Axios Northwest Arkansas

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Good morning. It's Tuesday.

⛈️ A 60% chance of thunderstorms today with highs near 80.

🔎 Situational awareness: The Legislative Joint Auditing Committee released its special report on the purchase of a $19,000 lectern by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders' administration last year.

  • The report recommends the governor's office establish internal controls for purchases, retain original documentation of purchases and comply with the Freedom of Information Act.

Thank you to our dedicated members. You, too, can support our local reporting team by becoming a member.

Today's newsletter is 791 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Abortion could be on the ballot in Arkansas

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

A group is collecting signatures for an amendment that would make abortion legal in Arkansas again.

The big picture: Since the Supreme Court in 2022 overturned Roe v. Wade, abortion has been banned in Arkansas except to save the pregnant person's life, treat an ectopic pregnancy or remove a dead fetus.

  • The law does not provide exceptions for rape, incest, age or health of the pregnant person, or fatal fetal anamoly.
  • Doctors performing an abortion could be fined up to $100,000, face 10 years in prison or both.

State of play: The Arkansas Abortion Amendment of 2024 spearheaded by Arkansans for Limited Government would permit abortion through the first 18 weeks of pregnancy.

  • Abortion would also be legal in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal anomaly, to save the pregnant person's life or to protect the pregnant person from "a physical disorder, physical illness or physical injury."

What it means: The amendment defines fatal fetal anomaly as a medical condition diagnosed before birth that, in a physician's judgment, will lead to fetal or neonatal death and for which lifesaving medical intervention would be futile.

  • It defines "physical disorder, physical illness or physical injury" to include life-endangering physical disorders, physical illnesses or physical injuries, as well as any situation in which continuing the pregnancy would create a serious risk of substantial impairment of the pregnant person's major bodily function.

Zoom out: Abortion rights have won every time they've been on the ballot since Roe v. Wade was overturned, even in "red" states.

Go deeper: See other ballot measures

2. Mapped: New EV charging stations

Courtesy Arkansas Department of Transportation

The Arkansas Department of Transportation awarded nearly $15 million to 19 electric-vehicle charging station projects across the state.

Why it matters: Convenient, reliable, fast chargers along major highways are an important confidence booster for people considering an electric car, writes Axios' Joann Muller.

Driving the news: An estimated 40 EVs waited in line to use six charging stations in Van Buren after last week's solar eclipse.

Context: NEVI funding can only be used for EV charging infrastructure that is open to the public or to commercial EV operators from more than one company.

  • The federal program, which provides funding to state departments of transportation to strategically build an EV charging station infrastructure, provides up to 80% of the cost to build each station.
  • The remaining 20% must come from the private sector.

The intrigue: It took two years for the first EV charging station funded by NEVI to switch on in Ohio.

Zoom in: The 19 projects funded in Arkansas include locations along interstates 40 and 30, but only one in NWA at a Jiffy Trip in Siloam Springs.

  • Funds awarded to each project range from $479,000 at the Cracker Barrel in Alma to $1.75 million at a truck stop in Pine Bluff.

What we're watching: No deadline has been announced for the 19 charging stations to be complete.

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3. The Agenda: Housing position up for vote

Fayetteville City Hall. Photo: Alex Golden/Axios

The Fayetteville City Council tonight will consider:

  • Creating a housing coordinator job following the decision earlier this month to declare a housing crisis in the city. The coordinator would be a liaison to community organizations and residents on housing matters, and would address housing challenges. The new position would cost the city $90,000, which it plans to pay for with American Rescue Plan Act money.
  • Removing the $500 cap on city permit fees for alcohol sales, meaning the city could charge $1,250 for wholesale liquor permits. The city can charge up to half of the state fees for alcohol permits.

If you go: 5:30pm at Fayetteville City Hall or online.

4. Kitchen Sink: Scrub-a-dub-news

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

👮‍♂️ Pulaski County Sheriff Eric Higgins spoke to the NAACP's Jacksonville chapter Sunday about the controversial Netflix series "Unlocked: A Jail Experiment," where he allowed production teams access to the jail. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

  • "One thing that bothers me ... all this outrage over a Netflix series, but I've been trying for two years to get mental health services in the place," Higgins said.

🛒 Walmart store manager Nichole Hart earned nearly $240,000 last year at her job in Bellmead, Texas. The company increasingly leans on stores and their managers to fulfill online orders while maintaining profitability. (The Wall Street Journal)

👩‍⚖️ A former J.B. Hunt Transport Services human resources vice president is suing the company, claiming he was fired "due to his status as a white male and his ongoing opposition to the discrimination in the workplace against white males." (Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

5. 🐍 Photo du jour: Snake take

Photo: Worth Sparkman/Axios

👋 Worth here. I went on a hike with a buddy this weekend around Lincoln Lake.

  • Next to the trail was this hefty reptile.
  • We think it's a black rat snake.

Whatever it was, it had zero fear of us.

  • I kept my distance.

Thanks to Fadel Allassan for editing and James Gilzow for copy editing this newsletter.

📰 Alex is reading about Axios' response to A.I.

🌊 Worth started reading "The Year of the Flood" by Margaret Atwood.