Morning headlines: Winter weather continues, Dooley calls smoking exemptions "unacceptable," Mo. Medicaid budget to rise

Jan 24, 2011
  • January continues to be a snowy, slipper month for the St. Louis area. Several accidents are being reported this morning, and several schools are closed - many for the third in a row. The latest problems come after about an inch of snow fell yesterday, followed by a light freezing drizzle this morning. The Missouri State Highway Patrol said interstates 64 and 70 in parts of St. Louis and St. Charles are particularly slick.
  • St. Louis County's smoking ban is only three weeks old, but County Executive Charlie Dooley is already seeking to make it tougher. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dooley has called the many exemptions to the smoking ban "unacceptable." He plans to meet soon with the County Council to discuss removing some of the exemptions. St. Louis city and county both began smoking bans on Jan. 2. Dooley told the Post-Dispatch that there are 110 exemptions, and that's too many. In crafting the legislation, County Council members said they wanted exemptions to protect small neighborhood bars whose owners feared a smoking ban would drive them out of business.
  • Missouri's Medicaid budget is likely to rise by hundreds of millions of dollars next year. The budget outline by Gov. Jay Nixon calls for $8.4 billion for the health care program during the 2012 fiscal year that starts July 1. That's an increase of 5.5 percent, or about $444 million over what is expected to be spent this year. The growth in Medicaid comes as Nixon is recommending cuts to public colleges and universities, the elimination of hundreds of state employee positions, and flat funding for public K-12 schools. But much of Missouri's Medicaid spending is considered mandatory, if the state wants to continue receiving federal money for the program.