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by Marie French, AP

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Republican lawmakers in Missouri’s Capitol often bristle at rules and requirements handed down from the federal government, saying they favor local authority in most matters.

However, several GOP-supported proposals this year aim to hand down similar mandates to cities and counties across the state.

Republican legislators say proposals that would block local authorities from pursuing business policies or banning plastic bags are essential to protecting conservative values and boosting the economy, even as critics line up to call such legislation disingenuous.

by Andrew DeMillo, AP

(Little Rock) (AP) – By letting a measure become law without his signature to prohibit local governments from expanding anti-discrimination protections, Gov. Asa Hutchinson is straddling the debate over a proposal being cast as endorsing bias against gays and lesbians.

He’s also tacitly acknowledging that Arkansas governors are easily outgunned in veto override fights with the state Legislature.

Hutchinson, a Republican, last week allowed a bill to become law that would prohibit cities and counties from expanding anti-discrimination protections beyond what’s already covered in state law. It’s a move that effectively bans local governments from adding protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity, which aren’t included in Arkansas’ civil rights protections.

“As governor, I recognize the desire to prevent burdensome regulations on businesses across the state,” Hutchinson said after the measure received final approval in the House last month. “However, I am concerned about the loss of local control. For that reason, I am allowing the bill to become law without my signature.”

With that decision, Hutchinson joined a long line of governors who have chosen Door No. 3 rather than risk a fight they are likely to lose. Under Arkansas’ constitution, a governor has five days to sign or veto legislation once it reaches his desk. If he does nothing, it becomes law without any action. If he vetoes it, legislators need only a simple majority to override him.

Letting the clock run out is a convenient way for governors to register objections to a measure without picking a fight with the Legislature. It’s an option former Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican, used multiple times throughout his 10½ years in office while facing a Legislature dominated by Democrats.

“It doesn’t help the legislative process to veto a bill just to have it overridden,” Huckabee said after not signing legislation that cleared the way for local voters to approve video poker and other electronic gambling at a Hot Springs horse track and a West Memphis dog track. It was among several bills related to gambling or drinking that the Southern Baptist preacher allowed into law.

Huckabee also allowed a tax increase to become law without his signature in response to the long-running Lake View school funding case, saying he believed lawmakers should have obtained more significant reforms in exchange for the hike.

Former Gov. Mike Beebe had planned to use the unsigned route in 2013 for a measure making the state’s concealed carry handgun permit list exempt from public records laws, but then-Lt. Gov. Mark Darr signed the bill into law when Beebe was out of state. The Republican’s decision to do so rankled the Democratic governor, who said he’d have trouble trusting Darr enough to leave the state again.

Hutchinson’s complaints about the limits on anti-discrimination ordinances infringing on local control echoed the complaints of Democrats, who accused Republicans backing the measure of hypocrisy after campaign rhetoric about fighting government overreach.

But what he was lacking was a division within his own party or the business community, which remained mostly silent on the measure before it arrived on his desk. Retail giant Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, issued a statement the day the measure became law saying it sent the wrong message about Arkansas.

“It was about an electoral base that was supportive of this and I think really the absence of any political cover for him to do something different,” said Jay Barth, a political science professor at Hendrix College in Conway.

Wal-Mart’s concerns about the law, and related criticism of a related “conscience protection” measure, may be offering Hutchinson some of that political cover now. The Republican governor said he had reservations about the proposal aimed at preventing state and local government from infringing on someone’s religious beliefs, and a day later the proposal failed before a Senate panel.

The bigger test may be how often Hutchinson may let measures go into law without his signature. It’s an approach that’s made more sense for governors dealing with a rival party controlling the Legislature, like Huckabee faced throughout his tenure and Beebe had in his final two years in office.

“I think Hutchinson is going to be disadvantaged in trying to distance himself from what a Republican legislature is pushing through,” said Hal Bass, a political science professor at Ouachita Baptist University.

The following column is from Rick Mansfield

This past week found us on “the Hill.” Site of some truly wonderful restaurants and shops, almost all of which are family owned. Many have been in existence for generations. One which we always visit is Viviano’s. Located on Shaw Avenue, just up the street from where we often eat lunch.

John Viviano arrived in St. Louis in 1926 and along with many other Italian immigrants worked downtown in a macaroni factory; married a first generation fellow Italian three years later. Started making bleach in his bathtub nights to sell to local businesses. Later began making cheeses at home to further support a growing family.

In 1950 opened the store that sixty five years later is being run by grandchildren. Specializes in Italian staples, many shipped directly from Italy. We always buy a few parcels of cheese and generally some olive oil; maybe some organic pasta and a bottle of wine for cooking. Perhaps a container of one of their olive salads; a bar of dark chocolate.

Good prices, great selection. We go for the atmosphere. The friendly service. The local residents that enjoy walking to a small grocer where everyone seems to know everyone. People who drop in to pick up something fresh for that night’s meal; others who shop for the week. Some who come cross-town to get those special ingredients for a special meal.

