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(Little Rock) (AP) – In addition to high-profile questions about Arkansas’ minimum wage and statewide alcohol sales, voters this year will also answer three questions from legislators.

Issue 1 would give lawmakers veto power over rules adopted by state agencies within the executive branch. Issue 2 would make it tougher for the public to place measures on the ballot, and Issue 3 would let lawmakers spend more time in office in return for tougher ethics standards.

Arkansas lawmakers are allowed to refer to the ballot up to three issues each election cycle.

The minimum wage and alcohol issues were placed on the ballot by the public. Both were the subject of lawsuits, but the state Supreme Court has ruled they can stay on the ballot.

(West Plains) – Ozarks Medical Center is once again using technology to improve patient safety and make care more efficient by adopting an electronic order system for physicians.

The system is called Care Provider Order Entry or CPOE, and hospital officials say that the new system will help eliminate hand writing errors and makes the process more efficient – once a physician puts the electronic order in, it’s then sent to the correct hospital department to be fulfilled. The computerized process also includes a real-time medication interaction and allergy check that alerts providers of potential patient safety issues.

OMC says that the change to CPOE has been a long process requiring many months of work to implement and weeks of training in order to switch to an electronic system for the thousands of orders placed each week at OMC.

In the first 13 days alone, providers electronically placed 12,419 orders.

(West Plains) – Area residents interested in attending college can learn more about financial aid options available to them at a workshop set for 7 PM Tuesday, November 11, at Bakersfield High School.

The workshop is being hosted by Missouri State University-West Plains.

A representative from Missouri State-West Plains will be on hand to provide information to students and parents regarding federal and state resources available to help students finance their post-secondary education, according to Donna Bassham, coordinator of the financial aid office. This includes information about federal financial aid programs such as the Pell Grant, campus-based work-study programs, Stafford student loans and PLUS loans for parents, as well as state programs such as the Access Missouri grant, Bright Flight Scholarship and the A+ Program.

In addition, those attending will receive information about the financial aid application process, including instructions for filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

All of the information provided will be useful for students planning to attend any post-secondary institution that participates in the federal Title IV programs, not just Missouri State-West Plains.

For more information about the workshop, contact the Missouri State-West Plains financial aid office at 417-255-7243 or contact Bakersfield High School Counselor Trudy Summer at 417-284-7333, ext. 306.

(Mountain View) – The Mountain View City Council met on Monday, October 27 at Mountain View City Hall for a regularly scheduled meeting.

During the meeting, the council agreed to have only one regularly scheduled meeting per month. In January 2013, the council approved a motion to hold two meetings per month.

City Administrator Mike Wake was also appointed as a delegate to the annual Missouri LAGER convention, which is a group that helps companies and cities prepare for employee retirement. Wake also informed the council that a pre-bid meeting with the engineer and prospective contractors was scheduled for October 28 at city hall for planned projects at the airport.

(Thayer)- There will be a Granny Blue Celebration Friday, November 7, and Saturday, November 8.

On Friday, November 7, at 12PM at the Country Cottage Cafe on Highway 19, in Thayer there will be a Granny Blue presentation and displays by Great Granddaughter Lynda Witherspoon Finch, from Bakersfield, CA. There will also be a presentation of Oregon County History through the Civil War and Granny Blue by Civil War Historian and Writer, Lou Wehmer, from Willow Springs.

On Saturday, November 8, at 12PM at the Riverside Cemetery in Mammoth Spring, AR there will be dedications by Sons of Confederate Veterans 203 Missouri and descendants of Matilda Blue and a presentation and poem by Lynda Witherspoon Finch, Bakersfield, CA. Then at 2PM at the Granny Blue Farm also known as the George Martin Farm there will be a Marker dedication for the unknown Confederate soldiers buried by Matilda Blue and Lou Ragan.

(Jefferson City) – A couple of Missouri senators comment on how they believe the fiscal year is progressing. Fiscal Year 2015 started on July 1, 2014.

Senator Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, says all sides were unable to come up with a consensus revenue estimate, so the Missouri Senate and House did something that had not been done before:

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Senator Scott Sifton, D-Affton, who also serves on the appropriations panel, adds that revenue estimates were fairly accurate for the previous fiscal year:

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Next up for Missouri Senators will be numbering pre-filed legislation to be considered during year’s regular session.

Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones

Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones is forming an investigatory committee after a report that Chris Koster was one of several state attorneys general who may have been influenced by campaign contributions and lobbyists.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that Koster is one of numerous state attorneys general who have changed policies and negotiated more favorable settlements after receiving campaign contributions and incentives from lobbyists.

Jones, a Republican from Eureka, said he’s hoping to appoint committee members within a week to start requesting documents and investigating Koster, a Democrat.

