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by David A. Lieb, AP

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Missouri higher education officials are backing off an attempt to make scholarships available to students at an online university, after the proposal drew opposition from some traditional institutions and sparked plans for a legislative hearing.

A joint House and Senate panel had been scheduled to meet Wednesday to consider blocking a proposed rule change for scholarship eligibility that would have redefined what it means for an institution to be “located in Missouri.” The intent was to make Access Missouri scholarships available to students at Western Governors University-Missouri, an online-only school.

But the hearing was canceled Tuesday after the Department of Higher Education withdrew the proposed rule change. A memo from the department to the legislative committee said the agency wants to “provide additional time to discuss the issues further with interested parties.”

Gov. Jay Nixon had directed the agency to ensure WGU-Missouri students could receive state financial aid when he signed an executive order in February 2013 establishing a Missouri branch of the online university, which is based in Salt Lake City.

The rule change was opposed by the Independent Colleges and University of Missouri, a collection of 21 private institutions. That group contends that any scholarship changes should require passage of a law, not merely a rule by a state agency. It also has raised concerns that other out-of-state institutions could use of the scholarships, thus expanding the pool of eligible recipients and ultimately resulting in a smaller amount of aid available for each student.

The decision to drop the proposed rule marked an abrupt change for department officials.

The independent colleges group had sent the department a letter outlining its concerns in June. As recently as Dec. 10, the agency’s deputy commissioner, Leroy Wade, had sent a letter to the legislative panel defending the proposed rule change and dismissing the objections raised against it.

The Associated Press published an article about the proposed rule change over the weekend. The memo withdrawing the rule was dated Monday.

“We’ve decided that rather than go forward with this – if there are these level of questions – we’re better to take the time to talk to them and see what kind of compromise position we can meet,” Wade said in an interview Tuesday.

If the department later decides to pursue the rule change again, it will have to start from scratch. That process can take six months or more.

“We’re still optimistic that there will come a point where we’re able to have our students access those funds – it’s just a matter of time,” said Angie Besendorfer, the chancellor at WGU-Missouri.

Students at the online university are not currently eligible for state scholarships because WGU-Missouri is not considered to be located in Missouri. Under the proposed rule change, an accredited institution whose main campus is elsewhere could have qualified if it had a building in Missouri, employed at least 25 Missouri residents, enrolled at least 750 Missouri students, had a Missouri-based oversight board and agreed to supply data to state officials. All of those criteria would have been met by WGU-Missouri, Besendorfer said.

ASH GROVE, Mo. (AP) — A former southwest Missouri high school teacher has been charged in a child sex case involving a 16-year-old female student.

The Springfield News-Leader reports 34-year-old William Herrington of Republic was charged Monday with felony sodomy, child molestation and sexual contact with a student.

Ash Grove police say Herrington sent inappropriate messages to the girl’s Twitter account, and had sexual contact with her in the school’s library storage closet and at his home in October.

Superintendent Kyle Collins suspended the Ash Grove High School social studies teacher after the girl’s mother contacted him in October. Herrington is no longer employed by the district.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Herrington has an attorney.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A proposed Missouri bill would give legal amnesty to those seeking emergency medical help for drug overdoses.

Republican state Rep. Bryan Spencer of Wentzville recently proposed a bill protecting those who call for help from being charged with some drug crimes.

Some who call an ambulance for themselves or others would be immune from charges of drug possession, but there are stipulations. The amnesty only kicks in if the individual has less than a certain amount of an illegal substance.

For example, someone with more than three grams of heroin, cocaine or morphine would not be protected. Police still could arrest those if they already had suspicion that they were committing illegal activity before calling for help with an overdose.

swac(West Plains) – The annual Shop With A Cop program in West Plains had one of its biggest events ever on Saturday. Detective Jeremy Pounders with the West Plains Police Department told Ozark Radio News that over $14,000 was raised for the event, which benefitted over 200 children:

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Pounders says that an increase of donations and donors helped contribute to the stellar fundraising this year:

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A number of organizations helped in this year’s Shop With A Cop event, including the West Plains Police and Fire departments, Howell County Rural Fire Department, Howell County Sheriff’s Office, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Child Advocacy Center, 37th Judicial District juvenile officers, the Missouri Sheriff’s Association, the West Plains High School Beta Club, and others.


(Washington) – After months of reviewing public comments, some changes are coming to the Current and Jacks Fork rivers, and to Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

Some key changes, which were announced Friday, include the elimination of many unofficial horse trails and the closing of some gravel bar camping areas. To combat these changes, ONSR plans on expanding designated horse trails and designated gravel bar camping areas. Also, camping on gravel bars will be permitted by paddlers and boaters, as long as the campsite is at least 50 feet away from any designated river access and half mile away from any designated campground.

