Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday summary

Lawmakers will gather today to rewrite a number of General Improvement Fund bills vetoed by the governor. The 86th. General Assembly should finally adjourn Tuesday.

The opposing sides in the fight to make animal cruelty a felony figure to take up two years from now where they left off during the recent regular session, which produced no new penalties for brutalizing dogs, cats and horses. Sen. Sue Madison, whose bill to make extreme cruelty to those animals a first-time felony died in the House late in the session, says she plans to introduce similar legislation early in the 2009 General Assembly.

TIF districts, a mechanism used to finance infrastructure improvements associated with Jonesboro’s Mall at Turtle Creek may have been used improperly. Local officials are attempting to determine the impact of a decision Thursday by the Arkansas Supreme Court in a case originating out of Fayetteville.

Congressman Marion Berry is promising to fight FEMA’s new push to tighten regulations on levees. The Jonesboro Sun reports that Craighead County may spend up to $2 million to fix levees on the St. Francis River FEMA has tagged as unacceptable.

The Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct reprimanded attorney Jimmie L. Wilson of Phillips County. Wilson was awarded and paid more than $636,000 in attorney fees in the Lake View school funding lawsuit, even as he indicated he was appealing the Pulaski County Circuit Court’s division of the fees among him and other attorneys involved in the case

The agency that helps needy central Arkansas residents pay their heating bills has run out of money even earlier than usual. The Central Arkansas Development Council, which serves 12 counties, receives money each year from the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program received about $2 million for this year, down about $300,000 from last year.

The Arkansas attorney general concludes in an advisory opinion that most of the information sought by The Associated Press on state employees in the state’s computerized accounting system should be released under the state’s public-records law. The custodian is required to redact the birth dates from the records before their release under recent case law.

The Arkansas Supreme Court says a state police trooper accused of groping a suspect should be immune from a lawsuit because there wasn't enough evidence to show he broke the law. The court also found that the trooper should be shielded from such a suit because the alleged incident happened on the job, and state employees can't be sued in that capacity.

Arkansas’ public colleges and universities struggle to keep students, according to the Arkansas Department of Higher Education’s annual report on student retention and graduation. Statewide, 68.6 percent of first-time, full-time freshmen enrolled in the state’s universities in 2000 returned for their sophomore year. Only 46.3 percent of those students went on to earn degrees by 2006, the report said.

Nine top-level administrators in the Little Rock School District were delivered letters at their homes Friday night from School Board President Katherine Mitchell saying their jobs may change in light of efforts to fire Superintendent Roy Brooks. State law requires notification before May 1 of contracts that will not be renewed in the next school year.

Channel 4 KARK TV is reporting that Little Rock school board member Michael Daugherty claims to have briefly spoken with board president Katherine Mitchell about notices sent to nine top administrators. Arkansas Times blog reports that this may constitute a private meeting, which would violate the state Freedom of Information Act and invalidate the notices.

An apparent feud between Stamps Police Chief Robert Drake and Lafayette County Sheriff Victor C. Rose resulted in Drake being fired by the Stamps mayor.

Funding for the Louisiana portion of a proposed interstate running to Kansas City, Mo., through Arkansas will be provided during Louisiana’s forthcoming legislative session, an advocate for the interstate says. The Louisiana Legislature will fund all the money needed to match the more than $200 million already federally earmarked for the proposal. Construction of the Arkansas section is estimated to coast $1.8 billion.

At No. 8, in Saturday’s NFL draft, Arkansas defensive end Jamaal Anderson went to Atlanta, which went to the Super Bowl in 1999 with a running back named Jamal Anderson.

Entergy Arkansas’ top official said Friday that pay incentives for executives and key employees are a prominent reason why its 680,000 customers have seen improved electricity service since the mid-1990 s.

One hundred and six people have applied to succeed Tracy Steele as the executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, state records show.

The first "State of the City" address by Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola will be held Tuesday at noon, in Curran Hall in Little Rock. It is free and open to the public.

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