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Statehouse
5:56 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

Blagojevich To Have Another Day In Court

Rod Blagojevich's lawyers laid out a final set of arguments in writing before they step before appellate judges next week to argue that the imprisoned ex-governor deserves a new trial.
 
The 33-page filing with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals repeats arguments made before, including that trial Judge James Zagel displayed bias against
Blagojevich. The brief was posted late Monday.
 
The defense and prosecution will get 30 minutes each to deliver oral arguments before a three-judge panel Dec. 13.
 

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Statehouse
5:52 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

Sweeping Pension Changes Approved

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Illinois General Assembly has approved sweeping changes to pensions for state employees. Governor Pat Quinn says he will sign the legislation. It's intended to fix the worst-funded state retirement system in the country.

Illinois is roughly $100 billion short of the money it promised to pay state employees, university workers, and public school teachers.

After years of debate, lawmakers finally agreed on a solution to the problem: cutting benefits, mainly by reducing the three-percent annual increase retirees have gotten on their pensions.

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Statehouse
5:00 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

Recap Of Pension Vote With Brian Mackey

WUIS' Sean Crawford talks with Statehouse reporter Brian Mackey moments after state lawmakers voted to approve pension legislation. 

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Statehouse
12:32 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

'Suspicious' Powder Mailed To State Office

Credit wikimedia

Officials say Gov. Pat Quinn's constituent office in Springfield was evacuated after an envelope with a "suspicious substance" was found.  Testing, however, revealed the substance was baby powder.

The Governor's Office of Constituent Affairs is located near the state Capitol where lawmakers and others were gathered ahead of an expected pension vote.  

Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson says the envelope was received Tuesday, the office was evacuated and necessary precautions were taken.  

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Statehouse
10:34 am
Tue December 3, 2013

Madigan: Pension Plans Are "Too Rich"

Illinois' House Speaker told a bipartisan legislative committee that the state's pension systems are ``just too rich'' to be afforded in the future.  
Madigan is a Chicago Democrat and the state's longest-serving House Speaker. He says Tuesday that a $160 billion reform proposal was designed to keep long-term low-income workers in mind.

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Statehouse
9:43 am
Tue December 3, 2013

Unions Make Last Pitch To Derail Pension Measure

Union members rallied at the statehouse in January 2013.
Credit npr.org

Illinois unions are working to squelch a plan aimed at
solving the state's $100 billion pension problem hours before an expected vote.
 
Members of the ``We Are One Coalition'' representing major state unions told a
bipartisan legislative panel Tuesday morning that the $160 billion savings plan
is unfair to retirees.
 
Dan Montgomery of the Illinois Federation of Teachers says there is ``no
victory in a public policy that will not work.'' He says adjustments to cost of

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Pensions
7:10 am
Tue December 3, 2013

How Today's Pension Vote Will Go, Procedure-Wise

The pension conference committee meets in Chicago over the summer.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

This morning, legislators on a special, bipartisan panel formed to reach a compromise on Illinois' pension situation will once again meet in Springfield. Already, most of the committee's members have signed off on a deal.  Beyond that, the measure's fate is uncertain.

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Pensions
6:21 am
Tue December 3, 2013

Strange Bedfellows Could Kill Leaders' Pension Deal

A Christmas tree and other holiday decorations bring a festive spirit to the capitol on Monday -- today the statehouse will be bustling during last-minute negotiations ahead of a landmark pension vote.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois legislators will be asked today (12/3) to take what many say could be the most important vote of their careers. They've been called back to Springfield to take up a measure that would drastically alter the state's retirement plans. Doing so would have obvious ramifications for state employees, teachers and university workers whose pensions are at stake. But the impact of a vote is far more widespread. What happens could also affect everything from the state's credit rating and Illinois' next budget, to the 2014 elections. The outcome is anything but certain.

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Statehouse
6:00 am
Tue December 3, 2013

Satellite TV Tax Could Help ADM, Office Depot

Credit ADM

Although pensions are atop the agenda Tuesday in Springfield, the Illinois General Assembly could consider a set of tax breaks for some of Illinois' biggest corporations.

Decatur-based Archer Daniels Midland is moving its corporate headquarters, and wants a tax break to remain in Illinois, most likely Chicago. Office Depot, newly merged with OfficeMax, is deciding whether to put its combined headquarters in Florida or Naperville.

The deal would let the companies keep money they deduct from employee paychecks for Illinois taxes.

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Pensions
2:58 am
Tue December 3, 2013

Republican Hopefuls Split On Pension Overhaul

Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, says the Senate should gather all of its members, and spend a couple of days hearing from experts, as well as from state workers whose pensions would be affected by pension changes.
Credit dillard.senategop.org

The four Republicans running for Illinois governor are taking diverging stances on the pension measure that's bringing the General Assembly back to Springfield tomorrow. The package drafted by the legislative leaders would cut state workers', teachers' and university employees' retirement benefits.

Whether there's enough support for the leaders' plan to pass is uncertain, but it will get Sen. Bill Brady's vote.

