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Morning headlines: Wednesday, June 15, 2011

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St. Charles County Executive Vetoes Smoking Ban Proposal

St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann has blocked a countywide smoking ban proposal from going on the November 2012 ballot. Ehlmann said Tuesday that he vetoed the bill because it would have unfairly exempted casinos, cigar bars and certain hotel rooms.

The council in the St. Louis-area county voted 4-2 in favor of putting the ban on the ballot, with one opponent absent. It would take five votes to override the veto.

Ehlmann says he expects the issue to come up again, and there's plenty of time - ballot propositions for the 2012 general election don't have to be submitted until August of next year.

Mo. Could Be Penalized for Accidentally Inflating Food Stamp Rolls

Missouri could soon learn whether it will have to repay the federal government for accidentally inflating the state's food stamp rolls.

State officials acknowledged in December 2009 that a computer programming error led Missouri to over-report the number of food stamp participants to the federal government for six straight years. During that time, Missouri received more than $14 million in federal bonuses because of its high participation rates.

A spokeswoman for the federal Food and Nutrition Service tells The Associated Press that the analysis of Missouri's situation should be complete within weeks. Missouri is awaiting word on whether it will have to pay back some of the bonus money, and whether it could be penalized for having too high of an error rate.

Crews Working to Fortify Levee in Southwestern Iowa Town

A temporary earthen levee is now the only barrier standing between the small southwestern Iowa town of Hamburg and the floodwaters of the Missouri River. Officials are hoping efforts to beef it up will be enough to keep the small southwestern Iowa town from filling up like a bathtub.

Crews working for the Army Corps of Engineers hope to pile at least three feet of extra dirt atop the levee before Wednesday evening. If the levee fails, parts of the town could be covered by as much as 10 feet of water within days. And high water could linger for months.

The earthen levee became Hamburg's last line of defense after the river punched through another levee downstream in northwest Missouri that provided the town's primary protection.

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