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Governor's Office / You Tube

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has ordered a review of the state's levees and is asking lawmakers to approve $10 million for immediate repairs after historic flooding along the Arkansas River.

On Thursday Hutchinson signed an executive order to create the Arkansas Levee Task Force to study and analyze the condition of the state's levees. Hutchinson said the panel will have about 20 members and will make recommendations to him by December 31 on ways to improve monitoring and maintenance of the state's levee system.

Abortion rights supporters are challenging three new Arkansas restrictions on the procedure, including one that bans abortions 18 weeks into a woman's pregnancy.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday and are asking a judge to block the restrictions before they take effect July 24.

Arkansas currently bans abortion 20 weeks into a woman's pregnancy. The restrictions challenged are among several approved by the majority-Republican Legislature this year.

Leslie Rutledge Attorney General
Talk Business & Politics

A federal judge has halted his order blocking Arkansas from enforcing a law that prevents candidates for state office from accepting campaign contributions more than two years before an election.

U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. on Wednesday granted Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's request to stay his preliminary injunction against the law while Rutledge appeals his decision. Moody issued the preliminary injunction blocking the law on Monday.

Rebecca Becky Lynn O'Donnell being escorted into the Randolph County Courthouse Monday where she was formally charged with capital murder in the death of former Arkansas state Sen. Linda Collins.
KAIT-TV / Twitter

An Arkansas woman has been charged with capital murder in the killing of a former state senator whose body was found outside her own home.

A state judge also found probable cause Monday to charge 48-year-old Rebecca Lynn O'Donnell with abuse of a corpse and tampering with physical evidence, Jonesboro television station KAIT reported . The judge did not set bond for O'Donnell, who was arrested Friday in former Sen. Linda Collins' death.

Authorities haven't said how Collins was killed.

Flood Toad Suck Arkansas River
KATV-Channel 7

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says four more counties in Arkansas have been approved for disaster assistance as a result of damage from storms and flooding that began May 21.

Heavy rains produced record flooding in the state, especially along the Arkansas River.

FEMA announced that Arkansas, Desha, Logan and Pope counties have been added to a list of eight counties previously approved for federal assistance. The other counties are Conway, Crawford, Faulkner, Jefferson, Perry, Pulaski, Sebastian and Yell counties.

Inside C & H Hog Farms near Mount Judea
Jacqueline Froelich / KUAF

Arkansas's governor says the operators of a large hog farm near the Buffalo River are receiving $6.2 million to shut down the facility under a deal reached with the state.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday announced the state had signed an agreement with the operators of C&H Hog Farm, which has been criticized by environmental groups who have warned about the facility's impact on the Buffalo River watershed since it was permitted several years ago.

Hutchinson said the bulk of the money will come from the state, with other funds coming from the Nature Conservancy.

Former Arkansas state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson arriving in court Tuesday for a pre-trial hearing in his corruption case.
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

A former health care executive has admitted to taking part in a conspiracy to bribe a former Arkansas lawmaker who is also the governor's nephew.

Robin Raveendran pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds.

The 63-year-old former executive vice president of Preferred Family Healthcare says he and others bribed former Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson in exchange for the lawmaker backing legislative actions that benefit Preferred Family.

An attorney for Hutchinson declined to comment.

Election vote
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A federal lawsuit alleges the voting system for some Arkansas judges violates black residents' rights by diluting the strength of the vote.

Lawyers for the NAACP's Legal Defense and Education Fund filed the lawsuit Tuesday. It says that because the state's seven Supreme Court judges are elected statewide instead of by district, the white voting bloc overpowers the votes of black Arkansas residents.

Missy Irvin
KARK-TV

The family of a former Arkansas lawmaker whose body was found at her home last week say they're saddened and angered by her death, and are confident authorities are using all their resources to solve her killing.

Dozens of Arkansas lawmakers and others gathered at the state Capitol on Tuesday to remember former state Sen. Linda Collins, whose death is being investigated as a homicide. The body of Collins, who went by Collins-Smith in the Legislature, was found June 4 outside her home in Pocahontas, about 130 miles (210 kilometers) northeast of Little Rock.

Wendell Griffen
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

A disciplinary panel says Arkansas Supreme Court justices don't have to testify in an ethics hearing over a judge's participation in an anti-death penalty demonstration the same day he blocked the state from using a lethal injection drug.

The Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission issued an order Friday granting justices' request to block their testimony in next week's hearing against Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen.

Linda Collins-Smith
Arkansas Legislature

Authorities in Arkansas have confirmed that a body found outside the home of a former state legislator is hers and say they're investigating the case as a homicide.

Arkansas State Police said Thursday that the medical examiner confirmed former Sen. Linda Collins-Smith's body was found Tuesday outside her home in Pocahontas, about 130 miles northeast of Little Rock. Police didn't provide a cause of death for the 57-year-old lawmaker, but say they're treating the case as a homicide. Investigators haven't named any suspects in her death.

Linda Collins-Smith
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Authorities say human remains found outside the home of a former Arkansas lawmaker are those of a woman but that the condition of the body is preventing immediate identification.

The state GOP tweeted Tuesday night that 57-year-old former state Sen. Linda Collins-Smith had died.

State police say the remains were found Tuesday at Collins-Smith's home but cannot say that the remains are hers. Police are investigating the death as a homicide.

Flood Toad Suck Arkansas River
KATV-Channel 7

State emergency officials say the Arkansas River has topped two levees in Arkansas, where historic flooding has inundated some communities.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Emergency Management says flood waters overtopped a levee in Toad Suck, a community about 27 miles northwest of Little Rock. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports the levee protects nearly 300 people.

A rendering of an expanded I-30 corridor in downtown Little Rock. 30 Crossing
Arkansas Department of Transportation

Several neighborhood groups and residents are asking a federal judge to halt a $1 billion plan to widen a highway connecting downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock.

The lawsuit filed Monday challenges the "30 Crossing" plan to widen and reconstruct roughly 7 miles of Interstates 30 and 40 in the cities' downtowns.

State Rep. Charles Blake (D-Little Rock) testifying to end the joint observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert E. Lee. (2015 file photo)
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

The top Democrat in Arkansas' House and the lawmaker who's pushed for removing the Confederate designation from the state's flag is stepping down from the Legislature.

Rep. Charles Blake said Thursday he's resigning from his seat representing a Little Rock district. Blake, who is the House minority leader, said his resignation will be effective Friday.

Blake said he's leaving for a new opportunity but declined to say what the new job will be.

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