News

Brian Mackey/WUIS

The decision of whether two November ballot measures dealing with term limits and redistricting are constitutional is in the hands of a Cook
County judge.
 
Oral arguments were Wednesday in a lawsuit attempting to keep both measures off
the ballot.
 
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Mary Mikva says she'll issue a written decision by noon on June 27.
 
Mikva has said she wants to expedite a ruling because it will affect the November election. Ballots are certified in August.
 

Wikimedia Commons

  Since the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the state's eavesdropping law in March, it's been legal to record audio of someone without asking permission. But legislators are working on a replacement.

The Supreme Court found the old law overly broad. It was a crime even to record in public, where people shouldn't really have an expectation of privacy. Because of that, Illinois' law was considered one of the strictest in the nation.

City of Springfield

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston is defending the city’s decision to renew a contract for CWLP insurance, despite criticisms over the lack of a bidding process.

The 3 year contract with R.W. Troxell to insure the city owned utility will cost around $1.8 million per year.  Mayor Houston, during an interview on WUIS’ Illinois Edition, said the local firm has been doing business with the city for 30 years with a solid track record.

Mother Jones Museum

An Illinois monument to famed labor crusader Mother Jones in the graveyard where she's buried is getting a makeover, thanks to donors from 17 states.  

The (Alton) Telegraph  reports the restoration of the 22-foot granite obelisk was announced Tuesday in the union-owned Mount Olive cemetery where Mary Harris Jones is buried.  

A symbolic check for $61,000 was presented during the ceremony, representing donations ranging in size from $5 to $5,000 from 107 union organizations.  

springfield.il.us

One Springfield Alderman called the two zoning changes approved for halfway homes in Springfield during last night's council meeting as "picking and choosing."

Zoning classifications for halfway houses were called into question last fall when a man living in one, known as House of the Rainbow, was arrested for murder.  After that, the council refused to go along with zoning for that operation.   

Yet last night, changes were allowed for properties on East Jackson and South 11th.  

Amanda Vinicky

A struggling effort to change how Illinois draws its legislative districts will live another day. State election authorities Tuesday (6/17) voted to give it some extra time to prove it deserves to make it on the November ballot.

Supporters were joyous last month when a semi-truck pulled into the state board of elections' parking lot in Springfield.

A campaign to overhaul the state's redistricting process was dropping off a 27-foot-long document, filled with a half million signatures.

http://www.iema.illinois.gov/about/Director.asp / IEMA, Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Monken

The Midwest isn't typically thought of as a place at risk of a major earthquake. Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Jonathon Monken says the chances are higher than most people would estimate. He says the U.S. Geological Survey says that in the next 50 years, there is a 10-percent chance that Illinois could experience an earthquake of the magnitude emergency responders are running practice exercises for this week. It's meant to test capabilities in the event of a quake in the New Madrid and Wabash Valley seismic zones.

@SangCoFair

The Sangamon County Fair gets underway Wednesday night.  This year, the fair is featuring several well known acts as well as queen pageant and demolition derby.  Lee Strubinger sat down with coordinator Elizabeth McDevitt, who says this year the fair spent more on entertainment than any other year.

For more information about this year's festival, including festival line-up and prices, click here.

Wikimedia Commons

  Babies born in Illinois are already tested for dozens of disorders. Now the state public health department is adding more to that list.

Newborns will be tested for SCID, a rare genetic disorder that makes babies especially susceptible to bacterial and viral infections.

Every baby born in the state of Illinois gets a tiny pinprick on the heel of their foot. The blood drawn is then sent to an Illinois Department of Public Health lab, where it's tested for dozens of genetic disorders.

flickr/MKFeeney

A U.S. district judge has agreed to lift federal oversight of whether Chicago hiring practices are corrupted by political favoritism.  

Monday's historic ruling means the court accepts that the nation's third-largest city now has mechanisms in place to stamp out illegal patronage.  

Citizens Utility Board

Consumers who buy their electricity from alternative energy providers have been seeing some price hikes lately.  A consumer group is asking state regulators to look into it.

The Citizens Utility Board says the rate spikes are a recent trend in the four years of open competition in Illinois. CUB Executive Director David Kolata says he thinks the companies are unnecessarily trying to pass their extra costs from the harsh winter onto the customer.

WUIS

Today is officially "Yasir Hasnain Day" in the village of Forsyth.  It's in honor of the incoming freshman student's 13th place finish in the recent Scripps National Spelling Bee. 

It was Yasir's fourth time in the competition and his highest finish.   The soon to be freshman student said he had fun and, despite being in competition with one another, friendships were made.

"When I made it to the semifinals... when they had commercial breaks, we would talk about random stuff like the (NBA) Heat and the Pacers games," he said.

Decatur Park District

The Scovill Zoo in Decatur is getting nearly a half-million dollars in state grants to build a walk-through bird exhibit.   The money is part of a state grant program that will give out $20 million dollars in capital funds for facility improvements and added exhibits at museums operated by local governments and cities.

Scovill is also getting the funding for a crowned-crane exhibit, pavilion, ADA walkway and a generator.

Major attractions receiving money include the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum of Natural History and the Adler Planetarium.

police cars
flickr.com/appleswitch (Creative Commons)

Police ticket quotas are now illegal in Illinois. Over the weekend, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law prohibiting the practice.

The backers of this change say there are better ways to evaluate a police officer than on how many tickets she writes.

They say quotas create divisions between the police and they communities they’re supposed to serve.

State Week logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner chimes in on how to fix the state's budget woes.  Also, State Representative Derrick Smith loses his seat after his conviction on Federal corruption charges, and new developments in the case leveled against state Treasurer Dan Rutherford.

