JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri House committee has advanced a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at protecting gun rights.
The amendment approved on Tuesday would define the right to bear arms as "unalienable" and require the state to defend against any "infringement" of that right. It would also include defending one's "family" with a firearm as a guaranteed constitutional right.
Sponsoring Republican Sen. Kurt Schaefer, of Columbia, says the legislation would protect against proposed gun control laws at the state and federal level.
The Senate passed the same measure earlier this year. If passed by the full House, Missouri voters would need to approve the constitutional change.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The Illinois House has approved a comprehensive pension-reform plan for the first time after years of talks.
The House voted 62-51 Thursday to advance the measure sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan.
The Chicago Democrat's proposal is designed to close a $97 billion deficit that dogs the state's pension plans. Underfunding for decades has left the accounts short of what they need.
The legislation requires employees to contribute 2 percent more of their earnings to their pensions. They would also have to delay retirement and accept less-generous annual cost-of-living increases.
The state would guarantee it would make its required contribution every year.
The measure now goes to the Senate where President John Cullerton has his own ideas about reform.
CHICAGO (AP) - The leader of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus has signed on to co-sponsor a measure that would authorize same-sex couples to marry in the state.
Rep. Ken Dunkin announced his support for the legislation Tuesday. The Chicago Democrat says gay families living in his district are waiting for the state to treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve.
Dunkin says the legislation would provide equal protection under the law for all families.
The proposal received Senate approval in February. Supporters say they are working to secure the 60 votes needed to pass the measure in the House.
If the bill becomes law, it would make Illinois the 10th state to allow same-sex marriage. Illinois approved civil unions in 2011.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Several hundred gun-rights advocates rallied at the state Capitol as the Missouri House voted to allow certain school personnel to carry concealed weapons in school buildings.
The House voted 115-41 to send the measure to the Senate Thursday.
The Missouri Sports Shooter Association held a previously scheduled rally in the Capitol rotunda while the House was debating the bill. Many lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, spoke at the event and promised to continue to push for more gun rights.
The House bill would also lower the minimum age required to carry concealed weapons and allow firearms less than 16 inches to be openly carried by people with valid permits.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, a Democrat who represented eastern Ohio in Washington for two terms after winning a write-in campaign, died Sunday in a Florida hospital, the Ohio Democratic Party announced. He was 70.
Wilson had suffered a stroke in February while vacationing with his family and was recovering at a rehabilitation center, Democratic Party officials said. He fell ill Saturday night and was admitted to a hospital in Boynton Beach, where he died at about 2:30 p.m. Sunday with his family by his side, the officials said.
Wilson spent 14 years in Columbus and Washington championing for the people of eastern and southeastern Ohio. He secured federal funding for police departments, airport improvements and small business incubators, among other project.
Before being elected to Congress, Wilson served in the Ohio House of Representatives from 1997 to 2005. He then served two years in the Ohio Senate.
"I served with Charlie in the State Legislature for six years and he was a loyal friend in good times and bad," Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern said in a statement. "An outspoken advocate for working people, Charlie never wavered in his service to his constituents or his lifelong pursuit to help improve the lives of others."
Wilson won his first congressional campaign in 2006 as a write-in candidate, filling the seat vacated by Gov. Ted Strickland. He had failed to gather enough petition signatures to qualify for the state's primary, requiring him to run as a write-in for the 6th Congressional District stretching from Youngstown's southern suburbs to the tip of the Ohio River near Portsmouth.
Wilson, who represented a coal-heavy district, served on the House Committee on Science and Technology.
He lost bids for Congress in 2010 and 2012.
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, who defeated Wilson in 2012, said he was saddened to hear of his death and expressed condolences to his family.
"Although Charlie and I were political opponents, we were never enemies. He served with honor in the Ohio state legislature and in Congress," Johnson said in a statement.
Before entering public service, Wilson was owner of several small businesses throughout the Ohio Valley. He attended Ohio University in Athens and while still in college, worked as a UAW member on the assembly line at the Ford Automotive auto plant in Lorain.
Wilson is survived by four sons, one of whom served as his campaign manager in the 2006 race and went on to succeed him in the Ohio Senate.
"Throughout his extraordinary life, Congressman Wilson was motivated by a desire to serve his country and a passion for the causes most important to the constituents of Southeast and East Ohio," his family said in a statement. "Congressman Wilson served with honor, dignity and an unwavering sense of civic responsibility to the families of our region. Charlie will be remembered for his boundless energy, his honest approach, and his dedication to improving the lives of our future generations."
Funeral arrangements were incomplete.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri House has passed a bill that would allow school districts to hire police resource officers.
Sponsoring Republican Rep. Sheila Solon, of Blue Springs, says the measure is part of efforts to keep schools safer after the Connecticut elementary school shooting that killed 20 children.
She says that school resource officers are considered county or municipal employees but her bill would allow school districts to hire them directly.
The bill would also strengthen the state's mandatory child abuse reporting laws by preventing supervisors from impeding a report.
The House voted 129-20 to the send the measure to the Senate Wednesday.
The vote Wednesday by the House puts the legislation just one final step from the governor's desk. The Senate previously passed the bill and must give it another vote.
The legislation would reinstate tax credits for food pantry donations that expired in 2011 and for donations to pregnancy resource centers and child advocacy centers that expired in 2012. All three of those tax credits would be extended to 2019.
The bill also renews tax credits for surviving spouses of deceased public safety officers and for people who improve their homes to be accessible to the disabled.
The House gave final approval Wednesday to legislation authorizing up to $3 million annually in subsidies for cities, counties and nonprofit groups that host amateur sports events such as college basketball tournaments.
The bill is the first one of the 2013 session to make it to Gov. Jay Nixon.
Missouri has a long history of hosting sports events. Kansas City, for example, is hosting the Big 12 basketball tournament this week and games for the NCAA men's basketball tournament next week.
But supporters of the legislation say Missouri has been losing bids for future events to states offering incentives.
Missouri's bill would provide tax breaks equal to $5 for every ticket sold to the events.
Instead of making the hard choices to fix Social Security's financial problems, policymakers "use it as a tool of political rhetoric," Astrue said.
Astrue, 56, has headed the federal government's largest program since 2006 — he was nominated by former President George W. Bush. By law, Social Security commissioners serve six-year terms, so President Barack Obama will now have the opportunity to choose his own nominee, who must be approved by the Senate. Astrue's last day on the job was Wednesday.
The trustees who oversee Social Security say the program's trust funds will run dry in 2033, leaving Social Security with only enough revenue to pay about 75 percent of benefits. Already the program is paying out more in benefits than it collects in payroll taxes.
As commissioner, Astrue served as a trustee. He regularly urged Congress to address Social Security's long-term financial problems but refrained from publicly weighing in on various options to cut benefits or raise taxes — until now.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Astrue said benefit cuts and tax increases are inevitable — despite fierce opposition to both. Yet he questions whether Congress is up to the task.