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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois will end the year with overdue bills totaling $7.6 billion.
 
Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka's office says the amount is about 16 percent less than the $9 billion owed at the end of 2012. That's according to a Monday story in the Rockford Register-Star.
 
Topinka spokesman Brad Hahn says it's unclear how the landmark pension-reform package adopted this month will affect the backlog.
 
For one thing, retired teachers and other educators have filed a lawsuit over the plan to save $160 million over 30 years by cutting benefits. They say it's unconstitutional.
 
Hahn says the backlog benefited this year from $1.3 billion in tax revenues that officials didn't expect.
 
Topinka's office had predicted as late as a month ago that the year-end backlog would be closer to $9 billion.
 
Monday, 30 December 2013 12:32
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A Missouri state senator is proposing legislation that would require  women to wait even longer for an abortion in the state. Missouri currently has a 24-hour informed consent law. 
Now Republican David Sater of Cassville says extending that period to 72-hours would provide additional time for reflection that he hopes will reduce the number of abortions.  The legislation has been proposed for the 2014 legislative session starting January 8th.  Opponents contend a longer waiting period would not decrease the number of abortions, but simply cause them to happen later in pregnancy, which can increase risk.  Only South Dakota and Utah already impose a 72-hour waiting period. 
Monday, 30 December 2013 11:18
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  ST. LOUIS (AP) - Fire officials in St. Louis are investigating a blaze that destroyed a building housing a meat market on the city's north side.
The fire broke out about 5:30 a.m. Monday in the building that houses Obama Meat Market. The business was destroyed, but no one was hurt. The shop was closed at the time of the fire and no one was inside the building.
More than four dozen firefighters battled the blaze in frigid conditions - the morning temperature in St. Louis was 11 degrees.
The market and the building are owned by Obama Shalabi. He told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he will rebuild.
Monday, 30 December 2013 11:03
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 COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - The University of Missouri-Columbia has raised half of the $3 million it needs to build a teaching winery.
The Columbia Missourian reports that the university now is seeking matching money from the state for the facility. Plans call for a research building and wine and food education facility to be added in later phases.
Wine and Grape Research Committee chairman Tony Kooyumjian says the proposed teaching winery would be a commercial winery. It would replace a much smaller, experimental winery. The goal is for students to make and bottle more than 2,000 cases of wine yearly; the current facility produces 100 cases at most a year.
Kooyumjian says he hopes to break ground in spring 2015 with completion that fall.
 
Monday, 30 December 2013 10:31
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