It's flat. It's slimy. And it hides under rocks on the river bottom. It's the Ozark hellbender, and at up to two feet in length, it's one of the world's largest salamanders.
But Ozark hellbenders are disappearing: Fewer than 600 are left in the rivers of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. Scientists have been making a huge effort to get them to breed in captivity. And now, thanks to a major effort at the Saint Louis Zoo, 2012 could be the year of new hope for hellbenders.
A proposal has been scrapped by Governor Jay Nixon (D) to borrow money from Missouri’s state universities to help balance the state’s budget.
The idea was floated last month, in which $106 million in reserve funds from five of Missouri’s largest universities would be used to shore up the Department of Higher Education’s budget for the next fiscal year, which begins in July. That sparked an outcry from both university officials and lawmakers.
Halfway through Missouri's budget year, state revenues are sluggish.
The state budget office reported Thursday that Missouri's revenue increased 1.2 percent through the first six months of the 2012 fiscal year. Revenues need to grow at about 2.7 percent to meet the mark set by the budget.
Budget Director Linda Luebbering says the revenue report was "concerning." But she noted that the revenue could improve in the second half of the budget year. Missouri budgets take effect July 1.
Gov. Pat Quinn has signed into law pension reforms aimed at fixing some loopholes in the system.
The law takes effect immediately. It aims to end the practice of so-called double dipping for public employees. In some cases, employees took leaves to work for their unions but continued to build benefits in government pension systems based on union pay.
Officials at Lambert Airport are hoping to reopen the C Concourse in April - about one year after the concourse was severely damaged in a Good Friday tornado. The April date is consistent with the projected timeframe we reported in October.
Remember seeing this video? That was the C Concourse.
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The $6.6 million robbery of ATM Solutions in St. Louis in 2010 is believed to be the largest heist ever in St. Louis. It turns out the robbers themselves were victimized, too - at least $1.3 million was re-stolen.
The 2012 Missouri legislative session is underway, and much of the first-day talk revolved around the challenges facing the state’s public schools.
In addition to Missouri’s K-12 schools not being fully funded, suburban school districts near St. Louis and Kansas City may be forced to accept thousands of transfer students from the inner cities, thanks to the State Supreme Court’s ruling in Turner v. Clayton. House Speaker Steven Tilley (R, Perryville) says any solutions to those problems should include tuition tax credits for kids in unaccredited areas, and statewide expansion of charter schools.