- Rapper in club shooting strikes plea bargain
- Another week begins: The open line
- Little Rock police chief withdraws from Charleston police chief search
- Jefferson County lands two cannabis cultivation facilities
- New Music from Indy Grotto, Kami Renee, Mark Currey and Brae Leni
- Stacy Hurst fires back at criticism of her leadership of the Department of Arkansas Heritage
- UPDATE: Feds OK Medicaid work rule; no decision yet on restricting enrollment on income
- Sunday open line
Posted: 05 Mar 2018 12:44 PM PST
Ricky Hampton, the rapper known as
He'll be sentenced later. The plea agreement says the sentencing guideline recommendation will be enhanced because he is a previous felon and because the firearm he possessed was capable of holding a large magazine. He'll get credit in sentencing for taking responsbility. The agreement also specifies that he must forfeit two pistols — a 7.62x39 Century Arms and a .40 caliber Springfield XD.
Hampton was arrested the day after the Power Ultra Lounge shooting following a show in Birmingham. He was arrested on a charge related to a shooting at a Forrest City club. But a federal investigation later led to his indictment
Posted: 05 Mar 2018 12:07 PM PST
Here's the Monday open line. Also a roundup of news and comment.
Posted: 05 Mar 2018 11:01 AM PST
Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner announced today that he'd withdrawn from the competition to choose a new police chief for Charleston, S.C.
Buckner was interviewed earlier in February as a finalist, but no news about that process has been forthcoming since.
In a release today — about which a spokesman said the chief would have no further comment — Buckner said he wanted to alleviate "ambiguity" about his future in Little Rock. He said the Charleston process had caused him to reflect on his time in Little Rock. He said there had been "many successes," but he had other goals, including accreditation of the police training academy and stronger relations with both the police force and the community at large.
He said it was time to build on "positive momentum that the LRPD has achieved." He cited reductions in property and violent crime, arrests of habitual funders and hiring that has put the force near full strength.
He said he looked forward to working with city leaders.
Leaders were caught by surprise by Buckner's emergence as a Charleston candidate and City Manager Bruce Moore said he intended to talk to Buckner about it. Perhaps there'll be time now.
Here's Buckner's full release.
Posted: 05 Mar 2018 10:25 AM PST
Natural State Wellness, one of five companies winning a permit from the state to operate a medical cannabis cultivation facility, has chosen to locate in Jefferson County, giving that county two cultivation
"It was not an accident" that Jefferson County landed both Natural State Wellness and Natural State Medicinals, Caleb McMahon, economic development director for the Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County, said today. "It was a lot of hard work."
Natural State Medicinals will locate at Interstate 530 at Gravel Pit Road, about halfway between Redfield and White Hall. Natural State Wellness will locate in Pine Bluff.
"To tell you the truth, in November 2016, I went to my board and to my mayor and I asked them if we could aggressively go after this," McMahon said. "Pine Bluff gets a black eye in the media. [Officials have] been very progressive toward this. …. They were really forward thinking."
McMahon said he did not know NSM's "internal numbers," but that Natural State Wellness says it will invest $8 million in its plant and expects to hire 42 or 43 people.
Water and electricity "will be a big issue" for NSM since it's in the county, McMahon said, but it will be handled. He said he could not yet make public incentives offered the companies, but said they did not include tax breaks. He said he would be able to talk about them in the future after commitments are finalized.
Natural State Wellness is owned by 27 people, including Hank Wilkins V, the son of Jefferson County Judge Hank Wilkins IV; former Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and his wife, Bobbi*; McDaniel's father, Bobby McDaniel; and lawyer Donald L. Parker. Natural State Medicinals is owned by a consortium including pharmacist Joseph Courtwright, the former CEO and president of USA Drug (now owned by Walgreens); Susan and
*A previous version of this post mistakenly referred to Kristi McDaniel as Dustin McDaniel's wife.
Posted: 05 Mar 2018 09:46 AM PST
In case you missed it, check out "Who's Afraid of Indy Grotto?", the latest from the frontwoman for tenured Little Rock indie rockers Boondogs, ten breezy tracks recorded at Lucky Dog Audio and Fellowship Hall Sound here in Little Rock and at Red Star in L.A. Current favorite: "Eileen," with "Round and Round" a close second.
And, from the bass player for the 2017 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase winners Dazz & Brie and The Emotionalz, Kami Renee, comes "Entitled," a brand new bouncing middle finger to that person in your life who seems to start their stopwatch running after sending you a text.
Speaking of past showcase finalists, Brae Leni & The Evergreen Groove Machine put on a dynamite show at last year's competition (read as: the electric slide was heavily involved and performed with abandon by more people than will admit same), and Leni is back with a video for "Fine With Me," showing off his falsetto, his biceps, his drum machine and what appears to be a delivery of mashed potatoes, just after the two-minute mark and right on time.
