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Friday July 21, 2017

HEAT ADVISORY

Heat advisory in effect for Mid-South region

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Weather officials have issued a heat advisory for parts of Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas as heat indexes rise above 100 degrees.

The National Weather Service in Memphis has issued a heat advisory for eastern Arkansas, north Mississippi and West Tennessee until 7 p.m. Friday.

Meteorologists say heat indexes are reaching up to 105 to 110 degrees in the Mid-South region. Heat index is a measure of how hot it feels when relative humidity is factored in with the actual air temperature.

The weather service says the combination of hot temperatures and high humidity can make heat exhaustion or heat stroke possible.

Officials are advising people to wear lightweight and loose-fitting clothing and drink plenty of water to help combat the sweltering heat.

VOTER ID-ARKANSAS

Arkansas panel approves rules enforcing voter ID law

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A legislative panel has cleared the way for Arkansas to begin enforcing its reinstated voter ID law later this year.

The executive subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council on Thursday approved the state Board of Election Commissioners emergency rule enforcing the new law requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot. Those without photo identification can sign a sworn statement saying they’re registered to vote in the state.

The new law closely mirrors a voter ID requirement that the state Supreme Court struck down in 2014 as unconstitutional. The 2018 ballot will also feature a constitutional amendment requiring photo ID to cast a ballot.

The state’s new voter ID law is set to take effect Aug. 1.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA-HOT SPRINGS

Hot Springs shows support for medical marijuana enterprises

(Information from: The Sentinel-Record, http://www.hotsr.com)

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — A central Arkansas city has approved a resolution that supports medical marijuana enterprises in the area.

The Sentinel-Record reports the Hot Springs Board of Directors unanimously adopted the resolution Tuesday after imposing a moratorium last month. The ban that was lifted last week halted medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities from receiving licenses and permits.

The board also amended the resolution to specify its support for charging the facilities “market competitive fees for construction and operation.”

City officials say the resolution shows Hot Springs welcomes the new enterprise.

According to data from the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, more than 25,500 Garland County residents have a condition that qualifies for medical marijuana treatment.

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ABORTION RESTRICTIONS-ARKANSAS

Arkansas Board of Health approves rule for abortion law

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Board of Health has approved emergency regulations to implement a new state law dictating how fetal remains must be handled after an abortion.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports the board decided Wednesday that abortion clinics won’t be responsible for handling fetal tissue in medication abortions that happen outside of their clinics.

The new law is being challenged in a federal lawsuit supported by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights. The suit contends that the law, which hasn’t yet taken affect, limits medication abortions because it requires consent of third parties and prevents someone from privately disposing of fetal tissue after a miscarriage.

Attorneys for the state say the law doesn’t restrict medication abortions or require the father be notified before the tissue disposal.

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LITTLE ROCK SLAYING

Little Rock police identify teen found dead in street

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Little Rock police have identified the person who was found fatally shot on a city street earlier this week.

Police say 19-year-old Samuel “Chris” Gilmore was found lying in the road on West 14th Street late Tuesday night, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Little Rock police said Thursday that Gilmore was from Texas and had recently moved to Little Rock.

No arrests have been announced, and police have not said what may have led to the shooting. His death is the 32nd homicide reported in Little Rock so far this year.

SCHOOL BROADBAND-ARKANSAS

Arkansas completes upgrade of public school broadband

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Gov. Asa Hutchinson says a two-year project to get high-speed internet into all of Arkansas’ public schools systems has been completed.

Hutchinson on Thursday announced the completion of the Arkansas Public School Computer Network, the high-speed broadband upgrade for all of the state’s K-12 school systems. The project’s completion will deliver secure, high-speed broadband to 293 public schools, charter schools, education-service cooperative and telecommunications providers statewide.

Hutchinson’s office said Arkansas is one of only six states to achieve at least 100 kilobits per second per student in 100 percent of its school districts. The new network will provide bandwidth speeds to access online courses and online research and internet-based class projects.

Tuesday July 18, 2017

JUDGE-TAX ALLEGATIONS

Arkansas judge temporarily suspended over tax charges

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas’ highest court has ordered that a judge accused of failing to pay state and federal income taxes be temporarily suspended with pay.

The state Supreme Court on Monday ordered the suspension of Saline County Circuit Court Judge Bobby McCallister until a criminal case over the tax charges is resolved. The state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission asked justices for McCallister’s temporary suspension with pay after he was charged with four felony counts of failing to pay taxes. McCallister’s attorney earlier Monday told the court the judge agreed to the temporary suspension.

McCallister also faces judicial misconduct charges from the commission. The commission has said it appears McCallister did not file taxes between 1995 and 2014, but it isn’t clear how much he may owe.

HERBICIDE DISPUTE

Weed killer turns neighbor against neighbor in farm country

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A dispute over a common weed killer is turning neighbor against neighbor across much of farm country.

The furor surrounding the herbicide dicamba has quickly become the biggest controversy of its kind in U.S. agriculture. And it is even suspected as a factor in the death of a farmer who was allegedly shot by a worker from a nearby farm where the chemical had been sprayed.

Crops near many treated soybean fields have turned up with leaves that were cupped and crinkled.

Concern about the herbicide drifting onto unprotected fields spawned lawsuits and prompted Arkansas and Missouri to impose temporary bans on dicamba. Losses could climb into the tens of millions of dollars, if not higher. And that could affect other products that rely on soybeans, including chicken.

ARKANSAS EXECUTIONS-DRUGS

Arkansas appealing judge’s ruling on execution drug lawsuit

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas is appealing a judge’s decision to allow a medical supply company’s attempt to prevent the state from using one of its execution drugs to move forward.

The state on Friday filed a notice that it is appealing Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray’s order denying the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit by McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc. McKesson is seeking an order preventing the state from using its supply of vecuronium bromide, one of three drugs used in Arkansas’ lethal injection process.

The state is already appealing an April order by Gray blocking the drug’s use. The state Supreme Court stayed that ruling, which allowed Arkansas to resume executions for the first time in nearly 12 years. Gray denied the state’s motion to dismiss last week.

UNIVERSITY-GLOBAL CAMPUS

University of Arkansas names leader for distance education

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — The University of Arkansas has named a new leader for its Global Campus, which supports online and distance education along with workforce education.

UA announced Monday that Donald P. Judges has been named vice provost for distance education and leader of the Global Campus. The university says Judges has served in those roles in an interim capacity since April 2016 and officially assumed the titles July 1.

The Global Campus has offices in Fayetteville and Rogers. UA says the Global Campus supports colleges and schools within the university in the development and delivery of online, distance and workforce education programs and courses.

UA says it has seen increases in online enrollments over the past year, along with the development of new online courses and programs.

ARKANSAS GOVERNOR-2018

Arkansas governor has nearly $1.2M on hand for re-elect bid

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s campaign says it has nearly $1.2 million in the bank as the Republican ramps up his re-election bid for next year.

Hutchinson’s campaign on Monday reported it raised more than $526,000 over the past three months and spent more than $37,000. Hutchinson, who was first elected in 2014, formally announced in May that he was seeking a second term but had already been raising money for a re-election bid.

So far no Democrats have announced a bid to challenge Hutchinson. Hutchinson has raised nearly $1.3 million total for his re-election bid.

Republicans hold all of the statewide and federal offices in Arkansas, as well as a majority in both chambers of the Legislature.

ASHDOWN SHOOTING

1 dead, 1 injured after drive-by shooting in Arkansas

(Information from: Texarkana Gazette, http://www.texarkanagazette.com)

ASHDOWN, Ark. (AP) — One person is dead and another is recovering after a recent drive-by shooting in southwest Arkansas.

Ashdown Police Chief Mark Ardwin tells the Texarkana Gazette that the two people were shot around 1 a.m. Sunday.

The victims, whose names haven’t been release, were taken in a private vehicle to a nearby hospital. One died of a gunshot wound to the chest and the other was treated for minor injuries.

Ardwin says an autopsy is expected to be conducted at the Arkansas Crime Lab in Little Rock.

Ardwin says four suspects, who range in age from 17 to 22, have been detained and remain at Sevier County jail.

No weapons from the shooting have been located.

Monday July 17, 2017

FATAL SHOOTING-ARKANSAS

Fatal shooting of man under investigation in Hot Springs

(Information from: KATV-TV, http://www.katv.com/)

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — Police in Hot Springs say a 37-year-old man is dead following an early-morning shooting.

Little Rock television station KATV reports that Timothy Martin of Hot Springs was killed in the Sunday morning shooting.

Police say officers responded to reports of gunfire at a nightclub in downtown Hot Springs shortly after 1 a.m. Officers say they found Martin dead in a car in the parking lot of the nightclub.

Investigators say they are interviewing witnesses but have no suspects in the case. The shooting remains under investigation.

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SUMMER HEAT-OKLAHOMA-ARKANSAS

Summer heat to rise above normal in Oklahoma, Arkansas

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Residents of Oklahoma and Arkansas are bracing for some of the hottest temperatures so far this summer.

The National Weather Service says high temperatures during the upcoming work week will rise to above normal levels for this time of year, with the hottest conditions expected near the end of the week and next weekend.

Forecasters say a ridge of high pressure will shift east across the Southern Plains during the week, setting up a typical mid-summer heat wave and creating hot and humid conditions in eastern Oklahoma as well as northwestern and east central Arkansas.

Temperatures near 100 degrees with heat index values ranging from 100 to around 108 degrees will be possible toward the end of the work week.

Isolated thunderstorms are likely with chances increasing late next weekend.

INVESTMENT EARNINGS-ARKANSAS

Arkansas investment earnings top $57 million

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas’ treasurer says the state treasury earned $57.5 million on its investment of more than $3 billion during the past year, the most in almost a decade.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that interest earnings during the 2017 fiscal year that ended June 30 are the largest since fiscal 2009’s $72.6 million.

By comparison, Arkansas’ treasury earned $22.3 million during the 2015 fiscal year and $48.9 million in in the 2016 fiscal year.

Records in Treasurer Dennis Milligan’s office indicate that the treasury had an average of $3.4 billion to invest during the past year, up from $3.2 billion in fiscal 2016 and $2.8 million in fiscal 2015.

Milligan’s office says the investments include $3.28 billion in bonds, about $277,500 in demand accounts and about $155,000 in money market accounts.

Friday July 14, 2017

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS-ARKANSAS

Judge hears arguments in challenge to Arkansas abortion laws

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Abortion rights supporters say four new Arkansas laws they’re trying to block would create unnecessary delays for women seeking the procedure and could effectively require a partner’s consent beforehand, while the state says the groups are coming up with problems that don’t exist in the new restrictions.

A federal judge heard arguments for roughly two hours Thursday over the lawsuit filed challenging the new laws, three of which are set to take effect Aug. 1. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights are suing the state over the restrictions.

The laws being challenged include a ban on a common second-trimester abortion procedure. The groups are also challenging part of a “sex-selection” abortion ban that they say would create delays, and new requirements on fetal tissue disposal.

HEALTH CARE-FRAUD CHARGES

US charging 412 in health fraud schemes worth $1.3 billion

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. prosecutors have charged more than 400 people, including two dozen in Arkansas, with taking part in health care fraud and opioid scams that totaled $1.3 billion in false billing.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the charges Thursday. Officials say those charged include more than 120 people involved in prescribing and distributing narcotics. In prepared remarks, Sessions calls it the “largest health care fraud takedown operation in American history.”

In Arkansas, assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Givens says 24 people face charges that include forging prescriptions and burglary for allegedly stealing drugs from pharmacies in the state.

Givens says no Arkansas doctors or pharmacists are charged in the case.

CAR SEAT METHAMPHETAMINE

Arkansas woman convicted of smuggling meth in child car seat

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas woman has been convicted of smuggling methamphetamine inside the car seats where her children were sitting.

Court records show 38-year-old Elsa Solis of Batesville was convicted Wednesday on charges that include conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute meth.

An attorney for Solis did not immediately return a phone call for comment.

Federal prosecutors say methamphetamine was found in the bottom of car seats Solis’ two children were sitting in following a traffic stop in July 2015 in central Arkansas. The ages of the children were not released.

Prosecutors say Solis faces up to 23 years in prison when sentenced. A sentencing date was not set.

HOUSE 2018-ARKANSAS

Teacher running for central Arkansas congressional seat

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A Little Rock high school teacher and political activist says he’s seeking the Democratic nomination for a central Arkansas congressional seat.

Paul Spencer announced Thursday he’s running for the 2nd Congressional District seat currently held by U.S. Rep. French Hill, a Republican who was first elected in 2014.

Spencer teaches government and history at Little Rock Catholic High School and formed a group called Regnat Populus that has pushed for campaign finance and ethics changes in the state. In his announcement, Spencer criticized efforts by Republicans in Washington to repeal and replace the federal health overhaul.

Spencer faces an uphill battle in Arkansas, where Republicans hold all statewide and federal offices as well as a majority in both chambers of the state Legislature.

Thursday July 13, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A medical supply company’s challenge to Arkansas’ three-drug execution protocol remains alive, though the state doesn’t have enough drugs to put any inmate to death. The state’s lawyers went to court Wednesday to argue that Arkansas was immune to a lawsuit by McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc. A judge rejected their attempt to dismiss the lawsuit.

OKAY, Okla. (AP) — Officials say no one was hurt after a Union Pacific train carrying coal derailed in eastern Oklahoma. The Wagoner County Sheriff’s Office says the derailment was reported Wednesday afternoon near the town of Okay, about 125 miles east of Oklahoma City. A Union Pacific spokesman says the train was traveling from Wyoming to Arkansas, with 134 cars all loaded with coal.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A county leader’s proposal urging four Arkansas cities to impose a 180-day ban on performing music that promotes or incites violence has been overruled due to First Amendment rights to free speech. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports Justice of the Peace Judy Green proposed the idea for the ban in Little Rock, North Little Rock, Sherwood and Jacksonville at the Pulaski County Quorum Court on Tuesday.

Wednesday July 12, 2017

BONO, Ark. (AP) — Authorities say two people were killed after a car collided with a train in northeast Arkansas. The Craighead County Sheriff’s Office says the collision happened Tuesday night near Bono, about 115 miles northeast of Little Rock. The sheriff’s office says a car driving eastbound on County Road 398 collided with a train that was traveling north, killing two people inside the car.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A woman has been arrested in Little Rock after being found lying in the dirt near an idling vehicle with four children inside. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports Little Rock police found a 32-year-old woman under a wooden deck around 1:15 a.m. Tuesday. The woman was taken to a hospital and then booked into the Pulaski County jail. She faces possible charges of public intoxication and endangering the welfare of a minor.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says the waiting list for people with developmental disabilities in need of state services has been reduced by 500 since a revenue stream was created earlier this year to reduce the waiting time. Hutchinson told the Little Rock Rotary Club Tuesday that the list had grown to about 3,000 people.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas education officials say the state’s third- through 10th-graders scored higher on the state-required ACT Aspire tests this spring than in 2016. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that over 287,500 students participated in the state’s testing program for the second year. They also took online tests in English, math, science, reading and writing that were developed by the company that produces the ACT college-entrance exam. Results show students improved in most grades and subjects.

Tuesday July 11, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Authorities say the liquor license of a Little Rock nightclub where a shooting during a rap concert left 28 people injured will remain suspended. The Arkansas Alcohol Beverage Control Board informed nightclub owner Herman Lewis on Monday that the license will continue to be suspended pending an investigation of potential violations. Power Ultra Lounge’s liquor license was suspended soon after the July 1 shooting.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The FBI says there were nearly 1,900 instances of internet crime in Arkansas last year, from nonpayment scams to cyberattacks on state agencies. FBI officials say the state’s attacks are a small percentage of the nearly 300,000 cyberattacks tracked nationwide in 2016. But the FBI warns that Arkansas is seeing more complex attacks, including cyberattacks from overseas.

CASH, Ark. (AP) — Authorities say the pilot of a crop duster who was killed in a crash in northeast Arkansas was a Georgia man. Craighead County Sheriff Marty Boyd told KAIT Monday that 27-year-old Ronald Everidge of Pinehurst, Georgia, died in the crash near Cash, about 105 miles (169 kilometers) northeast of Little Rock. Authorities say the plane crashed Saturday afternoon along Highway 226 after a witness reported the aircraft spun in the air and struck the ground nose first.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — A group from Little Rock is acquiring the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs for an undisclosed amount of money. The Hot Springs Sentinel-Record newspaper reported Monday that Sky Capital Group LP is buying the state’s largest hotel from Southwest Hotels Inc., which has operated the hotel since 1954. The Arlington Hotel has 478 rooms, along with a spa, a bathhouse, a convention center, ballroom and a lobby bar.

Monday July 10, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas woman who jumped into a river to save her teenage daughter died hours after the daughter’s body was found. A Benton County Sheriff’s Office spokesman says Rogers resident Kristin Wylie died Sunday around 12:30 p.m. at a hospital. Wylie’s 13-year-old daughter had been found around 7:30 a.m. Sunday near War Eagle Mill.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas agencies will be allowed next month to hire employees for vacant positions without having to ask permission as they were required to do under a state hiring freeze. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/2sULGjP) that starting Aug. 1, agency heads will be allowed more discretion to fill vacant positions.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Police in Little Rock say they have no suspects in the fatal shooting of a 36-year-old Little Rock man. Investigators say Sharman Bowie was fatally shot at an apartment in southwest Little Rock early Saturday. Police received a telephone call at 5:35 a.m. reporting that two people were fighting in a breezeway at the apartment complex. When police arrived, they found a body lying on the ground in the breezeway.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas’ state auditor says a 2 percent pay raise for about 360 state government elected officials will cost the state about $708,000 over a 12-month period. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that the state’s Independent Citizens Commission approved 2 percent pay raises on June 27 for each of state government’s elected officials except Republican Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin. The raises will go into effect in Friday.

Friday July 7, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has announced the creation of a multiagency partnership to combat violence in Little Rock days after a nightclub shooting left 28 people injured. Hutchinson announced the task force at a news conference Thursday. He says the agencies will assign officers to the group to share intelligence about violent offenders and threats in the city. The agencies include the Little Rock Police Department, the FBI and Arkansas State Police.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A Christian-themed movie studio has donated $25,000 toward replacing a Ten Commandments monument outside the Arkansas Capitol that was destroyed last month. PureFlix Entertainment donated the funds Thursday toward the monument, which was destroyed by an Arkansas man who smashed his vehicle into the granite display less than 24 hours after it was installed on the Capitol’s grounds.

SHERWOOD, Ark. (AP) — A former central Arkansas pastor who’s accused of being involved with child pornography says investigators violated his rights. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that attorneys for David Glynn Reynolds argue that police shouldn’t have questioned Reynolds about his social media use before reading him his rights in March 2016. Police say they searched Reynolds’ home after his internet service account was linked to two Twitter accounts that posted illegal images.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — The University of Arkansas doesn’t plan to sell alcohol at intercollegiate sporting events despite new state-issued alcohol permits. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that large-attendance facility permits took effect Saturday for Levy Premium Foodservice, a new concession vendor at the school. The permits allow alcohol sales, but a university spokesman says the school only plans to sell alcohol at indoor “club” areas at Razorback Stadium.

Thursday July 6, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas lawmakers are delaying a vote on a temporary ban of an herbicide that’s been the focus of hundreds of complaints from farmers who say it’s causing widespread damage. The Arkansas Legislative Council’s executive subcommittee on Wednesday delayed voting on the temporary ban of the sale and use of dicamba that’s been approved by the state Plant Board.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas officials say they will partly comply with a request for information from President Donald Trump’s voting commission, but won’t release details such as voters’ Social Security or driver’s license numbers. Secretary of State Mark Martin’s office said Wednesday it will only release publicly available voter information. The panel was formed to investigate allegations of voter fraud in the 2016 elections.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas finance officials say the state ended its fiscal year with a $15.7 million surplus after a boost in sales tax collections over the past two months helped restore most of the budget cuts enacted earlier. The Department of Finance and Administration said Wednesday the state ended the fiscal year with $5.3 billion in net available revenue, which was $19 million below the previous fiscal year.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Two Arkansas Gulf War veterans are leading a campaign to build a Desert Storm War Memorial in Washington, D.C. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports Jeff Kurczek and Brenten Byrd serve on the board for the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association. President Donald Trump also gave his approval this year and signed a resolution that allows the memorial to be built in the capital’s monument zone.

Wednesday July 5, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Dallas Cowboys running back Darren McFadden says his nephew and other relatives were among the 28 people injured in a shooting at a Little Rock nightclub last week. The Little Rock native and former Arkansas Razorback said in a statement that his nephew called him early Saturday and said he’d been shot at the Power Ultra Lounge. McFadden’s statement says other relatives were also shot at the club.

PINE BLUFF, Ark. (AP) — Authorities in Pine Bluff are investigating the deaths of two people in the Dollarway area. The Pine Bluff Police Department said the man and woman were found suffering from gunshot wounds Monday at an apartment. Police say both were later pronounced dead at the scene by the Jefferson County coroner’s office.

