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(Little Rock) (AP) – The Arkansas Senate has approved legislation barring the state from requiring licenses from yoga teacher training schools and several other instructor training programs.

By a 34-0 vote, the Senate approved a measure barring the state Board of Private Career Education from regulating yoga schools. The bill also bars the board from requiring licenses for programs that offer “avocational or recreational” or teacher instruction for dance, music, horseback riding or sewing.

Yoga schools objected last year after the board said they would be required to be licensed. The proposal by Democratic Sen. Uvalde Lindsey of Fayetteville now heads to the House for a vote.

(Maryville) (AP) – A white northwest Missouri man is charged with felony assault after he allegedly confronted a black waitress as she served him breakfast.

Nodaway County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rice announced Wednesday that he charged 65-year-old Tommy Dean Gaa, of Maryville, with felony assault motivated by discrimination.

The Maryville Daily Forum reports Gaa is accused of confronting the waitress on Sunday and grabbing her arm, causing bruising. A probable cause statement says Gaa said “I have a place I would like to take you where I hung your grandpa” and used racial slurs.

Gaa was released from the Nodaway County Jail on $4,900 bond. Online records don’t indicate if he has an attorney.

Rice says the comments were bad enough but Gaa crossed the line when he grabbed the waitress.

(West Plains) – Five people have been charged in connection with a robbery incident that occurred earlier this month in West Plains.

18-year-old Jordan Montgomery, 19-year-old Devon Bush, 19-year-old Alexander Smith, and 19-year-old Aaron Downer, all of West Plains, were all charged Wednesday with 2nd degree robbery, a felony.

Court documents in the case state that on January 24, 21-year-old Rachel Loo of West Plains called the police to report the theft of $400. After police began to interview Montgomery, who was at the home during the robbery, police say they learned that the four conspired to steal roughly an ounce of marijuana from Loo by staging a robbery at her home in Breckenridge Apartments. The documents state that the Smith came into her home to purchase marijuana, and shortly after, Downer entered the home with a BB gun and stole the marijuana, with Montgomery pretending that the robbery was real. The four then left the home and reportedly split the marijuana four ways.

Smith reportedly told police that they decided to steal just the marijuana because they thought Loo wouldn’t call the police to report the stolen drugs. In a later interview, Loo reportedly told police that she reported the theft because she didn’t know what to do and she “wanted them to get what was coming to them”.

Loo was later charged with distribution of a controlled substance.

At report time, the four men were held on $15,000 bond each, which was posted, while Loo was held on $10,000 bond.

Northern commissioner Bill Lovelace, Presiding commissioner Mark Collins, and Southern commissioner Billy Sexton. (provided)

Northern commissioner Bill Lovelace, Presiding commissioner Mark Collins, and Southern commissioner Billy Sexton. (provided)

(West Plains) – The Howell County Commission held a budget hearing Wednesday afternoon and approved the 2015 budget.

Presiding commissioner Mark Collins spoke with Ozark Radio News and talked about the $9.24 million budget for 2015, and one of the major projects for the county:

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Collins also talked about the $2.6 million road and bridge budget, and one of the county’s bigger bridge projects scheduled for this year:

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He added that it’s extremely hard to keep up with county roads on such a limited budget:

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He also talked about the law enforcement budget, which is at $2.4 million for 2015:

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Collins attributed the fiscal responsibility and good numbers to great county employees who work hard to make every cent count:

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The budget also has almost $3 million for general revenue and expenditures. County clerk Dennis VonAllmen says people who are interested are invited to look at the full budget, which is available for viewing during normal business hours at the Howell County Office Building, in the former Bank of America building on Court Square in downtown West Plains.

(Little Rock) (AP) – Lawmakers have advanced Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s plan to continue Arkansas’ compromise Medicaid expansion through 2016, rejecting an effort to abolish the program later this year.

The Senate Public Health Committee on Wednesday endorsed legislation that would create a task force to look at alternatives to the “private option” as well as longer-term Medicaid reforms.

The Joint Budget Committee also advanced a funding bill that will reauthorize the program for another year.

