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Morning headlines: Monday, December 12, 2011

St. Louis County website
St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley.

Dooley admits "missteps"

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley admits that he made missteps over the last few months as Missouri's largest county tried to deal with an unprecedented budget shortfall. Dooley told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he made what he called clumsy mistakes, saying the recession is "new territory" for the county.

In August, the Democrat proposed a property tax increase – then changed his mind 10 days later. He once characterized the budget shortfall as $10 million, then $5 million, then, perhaps, $1.6 million. Then Dooley proposed closing about half the county park system. That plan was withdrawn last week.

STL County Council to hold hearing on domestic violence shelter

The St. Louis County Council will hold a hearing Tuesday regarding a domestic violence shelter that's accused of turning away women for not being county residents. The Kathy J. Weinman shelter is a 50 bed domestic violence program for abused women and their children.

Michelle Rhode is program director at St. Martha's Hall, a not-for-profit agency in St. Louis for abused women and children. She says she first became aware of the practice several months ago when calling the Weinman shelter looking for a bed for women seeking help. Rhode says she and her colleagues have been attending council meetings and voicing their concerns.

"Expressing our hope that they will pass an ordinance that will put down in writing that the residency requirement will not be in effect at the Weinman shelter," said Rhode.

 Council member Hazel Erby who chairs the Justice, Health and Welfare committee did not return a call for comment on the hearing. But has been reported as saying that she is committed to creating an ordinance and confident that something can be worked out.

Some Ill. lawmakers having second thoughts about pension abuse crackdown

Some Illinois lawmakers are having second thoughts about cracking down on pension abuses by union officials, including two lobbyists who qualified for teacher pensions by spending a single day in the classroom.

The General Assembly approved legislation last month that was meant to take pension benefits away from those lobbyists and others who are getting government pension benefits for time they spent working in unions. But now, key House Democrats say the legislation may be unconstitutional. They say it's not legal to take benefits away after someone has earned them, even by questionable means.

An Illinois House pension committee voted 5-3 Sunday for a new bill closing such loopholes in the future but doing nothing about people who have already taken advantage. Republicans opposed the change.

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