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Rail
2:43 am
Tue December 10, 2013

Open House Scheduled For 3rd St. Rail Improvements

Credit WUIS

A hearing Tuesday afternoon in Springfield will explain improvements to the  3rd Street rail line.
Springfield leaders breathed a sigh of relief when it was announced rail traffic would be consolidated along 10th Street.  They had concerns of more and faster trains traveling through the heart of downtown.  But while the 10th Street corridor is being revamped, the  trains won't wait.  That means safety improvements are needed along 3rd Street.

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Politics
5:33 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Sen. Mark Kirk Hospitalized for Gall Stones

Sen. Mark Kirk takes the stage a Repbulican rally at the 2013 Illinois State Fair.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk has had his gall bladder removed. The procedure happened Monday morning at a hospital in the northern suburbs of Chicago.

Kirk checked himself in to Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital on Saturday. He reported feeling pain in his abdomen. Doctors diagnosed gall stones, and decided to remove his gall bladder.

Dr. Kim Sobinsky did the 30-minute operation. He says most patients recover pretty quickly.

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Regional
4:26 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Menard Co. State's Attorney Cause Of Death Identified

Kenneth Baumgarten

The Sangamon County Coroner has released more details on the cause of death for the Menard County State's Attorney.   Kenneth Baumgarten, who lived in Petersburg, died Friday night .  He was 55.

Coroner Cinda Edwards says after a review of medical documents,  her office has determined the cause of death for Kenneth Baumgarten to be Pulmonary Embolism.  She also says the death will be certified as accidental due to an injury Baumagarten sustained early in November.

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Politics
3:21 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Former Diplomat And U.S. Senate Candidate Rich Williamson Dead At 64

Rich Williamson
Credit wikepedia

The Illinois Republican Party has confirmed Rich Williamson has died.  He passed away Sunday.

The Chicago resident was a long-time leader in the Illinois GOP. He lost a nationally watched campaign against Carol Moseley Braun in 1992. She went on to become the first black woman elected to the U.S. Senate.  

Williamson was chairman of the state Republican Party from 1999-2001 and has served as Republican National Committeeman for Illinois since 2010. He served in diplomatic roles under three presidents and authored numerous books and articles.  

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Stuart Levine
2:56 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Political Fix Theater: Apology Not Accepted

A playbill from "I Wish to Apologize to the People of Illinois," a show about consummate political insider turned e-cigarette salesman Stuart Levine, who was a key FBI informant in the "Operation Board Games" investigation."
Credit Amanda Vinicky

The curtains are closing on the Chicago play "I Wish to Apologize to the People of Illinois" -- a timely production, given that today, Dec. 9, marks five years since Rod Blagojevich's arrest. Two trials later, he was convicted on 18 counts of corruption. At Blagojevich's sentencing hearing, the former governor said he was sorry for his mistakes. But Blagojevich was not the one making apologies in this show. He's not even a character -- just someone who gets mentioned now and again.

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Education
2:06 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Teacher's Strike In Mount Olive

Teachers at the school district in Mount Olive have gone on strike.  

The State Journal-Register reports (http://bit.ly/1cwtFY4) teachers went on strike Monday morning in Mount Olive School District No. 5 in Macoupin County. The town is 50 miles south of Springfield. The teachers' union and school district couldn't agree on a new three-year contract.  

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Ethics Anniversary
1:33 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

December Ninth: A Big Day On Illinois' Ethics Timeline

Then Gov. Rod Blagojevich's mug shot, taken on the morning of his arrest, on Dec. 9, 2008.
Credit wikipedia.org

 December Ninth is a significant day in Illinois' political history: for better, and for worse.

On Dec. 9, 2003 "the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act was signed into law," Illinois Campaign for Political Reform's David Morrison says.

That was Illinois lawmakers' response to the Hired Truck scandal that landed former Gov. George Ryan in prison. It created inspectors general with subpoena power, limited lobbyists' wining and dining of officials, and set conduct standards for state workers.

