COTTLEVILLE, Mo. (AP) - A panel of Missouri lawmakers came to suburban St. Louis on Monday for some firsthand testimony about the challenges of the state's school transfer rules.
Several area superintendents asked the interim House Committee on Education to seek a long-term fix to what they called a short-term solution to the problem of relocating students from failing school districts to better-performing ones.
The public hearing at St. Charles Community College came just weeks after hundreds of students from the unaccredited Normandy and Riverview Gardens began the fall semester riding buses to schools up to 20 to 30 miles away, with their former districts absorbing the added costs.
A second meeting is planned Monday night in St. Louis. Additional sessions are planned Tuesday and Wednesday in Cape Girardeau, Poplar Bluff, Branson and Joplin.
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri legislators who favor relaxing the state's marijuana laws are weighing a renewed push for reforms.
House Democrats Chris Kelly of Columbia and Rory Ellinger, of University City were among the speakers Thursday at a Columbia forum on marijuana policy.
Kelly and Ellinger backed legislation this year that would have made possession of small amounts of marijuana a low-level misdemeanor with no jail time, similar to a traffic ticket. Columbia and St. Louis already have such laws.
The Columbia Missourian reports Kelly says he would favor pursuing full legalization of marijuana only if there were enough organizational support from pro-legalization groups.
Kelly's also uncertain whether it would be wiser to seek legislative approval of lower penalties for marijuana possession or to put any proposed reforms on a statewide ballot.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Top Missouri Republicans are looking for ways to ensure greater party loyalty after a supermajority in the GOP-led House recently failed to enact an income tax cut.
Meeting Saturday in Kansas City, the Missouri Republican State Committee proposed a new requirement for candidates registering to run as Republicans. They would be asked to sign a statement saying: "I have read, understand and fundamentally support the platform of the Missouri Republican Party."
Supporters of the measure noted that tax cuts ought to be a central Republican philosophy.
Fifteen Republican House members defected from party leaders this week to help sustain Democratic Governor Jay Nixon's veto of an income tax cut. Some echoed his concerns about the effect on education funding.
The GOP committee took no action Saturday on the proposed policy.
One day ahead of the all-important veto session in Jefferson City, Governor Jay Nixon made a stop in the St. Louis area. Nixon spoke in front of the student body at Affton High School, congratulating them on their continued academic achievement.
After his speech, Nixon was asked his thoughts on the republican legislature's attempts to override his tax-cut and gun nullifacation vetoes.
"We're not in junior high here. This is serious business," said Nixon. "I don't look at it as a scoreboard, I look at the substance of the bills. This isn't about some sort of a back and forth, this is about what we should responsibly do as a state."
Nixon vetoed a total of 29 bills. The GOP supermajority in the legislature aims to override as many as possible.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay is concerned for the safety of St. Louisans if state lawmakers override one of Governor Jay Nixon's vetoes.
One of the bills they are examining is HB436, the "Second Amendment Preservation Act". The bill would, in part, make it illegal for federal authorities to enforce any federal gun control laws. Local and State police would be responsible for arresting any involved federal agents.
Mayor Slay says overriding the veto would be irresponsible, "this is an insult to police officers and law enforcement statewide. This is anti-cop."
Slay credits local cooperation with ATF agents for a surge that resulted in hundreds of criminals and illegal guns being taken off the street. Under the new law, Slay says those federal agents would have been arrested and the criminals could even file lawsuits against the individual members of the ATF . When asked what passing a bill like this into law would mean for the reputation of St. Louis, Slay did not mince words.
"My biggest concern is what impact it is going to have on law enforcement and public safety. But this would be an embarrassment for our state", Slay said.
Lawmakers meet on September 11 to determine which bills they will take up in an override session.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is holding its first public hearing about U.S. plans for military intervention in Syria as President Barack Obama seeks to convince skeptical Americans and their lawmakers about the need to respond to last month's alleged sarin gas attack outside Damascus.
Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey were to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday. A classified briefing open to all members of Congress was to take place as well.
The president's request for congressional authorization for limited military strikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime is at the heart of all the discussions planned in Washington over the next several days as Obama sends his top national security advisers to the Capitol for a flurry of briefings. And with the outcome of any vote in doubt in a war-weary Congress, Obama was to meet Tuesday with leaders of the House and Senate armed services committees, the foreign relations committees and the intelligence committees.
Obama won conditional support Monday from two of his fiercest foreign policy critics, Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
A congressional vote against Obama's request "would be catastrophic in its consequences" for U.S. credibility abroad, McCain told reporters outside the White House following an hour-long private meeting with the president.
But despite Obama's effort to assuage the two senators' concerns, neither appeared completely convinced afterward. They said they'd be more inclined to back Obama if the U.S. sought to destroy the Assad government's launching capabilities and committed to providing more support to rebels seeking to oust Assad from power.
"There will never be a political settlement in Syria as long as Assad is winning," Graham said.
After a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, polls show most Americans opposed to any new military action overseas. That reluctance is being reflected by senators and representatives, some of whom say Obama still hasn't presented bulletproof evidence that Assad's forces were responsible for the Aug. 21 attack that U.S. intelligence says killed 1,429 people, including more than 400 children. Others say the president hasn't explained why intervening is in America's interest.
