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Morning headlines - Thursday, May 10, 2012

(via Flickr/IndofunkSatish)

Police chief outlines plan to preserve patrol officers despite cuts

The St. Louis police chief says he’ll reduce the department’s command structure and turn some desk jobs currently held by officers over to civilians in an effort to blunt the impact of budget cuts.

Chief Dan Isom unveiled his budget plan to a Board of Aldermen committee yesterday.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Isom would combine two districts located to the north and northwest of downtown St. Louis. Further consolidations would also be possible. That would reduce the number of commanders needed.

The department will have to absorb a reduction of about 100 officers over the next two years. Isom says his plan would keep as many officers on the street as possible.

He’ll formally present it to the state board that oversees the department next week.

Washington University student dies of bacterial meningitis

A northern California native attending Washington Univesrity has died of bacterial meningitis.

Washington University chancellor Mark Wrighton says the family of freshman  Emily Benatar was at her side when she died Wednesday at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

Benatar was diagnosed with meningitis last month. Students who had close contact with Benatar were tested and received antibiotics. No other cases were reported.

Washington University will hold a campus memorial for Benatar in the fall.

State House gives lawmakers control over the Hall of Famous Missourians

The state House has approved a measure designed to settle disputes over the Third Floor Rotunda that houses the Hall of Famous Missourians.

The measure, which still needs Senate approval, would give lawmakers the authority to regulate displays in the rotunda. Control of the space became an issue last spring after Democrats asked the state Office of Administration, in the executive branch, to block the display of a bust of conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who's a native of Cape Girardeau. The Speaker of the House traditionally makes nominations for the Hall.

House Majority Leader Tim Jones says the dispute over Limbaugh's statue highlighted the need to clarify who had authority over the Rotunda, but he says there have been similar situations in the past.

Petition to legalize marijuana "up in smoke" for 2012

When they take a ballot this fall, Missouri voters won't see a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana in the state.

Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, which began circulating petitions late last year, has fallen short of collecting the roughly 150,000 signatures they would need to force a vote.

Campaign director Amanda Langston says about 300 volunteers collected about 65,00 signatures from across the state.

"We actually had a pretty strong indication we were going to get a little more funding than we did," Langston said. "This sort of thing pretty much never happens unless there is a large, paid signature-gathering effort. But for a volunteer effort, I think we kind of have blown other issues out of the water."

The campaign gathered a significant portion of its signatures in St. Louis, St. Charles, Joplin and Springfield.

Show-Me Cannabis board member Maranda Reynolds says she expects the board to vote to later this month to try again in 2014.

"There's no way that we're stopping now," she said. "There's really no reason to, as we've gained a lot of momentum. We've built a network of people who are very passionate about the issue and are willing to work to make it happen."

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