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Affordable Care Act
7:02 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Young People, Medicaid Concerns As Obamacare Deadline Looms

Credit opensource on Flickr

  With one week left to sign up for the Affordable Care Act, Illinois' enrollment numbers are on track to meet their goals. But, many newly covered Illinoisans aren't actually buying private insurance.

About 114,000 people in Illinois have bought insurance under Obamacare. But 200,000 more have been signed up for Medicaid, the state's healthcare program for the poor.

Although the number of Medicaid enrollees is larger than the pool of people who've bought insurance, officials say they're not worried.

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Election 2014
5:40 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Sen. Kirk Won't Campaign Against Durbin

Dick Durbin (Left) and Mark Kirk
Credit NPR

Illinois' Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk says he has no plans to campaign with the GOP state lawmaker hoping to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick
Durbin in November.
 
On election night, Kirk said he'd support the GOP nominee. Still, he told reporters Monday he's going to be ``protecting his relationship'' with Durbin
and won't launch ``into a partisan jihad.''
 
Durbin is the Senate's No. 2 Democrat.
 
State Sen. Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove won the GOP nomination last week. His

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Income tax
10:23 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Ill. Voters Don't Want Tax Increase, Even If It Means Losing Services

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Illinois voters want the temporary income tax increase to rollback in January, as scheduled, even if it means sizable cuts in state spending.

Just over a quarter of voters surveyed favor making the current income tax rate permanent, while 60 percent oppose it.

The current 5 percent rate will drop at the end of the year unless lawmakers intervene.

The public's opposition is still strong — stronger even — when voters are told lowering the tax rate will add billions of dollars to the state budget deficit.

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Education
7:25 am
Mon March 24, 2014

ISU President Out After Eight Months-Gets $480,000 Severance

New ISU President Larry Dietz
Credit Illinois State University

Illinois State University President Timothy Flanagan has resigned after eight months on the job.

Flanagan is being investigated by ISU police after a former campus employee accused him of assault.  

He stepped down during a special Board of Trustees meeting Saturday. The resignation took effect immediately.  

A statement on the university's website says Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Dietz was named to replace him. Dietz was given a three year contract to become the President. He had been a finalist a year ago in the search where Flanagan was selected.

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Harvest Desk
6:00 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Drones: Coming Soon To A Farm Near You?

Chad Colby shows Midwest farmers how GPS controls the high-definition camera attached to the UAV.
Peter Gray/WUIS

Unmanned aerial vehicles aren’t just for spies or for the battlefield. Farmers all over the country think drones can give them a leg up, too.

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Governor's Budget
10:11 am
Sun March 23, 2014

A Possible Six-Month Budget From Gov. Quinn?

  More than a month after he was supposed to outline his financial agenda for the state, Governor Pat Quinn will deliver his budget address this week. He has promised to give a long-term plan as well. But some legislators fear Illinois will go the opposite route and adopt a partial-year budget.

During his budget speech Wednesday, Gov. Quinn will presumably answer the question he has avoided answering for months: what should Illinois do about the temporary income tax increase, set to rollback in January? That's midway through the next fiscal year.

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Election 2014
7:56 pm
Sat March 22, 2014

Rauner Introduces Democratic, Indpendent Backing

Bruce Rauner stands with wife Diana on election night. Diana Rauner calls herself a "lifelong Democrat," and is one of a couple dozen Democratic supporters Rauner announced Thursday.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  The Republicans' nominee for governor, Bruce Rauner, announced a round of new endorsements Thursday, but not from members of his own party.

Rauner is suspect in the eyes of some Republicans for his ties and campaign contributions to leading Democrats, like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

That may have been why his wife, Diana, wasn't often seen with him on the campaign trail leading up to the primary.

"This morning I'm here as a lifelong Democrat ..."

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Statehouse
2:36 pm
Sat March 22, 2014

Feds Were Searching For Child Porn On Lawmaker's Computers

Keith Farnham

Federal agents were searching for child pornography when they seized computers from former state Rep. 

  Keith Farnham's home and offices this month.

Search warrants released by the Illinois House Saturday seek documents "concerning minors visually depicted while engaged in sexually explicit conduct" from computers in Farnham's
Elgin home and office as well as his Springfield office.

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Budget fight
4:47 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

Senators Spar On Budget Estimates

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  The Illinois legislature's discussions over state spending are getting heated. On Friday, Lawmakers heard from agencies facing massive budget cuts.

Eight agency heads told Senators how painful it'd be to cut 20 percent from their operations. That figure is based on a projected billion-dollar shortfall next year, when the temporary income tax hike begins to sunset.

It could mean less funding to schools, fewer state police patrols, closure of prisons and mass layoffs.

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State Week
2:35 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

Listen To State Week - March 21, 2014

This week, a discussion of Tuesday's election results.

