Morning headlines - Thursday, May 3, 2012 | St. Louis Public Radio

Morning headlines - Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mo. General Assembly sends probation and parole reforms to Gov. Nixon

The Missouri General Assembly has sent Gov. Jay Nixon a measure that could reduce the amount of time some non-violent felons in the state spend on probation and parole.

The state Senate approved the measure yesterday 24-3, shortly after the state House did the same thing without opposition.

The measure would implement several reforms proposed by a state task force, the Missouri Working Group on Sentencing and Corrections. It would allow some non-violent felons to get 30 days knocked off their probation or parole period for every month they do not have a violation. First-time violators could get a 120 "shock" incarceration, rather than being sent back to prison for an extended period.

Supporters say they measure will save the state money and reduce the number of people who commit crimes after they're released.

Also yesterday, the General Assembly sent Gov. Nixon a bill that would require cellphone companies to track the phone signals of people determined to be at great risk of death or serious physical injury.

Ill. Senate Democrats take first step toward ending legislative tuition waivers

A committee of the Illinois Senate has voted to end a perk that lets lawmakers hand out free tuition at state universities.

The move represents a sharp turn for Senate Democrats - they were the only group of lawmakers that have voted in recent years to keep the waivers in place. The full House had voted for the last three years to abolish them - but the Senate would always try to"fix" the program.

But now, Senate president John Cullerton is sponsoring an abolition measure, despite opposition from his caucus. The Senate measure also creates a committee to study all tuition waiver programs.

"There's a lot of good reasons to keep [the waivers,] but it's obviously becoming a distraction here with a small number of people abusing it," Cullerton said.

Cullerton's Republican counterpart, Christine Radogno, says she's glad enough of her Democratic colleagues now agree with the GOP, which has long pushed to eliminate the waiver program.

"There's a lot of documentation as to the problems with it," she said. "People handing them out outside the district, to campaign contributors."

The measure still has to pass the full Senate - then go back to the House for a final vote.

Brian Mackey contributed reporting from Springfield, Ill.

Extended unemployment benefits to end in Ill.

Illinois' dropping unemployment rate will trigger the end of a federal program for the state's long-term jobless.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security announced on Wednesday that the Extended Benefit program will end May 12. It provided an additional 20 weeks of benefits to anyone unemployed beyond 79 weeks.

Department spokesman Greg Rivara says payments under the Extended Benefit program began in 2009, when unemployment in the state went over 10 percent. Recently, though, that number's dropped below 9 percent.

The Extended Benefits program expired in Missouri last month.