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Morning headlines: Tuesday, September 18, 2012

(via Flickr/Indofunk Satish)

Proposed amendment to appear on November ballot

A Missouri appeals court panel has upheld the ballot summary for a proposed constitutional amendment that would change the process for selecting appellate judges.

In its ruling Monday, a three-judge panel of the Western District Court of Appeals certified the summary that voters will see on the November ballot.

The measure asks voters whether to change the composition of a seven-member panel that screens applicants for vacancies on the state Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. The measure also would increase the number of nominees from which the governor could make an appointment to four, instead of three.

Supporters sued, claiming the summary prepared by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan's office was insufficient and unfair. A Cole County judge upheld the summary last week, and the appeals court agreed.

Year-long investigation into failed Mamtek factory culminates today

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster appears ready to announce results of an investigation into the financial collapse of a proposed artificial sweetener factory in Moberly in Randolph County.

Koster will hold a news conference this morning at the site of the failed Mamtek U.S. Inc. facility.

The announcement comes one year after Koster said his office was assisting the Randolph County prosecutor in determining if any civil or criminal laws were violated. The Columbia Daily Tribune reports that former Mamtek CEO Bruce Cole allegedly misused bond funds that were issued by Moberly to build the plant.    

Construction of the plant halted last year after Mamtek was unable to make payments toward $39 million of bonds issued by the city of Moberly to finance the project.

The state had offered more than $17 million worth of incentives, but nothing was paid because the deal fell apart before Mamtek could trigger the aid.

Quinn’s battle to close Ill. prisons clashes with record-breaking inmate numbers

The Illinois Department of Corrections is disputing an Associated Press analysis that the state's prison population has hit an all-time high.

State records show the population hit 49,154 over the weekend. That's 19 inmates more than the agency's previous record on Oct. 6, 2011.

Agency spokeswoman Stacey Solano says the number is incorrect and the record has not been broken. She says there are 49,044 behind bars. The prisons were designed to hold 33,700 inmates.

The Northwest Heraldreports that Solano said it is normal for prisoner intake to increase during summer months and that the system can hold more inmates than the original design indicated.

Despite these numbers, Gov. Pat Quinn wants to close five correctional centers to save money in a budget crisis. A lawsuit has stalled that.

Last spring, officials declared a downward trend in inmates and predicted an overall average for the year of less than 46,000.

Section of the Chain of Rocks Canal closed for repairs

The Army Corps of Engineers has closed Lock 27 at Chain of Rocks Canal on the Mississippi River for emergency repairs. It isn't clear when it will reopen.

The lock, north of St. Louis near Granite City, Ill., was closed Saturday morning after damage to one of its protection cells was discovered. The corps says the damage obstructed safe passage through the chambers.

Corps navigation manager Andy Schimpf says crews are working to clear the channel and make sure tows can move safely through the locks.

College of the Ozarks challenges Affordable Care Act

Monday, College of the Ozarks filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury, arguing that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. 

Ozarks Public Radio’s Jennifer Davidson reports that, according to college president Dr. Jerry Davis, the school was considered a religious institution until President Barack Obama’s legislation went into effect and subsequently changed its classification.

Davis says the college is now compelled, by law, to cover the so-called “morning after pill” as well as education and counseling about abortion on its health insurance policy.

The lawsuit is filed in the U.S. Court for the Western district of Missouri.

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