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(Thayer) – A Town Hall Candidate Forum for Oregon County voters will be held at the Thayer Fun and Friends Senior Center October 20 starting at 6:30 PM.

The Commonsense Property Rights Coalition is sponsoring the event. Korey Whitelock, co-chair of the group, says that all candidates for office in Oregon County are invited. Each candidate will have several minutes to address the voters and then be able to take questions from the audience. Senator Mike Cunningham, who is not up for reelection, and Representative Jeff Pogue, who is running unopposed, are also invited and expected to attend and address the voters.

Refreshments will be served for a small fee as a fundraiser for the Property Rights Coalition. All voters and interested parties are invited to attend.

For more information please call 417-264-2435.

(Houston) – During the most recent Texas County Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees meeting, board members learned that TCMH received a $3,000 stipend from CMS to help offset the cost of man hours for the data collection and reporting by three departments.

TCMH CEO Wes Murray reported that the hospital’s emergency department has seen a rise in the number of transfers by ambulance to the department and a higher acuity level among patients in the department.

The new strategy includes using mid-level providers in the ER during peak times. The mid-level provider, a physician assistant or nurse practitioner, will provide care for the primary care cases that end up in the emergency department but could be seen in an office-based clinic setting.

Murray explained that TCMH still has low emergency room waiting times compared to national averages, but when acuity levels rise in the patients in the ER, wait times increase.

Chip Lange, physician assistant at the TCMH Medical Complex, is already helping out during peak times in the TCMH emergency department. Ray Bruno, a family nurse practitioner, and Jeff Blue, physician assistant, are also expected to begin to provide additional coverage in the emergency department very soon.

(West Plains) – Information about the Adult Education and Literacy (AEL) Program at Missouri State University-West Plains’ will be given at the Friends of the Garnett Library monthly luncheon meeting on Friday, October 10, on the Missouri State University-West Plains campus.

AEL Program Coordinator Joan Wright will present the program “Adult Education and Literacy: Helping for a Better Life.”

The luncheon and meeting will take place from 12-1 PM in rooms 104 and 105 on the lower level of the Lybyer Technology Center. Parking is available in the lot off Cass Avenue on the north side of the building.

The cost of the meal is $10, and is payable at the door. Those wishing to eat are asked to make a reservation by calling 417-255-7940 or emailing FriendsofGarnettLibrary@MissouriState.edu by Tuesday, October 7.

For more information about Friends of the Garnett Library, visit the organization’s website, wp.missouristate.edu or call 417-255-7940.

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Parents and teachers creating education guidelines for Missouri schoolchildren are hoping for the best but bracing for what could be a yearlong fight over the role that Common Core standards should have in classrooms.

A new Missouri law created several task forces charged with creating goals for students that prepare them for college and careers, but members responsible for evaluating those standards were divided within hours of their first meetings last week.

Problems started when not all of the appointees had been named in time for last week’s meetings. Those who made it argued about whether to actually meet, then about whether state education officials should be present, who should take notes, and whether the public should be allowed to watch their work. At one meeting, a task force decided to shut off a video camera that had been recording the proceedings.

Some groups are preparing for more gridlock when the groups meet again Thursday and Friday.

“You’ve been asked to play a game with opposing teams and everyone has different rules in mind in terms of how to play the game,” said Jan Mees, a Columbia School Board member appointed by the Missouri School Boards Association to review English standards for kindergarten through fifth grade.

Common Core standards emphasize critical thinking and spell out which reading and math skills students should master at each grade level, while leaving it to districts and states how to achieve that. Supporters say the higher standards shared across state lines would allow for shared resources, comparable student performance measures and smoother school-to-school transitions for children who move, such as military kids.

Critics say the standards were forced on states without local input. Missouri is among 45 states that adopted Common Core, but it is one of several now backing away. Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina also have taken steps to rewrite their standards.

In Missouri, some parents and teachers were on opposite sides before they even met.

