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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of August 20, 2012

A group of former state Supreme Court judges spoke out against a ballot measure Thursday that would change the selection process for Missouri's top judges.

The amendment, approved by state lawmakers during the last legislative session, would give the governor the power to appoint a majority of the commission members tasked with selecting nominees for non-partisan judgeships.

Retired Supreme Court Justice William Ray Price said supporters of the amendment are attempting to "concentrate power" in the executive branch, in order to buy judicial appointments.

Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Saint Louis County, who sponsored the amendment said it will give the executive branch the power to properly check the judicial branch.

By a vote of 2 to 1, a US Federal Appeals court struck down the Environmental Protection Agency's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which would have affected more than two dozen states including Missouri. The rule was aimed at cutting back on pollution carried across state lines by the wind hurting the air quality in downwind states.

The court's majority decision, published on Tuesday, found the EPA exceeded its statutory authority. "It is not our job to set environmental policy. Our limited but important role is to independently ensure that the agency stays within the boundaries Congress has set. EPA did not do so here," wrote Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

The National Resources Defense Council called on the EPA to immediately appeal the decision, saying in a statement that "it will take years for EPA to adopt replacement health safeguards that all three judges recognize to be necessary and required by law."

In response to the overturned regulations, Saint Louis-based Ameren Missouri released a statement saying the utility company is in position to continue to comply with regulations and are fully committed to reducing emissions.

A Cole County circuit judge has ordered local election officials to hold off printing the November election ballots until a decision is made on wording on a health care ballot issue.

The temporary restraining order was issued in response to a suit filed by the lieutenant governor and Republican legislative leaders challenging the secretary of state's language describing a measure that would prevent the governor from establishing a state health exchange under the federal health care law without legislative approval.

The circuit judge scheduled arguments on the case for Tuesday, August 28.

U.S. Rep. Todd Akin's political future is in severe jeopardy after he made controversial comments about rape and abortion on a Sunday talk show.

Several top Republicans are calling on Akin to withdrawal from his race against incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill after saying a women can prevent pregnancy in a "legitimate rape."

Akin's comments came during an interview on Fox's St. Louis affiliate KTVI. Akin later released a statement saying he "misspoke" and has so far resisted calls for him to leave the contest.

Missouri election law allows a candidate to withdraw their name from the ballot 11 weeks before the general election. That deadline is this Tuesday and any withdrawal must be made in person at the Secretary of State's office.

Should Akin withdraw from the race the Republican state committee would have two weeks to nominate a replacement to challenge McCaskill.

McCaskill almost immediately criticized Akin's comments, but stopped short of calling him to leave the U.S. Senate contest.

"It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape," she said in a statement.

Republicans ranging from presidential nominee Mitt Romney and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have also condemned Akin's comments and called for him to consider his candidacy.

In addition to public outcries from his fellow Republicans, Akin is also facing financial implications for his comments. Crossroads GPS - a national conservative group who had been running ads against McCaskill - announced they were pulling their funding from Missouri. The Republican National Senatorial Committee also announced they would not be spending money to help Akin.

Akin defeated his main Republican rivals, John Brunner and Sarah Steelman, in the August Primary election. McCaskill has been viewed as one of the most vulnerable senators in the country seeking reelection.