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Budget FY15
4:35 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

State Police Cancels New Trooper Training, Citing Budget

Credit Flickr/connor395

  The Illinois State Police graduated 37 state troopers today Friday, the last class the academy will graduate for a while. State police officials say they can't train more due to the state's budget.

The 37 cadets took their oath in the auditorium of the Illinois State Police Academy in Springfield — in the last graduation ceremony it'll see in a while. This class was the fifth to graduate in a year.

A new group had been scheduled to begin the 27-week training on June 15; instead the session never started.

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Statehouse
3:45 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

Feds' Immigrant Numbers For Illinois May Not Tell Whole Story

Boys in a holding area at a Border Protection center in Nogales, Ariz. Generally, minors are put into deportation proceedings and given a "Notice To Appear" in immigration court, but they have permission to stay in the country while the U.S. decides their fate.
Credit NPR.

Federal officials say 305 unaccompanied children caught at the U.S.-Mexico border were placed with Illinois sponsors this year, but officials say hundreds more could be at shelters.  

The country faces a sharp rise in unaccompanied minors. They're placed at government shelters and then released to sponsors as they go through deportation proceedings. Often, sponsors are family members.  
The Chicago-based Heartland Alliance contracts with the federal government for area shelters and legal services. The group doesn't make shelter locations public for safety reasons.  

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State Week
2:53 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

Listen to State Week - July 25, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week's topics include the Illinois Inspector General's investigation into possible political hiring at the Illinois Department of Transportation.  Also, an overview of the state's rules and regulations regarding medical marijuana.

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IDOT
6:56 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

Inspector General Discloses Political Hiring Investigation

Attorney Michael Shakman's lawsuit accuses Gov. Pat Quinn's administration of political hiring at the Illinois Department of Transportation, which until late June was headed by Anne Schneider. In this photo, taken in April, Schneider is introducing a state roads plan with Quinn by her side.
Credit WUIS

  As Gov. Pat Quinn battles a lawsuit accusing his administration of political hiring, the state watchdog charged with investigating ethics violations is asking to get involved.

Confidentiality restrictions prevent the Inspector General from saying what he is or isn't looking into.

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Regional
5:39 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

Man Robbed By Fake Police On I-55

Credit wikimedia commons

Illinois State Police say a driver was robbed on Interstate 55 near Litchfield by men who impersonated police officers.  

According to the Belleville News-Democrat the man told police he was pulled over around 10 p.m. Tuesday by a sports utility vehicle with a flashing red light on its dashboard.  

The man said that when he stopped, three men wearing ski masks held him at gunpoint as they robbed him of more than $5,000 in cash. The robbers then tied him up with duct tape and left him in his car along the highway.  

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Hydraulic fracturing
5:18 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

Business, Labor Leaders Urge Quinn Administration To Finish Fracking Rules

Credit wikimedia commons

  Business and labor leaders are urging Illinois' Department of Natural Resources to finish the rules for hydraulic fracturing. The coalition says it's left wondering if the governor's administration might be dragging the process for political reasons.

It's been over 400 days since the General Assembly passed a law to allow hydraulic fracturing in Illinois. Proponents say the technique of drilling for natural gas deep in the ground will lead to job and revenue growth.

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Pensions
6:29 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Illinois' Credit Prognosis: Negative

Wall Street's view of Illinois' financial health has taken a hit, thanks largely to the state budget that took effect at the start of this month. Pensions also continue to be a drag. 

When Illinois Democrats passed the state's latest budget, many seemed to hold their nose. Credit ratings agencies are more direct: Standard & Poors has revised Illinois' credit outlook to "negative." 

It says the new budget "is not structurally balanced and will contribute to growing."

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Affordable Care Act
4:09 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Durbin Files Legislation Reacting To Hobby Lobby Decision

Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  U.S. Senator Dick Durbin wants companies exempt from offering birth control in their healthcare plans to make that known to potential employees.

It's a response to the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court last month, which determined certain business owners don't have to pay for contraceptives that violate their religious beliefs. These so-called "closely held" companies — typically small, family owned businesses — are exempt from the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate.

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Arts
10:47 am
Wed July 23, 2014

"The Civil War" Becomes A Downtown Musical

Credit alplm

You may know the story of the war between the states.  But what is often overlooked is the emotional drama the period had on those who lived through it.

The musical "The Civil War" brings that part of the story to the stage in downtown Springfield starting Thursday night. 

"It's not a history lesson, although you learn a lot," Co-director Phil Funkenbusch said. "It's really a concert theatre piece."

"Instead of telling the story of the Civil War, it's really telling the stories about the people involved in the war."

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Regional
7:18 am
Wed July 23, 2014

Court OKs FutureGen Financing Plan

Site of FutureGen plant in Meredosia.
Credit WUIS

A court says state regulators can force Illinois electricity customers to help pay for the $1.6-billion FutureGen project.

The 2-1 decision Tuesday by the Illinois Appellate Court OKs a state plan to charge an estimated $1 to $1.40 a month to help pay for the long-delayed project.  

