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by Summer Ballentine, AP

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Missouri lawmakers passed a $26 billion budget plan on Thursday for the next fiscal year that would increase basic aid for K-12 public schools while holding spending for social services stagnant – a sticking point that garnered criticism from lawmakers concerned it could hurt services for low-income families and others.

Passing all 13 bills to outline funding for the state budget – which House Speaker John Diehl said includes a $90 million surplus – means the Republican-controlled Legislature could have the opportunity to override potential vetoes by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon on specific programs before the legislative session ends May 15. Lead budget writer Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said he believes lawmakers could override Nixon’s vetoes with a simple majority instead of the two-thirds needed after the session ends.

The governor could also wait until after the session to announce spending restrictions for particular programs.

Major highlights include $3.2 billion in basic aid for K-12 public schools, up more than $84 million from this year but still far short of the $482 million increase needed to provide the full amount called for under a 2005 state law. Public universities and colleges are set to receive $12 million more in performance-based funding, a 1.3 percent increase.

Mental health is set to receive roughly $730 million in general revenue next fiscal year, about $14 million less than the House proposed but still about $25 million more compared with this fiscal year. The plan includes almost $331 million for the health department, up from $286 million this year but roughly $5 million less than House members suggested.

A pay raise for state employees was not included in the budget, along with a provision that would have prevented Nixon from extending existing bond issues to build a new football stadium in St. Louis, which ultimately was dropped from the budget proposal.

(West Plains) – The next prequalification for the Ozarks Food Harvest Mobile Food Pantry will be from 4-5:45 PM Wednesday, May 6, at the West Plains Public Library Community Room.

Those eligible to apply for this assistance include area families with children ages birth through 18 who live within Howell County. Students enrolled at Missouri State University-West Plains and the South Central Career Center also are eligible, provided they meet income guidelines. Missouri State students must present their student identification cards in person, as well as a current class schedule; they may not send them with a family member. Families will receive only one voucher per family.

Those who apply should bring a photo ID, proof of income, proof of Howell County residency, names and ages of children, and a telephone number. Proof of Howell County residency does not apply to Missouri State-West Plains or South Central Career Center students. Other restrictions apply.

For more information about the Ozarks Food Harvest Mobile Food Pantry project, or if you are interested in volunteering or donating contact officials at the American Red Cross office in West Plains at 417-257-0018.

(Jefferson City) – This past Tuesday saw Missouri senators send Senate Bill 321 to the Missouri House of Representatives for their consideration. The measure would allow victims of sexual assault to receive protective orders and modify the definitions of sexual assault and stalking as they relate to orders of protection.

The proposal is sponsored by Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby:

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During discussion, Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, tells the sponsor she’s in favor of his bill:

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Senators also give final approval to Senate Bill 430, a measure that would require cities, towns and villages proposing to annex a portion of a state highway to also annex a specified portion of the area on either side of the highway. Senator Shalonn “Kiki” Curls, D-Kansas City, sponsors the legislation, and tells her colleagues it mirrors another proposal they have already passed:

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Another measure receiving preliminary Missouri Senate approval is Senate Bill 145, which would require health benefit plans cover diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders. Senator David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, sponsors the measure:

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Senate Bill 145 still needs another vote before it could move to the Missouri House of Representatives for their consideration.

audio provided by the Missouri Senate.

(West Plains) – The Small Business and Technology Development Center in West Plains will be holding a presentation on capital. Coordinator Bronwen Madden spoke with Ozark Radio News and told us more about the forum:

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Madden says that this forum is for anyone who may be interested:

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The cost to register is $20 through this coming Wednesday. For more information visit wp.missouristate.edu or 417-255-7966. You can also register at capitalforum.eventbrite.com.

(West Plains) – A luncheon for volunteers at the Old Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival will be held Saturday, May 9 from 11 AM to 2 PM, in the Dogwood Rooms at the West Plains Civic Center.

The Old-Time Music, Ozarks Heritage Festival in downtown West Plains will celebrate its 21st year Friday and Saturday, June 19 and 20. The two-day annual event in downtown West Plains, celebrates Ozarks music and culture. Admission to all festival events is free.