Some were picked by lawmakers who fought to ditch Common Core, while others were chosen by Gov. Jay Nixon, who signed a 2009 agreement to help develop the standards. Standards in math, science, social studies and English now each have two groups to reevaluate those standards – one responsible for kindergarten through fifth grade and another for sixth grade through high school.

One Missouri educator picked to review standards later dropped out before discussions started, partly over concerns that the discussion would stray from academics and because the state won’t be covering the costs of gas, hotels and other expenses for task-force members.

Task force members say they hope arguments over procedure will eventually give way to constructive work on the standards. The work groups have until October 2015 to make a recommendation to the State Board of Education, which ultimately decides on standards.

“The law is going to have to be clarified, and we’re going to have to be told what we’re actually supposed to be doing,” said 40-year-old Heather Drury, a vocal Common Core critic, substitute teacher and mother of three from Sikeston appointed to create English standards for sixth grade through high school. After that, “I think we can move forward.”

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Missouri lawmakers spent more than five hours Wednesday drilling current and retired troopers about training protocols in a review of the State Highway Patrol sought after a man drowned this summer while under arrest.

The meeting in the Capitol was the first to help state representatives evaluate the impact a 2011 highway and water patrol merger has had on services and cost savings. House Speaker Tim Jones created the eight-member committee of representatives to review management and trooper training since the merger.

Gov. Jay Nixon sought to combine the highway and water patrols to save an estimated $3 million a year, but the drowning of a 20-year-old student in May has led lawmakers to question whether the merger hurt troopers’ ability to protect residents.

Brandon Ellingson went into the water of the Lake of the Ozarks on May 31 after Trooper Anthony Piercy arrested him for drunken boating and handcuffed him. Ellingson was wearing a life vest with arm holes that could not be fastened on a person wearing handcuffs, and the vest slipped off.

Prosecutors did not press criminal charges against Piercy in relation to Ellingson’s death, but The Kansas City Star reported that the trooper testified that he did not have proper training to handle that situation on a lake.

Highway Patrol troopers declined to address the drowning or any recent changes in policy during the hearing. Still, members of Ellingson’s family watched the hearing with hopes that results would help them persuade the U.S. attorney general to investigate the man’s death.

“The facts came out that the merger failed miserably and safety was jeopardized due to that,” said Ellingson’s uncle Bob Caluzzi, who drove from Des Moines, Iowa, for the hearing. “This will help push our agenda forward to get justice for Brandon, hopefully.”

Lawmakers repeatedly questioned Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Ron Replogle and other leaders in the department about changes in training before and after the merger.

Current officials said the merger increased manpower and helped the Highway Patrol address sometimes violent protests after an unarmed 18-year-old was fatally shot in August by a Ferguson police officer. However, retired water patrol officers and one water patrol veteran said troopers previously trained on just Highway Patrol duties don’t have the same skills to adequately handle conflicts on the water.

The legislation passed despite concerns from water patrol officials who warned that it could hurt services.

Piercy’s supervisor, Sgt. Randy Henry, said lack of swim training was “of great concern to us” before troopers ever began working on the waters.

“Some of these part-timers didn’t even take the final swim test in the academy for whatever reason, they were hurt or whatever,” Henry said. “They graduated from the four-week boat class and didn’t even take the test, much less pass it.”

Committee chairwoman Rep. Diane Franklin, a Camdenton Republican, said questions remain regarding whether the merger actually saved the state money. One audit conducted several months after the merger found that it appeared to cost the state an additional $900,000 that year because of increased retirement and health care contributions. Replogle said the increased workforce and shared resources have been a valuable result of the merger but can’t be quantified.

“I don’t know how you put a dollar amount on some of those things, the efficiencies that we’ve seen from that,” Replogle said. “I don’t know that you can.”

The hearing was the first of four scheduled across Missouri. The next meeting is set for 11 a.m. Oct. 14 at the Osage Beach City Hall and will focus on resident input.

(West Plains) – In early September, Arvest Bank announced the beginning of its fourth annual “1 Million Meals” campaign, which challenges bank associates, customers and communities to fight hunger by providing at least one million meals to those in need. Today, the bank announces the campaign has exceeded 500,000 meals, or halfway to the goal of one million meals.

