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by David A. Lieb, AP

(Jefferson City) (AP) – St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman declared his candidacy for Missouri attorney general Tuesday, setting up a potential Democratic primary in 2016.

Zimmerman joins a race that already includes Democratic state Scott Sifton and Republican state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, and could be attractive to other candidates because it will feature no incumbent.

Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster is not seeking re-election next year because he is running for governor.

Zimmerman, 40, of Olivette, won a special election to become assessor in 2011 and was re-elected in November to a four-year term. He can run for attorney general without having to give up his current job. Zimmerman previously served for more than four years in the Missouri House and was an assistant attorney general in 2002-2003.

While announcing his candidacy, Zimmerman criticized what he described as a “culture of corruption in Jefferson City.” Missouri is the only state with the trio of no campaign contribution limits, no limits on lobbyist gifts and no revolving-door restriction on lawmakers immediately becoming lobbyists after leaving office.

The attorney general has relatively little role in changing those laws, though it can represent the Missouri Ethics Commission in attempting to enforce fines. The attorney general’s office focuses on consumer protection cases, represents the state in criminal appeals such as death penalty cases and defends state laws and agencies against lawsuits. The attorney general also can enforce Missouri’s open-meetings-and-records law.

“I don’t care much about how rich or influential or how powerful you are. Justice ought to look the same for everybody. That’s what people are looking for in Jefferson City,” Zimmerman said.

Sifton did not mention Zimmerman by name but highlighted his own experience as a trial lawyer. Sifton worked for two summers in the attorney general’s office while attending law school. He was elected to the Missouri House in 2010 and the Senate in 2012.

“My extensive trial and appellate experience is an important difference in this race,” Sifton said in a written statement.

(Little Rock) (AP) – A federal appeals court says it has received payment from the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office one day after it threatened to dismiss the state’s attempt to restore a gay marriage ban because of an outstanding $505 docketing fee.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals notified the state Jan. 7 that the money was due last Wednesday. The appeals court said Monday that Arkansas has two weeks to demonstrate why its appeal shouldn’t be dropped.

A spokesman for new Attorney General Leslie Rutledge blamed clerical errors that happened before she took office. He says the late payment doesn’t put the appeal at risk.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker tossed a voter-approved same-sex marriage ban and a similar state law in November. She put her decision on hold pending the appeal.

(Jefferson City) (AP) – A Missouri bill to link the length of unemployment benefits to the unemployment rate has approval from a House panel.

The bill approved Monday also would increase the amount of money the state must have saved to pay for benefits before reducing how much businesses need to contribute.

Supporters of the bill say they want to make sure the state’s unemployment trust fund does not run out of money in the future.

Missouri’s unemployment fund had to borrow money from the federal program in 2009 and paid it off last year.

When a state trust fund is in debt to the federal government, businesses lose out on part of a federal tax credit.

The bill also requires a state board consider alternative financing next time the trust fund needs money.

(Springfield) (AP) – Springfield police say they have arrested a man in connection with the shooting of an officer.

The Springfield News-Leader reports 30-year-old Aaron Pearson was seriously injured after being shot during an investigation early Monday into suspicious activity behind a closed business, where three people were hanging out.

He was taken to a local hospital, where he remained Monday night.

Police say officers searched around seven hours to find the man suspected of shooting Pearson. Authorities say a man was arrested less than a block away from where Pearson was shot.

Police Chief Paul Williams announced the man is the focus of detectives’ investigation of the shooting and no other suspects are being sought.

(Jefferson City) – The Missouri Department of Labor is warning that some unemployment insurance claimants have received emails that have been identified in other states as a phishing scam.

Ryan McKenna, Director of the Missouri Labor Department, says the suspected emails used one of two subjects: “Required Documents to File Unemployment in MO” or “Verification Required: Final Notice”, and came from the “Unemployment Advisory Department”<support@us-benefits.org>. If you receive this email, delete it immediately and do not click on the links as the website is requesting personal identifiable information that could be used in an act of fraud or theft.

McKenna adds that the Missouri Department of Labor will never request personal information through email.

(Jefferson City) – The Missouri State Highway Patrol will begin school bus inspections in the near future.

School buses in Missouri are required by law to be the subject of a safety inspection at least twice a year. The initial inspection takes place up to 60 days prior to the start of the school year at an established vehicle inspection station, while the second inspection, done in the second half of the school year beginning in February, is conducted by the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Motor Vehicle Inspection Division.

Between February and May 2014, Patrol personnel inspected nearly 12,000 school buses. School bus fleets may also be subject to a spot inspection, as the Patrol may inspect any school bus at any time.

Of the 11,997 buses inspected by the Missouri State Highway Patrol in 2014, 84.7% or 10,161 buses were found to have no defective items and were rated as “approved.” Buses having one or more defective items, but deemed to be safe for the transportation of students were rated as “rejected.” For the 11.9% or 1,431 buses rated as “rejected,” school districts were allowed 10 days following the initial inspection to repair the identified defects before being re-inspected by Patrol personnel. The buses found to have one or more defective items, and believed to compromise the safe transportation of students, were rated as “out of service.” The 3.4% or 405 buses that were rated as “out of service” by inspectors had to be repaired, then re-inspected by the Patrol’s Motor Vehicle Inspection Division prior to being used to transport students.

(West Plains) – Missouri State University-West Plains has been nominated to participate in the STANLEY Security’s “Together for Safer Schools” grant program.

If the college wins, they can get up to $100,000 in STANLEY Security installed products and services to help secure students and facilities within the campus environment.

In its second year, the STANLEY Security “Together for Safer Schools” grant program provides the opportunity to enhance safety and security in the nation’s higher education institutions by awarding winning schools a share of a substantial grant of STANLEY Security installed products and services, officials explained.

Now through February 13, students, faculty, staff, administrators, parents, alumni and members of the campus community and beyond are encouraged to vote for Missouri State-West Plains Daily by going online at www.stanleysaferschools.com and voting for “mostate;” tweeting using #STANLEYSecurity and #mostate; or texting “mostate” to 334455. The top two colleges or universities with the most votes in each of three size categories will be selected as grant winners.

For more information on the STANLEY Security “Together for Safer Schools” grant program and to vote for Missouri State-West Plains, visit www.stanleysaferschools.com.

(Jefferson City) – Committee hearings continued in the Missouri Senate last week.

Senate Bill 12 would modify provisions related to agriculture. Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, sponsors the measure, and say that the bill would include the Missouri Dairy Revitalization Act of 2015:

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Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, mentions there’s no new road funding coming after voters rejected a transportation sales tax last year, and that some provisions of the ag bill could become a problem:

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Missouri Senators have now heard from the Executive and Judical branches in their respective annual address to lawmakers.

(West Plains) – The West Plains R-7 School District is conducting a survey of patrons of the district.

Superintendent Dr. John Mulford spoke with Ozark Radio News and talked about the survey and its importance to the district:

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He added that the survey is a bit different compared to others:

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Mulford says that the results of the survey, and a follow up, will be released after the initial round of surveying is done:

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The suvey runs through January 30. For more information you can visit www.zizzers.org.

(West Plains) – No major changes will be coming to the West Plains Board of Education this year.

Board candidate election filing opened at 8 AM on Tuesday, December 16, and ran through Tuesday, January 20. Jim Thompson and Brian Mitchell are in their final year of a three year term and Courtney Beykirch is completing her first year of a term previously held by Bo Pace. All three were unopposed for the board positions.

The board members will be sworn in at the April school board meeting.