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Morning headlines: Monday, April 16, 2012

(via Flickr/IndofunkSatish)

Amanda Vinicky contributed reporting from Springfield.

Ill. lawmakers have packed agenda when they return to Springfield

State lawmakers in Illinois have about seven weeks left to untangle a host of thorny problems.

Gov. Pat Quinn declared in his budget address in February that he would keep lawmakers in Springfield until they made fundamental changes to the state's pension and Medicaid systems. Small groups of lawmakers have been meeting since then, and those ideas are expected to be unveiled since then. Quinn could also unveil his own plans.

Lawmakers will also have to decide how to deal with Democratic freshman Rep. Derrick Smith from Chicago. Smith has been absent from Springfield since he was arrested and indicted for taking a $7,000 bribe, but his lawyer says he'll be back. A state House committee is investigating, and that could lead to his removal from office.

And as least temporarily, the focus will be on collective bargaining rights. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will be speaking to the Illinois Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, and unions are planning a protest.

Historic church headed to Warren County

An historic church in Rock Hill is headed for Warren County.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that crews will begin work today at the site of the Rock Hill Church at Manchester and McKnight roads. The school building will be demolished first. Then the church, which dates to 1845, will be dismantled piece by piece and moved to Cedar Lake Cellars winery.

A U-Gas gas station, car wash and convenience store are planned for the site.

Preservationists and historians raised about $8,000 in an effort to move keep church in St. Louis County. But cost estimates ranged from $200,000 to $800,000.

Turnout for GOP caucus below 1 percent

If you thought turnout in the Republican  presidential primary in February was low – the turnout for the Republican caucuses in March was even lower.

Figures provided to the Associated Press by the state Republican party show that 17,576 people participated in the day-long meetings – that’s less than one half of one percent of registered voters.

By contrast, turnout in the non-binding February primary was around 8 percent. And in 2008, when primary results actually helped determine the nominee, turnout was well in the double digits.

The chair of the state GOP, David Cole, says party leaders will be working to return to the binding primary for the 2016 presidential elections. The party used caucuses this year to avoid a penalty for holding a primary too early.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.