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Tess Vrbin, Arkansas Advocate

Tess Vrbin, Arkansas Advocate

Tess Vrbin came to the Advocate from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where she reported on low-income housing and tenants' rights, and won awards for her coverage of 2021 flooding and tornado damage in rural Arkansas. She previously covered local government for The Commercial Dispatch in Mississippi and state government for the Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri. A Midwesterner by birth, she graduated from the University of Missouri's journalism school in 2019.

Man with face mask and blue shirt and gloves n front of white wall with mold

State settles 2019 lawsuit against Pulaski County landlord over health, safety risks

By: - December 8, 2022

The Arkansas Attorney General’s Office settled a lawsuit against a Little Rock and North Little Rock landlord in September, prohibiting the individual and his company from leasing units that risk the health and safety of the tenants. The 2019 consumer protection lawsuit filed by Attorney General Leslie Rutledge claimed Entropy Systems Inc. and its president, […]

Sarah Huckabee Sanders appoints Buffalo resort founder and owner as Arkansas Parks secretary

By: - December 6, 2022

Arkansas Gov.-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Tuesday that she will nominate Mike Mills, the founder and owner of the state’s first log cabin resort, to run the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. Mills is Sanders’ second cabinet appointee after Capt. Mike Hagar, the State Police’s Troop A commander, whom Sanders announced Monday as her […]

Arkansas ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth awaits court ruling

By: - December 1, 2022

*This story was updated at 6:25 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, with additional details from Thursday’s testimony. Arkansas’ ban on gender-affirming health care for transgender minors awaits a decision from a federal judge after the defense rested its case Thursday. The proceedings lasted eight days, four in October and four in November, as the […]

“Detransitioned” adults defend Arkansas ban on gender-affirming care for minors

By: - November 30, 2022

Two individuals who “detransitioned,” or lived as transgender but now live as their gender assigned at birth, testified in favor of the Arkansas law banning gender-affirming health care for transgender minors Wednesday in federal court. Plaintiffs’ attorney Aviv Halpern asked Laura Perry Smalts of Oklahoma City if she was assigned female at birth. “I was […]

Judge, attorneys scrutinize witness expertise in trial on Arkansas transgender law

By: - November 29, 2022

A federal judge and plaintiffs’ attorneys expressed frustration at testimony Tuesday from defense witnesses in the ongoing trial challenging Arkansas’ ban on gender-affirming care for transgender minors. A sociologist and a plastic surgeon, called by lawyers for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office in defense of the 2021 law, expressed doubts about the safety and effectiveness […]

Trial challenging Arkansas ban on gender-affirming care for minors resumes

By: - November 28, 2022

The trial against Arkansas’ ban on gender-affirming health care for transgender youth resumed Monday with the second witness for the defense, led by Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office. Monday’s witness was Dr. Stephen Levine, an Ohio-based psychiatrist with a focus on sexual dysfunction and “transsexualism,” as transgender identity was called in the 1970s when his […]

Phillips County (Arkansas) Courthouse (Getty Images)

Arkansas election authority will investigate Phillips County reporting struggles

By: - November 23, 2022

Ongoing problems with tallying and reporting voting data led the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners this week to agree to open an investigation into the Phillips County Election Commission. The board unanimously agreed Tuesday to have director Daniel Shults file a complaint against the commission, which failed to upload the results of this month’s election […]

Phillips County recount in Arkansas House District 62 race does not change results

By: - November 22, 2022

A recount in Phillips County on Monday solidified State Rep. Mark McElroy’s reelection victory in Arkansas House District 62, according to the Helena World, Phillips County’s local newspaper. McElroy (R-Tillar) faced Democrat Dexter Miller, a Phillips County resident who requested the recount Friday. He said he thought something was amiss in the initial results, especially […]

North Little Rock renters fed up with poor living conditions

By: - November 22, 2022

NORTH LITTLE ROCK — Moving out of a black mold-infested apartment and into a safer one was literally and figuratively a breath of fresh air for Daffany Payne and her seven children, she said Tuesday. However, Payne received a bill for $4,000 worth of repairs at her previous apartment, putting her in debt for problems […]

No change to Arkansas House District 56 results after recount

By: - November 21, 2022

State Rep. Steve Magie (D-Conway) won a sixth term in the Arkansas Legislature after a recount in House District 56 yielded the same 10-vote victory he had after the first count. The district is entirely within Faulkner County, and the recount started Friday and ended Saturday. Magie received 4,051 votes while Republican Trent Minner, who […]

State House candidate requests recount in Arkansas Delta district

By: - November 18, 2022

This story was updated at 6:58 p.m. on Nov. 18, 2022, with comments from Dexter Miller. Votes in the Arkansas House District 62 election will be recounted at Democratic candidate Dexter Miller’s request, adding another responsibility to the Phillips County Election Commission while it has been struggling to send the county’s results to the state. […]

Phillips County election officials struggle to report results to Secretary of State

By: - November 17, 2022

HELENA-WEST HELENA — State Rep. Mark McElroy (R-Tillar) decided to put off celebrating his reelection victory until after Phillips County sent its voting data to the Secretary of State, but that might have become a problem, he said Wednesday. “The ribs I bought for the celebration are getting stale and green,” he said Wednesday, laughing. […]