Gay legislators having impact in marriage debates

March 7, 2011 NEW YORK (AP) — Of America’s 7,382 state legislators, only 85 are openly gay or lesbian. They are, however, playing an outsized and often impassioned role when the agenda turns to recognizing same-sex couples with civil unions or full marriage rights.

Ex-UCA president pleads guilty to federal felonies

March 7, 2011 LITTLE ROCK (AP) — Former Arkansas Higher Education Department director Lu Hardin grimaced as he entered a federal courtroom in Little Rock today to plead guilty to federal charges. Hardin could be sentenced to 20 years in prison for his guilty pleas to money laundering and wire fraud for $200,000 in payments he received when he was president of the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.

Buffalo River office focuses on tourism

March 7, 2011 JASPER (AP) — A new chamber of commerce in northern Arkansas plans to focus on tourism around the Buffalo River.The Buffalo, stretching nearly 150 miles from its rise in Newton County to its confluence with the White River in Marion County, is one of the top tourist draws in the state, with more than 130 miles in the Buffalo National River managed by the National Park Service.Several members of the new Buffalo River Chamber of Commerce run lodges, cabins, restaurants, canoe-rental businesses and similar businesses aimed at tourists.

Woman pleads to killing man

March 7, 2011 JASPER (AP) — A Newton County woman has been sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in the 2009 shooting death of her boyfriend.The Harrison Daily Times reports that 36-year-old Kerry Breedlove was sentenced Friday after pleading guilty. The charge was reduced from first-degree murder in exchange for the plea.Breedlove was charged in the Dec. 7, 2009, shooting death of 39-year-old Shannon Price.

Group makes quilts for needy

March 7, 2011 Members of the Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meet from 10 a.m. to noon most Tuesdays to prepare quilts for needy individuals and organizations.The members make more than 100 quilts each year, with most of the sewing being done at home by individual members.Recipients of the quilts include White River Medical Center, the battered women’s shelter, nursing home residents and victims of natural disasters and burnouts.

Carbon monoxide kills 2

March 7, 2011 LITTLE ROCK (AP) — The Pulaski County coroner has identified a man and a woman found dead in their home from carbon monoxide poisoning.Coroner Garland Camper said 58-year-old Danny Jackson and 45-year-old Marilyn Hughes were found dead Friday morning at the home they shared. He said both appeared to have suffered from carbon-monoxide poisoning.Little Rock Fire Capt. Jason Weaver said the couple had been running a gasoline-powered generator inside their home to provide electricity for heating and lighting after the house sustained damage in a fire last Sunday.

Senate panel eyes sentencing bill

March 7, 2011 LITTLE ROCK (AP) — A bill to overhaul the state’s sentencing laws goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee today.The 167-page measure, supported by Gov. Mike Beebe, is an effort to rein in the state’s growing prison costs.A committee formed by Beebe last year to study the corrections system said that the growing prison population could cost the state an additional $1.1 billion over the next decade if left unchecked.

State workers earning $100+K up 9 percent

March 7, 2011 LITTLE ROCK (AP) — The number of Arkansas state government employees making $100,000 a year or more grew by nearly 9 percent in the past year, according to figures compiled by the state.The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Sunday that 2,032 state employees are making six-figure salaries, up by 164 from the previous year’s total of 1,868.But the 2,000-plus state employees getting paid $100,000 or more are a small proportion — 3.6 percent — of the 56,753 total of state workers.

Ledge update

March 7, 2011 LITTLE ROCK — The Legislature is passing new laws to prevent new forms of drug abuse.SB 423 prohibits the sale of a new synthetic drug that is marketed as bath salts. It is ingested or snorted by people who want to get high, and it often makes them erratic and suicidal.SB 386 codifies a ruling last year by the state Board of Health to prohibit the sale of synthetic marijuana, which was sold in convenience and tobacco stores under names like K-2 and Mojo. SB 386 gives the Board flexibility to regulate or prohibit any new synthetic drugs that come on the market.

Man gets 18 years for manslaughter

March 7, 2011 HOT SPRINGS (AP) — A Mena man has been sentenced to 18-years in prison for manslaughter in the September death of a Hot Springs man.The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that 29-year-old Michael Steven Castleberry was sentenced last week in Garland County District Court in Hot Springs. Castleberry pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of 25-year-old David Davidson of Hot Springs.