The Associated Press

Kristofor Husted / KBIA

A new report says low commodity prices and weak farm incomes are continuing to hamper the rural economy in parts of 10 Plains and Midwestern states.

The Rural Mainstreet Index for the region fell to its lowest level of the year at 39.6 from August's 42.2. The index released Thursday ranges between 0 and 100, with any number under 50 indicating a shrinking economy.

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There have been more fatal police shootings in St. Louis in 2017 than for a decade — with three months still left until year's end.

The new data comes as the city's police department struggles to contain daily protests following the acquittal of white former police officer in the killing of a black suspect.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson says it wasn't acceptable for police to chant "Whose streets? Our streets!" on Sunday after clearing out protesters and onlookers in the city's downtown.

The mayor decried the chant during a news conference Tuesday. Officers in riot gear were heard chanting after making arrests when an organized protest ended and vandalism ensued. The chant is one that protesters commonly use.

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens has put the National Guard on standby in case of protests that could follow a St. Louis judges’ ruling. The ruling would decide whether a former St. Louis police officer is guilty of murder.

Greitens said in a news release released today (Thursday) that activating the National Guard is a (quote) necessary precaution” to help protect infrastructure and free up police for security at protests.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — House budgeters and Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens' administration are clashing over money for a new program Greitens created to fight prescription drug misuse.

House Budget Committee members drilled administration officials Thursday over why they didn't get specific approval from lawmakers to spend money on the program. It's estimated to cost about $470,000 this fiscal year.

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The number of licensed abortion clinics in Missouri has grown from one to two, and a third clinic is expected to begin taking appointments soon.

Planned Parenthood Great Plains received a license to book appointments for nonsurgical abortions at its Kansas City clinic. The organization also is expected to receive a license for surgical and medication abortions at its Columbia clinic in the next few days.

Currently, only the St. Louis clinic is allowed to perform abortions in Missouri.

Senate floor at the Missouri Capitol
File / KBIA

JEFFERSON CITY — The Latest on developments in the Missouri Legislature, which is scheduled to end its annual session at 6 p.m. Friday:

5:25 p.m.

A long debate over which dog reigns supreme in Missouri could be over soon if Gov. Eric Greitens signs a bill designating Old Drum as the official historical dog of Missouri and Jim the Wonder Dog as the official state wonder dog.

Missouri lawmakers passed a bill Friday that gives each dog a designation as a Missouri state symbol.

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Missouri lawmakers have approved legislation on sales tax increases for the St. Louis Zoo. On Thursday Senators voted to send the bill to Governor Eric Greitens.

If signed, the bill would allow ballot initiatives to be brought in St. Louis City and St. Louis County to raise taxes by up to one-eighth of a percent to fund the zoo.

The measure would also allow the zoo to charge admission for new facilities for people who live in counties that don't adopt a zoo tax.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has pledged to fund nearly 50 stream gauges used to monitor potential flooding along rivers.

The Springfield News-Leader reports the Missouri Water Science Center in Rolla manages more than 270 real-time gauges, but 49 of them were scheduled for deactivation in July due to unspecified threats to funding. Gauges cost $14,600 annually to operate.

Jacob Fenston / KBIA

The Missouri State Archive is helping preserve centuries of documents submerged in 8 feet of water during recent flooding.

The News Tribune reports that administrative archivist John Korasick was alerted early Monday morning that the Carter County Courthouse basement, where the county keeps its paper records, had been filled with water.

He and senior conservator Lisa Fox followed the state agency's plan for such an emergency and soon had a refrigerated semitrailer for the soggy, warped books and boxes.

File Photo / KBIA

Missouri lawmakers have approved a spending plan to cut core funding for public colleges and universities by about 6.6 percent.

Greitens had asked lawmakers to cut higher education funding by nearly 10 percent to balance next year's budget. Legislators softened those cuts.

Legislators on Thursday sent the plan to Gov. Eric Greitens' desk. It's part of a package of bills outlining the state's $27 billion budget next fiscal year, which begins in July.

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A busy stretch of Interstate 55 in the St. Louis area has reopened after the Meramec River crested in the area.

The Missouri Department of Transportation announced the reopening of southbound lanes of the interstate in Arnold in a news release Thursday. The reopening will allow traffic from St. Louis to Jefferson County to resume. Northbound lanes of the interstate remained open Wednesday, even as the southbound lanes closed because of flooding.

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St. Louis' embattled minimum wage hike will take effect Friday following a two-year legal fight over the city's effort to require employees to pay workers at least $10 an hour.

A circuit court judge lifted an injunction on Thursday that had blocked a 2015 ordinance from becoming law.

Under the ordinance, St. Louis' minimum wage will rise again in January, to $11 per hour, significantly higher than Missouri's $7.70 minimum.

missouri house floor
File Photo / KBIA News

Missouri House members want more information on how much money the state is paying in lawsuit settlements and judgments.

House members voted 150-1 on Thursday to pass legislation to require the attorney general and administration commissioner to update lawmakers and others monthly on state legal expenses.

Jefferson City News Tribune

Police in Fulton say a body found encased in concrete inside a container is likely that of a man missing for nearly a week from a group home.

Police said in a statement Tuesday that the body discovered the day before in a Fulton storage unit may be 31-year-old Carl DeBrodie, but results of any autopsy on the body have not been released.

DeBrodie had been living at the Second Chance group home in Fulton for the past nine years and was reported missing April 17.

No other details were immediately released.

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An advocacy group is pushing a bill that would increase the age of people tried in court as adults to 18 years.

KOLR-TV reports that Missouri is one of seven states that treat 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal-justice system. A group called the "Raise the Age Coalition" has been pushing for a change.

