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(West Plains) – The city of West Plains is working on an engineering study, according to city clerk Mallory Hawkins:

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The traffic study project will cost $12,000, with the city paying roughly $4000 of that thanks to transportation funding provided by the Missouri Department of Transportation. The study will be finished before September 1, which is the deadline to use the MoDOT money.

(West Plains) – The University of Missouri Extension has announced a new livestock specialist has been hired for Howell County.

Randy Wiedmeier was raised in Montana beef cattle ranching and cereal grain farming, and was on the faculty at Utah State University in the Animal, Dairy, and Veterinary Sciences Department for 25 years.

MU Extension officials say Wiedmeier will help develop and provide high-quality educational programs for livestock producers in Howell, Douglas, Wright, Taney, Texas, Ozark, and portions of Oregon Counties.

For more information on the Howell County office or the MU Extension program, call the office on S. Aid Avenue in West Plains at 417-256-2391.

(West Plains) – The First Friday Downtown Stroll events in the city of West Plains will return for the year 2015 with the Friday, April 3 event.

From 5 PM until roughly 8 PM that day, businesses on the downtown square and in the downtown area will be offering extended hours for shopping and dining. Restarted in 2013, the strolls offer visitors a unique opportunity to browse in stores normally closed during the evening while enjoyed a stroll around the historical downtown square and down Washington Avenue. The event may be canceled or postponed due to weather.

For more information about the First Friday Night Downtown Stroll, people may contact Mary Mike Taylor at 417-827-8334.

(West Plains) – Students and area residents interested in Missouri State University-West Plains’ short-term, study away program to India this summer still have time to apply, as the application deadline has been extended to April 2.

The program, India: Encountering and Contesting Development (GRY 197), is a three-credit-hour class set for July 9-24 and is being coordinated through the Office of International Programs at Missouri State University in Springfield. The cost of the trip has been reduced to $3,311, not including class tuition, meals, transportation to and from Chicago O’Hare International Airport, passport and visa.

School officials say the objective of the course is to look at some of the key emerging and ongoing developments that shape lives, livelihoods and possibilities for change in India.

Those interested in enrolling or wanting more information should call 417-396-9027. Those interested will need to pay the program fee in full through the Study Away storefront at www.international.missouristate.edu/studyaway/ before the program departs.

For more information about the trip you can also visit the Missouri State University Study Away website at international.missouristate.edu/studyaway/.

(West Plains) – The West Plains School District has announced they have received a subpoena from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

West Plains Superintendent Dr. John Mulford says the records subpoena, which was received by the school district on Tuesday, was related to the current FBI investigation of the St. Joseph School District. Former West Plains Superintendent Fred Czerwonka was hired by the St. Joseph School District in 2013 and was fired in February after an audit by the state of Missouri found that at least $25 million in unapproved stipends had been handed out to school administrators.

Other problems revealed in the St. Joseph audit include the district promoting employees to positions they were not qualified for, using school funds for unreasonable purchases, holding closed meetings that violated the state Sunshine Laws, and mismanaging investments.

West Plains School District officials did not identify Czerwonka by name.

“Neither the West Plains School District nor any current employee are involved in this investigation,” stated Dr. Mulford, who added that the district is complying with the request and will cooperate fully with the FBI.

“It is important to note that this investigation is not about our school district,” school board president Jim Thompson said, “Openness and transparency are priorities for members of the West Plains School Board of Education and our board takes great pride in doing things the right way. Our district will work with the FBI to provide the requested documents.”

by Allen Reed, AP

(Little Rock) (AP) – Arkansas House members have passed a bill to restore a capital gains tax break that had been reduced to help pay for a middle class income tax cut proposed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

The House voted 68-17 Wednesday for the bill and sent it to the Senate. It would raise the percentage of a capital gain that is exempt from the income tax to 50 percent, which would cost the state $6 million in the coming fiscal year and $11 million the following year.

The Legislature repealed part of the 2013 tax break as part of a $102 million tax cut Hutchinson signed into law last month. Hutchinson previously said he’s looking into changing his $5.2 billion proposed budget for the coming year to accommodate the extra tax cut.

(Ferguson) (AP) – The city of Ferguson, Missouri, has officially named an interim city manager to succeed the executive who resigned after a Justice Department report that found widespread racial bias in the police department.

KSDK-TV reports the Ferguson City Council voted Tuesday night to appoint Pam Hylton to temporarily replace John Shaw. Hylton has been the assistant city manager of the St. Louis County town since April 2011.

Shaw resigned two weeks ago following the report by the Justice Department spurred by last year’s fatal shooting of unarmed, black 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white officer. The report also found bias in a municipal court system driven by profit extracted from mostly black and low-income residents.

