WASHINGTON (AP) — The immediate and the institutional are on a collision course in the Senate, where majority Democrats want to erode the right of minority Republicans to block confirmation of President Barack Obama's picks for key administration posts.
On one side is the fate of Obama's choices to head the Labor Department and the Environmental Protection Agency and for seats on the National Labor Relations Board, which settles collective bargaining disputes.
On the other side is the near certainty that once weakened, the rights of the Senate minority would be reduced even further the next time either party wants to jam through a four-year appointment to the Cabinet or lifetime seat for a justice whose confirmation might tilt the balance of power on the Supreme Court for a decade or more.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Medical marijuana use in Illinois is now in Gov. Pat Quinn's hands after the state Senate approved legislation.
Lawmakers voted 35-21 Friday to send the measure to Quinn for final approval. Quinn hasn't signaled whether he will sign it into law.
The proposal allows physicians to prescribe marijuana to patients with specific terminal illnesses or debilitating medical conditions. Cancer, multiple sclerosis and HIV are among the 33 illnesses listed in the bill.
The measure gives a framework for a four-year pilot program that includes requiring patients and caregivers to undergo background checks.
Supporters say marijuana can relieve continual pain without triggering the detrimental side effects of other prescription drugs. Opponents say the program could encourage the recreational use of marijuana especially among teenagers.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Attention online shoppers: The days of tax-free shopping on the Internet may soon end for many of you.
The Senate is voting on a bill today that would empower states to collect sales taxes for purchases made over the Internet. The measure is expected to pass because it has already survived three procedural votes.
The bill faces opposition in the House, where some Republicans regard it as a tax increase. But there is a broad coalition of retailers lobbying in favor of it.
Under current law, states can only require retailers to collect sales taxes if the store has a physical presence in the state. As a result, many online sales are tax-free, giving Internet retailers an advantage over brick-and-mortar stores.
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin wants consumers to pay sales tax on their purchases, whether they shop in a local store, or online.
Consumers are already supposed to pay sales tax for online purchases. But very few do since there's no uniform collection method, and the onus to pay is placed on the consumer, not the retailer. In Illinois, for instance, those who file state tax returns are asked to list their online purchases and pay sales tax for them.
Durbin says the current rules are not fair to brick and mortar stores, who must collect sales tax from their customers. Durbin has sponsored a bill that would require Internet stores to do the same.
The Senate will soon begin debate on the Market Fairness Act. It could be voted on as early as this week.
Missouri Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt have both said they favor the move.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Gun control supporters have won the first Senate showdown over restricting firearms, rejecting an effort by conservatives to derail a package of gun curbs before debate could even begin.
The 68-31 vote gave an initial burst of momentum to efforts by President Barack Obama and lawmakers, mostly Democrats, to impose gun restrictions following the December carnage at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Gun control supporters needed 60 votes to block the conservatives.
The legislation would subject more firearms buyers to federal background checks, strengthen laws against illicit gun trafficking and increase school safety aid. Advocates say the measures would make it harder for criminals and the mentally ill to get weapons.
Opponents say the restrictions would violate the Constitution's right to bear arms and would be ignored by criminals.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Republican state senator plans to hold hearings across Missouri to get public reaction to a new driver's license process that stores electronic copies of applicants' birth certificates and concealed gun permits in a state database.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer claims the procedures by the Department of Revenue are an invasion of privacy. During a hearing Wednesday, Schaefer aggressively quizzed department officials about whether they are trying to comply with the 2005 Real ID Act, which sets stringent proof-of-identity requirements.
Department officials insisted they are not. They noted that a 2009 state law prohibits compliance with Real ID.
Schaefer wants to hold public hearings across the state on the procedure. He says he won't give the driver's license administration any money until it can prove it's worthy.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - With less than six weeks left in the annual session, a gun-control bill has received its first hearing by a Missouri legislative committee.
The Senate General Laws heard testimony Tuesday on a bill requiring parents to notify their child's school if they own a firearm. It would also create crimes for improperly storing a firearm and for a parent failing to stop their child from possessing an illegal weapon.
The Republican-led committee did not take a vote and is unlikely to take action on the legislation in its current form.
Sponsoring Democratic Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, of University City, says it would help urban areas cope with juvenile gang violence. Opponents say the bill would infringe on gun rights and would not solve illegal firearm possession.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri House has passed a nearly $25 billion budget that would fund modest increases for public education but not the Medicaid expansion sought by Gov. Jay Nixon.
House approval of the budget Thursday sends it to the Senate, where more changes are likely.
The 2014 budget plan would provide a roughly 2 percent increase in basic aid for public K-12 schools, colleges and universities. But school funding would still fall $620 million short of what's called for under a state formula.
Missouri's Tourism Division would get one of the largest percentage increases in the budget - from nearly $14 million this year to almost $20 million next year.
The budget leaves out more than $900 million of federal funds that Nixon had recommended for a Medicaid expansion.
The non-binding blueprint passed by a near party line, 50-49 vote. It calls for almost $1 trillion in tax increases over the coming decade while sheltering safety net programs. The House version only envisions spending cuts to balance the budget.
The Democratic plan also proposes to reverse automatic spending cuts that are beginning to strike both the Pentagon and domestic programs.
President Barack Obama's long-overdue budget is scheduled to be released March 8.
The Senate began debate Tuesday on legislation that would ask voters to approve a dedicated sales tax for highways and other transportation needs. But some senators expressed concern that the money would go straight to the Department of Transportation without need of legislative approval in the budget process.
The sales tax is estimated to raise nearly $8 billion over 10 years. Ten percent of the proceeds would go to local transportation needs. The tax would be resubmitted to voters after 10 years for potential renewal.
When the increased sales tax is in effect, the gas tax rate would be frozen and existing roads could not become toll roads.