Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wednesday summary

Gov. Mike Beebe has asked President Bush for $1.5 million in federal assistance for storm victims in Desha County, where a tornado wiped out dozens of homes and businesses during the weekend.

The National Weather Serivce is investigating the weekend tornadoes. At least a half-dozen twisters carved paths through seven counties in southeast Arkansas on Saturday afternoon, from Junction City near the Louisiana border to south of Tichnor in Arkansas County. The most crippling was rated an Enhanced Fujita 3 tornado, which twisted for at least 29 miles and unleashed most ofits fury in Dumas and nearby Back Gate.

Air quality concerns in Crittenden County deterred Toyota Motor Corp. from locating a $1.3 billion auto manufacturing plant in Marion, Gov. Mike Beebe said Tuesday. However, Toyota officials gave conflicting statements on whether environmental issues led the automaker to pass over the prime industrial site in eastern Arkansas.

Steadfast in opposition to the president's troop buildup in Iraq, Democrats on Tuesday said the move will unfairly burden National Guard troops in Arkansas. Sen. Mark Pryor questioned whether Arkansas Guard units have enough equipment to train on as members of the 39th Infantry Brigade plan for a possible redeployment to Iraq.

After a night in the Faulkner County jail, former U.S. Rep. Tommy F. Robinson and his attorney, former state Sen. Roy C. “Bill” Lewellen, “purged” themselves of civil contempt, if not criminal. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge James G. Mixon Mixon stated from the bench that the two men were in both civil and criminal contempt for violating the terms of a July restraining order, which had been issued after a scuffle that Robinsonand his sons had in a Brinkley barbecue restaurant with their estranged business partner Bill Thompson.

Entergy wants to defer payments of state-ordered refunds from a pair of recent rate increases until its lawsuit against Union Pacific Railroad concludes — something that may not happen until mid-2008.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sam A. Joyner has issued written opinions and orders preventing poultry company attorneys from deposing Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson.

Put a couple of toll booths on the missing Sherwood segment of the North Belt Freeway, and construction could begin almost immediately, according to Highway Commissioner Carl Rosenbaum, as reported in the North Pulaski County Leader. Rosenbaum says the final 12.7-mile, $276 million section could pay for itself with tollbooths where it intersects Hwy. 67/167 and also Hwy. 107.

The Senate passed legislation Tuesday that would provide funding for fast-growing school districts without penalizing districts with declining enrollment.

A bill to severely limit the interest rate on “payday loans,” which easily passed the House of Representatives earlier this month, has hit a roadblock in a Senate committee.

A Senate committee Tuesday advanced legislation to provide $20 million in incentives for production and distribution of biodiesel fuel in Arkansas but rejected a companion bill to force stations sell biodiesel.

A bill increasing the maximum penalty for certain violations of Arkansas' obscenity laws has received the endorsement of the House Judiciary Committee. Under House Bill 1569 by Rep. Shirley Walters of Greenwood, a defendant convicted of violating state obscenity laws could be fined up to $250,000 if the defendant derived pecuniary gain from the offense.

A top member of the House of Representatives wants to declare a particular way of spelling the name’s possessive form as the proper way to do it. It would be: “Arkansas’s.” House Majority Leader Rep. Steve Harrelson, D-Texarkana, said he filed House Concurrent Resolution 1016 on behalf of an old family friend who’s made a crusade of the issue.

Prosecutors announced Monday that they would waive the death penalty for three men charged with capital murder in the fatal shooting of two teenagers last year at North Little Rock’s McCain Mall.

Classes were disrupted earlier this week at Forrest City Junior High School due to a bomb threat, the third such incident this month. And as with the last round of false calls, the Forrest City Police Department has arrested a student of the school district.

Another group of medically-retired employees of the city of Benton is suing the mayor and the current City Council to regain medical benefits that were included in their contract with the city but eliminated in 2004.

The flurry of flower arrangements and buildup of balloons on Valentine's Day at Bentonville High School never will happen again. Superintendent Gary Compton informed the Bentonville School Board's Policy Committee at a Tuesday meeting that no deliveries to school will be allowed on special occasions.

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