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(Jefferson City) – A couple of Missouri senators comment on how they believe the fiscal year is progressing. Fiscal Year 2015 started on July 1, 2014.

Senator Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, says all sides were unable to come up with a consensus revenue estimate, so the Missouri Senate and House did something that had not been done before:

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Senator Scott Sifton, D-Affton, who also serves on the appropriations panel, adds that revenue estimates were fairly accurate for the previous fiscal year:

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Next up for Missouri Senators will be numbering pre-filed legislation to be considered during year’s regular session.

Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones

Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones is forming an investigatory committee after a report that Chris Koster was one of several state attorneys general who may have been influenced by campaign contributions and lobbyists.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that Koster is one of numerous state attorneys general who have changed policies and negotiated more favorable settlements after receiving campaign contributions and incentives from lobbyists.

Jones, a Republican from Eureka, said he’s hoping to appoint committee members within a week to start requesting documents and investigating Koster, a Democrat.

He said the House has the option to impeach, depending on what the committee learns.

“I’m disturbed about the fact that the chief law enforcement officer, who has a tremendous amount of taxpayer resources at hand, is apparently utilizing those resources to shake down businesses and business owners for political reasons,” Jones told The Associated Press. “It’s hard to even believe this.”

Koster said the report distorts how his office dealt with the companies.

“Today’s article in The New York Times misrepresents the facts, distorting events to create an appearance of impropriety where none exists,” Koster said in a statement Wednesday.

Documents obtained by the newspaper show Koster received campaign contributions from Pfizer and later met with lobbyists and spoke to political action committees while the company was under investigation by his office.

The New York Times reports that campaign finance documents show Koster previously received $13,500 in campaign contributions from a law firm representing Pfizer and $20,000 directly from the company.

Emails obtained by the newspaper show Koster also accepted an invitation to speak to Pfizer’s political action committee amid negotiations for the case. Emails also show that five days later his office met with attorneys and negotiated that Pfizer pay Missouri $750,000.

Attorneys general from 33 other states also were investigating the company over allegations it marketed some drugs for unapproved uses and exaggerated their effectiveness.

Most similarly sized states that together pooled their clout to fight the company received more than $1 million each, and Oregon separately negotiated a settlement with Pfizer for $3.4 million. In total, the group of states received almost $43 million.

Koster said his office has taken legal action against Pfizer at least six times. It also has taken action against other companies involved, he said.

In another case of potential lobbying influence, the newspaper reports that Koster confirmed he asked staff not to investigate 5-Hour Energy while at a Democratic Attorneys General Association conference at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel in California. A lawyer for 5-Hour Energy also attended the conference.

He said most states have not investigated 5-Hour Energy, and told The New York Times that he uses the energy drink.

(Little Rock) (AP) – Workshops have been scheduled across Arkansas to help community and economic development leaders apply for grants offered by five different agencies and organizations.

Jean Noble, director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s Grants Division, says local leaders should plan to attend the workshops. Noble says the grant programs are vitally important in improving the lives of many Arkansas citizens.

Workshops are scheduled next month in Newport, Clarksville, North Little Rock, Magnolia and Monticello. Participating agencies include the state Economic Development Commission as well as the Arkansas Department of Rural Services, the Arkansas Natural Resource Commission, the Community Resource Group and the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development.

The Economic Development Commission administers Arkansas’s Community Development Block Grant program as well as several state-funded grant programs aimed at economic development.

(Little Rock) (AP) – Republicans are expressing confidence that they’ll complete a takeover of Arkansas’ top offices as they try to rally support in the final days leading up to next week’s midterm election.

The GOP’s candidates gathered Wednesday for a rally to highlight the party’s top races and tout their chances in Tuesday’s election. The rally at the party’s coordinated campaign offices included Republican Senate hopeful and U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton and Republican gubernatorial nominee Asa Hutchinson.

Cotton is trying to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, who is seeking a third term, in a race that could determine which party controls the chamber next year. Hutchinson is running against Democrat and fellow ex-congressman Mike Ross to succeed Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election.

(New York) – A new exposé in the New York Times claims that Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, and other attorneys general across the country, are being heavily influenced by lobbyists.

The article, released on Tuesday, claims that a New York Times investigation revealed that attorneys general across the United States are being aggressively pursued by lobbyists and lawyers who get their way, in part, through campaign donations and lavish conferences and trips.

