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(West Plains) – Police in the city of West Plains will be out in force this holiday weekend.

City officials say the West Plains Police Department will be participating in the annual nationwide Fourth of July weekend “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign, which looks to rid roads of people driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The crackdown, which will include high-visibility enforcement throughout West Plains will run from July 3-5.

Law enforcement also reminds citizens setting off fireworks in the city limits are prohibited.

(Jefferson City) (AP) – A Missouri tax on medical service providers that helps fund the state Medicaid program has been reauthorized by the governor.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday signed legislation to continue the tax for another year.

The measure extends taxes on medical providers including hospitals, nursing homes and ambulances. The revenue brings in roughly $3.6 billion for health care through the state’s Medicaid services, a significant chunk of the program’s funding.

The legislation passed on the final day of the legislative session in May after Senate Democrats broke a filibuster on an unrelated bill to allow a vote on the tax.

The tax would have expired in September if lawmakers took no action.

(Omaha) (AP) – A report on a June survey underscores previous survey signs that slower economic growth likely is ahead for nine Midwestern and Plains states.

The survey report issued Wednesday says the overall Mid-America Business Conditions Index rose to 53.0 from 50.4 in May and 52.7 in April.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says “improvements at the national level in housing, retail sales and hiring pushed supply managers to raise their expectations about future economic conditions.”

The survey results from supply managers are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests economic growth, while a score below that suggests decline.

The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

(West Plains) – The Missouri Humanities Council (MHC) has awarded a $2,060 grant to Missouri State University-West Plains to support the ninth annual Ozarks Studies Symposium, set for September 18-19 at the West Plains Civic Center.

The MHC is the only statewide agency in Missouri devoted exclusively to humanities education for citizens of all ages. It has served as a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities since 1971.

The theme of this year’s event is “The Lure of the Ozarks”, and will feature presentations by more than 20 scholars, writers, artists and musicians who will explore such topics as anti-Semitism in the Ozarks; recent archaeological finds in the region; the career of illustrator, artist and writer Rose Cecil O’Neill, creator of popular Kewpie comic characters; the exclusion of the Ozarks from the literary canon; African Diaspora in the Ozarks; a commune established by the Dan Blocker Singers; the back-to-the-land movement of the 1970s; the career of folklorist Vance Rudolph; among others.

The keynote address will be given by Dr. Steve Wiegenstein, associate dean for academic affairs and dean of graduate studies at Columbia College. Wiegenstein is the author of two novels, Slant of Light, which was the runner up for the 2012 Langum Prize in American historical fiction and a finalist for the 2014 Balcones Fiction Prize; and This Old World, which was a finalist for the M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction.

The annual Ozarks Studies Symposium reflects Missouri State-West Plains’ commitment to serve as a link between the predominantly rural region it serves and the world of higher education and scholarship, facilitating communication between these two communities and fostering a mutually beneficial relationship between them.

Additional funding will be provided by the Missouri State-West Plains academic affairs office, the West Plains Council on the Arts, and the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. All presentations are free, and everyone is welcome to attend.

For more information about the symposium, visit ozarksymposium.wp.missouristate.edu.

(Marshall) – After 66 years of service, John Huston has retired as Chairman of the Board of Wood & Huston Bank.

Mr. Huston began working full time for Wood & Huston Bank after he graduated from the University of Missouri in 1949. During his time at Wood & Huston Bank, the bank grew its deposits from $6.8 million to $510 million, an increase of 7,400%. Loans grew from $1.6 million to $486 million, an increase of 30,275%.

Huston is also an Army veteran, having served our country in the Korean War.

On the announcement of his retirement, the Board of Directors unanimously voted on a resolution to elect John Huston Chairman Emeritus of Wood & Huston Bank, effective on John Huston’s retirement on June 21. In separate resolution, Mark Thompson, executive vice president and CFO of the bank, was unanimously elected to serve as a member of the Board of Directors.

John Huston is married to his wife Donna, with whom they have four sons, along with their wives and 9 grandchildren. A lifelong resident of Saline County, John has been past president, director and member of numerous civic organizations.

Accepting the position of Chairman of the Board for Wood & Huston Bank is Nick Huston, who has been employed by Wood & Huston Bank for 33 years beginning his career at the bank in 1982. Like his father, Mr. Huston is also an alumnus of the University of Missouri and lifelong resident of Saline County. He is married to his wife, Leslie, has two children and, like his father, is an avid outdoorsman.

(West Plains) – Big plans are underway for the McDonald’s location off of Preacher Roe Boulevard in West Plains.

The long-standing building was torn down at the beginning of June to make way for a national prototype restaurant, according to owner/operator Andi Hilburn. She told Ozark Radio News that the new “Create Your Taste” menu and kiosk system, which was unveiled at the Porter Wagoner location last week, will be fully implemented in the new location:

She also talked about the layout of the new restaurant:

The new restaurant will also include a new play place for children:

Hilburn says the new McDonald’s is expected to open at the end of August or mid-September, however, that depends on weather.

A mock-up of the future location of Wages Brew Company in the South Ridge Plaza. (provided)

A mock-up of the future location of Wages Brew Company in the East Towne Village. (provided)

(West Plains) – An up-and-coming microbrewery in West Plains has hit a funding milestone in their effort to bring fresh, homemade beers in West Plains.

Wages Brewing Company was seeking over $10,000 to apply for a loan through the Ozarks Small Business Incubator, and hit that goal thanks to a number of people who have helped crowdfund the business.

