Legislature closing in on budget for 2006

JEFFERSON CITY — The General Assembly is poised to begin floor debate today on a state budget for fiscal 2006 that eliminates Medicaid benefits for 90,604 people and restores money for higher education that had previously been cut by the Senate.

The $19.1 billion spending plan is the product of negotiations in a conference committee of representatives and senators. The full House and Senate face a Friday deadline for approving the budget.

High-definition launched at KBIA

Thirty-three years after its debut as the first National Public Radio station in mid-Missouri, KBIA/91.5 FM has reached yet another broadcast landmark. On Tuesday, KBIA launched the first high-definition radio service in mid-Missouri.

“A lot of people are calling it the biggest change in broadcasting since FM started,” said Roger Karwoski, KBIA’s assistant manager and director of engineering.

Lawsuit challenges random drug tests

Legal concerns have been raised over a policy by the Missouri Department of Mental Health to allow random drug testing of its 9,800 employees.

Columbia attorney Dan Viets filed a federal lawsuit against the department Monday, claiming the policy violates employees’ constitutional rights. Viets, who also represents the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, filed the suit in the Federal District Court for Western Missouri on behalf of mental health employee Amy Proctor.

Columbia honors its top volunteers

Teresa Kight, a Tree Keeper for 2 years, has sacrificed many Saturday mornings to yard work — and it’s not even her own yard. Kight goes out to various Columbia parks and plants trees, mulches and prunes in order to keep recreation areas maintained.

Brian Pape and his wife, Joy, have been involved with Columbia’s Adopt-A-Spot program since 1997 and maintain a part of the MKT Trail stretching from downtown to Stadium Drive.

Blunt sides with cities on school funds

JEFFERSON CITY — The stalled proposal to change the formula used to distribute state money to schools got a big push from the governor Tuesday, but the force of the effort to attract reluctant suburban lawmakers made some supporters uneasy.

Gov. Matt Blunt threw his weight behind a proposal that would cost almost $1 billion over seven years. Blunt, who had limited his comments to support for reshaping the formula, sided with suburban and urban legislators in a fight over how to account for wage differences across the state.

Making time for God

MILLERSBURG — It was a late Saturday night for Dennis Peterson, but Sunday morning he roams around the entrance of Millersburg Baptist Church warmly greeting people as they arrive.

Several minutes later, he is energetically preaching the gospel in front of the congregation.

Shoring up Hinkson Creek

Fair or not, developers have a reputation of moving into natural areas and bulldozing trees to make way for construction.

Centerstate Properties, however, is financing a project that will combat erosion by adding thousands of trees to a lengthy section of the Hinkson Creek bank near the Columbia landfill.

Party breathes new life into CPR certification

The Kraatzes had all the right things for a great party — drinks, dinner, a movie and even carpeted seating for their guests of honor, CPR mannequins Little Anne and Baby Anne.

Jim and Elizabeth Kraatz, both professors at MU, held the first CPR party in Boone County Tuesday night, allowing friends to leave their home with a different kind of party favor — CPR certification. The Kraatzes’ guests were instructed and certified in infant and child CPR by trainers from the Boone County chapter of the American Red Cross, who came equipped with all of its typical classroom gear. The party certified eight people.

Hulshof discusses Social Security reform

Social Security is not the only thing in need of reform when it comes to supporting the United States’ aging population, U.S. Rep Kenny Hulshof, R-Mo., said Monday at a luncheon with members of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

To support Social Security re-form, he said, more issues need to be brought to the table and dis-cussed at length.

Columbia soldier dies in Iraq

Two years after graduating from MU, 1st Lt. William A. Edens is still remembered for his quick wit. His sense of humor made him famous in the Department of German and Russian Studies.

“One of my colleagues remembers a project where he did an Arnold Schwarzenegger impression that was absolutely hilarious,” professor Nicole Monnier said.

Keeping it Local

Leigh Lockhart, owner of Main Squeeze, came to Columbia for a reason.

“Columbia was just the right size for me,” she said. “It’s easy to open a business here. St. Louis is intimidating.”

Central area slated for face-lift

The improvement work on the Columbia Terminal Railroad Corridor between Roger Street and College Avenue will soon begin, as the City Council authorized the city manager to solicit bids at Monday night’s meeting.

