(Little Rock) (AP) – Voters can begin casting early ballots Monday in Arkansas’ midterm election. And while the top-of-the-ticket U.S. Senate and governor’s races have dominated the airwaves, a handful of legislative races could determine whether more than 200,000 people keep their health insurance under the state’s Medicaid expansion.
One of the first jobs for the newly elected Legislature will be to decide whether to reauthorize the “private option” program, which uses Medicaid money to buy private health insurance for low-income residents.
Republicans have already secured control of the Senate, but Democrats can still reclaim the House.
Just four Senate seats are contested on the ballot, while 38 House seats are up for grabs. Republicans would need to win 16 of those seats to keep their majority in the House, while Democrats need 24.
(Sikeston) – To prepare for the winter snow season, the Missouri Department of Transportation will begin tree trimming will begin Monday, December 15 through Friday, February 13, 2015 on Route 106 in Reynolds and Shannon Counties. Once work begins, tree trimming will take place during the hours of 7 AM to 3 PM. Monday through Friday on Route 106 from Route 19 in Eminence to Route 21 in Ellington.
Tree branches hanging over MoDOT right of way more than 15 feet from the edge of the pavement will be trimmed with a large mechanical tree trimmer. The tree-trimming operation will take approximately two months to complete, weather permitting.
Periodic lane closures will occur on Route 106 due to the size of the trimmer and as branches are cleared from the roadway. Flaggers will be present to provide traffic control and message boards will placed be at both ends of the work area to alert motorists.
Motorists should expect short delays during work hours and drivers should stay alert for these slow moving work zones.
For additional information, contact MoDOT’s Customer Service Center toll-free at 1-888-ASK-MODOT (1-888-275-6636) or visit www.modot.org/southeast.
(California) – Health plan-ranking website HealthPocket reports that the 2015 Medicare programs are covering less.
The report, which analyzed government data on 2015 Medicare drug plans, says the number of covered drugs has decreased as compared to 2014, and the incidence of restrictions placed on covered drugs has increased. At an average of 1,485 drugs, Medicare Advantage plans in 2015 covered 5% more drugs than the average for 2015 Medicare Part D plans.
Given the number of covered drugs, the percentage of drugs with restrictions represents hundreds of medications for the average Medicare drug plan. An average of 34% of covered drugs in Medicare Advantage plans have restrictions placed on the coverage. For Medicare Part D plans, the level of drug restrictions is even higher at 37%.
The full results of the study can be reviewed at 2015 Medicare Drug Plan Medicare Coverage and Restrictions. 2015 Medicare drug plan cost and availability can be reviewed at www.HealthPocket.com.
(Summersville) – Reflections from the Road columnist Rick Mansfield has published his second book and will be signing copies at the Summersville Mill on Friday, October 24.
Beginning at 6 PM Rick will be reading and telling a few tales excerpted from “A Riverman’s Legacy & Other Ozark Tales”.
Also that evening, from 7-9:30 PM, the Summersville Senior Class is hosting a Haunted House in the Mill. Tickets are $5, with proceeds benefiting the senior trip. The haunted house will be operated from 7-9:30 PM both Friday, October 24 and Saturday, October 25, and will be open Halloween night, October 31.
(Ash Flat) – The Sharp County Historical Society will hold their quarterly meeting on Sunday afternoon, October 26 at 2 PM at the First National Banking Company Community Room in Ash Flat.
The guest speaker and member of the Society, Mary Cooper Miller, will present a program on “Lady Spies and Soldiers During the Civil War.” The presentation will include information on Emily Weaver, a resident of Batesville, before, during and after the war.
Miller, a native of Izard County, is a graduate of Melbourne High School and the University of Central Arkansas. Her Master’s Degree is from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. A retired school librarian, she enjoys genealogy and traced one line back to John Lafferty, born in Ireland, who brought his family to Lawrence County in 1810. Lafferty Creek is named for him. The land where he settled is now in present-day Stone County.
For more information, call Ina Gill at 870-994-2410, or call the Ash Flat Library at 870-994-2658.
(Mountain Home) – Area teens are invited to Teen Tuesday at the Donald W. Reynolds Library in Mountain Home on Tuesday, October 28 from 5-7 PM.
Teen Tuesday is a monthly program at the Library designed especially for teens in grades 7th – 12th, with a different theme each month.
For additional information, contact Teen Librarian John Dyer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 870-580-0703 or visit www.baxlib.org. The Donald W. Reynolds Library Serving Baxter County is located at 300 Library Hill, Mountain Home, AR.
(Jefferson City) (AP) – When balancing the budget, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has some of the most expansive powers among his peers. He can reduce spending for anything he chooses, and has done so repeatedly.
But a proposal on the Nov. 4 ballot would flip that around. If approved, proposed Constitutional Amendment 10 would give Missouri lawmakers the final say on state spending by allowing them to override a governor’s budget cuts.
