Morning headlines: Friday, August 17, 2012 | St. Louis Public Radio

Morning headlines: Friday, August 17, 2012

Aug 17, 2012

Illinois Gov. optimistic special session will be fruitful

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn called lawmakers back to Springfield, Ill. for the one-day session today to vote on changes to the state's retirement system, which is at least $83 billion in debt.

The two parties have been unable to come to an agreement on a solution. Quinn is pushing a plan opposed by Republicans that would shift the cost of some benefits to local school districts.

Quinn, however, says lawmakers will do the right thing in the end.

"I believe in positive thinking and optimistic thinking," said Quinn. "I believe in democracy, and I think when people are confronted with the choice of having a state that invests in children and education and in public safety, the choice will be in favor of pension reform."

Quinn would not say what would happen if lawmakers do not pass an acceptable reform bill.

The session begins at 11 a.m.

Missouri approves nearly 5,000 water improvement requests

Missouri has approved more than 4,900 requests from farmers for help in improving their water supplies amid Missouri's extreme drought.

The emergency program provides for the state to pay 90 percent, rather than the usual 75 percent, of the cost of drilling or deepening a well or expanding an irrigation system. The state's share is capped at $20,000 per project.

Gov. Jay Nixon announced the additional assistance in July and gave an update Thursday at the State Fair.

The state has committed more than $24 million to the effort. The deadline to apply was last week, and the governor's office estimates that about 1,500 applications are still being processed. Nixon says many of those already approved came from livestock producers.

Mo. judge rules on school transfers

A judge has ruled that a Missouri statute allowing students to transfer out of floundering districts would financially harm three accredited districts surrounding unaccredited Kansas City Public Schools. Jackson County Judge Brent Powell sided Thursday with taxpayers in the Independence, North Kansas City and Lee's Summit districts.

The taxpayers argued that the transfer law violates the Hancock Amendment in the Missouri Constitution, which includes a ban on unfunded state mandates. Powell also found there would no Hancock violation in the Blue Springs and Raytown districts. He said those districts would collect enough money from the Kansas City district to educate the transfer students.

The lawsuit is one of several stemming from the transfer law. While litigation continues, students in unaccredited districts aren't being allowed to use the law to transfer.

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