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Higher Education
7:26 am
Wed December 11, 2013

UIS Smoking Policy Under Scrutiny

Should the University of Illinois Springfield become smoke free?   The campus allows smoking outdoors, away from entryways.  But some want to see lighting up banned completely.

A task force has been talking with those who live and work on the campus, as well as those who visit.  

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Quinn Mum
6:11 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

Illinois Loses Office Depot, Is ADM Next?

  A newly merged Office Depot chose to locate its headquarters in Florida, instead of Illinois. A Republican candidate for governor says Illinois needs to hurry if it doesn't want a similar fate with Archer Daniels Midland.

Archer Daniels Midland is based in Decatur now, and no matter what plans to keep many of its operations there. But it's searching for a new worldwide headquarters.

Chicago's in the running, but so are major cities.

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Harvest Desk
5:43 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

No Farm Bill This Year

Credit Flickr/Andrewmalone

Congress won’t pass a farm bill before early next year.

That was the message from Washington Tuesday, when the principal farm bill players emerged from negotiations and announced they won’t have a full bill ready before the House adjourns for the year on Friday.

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Arts
5:06 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

Local Artist and Veteran Hosts First Gallery Opening

Midnight Beacon
Photo by Dan LoGrasso A Feral Gentleman Productions

December visitors to downtown Springfield's Café Andiamo will be greeted by the photography of artist and Springfield native Dan LoGrasso. A veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, LoGrasso has honed his camera skills as a military journalist on multiple international and domestic deployments.

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Statehouse
2:43 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

S & P Improves Financial Outlook For Illinois

Credit wikimedia

A major credit-rating house has taken a more positive
outlook on Illinois debt than it has in years after last week's pension-reform
vote.
 
Standard & Poor's affirmed its A- rating on state debt backed by general tax
revenue Tuesday but revised its outlook from ``negative'' to ``developing.''
 
The ratings agency says ``developing'' means the rating could be raised or
lowered in the next two years. Analyst Robin Prunty says the change is positive
but risk remains because workers unions will likely sue over the pension law

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Science
10:00 am
Tue December 10, 2013

State Museum Lecture Will Examine Secret Lives Of Paleoindians

Credit Illinois State Archaeological Survey

This month's Illinois State Museum science lecture will focus on the Secret Lives of Paleoindians.  Dr. Thomas Loebel of the Illinois State Archaeological Society will present his research on these early inhabitants of North America and show that there was more to their societies than simply being nomadic hunters.  

He's completed digs throughout the mid west including Illinois and Wisconsin and says much has been learned...

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Lincoln
8:53 am
Tue December 10, 2013

Lincoln Letters Discovered In San Marino

A country can't be too small or too far away, apparently, to get in on the craze for Lincoln memorabilia.  
Springfield's Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum says in a statement that the tiny European nation of San Marino has helped turn up letters to Lincoln.
 
An 1861 letter from San Marino's joint heads of state bestows honorary citizenship on Lincoln. It also expresses hope for peace in the U.S. In a
response, the 16th president writes the Civil War involves the question of  whether a country can save itself from internal division.
 

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Business
8:45 am
Tue December 10, 2013

Ameren Told To Lower Rates

Utility regulators say Ameren Illinois needs to lower
its electricity delivery rate in 2014.
 
The (Decatur) Herald & Review reports (http://bit.ly/1bsYiJy ) the Illinois Commerce Commission says the utility needs to cut its delivery rate by $45
million.
The decision was announced Monday during an annual review and is set to take effect starting Jan. 1.
 
Ameren officials say they're still reviewing the ruling.    They had planned to lower the delivery rate by $37 million. 

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Statehouse
8:42 am
Tue December 10, 2013

Same Sex Marriage Forums To Explain The New Law

Advocates who pressed for same-sex marriage to become legal in Illinois are now sponsoring forums to help gay and lesbian couples understand the law.

Equality Illinois'  Director of Public Policy, Randy Hannig, says he already has been "flooded" with questions from couples who want to marry.

'We're using it as an opportunity to educate," Hannig said.  "We did the same thing three years ago after the civil unions law was signed."

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Rail
2:43 am
Tue December 10, 2013

Open House Scheduled For 3rd St. Rail Improvements

Credit WUIS

A hearing Tuesday afternoon in Springfield will explain improvements to the  3rd Street rail line.
Springfield leaders breathed a sigh of relief when it was announced rail traffic would be consolidated along 10th Street.  They had concerns of more and faster trains traveling through the heart of downtown.  But while the 10th Street corridor is being revamped, the  trains won't wait.  That means safety improvements are needed along 3rd Street.

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Politics
5:33 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Sen. Mark Kirk Hospitalized for Gall Stones

Sen. Mark Kirk takes the stage a Repbulican rally at the 2013 Illinois State Fair.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk has had his gall bladder removed. The procedure happened Monday morning at a hospital in the northern suburbs of Chicago.