These trips help me enjoy the “now.” Makes me miss the “when.” When I could walk into Hamilton’s Grocery and order a fresh sliced pickle loaf and Longhorn cheese sandwich. Located on north Highway 19 in Shannon County, a business also started in the 1950’s. Pull an ice cold bottle of Mt. Dew from a soda cooler, pop the top on the built-in cap remover.

Discuss the upcoming hay season with Mr. Hamilton. R Q. He would go on to teach me the majority of what I would come to know about haying. Maybe speak with Mrs. Hamilton about some poem or play she’d read recently; be instructed on the proper behavior of a gentleman. Catch up with a fellow neighbor about current goings on.

When as a young man logging, we could pull an old Chevy single-axle log truck into the driveway of Buford Lewis’ grocery store located just north of the gravel road that took us to a tract of timber on Bay Branch. Joke with the owner about the “weight of his thumbs” when he’d weigh up our lunchmeat and cheese on his scale.

When as a kid I could pull both red and black licorice from candy jars at the Bryan’s Ozark Country Store at the intersection of Highway 19 and D. I could marvel at the beauty of the owner’s artwork and then wander outside and sit on the top rail of his corral while deciding which flavor to eat first. If the store was not busy, the “cowboy artist” might wander out and join me. Regale me with exploits of when he worked on ranches out west. Another business opened in the 1950’s. Another no longer in operation; kept alive still in memories and photographs.

For people in Winona it was Saad’s; Dent Countians had Thomas Market. Yates’ IGA in downtown Ellington. J.U. Boyd’s in Eminence—where you could buy anything from Mercury outboards to McCullough chain saws.

Changing patterns of commerce; competition from monstrous conglomerates. Stores close. Regardless of the reasons, I feel our lives are lessened when we lose such “mom and pop” operations. We should treasure, and support, those we have left. Thanks for joining us!

(Rolla) (AP) – Police say a Greyhound bus crashed into the rear of a tractor-trailer in snowy weather on Interstate 44 in Missouri, setting off a chain of accidents involving dozens of vehicles. At least 11 people were sent to a hospital with minor to moderate injuries.

Sgt. Cody Fulkerson, a spokesman for the Missouri State Police, says no one was killed when between 25 and 35 vehicles crashed into each other Saturday. Police closed the westbound interstate near Rolla, Missouri. A hazardous materials team was cleaning up a small leak of a flammable liquid from a tractor-trailer.

Fulkerson says police have been working on well over 100 accidents because of the weather. Earlier in the day, two people were killed in a multiple vehicle crash further south in Laclede County.

Aldridge (provided

Joseph Aldridge (provided)

(Houston) – The Texas County Sheriff’s Office has identified the final three victims in the murders that occurred earlier this week in Tyrone.

A news release from the Texas County Sheriff’s Office states that the final victims were 68-year-old Darrell Shriver, his son, 46-year-old Carey Shriver, and Carey’s wife, 44-year-old Valeria Shriver.

The Shrivers were among the seven people killed Thursday night by 36-year-old Joseph Aldridge in the small Texas County community of Tyrone.

An unidentified 67-year-old woman remains hospitalized.

Previously identified victims were 52-year-old Garold Aldridge, 47-year-old Julie Aldridge, 50-year-old Harold Aldridge, and 48-year-old Janell Aldridge, all of whom are related to the killer. Their funeral services are pending care of Elliott-Gentry-Carder Funeral Home.

Police say that late Thursday night, Joseph Alridge shot and killed seven people before driving to Shannon County and killing himself. A motive has not been determined.

The Texas County Sheriff’s Office and the Missouri State Highway Patrol are working together on the investigation.

(Little Rock) (AP) – The Arkansas Legislature has given final approval to adding drones to the state’s voyeurism law.

By a 27-1 vote, the Senate approved a bill to add unmanned aerial vehicles and aircraft to a state law barring viewing, photographing or recording in public what is underneath someone’s clothing. It would also add drones to the law prohibiting viewing someone for the purpose of sexual gratification in a private place where the person has a reasonable expectation to be nude or partially nude.

The measure now heads to Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

The bill is a scaled back attempt to limit the use of unmanned aerial aircraft by Republican Rep. Justin Harris, who had originally proposed making it illegal to use a drone to fly above private property and take pictures without permission.

(Little Rock) (AP) – The Arkansas Supreme Court says a lawsuit against tobacco giant Philip Morris USA can proceed under class-action status.

The lawsuit seeks refunds on every pack of Marlboro Lights sold in Arkansas from 1971 to 2010. The plaintiffs claim Philip Morris, which is part of the Altria Group, deceived smokers about health risks.

The justices’ 6-1 decision was released Thursday.

The company wants each case considered separately, saying some smokers bought the cigarettes for their taste, packaging or brand reputation – not for claims they had lower tar and nicotine.

Philip Morris also said courts elsewhere have rejected class-action status for similar claims.

The size of the class isn’t known, but Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox warned in 2013 that it could be in the millions.

