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

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.

It is Donald Trump’s first week in office as President and a Republican-controlled Congress is ready to move on a whole host of items they’ve been eyeing for years. KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman talked with U.S. Representative Rick Crawford, representing much of east and northeast Arkansas, about how the new administration could shape Cuba policy, farm laborers, and trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The first step toward restricting the use of food stamps in Arkansas has been taken by the state legislature. The House Public Health Committee voted 12-6 on Tuesday to back a bill intended to ban the purchase of junk food under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Republican State Representative Mary Bentley of Perryville said lowering the state’s high obesity rate is her driving reason for sponsoring a measure to ban items like soda and chips.

It's likely over 2,000 bills will be filed during this legislative session and just over 300 have been filed so far. Legislation impacting special elections, a Blue Ribbon taxes task force, executions, and hand guns were filed on Wednesday.

KUAR will be keeping track throughout this legislative session. A round-up from Wednesday includes:

The 91st General Assembly is sworn in and there is some divide between Republican and Democratic leadership on whether or not members were rewarded with committee chairmanships for switching parties.

Speaker Jeremy Gillam (R-Judsonia) addressed the House chamber after taking the oath of office with an emphasis on civility and collaboration. He referenced Abraham Lincoln’s Team of Rivals, an ideologically diverse cabinet.

The Arkansas General Assembly convened for its 91st regular legislative session on Monday at noon. Both the state House and Senate are firmly in the hands of Republicans. Major issues such as tax cuts and implementing the voter-approved medical marijuana program likely will be hashed out nearly entirely within the GOP's supermajority ranks.

All six members of Arkansas's all-Republican congressional delegation were officially sworn in on Tuesday to convene the 115th Congress. In the U.S. House, the state's representatives all voted to support the successful re-election of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as Speaker. Only one of Arkansas's four members backed the now rescinded GOP effort to dismantle the independent Office of Congressional Ethics.

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.

The months-long encampment of thousands of Native Americans at Standing Rock, to block the path of a U.S. Army acting to further the interests of extractive industries, seems both remarkable and routine in the history of American Indians.

KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman spoke with Dr. Daniel Littlefield, the Director of the Sequoyah National Research Center at UALR to put some context to the fight.

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 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.

A three-term Democratic state Representative - who was unopposed in the past two elections - is switching parties and thus giving Republicans a supermajority in the Arkansas House. State Representative David Hillman of Almyra made the announcement on Tuesday.

Arkansas voters approved medical marijuana earlier this month and the governor says he’s open to seeing if the voter-approved tax structure should be changed in January’s legislative session. Speaking to reporters at the state Capitol on Monday, Governor Asa Hutchinson said he hasn’t yet made up his mind on new taxes or shifting where marijuana revenue should go.

Governor Asa Hutchinson is continuing his push to find so-called efficiencies in state government with a pair of re-organizing proposals for the legislative session beginning in January. At a press conference on Monday, the Republican governor announced he wants to move the Office of Energy from the state Economic Development Commission to the Department of Environmental Quality and to reduce the number of Criminal Detention Facilities Review Committees from 28 to eight.

Hutchinson said moving the Office of Energy out of AEDC is a move for “mission alignment.”

Kimberly O’Guinn has been appointed by the governor to one of three slots on the Arkansas Public Service Commission. The body regulates Arkansas utilities such as natural gas, electricity, water, and pipelines. Commissioners serve six-year terms.

Arkansas’s unemployment rate is up, though not by very much. The state also still rests below the national average in the September report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

After three months of flat unemployment numbers Arkansas’s rate ticked up from 3.9 percent in August to 4 percent in September. 

Arkansas Agriculture officials are expanding a quarantine area to protect against the spread of an invasive beetle but say mass devastation of the state’s ash trees may only be a matter of time. Eight more Arkansas counties, including Pulaski, were added to the state’s quarantine list this week. The number of counties under quarantine is now at 21. Another 12 counties have confirmed sightings of the Emerald Ash Borer.

For the third straight month Arkansas’s unemployment rate is holding steady at 3.9 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ August report. It is a full point below an also flat nationwide unemployment rate.

Governor Asa Hutchinson is staying neutral for now but says he’ll likely reveal his position on a ballot issue to limit damages awarded in medical injury lawsuits before the election. 

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