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Arkansas

Arkansans on death row have filed a lawsuit arguing the state’s 10-day timetable to execute eight inmates, with a controversial drug, amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. The motion for a preliminary injunction, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, asks for a stay in executions until the lawsuit is resolved.

Arkansas House Minority Leader and State Rep. Michael John Gray, D-Augusta, was elected as the new chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas. He succeeds Vincent Insalaco, who steered the state’s Democrats for two election cycles.

“To the hundreds of Arkansas Democrats who gathered today to elect new leadership, I am humbled and overwhelmed to be the next chair of the Party. To all of the Democrats across our state, I look forward to serving all of you and fighting for a brighter future for all of our fellow Arkansans. To our new officers, congratulations and thank you to all who stepped up to run,” Gray said.

Next month the state of Arkansas will execute eight of its 33 inmates, in pairs over four evenings and by lethal injection.

For more than 18 years Damien Echols was one of those on death row. He knows all eight men and says Don W. Davis, scheduled to die April 17, "kept me alive." 

Here's his full Arkansas Public Media interview with reporter Ann Kenda in which he talks about the justice of capital punishment, life on death row, life after death row and his wife, Lorri, whom he married while on the block. 

Echols was reached at his home in New York. 

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas says despite proposed changes to the federal healthcare bill introduced by Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, he still cannot back the measure. He also doesn't think it will have the support needed to pass in the Senate.

In a statement Tuesday, the Republican said:

Despite the proposed amendments, I still cannot support the House health-care bill, nor would it pass the Senate. The amendments improve the Medicaid reforms in the original bill, but do little to address the core problem of Obamacare: rising premiums and deductibles, which are making insurance unaffordable for too many Arkansans. The House should continue its work on this bill. It’s more important to finally get health-care reform right than to get it fast.

Pixabay

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas' governor says he has signed legislation expanding the locations where concealed handguns are allowed in the state to include colleges, some bars, government buildings and even the state Capitol.

Wikipedia

After months of study, the Walnut Ridge Mayor says consolidating with Hoxie "MUST wait."

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Two northern Arkansas school boards have temporarily ceased prayer before meetings.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/2n3xYoE) reports Springdale and Harrison boards are researching the legality of the public prayers after receiving a letter from The Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, Wisconsin. The foundation monitors matters regarding separation of church and state.

The Melba Theater in Downtown Batesville, picture from Arkansas Parks and Tourism, credit Talk Business and Politics
Talk Business & Politics

Adam Curtwright’s first job was at the Melba Theater in downtown Batesville. In elementary school, he’d watched many movies on the theater’s lone screen. After he graduated from high school, Curtwright moved onto other jobs and ultimately became a banker.

But he yearned to return to the Melba, and when the building became available he, his wife, Mandy, and another couple, Joe and Janelle Shell, made a daring move.

City of Jonesboro

A second public meeting has been added for Jonesboro residents to discuss five potential pedestrian and bicycle trail projects for the city.

In addition to this week’s meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 23, a second meeting has be scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 3. Both meetings will be held in City Council chambers at the Municipal Center, 300 S. Church St.

Three of the projects will be selected for submission to the 2018 Transportation Alternative Program and Recreational Trails Program for funding through the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department.

Brandon Tabor, KASU News

The ASU Red Wolves have a new Men's Basketball head coach.

Updated at 2:10 p.m. ET Tuesday

With the stroke of a pen on Tuesday, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson separated a holiday that has for decades celebrated both Martin Luther King Jr. and Gen. Robert E. Lee in the state.

Under the bill that Hutchinson signed into law, King now has the third Monday of January entirely to himself, as dictated by federal law; Lee will now be commemorated in a state holiday on the second Saturday of October.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Supreme Court has rejected an effort to block the execution for one of eight inmates who are scheduled to be put to death next month.

Justices on Thursday denied a motion to recall the mandate in the case of convicted murderer Jason McGehee, who is scheduled to die by lethal injection on April 27. McGehee's attorney had asked justices to vacate his death sentence and send his case back to a lower court for resentencing, citing problems with the verdict forms in his resentencing.

Arkansas’s 91st General Assembly has hosted serious discussions on healthier eating (only) on food stamps and on Sharia Law, guns on college campuses and sanctuaries on those same campuses for undocumented immigrants. Less attention until late had been given to the roughly two dozen bills that seek to shape up — or water-down, depending on your bent — the state’s half-century old Freedom of Information Act.

They sit in rows, 150 closely shaven men in yellow uniforms and white identification badges, before opposing walls, in a cinder-block walled gymnasium.  

