News

Chicago Botanic Garden

It's the most wonderful time of the year.  And Chicago is one of the top locations to visit for the holidays. 

Mary Galligan wrote about some of the most festive attractions in the latest edition of Illinois Times. 

From the Morton Arboretum and Chicago Botanic Garden  to the Brookfield and Lincoln Park Zoos, Navy Pier, Millenium Park and more.  Holiday light displays and events are sure to delight families.

Springfield public schools have seen higher than normal absences in the past week.  The district won't say if the absences are related to the flu, but local health officials say they are seeing more cases in the area.

District 186 reported last week, about 9 percent of students missed class.  The number was higher at Springfield High, where nearly 11 percent of students were out.  Lanphier had 14 percent absent.

Alternative programs in the district had the highest percentage of student absences.  

Logan Correctional Center
Google Maps

Illinois’ main prison for women has nearly 2,000 inmates. An outside monitor says that’s the result of poor planning when Illinois closed the prison at Dwight nearly two years ago.

The majority of Illinois female inmates are incarcerated at Logan Correctional Center in central Illinois.

John Howard Association director John Maki says the state ought not be housing 1,985 women in a prison built to hold 1,106.

wuis

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner's inaugural festivities will include a dinner at the Illinois Capitol, a concert and a free event at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
 
The Winnetka Republican launched a website Monday with a schedule for the 2015
inauguration.
 
Rauner takes the oath of office during a ceremony Jan. 12. Rather than the
traditional inaugural ball that evening, he's planning a concert with a
yet-to-be-named ``famous musical act.''
 

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says the death of Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka leaves essentially two vacancies that should first be filled by outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn and then Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner. But she says voters should also get a chance to cast ballots for the office in 2016.
 
 Topinka died last week. The Republican had won a second term, which starts next
month.  
 
 In a legal analysis released Monday, Madigan says Quinn should appoint someone
until Jan. 12, when the current term ends and new elected officials are sworn

Illinois' senators say federal defense legislation includes a request to a study if a National Park designation is merited for the New Philadelphia archaeological site in western Illinois.  

Congress on Friday sent the defense bill to President Barack Obama. Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk say the bill includes a provision directing the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study on the site.  

flickr/ Jannes Pockele

Americans' love affair with sweets is well known.  It also contributes to health problems like obesity, diabetes and even heart disease.  And where do most people get sugar in their diet?  From sweetened beverages, such as soda.  

That's led some health advocates to push for ways to reduce consumption.  In Illinois, a plan for a penny per ounce tax on the drinks came up last year.  However, it got a cool reception from lawmakers.  

 

Tom Woodward / Flickr Creative Commons

 

Illinois schools are preparing to implement a new standardized test based on the Common Core standards. Some school districts have pleaded with state officials to delay the implementation of the new test, but Springfield school officials say they're ready.

Educators refer to this new test as the PARCC test. That’s the acronym for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. It’s a standardized test, designed by the Pearson company, that will be given to most Illinois students beginning in March.

State Week logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, a look back at the long political career of state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, who died this week following a stroke.

WUIS

Illinois Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner has named an attorney for Indiana's former governor and a former longtime aide to U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert to serve in his administration.  

In a Thursday statement announcing the hires, Rauner says attorney Jason Barclay and Kathy Lydon bring ``invaluable experience.''  

Barclay is a partner at Barnes and Thornburg in Indianapolis. He was legal counsel for former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. He will be Rauner's general counsel.  

Agribusiness company Archer Daniels Midland says it plans to
open a new informational technology center next year in Kentucky that will
eventually employ about 200 people.
 
The Chicago-based company said Thursday that the new center will open in the
second half of 2015 in Erlanger, Kentucky, with about 100 contractors and ADM
employees and eventually expand.
 
The center will be in the same complex as ADM's WILD Flavors offices in
Erlanger. The town is about 15 miles southwest of Cincinnati.
 

Comptroller website

A public memorial service for late Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka is scheduled for next week.
 
The comptroller's office says the memorial service will be held at 9:30 a.m.
Wednesday at Operating Engineers' Local 150 headquarters in Countryside.
 
Topinka died unexpectedly Wednesday at the age of 70 after suffering
complications from a stroke. Her passing came just weeks after she was elected
to a second term.
 
A news release says fellow state leaders, colleagues and family will share

WUIS

The Sierra Club is appealing an Illinois regulators' conclusion that the pollution controls for the FutureGen clean-coal project are adequate.  

The Sierra Club said in a news release Thursday that it has filed a state-court appeal of the Illinois Pollution Control Board's decision to allow the FutureGen project to proceed. The board last month rejected the environmental group's claim.  

The coal companies working on the FutureGen project, known as the FutureGen Alliance, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.  

The City of Springfield has reached a deal to have the former Esquire Theater demolished. 

The theater closed over a decade ago and the building has remained boarded up since then.  That's despite sitting along a busy stretch of MacArthur Boulevard near South Grand.   Alderman Joe McMenamin says the property's owner has agreed to tear down the building by spring.  The city's ordinance to begin fining vacant property owners was a factor.  He says the threat of fines also made potential buyers nervous:

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

In my occupation of watching babies, I’ve noticed newborns actually reach for things that captivate them.  My studies had earlier taught me that reaching is achieved by four-month-olds, but sure enough, newborns exhibit a sort of primal reach for just a few weeks which extinguishes and then comes back a few months later.

gcak12.org

The leading cause of on-the-job deaths in Illinois is vehicle accidents. 

