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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has thrown a hitch into President Barack Obama's new health care law by blocking a requirement that some religion-affiliated organizations provide health insurance that includes birth control.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor late Tuesday night decided to block implementation of the contraceptive coverage requirement, only hours before the law's insurance coverage went into effect on New Year's Day.

Her decision, which came after federal court filings by Catholic-affiliated groups from around the nation in hopes of delaying the requirements, throws a part of the president's signature law into temporary disarray. At least one federal appeals court agreed with Sotomayor, issuing its own stay against part of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The White House on Wednesday issued a statement saying that the administration is confident that its rules "strike the balance of providing women with free contraceptive coverage while preventing non-profit religious organizations with religious objections to contraceptive coverage from having to contract, arrange, pay, or refer for such coverage."

Sotomayor acted on a request from an organization of Catholic nuns in Denver, the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged. Its request for an emergency stay had been denied earlier in the day by a federal appeals court.

The government is "temporarily enjoined from enforcing against applicants the contraceptive coverage requirements imposed by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," Sotomayor said in the order.

Sotomayor, who was in New York Tuesday night to lead the final 60-second countdown and push the ceremonial button to signal the descent of the Times Square New Year's Eve ball, gave government officials until 10 a.m. EST Friday to respond to her order. A decision on whether to make the temporary injunction permanent or dissolve it likely won't be made before then.

"The government has lots of ways to deliver contraceptives to people," said Mark Rienzi, a lawyer for the nuns. "It doesn't need to force nuns to participate."

Under the health care law, most health insurance plans have to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives as preventive care for women. That means the coverage is provided free of charge.

Churches and other houses of worship are exempt from the birth control requirement, but affiliated institutions that serve the general public are not. That includes charitable organizations, universities and hospitals.

The requirement prompted an outcry from religious groups, which led the administration to try to craft a compromise. Under that compromise, insurers or health plan administrators must provide birth control coverage, and the religious institution itself is not responsible.

But the administration's compromise did not satisfy some critics, who called it a fig leaf.

The nuns would have to sign a form authorizing their insurance company to provide contraceptive coverage, which would still violate their beliefs, Rienzi said.

"Without an emergency injunction, Mother Provincial Loraine Marie Maguire has to decide between two courses of action: (a) sign and submit a self-certification form, thereby violating her religious beliefs; or (b) refuse to sign the form and pay ruinous fines," Rienzi said.

The Little Sisters operate homes for the elderly poor in the United States and around the world. They were joined in their lawsuit by religious health benefit providers, Christian Brothers Services and Christian Brothers Employee Benefits Trust.

Sotomayor's decision to delay the contraceptive portion of the law was joined by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which also issued an emergency stay for Catholic-affiliated groups challenging the contraceptive provision, including the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and Catholic University.

But one judge on the three-judge panel that made the decision, Judge David S. Tatel, said he would have denied their motion.

"Because I believe that appellants are unlikely to prevail on their claim that the challenged provision imposes a `substantial burden' under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, I would deny their application for an injunction pending appeal," Tatel said.

The archdiocese praised the appeals court's action in a statement.

"This action by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is in line with the rulings of courts all across the country which have held that the HHS mandate imposes a substantial and impermissible burden on the free exercise of religion," the archdiocese said. "These decisions also vindicate the pledge of the U.S. Catholic bishops to stand united in resolute defense of the first and most sacred freedom - religious liberty."

The Supreme Court already has decided to rule on whether businesses may use religious objections to escape a requirement to cover birth control for employees. That case, which involves Hobby Lobby Inc., an Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain with 13,000 full-time employees, is expected to be argued in March and decided by summer.

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Follow Jesse J. Holland on Twitter at HTTP://WWW.TWITTER.COM/JESSEJHOLLAND .

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Thursday, 02 January 2014 06:48
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri lawmakers are considering changes to the governor's authority over the state budget.
The discussion comes after budget disputes in recent years. Most recently, Gov. Jay Nixon froze $400 million in the current year's spending plan, while citing concerns lawmakers would override his veto of a tax cut.
The veto was sustained and all but $134 million for capital improvements has since been released.
Republican House member Todd Richardson plans to propose a constitutional amendment for the annual legislative session starting next week. Richardson says he wants governors to have the ability to restrict spending when it is needed to keep the budget balanced, while also protecting the Legislature's power to decide how funds are spent.
Nixon says Missouri governors' current tools for managing the budget are needed.
Thursday, 02 January 2014 06:11
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ANN ARBOR – USA Hockey announced today their roster for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.  Among those chosen were Blues forwards David Backes and T.J. Oshie along with defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
      Backes, 29, will be representing the United States for the fifth time in his career.  Previously, the Minneapolis, Minnesota native appeared in the 2007, 2008 and 2009 World Championships as well as the 2010 Winter Olympics, where he earned the silver medal.  This season, the 6’3, 221-pound forward shares third on the Blues with 30 points (16 goals, 14 assists) and ranks second with 70 penalty minutes, while league-wide, he is the only player with at least 120 hits and 16 goals.  
     Oshie, 27, will be representing the U.S. for the fifth time in his career and the first at the Olympics.  The Everett, Washington native appeared at the 2006 World Juniors as well as the 2009, 2010 and 2013 World Championships.  This season, the 5’11, 189-pound forward ranks second on the Blues with 33 points including 27 assists, which shares ninth among all skaters.
     Shattenkirk, 24, will be representing the U.S for the fourth time in his career and first at the Olympics.  The New Rochelle, New York native appeared at the 2007 U-18 World Juniors, 2009 World Juniors and 2011 World Championships, while he also spent four seasons in the U.S. National Development program (2005-2007).  This season, the 5’11, 207-pound defenseman leads the Blues’ defense and shares fifth among all defensemen with 28 points (six goals, 22 assists) while his 15 power play points is tied for second overall.
Wednesday, 01 January 2014 17:33
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