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Morning headlines: Tuesday, March 20, 2012

East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks Jr., third from left, with city personnel.
Joseph Leahy, SLPR news
East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks Jr., third from left, with city personnel.

East St. Louis lays off more employees

A tight budget has forced East St. Louis to lay off seven more employees, leaving the city's police officers without a support staff.  

The Belleville News-Democrat reportsthat the latest layoffs include Police Chief Michael Floore's secretary, the department's director of community programs and a records room employee responsible for logging all of the city's tows.

The city also cut employees in the mayor's office, the city clerk's office and the city treasurer's office.

Mayor Alvin Parks Jr. says there is a bright side for his city because no police officers will be laid off. Parks says officials did everything they could to avoid cutting officers.

Mo. House leaders expected to open debate this week on state budget

Lawmakers are required to approve a budget by early May for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Among the most watched areas of the roughly $24 billion budget will be funding for higher education and for a program that covers medical care for blind people who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.

The Republican-led House Budget Committee proposed deep cuts in aid for the blind to restore a cut in higher education funding proposed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

Ill. voters head to polls today

Polls are open across Illinois for primary voters. GOP presidential rivals Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are competing for 54 delegates in one of the last major battlegrounds before a three-week lull in April.

Both Republican presidential candidates stumped across Illinois Tuesday, hoping to win over GOP voters.

In Rockford, Rick Santorum told a crowd that the issue in the race isn't the economy, but an oppressive government that's taking away people's freedom. In Peoria, Mitt Romney was hit with tough questions about his opposition to Planned Parenthood and mandatory birth control coverage when he met with students from Bradley University.

Activists encourage Tilley to "Flush Rush"

About a dozen activists delivered an estimated 500 rolls of toilet paper to House Speaker Steven Tilley's office in the Missouri Capitol Monday night. It was part of a campaign to urge the Speaker not to induct conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh into the Hall of Famous Missourians. 

Claire Major is with the Missouri chapter of the National Organization for Women.  She says they're calling their event, "Flush Rush."

"Do we really want to honor him in the Missouri Capitol?," said Major. "No, so let's flush. We've asked anyone who wants to be involved to mail Speaker Tilley a couple of squares of toilet paper in an envelope with the words 'Flush Rush' written on the toilet paper."

When asked about it by reporters, Tilley said he welcomes the toilet paper and that he'll find a charitable organization to give it to.  He added that he hopes protestors send more toilet paper, along with canned goods, which he says he would also donate to charity.


Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.