Cut to legislators’ health care fails

JEFFERSON CITY — Rep. Trent Skaggs wants Missouri lawmakers to feel the squeeze in this year’s state budget cuts.

Debate erupted in the House on Wednesday after Skaggs, D-North Kansas City, presented an amendment that would cut elected officials’ health insurance benefits in order to save money for other services targeted for cuts.

Harg-area residents, Sapp agree on concerns

Arguments between concerned neighbors and a prominent developer over a proposed development east of Columbia may be coming to an end.

Harg-area residents and Billy Sapp negotiated terms Wednesday that could make his 1,000-acre development proposal a reality.

Possible removal of awning echoes owners’ opinions

Carrie Gartner, the director of Columbia’s downtown Special Business District, said the recent vote in support of removing the canopy that covers downtown businesses between Seventh and Hitt streets reflects a change in the way business owners think about their properties.

“We’re saying we should go with our strengths,” Gartner said.

Senate approves private funding for First Steps

JEFFERSON CITY — A bill placing financial responsibility for the First Steps program into the hands of private insurance providers and families won first-round approval in the Senate on Wednesday.

First Steps provides in-home therapy and services to children younger than 3 who have developmental disabilities. The program could lose its state funding to Medicaid and budget cuts that Gov. Matt Blunt has proposed.

Hindman recognizes victims’ privileges

Mayor Darwin Hindman named this week Crime Victims’ Rights Week for Columbia during a ceremony honoring the 25th anniversary of the National Victims’ Rights Week at the Reynolds Alumni Center on Wednesday night.

“Justice isn’t served until the victims are,” Hindman said.

Suspect in two shootings arrested after tips to police

A man recently featured on Columbia’s most-wanted list was arrested without incident Wednesday.

Koda A. Coats, 18, was the third suspect arrested in connection with two related shootings April 6.

Art in the Archives

Flying french fries and a bright yellow abstract sculpture already greet patrons of the Columbia Public Library. Now, three new works will add to the welcome.

The pieces the library has acquired over the past year — a brightly painted hanging screen, an abstract sculpture and a bronze bust — were introduced at a reception Wednesday afternoon.

County to aid waste enterprise

The Boone County Commission agreed Tuesday to help fund plans for an environmental study and find a site for a wastewater treatment plant in southern Boone County.

The study would look at streams in the Two Mile Prairie area to determine whether they are suitable to carry sewage, said Ashland City Administrator Ken Eftink.

Senators debate how to fund new school formula

JEFFERSON CITY — Now that the Senate has given initial approval to legislation rewriting the state’s funding formula for public schools, the debate turns to how to pay for the new system.

The Senate plan, passed late Tuesday after nearly nine hours of debate, would increase basic state aid for schools from $2.4 billion to about $3.1 billion, not counting items paid separately, such as transportation aid. The new formula would be phased in over five years, starting in the 2006-07 school year.

Bush lauds Grant teacher

President Bush commended Grant Elementary School teacher Gail Underwood in a citation “for embodying excellence in teaching, for devotion to the learning needs of the students, and for upholding the high standards that exemplify American education at its finest.”

For that, Underwood, who teaches math, won the 2004 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching for Missouri and a $10,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

Teachers to get pay raise

For the fourth year in a row, the Columbia Board of Education will dip into its reserves and increase teachers’ salaries by $600 for the 2005-2006 school year.

The board voted Monday to approve the administration’s recommendation on teachers’ contracts and give them a base salary increase of $300, costing the district $935,000.

Filing for their share

Copyright owners are putting up a fight against companies that distribute file-sharing software, allowing users to download and share music and movies among other users.

The struggle continued at the Supreme Court last month when justices grappled over whether copyright owners should be allowed to sue Internet companies that allow users to download software to swap music and movie files from the company’s server. Once the users download the program, they can transfer files among one another.

City to expand Flat Branch Park

The Columbia Parks and Recreation Commission has plans this summer to begin redevelopment of another part of Flat Branch Creek.

From 2000 to 2001, the city redeveloped part of the creek by removing the concrete that made up its creek bed and developing the surrounding area with walkways, benches and a gazebo.

New Bonne Terre execution area termed ‘ready’

BONNE TERRE — Barring an appellate court’s intervention, within weeks, Donald Jones could make history as the first Missouri inmate to see a place few prisoners ever care to see — the state’s new execution chamber.

Previewed for reporters Tuesday, Missouri’s new execution area was termed ready at the maximum-security prison in this eastern Missouri town. Jones, convicted of killing his grandmother, is scheduled to die by injection April 27.

Greek house fire safety scrutinized

Columbia architect Bob Cunningham is drawing a blueprint for a fraternity house in Mississippi. In the past 20 years, his company has designed 60 to 70 Greek houses. This one belongs to Alpha Tau Omega and might be the most famous. In August 2004, fire destroyed the original house at the University of Mississippi and claimed the lives of three students, ages 19 to 20.

“There is nothing sadder than losing a child,” Cunningham said.

Evolution under Darwin

This week marks 10 years since Darwin Hindman became mayor of Columbia. Steady growth has been the defining feature of the city, but Hindman has worked hard to maintain Columbia's standard of living. "There is great satisfaction in your city being a good place to live in," he said. Here's how the city has changed over the past decade.

Senate nears vote on school funds formula

JEFFERSON CITY — With the bulk of the Republicans’ legislative priorities making fast progress through the legislature, the Senate was set to vote on a change in the formula used to fund schools late Tuesday night.

Although a vote did not come as of press time, Senate Majority Leader Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, who led the effort to change the formula used to disperse state funding to local schools, said he planned to permit floor debate to continue to a vote. These changes would be the first wholesale changes to school funding since 1993.

Abuse suspect to lose horses

SPRINGFIELD — A man accused of neglecting more than 100 horses on his ranch near Republic will lose his animals and face more counts of animal abuse and neglect.

William Zobel faces a total of 38 misdemeanor counts after 27 counts of animal abuse and animal neglect and two counts of failure to dispose of an animal carcass in a timely fashion were added Tuesday, Greene County assistant prosecutor Dan Patterson said.

St. Louis student sit-in gets attention

ST. LOUIS — Washington University students taking part in the ninth day of a sit-in seeking higher pay for the university’s contract workers were notified Tuesday by the school that they were violating the university’s judicial code.

The students received the notices a day after about 15 students launched a hunger strike and as their efforts are drawing support from national politicians and labor activists.

Blunt praises pilot diabetes program

Diabetes patients given special instructions and feedback under a statewide pilot program better managed their blood-sugar levels and lowered their cholesterol, according to results released Tuesday.

Gov. Matt Blunt praised the program, saying these types of preventative efforts for chronic illnesses could save the state millions in Medicaid costs.