Axios Northwest Arkansas

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Today's newsletter is 864 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: What to know about the "podiumgate" audit

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

ICYMI, the Arkansas Legislative Audit this week wrapped up its investigation into the purchase of a $19,000 podium by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders' administration.

What they found: The audit report reveals the governor's office may have broken state law in several instances, including:

  • Applying the purchase to operating expenses when it didn't meet criteria.
  • Not notifying the Department of Transformation and Shared Services, therefore preventing the purchase from being properly recorded.
  • Not seeking an exemption from the state procurement director for disposal of state property.
  • Shredding the bill of lading.
  • Altering a public record. Auditors found three versions of an invoice, two of which contained a handwritten notation made after the record was entered into the Arkansas Administrative Statewide Information System.

Transformation and Shared Services also may have violated state law by excluding multiple invoices paid for with the governor's office credit card.

The intrigue: Days before the release of the report, state Attorney General Tim Griffin said the governor is not subject to two state laws, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

  • One is the General Accounting and Budgetary Procedures Law, which requires all state agencies to provide adequate accounting for all fiscal transactions. Griffin said Sanders is not considered a state agency.
  • The other law states that tax-supported institutions like state agencies are allowed to use the services of the Arkansas State Surplus, which oversees the redistribution and sale of state surplus property between state agencies, tax-supported entities, not-for-profit groups and to the public. Griffin said the law does not specifically say constitutional officers are subject to it.

What they're saying: Sanders on Monday posted a gimmicky video on X of the podium ending with "Come and take it."

By the numbers: The total cost was $19,029 including $11,575 for the podium itself, plus a $2,500 consulting fee, $2,200 for a road case, $1,225 for shipping and delivery, $975 for shipping of the road case and $554 for a credit card processing fee, according to the audit report.

The latest: Lawmakers questioned the governor's staff during a nearly three-hour hearing Tuesday.

What's next: The report has been sent to Griffin's office and Pulaski County's prosecuting attorney, the Arkansas Advocate reported.

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2. Proposed amendment seeks to change education laws

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The group For AR Kids is collecting signatures for an amendment that would require identical academic and accreditation standards for any school that receives state or local money.

State of play: If voters approve it, the Arkansas Educational Rights Amendment of 2024 would deny state or local money to any nonpublic school that fails to meet the same academic standards, standards for accreditation or assessment requirements as public schools.

Between the lines: The LEARNS Act of 2022 includes phasing in a voucher system that will allow all parents to apply to use state funds to the school of their choice, including private schools and home-schooling programs.

Other key aspects of the amendment include:

  • Establishing state-funded, voluntary childhood education — as well as after-school and summer programs — for all kids, starting at age 3.
  • Requiring the state to help children who are within 200% of the federal poverty line and to cover services that "fully meet the individualized needs of students with disabilities to allow them meaningful access to integrated education."

What it means: The amendment defines "adequate education" as all children developing sufficient:

  • Oral and written communication skills.
  • Knowledge of economic, social and political systems.
  • Understanding of governmental processes.
  • Self-knowledge and knowledge of their mental and physical wellness.
  • Grounding in the arts.
  • Training or preparation for advanced training in academic or vocational fields.
  • Academic or vocational skills to enable public-school students to compete favorably with their counterparts in surrounding states — in academics or in the job market.

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3. Kitchen Sink: Hoggin' the news

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

💰 The executive protection detail of the Arkansas State Police spent more than $723,000 to protect Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her family during the first quarter of 2024. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

  • The cost was about $862,000 during the fourth quarter of 2023 (Oct. 1-Dec. 31) and about $548,000 during the third quarter (July 1-Sept. 30).

🚚 A shareholder proposal filed in ArcBest's annual proxy would change the voting threshold for a sale or merger of the company. Shareholders meet April 26. (Arkansas Business)

🍏 A new interactive map from the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank will help those in need find food and resources. (KNWA-TV)

4. Charted: What people sacrifice to afford housing

Data: Redfin; Note: Responses with less than 14% were excluded from the chart; Respondents could choose multiple responses; Chart: Axios Visuals

A striking share of renters and homeowners across the U.S. are skipping essentials like meals and medical care to keep a roof over their heads, per a new Redfin report.

State of play: Housing prices in Northwest Arkansas are more than 120% higher than a decade ago, according to the Arvest Skyline Report.

The big picture: Half of U.S. renters and homeowners struggle to afford monthly housing payments, Redfin found.

Yes, but: Demographics play into the types of sacrifices people make.

  • For instance, white and Asian survey respondents tend to skip vacations, while Black and Hispanic respondents are most likely to work more hours, per the report.

The intrigue: Millennials are the generation most likely to borrow money from friends and family to cover housing costs, per the report.

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

😁 Alex will be running into Worth at "To Kill a Mockingbird."

ğŸŽ­ Worth is looking forward to seeing Richard Thomas play Atticus Finch at Walton Arts Center tonight.