The article, available here, states that Koster put an end to an investigation into deceptive advertising practices after speaking with a lawyer for the company behind the 5-Hour Energy drink brand. The article also states that those lawyers have donated heavily to his campaigns, invited him and his chief deputy to be featured speakers at law firm events. Afterward, the article states that executives from the company that distributes 5-Hour Energy contributed more than $280,000 through related corporations to various political groups supporting attorneys general across the country.

The investigation also discusses close links between Koster and the drug giant Pfizer.

Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones released a statement on the report Wednesday, saying that the incidents in the article are an “egregious violation of the public’s trust”.

UPDATE: Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has released a statement on the New York Times piece:

“This Attorney General’s office has consistently protected Missouri consumers from fraud, regardless of the identity of those responsible.

Contrary to the inferences contained in today’s New York Times article, this office reviews each case on its merits. We have taken legal action against Pfizer at least six times and have taken legal action against AT&T at least twice. Together, these cases have resulted in millions of dollars on behalf of Missouri consumers. Currently, Missouri is among the 44 states in the country that have not filed suit against 5 Hour Energy.

Today’s article in the New York Times misrepresents the facts, distorting events to create an appearance of impropriety where none exists.”

(Branson) (AP) – After months of controversy and compromise, smoking will be banned at most indoor public places in Branson.

The city’s Board of Alderman voted Tuesday night to enact a smoke-free ordinance. However, the ordinance won’t take effect until next July to allow businesses to prepare for the changes.

The proposal was first suggested last summer, and the original bill was amended four times. It now includes exemptions for outdoor patios and tobacco shops and smoking lounges that generate at least 70% of their revenue from tobacco sales.

The ordinance also restricts smoking in some outdoor spaces, such as city parks and a distance of 6 feet from a public entrance.

(Little Rock) (AP) – The candidates running to be Arkansas’ next governor both boast a longtime history in the state’s political scene that they say has best prepared them for the state’s top office. Democrat Mike Ross got his start in politics driving Bill Clinton around the state in 1982, the same year Republican Asa Hutchinson was appointed a federal prosecutor in northwest Arkansas.

The two ex-congressmen have long eyed the governor’s mansion and have spent most of their campaign feuding over tax cuts, health policy and each other’s backgrounds in the nationally watched race.

The two are running against Libertarian nominee Frank Gilbert and Green Party nominee Joshua Drake to succeed Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election.

(Piedmont) – Constitutional Party candidate Doug Enyart says he hopes voters will choose him to represent Missouri’s 8th Congressional District because he believes he represents what the founding fathers hoped a leader would be.

Enyart, of Piedmont, spoke with Ozark Radio News and talked about his platform:

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Enyart said one of his goals would be to shrink the size of government:

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He cited recent attempts to limit or restrict gun magazines as one of those rights. Enyart told Ozark Radio News that he is a staunch supporter of 2nd Amendment rights:

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Enyart also talked about how he would work to help create jobs in the 8th District by battling business regulations:

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Enyart also talked about national security and the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. He says the US needs to take the fight to the terrorist group, but also needs to revamp its foreign policy:

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To say Enyart is a conservative is no surprise. But how does he differ from incumbent Republican Jason Smith, who is also a conservative? Enyart says that he has some vast differences with Smith:

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More on Enyart and his campaign can be found at www.enyartforcongress.us.

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All this week, Ozark Radio News will bring you interviews with candidates for Missouri’s 8th Congressional District.

Each of the five candidates will have a day to be spotlighted this week. As always, we believe the best way to vote is to be informed beforehand, and we hope you enjoy these interviews.

Candidate names were chosen at random for their particular day.

(Jefferson City) – With Halloween this Friday, the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety is urging people to celebrate safely. Brett Stevens has more:

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(Jefferson City) (AP) – An inmate at Missouri’s maximum-security prison in Jefferson City has been charged with murder in the beating death of his cellmate.

The Jefferson City News Tribune reports a Cole County grand jury on Tuesday indicted 33-year-old Randy Teter on one count of first-degree murder.

Teter shared a cell at the Jefferson City Correctional Center with 35-year-old Mark Melton, who was assaulted Aug. 19. Melton was taken to a hospital in Columbia and died a few days later.

Melton was from the southeast Missouri town of Malden. He pleaded guilty in 2009 to attempted first-degree sodomy and was sentenced in Dunklin County Circuit Court to nine years in prison.

Teter is serving a sentence from Jackson County for second-degree murder and armed criminal action.