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This I Believe 2014
7:35 am
Wed February 26, 2014

I Believe in Snow Cones

Alex Brosseau - Southeast HS

I used to live right on the busiest street in the world. Maybe, I’m exaggerating a little bit, but it seemed pretty busy to me. Cars zoomed up and down the street, traveling around the world, and I wasn’t allowed to go past my block on my own, which now seems to be very logical, but at the time it seemed like the most ridiculous rule. On hot summer weeks when I was cooped up to my huge lawn and vast house, my sole escape was Snow Cone Tuesday.

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Statehouse
5:49 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Effort To Consolidate Pension Lawsuits

Efforts are underway to consolidate four lawsuits challenging Illinois' new pension reform law.  

Lawyers representing the respective groups of state retirees who filed class-action suits have asked the Supreme Court to allow them to present their cases as one.  

The groups share the common claim that the new pension reform plan violates the state constitution, which says benefits may not be diminished.  

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'Hastily Implemented'
11:50 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Audit Slams Anti-Violence Program Pushed By Quinn

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

An audit Tuesday criticized an anti-violence program Governor Pat Quinn pushed during his 2010 election campaign.Republicans wasted no time in calling for an investigation.

The non-partisan audit (PDF) says the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative was "hastily implemented" and did not use standard financial safeguards.

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District 186
4:31 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Dist. 186 Will Look At Additional Cuts To Budget

The original list of proposed cuts as presented to the School board on 2/24/14
Credit provided by District 186

As Springfield public schools look to save around $5 million dollars, jobs and programs are on the chopping block. And yet, some say even those cuts would not save enough. 

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Statehouse
4:07 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

House Sets Spending Cap — Down $1b From Last Year

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Illinois House took a key first step in the state budgeting process Tuesday.

It adopted what's called a "revenue estimate" — how much money Illinois is expected to be able to spend in the next fiscal year.

The cap, of $34.495 billion, is significant in several ways: It's about a billion less than last year's number, which means lawmakers are going to have extend the tax increase or find other sources of money, or they'll have to make a lot of cuts. On the other hand, it's not as bad as some people had feared.

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The Arts
11:22 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Students Compete With 'Poetry Out Loud'

Area high school students who competed in the 2014 Central Illinois 'Poetry Out Loud' Regional Contest
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Most teenagers spend more time on the internet chatting with friends than reading books - let alone poetry. However, the art form has seen a recent resurgence, and in some circles is even considered "hip." In Springfield, 14 area high school students recently competed in the regional version of the Poetry Out Loud contest to recite a wide variety of poems from memory.

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This I Believe 2014
7:35 am
Tue February 25, 2014

The Sneetches

Gabrielle Gardner - Southeast HS
Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

I believe that Sneetches are Sneetches. This probably sounds ridiculous to most people, but it is a belief that has greatly affected my outlook on life. In the children’s story “The Sneetches” by Dr. Seuss there is a very important lesson about people and their differences. In this story, there are Sneetches that live on the beach (or the beaches, as Dr. Seuss would say).  Some of these Sneetches were born with big stars on their bellies while others hadn’t anything on theirs.

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Regional
7:28 am
Tue February 25, 2014

FutureGen Gets OK For Morgan County Pipeline Route

FutureGen site in Meredosia
Credit WUIS

Illinois regulators have given the FutureGen Alliance the go-ahead for a 30-mile carbon dioxide pipeline.  

The  State Journal-Register reports  the pipeline would be buried at least four feet underground in northeast Morgan County. It'd be even deeper under farmland.  

The $1.68 billion project will refit a coal-fired power plant in Meredosia  in western Illinois. Authorities want to remove carbon dioxide from the coal and store it underground. The greenhouse gas is linked to climate change.  

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Regional
7:16 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Area Gets Money for Storm Cleanup

Sandbagging last spring at Meredosia
Credit Bill Wheelhouse WUIS

Some federal money is heading into the area to help pay for storm cleanup and recovery from last year.

The state will get $6470,000 to help pay temporary workers to help with the cleanup from flooding, tornadoes and other storms last April and May.

The most recent grant will be spent in Calhoun, Cass, Fulton, Mason, Morgan, Pike, Schuyler and Scott counties.

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Statehouse
6:00 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Prosecutor Backing Electronic Privacy Bill

The Illinois Senate is considering limits on the ways law enforcement can use electronic tracking information. Both privacy advocates and police are in favor of the change.

With the popularity of GPS-enabled smart phones, many of us are constantly broadcasting our location. And Illinois law doesn't have much to say about how that information can and can't be used against us in court.

Privacy advocates want restrictions. And even law enforcement can be left guessing as to what's legal.

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Harvest Desk
6:01 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Changing Dairy Industry Leaves Some Farmers In The Dust

Donnie Davidson turns off the lights in his dairy parlor. His family has been producing grade A milk in Holden, Mo., since the 1930s.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Donnie Davidson’s family has been producing bottled milk in Holden, Mo., since the 1930s. But the 63-year-old farmer decided to sell his herd of 50 milking cows in November after the roof on one of his barns collapsed from last winter’s snow.

