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Archive for February, 2013

(Branson) (AP) – Law enforcement officers in southwest Missouri searched Wednesday for a 68-year-old man who has been charged with murder in his wife’s shooting death at a Branson hotel.

Taney County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Merrell said Thomas Phillip Brown was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder and armed criminal action. His wife, Marilyn J. Brown, 63, was found dead Monday at a Ramada Resort and Conference Center on the main strip in the resort town. Police said she appeared to have been dead for more than two days.

The couple had just moved to Branson from Palm Springs, Calif. – a move that Thomas Brown reportedly didn’t agree with, according to police. They were staying in motels after being displaced from the home where they had planned to live.

Public records show that Thomas Brown had lived in the Arkansas towns of Union and Calhoun in the early 1990s. He held a California state security and investigative services license from 1992 through 2008, as well as a state security guard’s license that expired in June 2012 after 20 years.

Thomas Brown also filed for federal Chapter 7 bankruptcy in July 2012, online court records show. The case was discharged and closed three months later. His California-based bankruptcy attorney and trustee did not immediately respond to telephone messages seeking comment.

Branson police said Brown was likely driving a blue Dodge Durango with California license plate 5WRF678.

Each of the four homicides in Branson since 2007 has occurred in a hotel or motel.

(Jefferson City) (AP) – The stage is set for another Capitol showdown over Missouri’s tax credit programs after senators endorsed legislation Wednesday that creates incentives for high-tech businesses while dramatically cutting existing tax breaks for historic buildings and low-income homes.

Senators gave the legislation initial approval after a lengthy overnight debate that wrapped up about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday. But before the day was over, the top House official doused the plan, declaring that some senators “over-reached” in their zeal to trim tax credits for the state’s two largest development programs.

The Senate bill, which needs another vote to go to the House, essentially marks a starting point for negotiations between the chambers on what Gov. Jay Nixon and some legislative leaders have identified as a priority. A similar plan ended in a stalemate during a fall 2011 special session.

The Senate legislation would authorize up to $60 million in tax credits over eight years for air cargo exports intended primarily to benefit Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and would allow $36 million of tax credits over six years for so-called angel investors in startup technology businesses. It also creates new state and local tax breaks for computer data centers.

To offset those costs, the legislation dramatically lowers the amount of tax credits available to develop low-income housing and renovate historic buildings and eliminates some lower profile tax breaks. Missouri ranks near the top among states in the amount of tax credits authorized under the housing and historic development programs.

The legislation would set a $50 million annual cap on historic preservation credits – down from the current $140 million annual limit – and a $55 million annual cap on low-income housing tax credits, which is a cut from the roughly $190 million current limit. Both of those limits are far lower than what the House has previously been willing to support.

House Speaker Tim Jones told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he prefers caps on the two development programs of between $100 million and $150 million – double or triple what the Senate endorsed. He defended the housing incentives, first authorized under President Ronald Reagan’s administration, as an effective way of spurring private-sector development of affordable housing. Jones said the historic renovation tax credit has “revitalized many downtowns across our entire state and has been very successful in creating new businesses and jobs.”

Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah, argued in favor of setting low limits on the programs as a starting point for negotiations with the House.

“It’s time to prioritize. It’s time to understand we can’t spend hundreds of millions of dollars investing in old buildings” when other states are enacting new job-creation initiatives, Lager said.

Jones said he hopes that a compromise can be reached with the Senate on the development programs. But he praised the portions of the Senate bill that would create new incentives for air cargo exports, data centers and startup technology businesses.

Sponsoring Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, particularly touted the importance of the air export incentives, which he said could attract flights that might otherwise land and depart in Chicago. He compared the future economic potential of air cargo to that of the river travel that helped build St. Louis into one the nation’s leading cities in the 1800s and early 1900s.

“What made St. Louis great before – being at the center of trade – will make us great again,” Schmitt said.

But some lawmakers remain skeptical. Sen. John Lamping, R-St. Louis County, said the air cargo tax credits would need to generate $1.34 billion in economic activity for the state to recoup its investment through increased tax revenues. He compared the proposal to the federal government’s incentives to develop alternative energy, which Lamping said have resulted in some costly flops.

The air cargo incentives essentially spend “$60 million to create a spark – a hope,” Lamping said.

Even with the new tax credits, Schmitt estimated the legislation could save Missouri $800 million over 15 years, due largely to the cumulative effect of the lower annual limits on the housing and historic development programs.

Missouri has more than 60 tax credit programs that last year waived $629 million in revenues to encourage businesses expansion, charitable contributions and community improvements, among other things. Concerns have grown about the cost of Missouri’s tax credits as the state cut funding to education and other services during several consecutive lean budgets.

(Jefferson City) (AP) – The Missouri Supreme Court has rescheduled oral arguments in a case stemming from a state law that allows students to transfer out of unaccredited school districts.

The case was scheduled to be heard Wednesday. But the court agreed to move it to March 5 because of this week’s snowstorm.

The school transfer case was filed by families who were paying to send their children to public schools in suburban Clayton when St. Louis lost accreditation in 2007. They argued St. Louis should pick up the tab.

But the St. Louis district is no longer subject to the law after regaining provisional accreditation last year. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has argued that the change in St. Louis’ accreditation status makes the case largely moot.

(Jefferson City) (AP) – A Missouri man is trying to get a routine state benefit after his partner died in the line of duty, even though the state does not recognize gay marriage.

