On Tuesday, Gov. Mike Beebe said he was "firmly committed" to accepting 100 percent payment from the federal government to expand the state’s Medicaid program from 2014 to 2017, a provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Beyond 2017, states will pick up payment of an incremental portion of the expanded Medicaid program, up to 10% by 2021.

The governor said his concerns were addressed from federal Medicaid officials who have provided confirmation in writing and answered his questions on whether the state could opt out of the expansion in future years if finances dictated such a move. Expanding the state’s Medicaid program is being touted as a positive by hospital and medical groups that say it will boost payments for indigent care currently being written off as losses.

Hallum officially resigns House seat

Former state Rep. Hudson Hallum (D-Marion) resigned his House seat and withdrew as a candidate in the 2012 election after entering a guilty plea on a federal vote fraud charge related to his 2011 special election. Hudson, 29, was mired in controversy after winning a high number of absentee ballots in his 2011 special election race. He entered a plea of guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit election fraud. His father, Kent Hallum, West Memphis City Council member Phillip Carter, and Crittenden County quorum court member Sam Malone also pleaded guilty to charges.

Walgreens to close 27 Arkansas USA Drug stores

Earlier this year, national retail chain Walgreens acquired Pine Bluff- based USA Drug Stores, the 144-store pharmacy group started by Arkansas entrepreneur Stephen LaFrance. This week, Walgreens announced that nearly half of those stores will close, including 27 in Arkansas. Walgreens agreed in July 2012 to acquire USA Drug and other stores owned by LaFrance in a $438 million deal. The deal is expected to close this month.

Paragould trailer manufacturer adding 50 jobs

Utility Trailer Manufacturing Co., one of the largest manufacturers of refrigerated trailers and flatbeds, will expand its dry van manufacturing plant located in Paragould. The expansion will add more than 50 new jobs to the plant to handle increased production. The 22,000 square foot expansion includes a new modification center that accommodates more customized trailers with complex or multiple options. It will also include 12 new drive-through trailer bays and an additional employee lunchroom. The full expansion is expected to be finished in late September.

Foreclosure train picking up steam in state

August foreclosures in Arkansas were off 26 percent from the previous year, but up 61 percent compared to the previous month, July. In August, there were 550 new foreclosure listings across the state compared to 750 filings a year ago, according to data provided by RealtyTrac. A court ruling in October 2011 brought non-judicial foreclosures to a near-standstill for months, but recent statistics indicate movement as more government-owned and bank-owned listings are being processed.

Arkansas receives $1.2 million labor grant for veterans job training

The Department of Workforce Services received a $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, to provide employment, training and supportive services to veterans around the state. Arkansas was one of 11 recipients of the Veterans’ Workforce Investment Program grant, which totaled $11.53 million.

Arkansas’ program, titled the Arkansas Veterans Education and Training Partnership, will assist 450 veterans over a three-year period and train 360 for jobs in heath care and energy efficiency/renewable energy. Each veteran who qualifies for the program can receive up to $1,000 to offset training costs and an additional $500 for supportive services such as child care and transportation.

For more information, veterans should contact ARVets at (501) 246-5341 or a DWS veterans representative. A listing can be found at www.ARJobLink.com .

Program aims at advanced placement success

A program that offers financial incentives to both high school students and teachers to pass Advanced Placement tests produced 43 percent of successful test-takers in Arkansas last year, despite existing in only 39 high schools. However, it runs out of money at the end of this year.

The Arkansas Advanced Initiative for Math and Science (AIMS) offers students a $100 Visa gift card for each AP course in which they score a 3 or better, which qualifies them for college credit. Teachers get $100 gift cards for each student who qualifies and receive bonuses of up to $3,000 depending on the increase in the number from the previous year.


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 roby@talkbusiness.net; his Web site address is www.talkbusiness.net.