Tess Vrbin

Tess Vrbin

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.

Arkansas Legislature saw wide range of maternal and reproductive health legislation in 2023

By: - April 17, 2023

Prenatal and postpartum healthcare policies rose on Arkansas’ priority list after abortion became illegal in the state, but did not rise high enough, according to advocates for the well-being of pregnant and newborn Arkansans. Rep. Aaron Pilkington, R-Knoxville, introduced several bills to bolster this area of healthcare during the 2023 legislative session. Some made it […]

Arkansas lawmakers conclude work following approval of tax cuts, education legislation

By: and - April 7, 2023

From the state’s first female governor to an overhaul of the state’s education system, the 94th General Assembly brought unprecedented change to Arkansas. After three months of work, lawmakers adjourned Friday and plan to return on May 1 for the official end of the legislative session. “It started with a slow trot and ended with […]

A counselor holds a pregnant woman's hands during a session.

Legislation on Arkansas governor’s desk would reboot $1M pregnancy resource center grant fund

By: - April 6, 2023

Arkansas will offer another $1 million to pregnancy resource centers during fiscal year 2024 if Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders authorizes it. The state Legislature set aside the same taxpayer-funded amount last year to support “crisis pregnancy centers,” maternity homes, adoption agencies, and “social service agencies that provide material support and other assistance to individuals facing […]

Pronoun restrictions in Arkansas schools head to Sanders’ desk

By: - April 5, 2023

Arkansas public school teachers and professors will be required to use the pronouns and names students were assigned at birth, unless parents specifically allow them to do otherwise, if Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signs House Bill 1468 into law. The Senate approved the bill along party lines Wednesday. It would require written permission from a […]

Arkansas senator’s demotion after “frivolous” ethics complaint will end next year

By: - April 5, 2023

Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, will regain his seniority in the Arkansas Senate shortly after the general election in November 2024. A majority of senators agreed in a voice vote Wednesday that Clark, who was demoted last year to the lowest level of seniority for the 94th General Assembly, will be allowed to participate in the […]

Amended proposal to increase some Arkansans’ food stamp asset limit goes to Sanders’ desk

By: - April 4, 2023

Legislation meant to help some Arkansans save money while still receiving federal nutrition assistance is on Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ desk after clearing the state Legislature on Tuesday. Senate Bill 306 initially would have raised the resource limit to $12,500 for Arkansans to qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly called food stamps. […]

Legislation aimed at religious freedom heads to Arkansas Senate

By: - April 3, 2023

A proposed law similar to a ballot measure rejected by Arkansas voters last year passed the House of Representatives along party lines Monday. House Bill 1615 would amend Act 975 of 2015, known as the Conscience Protection Act or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Critics of the legislation at the time said it would legalize […]

Arkansas governor signs law aimed at holding libraries accountable for ‘obscene’ material

By: - March 31, 2023

The distribution of content by school and public libraries that community members consider “obscene” could lead to criminal liability for Arkansas librarians under a law Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed Thursday. Senate Bill 81 adds the loaning of library materials to the statute governing the possession and distribution of obscene material. Arkansas’ definition of obscenity is […]

Lawmakers reject two proposed exceptions to Arkansas’ abortion ban

By: - March 30, 2023

The Arkansas House Judiciary Committee rejected two proposed exceptions to the state’s near-total abortion ban Thursday. House Bill 1670, sponsored by Rep. Ashley Hudson, D-Little Rock, would have added an exception in cases of incest, while House Bill 1684, sponsored by Rep. Denise Garner, D-Fayetteville, would have added the health of the mother as an […]

Arkansas Senate panel OKs tweaked bill barring implicit bias training in schools

By: - March 29, 2023

A state Senate committee on Wednesday approved a new version of the bill that aims to prohibit public schools and colleges from requiring employees to participate in implicit bias training. House Bill 1559 prohibits schools from taking “adverse employment action” against an employee who fails or refuses to participate in implicit bias training. The State […]

Proposed restrictions on transgender pronouns in Arkansas schools head to Senate floor

By: - March 29, 2023

The Arkansas Senate will consider requiring public school teachers and professors to use the pronouns and names students were assigned at birth unless parents specifically allow them to do otherwise. House Bill 1468 would require written permission from a minor’s parent or guardian for school employees to use any “pronoun or title that is inconsistent” […]

Arkansas House committee changes controversial public bathroom bill

By: - March 28, 2023

The Arkansas House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved an amended version of a bill that initially would have criminalized entering and remaining in bathrooms and locker rooms that do not match an adult’s gender assigned at birth if children are present. Senate Bill 270 now limits potential misdemeanor charges and prosecutions to adults present “for […]