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Sheri Gartman Kibler, Arkansas BlueCross BlueShield Managed Care Service Representative, presents a check to Dr. Richard Dawe, Ozarka College President. Pictured left to right are Jason Lawrence, Ozarka College Vice President of Administration, Josh Wilson, Ozarka College Pace Coordinator and Grant Writer, Dr. Dawe, Mrs. Kibler, Dawn Smith, Ozarka College Allied Health Instructor, and Stacy Gore, Ozarka College Fitness Center Coordinator. (provided)

Sheri Gartman Kibler, Arkansas BlueCross BlueShield Managed Care Service Representative, presents a check to Dr. Richard Dawe, Ozarka College President. Pictured left to right are Jason Lawrence, Ozarka College Vice President of Administration, Josh Wilson, Ozarka College Pace Coordinator and Grant Writer, Dr. Dawe, Mrs. Kibler, Dawn Smith, Ozarka College Allied Health Instructor, and Stacy Gore, Ozarka College Fitness Center Coordinator. (provided)

(Melbourne) – In December, Ozarka College was awarded The Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas grant, which will help fund a Comprehensive Health and Safety Program. On January 7 Ozarka College was presented a check for $46,909 from the Blue & You Foundation.

In an effort to promote healthier lifestyles, part of the $46,909 awarded to Ozarka College will be used to initiate a Cardio Wellness and Fitness Challenge. Ozarka College students, employees, and the general community alike will all be challenged to adopt healthier, more active lifestyles.

To do this, Ozarka College has set a goal for participants to log at least 10,000 heart-healthy miles, collectively, all while on a journey to a healthier life. The College invites all who are interested, regardless of ability or skill level, to participate in this fitness challenge. Whether you like to run, walk, bike, roll, or swim for fitness, please join us and contribute your mileage.

“Everyone’s New Year’s resolution is to exercise more, and this is a fun way to do it,” said Patrick O’Sullivan, Executive Director of the Blue & You Foundation. “We hope that providing this grant to the Melbourne community will encourage people to log their exercise miles toward the community-wide goal of 10,000 miles.”

Registration to join the Fitness Challenge is free, and to further incentivize active lifestyles, the top three mileage contributors will be awarded a cash prize at the end of the challenge. Simply pick up an application at any of the Ozarka College campus locations, at the Paul Miller Fitness Center, or access online at www.ozarka.edu/fitnesschallenge.

Please return completed forms to Stacy Gore, Ozarka College Fitness Center Coordinator, PO Box 10, Melbourne, Arkansas 72556. Once participants have completed the application, they will be provided with information on how to track and submit their miles.

For more information about the Fitness Challenge, please contact Stacy Gore at 870.368.2090 or email stacy.gore@ozarka.edu

(Little Rock) – Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has released his newest radio address, in which he discusses the past week’s legislative session:

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This early in the legislative session, it is uncommon for there to be so many high profile measures making their way through the legislative process. Usually, it is a few more weeks before debate on a certain bill really strikes a chord with most citizens.

The issue of pay raises for elected officials was one that would surely draw the attention of citizens of this great state, and I do not blame them. How can the raises of one select group not garner outrage?

State employees have only received minimal pay increases over the past few years. A one percent raise last year, a two percent raise in 2013 and a three percent raise in 2009 does little to help anyone, much less employees we depend on to keep this state running smoothly.

Private employers are struggling to keep their employees’ health coverage at current levels.   The rising cost of health care has limited or prevented entirely their ability to provide raises to their employees for years; not because they don’t want to, or because employees don’t deserve it, but because they simply cannot afford to. Five years without a pay raise may seem daunting to some, but think of the thousands of constituents each of us has, and the tens of thousands of citizens of this state who have done without raises and are struggling to make ends meet with no respite in sight. Under these circumstances, for us to vote for a pay increase for ourselves, seems as if our focus is not where it should be.   The only people benefiting from the passage of this legislation would be elected officials in this state.  People who sought a job, knowing the salary and asking the citizens to have the faith and trust in us to do the job as described.

On Jan. 29, I spoke out publicly on the Senate Floor, stating my embarrassment and dismay that we might allow a bill to pass benefiting ourselves when our fellow state employees would receive nothing – zero – nothing!  It made me sick at heart.

A Senate colleague of mine followed my comments by further stating that these raises are uncalled for. We, as elected state officials, knew the amount of pay we would receive once elected. There is no point to agree to the pay by running for a position, taking the oath office understanding you will receive a certain salary, and then weeks later file legislation hoping to increase that wage.

