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   JEFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri had expected to receive about $130 million this April under an annual settlement payment from tobacco companies.
   But it looks like Missouri will get less than half that amount because of an arbitrator's ruling that state officials failed to diligently enforce the settlement a decade ago.
   House and Senate committees heard testimony this past week on legislation that the attorney general's office and major tobacco companies both say is necessary if the state wants to negotiate a smaller loss of tobacco funds. The bill would, in essence, force a price hike on some cheaper cigarettes that compete with the brands made by big tobacco companies.
   House Budget Committee Chairman Rick Stream says the bill faces opposition and definitely won't pass in time to reverse this year's reduced tobacco payment.
 
Published in Local News
   WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Eric Holder is endorsing a proposal that would result in shorter prison sentences for certain nonviolent drug traffickers, saying the change would rein in bloated federal prison costs and create a fairer criminal justice system.
   Holder was to appear Thursday before the U.S. Sentencing Commission, where he was scheduled to announce his support for a commission proposal to lower the guideline penalties for certain drug crimes.
   "This over-reliance on incarceration is not just financially unsustainable, it comes with human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate," Holder said in excerpts of his testimony, obtained by The Associated Press in advance.
   The harshest penalties, he said, should be reserved for "dangerous and violent drug traffickers."
   His speech was part of a broader push for new federal sentencing policies, including his directive to prosecutors in August to stop charging many nonviolent drug defendants with offenses that carry mandatory minimum sentences.
   The commission in January proposed modifying the guideline penalties so that many drug trafficking crimes would be tied to shorter sentencing ranges. The effect, the Justice Department says, would be to reduce by 11 months the average sentence of a drug trafficking offender and would trim the federal prison population by roughly 6,550 inmates over the next five years.
   The commission was not expected to vote on the proposed change until at least April, but Holder planned to instruct prosecutors in the meantime not to oppose sentencing recommendations in line with the newly proposed ranges.
Published in National News

 JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Attorney General Chris Koster wants some clarification from a federal judge who struck down a Missouri law exempting moral objectors from mandatory birth control insurance coverage.

<br><br>   

Koster's office released a statement Thursday saying the ruling earlier this month has created uncertainties for insurers and individuals. He wants the judge to clarify the intended scope of the decision.

<br><br>   

Koster released his statement the same day that House Speaker Tim Jones filed a resolution urging the attorney general to appeal the case.

<br><br>   

Last year, the Republican-led Legislature overrode a veto by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon to enact a law requiring insurers to issue policies without contraception coverage if individuals or employers say it violates their "moral, ethical or religious beliefs."

<br><br>

A judge ruled that it conflicted with a federal requirement for contraception coverage.

Published in Local News

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