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Statehouse
6:30 am
Mon September 9, 2013

Moody's: Illinois Economy Finally In 'Recovery'

Credit Flickr user spDuchamp (Creative Commons)

Illinois has been one of the slowest states to recover from the Great Recession. But at least one analyst says things are getting better.

Illinois is no longer at immediate risk of recession, and is in fact beginning to recover. That, at least, is the assessment of economist Steve Cochrane, with Moody's Analytics.

"The housing market is picking up in Chicago," Cochrane says. "The large service- and finance-based economy in Chicago also seems to be picking a little bit, and hiring is improving."

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Harvest Desk
5:43 am
Mon September 9, 2013

New Pest Damaging Midwest Fruit Crops

A spotted wing drosophila rests on a raspberry.
Credit Timothy Baker

Farmers across Illinois and other midwest states are worried about their berries, peaches and tomatoes thanks to a newly arrived pest.  

The spotted wing drosophila looks like an ordinary fruit fly but is way more deadly. It kills healthy fruit by making a tiny slit in a fruit’s skin and laying eggs inside. In two weeks, a female fly can lay more than 300 eggs. So a couple of adults can become thousands in a few months. Lincoln University’s Jaime Piñero says no soft fruit is safe.

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Election 2014
4:29 pm
Fri September 6, 2013

Two Former Governors Backing Dillard

Sen. Kirk Dillard
Credit DillardforGovernor

Two former GOP Illinois governors are asking party leaders to back state Sen. Kirk Dillard in the 2014 gubernatorial primary, saying he's the only Republican who can win the general election.
 
Former Govs. Jim Edgar and Jim Thompson have endorsed Dillard. They sent a letter earlier this week to all GOP county and township chairmen and ward
committeemen. They say the Hinsdale legislator is a seasoned campaigner and the only candidate who ``can take the fight to the entrenched Democrats that
dominate the state capitol.''
 

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Statehouse
2:48 pm
Fri September 6, 2013

Listen to State Week - September 6, 2013

This week's topics include the next Governors race and some questions about the cost of renovating the State Capitol Building.

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Harvest Desk
10:10 am
Fri September 6, 2013

Moderate Drought Expands In Central Illinois

Credit droughtmonitor.unl.edu

The U.S. Drought Monitor has expanded the area in Illinois considered to be in "moderate drought." 

State Climatologist Jim Angel says exceptionally dry conditions over the last 60 days along with high temperatures has resulted in 39 percent of Illinois now experiencing a drought.  

Angel also says the drought appears to be impacting crops and yards more than water supplies.

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Chatham Teens Arrested
9:38 am
Fri September 6, 2013

Want To Impersonate A Cop? There's An App For That

with dozens of free apps available to smartphone users, it's easier than ever to 'play cop'
Credit Peter Gray/WUIS

Two Chatham teens are in custody for allegedly impersonating police earlier this week.

Sangamon County deputies arrested Thomas Orme and Christopher Morthland about 4:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon. 

In a news release Friday morning, Undersheriff Jack Campbell says Orme and Morthland are suspected of having used a cellphone app that mimics flashing police lights and sirens to pull over several drivers near Curran.  

Chatham Police helped deputies identify the teens.

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Bedrock 9/7
8:15 am
Fri September 6, 2013

Bedrock 66 Saturday Night: Rosie Flores And Marti Brom

Official Show Poster
David Landis

Rosie Flores brings her rockabilly style to the Hoogland Center for the Arts Saturday night.  She and Marti Brom will be on stage in the next Bedrock 66 Live music event.  This show will be a tribute to Janis Martin, also known as the "Female Elvis."

WUIS' Sean Burns interviewed Flores about her music background and the latest project:

The show begins at 8 p.m. Saturday and tickets are available.

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Economy
5:52 am
Fri September 6, 2013

Departing Chamber President: Politicians Not Doing Enough To Create Jobs

Doug Whitley, 63, will retire next year after a dozen years as president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. He submitted his resignation Thursday at the chamber's board meeting. " “It will be good for the Illinois Chamber to have a new leader with a fresh perspective when the next gubernatorial administration starts, whether Gov. Pat Quinn is re-elected or we have a new governor,” Whitley said in a statement.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

After twelve years as President of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, Doug Whitley's retiring next year.

Whitley says he's leaving disappointed, as the latest data showed Illinois with the second highest unemployment in the nation, behind Nevada.

And he says political leaders haven't done enough about it, except for one - Chicago's mayor: "With the exception of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, I don't hear any other political leaders in our state talking about jobs, trying to recruit jobs, trying to announce new jobs and showing a sincere concern with unemployment," Whitley says.

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Arts
12:55 pm
Thu September 5, 2013

RENTing Out The Muni Stage, For The Very First Time

RENT cast members take a stroll through downtown Springfield in this Muni publicity pic
Credit https://www.facebook.com/springfieldmuni

Audiences at The Muni shouldn't worry about being presented with a watered-down version of RENT.  

Director Mac Warren says he's "staying true" to a show that some theaters edit for language and content.  

RENT's themes, some unabashedly adult, are arguably just as relevant as they were in the mid-90s when the show debuted in New York.

Actors Scott Lecocq and Jeremy Goeckner joined the show's director on Illinois Edition to share their take on a show they say has "finally come home" to the Springfield Muni:

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High Court
11:46 am
Thu September 5, 2013

Illinois Supreme Court Expected To Name Rita Garman As Chief Justice

Justice Rita Garman of the Illinois Supreme Court.
Credit Illinois Supreme Court

The Illinois Supreme Court returns from its summer recess next week, and one of the items on the docket could be the announcement of its next chief justice. The court appears ready to name Rita Garman to the post.

Garman would be the second woman to head the Illinois Supreme Court — and in fact, only the second woman to lead one of Illinois' three branches of government.