Thankfully, the Senate voted 31-3 to not accept the pay increase.  However, that will not deter me in my efforts to reverse the current law that made this situation possible.

I plan to file a resolution that will ensure that lawmakers vote on this type of raise. The current law, as written, permits a pay raise for the Legislature, state-wide elected officials and the judiciary  to automatically become effective on or after a certain date,  whether the Legislature votes on it or not. My bill will prevent the pay increase unless it receives a vote in both chambers.  No automatic pay raise should take place.

As always, I appreciate it when groups from around Missouri and from our community back home come to visit me at the Capitol. If you would like to arrange a time to come and visit me in Jefferson City, or if you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-1882.

As I mentioned in last week’s session update, the members of the House rejected a proposed pay increase for elected officials.  This week the Senate followed our lead and completed the process by approving HCRs 4 & 3 just ahead of the February 1 deadline. The end result is that the salary increases for lawmakers and statewide office holders recommended by the Citizens’ Commission on Compensation for Elected Officials will not go into effect. I believe my colleagues in both chambers acted responsibly by preventing what we all agreed would be a misuse of your tax dollars.

Also this week, the House Elections Committee held public testimony on HB 30. HB 30 would require a photo ID in order to vote on election day.  Some say that this requirement is an attempt to suppress voter turnout. However, this idea has been around for many years, and is not politically motivated at all.  Rather, it serves to protect the integrity of our elections and safeguard our greatest right given to us by our founding fathers; the right to vote.

The goal of this legislation is simply to ensure that fraudulent votes do not negate honest votes; not to restrict eligible voters from voting.   In fact, there are several provisions in the bill which ensure people who might not have a photo ID can still vote on election day. Those individuals who have a religious belief that prohibits them from having a photo ID, disabled voters, or individuals born before January 1, 1950 are exempt from the requirement and allowed to vote a provisional ballot. These provisional ballots are counted once the eligibility of the voter is confirmed by the election authority.

 

Additionally, the bill contains a provision to help Missourians, who might not be able to afford an ID, obtain one at no cost to the voter.  This provision in addition to the ones that protect those who might not have a photo ID due to no fault of their own, ensure that no eligible voter wishing to partake in the democratic process would be turned away on election day.  At the same time, the increased identification requirements curb the detrimental impact of fraudulent votes.

Along with HB 30 the House Elections Committee heard testimony on HJR 1.  This resolution would allow the voters of Missouri to decide whether or not to allow a voter ID requirement to be added to the Missouri Constitution.  As I mentioned earlier, the right to vote is the fundamental foundation of our democratic republic. Since the Missouri Constitution does not specifically allow a voter ID requirement, it is important to first allow the voters of Missouri to voice their opinion.  HB 30 even if passed by the legislature, would only go into effect if the voters of Missouri also approved of HJR 1.

Government should serve to protect the people from external and internal threats. It should never constrain or impede on a person’s ability to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Providing measures that ensure our most sacred rights are not impeded on is good government policy.

(AP)

(AP)

(Des Moines) (AP) – Mitt Romney’s exit from the 2016 presidential campaign has unleashed a frenzy of fresh fundraising and opened up a new race for the backing of donors who had remained loyal to him.

Big dollars were said to flow immediately on Friday to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also claimed the support of others who were waiting on Romney – the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee – to make a decision about 2016.

None of the Republican candidates considering a run has formally gotten into the race. But most have established committees that effectively serve as campaigns-in-waiting.

The competition for donors is fierce. Commitments signal the potential strength of a fledgling campaign and can lay the groundwork for more fundraising to come.

by Andrew DeMillo, AP

(Little Rock) (AP) – An independent commission wants to more-than-double legislative salaries and give raises to most of Arkansas’ constitutional officers and judges.

The Independent Citizens Commission on Friday gave preliminary approval to new salaries. A formal vote is set for Monday and a final vote will occur March 5.

The panel is recommending increasing legislators’ pay from $15,869 a year to $39,400. The panel also suggests elliminating $14,000 in reimbursements that lawmakers can currently receive.

The panel also wants to increase salaries for all constiutional officers except the lieutenant governor. The governor would see pay jump from $87,759 to $141,000. Many judges and all of the Supreme Court’s justices would see a raise, too.

Voters created the pay commission as part of a constitutional amendment extending term limits and imposing tougher ethics rules.

(Malden) (AP) – A southeast Missouri man is recovering after crashing his ATV and crawling through the woods to find help.

KFVS-TV reports that the accident happened midday Thursday near Malden. The man in his 30s had leg problems from a previous car accident.

