Monday, August 20, 2007

Monday summary

For many Arkansans, today is the beginning of the school year. It is against the law to pass a stopped school bus. Drivers are required by law to report offenders to the superintendent within two hours.

Changing a law regarding the age of consent to marry would have to be done in a special session called by the governor or during the next legislative session in 2009, legislators said Friday. The Legislative Council voted to ask the Arkansas Code Revision Commission to reverse the clarification it made to the law last month, saying the change it made went too far and changed the meaning of the legislation.

The former executive director of the state Board of Architects, John Harris of Little Rock, has been fined $2,500 and issued a public letter of reprimand by the Arkansas Ethics Commission. Two state audits found that Harris collected about $210,000 in improper travel reimbursements from 1995-2006 and that he reimbursed about $105,000 of that to the board. The audits have been turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Seven months into Gov. Mike Beebe's term, the state's Washington office remains vacant, with legislative leaders saying they would leave it to the governor to decide when or if the office should reopen. The state pays about $3,000 a month rent for the five-room suite of offices on Capitol Hill. The lease runs through next year.

For the second time in less than three years, an elected Jefferson County circuit clerk has resigned her position amid allegations of mismanagement of county funds. Annette Branch, who took office Jan. 1, submitted her resignation, effective at 5 p.m. Friday. A state police investigation is underway.

A group of Little Rock School District residents challenging the constitutionality of the School Board’s plan to buy out Superintendent Roy Brooks for half a million dollars or more have taken their case to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

A judge has dismissed an amended suit over the University of Arkansas’ handling of a harassing e-mail to a former freshman quarterback.

Arkansas’ unemployment rate rose half a percentage point to 5.5 percent in July, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.

Profits from Richard Branson's travel related companies could soon go towards the development of Arkansas' alternative fuels industry. Craig Sieben, president of Chicago-based Sieben Energy Associates says that Gov. Mike Beebe has applied for funding from Branson, who announced last September that he would invest an estimated $3 billion over the next nine years to fight global warming.

A potential landfill expansion in southwest Little Rock faces rejection from a newly empowered mayor and some of his city board colleagues if the issue reaches City Hall. The publicly stated opposition by Mayor Mark Stodola and other members of the Little Rock Board of Directors signals a likely defeat of BFI Waste Services’ plans to boost its Mabelvale Pike operation.

In a brief e-mail to Conway Mayor Tab Townsell, the FAA says that it has approved the city’s land-use plan for the proposed airport site in the less-populated Lollie Bottoms area just southwest of town and near the Arkansas River.

When given the opportunity to tell the Arkansas Board of Parole why he deserved to live, death-row inmate Terrick Terrell Nooner talked about why he wanted to die. Nooner was convicted of capital murder in 1993 for the slaying of Scot Stobaugh, 22, a college student who was shot seven times in the back at a 24-hour laundry in Little Rock. Nooner is scheduled to be executed Sept. 18.

The state wants murderer Shirley Marie Curry's inheritance, and has sued Curry to get the money to pay for her room and board, medical care and other costs of keeping her in custody. Curry, convicted Oct. 16, 1979, of two counts of murder in Washington County inherited $58,666 from an estate. The cash is in her prison account. She is serving a life without parole.

A 15-year-old boy was shot and killed by a Pine Bluff pawnshop owner who said the teenager tried to break into his business. Taron Hopkins was found about 11:30 p.m., facedown beside a small pile of dirt inside a fenced-in area connected to Chuck Smith’s Pawn Shop. Smith, the store’s owner, told police he shot the teenager with a .38-caliber revolver as the boy and others tried to break into the store. Smith says he was in bed in his apartment at the time.

On Friday, three days after his 18th birthday, a Pope County man pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder of his girlfriend’s 17-month-old daughter. Originally scheduled to stand trial Sept. 11, Harvey Lee Epperson was sentenced to serve 35 years in the Arkansas Department of Correction in connection with the death of the baby, who died of multiple blunt-force trauma. He will be eligible for parold at age 42.

A man accused of shooting and paralyzing a 19-year-old man he found hiding in his daughter's bedroom is now charged with first-degree battery and a terroristic act. George David Reed was arrested July 31 and is free on a $150,000 bond.

The Mansfield School District’s transportation director has been removed from a Department of Human Services child maltreatment directory after he was mistakenly placed on the list. Transportation Director Larry Wagoner and Mansfield High School Principal Tina Smith were targeted in a second investigation conducted by the Division of Child and Family Services regarding the alleged mishandling of information about sex abuse by a male student on a district bus.

Former Razorbacks quarterback Clint Stoerner is returning to football in Arkansas by way of Tampa, Fla. Stoerner, along with former Hogs J.J. Jones, Chrys Chukwuma and Anthony Brown, signed contracts with Arkansas’ unnamed All American Football League franchise Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.

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