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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of September 7, 2009

After President Obama's called for an overhaul health care during his congressional address Wednesday, one Missouri health care provider agrees the time for reform is now.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield spokesperson Scott Larrivee said he is pleased with the President's support of market reforms that many health care providers proposed last year.

He also said overhauling the nation's health care system will provide more stability in the future for Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

President Obama said in his congressional address Wednesday he wants to cut back on health care costs by decreasing medical malpractice suits.

However, Federal Government traditionally has no oversight over state medical malpractice suits.

One Missouri Attorney says the federal government has no place in the matter, especially since the number of Missouri malpractice lawsuits are at an all-time low.

The flu season started with the new school year as Missouri college students met H1N1 in their residence halls.

Some universities had contingency plans ready, while others took another approach.

Former Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, outlined the crime that led him to plead guilty to two federal counts of obstruction of justice in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article Sept. 8.

In the letter, Smith said his actions were "stupid and dumb."

Smith resigned from the state Senate the same day to pleaded guilty to the federal charges.

Smith and Rep. Steve Brown, D-St. Louis County, pleaded guilty to charges stemming from Smith's failed 2004 Congressional campaign. Smith authorized Brown and several campaign aides to send out a mailer about the opponent Congressman Russ Carnahan without disclosing the campaign's connection.

Smith wrote in the letter, "I apologize to my constituents, my senate colleagues, my family and friends and to anyone who has lost faith in government because of my actions."

Top state education officials were unavailable for comment regarding one of the most talked about education speeches.

Other officials offered praise for the president's message.

Visiting Hours for the public could be affected if the H1N1 virus spreads in the state's prisons.

If Missouri's prison's see an H1N1 outbreak, its educational programs could also take a hit.

At least that's what some experts are saying.

The University of Missouri's Agricultural Department warns the cold and wet weather is dangerous for certain crops.

Last Week

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.