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An Arkansas judge has disqualified a ballot measure that would limit the damages awarded in civil lawsuits and would give the state Legislature control over court rules.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce on Thursday ruled that the proposal lawmakers put on the November ballot violates the state's constitution by combining disparate measures into one amendment. The proposed amendment caps noneconomic and punitive damages awarded in lawsuits and also places limits on attorneys' contingency fees.

Jon Woods
Ashley Gardner

Former Arkansas state Sen. Jon Woods was sentenced Wednesday to more than 18 years and four months in prison for his role in a bribery scheme. The Republican must also serve three years of supervised release and pay over $1.6 million in restitution.

Woods was convicted in May of 15 felony charges. Prosecutors alleged he took kickbacks in exchanging for steering state money to a private Christian college. Woods co-defendant, Randall Shelton Jr. is scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday.

Elizabeth Eckford
National Park Service/ Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A bench now on display across from Little Rock’s Central High School commemorates one key moment from the school’s desegregation. It is a replica of one Elizabeth Eckford of the Little Rock Nine sat on in 1957 after being kept from entering the school by national guardsmen.

Tuesday’s unveiling coincided with the 61st anniversary of the event.

Central High School’s Memory Project aims to encourage students to remember past events of the high school and to keep the memory of the Civil Rights Movement alive.

Election vote
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A proposal to legalize casinos in Arkansas has been approved for the November ballot.

Secretary of State Mark Martin's office on Wednesday said supporters of the proposed constitutional amendment submitted more than the nearly 85,000 signatures from registered voters required to put the proposal on the ballot. Martin's office said it had determined 99,988 valid signatures were submitted.

Jon Woods
Arkansas Times

A sentencing hearing is to begin Wednesday at 9 a.m. for former Arkansas state Senator Jon Woods. He and several others have been convicted or pleaded guilty as part of a wide-ranging corruption investigation. Woods' co-defendant Randell Shelton Jr. will be sentenced Thursday, while their accomplices are scheduled to be sentenced next week.

Doug Thompson, a reporter for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, covered Woods' trial from start to finish and spoke with KUAR about Woods' case.

Arkansas prison officials say they're open to the legislature's help following the deaths of five inmates at the Varner Unit last week. 

Officials from the Arkansas Department of Correction and the state Board of Corrections testified at a joint legislative subcommittee hearing Tuesday on efforts to curb deaths due to illegal drug usage in state prisons. 

The news of Steven Dishman’s arrest last summer invited comparisons to a well-known Hollywood fiction, that of Dr. Richard Kimble, “The Fugitive,” a man fingered for the monstrous murder of his wife who borrows time as an escapee to hunt the real killer.

“He’s been on the run for 32 years, basically playing the old Richard Kimble part,” says lifelong friend Dennis Dablemont of Springdale, where Dishman was raised. “Just eluding the police, and he’s right underneath their noses.”

Daniel Breen / Arkansas Public Media

Among all the popular measures on the Arkansas ballot this November, none is as hydra-headed, or has forged unlikely alliances, as Issue 1.

It would give the legislature rulemaking power over the courts and put a limit on fees collected by trial lawyers in lawsuits. The most talked about element, though, is that it would cap courtroom awards for plaintiff's seeking punitive damages and compensation for pain and suffering — though it wouldn't limit awards for lost wages or hospital bills, or in cases of intentional misconduct — at $500,000.

Nationally, this kind of amendment is what is commonly referred to as "tort reform."

Jeremy Hutchinson
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Attorneys say a nephew of Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson plans to resign from the state senate to focus on defending himself from corruption charges.

Attorneys for Republican state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson Attorneys on Friday called the new accusations that he had spent campaign funds on personal expenses, including a Caribbean cruise and tuition payments, inaccurate. But they say he's stepping down so that Capitol business can proceed without "unnecessary distraction."

Deadline To Report Work Info Or Lose Arkansas Works Coverage

Aug 31, 2018
File photo: Gov. Asa Hutchinson presenting part of his Arkansas Works plan, the state's version of Medicaid expansion.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Thousands of Arkansans are at risk of losing their healthcare coverage this weekend for failing to comply with a recently enacted work requirement for the state's Medicaid expansion program. The deadline is Friday at 5 p.m.

August is the third month that a work requirement has been in place for the Arkansas Works program. Enrollees who fail to report three months in a row will lose their coverage on the first day of the following month. That means those who haven't reported anything will be cut from the program on Saturday.

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