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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of August 31, 2009

Taxpayers will contribute an estimated $375 million this year to all state employee pension funds.

A meeting to determine the amount of increase will be held on Sept. 17

Pfizer and its subsidiaries will pay $22 million to Missouri in part of one of largest nationwide Medicaid fraud settlement in history, according to Attorney General Chris Koster's office.

The corporation was accused by the US Justice Department and other state attorneys general of paying kickbacks and improperly promoting numerous drugs it manufactures.

Missouri's Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision rejecting a challenge to the state's school funding system.

The lawsuit, originally backed by about half of the state's school districts, challenged both the level of state support to public schools as well as the method by which state funds are allocated to school districts.

Since the lawsuit had been filed, the state legislature adopted a new formula for allocating funds to local schools.

The court's decision was nearly unanimous with five judges fully concurring, one partially concurring and one not voting.

The CDC predicts cases involving the H1N1 virus will go up this school year.

The University of Missouri and a Jefferson City middle school have had H1N1, or swine flu, cases.

The middle school reported three students out with the virus.

Dr. Lora Folz with the Jefferson City Medical Group says symptoms for swine flu are very minimal - a two day fever and body aches.

Missouri state Treasurer Clint Zweifel says last year was a record for getting unclaimed property back to its rightful owners.

But there's still $500 million left in the state's control.

Mouse and insect glue traps have been deployed at the entrances to the Capitol to combat an invasion.

This specific species of ground beetle may have become more prevalent due to an increase in rainfall over the past two summers.

A federal jury in Kansas City convicted three men - from Missouri, Kansas and Nevada - of participating in a conspiracy of buying and selling diplomatic identification cards.

Prosecutors said the men told buyers the credentials would protect them from paying taxes and give them diplomatic immunity.

Last Week

Gov. Jay Nixon's office has ordered the state's Health Department to back off a state Health Board decision to rescind various regulations governing child-care centers run by religious groups.

The day before, the board had voted to rescind the regulations based on the recommendation from a staff member.

Staff argued the regulations, dating back more than a decade, violated a state law restricting governmental powers over religious-run facilities.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol says this new law will be hard to enforce.

Representative Scott Lipke, who sponsored this omnibus crime bill, says he thinks this will make Missouri's roads safer.

The bills passed in the spring requires cigarettes sold in the state to be near self-extinguishing.

To sell down existing stock, however, cigarette retailers and wholesalers will have until Jan. 1, 2011 to bring inventory in line with the new law, said State Fire Marshall Randy Cole.

Missouri is among 16 states that have delayed implementation of the fire-safety requirement for cigarettes, according to a national fire-safe cigarette organization.

The law going into effect Friday prohibits drivers under the age of 21 from texting while driving.

Lieutenant John Hotz admits it will difficult to determine if drivers are under 21 when only making a visual observation on the road.

But, he says the reckless driving that often results from texting will be grounds to pull a driver over, then determine if the driver is under age.

Missouri's Junior Senator faced boos and cheers during her stop to the state's capital to talk about health care legislation in a public forum.

McCaskill had to try and calm down those who would yell from the crowd claiming she was lying about certain aspects of the legislation currently in front of Congress.

She said she would not vote for a bill unless it was deficit neutral nor would she vote for a bill which would raise taxes for anyone making less than $250,000.

Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis City, resigned Tuesday and pleaded guilty to two federal counts of obstruction of justice relating to his failed 2004 congressional campaign.

Rep. Steve Brown, D-St. Louis County, also resigned and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to obstruct justice. Brown aided Smith in his 2004 campaign.

Federal authorities say Smith tried to hide his role in coordinating the distribution of negative campaign materials by a supposedly independent group against his primary opponent, Russ Carnahan.

Smith states in his resignation letter, "I withheld my knowledge of these facts during the Federal Election CommissionÔ019s 2004 investigation, misleading investigators and filing a false affidavit.

"The FEC cleared our campaign of wrongdoing. But in 2009, the government received new information and reopened its investigation. When questioned, I stood by our 2004 account and encouraged my close friend to do so, misleading the authorities. Today I am taking full responsibility for my mistakes, and have pled guilty to obstructing justice."

Smith's 2004 campaign treasurer, Nick Adams, also pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

The three men face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 10.

The Associated Press reports a mixed reaction at Sen. Claire McCaskill's health care forum in Hannibal Monday.

McCaskill has held seven town hall forums in the last several weeks to hear citizen's perspectives on potential health care changes.

McCaskill was booed when she said a government takeover of health care was "not even being discussed." She was applauded moments later when she promised she wouldn't vote for a government takeover.

McCaskill will hold her eighth town hall forum in Jefferson City Wednesday night.