Local & Regional News

Arkansas local and regional news

Cody Hiland violent crime
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

A federal prosecutor says 49 people have been indicted on gang- and drug-related charges in a crackdown on gun violence in Arkansas' capital city.

U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland says law enforcement officers arrested 21 people in early-morning raids Thursday and another 14 were taken into custody last week. Five defendants are in state custody and nine are fugitives.

Leaders from Arkansas’s sizable rice industry are coming together to seek a compromise on the divisive issue of agricultural burning, which tends to inflame relations each fall between farmers who burn residue off their fields and people who say they’re creating a public health hazard that can be seen and smelled for miles.

That concern was one of the leading issues at the Arkansas Rice Federation's annual meeting this week in Jonesboro. Most farmers, according to Jeff Rutledge with the Arkansas Rice Council, want to be good neighbors.

“Our families are raised here, and we breathe this air, too,” he said.

Pulaski County Sheriff's Office

Crews in central Arkansas rescued 17 students after a school bus drove off the road and got stuck in floodwaters.

The Pulaski County Sheriff's Office says the bus became stuck Wednesday morning in a rural part of North Little Rock. No one was hurt.

Authorities say crews with the county's road and bridge department backed a truck up to the rear of the bus and rescued the students, eight at a time.

Flood warnings are in effect Wednesday across several states, from Texas to Ohio.

classroom desks
http://www.nctq.org

Arkansas lawmakers have advanced a proposal to allow taxpayers with tax-deductible 529 college savings plans to withdraw funds for tuition at public, private and religious K-12 schools.

A legislative subcommittee on Wednesday recommended including the change in a budget bill for the state treasurer's office. The proposal now heads to the Joint Budget Committee.

Ten Commandments
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A new Ten Commandments monument will likely be placed at the Arkansas State Capitol in April. It’s a replacement for one destroyed last June, less than 24 hours after it was unveiled, by a driver who intentionally crashed his car into it.

Chris Powell, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, says they’ve decided to wait until after the legislature wraps up the fiscal session, then a special session, so that the grounds won’t be as busy and heavy equipment can be brought in.

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Foundation has received its largest ever individual gift. The $1.8 million donation to the foundation’s endowment comes from the estate of Linda Garner Riggs, who passed away last November at age 70. 

Take a listen to the interview above with ASO CEO Christina Littlejohn about what the gift means for music in Arkansas.

A former Arkansas judge who admitted giving lighter sentences to men in return for sexual favors was investigated for similar crimes two decades ago but was never charged because he gave up his job as a deputy prosecutor.

Joseph Boeckmann later became a district judge, then preyed on men who appeared in his court for minor offenses. He pleaded guilty last year to wire fraud and witness tampering, and faces sentencing Wednesday.

The government says the FBI investigated Boeckmann more than 20 years ago but that no one raised a red flag when he later ran for the bench.

The Arkansas Repertory Theater / The Arkansas Repertory Theater

The Arkansas Repertory Theater, or The Rep as it’s known locally, promises a mix of classic and new productions in its upcoming season.

John Miller-Stephany, The Rep’s artistic director since 2016, said he prioritizes variety when choosing shows.

Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson told reporters Monday he will call lawmakers back to the State Capitol shortly after the ongoing fiscal session to pass legislation to address growing concerns on rising health costs associated with so-called PBMs, or pharmacy benefit managers.

Asa Hutchinson Jonathan Dismang Jeremy Gillam
Arkansas Times

Arkansas Legislative leaders are asking Gov. Asa Hutchinson to call a special session to pass legislation that would license and regulate pharmacy benefit managers through the Arkansas Insurance Department. The governor is to address the request during a 3 p.m. press conference Monday.

Identical letters to that effect were written Friday by Senate President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, and Speaker of the House Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia.

Pages