Here's a look at some of the headlines making news around the state:
Republican launches bid for Arkansas land commissioner post
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A second Republican has launched a bid for Arkansas state land commissioner.
Alex Ray on Wednesday announced he's seeking the GOP nomination next year for the post currently held by John Thurston. Thurston, a Republican, is serving his second term and running for secretary of state next year.
Ray, who is 28, is a business development leader at Johnson Controls and lives in Saline County. Tommy Land, a Heber Springs businessman, announced last year he was running for land commissioner. Shaun Hubanks has announced he's seeking the Democratic nomination.
The land commissioner oversees the disposition of tax-delinquent property and grants mineral leases on state-owned land.
Arkansas man accused of strangling woman to stand trial
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A Jacksonville man accused of strangling an 85-year-old widow in her central Arkansas home has been given a trial date after state doctors found him competent to stand trial.
Doctors at the Arkansas State Hospital diagnosed 52-year-old Chris Anthony Arnold with borderline intellectual functioning but found no mental illness.
Arnold is charged with capital murder in the November slaying of Maurine Eloy McDonald Jones in Sherwood. He was arrested four days before Christmas and also faces gun and drug charges based on the arresting officers' discovery of methamphetamine, marijuana, two rifles and a pistol in his home.
Arnold has a 2004 felony conviction for theft by receiving and is barred from owning guns.
He is expected to stand trial in September.
Oklahoma woman finds 2.65 carat diamond at Arkansas park
MURFREESBORO, Ark. (AP) — An Oklahoma woman has found a 2.65 carat diamond at a state park in southwest Arkansas.
Victoria Brodski of Tulsa says in a news release Wednesday from Crater of Diamonds State Park that she picked up the stone May 6 about 10 minutes after entering the park because she thought it was a pretty piece of glass.
Brodski says she didn't realize it might be a diamond until hours later after visiting an information center to see what an uncut diamond looks like and park staff then confirmed it is a diamond.
Park interpreter Waymon Cox said the diamond is smooth and appears to be free of blemishes, but the park doesn't estimate the worth of diamonds.
Brodski plans to sell the diamond and share the money with her family.
Alcohol applications filed for the University of Arkansas
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — The concessions company at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville has filed applications to sell alcohol at sports facilities, but the school's athletic director says the university has no plans to expand alcohol sales on campus.
Levy Premium Foodservice LP sent in the permits for baseball, basketball and for the gymnastics and volleyball facilities. The company also submitted a request to replace the university's current concessionaire services as the alcohol sales permit holder for its football stadium. Levy is replacing Sodexo as the university's concessions company for athletic events.
"This letter will serve as authorization for Levy to take the necessary steps to obtain a license for the storage and sale of alcoholic beverages in designated areas of Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Bud Walton Arena, Baum Stadium, and Barnhill Arena," a letter from Athletic Director Jeff Long stated.
Long also said, "There are no current plans to approve the sale of alcoholic beverages during intercollegiate athletic events in those venues."
Judy Chwalinski, administrative analyst for Alcoholic Beverage Control, said approval of a permit application from the state occurs within 30 days from the verified posting that notifies the public at the site about a request to sell alcohol.
Chwalinski said Levy paid a total of $7,500 each new "large attendance facility" application.
In 2014, the university began limiting alcohol sales at the football stadium, with about 9,000 fans in premium seating able to purchase beer and wine at indoor "club" areas.
The university's officials haven't made an official announcement about expanding alcohol sales.
Little Rock voters reject plan to pay for building upgrades
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas school district set to lose millions of dollars in annual state desegregation aid could soon find itself with greater woes after voters rejected a proposal that would have helped pay for a new high school and other improvements.
Opponents of the plan to extend a property tax increase to pay for improvements said they were wary of giving the money to a district that hasn't had an elected school board since it was dissolved in 2015 as part of a state takeover. Supporters said Little Rock School District facilities need to be repaired and updated.
Local residents' distrust of state leadership over the district was at the center of Tuesday's vote.
"We've finally come to a point where people who've traditionally felt disenfranchised have to come to the end of the line," said Democratic state Sen. Joyce Elliot, who added that everyone wants better for the district's children, but that a comprehensive, sustainable long-term plan is needed.
Under the proposal rejected by voters, state officials had asked that an existing property tax set to expire in 2033 be extended to 2047. Unofficial results show 65 percent of voters opposed the measure, which the district says would have raised $160 million for improvement projects.
Little Rock School District Superintendent Michael Poore was not immediately available for comment Wednesday. But the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that he said at an election watch party Tuesday that the rejection of the millage extension would delay the construction of the new school.
The district was at the center of the United States' first major desegregation battle played in 1957, when President Dwight Eisenhower used federal troops to escort nine black teenagers into Central High School. The vote came as the district — the state's largest with 25,000 students — is preparing to lose millions of dollars in annual state desegregation aid.
Gary Smith, the head of a local group that supported the tax proposal, said the district has long been mismanaged.
"I don't think there are any winners. The kids lost, the people associated with the district lost and the city lost," said Smith, chairman of Rebuild Our Schools.
The Arkansas Board of Education took over the nearly 25,000-student district in 2015 after it was deemed to be in academic distress.
Jim Ross, who was part of the local school board that the state dissolved, said the tax proposal was "bad finances" and that people don't believe the state will keep its promises when it comes to the district. Ross led the group Citizens Against Taxation Without Representation that opposed the measure.
The desegregation payments that are set to end stem from a 1982 lawsuit the district filed against the state and its neighboring districts, alleging state policies were still creating racial imbalance despite changes made since 1957. To settle the lawsuit, Arkansas agreed in 1989 to give the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County special school districts extra money for magnet schools and allowing student transfers. The payments have totaled nearly $70 million annually.
A judge signed an order in 2014 to halt payments to the Little Rock and North Little Rock districts by June 30, 2018. The judge approved the settlement only after receiving assurances from the districts that they had plans for after the money runs out. Under the settlement, funds in the final year have to be used to improve district facilities.
Citizens Against Taxation Without Representation member Samantha Toro said she voted against the measure because she wasn't confident the state would use the money properly. But she's also concerned about what happens when the payments stop.
"How are we going to take out such a significant debt if we don't know what our future enrollment looks like, whether we'll have to close more schools or who will be in control of the district in the next couple of years?" Toro said.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson told reporters that he doesn't necessarily think the district's financial situation makes it more difficult to be returned to local control.
"I want to see more families making choices and saying we have confidence in the direction of the Little Rock School District and its future, so it can be competitive and have the strongest educational performance," Hutchinson said at a news conference Wednesday. "I thought the millage vote was important for that purpose, but there's other ways for to accomplish that objective."