Another issue area residents were worried about was the elimiation of powerboats on the upper stretches of the Current and Jacks Fork rivers, however, powerboats up to 25 horsepower will be allowed on those areas during gigging season. Also, powerboats up to 150 horsepower can be used on the Current River below Big Spring. A much lower horsepower limit had been proposed.

ONSR Superintendent Bill Black says that, while the changes won’t be going into effect in the near future, the park is planning on developing a road and trail plan soon.

Black added that boating restrictions won’t be going into effect anytime soon, but that boaters will probably have some sort of grace period, with notifications and signage signaling that the rules are changing. Black said the ban on powerboats on the upper sections of the Jacks Fork and Current Rivers, except during gigging and trapping seasons, probably won’t begin until the spring of 2016.

ONSR received more than 3,000 comments after it released its draft proposal of the plan in November 2013.

The full plan can be read at

st_arflag(Little Rock) (AP) – Nearly two years after approving a pair of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country, Republicans in Arkansas’ Legislature are weighing additional measures to make it more difficult for women to get the procedure.

A ban on the use of telemedicine to offer the abortion pill, cutting off public funding to Planned Parenthood and requiring more information given to women in person before they undergo the procedure are likely on the agenda for lawmakers next year.

The proposals follow a 2013 session where lawmakers approved measures banning most abortions 12 and 20 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy. The Republican led-Legislature approved both bans, overriding vetoes by Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe.

A federal judge has struck down the 12-week ban, a ruling that the state is appealing.

stk_meth(Mountain Home) – Three Mountain Home residents have been arrested in connection with a month-long investigation into the distribution of narcotics near Mountain Home High School.

Officers with the Mountain Home Police Department and the Arkansas State Police served a search warrant at a Mill Creek Apartment located on Bucher Drive on Monday. During the search, a 1997 Ford Ranger pickup, a quantity of methamphetamine, and items used to package and distribute methamphetamine were reportedly confiscated.

Three suspects, 34-year-old Chris Lee, 34-year-old Mitch Simpson, and 27-year-old Bobby Gilley, face a variety of charges, including possession of methamphetamine, possession or delivery near certain facilities, and simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms. Lee was also charged with unlawful use of a communication device and delivery of a controlled substance.

Bond for Lee was set ast $50,000, while bond for Simpson and Gilley was set at $30,000 each.

newcomb lewis(Mountain Home) – Two people are under arrest after Baxter County authorities say the pair stole high-dollar items from several area homes.

39-year-old Darren Newcomb was arrested and charged with felony theft by receiving, and was held on $30,000 bond, which was posted. Also arrested was 28-year-old William Lewis, who was held on a probation violation.

Police say that investigators received a tip about several stolen items, including a pop-up camper, a flat-bed trailer, and an RTV, which were all stolen from throughout the county since the beginning of this month, were seen on some property near Gasville. Investigators went to the home north of Gassville to speak with the resident, and found several of the items while talking with Lewis.

A report from the sheriff’s office states that while at the residence Friday afternoon, investigators observed Newcomb arrive on the stolen RTV.

The recovered property is being returned to the victims, and the investigation is continuing.

(Jefferson City) – The Missouri Conservation Commission has set dates for the 2015 firearms turkey and deer hunting seasons.

Firearms turkey season dates are April 11 and 12 for the spring youth season, followed by the regular spring season April 20-May 10, and the fall firearms season October 1-31.

The urban firearms deer season dates are October 9-12, with the early youth hunt from October 31 to November 1. The urban season will be October 9-12. The November dates are November 14-24, and the antlerless season will run from November 25 through December 6. Alternatve methods, such as bow hunting, will run from December 19-29, and the late youth season will be January 2-3.

Full details of 2015 deer and turkey hunting regulations will be published on the Conservation Department website,, and in hunting regulation guides available from hunting permit vendors statewide before the seasons.

st_mshpcar(Willow Springs) – A total of 32 arrests and 38 warnings were issued in conjunction with a seat belt enforcement operation conducted by Troop G of the Missouri State Highway Patrol in Texas County on December 6.

Totals from this enforcement effort include 1 misdemeanor warrant arrest, 2 felony arrests due to a road rage incident; 18 speed summonses; 6 seat belt summonses; 2 non-moving violation summonses; 2 hazardous moving violations; and 1 no driver’s license summons.

Troop G commanding officer Captain Mark Inman says that motorists traveling on Missouri’s roadways can expect that the Highway Patrol will do all they can to rid the roads of unsafe drivers, and that motorists should always pay attention to the task of driving, and wear their seat belt at all times.