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) — Cleanup efforts are underway after a small tornado swept through parts of Jonesboro. Officials say no one was hurt Monday morning when the EF-1 twister struck. Emergency officials say the twister ripped a roof from an apartment complex and downed power lines and trees. More severe weather moved through central and northern Arkansas on Tuesday afternoon as well, with electricity knocked out to thousands of people. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries from those storms.

TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) — Authorities have apprehended an inmate who walked away from his work site in Texarkana on Monday. Arkansas Department of Corrections spokesman Solomon Graves says inmate Joshua Bean walked away from his assigned work-release job site at M&M Milling in Texarkana. Graves says Bean was captured Tuesday at about 11 a.m. in Texarkana.

Friday March 17, 2017

A Centerton teen discovered a 7.5 carat diamond at the state park in Murfreesboro. 14 year old Kalel Langford of Centerton, AR, visted it the Crater of Diamonds state park located in Murfreesboro, AR with his family and after only 30 minutes of searching.

The diamond is considered to be the seventh largest diamond found at the state park since its opening in 1972. There has not yet been an estimate on the diamond, but that doesn’t matter to Kalel, who named it “Superman’s Diamond”, he plans on keeping the diamond as a souvenir.

The largest diamond found in the United States was a 40.23 carat, found in 1924 and nicknamed “Uncle Sam”.

Friday March 3, 2017

Eight death row inmates had their attorneys ask to void Gov Asa Hutchinson’s orders to set the dates for their execution, including a 10 day period in April that would result in double execution dates even though at this time, the drug needed to put them to death has not yet been obtained by the state.

The inmates claim there is a stay blocking the executions from happening. There is an amended complaint pending over lethal injection being used in the state and on Monday they asked the state to clarify this stay on these executions.

The inmates are saying they will go to the highest court to help their case.

Thursday March 2, 2017

The Little Rock police claim several thousands of dollars were stolen from an empty home on Monday. A routine inspection was made along Woodbridge Dr located in southwest Little Rock.

The employee attending the inspection noticed the back door kicked in as well as missing items in the house such as water heaters, various electrical wiring and copper, the air conditioning untit and more.

The inspector was unable to determine a time that the break in happened and no suspects have been named at this time.

Tuesday February 28, 2017

AP-US-ARKANSAS-EXECUTIONS-THE-LATEST

The Latest: Arkansas asks court to clarify that stay lifted

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas is asking the state Supreme Court to clarify that it has lifted stays on the executions of eight death row inmates, accusing attorneys for the men of trying to manufacture a procedural loophole.

Rutledge’s office said Monday it still believed the court had lifted the stays of the eight men who are scheduled to be executed in April. But Rutledge’s office said it was asking for the clarification “out of an abundance of caution.”

Attorneys for the inmates have argued that the stay of executions are still in effect since an amended complaint over the state’s lethal injection law is pending in Pulaski County circuit court.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson earlier Monday scheduled execution dates for the eight inmates, but the state lacks one of the drugs needed to put them to death.

Monday February 27, 2017

SEVERE WEATHER-ARKANSAS

Thunderstorms, possible tornadoes in Arkansas forecast

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Severe weather is in the forecast early this week in Arkansas as a strong storm system is set to cross the state.

The National Weather Service in Little Rock says temperatures will again be unseasonably warm on Monday and Tuesday with highs in the 60s and 70s expected. Some thunderstorms are possible Monday but the bigger risk for severe weather is Tuesday.

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, says northern and central Arkansas and southeastern Missouri are at an enhanced risk for severe weather Tuesday. Forecasters say about 3.4 million people live in the affected area, which includes Little Rock, Fort Smith, Fayetteville and Jonesboro.

Forecasters say the state could see a cluster of storms with the potential for a strong tornado Tuesday afternoon and evening.

POLICE SHOOTING-LITTLE ROCK

Mother of slain Arkansas teen urges judge to reverse ruling

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A Little Rock woman whose son was killed by a police officer who was later fired and charged with manslaughter wants a federal judge to reconsider a ruling dismissing the city and a former police chief from her wrongful death lawsuit.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports Sylvia Perkins, mother of 15-year-old Bobby Moore, says the Jan. 27 ruling did not seem to adequately address documents she filed in the case.

U.S. District Judge Brian Miller dismissed the city of Little Rock and retired city police chief Stuart Thomas, leaving former officer Josh Hastings as the sole defendant.

Bobby Moore was shot and killed by Hastings about 5:30 a.m. Aug. 12, 2012, in a parking lot outside and apartment building. Hastings was tried twice but never convicted on a manslaughter charge.

LITTLE ROCK AIRPORT-CLINTONS

Naming airport after Clintons doesn’t fly with GOP lawmaker

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A Republican state lawmaker wants to remove the names of Arkansas’ most famous Democrats from Little Rock’s airport.

Sen. Jason Rapert says pilots have complained to him about flying into Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport. He says Little Rock’s airport commission dishonored a National Guard captain when it renamed the airport in 2012.

Rapert says it is embarrassing to have the Clintons’ name on the airport and has written a bill that would prevent naming certain publicly funded facilities after living people. He says, however, that a wildlife center named after former Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee would keep its name under the bill.

When the airport was renamed, Democrats controlled the Legislature and the governor’s office. Republicans now control Arkansas’ state government.

Friday February 24, 2017

JUDGE’S SON-HOT CAR DEATH

Court: No neglect cases for judge whose son died in hot car

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Supreme Court says a judge whose son died in a hot car in 2015 can return to the bench but won’t be allowed to take up any cases involving child neglect.

Garland County Circuit Judge Wade Naramore was acquitted on a negligent homicide charge last summer. His son Thomas died in July 2015; the judge said he forgot to take the 18-month-old child to a daycare center near the courthouse.

The court had suspended Naramore from his $160,000-a-year job with pay, and Naramore asked this week to return to the post.

Justices said Thursday the suspension would be lifted after the Hot Springs-based court redistributes cases in such a way “that Naramore will not be assigned dependency-neglect cases.” The plan is due next week.

Thursday February 23, 2017

NATURALIZATION TEST-ARKANSAS

Arkansas lawmakers consider civics test for students

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas House of Representatives has passed a bill requiring the state’s high school students to pass the U.S. naturalization test in order to receive their diploma.

The bill passed by the House on Wednesday and sent to the state Senate requires students to correctly answer 60 out of 100 questions on a civics test identical to the one used by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that’s taken by immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship.

The test is free and students would be allowed to take it as many times as necessary between the 9th and 12th grades until they pass.

Republican Rep. Bruce Cozart says 15 states currently have the requirement. Cozart says people need to know the information in the test to be productive citizens.

AMAZON TAXES-ARKANSAS

Arkansas panel endorses effort to collect online sales taxes

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A state Senate committee has endorsed legislation requiring online retailers who don’t collect Arkansas sales taxes to provide a list of purchases made by state residents.

The Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee on Wednesday advanced the House-passed proposal aimed at collecting millions of dollars that lawmakers say the state is missing out on from online purchases. It would require out-of-state companies without a physical presence in Arkansas to inform customers that they owe state sales taxes on their purchases.

A more expansive Senate bill that would require online retailers to collect state sales taxes stalled before a House committee earlier this month. The sponsor of that bill said he’ll try again Thursday to pass it.

Amazon announced earlier this month it will begin collecting Arkansas state sales taxes in March.

HOT TUB DEATH-AMAZON ECHO

Amazon resists request for Echo info in Arkansas slaying

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Amazon says Arkansas prosecutors looking to obtain potential recordings from a slaying suspect’s Amazon Echo smart speaker haven’t established that their investigation is more important than a customer’s privacy rights.

The issue comes in the investigation into the death of Victor Collins, who was found floating in a hot tub in a friend’s Bentonville home in November 2015. The friend, James Andrew Bates, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

Benton County prosecutors have asked a court to force Amazon to provide data that Bates’ Echo may have collected. Echo devices “listen” for a user’s voice and respond to commands.

In a response filed Friday, Amazon said prosecutors hadn’t established the need for Amazon to violate its customers’ constitutional rights. Amazon said prosecutors must prove the information isn’t available elsewhere.

Wednesday February 22, 2017

GUNS ON CAMPUS-ARKANSAS

Arkansas Senate panel endorses revised campus guns bill

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas Senate committee has advanced legislation that would allow people 25 and older to carry a concealed handgun on a college campus if they undergo certain training.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday endorsed and sent to the full Senate the revised bill that requires colleges and universities to allow concealed handguns on campus.

The proposal allows anyone 25 and older with a state concealed handgun license to carry on campus if they undergo up to 16 hours of active shooter training. An initial version of the bill would have only allowed faculty and staff to carry on campus.

A 2013 law leaves the decision on whether to allow faculty and staff to carry concealed handguns up to the schools, but none have opted to do so.

Tuesday February 21, 2017

ARKANSAS-PARACHUTING DEATH

Police: Bryant man killed in parachuting accident

MORRILTON, Ark. (AP) — Police in Morrilton say a 49-year-old Bryant man has died in a parachuting incident.

Morrilton police say Brick Smith was killed Sunday afternoon while parachuting on private property near the town’s municipal airport, about 35 miles northwest of Little Rock.

Police, along with the Federal Aviation Administration, are investigating the incident. Authorities have not yet said what led to Smith’s death, only that it happened while he was parachuting.

Monday February 20, 2017

STUDENT-FATAL FALL

University of Arkansas student dies in fall from window

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Police in Fayetteville say a University of Arkansas student died when he fell from a fourth-floor apartment window while trying to jump to a balcony.

Police say 26-year-old Brian Gray Colton of Fayetteville died after falling at The Cardinal at West Center on the edge of the UA campus.

Sgt. Craig Stout says it appears Colton was trying to jump to a balcony adjacent to the window when he fell shortly before 3 a.m. Friday.

Police say the body was sent to the state Crime Laboratory for an autopsy.

Friday February 17, 2017

MATERNITY LEAVE-ARKANSAS

Arkansas governor OKs maternity leave for state employees

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed into law legislation giving state employees four weeks of paid maternity leave that will be taken out of an existing pool of unused sick leave.

Hutchinson on Thursday signed the measure to use time from the state’s Catastrophic Sick Leave Bank for the birth or adoption of a child. The law does not require employees to exhaust sick or annual leave prior to being awarded catastrophic leave for maternity purposes.

The leave would be available to women within the first 12 weeks after birth or adoption, and the measure does not offer paternity leave.

Hutchinson’s office said the program won’t cost the state additional money since the donated hours are already accounted for as an unfunded liability in the state’s budget.

Thursday February 16, 2017

GUNS ON CAMPUS-ARKANSAS

Arkansas panel backs bill requiring colleges to allow guns

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas Senate panel has advanced a bill requiring colleges and universities to allow concealed handguns on campus, rejecting a proposal that would have made school employees who want to carry firearms first receive additional training.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday endorsed the proposal requiring the schools to allow faculty and staff to carry concealed handguns if they have a license from the state. A 2013 law leaves the decision on whether to allow concealed handguns up to colleges and universities, but no schools have opted to.

The measure now heads to the full Senate.

The panel rejected a proposal to require any faculty or staff who want to carry concealed handguns to first undergo 16 hours of training that would prepare them for active shooter situations.

Wednesday February 15, 2017

AMAZON TAXES-ARKANSAS

Effort to collect online taxes fails before Arkansas panel

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An effort to collect sales taxes in Arkansas from online retailers has failed before a House committee, days after Amazon announced it would begin collecting taxes on purchases in the state.

The proposal requiring out-of-state companies without a physical presence in Arkansas to either collect sales taxes or send information to the state on purchases made by residents failed before the House Revenue and Taxation Committee on a 6-2 vote. The proposal needed 11 votes to advance to the House floor.

The measure failed after the panel rejected a proposal by Democrats to direct $25 million from the increased online revenue toward several needs, including pre-kindergarten and after-school programs.

Amazon announced last week it would begin collecting sales taxes in Arkansas in March.

Tuesday February 14, 2017

GOLD STAR MONUMENT-ARKANSAS

Arkansas lawmakers OK ‘Gold Star Family’ monument at Capitol

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas lawmakers have given their final approval for a monument at the state Capitol in honor of families who have lost loved ones serving in the armed forces.

The House on Monday voted 96-0 for what’s called the Gold Star Family Memorial Monument on the state Capitol grounds. The bill has passed the Senate and now heads to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s desk.

The design and placement of the proposed monument is pending before the state Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission.

The proposal was approved as lawmakers are considering another measure that would require legislative approval before the commission could take up any Capitol monument ideas. The commission can currently consider proposals and make recommendations, but legislative approval is required before a monument can be built.

Monday February 13, 2017

TEMPERATURES-ARKANSAS RECORDS

Record-high Feb. 11 temperatures recorded across Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A warm front brought record high temperatures to parts of Arkansas, breaking Feb. 11 records dating to the 1920s.

The National Weather Service says Saturday’s high in Little Rock reached 79 degrees to break the record of 78 degrees set in 1922.

A high of 84 in Harrison broke a record high of 76 set in 1928. Other records include 81 degrees in Fayetteville to break the record of 72 set in 1962 and 85 degrees in Fort Smith to break the record of 76 degrees, also set in 1962.

Temperatures are expected to range from the upper 50s in the northwest to the lower 70 in southern Arkansas and a storm system is forecast to move into southern Arkansas with a chance for rain late Monday and Tuesday.

Friday February 10, 2017

FOOD STAMPS-ARKANSAS

Arkansas lawmakers dismiss ban on junk food for food stamps

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Legislation to keep food-stamp recipients from using their benefits to purchase junk food and soda has been dismissed.

The Arkansas Democratic-Gazette reports the proposed bill died in a Senate committee Wednesday.

Proponents said the bill would’ve helped cut obesity-related medical costs in Arkansas. But the Senate Public Health Welfare and Labor Committee balked at the bill during Wednesday’s voice vote.

Democratic Sen. Eddie Cheatham said the bill “would just kind of slap at people that were needing a hand up.”

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Mary Bentley, says she expected a tough fight in the Senate. She says the bill faced pushback from grocers concerned about cost implementations and soft-drink manufacturers.

Bentley says she’ll look into other ways states have reduced unhealthful purchases through food-stamp programs.

Thursday February 9, 2017

HIGHER EDUCATION FUNDING

Governor signs bill on Arkansas higher education funding

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed into law a bill that links college and university funding to factors such as the number of students who complete their degrees.

Hutchinson on Wednesday signed the bill that requires the state to adopt a “performance-based” model for funding higher education rather than basing the money on enrollment.

Hutchinson has said he’ll call for increasing higher education funding by $10 million in 2018 if the plan was approved.

The state’s colleges and universities received about $733 million in the state’s current $5.3 billion budget, and that funding would not change in the fiscal year that begins July 1 under the governor’s proposed budget.

Hutchinson says the new formula “will encourage and empower” students to obtain their degree, license or certificate in a timely manner.

Wednesday February 8, 2017

TYSON-INVESTIGATION

Tyson says its being investigated, likely over price fixing

NEW YORK (AP) — Tyson Foods says it’s being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, likely in connection over lawsuits alleging that the poultry company and others engaged in price fixing activities.

The Springdale, Arkansas company says in a regulatory filing that it received a subpoena from the SEC on Jan. 20. It says it is cooperating with the investigation, which is in an “early stage.”

Based on the limited information it has, Tyson said it believes the investigation is related to the allegations that the company and other chicken companies violated antitrust laws. A class-action lawsuit filed in September had said Tyson and others conspired to fix, raise and maintain the price of broiler chickens.

A representative for the Securities and Exchange Commission declined to comment.

Tuesday February 7, 2017

AMAZON-TAXES

Arkansas Senate OKs bill forcing Amazon to collect taxes

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Senate has approved a measure aimed at forcing Amazon to begin collecting state sales taxes, a plan that’s backed by Wal-Mart and lawmakers who say the state is missing out on up to $100 million in tax revenue from the e-commerce giant.

The Senate on Monday approved by a 23-9 vote legislation out-of-state companies with no physical presence in the state to collect the tax if they sell more than $100,000 worth of products or make at least 200 transactions. Arkansas is one of a handful of states where Amazon doesn’t have a distribution center or office and doesn’t collect sales taxes.

The measure would allow Arkansas to seek court action to collect the tax revenue from sellers. The bill now heads to the House.

Monday February 6, 2017

CONVICTED KILLER RESENTENCED

Man convicted as a teen of murder, resentenced to 25 years

(Information from: Pine Bluff Commercial, http://www.pbcommercial.com)

PINE BLUFF, Ark. (AP) — A Pine Bluff man who was 17 when he was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole has been re-sentenced to 25 years.

The Pine Bluff Commercial reported Saturday that 35-year-old Brandon Flowers was re-sentenced as a result of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that sentencing juveniles to life in prison without parole constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

Flowers was convicted in 1999 of the 1998 shooting death of Patrick Brown. Police at the time said Brown and other men were gambling and that Flowers and others had gone to the house to rob them.

Co-defendant Ervin Robinson was convicted of first-degree murder in the case and sentenced to 40-years in prison. He will be eligible to apply for parole in 2026.

Friday February 3, 2017

INFANT DEATH-ARREST

2 women arrested for concealing birth in western Arkansas

OZARK, Ark. (AP) — Two women in western Arkansas have been arrested on felony charges of concealing a birth and abuse of a corpse after authorities found a dead newborn in a cardboard box in a refrigerator.

Ozark police say 38-year-old Mary Williams and 64-year-old Vickie Falconio were arrested Monday. According to police, Williams had been in jail on unrelated charges when she complained of abdominal pain.

Police say Williams told authorities that she’d recently given birth. Police then went to a home in Ozark, where they found the infant’s body.

Police say they believe the baby was born sometime between Jan. 19 and Jan. 23. The infant’s body was taken to the state crime laboratory for an autopsy.

It wasn’t clear whether either woman had an attorney who could speak on her behalf.

Thursday February 2, 2017

EAST ARKANSAS-TEEN SHOT

Teenager dies after accidental shooting in Earle

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

EARLE, Ark. (AP) — Authorities in east Arkansas say a 16-year-old boy fatally shot himself when a handgun he was putting in his waistband accidentally discharged.

The Crittenden County Sheriff’s Office says the fatal shooting happened Monday night at a home in Earle. Deputy of investigations Todd Grooms tells the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the boy was leaving a friend’s house when the shooting occurred.

Grooms says the .25-caliber semi-automatic handgun fired as the teen was placing it in his belt, striking the boy in the abdomen.

The teen was taken to a hospital in Wynne, where he died. His name has not yet been released.

Wednesday February 1, 2017

GUNS ON CAMPUS

Arkansas panel backs requiring concealed guns on campuses

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas House panel has advanced a proposal requiring colleges and universities to allow concealed handguns on campus, despite complaints from school administrators and police.

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday endorsed by a 12-5 vote the proposal to require public colleges and universities to allow faculty and staff to carry the concealed weapons. A 2013 law leaves the decision up to the schools, but so far none have opted to allow guns. The proposal now heads to the House for a vote.

The lawmaker behind the measure has said it would serve as a deterrent to any potential shooters. But the heads of the state’s largest university systems have said the choice needs to remain with the schools.

Tuesday January 31, 2017

FOOD STAMPS-ARKANSAS

Arkansas House votes to stop junk food food stamp purchases

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas House has approved a bill that would prevent food-stamp recipients from using their government benefits on soft drinks and “junk food.”

Rep. Mary Bentley said her proposal would treat food with no nutritional value the same as alcohol and tobacco during trips to the grocery store. House members approved the plan 55-39 and sent it to the Senate after Rep. Laurie Rushing made an emotional plea against the bill.

Rushing said her family had to seek aid after a death in the family and that, without it, she wouldn’t have been able to buy a birthday cake for her young daughter.

Rep. Robin Lundstrum said legislators needed to remember taxpayers are the source of the benefit.

The plan would ultimately require federal approval.

Monday January 30, 2017

ADULT HIGH SCHOOL

1st Arkansas high school for adults to open in Little Rock

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas’ first high school for adults is to open this summer in Little Rock.

Goodwill Industries of Arkansas has approval from the state Board of Education and the city of Little Rock for the Excel Center that will be in a renovated warehouse off Interstate 30.

The school is for people aged 19 and older who never received a high school diploma. It’s not a General Education Development, or GED, course and graduates receive diplomas instead of GED certificates.

Goodwill Industries of Arkansas president and CEO Brian Itzkowitz tells the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that Goodwill is preparing to fund the school for three years at about $1 million per year. Classes are to begin in July or August with plans to have 100 to 125 students during the first year.

Friday January 27, 2017

DISABLED WAITLIST-ARKANSAS

Arkansas Senate OKs tapping into funds for disabled waitlist

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas lawmakers have given final approval to an effort to tap into $8.5 million in unused money from the 1999 settlement with tobacco companies to provide more services to the developmentally disabled.

The Senate voted 34-0 Thursday to approve a proposal to redirect the money from a health insurance program that ended in 2013 when Arkansas expanded Medicaid. The money would provide home- and community-based services to between 500 and 900 people, cutting a waitlist that has grown to more than 3,000 people.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson last year proposed the move, which is expected to increase annual funding by $29 million when counting matching federal Medicaid funds. The proposal now heads to Hutchinson’s desk.

Thursday January 26, 2017

CLARKSVILLE, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas panel wants the state Supreme Court to temporarily suspend a circuit judge arrested after state troopers said he drove drunk through a sobriety checkpoint in Johnson County. The Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission on Wednesday sought the suspension of 57-year-old William M. Pearson, who handles the criminal docket from Franklin, Johnson and Pope counties.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A House panel has endorsed a proposal to reinstate an Arkansas voter ID law that was struck down more than two years ago, moving forward with the restriction months after Republicans expanded their majorities in the state Legislature. The House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee endorsed the proposal Wednesday requiring most voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot.

Wednesday January 25, 2017

HIGHER EDUCATION-ARKANSAS

Panel endorses change to Arkansas higher education funding

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas House panel has endorsed a plan to link public college and university funding to performance goals such as the number of students who complete their degrees.

The House Education Committee on Tuesday advanced legislation requiring the state to adopt a “performance-based” model for funding higher education rather than basing the money on enrollment. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he’ll call for increasing higher education funding $10 million in 2018 if lawmakers approve the plan.

The state’s colleges and universities received about $733 million in the state’s current $5.3 billion budget, and that funding would not change in the fiscal year that begins July 1 under the governor’s proposed budget.

 

Tuesday January 24, 2017

TAX CUTS-ARKANSAS

Arkansas lawmakers approve governor’s $50M tax cut plan

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas lawmakers have approved Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s $50 million low-income tax cut plan, setting the stage for a debate over deeper tax reductions the Republican has vowed to champion in two years.

The proposal to cut taxes for more than 650,000 residents making less than $21,000 cleared the House Monday on a 90-2 vote. The Senate earlier approved an identical version of the plan on a 33-0 vote. A final vote is expected later this week before the legislation heads to the governor’s desk.

Hutchinson won the support of fellow Republicans who had wanted deeper cuts, proposing a 16-member legislative task force that would recommend comprehensive tax code changes by the fall of 2018. The House postponed a vote on a competing $40 million tax credit proposal.

Monday January 23, 2017

TRUMP-INAUGURATION PROTESTS-ARKANSAS

Hundreds of Arkansas women join national Trump protest

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Hundreds of women in Little Rock and other Arkansas cities joined hundreds of thousands more in cities around the world to rally for equal rights and to send President Donald Trump a message his agenda won’t go unchallenged over the next four years.

Hundreds marched at the state Capitol in Little Rock on Saturday — just one of more than 600 cities around the world holding similar demonstrations.

Women’s March for Arkansas organizers told those gathered that women’s rights are human rights and they were standing up for the most marginalized of citizens.

Organizers estimated more than 1 million people would march worldwide the day after Trump was sworn in as president.

Friday January 20, 2017

DISABLED WAITLIST-ARKANSAS

Arkansas House OKs tapping into funds for disabled waitlist

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas House has approved tapping into $8.5 million in unused money from the 1999 settlement with tobacco companies to provide more services to the developmentally disabled.

The House on Thursday voted 93-0 in favor of a measure to redirect the money from a health insurance program that ended in 2013 when Arkansas expanded Medicaid. The money would provide home- and community-based services to between 500 and 900 people, cutting a waitlist that has grown to more than 3,000 people.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson last year proposed the move, which is expected to increase annual funding by $29 million when counting matching federal Medicaid funds. The measure now heads to the state Senate.

Thursday January 19, 2017

TAX CUTS-ARKANSAS

Arkansas Senate panel advances $50M tax cut plan

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas Senate panel has advanced Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s $50 million proposal to cut income taxes for more than 600,000 low-income residents.

The Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee on Wednesday endorsed the Republican governor’s proposal to cut income taxes for those making less than $21,000 a year. The legislation would also form a task force to recommend further tax cuts before the 2019 legislative session.

Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren said he’ll bring the proposal before the full Senate next week. A House panel is expected to take up an identical version of the bill Thursday.

Hutchinson had faced resistance from some fellow Republicans who had called for deeper tax cuts, but at least two critics dropped their competing plans after the governor proposed the task force.

Wednesday January 18, 2017

POST OFFICE-LEE NOTE

Note says Arkansas post office to close for Robert E. Lee

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

SPRINGDALE, Ark. (AP) — A sign on the door of a post office in Springdale says the office was closed Monday for the birthday of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

A U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman says post office workers had nothing to do with the note. Leisa Tolliver-Gay told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that it was “absolutely not” posted by an employee or representative of the post office and that the office was closed for the federal holiday honoring slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

The sign reads in part, “Closed in rememberance of General Robert E. Lee’s Birthday” and includes a photo of Lee.

Arkansas is one of three states that commemorate King and Lee on the same day. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has vowed to remove Lee from the holiday.

WALNUT RIDGE-CONSOLIDATION

Walnut Ridge mayor wants consolidation of cities

(Information from: KAIT-TV, http://www.kait8.com/)

WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. (AP) — The city of Walnut Ridge is hoping to consolidate with another city this year with the intention of growing economically and improving quality of life.

KAIT-TV reports Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp mentioned in his State of the City Address on Monday that he plans to look at consolidating with the city of Hoxie as a way to attract businesses and grow the population. Snapp cites his town’s previous consolidation with College City, saying the merge helped grow Walnut Ridge’s franchise tax base and sales tax base.

Hoxie Mayor Lanny Tinker sees the consolidation as unnecessary. Tinker says that while Hoxie can partner with Walnut Ridge on business developments, the city is not interested in giving up its independence.

COAL MINING LAWSUIT-TEXAS

Texas, 12 other states sue to block Obama coal mining rule

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas and 12 other states have asked a federal court to block final rules from President Barack Obama’s administration designed to reduce coal mining’s impact on streams.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton petitioned a Washington-based appeals court for an injunction Tuesday.

Paxton said in a statement that the “Stream Protection Rule” imposes “mandatory, one-size-fits-all” regulations that violate states’ rights.

Joining Texas are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Last month, North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem filed a separate lawsuit challenging the rule there.

The U.S. Interior Department argues that the rule will protect 6,000 miles of streams by preventing coal mining debris from being dumped into nearby waters.

Republicans have vowed to overturn it under President-elect Donald Trump.

Eds: This story has been updated with the Texas attorney general’s office correcting its original statement to say it is joining 12 states in seeking to block federal rule, not 13. This version removes South Carolina and Arizona from the list of parties to the case, but adds Colorado.

Tuesday January 17, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans have pledged to cut federal taxes to boost the economy. But some GOP-controlled states have already adopted similar strategies, only to see growth falter and budget gaps widen. The situation is particularly worrisome in Kansas, Oklahoma and Indiana, where lawmakers are now debating whether to reverse course and raise taxes. Other states are signaling caution about any new tax-cut proposals.

NEW YORK (AP) — Wal-Mart plans to add about 10,000 retail jobs in the U.S. The world’s biggest retailer is planning $6.8B in capital investments in the US in the coming fiscal year.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Police say a man wanted for the shooting death of a woman in Little Rock has been arrested in Illinois. Little Rock police said Monday that Jerrold Howard of West Memphis was arrested Friday near Springfield, Illinois. Howard is wanted for the Dec. 28 shooting death of 25-year-old Blair Sims. Online records do not list an attorney for Howard.

MIDWAY, Ark. (AP) — Baxter County authorities say a woman’s body has been found inside a burned home north of Midway. Sheriff John Montgomery says the body of 56-year-old Donna Lou Rollins was found Sunday night by firefighters who responded to the fire. The sheriff says the body was sent to the state medical examiner’s office in Little Rock to determine the cause and manner of death and that the cause of the fire was still under investigation.

Monday January 16, 2017

LEE-KING HOLIDAY

Arkansas tries to strip Gen. Lee from Martin Luther King Day

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Every third Monday in January, Arkansas state offices are closed in observance of an unlikely holiday: the shared birthdays of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Now Arkansas’ Republican governor is reviving an effort to remove Lee from the holiday. But he faces resistance from opponents who complain the move belittles the state’s Confederate heritage and from black lawmakers worried about a plan to set aside another day to honor Lee.

Arkansas has had a holiday in honor of Lee since 1947 and one for King since 1983. The Legislature voted to combine the two in 1985.

Three states commemorate both men on the same day. The other two are Alabama and Mississippi.

BRAKE JOB-HOMICIDE

Man pleads not guilty in woman’s death, says car fell on her

(Information from: Harrison Daily Times, http://www.harrisondaily.com)

JASPER, Ark. (AP) — A Clarksville man who says his girlfriend was killed when a car fell on her has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the woman’s death.

The Harrison Daily Times reports that 44-year-old Johnny Wayne Harderson pleaded not guilty Friday to charges he killed 37-year-old Chasity Bond in December.

An affidavit says Harderson told police he jacked up a car in his sister’s driveway in Newton County and removed a tire, then went inside her home. He said he returned to find Bond face down, with the vehicle on her head.

Bond’s cause of death was ruled as strangulation and blunt force facial injuries.

Investigators say they found no signs of auto work or a jack being used on the dirt driveway.

Friday January 13, 2017

BEARDEN WATER-LEAD

Bearden water tests high for lead; still safe to drink

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

BEARDEN, Ark. (AP) — Drinking water in the south Arkansas town of Bearden has tested high for lead, but state officials say it is still safe to drink.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that the water tested three parts per billion higher than the level at which the federal government requires water systems to adjust corrosion levels.

Arkansas Health Department engineering director Jeff Stone says that’s not considered to be an emergency situation.

Stone says Bearden, which relies on well water, immediately started looking at treatment adjustments and better corrosion controls.

None of the 10 water samples tested was taken from a school site. But the Bearden School District has been allowing students to carry bottled water. Students have also been offered filtered water.

STATE FAIR-CHANGES

Arkansas State Fair expands to 11 days with Thursday opening

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas State Fair officials have announced that the fair will expand, open a day earlier and have a new carnival operator in 2017.

The fair will run for 11 days, from Oct. 12-22, an increase from 10 days in previous years and will open on a Thursday instead of the traditional Friday opening.

Fair general manager Ralph Shoptaw told reporters that the change has been considered for several years and the fair’s executive committee decided the time is right to expand by a day.

The fair also says North American Midway Entertainment of Farmland, Indiana, will be the new carnival operator.

ARKANSAS PLANE CRASH

Federal agency: Arkansas plane crash report expected in days

GURDON, Ark. (AP) — The National Transportation Safety Board says it will soon issue a preliminary report on a plane crash in southwest Arkansas last week that killed a former Oklahoma Christian University baseball player and another person.

An agency spokesman said Thursday that the preliminary report on the Jan. 5 crash near Gurdon could be released within days. The plane had departed McKinney, Texas, en route to Franklin, North Carolina.

Oklahoma Christian University says former All-Sooner Athletic Conference baseball player Jimmy Kent was among the two crash victims. The school says the 40-year-old Kent, originally from Tulsa, transferred to OCU from Abilene Christian before the 1998 season.

Kent hit .361 for the Eagles as a junior that year and played for coach Johnny Inman.

Gurdon is about 85 miles southwest of Little Rock.

Thursday January 12, 2017

TAX CUTS-ARKANSAS

Bills: Arkansas panel must issue tax cut plans by fall 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Legislation detailing Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s $50 million tax cut plan calls for a task force looking at other tax code changes to issue its recommendations by September 2018.

The top Republicans in the House and Senate filed identical bills Wednesday outlining Hutchinson’s proposal to reduce income taxes for those making less than $21,000 a year. The Republican governor has called the proposal one of his top priorities this year. The tax cut would take effect in 2019.

The bills say a 16-member legislative task force Hutchinson has proposed to call for other tax cuts later would begin meeting within 30 days of the end of this year’s session. The legislation calls for the task force to issue a preliminary report by Dec. 1 and a final report in 2018.

ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE

Arkansas House OKs giving speaker panel appointment powers

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The majority-Republican Arkansas House has given the speaker expanded power to appoint committee members months after Democrats blocked the GOP from holding a majority on a panel that will take up tax cut proposals.

The House approved the move by a 75-23 vote on Wednesday as part of a package of rules changes that also would allow representatives to raise money during election-year legislative sessions that focus on the budget.

The change won’t affect the current makeup of House committees. The committees’ membership had previously been chosen by seniority.

Democrats in November secured a majority on the House Revenue and Taxation Committee despite Republicans expanding their legislative majorities. The Democrats now hold half the seats after one Democrat defected to the GOP.

Wednesday January 11, 2017

ARKANSAS RIVER-BODY FOUND

Body found in Arkansas River in downtown Little Rock

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Authorities are investigating after a body was found in the Arkansas River near the Interstate 30 bridge in downtown Little Rock.

The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office says a person on a boat made the discovery at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, and crews pulled the body from the river about an hour later.

Authorities say the state medical examiner’s office will determine the cause and manner of death and confirm the person’s identity.

ARKANSAS-INAUGURAL GALA

Arkansas presidential inauguration gala canceled

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Organizers of the Arkansas Inaugural Gala say the event to celebrate the inauguration of the President of the United States has been canceled this year due to low demand for tickets.

The event is hosted by the Arkansas State Society and was scheduled for Jan. 19 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Society president Glen Mahone says planners canceled the event before any tickets, which cost at least $125 each, had been sold. Mahone believes the event will be revived eventually.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports Arkansans who planned on attending the gala are now making alternative plans. Republican Party of Arkansas spokeswoman Lauren Montgomery says some of the state’s supporters of President-elect Donald Trump are buying tickets for the Texas State Society’s Black Tie and Boots Presidential Inaugural Ball.

DHS VENDOR-BRIBERY

Arkansas businessman reports to prison in bribery case

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas businessman convicted of bribing a state official is now in a federal prison after an appeals court rejected his request to remain free while challenging his convictions.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports 51-year-old Ted Suhl’s appeal was rejected on Jan. 3. He reported to an Illinois prison last week to begin serving a seven-year sentence.

Prosecutors say Suhl, the owner of two Arkansas mental health companies, bribed Steven Jones, the former deputy director of the state Department of Human Services, in exchange for helping Suhl’s companies, which received more than $90 million in Medicaid funds and to provide internal information about the agency to Suhl. Jones pleaded guilty to conspiracy and bribery charges related to the alleged payments.

Tuesday January 10, 2017

ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE

Arkansas governor to address state House, Senate

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is making his case to lawmakers for a legislative agenda that includes a $50 million plan to cut taxes for low-income residents.

Hutchinson planned to address a joint session of the House and Senate on Tuesday, a day after the 91st General Assembly convened for this year’s session.

Hutchinson is pushing for a tax cut for Arkansans making less than $21,000 a year, but he faces resistance from fellow Republicans who want to see deeper cuts that take effect sooner.

He’s also calling for tying money for colleges and universities to factors such as their graduation rates, and ending the state’s practice of commemorating Robert E. Lee and Martin Luther King Jr. on the same day.

ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE-THE LATEST

The Latest: 3 party switchers chairing House panels

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Three Arkansas lawmakers who defected from the Democratic Party to the GOP over the past two years will be leading top committees in the House this year.

House Speaker Jeremy Gillam on Monday announced who will chair his chamber’s committees in the 91st General Assembly. Rep. Joe Jett will chair Revenue and Taxation, Rep. Jeff Wardlaw will chair Public Health and Rep. Mike Holcomb will chair Public Transportation.

Jett and Wardlaw both left the Democratic Party last year after the GOP expanded its majorities in both chambers. Holcomb switched parties in August 2015.

Gillam told reporters that the chairmanships were not offered to the lawmakers in exchange for their party switches. He noted that Holcomb had previously been the transportation panel’s vice chairman and that Jett had been the tax committee’s chairman as a Democrat.

Rep. David Hillman, who left the Democratic Party for the Republican Party last year, was named vice chairman of the Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development Committee.

ARKANSAS-MUMPS OUTBREAK

Arkansas mumps outbreak appears to be leveling off

(Information from: Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.nwaonline.com)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas officials say the number of mumps cases in the northwest part of the state appears to be leveling off.

The Arkansas Department of Health says there were 2,400 confirmed or strongly suspected cases as of Jan. 5. State epidemiologist Dr. Dirk Haselow says there are about 10 new cases of mumps per day. According to Haselow, health officials were seeing 40 or 50 new cases a day at the height of the outbreak.

Mumps symptoms can include fever, aches and swollen salivary glands.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that officials first announced the outbreak in August. Mumps cases have been confirmed in Rogers, Fayetteville and other nearby communities.

The health department says the region’s Marshallese population has been most affected by the outbreak.

Monday January 9, 2017

ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE

Arkansas lawmakers to convene with pot, tax cuts on agenda

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas lawmakers are set to return to the Capitol for this year’s legislative session, with dueling tax cut proposals and efforts to launch the state’s medical marijuana program dominating the agenda.

The House and Senate are set to convene Monday for the 91st General Assembly. Gov. Asa Hutchinson plans to address a joint session of the Legislature on Tuesday.

Hutchinson has called for a $50 million income tax cut for low-income residents, but has faced pushback from some fellow Republicans who want to see a deeper cut that will take effect more quickly. The Legislature is also expected to take up legislation implementing the constitutional amendment voters approved last year legalizing medical marijuana.

Friday January 6, 2017

ARKANSAS PLANE CRASH

2 killed in single-engine plane crash in southwest Arkansas

GURDON, Ark. (AP) — Authorities say two people were killed when a single-engine airplane crashed near Gurdon in southwestern Arkansas while on a flight from Texas to North Carolina.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tony Molinaro says the two were killed Thursday afternoon when the Cessna 4090 aircraft crashed and they were apparently the only people on board the aircraft when it went down about 75 miles southwest of Little Rock.

The names of the victims were not immediately released.

Molinaro said the FAA will send investigators to the crash site and will investigate in coordination with the National Transportation Safety Board.

Molinaro says the plane had departed McKinney, Texas, on a flight to Franklin, North Carolina.

ARKANSAS HOUSE-SECURITY

Arkansas House adding metal detectors, security guards

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Visitors to Arkansas’ House of Representatives will have to go through additional metal detectors when the Legislature convenes for the session next week.

The House on Thursday announced that the detectors have been placed at the entrances to the chamber galleries. House Speaker Jeremy Gillam said in a statement that he’s also directed additional security guards be stationed at public entrances to the House.

Visitors to the state Capitol already have to go through metal detectors when they enter the building. A House spokeswoman said the additional measures are not in response to a threat.

House officials encouraged visitors interested in watching the chamber’s proceedings to come to the screening checkpoints several minutes early because of the new measures. The new metal detectors cost roughly $7,500.

WINTER WEATHER-ARKANSAS

Forecasters issue winter weather advisory for Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Forecasters have issued a winter weather advisory for much of western and central Arkansas as a storm system heads into the state.

The advisory goes into effect early Friday and lasts until mid-afternoon. The National Weather Service says snow will start falling in the overnight hours then persist throughout Friday morning. Forecasters say snowfall of 1 to 2 inches is possible with locally higher amounts, especially in the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains.

Forecasters say other areas could see just a dusting of snow or nothing at all.

The wintry weather is part of a larger storm system making its way across the South.

HOT SPRINGS-WHISTLEBLOWER LAWSUIT

Hot Springs settles whistleblower lawsuit for $87.5K

(Information from: The Sentinel-Record, http://www.hotsr.com)

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — Hot Springs has paid $87,500 to settle a 2015 lawsuit alleging the deputy city manager fired a city employee for corroborating a female coworker’s sexual harassment claim against him.

The settlement led a federal judge on Nov. 28 to dismiss Bill Boyles’ lawsuit against deputy city manager Bill Burrough and the city.

The city released the settlement terms following a request from The Sentinel-Record under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

City Attorney Brian Albright says neither Burrough nor the city was required to admit any wrongdoing as part of the agreement.

In the lawsuit, filed in August 2015, Boyles alleged Burrough fired him from his managerial position in the city’s solid waste department after Boyles helped a female colleague lodge a sexual harassment complaint against Burrough in 2014.

ARKANSAS GOVERNOR

Arkansas governor expects tougher fight on tax cut plan

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he expects a tougher fight over his $50 million tax cut plan than what he encountered two years ago when he won approval for a much larger reduction for thousands of middle-income taxpayers.

In an interview Thursday with The Associated Press ahead of the legislative session, Hutchinson said he wouldn’t support rolling back a grocery tax cut enacted in 2013 to help pay for a larger tax cut. The Republican governor has proposed cutting taxes for thousands of low-income residents.

Hutchinson also said the Legislature should hold off on any changes to the state’s hybrid Medicaid expansion while Congress debates the future of the federal health overhaul that enabled it. He also said he expects the state will be able to resume executions this year.

ARKANSAS SCHOOLS-FACEBOOK

Facebook donating virtual reality kits to Arkansas schools

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Facebook is donating 500 virtual reality kits to Arkansas schools under a first-of-its-kind partnership between the social media giant and the state.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the donation as part of the Arkansas Facebook and Techstart Partnership, which is aimed at generating interest in computer science careers and instruction among students. The kits will include computers, cameras and the Oculus Rift headsets needed for the virtual reality, or VR, program.

Under the agreement, the VR kits will be distributed to approximately 250 schools, educational co-ops and STEM education centers. The donations will primarily target high school with a high percentage of low-income students.