Kirk checked himself in to Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital on Saturday. He reported feeling pain in his abdomen. Doctors diagnosed gall stones, and decided to remove his gall bladder.

Dr. Kim Sobinsky did the 30-minute operation. He says most patients recover pretty quickly.

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Regional
4:26 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Menard Co. State's Attorney Cause Of Death Identified

Kenneth Baumgarten

The Sangamon County Coroner has released more details on the cause of death for the Menard County State's Attorney.   Kenneth Baumgarten, who lived in Petersburg, died Friday night .  He was 55.

Coroner Cinda Edwards says after a review of medical documents,  her office has determined the cause of death for Kenneth Baumgarten to be Pulmonary Embolism.  She also says the death will be certified as accidental due to an injury Baumagarten sustained early in November.

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Politics
3:21 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Former Diplomat And U.S. Senate Candidate Rich Williamson Dead At 64

Rich Williamson
Credit wikepedia

The Illinois Republican Party has confirmed Rich Williamson has died.  He passed away Sunday.

The Chicago resident was a long-time leader in the Illinois GOP. He lost a nationally watched campaign against Carol Moseley Braun in 1992. She went on to become the first black woman elected to the U.S. Senate.  

Williamson was chairman of the state Republican Party from 1999-2001 and has served as Republican National Committeeman for Illinois since 2010. He served in diplomatic roles under three presidents and authored numerous books and articles.  

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Stuart Levine
2:56 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Political Fix Theater: Apology Not Accepted

A playbill from "I Wish to Apologize to the People of Illinois," a show about consummate political insider turned e-cigarette salesman Stuart Levine, who was a key FBI informant in the "Operation Board Games" investigation."
Credit Amanda Vinicky

The curtains are closing on the Chicago play "I Wish to Apologize to the People of Illinois" -- a timely production, given that today, Dec. 9, marks five years since Rod Blagojevich's arrest. Two trials later, he was convicted on 18 counts of corruption. At Blagojevich's sentencing hearing, the former governor said he was sorry for his mistakes. But Blagojevich was not the one making apologies in this show. He's not even a character -- just someone who gets mentioned now and again.

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Education
2:06 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Teacher's Strike In Mount Olive

Teachers at the school district in Mount Olive have gone on strike.  

The State Journal-Register reports (http://bit.ly/1cwtFY4) teachers went on strike Monday morning in Mount Olive School District No. 5 in Macoupin County. The town is 50 miles south of Springfield. The teachers' union and school district couldn't agree on a new three-year contract.  

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Ethics Anniversary
1:33 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

December Ninth: A Big Day On Illinois' Ethics Timeline

Then Gov. Rod Blagojevich's mug shot, taken on the morning of his arrest, on Dec. 9, 2008.
Credit wikipedia.org

 December Ninth is a significant day in Illinois' political history: for better, and for worse.

On Dec. 9, 2003 "the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act was signed into law," Illinois Campaign for Political Reform's David Morrison says.

That was Illinois lawmakers' response to the Hired Truck scandal that landed former Gov. George Ryan in prison. It created inspectors general with subpoena power, limited lobbyists' wining and dining of officials, and set conduct standards for state workers.

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Campaign Caps Lifted
7:15 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Blagojevich's Arrest Anniversary: Reason To Celebrate?

Credit WBEZ

  It's been five years to the day since FBI agents arrived at then Governor Rod Blagojevich's house to arrest him on charges of corruption. Blagojevich is serving a 14-year prison sentence, and for most Illinois politicians it's good riddance. Amanda Vinicky reports. 

Fresh off the General Assembly's passing a law to overhaul the state's pensions, I had the chance to catch up with House Speaker Michael Madigan:

VINICKY: "It's the five year anniversary of Blagojevich's arrest coming up ... any reaction, any ...

MADIGAN: "Yeah, we should … celebrate."

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Local Music
7:00 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Epsom Offers Music Scene Shock Rock & Sarcasm

Local band Epsom is Steven Sgro on vocals and guitar, Scott Faingold on vocals, Timothy Harte on drums, and Kristopher Zander on guitar. The group describes their music as "gratuitous shock rock." They joined us recently in the Suggs Studio for this set of performances and an interview: 

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State Week
2:32 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

Listen To State Week - December 6, 2013

This week, a discussion of the changes made to the state's pension system.

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Regional
12:13 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

SIU Closes Carbondale Campus Due To Snow

Credit WSIU FM

Classes at Southern Illinois University are canceled because of a storm that's left a slick layer of ice under several inches of snow, with more wintry weather on the way.

WSIU Radio reports that some services at the 18,000-student Carbondale university were to remain open Friday, including dining services for students, the Morris Library and the student recreation center.  
University administrators called off Friday's classes because of questionable driving conditions.  

