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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of August 24

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.

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