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Statehouse
4:42 pm
Mon December 2, 2013

Pension Plan Advances To House And Senate

A bipartisan committee of lawmakers has approved a plan to deal with Illinois' $100 billion pension problem. The measure now moves to the House and Senate for consideration.  

The Associated Press confirmed with six members of the 10-member panel that they had signed the measure Monday after arriving in Springfield for a special session.  
Leaders announced the plan last week. It comes nearly five months after a special committee was formed to tackle the problem.  

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Statehouse
1:14 pm
Mon December 2, 2013

Senator Kirk Opposes State Pension Plan

Sen. Mark Kirk

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk says a pension-reform deal under consideration in Springfield ``falls short of finding the savings needed to solve Illinois' fiscal crisis.''  

The Republican senator issued his statement Monday morning. The deal that legislative leaders announced last week could go to a vote in the Illinois General Assembly as early as Tuesday. Kirk says state lawmakers shouldn't pass a bill that he says lawmakers and voters haven't had time to read.  

Kirk says the proposal ``relies heavily on accounting gimmicks'' and doesn't prevent a permanent income tax hike.  

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Sports
1:11 pm
Mon December 2, 2013

Illini Football Coach To Return Next Season

Tim Beckman

Illinois has confirmed that football coach Tim Beckman will be back for a third season in 2014.
 
Athletic Director Mike Thomas said Monday through a spokesman that Beckman will return. Thomas and Beckman plan to talk later this week about the football staff and other aspects of the program.
 
Speculation about Beckman's job security followed him through much of the 4-8 season that ended with Saturday's 37-34 loss to Northwestern.
 
Some fans called for Beckman's ouster after his first season at Illinois. The Illini went 2-10.
 

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Lincoln
8:07 am
Mon December 2, 2013

"Lincoln In The World" Reviews His Handling Of Foreign Affairs

Kevin Peraino has written a book about Lincoln, but it's on a topic few have tackled.  "Lincoln In The World" examines Lincoln's foreign policy and his influence around the world.  

Peraino is qualified in this area, having served as a foreign correspondent for Newsweek. 

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Health Desk
7:18 am
Mon December 2, 2013

Downstate Cancer Rates Higher

A new study shows cancer rates are higher in downstate Illinois.  Smoking may be the reason.   

A report from the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and the Illinois Department of  Public Health of public health says the southern two thirds of Illinois have higher cancer rates and lower survival rates than those in the northern part.  The study looks at two decades worth of cancer statistics.  SIU Med School's David Steward says the likely culprit is lung cancer, which is especially higher in Men.

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Arts Benefit
7:00 am
Mon December 2, 2013

UIS Art Gallery Kicks Off Silent Auction Fundraiser

From a previous silent auction
Credit uis.edu/visualarts/gallery/

The UIS Visual Arts Gallery hosts multiple exhibits throughout the year that highlight the work of contemporary artists from all over the country. But once annually, the gallery walls are filled with mostly local art - and it's all for sale to the highest bidder. Jeff Robinson heads the UIS gallery - he recently told us all about plans for this year's silent auction,  December 2nd through the 12th: 

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Statehouse
5:57 pm
Fri November 29, 2013

Listen To State Week - November 29, 2013

This week, the candidate filing deadline for the gubernatorial primaries, and legislative leaders' plan to solve the state's pension crisis.

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Pensions
4:10 pm
Fri November 29, 2013

How Leaders Want To Overhaul Illinois Pensions

Details are out on what the leaders of Illinois' General Assembly want to do to the state's retirement systems. They've released an outline of their deal.

After years of debate about what to do about the $100 billion dollars of unfunded liability Illinois has racked up for its pension systems, legislative leaders announced on Wednesday they had agreed to a deal. But they were tight-lipped about what all it involved.

That information has now been spelled out in a one-page overview, a memo passed out to members of the House and Senate.

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Statehouse
2:22 pm
Fri November 29, 2013

Pension Legislation Details Released

Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Earlier this week, legislative leaders announced a deal to bring a pension overhaul before the full chambers. It is estimated to save $160 billion over the next 30 years.  Illinois has the nation's most underfunded retirement systems.

On Friday, the leaders' staff sent around the memo below that highlights changes for public employee pensions.  Lawmakers are expected in Springfield to vote on legislation Tuesday, December 3.  Employee unions have already indicated opposition and if it passes, a legal challenge is likely.

PENSION REFORM PROPOSAL

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Pension Overhaul
4:49 pm
Wed November 27, 2013

Leaders Reach Pension Deal; Now Drumming Up Votes

House Speaker Michael Madigan talked to reporters about pensions during the end of the spring legislative session; he and Senate President John Cullerton were at odds then over how to deal with the state's underfunded retirement systems.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  The leaders of Illinois' General Assembly have reached a deal on pensions. But now they have to persuade legislators to go along with it. The House and Senate will meet in Springfield Tuesday (12/3) to debate the measure.

It's the first time the four leaders of the House and Senate have come together on a plan dealing with the state's pensions, which are the worst-funded in the nation. Details are forthcoming, but House Speaker Michael Madigan came out of a meeting in Chicago saying it will save $160 billion.