The railroad terminal dates back to the Civil War.

Meaning of 'faith' distorted in politics

According to what I read in newspapers, some Americans are fearful that our country is heading toward a Christian theocracy. I really don’t think there’s reason to worry about that. A theocracy, perhaps, but Christian? Debatable. But then, if you believe the religious right is truly a Christian movement, I can understand the fear. Of course, people have the right to define themselves any way they choose, and those who want to can sign on to that belief, as well. It would be difficult, though, for me to imagine followers of Jesus Christ invading someone’s country with bombs and bullets as an example of loving their neighbors as themselves. And even though we may not agree with all of Pope Benedict XVI’s policies, he certainly has not advocated the shedding of blood as a method of carrying out Christ’s teaching. Obviously, people have the right to interpret the Scriptures any way they choose, but the hearers of their words should take the measures necessary to verify that the written words and the spoken words agree.

What is really getting on my nerves, though, is the way some journalists are labeling these politicians as members of the “faithful” simply because they spout religious verbiage as they make their political pronouncements. Some are actually criticizing politicians who prefer to keep their religion as a personal matter. I think it is a dangerous practice to try to identify the “faithful” on the basis of their public persona. It is bad enough when brainwashed cult members adopt this attitude, but when so-called literary types begin to do this, it is time to be concerned. We can remember that David Koresh’s flock also saw themselves as the “faithful.”

Discussion of Medicaid is a night of anger, fear

Harsh words sounded and tears rolled down the cheeks of community members who met at a community circle gathering Monday to discuss Medicaid cuts signed by Gov. Matt Blunt last week.

A wide circle of chairs and wheelchairs was formed in the Friends Room of the Columbia Public Library so community members could share their fears of potential Medicaid losses and how cuts would affect their disabled and elderly friends and family, and themselves.

Columbia’s first CPR party being held by MU professor

Giving new meaning to the phrase “life of the party,” a Columbia couple will throw the city’s first-ever CPR party tonight.

A Red Cross instructor will show partygoers how to resuscitate an infant and child at the home of Elizabeth Kraatz, an MU nursing professor, and her husband, Jim Kraatz, director of the MU burn center.

Columbia native to lead state alcohol agency

The Department of Public Safety has new directors for two of its divisions, pending confirmation from the Senate.

Gov. Matt Blunt appointed Dale Roberts to serve as supervisor of the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control on Monday, a position filled by Steve Shimmens on an interim basis after the firings of former supervisor Keith Fuller and his deputy, Lori Baskins, on April 19. Blunt appointed Michael Schler to the position of deputy director.

Rallies for Boonville bridge begin

Citizens concerned about the future of the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge in Boonville are taking all the necessary measures to save it.

On April 22, Gov. Matt Blunt informed the city of Boonville that the Missouri Department of Natural Resources would turn the rights of the bridge back over to Union Pacific. Advocates for preserving the bridge responded by saying they were not done fighting.

Fire torches apartments

A fire in a central Columbia apartment complex caused an estimated $500,000 in damage to the building Sunday morning.

Unattended candles were the cause of the blaze that spread from a central apartment and through the walls into adjoining apartments, Columbia Fire Marshall Steve Sapp said in a news release.

Police stop protesters burying coffins

Columbia activists and St. Francis House directors Steve and Lana Jacobs staged an Iraq war protest at MU on Monday morning.

Jacobs and his wife went to Crowder Hall where detachments of Navy, Army, Marine Corps and Air Force ROTC programs are housed. There, they attempted to bury black coffins draped in U.S. and Iraqi flags.

Mo. to use high-tech fingerprint service

Missourians who need background checks will be able to bypass messy ink, intimidating booking rooms and, most importantly, lengthy delays thanks to a new electronic fingerprinting service.

The state awarded a contract for the service to a Minnesota-based company April 20. The aim is to decrease the turnaround time for fingerprint checks by reducing the number of paper fingerprint cards, which are less accurate and require manual entry into the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s database. The contract requires the services be available within 90 days of its signing, but the Division of Purchasing and Materials Management would not confirm a specific starting date.