Sgt. Jeff Kinder of the Missouri State Highway Patrol addresses a news conference at the Texas County Justice Center in Houston, Mo., Friday, Feb. 27, 2015.  Authorities say multiple people were shot to death and one was wounded in attacks in a small southeastern Missouri town, and the suspected gunman was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. (AP Photo/Houston Herald, Jeff McNiell)

Sgt. Jeff Kinder of the Missouri State Highway Patrol addresses a news conference at the Texas County Justice Center in Houston, Mo., Friday, Feb. 27, 2015. Authorities say multiple people were shot to death and one was wounded in attacks in a small southeastern Missouri town, and the suspected gunman was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. (AP Photo/Houston Herald, Jeff McNiell)

by Jim Salter, AP

(Tyrone) (AP) – Residents in a remote area of southern Missouri are trying to come to grips with what could cause a man to kill seven people, including four of his own relatives, in a nighttime shooting spree that spanned four homes.

The shooter, identified by authorities as 36-year-old Joseph Jesse Aldridge, used a .45-caliber handgun to kill two people each at three homes, one person at another, and then himself, in a reign of violence that began late Thursday night. All of the victims lived in or near the tiny, unincorporated town of Tyrone in the rolling hills of Missouri’s Ozarks region, about 40 miles from the Arkansas border. All of the victims were adults.

Texas County Sheriff James Sigman said people generally have felt safe in small towns like Tyrone.

“Start locking your doors,” the sheriff said. “The world’s changing.

The motive for the shooting was still under investigation Friday. The few people in town willing to talk about it knew little about Aldridge, described as somewhat reclusive in an otherwise tight-knit area. Some said they’d seen him around and talked to him, but not enough to form an opinion.

Bud Goodman, 71, of nearby Houston, grew up in Tyrone. He knew all of the victims but little about Aldridge.

“I just don’t know what he was doing,” Goodman said.

Police are still trying to figure that out, too. Around 10:15 p.m. Thursday, a 15-year-old girl, wearing only a nightgown and no shoes in near-zero temperatures and with cuts on her legs from running through thickets and hardened snow, pounded on a neighbor’s door.

“She was crying so hard,” the neighbor, who declined to be identified out of concern for his safety, said. “I finally got out of her, `My mom and dad have been shot.’”

The girl called 911 from the neighbor’s home. Sigman said that as officers responded to that call, they received word of another shooting.

The victims at both addresses were related to each other, and to Aldridge. Authorities identified them as two couples, Garold Dee Aldridge, 52, and his wife, Julie Ann, 47; and Harold Wayne Aldridge, 50, and his wife, Janell Arlisa, 48. Both men were cousins of Joseph Aldridge, according to Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Jeff Kinder.

At some point over the next few hours, Joseph Aldridge killed two more men and another woman at two different locations, Sigman said, and injured another woman. Names of those victims, and details about the woman’s injuries, were not released.

The case took another strange twist when authorities went to the home that Joseph Aldridge shared with his 74-year-old mother, Alice. She was found dead at the home, but apparently of natural causes, authorities said. An autopsy was planned to determine if her death was related to the shooting spree.

She had been under a doctor’s care and appeared to have been dead at least 24 hours, Texas County Coroner Tom Whittaker told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Whittaker speculated that the son “came home and found her deceased and then for whatever reason went on a rampage and started killing people.”

Sigman said many of the residents of Tyrone are Aldridges. Police, worried that other relatives might be targeted, reached out to all of them, along with family members in other towns, while they searched for Joseph Aldridge in the early hours of Friday. Sigman said he was confident there were no more victims.

Authorities also alerted everyone else in town about the gunman. Jerry Logsdon, who lives near two of the shooting scenes, was awakened by state troopers at 3:30 a.m. “I thought they were going to tell me my cattle escaped,” he said. “They said, `There’s been a shooting.’”

Around 5:30 a.m. Friday, in neighboring Shannon County, some 25 miles from Tyrone, Joseph Aldridge was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted wound inside a GMC pickup. Sigman said the truck was running and in the middle of a two-lane highway.

Around town, Aldridge was described as a recluse, and it was unclear what, if anything, he did for a living.

Vernetta Lucille Swartz, 76, Joseph Aldridge’s aunt, lives in Hesperia, Calif., but said the family is grief-stricken.

“Two of my nephews and wives were shot, and I guess another nephew was the shooter,” she said.

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is canceling a trip to Cuba following the death of state Auditor Tom Schweich.

Nixon on Friday announced First Lady Georganne Nixon will take his place during the trip to the island country March 1-4.

The governor for weeks had been planning the trip in an attempt to build trade relationships with the communist country.

He canceled the visit days before his scheduled departure following the Thursday death of Schweich in what police say was an apparent suicide.

The first lady’s travel costs will be paid for by the Hawthorn Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to promote economic growth in the state.

(Jefferson City) (AP) – A memorial service for Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich is scheduled for Tuesday in his hometown of Clayton.

Schweich fatally shot himself Thursday in what police are calling an apparent suicide.

His spokesman Spence Jackson says the service will be held at the Church of St. Michael and St. George, an episcopal church where Schweich was a member.

The memorial will take place at 10 a.m. at the church, located at 6345 Wydown Blvd., near Schweich’s home.

A pastor from the church was present and said a prayer for Schweich when he was sworn in to office as auditor in January.