A selected group of four sit in plastic chairs forming a circle before their co-residents. Two stand up and shake hands, and the others say, “Squash it!” and clap.

These residents at Little Rock’s all-male Community Corrections Center have a daily ritual, a conflict resolution practice, meant to teach them interpersonal skills before they return to the real world.

Two joint resolutions sponsored by Arkansas Republican Senator Jason Rapert calling for a Convention of States to propose, under the power of Article V, amendments to the U.S. Constitution to redefine marriage as between one man and one woman and that life begins at conception-- effectively banning abortion--passed the Arkansas Senate, but failed in the House of Representatives late Tuesday.

In February, Senator Rapert, District 35, Conway made his case for social change to the Arkansas Senate.

“It’s kinda like sittin’ there and somebody’s attacking the house," he said. "They’re coming through the front door, and you got a shot gun over in the corner and you know you can use a shot gun to stop the aggressor. But you don’t go pick up the shotgun to stop the aggressor. Pick it up. Article 5. Pick it up. Propose an amendment. Pick it up. And stand up for what you believe in.”

A bill that expands where trained Arkansans can bring concealed firearms is now heading to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's desk after the Legislature gave its final approval on Wednesday.

Funding for the Delta Regional Authority would be eliminated under President Trump’s first budget request to Congress. The federal agency is set up to help encourage and coordinate economic development in eight states, including Arkansas, tied to the beleaguered Mississippi River Delta region.

Arkansas State Police

Arkansas State Police have activated a Silver Alert for a missing Woodruff County woman and local authorities are requesting help from the public.

The McCrory Police Department is looking for Merle Marie Miller.  The 83-year-old woman was reported missing from a nursing home around 7:30 Wednesday night.  According to the ASP, it is unclear if she walked off of the property or was picked up by someone possibly driving a blue Toyota Tundra.

A host of bills have been filed in the 91st General Assembly that direct Arkansas’s voter-approved medical marijuana program in small and moderate ways, but two senate bills would prohibit smoking, eating or drinking medical marijuana products. Monday, the smoking ban failed a Senate floor vote by 14 votes, 10-15, but it could come up again.

The Medical Marijuana Amendment, Issue 6 on the ballot Nov. 8, passed with better than 53% support.

Arkansas Public Media spoke to the amendment’s author Monday afternoon just before the Senate floor vote. Little Rock attorney David Couch specializes in nursing home litigation and regulation.

We began with the legislation banning smoking and ingesting marijuana, sponsored by Republicans Jason Rapert (Bigelow) and Gary Stubblefield (Branch) in the Senate, and House Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R-Elm Springs).

JONESBORO — Isaac White, a student at Arkansas State University, has been selected as a recipient of a Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) for 2017. He is the first online Master of Public Administration (MPA) student at Arkansas State to receive this honor.

Talk Business & Politics

Members of Arkansas’ Congressional delegation plan to send a letter to newly appointed U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry asking him to reverse the Obama Administration’s participation in the controversial Clean Line project through Arkansas.

Last May, sisters Anais, Elise and Emory Bowerman spent the night at a Girl Scout slumber camp in Lowell. The girls came home the next day covered with ticks. 

“One second my life was going great," says Anais, 11. "Then a tick bites me and it’s all ruined.”

Anais, a budding artist, says her hands started to shake. Her sisters Elise, 10, and Emory, 7, also started to feel ill.

“I threw up twice," Emory says. "I felt sluggish and my head was kind of dizzy.” 

Seventeen-year old Daniel Montgomery was born a girl but by age eleven knew he's a boy. He's always stood up for himself at school. He's bravely agreed to come forward to talk on the radio about what it's like growing up transgender in Fayetteville's public school system. But first, we discuss that pink tinge in his dyed blond hair?

“Oh that," he says. "That's way faded. I want to dye it half red, half blue but that’s so time consuming." 

Things are hectic for this high school senior with graduation on the horizon and getting ready for college. He wants to study art and German. He plans to teach high school someday. But right now he's being forced, he says, to reckon with the Trump administration's revoking of federal protections for transgender public school student school accommodations — for example bathroom and locker rooms. Montgomery, of course, prefers to use the boys restroom. And on rare occasion, he says, he's hassled. 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is asking the Trump Administration for approval to make changes to the Arkansas Works Medicaid expansion program. They include lowering the eligibility cap, which would reduce the number of beneficiaries by about 60,000 people, and adding a work requirement for recipients.

The Republican governor’s announcement came the same day that Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives released a long-awaited plan to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law. Whether that will get the needed support for passage isn’t known yet.

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