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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri Senate committee is working through ideas for addressing struggling school districts and a law that forces unaccredited districts to pay for students to transfer.
 
   The Senate Education Committee examined legislation this week sponsored by its chairman, Republican David Pearce of Warrensburg. The panel focused last week on a proposal by several St. Louis-area senators, and Pearce says there will be hearings on other proposals in the next two weeks.
 
   Pearce says the committee needs to decide what is important to include in a bill. Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey said Thursday he would like the full chamber to start debate on a proposal in mid-February.
 
   Pearce's measure provides partly for creating a statewide "achievement district" to manage underperforming schools in unaccredited districts.
Thursday, 30 January 2014 14:47
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ST. CHARLES, Mo. (AP) - A St. Charles County doctor has pleaded guilty to fraudulently billing Medicare for office visits when he was actually traveling outside the country.
 
Federal prosecutors say Dr. Khaled Hassan told Medicare he treated patients face-to-face on three occasions between March 2009 and December 2011 when he was actually overseas.  The office visits involved prescription drug refills, with Hassan's nurses instead seeing the patients and providing previously signed prescription forms.
 
That led to a federal Drug Enforcement Administration investigation. Hassan faces up to five years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 for each of the three felony counts. Sentencing is scheduled for April.
Thursday, 30 January 2014 14:46
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WASHINGTON (AP) - Philomena Lee wistfully described her search for her son 50 years after his adoption, a quest captured in an Oscar-nominated film.
 
Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill said Lee's experience was an argument for adoption rights and an incentive for Ireland to open its records.
 
The two women met Thursday and spoke to reporters about the Philomena Project and efforts to reconcile families. They were joined by Lee's daughter, Jane Libberton, who helped in the search.
 
The movie starring Judi Dench has drawn attention to Lee's story and what transpired in Ireland for decades. Children were adopted by Americans, and their birth mothers were unable to find out what happened to them.
 
Lee said weeks ago she was a housewife, now she's on daytime television and will be attending the Oscars.
Thursday, 30 January 2014 14:24
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri woman who as a teenager wrote that killing a young neighbor girl was an "ahmazing" thrill is now asking a judge to overturn her guilty plea.
 
   Alyssa Bustamante testified in court Thursday that she wouldn't have pleaded guilty to the 2009 slaying of 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten if she'd known about a pending U.S. Supreme Court case involving juvenile murder defendants.
 
   Bustamante had been facing a first-degree murder charge punishable by life without parole. She pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in January 2012 and was sentenced to life with the chance of parole.
 
   The Supreme Court later ruled that mandatory life prison sentences for juveniles were unconstitutional.
 
   Bustamante's new attorney is citing that case as a reason to undo the plea agreement.
Thursday, 30 January 2014 14:22
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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Special Olympics Missouri is raising funds as it considers moving its headquarters and athletic training facility to a new site in Columbia.
 
The Columbia Daily Tribune reports if the project is successful, the Training for Life Campus would be the first statewide athletic training campus for people with intellectual disabilities.
 
Special Olympics Missouri has not made a decision but is considering building at the Central Missouri Events Center at the Boone County fairground. It also would move its headquarters from Jefferson City.
 
The Missouri Development Finance Board approved a tax-incentive program that will allow donors to use $1.75 million in tax credits toward the project.
 
The capital campaign's goal is $12.5 million. Supporters envision a facility for year-round training and health screenings for about 17,000 athletes, coaches and volunteers.
Thursday, 30 January 2014 12:44
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) - An Illinois man has been charged in connection with a shooting that injured two people at a concert in Cape Girardeau.
 
The Southeast Missourian reports 22-year-old Deontae L. Petty of Bellwood, Ill., was charged Wednesday with first-degree assault and  armed criminal action after the shooting Saturday at the Arena.
 
A probable cause statement from Cape Girardeau police says witnesses identified Petty as the man who was escorted out of the building by security but returned shortly afterward and fired into the crowd attending the Rich Homie Quan concert.
 
A 29-year-old man was shot in the chest and a 20-year-old man told police he was shot in the leg. It was unclear how serious their injuries were.
 
Online court records don't list a lawyer for Petty.
Thursday, 30 January 2014 12:00
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St. Clair County officials say they are not admitting any wrongdoing, but will pay up to $2,000 to each of three former county jail inmates who sued over alleged guard abuse.
County Sheriff Rick Watson tells the Belleville News-Democrat the county agreed to the payouts to save taxpayers the money it would cost to defend itself against the lawsuits.
In 2012, the trio claimed that they were among 14 inmates beaten in December 2011, four days after a fight between inmates and guards at the jail in Belleville.  
Watson says that, while he dislikes the settlements and would prefer to test the veracity of the allegations in court, he understands why the payouts were approved.
Thursday, 30 January 2014 10:33
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CHICAGO (AP) - A new study finds Illinois' overall poverty rate is about the same as it was a half century ago.
The report released Thursday by the Chicago-based Social IMPACT Research Center says almost 15 percent of Illinois residents lived below the federal poverty line in 2012, about the same percentage as in 1960.
That's despite scores of state and federal aid programs and a dramatic drop in the number of older people in poverty.
Poverty has increased among working-age men and women, and 1 in 5 children are in poverty. It's highest among blacks and Latinos.
The report comes a day after Gov. Pat Quinn called on lawmakers to raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour and double a tax credit that helps low-income workers keep more of their earnings.
 
Thursday, 30 January 2014 10:27
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Missouri residents won’t be paying more in tuition to attend schools in the University of Missouri school system this coming school year.
It’s the first time in five years that Missouri parents and students won’t have to dig deeper into their pockets to attend a University of Missouri school.  
The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports the system's Board of Curators approved the in-state tuition freeze yesterday morning during the first of three days of meetings in Columbia.
The freeze applies to the 2014-2015 school year for residents who attend University of Missouri in St. Louis, Columbia, Kansas City and Rolla.  Students will pay $8,335 in tuition.  
Non-resident undergraduate tuition rates will go up at all campuses starting this summer. Tuition rates for graduate students, including those from Missouri, will increase by 1.5 percent.
Thursday, 30 January 2014 10:19
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Two people escaped a three-alarm fire early this morning in Madison County.
Fox2 News reports that authorities believe an explosion started the blaze which destroyed a home in the  400 block of Valley Drive in Rosewood Heights.  The fire was reported just before 6:30 a.m.
The fire chief says there was some type of explosion inside the garage and the fire spread through the main part of the home.
Both people in the home were taken to an area hospital for smoke inhalation.  A house next door was also damaged by the explosion.  
The fire chief says the fire is not suspicious. There are reports that the family had propane tanks in the garage. The State Fire Marshall will investigate the cause of the blaze. 
Thursday, 30 January 2014 09:58
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