Under the private option, Arkansas is using federal funds to purchase private insurance for the poor. Hutchinson, a Republican, proposed the task force last week as he called on lawmakers to continue the program.

The committee rejected on a 3-3 vote a competing proposal calling for an end to the private option on Dec. 31.

(Van Buren) – Former Riverways Chief Ranger Larry Johnson has been selected to serve as the Acting Superintendent at Ozark National Scenic Riverways, following the retirement of Bill Black on January 3.

Johnson is a 32-year veteran of the National Park Service (NPS) and has served as Superintendent of Jewel Cave National Monument in South Dakota since July, 2010. He recently completed a 14-month detail to Badlands National Park as Deputy Superintendent. He has also previously been District Ranger and SCUBA Diving Officer at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, where he earned the Midwest Region’s Safety Achievement Award. As a Sub-District Ranger at Yellowstone National Park he was commended for helping to save four lives in a boating accident on Lewis Lake. While District Ranger and park pilot trainee at Voyageurs National Park, he was honored with the Midwest Region’s Harry Yount Award for excellence as a park ranger.

He then moved into management, with Chief Ranger positions at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Ozark National Scenic Riverways, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. He also served a brief Chief Ranger detail at Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (the St. Louis Arch) and a six-month detail to Badlands as Deputy Superintendent.

Johnson returned to the Riverways on January 16 and will serve as the Acting Superintendent for up to 120 days, while a new permanent superintendent is sought.

Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich announces his candidacy for governor Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, in St. Louis. The announcement sets up a potential high-profile Republican primary next year against former Missouri House Speaker and U.S. attorney Catherine Hanaway. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich announces his candidacy for governor Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, in St. Louis. The announcement sets up a potential high-profile Republican primary next year against former Missouri House Speaker and U.S. attorney Catherine Hanaway. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

(St. Louis) (AP) – Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich launched his gubernatorial campaign aggressively Wednesday, accusing his Republican primary rival of being “bought and paid for” by a wealthy donor and questioning the ethics of his potential Democratic opponent.

Schweich’s long-expected entrance into the 2016 governor’s race came in a speech at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where he denounced “rampant corruption” at the Capitol and laid out an agenda for new ethics laws, “responsible tax cuts” and incentives for the consolidation of public school districts.

Much of Schweich’s criticism was targeted at Republican Catherine Hanaway, a former Missouri House speaker and U.S. attorney who declared her candidacy a year ago. But Schweich also poked at Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster, who has been campaigning for governor for nearly two years.

The governor’s office will be open because Democratic incumbent Jay Nixon is prohibited by term limits from seeking re-election.

Schweich, 54, of Clayton, has served as auditor since 2011 and was elected to another four-year term last November. He can run for governor without giving up his current job.

Rep. Shawn Rhoads

Rep. Shawn Rhoads

(Jefferson City) – 154th District State Representative Shawn Rhoads (R-West Plains) spoke with Ozark Radio News and said that he is hoping to work on bringing jobs to West Plains and Willow Springs this coming session:

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Thursday is the 12th day of the 2015 session in the Missouri House.

Officer Pearson

Officer Aaron Pearson

(Springfield) (AP) – An officer who was shot while on the job earlier this week has “career-ending injuries,” the Springfield police chief said.

Chief Paul Williams said in a statement Wednesday that Officer Aaron Pearson’s injuries included ones to his brain that will require long-term rehabilitation and care.

Joshua Lee Hagood, 32, was charged Wednesday with first-degree assault on a law enforcement officer, armed criminal action and unlawful possession of a firearm in connection with the shooting, the Springfield News-Leader.

He’s accused of shooting Pearson with a stolen gun early Monday and is being held in the Greene County Jail without bond. It wasn’t immediately clear whether he had an attorney.

(West Plains) – The Howell Valley R-1 Board of Education will hold a special meeting Friday, January 30 in the Title I classroom starting at noon.

The meeting will be on the topic of bids for internet firewall and wifi services.

No other items are on the agenda.