LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – New data released Friday showed active cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas have passed 7,000 for the first time since early October while hospitalizations also ticked up slightly.
The Arkansas Department of Health reported there were 7,141 active cases of the virus, up 556 from the previous day. The last time Arkansas had recorded more than 7,000 active cases was Oct. 9 when there were 7,596 cases.
The ADH data also showed new cases went up by 1,174, pushing up the total number of COVID-19 cases in Arkansas during the pandemic to 532,168.
Currently, 433 patients are hospitalized from the virus, one more since Thursday. There were 171 Arkansans in the state’s intensive care units, a decrease of five from the previous count, and 80 people on ventilators, two more than the previous day.
The Friday data also showed that the number of deaths increased by six to 8,699 since the pandemic began.
In the last 24 hours, 13,948 new COVID-19 vaccine doses were given to Arkansans.
“We have almost 14,000 vaccine doses given yesterday,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a Tweet. “Of these, 30% (over 4,000) are first doses and 50% are booster doses. Thanks to all who act on this need because it helps us all.”
The number of fully immunized Arkansans went up to 1,451,577, while the number of state residents partially vaccinated is now 329,946.
Source Here: fox16.com
Gov. Hutchinson Officially Calls for Special Session to Address Tax Relief, School Safety Funding
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson officially issued a call Friday for a special session of the General Assembly to address tax relief for state residents and improving safety in schools.
The call for the special session comes just over a month after the state wrapped up its fiscal year with a record surplus of more than $1.6 billion.
At that time, Hutchinson said he planned to call for the special session to look at ways to reduce the rate of tax collection in the state, though he waited until Friday to share the specifics of what he would cover with lawmakers.
Items on the agenda for the governor’s call include:
Lowering the top individual tax rate to 4.9%, retroactive to January 1, 2022, which he claims will save taxpayers $295 million in 2022;Lowering the corporate income tax rate to 5.3%, beginning January 1, 2023;Creating a $150 nonrefundable low- and middle-income tax credit, which he claims will save taxpayers $156.3 million in 2022;Align Arkansas law with the federal depreciation schedule;Transfer $50 million from the state surplus for the purpose of a school safety grant program, consistent with the recommendations of the Arkansas School Safety Commission.
“As inflation rises and the cost-of-living increases, Arkansans need more money in their pockets,” Hutchinson said in a statement announcing the session. “With a record surplus in the last year fiscal year, we have the ability to provide financial relief and ensure our children can be protected in their schools.”
In response to the governor’s special session, the Arkansas Senate Republican Caucus issued a statement in support of providing a tax credit to hard working Arkansans.
“We’re delighted as a Senate Republican Caucus to be working collectively toward real tax relief for all Arkansans. The legislation being proposed will provide an individual tax credit to hard working Arkansans and will advance the tax cuts we previously passed. This will lower our overall tax rate, while at the same time giving meaningful relief to job creators in Arkansas who are dealing with the repercussions of inflation. The people of Arkansas need relief from burdensome taxes, and we as the Senate Republican caucus are excited to work with our colleagues in the House and our Governor next week to do just that.”
The $50 million allocated for school safety grants comes after the Arkansas School Safety Commission presented their interim report to the governor August 2. The program is designed to provide funding for school districts to increase security measures on campuses.
The Senate Republican Caucus also celebrated the safety grants, stating “With the start of the Arkansas school year just days away, it is imperative that we ensure the safety and security of our kids. To that end, we are looking forward to passage of $50,000,000 in grants that can be used across our state to secure our schools.”
While some parents may applaud the move to spend part of the state surplus on school safety, other have advocated using some of that money to increase teacher pay levels in the state.
Arkansas Education Association president Carol Fleming has said that the Natural State ranks near the bottom of teacher pay rates in the United States and that it needs to be addressed.
“Raising the minimum salary, for our educators around the state will allow us to be able to recruit and retain educators in the profession,” Fleming said.
The special session is set to get underway on August 8.
Breckenridge Residents Say Entergy Crews Damaged Landscaping
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Little Rock residents living in the Breckenridge area said Entergy crews damaged landscaping when doing work near powerlines late last month.
David Sewell has lived in his home for four decades. He said his backyard used to feature trees and flowers that provided natural privacy and beauty. In late July, Entergy crews came by to “trim” around the power lines, Sewell said, but they destroyed much of the yard’s natural features in the process.
“They didn’t use discretion at all,” Sewell said. “They cut everything, even my flowers.”
Sewell said he wasn’t notified crews would be in his yard. When he spoke to workers, they assured him they were only trimming.
“Everything was gone,” Sewell said. “Even my daffodil flowers were gone.”
Another neighbor did not want to be interviewed, but she showed FOX 16 around her yard. She said she was notified that work would be done, but she did not anticipate her yard to be laid bare.
“It’s amazing how many neighbors had the very same problem,” Sewell said. “[They were] very upset.”
An Entergy spokesperson sent a statement in response.
“Entergy routinely maintains the vegetation along our power lines to ensure appropriate clearance for safety, reliability and tree health. We hire professional tree-trimming contractors who are trained in Occupational Safety & Health Administration regulations, the latest arboricultural techniques and safety procedures. We are committed to pruning trees within the utility right of way professionally to maintain their health and improve reliable electric service. Customers should call 1-800-ENTERGY with questions or an issue with tree trimming in the area.”
Sewell said Entergy could make this right by paying for damages.
“It’s going to cost a lot of money to buy new stuff, pay somebody to come plant everything back,” Sewell.
Emails shown by Sewell indicate internal reviews by Entergy staff concluded company policy had been followed and no wrongdoing was done.
Arkansas Man Arrested After Bomb Squad Called to I-20 Crash in Louisiana
BOSSIER PARISH, La. (KTAL/KMSS) — An Arkansas man is facing several charges, including terrorizing, after troopers with the Louisiana State Police said he claimed there was an explosive device in his car after he crashed it on Interstate-20 in Northwestern Louisiana Friday morning.
The incident forced the shutdown of the interstate for more than three hours and backed up traffic for miles.
It all started just before 6:30 a.m. near the Haughton exit at La. Highway 157. Louisiana State Police say 34-year-old Justin Vansickle of Camden, Arkansas crashed his Toyota Tacoma into a cable barrier in the median. When first responders arrived, he reportedly made statements that led law enforcement to believe there was an explosive device in the pickup truck.
That prompted authorities to shut down all westbound lanes of I-20 and traffic was diverted to Highway 80 at the Goodwill Road exit in Minden.
A Louisiana State Police Emergency Services Unit, along with a Bossier City Fire Department Bomb Squad, evaluated the vehicle and determined there were no explosive devices. Once the scene was deemed safe, the vehicle was removed, and the interstate was re-opened by 11 a.m.
Vansickle, who was not injured in the crash, was placed under arrest. He was booked into Bossier Max on the following charges: terrorizing, battery on a police officer, careless operation, pedestrian on the interstate, and failure to report a crash.
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