Rebuilding the barn would have cost about $20,000. Then there were the costs of renovating a silo and paying for hired help since Davidson’s children won’t be taking over the business. It made financial sense to close the dairy, and grow crops and build a herd of beef cattle instead.

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Election 2014
1:29 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

13th Cong. District Candidate: George Gollin

George Gollin launches his bid for the 13th Congressional District on July 23, 2013.
Credit Jeff Bossert/WILL

University of Illinois physics professor George Gollin is one of three Democrats seeking their party's nomination in the 13th Congressional District, along with three Republicans.

He hasn't run for elected office before, but he tells  Sean Powers that he has worked on federal legislation, while serving on the board of a higher education group.

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Statehouse
10:37 am
Mon February 24, 2014

State Fiscal 'Toolbox' Available To Better Explain Budget Issues

David Merriman
Credit igpa

Illinois, like many states, suffered financially during the recession.  But an economist says Illinois was in a weaker position to deal with the challenge.    

David Merriman is with the University of Illinois' Institute of Government and Public Affairs.  
The Institute has developed what's called the Illinois Budget Policy Toolbox.  Merriman says it will provide information on the state's finances and analysis of proposals that come up during an election year.

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This I Believe 2014
7:35 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Great Sacrifices Give Great Rewards

Pauline Kersjes - Springfield HS
Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

    It is July 31st. I am standing in an airport far away from here. I turn around for the last time and see my parents and three sisters waving goodbye with tears running down their faces. I have not cried a single tear today. I think the tears are all gone. I cried enough yesterday. I am way too excited to cry anyway. Today it is finally going to happen. I have been waiting for this moment for almost two years. I believe that this year is going to be worth it.

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Statehouse
7:18 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Quinn Getting Campaign Operation in Gear

Credit Amanda Vinicky

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is ramping up his re-election campaign. 

Quinn's campaign announced over the weekend the Chicago Democrat has hired Illinois native Bill Hyers to serve as chief strategist. 

Hyers most recently managed Bill de Blasio's successful campaign for mayor of New York. In 2012 he managed President Barack Obama's Pennsylvania campaign operation. He was Midwest director for Obama in 2008.  

Quinn is seeking his second full term. He faces a lesser-known opponent, anti-violence activist Tio Hardiman of Hillside, in the March 18 primary.  

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Higher Ed
6:00 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Legislation Would Block Faculty Loans

Illinois lawmakers are considering whether to crack down on universities giving a certain type of interest-free loan to faculty. Except it doesn’t seem to be happening in Illinois.

State Rep. Jack Franks, a Democrat from Marnego, says the legislation is meant to prevent universities from abusing their tax-exempt status.

“What we found was that tax-exempt universities were giving interest-free … loans, and also forgiving loans, for second homes for professors, at a time when students are taking on excessive debt," Franks says.

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Harvest Desk
6:18 pm
Sun February 23, 2014

Are Low Corn Prices Here To Stay?

Credit dok1/flickr

The days of record high corn prices are gone, at least for now, and they’re only going to continue their decline, according to projections released this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (PDF)

You can pin part of the blame on the 2012 drought, when corn hit an all-time high of $8.31 per bushel. The dry conditions made corn a limited commodity.

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Statehouse
4:25 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

AP: Rutherford Spent $27k To Probe Lawsuit Charges

Dan Rutherford

Documents obtained by The Associated Press show Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford spent nearly $27,000 in taxpayer money on an investigation into allegations of political coercion and
sexual harassment against him.
 
 The Republican candidate for governor revealed the cost of the report under the
Freedom of Information Act. But his lawyers have refused to disclose results of the investigation into the former employee's charges.
 
 Edmund Michalowski claimed in a federal lawsuit Feb. 10 that Rutherford

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Regional
3:50 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Lake Decatur Water Release Could Result In Flooding Along Sangamon River

Lake Decatur
Credit flickr/lewismarien

City officials in Decatur say they are releasing large quantities of water out of Lake Decatur that could lead to flooding and other problems along the Sangamon River.  

The city said in a news release Friday that water flowing down the river and snowmelt have led to high water in the lake. Lake Decatur sits on the eastern edge of the central Illinois town.  
The lake is fed by the Sangamon River. The river then flows out of the lake and eventually winds its way west toward Springfield.  

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Regional
3:41 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Two Tornado Touchdowns In Sangamon County Thursday

The National Weather Service in Lincoln has confirmed  at least 7 tornadoes developed in central and east central Illinois  during the late afternoon hours of February 20th.  Two reports of the confirmed  tornadoes were in Sangamon County. An NWS Lincoln damage assessment team is  still out doing surveys on the other tornadoes.
 
 
  .Divernon, IL Tornado (Sangamon County)...
 