Malden Police Chief Jarrett Bullock says the man’s wife became concerned when he didn’t come back home, and several police agencies joined together in a search through the night.

Bullock says the man crawled out of the woods to Highway WW late Friday morning. He flagged down a motorist, who called the man’s wife.

The man was taken to a hospital for evaluation. There was no immediate word on his condition. His name was not released.

(Little Rock) (AP) – The state’s director of rural services has been tapped to serve as Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s designee and alternate to the Delta Regional Authority’s board of governors.

Hutchinson’s office made the announcement Friday that Amy Fecher would be the designee.

The Delta Regional Authority is a federal-state partnership that’s congressionally mandated to help create jobs, build communities and improve lives through investments in economic development in the 252 counties and parishes of the Delta region.

In her role, Fecher will represent Hutchinson at DRA meetings, work with the agency’s staff and leadership and advise DRA leadership on state needs and investments.

The DRA board is composed of the governors of each of the eight states covered by the DRA footprint. Each governor can select a designee and alternate to represent him.

(Springfield) (AP) – A Springfield man who withdrew his guilty plea to second-degree murder after Missouri voters approved an amendment changing state gun laws has been convicted of a lesser crime in his girlfriend’s death.

Darrell Smith was convicted Thursday of second-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action for shooting his girlfriend, Kimberly Walker, in December 2012. Smith had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last summer but withdrew his plea after Missouri voters in August approved an amendment that allows nonviolent felons to possess guns, The Springfield News-Leader reported.

When he is sentenced on March 27, Smith will face significantly less prison time. The sentence for second-degree murder is between 10 to 30 years, while the maximum sentence on the manslaughter charge is seven years. Smith could get additional prison time for armed criminal action.

Before Amendment 5 was approved, Smith could have been found guilty of murder for committing a felony that resulted in a death. He would have been considered a felon in possession of a firearm because he has past convictions for stealing.

Smith cried after the jury’s verdict on Thursday, and his mother called it a blessing. Walker’s parents were visibly upset and declined to comment, the newspaper reported.

Walker’s attorney, Charlton Chastain, contended the shooting was an accident and that Smith’s actions afterward – taking Walker to a neighbor’s house and the moving the gun – were stupid but not criminal. Walker died the day after she was shot.

“Stupid? It should probably be tattooed across his forehead,” Chastain said of Smith. “But if stupidity was a crime, jails would be busting at the seams.”

Prosecuting attorney Philip Fuhrman argued the shooting was not accidental, noting Smith’s history of domestic violence and changes in the story he told police. Smith initially said Walker shot herself, then said he was holding the gun when it went off accidentally.

“When you consider all of the physical evidence and how many times the defendant changed his story, he is not telling the truth,” Fuhrman said. “He is not telling the truth because he killed Kim intentionally.”

(Kansas City) (AP) – State lawmakers from Missouri and Kansas are pushing similar bills that would restrict firearms for people with domestic violence or stalking restraining orders or convictions, but a pair of Missouri state representatives called the legislation a publicity stunt with no chance of passage.

“We would never look at anything like this,” said Rick Brattin, a Harrisonville, Missouri, Republican. “We’re not in favor of domestic violence, but with our (concealed carry) permits, someone may not like the fact that you’re carrying a weapon and say they feel they’re being threatened.”

Kansas Rep. Barbara Bollier joined Missouri Rep. Stacey Newman at Jackson County, Missouri, prosecutor Jean Peters Baker’s office on Friday to pitch the bills that were recently introduced in Topeka and Jefferson City, The Kansas City Star reported.

Newman, a Democrat from Richmond Heights in St. Louis County, said her bill includes language that would allow law enforcement and family members to restrict those considered “in crisis” from gun possession. She said the measure is similar to California legislation signed into law soon after the mass shootings near the University of California-Santa Barbara campus last year.

“The public gets it completely,” said Bollier, a Mission Hills Republican and former practicing physician.

Newman’s bill is unlikely to get a warm reception in Jefferson City, said two Missouri representatives who are strong gun-rights advocates.

Rep. Joe Don McGaugh, a Carrollton Republican, said the bill is “patently unconstitutional” because it has too few protections for gun owners before a court strips them of their Second Amendment rights.

“Everyone wants to keep firearms out of the hands of someone who is not competent to own them,” McGaugh said. “But I think what we should concentrate on is the individual and not the gun.”

Newman’s bill could be used to harass law-abiding gun owners, Brattin said, and probably wouldn’t get a hearing.