An Arkansas legislative panel has advanced the funding bill for the state's compromise Medicaid expansion.

The Joint Budget Committee on Thursday recommended passing the measure, which would keep the state's "private option" alive for another year.

Under the private option, Arkansas is using federal Medicaid money to purchase private insurance for thousands of low-income residents. The private option was approved as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law.

U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin says he's running for Arkansas lieutenant governor, jumping into state politics just a few months after announcing his retirement from Congress.

Griffin announced Thursday that he would seek the Republican Party's nomination. He announced in October that he wouldn't seek a third term in Congress, saying he wanted to spend more time at home with his family.

Griffin is the third Republican running for lieutenant governor. State Reps. Debra Hobbs and Andy Mayberry are seeking the GOP nomination.

The Arkansas attorney general's office is warning consumers about a phone scam that's geared to get people to make calls that result in exorbitant charges.

The office said Wednesday that the scam works by an automatic dialer ringing consumers' phones, with the hope that they'll be curious enough to dial the number from the missed call. Returning the call can result in high fees, as when calling a 900 number.

Preliminary necropsy results show that a giraffe that died at the Little Rock Zoo last year aspirated to death after it was attacked by another giraffe.

Zoo officials say 13-year-old Jigsaw died from aspiration pneumonia - or an inflammation of the lungs caused by inhaling and then choking on fluids or food.

Jigsaw died Dec. 29 after getting into a fight with another giraffe, an 8-year-old named Mesi. The zoo says Mesi broke through a large metal dividing gate and sparred with Jigsaw until the older giraffe fell.

Chris Hickey / KUAR News

On Wednesday Arkansas Lawmakers were presented with the first concrete proposals seeking to alter the "private option," the state's unique approach to expanding health coverage for thousands of low-income people using federal Medicaid money.


Pulaski County Judge Wendell Griffen

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen is asking Gov. Mike Beebe to oppose a recent decision by the Arkansas Board of Corrections to spend millions of dollars to plan for construction of a new prison. The 1,000 bed state prison itself is estimated to cost up to $85 million to build.

In a letter to the governor Wednesday, Judge Griffen blamed “misguided” policies of the war on drugs for leading to the imprisonment of people who are not a threat to society.

Arkansas lawmakers are moving forward with an effort to save a compromise Medicaid expansion by barring the state from promoting the expanded coverage or the federal health overhaul.

The proposal endorsed by a legislative subcommittee Wednesday is aimed at swaying opponents of the private option that was approved last year as an alternative to expanding Medicaid.

Under the private option, Arkansas is using federal Medicaid funds to purchase private insurance for thousands of low income residents.

Crews have removed the body of an Arkansas Forestry Commission pilot from a crash site in Montgomery County.

12 days after disappearing during a wildfire patrol, the remains of pilot Jake Harrell were being taken back home to North Little Rock on Wednesday.

Harrell missed a check-in on Jan. 31 while flying over western Arkansas. An emergency beacon in his aircraft didn't work and searchers didn't spot the wreckage until Tuesday. Harrell was found dead at the scene.

The crash site was in remote and rugged wilderness and crews needed the extra day to remove the body.

A winter storm delivering a mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain to a large portion of the southeastern United States is causing delays and cancelations at the Clinton National Airport in Little Rock.

Shane Carter with the airport advises travelers to check with airlines before heading to the airport.

"The storm has had a crippling effect on air travel to and from the Southeast. Both Delta and U.S. Airways have canceled flights due to weather," says Carter.

A call center in Jonesboro is again closing its doors and laying off employees. StarTek said Tuesday that 125 people will lose their jobs as the facility shuts down completely on May 12.

Company marketing director Rosemary Hanratty says the Jonesboro call center performed well, but that StarTek decided to close it as part of a "strategic business decision."

StarTek previously ceased operations in northeast Arkansas in April 2012, but reopened several months later.