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Morning headlines: Friday, May 20, 2011

Legislation headed to Gov. Nixon would reduce the potential penalties for initial violation of misdemeanors.
Legislation headed to Gov. Nixon would reduce the potential penalties for initial violation of misdemeanors.

Legislation Reducing Penalties for Initial Misdemeanors Headed to Nixon

Legislation headed to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon would reduce the potential penalties for initial violations of misdemeanors such as driving without a valid license, failing to maintain vehicle liability insurance and being a minor in possession of alcohol. Instead of the possibility of jail time, the legislation only would allow fines up to $300.

The Missouri Bar says first-time offenders seldom are jailed for those offenses anyway. But because of the possibility, public defenders are required to represent people who face those charges but cannot afford private attorneys. Missouri's public defender system has said it is overloaded with cases and has sought to scale back its work.

Illinois Passes Bill on DNA Database

Illinois legislators have passed a bill requiring sex offenders and people arrested for serious violent crimes to give DNA samples that will comprise a statewide DNA database. The bill now heads to Gov. Pat Quinn's desk. It passed the Senate Thursday 53-1.

Supporters say the bill strengthens law enforcement by establishing a tool to investigate crime and free wrongfully convicted citizens. The bill requires registered sex offenders living in Illinois to submit a DNA sample, regardless of where they were convicted. Those indicted for, or if probable cause was found for first degree murder, home invasion and various forms of sexual assault charges, must also give DNA samples.

Illinois State Police would be required to erase DNA profiles on court order.

Petition Effort Underway to Dissolve St. George

An effort is under way to dissolve the St. Louis County town of St. George. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reportsthat a petition drive to dissolve the town of 1,300 residents is expected to begin this weekend. Supporters hope to collect enough signatures over the next nine weeks to get the measure on the November ballot. To do so, they'll need the signatures of half of St. George's roughly 850 registered voters. Passage would require support of 60 percent of voters at the polls.

Organizers say St. George has had too many scandals, many involving the now-dissolved police department.