Thursday January 5, 2017

LAWMAKER-BRIBERY PLEA

Arkansas lawmaker pleads guilty to conspiracy charge

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Prosecutors say an Arkansas lawmaker set to leave office next week has pleaded guilty to conspiracy for arranging bribes while he was a member of the state House.

The U.S. Attorney’s office says 42-year-old Republican Rep. Micah Neal of Springdale pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud. A sentencing date was not announced.

A phone call to a number listed for Neal was not immediately returned.

Neal admitted that between 2013 and 2015, while a state representative, he conspired with a state senator to appropriate money to nonprofit organizations in exchange for bribes. Neal received about $38,000 as a result of his actions.

The name of the senator wasn’t revealed.

Neal served two terms in the House but did not seek re-election last year.

ARKANSAS ROADS

Researchers: Arkansans prefer maintaining roads to building

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Researchers say a six month study looking for long-term financing for state highways found Arkansans prefer maintaining roads to building new ones, favor a sales tax on fuel wholesalers and support making permanent a temporary one-half cent sales tax approved in 2012.

Voters also oppose increasing the per-gallon tax on gasoline and diesel, according to the report The Arkansas Good Roads Foundation and the Gilmore Strategy Group presented Wednesday to the Arkansas State Highway Commission.

Arkansas Business reports that foundation executive director Craig Douglass said the findings are not recommendations but meant to inform commissioners, who make recommendations to the Legislature. The findings will also be presented to the governor, legislators and other stakeholders on Monday.

The study involved 20 meetings with stakeholders and a survey of 800 likely voters.

FOOD PROGRAM FRAUD

1 sentenced, 1 pleads guilty in Arkansas food program fraud

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A former Arkansas Department of Human Services employee has been sentenced to nine years in prison for fraud related to a program that provides food for low income children.

Court records show 39-year-old Tonique Hatton of North Little Rock was sentenced Wednesday after pleading guilty in September to conspiring to commit mail fraud.

Hatton acknowledged that as a DHS employee, she received bribes to approve feeding sites for the federal program where sponsors claimed to feed hundreds of children, but actually fed few if any.

In a separate case, 26-year-old Michael Lee of Little Rock pleaded guilty to wire fraud in a similar scheme in which prosecutors say he claimed to feed as many as 800 children in Arkadelphia and Little Rock, but fed no more than 30 in Arkadelphia and none in Little Rock.

Wednesday January 4, 2017

SHERIFF’S OFFICE-DAMAGE

Former sheriff in Arkansas denies dirty office accusations

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The new Hot Spring County sheriff says he’ll likely ask Arkansas State Police to investigate what he calls the trashing of the department’s Malvern office during the previous administration.

Sheriff Mike Cash tells the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the office was a mess when he visited it a couple weeks ago, and that it’s worse now. He says there are holes in the wall from thrown knives, and it smells like urine and trash.

Former Sheriff Ed Hollingsworth denied the allegations, saying Cash would’ve thought the office was “beautiful” if he’d seen its condition when he took over four years ago.

Hollingsworth says the sheriff’s office was built above an old hospital and morgue. He says the basement was flooded for at least six years.

Tuesday January 3, 2017

MIDWEST ECONOMY

Midwest economic survey suggests big improvement in December

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Soaring numbers in a monthly survey of business supply managers suggest economic conditions are improving in nine Midwest and Plains states.

The Mid-America Business Conditions Index report released Tuesday says the overall economic index for the region jumped to 53.1 in December from 46.5 in November. The October figure was 43.8.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says the December and November increases point to an improving regional manufacturing economy.

The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth in that factor. A score below that suggests decline.

The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Friday December 30, 2016

TRUMP-MEDICAID-STATES

With Trump’s victory, GOP hopes to overhaul Medicaid

ATLANTA (AP) — With Donald Trump’s election, Republicans in Congress will have the opportunity to overhaul Medicaid, something they’ve wanted to do for years.

The program provides health care to millions of lower-income and disabled Americans. Currently, the federal government pays a certain percentage of each state’s Medicaid costs.

Republicans say states have little incentive to keep expenses down because no state pays more than half the total cost. They prefer sending a fixed amount of money each year to the states in the form of block grants, a move Republicans say would rein in spending.

Democrats have warned of dire consequences. Advocacy groups say reducing federal spending on Medicaid will place more of the financial burden on states and result in cuts, such as Medicaid covering fewer procedures or medications.

Thursday December 29, 2016

HOT TUB DEATH-AMAZON ECHO

Alexa a witness to murder? Prosecutors seek Amazon Echo data

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Authorities investigating the death of an Arkansas man whose body was found in a hot tub want to expand the probe to include a new kind of evidence: any comments overheard by the suspect’s Amazon Echo smart speaker.

Amazon says it objects to “overbroad” requests as a matter of practice, but prosecutors insist their idea is rooted in centuries-old legal precedent.

The issue has emerged in the slaying of Victor Collins, who was found last year at a friend’s home in Bentonville, about 150 miles northwest of Little Rock. The friend, James Andrew Bates, was later charged with murder.

Prosecutors have asked the court to force Amazon to provide data from the Echo that could reveal more clues about the night when Collins was apparently strangled and drowned.

LITTLE ROCK-TODDLER KILLED

Reward doubled to $40,000 in child’s shooting death

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction for those responsible for the fatal shooting of a 2-year-old Little Rock girl is being doubled to $40,000.

The city of Little Rock announced Wednesday that it’s adding $20,000 to an already existing $20,000 reward for information about the Nov. 22 shooting death of Ramiya Reed.

Police have said the girl was riding in a vehicle with her mother and others when someone fired shots into the vehicle.

No arrests have been made and no suspects identified.

The girl’s death was the first of two fatal shootings of toddlers within a month in Little Rock.

Police say 3-year-old Acen King was shot and killed Dec. 17 while riding in the back of a car drive by his grandmother.

ARKANSAS FATALS

3 killed in 2 separate vehicle crashes on Arkansas roads

JUDSONIA, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas State Police say three people have been killed in two separate auto crashes on state roads.

State police say 39-year-old Kevin Gray of Judsonia and 46-year-old Robert Adams of Bradford died in a head-on collision near Judsonia and 35-year-old Jancee Harrison of Charleston was killed in a single-vehicle crash on Highway 23 south of Ozark.

A police report says Gray and Adams were southbound on Highway 367 on Tuesday when a northbound vehicle crossed the center-line and the two vehicles collided head-on.

And police say Harrison was a passenger in a northbound vehicle on Highway 23 when it went off the road in a curve and struck a tree.

The reports say the weather was clear and the roads were dry at the time of both accidents.

ESCAPEES RECAPTURED

2 escapees from federal prison in Forrest City recaptured

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Two escapees from the federal prison in Forrest City have been recaptured in Fayetteville.

The U.S. Marshals Service said Wednesday that Devoy Nokes and George Roberts were arrested without incident Tuesday at a home in south Fayetteville by officers with the Western Arkansas Fugitive Task Force.

Authorities say the two men had escaped the Federal Correctional Institute in Forrest City on Monday.

Nokes was serving 15 years for federal firearms violations and Roberts was serving 12½ years for distribution of methamphetamine.

Both men now face federal escape charges.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA-ARKANSAS

Arkansas panel sets $15K application fee to grow medical pot

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A state commission says Arkansas residents hoping to grow medical marijuana must pay a $15,000 application fee in addition to a licensing fee.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission approved the plan 4-1 on Tuesday. The licensing fee has yet to be determined.

The $15,000 fee is the maximum allowed under the medical marijuana amendment that voters approved last month. Unsuccessful applicants will get back half of the application fee.

The panel’s dissenting vote came from Commissioner Travis Story, who said growers need to demonstrate the financial ability to operate a cultivation facility.

The commission must create rules by June to govern how Arkansas residents can apply for cultivation and dispensary licenses. Lawmakers could extend the deadline with a two-thirds vote.

Wednesday December 28, 2016

GULF OIL SPILL-ESTATE-INDICTMENT

Woman accused of faking will for Deepwater Horizon survivor

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A grand jury has accused an Arkansas woman of creating a fake will for a Deepwater Horizon oil explosion survivor who was later killed in a car wreck so her daughter would inherit his million-dollar estate.

Donna Herring was indicted on charges of money laundering, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. The indictment was unsealed earlier this month and first reported on Tuesday by the Texarkana Gazette.

At issue is the estate of Matthew Seth Jacobs, who survived the 2010 explosion that killed 11 people but died in a 2015 car crash. Court records say Jacobs had amassed “a substantial amount of wealth” in settlements over the explosion. Herring’s daughter had once dated him.

Herring has pleaded not guilty. Her attorney did not immediately return a message seeking comment Tuesday.

TROOPER-FATAL CRASH

No charges for Arkansas trooper in fatal Hot Springs crash

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas State Police say a prosecutor has decided no charges will be filed in connection with a fatal auto accident that killed two people and injured a state trooper.

State police say Prosecuting Attorney Terri Harris notified police commanders on Tuesday that no charges will be filed regarding the Oct. 10 collision on Highway 70 that killed 26-year-old Cassandra Marie Braun and Tavon Desean Jenkins — both of Hot Springs — and injured Trooper Brian Burke.

Burke remains on medical leave as a result of the injuries he suffered.

Details of the crash have not been released and state police say they will now begin an internal review to determine if the patrol car was being operated within the department’s policies and procedures.

ROAD RAGE-BOY KILLED

Arkansas man arraigned in road rage killing of 3-year-old

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A man has been formally arraigned on a capital murder charge in the fatal shooting of a 3-year-old boy in a road rage incident in Little Rock, Arkansas.

A Little Rock district judge on Tuesday ordered 33-year-old Gary Holmes to remain jailed without bond on charges of capital murder and two counts of committing a terroristic act in the shooting death of Acen (AY’-sin) King.

Holmes has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Police said Acen was on a shopping trip with his grandmother, Kim King-Macon, on Dec. 17 when he was shot.

King-Macon told police she had stopped at a stop sign in the rain when a man honked his horn, then got out of his car and fired a gun.

ARKANSAS FATAL

Youth killed in single-vehicle crash in Jefferson County

WHITE HALL, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas State Police say one youth was killed and two others were injured in a single-vehicle crash in Jefferson County.

A police report says the three were in a pickup truck that went off the roadway in Jefferson County and overturned about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The report says a passenger in the truck was killed and the driver and another passenger were hospitalized with undisclosed injuries.

The names and ages of the three were not released.

The report says it was raining and the road was wet at the time of the crash.

 

Tuesday December 27, 2016

CPR CHANGE

Change in cardiac CPR procedure leads to increased survival

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A change in the procedure in which cardiac arrest patients are treated by Arkansas’ largest ambulance service has resulted in an increase in the number of patients who are revived.

The new procedure calls for extended on-scene treatment over quickly transporting the patient to a hospital.

Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services of Little Rock told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the revival rate more than doubled from about 15 percent to about 32 percent since it began performing uninterrupted CPR at the scene beginning Nov. 23, 2015.

Though the revival rate improved, the overall survival rate remains at less than 6 percent.

Cardiac arrest is caused when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions, unlike a heart attack, which is the death of heart muscle tissue due to a loss of blood supply.

Friday December 23, 2016

FAKED ABDUCTION

Arkansas man thought to have faked abduction is arrested

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas man who police believe faked being abducted to cover up a burglary has been arrested in Texas.

Police in San Angelo, Texas, say 26-year-old Tyler Shuffield of Gurdon was arrested Monday at a motel after an employee recognized him from social media posts.

Gurdon police say Shuffield took three bank bags of money from a Family Dollar in the early morning hours of Nov. 28 and left two notes saying armed men forced him to commit the crime.

Gurdon police Sgt. Toby Garner told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the letters were discredited within a day or two.

Shuffield faces burglary, theft and other charges and is jailed pending extradition.

His father, Brian Shuffield, said he’s just happy his son was found and that he’s innocent until proven guilty.

Thursday December 22, 2016

BATESVILLE-FREE WI-FI

Batesville offers free internet in downtown area

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

BATESVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Batesville is offering free public internet in its downtown area.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports the free service was launched Tuesday. It’s being implemented to attract more people to the downtown district which has been revitalized over the past three years.

Batesville Main Street executive director Joel Williams says the town is the second in Arkansas to offer free internet access throughout its downtown area. Conway was the first. Batesville’s service has restrictions on most streaming video in order to prevent the system from being frequently overwhelmed.

Bob Carius, former president of Main Street Batesville’s board of directors, says activity in the downtown area has surged only recently because merchants and officials have bought into a cohesive vision to upgrade the area.
PIPELINE SAFETY-THE LATEST

Feds order correction to plan to North Dakota pipeline owner

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Federal regulators have outlined corrective steps that must take place before a company may restart a pipeline that leaked 176,000 gallons of oil into and along a creek in western North Dakota.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued the order Tuesday to Belle Fourche (foosh) Pipeline Co.

Company spokeswoman Wendy Owen says the order is under review.

A landowner spotted the spill Dec. 5, after the company’s monitoring equipment failed to detect the rupture.

The company says erosion of a hillside might have ruptured the pipe, but the cause is still being investigated. A precise location of the break is unknown.

The federal agency’s order requires the company to excavate the pipeline in the area of the break, including where it’s placed 45 feet below the creek bed.

Wednesday December 21, 2016

ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE-GOVERNOR

Governor lays out plans for ’17 Arkansas legislative session

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas’ governor says that during the 2017 legislative session he wants lawmakers to concentrate on topics dealing with his three “Es” — economic development, education and efficiency within state government.

At the state Capitol on Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he wanted legislators to “capture the essence” of what his priorities would be during next year’s session, which starts Jan. 9. He noted legislators will likely have their own ideas, too, particularly alternate tax plans and on social issues like abortion or gay rights.

Hutchinson had announced many of the items before. Senate President Jonathan Dismang said after the governor’s remarks that none of Hutchinson’s ideas appeared doomed from the start.

The governor wouldn’t identify any of his proposals as a favorite, saying all were worthy.

ROAD RAGE-BOY KILLED-THE LATEST

The Latest: 911 calls depict frantic scene in road-rage case

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Newly released 911 recordings depict a chaotic scene following what police describe as the road-rage killing of a 3-year-old boy in Little Rock.

The calls were released Tuesday to The Associated Press under an open-records request to Little Rock police. In them, a woman can be heard wailing and screaming as bystanders called 911 seeking help for the child.

Police say the boy’s grandmother, Kim King-Macon, told authorities that a man in a black Chevrolet Impala opened fire on her car at a stop sign Saturday. She said she didn’t realize her grandson had been shot until she pulled into a shopping mall, about 10 miles from where the shooting occurred.

No arrests have been made, and authorities are offering a $40,000 reward in the case.

ARKANSAS-MUMPS OUTBREAK

Mumps outbreak strikes Marshallese population in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Health officials say an outbreak of mumps has particularly hit a community of Marshall Islanders in northwest Arkansas.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Marshallese people accounted for about 60 percent of the state’s 2,220 reported cases as of Friday. The outbreak started in August.

The contagious disease causes swelling in the salivary glands and cheeks.

The Marshall Islands are in the Pacific Ocean. Up to 12,000 Marshallese live in northwest Arkansas.

State health department director Nate Smith says he doesn’t know why so many Marshallese people are infected. Officials are investigating if the vaccine is less effective for certain people.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Arkansas’ outbreak is the largest since about 3,000 people were infected in New York City in 2009 and 2010.

Tuesday December 20, 2016

ELECTORAL COLLEGE-ARKANSAS

Arkansas’ electors cast 6 votes for Trump, Pence

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas’ electors have formally cast the state’s six electoral votes for Republican Donald Trump. The president-elect last month outpolled Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in her adopted home state.

The state’s six electors met Monday morning at the state Capitol to formally cast their ballots for Trump, who won more than 60 percent of the vote in the Nov. 8 election. Clinton served 12 years as Arkansas’ first lady, but the state has become predominantly Republican in recent years.

About two dozen people protested at the Capitol, with one holding a sign that said “not my president.” A candidate must get at least 270 electoral votes to win the presidency.
This story has been corrected to show that Clinton served as Arkansas’ first lady for 12 years, not 10 years.

 

FARMINGTON-NATURAL GAS FIRE

Police: Driver dies in Arkansas crash, natural gas fire

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

FARMINGTON, Ark. (AP) — Police say a driver who struck a natural gas main in the Washington County city of Farmington, sparking a large fire, died in the accident.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports police and fire agencies responded to the fire which started around 3:45 p.m. Friday. Black Hills Energy spokesman Rich Davis says the fire started shortly after the driver hit the gas main.

The identity of the driver hasn’t been released, and an investigation is ongoing.

An evacuation order was lifted by Saturday morning and the street was reopened.
HIGHWAY COMMISSION-TALDO

Springdale man named to Arkansas Highway Commission

SPRINGDALE, Ark. (AP) — Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he will name Philip Taldo of Springdale to the Arkansas Highway Commission, effective next month. Taldo will replace Frank Scott Jr. of Little Rock.

Taldo currently serves on the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. The governor said in a statement that economic development and highways go hand-in-hand and that Taldo would bring the necessary experience to his role on the Highway Commission.

The appointment runs for 10 years.

Taldo said he was humbled and excited by his selection.

GAS PRICES-ARKANSAS-OKLAHOMA

Arkansas, Oklahoma have lowest average gas prices in nation

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — As gasoline prices rise nationwide, holiday travelers in Arkansas and Oklahoma will enjoy the lowest gas prices in the U.S.

AAA-Oklahoma says the average price per gallon for self-serve regular gas was $2.02 in the two states Monday, tying them for the lowest prices in the country. But Chuck Mai, a spokesman for AAA, says Monday’s price is 17 cents more than it was on Nov. 22.

National pump prices have risen for 20 of the last 21 days, rising a total of 11 cents. The national average price for regular gasoline was $2.24 per gallon Monday, the highest mark since October and three cents more than one week ago.

Prices are rising due to market expectations of tighter availability after OPEC announced plans to cut oil production next month.

Monday December 19, 2016

ELECTORAL COLLEGE-ARKANSAS

Arkansas’ electors to meet to cast votes for Trump

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas’ electors are meeting to formally cast their six votes for President-elect Donald Trump, who easily defeated Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in her adopted home state.

The state’s six electors are set to meet Monday morning at the state Capitol to formally cast their ballots for Trump, the Republican nominee who won more than 60 percent of the vote in the Nov. 8 election. Clinton served 10 years as Arkansas’ first lady, but the state has become predominantly Republican in recent years.

Protesters have scheduled rallies at state capitols around the country aimed at trying to sway electors to not support Trump. A candidate must get at least 270 votes to win the presidency.

COLD SNAP-ARKANSAS

More frigid weather, then slow warmup across Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Forecasters in Arkansas say it will remain bitterly cold for the rest of the weekend and into Monday, but temperatures should start to rebound into the 40s and 50s by the middle of the week.

The National Weather Service says colder air settled over the state Sunday, and high temperatures were expected only in the 20s in the north and 30s elsewhere.

Monday will see morning lows in the teen to single digits and evening lows in the 20s.

A blast of arctic air from Canada caused temperatures to plunge by more than 40 degrees across Arkansas on Saturday. Precipitation from storms caused roads and bridges to ice over as temperatures fell.

Forecasters expect temperatures to gradually rise into the 40s and 50s by the middle of the week.

Friday December 16, 2016

SIMMONS BANK-ACQUISITION

Arkansas-based bank to acquire Oklahoma’s Southwest Bancorp

PINE BLUFF, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas-based Simmons First National Corp. has announced plans to buy an Oklahoma bank in a deal valued at more than $564 million.

Simmons, which is based in Pine Bluff, announced Wednesday that it will purchase Southwest Bancorp, Inc. of Stillwater, Oklahoma. Southwest Bancorp is the parent company of Bank SNB, which has 31 branches in four states.

Simmons says the deal is expected to close during the third quarter of 2017. Simmons’ chairman and CEO, George Makris, Jr., says the acquisition allows Simmons to enter new markets in Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado.

Southwest Bancorp has nearly $1.9 billion in loans and $1.95 billion in deposits.

STEEL MILL-ARKANSAS

Production beginning at Big River Steel in Arkansas

OSCEOLA, Ark. (AP) — Production is beginning at a new, $1.3 billion steel mill in northeast Arkansas.

According to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Big River Steel has begun operations in its melt shop and hot mill at the new facility in Mississippi County. The steel mill was the first “superproject” to be approved under a 2004 state constitutional amendment that allows the state to borrow money to help lure major employers.

The company says the first hot rolled coil at Big River was purchased by Zekelman Industries and will be sent to Atlas Tube in Blytheville. Zekelman and Big River Steel say they will donate the $100,000 proceeds from the sale to the Wounded Warrior Project and Arkansas Northeastern College.

Big River Steel is expected to be fully operational by next year.

DEMOCRATIC CHAIRMAN-ARKANSAS

Insalaco won’t seek new term chairing Arkansas Democrats

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party says he won’t seek another term, weeks after the general election in which Republicans expanded their majorities in the state Legislature.

Vince Insalaco said in a statement Thursday he believes it’s time to move on to a new chapter in his life and wouldn’t seek a third term chairing the state party. Insalaco has served as party chairman since 2013. Insalaco’s term ends in 2019, but the state committee is expected to consider a proposal this weekend to allow the party to vote on a replacement in March.

