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FULTON, Mo. (AP) - The number of people Missouri holds as sexually violent predators is shooting up and leading mental health officials to seek millions of additional dollars for their care. Mo. adds sex offenders to treatment program

For the upcoming year, Gov. Jay Nixon's budget recommends more than $2.6 million for nearly 60 additional positions within the Sex Offender Rehabilitation and Treatment Services program at facilities in Farmington and Fulton.

A state law taking effect in 1999 allows certain sex offenders to be civilly committed as a "sexually violent predator" after completing a criminal sentence. Mental Health Department Director Keith Schafer says the growth has been about 20 people per year.

Schafer says the department regularly has sought and received additional staff in the budget.
Monday, 25 February 2013 01:22
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Unless a deal is reached by Friday, massive federal budget cuts will automatically go into effect -- and Missouri and Illinois will feel the pinch. The "sequester" would cut $85 billion from the budget, half from defense and half from domestic programs. As part of their campaign to avoid the automatic spending cuts, the White House Sunday released a state by state breakdown of the impact.

Besides the pain of deep defense cuts which could lay off some 8,000 defense workers, Missouri could lose nearly $12 million in education funding.

In Illinois, the defense cuts would furlough more than 14,000 defense department employees and cut more than $30 million from education.

Democrats have proposed a combination of tax increases and spending cuts, including a tax on income above $1 million and eliminating tax breaks for oil companies.

Republicans have said they will only consider spending cuts.

Democratic Congressman Bill Enyart of Belleville, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the defense cuts would hit the area hard because of the importance of Scott Air Force Base and other military installations to the local economy.

Illinois Republican Representative John Shimkus told KSDK-TV that he doesn't believe a deal will be reached before the deadline.
Monday, 25 February 2013 01:09
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CHICAGO (AP) - A group of prominent Latino leaders say legalizing gay marriage in Illinois would strengthen families and is "the right thing to do."

In an open letter to lawmakers Sunday, 23 Latino leaders say all families deserve to be treated with respect.

Among those signing the letter are former Chicago City Clerk Miguel Del Valle and Sylvia Puente, executive director of the Latino Policy Forum.

The Illinois Senate approved a bill earlier this month that would end the state's ban on same-sex marriage. A House committee is expected to consider it Tuesday.

If it passes the House Gov. Pat Quinn has said he will sign the legislation, making Illinois the 10th state where same-sex couples may marry.

Opponents say the proposal endangers religious freedom and diminishes the sanctity of marriage.
Monday, 25 February 2013 00:43
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CHICAGO (AP) - Mary Ann McMorrow, the first woman to serve on the Illinois Supreme Court and the state's first female chief justice, has died.

Illinois Supreme Court spokesman Joseph Tybor, who was authorized to speak on the family's behalf, says McMorrow died Saturday at a Chicago hospital following a brief illness. She was 83.

McMorrow set numerous precedents. She was the only woman in her 1953 class at Loyola University School of Law, and became the first woman on Illinois' highest court in 1992. She served as chief justice from 2002 to 2005.

But when she retired in 2006, McMorrow told The Associated Press she never focused on being a trailblazer. She said she was "just trying to do the best I could."

McMorrow is survived by her daughter and her sister.
Monday, 25 February 2013 00:36
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Two men have been arrested in the death of a 27-year-old man who was found shot inside a Jennings home. St. Louis County police said Sean M. Hutchinson was fatally shot Thursday.

Prosecutors have charged with 25-year-old Anthony Primm and 24-year-old Bernard Eric Wilson III with second-degree murder and first-degree burglary. Both are being held in St. Louis County Jail on $500,000 cash bail. Online court records don't list lawyers for either men.

