Morning headlines: Thursday, March 3, 2011
- According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Charles and St. Charles County leaders say they will push ahead in the fight against anti-gay protests at military funerals. That's a despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling Wednesday in favor of such demonstrators. In an 8-to-1 ruling, the high court said Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church doesn't have to pay damages to the family of a Marine from Maryland. But, the ruling left open whether various local and state restrictions, including new ordinances in St. Charles and St. Charles County, are constitutional. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito was the only justice to dissent saying the commitment to free speech doesn't mean the nation has to tolerate what he calls "vicious verbal assault."
- The Missouri House has endorsed legislation that strengthens the penalties for human trafficking. The measure would allow longer maximum prison terms for offenses such as trafficking for forced labor and sexual exploitation. House members gave the bill first-round approval Wednesday.
- A federal report shows employers in Illinois received nearly $41 million last year to help them maintain health care coverage for early retirees. The federal funding comes from a program created by the Affordable Care Act, the national health care law. In Illinois, 337 employers have been accepted into the early retiree program. It helps pay a portion of health care costs for early retirees and their spouses, surviving spouses and dependents.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn will decide in the coming days whether to abolish the death penalty in the state. Quinn will decide whether executions will remain a possible punishment after years of overturned convictions, reforms to fix the state's broken capital punishment system and a legislative fight to abolish it. The Democratic Governor has a March 18 deadline to act on an abolition measure passed by lawmakers. He has received advice from victims' families, law enforcement officials and religious leaders. Among them are retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. The Death Penalty Information Center says Illinois is one of 35 states that has the death penalty; 15 states and the District of Columbia do not.