Republicans control all statewide and federal offices in Arkansas, and majorities in the state House and Senate. Insalaco says the party has been able to reduce its debt and rebuild county committees in recent years.

NEW YEAR’S EVE DEATHS-APPEAL

Man convicted in Arkansas killings resentenced

(Information from: Batesville Guard, http://www.guardonline.com/)

ASH FLAT, Ark. (AP) — A man who has been on death row for the 1986 killings of a man and a woman has been resentenced to life in prison without parole.

The Batesville Guard reports Steven Victor Wertz was resentenced Tuesday by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

The high court overturned Wertz’s 2007 death sentence earlier this year. The court’s majority opinion said a lower court jury did not fill out two separate sets of sentencing documents for the two capital murder charges against Wertz in the deaths of Kathy and Terry Watts of Ash Flat.

The couple was found fatally shot on New Year’s Eve in their home. Their baby was found unharmed near their bodies.

Wertz lived in Oklahoma at the time of the killings.

Thursday December 15, 2016

COLD SNAP-ARKANSAS

Arkansas weekend forecast calls for severe storms, then snow

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A wild weather weekend is on tap for Arkansas, with forecasters warning of possible tornadoes and mild temperatures on Saturday followed by the potential for snow on Sunday.

The National Weather Service in Little Rock says severe weather, including strong thunderstorms, are possible Saturday in central and southern Arkansas. After the storms move out, a cold front is set to move into Arkansas, bringing wintry precipitation along with it.

Forecasters say sleet and snow are possible Sunday, though it’s too early to say how much.

In northwest Arkansas, the coldest air in years is expected this weekend, with wind chill values predicted to be well below zero on Sunday morning.

TEN COMMANDMENTS-ARKANSAS

Opponents urge panel to block Arkansas Ten Commandments plan

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Opponents of an effort to build a Ten Commandments monument near Arkansas’ Capitol are urging a panel to reject the statue, while the lawmaker behind the display says the only decision that remains is where to put it.

A subcommittee of the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission on Wednesday heard from supporters and opponents of the privately funded monument. Lawmakers last year approved legislation requiring the state to allow the display, and the panel must approve its design and location.

Opponents told the panel they believed the statue was an unconstitutional endorsement of religion and would invite lawsuits. Republican Sen. Jason Rapert called that criticism an attempt to intimidate officials, and said the debate over the monument ended when lawmakers approved the legislation last year.

Wednesday December 14, 2016

TAX CUTS-ARKANSAS

Hutchinson proposes $50M tax cut for low income Arkansans

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Gov. Asa Hutchinson is proposing a $50 million income tax cut for 657,000 low-income Arkansans along with a $13 million break for military retirees that he says will be offset by repealing exemptions on unemployment compensation, manufactured housing and soft drinks.

The Republican governor on Tuesday called for cutting income taxes in two years for those making less than $21,000 a year. Hutchinson said under his proposal about 120,000 residents in the lowest bracket won’t pay any income taxes at all.

Hutchinson faces a fight in the session that begins January with some fellow Republicans pushing for deeper tax reductions that will take effect sooner. Hutchinson said his proposal to exclude military retirement benefits from income taxes will be paid for by repealing tax exemptions elsewhere.

SHERIFF’S OFFICE-RANSOMWARE

Arkansas sheriff’s office computer system hit by hackers

(Information from: Harrison Daily Times, http://www.harrisondaily.com)

BERRYVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Officials with a sheriff’s office in northern Arkansas say they paid a ransom after their computer system was hacked earlier this month.

Carroll County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Daniel Klatt says the department’s system was hit Dec. 5 with ransomware, which typically works by encrypting files until the victim pays the hackers, often in the electronic currency bitcoin.

Klatt says the department paid three bitcoin — or about $2,400 — to unlock the computer system. According to the Harrison Daily Times , the hackers encrypted the department’s management system, which holds reports, bookings and other day-to-day operational data.

Klatt says none of the data was stolen and that the county’s computer system’s was back up on Monday.

Tuesday December 13, 2016

LITTLE ROCK AIRPORT-PASSENGERS

Little Rock airport budget projected to increase

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A growth in passenger traffic is projected to drive a proposed $33.6 million operating budget for the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport/Adams Field in 2017.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports the proposed budget assumes the number of passengers will increase 1 percent. Higher passenger volume tends to translate to increased revenue from parking, concessions and car rentals.

Little Rock Municipal Airport Commission chairman Virgil Miller Jr. says he’s confident the projected 1 percent increase will happen due to an increase in airline service.

The commission is set to look at the proposed budget for approval later in December.
CHILD-TOMBSTONE DEATH

Child playing in cemetery killed when tombstone falls on him

LYNN, Ark. (AP) — Authorities say an 8-year-old boy who was playing in a church cemetery was killed after a tombstone broke and fell on top of him.

The Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office says the boy was attending a birthday party at the church Saturday afternoon when the accident happened in the town of Lynn, about 100 miles northeast of Little Rock. Detective Andrew Turner tells Jonesboro television station KAIT the boy was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Turner says investigators do not believe foul play was involved. The boy’s name hasn’t been released.

The church’s pastor, Jeff Neely, says the boy was “full of life” and “just an 8-year-old rambunctious young man.” He says church members plan to support the boy’s family, both financially and in prayer.

Monday December 12, 2016

ARKANSAS LAWMAKER-PARTY SWITCH

Arkansas Democratic lawmaker switches to Republican Party

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas Democratic lawmaker’s decision to switch to the Republican Party means Democrats and Republicans will be evenly divided on the only House committee dominated by Democrats.

Democratic Rep. Joe Jett of Success said Friday he will become a member of the Republican Party. Jett is chairman of the Revenue and Taxation Committee and a member of the Joint Budget, Insurance and Commerce and the Economic and Tax Policy committees as well as the Arkansas Legislative Council.

Jett’s decision evens the partisan split on the Revenue and Taxation Committee. Despite their small numbers, Democrats had engineered an 11-9 majority on the committee. Jett’s party switch brings the partisan split to 10-10.

In spite of the party switch, Jett says he doesn’t plan to change how he approaches his legislative duties.

Protesters oppose Diamond Pipeline across north Arkansas

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — About 50 protesters turned out in Fayetteville to oppose a planned oil pipeline across northern Arkansas.

Opponents said Saturday that the planned Diamond Pipeline is a threat to water, protected species and historic sites.

The planned 440-mile pipeline by Plains All American Pipeline and Valero Energy Corp. would extend from Cushing, Oklahoma, to a Valero refinery in Memphis, Tennessee, and would cross 14 counties in Arkansas and five Arkansas Rivers.

Diamond Pipeline has emphasized the reliability and safety of its pipeline and the company said it will use horizontal drilling to place pipe under water crossings.

The company says it plans to begin construction this year and complete the project during 2017.

SCHOOL PRESIDENT-PAY HIKE

Arkansas State University system chief gets $10,000 pay hike

(Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, http://www.jonesborosun.com)

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) — The president of the Arkansas State University system is getting a $10,000 raise and a one-year contract extension.

The Jonesboro Sun reports that the Board of Trustees approved a 3 percent salary hike for Charles Welch, bringing his salary to $350,000. With the addition of the extra year, Welch’s contract runs through June 2021.

The university has gone through a tumultuous period recently.

In August, the chancellor of its largest campus resigned amid the release of internal audits critical of the study abroad program and alleged noncompliance with several state laws and university policies.

Prosecutors are reviewing the findings to determine if criminal charges are warranted.

Friday December 9, 2016

MEDICAID-ARKANSAS

Arkansas governor says US OKs modified Medicaid expansion

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Gov. Asa Hutchinson says federal officials have approved a number of changes Arkansas wishes to make in a Medicaid expansion program known as “Arkansas Works.”

The governor said Wednesday that the Department of Health and Human Services will authorize most of the changes Arkansas wants to make in the insurance program for 300,000 low-income residents. Arkansas uses federal Medicaid money to buy their private health insurance.

Arkansas had asked the federal government to let the state charge premiums to some patients. Arkansas also wanted to require that participants with no income go to job training and placement programs.

At a news conference, Hutchinson said the government had approved nearly all of Arkansas’ requests, and that the state would request other changes after the new administration takes over Jan. 20.

ARKANSAS-HIGHWAY IMPROVEMENTS

Highway department opens bids on central Arkansas projects

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The state highway department has opened bids on five major projects in central Arkansas, including plans to widen a dangerous stretch of U.S. 70 near Hot Springs.

The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department opened bids Wednesday on the projects, worth a combined $244 million. The projects include widening about 17 miles of U.S. 70 from Interstate 30 in Saline County to Hot Springs — a stretch of road where at least 15 people were killed in traffic crashes last year.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports the projects also include a $78.5 million plan to rebuild and widen U.S. 67/167 from Jacksonville to Cabot and building a new interchange on the highway, replacing pavement on Interstate 440 in North Little Rock and adding a ramp on Cantrell Road to Interstate 430.

Thursday December 8, 2016

WINTRY WEATHER-ARKANSAS

Cold temperatures, light snow possible in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The National Weather Service says cold temperatures are expected across Arkansas and light snow may fall in much of the state.

Up to a half-inch of snow is possible by Wednesday night in the northwestern corner of the state and up to one-tenth of an inch could fall north of a line from Fort Smith to near Newport. A light dusting is possible in all but far southern Arkansas.

The weather service said a cold front is expected to move through the state starting Wednesday night and high temperatures Thursday are expected in the 30s and 40s while Friday morning wind chills are forecast to be in single digits to the teens in most of the state.

Sunshine is expected and highs are to warm into the 40s by Saturday.

MEDICAID-ARKANSAS

Arkansas governor says US OKs modified Medicaid expansion

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Gov. Asa Hutchinson says federal officials have approved a number of changes Arkansas wishes to make in a Medicaid expansion program known as “Arkansas Works.”

The governor said Wednesday that the Department of Health and Human Services will authorize most of the changes Arkansas wants to make in the insurance program for 300,000 low-income residents. Arkansas uses federal Medicaid money to buy their private health insurance.

Arkansas had asked the federal government to let the state charge premiums to some patients. Arkansas also wanted to require that participants with no income go to job training and placement programs.

At a news conference, Hutchinson said the government had approved nearly all of Arkansas’ requests, and that the state would request other changes after the new administration takes over Jan. 20.

POLICE CHIEF-SPEEDING INVESTIGATION

Brinkley mayor won’t pursue investigation of police chief

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

BRINKLEY, Ark. (AP) — The mayor of Brinkley says he won’t pursue an investigation of the city’s police chief for excessive speeding because witnesses could’ve been joking about how fast he was driving.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Police Chief Ed Randle wasn’t issued a citation for the Oct. 21 incident in Clarendon. Randle was driving his pickup truck when he was stopped by state Trooper Charles Williams, who was assisting a Brinkley police officer.

Brinkley Mayor Billy Hankins sent a letter last month to Deputy Prosecuting Attorney J. Baxter Sharp III asking for an investigation, but Sharp said he could only investigate criminal matters.

Hankins says he can’t tell if comments from witnesses in dash-camera video and audio of the traffic stop were made in a joking manner because everyone was laughing.

Wednesday December 7, 2016

MEDICAID-ARKANSAS

Arkansas governor seeks US approval for Medicaid changes

(Information from: KUAR-FM, http://www.ualr.edu/kuar/)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is meeting with officials in Washington as the state seeks approval for changes to its hybrid Medicaid expansion program.

Arkansas has requested a waiver for its “Arkansas Works” program, also known as the private option. The program uses federal Medicaid money to buy private health insurance for low-income residents and currently covers about 300,000 people.

Hutchinson tells Little Rock radio station KUAR that he met with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, then members of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team Monday. He says the federal government has agreed to some but not all of Arkansas’ proposed changes.

The changes include a requirement that some beneficiaries pay a premium and mandating that participants with no income be referred to job training and placement programs.

LYON COLLEGE-PRESIDENT

Texas native named president at Lyon College in Arkansas

BATESVILLE, Ark. (AP) — A senior adviser at a liberal arts college in Virginia has been named the new president at Lyon College in northeastern Arkansas.

The college announced Monday the hiring of Joey King as the school’s next president. King will take over next summer for Donald Weatherman, who is retiring.

King is a native of Texas and currently works as a senior adviser to the president at Emory & Henry College in Emory, Virginia. He holds a doctorate degree in human-computer interaction from the University of Washington and a bachelor’s degree in computer science and experimental psychology from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.

Lyon College is located in Batesville, about 80 miles northeast of Little Rock.

Tuesday December 6, 2016

TRANSFORMATION OFFICE

Arkansas governor announces Office of Transformation

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Gov. Asa Hutchinson has announced creation of an Office of Transformation to find ways to make government more efficient and to reduce costs.

Hutchinson on Monday announced the office and said Amy Fecher will serve as head of the office.

Fecher is currently executive vice president of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and will continue in that position while serving as chief transformation officer.

Hutchinson said the goal is to increase savings, modernize operations and reduce excessive bureaucracy.

WALTON-FIRST DOOR

2 doors of Wal-Mart founder’s first store donated to museums

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Two doors from the first store owned by Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have been donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington and The Wal-Mart Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports the doors from Walton’s first shop were donated by the family of Gene Ivy, co-owner of Ivy Brothers Construction, which renovated the store in Newport, Arkansas, in the 1960s.

Alan Dranow, Wal-Mart Heritage Group’s senior director, says the doors are a great find because nothing else was kept from the first shop owned by the man who started the world’s largest retailer.

The door sent to The Wal-Mart Museum is currently on display, illuminated by lights in a case. The door’s wooden frame is scattered with scratched and nicks.

NTSB-ARKANSAS TRAIN CRASH

Automatic horn may be behind fatal Arkansas train crash

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Automated equipment may have contributed to a deadly head-on train collision in Arkansas by resetting alarms set up to ensure the crew is alert.

The National Transportation Safety Board meets Tuesday in Washington, D.C., to discuss a 2014 crash that killed two Union Pacific employees near Hoxie, Arkansas. The crash has prompted warnings about automated horns on trains with “electronic alertness devices.”

The NTSB told railroads last year that if a southbound train’s automated horns had been wired differently, its crew would have been warned at least three times to stop or slow down before the crash. With the warning system being reset, the train generated no signal to apply its own brakes automatically.

Beginning Jan. 1, trains operating at speeds above 25 mph must have an electronic alertness device.

Follow Kelly P. Kissel on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kisselAP and his work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/author/kelly-p-kissel
TYSON FOODS-VENTURE FUND

Tyson announces plans for $150 million venture fund

SPRINGDALE, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas-based Tyson Foods Inc. has announced plans to create a venture fund aimed at developing new innovations in how to feed the world’s population.

The Springdale-based meat company says it will make $150 million available for Tyson New Ventures LLC. Tyson says the fund will complement the company’s continued investment in fresh meat, poultry and prepared foods.

The venture fund’s first investment is in Beyond Meat, a California-based company that makes “plant-based protein.” Tyson says the venture fund will concentrate on alternative proteins, like the Beyond Meat deal, as well as other startups aimed at eliminating food waste and finding new innovations in technology.

Tyson is one of the world’s largest food companies and its brands include Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm, Sara Lee and Ball Park.

Monday December 5, 2016

ARKANSAS-ENDOWMENT DECLINE

Arkansas endowment funds decline by nearly $50 million

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — An endowment that helps fund faculty positions and student scholarships at the University of Arkansas’ flagship campus in Fayetteville declined by nearly $50 million in fiscal year 2016.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that UA listed endowment funds at $898.9 million at the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

That’s $49.8 million lower than the record high of $948.7 million in 2015.

Endowed gifts fell from $21.1 million in 2015 to $9.9 million and investment losses totals $12.6 million and the decline is the first since 2012, and the largest since a 2009 during an economic recession.

SCHOOL BUS TRACKER-TEXARKANA

Phone app allows parents to track kids, buses in real time

(Information from: Texarkana Gazette, http://www.texarkanagazette.com)

TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) — A new cellphone app allows parents of bus riders in one Arkansas school district to track their children in real time to ensure they make it to and from school safely.

Thirty-two buses in the Texarkana School District’s fleet were outfitted last week with the Zonar tracking system, which tells parents when buses pick up and drop off their children.

The device also allows school officials to set bus routes and monitor them for fuel efficiency.

School officials say the system could be ready by January, after employees are trained and students issued key cards they scan as they board the bus.

The Texarkana Gazette reports the district purchased the system in September for nearly $29,000 for the first year and around $21,000 annually for the following three years.

Friday December 2, 2016

KILLING BY POLICE-ARKANSAS

Arkansas officer ruled justified in fatal shooting of man

BENTON, Ark. (AP) — A prosecutor says an Arkansas police officer was justified when he shot and killed a man in October.

Saline County Prosecutor Ken Casady said Thursday that it was “justifiable self-defense” when Benton officer Cory Mize fatally shot 49-year-old Thomas Burns.

Police say Mize shot Burns on Oct. 7 after Burns pointed a handgun at the officer and refused to drop the weapon, which was later determined to be a pellet gun. Burns died later at a Little Rock hospital.

Casady said Mize responded to three disturbance calls that night involving Burns and his estranged girlfriend and on the final call he saw Burns run to a house where the woman was and heard him threaten her, then found Burns in the carport area of the home where Burns was shot.

EX-PRINCIPAL ARRESTED

Ex-Arkansas principal arrested again in sex assault case

(Information from: The Sentinel-Record, http://www.hotsr.com)

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — A retired Garland County principal has been arrested after allegedly having sexual contact with a 14-year-old female student he is charged with sexually assaulting.

The Sentinel-Record reports 61-year-old Lester Curry was previously charged with second-degree sexual assault and sexual indecency with a child after authorities received a report of an incident involving him and the student in May. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

The former Lake Hamilton Middle School principal submitted his resignation on May 26.

According to a court document, the student says Curry made sexual contact with her again after arranging to meet with her.

He was arrested Tuesday and charged with another count of sexual indecency with a child. He remained in custody Wednesday and had a bond hearing scheduled for Thursday.

Thursday December 1, 2016

CONWAY SCHOOL-ARREST

CONWAY, Ark. (AP) — Authorities say a 12-year-old student has been arrested for bringing an unloaded handgun to a middle school in Conway.

Conway police say the boy was arrested Tuesday after bringing the weapon to Simon Intermediate School. Police say the student was arrested after resource officers found the unloaded gun in the boy’s backpack.

Police say they don’t believe the boy made any threats to use the gun at school.

He was taken into custody on a charge of being a minor in possession of a handgun or possession on school property.

ARKANSAS GOVERNOR-TRUMP

Hutchinson says he stressed global market in talk with Trump

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he stressed the importance of a global market to Arkansas’ economy when he talked with President-elect Donald Trump to congratulate him on his surprise win in the election.

The Republican governor told members of the Arkansas Farm Bureau on Wednesday that he talked with Trump a day earlier and said he told the incoming president that he would support the administration outside Washington. Hutchinson, a former congressman and federal Homeland Security administration official, has said he’s not interested in serving in a Trump administration.

Hutchinson praised Trump’s Cabinet picks and said he expected the Republican to give Arkansas and other states more flexibility in how they spend federal dollars. He said he didn’t think the Trump White House would treat mid-America as “fly-over country.”

Wednesday November 30, 2016

HOT SPRINGS-CRIME

Hot Springs sees decrease in crime in 2015

(Information from: The Sentinel-Record, http://www.hotsr.com)

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — Hot Springs police records show the department reported 44 percent fewer arrests in 2015 compared to the previous year.

There were 2,523 arrests last year compared to 4,511 in 2014.

The Sentinel-Record reports that the 4,864 criminal offenses reported last year were the fewest since the 4,851 reported in 2012.

Police chief Jason Stachey attributes the overall reduction in crime to the opening of the Garland County Detention Center in June 2015. Stachey says the facility’s ability to hold more inmates compared to the previous detention center has had an effect on crime.

The current facility can hold 346 inmates. The old detention center was constructed to house fewer than 90 inmates, but regularly housed more than 200.

According to Stachey, area churches and community groups have helped lower the number of offenses and arrests by addressing social issues.

OFFICERS SHOT-ARKANSAS

Arkansas man pleads guilty in fatal shooting of officer

FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas man has been sentenced to life in prison without parole after pleading guilty to capital murder in the fatal shooting of a sheriff’s deputy earlier this year.

Billy Monroe Jones also pleaded guilty Tuesday to 10 counts of attempted capital murder for opening fire on other law enforcement officers during the August incident in rural western Arkansas. Jones admitted fatally shooting Sebastian County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Cooper and opening fire on the officers who had initially responded to a domestic disturbance call after Jones allegedly threatened a family member with a gun.

Hackett Police Chief Darrell Spells was also wounded in the shooting.

Fort Smith television station KHBS reports that Jones apologized in court for the shooting.

Tuesday November 29, 2016

BABY-DRAINING DITCH

Baby unharmed after being ejected from car in Arkansas crash

TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) — An infant is unharmed after she was thrown into a drainage ditch during a two-vehicle accident near Texarkana.

Texarkana police say 8-month-old Bryce Hale was one of five people traveling in a car on Interstate 30 Friday night when a semitrailer hit the vehicle while changing lanes. The vehicle skidded before striking the median’s guardrail.

