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Morning headlines - Tuesday, May 29, 2012

(via Flickr/IndofunkSatish)

Out-migration is costing St. Louis County money

More people are moving out of St. Louis County than moving in – and they’re taking money with them.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch cites Internal Revenue Service figures that show those who left the county between 2001 and 2010 earned on average $8,000 more than those who moved in. And about 52,000 more people left the county than moved in.

That means St. Louis County lost $3.4 billion in resident income due to out-migration.

Ill. public universities face big cut in state House budget

A higher education budget being considered by the Illinois House of Representatives would slash state funding to public universities by six percent.

That’s nearly double the reduction approved by the state Senate last week.

The cuts would vary by the size of the institution. The three campuses of the University of Illinois would lose the most – a total of more than $42 million. Southern Illinois University takes the next-biggest cut of nearly $15 million.

The House’s higher education budget also cuts 15 million dollars from scholarships for needy students, and stops state reimbursement for mandatory veteran tuition waivers. And universities could also be forced to fund more of the pensions for their employees.

Ill. House panel approves a restart of early release program for inmates

Brian Mackey contributed reporting from Springfield.

An Illinois House committee has approved a new early release program in an effort to stave off legal action against crowded conditions in the state's prisons.

"Our prison system was built for 34,000 offenders," said Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, the measure's sponsor. "And today the number of inmates is about 49,000."

The Department of Corrections used to shorten the sentences of well-behaved inmates, but Gov. Pat Quinn suspended the program in 2009 amid reports that violent inmates that had been released committed other crimes, and that some inmates were released just days after being incarcerated.

The worst overcrowding from the end of so-called "good time" can be found in minimum and medium-security institutions, said John Maki with the prison watchdog John Howard Association.

"We found inmates huddled in a kind of barn-like setting, with broken windows, mice, cockroaches, birds' nests above, with nothing to do," Maki said. "These were low-level offenders - people held for things like driving on a revoked license."

Both Maki and Currie worry that without the reinstitution of good time, Illinois will face an overcrowding lawsuit similar to one in California that forced officials there to release thousands of inmates.

But it's not clear whether Gov. Quinn will support Currie's measure - he already has the authority to restart the "good time" program.

Group will push to loosen marijuana laws in Kansas City, Springfield

A group that successfully reduced penalties for individuals charged with marijuana possession or use in Columbia, Mo. is considering expanding its effort to two other Missouri cities.

Amber Langston with Show-Me Cannabis Regulation says campaigns in Kansas City and Springfield will help the group prepare for another statewide push in 2014. A statewide effort to relax marijuana laws failed this year, but Langston says that was due to a lack of resources rather than a lack of support.

Opponents in the two cities are already gearing up to fight the measures.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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