The ballot measure is rooted in a six-year spat between the Republican-led Legislature and the Democratic governor who during his tenure has blocked billions of dollars of budgeted spending – in some cases, even as tax revenues have exceeded projections.
If passed, the amendment would allow legislators to try to override more than $700 million of spending restrictions that Nixon has imposed on the budget that runs through June 30. It also could affect budget decisions for years to come.
Nixon opposes the amendment. He says it could “lessen the fiscal strength” of the state.
“I don’t think it’s right for us to limit the power of the chief executive, the power that’s been used by governors over the years … to maintain that fiscal balance,” Nixon said.
Republican lawmakers who referred the amendment to the ballot contend Nixon has abused his budget-balancing powers, especially when he has temporarily frozen spending as leverage to persuade legislators not to enact tax breaks.
“What Amendment 10 ultimately does is it restores that appropriate legislative role of setting the state’s spending priorities,” said Rep. Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, who sponsored the amendment.
The Missouri Constitution allows governors to slow the rate of spending on programs. It also says governors can reduce spending whenever actual revenues are less than the estimates upon which the budget was based. Nixon has cited the first provision to justify spending freezes based on his concerns about the state’s financial future, even when current revenues are fine.
Most states allow governors to reduce spending, but often with more limitations than Missouri, according to information compiled by the National Association of State Budget Officers.
Connecticut and Vermont, for example, limit their governors to spending reductions of 1 percent without legislative approval. Maryland and Nevada bar their governor from reducing spending for K-12 education.
When revenues fall short of expectations during the first half of the fiscal year in Georgia, the governor can require agencies to slow spending until the legislature can meet to consider budget reductions. Several other states also grant lawmakers some say in spending reductions.
Missouri’s proposed constitutional amendment appears to be unique in that it would essentially treat gubernatorial spending reductions the same as line-item budget vetoes. It would allow the House and Senate to override a budget restriction by a two-thirds vote of both chambers – the same mark already used to override vetoes.
Currently, when lawmakers override line-item vetoes, a governor can still block the spending by imposing a restriction upon it. That’s exactly what Nixon did after legislators overrode 47 of his line-item vetoes in September. The ballot measure would give lawmakers the power to lift those spending restrictions, as well as others imposed by the governor.
Democratic Rep. Chris Kelly, who has criticized many of Nixon’s spending restrictions, nonetheless believes the amendment poses a “serious problem.” He said legislators could override gubernatorial spending restrictions that are essential to keeping the budget in balance.
“This is very, very unconservative to do this,” said Kelly, of Columbia, a former House Budget Committee chairman who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election.
Richardson said he trusts his colleagues not to plunge the state into deficit spending by overriding too many gubernatorial spending cuts. He contends Nixon currently has “unchecked power.”
The proposed constitutional amendment is based on “a very conservative notion- that our government is supposed to work on a system of checks and balances,” Richardson said.
(Leslie) (AP) – Arkansas State Police say a Searcy County sheriff’s deputy and a 75 year-old man were wounded in a shooting at the Serenity Farm Bread store at Leslie in Searcy County.
State police say deputies and a trooper were sent to the store about 11:15 a.m. Friday following reports of an armed man holding two hostages there.
State police say when the officers arrived and entered the store, 75-year-old John Kolata opened fire and that a deputy and the trooper returned fire and struck Kolata.
The deputy’s wounds are said to be non-life threatening while Kolata was in surgery at a Little Rock hospital in undisclosed condition. The trooper and no one else inside the store were injured.
The names of the deputy and the trooper were not immediately released.
(Hot Springs) (AP) – Bill Clinton has kicked off his second campaign swing through Arkansas this month, as the former president aggressively delved into his home state’s politics to boost a lineup of Democratic candidates with whom he boasts longstanding ties.
Speaking Friday night to a crowd gathered in his boyhood home of Hot Springs, Clinton praised Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, gubernatorial nominee Mike Ross and congressional hopeful James Lee Witt as examples of the type of bipartisanship voters crave.
The rally was the first of several Clinton planned to headline this weekend as in hopes of helping Democrats fend off a Republican takeover. Pryor’s race against Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton could decide which party controls the chamber next year.
(St. Louis) (AP) - A St. Louis sterilization company will not accept any medical waste potentially contaminated with Ebola.
A St. Louis Circuit Court judge approved an agreement Friday between Stericycle Inc. and Attorney General Chris Koster’s office barring the company from receiving such waste at its St. Louis facility.
Stericycle had received a federal permit earlier this month to remove waste from the Texas hospital and home where a man with Ebola virus stayed before dying.
Koster sought a temporary restraining order blocking the facility from handling any Ebola-contaminated materials while alleging that it had previously violated waste-management laws.
The company says it will work with Missouri hospitals to find other ways to dispose of waste if there is a suspected or confirmed Ebola case in the state.