Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Wednesday morning summary

While the leadership of the Arkansas House remains adamant on leaving by March 30, the leader of the Senate has introduced a resolution to keep the session going one week longer.

A House committee rejected a bill requiring drivers hauling gravel, sand or rock on public roadways to place a tarp over their loads.

The Joint Budget Committee endorsed a recommended $456 million for academic facilities Tuesday and got its first glimpse at a list of local project funding bills totaling $2.7 billion.

Advocates for victims of domestic violence hope state lawmakers will set aside money for shelters and other programs this session, but opposition is building to a proposal to get some of that funding from higher taxes on liquor and wine.

The Arkansas Senate and House passed competing bills that would create Arkansas’ first felony offense of animal cruelty. The measures differ in the definition of the offense. The House bill is favored by the Farm Bureau and Poultry Federation.

A bill to tax users, possessors and traffickers of illegal substances, even if they were not convicted by a court, failed to get approval from the House Committee on Revenue and Taxation.

A House panel on Tuesday endorsed a bill to increase the fine for driving while intoxicated from $300 to $400 and to use the additional $100 to help fund community health centers.

Proponents of a proposed statewide beverage container deposit program told lawmakers the program would encourage recycling and reduce litter, but opponents said the program would place unfair burdens on the beverage industry and consumers. The House Rules Committee heard testimony but took no action on House Bill 2771 by Rep. Johnnie Roebuck of Arkadelphia.

Rep. Chris Thyer presented legislative colleagues with a list of their General Improvement Fund projects, some of which he views as “clearly constitutional,” some as probably unconstitutional, and some he’s not sure of.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Richard Taylor has ordered Jo-Ann Goldman, a Chapter 13 trustee in bankruptcy court in Arkansas, to be removed from her position in all cases in the state, a rare occurrence for the court. Taylor cited several reasons for Goldman’s removal, including making false testimony under oath, the improper distribution of settlement proceedings and her “pattern of elevating her personal self-interests above her duties as a trustee.”

Acxiom Corp. of Little Rock declines to say exactly how many Arkansas employees it has laid off in recent days, but a written statement suggests the company has been eliminating more positions than is typical.

Crawford County authorities said an inmate attempted to escape their custody after appearing in court Monday. As Eric Brian Brito of Van Buren was led outside in handcuffs, he made a dash for freedom, running toward the vehicle of 18-year-old Van Buren resident Joshua Ryder, who allegedly conspired in the escape attempt.

Authorities are searching for an inmate who walked away from work detail Tuesday, two months before his release date. Quindell Christopher, left his job cleaning up the grounds at the Mitchell Boys and Girls Club.

A woman is in the Benton County Jail after authorities said she threw her infant daughter and the baby hit a chair. Amanda Lea White is accused of throwing her 1-month-old baby six feet across a room.

Bryant High School’s assistant band director is facing = four counts of first-degree sexual assault after a parent called school officials with concerns about his relationship with a student. Joseph Bresnahan of Conway is accused of molesting a 15-year-old boy at his home over the past three months. First-degree sexual assault is a class A felony that carries a sentence of six to 30 years in prison.

A convicted sex offender was acquitted of rape after he tearfully testified that his accuser made the complaint after he refused her request to take photographs of her in her underwear. Frank Andre Williams of North Little Rock told jurors that he had been on parole about eight months when his 17-yearold neighbor reported to authorities that he had raped her at knife-point in 2006.

The Little Rock Board of Directors agreed Tuesday to borrow up to $5.9 million for a slate of city cars, building projects and computer software.

The city of White Hall has decided not to pursue a joint venture allowing the city’s proposed community center to be constructed along with Jefferson Regional Medical Center’s planned wellness center.

About 6,800 tickets go on sale today to the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament at Alltel Arena on March 21 and March 23, 2008.

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre in Little Rock plans to stage a production of The Full Monty beginning June 8 and continuing through July 1.

Northwest Arkansas' soon-to-be Double-A minor league baseball team, the Naturals, sold more than 500 season tickets during its first day of sales on Tuesday.

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