Ken Humphreys is CEO of the FutureGen Alliance. The group of coal companies is working with the U.S. Department of Energy on the project. Humphreys says the court decision will keep the project moving.  

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Election 2014
4:29 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Republican Attorney General Candidate: Pension Changes Unconstitutional

Republican candidate for attorney general Paul Schimpf
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  The Republican candidate for Illinois Attorney General is criticizing incumbent Lisa Madigan for defending the state's pension overhaul law, which he thinks is unconstitutional.

A clause in the state's constitution says that once earned, pension benefits shall not be diminished.

The pension law, passed last year, law reduces cost of living benefits paid out to state employees and public school teachers. That, and other changes, haven't actually taken effect yet; a lawsuit challenging the law is ongoing.

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Education Desk
12:22 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

With GED, Illinois Bundles Job Training

A new approach to adult education in Illinois puts GED instruction in the context of job skills, such as nursing, welding or operating a forklift.
Credit Mike Mozart (flickr.com/jeepersmedia)

Illinois is trying to expand educational opportunities for adults who didn't finish high school. That means moving beyond the GED.

The Census Bureau says average monthly earnings of a high school grad are nearly 10 percent higher than those of someone with a GED. And while a third of high school grads eventually earn a bachelor's degree, the GED number is 1 in 20.

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Statehouse
12:12 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Trucker Asks: Are Police Above The Law?

A screenshot of the video Brian Miner posted of being pulled over in June by an Illinois State Trooper.
Credit Brian Miner, You Tube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-dJgFdfl3I)

It has been just over half a year since Illinois made it illegal to talk on your phone while driving without the use of a hands-free device. There are some exceptions: you can hold your phone if your car is stopped -- say at a railroad crossing for a freight train -- and in park or neutral, or if you pull off onto the shoulder. The law also makes an exemption for law enforcement. A recent YouTube sensation that raises the question: should police get special treatment?

    

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Statehouse
6:53 am
Tue July 22, 2014

Fire Closes State Building Today

Credit wandtv.com

The Illinois Secretary of State's office has closed its Howlett Building in Springfield for the day because of a small fire.

Secretary of State spokesman Dave Druker says the fire happened about 1:15 a.m. Tuesday in a mechanical room at the building, which is part of the Illinois State Capitol complex.  

He says firefighters quickly put out the blaze but the air conditioning in the building isn't working and crews need to work on mechanical issues.  

Druker says the agency hopes to reopen the office building on Wednesday.  

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Education Desk
6:47 am
Mon July 21, 2014

Houston Says District 186 Needs To Build Credibility Before Asking For Tax Hike

Credit montanapublicmedia.org

WUIS is asking the candidates for Springfield mayor to talk about education issues facing the community. Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says he's concerned that most new single family homes in the area are in suburban school districts.   He says an increase in funding for District 186 is probably needed, but says the school board needs to build credibility first.

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Guns
12:06 am
Mon July 21, 2014

Attorney General Wants To Send Concealed Carry Cases Out Of Court

Credit flickr

Illinois gun owners who've been denied a concealed carry permit can appeal. But instead of going through the courts, Illinois' Attorney General wants a state panel to decide those cases.

There are about 200 concealed carry denials before Illinois courts, brought by people who say they shouldn't have been deemed dangerous or a threat to public safety by Illinois' Concealed Carry Licensing Review Board.

Until recently, applicants didn't actually know why they were rejected.

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Harvest Desk
1:46 am
Sat July 19, 2014

Crop Insurance Programs Subject Of Intense Farm Bill Lobbying

Mark Crawford stands at his farm near Danville, Ill. Crawford, who grows corn, soybeans and wheat on his large farm, said the crop insurance programs are important parts of the risk-management safety net for farmers. (Darrell Hoemann/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting)

After two years of debate, the U.S. Congress passed a Farm Bill this year that replaced direct subsidies to farmers with an ever increasing multi-billion dollar federal crop insurance program.

During that time, at least 80 groups spent more than $50 million in lobbying efforts that included ensuring their interests in the often criticized program were well-represented.

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Election 2014
5:26 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

No School For Kids On Election Day

Credit wikimedia

Illinois students could get a day off of school come election day. Schools are often at the heart of a community, metaphorically, if not literally. That's part of the reason they've long been voting sites.

But with shootings at schools across the country, some lawmakers are concerned the practice is dangerous.

Most of the time visitors need to sign in before entering a school; they say allowing anyone in on election day is asking for trouble.

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State Week
3:53 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

Listen to State Week - July 18, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, GOP gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner proposed more ways to fix the state's budget woes.  Also, a state legislative commission has pushed back the investigation into Governor pat Quinn's controversial Neighborhood Recovery Initiative until October.

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Regional
3:39 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

25 Years Since Chicago Bound Flight Crashed In Iowa

It has been 25 years since the passengers on United Flight 232 braced themselves for impact and prepared to die.  