Prosecutors claim Primm entered the home through an attic vent and is accused of taking various items from the home when Hutchinson was shot.
Sunday, 24 February 2013 08:05
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri lawmakers are seeking to collect taxes from some online and out-of-state retailers in a move that could both bolster the state's finances and aid traditional stores in their competition for customers. Support has been growing in both the House and Senate for legislation that would tighten the requirements for when businesses must collect Missouri taxes on their sales. The legislation targets businesses such as furniture and appliance stores in Kansas and Illinois that deliver their products to Missouri homes. It also targets online retailers who gain significant sales when Internet traffic is routed their way by Missouri-based businesses. A Senate committee heard testimony on the legislation earlier this month, and a similar House bill was referred to a committee this past week. Sponsoring Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, portrays the measure as "a fairness bill for businesses across the state." The legislation addresses two areas that traditional retail stores contend put them at a disadvantage. One provision would repeal an existing Missouri law that exempts out-of-state business with less than $500,000 of annual sales in Missouri or $12.5 million in sales nationally from being subject to collecting Missouri taxes on their sales. The Missouri Retailers Associations says similar exemptions don't exist in neighboring states such as Kansas and Illinois. As a result, a Missouri furniture or appliance store must collect Kansas or Illinois taxes when it delivers items to customers' homes in those states. But a store in Kansas or Illinois does not have to collect Missouri taxes when it sells and delivers products to Missouri residents, so long as its total sales stays below that annual cap. "They're coming after our retailers but we can't collect from theirs - it's a disadvantage that needs to be fixed," David Overfelt, president of the Missouri Retailers Association, told the House Ways and Means Committee this past week. The situation has existed for quite some time. In 1996, the Illinois Supreme Court ordered a Palmyra, Mo.-based furniture store to pay more than $47,000 of uncollected taxes, interest and penalties for items sold and delivered to Illinois residents from January to October 1989. Another section of the Missouri legislation seeks to levy taxes on online retailers, if they reap at least $10,000 in sales annually from customers routed to their website by Missouri-based businesses. Some of the bill's supporters hope to force companies such as Amazon to start collecting taxes on Missouri sales. But whether the legislation actually would accomplish that is unclear, because the bill contains a provision allowing online retailers to avoid the tax by proving that the affiliated companies did not significantly affect the retailer's market presence in Missouri. Rep. Doug Funderburk, who is sponsoring the House version of the bill, described it as "an attempt to bring some of our sales tax laws in line with today's modern technology." So far, the legislation has not encountered much public opposition from lobbyists. But any time a bill could result in greater tax collections, some lawmakers are hesitant because of the fear that future political opponents could tag them as having backed a tax increase. Funderburk acknowledged that remains an obstacle, but he said the tax revenues lost to Internet sales are having a big effect on local government services. "I think people are finally starting to realize that we're bleeding these revenue streams," said Funderburk, R-St. Charles. "If everybody wants to live in a community that has no services and you pay no taxes, fine and dandy," he said. "But when I go home, I want the street lights to work, I want law enforcement up and ready, I want to know that there's a fire truck down the street that's ready to come put out a fire."
Sunday, 24 February 2013 08:03
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A wrong-way crash on U.S. 55 in eastern Missouri has left one man dead and another man injured.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the accident occurred early Saturday when a car headed south in the northbound lanes collided with another car.

The car that headed in the wrong direction caught fire, and the driver was pronounced dead at the scene. The 36-year-old driver of the other car was taken to an area hospital, where he was listed in serious but stable condition.
Sunday, 24 February 2013 08:00
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) -- Child porn was found on a southwest Missouri school board member's electronic devices while authorities were investigating reports that he exposed himself to students, according to federal court documents filed Friday. The U.S. attorney's office said John Lewis, 67, of Sarcoxie, was arrested before Thursday night's Sarcoxie school board meeting and charged Friday with possessing child pornography. He remains in federal custody, pending a detention hearing. U.S. attorney's spokesman Don Ledford said Lewis doesn't yet have an attorney. An FBI affidavit said Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers contacted Lewis while investigating reports that he exposed himself to a group of high school students who were working for him on his farm outside Sarcoxie. Troopers obtained a search warrant and seized two desktop computers, a laptop computer and electronic storage devices. Investigators who searched the devices found 19 multimedia files of child pornography and 113 images of suspected child pornography showing children as young as five years old. According to the affidavit, the investigation began after a school official overheard a conversation between high school students, one of whom confirmed he was present at the board member's farm when Lewis exposed himself in close proximity to another student. Two students, both 16 at the time of the incident, told investigators that Lewis talked to them about sex and inappropriately touched them while they were working for him at the farm in late spring last year. Investigators who executed a search warrant at Lewis' home said he became adversarial and "was found to have a very large weapons collection." The district said in a written statement that it's cooperating with the investigation. "Nothing is more important to the district than providing a safe and secure learning and working environment for children," the statement said. "We welcome the support of the community during this process."
Saturday, 23 February 2013 08:34
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T. LOUIS (AP) -- U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill is urging members of the U.S. House to pass the Violence Against Women Act.

The Missouri Democrat was in St. Louis Friday and spoke alongside Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce. McCaskill says the act will provide resources to help law enforcement save lives of women.

McCaskill says the Senate has twice voted to reauthorize the act and President Obama is waiting to sign it.

The House and Senate have been trying for the past year to renew and expand the 1994 act, credited with reducing domestic violence in the country, but Native American tribal authority over domestic violence cases has been a major point of contention.

McCaskill says the House needs to end delays.
Saturday, 23 February 2013 08:32
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The city of St. Louis and St. Louis County are joining together on economic development.

The city and county on Friday announced formation of a regional partnership to be known as St. Louis Economic Development Partnership. The organization will guide efforts to support new businesses and help existing firms grow.

Officials say the effort will create a unified voice for the region and deliver services more efficiently.
Saturday, 23 February 2013 08:29
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