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Arkansas senator begins audit of Gov. Sander's $19,000 lectern purchase


Arkansas senator begins auditing Gov. Sander's $19,000 lectern

Arkansas State Senator Jimmy Hickey of Texarkana is asking for an audit of the purchase of a lectern by Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders. A purchase was made on June 12 for a custom lectern and travel case, with the cost totaling over $19,000. Ozarks at Large recently sent a FOIA request to the state asking for photo documentation of the lectern, as well as any packing or shipping slips for the item. No records could be produced.

Senator Hickey sent his request to leaders of the Legislative Joint Audit Committee as well as the legislative auditor. His letter outlined two audit requests: the purchase of a podium or lectern from Beckett Events LLC for the use of the Governor's Office; and all matters involving the Governor or the Governor’s Office, specifically made confidential by the amended Freedom of Information Act that retroactively exempts records dating back to June 1, 2022.

Senator Hickey said he plans to present his request to fellow legislators at a Legislative Joint Auditing subcommittee on Oct. 12. Although no vote is required by legislators to move forward in the process, Senators Bryan King of Green Forest and Greg Leding of Fayetteville, and Clarke Tucker of Little Rock all told Ozarks at Large that they support the audit. Senator King said, “As a former audit chair I generally support any member’s request for looking into how taxpayers money is spent. With my experience, this would qualify.”

The governor’s spokesperson said, “The governor welcomes the audit and encourages legislators to complete it without delay.”

Arkansas professional soccer club seeks public input

Arkansas' new professional soccer club is getting closer to choosing a team name. Officials with USL Arkansas are asking for public input to decide on what the professional men's and women's teams will be called once they hit the pitch in a couple of years. Chris Martinovic, the club's co-founder, posted a video to Facebook this week asking supporters for their help.

CUT "Really excited to be standing here on the site of the future stadium," Matinovic said. "Can't wait to have you guys here and making noise and cheering the team on. We really need your input at this point. If you voted, we're going to ask you to go in again and really fine-tune the details that you want to see in this team. We're specifically getting down to the branding, naming, and color and crests of the team. This is the fun part."

USL Arkansas hosted listening sessions throughout the summer with community members across the region and is asking people to fill out an online survey now through Oct. 31 with their choice for a team name. The teams, which will be part of the professional United Soccer League Championship, will play at a 5,000-seat stadium that is set to be built on 11 acres on the corner of Bellview Road and 41st Street in Rogers. You can find a link to the survey on our website.

Incoming ruling on Arkansas law regarding prescription drug discounts

A federal appeals court is expected to rule in the coming days on a challenge to an Arkansas law regarding discounts for prescription drugs. Act 1103, passed by lawmakers in 2021, requires drug makers to comply with a federal program ensuring discounts for community health centers. Seth Blomeley is communications and policy director for Community Health Centers of Arkansas. He said pharmaceutical companies have sought to undermine the law since its inception.

"Pharmaceutical manufacturers have, over the last few years, enacted a number of unilateral restrictions on the program, and have really caused issues for hospitals and community health centers," Blomeley said.

Drug makers argue Arkansas’ law is preempted by the federal program, known as 340B, which was passed by Congress roughly 30 years ago. Blomeley said the courts have already found that’s not the case.

"It's not conflicting with anything that the federal 340B statute sets out," he said. "Matter of fact, the 340B statute doesn't even talk about these contractual pharmacy arrangements, the U.S. District Courts agree with that. And so pharma has a high burden to prove otherwise before the appeals court.”

A federal judge upheld the Arkansas law late last year. The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the case last week.

Razorback soccer continues winning streak

The Razorback soccer win streak is up to five after last night’s 1-0 win at Missouri. The victory also keeps the Razorbacks undefeated in SEC play. The 7th-ranked Razorbacks will host Georgia in Fayetteville on Thursday night.

Arkansas cross-country heads to Chile Pepper Festival

Arkansas’ cross-country teams are home this afternoon for the annual Chile Pepper Festival. The women, ranked 20th in the country race at Agri Park at 4:30 p.m. and the men, No. 22 in the country, will race on the same course at 5 p.m. today.

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Matthew Moore is a reporter and producer for Ozarks at Large.
Kyle Kellams is KUAF's news director and host of Ozarks at Large.
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