After a Labor Day weekend spent listening to concerned constituents, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said the administration needed to make its case on these points, if only to counter the misinformation and conspiracy theories circulating about Obama's plans.
"Several people asked me if we were only interested in getting Syria's oil," Coons, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "It's important that Americans get the facts."
Petroleum is hardly the most pertinent question. Even before Syria's hostilities began, its oil industry contributed less than half a percent of the world's total output. And Obama has expressly ruled out sending American troops into Syria or proposing deeper involvement in the Arab country's violent civil war.
But such queries are a poignant reminder of the task awaiting the administration as it argues that the United States must exert global leadership in retaliating for what apparently was the deadliest use of chemical weapons anywhere over the past 25 years.
Obama has insisted he was considering a military operation that was limited in duration and scope. The White House said Monday that Obama was open to working with Congress to make changes in the language of the resolution, which Congress was expected to begin considering next week.
In a conference call Monday with House Democrats, several members of Obama's own party challenged the administration's assertions.
In a post on his website, Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., reflected a view shared by at least some of his colleagues: "I am vehemently opposed to a military strike that would clearly be an act of war against Syria, especially under such tragic yet confusing circumstances as to who is responsible for the use of chemical weapons."
Their skepticism is shared by many tea party Republicans and others, whose views range from ideological opposition to any U.S. military action overseas to narrower fears about authorizing the use of force without clear constraints on timing, costs and scope of the intervention.
The most frequent recurring questions: How convinced is American intelligence about the Assad regime's culpability for the chemical attack, a decade after woefully misrepresenting the case that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction? And how does a military response advance U.S. national security interests?
Pressuring the administration in the opposite direction are hawks and proponents of humanitarian intervention among both Democrats and Republicans who feel what Obama is proposing is far too little.
Obama's task is complicated further because he is leaving for a three-day trip to Europe on Tuesday night, visiting Stockholm, Sweden, and then attending an economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The simple case for action is the administration's contention that the sarin gas attack violated not only the international standard against using such weapons but also Obama's "red line," set more than a year ago, that such WMD use wouldn't be tolerated.
Intervening in Syria's conflict is no light matter, however. Having claimed more than 100,000 lives in the past 2½ years, the fight has evolved from a government crackdown on a largely peaceful protest movement into a full-scale civil war scarily reminiscent of the one that ravaged Iraq over the last decade. Ethnic massacres have been committed by both sides, which each employ terrorist organizations as allies.
Since Obama's stunning announcement Saturday that he'd seek congressional authority, dozens of members of Congress have issued statements. Most have praised the administration for its course of action, and several have suggested they are leaning one way or another. But precious few have come out definitively one way or another.
McCain said he believed many members were still "up for grabs."
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Texas Gov. Rick Perry is wading into Missouri's political battle over tax cuts.
Perry told The Associated Press on Thursday that he believes Missouri lawmakers should override Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of legislation cutting state income taxes.
A Texas economic development group began airing a radio ad Thursday in Missouri criticizing Nixon's veto and encouraging Missouri businesses to consider moving to Texas. The group also is running a Missouri TV ad touting Texas' low taxes and regulations on businesses.
Perry is to visit Missouri on Aug. 29. He plans to meet with business leaders, speak at a Missouri Chamber of Commerce luncheon and attend an evening event hosted by groups backing a veto override of the tax-cut bill.
Missouri lawmakers are to convene Sept. 11 to consider veto overrides.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri lead company wants lawmakers to override a veto of a bill shielding it from large legal costs.
The Doe Run Company contends its very future is at stake, along with hundreds of jobs.
At issue is a bill limiting punitive damages in liability cases related to old lead mining facilities. Several such lawsuits are pending against Doe Run, including one scheduled for trial in October.
Lawmakers are to convene in September to consider whether to override Governor Jay Nixon's veto. He said the bill violated the state constitution by retroactively limiting damages and by benefiting only certain legal defendants.
Doe Run faces an uphill battle. The bill originally passed the Missouri House 94-63, with six absentees. That means supporters need 15 more "yes" votes to override Nixon's veto.
CHICAGO (AP) - Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan are trying to speed up the resolution of a lawsuit they filed against Gov. Pat Quinn over his decision to cut lawmakers' pay.
A spokeswoman for Cullerton says the two leaders are asking a Cook County Circuit judge to rule on the merits of the case following Sept. 18 oral arguments, rather than just on a motion for a preliminary injunction.
Quinn cut $13.8 million for legislative salaries from the state budget as a consequence for lawmakers' failure to address Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension crisis.
Madigan and Cullerton say the line-item veto is unconstitutional and violates the separation of powers.
Lawmakers, who already missed their August paycheck, would miss another one before the motion would be decided.
CHICAGO (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn says a lawsuit over his decision to suspend lawmaker pay for failing to act on the state pension crisis will be a "landmark" case.
Quinn attended a court hearing Tuesday involving a lawsuit filed by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton to force Quinn and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka to issue paychecks.
A Cook County Circuit Court judge set oral arguments for Sept. 18.
Last month, Quinn cut $13.8 million for legislators' pay from the state budget after threatening consequences if they didn't act on pensions.
The lawsuit asks the court to decide if Quinn's line-item veto fully eliminated lawmakers' salaries. If the court upholds Quinn's amendatory veto, plaintiffs want the court to declare Quinn's action unconstitutional.
Quinn says his move is constitutional.