Police say Bryce was ejected from the vehicle’s back window and landed beneath some metal bars at the entrance of drainage ditch separating eastbound and westbound traffic.

According to police, the vehicle’s driver was injured when she stepped out of the vehicle and was struck by an SUV.

Bryce’s mother, who was also a passenger, says looking for her daughter along the highway was the worst 15 minutes of her life.

The semitrailer’s driver was cited with improper and unsafe lane changing.

ARKANSAS-MUMPS OUTBREAK

Arkansas studying mumps vaccine effectiveness

(Information from: Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.nwaonline.com)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Department of Health is studying whether the mumps vaccine is less effective against the type of mumps contracted by hundreds of people during the past three months of an outbreak first announced in August.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that the department has counted nearly 1,600 confirmed or suspected cases of mumps as of Nov. 22. Many of the cases have been in the northwestern part of the state.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says two doses of the mumps vaccine protect about 88 percent of people exposed to the virus. Arkansas epidemiologist Dr. Dirk Haselow says the type of mumps seen in Arkansas and other recent outbreaks in the country is genetically distinct from the type used to make the vaccine. He says the vaccine is still helpful.

Monday November 28, 2016

SEVERE WEATHER-ARKANSAS

Severe storms, heavy rainfall expected in Arkansas on Monday

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Powerful storms are expected in parts of Arkansas on today, and forecasters say isolated tornadoes are possible.

The National Weather Service in Little Rock says damaging winds and large hail stones are the biggest threat today, with the southeastern third of the state at the greatest risk for bad weather. Arkansas will also see heavy rainfall, and some areas could see 2 inches of rain or more.

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, says stormy weather is expected throughout much of the South, with southern Arkansas, northern Louisiana and Mississippi poised to receive the worst of it. Forecasters say that area is at an enhanced risk for severe weather Monday, including Shreveport, Louisiana, and Jackson, Mississippi.

MEDICAID EXPANSION-GOP STATES

Republican states that expanded Medicaid want it kept

PHOENIX (AP) — Republican-led states that signed onto Medicaid expansion are in a tough spot as they wonder if president-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to dump the Affordable Care Act means the expansion goes away.

Former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer fought her own Republican party in the state Legislature to push through expansion three years ago.

Brewer now hopes one of the pillars of President Barack Obama’s health care law can be saved. She says there’s no more cost-effective way to provide insurance to the working poor. Nearly 400,000 Arizonans have gained Medicaid insurance since Brewer’s proposal took effect in 2014 and about 9 million nationwide.

Many officials in the GOP-led states that embraced expansion are also strong proponents of the program.

Wednesday November 23, 2016

ARKANSAS LAWMAKER-PARTY SWITCH

Arkansas lawmaker switches to Republican Party

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas state representative is switching to the Republican Party, the second lawmaker to leave the Democratic Party since the election and a move that will give the GOP enough votes to pass most spending measures.

Rep. David Hillman of Almyra announced the party change Tuesday and says he believes it will allow him to better represent his eastern-Arkansas district. The 72-year-old Hillman has served in the state House since 2013 and won re-election in the Nov. 8 election without Republican opposition.

Hillman is the second Democratic representative to switch parties after the GOP expanded its majorities in the Legislature. Republicans will hold 75 of the 100 seats in the House and 26 of the 35 seats in the Senate. Most appropriations bills require at least three-fourths support to pass.

LOITERING LAWSUIT

Enforcement of Arkansas anti-begging law prohibited by judge

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A federal judge is prohibiting Arkansas from enforcing its anti-begging law.

U.S. District Judge Billy Joe Wilson on Tuesday agreed with the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas that the law unconstitutionally restricts freedom of speech.

Wilson wrote that regulating speech based on content must promote a compelling government interest and said banning all begging everywhere by everyone “does not come close to chinning this bar.”

The ACLU says it filed the lawsuit against Arkansas State Police director Col. Bill Bryant on behalf of Michael Rodgers, a veteran convicted of loitering with intent to beg, and Glynn Dilbeck, a homeless man cited for begging to help pay his daughter’s medical bills.

Wilson wrote that Rodgers’ conviction was overturned by a circuit court and that charges against Dilbeck were dismissed.

LITTLE ROCK SHOOTING

Little Rock man dies of wounds after early November shooting

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Police say a Little Rock man has died of gunshot wounds he suffered earlier this month.

Officer Richard Hilgeman said in a news release Tuesday that 38-year-old Fred Duhart died on Sunday at a Little Rock hospital.

Police say Duhart is one of five people wounded in the Nov. 2 shooting outside a home in southeast Little Rock. Three of those wounded were hospitalized with what were described as non-life threatening injuries and the fourth declined medical treatment.

Police have announced no arrests in the shooting.

OVERTIME EXPANSION-LAWSUIT

Court blocks expansion of overtime pay rule after states sue

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A federal court is blocking implementation of a regulation that would make an estimated 4 million more higher-earning workers eligible for overtime pay.

The U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas granted a nationwide preliminary injunction Tuesday that prevents the Department of Labor from implementing the changes until the rule’s legality can be further examined. The order comes after 21 states sued to block the rule before it took effect on Dec. 1.

The lead plaintiff was Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who’s a frequent critic of what he calls Obama Administration overreach.

The regulation would shrink the so-called “white collar exemption” and more than double the salary threshold under which employers must pay overtime to their workers.

Laxalt said the rule would burden private and public sectors.

MEDICAID ENROLLMENT-ARKANSAS

Arkansas lawmakers recommend outreach ban for Medicaid

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Lawmakers have recommended special language that would prohibit the Arkansas Department of Human Services from encouraging enrollment in the revamped version of the state’s Medicaid program.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports the language in the appropriation bill is for the department’s Medical Services Division for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. It bans the division from promoting enrollment in the Health Care Independence Program.

The language doesn’t include Arkansas Works, which would replace the program starting Jan. 1 if approved by the federal government. A subcommittee voted to recommend updating the outreach ban to apply to Arkansas Works rather than the Health Care Independence Program.

A Human Services Department spokeswoman says the department plans to promote enrollment in a part of Arkansas Works that would use Medicaid funds to help small businesses provide coverage to low-income employees.

Tuesday November 22, 2016

GAS PRICES-ARKANSAS

Gas prices fall as the long Thanksgiving weekend approaches

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas motorists will be paying less to travel during the long Thanksgiving weekend as gasoline prices continue to fall.

A survey of more than 300 gas outlets by national fuel analyst GasBuddy indicates average retail gasoline prices in Little Rock have fallen 3.6 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $1.91 per gallon on Sunday. The national average has fallen 1.7 cents per gallon in the last week to $2.13 per gallon.

Sunday’s gasoline prices in the state were 4.4 cents per gallon lower than the same day one year ago and are 11.8 cents per gallon lower than just one month ago. The national average has decreased 8.6 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 5.4 cents per gallon higher than the price one year ago.

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TEN COMMANDMENTS-ARKANSAS

Public hearing set for Arkansas Ten Commandments monument

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas panel will hold a public hearing next month on plans to build a privately funded monument to the Ten Commandments near the state Capitol.

A subcommittee of the State Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission on Monday set Dec. 14 as the date for its hearing to receive public comments on a proposal by the American Heritage and History Foundation to build the monument. The subcommittee will make a recommendation to the full commission on the monument plans.

Arkansas lawmakers last year approved legislation requiring the state to approve the monument. The Ten Commandments monument would weigh 6,000 pounds and stand more than 6 feet tall.

NE ARKANSAS-METH MURDER

Arkansan gets 30 years for killing after argument over meth

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

POCAHONTAS, Ark. (AP) — A northeast Arkansas woman has been sentenced to 30 years in prison in the death of her ex-husband.

Prosecutors said Monday that 55-year-old Kathy Jane Hart of Maynard admitted killing 48-year-old John David Hart. Police said the woman’s daughter told investigators the couple argued before the killing because John David Hart “used the last of the meth.”

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that Kathy Hart pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree murder.

Prosecutors say John David Hart’s body was found near Stokes last year. The woman told prosecutors she shot him in self-defense after he beat her and tried to rape her, but the woman’s 15-year-old daughter said no physical altercation took place.

The prosecutor said Kathy Hart subsequently pleaded guilty and spared her family an emotional trial.

ARKANSAS DEPUTY-JAIL ASSAULTS

Ex-Arkansas deputy gets 1 year, 1 day for jail assault

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Ark. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say a former chief deputy for Stone County has been sentenced to 12 months plus one day in prison for telling prisoners to assault another inmate and then arranging the attack.

The U.S. Justice Department said Monday that 56-year-old Randel Branscum admitted abusing his power as a jail administrator. It said Branscum told other inmates to “handle” the victim, then forced the victim into their cell. The inmates beat the victim and knocked his head into a windowsill

Two inmates pleaded guilty to their roles in the attack and were sentenced to probation.

U.S. Attorney Chris Thyer said law officers must be trustworthy and law-abiding citizens who follow high ethical standards. The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said jailers must care for and protect inmates in their custody.

ARKANSAS AGENCIES-RESTRUCTURING

Arkansas governor: Move energy office, reduce boards

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is proposing moving the state’s energy office to the Department of Environmental Quality and reducing the number of committees that inspect local jails.

Hutchinson told reporters Monday the changes will be part of a restructuring plan he’ll submit to the Legislature during next year’s session. He said moving the energy office, currently housed at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, will help as the state receives $14 million through a settlement with Volkswagen that will be distributed by ADEQ for energy-related needs.

Hutchinson said he’ll also propose cutting the number of criminal detention facility review committees in the state from 28 to eight. The move would reduce the number of committee members from 144 to 40.

PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION-ARKANSAS

O’Guinn named to Arkansas Public Service Commission post

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A 16-year veteran of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality has been named to the panel that regulates utilities in the state.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Monday appointed Kimberly Lindsey O’Guinn to a six-year term on the Arkansas Public Service Commission, replacing outgoing Commissioner Lamar Davis. O’Guinn is Hutchinson’s second appointment to the three-member commission since taking office last year.

O’Guinn is a Little Rock native who has served at ADEQ as an environmental engineer and recently as communications director. Hutchinson praised her background and regulatory experience for the post. She is also a former environmental engineer at the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.

Monday November 21, 2016

JUDGE REPROACHED-ARKANSAS

Arkansas judge receives reproach for tardy case ruling

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas judge has been reproached for taking too long to rule on a lawsuit in her court.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission announced on Friday that Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mary McGowan had accepted an “informal adjustment,” the commission’s mildest reproach.

McGowan, a circuit judge since 1991, acknowledged that she took 13 months to resolve the lawsuit, which involved litigation an attorney brought against the commission in 2012 challenging the legality of the way the commission operated. The commission says arguments were submitted to McGowan by the end of 2014, but she didn’t dismiss the lawsuit until January 2016.

The judge was reprimanded by the commission in November 2008 for not reporting cases that had taken longer than three months to decide.

Friday November 18, 2016

HOT SPRINGS-CANNONBALL

Possible cannonball found in Hot Springs is detonated

(Information from: The Sentinel-Record, http://www.hotsr.com)

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — Authorities in Hot Springs say a cannonball that was found outside a local business has been detonated safely.

City spokeswoman Terry Payne says the Civil War-style cannonball was reported shortly after 10 a.m. Thursday in a vehicle and Fire Department personnel believed it could still be active.

The Arkansas State Police bomb squad removed the device from the trunk of a car and it was eventually detonated at the Garland County landfill.

Officials said it wasn’t known if the cannonball was actually still active.

Two businesses were evacuated and traffic was diverted from the area until the device was removed about 12:30 p.m.

ARKANSAS FATALS

2 women, including Texan, die in separate Arkansas crashes

EGYPT, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas State police say two women, including one from Texas, have been killed in separate crashes on Arkansas roads.

Police say 26-year-old Megan Holt of Cash and 62-year-old Cynthia Hughes of Corpus, Christi, Texas, died in the crashes Wednesday.

A police report says Holt died when the car she was driving westbound on Highway 91 near Egypt in Craighead County was struck by an oncoming vehicle that had gone off the roadway, then overcorrected and crashed into her car. The driver of the second vehicle was hospitalized in Memphis in undisclosed condition.

Police say Hughes was died at a hospital after the vehicle she was driving eastbound on Interstate 30 in Hempstead County in southwestern Arkansas spun off the interstate and struck a group of trees.

FORT SMITH-OPEN RECORDS

Prosecutor: Fort Smith School Board violated information act

(Information from: Southwest Times Record, http://www.swtimes.com/)

FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) — A prosecutor says the Fort Smith School Board violated the state’s Freedom of Information Act when they conducted business through a series of emails.

School board members discussed the new slate of school board officers prior to elections.

The Southwest Times Record reports that Sebastian County prosecutor Dan Shue issued a letter to school board members Nov. 8. informing them of the violation.

School board president Deannie Mehl says she was under impression that the email thread met FOIA arguments because the proposed slate of officers was first presented in a public meeting. She says the chain of emails was not meant to deceive anyone.

Mehls says the practice of sending emails among all board members was not something they routinely do and will not happen again.

Thursday November 17, 2016

TEN COMMANDMENTS-ARKANSAS

Arkansas Ten Commandments statue advances to public hearing

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A plan to build a monument to the Ten Commandments at the Arkansas state Capitol has advanced, with a state panel voting the proposal can now face a public hearing.

A subcommittee of the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission on Wednesday found the application for the privately funded monument is sufficient and the state can now hold a hearing to gather public comments on the plan. A spokesman for the secretary of state’s office said a time and place for the hearing has not been set yet.

Lawmakers last year approved a measure requiring the state to allow the monument on Capitol grounds.

The subcommittee will make its recommendation to the full commission after the public comment hearing is held.

ARKANSAS VETERANS-TAX BREAK

Arkansas lawmaker proposes tax break for veterans’ benefits

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A renewed effort to exempt Arkansas military veterans’ retirement benefits from the income tax is one of the first bills filed ahead of next year’s legislative session.

Republican Rep. Charlene Fite filed the proposed tax break on Tuesday, the first day for lawmakers to pre-file bills for the 2017 session. The proposal would exempt veterans’ retirement and survivor benefits from the state income tax.

State finance officials said a similar tax break proposed last year would cost the state $13 million a year when fully implemented. Fite’s proposal comes nearly a week after Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson proposed a $50 million income tax cut that would take effect in two years.

ARKANSAS-MUMPS OUTBREAK

University of Central Arkansas has 4 possible mumps cases

(Information from: Log Cabin Democrat, http://www.thecabin.net)

CONWAY, Ark. (AP) — The University of Central Arkansas says there are four possible cases of mumps at the school.

Dr. Randy Pastor, UCA’s Student Health Center medical director, tells the Log Cabin Democrat that three students went into the medical center with swelling on the side of their faces on Friday.

Pastor says there was an additional case Monday, but none of the cases have been confirmed as mumps. According to Pastor, all four students live off campus but none of the cases are related.

The university’s students have been informed about the possible cases and given information about the disease.

Wednesday November 16, 2016

GOP GOVERNORS

GOP governors hope to move fast on making promised changes

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The nation’s Republican governors eagerly awaiting GOP President-Elect Donald Trump are warning they need to move fast on many of the changes that have been promised to voters.

The Republican Governors Association held its annual conference at a resort near Disney World this week where several governors talked eagerly Tuesday about how Trump’s election could herald sweeping changes on everything from health care to education.

But many of them said those changes need to come soon before the nation and Republican leaders get caught up in the 2018 election cycle.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said Republicans cannot “squander this opportunity.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker pointed that this was the first time there has been this many GOP governors across the country since the 1920s.

WAL-MART-DISCRIMINATION SUIT

Rhode Island men allege discrimination by Wal-Mart

(Information from: The Providence Journal, http://www.providencejournal.com)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Two former security workers at a Rhode Island Wal-Mart say in federal lawsuits filed against the retailer that they were victims of racial discrimination.

Robert McCutcheon and James Braddock worked as “asset protection associates” at the Providence store. They tell The Providence Journal that they loved their jobs, and saw room for advancement and long-term careers.

The men, who are both black, allege they were called “gangstas” by their supervisors, subjected to racial stereotypes, sent into largely minority neighborhoods to retrieve shopping carts, and denied promotions based on race.

They are seeking unspecified damages and are asking the court to find Wal-Mart in violation of state fair employment laws and the Rhode Island Civil Rights Act.

A Wal-Mart spokesman said the company denies the allegations and does not tolerate discrimination.

ARKANSAS-ELECTING JUDGES

Arkansas Bar Association debates ending Supreme Court races

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Bar Association says it plans to discuss whether to push for a constitutional amendment to end the practice of electing state Supreme Court justices.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that a draft was released Monday outlining a plan for the governor to appoint justices to nonrenewable 14-year terms starting in 2019. Currently, the Arkansas’ seven Supreme Court justices are elected statewide to eight-year terms and can run for re-election.

A bar association task force noted in a statement the influence of large, out-of-state contributions in three recent Supreme Court elections.

Bar president Denise Hoggard says the plan will go before the organization’s governing body on Dec. 16.

The Arkansas Judicial Council, composed of the state’s judges, voted in October in favor of continuing to elect justices.

Tuesday November 15, 2016

FOSTER CARE-ARKANSAS

Arkansas foster care officials aim to hire 228 more workers

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas foster care officials say a proposed $26 million budget increase will allow them to hire hundreds of more staffers over the next two years as they try to cut down caseloads and increase the number of homes available for children in the state’s custody.

State Human Services officials on Monday detailed steps they’re taking to curb growth in the state’s foster care system, which currently has about 5,200 children in it and has grown 30 percent over the past year.

Officials said Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s proposal to increase funding by $26.7 million in the coming fiscal year will allow the department to hire 228 additional staff over the next two years and create a new mobile unit that will deploy to areas with high turnover among workers.

SKELETAL REMAINS

Paragould woman pleads guilty to hiding man’s body in home

PARAGOULD, Ark. (AP) — A Paragould woman charged with hiding a man’s body in her home has pleaded guilty to abuse of corpse.

Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington told KAIT-TV that 66-year-old Gloria Tensley pleaded guilty Monday afternoon in Greene County Circuit Court and was sentenced to three years in prison.

An attorney for Tensley did not immediately return an after-hours phone call for comment.

Ellington said that as part of a plea agreement charges of Social Security fraud against Tensley were dropped.

Tensley was arrested after a man living on the property found the skeletal remains of Clarence Shanowat in Tensley’s home in July.

Ellington said it’s believed Shanowat died of natural causes and Tensley didn’t report the death so she could continue collecting his Social Security disability benefits.

Monday November 14, 2016

JUDGE’S SON-HOT CAR DEATH-PAY

More than $53,000 paid to cover suspended judge’s caseload

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — More than $53,000 has been paid to retired judges to hear cases assigned to a Garland County circuit judge who left the bench after his son died in a hot car.

Judge Wade Naramore stopped hearing cases after his 18-month-old son died in July 2015. He was suspended in February by the state Supreme Court after being charged with negligent homicide in his son’s death.

Naramore was found not guilty, but remains suspended and under investigation by Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission, which is determining whether he is fit to serve.

The Sentinel-Record reports that the state auditor’s office reports having paid $53,422 to retired judges assigned to Naramore’s court. The payments do not include $2,615 retired Circuit Judge John Langston received for presiding over Naramore’s criminal trial.

INMATE ESCAPE

Officials: Escaped Arkansas work-release inmate recaptured

BLYTHEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Department of Correction says a work release inmate who walked away from a job site in northeast Arkansas has been recaptured.

Department spokesman Solomon Graves says 32-year-old Clenton Forrister was taken into custody Sunday afternoon by Arkansas State Police.

Details of his capture were not released.

Graves said earlier that Forrister walked away from his job site near Interstate 55 and Highway 61 in Blytheville about 8 p.m. Saturday.

The Department of Correction says Forrister is serving a 20 year prison sentence after being convicted in 2014 in Pulaski County on weapons, drug and first-degree battery charges.

Forrister was being held at the department’s Mississippi County Work Release Center in Luxora.

Friday November 11, 2016

ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE-TAX CUTS

Arkansas Democrats secure majority on House tax panel

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Democrats will have a majority of seats on an Arkansas House panel that will take up any proposals to cut taxes next year, despite the party’s ranks thinning in the majority-Republican Legislature.

Democrats on Thursday secured 11 of the 20 seats on the House Revenue and Taxation Committee as representatives caucused and selected committees ahead of next year’s legislative session. The meeting came two days after Republicans expanded their majorities in the House and Senate.

The panel will be key during next year’s session, with Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson proposing a $50 million income tax cut that would take effect in the fiscal year that begins July 2018. Other Republicans are expected to push for deeper cuts during next year’s session.

Thursday November 10, 2016

ARKANSAS BUDGET

Arkansas governor proposes $50M tax cut in 2 years

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Gov. Asa Hutchinson is proposing a $50 million cut in Arkansas’ income tax in two years, warning fellow Republicans that he’ll oppose a push for further reductions unless they’re offset by closing tax exemptions or cuts elsewhere in the state’s budget.