The Illinois Republican Party says longtime conservative activist Jack Roeser  has died. He was 90. The wealthy businessman spent years on the outside, fighting the party establishment.

Roeser became a rich man from the company he founded: Otto Engineering. It makes, among other things, radio components for police and military use.

  Smoking could be banned at all of Illinois' public colleges under legislation passed by the General Assembly. Though several campuses have already gone smoke-free, this measure would make it illegal to smoke anywhere at the state's 12 public universities, plus its community colleges.

Though the final vote mostly fell upon party lines — Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed — some lawmakers crossed ideological boundaries.

Rep. Donald Moffitt (R-Gilson) says the mandate is about the health of young college students.

Black Sheep Cafe

The second ever Dumb Fest gets underway this afternoon at 3 p.m.  Forty bands will grace multiple stages on both Friday and Saturday.  
The festival is a part of the ever changing Southtown scene in Springfield, located at 11th and South Grand Avenue.  Lee Strubinger made his way to Dumb Records to sit down and talk with festival curator Brian Galecki.

pikecountyil.org

Pike County has a new state's attorney to replace the former top prosecutor who accused the county sheriff of misconduct.  

The Quincy Herald-Whig reports  that the Pike County Board held a special meeting Thursday night to accept former Pike County State's Attorney Carrie Boyd's resignation. Board members also named Matt Goetten as her replacement to serve through Nov. 30. That's when voters will elect someone to serve the remaining two years of Boyd's term.  

The Reverend Walter “Slim” Coleman was one of several clergy who endorsed Quinn at an event on the South Side this morning.  Coleman talked up the importance of registering “unlikely voters” - people who feel isolated from the political process.

But then, with the Democratic governor silently at his side, Coleman warned against another kind of “unlikely voter.”

WUIS

Republican Bruce Rauner is presenting a few ideas of how he’d run the state if he becomes Illinois governor.

Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn has liked to rib his Republican rival over not presenting a budget plan yet.  Rauner today didn’t unveil a budget… But did address some specific areas he sees where the state could save money - or at least embrace some good government reforms.

"What’s crystal clear, crystal clear, is there is major, major savings to be had. This first list of 10 is a great step in the right direction," he said.

Illinois Health Campaign Among Nation's Costliest

Jun 12, 2014
healthcaregov.net

The campaign to promote President Barack Obama's health care law in his home state of Illinois has been one of the nation's costliest with a $33
million contract for work by high-priced public relations experts.
 
An Associated Press review of hundreds of documents finds more than 90 people billed at least $270 an hour under a contract with few built-in restraints.
 

Treasurer Dan Rutherford
Brian Mackey/WUIS

A former state employee on Thursday filed more allegations of political and sexual harassment against Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford. He's also expanding the list of defendants to include Mitt Romney's presidential campaign organization.

Edmund Michalowski quit the treasurer's office and sued Rutherford shortly before this year's Republican primary, driving his boss to last place in the race for governor.

His initial lawsuit was dismissed last week, but he was allowed to file another version.

StephenBardo.com

It's hard to believe 25 years has passed since the University of Illinois men's basketball Final Four team was on the court.  The team known as the Flyin' Illini.  

That's also the name of a book by the former point guard of the team Stephen Bardo, who works now as a Big Ten Network analyst.  And it has ruffled feathers, with criticisms of some players and coaches.

Marina Chavez

Austin based musician Alejandro Escovedo appears in Springfield Saturday night as part of Bedrock 66 Live. While he could be described as legendary in the music community, he is not a household name. Saturday's show is at Donnie's Homespun.  Tickets at Bedrock66.com

black bear
DeKalb County Sheriff’s Dept. via Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources

A black bear has been spotted in northern Illinois, heading east across the state. The species was once well represented in Illinois, but they've been quite rare for more than a century.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources says a bear hasn't been spotted in Illinois since 2009. Now there have been multiple sightings in the last week or so — from outside Galena, through Rockford, and most recently near Genoa, in DeKalb County.

City of Springfield

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says silence from the council about reaffirming the NAPA contract signals permission to choose how to handle the $3,000,000 deal. 

He’s moving forward with it.

Springfield City Council had the chance to send a message to the mayor, but remained silent during the committee of the whole meeting on the issue.

After the meeting, Ward One Alderman Frank Edwards said because the city didn’t seek out bids from other companies, the NAPA contract puts the city in a bind.

Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  In Illinois, 25,000 men and women are released from state prisons each year. Ideally, that means 25,000 people entering the job market. But Illinois already has higher-than-average unemployment, and a criminal record can make it even harder to find work. That's why the Illinois Department of Corrections is trying to lend a hand to ex-offenders through a series of specialized events.

senategop.state.il.us

Six months after state law increased interstate highway speeds from 65 to 70 miles per hour, transportation officials say there have been fewer fatalities on the road.  

Opponents of the bill said the increase in speed would lead to an increase in accidents.

Priscilla Tobias, state safety engineer with I-DOT, says while numbers are down, it's hard to discern whether the number is a trend.  As of Monday, Tobias says there's been 341 vehicle fatalities this year.

Peoria Public Radio

A federal jury in Chicago has convicted Illinois state Rep. Derrick Smith of bribery for taking $7,000 from a purported day care operator.

Jurors returned with their verdict Tuesday after deliberating about four hours over two days.  

At trial, prosecutors played secret recordings of the 50-year-old Chicago Democrat allegedly accepting 70 $100 bills in exchange for a letter supporting a state grant. But it was all part of an FBI sting.  

The recordings of Smith were made by a campaign worker-turned-informant.  

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