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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri Senate leader has put forth a new, pared-back proposal dealing with the enforcement of federal gun control laws.
Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard released a draft Thursday of proposed legislation for the 2014 session seeking to nullify federal gun control laws that infringe on Second Amendment rights.
The new proposal comes about seven weeks after Richard and Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey voted against an attempted veto override of a bill addressing the same subject because of concerns about its constitutionality.
Unlike the original bill, the new proposal would not subject federal authorities to state misdemeanor charges for trying to enforce certain federal gun control laws. It also eliminates a provision that could have resulted in charges against journalists for publishing the names of gun owners.
NEW YORK (AP) — From New York's Liberty Island to Alaska's Denali National Park, the U.S. government closed its doors as a bitter budget fight idled hundreds of thousands of federal workers and halted all but the most critical government services for the first time in nearly two decades.
A midnight deadline to avert a shutdown passed amid Congressional bickering, casting in doubt Americans' ability to get government services ranging from federally-backed home loans to supplemental food assistance for children and pregnant women.
For many employees of the federal government, Tuesday's shutdown meant no more paychecks as they were forced onto unpaid furloughs. For those still working, it meant delays in getting paid.
Park Ranger and father-to-be Darquez Smith said he already lives paycheck-to-paycheck while putting himself through college.
"I've got a lot on my plate right now — tuition, my daughter, bills," said Smith, 23, a ranger at Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park in Ohio. "I'm just confused and waiting just like everyone else."
The impact of the shutdown was mixed — immediate and far-reaching for some, annoying but minimal for others.
In Colorado, where flooding killed eight people earlier this month, emergency funds to help rebuild homes and businesses continued to flow — but federal worker furloughs were expected to slow it down.
National Guard soldiers rebuilding washed-out roads would apparently be paid on time — along with the rest of the country's active-duty personnel — under a bill passed hours before the shutdown. Existing Social Security and Medicare benefits, veterans' services and mail delivery were also unaffected.
Other agencies were harder hit — nearly 3,000 Federal Aviation Administration safety inspectors were furloughed along with most of the National Transportation Safety Board's employees, including accident investigators who respond to air crashes, train collisions, pipeline explosions and other accidents.
Almost all of NASA shut down, except for Mission Control in Houston, and national parks closed along with the Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo. Even the zoo's popular panda cam went dark, shut off for the first time since a cub was born there Aug. 23.
As the shutdown loomed Monday, visitors to popular parks made their frustration with elected officials clear.
"There is no good thing going to come out of it," said Chris Fahl, a tourist from Roanoke, Ind., visiting the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park in Hodgenville, Ky. "Taxpayers are just going to be more overburdened."
Emily Enfinger, visiting the Statue of Liberty, said politicians need to find a way to work together.
"They should be willing to compromise, both sides, and it discourages me that they don't seem to be able to do that," she said. "They're not doing their job as far as I'm concerned."
Joe Wentz, a retired federal employee from Lebanon, Va., visiting San Francisco with his wife, bought tickets to visit Alcatraz on Thursday — if it's open.
Wentz said he's frustrated that some politicians are using the budget to push changes in the Affordable Care Act.
"We've been disgusted a long time that they're not working together," he said.
The shutdown was strangely captivating to Marlena Knight, an Australian native visiting Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. She was confounded that the impasse focused on the nation's health care system — an indispensable service in her home country.
"We can't imagine not having a national health system," she said. "I just can't believe that this country can shut down over something like a national health system. Totally bizarre, as an Australian, but fascinating."
It turns out an institution as massive as the federal government takes some time to grind to a total halt: Many federal workers were being permitted to come in Tuesday to change voicemail messages or fill out time cards. But after that, they were under strict orders to do no work, even check their email.
With no telling how long the budget standoff will last, even programs not immediately affected could run out of cash.
Barbara Haxton, executive director of the Ohio Head Start Association, said its preschool learning programs would be in jeopardy if a shutdown lasted more than two weeks. March's automatic budget cuts meant nearly 3,000 children lost access to services and there could be dire consequences if the budget standoff drags on.
"It's not as though this is a throwaway service. These are the poorest of the poor children," Haxton said. "And our Congressman still gets his paycheck. His pay doesn't stop and his health insurance doesn't stop."
Associated Press reporters Kathy Matheson in Philadelphia, Joan Lowy in Washington, D.C., Dylan Lovan in Louisville, Ky., Terence Chea in San Francisco and Amanda Lee Myers in Cincinnati contributed to this report.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri lawmakers have voted to override a line-item budget veto of $1 million to help rebuild a vocational education school in northeast Missouri.
