Pulaski County Judge Wendell Griffen
PBS

An Arkansas judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the state's lethal injection law, the latest setback for efforts to block the state's unprecedented plan to conduct four double executions over a 10-day period next month.

Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen granted the state's motion Tuesday to dismiss the lawsuit filed by eight inmates facing lethal injection next month. Griffen said he has no jurisdiction over the case after the state Supreme Court upheld the lethal injection law and protocol.

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas legislators Monday received an outline of the state’s general revenue budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year as the session began what is expected to be its final week.

The $5.5 billion general revenue budget does not differ significantly from the governor’s budget presented late in 2016.

The floor of the Arkansas Senate.
Arkansas.gov

An effort to continue the hybrid Arkansas Medicaid expansion another year has failed in the state Senate, days after Republican efforts to repeal and replace the federal health law that enabled the expanded coverage faltered in Congress.

The Senate voted 19-1 and later 20-1 in favor of the budget for the state's Medicaid program, including the hybrid expansion, short of the 27 votes needed to advance. More than 300,000 people are on the program, which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for low-income residents.

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.

Marissa Marisa Pavan Birth Certificate certificates same-sex marrriage
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A bill that would allow married gay couples in Arkansas to list both spouses' names on their children's birth certificates without a court order has failed to advance out of a Senate committee.

Democratic Sen. Joyce Elliott's bill failed to advance Monday from the Senate Judiciary Committee due to a lack of a second motion. The proposed measure would have changed the presumption of parentage under the state's artificial insemination and surrogacy laws.

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. 

House Minority Leader Michael John Gray
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

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.

Arkansas Nuclear One, a few miles northwest of Russellville, is among 61 commercial nuclear power facilities in the U.S. operating ninety-nine nuclear fission reactors. Constructed in the late 1970s and currently owned by Entergy, Arkansas Nuclear One operates two pressurized light water reactors with the capacity to generate 1,776 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 355,000 homes and businesses.

The reactors are cooled by water drawn from Lake Dardanelle. Thick white steam rising from the power plant's iconic six-story hyperbolic cement tower is visible for miles. Locals, Russellville Mayor Randy Horton says, divine weather conditions from the plume. 

“In the old days, we would drive to the base of the cooling towers and fish in the hot water discharge stream. It never was threatening, never been scary.”

A lawsuit contends Arkansas is violating the state’s open records law and its own execution policy by refusing to release documents proving they obtained lethal drugs from legitimate sources ahead of four double-executions set for next month.

Steven Shults says he can no longer receive product labels from the Arkansas Department of Correction. The agency used to release the material, but said it will no longer do so after The Associated Press used the label’s distinct typography to unmask the manufacturers in 2015.

Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he believes Congress will ultimately agree on a replacement for the federal health overhaul despite House Republicans failing to dismantle the law.

The Republican governor said Friday he has no doubt Congress will revisit the issue, but said he'll move forward with a plan for new limits on the hybrid Medicaid expansion Arkansas enacted under the law.

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