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Morning headlines: Friday, March 30, 2012

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers breached the levee at Birds Point as part of the activation of the floodway May 2, 2011.
(via Flickr/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers breached the levee at Birds Point as part of the activation of the floodway May 2, 2011.

Army Corps. seeks dismissal of lawsuit filed on behalf of southeast Mo. farmers

More than 140 southeast Missouri farmers are seeking damage caused by last year's intentional breach of the Birds Point levee at the height of spring flooding.

The Southeast Missourian reports that government attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the suit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Oral arguments in the suit are scheduled to begin April 10 in Washington.

The corps claims the lawsuit fails to state a legitimate claim for which relief can be granted. It asserts that because the floodway is rarely intentionally breached, it doesn't constitute a government "taking" of the land.

Cape Girardeau attorney J. Michael Ponder, who is representing the farmers, calls the motion nonsense.

Mo. senators on opposite sides of vote to repeal tax breaks for oil companies

Missouri's senators were on opposite sides of a vote Thursday that would have repealed tax breaks for oil companies.

Democrat Claire McCaskill said on the floor of the Senate that oil companies don't need the $4 billion in tax subsidies.

"I've heard people say, you know if we don't give them this extra help, then they're going to quit exploring for oil and the price of gas will go up," said McCaskill. "That is just so dumb. They've had these subsidies for what -- 30, 40, 50 years? And I think most Americans realize the price of oil has gone up just fine during that time."

McCaskill's colleague from Missouri, Republican Senator Roy Blunt, says cutting the oil company subsidies would result in costs that would be passed along to consumers and would do nothing to lower the price of gas at the pump.

"Why we'd have a bill on the floor that would raise gasoline prices I have no idea," said Blunt. "I think the idea is that the majority wants to blame somebody else rather than the President's energy policies and the American people just don't accept that."

The procedural vote that would have allowed the Senate to move ahead on the measure failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority.

Missouri judge upholds ballot summary for proposed amendment on public prayer

The proposed constitutional amendment asserts the right in Missouri to pray in public places as long as doing so does not disturb the peace. It also says that students may express their religious beliefs and cannot be compelled to participate in assignments that violate those beliefs.

The ballot summary was challenged in a lawsuit claiming it failed to mention the potential for students to refuse homework or that prisoners could lose some religious protections.  Cole County Circuit Judge Pat Joyce rejected the argument this week, concluding the summary is fair.

Missouri legislators approved the measure last year and referred it to this November's ballot. Approval by a simple majority would add it to the Missouri Constitution.