BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) - A judge in southwestern Illinois is considering an AIDS service organization's challenge of a city's decision to bar the group from running a needle-exchange program because of a zoning issue.
The Belleville News-Democrat reports that St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert Haida took the matter under advisement after a hearing Monday. The judge will issue a written ruling.
The city sued in February, believing Bethany Place's needle-exchange program violates the type of operations allowed for that site under the city's zoning codes.
Bethany Place responded last month, arguing the city waited too long to complain.
The organization calls the city's move unfair and prejudicial to clients served by the program.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Gov. Jay Nixon has signed legislation authorizing tax incentives for big-time sports events and some charitable donations.
Nixon highlighted his support for the charitable tax breaks by traveling to a food bank in Cape Girardeau on Friday. He signed the sports incentives without comment.
The sports legislation authorizes up to $3 million of tax credits annually for organizations that host amateur sporting events such as NCAA tournaments or Olympic trials. Lawmakers hope the cash will help Missouri compete with other states.
The other bill reinstates tax credits for donations to food pantries, child advocacy centers and pregnancy resource centers that had expired in recent years. Nixon says the tax credits can leverage private donations to help "our most vulnerable citizens."
Both bills were passed by the Legislature on March 13.
The bill presented Tuesday before a House committee would change a Missouri law that exempts the relatives of child-care providers from being counted toward the requirements for state licensure. The bill would require licensure for anyone watching more than four children of preschool age or younger, so long as they are being paid for watching at least one of those children.
The bill is called "Nathan's Law," in remembrance of a suburban St. Louis baby who died in 2007 in a home day care. Nathan's mother, Shelley Blecha, was among those testifying for the bill.
The measure has been proposed in O'Fallon. The Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis reports it could be subject of a vote on March 28.
Co-sponsors Jim Pepper and John Haman Jr. say the bill would not invalidate existing laws but protect the rights of residents to bear arms. But Councilman Bob Howell questioned the need for the bill and urged major revisions. Howell says that while he supports protecting gun rights, he believes the bill puts the city in the position of passing an unconstitutional law.
U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig cited a provision in the U.S. Constitution declaring that federal laws take precedence over contradictory state laws. Missouri's Republican-led Legislature overrode the veto of Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon last September to enact a law that appeared to be the first in the nation to directly rebut the Obama administration's contraception policy. The Missouri law required insurers to issue policies without contraception coverage if individuals or employers objected because of religious or moral beliefs.
Fleissig had issued a temporary restraining order against Missouri's law last December.
Lawmakers on Friday sent the Republican governor two anti-abortion bills, one banning the procedure as early as six weeks into a pregnancy and another prohibiting women from having the procedure because a fetus has a genetic defect, such as Down syndrome. They would be the most restrictive abortion laws in the U.S
Abortion-rights activists have promised a legal battle over the measures if they become law. But supporters of the bills say their goal is to challenge the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion up until a fetus is considered viable, usually at 22 to 24 weeks
Unlike other states, North Dakota isn't looking at budget cuts. The state actually has a budget surplus nearing $2 billion, thanks to new-found oil wealth. Record oil production has made North Dakota the nation's No. 2 oil producer behind Texas.
But that oil wealth has come at a price: increased crime, shortages of housing, greater costs for road repairs and other infrastructure improvements. Democratic Sen. Mac Schneider, an attorney from Grand Forks, said the Legislature should focus on those needs instead of "expensive and potentially protracted abortion litigation."
"There hasn't been near enough attention given to the costs as we've debated these issues. We need to be honest with taxpayer funds and that is: We will be spending money on attorneys," Schneider said.
But Rep. Bette Grande, a Republican from Fargo who introduced the measures, said the budget surplus wasn't part of the equation for her.
"I don't look at it from the financial side of things," Grande told The Associated Press on Friday. "I look at it from the life side of things."
Grande told lawmakers earlier in the week that fears about a legal challenge shouldn't prevent them from strengthening North Dakota's already strict abortion laws.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple hasn't said anything to indicate he would veto the measures, and the bills have enough support in each chamber for the Republican-controlled Legislature to override him. The Senate overwhelmingly approved the bills Friday, and the House passed them last month. The votes were largely on party lines, with Republicans supporting the measures and Democrats opposing them.
The state's only abortion clinic is in Fargo, and abortion-rights advocates say the measures are meant to shut it down. They urged Dalrymple to veto the bills.
The American Civil Liberties Union called the measures "extreme" and noted that many women don't realize they are pregnant until after six weeks.
"In America, no woman, no matter where she lives, should be denied the ability to make this deeply personal decision," ACLU executive director Anthony Romero said in a statement.
Outside of Fargo, the nearest abortion clinics are four hours to the south in Sioux Falls, S.D., and four hours to the southeast in Minneapolis. North Dakota is one of several states with Republican-controlled Legislatures and GOP governors that is looking at abortion restrictions. Arkansas passed a 12-week ban earlier this month that prohibits most abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected using an abdominal ultrasound. That ban is scheduled to take effect 90 days after the Arkansas Legislature adjourns. A fetal heartbeat can generally be detected earlier in a pregnancy using a vaginal ultrasound, but Arkansas lawmakers balked at requiring women seeking abortions to have the more invasive imaging technique. North Dakota's measure doesn't specify how a fetal heartbeat would be detected. Doctors performing an abortion after a heartbeat is detected could face a felony charge punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Women having an abortion would not face charges. The genetic abnormalities bill also bans abortion based on gender selection. Pennsylvania, Arizona and Oklahoma already have such laws, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion restrictions across the U.S. North Dakota would be the first state to ban abortions based on a genetic defect, according to the institute. Sen. Margaret Sitte, a Republican from Bismarck, said the bill is meant to ban the destruction of life based on "an arbitrary society standard of being good enough." Some test results pointing to abnormalities are incorrect, she said, and doctors can perform surgeries even before a baby is born to correct some genetic conditions.
Under a bill outlined Thursday, first-time offenders for marijuana possession would be allowed to do community service and avoid jail. If offenders complete the sentence, the convictions would be removed from their record.
Rep. Rory Ellinger, a criminal defense attorney and Democrat from St. Louis, said the legislation would help people with marijuana convictions in their youth get jobs later by not having to disclose the conviction.
Ellinger said the measure could save the state money by keeping first-time drug offenders out of jail.
The new sentencing structure would apply only to people carrying less than 35 grams of marijuana.