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Election 2014
5:24 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

Tio Hardiman Considers Write-In Campaign For Governor

Tio Hardiman
Credit Tio Hardiman campaign

Anti-violence activist Tio Hardiman says he actually feels pretty good about his loss to incumbent Pat Quinn in Hardiman’s first try to become the governor of Illinois.

Quinn was the expected winner in the primary race Tuesday, but Hardiman says he’s proud that he was able to pull in more than 28 percent of the vote.

But that doesn’t mean he was comfortable with the results.

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Minimum wage debate
4:40 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

Minimum Wage Proposal Clears First Hurdle

Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  A plan to raise the minimum wage in Illinois has cleared its first legislative hurdle. But as it moves through the General Assembly, it continues to draw criticism from business groups.

The plan would gradually increase the state's minimum wage to $10.65 an hour. Illinois' current rate is $8.25, already one of the highest in the nation.

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Harvest Desk
2:06 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

Harvest Blog: Certified Organic Food Sector Growing

Credit ams.usda.gov

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday announced new data on certified organic food, showing the industry grew just over four percent in 2013, with a record breaking 18,513 farms and businesses in the United States.

Certified organic food has seen a 245 percent increase since 2002, according to the Agricultural Marketing Service's National Organic Program.  Last year the federal government certified 763 producers.  

The following is from USDA: 

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Minimum wage debate
9:45 am
Thu March 20, 2014

Gov. Quinn Shops The Gap To Promote Raising Minimum Wage

Gov. Pat Quinn shops at the downtown Chicago location of The Gap to promote raising the minimum wage in Illinois.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  As legislators who'll have to vote on a minimum wage increase began debating the issue in Springfield, Governor Pat Quinn was in Chicago promoting it.

Gov. Quinn has been relentless, lately, about increasing Illinois' minimum wage up from $8.25.

His latest push involved going shopping at The Gap for gifts for his nieces. He invited the media to witness it.

Quinn paid $77.49 — cash — for three sweaters.

The Gap's moving to pay its employees $10 an hour. Quinn says Illinois should follow that example.

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Statehouse
4:28 pm
Wed March 19, 2014

Rep. Farnham Steps Down; Cites Health Reasons

Rep. Keith Farnham

A day after the primary race, a member of the Illinois House has stepped down.  The legislator is under federal scrutiny.

Representative Keith Farnham, a Democrat from Elgin, gave no reason in his one-sentence resignation letter.

But in a statement, Farnham says he has been battling serious health issues for years, and in coming months those health issues will require his full attention. 

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Election 2014
3:30 pm
Wed March 19, 2014

Could Governor Candidates Spend $100 Million?

Credit flickr/BevandSteve

Political experts anticipate the Illinois gubernatorial candidates could spend more than 100 million dollars in the next eight months.

University of Illinois Springfield political science Professor Kent Redfield says Republican nominee Bruce Rauner and incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn should attract big money from donors both in- and out of Illinois.

"It’s both a contest between these two people and the interests of the state of Illinois but it’s also drawing a national conflict involving labor and big business," he said.

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Election 2014
12:57 pm
Wed March 19, 2014

Fresh From Win, Candidate Bruce Rauner Backs Off Government Union Rhetoric

Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  Now that he's the Republicans nominee, it seems like Bruce Rauner is backing away from a campaign mantra.

During the primary race, Rauner consistently repeated these three words:

"Government union bosses."

But that wasn't part of his victory speech Tuesday night. Nor did he single out unions at the GOP's unity lunch the next morning. Rather, Rauner seemed to be trying to make nice with labor.

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District 186
8:00 am
Wed March 19, 2014

District 186 Identifies Individuals Who Could Lose Jobs

 The Springfield school board had earlier approved the reduction of over 40 positions for next school year. On Monday the board identified which specific workers may be without a job as a result. Dave Heinzel is one of them. The board voted to give him what's called a reduction in force notice. He oversees media production - and helps keep the district website up and running.

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Election 2014
4:04 am
Wed March 19, 2014

Rauner, Quinn Chart Course For Conflict

Republican Bruce Rauner will take on Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in this fall's election.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The election returns in yesterday’s Illinois primary were not even in before the candidates for governor started attacking each other. Republicans chose wealthy investor Bruce Rauner to take on Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn. Brian Mackey looks at the surprisingly close election results, and what’s ahead for the campaign.

Rauner spent millions more dollars than all his rivals combined, and had huge leads in the polls. But in the end, he only won by three percentage points. Of course, a victory is still a victory.

RAUNER: “Let’s get ‘em! Let’s get ‘em!”

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Regional
12:20 am
Wed March 19, 2014

Wes Barr Wins Primary For Sangamon County Sheriff

Credit facebook.com/wesbarr2014

The Republican primary for Sangamon County sheriff went to former sheriff’s lieutenant Wes Barr.

Barr retired from the department last year and soon after announced he would run to replace the outgoing sheriff Neil Williamson, who has held the job for over 20 years. But Williamson backed his undersheriff Jack Campbell.