Kelly Glossip is suing the Missouri Highway Patrol for denying benefits designed for the surviving spouse of a slain public safety official. His partner, Dennis Engelhard, was hit and killed by a vehicle while investigating an accident in 2009.

The Missouri Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday, with Glossip’s attorney arguing that survival benefits should not be denied on the basis of sexual orientation. The state says the benefits are intended for spouses and the men’s relationship does not fall into that classification.

The court did not rule on the case and offered no timetable for a decision.

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Missouri senators endorsed new incentives for high-tech businesses and international exporters early Wednesday as part of a renewed push to overhaul the state’s numerous tax credit programs that divert hundreds of millions of dollars annually from the state treasury.

Senators gave the legislation initial approval after a lengthy debate that began Tuesday afternoon and concluded around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday. The bill, which still needs another Senate vote, essentially marks a starting point for negotiations with the House, which has generally been more supportive of new incentives and more reluctant than the Senate to pare back the state’s existing tax credits.

The Senate legislation would authorize up to $60 million in tax credits over eight years for air cargo exports intended primarily to benefit Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and would allow $36 million of tax credits over six years for so-called angel investors in startup businesses. It also creates new state and local tax breaks for computer data centers.

To offset those costs, the legislation sharply lowers the amount of tax credits available to develop low-income housing and renovate historic buildings. It also eliminates some other tax credits.

Sponsoring Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, estimated the legislation could save Missouri $800 million over 15 years, due largely to the cumulative effect of the lower annual limits on the housing and historic development programs.

Missouri has more than 60 tax credit programs that last year waived $629 million in revenues to encourage businesses to add jobs, entice individuals to donate to certain charitable causes and offset part of the property taxes paid by lower-income seniors and disabled residents, among other things. Some lawmakers and Gov. Jay Nixon have raised concerns about the growing cost of the tax credits, especially as Missouri has cut funding to education and other services during several consecutive lean budgets.

But past efforts to overhaul Missouri’s tax credits have failed, most notably in a 2011 special session devoted to the topic.

“This is the year, because we’ve been so close, to complete the job,” said Schmitt, chairman of the Senate Jobs, Economic Development and Local Government Committee.

He was opposed by Sen. John Lamping, among others, who described the newly proposed incentives as giveaways to special interests and argued they wouldn’t provide a good economic return for taxpayers.

“The desire to say we’ve done something, and the desire to invest other people’s money … it’s very attractive,” bemoaned Lamping, R-St. Louis County.

Missouri currently ranks near the top among states in the amount of tax credits authorized under the housing and historic development programs. The legislation would set a $50 million annual cap on historic preservation credits – down from the current $140 million annual limit – and a $55 million annual cap on low-income housing tax credits, which is a cut from the current $190 million limit.

Both of those limits are far lower than the House has previously been willing to support. But Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah, argued in favor of a low limit as a starting point for negotiations with the House.

“It’s time to prioritize. It’s time to understand we can’t spend hundreds of millions of dollars investing in old buildings” when other states are enacting new job-creation initiatives, Lager said.

Schmitt particularly touted the importance of the air export incentives, which he said could attract flights that might otherwise land and depart in Chicago. He compared the future economic potential of air cargo to that of the river travel that helped build St. Louis into one the nation’s leading cities in the 1800s and early 1900s.

“What made St. Louis great before – being at the center of trade – will make us great again,” Schmitt said.

 

(Willow Springs) – The Missouri Department of Transportation has closed routes in the Southeast District due to the recent rains. Motorists are urged to use extreme caution and plan alternate routes.

Routes that are closed include:

Carter County

Route M – between CR 146 and CR 151

Douglas County

Route EE – east of Route AD

Madison County

Route V – between Route F and County Road 243

Ozark County

Route 95 – east of Route N

Shannon County

Route NN – east of Route H

Texas County

Route BB – at end of maintenance at Boiling Springs

For additional information, contact MoDOT’s Customer Service Center toll-free at 1-888-ASK-MODOT (1-888-275-6636).

(West Plains) – The West Plains School District’s mascot, the Zizzer, has been entered in the USA Today’s “Best Mascot Contest”.

First-round voting continues for about a week. Ultimately, there’s a chance for the athletic department to win some cash.

School officials say that the West Plains Zizzers are the only “Zizzer” mascot in the United States, with a rich tradition of excellence.

A link to vote can be found here.

(West Plains) – Officials with the city of West Plains have announced that the city will test the emergency sirens next week.

The sirens will run at 1:30 PM on Tuesday, March 5 as part of National Severe Weather Awareness Week.

More on Severe Weather awareness week will be in the news in the coming week.

(Lanton) – Lanton Fire Department Chief Blake Bowers has announced that the department is the recipient of a $100,100, four-year SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant from the the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

According to Chief Bowers, the funding will help the department out in a number of ways:

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Bowers says the grant does not cover any of the normal operating costs of the fire department such as fuel, electricity, maintenance, or insurance.

Chief Bowers continued, saying that the department is currently looking for firefighters, and hopes to offer them more than just experience:

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Volunteers are being actively sought to join the department, must be 18 or older, live in a reasonable distance to one of our two fire stations, and have a desire to serve the community.

Bowers also thanked former 8th District Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson for her assistance to emergency services in Howell County and Region G over the years.

(West Plains) – West Plains City Clerk Mallory Thompson says the next step in the city moving to a charter form of government will take place tomorrow:

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City residents will vote on the issue in April.