Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Wednesday summary

Bush administration e-mail exchanges reveal plans to bypass the Senate confirmation process to install a new U.S. attorney in Arkansas, and Democrats ratcheted up pressure on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for his handling of a spate of prosecutor firings last year. A Dec. 19 e-mail by Gonzales' chief of staff called the appointment of Tim Griffin as prosecutor in Little Rock a "test drive" of new Justice Department authority to name interim U.S. attorneys for indefinite terms.

The Senate Committee on Insurance and Commerce voted 6 – 1 to kill meaningful regulation of the payday lending industry, which charges up to 3,000% interest for consumer loans.

Members of a state House committee balked at the idea of giving law enforcement officials the right to pull over motorists for not wearing their seat belts.

The Arkansas Senate approved a bill to ban homosexuals from fostering or adopting children, rejecting the arguments of those who said homosexuals pose no greater danger to children than the rest of the population.

The House Committee on Revenue and Taxation rejected the latest bill among several attempting to amend mineral rights laws. Sponsored by Rep. Betty Pickett of Conway, House Bill 1697 sought to make it possible for surface property owners to regain severed mineral rights dormant for at least 20 years.

A bill that would allow small wineries to sell their products in grocery and other retail stores advanced through a Senate committee despite concerns of the state liquor regulation chief that it would give children easier access to wine.

The state’s steadily growing early childhood education program is listed among the top in the nation. But a new report by the National Institute of Early Education Research also criticizes the state for allowing some teachers without a baccalaureate degree to teach state-funded pre-kindergarten classes.

The Pulaski County Special School District’s 7-year-old policy requiring middle school pupils to wear uniforms to class is under review for possible elimination.

It is likely police will ask for more charges against a foster parent accused of sexually assaulting a foster child in his care, Bella Vista Police Officer Mark Kugler tells the Morning News of Northwest Arkansas. Brian Bergthold was arrested March 7 on charges he sexually assaulted a foster child and videotaped him in sex acts. Bergthold was released Monday afternoon after posting a $50,000 bond.

A Saline County judge sentenced Craig DePriest to eight years in prison Tuesday for failure to pay over $30,000 in child support.

A Greene County Circuit Court jury convicted Fred Scott of first-degree murder in the death of his 7-week-old son. The six-man, six-woman jury took about two hours to find Scott guilty of killing Rylan Scott and then deliberated another 20 minutes before recommending a sentence of 20 years.

Two former drug dealers testified about missing money and missing drugs after their involvement with Jay Campbell as drug informants for the Lonoke Police Department. The statements came during the seventh day of testimony in a trial for Campbell; his wife, Kelly Campbell; and Bobby Junior Cox, a bail bondsman. The three are accused of conspiring as part of a criminal organization seeking drugs, sex and money.

Russellville police caught an alleged drug dealer with his pants down. During a routine check of the North 40 Club parking lot, Officer Gary Collins noticed a maroon Chevrolet Corvette with a man inside in the driver’s seat who appeared to be resting with his head tilted back. The suspect is identified as Daniel Dunlap of London.

Former Chicago Bulls player Scottie Pippen was stopped for speeding on a central Arkansas interstate Tuesday, and a cousin of the ex-NBA player was charged with marijuana possession.

While budgets for both the adult jail and the juvenile detention center sailed through the Jefferson County Quorum Court, a proposal that would require inmates to pay the cost of keeping them locked up failed to win approval.

The Roland Police Department has been banned from patrolling Interstate 40 following a review by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety that concluded there is “no legitimate reason” for local officers to be there. Kera Philippi, spokeswoman for the public safety department, said the area of I-40 was not deemed a speed trap. Rather, she said, there was just no evidence the Police Department needed to patrol there.

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