Morning round-up
9:20 am
Wed March 30, 2011

Morning headlines: Wednesday, March 30, 2011

East St. Louis School District Sends Layoff Notices to 237 Teachers

In an effort to save $9 million, the East St. Louis Board voted Tuesday to notify 287 teachers that they might not be hired back next year. That’s according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The district serves about 7,300 students and has 562 full-time teachers.

The district is also proposing to close three schools.

Superintendent Theresa Saunders says that although 287 teachers received notices, she hopes about 120 teaching jobs will be saved. Illinois law requires that teachers be warned by the end of April whether their jobs could be cut. The Post-Dispatch reports that Illinois is behind on payments to school districts across the state. The East St. Louis district is owed about $4.5 million from the state.

On Monday, the Belleville high school district notified 37 teachers and aides that they could likely lose their jobs. Last week about 70 employees in Cahokia were also put on notice.

Illinois House Votes to Lift Smoking Ban at Riverboat Casinos

The Illinois House wants to lift the ban on smoking at riverboat casinos that border states where smoking is allowed. The bill passed 62-52 tuesday. It now goes to the Senate.

Rep. Daniel Burke said he sponsored the measure because Illinois is losing business to states that allow smoking at casinos. The Chicago Democrat claims casinos have lost $800 million since 2008 because gamblers go to Iowa, Indiana or Missouri casinos.

Burke says casinos have improved air filtration systems, reducing the health concerns from smoking. Supporters of the smoking ban say it's unfair to subject gamblers and casino employees to second-hand smoke.

Missouri Senators Raise Questions About Late-Term Abortion Restrictions

Some Democratic senators are raising questions about legislation that would add to Missouri's restrictions on late-term abortions. The legislation would remove a general exception for the woman's health from Missouri's ban on aborting viable fetuses. Instead, it would grant exceptions only when the woman's life is endangered or the pregnancy poses a serious risk of permanent physical injury.

The Senate set aside the bill Tuesday without voting.  

Sen. Jolie Justus, of Kansas City, led those questioning the bill during debate. She said only a few dozen abortions on viable fetuses are done annually in Missouri, and most involve women whose fetuses are severely deformed. Justus questioned the bill's definition of when a fetus is viable. She also said a woman's mental health should be included as a justifiable reason for late-term abortions.