Arvest branches throughout Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma have been participating in this initiative by collecting nonperishable food items and monetary donations. These efforts will continue through November 1 with the intention of reaching one million meals donated to the local communities Arvest serves just in time for the holidays.

Every dollar raised through 1 Million Meals provides the equivalent of five meals for local, hungry families.

Locally, Arvest Bank in West Plains has partnered with the Samaritan Outreach Center, who will receive all of the nonperishable food and monetary donations made in West Plains through November 1.

Arvest Bank in West Plains has also partnered with the West Plains elementary and middle schools during the month of October to collect food items to benefit the Samaritan Outreach program.

West Plains residents can help support the Samaritan Outreach Center during the 1 Million Meals initiative by dropping off nonperishable food items or monetary donations at Arvest West Plains, 1311 Porter Wagoner Blvd. or by calling 866-952-9523.

For more information about 1 Million Meals, visit arvest.com/millionmeals.

(Jefferson City) (AP) – U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill is planning to travel to Missouri colleges and universities to discuss ways of addressing sexual violence on campuses.

McCaskill’s office says she will hold events at schools in 10 cities next week to listen to opinions about her legislation on the topic.

The bill would require campuses to designate advocates to confidentially discuss options with victims and to develop agreements with local law enforcement agencies on handling sexual assaults. Schools that don’t comply with new standards for training and data collection could face penalties.

This summer, McCaskill released survey results showing that 40 percent of campuses reported no sexual assault investigations in the past five years.

McCaskill’s events will be in Cape Girardeau, Columbia, Kansas City, Kirksville, Maryville, Rolla, St. Joseph, St. Louis, Springfield and Warrensburg.

(Omaha) (AP) – A monthly economic survey index for nine Midwestern and Plains states suggests economic growth in the region will slow down in the months ahead.

A survey report issued Wednesday says the overall September index dropped nearly three points to 54.3, from 57.2 the previous month.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey, says a drop in grain prices over the past year has led to a pullback in economic activity for the heavily agrarian region.

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.

(St. Louis) (AP) – Missouri House Majority Leader John Diehl wants to let voters decide whether to abolish the state lottery, which he calls an “unstable and “inefficient” funding source for public education.

Diehl said he will present the idea to fellow Republican lawmakers in hopes that the House could consider a measure next year that would place a referendum on the lottery on the 2016 ballot.

“I think we should let the voters have a say in whether or not our commitment to public education should be left to the whims of collecting gambling revenue,” Diehl told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “The lottery, at the end of the day, is government-run gambling, and it’s been inefficient.”

The lottery had record sales of nearly $1.16 billion during the 2014 budget year that ended June 30, marking its fifth straight year of growth and the fourth consecutive year that it set a new high for revenues. Yet the amount of lottery proceeds transferred to education declined to $267 million this past year from a high of nearly $289 million in 2013.

The amount of lottery revenues provided to education had consistently been above 25 percent annually during the past decade but dipped to 23.1 percent this past year. The rest of the money goes toward prizes and lottery operations.

That education funding decline prompted Gov. Jay Nixon to order a review of the lottery’s operations and replace all five of its commission members, with an emphasis on boosting the percentage of money that goes to education.

If the lottery were eliminated, legislators would have to come up with about $278 million that the lottery is expected to generate for education under the latest annual estimate.

Diehl said the money could come from growth in state general revenues or by cutting less important programs.

Some lawmakers are urging caution. If the state had to replace lottery funding for education, programs such as mental health could face budget cuts, said Sen. Joe Keaveny, D-St. Louis.

Missouri voters authorized the lottery in 1984 and voted to earmark lottery proceeds for education in 1992.

(West Plains) – Those who ordered doughnuts as part of the Howell Valley Choir fundraiser are urged to pick their orders up this evening.

Doughnut pick-up will be from 3:30-6 PM on Wednesday at the Howell Valley cafeteria off of Route ZZ.

For more information call 417-256-2268.