Morning headlines: Wednesday, March 2, 2011
By Julie Bierach • Mar 2, 2011
- Missouri House members have voted to cap the state's minimum wage at the federal rate. The legislation would essentially overturn a 2006 voter-approved law that lets Missouri's minimum wage rise above the federal level based on annual inflation. Proponents contend capping the minimum wage would help small business. They also say it could be difficult for Missouri businesses to compete if the state's minimum wage is higher than those of neighboring states. Critics defend Missouri's existing law and say legislators should not overrule a measure approved by the voters. The House gave the legislation first-round approval Tuesday. It needs another vote before moving to the Senate.
- Missouri lawmakers are trying again to restrict protests at funerals after the state's previous ban was ruled unconstitutional. The legislation would bar protests within 500 feet of a cemetery, mortuary or church from two hours before a funeral to two hours after the ceremony. House members endorsed the bill Tuesday, and it needs another vote before moving to the Senate. Missouri approved laws in 2006 restricting protests at funerals. Last August, a federal judge declared that those laws were unconstitutional. Supporters of the most recent legislation say families should be allowed to mourn at funerals without disturbances. Critics raised concerns about restricting free speech rights.
- A new storm warning siren system for St. Louis County is expected to be operational as early as August. County officials have installed 88 new sirens. But the entire system has not been installed or tested. The county will keep using its old system until then - a system that dates many years. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that a test after the severe storm on New Year's Eve found that of 210 existing sirens, 14 didn't work, 13 didn't rotate properly, and 54 had limited range due to damaged speakers. Voters passed a $7.5 million sales tax in 2009 to fund the new system.
- According to the St. Louis Business Journal, Peabody Energy plans to stay in downtown St. Louis. The company had been scouting the region for new headquarters space. A press conference is scheduled for this morning to announce a Fortune 500 company’s major location commitment to the city. Governor Jay Nixon and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay are expected to attend. The Business Journal reports that St. Louis offered Peabody’s current landlord $10 million in federal New Markets Tax Credits to keep the coal company’s headquarters and 500 local employees downtown. St. Louis-based Peabody Energy is the world's largest private-sector coal company, supplying 10 percent of U.S. power and 2 percent of electricity worldwide.