Rain is expected for much of the state, but no significant snowfall is anticipated.

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.

Protests over construction of the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota has triggered sympathy demonstrations across the nation, including in Arkansas. But Arkansas activists are also protesting a newly permitted 440-mile long underground oil transport project called the Diamond Pipeline.

The ever-increasing Republican majority in Arkansas has a shot a passing some legislation that a toehold of Democrats managed to hold-off, or at least mitigate on occasion in the last session.

Pages