Like many of us, Mark Currey, the songsmith responsible for last year's eclectic and layered "Tarrant County," spent the day after Valentine's Day processing some indignation. Here's why:
In the week after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shootings, I watched these kids do what adults have been unable to do… what they have been afraid to do. I watched them stand up to power and scream: "Enough." And I watched Fred Guttenberg talk about his amazing daughter Jaimie … I watched Max Schachter read a poem his son Alex wrote a couple of weeks before he was killed. Alex was a marching band kid … like me. And Fred and Max are dads… like me. A week ago today I wrote this song …. For the parents who lost … for the kids who are gone and the ones that survived. And for my own kids, who give me hope that they might build a better world than the one we have given them.So, instead of crafting a lengthy Facebook rant or throwing his hands up, Currey headed to Capitol View Studio and recorded this track, "Land of Endless Summer."
Don't overlook the links at the song's Soundcloud spot: March For Our Lives, Everytown for Gun Safety, Sandy Hook Promise and a GoFundMe page for the Alex Schachter Scholarship fund Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) created in memory of one of the students killed in the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida in February, and titled after a poem Alex student wrote two weeks prior to the shooting for a literary fair.
Posted: 05 Mar 2018 09:28 AM PST
Stacy Hurst, director of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, has sent a note to staff responding to blistering criticism of her management.
The departure of Lisa Speer as state archivist under pressure from Hurst led to other criticism of Hurst's leadership, particularly by retired historian Tom Dillard, a former Heritage director, who used his Sunday column in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to list perceived shortcomings in Hurst's leadership. A flower shop owner and former city director, she was appointed to the job by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
Her memo to staff:
Dear DAH Staff:
Posted: 05 Mar 2018 05:13 AM PST
Seema Verma, the director of the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services will be in Little Rock this morning and is expected to announce with Gov. Asa Hutchinson decisions on his requests for waivers in the Arkansas Medicaid expansion program.
UPDATE: A work requirement was approved; a bigger change that could cut Medicaid for 60,000 people remains under discussion.
One change is a work requirement. Verma has already approved a work requirement for Kentucky, though Arkansas's proposal is more punitive. You must go without coverage for most of a year after losing eligibility, while Kentucky allows a recipient to work her way immediately back to coverage. Kentucky's rule is under challenge in federal court. If Verma does approve the change for Arkansas as expected it could meet a court test, too.
The big change under review is to allow only people who make 100 percent of the federal poverty level or less qualify, or about $12,000, for coverage, rather than 138 percent. This will slice some 60,000 people off health coverage, a life or death decision for some in that number. It will save Arkansas $15 to $20 million (In a $6 billion state budget). Politico wrote last week that many believe Verma won't approve this change. While it would save money for Arkansas and much more for the federal government, it would have the effect of encouraging participation by 20 states that now don't participate in the Medicaid expansion enabled by Obamacare. This change, too, is fraught with legal questions.
Benji Hardy will be covering the session with the governor and Verma.
At some point after the decision, I expect we'll hear from U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden. He's previously raised questions about Verma's conflict of interest in making decisions about the Arkansas Medicaid program. She served as a paid consultant to Hewlett Packard when it was providing services to Arkansas on its Medicaid program. Her agency and Arkansas have said she has permission to work on Arkansas matters.
The Arkansas legislature, in session on budget matters, will be tuning in to the Verma-Hutchinson session. Still pending in the legislative session is the Department of Human Services budget, which includes the entire Medicaid program. A small but significant minority of ultra-conservative Republican legislators oppose the Medicaid expansion program. A three-fourths vote is required in Senate and House to pass the legislation. That means 27 votes in the 35-member Senate, where three seats are currently vacant.
The work rule will save the state a few million dollars. As many as 39,000 people on Medicaid may be affected. But there's no firm number. Many who don't work are unable to work. And there are exemptions for single parents, the disabled, people over 50 and others.
The governor issued this statement:
Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Monday that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has approved the State's request to implement a work requirement for Arkansas Works enrollees. With this approval, Arkansas becomes one of only three states that currently mandates work for people who want to keep health benefits funded by Medicaid expansion dollars. Governor Hutchinson said the change promotes personal responsibility and will help low-income Arkansans move up the economic ladder.Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families commented:
Today, Arkansas received federal approval to add a work requirement to the Arkansas Works program, which provides affordable coverage to 285,000 low-income Arkansans who have no other coverage options and rely on this program to get the care they need. Although federal approval did not go as far as lowering the income eligibility level, we're deeply troubled by the changes that will come with work requirements.Arkansas Community Organizations also was critical:
Over the last five years Arkansas extended quality, affordable health coverage to over 300,000 adult Arkansas citizens. The implementation of Arkansas Works cut our uninsured rate in half. Today's announcement by CMS Administrator Seema Verma to grant Arkansas a waiver to impose a work requirement on people enrolled in the Arkansas Works program will increase the number of uninsured people in our state and is a step backwards. We strongly urge Administrator Verma NOT to approve the other components of Arkansas's waiver request including lowering the eligibility threshold to 100% of the poverty level..
Posted: 04 Mar 2018 02:51 PM PST
Amazing. No new Trump outrages the last few hours. Have at it.
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