Organizers come from many different areas of the community, volunteering their time to assure a successful event. There is no paid staff, and the festival committee spends many hours over the year preparing for it.

Because of the festival’s continued growth, more volunteers are needed for a variety of jobs, including 2-hour shifts the information booths; helping with set-up on Thursday evening or Friday morning; maintaining the entrance gate for artists on the north side of the Civic Center; shuttle drivers around the grounds; and helping with simple residency and opinion surveys.

Volunteer training will be held Monday, June 15 at the civic center, and training will be conducted in segments specific to each area: gate training at 5:30 PM; shuttle drivers at 6 PM; information booth at 6:30 PM; and surveys at 7 PM.

Those interested in helping in any way should contact the West Plains Council on the Arts at info@westplainsarts.org, or call Volunteer Coordinator Dee Lewis at 417-257-5563 or 417-256-6919. The preferred deadline for volunteer sign-up is May 1. Volunteers from previous years are also encouraged to call or e-mail to confirm if they will be participating this year. Volunteer sign-up forms are available on the festival website, www.oldtimemusic.org.

For more information on the festival e-mail info@westplainsarts.org, visit the website at http://www.oldtimemusic​.​org, or find and “like” the Facebook page.

(Mammoth Spring) – The Mammoth Spring Chamber of Commerce has announced a new farmers’ market.

The market, which will be located in the Simmons parking lot on Main Street, will open May 2 with roughly 20 vendors selling a variety of items, including plants, Amish items, produce, crafts, baked goods and more. The grand opening May 2 will also feature barbecued food for sale.

The market will be open every Saturday through October 17, rain or shine. For more information on the event or the market, contact Rose Pierce at 870-955-0239 or Eve Jones at 870-625-7788.

(Mountain Home) – A benefit performance of the award-winning play “Arcadia” by Broadway playwright Tom Stoppard will be presented at the Twin Lakes Playhouse on Thursday, May 14, at 7 PM.

Tickets for the performance are on sale now for $12, general admission, at the Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce, the Old Tyme Restaurant on the Square, and at the Historical Society Heritage Center, 808 S. Baker Street. The performance is a fundraiser for the Baxter County Historical and Genealogical Society.

In Arcadia, an English country house, a writer, a professor and a grad student experience a connection with Thomasina, the young girl who lived there more than a hundred years before. Happenings in the then and now unfold the tightly woven tapestry of past and present.

For more information on the show or the Baxter County Historical and Genealogical Society, call 870-425-2551.

by Andrew DeMillo, AP

(Little Rock) (AP) – Opponents of a new Arkansas law preventing local governments from extending anti-discrimination protections to gays and lesbians have been given approval to begin gathering signatures to put the measure before voters next year.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Thursday approved the wording of a proposed referendum on the new law, which is set to take effect in late July. Her certification is required to begin gathering the roughly 51,000 signatures needed to put the referendum on the 2016 ballot.

The law approved earlier this year prohibits local government from banning discrimination on a basis not covered in state law. Arkansas’ anti-discrimination laws don’t include sexual orientation or gender identity.

(St. Louis) (AP) – The remains of a Missouri soldier killed more than four decades ago when his Army helicopter crashed in Cambodia during the Vietnam War are back home.

The remains of Rodney Griffin arrived Thursday morning at St. Louis’ Lambert International Airport, and Patriot Guard motorcyclists led the hearse back toward Griffin’s native mid-Missouri.

The Centralia man was 21 in 1970 when his helicopter was shot down.

In February, Griffin’s relatives were told that his remains had been found in a grave near the crash site, where two other men killed in the crash also were identified.

Griffin’s public funeral will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Centralia High School, from which Griffin graduated in 1968.

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Missouri lawmakers have passed a measure granting $84 million more in basic aid to K-12 public schools.

But the spending plan passed Thursday by the House and Senate still falls nearly $400 million short of what’s needed to provide full funding.

Also passed Thursday was a measure that ups the amount of performance funding for the state’s colleges and universities. The $12 million increase is 1.3 percent more than what schools received this year, but is less than the more than $27 million in additional funding that senators wanted.

The bills now head to Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, who can veto spending for specific programs or services.