The House's 112-47 vote was the first taken Wednesday as lawmakers considered 33 vetoes by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. Senators then approved the override 28-5.
At issue is money targeted for the Pike-Lincoln Technical Center, which was damaged by a fire. Although the school had insurance, bill supporters said it was not enough to outfit the building with computers and make it accessible to people with disabilities.
Nixon said he vetoed the bill because of the source of the money. He said lawmakers want to pay for the repairs from a fund dedicated for the state school funding formula.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri Senate has voted to override Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of legislation calling for creation of an online database of workers' compensation claims.
Wednesday's 25-9 Senate vote sent the bill to the House, which passed it earlier this year with less than the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto.
Under the measure, businesses could provide a potential employee's name and Social Security Number to identify the date of workers' compensation claims and whether the claim is open or closed.
Supporters say the bill would help businesses control workers' compensation costs. Nixon cited privacy concerns when he vetoed the legislation and called it "an affront to the privacy of our citizens."
WASHINGTON (AP) — The immediate and the institutional are on a collision course in the Senate, where majority Democrats want to erode the right of minority Republicans to block confirmation of President Barack Obama's picks for key administration posts.
On one side is the fate of Obama's choices to head the Labor Department and the Environmental Protection Agency and for seats on the National Labor Relations Board, which settles collective bargaining disputes.
On the other side is the near certainty that once weakened, the rights of the Senate minority would be reduced even further the next time either party wants to jam through a four-year appointment to the Cabinet or lifetime seat for a justice whose confirmation might tilt the balance of power on the Supreme Court for a decade or more.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Medical marijuana use in Illinois is now in Gov. Pat Quinn's hands after the state Senate approved legislation.
Lawmakers voted 35-21 Friday to send the measure to Quinn for final approval. Quinn hasn't signaled whether he will sign it into law.
The proposal allows physicians to prescribe marijuana to patients with specific terminal illnesses or debilitating medical conditions. Cancer, multiple sclerosis and HIV are among the 33 illnesses listed in the bill.
The measure gives a framework for a four-year pilot program that includes requiring patients and caregivers to undergo background checks.
Supporters say marijuana can relieve continual pain without triggering the detrimental side effects of other prescription drugs. Opponents say the program could encourage the recreational use of marijuana especially among teenagers.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Attention online shoppers: The days of tax-free shopping on the Internet may soon end for many of you.
The Senate is voting on a bill today that would empower states to collect sales taxes for purchases made over the Internet. The measure is expected to pass because it has already survived three procedural votes.
The bill faces opposition in the House, where some Republicans regard it as a tax increase. But there is a broad coalition of retailers lobbying in favor of it.
Under current law, states can only require retailers to collect sales taxes if the store has a physical presence in the state. As a result, many online sales are tax-free, giving Internet retailers an advantage over brick-and-mortar stores.
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin wants consumers to pay sales tax on their purchases, whether they shop in a local store, or online.
Consumers are already supposed to pay sales tax for online purchases. But very few do since there's no uniform collection method, and the onus to pay is placed on the consumer, not the retailer. In Illinois, for instance, those who file state tax returns are asked to list their online purchases and pay sales tax for them.
Durbin says the current rules are not fair to brick and mortar stores, who must collect sales tax from their customers. Durbin has sponsored a bill that would require Internet stores to do the same.
The Senate will soon begin debate on the Market Fairness Act. It could be voted on as early as this week.
Missouri Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt have both said they favor the move.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Gun control supporters have won the first Senate showdown over restricting firearms, rejecting an effort by conservatives to derail a package of gun curbs before debate could even begin.
The 68-31 vote gave an initial burst of momentum to efforts by President Barack Obama and lawmakers, mostly Democrats, to impose gun restrictions following the December carnage at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Gun control supporters needed 60 votes to block the conservatives.
The legislation would subject more firearms buyers to federal background checks, strengthen laws against illicit gun trafficking and increase school safety aid. Advocates say the measures would make it harder for criminals and the mentally ill to get weapons.
Opponents say the restrictions would violate the Constitution's right to bear arms and would be ignored by criminals.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Republican state senator plans to hold hearings across Missouri to get public reaction to a new driver's license process that stores electronic copies of applicants' birth certificates and concealed gun permits in a state database.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer claims the procedures by the Department of Revenue are an invasion of privacy. During a hearing Wednesday, Schaefer aggressively quizzed department officials about whether they are trying to comply with the 2005 Real ID Act, which sets stringent proof-of-identity requirements.
Department officials insisted they are not. They noted that a 2009 state law prohibits compliance with Real ID.
Schaefer wants to hold public hearings across the state on the procedure. He says he won't give the driver's license administration any money until it can prove it's worthy.