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Susan Smith-Harmon

Susan Smith-Harmon

Holder endorses proposed drug sentencing changes

Thursday, 13 March 2014 02:34 Published in National 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.

MO House panel advances 2-tier education budget

Thursday, 13 March 2014 02:25 Published in Local News

   A Missouri House panel is moving ahead with a two-tiered budget that makes education funding partly dependent on the strength of the economy.  

   A plan endorsed Wednesda) by the House Budget Committee would add $122 million to the state's $3 billion in basic school funding. If state revenues meet Governor Jay Nixon's more optimistic projections, the House budget would provide a $278 million increase for schools - still less than Nixon wanted.  

   The House plan would also bar the universities from offering resident tuition rates to students living in the U.S. illegally.

   Missouri is losing millions of dollars from the 1998 tobacco settlement because of a legislative loophole that allows smaller tobacco companies to keep a competitive edge in the state.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Missouri is the only one of the 46 states involved in the settlement that hasn't acted to stop smaller tobacco companies from recouping the money they pay into a settlement escrow fund.  
   Big tobacco companies say that gives the smaller firms a six-dollar per carton pricing advantage. Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer says it cost Missouri almost $70 million in settlement funds this year and could cost the state as much as $2 billion over the next decade.   For the fourth year in a row, the Columbia Republican has introduced legislation to close the loophole.  
   The state House is considering a similar bill.  Right now, both bills are in committee.
 

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