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Morning headlines: Tuesday, November 29, 2011

(via Flickr/danieljordahl)

Smoking opponents are back to the drawing board in St. Charles County

The St. Charles County Council rejected a measure last night that would have let voters decide on a countywide smoking ban. Republican Councilman Joe Cronin, who sponsored the bill, tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the rejection will probably spur an anti-smoking coalition to launch a petition drive to get the issue on the November 2012 ballot.

The Post-Dispatch reports the measure would have banned smoking in most indoor public places and workplaces in municipalities and unincorporated areas. 

Councilwoman Nancy Matheny says she voted no because she worried that some businesses such as bars would be a competitive disadvantage with similar businesses in St. Louis County.

Seven Ill. facilities to remain open

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says he's reached a deal to keep seven state facilities he'd planned to close open through the fiscal year. Quinn's office announced the deal Monday. 

State budget director David Vaught tells The Associated Press that the estimated $200 million cost of keeping the seven centers open through the current fiscal year, which ends in June, will be covered by moving funds from other parts of the budget. Vaught says Quinn's veto of $376 million from the $33.2 billion budget passed by the legislature this year made the deal possible. 

Earlier this year, Quinn said the state needed to close seven centers, including a prison and centers for the developmentally disabled and mentally ill. The closures would have resulted in nearly 2,000 layoffs.

Civil unions to be allowed to file joint income tax returns in Ill.

Couples with civil-union licenses in Illinois will soon be allowed to file joint income tax returns with the state. Though same-sex couples will still have to file federal tax returns individually, the Illinois Department of Revenue says it will accept joint returns from same-sex couples starting in January.

The advocacy group Equality Illinois announced an agreement with the revenue department Monday night. Illinois has a flat income tax of 5 percent, so a joint state return won't save couples money. But Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov says the new policy is still a good step. A revenue department spokeswoman says officials are still finalizing how the policy will work. The current plan is to have couples fill out a joint federal tax return for the state's purposes only.

Local agriculture giant Monsanto wins a round in Europe over genetically modified corn

France's Council of State, that country's highest administrative body, has overturned rules that suspended the planting of Monstano's MON 810, a form of genetically modified corn.

The ruling, issued Monday, says French Agriculture Ministry rulings from 2007 and 2008 did not establish the urgency of suspending planting of genetically modified corn or the existence of a health risk to humans, animals, or the environment.

France's Agriculture and Ecology ministries noted the ruling, but said they would continue to look for ways top block the use of genetically modified crops in France.

"Persistent uncertainties lead the government to maintain its opposition to cultivating MON 810 corn on French territory," the ministries said in a statement. The government "is studying, as of now, the means to attain this objective."

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