by Summer Ballentine, AP
(Jefferson City) (AP) – The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the state went too far to collect sales taxes from a Joplin health center, potentially scaling back the Department of Revenue’s authority as it faces scrutiny for taxing businesses.
At issue is a Powerhouse Gym in Joplin, which rented out space to a personal training company.
The health center went to the Administrative Hearing Commission, which settles disputes with other state agencies, after the Department of Revenue tried to collect back sales taxes for leasing the space.
The judges said renting space and not providing other services, such as a private gym membership for those personal trainers, was not enough reason to tax the gym.
It’s unclear how many fitness centers across the state could be affected by the ruling.
The ruling comes as lawmakers have criticized the Department of Revenue for new interpretations of the tax code that subject more businesses to sales taxes, such as fitness centers.
Legislation to exempt health clubs from sales taxes failed last year after it was vetoed Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.
This session, lawmakers are trying to require the Revenue Department to notify businesses of any changes in interpretation of the tax code that could apply to them, an effort to protect companies who might not realize they’re suddenly expected to pay those taxes. If the department does not notify businesses, they would not be subject to pay back taxes.
(Little Rock) (AP) – Arkansas lawmakers have passed and sent to Gov. Asa Hutchinson a bill that would abolish the independent lottery commission and instead place it under Hutchinson’s control.
The state House voted 84-3 Tuesday to endorse shifting responsibility for the games’ operations to the state Department of Finance and Administration. The existing nine-member Lottery Commission would be dissolved and the governor would appoint a games director.
The overhaul is aimed at halting a decline in revenue for the games. Arkansas voters approved the lottery in 2008 to raise money for college scholarships.
Republican Sen. Jimmy Hickey of Texarkana says his bill will also save money by eliminating lottery jobs that are already being performed by the finance department.
Hutchinson has previously expressed support for the change.
(Little Rock) (AP) – An Arkansas lawmaker plans to revive an attempt to separate the state’s practice of honoring civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on the same day by creating a memorial day for Lee.
A similar bill failed twice to advance out of the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee after an outpouring of public comment from people who said the change belittles southern heritage.
Democratic Rep. Fredrick Love of Little Rock amended his bill Tuesday to create the memorial day for Lee on the second Friday in January. It would fall near Lee’s Jan. 19 birthday.
Love says the compromise will honor both men.
The committee is scheduled to hear the bill on Wednesday.
by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, AP
(Washington) (AP) – An extensive new survey says the share of Americans without health insurance dropped to its lowest level in seven years in 2014 as President Barack Obama’s overhaul took full effect.
Released Tuesday, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index finds a drop of 3.5 percentage points in the share of Americans without health insurance, in a full-year comparison between 2013 and 2014.
Research director Dan Witters says about 12.3 million fewer adults were uninsured in the fourth quarter of 2014, compared to the third quarter of 2013.
The trend appears likely to continue, since 55 percent of the remaining uninsured say they plan to get coverage rather than face escalating tax penalties.
But first, the Supreme Court must decide if millions of people can continue to receive subsidized coverage.
(Little Rock) (AP) – An Arkansas State Police-backed proposal to restrict cellphone use while driving has failed in a state House committee.
The Public Transportation Committee voted 11-7 Tuesday against the bill, which would prohibit drivers in motion from using a wireless device to dial a phone number, use social media or utilize a map application. It would also allow officers to pull over people suspected of using their phones while driving.
Arkansas already bans texting while driving and some cellphone use. The bill would not apply to law enforcement or people making emergency calls.
Supporters say the bill would make roadways safer. The state police director and a statewide police association spokesman endorsed the proposal.
Opponents say they’re worried about government overreach.
(West Plains) – The city of West Plains has a new logo and slogan.
The city council approved the final logo design and slogan, “Make It Happen Here”, during the council meeting held on Monday, February 23.
City tourism and marketing director Todd Shanks spoke with Ozark Radio News after the council meeting and talked about the logo and tagline:
Shanks also talked about the process that went into the branding campaign, the committee that worked to make everything happen, and the logo itself:
The committee worked with the branding and promotional company North Star Destination Strategies of Nashville to put things together. During the creation of the branding campaign, North Star conducted a number of surveys that collected information on city residents, like demographics and the general attitude of residents. Shanks talked about their findings:
Shanks says that the next step is to use the logo and slogan to unify city promotions and help promote the city for economic expansion:
Shanks added that the city is urging businesses to use the campaign:
The city approved the branding project at their November 2013 meeting. Shanks says the final cost of the project was around $64,000, which was less than the city had budgeted for.
Bills approved during the meeting included an ordinance that will allow TranSystems to conduct a traffic study at the Howell Avenue and Business Highway 63 intersection near the West Plains schools. The study will look at traffic patterns and attempt to find a way to alleviate congestion. MoDOT will be funding a large portion of the study, with West Plains paying $4,000 for the study.
The council also approved a yearly contract with the Howell County Health Department for environmental public health services like restaurant inspections and an ordinance that would enter into an agreement with Commerce Bank for roughly $3,885,000 in bonds.
The city council also heard a presentation from city tourism and marketing director Todd Shanks, who debuted the a new city logo and slogan, “Make It Happen Here”. The logo and phrase come from North Star Destination Strategies of Nashville, who worked with the city and a committee during the past year to come up with a unique look and unifying city logo and catchphrase. The council approved the project, which was done for roughly $64,000, at their November 2013 meeting.
The council also agreed to sign a letter of support for Missouri State University-West Plains and the South Central Career Center’s efforts to start an advanced manufacturing training center. The schools are currently seeking funding for the project, and needed a letter of recommendation from the city council. The program would be a joint venture to provide advanced manufacturing training to the public-at-large, including dislocated workers and high school students.
Also approved by the council at the meeting was a contract with GHN to design a new fire station at the intersection of St. Louis St., and Myrtle. The proposed project will cost roughly $1.35 million, however, city administrator Tom Stehn said the city is hoping to get the cost down to $1.2 million.
The next city council meeting will be held on March 23.
(West Plains) – West Plains city clerk Mallory Hawkins reminds residents that the city is urging people to conserve energy this week:
If you have questions, call West Plains City Hall at 417-256-7176.
(Willow Springs) – A railroad crossing near Willow Springs will be closed on Wednesday.
City officials tell Ozark Radio News that Burlington-Northern Santa Fe will be closing the Burnham Road Crossing on Wednesday, February 25 for repair work.
The crossing will be closed at 8 AM and is scheduled to re-open by 3 PM.
Willow Springs officials say additional information concerning future closings or a time extension on the work on Wednesday will be released if and when it occurs.
(Texas County) – The Roby Volunteer Fire Department is looking for the community’s help in purchasing a fire truck.
Ozark Radio News spoke with department chief Keith Follin, who says that the department is hoping to raise $30,000 to purchase a fire truck. Currently, the department has three bays at the fire station, but only two trucks, after one of the trucks suffered a catastrophic mechanical failure. He says a third truck will help protect the 1200 homes they serve, as well as improve the insurance rating for that area:
He added that the campaign ends in June, with a possible change to the department if the campaign is funded:
As of Monday night, only $820 of the $30,000 had been raised. Follin added that the department will be having a number of fundraiser events between now and June to help boost the total. The department is also taking donations for naming and branding space on the truck, with individual donations at or greater than $500 getting their name on the new truck in 1” letters, and business donations at or greater than $1,000 will get their business name put on the new truck in 2” letters.
If you would like to help the Roby VFD, click the link to their GoFundMe donation page.