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Morning headlines: Friday, January 20, 2012

Missouri state Supreme Court building in Jefferson City.
(via flickr/david_shane)
Missouri state Supreme Court building in Jefferson City.

Missouri judge schedules hearing for for U.S. House districts

A Missouri trial judge is setting aside several days to examine new congressional districts after the state Supreme Court ordered further review of the new map. Online court records show Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green has schedule what is expected to be a three-day hearing beginning Jan. 31. 

This week, the Missouri Supreme Court ordered further review of claims that the redrawn U. S. House districts are unconstitutional because they are not sufficiently compact.

The state high court game Green until February 3 to make his judgment. Candidate filing for this year's elections opens Feb. 28.

Police investigating road sign vandalism

St. Louis police are investigating vandalism of a road sign dedicating a stretch of Interstate 55 in honor of civil rights activist Rosa Parks. The road sign had  "KKK" spray-painted on it.

Missouri Department of Transportation crews took down the two panels of the sign that were vandalized after police completed an initial investigation. If the paint can't be removed, the sign will be replaced.

Authorities say whoever is responsible could be charged with a hate crime. Parks became an icon of the civil rights movement in 1955 when she refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala.

Illinois to close two state institutions 

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn pans to close two state institutions this year, a Tinley Park mental hospital and a Jacksonville center for people with developmental disabilities.

On Thursday, aides said the Democratic governor is launching a policy of moving people out of institutions into community care. As people move out, the institutions can be shut down, which will save about $20 million a year.

The Jacksonville Development Center is located about 90 miles north of St. Louis. Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard says he has heard threats about closing state government facilities before, but he knows this announcement is for real.

"This is the first time the governor's office has called me and said, 'It's going to happen.' So it hit home pretty hard today," Ezard said.

Ezard says he is "steaming mad" about the process. He says his community jumped through hoops at last year's hearings, but it seems like the governor already made up his mind.

Ezard says the community will try to help families cope with the transition. He says they will also fight to protect the city's other state institutions: the Illinois School for the Deaf and the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired.