Warm smiles and iron horses

While the artificial fireplace at the Kirkwood train station doesn’t keep the place cozy on snowy Wednesday nights, Marge Nardie’s genuine smile provides a warm welcome.

“I like working at night because people that come in are grumpy and —well — I’m not,” Nardie said.

Workers’comp bill voted out of House

JEFFERSON CITY — A reduction in the number of injuries covered under Missouri’s workers’ compensation law won approval from the House on Wednesday.

The measure passed 90-66 in the Republican-controlled chamber in a vote that broke mostly down party lines.

House panel votes to cut regional Amtrak funding

JEFFERSON CITY — A House panel looking for budget savings has voted to eliminate state funding for the twice-daily Amtrak passenger train service between St. Louis and Kansas City.

The House Transportation Appropriations Committee voted Tuesday night to cut the $6.4 million that Gov. Matt Blunt had recommended to subsidize the train service. Earlier this week, several mayors and officials from cities along the train route pleaded with the committee to maintain Amtrak’s funding.

Federal law grants free credit reports

A federal law has armed Midwesterners against one of the fastest growing crimes in the nation.

Supporters of the law say people will be better suited to defend themselves against identity theft when equipped with a report of their credit history.

Gathering defends stem-cell research

JEFFERSON CITY — More than 100 women from the Hadassah organization filled the Capitol on Wednesday to lobby against legislation that could outlaw stem-cell research in what they called the “State of Stem Cells Event.”

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee’s Summit, could outlaw human cloning and stem-cell research, which some scientists say could lead to cures for degenerative diseases.

House OKs MSU

JEFFERSON CITY — The signature of an eager governor is all that remains before Southwest Missouri State University realizes its goal of becoming Missouri State University.

Over the objections of an impassioned, bipartisan group of lawmakers, the House voted 120-35 to pass the Senate bill that bestows the name on the Springfield school. The House sponsor, Rep. B. J. Marsh, R-Springfield, was surprised at the overwhelming victory, saying he expected only about 90 votes in favor.

MU veterinary lab bonuses down slightly

Bonuses for eight faculty members with MU’s entrepreneurial veterinary laboratory slid slightly from last year; however, all but one amounted to more than $100,000.

MU announced Tuesday that the researchers involved with the Research Animal Diagnostic Laboratory, known as RADIL, received bonuses totaling $1.088 million as incentives. That is about $9,500 less than was paid in fiscal year 2003, about $1.09 million, to the six researchers then with the laboratory.

Funding plan misses deadline

JEFFERSON CITY — The effort to fix the formula used to distribute state funding for local schools has missed its first deadline.

Sen. Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, had set a controversial four-week deadline for the joint Senate-House committee assigned to the task, but a vote is not expected until the formula can be compiled into bill form, which will not happen until next week.

Senate to hear new privacy bills

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri lawmakers are reacting to what they see as a lack of protection for Missourians in the wake of the ChoicePoint Inc. scandal, which affected more than 1,500 people in Missouri and 500,000 across the country.

“The environment for consumers in Missouri has moved from ‘buyer beware’ to ‘buyer be scared,’ ” said Sen. Pat Dougherty, D-St. Louis.

Setting the scene

Three months of hard work are coming to an end for Smithton Drama Players. “Miss Nelson is Missing,” the spring musical, premieres Thursday and continues on Friday, and Saturday at Smithton Middle School.

Pressure has mounted a little higher than normal for this year’s musical, though, as Joan Cushing, who adapted the script, lyrics and music, will make a special appearance at the performance.

Monsanto to buy seed company

ST. LOUIS — Monsanto Co. said Tuesday its fledgling holding company will buy seed-marketer NC+ Hybrids Inc. for $40 million in cash, continuing the agribusiness’ shopping spree for regional seed companies as its dominance in herbicides erodes.

St. Louis-based Monsanto said NC+ Hybrids, based in Lincoln, Neb., is the latest acquisition by its American Seeds Inc. unit, formed last year to support regional seed businesses with capital, genetics and technology investments.

Co-defendant in Heitholt killing won’t hear sentence until June

The sentencing of a 20-year-old man who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree robbery in connection with the 2001 killing of Kent Heitholt was pushed back Monday to June 13.

Dressed in a black-and-white jumpsuit from the Boone County Jail, Charles Timothy Erickson sighed heavily as he waited for a brief hearing with Circuit Judge Gene Hamilton.

Boone Hospital Center makes list of nation’s top 100 hospitals

For the first time, Boone Hospital Center has been named as one of the nation’s top 100 hospitals by Modern Healthcare magazine.

Mike Shirk, president of Boone Hospital Center, shared the news Monday night at the hospital’s Board of Trustees meeting.

Missouri killer’s case goes to high court

WASHINGTON — Shackled with leg irons and a belly chain, Carman L. Deck was sentenced to death by a Hillsboro jury in 2003. Two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether Deck’s shackling violated his right to a fair trial.

Missouri transportation commission to expand

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Matt Blunt’s plan to expand the Highways and Transportation Commission won easy initial approval in the Senate on Tuesday.

The bill would expand the commission from six to eight members. The two new members would represent air and mass transit, and river and freight transportation.

SMSU greets name-change progress

Two hours after passage of the Southwest Missouri State University name change in the state House Tuesday, SMSU President John Keiser said he did not want to duplicate the professional programs of the University of Missouri System.

“We don’t want any of those things, which is why we agreed to have them written in the bill,” he said. “It would cost too much, given our priorities and the state’s priorities.”

NCAA satisfied with MU academics

The NCAA unveiled its new system to measure academic progress Monday, with MU making the grade in a trial run.

The Academic Performance Rate is designed to grade athletic departments based on athletes’ continued eligibility. As early as next year, teams that don’t meet academic-performance standards could receive punishments ranging from the loss of scholarships to ineligibility.

Software watches trends in 911 calls

New software that analyzes 911 calls could help the Columbia/Boone County Health Department detect outbreaks of the flu or warn the department about a bioterrorist attack.

Forum looks at federal school policies

Candidates for the Columbia Board of Education discussed several issues relating to the No Child Left Behind Act at a forum Monday at Hickman High School.

The Columbia Council Parent Teacher Association and the Columbia Community Teachers Association sponsored the event, asking each candidate to respond to seven questions. Three of the questions centered on No Child Left Behind, the federal education policy that sets yearly performance standards for students nationwide.

Looking for laughs

Comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory mixed social commentary and humor at a speech Monday night as part of MU’s Black History Month celebration.

“I never expected white folks to give us a whole month,” he said to a crowd of more than 150 people.