Hutchinson on Wednesday detailed his proposed $5.4 billion budget proposal to lawmakers the day after voters approved legalizing medical marijuana, a move the governor has said will cost agencies millions to enforce. Lawmakers last year approved Hutchinson’s proposed $102 million cut in the state’s income tax. Hutchinson’s tax cut proposal wouldn’t take effect until the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2018.

Hutchinson’s proposal calls for increases in funding for public schools, Medicaid, prisons and the state’s foster care system.

ELECTION-ARKANSAS-THE LATEST

The Latest: Hutchinson won’t mull serving in Trump cabinet

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he won’t consider serving in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, despite speculation the Republican governor could be tapped as attorney general.

When asked Wednesday whether he’d consider joining Trump’s cabinet, Hutchinson quickly responded no. Then he quipped, “how’s that for clarity?”

Hutchinson is a former congressman who served as the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration and later as undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security under former President George W. Bush. He was first elected governor in 2014 and hasn’t said whether he’ll seek re-election in 2018, though he’s widely expected to run.

ELECTION-ARKANSAS-NEWS GUIDE

Trump, Boozman victories underscore Arkansas GOP gains

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas has underscored its position as a deeply red state as voters delivered its six electoral votes to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, but at the same time handed medical marijuana advocates their first Bible Belt victory by legalizing the drug for some patients.

Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton Tuesday in a state where she served as first lady for 12 years while her husband was the governor. The once reliably blue state has turned red in recent years, and Republicans now control all of Arkansas’ statewide and federal offices, as well as a majority of seats in both chambers of the Legislature.

Republican Sen. John Boozman also defeated his Democratic challenger, while Republicans held on to their four House seats and expanded their majorities in the state Legislature.

PINE BLUFF SLAYING

17-year-old arrested in fatal shooting of Pine Bluff teen

PINE BLUFF, Ark. (AP) — Police in Pine Bluff have arrested a 17-year-old boy in connection with the shooting death of a 15-year-old boy.

Police say the 17-year-old was arrested Tuesday without incident and is being held for the shooting death of Decorion Jones.

Police say Jones was found Monday afternoon on the city’s south side with a gunshot wound and he died Tuesday at a hospital.

The body was sent to the state medical examiner for an autopsy.

Police say they have not yet determined a motive for the shooting.

UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS-SOCIAL ISSUES

University of Arkansas to host social issues events

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — The chancellor of the University of Arkansas says the school is developing an educational series on social issues for the campus as a result of six women’s basketball players who recently kneeled during the nation anthem.

Chancellor Joe Steinmetz says the perspective of veterans and the meaning of the American flag should be considered along with the social concerns raised by the student athletes. Steinmetz discussed the university’s plans at an event Tuesday for first-generation college students enrolled in the UA’s Honor College.

The chancellor has said he supports the players, citing the importance of freedom of speech. Basketball coach Jimmy Dykes and athletic director Jeff Long have also issued statements of support for the players.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that the educational series will touch on a variety of social issues.

NORTH LITTLE ROCK-BANK ROBBERY

Suspect arrested soon after North Little Rock bank robbery

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — North Little Rock police say a suspect in a bank robbery was arrested shortly after the robbery.

Sgt. Brian Dedrick says the Bank of England on Highway 165 in North Little Rock was robbed shortly after 10 a.m. Tuesday by a man who said he had weapon and demanded money.

Dedrick said the man fled in a vehicle with an undisclosed amount of money.

The suspect was arrested after the vehicle was spotted and stopped a short time later along Interstate 30 in southwest Little Rock by Little Rock police, Pulaski County deputies and Arkansas State Police.

No injuries are reported.

Wednesday November 9, 2016

ELECTION-ARKANSAS-NEWS GUIDE

Trump, Boozman victories underscore Arkansas GOP gains

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas has underscored its position as a deeply red state as voters delivered its six electoral votes to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, but at the same time handed medical marijuana advocates their first Bible Belt victory by legalizing the drug for some patients.

Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton Tuesday in a state where she served as first lady for 12 years while her husband was the governor. The once reliably blue state has turned red in recent years, and Republicans now control all of Arkansas’ statewide and federal offices, as well as a majority of seats in both chambers of the Legislature.

Republican Sen. John Boozman also defeated his Democratic challenger, while Republicans held on to their four House seats and expanded their majorities in the state Legislature.

ELECTION-ARKANSAS-MEDICAL MARIJUANA

Arkansas brings medical pot to Bible Belt, but fights remain

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas voters have handed marijuana advocates a significant victory by making the state the first in the Bible Belt to legalize the drug for medical use, and groups on both sides of the issue are now gearing up for fights over how to set up the program in the coming months.

The medical marijuana proposal was narrowly approved Tuesday despite opposition of several powerful industry groups and the state’s Republican governor, who once served as head of the Drug Enforcement Administration. The move came four years after a similar measure failed at the ballot box.

Opponents vowed to keep pushing for legislation or regulations to limit the measure, even as the state faces a June 2017 deadline to start taking applications for dispensaries that will sell the drug.

ELECTION-ARKANSAS-THE LATEST

The Latest: Arkansas brings medical marijuana to Bible Belt

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas has become the first state in the Bible Belt to legalize medical marijuana.

With their approval of Issue 6 on Tuesday, voters will allow patients with a variety of medical conditions and a doctor’s permission to buy marijuana from dispensaries. Patients won’t be allowed to grow their own.

Some political leaders said they preferred that Arkansas legislators instead allow a version of the drug that is low in THC, which gives marijuana its high.

More than half of the states have now legalized medical marijuana.

A separate marijuana question had been approved but Arkansas’ Supreme Court last month directed that votes not be counted. Justices said the petition lacked enough valid signatures.

ARKANSAS-NATIONAL ANTHEM

Arkansas players face backlash after kneeling during anthem

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — The University of Arkansas and six women’s basketball players have been criticized after they kneeled during the national anthem before an exhibition game.

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long has said the university is backing the players who kneeled on Nov. 3 in protest of police killing of blacks and other minorities.

Women’s basketball coach Jimmy Dykes says he spoke with the players about their plans ahead of time, and offered his support for their right to express their feelings.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Republican state Sen. Alan Clark, Rep. Kim Hammer and Rep. Laurie Rushing suggested they would either decline to increase the university’s budget or cut it.

The university’s athletic department says its athletic program is self-sustaining and doesn’t receive money from the state general fund.

INFANT KILLED

Truck crashes into Arkansas bedroom, kills 1-year-old boy

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas State Police say a 1-year-old boy was killed when a pickup truck crashed into the bedroom where he was sleeping in a crib.

A state police report says the driver of the pickup was southbound on Highway 367 just south of Little Rock Monday afternoon when the truck went off the roadway and into a yard, then struck several trees.

The report says the pickup then crashed into the bedroom of a home where the boy was sleeping and struck the crib.

The driver of the truck was hospitalized in undisclosed condition. The child’s name was not released.

The report says the weather was clear and the road was dry at the time of the crash.

CHILD ABUSE-FAKED REPORTS

Arkansas abuse investigator accused of falsifying reports

(Information from: Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.nwaonline.com)

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) — A former civilian investigator with the Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children Division has been accused of fabricating reports in 43 cases in Benton and Washington counties.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that a woman was arrested Oct. 27 in connection with tampering with a public record and has been released. The woman hasn’t been charged.

Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler says a division supervisor conducting a random audit in January questioned the integrity of the woman’s investigative reports. Washington County prosecutor Matt Durrett says it doesn’t appear that any children were left in danger or removed from a home based on the reports.

The state Department of Human Services conducted an internal review of the woman’s cases and found no indication of falsified reports or children being left in risk of harm.

The woman is to be arraigned Dec. 5.

Tuesday November 8, 2016

EARTHQUAKE-OKLAHOMA-THE LATEST

The Latest: Regulators plan to shut down wells in quake area

CUSHING, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma regulators say they will shut down some disposal wells and reduce volume in others after a magnitude 5.0 earthquake struck near Cushing on Sunday night.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s Oil and Gas Division said Monday that more than 700 square miles are included in the new area, but specific details wouldn’t be released until Tuesday.

Wastewater from oil and gas production is injected into the disposal wells. Scientists have linked the practice to the increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma in recent years.

An official said Monday that 40 to 50 buildings sustained “substantial damage” in Sunday’s quake.

Normal operations also resumed Monday at the Cushing oil storage terminal, one of the world’s key oil hubs.

Monday November 7, 2016

EARTHQUAKE-OKLAHOMA-THE LATEST

The Latest: Oklahoma officials clear senior home after quake

CUSHING, Okla. (AP) — Emergency officials in Cushing, Oklahoma, have evacuated an assisted living center catering to the elderly after a magnitude 5.0 earthquake struck the city.

Assistant City Manager Jeremy Frazier said that while damage was reported at the Cimarron Tower after Sunday night’s quake, no injuries were reported among the home’s residents.

It wasn’t immediately known how many people lived at the building in downtown Cushing. Tulsa television station KOTV said some of those taken from the home were moved to the Cushing Youth Center.

Frazier said the temblor caused the most damage in and around Cushing’s century-old downtown. A number of brick facades had collapsed, and window panes in several buildings shattered. Frazier said city leaders could do a better assessment after sun-up.

Concerns were raised, too, about possible damage in a crude oil tank farm near the city that holds 58.5 million barrels, but there were no immediate reports of trouble.

Friday November 4, 2016

HUGHES MAYOR-RECALL

Judge orders no votes be counted in Hughes mayor recall

(Information from: Times-Herald, http://www.thnews.com/)

HUGHES, Ark. (AP) — A circuit judge has ordered that election officials not count votes in a ballot measure seeking the recall of the Hughes mayor.

Circuit Judge Kathleen Bell ruled Tuesday that the petition to put the recall on the ballot was not certified in a timely manner. According to the Times-Herald newspaper , the petition to recall Mayor Grady Collum was submitted Aug. 10 and certified on Aug. 22.

In September, Collum sued, citing a state law that says recall petitions must be filed between 91 and 105 days before the general election. The petition to recall Collum was filed 90 days before the election.

Bell’s judgment notes that the measure was not certified within a 10-day window as required under election law.

Thursday November 3, 2016

GUARDS INDICTED

3 prison guards indicted, accused of beating cuffed inmate

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Three former guards at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola have been indicted for beating a handcuffed and shackled inmate and conspiring to cover it up.

According to Wednesday’s indictment, former Maj. Daniel Davis, of Loranger; John Sanders and James Savoy, both former captains and both of Marksville, beat an inmate then created a false story to hide the alleged misconduct.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release to corroborate their stories the men instructed subordinates to clean the inmate’s blood before investigators could document it, falsified reports, ordered subordinates to lie to investigators and they lied under oath in a civil proceeding arising from the incident.

A fourth former officer, Capt. Scotty Kennedy, of Beebe, Arkansas, pleaded guilty Tuesday for his role in the incident.

 

SCHOOL FUNDING-ARKANSAS

Arkansas Senate panel approves schools budget report

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Senate Education Committee has approved a report recommending how to spend more than $3 billion on public schools.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that legislators voted Tuesday. The recommendation calls for raising public school funding by $45.6 million in fiscal 2018 and by the same amount again in fiscal 2019.

It also includes a provision for schools to increase minimum teacher salaries by $400 in each of those fiscal years to $31,800.

The House Education Committee is also required by law to approve a report, but has not yet done so. That committee is scheduled to meet Nov. 21, and will have the option to confirm the Senate’s vote.
ARKANSAS REVENUE

Report: Arkansas revenue rebounds in October

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas finance officials say a boost in corporate and individual income tax collections helped the state’s revenue rebound in October after three months of losses this fiscal year.

The Department of Finance and Administration said Wednesday the state’s net available revenue in October totaled $439.1 million, which was $33.2 million above the same month last year and $8.9 million above forecast. The state’s revenue so for the fiscal year that began July 1 totaled $1.7 billion, which is $23.2 million below forecast.

DFA said corporate income tax collections last month were $17.9 million above forecast and individual income tax collections were $2.1 million above forecast. Sales tax collections were $3.7 million below forecast.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson next week plans to announce his budget proposal for the next fiscal year.

Wednesday November 2, 2016

OFFICER INJURED-ARKANSAS

Officer injured attempting to prevent theft of patrol car

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A North Little Rock police officer has been injured while attempting to stop a man from stealing a patrol car.

Police say the officer was trying to apprehend a suspect who was allegedly harassing children at a bus stop Tuesday morning. The suspect climbed onto the roof of a storage building near the officer’s patrol car, jumped off and got behind the wheel of the cruiser.

Police said the officer grabbed onto the passenger side door to stop the suspect. Police say the officer was then dragged about 40 to 50 yards before the cruiser crashed into a house.

The officer was thrown into a fence and injured his head and hip.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that a police spokesman said the officer’s injuries don’t appear to be life-threatening.

BANK FRAUD-ACQUITTAL

Ex-executives found not guilty in Arkansas bank fraud case

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Two former executives have been found not guilty in Little Rock of federal bank fraud charges related to a 2007 loan.

Arkansas Business reports that former One Bank & Trust executives Michael Heald and Bradley Paul were found not guilty on Monday.

Heald had been charged with conspiracy, money laundering and two counts of aiding and abetting false entries. Paul faced the same charges plus an additional charge of abetting false entry.

The charges were in connection to a $1.5 million loan that another banker facilitated to Alberto Solaroli, a Canadian resident of Florida. Authorities say Solaroli misrepresented his net worth and never made a payment on the loan. He pleaded guilty to money laundering and received a one-year prison sentence.

Tuesday November 1, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is proposing a $10 million increase for higher education funding in 2018 if lawmakers support a plan to tie money for college and university money to factors such as degree completion. The Republican governor on Monday proposed increasing higher education funding in the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2018 if the Legislature approves the new funding model.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas officials have set plans for highway construction in Garland County to catch up with the county’s population growth. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that bids for a project to widen U.S. 70 from Interstate 30 in Saline County to Hot Springs in Garland County are expected to open in December. The project, which will widen a mostly two-lane road into a five-lane thoroughfare, covers 19 miles and is projected to be completed by 2019.

Monday October 31, 2016

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) — Six of eight school districts in Craighead County saw an increase in the percentage of students who fall below the federal poverty line since 2012. The 2015 figures by the Every Student Succeeds Act District Reports show that all but three districts _ Brookland, Westside and Valley View _ reported above a 60 percent poverty rate.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas fraternity chapter has been suspended and one of its members expelled after a photo surfaced of the fraternity member wearing apparent blackface. The Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity suspended its chapter at the University of Central Arkansas on Saturday after learning about the photo. The photo comes two days after Sigma Tau Gamma sent an email to all fraternity members nationwide, reminding them not to wear offensive costumes while celebrating Halloween.

Friday October 28, 2016

DHS VENDOR-BRIBERY

Arkansas health firms owner sentenced to 7 years for bribery

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The owner of two Arkansas mental health companies has been sentenced to seven years in prison for bribing a top official at the state’s Human Services Department.

Prosecutors say Ted Suhl of Warm Springs was sentenced Thursday after being convicted in July of honest services wire fraud, interstate travel in aid of bribery and bribery involving federal program funds.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Givens says Suhl is to report to prison Jan. 3.

Suhl was accused of paying thousands of dollars to a former DHS deputy director in exchange for helping Suhl’s companies, which received more than $90 million in Medicaid funds.

An attorney for Suhl did not immediately return a phone call for comment, however a document filed in the case Thursday says Suhl intends to appeal the convictions.

DEEP SOUTH DROUGHT

Deep South drought kills crops, threatens herds, dries lakes

ATLANTA (AP) — Six months into a drought across much of the South, the weather is killing crops, threatening cattle and sinking lakes to their lowest levels in years.

The very worst conditions are in the mountains of northern Alabama and Georgia. But it’s spread downhill and across 13 southern states, from Oklahoma and Texas to Florida and Virginia, putting about 33 million people in drought conditions, according to Thursday’s U.S. Drought Monitor.

It’s also causing wildfires, charring more than 12,000 acres in Alabama in the last 30 days.

The South has historically enjoyed abundant water, which has been fortunate, because much of its soil is poor at holding onto it.

But the region’s booming growth has strained this resource and the drought is making it worse.

ARKANSAS GOVERNOR’S MANSION-RATS

Work continues on Arkansas Governor’s Mansion repairs

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Work continues at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion to rectify several issues, including the lingering smell of rats in Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s private office.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion Commission met Wednesday to discuss the state of the building. First lady Susan Hutchinson told commissioners that while in the process of taking out walls in the private, wiring issues were discovered. Workers are now checking for wiring deficiencies in the rest of the main building.

Other maintenance problems include a leaky roof and a seal on a pump connected to a boiler that broke, spilling water and damaging flooring in the Grand Hall.

The mansion has received a $1.1 million grant from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council to increase privacy and repair parts of the mansion and surrounding buildings.

Thursday October 27, 2016

ARKANSAS-JUVENILE LIFE SENTENCE

Man convicted of Arkansas murder as juvenile to be released

(Information from: Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.nwaonline.com)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — A judge has ordered the release of a 59-year-old man convicted of a killing that occurred in Arkansas more than 40 years ago.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Dennis Lewis of Wichita, Kansas, was 17 years old when Jared Cobb was fatally shot during a robbery at a Springdale pawn shop in April 1974.

Lewis was convicted of capital murder and assault with the intent to rob in the case, and he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Recent state and federal appeals court rulings have said mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles are cruel and unusual punishment and therefore unconstitutional.

A judge signed an order Tuesday that Lewis’ sentence be vacated and that he be immediately discharged.

 

AP-US-DOG-TUXEDO-FRAUD-ARREST

Document: Dog tuxedo bought with Arkansas county credit card

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — A former county employee in Arkansas has been arrested after prosecutors accused her of using a county credit card to buy personal items including Arkansas Razorbacks tickets and a tuxedo for her dog.

The Sentinel-Record newspaper reports that Kristi Goss was arrested Tuesday on six counts of fraudulent use of a credit card. Goss had worked as administrative assistant for the Garland County judge’s office.

According to an affidavit, investigators and auditors flagged about $200,000 in purchases made on the county’s credit card, including a diamond bracelet, Razorbacks tickets, pet insurance and the dog tuxedo, which was ordered from Amazon.

Court records do not list an attorney for Goss. Prosecutors have filed a request for a gag order preventing any comment on the case.

Wednesday October 26, 2016

EARLY VOTING-ARKANSAS

More than 70K people have early voted in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — More than 70,000 voters have cast a ballot early for the general election in Arkansas.

Secretary of State Mark Martin’s office said 22,806 people cast a ballot by late Tuesday afternoon, the second day of early voting in the state for the Nov. 8 election. Martin’s office has predicted that potentially 70 percent of the state’s 1.7 million registered voters will cast a ballot in the general election.

Arkansas has mostly been overlooked in the increasingly bitter presidential race.

The state’s ballot will feature Republican Sen. John Boozman’s re-election bid against Democratic challenger Conner Eldridge. The ballot will also include competing proposals to legalize medical marijuana, though a lawsuit attempting to block votes from being counted for one of the measures is pending before the state Supreme Court.

SENATE-ARKANSAS-ADS

Boozman, Eldridge launch new ads as Senate race nears end

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Republican Sen. John Boozman’s campaign is spending nearly half a million dollars on a new television ad portraying himself as someone who puts Arkansas first as he enters the final two weeks of the campaign for his re-election. His Democratic challenger has also launched a spot touting his work prosecuting a county judge for corruption.

Boozman’s campaign said it’s spending more than $469,000 to air the 30-second spot statewide, the fifth in his general election campaign. Eldridge’s campaign didn’t say how much it was spending, but Federal Communications Commission records show it’s bought at least $95,000 worth of airtime starting this week.

Eldridge has trailed Boozman in fundraising and faces an uphill challenge unseating him in Arkansas, where Republicans hold all statewide and federal offices.

Tuesday October 25, 2016

CIGARETTES-CANCER DEATHS

One-fourth of US cancer deaths linked with 1 thing: smoking

CHICAGO (AP) — New research shows cigarettes contribute to more than 1 in 4 cancer deaths in the U.S. The rate is highest among men in southern states where smoking is more common and tobacco control policies are less strict.

The American Cancer Society study found the highest rate among men in Arkansas, where 40 percent of cancer deaths were linked to cigarette smoking. Kentucky had the highest rate among women — 29 percent.

The lowest rates were in Utah, where 22 percent of cancer deaths in men and 11 percent in women were linked with smoking.

The researchers analyzed 2014 health surveys and government data. They estimated how many cancer deaths were likely attributable to smoking, and compared that with deaths from all cancers.

SENATE-ARKANSAS

Eldridge says threat case undermines Boozman’s criticism

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Democratic Senate hopeful Conner Eldridge is touting his work prosecuting a man who threatened Sen. John Boozman, saying it undercuts the Republican lawmaker’s criticism of his role as an Obama-appointed U.S. attorney in Arkansas.

Eldridge on Monday cited his office’s work prosecuting the case against Larry Joe Nixon, who was sentenced to two years in prison last year for making profanity-laced threats in phone calls to Boozman’s Washington office. Eldridge said his work on the case shows how “ridiculous” Boozman’s repeated criticism of him as an appointee of President Barack Obama is.

