Friday, February 23, 2007

Beautiful Friday summary

Attorneys for school districts in the 14-year-old Lake View school-funding case said Thursday that they believe bills pending in the Legislature will resolve most, if not all, of the disputed issues in the Supreme Court case.

One plan to send state dollars to local projects collapsed in the state Senate in favor of a relatively new approach backed by the governor. In the House a brand-new idea emerged to allow local officials to pick projects to be funded.

A House committee endorsed legislation Thursday that could result in raising the speed limit to 65 mph on some highways. The House Public Transportation Committee also nixed a measure that would have required a person convicted of a third DWI offense to have a pink license plate on his or her vehicle.

The House Education Committee on Thursday recommended a bill that would raise the minimum age for students enrolling in kindergarten. Senate Bill 217 by Sen. Gene Jeffress of Louann would require a child to be at least 5 years old by Sept. 1, 2008, to enroll in kindergarten in the fall of 2008.

A bill requiring HIV testing for inmates leaving prison finally gained the approval of a House panel Thursday. Originally, Allen’s bill would have required inmates who test positive for those diseases and refuse treatment to remain behind bars. Allen removed that provision after Correction Department attorneys said it would expose the state to lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A lawsuit over whether teachers should be paid for time spent monitoring students outside the classroom is being tried in Crawford County Circuit Court. Judge Mike Medlock will preside over the case filed by former Coleman Junior High School civics teacher Steve Jones against the Van Buren School District. Jones is the father of former Arkansas Razorback quarterback Matt Jones.

A federal court trial challenging the uniform policies of the Watson Chapel School District that had been scheduled for May will be re-scheduled for later in the year.

Arkansas jurors can no longer ask questions of witnesses under a new rule adopted by the Arkansas Supreme Court. The opinion notes that permitting jurors to question witnesses “may cause delay, prejudice or error.”

The state Game and Fish Commission reviewed a package of proposed hunting regulations Thursday that includes a ban on computer-assisted hunting.

Brittney Sitzes of West Memphis, a high school sophomore, is dead from injuries received when her car collided with a police car speeding to the scene of a robbery Wednesday afternoon,

A 17-year-old boy is under attest in the Tuesday death of a 17-month-old child, according to the Pope County sheriff’s office. Deputies wouldn’t say when the teen was arrested or give his name. The identity of the child and the cause of death also were not released.

A police officer shot and killed a dog that firemen say was trying to attack them as they battled a blaze in a local trailer park early today. Officer Morris McNutt, with the Forrest City Police Department, reported he shot the pit bull at the request of firemen who said the dog repeatedly ran at them as they fought the fire at Southside Trailer Park.

Security at the Panama Canal shipyards is better than security at some border locations in America, and that is troubling to 1st District Rep. Marion Berry. Berry briefly spoke at an Identity Solutions Symposium at the Student Union Auditorium on the Arkansas State University campus Wednesday. The event continues today.

The driver's license will be replaced if the Real ID Act of 2005 becomes effective in 2008 as planned, according to Jeff Vining, vice president of research at the technology company known as Gartner. Vining, who works as a law enforcement and Homeland Security analyst, was a speaker at the Identity Solutions conference Wednesday at the Arkansas State University Student Union.

Estimated at $318 million in 1996, the cost of the Grand Prairie Irrigation Project has increased substantially because of construction cost inflation, lawmakers were told Thursday. The new estimated is about $418 million, said Eric Wailes with the University of Arkansas' Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness.

University of Arkansas Chancellor John White, prompted by what he called “rampant speculation” about Houston Nutt’s future, affirmed his commitment to the football coach.

Pine Bluff Mayor Carl Redus Jr. and a group of Jefferson County leaders met Thursday with Skip Rutherford, dean of the Clinton School for Public Service, to review participation of the school in “a community vision and strategic planning process.”

Former President Clinton, who came to the White House with modest means and left deeply in debt, has collected nearly $40 million in speaking fees over the past six years, according to interviews and financial disclosure statements filed by his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Linda Caillouet reports in the Democrat-Gazette that the Dennis Collins family of Murfreesboro received a well-known wake-up call Monday morning — from Ty Pennington of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

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