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Campaign Caps Lifted
7:15 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Blagojevich's Arrest Anniversary: Reason To Celebrate?

Credit WBEZ

  It's been five years to the day since FBI agents arrived at then Governor Rod Blagojevich's house to arrest him on charges of corruption. Blagojevich is serving a 14-year prison sentence, and for most Illinois politicians it's good riddance. Amanda Vinicky reports. 

Fresh off the General Assembly's passing a law to overhaul the state's pensions, I had the chance to catch up with House Speaker Michael Madigan:

VINICKY: "It's the five year anniversary of Blagojevich's arrest coming up ... any reaction, any ...

MADIGAN: "Yeah, we should … celebrate."

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Local Music
7:00 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Epsom Offers Music Scene Shock Rock & Sarcasm

Local band Epsom is Steven Sgro on vocals and guitar, Scott Faingold on vocals, Timothy Harte on drums, and Kristopher Zander on guitar. The group describes their music as "gratuitous shock rock." They joined us recently in the Suggs Studio for this set of performances and an interview: 

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State Week
2:32 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

Listen To State Week - December 6, 2013

This week, a discussion of the changes made to the state's pension system.

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Regional
12:13 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

SIU Closes Carbondale Campus Due To Snow

Credit WSIU FM

Classes at Southern Illinois University are canceled because of a storm that's left a slick layer of ice under several inches of snow, with more wintry weather on the way.

WSIU Radio reports that some services at the 18,000-student Carbondale university were to remain open Friday, including dining services for students, the Morris Library and the student recreation center.  
University administrators called off Friday's classes because of questionable driving conditions.  

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Education
6:54 am
Fri December 6, 2013

UIC Faculty Vote To Strike

Credit University of Illinois, Chicago

Unionized faculty members at the University of Illinois at Chicago have authorized a strike, even as contract negotiations continue.  

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that despite the vote, no strike is imminent.  

UIC United Faculty represents about 800 educators who've been negotiating with school administrators for 15 months.

Union spokesman John Shuler says the group is hoping to avoid a strike. He says the two sides are continuing to work with a federal mediator to approve a new four-year contract. Meetings are scheduled to take place through early January.  

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Court Challenge Ahead
7:12 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

Pension Overhaul Signed Into Law

After the General Assembly passed the pension bill, Gov. Pat Quinn called a statehouse press conference, calling it a 'victory."
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  A major overhaul of Illinois' pensions is now law. Gov. Pat Quinn held a private bill-signing ceremony this afternoon in Chicago. A court challenge seeking to stop it from taking effect is certain.

The new law will cut state workers' and public school teachers' retirement benefits.

It also raises the retirement age; employees younger than 46 will have to work up to five years longer before they can retire. The savings from those changes are intended to rid Illinois of a long-festering budget issue: an unfunded pension liability that's grown to about $100 billion.

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Arts
12:55 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

Jazz Pianist Judy Carmichael Plays Springfield Friday Night

Credit Judy Carmichael.com

Judy Carmichael has been to Springfield many times.  She came often as a child to see relatives.   But the renowned jazz pianist has never played a show in the city.  That is, until this Friday night.   Judy Carmichael, who also hosts the program Jazz Inspired that airs here on WUIS, will perform at the Sangamon Auditorium.

She's known as an accomplished stride player and her shows include original work as well as that of such legends as Count Basie, Fats Waller and Gerhswin.

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Statehouse
11:59 am
Thu December 5, 2013

CapitolView: Pension Reform Analysis

WUIS State Week host, Bill Wheelhouse, guests on the latest CapitolView regarding the pension reform passed in Illinois.

Statehouse
8:38 am
Thu December 5, 2013

After Pension Vote, Gov. Quinn Will Get His Back Pay

Gov. Pat Quinn is set to get about $74,000 in back pay now that Illinois lawmakers have finally approved a pension deal.  

