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Governor doubtful violence will occur

In the aftermath of a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he thinks Arkansas is less likely to have violent actions in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, but will be prepared to protect the state Capitol if necessary.

On Jan. 6, supporters of President Donald Trump broke into and ransacked the U.S. Capitol over the counting of Electoral College votes.

The Associated Press reported Monday that the FBI, through an internal bulletin, is warning of armed protests at all 50 state Capitol buildings starting Saturday and leading up to Biden's inauguration Jan. 20.

Asked about the threat level in Arkansas at his weekly covid-19 news conference Tuesday, Hutchinson said his administration takes every piece of intelligence seriously and would continue evaluating the information available from the FBI.

Hutchinson said he would activate the National Guard if civilian law enforcement officials are not sufficient to handle the threat, but he did not see any indication that would be necessary.

"At this time, I have not seen anything that indicates that our civilian law enforcement resources cannot handle any threats that we see at the present time, but we'll continue to evaluate that," he said.

He noted that he had called in the National Guard during protests against police brutality in Little Rock and across the nation in June, in the wake of George Floyd's death, but said he did not do so until the destruction of property had taken place.

The governor said he felt the state is less likely than other states to see challenges to state authority or protests over the counting of Electoral College votes in Washington. Hutchinson investigated and prosecuted a right-wing extremist group when he was U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas in the 1980s.

-- Rachel Herzog

Most House panels' chiefs keep seats

This week, House Speaker Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, reappointed most of the House committee chairmen for the past two years to their posts for the next two years.

The new chairmen are Rep. DeAnn Vaught, R-Horatio, who replaces former Rep. Dan Douglas, R-Bentonville, over the House Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development Committee, and Rep. Les Eaves, R-Searcy, who replaces former Rep. Sarah Capp, R-Ozark, over the House Rules Committee.

Shepherd, who has served as House speaker since 2018, said Tuesday that he has received relatively few negative comments about House chairmen.

"I felt like if it ain't broke, don't fix it," he said. "I think it's important to remember that we are in a period of transition because we are going from the old three-term, six-year term limits [in the House] ... to the full 16 years [under Amendment 94 enacted in 2014], so particularly with some of the members that maybe have a little more ... seniority, if you make a move here or there, you may be setting aside some of that experience."

Shepherd's reappointments:

• Joint Budget co-chairman, Rep. Lane Jean, R-Magnolia.

• Public Health, Welfare and Labor, Rep. Jack Ladyman, R-Jonesboro.

• Education, Rep. Bruce Cozart, R-Hot Springs.

• Revenue and Taxation, Rep. Joe Jett, R-Success.

• Judiciary, Rep. Carol Dalby, R-Texarkana.

• State Agencies and Governmental Affairs, Rep. Dwight Tosh, R-Jonesboro.

m Insurance and Commerce, Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle.

• Public Transportation, Rep. Mike Holcomb, R-Pine Bluff.

• City County and Local Affairs, Rep. Lanny Fite, R-Benton.

• Joint Committee on Public Retirement and Social Security Programs, Rep. Les Warren, R-Hot Springs.

• Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs, Rep. Charlene Fite, R-Van Buren.

m House Management, Rep. Carlton Wing, R-North Little Rock.

• Legislative Council co-chairman, Rep. Jeff Wardlaw, R-Hermitage.

• Legislative Joint Auditing Committee co-chairman, Rep. Richard Womack, R-Arkadelphia.

• Joint Committee on Energy co-chairman, Rep. Rick Beck, R-Center Ridge.

• Joint Performance Review Committee co-chairman, Rep. Jimmy Gazaway, R-Paragould.

• Joint Committee on Advanced Communications and Information Technology co-chairman, Rep. Stephen Meeks, R-Greenbrier.

-- Michael R. Wickline

Griffin picks ex-aide as his chief of staff

Republican Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin has hired a former congressional and campaign aide, Carl Vogelpohl, as his office's chief of staff, Griffin announced this week.

Vogelpohl fills the vacancy created by Maumelle Republican David Ray's resignation to serve in the state House of Representatives. Vogelpohl's salary will be $95,000 a year -- the same as his predecessor -- said Griffin spokeswoman Hannah Bunch.

He led Griffin's successful 2010 campaign for Congress, and served as Griffin's deputy chief of staff and district director before becoming his chief of staff in 2014, Griffin's office said in a news release. Griffin served as Arkansas' 2nd District congressman from 2011-15.

After returning to the private sector, Vogelpohl played a prominent role in advising Griffin's 2014 campaign for lieutenant governor before becoming chief of staff for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, according to the news release. He returned to his consulting firm in 2018. Both Griffin and Rutledge are running for governor in 2022.

Bunch said Tuesday that Vogelpohl "will not be an employee" for Griffin's gubernatorial campaign, "but his firm will continue to support the campaign separate and distinct from his government service."

She said Vogelpohl resigned his position as a director of the Arkansas Competes issue advocacy group. The Arkansas Competes group has aired issue-oriented ads involving Griffin.

-- Michael R. Wickline

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