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Morning headlines- Thursday, June 28, 2012

(via Flickr/IndofunkSatish)

Nixon defends, clarifies comments on health insurance mandate

Elana Gordon contributed reporting from Kansas City, Mo.

With a decision on the federal health law nearing, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon further defended his position yesterday regarding a federal health insurance mandate. 

In a report by St. Louis Public Radio earlier this week Nixon was quoted saying he didn't think requiring people to purchase health insurance was good for Missourians.

Several Republicans, including gubernatorial hopeful Dave Spence, then criticized the governor for trying to rewrite history.

For his part, Nixon, a Democrat, says his position on the individual insurance mandate has been consistent. He clarified that he did not disagree with all of the health care law, but reiterated earlier statements that the individual mandate is wrong for Missourians.

"As I have said before I don't support the federal government telling folks that they have to buy insurance. That mandate part is something that I haven't supported in the past and something I obviously don't support at this juncture,” Nixon said.

Nixon did tell a news outlet in Kansas City he opposed a mandate several months ago, but had never revealed  how he voted on Proposition C - the 2010 ballot initiative that put opposition to the mandate in the state constuttion.

Heat Advisory, warning from MoDOT

There is only one word to describe the next couple of days: Hot. A heat advisory takes effect at noon today, and temperatures persist in the 100's through the Fourth of July.

You can beat the heat at the nearest cooling center by calling 2-1-1 on a landline or 800-427-4626 on a cell phone. Check out the United Way of Greater St. Louis’ tips to stay safe during a heat advisory here.

But another warning about the high heat and humidity comes from MoDOT: Prepare for bumpy roads.

The Missouri Department of Transportation warns extreme heat can cause pavement to “blow up.” Moisture seeps into a crack in the pavement, weakening the pavement. The added heat causes the spot to buckle or warp.

MoDOT says it's impossible to know when a pavement blow-up will occur, but maintenance engineer Mark Giessinger says crews will try to make repairs as soon as possible.

Illinois, union agree to contract extension

Amanda Vinicky contributed reporting from Springfield, Ill.

Illinois' largest public-employee union, AFSCME, and Governor Pat Quinn's administration have been unable to agree to a new contract for the union's 40,000 state workers.  But they were able to agree to temporarily extend the current contract, while talks continue.  The contract would have otherwise expired Saturday at midnight, when the fiscal year ends.

Spokesman Anders Lindall says the two sides have also agreed to bring in a mediator.

"AFSCME is committed to securing a contract agreement that's fair, that respect the important work that our members do despite very difficult and trying circumstances," Lindall said. “They deserve to be paid fairly, to have affordable health care, and security in retirement, and to have their rights on the job respected."

Quinn's office responded with a reiteration of Quinn’s commitment to reaching a deal that's "responsible to taxpayers in these difficult economic times."

The negotiations come as lawmakers look to reduce state employee pensions and make retirees pay more for their health care.

This at a time when lawmakers are looking to reduce state employees' pensions and have retirees pay more for health care.

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