172 people died on the job in Illinois in 2013, up  from the year before.   Almost a third of those deaths came from transportation accidents.   Laura Johnson is the Executive Director of the Iowa-Illinois Safety council.

"It really doesn't matter where your employee gets hurt does it? It is still a catastrophic event for your organizations. So we really push defensive driver training for our member companies".

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

There are now five candidates in the running for Springfield mayor. Incumbent Mike Houston, county auditor Paul Palazzolo, alderman Gail Simpson, city treasurer Jim Langfelder, and perhaps the lesser known of the bunch - community activist Samuel Johnson. He joined us recently for this interview:   

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has died from complications following a stroke. She was 70.

Topinka’s career spanned more than three decades in Illinois government. It was not without controversy, but her distinctive personality won the support of voters time and time again.

Topinka worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter before first running for office in 1980. She served in the Illinois House and Senate until 1995, when she was sworn in as treasurer.

Il. Supreme Court website - state.il.us/court

The Illinois Supreme Court is allowing a speedy review of a state pension overhaul that a lower court has declared unconstitutional.
 
The court issued an order Wednesday granting the government's request for an
expedited appeal.
 
The court says the government must file its initial argument by Jan. 12. The
other side _ a group of state employees, retired teachers and others _ must
respond by Feb. 27.
 
The case involves the pension fix lawmakers and Gov. Pat Quinn adopted last

Archives: 1995 Judy Baar Topinka Profile

Dec 10, 2014
Comptroller website

The following article ran in the March 1995 Illinois Issues magazine:

In a convention center filled with thousands of blue-suited, straitlaced Republicans, leave it to Judy Baar Topinka to tell a fart joke.

The elite of Illinois' GOP were gathered in Springfield for the January inauguration of the six constitutional officers. Having swept the state's top posts, the partisan crowd was in a celebratory make that downright giddy mood for the day's pomp and circumstance.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

In 2015, it will have been 150 years since Abraham Lincoln died. It will also be the tenth anniversary of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield opening. These two milestones will be marked by special events, including an exhibit open now through 2016 that displays original speeches and Lincoln's death bed.

With the death of Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, it would seem that the next step is for the Governor to appoint a successor.  However, election officials are unsure about the process:

The constitution says the governor would choose someone to fill out the term until the next election. Except the term ends January 12  and an election has already been held.   State Board of Elections Director Rupert Borgsmiller says they are not sure how to handle it:

"Nobody knows at this point by looking at the  constitution and the election code itself"

Comptroller website

Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has died, less than 24 hours after having a stroke.  

A statement from her office says the 70-year-old Topinka died early Wednesday morning following complications from the stroke.  

She'd reported discomfort and was admitted to a hospital in Berwyn. After undergoing testing, she lost consciousness Wednesday and was pronounced dead shortly after 2 a.m.  

Topinka, a Republican, won a second term last month in a tough race with Democratic challenger Sheila Simon, the former lieutenant governor.  

state.il.us

State workers behind a challenge to an Illinois
pension law declared unconstitutional are opposing the government's attempt to
have it speedily heard by the Illinois Supreme Court.
 
 Attorney General Lisa Madigan asked the court last week to hasten its schedule
for considering the case. She argues that the government needs a decision
quickly because if it can't implement the law, it would have to find a way to
make up about $1 billion in savings in the first year.
 

Tim Landis chats with Bill about the purchase of the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel, layoffs at Benedictine University and Viper Mine Files Its Application for Expansion.

Rod Blagojevich
U.S. Government

A jury has found a racetrack owner liable in a civil racketeering case that involved actions during Rod Blagojevich's time as Illinois governor.  

The jury in federal district court in Chicago on Monday awarded $26.3 million in damages to four Illinois riverboat casinos. The damages are tripled because the case fell under the civil racketeering statute, making the recovery more than $78 million.  

The trial involved a pay-to-play deal allegedly involving the now-imprisoned Blagojevich and John Johnston, a member of the Illinois racetrack industry.  

Illinois State Museum

You might not realize it, but the lowly freshwater mussel can fill in some of the gaps of history.  Researchers are doing just that here in Illinois, seeing how mussel species have developed and in some cases, died off.  This type of research also shows the impact of changes in ecosystems.   

Taxi by Ben Fredericson Ipad wallpaper

Hints are popping up that the controversial rideshare service called Uber may be expanding its reach in Illinois.

Uber is riding a wave of victory in Illinois. The company fended off regulations it said were too onerous, and helped the General Assembly craft a compromise measure instead. That's awaiting action from the governor.

But the rideshare service may already be making good on plan to grow outside the Chicago region.

SNL sketch cut for time this weekend satirized Ferguson.

WUIS

The nation's first high school sports governing body to face a class-action concussions lawsuit warns that legal action could result in wealthier schools keeping their football programs and cash-strapped ones eliminating them.  

Illinois High School Association Director Marty Hickman said in a Friday news conference that court-imposed policies, such as mandating physicians be present at all practices, would be costly.  

Hickman says the result would be that ``the haves are going to continue to have (football) and the have-nots are not going to have it.''  

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