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Blunt urges privatizing revenue offices

The Columbia branch office of the Missouri Department of Revenue is one of 11 that Gov. Matt Blunt plans to shut down and replace with operations that will be run by hand-picked private contractors.

Seventeen people work at the branch office on Vandiver Drive, where residents go to get drivers licenses, to renew license plates and to pay taxes on vehicles. While the governor included the proposal in his budget for fiscal year 2006, the revenue department hopes to implement the changes as soon as late spring or early summer.

Documenting the truth

Independent film producer John Pierson will be in town this week to screen his most recent work at the True/False Film Festival. But he can never go back to Fiji, where his movie, “Reel Paradise,” was filmed.

Pierson was banned from the country after screening the raucous “Jackass” on the island of Taveuni. The film was unrated at the time, and the showing led to the banishment of Pierson, his family and, of course, the offending “Jackass.”

Braces aren’t better for those nearing age 60

I think I’ve finally fallen over the edge. Here I am nearing the big 60 mark in life, and I just had braces put on my teeth. I’m not beholden to vanity. I have never minded my semi-crooked teeth. But it seems that I am a grinder, and over the past half-century, I have ground my teeth down to little stubs. My general dentist says I need to have my teeth built up, but I needed to have my overbite corrected first.

I didn’t tell anyone in my family, nor did I consult my friends. I went to my husband’s office last week, and he placed 24 little brackets on my teeth. I have always been told that I have a big mouth, but that plastic cheek and lip retractor stretched my lips until they cracked. I knew the staff was watching to see if I was going to be a wimp, so I said nothing. After the brackets were cemented on, the technician slipped a wire across each arch and cut off the ends.

Columbia is...VIBRANT

Vibrant (vi´brant)

adj. 1. Pulsing or throbbing with energy or activity.

Path out of debt

John Beverstein led the group in prayer, then picked up a hatchet. In his left hand, a credit card.

“We don’t need these,” Beverstein said as he set the plastic on a board. Bringing the hatchet down, he chopped the card in two. “Credit cards reek.”

A fit man’s best friend

Will Johansen’s new exercise partner, Rosie, has helped him lose 15 pounds in six weeks.

Rosie is a therapy dog that is part of the Pet Assisted Love and Support program based at the MU Sinclair School of Nursing. Her current assignment is the Walking for Healthy Hearts program at Oak Towers, a Columbia retirement community.

CHASING THE SNOWSTORM

Spring is on the horizon, but MU meteorologist Patrick Market, on the other hand, can’t wait for the next big snowstorm.

Market, an assistant professor of atmospheric science, is working to develop an accurate way to measure snowstorms containing thunder and lightning. Known as thundersnow, these severe weather events tend to produce heavy amounts of snowfall in localized areas.

Panel dissects Patriot Act

Columbia resident John Wilke said he thinks he may be on a federal terror watch list.

His lifelong love of photographing trains has twice drawn the attention of Missouri police officers, who deem this behavior suspicious.

Sapp revises Harg annexation bid

When Harg-area petitioners blocked Billy Sapp’s initial 965-acre annexation proposal earlier this month, they knew the developer had contingency plans.

Now Sapp has decided to take an incremental approach. On Wednesday, he filed a request for a 169-acre annexation.

Senators propose judicial limits

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Constitution should be amended to prevent courts from examining the constitutionality of the state formula for funding public schools, three Republican senators said Thursday. The senators, all members of the joint Senate-House committee responsible for recommending how to fix the existing formula for school funding, proposed a resolution calling for the amendment.

Report finds patrol records backlogged

JEFFERSON CITY — Failure to update criminal records in a timely fashion puts highway patrol troopers and other law enforcement officers in danger, according to a report released today by State Auditor Claire McCaskill.

At a news conference Thursday, McCaskill said the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Criminal Records and Identification Division, or CRID, is a year behind on updating criminal convictions records, and from one week to six weeks behind on data entry for arrest records, case dispositions and prosecutorial charges.

City utilities take online payments

Columbia residents can avoid the hassle of heading downtown or mailing their utility payments since the city made online bill payments available on its Web site at the beginning of the month.

Some Columbia banks already offer the option of paying utility bills online, but the new service allows residents to pay their utility bills online directly through the city.

Class project unites two generations

Lenora Retirement Community and New Haven Elementary School are across the street from each other, but the elementary students and the retirees don’t interact much.

That’s changing thanks to a writing project where fourth-graders interview and talk with older residents of Columbia about their childhood, careers and hobbies.

National Salute hails veterans

For most of Columbia, Valentine’s Day is already a distant memory.

But at the Truman Veterans Hospital, thousands of brightly colored hearts and other reminders of the holiday continue to line the hallways and patient rooms. Still more wait to be distributed.

State House approves lawsuit limits

JEFFERSON CITY — A measure to restrict awards for lawsuits cleared another obstacle on Thursday.

The bill, approved in the House of Representatives and introduced in the Senate, would restrict a case’s venue to the location where the injury took place and cap most punitive damages at $250,000. For health-care providers, it would limit punitive damages to $250,000 without regard to the number of people named in the case.

Greenspan: Go slowly with Social Security

WASHINGTON — Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan urged Congress on Wednesday to take a go-slow approach in setting up the private Social Security accounts favored by President Bush. The president said he wasn’t ruling out taxing high-income workers more to help the retirement program.

Bush, who has been stumping across the country for the personal accounts, kept up that effort in New Hampshire. But his comments about levying Social Security taxes on more of big wage-earners’ income got the attention.

Rally groups protest Blunt’s Medicaid cuts

JEFFERSON CITY — Protesters dumped a large trash bin full of prosthetic limbs, discarded walkers and empty prescription bottles in the Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday to demonstrate their disdain for Medicaid cuts proposed in Gov. Matt Blunt’s budget for fiscal 2006.

The spectacle was intended to call attention to Blunt’s proposal to eliminate Medicaid coverage for durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs. Participants at the rally said Blunt’s plan suggests such equipment is refuse that the state need not fund.

SMSU name bill advances to the Missouri House

A bill that would drop the “Southwest” from Southwest Missouri State University’s name moved to the state House of Representatives on Wednesday for a first reading.

Senate Bill 98 passed, 25-7, its third and final reading in the Senate on Wednesday morning. Senators perfected the bill’s wording early Tuesday morning after an almost 14-hour filibuster.

Legislators consider repealing helmet law

Tracy Benton has spent 22 years riding motorcycles, the past five in Missouri. Much has changed in that time — bikes are faster, more powerful and more popular. But in Missouri, one thing has remained constant for Benton: Helmet-wearing is required by law.

Benton, who leads the mid-Missouri chapter of the Freedom of the Road Riders, said he should be entitled to make up his own mind about helmet-wearing.

City aims to assess planning

The city wants your input, and that’s news to some people.

In an effort to better increase communication between the public and city planners, the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission formed a 12-member committee last week that includes representatives from various public organizations and private companies.

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