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

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Next week, the first in a series of sentencing hearings will be held for former Arkansas lawmakers, a college president and others who were convicted or pleaded guilty for their roles in a wide-ranging corruption scheme.

Arkansas Department of Transportation officials and other dignitaries after the unveiling of a sign Monday dedicating part of U.S. 49 between Brinkley and Marvel as the Louis Jordan Memorial Highway.
Stephen Koch / Arkansongs

A pioneering musician from Brinkley is being posthumously honored by having part of U.S. 49 in eastern Arkansas dedicated as the Louis Jordan Memorial Highway. A ceremony was held Monday with officials from the Arkansas Department of Transportation and other dignitaries who came together to unveil a sign alongside the highway.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on March 6, 2017, presenting his proposed changes to the state's Medicaid-expansion program, which included the addition of a work requirement.
MICHAEL HIBBLEN / KUAR NEWS

Unless there has been a rush of people this week who successfully logged on to a state website before a 9 p.m. deadline Thursday, thousands of Arkansas Works enrollees will be out of compliance with a newly enacted work requirement.

The Arkansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments Thursday in a challenge by the state to a circuit judge’s order that halted the issuing of medical marijuana cultivation licenses. It was also revealed that investigators are looking into allegations that a bribe was offered by one company to a member of the Medical Marijuana Commission.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen ruled in March that the process for how the commission decided which companies would get five licenses was constitutionally flawed.

As Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson faces a challenge from the right in Tuesday’s Republican primary election, he now has the backing of President Trump.

The endorsement came in the form of a tweet Monday evening after Hutchinson and four other Republican governors dined with the president at the White House to discuss border security and other issues. Trump wrote on Twitter that Hutchinson had “done an incredible job with a focus on lower taxes, border security and crime prevention.”

Hundreds of students at Little Rock’s Central High School walked out of class Wednesday in a show of solidarity with young people conducting similar demonstrations at schools across the nation and outside the White House.

At Central, students chanted slogans like “books not bullets” and “this is what democracy looks like,” while holding handmade signs that read things like “Never again,” “Central stands with Parkland,” and “Why are we still talking about this?”

A panel tasked by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to make recommendations on how schools can try to prevent mass shootings has begun its work. On Tuesday, the Arkansas School Safety Commission held its first meeting. You can hear the report above.

Bill Clinton was known as the rock ‘n’ roll president – the first from a generation that grew up on the music to reach the highest office in the nation. Sunday, he spoke at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock at the opening of a temporary exhibit that looks at the impact rock music has had over the years on politics and social movements.

The five companies selected to cultivate medical marijuana in Arkansas should soon be able to set up shop and begin growing. Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance and Administration, said Friday that since the top companies were named last week by the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission, all have met their  required financial obligations.

"Over the past week we’ve been receiving the licensing fees from the companies, we’ve been receiving the performance bonds, and as of this morning, all five companies have paid," Hardin said.

A new executive director and lead maker has been named for the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub. The non-profit based in North Little Rock provides cutting edge tools like 3D printers and advanced computer technology to inspire people, help them learn and create.

The story of the 1957 desegregation of Little Rock’s Central High School by nine black students is well known. But overshadowed is phase two of the school district’s desegregation plan, which involved 25 students attending five previously all-white junior high schools in 1961 and 1962.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a pioneering gospel singer and guitar player from Arkansas, will be among the 2018 inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She was born in the Woodruff County town of Cotton Plant in 1915 and achieved fame in the 1930s.  Tharpe was among six acts announced Wednesday for next year's induction ceremony and will be honored in the category Early Influences. 

Stephen Koch, host of the weekly feature Arkansongs, says given her influence, it’s an honor long overdue. He spoke with KUAR during All Things Considered.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson says diverting money from Arkansas’s tobacco settlement to help people with developmental disabilities has cut the number of families on a waiting list by 500.

Speaking at the quarterly meeting of the state’s Tobacco Settlement Commission Tuesday, Hutchinson praised commissioners for supporting a proposal he made in September 2016.

"You embraced that idea, which I wanted to thank you for," he said.

For a few hours Friday the Arkansas Department of Health did not issue any birth certificates, per a judge’s order. Gov. Asa Hutchinson eventually issued a directive that the department treat married lesbian couples the same as married heterosexual couples and to include the names of both spouses on birth certificates.

Pulaski County Judge Tim Fox took the action Friday morning, suggesting the state was delaying making a fix to the state’s birth certificate law, which the nation’s highest court said was unjust.

Four days of events marking the 60th anniversary of the integration of Little Rock’s Central High School got underway Friday with the eight surviving members of the Little Rock Nine speaking to reporters. It comes amid a time of uncertainty for public schools as Arkansas has seen a rapid growth of publicly funded charter schools and what some view as a resegregating of schools.

Work is progressing ahead of a ceremonial groundbreaking on Nov. 9 for a National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC commemorating the service of Americans in the military. The memorial likely won’t be completed as initially hoped in time for 100th anniversary of the end of the war, but substantial work should be visible by then.

With one week before a deadline for entities to apply for licenses to cultivate and dispense medical marijuana, officials still haven't received as many applications as expected.

As of midday Monday, Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration spokesman Scott Hardin said 27 applications for dispensaries had been received. That’s five fewer than the 32 officials expected to be approved, though more applications are expected in the coming days.

11 applications for cultivation facilities have been received, with five to be approved.

UPDATE: Tuesday afternoon, the Arkansas Department of Transportation announced stationary traffic cameras can now be viewed on the traveler information website www.idrivearkansas.com. Visitors to the website will have to click on the traffic light image on the right side of the screen, make sure "traffic cameras" is clicked, then can select any camera to view from a map of the state.

ORIGINAL STORY:

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.

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