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Ahab Alammar has lived the American dream. The 28-year-old was born in Syria, but when he turned 13 his family was able to secure him a visa to come to the United States. He was the only person in his village of about 5,000 people to get one.

President Donald Trump’s popularity in Arkansas has not diminished since the November election despite national polling that suggests voter attitude shifts. Meanwhile, Arkansas voters still solidly approve of the job Gov. Asa Hutchinson is doing a little more than halfway through his first term.

Eureka Springs, a nineteenth century Ozark Mountain health spa, could soon become a 21st century mecca for medical marijuana.

constitutional amendment allowing the use of cannabis for certain medicinal purposes was approved by Arkansas voters last November. And certain residents of Eureka Springs hope to brand their village as a medicinal marijuana destination.

Kevin Prater Band to Perform at Next Bluegrass Monday

Feb 16, 2017
Arkansas State University

JONESBORO — The Kevin Prater Band will perform a concert Monday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. at the Collins Theatre, 120 West Emerson Street, in downtown Paragould.  The concert is part of the Bluegrass Monday concert series presented by KASU 91.9 FM.  KASU will literally “pass the hat” to collect money to pay the musicians.  The suggested donation is $5 per person.

Another concern is being raised about legislation that would require public universities and colleges in Arkansas to allow licensed faculty and staff to carry concealed handguns on campus.

John Pijanowski, chair of the campus faculty senate at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, believes the campus carry bill could be in conflict with existing laws regarding guns in churches.

Arkansas State University

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas State University officials are hoping to create a council to address the campus climate.

The national Campus Climate Network Group defines campus climate as behaviors in a work or learning environment "ranging from subtle to cumulative to dramatic" that can influence whether someone feels safe, valued and respected.

The Arkansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday about whether municipal civil rights ordinances which ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity violate Arkansas law.

The case traces back to 2015 when Fayetteville and the gay-friendly Ozarks town of Eureka Springs passed civil rights ordinances banning discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. In response, the Arkansas Legislature passing Act 137, "The Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act."

Sponsored by state Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs), Act 137   prohibits cities and counties from passing civil rights ordinances that create a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in state law. The Arkansas Supreme Court is now decided whether to uphold that law.

The Arkansas Supreme Court heard a case Thursday that may foreshadow legal battles over LGBTQ protections between state and local governments nationwide.

A 2015 state law banned anti-discrimination ordinances on any basis not already included in Arkansas law. Now lawyers for the state are suing the City of Fayetteville to invalidate its municipal ordinance protecting LGBTQ citizens.

Oral arguments on both sides pivoted on what constitutes an existing protected class in the state constitution.

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.”

Jekalyn Carr Official Website

The Grammy’s are right around the corner, and 4 music artists from Northeast Arkansas were nominated.  One of the nominees, Jekalyn Carr, is a Gospel music recording artist from West Memphis who had her first hit single at the age of 14.  

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.

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.

GLBTQ Meeting Considers Ups, Downs Of Now

Feb 10, 2017

About thirty people attended a meeting at the Jonesboro Public Library’s Round Room Wednesday evening to discuss the issues and challenges facing the gay and transgender populations in Arkansas under the new Trump administration.

“So we really do see that the transgender community is very marginalized.  We see that within health care.  We see that within protections,” said James Rector, field organizer with the Human Rights Campaign of Arkansas.

Pixabay

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Supreme Court justices have questioned whether a city's ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity flies in the face of a 2015 state law that was intended to prevent local LGBT protections.

Pixabay

A coalition of grocery store chains, dry county liquor store owners and small winery operators won the first round of a hot legislative battle when a bill allowing sales of all wine varieties in local grocery stores cleared the Senate floor on Wednesday.

pixabay.com

Human Rights Campaign-Arkansas held a town hall meeting discussing LGBTQ issues under a new Presidential administration.  View the town hall below.  

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.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed into law a bill that links college and university funding to factors such as the number of students who complete their degrees.

Hutchinson on Wednesday signed the bill that requires the state to adopt a "performance-based" model for funding higher education rather than basing the money on enrollment.

Hutchinson has said he'll call for increasing higher education funding by $10 million in 2018 if the plan was approved.

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.

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.

By the closest of voice votes the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee rejected legislation from one of its own.

House Bill 1035 by state Rep. Mary Bentley (R-Perryville) would have prohibited the expenditure of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program dollars on soda, candy, chips and other junk foods.

The committee is comprised of eight members — six Republicans and Eddie Cheatham (D-Crossett) and Stephanie Flowers (D-Pine Bluff). The voice vote was so close that chair Cecile Bledsoe (R-Rogers) hesitated before calling it for the nays.

 

Thousands of Pacific Islander children now inhabit northwest Arkansas. The youngsters are lawfully residing Marshallese migrants, brought here by their parents. Many families arrive impoverished, but with help from extended kin, parents settle in, take up factory and slaughterhouse jobs, and enroll the children in public school. 

But enrolling into the American healthcare insurance system is a major challenge for low and even middle- income Marshallese, who cannot afford workplace coverage policies or Obamacare premiums. Marshallese adults are barred from Arkansas Medicaid, known as the Private Option. And their children don’t qualify for "ARKids First!" the state's implementation of the federal children’s insurance program. But Northwest Arkansas lawmakers, along with a state children's advocacy organization, are determined to help.

 

Tuesday's meeting of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana was business as usual even as House and Senate committees take up bills today that could  redirect the Commission's momentum.

The commission meeting began with a presentation by Lauren Ballard, revenue legal counsel at the Department of Finance and Administration, on what litigation followed from other states'  medical marijuana programs--cautionary tales for these five commissioners, only one of whom, Travis Story of Fayetteville, is a lawyer. 

Federal law says if you've purchased tax-free online, you need to pay a tax to the state. But, no one's really doing that. The problem: Arkansas relies heavily on sales tax to support essential government services.

When it comes to federal legislation requiring online merchants to collect sales tax, Republican U.S. Representative Steve Womack of Arkansas has long been one the more prominent GOP backers of such a measure.

KUAR's Karen Tricot Steward spoke with Representative Womack on the issue.

Update:

A bill that would defund Arkansas universities, were they to shelter undocumented immigrant students from federal law enforcement in the course of a criminal investigation, failed on a voice vote before the House Education Committee Tuesday morning.

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