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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The Illinois Supreme Court has ordered that four lawsuits challenging Illinois' new pension reform law be consolidated.
 
The March 3 order transfers the case filed by a group of retired teachers in Cook County Circuit Court to Sangamon County Circuit Court, where the three other cases were filed. The court says all of the cases will be heard together in Springfield.
   
Each of the groups' lawsuits share the common claim that the new pension reform plan violates the state constitution, which says benefits may not be diminished or impaired.
 
Illinois' five public-retirement systems had a $100 billion unfunded liability when the Legislature passed the pension reform measure in December.
 
The bill saves an estimated $145 billion, largely by cutting benefits for employees and retirees.
Monday, 03 March 2014 15:47
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ST. LOUIS (AP) - A Chicago man has been convicted of several federal charges for forcing two teenage girls into prostitution.
Reginald Williams was convicted Monday in U.S. District Court in St. Louis following a four-day trial.
Police in Collinsville, Ill., learned in September 2012 that photos of a missing 16-year-old were included on the website backpage.com, implying she was available for sex. The website said the girl was 20 but police confirmed she was 16 at the time.
Authorities learned another minor female was believed to be with the 16-year-old at a St. Louis County hotel. Williams was arrested at the hotel, where police found both girls.   Sentencing for Williams is May 30.
Monday, 03 March 2014 15:43
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ST. CHARLES, Mo. (AP) - A 21-year-old Raytown man is dead after he was reportedly shot by a St. Charles County deputy while threatening suicide and displaying a gun.
 
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Anthony Kovac died Saturday night. He was in the St. Louis area visiting his grandparents.
Sheriff Lt. Dave Tiefenbrunn says four deputies found Kovac in a rear bedroom and asked him to leave the room. The lieutenant says Kovac was shot when he raised a gun and pointed it toward one of the deputies.
 
Authorities say the victim was intoxicated and had threatened to kill himself. The unnamed deputy is on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation.
 
Monday, 03 March 2014 15:39
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - After a one-day weather delay, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is heading to Canada on a business trip.
Nixon was leaving Missouri on Monday to travel to Canada. He originally had been scheduled to depart Sunday but postponed that because of a winter storm that brought snow, sleet and ice to parts of the state.
The governor plans to travel to Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto to meet with Canadian government and business leaders. He is scheduled to return to Missouri on Thursday.
Nixon's travel costs are being paid for by the Hawthorn Foundation, a nonprofit organization that frequently finances gubernatorial trade missions.
 
Monday, 03 March 2014 15:37
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 JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is supporting the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, joining other Midwestern governors who are urging President Barack Obama to approve its construction.
   In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday, Nixon cited energy independence and economic growth as reasons to support the pipeline's construction. The State Department is taking comments on the project before making a recommendation to Obama on whether to approve it.
   The Democratic governor says the project would promote energy independence in an "environmentally responsible way."
   The pipeline would travel through the heart of the United States, carrying oil derived from tar sands in western Canada to a hub in Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines.
Monday, 03 March 2014 15:32
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WASHINGTON, Mo. (AP) - An eastern Missouri sheriff's department is targeting drivers who ignore school bus laws.
 
The Washington Missourian reports that starting this week, Franklin County deputies are riding along on school buses and watching for aggressive drivers who drive around stopped buses in violation of the law.
 
Authorities say the sheriff's office receives many reports of violators who are either unaware of the law or intentionally violate it. They say it puts children getting on and off the bus at risk.
 
Motorists are being reminded that those going both directions must stop if the red flashing lights of a school bus are activated.
Monday, 03 March 2014 09:17
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CHICAGO (AP) - A new report says electricity deregulation has saved Illinois customers up to $37 billion over the past 16 years.
 
The report being released Monday by four business groups says the average household has paid $3,600 less overall than if the average annual electricity rates had stayed the same.
 
Deregulation kicked in in 1998, allowing Illinois utilities to compete for business on the open market rather than being regulated monopolies whose rates were set. The utilities before deregulation both supplied and delivered electricity to customers, who had no other choices.
 
The legislature also restructured the natural gas market.
 
The report was issued by the Illinois Manufacturers' Association, Illinois Retail Merchants Association, Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Business Roundtable.
 
Electric rates have risen recently as utilities make "smart grid" improvements.
Monday, 03 March 2014 07:16
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ST. LOUIS (AP) - Corps of Engineers officials are holding several workshops in Missouri and Illinois in the next two weeks to discuss flood preparation with local officials.
 
March is the start of the flood season along the Mississippi River Valley. The workshops are designed to give levee district officials a chance to hear about the spring flood outlook and discuss levee safety, response capabilities and other issues.
 
All four workshops start at 6:30 p.m. They are scheduled for Monday at the Lincoln County Courthouse in Troy, Mo., Thursday at Fire Engine House No. 1 in Fairview Heights, Ill., March 10 at the Jacksonville, Ill., Convention and Visitors Bureau, and March 12 at the Osage Centre in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Monday, 03 March 2014 07:15
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St. Louis, MO (KTRS) - The winter storm may have moved out of the St. Louis area, but as it pushes toward the East Coast, it is causing problems for air travel.

 

Lambert canceled over 130 flights Sunday, and today there are already nearly 30 cancellations as of 6 AM. That number could rise throughout the day as the storm arrives east.

 

Lambert encourages travelers to check with air carriers before heading out the door.

Monday, 03 March 2014 07:12
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois officials say the state's backlog of unpaid bills is decreasing.
 
The Springfield State Journal-Register reports the backlog is expected to fall to $5.6 billion by June 30, which is the end of the current fiscal year. That's down from a high of $9.9 billion in 2010.
 
The figures came from a letter acting budget director Jerome Stermer wrote to legislative leaders, adding that the unpaid tab was $6.4 billion in December.
 
The newspaper's story is part of GateHouse newspapers' series on Illinois' backlog of unpaid bills.
 
Lawmakers from both parties say the state has made progress, but say there's still more work to be done.
Monday, 03 March 2014 06:16
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