Back in 1989, the jetliner carrying nearly 300 people from Denver to Chicago lost all hydraulic power after the rear engine exploded. It crash-landed in Sioux City, Iowa, cartwheeling down the runway in flames and breaking apart in a cornfield.  

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Statehouse
3:25 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

Prosecutors Say Blagojevich Attorneys Misread Ruling

Prosecutors responding to a new argument in Rod Blagojevich's appeal say the former governor's lawyers have misrepresented a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in another case.  

Blagojevich's lawyers say an April ruling by the high court found that soliciting contributions is corruption only when a politician makes explicit promises to take official action for a donation.  

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Regional
7:23 am
Fri July 18, 2014

Illinois Among The Highest Risk For Earthquakes

Credit State of Illinois

Illinois and Missouri are on the list of states with the highest risk for earthquakes.

A new federal earthquake map dials up the shaking hazard just a bit for about one-third of the United States and lowers it for one-tenth of the nation.  

The U.S. Geological Survey updated Thursday its national seismic hazard maps for the first time since 2008, taking into account research from the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami off the Japanese coast and the surprise 2011 Virginia temblor.  

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Statehouse
5:22 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Supreme Court Won't Take Up Term Limits

Credit Illinois Supreme Court

  An effort to institute term limits in Illinois has hit a major road block. The state Supreme Court says it will not rush to hear the case.

 The Supreme Court's decision could be the end of Republican Bruce Rauner's term limits initiative.

Limiting how long legislators can be in Illinois' General Assembly has been a staple of his campaign for governor.

That takes a change in the constitution. Rauner's group collected over a half million signatures so that question could be put to voters on the November ballot.

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Harvest Desk
4:47 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Decatur Vies For Ag Research Center

Credit Richland Community College

Decatur is among the finalists for a national agriculture research center.  

The (Decatur) Herald & Review reports Thursday (http://bit.ly/1yyldBp ) that the National Corn Growers Association wants to create a facility to support and develop farming research.  

Richard Vierling is head of the Corn Growers research and development team. He said Thursday that Fargo, North Dakota, is the other city in the running for the National Agriculture Genotyping Center.  
The facility would translate scientific discoveries into production improvement.  

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Election 2014
2:50 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Rauner Proposes Tax Changes

Bruce Rauner
Credit WUIS

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner has presented a plan he says will help grow Illinois' economy and create jobs.

The Winnetka businessman spoke today at a family-owned manufacturing company in Schaumburg. 

Rauner wants to eliminate the income tax increase Democrats approved in 2011, phasing the rate back to 3 percent from 5 percent. He also says he would freeze property taxes and impose a sales tax on services such as charter flights, travel agencies and sewer service.  

Rauner says Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has been ``a failure on job creation.''  

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Sports
2:22 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Glenwood Grad Named New UIS Softball Coach

Shannon Nicholson
Credit UIS

The University of Illinois Springfield has announced Shannon Nicholson will be the school's new softball coach. 

Nicholson is from Chatham.  She spent the past six years at Illinois State, most recently as the pitching coach there.

“Being a head coach at such a great Institution is a true privilege and I can’t wait to get started," Nicholson said in a news release. 

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New Law
6:52 am
Thu July 17, 2014

Illinois To Require Bulletproof Vests

Credit flickr.com/appleswitch (Creative Commons)

A new law signed Wednesday is intended to keep police officers safe, by requiring they get protective gear.

A bulletproof vest will become part of an officers' standard equipment issue. Contingent on money, of course.

The new law includes provisions to help ensure there is funding.

It law requires communities and the state apply for a federal grant, that provides matching funds specifically for the purchase of bullet proof vests.

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Neighborhood Recovery Initiative
6:02 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

Election-Year Fight Over What's Next In Probe Of Quinn's NRI

After a day-long meeting Wednesday, a legislative commission will meet again Thursday morning in Chicago. They're set to begin with a call to the U.S. Attorney's office. Democrats and Republicans are at a standstill over what to do next in their probe of Gov. Pat Quinn's controversial anti-violence program.

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Neighborhood Recovery Initiative
12:31 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

Republicans Call "Contempt" As Witnesses Fail To Show At NRI Hearing

A legislative hearing convened to probe a troubled anti-violence program run by Gov. Quinn is underway in Chicago. Federal prosecutors have asked lawmakers to hold off taking testimony, because it may obstruct their investigation. 

It all goes back to a program called the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, which debuted in 2010, when Quinn was in the midst of a tight race for governor against Republican Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington. A state audit showed it was rife with mismanagement, and Republicans say that's because Quinn was trying to use it to boost his campaign.

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Neighborhood Recovery Initiative
9:36 am
Wed July 16, 2014

How The NRI Hearing Could Play Out For Quinn's Campaign

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Governor Pat Quinn's troubled anti-violence program will be in the spotlight today (7/16) when a bipartisan legislative commission meets in Chicago.  

It's not yet clear how lawmakers will proceed, given that the federal government wants them to put a hold on their investigation until mid-October, just before the November election, when Quinn will face Republican Bruce Rauner.

Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown says that's what Quinn's campaign wants.

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