The Top 10 Arkansas Business Stories of 2012: Making History

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 24, 2012 12:00 am  

After maintaining his innocence for three years, Sorensen had pleaded guilty in May to money laundering and mail fraud in exchange for the dismissal of all charges against his wife and her sister.

The three had operated a side business that collected commissions for advertising inserts that USA Drug placed in newspapers, and prosecutors said the business was kept secret from the LaFrance family while Sorensen’s defense team suggested that at least one of Stephen LaFrance’s sons knew and approved of the arrangement.

Sorensen was originally scheduled to report to prison on Dec. 3, but he was granted additional time — until Feb. 4 — to complete some jobs as a flooring contractor.

6. GOP Takes Control

While Democrats retained the White House and made gains in the U.S. House and Senate, the November 2012 General Election in Arkansas was historic and antithetical to national trends. Most notably, Arkansas Republicans won majorities in both the state House and Senate for the first time in 138 years, and the election of Tom Cotton from the 4th Congressional District gave the state a solidly Republican delegation in the U.S. House.

It took a recount in House District 52 in northeast Arkansas to confirm the GOP dominance. The 45-vote margin by which John K. Hutchison defeated L.J. Bryant gave Republicans the slimmest of majorities in the state house, 51 of 100 seats. Also in January, Republicans will serve in 21 of the state Senate’s 35 seats.

On Nov. 6, 11 Republicans won in a total of 18 Arkansas Senate races, and 30 Republicans won in a total of 54 state House races.

As part of the transition to Republican leadership, during election week, the Arkansas Senate elected Republican Sen. Michael Lamoureux as its next president.

In addition, nine days after the election, Republican state Rep. Davy Carter of Cabot was elected Speaker of the House. Carter’s win was a surprise because Rep. Terry Rice, R-Waldron, was the presumed speaker if Republicans took control of the chamber. But backing from House Democrats and a handful of Republican defections changed the story line.

Despite the Republican fervor across much of the state, Arkansans didn’t blindly favor GOP members just because they were Republicans. Democratic rivals defeated Republican candidates Rep. Loy Mauch, Rep. Jon Hubbard and Charlie Fuqua in House races. All three men had been criticized for making controversial statements. Mauch called Abraham Lincoln a “war criminal.” Hubbard said slavery had been a “blessing in disguise” for African-Americans. And Fuqua suggested that American Muslims should be deported.

7. Dillard’s Continues Strong Showing

In 2011, Dillard’s Inc. landed on Arkansas Business’ list of top 10 business stories for its dazzling performance. The Little Rock retail chain didn’t slow down in 2012.



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