Texting while driving, smoking target of ’10 laws

December 31, 2009 MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Texting while driving, smoking in public and cooking with artery-clogging trans fats will be that much harder under a bevy of state laws set to take effect around the country on Friday.Faced with huge budget shortfalls and little extra money to throw around, state lawmakers exercised their (inexpensive) power to clamp down on impolite, unhealthy and sometimes dangerous behaviors in 2009.Even toy guns were targeted.

Toy gun law, cigarette limit change Friday

December 31, 2009 LITTLE ROCK (AP) — The new year will bring new restrictions on the sale of toy guns in Arkansas, but two of the nation’s largest retailers say it’s a ban they’ve already been following.Starting Friday, a state law takes effect banning the sale of realistic-looking toy guns. Lawmakers earlier this year approved the restriction, which says that stores can only sell toy guns if they include an orange tip at the barrel or are colored differently than real firearms.

Volunteer Fire Department of the Year barely pauses for its 50th anniversary

December 31, 2009 CAVE CITY — Firefighters at Cave City are looking backward and forward — backward to commemorate the fire department’s founding 50 years ago, and forward to making its new mobile command center as good as it can be, as well as completing renovations to the old John’s Station building that will house new offices, work bays and a fitness training room.The department has been working so hard on the new projects it didn’t schedule an open house or other celebration upon reaching the 50-year mark.

Slides close ‘Pig Trail’

December 30, 2009 CASS (AP) — State highway officials say a stretch of an Arkansas highway popularly known as the “Pig Trail” has been closed temporarily because of slides and soil instability.A news release Tuesday from the state Highway and Transportation Department said repairs had already been under way on a stretch of the highway about 5 miles north of Cass where the pavement climbs a steep mountainside. But the damage caused by 2008 rains was aggravated by recent additional heavy rains, and the highway agency said.

Census may change mayoral terms

December 30, 2009 ROGERS (AP) — The term of Rogers’ mayor could be extended and more money could come into the city’s coffers after the 2010 census.If the city’s population is determined to be more than 50,000, which local officials expect, the term of the mayor will be lengthened from four years to six years. City aldermen also will serve four-year staggered terms under state law.The most recent federal census is used by the state to distribute funds and the calculation will be changed after the 2010 census figures are received.

Exposure, health linked to death

December 30, 2009 FAYETTEVILLE (AP) — Authorities say exposure to cold and other health issues likely led to the death of a homeless Fayetteville woman.Police found the body of 46-year-old Lina Waldrop on Saturday morning. Police Cpl. Rick Crisman says Waldrop had a history of heart disease and reportedly stayed overnight in a wooded area despite freezing temperatures.Crisman says it appears Waldrop and a man drank alcohol Friday night and passed out. Crisman says the man eventually left and didn’t return until the next day.

Inspection to close lane of I-440

December 30, 2009 LITTLE ROCK (AP) — Arkansas highway officials say motorists using westbound lanes of Interstate 440 in south Little Rock should be wary of a lane closure.The state Highway and Transportation Department said the outside lane of westbound I-440 would be closed today, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., between the Little Rock Airport and Interstate 30. A news release said the lane closure would allow workers to perform a routine inspection.

Ex-Clinton aide’s trial moved

December 30, 2009 STAR CITY (AP) — The trial of former Clinton aide Betsey Wright on a charge of trying to smuggle contraband into a prison has been moved from late January to late May because of a scheduling conflict.Wright was to be tried Jan. 26 in Lincoln County Circuit Court, but Judge Jodi Dennis agreed Tuesday to move the trial to May 25 because of a conflict involving her lawyer, Jeff Rosenzweig of Little Rock. Rosenzweig said a pre-trial hearing is scheduled for March 10 in Pine Bluff.

Kensett cop fired for lying

December 30, 2009 KENSETT (AP) — The Kensett police chief has fired an officer, saying she lied to her colleagues concerning the whereabouts of a person being sought for arrest.Police Chief Jim Dwyer says Sgt. Debra Bailey was fired Dec. 21. He cited her actions during an incident that occurred nine days earlier at a local restaurant.

Jonesboro eyes 20-year plan

December 30, 2009 JONESBORO (AP) — Jonesboro officials are working on developing a comprehensive 20-year plan for the northeast Arkansas town.Mayor Harold Perrin says the goal of the plan is to determine where Jonesboro will be as a city in 20 years. The plan is being developed by a 43-member commission that includes city employees, business leaders, professors, community leaders and four high school students.