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Education
6:54 am
Fri December 6, 2013

UIC Faculty Vote To Strike

Credit University of Illinois, Chicago

Unionized faculty members at the University of Illinois at Chicago have authorized a strike, even as contract negotiations continue.  

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that despite the vote, no strike is imminent.  

UIC United Faculty represents about 800 educators who've been negotiating with school administrators for 15 months.

Union spokesman John Shuler says the group is hoping to avoid a strike. He says the two sides are continuing to work with a federal mediator to approve a new four-year contract. Meetings are scheduled to take place through early January.  

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Court Challenge Ahead
7:12 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

Pension Overhaul Signed Into Law

After the General Assembly passed the pension bill, Gov. Pat Quinn called a statehouse press conference, calling it a 'victory."
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  A major overhaul of Illinois' pensions is now law. Gov. Pat Quinn held a private bill-signing ceremony this afternoon in Chicago. A court challenge seeking to stop it from taking effect is certain.

The new law will cut state workers' and public school teachers' retirement benefits.

It also raises the retirement age; employees younger than 46 will have to work up to five years longer before they can retire. The savings from those changes are intended to rid Illinois of a long-festering budget issue: an unfunded pension liability that's grown to about $100 billion.

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Arts
12:55 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

Jazz Pianist Judy Carmichael Plays Springfield Friday Night

Credit Judy Carmichael.com

Judy Carmichael has been to Springfield many times.  She came often as a child to see relatives.   But the renowned jazz pianist has never played a show in the city.  That is, until this Friday night.   Judy Carmichael, who also hosts the program Jazz Inspired that airs here on WUIS, will perform at the Sangamon Auditorium.

She's known as an accomplished stride player and her shows include original work as well as that of such legends as Count Basie, Fats Waller and Gerhswin.

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Statehouse
11:59 am
Thu December 5, 2013

CapitolView: Pension Reform Analysis

WUIS State Week host, Bill Wheelhouse, guests on the latest CapitolView regarding the pension reform passed in Illinois.

Statehouse
8:38 am
Thu December 5, 2013

After Pension Vote, Gov. Quinn Will Get His Back Pay

Gov. Pat Quinn is set to get about $74,000 in back pay now that Illinois lawmakers have finally approved a pension deal.  

The governor used his line-item veto power this summer when he halted legislators' salaries, saying they shouldn't get paid until they addressed the nearly $100 billion pensions crisis. He also stopped accepting his own paychecks.  
A judge disagreed with Quinn in September and the comptroller began issuing checks to lawmakers. But

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Arts
3:07 am
Thu December 5, 2013

Sangamon Valley Youth Symphony's New Conductor Previews First Concert Of The Season

Eugene Power
Credit svys.org

Eugene Power says working with young musicians allows him to see their musical journeys.  He's taught high school band and has worked with youth in other settings.  Recently, he was named the Sangamon Valley Youth Symphony music director and conductor. 

"You can be involved with music in many, many ways throughout your entire life," Power said. "And that's what I like to see... students kind of catch fire with that and carry it with them."

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Statehouse
8:56 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

A Day After Passage, Pension Legislation Sent To Governor's Desk

A bill aimed at fixing Illinois' hundred billion pension crisis is before Gov. Pat Quinn.  
A spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton said Wednesday that the bill had been sent to Quinn.  
The move came a day after the Illinois General Assembly approved the bill that is estimated to save the state $160 billion over the next 30 years.  

The plan reduces benefits for current and retired public employees. Among other things, it also raises the retirement age on a sliding scale for some employees.  

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Pensions
7:22 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

Pension Changes More Common Among Governments

Republican Leaders Sen. Christine Radogno (left) and Rep. Jim Durkin
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois is just the latest state to vote on legislation to overhaul public pension plans.   

Heather Kerrigan is a contributor with Governing Magazine.  She says this year alone, state and local governments around the country have proposed more than 1,000 pieces of legislation to shore up pensions.  And she says almost all of them face the same challenge. 

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Springfield City Government
5:06 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

Mehlick Leaving Post As Springfield's Top Attorney

Credit www.springfield.il.us

Springfield's top city attorney has submitted his resignation after helping the mayor and aldermen through a difficult legal battle.

Mayor Mike Houston appointed Mehlick this summer, following the departure of former Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen.  Cullen and other city officials are named in the lawsuit filed on behalf of Springfield resident Calvin Christian.  Christian accuses them of knowingly and intentionally destroying the documents he was seeking through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

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Corrections
4:54 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

State Prison Locked Down Because of Illness

The state's Department of Corrections has locked down the Big Muddy River Correctional Center in Ina after dozens of inmates started to show flu-like symptoms.  

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan reports that the department says the Level 1 lockdown means that no visitors are allowed at the facility and no inmates will be transferred.  

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