Democrats send regrets to Blunt

There will be at least two different invitations printed for Gov.-elect Matt Blunt’s inauguration, though neither will be required to gain admission.

Official invitations to the Jan. 10 ceremonies — for which no ticket is required — are being sent by John Hancock and Associates, a firm that advised Blunt during his campaign. Hancock has requested that all legislators turn in a list of those they want to invite and pay $2.50 per invitation.

Senators propose fuel, casino taxes

Two Senate Republicans proposed tax increases on the first day Missouri lawmakers were allowed to pre-file bills for the legislative session that begins in January.

Tuesday, Sens. Jon Dolan, R-St. Louis County, and Matt Bartle, R-Jackson County, took the opportunity to propose an increase in the state tax on motor fuels and on casino boat admissions, respectively.

Businesses on guard for holiday season theft

As the holiday season approaches, local businesses are preparing for an increase in sales, as well as an increase in theft.

Arrests for shoplifting in December 2003 were almost 47 percent higher than in the previous month: 72 arrests were made in December up from 49 in November. And that only reflects the number of thieves who were caught.

Exercising body and mind

Her mother’s illness convinced Karen Neely that she needed to do something about her own health. Four years later, the 56-year-old librarian is getting ready for her first triathlon.

“I became an athlete at the age of 52,” she says.

Floyd steps in as UMKC head resigns

University of Missouri system President Elson Floyd will split his time between Columbia and Kansas City during the next few months, until he names an interim chancellor for the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

UMKC Chancellor Martha Gilliland announced her resignation Friday amid faculty displeasure with her leadership during the past 4½ years.

Judge delays school funding lawsuit

JEFFERSON CITY — Attorney General Jay Nixon will decide the constitutionality of Missouri’s school foundation formula, which is meant to provide equal and adequate funds for the state’s public school students.

After a hearing in Cole County Circuit Court on Thursday, Judge Richard Callahan granted the state’s request to delay a school funding lawsuit for several months — but only if the state concedes that the current system is unconstitutional. Callahan granted a 15-day period for the attorney general’s office to report a decision on whether the current school funding formula violates the Missouri Constitution.

Water-quality concerns slow Wal-Mart plan

The public will once again have a chance to speak on plans to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter off Grindstone Parkway in southern Columbia.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources will hold a public hearing Dec. 13 on the proposed development’s impact on water quality in the Hinkson Creek drainage basin. The local chapter of the Sierra Club requested the hearing to raise awareness about the project’s proximity to the environmentally sensitive Hinkson Creek.

City supports plan for joint meetings

City leaders support developer Billy Sapp’s proposal for joint zoning meetings between the city and Boone County. The meetings would concern Sapp’s proposed 1,000-acre development in the Harg community, east of Columbia near the city limits.

At a Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Thursday night, Assistant City Manager Bill Watkins said both Mayor Darwin Hindman and City Manager Ray Beck support the collaborative effort.

Farmers hope shoppers pick pines over plastics

Francis “Fir” Coppola and “Spruce” Springsteen are listed as the producers of an Internet video game this holiday season called “The Attack of the Mutant Artificial Trees” for a St. Louis-based trade association of Christmas tree farmers. The objective is to destroy as many artificial trees as possible with snow balls. The enemy pops out of cardboard boxes that say “Made in China” and “100% Fake,” and the player retaliates with a point and click of the mouse.

The game is sponsored by the National Christmas Tree Association and is part of a multi-front offensive to regain market share from the artificial tree industry.

GRO argues for rights

Although the general election has passes, the Grass Roots Organizing and the Columbia Housing Authority battle over voter registration continues. From April until the beginning of October, the GRO groups' members went door to door registering voters in Oak and Paquin Towers. Security personnel at the buildings, which is operated by the Columbia Housing Authority, turned away the Grass Roots Organizing workers due to complaints.

Commerce leader reports confidence in Blunt’s goals

Missouri employers are looking forward to seeing lawmakers pass legislation they have supported in the past but seen Democratic Gov. Bob Holden veto, according to one of the state’s top business leaders.

“We are very confident that we will be successful in getting something through the General Assembly this year, and now we have a governor in Matt Blunt who will sign it into law,” said Dan Mehan, president of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Adjusting to traffic patterns

There’s a new location for local residents needing to renew their driver’s license or register vehicles.

The Missouri Department of Revenue Motor Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing Office opened for its first day of business on Nov. 22 at 1500 Vandiver Drive.

Blunt addresses higher education

Gov.-elect Matt Blunt said Wednesday that higher education in Missouri needs to be more affordable and more accountable to taxpayers.

“College is not just a rite of passage for the elite,” Blunt said at the Governor’s Conference on Higher Education in Columbia. Rather, he said, it is an opportunity for all Missourians who qualify and who want to attend.

Blunt hopes to consolidate technology

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri’s Office of Administration will experience changes under Gov.-elect Matt Blunt’s administration with two key appointments and the proposed consolidation of the state’s information technology systems.

In a news conference Wednesday, Blunt said he plans to consolidate all state agencies’ information technology departments into one that would be overseen by the Office of Administration.

Grindstone tax district would fund road works

Three companies filed a petition in Boone County Circuit Court to form a transportation development district along Grindstone Parkway.

The development would charge extra sales tax to pay for road projects intended to accommodate a new Wal-Mart and other development in the area. It is the fifth taxing district to be either formed or proposed within Columbia.

Sapp asks city to annex Harg area

A developer’s unique zoning request could have lasting implications on how Boone County and the city of Columbia work together on issues of growth.

Billy Sapp, who is developing thousands of acres of homes, condominiums, shops and a golf course in the Harg community east of Columbia, would like his property to be annexed and receive city services. Sapp wants the city and the county to work together on zoning so the development is appropriately zoned in the county even if the city refuses to annex the area.

Local resident marks World AIDS Day with talk about HIV

As rush hour traffic crawled through downtown Columbia Wednesday evening, white flags with the insignia of a red ribbon flapped in the breeze as a reminder of those who died from AIDS.

Outside Uprise Bakery on Broadway, Columbia resident Brenda Flowers spoke to a crowd of roughly 30 people about what it means to be HIV positive. Flowers’ speech followed a thirty minute candlelight vigil and a musical performance of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” by Andrea Sanderson of St. Louis.

Transition to independence

Mike Harding eats the same lunch everyday — a peanut butter sandwich and a Twinkie washed down with a bottle of Mountain Dew.

For Harding, lunch is about choice, one of many life skills he is taught at Integration Plus, a supported living program for people with developmental disabilities that recently opened its third individualized supported living site in Columbia.

Investigation of Tuesday’s plane crash begins

ST. LOUIS — Federal investigators Wednesday began trying to unravel why a small corporate jet crashed on a Missouri River island, killing the company’s top executive and an employee.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the twin-engine Hansa 320 — registered to an air charter company that lost two planes in five hours last year — went down on Howell Island west of St. Louis about 8:15 p.m. Tuesday, shortly after leaving Spirit of St. Louis Airport in suburban Chesterfield.

Senator: Seat belt law likely to pass

JEFFERSON CITY — A key senator predicted Tuesday that legislators will pass a law next session giving law enforcement officers increased authority to ticket people for not wearing vehicle seat belts.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jon Dolan said a primary seat belt law is important for safety and could bring the state millions of dollars in federal incentive money.