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Morning headlines: Monday, December 19, 2011

Flickr/Todd Ryburn
Old Mclean County (Illinois) Court House (1900 - 1976) Bloomington

Illinois is a "plaintiff's paradise"

The American Tort Association ranks Madison, St. Clair and McClean Counties in Ill. among the most unfair court jurisdictions in the nation. Cook County is on the watch list.

The Association is made up of businesses concerned that judges and juries in those counties are more likely to side with plaintiffs. Class action lawsuits often result in huge payouts.

Travis Akin is with the Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch and says being on the list is a harmful distinction.

"This is our reputation nationwide," said Akin. "When companies are looking to locate, they're going to factor the legal climate as part of their decision. And so when they look at a state like Ill. and they see four judicial hellholes, it's going to make it much harder to sell our state as a great place to open up and do business."

The trade group for personal injury attorneys says the report is base on junk research. In a statement, the preside of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association says the judicial system is designed to toss frivolous lawsuit, and that corporation are trying to undermine the courts so they can evade accountability.

Barnes wants someone other than Carnahan to draft ballot summary on renewable energy

A Missouri lawmaker wants Secretary of State Robin Carnahan to let someone else write the summary for a proposed ballot initiative on renewable energy. An initiative submitted last week to Carnahan's office would increase the amount of electricity that Missouri power companies must generate from renewable sources such as the wind and sun.

The secretary of state is responsible for a writing a summary to appear atop the initiative petitions and on the ballot.

Republican Rep. Jay Barnes, of Jefferson City, contends the Democratic secretary of state could have a conflict of interest because her younger brother is an investor in wind energy production.

A Carnahan spokesman says the office has always followed its legal obligation to provide Missourians with fair summaries of ballot initiatives.

Researchers: Mo. needs lots of snow to compensate for dry summer

University of Missouri researchers say the state would need 13 feet of snow this winter to compensate for the scorching heat and lack of rain last summer. The state's dairy and cattle industries are scrambling to cope with the parched summer's impact as they get ready for winter.  

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports Missouri corn farmers lost about 24 million bushels of yield last summer, and soybean producers lost about 20 million bushels. Hay supplies also are dangerously low in the country's third-largest producer of that now-precious commodity.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 101 Missouri counties natural disaster areas because of the drought. One estimate puts the loss to the state's grain farmers at nearly $350 million.

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