He said the House has the option to impeach, depending on what the committee learns.

“I’m disturbed about the fact that the chief law enforcement officer, who has a tremendous amount of taxpayer resources at hand, is apparently utilizing those resources to shake down businesses and business owners for political reasons,” Jones told The Associated Press. “It’s hard to even believe this.”

Koster said the report distorts how his office dealt with the companies.

“Today’s article in The New York Times misrepresents the facts, distorting events to create an appearance of impropriety where none exists,” Koster said in a statement Wednesday.

Documents obtained by the newspaper show Koster received campaign contributions from Pfizer and later met with lobbyists and spoke to political action committees while the company was under investigation by his office.

The New York Times reports that campaign finance documents show Koster previously received $13,500 in campaign contributions from a law firm representing Pfizer and $20,000 directly from the company.

Emails obtained by the newspaper show Koster also accepted an invitation to speak to Pfizer’s political action committee amid negotiations for the case. Emails also show that five days later his office met with attorneys and negotiated that Pfizer pay Missouri $750,000.

Attorneys general from 33 other states also were investigating the company over allegations it marketed some drugs for unapproved uses and exaggerated their effectiveness.

Most similarly sized states that together pooled their clout to fight the company received more than $1 million each, and Oregon separately negotiated a settlement with Pfizer for $3.4 million. In total, the group of states received almost $43 million.

Koster said his office has taken legal action against Pfizer at least six times. It also has taken action against other companies involved, he said.

In another case of potential lobbying influence, the newspaper reports that Koster confirmed he asked staff not to investigate 5-Hour Energy while at a Democratic Attorneys General Association conference at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel in California. A lawyer for 5-Hour Energy also attended the conference.

He said most states have not investigated 5-Hour Energy, and told The New York Times that he uses the energy drink.

(Little Rock) (AP) – Workshops have been scheduled across Arkansas to help community and economic development leaders apply for grants offered by five different agencies and organizations.

Jean Noble, director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s Grants Division, says local leaders should plan to attend the workshops. Noble says the grant programs are vitally important in improving the lives of many Arkansas citizens.

Workshops are scheduled next month in Newport, Clarksville, North Little Rock, Magnolia and Monticello. Participating agencies include the state Economic Development Commission as well as the Arkansas Department of Rural Services, the Arkansas Natural Resource Commission, the Community Resource Group and the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development.

The Economic Development Commission administers Arkansas’s Community Development Block Grant program as well as several state-funded grant programs aimed at economic development.

(Little Rock) (AP) – Republicans are expressing confidence that they’ll complete a takeover of Arkansas’ top offices as they try to rally support in the final days leading up to next week’s midterm election.

The GOP’s candidates gathered Wednesday for a rally to highlight the party’s top races and tout their chances in Tuesday’s election. The rally at the party’s coordinated campaign offices included Republican Senate hopeful and U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton and Republican gubernatorial nominee Asa Hutchinson.

Cotton is trying to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, who is seeking a third term, in a race that could determine which party controls the chamber next year. Hutchinson is running against Democrat and fellow ex-congressman Mike Ross to succeed Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election.

(New York) – A new exposé in the New York Times claims that Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, and other attorneys general across the country, are being heavily influenced by lobbyists.

The article, released on Tuesday, claims that a New York Times investigation revealed that attorneys general across the United States are being aggressively pursued by lobbyists and lawyers who get their way, in part, through campaign donations and lavish conferences and trips.

The article, available here, states that Koster put an end to an investigation into deceptive advertising practices after speaking with a lawyer for the company behind the 5-Hour Energy drink brand. The article also states that those lawyers have donated heavily to his campaigns, invited him and his chief deputy to be featured speakers at law firm events. Afterward, the article states that executives from the company that distributes 5-Hour Energy contributed more than $280,000 through related corporations to various political groups supporting attorneys general across the country.

The investigation also discusses close links between Koster and the drug giant Pfizer.

Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones released a statement on the report Wednesday, saying that the incidents in the article are an “egregious violation of the public’s trust”.

UPDATE: Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has released a statement on the New York Times piece:

“This Attorney General’s office has consistently protected Missouri consumers from fraud, regardless of the identity of those responsible.

Contrary to the inferences contained in today’s New York Times article, this office reviews each case on its merits. We have taken legal action against Pfizer at least six times and have taken legal action against AT&T at least twice. Together, these cases have resulted in millions of dollars on behalf of Missouri consumers. Currently, Missouri is among the 44 states in the country that have not filed suit against 5 Hour Energy.

Today’s article in the New York Times misrepresents the facts, distorting events to create an appearance of impropriety where none exists.”