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   CHICAGO (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn heads into a critical election-year State of the State address this week with his top priority of pension reform inked into the law.
   The speech on Wednesday is a chance for Quinn to lay out goals for the year and recap his accomplishments.
   But how much credit the Chicago Democrat can take for what he's called the signature achievement of his governorship is up for debate.
   Quinn has won praise for keeping pension reform in the public sphere with his populist tactics, like withholding legislator pay. Pension reform was once a topic more common among economists and business groups.
   However, he's also been criticized for those methods and not doing more to broker the deal himself. Some say he only took notice when there weren't other options.
 
Monday, 27 January 2014 03:18
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   Sunday was a doggone good day for one St. Louis dog-owner after firefighters rescued her puppy from a drainpipe.  It happened at Union Blvd. and Enright Ave. in north city about 9:00 a.m.  

   Fire Department officials say the small grey puppy had slipped into a foot-wide drainage pipe that wasn't properly covered.  The puppy's owner had been walking another dog on a leash, when it happened.  

   Firefighters lowered a noose 26 feet down and snagged the puppy, pulling it to freedom.  

   The puppy wasn't injured and was returned to its owner.

Monday, 27 January 2014 02:00
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   COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - The president of the University of Missouri system is seeking an independent review of how the university handled allegations from a swimmer that she had been sexually assaulted by a football player more than a year before she committed suicide.
   The move Sunday by UM System President Timothy Wolfe comes after an ESPN story questioning the University of Missouri's response to the alleged sexual assault of Sasha Menu Courey, who committed suicide in 2011, about 16 months after the alleged rape.
   In a letter to chancellors of the university's four campuses, Wolfe says he'll ask the board of curators to hire "outside independent counsel" to investigate how the university handled Menu Courey's allegations.
   The university also says it turned its information on the matter over to police on Saturday.
   
 
Monday, 27 January 2014 01:18
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   Here we go again.  After a warm and spring like Sunday afternoon, winter is returning to the St. Louis area with a vengence.
 
   About 3:00 Monday morning, the National Weather Service in St. Louis canceled a wind advisory that had been set to expire at 6 a.m.  Winds had dropped to between 15 and 25 mph with gust up to 35 mph, below the threshold for an advisory. 
 
   Nevertheless, the strong northwest winds are pushing a powerful arctic cold front through the region.  Wind chills are still expected to dip below zero by morning.  Some schools have already cancelled classes for Monday.
 
   The wind is being blamed for causing spotty power outages across the St. Louis metro area.  As of 3 a.m., Ameren is reporting more than 3,300 St. Louis area customers without power -- about 1,000 in Missouri.  The rest are in the metro-east, most in St. Clair County.  That's down from nearly 9,000 around midnight. 
 
 
Monday, 27 January 2014 00:52
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Opposition is starting to form around a ballot measure that would enshrine a "right to farm" in Missouri's Constitution.

A former Democratic state senator has started a political action committee to fight the ballot measure. Wes Shoemyer says the amendment would take away the people's ability to use the initiative petition process to regulate agriculture.

A coalition of farming and livestock associations, known as Missouri Farmers Care, argues the amendment is necessary to protect farmers from groups that use the ballot box to restrict farming and ranching.

Missouri lawmakers referred the measure to the ballot last year. It will appear on the November ballot unless Gov. Jay Nixon moves up the date. North Dakota voters approved similar constitutional protection in 2012.

Sunday, 26 January 2014 10:16
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri is going to begin picking up the tab for students to take the ACT college entrance exam and dramatically reduce the amount of time some elementary and middle school students spend taking state assessments.

When the changes take effect next school year, Missouri will join more than a dozen states that already offer the ACT test to all their students. Missouri plans to offer the test once, free of charge to high school juniors.

Elementary and middle school students also will see changes as the state switches to new assessments tied to the Common Core standards for math and reading. Students in third, fourth, sixth and seventh grades will take a one-hour version of the test. Only fifth- and eighth-graders will take a longer seven-hour version.

Sunday, 26 January 2014 10:13
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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe says he'll recommend that tuition at the system's four campuses not increase for the 2014-15 school year.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Wolfe told the Post-Dispatch editorial board Friday he'd send his recommendation to the Board of Trustees, who would likely take up the matter at a meeting next week.

The last time tuition remained flat was four years ago. The university system's curators had been moving ahead on a plan that would have called for a 1.5 percent tuition increase.

Wolfe's recommendation comes after Gov. Jay Nixon proposed earlier this week to put more than $80 million into higher education. But in exchange, Nixon called on Missouri colleges and universities not to raise costs.

Sunday, 26 January 2014 10:11
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CREVE COEUR, Mo. (AP) — The former treasurer for a suburban St. Louis parent-teacher organization faces charges accusing her of stealing more than $50,000 from the organization.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports 36-year-old Tenille R. Batsell of Olivette was charged Thursday in St. Louis County with felony stealing.

Police say Batsell was treasurer of the Spoede School Association at Spoede Elementary School in Creve Coeur. She's accused of pocketing about $53,000 that belonged to the group, which relies on donations to organize events for students. Members of the organization called police after discovering accounting discrepancies on its books.

The parent-teacher association said on its website that its members were aware of the charges but couldn't comment.

Online court records don't list a lawyer for Batsell.

Saturday, 25 January 2014 13:00
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Supreme Court has scheduled a February 26th execution for a man who pleaded guilty in the 1989 abduction, rape and stabbing death of a 15-year-old Kansas City girl.

Michael Taylor and Roderick Nunley were charged with kidnapping Ann Harrison as she waited for a school bus near her home. She was raped, stabbed and left bleeding to death in the trunk of a car.

The high court set Taylor's execution date on Friday.

Taylor's lawyer said the scheduling was premature in light of ongoing lawsuits against Missouri's execution procedures. The state switched to a one-drug lethal injection method since drug companies stopped selling the traditional three-drug mixture for use in executions.

Nunley was scheduled to be executed in 2010, but was granted a stay.

Saturday, 25 January 2014 12:58
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Monday marks an historic change for St. Louis City.
 
For the first time in over five decades, the police department will implement new police districts. Chief Sam Dotson announced that the city will consolidate the nine current districts to six. Dotson says the move is necessary because the city has changed since the 60's. 50 years ago the city's population was around 750,000 and there were over 2,200 police officers. Today the population sits closer to 318,000 and there are 1,250 officers. The resdistricting will allow Dotson to put more officers on the streets.
 
Dotson says the goal of redistricting is three-fold, "We have to reduce crime, this redistricting is a crime-reducing strategy. We have to help people feel safer. This will help people feel safer because we are putting more officers in neighborhoods that are challenged."
 
"And three, better communication," Dotson said, "we're talking about this. We've tweeted about it, I've blogged about, we've gone to neighborhood meetings--we're trying to be as open and transparent as we can
 
The changes go in to effect Monday morning at 4. Residents are invited to leave feedback at slmpd.org.
Friday, 24 January 2014 16:47
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