Eldridge faces an uphill challenge unseating Boozman, who launched statewide ads last week portraying the former prosecutor as a gift to the state from President Barack Obama. Boozman’s campaign defended his ad, saying it was based on facts.

Monday October 24, 2016

EARLY VOTING-ARKANSAS

Early voting begins for Arkansas general election

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Early voting is beginning for Arkansas’ general election, though the fate of a medical marijuana proposal being challenged before the state’s highest court still remains unclear.

Voters can cast ballots early starting Monday for the Nov. 8 election, which includes the presidential election and U.S. Senate race between Republican Sen. John Boozman and Democratic challenger Conner Eldridge. The secretary of state’s office is estimating potentially 70 percent of Arkansas’ 1.7 million voters will cast a ballot in the election.

The ballot will include two competing medical marijuana measures, though the state Supreme Court is considering a lawsuit challenging one. If the measure is disqualified, election officials will be ordered to not count any votes cast for it.

CLEBURNE COUNTY STANDOFF

Hot Springs man arrested after overnight police standoff

DRASCO, Ark. (AP) — A Hot Springs man has been arrested after an overnight standoff with Arkansas State Police in Cleburne County.

State police say in a news release that 39-year-old Donavan Adams was arrested about 5:30 a.m. Sunday after a SWAT team fired tear gas into the home where Adams had held troopers at bay for about 7½ hours.

Police say the incident began about 9:45 p.m. when Adams ran from a traffic stop along Highway 92 near the community of Drasco and pointed a gun at a trooper, who fired his weapon but did not hit Adams.

Police say Adams then entered the home and refused to leave until the tear gas was used. He was arrested for aggravated assault.

Police did not say whether there was anyone else inside the home.

 

Friday October 21, 2016

ARKANSAS-CHINA

Chinese manufacturer to open $20 million factory in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says a Chinese manufacturer that makes apparel under the Adidas, Reebok and Armani brands will open a factory in Arkansas, creating 400 jobs.

Hutchinson said Thursday that the state has signed a memorandum of understanding with Suzhou Tianyuan Garments Company. The governor is on a trade mission in China and he spoke to reporters via Skype.

Hutchinson says the manufacturer will invest $20 million in its Arkansas location, which will most likely be in Little Rock. He says the jobs will pay an average wage of $14 per hour.

The state’s deal with the company calls for a $1 million infrastructure assistance grant, $500,000 for training and an estimated $1.6 million in rebates based on the company’s annual payroll.

 

SOBRIETY CHECKPOINT-ARKANSAS

Arkansas court reverses DWI conviction over checkpoint

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Supreme Court has overturned a man’s driving while intoxicated conviction, agreeing with the state Court of Appeals that it resulted from an unconstitutional sobriety checkpoint.

Justices on Thursday reversed Jeremy Whalen’s 2014 conviction that followed his arrest at an Arkansas State Police checkpoint in 2012. Justices ruled that the state failed to show there was a pre-existing plan for the checkpoint and that officers had unfettered discretion to establish and conduct the checkpoint.

The attorney general’s office asked justices to review the Appeal Court’s December ruling striking down Whalen’s conviction, saying the decision would set a precedent for law enforcement agencies to deal with more red tape in setting up sobriety checkpoints

 

Thursday October 20, 2016

CHRONIC WASTING DISEASE-ARKANSAS TESTING

Chronic Wasting samples sought from Arkansas deer hunters

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas hunters are being asked to provide samples of their harvested deer for testing for chronic wasting disease.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will set up stations on the opening weekend of modern gun season at 25 sites in the 10 counties that make up the chronic wasting disease management zone. They are Boone, Carroll, Johnson, Logan, Madison, Marion, Newton, Pope, Searcy and Yell counties.

The stations will be open Nov. 12-13 and hunters are asked to voluntarily provide samples of deer.

Deer program coordinator Cory Gray said the goal is to collect 300 samples in each county.

Chronic wasting is a neurological disease that affects animals such as deer, elk and moose and was first confirmed in Arkansas on Feb. 23 in an elk in Newton County.

AP-US-ARKANSAS-EXECUTIONS

Inmates ask high court to review Arkansas execution ruling

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Nine Arkansas death row inmates are asking the nation’s highest court to review a decision upholding the state’s lethal injection law, saying not taking up the case would lead to a wave of “intolerably painful” executions.

The inmates on Wednesday filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court asking justices to review the state Supreme Court’s split June decision that upheld the law, which keeps the source of the state’s lethal injection drugs secret. The Arkansas court stayed its mandate while the inmates asked the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in.

The inmates argue the law puts them at risk of being subjected to unconstitutional cruel or unusual punishment.

Arkansas has not executed an inmate since 2005 because of legal challenges and the difficulty of obtaining execution drugs.

 

Wednesday October 19, 2016

ARKANSAS CASINOS

Arkansas casino campaign asks court to reconsider ruling

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The group behind a proposal disqualified from the November ballot that would have legalized casinos in three Arkansas counties is asking the state Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling against the measure.

Arkansas Wins in 2016 on Tuesday filed a petition for rehearing over the court’s decision to disqualify the proposed constitutional amendment, which would have allowed casinos in Boone, Miller and Washington counties. The high court ruled that the ballot title did not inform Arkansas voters that the measure would violate a federal law prohibiting sports gambling in the state.

Arkansas Wins said in Tuesday’s the potential conflict was not an essential fact that needed to be disclosed since sports gambling is not essential to the proposed amendment.

 

OIL LEAK-ARKANSAS

Landowners, Exxon Mobil attorneys spar in appeals court

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Attorneys for landowners along a crude oil pipeline that ruptured in Arkansas in 2013 say Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co. breached its contract because the pipeline interferes with their ability to enjoy their property.

The landowners are asking the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate their case, after it was dismissed last year. Oral arguments will be held Wednesday in Minnesota.

The 850-mile-long Pegasus Pipeline runs through Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois and Texas. It ruptured in March 2013, about 25 miles northwest of Little Rock, Arkansas.

In their lawsuit, landowners demanded the pipeline be replaced, fixed or removed. But a judge sided with Exxon and dismissed the case, saying easement contracts between Exxon Mobil and property owners don’t require the company to maintain the pipeline.

 

Tuesday October 18, 2016

SOUTHERN ARKANSAS UNIVERSITY-ENROLLMENT

Arkansas school needs more dorms for increasing enrollment

(Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

MAGNOLIA, Ark. (AP) — Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia is looking to build more on-campus housing for the second consecutive year due to increasing enrollment.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that the university has had enrollment spurts with two double-digit increases in the past two years. The school says there were more than 4,700 students this August.

The university completed two new dorms this year, but will need more. One of the new halls filled up when classes started in August and about 100 students had to be housed in hotels until the second residence hall was ready. Those students moved in last week.

Last week, trustees gave the university approval to issue $8 million in bonds for two more residence halls.

Officials hope to have both halls completed by August 2017.

 

POLICE-BOY SHOT-ARKANSAS

Arkansas officer fatally shoots armed 17-year-old boy

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An officer has fatally shot an armed 17-year-old boy after police say the teenager pointed a handgun at the officer after a family disturbance.

The Benton Police Department says the boy was reported to be in possession of a handgun when officers responded to the disturbance late Monday morning.

Police say the boy fled into a nearby wooded area and refused commands by the officer to put down the weapon. Police said the officer shot the teenager after the boy pointed the weapon at the officer. The teenager was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police did not release the name of the officer, who has been placed on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated.

Benton is about 25 miles southwest of Little Rock.

 

Monday October 17, 2016

ESCAPEE RECAPTURED

Man who escaped Arkansas jail has been recaptured in Texas

McGEHEE, Ark. (AP) — Police in McGehee say an escape from the city jail has been recaptured in Texas.

Police Chief Jim White told reporters that authorities acting on a tip found and arrested 40-year-old Jeremy Lynn Barnett on Friday in Sulphur Springs, Texas.

Barnett was being held at the McGehee Criminal Justice Facility on a parole violation and was awaiting bed space at Arkansas Department of Correction.

Police say he escaped Oct. 8 through a small hole in the recreation yard fence while the on-duty jail officer was distracted.

 

HOUSING DIRECTOR CHARGED

Helena Housing Authority director faces federal theft charge

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The executive director of the Helena Housing Authority has been charged with three felony counts of theft.

The U.S. attorney says 58-year-old Lionell Moss was arrested Friday on two counts of theft from a program receiving federal funds and one count of theft of government money or property.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports Moss pleaded not guilty to the charges during a brief court appearance Friday afternoon.

Prosecutors say Moss submitted fraudulent reimbursement requests for sick leave and annual leave and that he used the housing authority’s credit cards for personal expenses. Prosecutors say he illegally received nearly $58,000 between October 2011 and January 2015.

Moss faces up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $750,000 if convicted on all three counts

Friday October 14, 2016

ARKANSAS CASINOS-THE LATEST

The Latest: Group says Arkansas casino ruling is a message

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Opponents of a casino legalization proposal disqualified by the Arkansas Supreme Court say the ruling sends a message to companies who want to write special rights for themselves into the state constitution. Casino supporters say the decision will prevent voters from taking up a proposal that would create thousands of new jobs.

Chuck Lange, the chairman of Protect Arkansas Values/Stop Casinos Now, said he was pleased that justices agreed Thursday with his group’s argument that the proposed constitutional amendment was misleading to voters. Lange’s group was funded by a Hot Springs horse track and a West Memphis dog track that offer video poker and other forms of electronic gambling.

Robert Coon, a spokesman for Arkansas Wins in 2016, said he was disappointed in the decision and that it would deny Arkansans the chance to vote on a proposal that he projected would create $122 million in additional annual tax revenue for the state.

 

COURT-MEDICAL LAWSUITS

Arkansas justices say voters won’t consider liability limits

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas’ Supreme Court says voters cannot consider whether to impose award limits in medical liability cases because the language to be placed on the ballot doesn’t fully describe what the proposal would do.

A unanimous court Thursday directed that no votes be counted on the proposal, which would have allowed legislators to cap non-economic damages against health care providers for medical injuries at a minimum of $250,000.

Two lawsuits were filed against the proposal. Justices ruled in both of them Thursday.

Supporters of the proposal had argued that the limits were needed to control health care costs.

The measure had been placed on the ballot by petition. A special master appointed by the court raised questions about the signature-gathering process, but justices said the term “non-economic damages” was not clear.

 

Thursday October 13, 2016

GARLAND COUNTY GUNS

Garland County to allow its employees carry concealed guns

(Information from: The Sentinel-Record, http://www.hotsr.com)

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — The Garland County Quorum Court has voted in favor of allowing county employees with concealed carry permits to bring firearms to work.

The Sentinel-Record reports the Quorum Court repeatedly deflected motions to give the plan more consideration before voting 9-3 in favor of it Monday night. Justices of the Peace Denise Marion, Dave Reagan and Ellen Varhalla voted against the ordinance.

Arkansas county government code requires an ordinance to be read on three separate days before it’s adopted unless two-thirds of the quorum court agrees to suspend the rule.

Marion presented two motions to stop it from being read a second and third time, and Reagan presented a motion to table the ordinance. All three motions failed.

Marion and Reagan challenged the majority’s stance that the ordinance is about safety.

 

ARKANSAS CASINOS

Arkansas casino supporters, opponents air $2M in TV ads

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Supporters and opponents of an effort to legalize casinos in three Arkansas counties have spent more than $2 million to air television ads on the issue ahead of the November election.

Data released Thursday by the Center for Public Integrity show more than 2,333 ads have aired over the proposed amendment to legalize casinos in Boone, Miller and Washington counties.

Protect Arkansas Values/Stop Casinos Now, the group opposed to the measure, has spent more than $1.2 million on ads. Arkansas Wins in 2016, the pro-casinos group, has spent more than $1 million.

The figures don’t include ads that aired on cable television, radio or online. The figures exceed the nearly $1.3 million that was spent earlier this year on a pair of state Supreme Court races.

 

Wednesday October 12, 2016

BRIDGE IMPLOSION FAILS

Crews pull down old Arkansas bridge after implosion fails

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — It turns out a 93-year-old bridge deemed structurally deficient wasn’t so weak after all.

Despite triggering explosives to bring down the Broadway Bridge between Little Rock and North Little Rock on Tuesday, a demolition crew needed five hours to fell the structure. Severing the steel arch and bridge deck should have taken about 30 seconds.

Arkansas highway department spokesman Danny Straessle says the blasts weakened the span, but parts of the bridge fell against themselves and none fell into the Arkansas River. Ultimately, crews attached a cable to the bridge and pulled it down.

Three other implosions are planned during a six-month project to bring down the old bridge and put up a new one.

Workers have until Wednesday to remove steel from the water so barge traffic can resume.

 

MUMPS OUTBREAK-ARKANSAS

Mumps cases increase to nearly 500 in northwest Arkansas

SPRINGDALE, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Department of Health says nearly 500 cases of mumps have been reported in northwest Arkansas, and the number is continuing to grow.

The department says 492 people have confirmed or suspected cases of the virus.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Dirk Haselow says the disease is being spread among children at schools, and the state is “very concerned” by the growing number of new cases. The state says cases have been reported in the Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville and Huntsville school districts.

A clinic offering the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is planned for Thursday at the Jones Center in Springdale.

Mumps is a viral infection that causes swelling in the salivary glands and cheeks. Those with the illness may also have headaches, fatigue, muscle aches and low-grade fevers.

 

Tuesday October 11, 2016

ARKANSAS EXECUTIONS-ALTERNATIVES

Lawmakers told to not look for new Arkansas execution method

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas attorney general’s office is warning legislators not to explore alternative execution methods after the state’s lethal injection protocol and execution secrecy law were found constitutional by Arkansas’ high court.

The House Judiciary Committee considered Monday whether to approve a study on hypoxia— replacing the oxygen in a person’s lungs with an inert gas like nitrogen— as a back-up method for executions. But the committee decided not to vote after a representative from the attorney general’s office advised members to “let sleeping dogs lie.”

Cory Cox, the attorney general’s legislative director, says the office doesn’t understand looking for alternatives after the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the execution secrecy law and three-drug protocol in June.
Supporters say drug supplies are drying up and new methods should be looked at.

 

ARKANSAS EXECUTIONS

US court says Arkansas inmates can’t have more appeal time on death row

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A U.S. Supreme Court justice has denied a request for more time made by attorneys for nine Arkansas death row inmates challenging the state Supreme Court’s June ruling that upheld the state’s execution secrecy law and three-drug protocol.

Associate Justice Samuel Alito denied the request for more time to file a petition at the federal high court Monday. A reason for the denial was not immediately given, but the petition will be due Oct. 19.

Lawyers for the inmates, eight of whom had been scheduled for Arkansas’ first executions in a decade, asked for a 30-day extension.
The Arkansas attorney general’s office argued in a filing last week that the extension was a means to delay executions long enough for one of the state’s lethal drugs to expire in January.

Monday October 10, 2016

SHOOTING BY POLICE-BENTON

BENTON, Ark. (AP) — Police in Benton say a man was critically wounded when he was shot by an officer after threatening the officer with a gun.

Police say the officer had first responded to reports of a man screaming in the northeast part of the city about 10:25 p.m. Saturday. The officer found a man and woman arguing and separated them.

Police say about 30 minutes later, the officer again encountered the man involved in the argument and the man then threated the officer with a handgun. The officer then shot the man and he was flown to a Little Rock hospital in critical condition.

Police say the man’s handgun was found at the scene.
No names have been released. The officer was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into the shooting.

 

Friday October 7, 2016

COLLEGE ENROLLMENT- ARKANSAS

College enrollment decreases in in Arkansas

(Information from Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – Preliminary data shows the number of students at universities and colleges in Arkansas has dropped nearly 5 percent since fall 2012, partially due to fewer students enrolling at the state’s two-year colleges.

According to the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, nearly 167,000 students were enrolled at state institutions this fall. In 2012, more than 170,000 students were enrolled.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that decreasing enrollment in state colleges and universities is a nationwide trend.

Tom Harnisch, director of state relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, says enrollment has slowly but steadily fallen since the end of the recession, mostly for economic reasons.

Officials are also shifting their focus from enrollment numbers to graduation rates.

 

Thursday October 6, 2016

MEDICAID EXPANSION-RISING COSTS

Rising cost of Medicaid expansion is unnerving some states

ATLANTA (AP) — The cost of expanding Medicaid under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul is rising faster than expected in many states. Far more people than projected are signing up under the new, more relaxed eligibility requirements.
And that’s creating budget anxieties and political misgivings.
At least three of the expansion states have asked the federal government for permission to require Medicaid recipients to pay more toward their health insurance.
The soaring tab for the state-federal program could also harden opposition to expansion in the 19 states that have yet to sign up.

 

FOOD PROGRAM FRAUD

Texas man pleads guilty to food program fraud in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A Texas man has pleaded guilty to defrauding a federal food program in Arkansas out of nearly $700,000.

Court records show 35-year-old Waymon Weeams Jr. of the Dallas area entered the plea Tuesday as part of a plea agreement in which he admitted to conspiring with the husband of an Arkansas Department of Human Services employee to defraud a program to feed children in low-income areas of Arkansas during the school year.
The indictment says the DHS employee approved sponsors of the feeding program and that Weeams paid her husband a portion of the funds he received.
Prosecutors said Weeams claimed to have fed as many as 872 children per day in Forrest City, Marianna and Wynne, but that just 10 to 50 were actually fed.

Tuesday October 4, 2016

OIL PRODUCERS-GOVERNORS

Arkansas, Oklahoma governors discuss wind energy project

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson agree that energy policy needs to be included in the national political debate.

But they disagree on a controversial transmission line project that would move wind energy from the Oklahoma panhandle to western Tennessee.

Fallin is the 2016 chairman of the Interstate Oil Gas Compact Commission. Hutchinson will become chairman next year. Both governors spoke Monday at the group’s annual conference.

Fallin says she supports the Plains & Eastern Clean Line transmission project designed to move up to 4,000 megawatts of wind energy.

Arkansas’ congressional delegation is against the project because its members say Arkansans will not receive much power or benefit from the transmission line.

Hutchinson says the project is a federal regulatory issue and declined to take a position.

ARKANSAS CASINOS

Report: Arkansas casino measure should not be on ballot

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A “special master” appointed by the Arkansas Supreme Court to review a ballot proposal to legalize casinos in three counties says Secretary of State Mark Martin was wrong when he certified a signature petition seeking the election and placed it on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Last month, Martin’s office said supporters of the proposed constitutional amendment had turned in enough signatures from registered voters to qualify for the ballot.

But in a report filed Monday, special master John Jennings says many signatures could be invalidated and there are problems with how some canvassers were identified.

The proposal would legalize casinos in Boone, Miller and Washington counties.

Robert Coon, a spokesman for proposal supporter Arkansas Wins, says the report is a recommendation and he believes Jennings “overstepped his bounds.”

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This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the secretary of state’s first name.

ARKANSAS FATALITY

Bentonville resident killed, child injured in car crash

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas State Police say a 25-year-old Bentonville woman has been killed in a car crash.

A preliminary crash summary says Erica Cheyenne Ensley was killed early Monday in Garland County. A child passenger was injured.

Police say Ensley was traveling west on U.S. 270 around 1:40 a.m. when her vehicle ran off the road and struck a tree.

Ensley was pronounced dead at the scene.

OFFICER STRUCK

Arkansas officer struck by vehicle during traffic stop

HUMPHREY, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas State Police say a police officer was struck and injured during a traffic stop in eastern Arkansas.

State police say Sgt. Seneca Thornton had stopped a vehicle on U.S. 79 near Humphrey on Monday morning when he was struck by another vehicle driving south.

State police say Thornton is a police officer with the Stuttgart Police Department but was working part-time for the city of Humphrey at the time of the crash.

Both Thornton and the driver of the vehicle that struck him were injured and were taken to hospitals. A state police investigation is underway.

MANUFACTURERS-EXPANSION

2 companies in Little Rock announce $6.4 million expansion

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Two manufacturers in Little Rock have announced plans for a $6.4 million expansion that will create 43 new jobs.

G.C. Evans Sales and Manufacturing and Sleeve Seal announced the expansion Monday. The two companies are now based in a facility on south Woodrow Street but will move all operations to a site in south Little Rock as part of the expansion.

G.C. Evans makes packaging and processing equipment for the food, bottling and pharmaceutical industries, while Sleeve Seal supplies high-speed labeling equipment and shrink labels for the packaging industry.

The companies say the expansion will allow them to incorporate two new printing lines, which should lead to faster turn-around times for customers.

EMERALD ASH BORER

Arkansas officials expand emerald ash borer quarantine

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas agriculture officials are expanding a quarantine in hopes of stopping the spread of an invasive beetle that feeds on and kills ash trees.

The Arkansas State Plant Board announced Monday that it’s adding eight more counties to its quarantine involving the emerald ash borer. In September 2014, the state implemented an emergency quarantine in a 25-county area in southern and central Arkansas that banned the movement of ash items including nursery stock and firewood in an effort to prevent the spread of the beetle.

But this summer, the insect was discovered in Randolph County, and officials say it likely made it into the county from Missouri.

The new counties added to the quarantine are: Clay, Fulton, Greene, Lawrence, Perry, Pulaski, Sharp and Randolph.

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