Six Ferguson officials, including Shaw, have resigned or been fired since the report was released.

by Marie French, AP

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Legislation that would impose new requirements for expert testimony in Missouri court cases has run into opposition from two Republican senators who are lawyers and running for statewide office.

Republican Sens. Eric Schmitt, of Glendale, and Kurt Schaefer, of Columbia, have helped Democrats stall the measure, which is backed by business groups. Both said it could cost businesses more in litigation fees because of the higher standard and likely prolonged legal challenges to expert testimony.

“It is an easier threshold for businesses to keep a lid on costs, really, with what we have right now,” Schaefer said. “Your universe of people that you can call as an expert witness gets much smaller.”

Missouri judges already can decide whether to admit expert testimony, but the standard is primarily based on whether the facts forming the basis of the opinion are “reasonably relied upon by experts in the field.” The standard does not apply to the method by which facts are analyzed. Sen. Mike Kehoe’s measure would require expert witnesses to base testimony on sufficient facts and data, reliable principles and methods and reliably apply those principles and methods to the facts of the case.

Senators are set to hash out the issues starting next week after their spring break. The measure is one of several business-backed legislative priorities related to all court cases – including caps on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases, caps on punitive damages in civil cases and an allowance for “loser pays” rules.

Several Republican lawmakers are united in backing those proposals, which supporters say will make Missouri’s legal environment better for businesses by keeping costs down or reducing frivolous litigation. Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, who sponsored the measure, framed the expert witness change as another pro-business measure.

“Trying to make our state a more business-friendly state and trying to make it a state where we can make it more efficient is a goal of this body,” Kehoe said. “This is just another piece that we can add to it.”

Schmitt and Schaefer are both running for statewide office, though Schmitt told The Associated Press that his run for treasurer has nothing to do with his opposition to the measure. Schaefer is running for attorney general. It’s a new issue, Schmitt said, and raises several questions that need to be fully vetted, as it’s a sweeping change.

The standard that the legislation is modeled on, referred to as the Daubert standard after a U.S. Supreme Court case, is supported by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and sets out more requirements than current state law.

Jay Atkins, the chamber’s top lobbyist, said the main benefit of changing testimony standards is ensuring that the science presented to juries is from legitimate, widely studied fields. He said that would promote efficiency and could benefit either side of a case.

“When a business is being sued, generally speaking, it is most advantageous for the business to provide – to be able to present to the jury – the most reliable and scientifically sound facts available,” Atkins said. “And the way you do that is to make sure that any expert witness who testifies is testifying about a field that has been subjected to rigorous scientific scrutiny.”

But Kenneth Barnes, a member of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys’ executive committee, said the proposed standard makes cases more complicated as different judges can interpret the Daubert standard in vastly different ways. He also said it tries to make the judge a “gatekeeper of methodology,” which increases circuit courts’ workloads and costs for both sides in a lawsuit.

“It actually leads to great confusion both among the judges and the litigants that appear before those judges,” he said.

(Little Rock) (AP) – The National Weather Service in Little Rock says a weak tornado, commonly known as a “water spout” touched down in northwest Arkansas.

Weather service meteorologist Jeff Hood says the tornado briefly touched Bull Shoals Lake in Marion County Tuesday night and did not reach land. He said it will likely be classified an EF0 – the weakest tornado with wind speeds of 65 to 85 mph. There are no reports of damage.

The storm comes ahead of another system that’s expected to produce large hail, high winds and possibly tornadoes in a region that includes northwest Arkansas, northeast Oklahoma and southwest Missouri on Wednesday.

Hood said the greatest threat is golf ball to tennis ball-sized hail as the storm develops starting Wednesday afternoon and continues through the early morning hours Thursday.

(Stock/MDC Photo)

(Stock/MDC Photo)

(Jefferson City) (AP) – A Missouri man says he fought for nearly 30 minutes before landing a state-record paddlefish last week.

The Missouri Department of Conservation says the fish snagged by 33-year-old Andy Beolobraydic III of Richwoods weighed 140 pounds, 9 ounces. The previous record paddlefish was 139 pounds, 4 ounces, caught in 2002.

Belobraydic caught the fish Saturday in the James River arm of Table Rock Lake. It was 56.75 inches long and 43.75 inches around.

The fish was certified as a state record Monday after being weighed on a certified scale in Branson.

It is being kept frozen at a business in Richwoods, about 40 miles southwest of St. Louis. Belobraydic says he hopes an outdoor company will have a cast made of the fish and display it publicly.