Vivian Murphy is the former director of the Missouri Juvenile Justice Association. She says science has proved teenagers' brains still are developing, and that that putting them in with adult inmates makes them more likely to re-offend.

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The St. Louis Zoo may soon be funded by sales tax from St. Louis and surrounding counties, after the Missouri Senate gave initial approval Thursday to a bill creating new rules for sales tax increases.

The bill now needs one more vote before it goes to the House. Senator Gina Walsh, the sponsor of the bill, said it will allow the zoo to raise money in order to remain a largely free attraction.

The bill would allow St. Louis and surrounding counties to raise taxes by up to 0.125 percent to fund the zoo.

Torie Ross / KBIA

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway says she's investigating potential conflicts of interest related to state officials' work with a trucking technology company.

Galloway announced the investigation Friday after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported current and former Missouri regulators have worked for the nonprofit HELP Inc. It's the only company that provides technology allowing truckers to bypass Missouri weigh stations.

Missouri Capitol
Ryan Famuliner / KBIA

The Missouri Senate passed a proposal Wednesday to spend about $241 million more than planned for the current fiscal year on unexpected expenses, of which about $44 million comes from state general revenue.

Senators voted unanimously in favor of the supplemental budget, which now goes back to the House for final approval.

Most of the money comes from federal funds, and most will go toward unexpected Medicaid expenses. The state has also allocated about $10 million to the Department of Transportation for vehicle replacements and equipment improvements.

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Recent rains have pushed several rivers in Missouri, including the two big ones, above technical flood stage, but damage is expected to be minimal.

The Mississippi River is at or slightly above flood stage at northeast Missouri towns like Canton and Hannibal. It is expected to reach above flood stage south of St. Louis in places like Cape Girardeau by early next week.

The Missouri River is expected to crest 4 feet above flood stage Friday in Boonville, and 1 to 2 feet above flood stage in places like Hermann, Washington and St. Charles.

Columns at University of Missouri
File Photo / KBIA

The Missouri House has passed a state budget plan that provides more money for K-12 public schools while cutting higher education funding and a tax break for senior and disabled renters.

House members sent the $27.8 billion budget for next fiscal year to the Senate for review Thursday.

The plan provides close to $3.4 billion in basic aid for public schools, the full amount called for under state law.

David Shane / Flickr

A federal judge says he will issue a preliminary injunction to block Missouri's rules that he says restrict abortion rights. 

In a memo issued Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs said his ruling will invalidate Missouri's requirement that doctors who perform abortions must have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, and that clinics meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery.

The injunction was sought by Planned Parenthood, which sued to block the restrictions in November. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down similar rules in Texas earlier last year.

File / KBIA

A Colorado company that produces organic milk and butter is confirming that it plans to build a plant in northeast Columbia, which would eventually create 150 new jobs.

Aurora Organic Dairy and the Department of Economic Development announced Tuesday that the Platteville, Colorado-based company will build a $90 million plant.

The plant is expected to create more than 90 jobs initially and up to 150 in the next five years. Aurora says it will begin site preparation this spring and be fully operating in 2019.

Loavesofbread / Wikimedia Commons

 

A Justice Department attorney says Ferguson, Missouri, is making "meaningful progress" in enacting policing and court reforms agreed upon after Michael Brown's 2014 police shooting death.

KWMU Radio reports Jude Volek told U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry during a hearing Tuesday in St. Louis that he's encouraged with the changes in the St. Louis suburb's courts.

Ferguson officials have missed deadlines in the consent decree reached last year with Justice Department.

Missouri Capitol
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  JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — The Missouri House has passed a bill that would require teenagers to be older before they could get married without permission from a judge.

House members voted 139-1 Thursday to send the measure to the Senate.

Under current law, children ages 15-17 can get married with permission from a parent, and those younger than 15 need approval from a judge.

Missouri Capitol
j.stephenconn / Flickr

The Missouri House has passed a bill that could allow charter schools to expand to more districts.

With an 83-76 vote on Thursday, the House passed a proposal that would allow charters to operate in more heavily-populated districts such as Springfield and Columbia. It would also allow charters to move into districts with at least one low-performing school.

Opponents say the proposal takes money away from underfunded public schools and gives the money to privately-operated charters with less accountability.

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The Missouri House has passed a bill increasing fines for illegally using herbicides that damage other farmers' crops.

The legislation allows the Department of Agriculture to fine any person who damages another farmer's crops, land, or property by using a herbicide on a crop for which the herbicide is not labeled for use.  

Farmers can be fined up to $10,000 for each instance of damage and up to $25,000 for repeat offenders.

Ameren Missouri customers should expect an estimated increase of $3.70 on their monthly bill after April 1, after the Missouri Public Service Commission approved an agreement Wednesday to increase Ameren Missouri's annual electric operating revenues by $92 million.

The utility has said it needed the increased revenue because of new capital investments, transmission and distribution projects, as well as higher transmission operator charges and reduced revenue demand on its system. Ameren serves nearly 1.23 million customers in Missouri.

The Missouri Senate has confirmed Dr. Randall Williams as the next director of the Department of Health and Senior Services and Colonel Sandy Karsten as the next superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Both appointees of Republican Governor Eric Greitens were approved Thursday by unanimous voice votes.

Florence Henderson, who went from Broadway star to become one of America's most beloved television moms in The Brady Bunch, has died, her manager and her publicist said. She was 82.

Henderson died Thursday night at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, after being hospitalized the day before, said her publicist, David Brokaw. Henderson had suffered heart failure, her manager Kayla Pressman said in a statement.

Family and friends had surrounded Henderson's hospital bedside, Pressman said.

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