The governor used his line-item veto power this summer when he halted legislators' salaries, saying they shouldn't get paid until they addressed the nearly $100 billion pensions crisis. He also stopped accepting his own paychecks.  
A judge disagreed with Quinn in September and the comptroller began issuing checks to lawmakers. But

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Arts
3:07 am
Thu December 5, 2013

Sangamon Valley Youth Symphony's New Conductor Previews First Concert Of The Season

Eugene Power
Credit svys.org

Eugene Power says working with young musicians allows him to see their musical journeys.  He's taught high school band and has worked with youth in other settings.  Recently, he was named the Sangamon Valley Youth Symphony music director and conductor. 

"You can be involved with music in many, many ways throughout your entire life," Power said. "And that's what I like to see... students kind of catch fire with that and carry it with them."

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Statehouse
8:56 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

A Day After Passage, Pension Legislation Sent To Governor's Desk

A bill aimed at fixing Illinois' hundred billion pension crisis is before Gov. Pat Quinn.  
A spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton said Wednesday that the bill had been sent to Quinn.  
The move came a day after the Illinois General Assembly approved the bill that is estimated to save the state $160 billion over the next 30 years.  

The plan reduces benefits for current and retired public employees. Among other things, it also raises the retirement age on a sliding scale for some employees.  

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Pensions
7:22 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

Pension Changes More Common Among Governments

Republican Leaders Sen. Christine Radogno (left) and Rep. Jim Durkin
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois is just the latest state to vote on legislation to overhaul public pension plans.   

Heather Kerrigan is a contributor with Governing Magazine.  She says this year alone, state and local governments around the country have proposed more than 1,000 pieces of legislation to shore up pensions.  And she says almost all of them face the same challenge. 

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Springfield City Government
5:06 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

Mehlick Leaving Post As Springfield's Top Attorney

Credit www.springfield.il.us

Springfield's top city attorney has submitted his resignation after helping the mayor and aldermen through a difficult legal battle.

Mayor Mike Houston appointed Mehlick this summer, following the departure of former Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen.  Cullen and other city officials are named in the lawsuit filed on behalf of Springfield resident Calvin Christian.  Christian accuses them of knowingly and intentionally destroying the documents he was seeking through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

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Corrections
4:54 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

State Prison Locked Down Because of Illness

The state's Department of Corrections has locked down the Big Muddy River Correctional Center in Ina after dozens of inmates started to show flu-like symptoms.  

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan reports that the department says the Level 1 lockdown means that no visitors are allowed at the facility and no inmates will be transferred.  

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Pensions
4:52 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

Madigan: Courts Could Pick And Choose On Pension Plan

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan presents the conference committee report on Senate Bill 1, the legislation overhauling Illinois pensions. Madigan says "hopefully the Court will rule in favor of the constitutionality of the bill."
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Illinois legislators may have passed a pension overhaul, but unions representing teachers and public employees have vowed to sue to stop it from taking effect. If they're successful, that could force lawmakers to go back to the drawing board.

Lawmakers made preemptive efforts to fend off a legal challenge. The measure contains a statement that details the terrible condition of Illinois' finances and what lawmakers have tried to do about it -- a clear attempt to justify cutting pension benefits.

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Statehouse
1:16 am
Wed December 4, 2013

How They Finally Passed A Pension Overhaul

House Speaker Michael Madigan, right, forcefully argued for legislation to overhaul the state's pension systems.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The Illinois General Assembly approved sweeping cuts to state employee pensions Tuesday. The move comes after years of stalemate over how to address a hundred-billion dollar liability — the worst-funded pension plans of any state.

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Tax Credits
11:32 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

ADM Unlikely To Get Tax Credit Before End Of Year

Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, is the sponsor of a Senate bill to give ADM a tax credit in exchange for creating new jobs in Chicago and Decatur, if the company moves its global headquarters from Decatur to Chicago.
Credit ilga.gov

While much of the attention was focused on pensions, state legislators yesterday also dealt with measures intended to get a trio of companies to call Illinois home. But they only got halfway there.

Decatur-based Archer Daniels Midland is shopping for a new world headquarters. The agribusiness giant may well choose Chicago; but it wants a tax break from Illinois, like in a measure approved by the Senate.

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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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