Arkansas News of the Day

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Legislation detailing Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s $50 million tax cut plan calls for a task force looking at other tax code changes to issue its recommendations by September 2018.

The top Republicans in the House and Senate filed identical bills Wednesday outlining Hutchinson’s proposal to reduce income taxes for those making less than $21,000 a year. The Republican governor has called the proposal one of his top priorities this year. The tax cut would take effect in 2019.

The bills say a 16-member legislative task force Hutchinson has proposed to call for other tax cuts later would begin meeting within 30 days of the end of this year’s session. The legislation calls for the task force to issue a preliminary report by Dec. 1 and a final report in 2018.

ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE

Arkansas House OKs giving speaker panel appointment powers

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The majority-Republican Arkansas House has given the speaker expanded power to appoint committee members months after Democrats blocked the GOP from holding a majority on a panel that will take up tax cut proposals.

The House approved the move by a 75-23 vote on Wednesday as part of a package of rules changes that also would allow representatives to raise money during election-year legislative sessions that focus on the budget.

The change won’t affect the current makeup of House committees. The committees’ membership had previously been chosen by seniority.

Democrats in November secured a majority on the House Revenue and Taxation Committee despite Republicans expanding their legislative majorities. The Democrats now hold half the seats after one Democrat defected to the GOP.

ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE-MEDICAL MARIJUANA

Arkansas lawmakers endorse delay on medical pot launch

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas lawmakers have advanced a plan to delay the launch of the state’s medical marijuana program and a proposal removing a requirement that doctors recommending the drug say benefits outweigh its risk.

The House Rules Committee endorsed a bill Wednesday to give state agencies until early May rather than March to finalize rules for the medical pot program voters approved last year. The bill would also move the deadline for the state to accept dispensary and cultivation facility applications from June to July.

The panel also supported a measure that would remove a requirement that doctors recommending the drug for qualified patients certify that its benefits outweigh its risks.

Both measures passed on voice votes without dissent and are expected to go before the full House next week.

FATAL FIRE

Man found dead after early morning house fire in Warren

WARREN, Ark. (AP) — Authorities say a man was found dead following a house fire in Warren.

KATV reports that fire officials say the fire was reported about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday and the body of 45-year-old Gaylord Rhodes was found in the burned home.

Officials say the body was near the front door and it appears Rhodes was trying to escape.

A suspected cause of the fire has not been released.

ARKANSAS RIVER-BODY FOUND

Body found in Arkansas River in downtown Little Rock

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Authorities say a body found in the Arkansas River near the Interstate 30 bridge in downtown Little Rock has been identified through the use of fingerprints.

Pulaski County Sheriff’s Lt. Cody Burk said Wednesday that the body has been identified as 47-year-old Ronnie Tolbert of Little Rock. Burk says a person on a boat discovered the body about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, and crews pulled it from the river about an hour later.

Burk says a cause of death has not been determined.

ZOO-WOLF PUPS

Little Rock Zoo announces births of 3 maned wolf pups

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Little Rock Zoo has announced the births of three maned wolf pups.

The zoo said Wednesday that one male and two female pups were born Dec. 21 and now weigh about two pounds.

Carnivores curator Debbie Thompson at the zoo said it’ll be about six more weeks before the pups are placed on exhibit, but visitors may see them briefly as their mother moves them to a nearby hut, then later back to her den.

The pups currently are covered in black fur with white-tipped tails, but when adults they will have a red coat, tall erect ears, a pointed muzzle with white-tipped tails and long slender black legs.

The animals are native to South America.

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