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Statehouse
3:40 pm
Wed November 27, 2013

First Same Sex Marriage Has Occurred In Illinois

Credit Cook County Clerk's Office

Two Chicago women have become the first couple to take their vows under the new same-sex marriage law in Illinois.  
Patricia Ewert and Vernita Gray married in a private ceremony Wednesday, just days after a judge agreed to expedite their wedding because of Gray's terminal illness.  

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Local Government
2:24 pm
Wed November 27, 2013

City Of Springfield Could Settle Police File Shredding Lawsuit

Credit wikimedia commons

The City of Springfield could be close to settling a lawsuit over destruction of police records.  Springfield Mayor Mike Houston has filed an ordinance that would settle the case for $102,964.10.

Aldermen could vote on it Tuesday night.  The proposal says Calvin Christian, who filed the suit, would receive about $30,000 while his attorneys would get much of the remainder.  Christian took the city to court after documents he had sought under the Freedom of Information Act were destroyed.  The city would admit no wrongdoing under the deal.

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Statehouse
1:03 pm
Wed November 27, 2013

Pension Deal Reached; Vote Likely Next Week

Credit Wikimedia Commons

House Speaker Michael Madigan says the vote on a pension deal will be ``very difficult'' when lawmakers gather for a special session next week.  
Madigan spoke to reporters Wednesday after legislative leaders said they agreed on a proposal that will help solve Illinois' $100 billion pension crisis.  

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Regional
11:21 am
Wed November 27, 2013

Mississippi River Reopens To Barge Traffic After Townboat Sank

Credit WVIK

A portion of the Mississippi River between eastern Iowa and northern Illinois has reopened to barge traffic, as officials continue to investigate the sinking of a towboat still leaking diesel fuel and oil.
 
Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Colin Fogarty says officials determined Tuesday night that other boats can safely navigate the waterway. A queue has cleared, and boats are traveling through at a slower pace.
 

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Election 2014
5:15 am
Wed November 27, 2013

Poll: It's Anyone's Governor's Race

Seven candidates filed for governor earlier this week: four Republicans (Treasurer Dan Rutherford, whose lieutenant governor pick, Steve Kim, is pictured on the far left; Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-HInsdale, who is on the top right; Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, on the bottom right; and Bruce Rauner) and two Democrats, Gov. Pat Quinn and Tio Hardiman, of Chicago.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Gov. Pat Quinn has been surpassed as the nation's least-liked governor, according to a new poll by Public Policy Polling. Pennsylvania's Pennsylvania's Republican Gov., Tom Corbett, can now claim that title. But the new poll shows Quinn could still have a hard time holding on to his seat.

It was about this time last year, that numbers from Public Policy Polling showed Democrat Pat Quinn as the most unpopular governor in the country.

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Transportation
3:45 am
Wed November 27, 2013

Sangamon County In Top Ten For Deer-Vehicle Accidents

It's likely you or someone you know have struck a deer.   While it seems as though they are always wandering into the road, the actual number of deer-vehicle accidents was down last year.  

State Farm Insurance has already predicted another decline based on claims filed.   The company attributes the expected decline in accidents to a smaller deer population and increased driver awareness.  It says Illinois drivers have less chance of hitting a deer than the national average.  

In Sangamon County last year, there were 335 accidents, 75 fewer than the year before.  

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Harvest Desk
9:09 pm
Tue November 26, 2013

Buffett: "Everybody Can Do Something" To Fight Hunger

Howard G. Buffett
Credit Peter Gray/WUIS

Farmer and philanthropist Howard G. Buffett had several messages for his hometown crowd this week. Among them?  "Everybody who is physically able" can do something to fight hunger.

Buffett spoke Tuesday before signing copies of his latest book, 40 Chances, at a fundraising event for Decatur area charities.  

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Election 2014
6:15 pm
Tue November 26, 2013

Rauner Gives Another $500,000 To Election Bid

Credit brucerauner.com

A Republican candidate for Illinois governor has contributed another $500,000 to his campaign.  
Winnetka venture capitalist Bruce Rauner has now pumped $1.25 million of his own money into the four-way GOP primary for the right to take on Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in 2014.

Rauner filed petition signatures for a ballot position yesterday and also released three years of tax returns. They show he reported more than $53 million in income last year.  
He also disclosed ownership stakes in three professional sports franchises, including the Chicago Bulls.  

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Statehouse
3:48 pm
Tue November 26, 2013

Quinn: Next Week Could End Pension Gridlock

Gov. Pat Quinn says next week is another opportunity to tackle the state's $100 billion pension crisis.  
Legislative leaders have been negotiating on a plan, which could come up next week if there's a special session in Springfield. House Speaker Michael Madigan has told representatives to be ready for a one-day session next Tuesday. The Senate has tentatively set some days aside next week.  

However, details about the plan haven't been released publicly and legislative leaders say they're still hammering out issues.  

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Regional
3:38 pm
Tue November 26, 2013

Cong. Findley Items Donated To Illinois College

Former area congressman Paul Findley has donated his congressional papers and other artifacts from his career to his alma mater, Illinois College in Jacksonville.  

The official transfer took place in the Paul Findley Congressional Office Museum on the campus.  

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