Owner Phil Wages spoke with Ozark Radio News and told us more about the crowdfunding effort:

He also talked about the location and some of the brewery features:

Some people who may be interested in microbrews could be intimidated by the selection and the choices available. Wages says that, if you’re interested in finding a new spin on your favorite drink, you can come to them for help:

The brewery hopes to raise a total of $20,000 in crowd funding to fully fund the business.

The sponsorships start at $99 and include perks such as a custom glass or growler, and your first beer free each visit. For more information on the sponsorship program, you can email Wages at phil@wagesbrewco.com or call 417-293-3119. You can also find Wages Brew Company on Facebook.

by Jim Salter, AP

(ShutterStock)

(ShutterStock)

(St. Louis) (AP) – Some Missouri counties still won’t issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite last week’s Supreme Court ruling, prompting an advocacy group to threaten legal action Wednesday to force compliance.

Katie Stuckenschneider of St. Louis-based PROMO, which advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality, said the organization is working with the American Civil Liberties Union in weighing possible lawsuits if counties don’t comply.

The Supreme Court ruled Friday that marriage is a constitutional right equally held by all Americans. A few counties nationwide are refusing to issue licenses to same-sex couples, mainly in the Bible Belt and the Midwest. PROMO’s website has a map that shows two dozen of Missouri’s 114 counties aren’t doing so.

But Jan Jones, president of the Recorders Association of Missouri, said virtually all counties in Missouri plan to start issuing licenses to same-sex couples. Some are waiting for the arrival of new certificates or software to print new certificates, since the old ones cited Missouri law that previously defined marriage as between a man and a woman, she said.

At least one county is outright refusing to issue licenses, though. Linda Blessing, recorder of deeds in Schuyler County in northeast Missouri, cited religious reasons.

“That is a decision I’ve made,” Blessing said. “Biblically, I think it’s incorrect. I think the decision that the Supreme Court made was wrong.”

It wasn’t immediately clear if the state could force Blessing to comply. A message left with the Missouri Attorney General’s office was not immediately returned, but legal experts are dubious that religious freedom arguments will protect public officials.

No gay couples have requested a marriage license in the county that’s near the Iowa border, but Stuckenschneider said there is a couple there waiting for clarity on how to proceed. The couple declined an interview request.

In southeast Missouri, Pemiscot County Recorder of Deeds Pam Strawbridge said she will reluctantly issue licenses, “if I have to.”

“It’s just my religious beliefs. I don’t think it’s right, but I will follow the law,” she said.

Oregon County Recorder Dawn Holman initially held out because the licenses on hand still include language prohibiting same-sex marriage. With no money in the budget for new licenses, her office in southwest Missouri is volunteering to cross out that wording with a pen if the couple requests.

“We will just have to use what we have,” she said.

The same issue has forced Vernon County to upgrade its software to print new licenses, Recorder of Deeds Doug Shupe said. He expects the county to start issuing licenses by the end of the week.

“I’m not refusing,” Shupe said. “We’re trying to make it right for them.”

(ShutterStock)

(ShutterStock)

(Little Rock) (AP) – At least two Arkansas counties have not issued same-sex marriage licenses as clerks with religious objections struggle to comply with state and federal orders.

Cleburne and Randolph county officials said Wednesday that they haven’t had gay couples seek licenses, but it’s unclear if any such request would be granted.

The Cleburne County clerk resigned Tuesday after voicing objections to Friday’s Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. County Judge Jerry Holmes says it’s unclear if deputy clerks will issue licenses to gay couples.

Randolph County Clerk Rhonda Blevins said Wednesday she wasn’t sure if she would issue licenses to gay couples and is seeking direction from God.

The Yell County clerk considered resigning but says she decided to stay because her departure wouldn’t change the ruling.

by Summer Ballentine, AP

(ShutterStock)

(ShutterStock)

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Kansas City Republican Bev Randles and Democratic state Rep. Tommie Pierson said this week that they’re joining the race for Missouri lieutenant governor in 2016.

Randles announced her candidacy Wednesday in a video, touting her childhood growing up in Sikeston, a city of less than 17,000 in the state’s southeast corner. Pierson, a pastor, told St. Louis Public Radio on Tuesday of his plans to run at the urging of clergy members.

Randles and Pierson join Springfield doctor and attorney Brad Bradshaw, a Democrat who said in May that he’s running for the office.

Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder has said he’s considering a run for governor, which could mean an open race for lieutenant governor. Kinder’s campaign treasurer was not immediately available to comment Wednesday.

Randles, a 42-year-old Kansas City attorney, formerly served as chairwoman of the Missouri Club for Growth, a conservative group largely funded by wealthy political activist Rex Sinquefield. She’s far ahead of her competitors in terms of funding, receiving a $1 million lump sum donation from Sinquefield in December, which appears to be the largest single donation from an individual to a candidate in state history.

Pierson, a 69-year-old pastor at Greater St. Mark Family Church in St. Louis, said he decided to run after being urged by clergy members. Pierson preached to church members in November after some gathered there following a grand jury decision not to indict the white officer who fatally shot a black 18-year-old in Ferguson, which sparked another round of protests.

Pierson, of Bellefontaine Neighbors, first was elected to the House in 2010. He also worked for more than three decades at General Motors.

If either is elected, Randles or Pierson would become the state’s first black statewide elected official. Both said that didn’t play a role in their decisions, but the potential to make history is weighing on their minds.

Randles’ video said she wants all Missouri residents to have opportunities for success, “no matter what part of the state they are from, no matter what their economic circumstances are, and no matter the color of their skin.” She said if successful, her campaign could help change what she called the “bad rap” the GOP can get “for not having enough people in it who aren’t middle-aged white guys.”

Pierson said it would be “quite an honor” to make history as the first black statewide elected official.