Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Wednesday Wake UP

At latest count, eight counties have dropped burn bans after recent rainfall, but most of Arkansas continues to be dangerously dry because of the continuing drought. Pulaski County will fine violators of the burn ban.

Governor Mike Huckabee says he favors a statewide ban on workplace smoking and merit pay for teachers. He had his first secret meeting with a panel of classroom teachers yesterday.

Smoking bans in Fayetteville and other Arkansas cities didn’t help the state avoid an F for smoke-free air on the American Lung Association’s state-by-state report card.

The Stephens Media Group reports that Several Arkansas religious leaders said Tuesday they feared Samuel Alito would tear the veil between church and state if confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Speaking from the same political pulpit, members of the Arkansas Interfaith Alliance announced their opposition to President Bush's nominee to the nation's highest court. They labeled Alito as a conservative activist who would chip away at privacy rights and would not respect the separation between church and state.

The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas follows up on yesterday’s report. Local government officials across the state said they were dumbfounded when letters from the state finance office arrived this week notifying them that they would have to refund some tax collections. The state Department of Finance and Administration sent letters to county judges, mayors and other city officials notifying them that they must repay $4.2 million in local sales and use taxes to an unnamed business that erroneously reported and overpaid local sale taxes between August 2001 and August 2004.

Bentonville government is moving forward on the new TIF district, which will take property tax revenue from local public schools to benefit real estate developers, for the central city area. According to the Morning News of Northwest Arkansas Wal-Mart's Home Office, the existing Benton County Fairgrounds, the square and the future Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art fall within the district.

Ed Kelly, superintendent of Little Rock public schools from 1982 to 1987, is dead after a fall in his Virginia home. Kelly came to Arkansas shortly after the Little Rock school board filed suit to consolidate schools in Pulaski County. Kelly led the Prince William County schools for 18 years and nearly doubled enrollment. He was 63.

The Southwest Times Record reports that A Fort Smith lawyer pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of patronizing a prostitute. Bruce H. Bethell, 56, entered an appearance as his own attorney, pleaded not guilty and waived his right to formal arraignment in Fort Smith District Court. The case is scheduled for trial March 28.

The countdown to the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament is on. Three years after setting attendance records in its Alltel Arena debut, the tournament will make its long-awaited return on March 2-5.

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