Gov. Mike Beebe and a number of Arkansas elected officials and candidates called on Lt. Gov. Mark Darr to resign after he was fined $11,000 for ethics violations. A review of Darr’s office expenses by legislative auditors also turned up discrepancies and improper payments for personal use. Darr said he had no plans to resign.
Beebe called the decision “disappointing.” Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross said Darr should step down, while GOP hopeful Asa Hutchinson said prosecutorial review should occur before Darr makes a decision. Democratic state representatives said they were prepared to call for Darr’s impeachment in the upcoming legislative session if the lieutenant governor did not step down before then.
New tax-cut laws now in effect
Several tax cuts and a law requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls are among laws enacted by the state Legislature in 2013 that took effect on New Year’s Day. Act 1459 eventually will reduce all of the state’s income tax rates, but the legislation was designed to be phased in over two years. Currently, the law reduces the state’s lowest income tax rate from 1 percent to nine-tenths of a percent; it will reduce the rates for all other tax brackets by one-tenth of a percentage point starting Jan. 1, 2015.
Another phased-in tax cut taking effect with the new year is Act 1488. Under the law, capital gains in excess of $10 million realized this year or later are exempt from the state income tax. The law also will increase the income tax exemption for net capital gains to 50 percent and increase the standard income tax deduction to $2,200 beginning Jan. 1, 2015.
Walmart offers no-cost prescriptions to insurance marketplace participants
Walmart announced it will provide a month’s supply of certain prescriptions at no cost to enrollees in the new federal health care plans who have not received identification numbers. The rollout for signing up for plans offered under the Affordable Care Act has been marred by glitches and delays that have hampered enrollment. Walmart’s prescription offer is aimed at helping those who signed up but have not received full details of their plans from insurance companies waiting on data from sign-up sites. The move by Walmart follows a similar offer made earlier this week by Walgreens.
AG McDaniel to investigate Target security breach
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) has launched an investigation into the Target Corp. security breach, joining other state attorneys general who have started similar investigations. In December, Minneapolis-based Target indicated that hackers had stolen credit card and debit card information from shoppers who made purchases at its U.S. stores.
Dennis Hansen joins PSC staff
Deputy Attorney General Dennis Hansen has been named chief administrative law judge and commissioner’s chief of staff at the Arkansas Public Service Commission. Hansen has worked at the attorney general’s office for 16 years, having served as chief deputy under attorney general Mark Pryor and Mike Beebe, and assistant attorney general under Winston Bryant. He will take his new position with the PSC on Jan. 20.
ADEQ opens entries for environmental awards
The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is accepting entries for its annual Environmental Stewardship Award to recognize citizens or organizations for their efforts to protect and enhance the state’s environment. The “ENVY Award” was established in 2005 to honor a major contribution by an individual or organization involving environmental stewardship activities in Arkansas. Previous winners include Dassault Falcon Jet, Jonesboro Frito-Lay, McKee Foods Corporation of Gentry and Little Rock Wastewater. More information can be found at www.adeq.state.ar.us.
Roby Brock, a freelance journalist based in Little Rock, writes weekly for the Arkansas News Bureau. His weekly television program airs at 10 p.m. Sundays in Central and Northwest Arkansas. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org; his website address is www.talkbusiness.net