The race seemed to split the Republican party establishment in Sangamon County.  Both received key endorsements. The candidates also sparred over issues such as the department’s taser policy, which Barr criticized and Campbell defended.

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Election 2014
8:07 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Rutherford: 'I'm Looking Forward To Vindicating Myself'

Credit danrutherford.org

  Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford basically conceded his campaign for governor earlier tonight.

His standing in the polls plummeted after a former employee filed a lawsuit accusing the treasurer of sexual harassment and coercing him to do political work.

Rutherford says the past few weeks have been the most challenging in his life.

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Election 2014
4:26 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Voting Check-In: Primary Election Going Smoothly, Slowly

Campaign signs litter the lawn of Springfield's busiest polling place, Knights of Columbus Hall, on Tuesday.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  The polls in Illinois are open until 7 o'clock on Tuesday. Just a fraction of registered voters have bothered showing up at recent primary elections.

Terry Shryrock is directing traffic inside the Knights of Columbus hall on the west side of Springfield. He's spent the past 10 years as an election judge.

"It's fun to watch all the people come in and vote, especially when they bring in their little kids," he said. "It's very interesting."

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Election 2014
12:28 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Rauner Nabs Republican Nomination, But Not The Dominant Win Predicted

Bruce Rauner and wife Diana celebrate at his election night party. Rauner won the GOP gubernatorial nomination by a closer margin than was expected.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  Bruce Rauner narrowly won the Republican primary for governor. He'll face Governor Pat Quinn, who is aiming for a second full-term. Neither of the wins were surprising, but the margins were.

Quinn was basically guaranteed Democrat's nod, after former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley dropped out of the running in September.

Still Quinn's so-called "token" opponent, Tio Hardiman — who had no money to really run a campaign — grabbed 28 percent of the vote. That's largely being viewed more as "anti-Quinn" than "pro-Hardiman."

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Election 2014
6:00 am
Tue March 18, 2014

Early Voting Declines From Previous Elections

Illinois polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 18.
Credit wikimedia

After months of campaigning, Illinois voters go to the polls Tuesday. But turnout for recent primary elections has been quite low.

Jim Tenuto, with the State Board of Elections, says fewer than one in four registered voters has pulled a primary ballot in recent years. And leading up to the primary, things have been calm this year, too.

"This election seems very quiet as far as phone calls and inquiries," he says. Tenuto says there's no way to predict turnout, but he says early voting is down 14 percent from the last election in 2012.

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Election 2014
5:15 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

Rochester Voters Will Decide Home Rule Question

Voters in four Illinois communities, including Rochester, go to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to give their  town councils  more power. 

The villages want to become home rule communities, which gives them more authority to raise taxes and pass laws.  The Illinois Association of Realtors is against the change.   Association President Phil Chiles says if voters approve home rule, they could regret it later.

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Statehouse
7:21 am
Mon March 17, 2014

A Low Profile For Dan Rutherford

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Treasurer Dan Rutherford is remaining quiet in the final hours of his campaign for Governor.  He also plans on the unusual move of keeping the Election night party for his Illinois gubernatorial bid closed to reporters.  

Spokesman Brian Sterling says Rutherford will issue a statement Tuesday at a Pontiac location separate from his party.  Sterling declined to comment further on Sunday.  

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Statehouse
6:51 am
Mon March 17, 2014

Three of Four GOP Candidates Campaign Today

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Most Republican candidates running for Illinois governor are spending the last day before the primary election day traveling around the state. 

State Sen. Kirk Dillard plans to be in East Alton, Marion, Champaign and suburban Chicago on Monday. State Sen. Bill Brady's schedule includes stops in Springfield, Peoria, Urbana, Marion and Chicago. Businessman Bruce Rauner is wrapping up a three-day statewide tour and has a get out the vote rally Monday evening in Hickory Hills.  

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Election 2014
6:51 am
Mon March 17, 2014

Candidates Hope For Luck O' The Irish

The four candidates vying for the Republican nomination for governor: Sen. Bill Brady, Sen. Kirk Dillard, Bruce Rauner and Treasurer Dan Rutherford.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Candidates are making their final pushes for support ahead of Tuesday's elections. It's all about getting out the vote.

As they travel the state on St. Patrick's Day, each of the Republicans seeking the party's nomination for governor are hoping for some luck they can carry over to election day.

While polls show private equity investor Bruce Rauner ahead, Sen. Kirk Dillard has seen his support rise in recent weeks. At an Dillard rally last night in Springfield, his onetime boss, former Gov. Jim Edgar, said primary results are hard to predict by polls.

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State Budget
6:15 am
Mon March 17, 2014

Sin Taxes Won't Solve Illinois' Budget Troubles

Prof. Julian Reif
Credit IGPA

When Illinois lawmakers are in need of more revenue, they often turn to sin.  

Sin taxes, that is. 

Those are taxes placed on items that can be considered undesirable, like cigarettes, alcohol or gambling.  

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