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(West Plains) – The Friends of the West Plains Public Library are currently accepting donations for their annual Spring Book Sale.

Books, movies and music in good condition can be dropped off at the Library during regular hours.

The sale will be held Friday, May 8 from 9 AM to 6 PM and Saturday, May 9 from 9 AM to 4 PM at the West Plains Public Library, 750 W. Broadway.

For more information call 417-256-4775.

(Jefferson City) – Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, says the majority of bills worked on in the first half of the session were handled in committee:

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Senate Minority Floor Leader Joseph Keaveny, D-St. Louis, says a number of bills have been filed in response to the turmoil in Ferguson at the end of the summer last year:

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The 2015 legislative session resumes again on Monday, March 30.

Audio provided by the Missouri Senate.

(West Plains) – The Missouri State University-West Plains University/Community Programs (U/CP) Department will host a lifeguard course April 3-4 at the West Plains Civic Center for those who would like to work at the West Plains Civic Center indoor pool or the City of West Plains’ outdoor aquatic center.

The course is part of the Jeff Ellis and Associates International Lifeguard Training Program (ILTP) Candidates must pass a written exam with a score of 80 percent or higher, pass individual technical performance exams and pass simulation practical exams to qualify for licensing.

There is a $121 fee for the course, which covers an online course and test, a completion card and tuition costs. The first 12 students to register will be accepted.  Students must be 16 by May 31 to take the class.

Missouri State-West Plains Aquatics and Wellness Coordinator Keri Elrod said this is a great opportunity for area residents who may be interested in a summer job at the local pools to obtain the required ILTP certification.

For more information or to register, call the U/CP office at 417-255-7966.

(Little Rock) (AP) – An Arkansas lawmaker has dropped his proposal to make most of a state employee’s personnel file secret two months after they leave their job.

Republican Sen. John Cooper of Jonesboro on Monday withdrew his proposal to exempt from the state Freedom of Information Act nearly all employees’ personnel files 60 days after they leave their job. Cooper’s proposal would have allowed the state to release only limited information such as the employee’s name, title, dates of service and any awards of commendations.

Cooper earlier this month said he’d look at changing the proposal after facing heavy resistance from members of a Senate panel who questioned the need for closing the records.

by Summer Ballentine, AP

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Although Attorney General Chris Koster’s gubernatorial campaign has had a policy in place for months to address concerns that he was influenced by lobbyist perks and political donations, an audit released Tuesday faulted his state office for not implementing a similar system.

At issue is a New York Times article in October asserting Koster was among many attorneys general who were soft on companies facing litigation from their offices after receiving gifts and donations.

Koster’s campaign spokesman Andrew Whalen on Tuesday confirmed that he adopted a policy the next month to stop accepting gifts from lobbyists or contributions from anyone involved in litigation with his office within the last 90 days.

Koster, the only Democrat running for governor in 2016, called it one of the strictest ethics policies of any elected attorney general in the U.S. But the state audit criticized the attorney general’s office for not implementing similar protocols to prevent conflicts of interest.

In a written response included in the audit report, the attorney general’s office said its lawyers had no contact with Koster’s campaign.

“Whether or not a particular entity, lobbyist, or attorney may be a political contributor is of no relevance, and AGO attorneys spend no time concerning themselves with that issue,” the office said in its written response. “The far better solution is to keep campaign business out of the office.”

Spokespeople for the attorney general’s office declined further comment Tuesday.

But Deputy State Auditor Harry Otto said oversight – not just from the campaign – is a necessary safeguard to prevent the appearance of lobbyist influence.

“The public is not going to buy that they have this impenetrable wall between the two,” Otto said. “It just won’t fly.”

Otto said that review is especially needed considering Koster’s campaign turns down donations based on a system of self-reporting. The campaign is now relying on donors to disclose whether they are involved with litigation or potential litigation before the attorney general.

Whalen said if they later discover a donor’s involvement they will return that money.

The audit also said Koster’s office gave unreasonable raises to staff during a time when a tight budget has meant little or no raises for most state employees. Koster cut down on the number of workers in his office and used the savings for average raises of about 9 percent.

The attorney general office’s response in the audit called the criticism an “unfortunate approach” to state employee pay.

by Andrew DeMillo, AP

(Little Rock) (AP) – An Arkansas Senate committee has advanced a measure aimed at preventing local and state governments from infringing upon someone’s religious beliefs that critics have called an attempt to sanction discrimination against gays and lesbians.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 5-3 Tuesday in favor of a “conscience protection” measure that bans any local or state laws or regulations that substantially burden religious beliefs unless a “compelling governmental interest” is proven.

The proposal stalled before the same panel last month after retail giant Wal-Mart said the measure sent the wrong message about its home state and Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he had reservations about the bill. The proposal could go before the Senate as early as Wednesday.

by Allen Reed, AP

(Little Rock) (AP) – A proposal to end life without parole sentences for juveniles has cleared a House panel after it was amended to not apply to current inmates.

The House Judiciary Committee in a voice vote Tuesday advanced the bill to the full body. It would eliminate the sentence for future offenders who are under the age of 18 when they committed a crime.

The bill was heavily amended after it failed to advance in February after facing opposition from the state’s prosecutors.

Democratic Rep. Greg Leding of Fayetteville removed language to make the change retroactive and increased the years it would take for a convicted murderer to be eligible for parole.

State prosecutors withdrew their opposition after the amendments.

(Little Rock) (AP) – County employees and elected officials could carry concealed handguns in a courthouse if a quorum court approves the practice under legislation approved by the Arkansas Senate.

The bill approved by the Senate on a 33-1 vote Tuesday would allow concealed handguns by licensees if they’re employees or elected officials whose principal place of employment is within the courthouse, the courthouse annex or other building owned, leased or regularly used by the county for conducting court proceedings or housing a county office.

The concealed handguns would only be allowed if approved by that county’s quorum court.

The legislation now heads to the House.

(Little Rock) (AP) – The Arkansas House has endorsed a key part of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s criminal justice reform plan to help ease overcrowding at county jails.

Lawmakers voted 79-5 Tuesday to allow the state to partner with county jails on regional facilities to help clear the backlog of more than 2,600 state inmates at the facilities. It also allows inmates to apply for Medicaid benefits and provides avenues for them to enroll in drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs.

Proponents say the change will help fix the overcrowding problem and protect the public.

Opponents say the change will harm Arkansans by allowing warrantless searches of parolees by law enforcement.

The bill now heads back to the Senate.

(Little Rock) (AP) – Legislation banning the “re-homing” of some adopted children is heading to the Arkansas Senate for a vote, a move prompted by a state lawmaker who gave his adopted daughters to away to a man who later sexually assaulted one of them.

The Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed legislation on Tuesday that would make most transfers of adopted children without state oversight felony offenses, punishable by up to five years in prison. The practice is currently regulated in just five states.

The panel also endorsed a separate bill requiring the Department of Human Services to provide post-adoption services to families.

The measures were proposed after the Arkansas Times newspaper reported that Republican Rep. Justin Harris of West Fork gave his daughters to the man who assaulted one of them.