  RATING:                 EF-0
  ESTIMATED PEAK WIND:    80 MPH
  PATH LENGTH /STATUTE/:  0.2 MILES
  PATH WIDTH /MAXIMUM/:   75 YARDS
  FATALITIES:             0

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Statehouse
2:44 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Same Sex Couple Weds In Cook County After Judge's Ruling

One Illinois same-sex couple has gotten married after a judge ruled ruled gay couples in the Chicago area don't have to wait until June to marry.
 
Mercedes Santos and Theresa Volpe were married Friday afternoon in downtown Chicago. They have been together 22 years and have three children. Clerk David Orr said he would start offering the licenses Friday after the federal judge's ruling. It applies only to Cook County.
 
A judge waived the 24-hour waiting period for Santos and Volpe because they were plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
 

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State Week
1:47 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Listen To State Week - February 21, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, the latest news from the candidates vying for the Republican nomination in the next Governor's race.

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This I Believe 2014
7:35 am
Fri February 21, 2014

I Believe in Dirt

Abagail Perrero - Southeast HS
Credit Randy Eccles / WUIS

I believe in Saturday mornings with my mother. Waking up in the morning, the sun just barely peeking in through my curtains. Struggling into last night’s jeans, eyes still glued shut with sleep. Bad TV dramas while both of us avoid our homework in the winter, but in the summer we skip breakfast and take bumpy car rides. We walk hand in hand past a pockmarked brick road and a green bar door, down and over one block from a parking meter left unpaid. A skip over the train tracks and we are at the Farmers’ Market. A right turn for home-made bread rolls and our favorite salad guys.

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Regional
7:17 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Four Suspected Tornados Hit Central Illinois

Credit UNC-Greensboro

Surveyors are expected to head to Mechanicsburg and Pana Friday to review damage firsthand from Thursday's storms.

The National Weather Service says four possible tornadoes touched down in central Illinois, causing minor damage.  

Officials with the agency's office in Lincoln say they're reviewing preliminary reports of four twisters that struck Thursday afternoon.  

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Statehouse
12:05 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Arizona Pension Case Could Chart Course for Illinois

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

A court case decided in Arizona Thursday could have implications for Illinois' ongoing legal battle over pensions. The decision (pdf), by the Arizona Supreme Court, struck down an attempt to reduce Arizona officials' retirement benefits.

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Minimum wage debate
5:55 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Minimum Wage Debate Moves To Universities

  The president of Southern Illinois University came out against raising the state's minimum wage on Thursday. President Glenn Poshard says it'd be too big a hit on the school's bottom line.

While the battle for a higher minimum wage brews in Springfield, Poshard warns of casualties in Carbondale and Edwardsville. Programs at those two campuses, he says, would be hurt in the long run.

"Maintaining the current level of student employment would likely require spending decreases in other areas," he said.

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Sugar tax
5:46 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Proposed Beverage Tax Could Bring Down Health Costs; Unions Oppose Measure

Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago)
Credit Courtesy of ILGA.gov

  Illinois already has so-called 'sin taxes' on alcohol, tobacco and gambling. Now lawmakers are trying to add sugary drinks to that list. The proposal faces an uphill battle in Springfield.

Sin taxes have a dual purpose: deterring people from what's regarded as undesirable behavior, and generating extra tax money.

In this case, lawmakers want to charge a penny per ounce of sugar-sweetened drinks like soda.

They say it would generate 600 million dollars in revenue. Half the money would go to the state's healthcare program for the poor.

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Smoking in cars with children
5:32 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Proposal To Ban Smoking While Driving Children Raises Privacy Questions

Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  State lawmakers are considering legislation to prevent smoking in cars with children. Though the measure is aimed at protecting passengers' health, the proposal is raising questions about personal privacy.

The measure would make it illegal to smoke in a car with a minor, but a police officer couldn't pull over drivers just for lighting up.

Even so, Kathy Drea, of the American Lung Association, says putting a law on the books sends a message to smokers.

Drea compares the proposal to other laws pertaining to vehicles.

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Tax credits for the working poor
5:27 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Lawmakers Considering Doubling Tax Credit For Poor

Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago)
Credit Courtesy of ILGA.gov

  Efforts to raise the minimum wage have been getting a lot of attention, but it's not the only proposal intended to improve the lives of the working poor. Following the call of Gov. Pat Quinn, some lawmakers want to double Illinois' tax credit for low income workers.

The earned income tax credit began as a federal program, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.

Illinois added its own state tax credit later. It's aimed at helping people work their way out of poverty by increasing their spending power.

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Healthcare
5:17 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Healthcare Proposal Worries Disabilities Advocates

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Advocates for people with disabilities say they're worried Governor Pat Quinn's newest healthcare initiative would crowd out certain groups.

The governor's proposal would consolidate nine separate programs that serve people with disabilities. Michael Gelder, the governor's senior advisor on healthcare, says centralizing these programs would be more efficient.

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