Thursday, January 12, 2006

First thing Thursday

Arkansas is in the midst of a public health emergency. Governor Mike Huckabee says the state will pay the costs of providing prescription drugs for those who lost coverage when Medicare started covering prescriptions at the start of the year. He said “the elderly and the most frail” in the state cannot afford to wait for the federal government to untangle what he described as “glitches” in the new Medicare drug program. Huckabee called it “life-and-death issue,”

A new study from the University of Arkansas suggests that, across the state, school children may be performing slightly higher than the national average. The authors also say that there is too much emphasis on spending adequacy and consolidation.

Lawmakers in the Mississippi House passed landmark legislation Wednesday that would eventually eliminate state sales taxes on groceries while raising taxes on cigarettes.

Local officials continue to be stunned by notices directing them to refund sales tax overpayments which total over $4.2 million statewide. The Southwest Times Record reports that Fort Smith must make the biggest repayment, $204,101, while Sebastian County has to repay $129,232, according to DF&A records. Washington County and Fayetteville are second and third on the payback list with tabs of $186,174 and $172,408, respectively.

The Northwest Arkansas Council says that building the Bella Vista Bypass is the region’s top highway priority. Both Senators and Congressman Boozman yesterday went on a two hour bus tour of roads in the area hosted by the Council.

According to national homeless advocacy groups, Little Rock is the third “meanest” city in America.

Bass Pro Shops has reached an agreement in principle to convert Memphis’ Pyramid into an outdoors mega-store. This agreement doesn't guarantee the store will become reality, but is a step toward a formal development agreement.

Arkansas Athletic Director Frank Broyles will undergo right hip replacement surgery on Feb. 3 in Little Rock

Four counties confirm a total of 10 flu cases, two of which are children.

Sparks Regional Medical Center in Fort Smith will have a $40 million expansion. The Planning Commission has approved the plans.

Tests have confirmed that debris from an old gymnasium the city of Monticello burned in November contains asbestos. The city failed to obtain an asbestos inspection or notify the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality prior to burning the building.

Two Springdale men are dead after falling 123 feet from a bridge on Interstate 540, between Winslow and West Fork, according to an Arkansas State Police report. It is unclear whether they were struck by a car before falling off the bridge, and police are investigating.

The number of reported crimes in Rogers in eight key categories increased by 13 percent last year over 2004, fueled by big jumps in robberies, burglaries and car thefts.

Forrest City police are still trying to figure out why a man put three dogs inside his vehicle and then shot at them, fatally wounding one, during an incident Tuesday afternoon on Church Street. Ebony Roberts is charged with cruelty to animals and discharging a firearm in the city.

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