Friday, March 02, 2007

Friday early summary

Murphy Oil Corp.’s board of directors took “about 8 seconds” to approve the “El Dorado Promise” scholarship program, the company’s president and chief executive officer said Thursday. Claiborne Deming recalled that a board member even told him, “This is the easiest decision we made all day.”

Gov. Mike Beebe said he’s considering delaying a highway bond plan until the Legislature meets in 2009, but key lawmakers say that they don’t see reason to wait.

The Senate Education Committee endorsed two main education bills but not before pointed comments by its chairman, Sen. Jim Argue, D-Little Rock. Argue opposed language in one of the bills that said “enhanced” education funding isn’t guaranteed. “The Legislature is bound and determined not to do anything beyond the bare minimum toward adequacy [in education],” Argue said.

State Sen. Shawn Womack of Mountain Home, filed a bill Thursday that would allow financial penalties against payday lenders who permit “rollovers” of checks.

Legislation that grew out of an adult-abuse case in Benton County in which a 71-year-old woman died, has gained unanimous approval in the Arkansas Senate. Among other things, the bill extends the definition of those who are required to report abuse or neglect cases to include volunteers in organizations that visit the elderly in their homes, such as Meals on Wheels.

Competing bills filed this week would create the state’s first felony offense of animal cruelty, with a powerful farmers’ group favoring one bill and Humane Society officials endorsing the other.

Legislation aimed at making it more practical for local governments to join up and build their own toll roads won approval of the House Transportation Committee.

The number of charters the state Education Board could grant for open-enrollment charter schools would double under a bill endorsed by the House Education Committee.

A federal commission Thursday called for the National Guard Bureau to have a stronger voice in defense planning for domestic emergencies and recommended that governors have authority to use federal and state troops in local emergencies.

Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines ruled earlier this month that 1,200 homes owned, managed and being built by American Eagle Communities—a private company–on Little Rock Air Force Base are exempt from property taxes. Pulaski County Assessor Janet Troutman Ward is appealing Villines’ decision noting that as private property it was subject to property tax.

The feds apparently want more information from Rogers before the city is allowed to train and equip its police officers for immigration enforcement. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement responded last week to Rogers' request to participate in the program, questioning how the program will assist the city in complying with a 2003 racial profiling lawsuit settlement.

In opening arguments, Prosecuting Attorney Lona McCastlain told jurors that she would prove that former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell masterminded a criminal organization seeking sex, drugs and money, but a defense lawyer vowed to expose her case as “smoke without a fire.”

The Arkansas State Police bomb squad, federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) bomb technicians and Pope County Sheriff’s Office investigators are investigating a Monday night explosion of a car bomb in Atkins. A search warrant was obtained and executed at a “residence north of Atkins” in connection with the incident, but no arrests have been made.

A Central City firefighter was arrested for allegedly starting fires in an area of Barling near Fort Chaffee. Firefighters allegedly found Charles Colton Reames, a volunteer firefighter for the Central City Fire Department, in the area trying to start a second fire with one already burning. Reames was arrested on suspicion of reckless burning and first-degree criminal mischief.

JOKE OF THE DAY FROM BOB HOLT IN THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE: Arkansas offensive coordinator David Lee hasn’t spent much time looking at game tapes from the 2006 season. He’s been too busy putting together a new passing offense for the Razorbacks.

(Broadcast March 2, 2007)

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