Based in Danville, Garman has been a lawyer since 1968, a judge since 1974, and on the Supreme Court since 2002.

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10th Street Rail Corridor
9:42 am
Thu September 5, 2013

Engineering Change: Jim Moll's Vision For Trains In Springfield

Civil Engineer Jim Moll stands at the site of the future Carpenter Street underpass
Credit Peter Gray/WUIS

The flow of traffic in Springfield could change dramatically in the coming decade.

Transportation planners seeking to re-route trains recently scored a major victory in the fight for funding.

The federal government announced August 30th a $14.4M grant to help pay for the first of several construction projects along 10th Street.  Crews could begin work by summer 2014, but design work must be completed first. 

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Pensions
6:50 am
Thu September 5, 2013

Pension Plan Not Finalized, But The End May Be Near

Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), courtesy of ILGA.gov
Credit ILGA.gov

Legislators writing an overhaul of the state's pension systems could be nearing the end of their work.

Feedback's been plentiful since late last month, when a draft of a pension plan drawn up by a bipartisan legislative committee was leaked. Unions hate it - saying it overreaches in cutting retirement benefits. Business groups say it doesn't go far enough to save the state money. Not to mention complaints, including from the governor, that the committee is taking too long.

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Election 2014
4:11 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

No Petitions Until Lt. Gov. Picks Made

Rep. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) will be the running mate of Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale); their names will both headline petitions as the candidates collect signatures to get on the primary ballot.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  This week officially kicks off campaign season. Tuesday was the first day candidates could begin collecting signatures to get on the primary ballot. Still some of the leading candidates can't start yet.

In order to get on the ballot, candidates have to prove voters want them there. In the case of Democrats and Republicans running for governor, that means getting signatures from no less than 5,000 and no more than 10,000 members of his party.

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Constitutional Amendment
4:10 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

Quinn Opposes Veto Change

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov. Pat Quinn says he does not support an opponent's proposal to amend the Illinois Constitution.

Republican venture capitalist Bruce Rauner is not only campaigning to take Quinn's job, he's also leading an effort to change the Illinois Constitution to make it harder for lawmakers to override a governor's veto.

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Regional
2:28 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

Panhandling Suit Filed In Springfield

Credit flickr/cristasphoto

Springfield is defending its policies on panhandlers after a new lawsuit accused the city of violating free-speech rights by barring panhandlers from asking for money.  
The suit filed on behalf of panhandlers this week in federal court says police wrongly tell panhandlers that what they're doing is illegal.  Springfield's ordinance is a bit confusing.  It prohibits vocal requests for money, but allows someone to hold a sign making a similar request.  The city passed the measure back in 2007 for the downtown area.

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Harvest Desk
1:59 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

Report: Farmers Could Do More To Lessen Impact Of Drought

Credit plantcovercrops.com

Farmers across the country received more than $17-Billion in federal crop insurance  payouts after last year’s drought. A report by one environmental group blames farmers for not doing enough to shield the soil against the heat. 

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Springfield City Government
10:32 am
Wed September 4, 2013

Houston: I'll Start Thinking About Re-Election Next Spring

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston
Credit City of Springfield

The city of Springfield is still nearly two years away from a mayoral election.  But half-way through a term he had said would be his last, Mike Houston is now hinting at the possibility of re-election.

Mayor Houston says he's not made any decisions about his political future at this time, but he says they may come in sring 2014.

Houston says his decision-making will be likely affected by long-term challenges facing the city, such as road and sewer improvements, consolidation of train traffic and a search for a source of water to supplement Lake Springfield: 

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Springfield City Government
9:26 am
Wed September 4, 2013

City To Help Foot Bill For EPA Coal Tar Cleanup

Aerial view of Factory Street in Springfield, where environmental remediation efforts will begin to remove coal tar
Credit Google Maps

The city of Springfield has agreed to pay the EPA an estimated $1.6 million to clean up coal tar seeping out of the ground on the city's northeast side.

This fall the Environmental Protection Agency will send contractors to dig up Factory Street, about five blocks north of Lanphier High School.

The city owns part of the site where Springfield Iron Co. used to operate in the 1900's.  A power substation and water storage tank sit there today.

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Education
9:01 am
Wed September 4, 2013

Higher Ed Leader Says President's Plan Reflects Illinois Efforts

Dr. Harry Berman
Credit uis.edu

President Obama has plans for higher education in the U-S.  His ideas are a mix of old and new, aimed at keeping college affordable for students but also trying to raise the bar on quality of instruction.
In Illinois,  some of what the President wants is already part of the landscape.  For example, Illinois has moved toward tying a small portion of state funding to graduation rates and other metrics.  
The Illinois Board of Higher Education's Executive Director says some of the other changes the President is pushing won't be so easy.  

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Election 2014
6:27 am
Wed September 4, 2013

Political Newcomer Rauner Seeks To Overhaul Statehouse

During Republican Day at the state fair over the summer, candidate for governor Bruce Rauner said Illinois is in a "death spiral." He repeated the phrase in an interview about his petition drive, seeking a 2014 ballot question to institute legislative term limits.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Venture capitalist Bruce Rauner is drumming up his campaign for governor with a second campaign. Rauner, a Republican, is trying to get a question on the 2014 ballot that could lead to major changes in state government.   He says he'll donate a sizable portion of his personal fortune into the effort.   Statehouse Bureau Chief Amanda Vinicky spoke about it with him at length in the following interview:

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Election 2014
4:40 pm
Tue September 3, 2013

Dillard Calls Rauner Plan 'Slap In The Face To Downstate'

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner speaks with reporters in this Aug. 15 file photo.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Of the four Republicans running for governor, venture capitalist Bruce Rauner is the only one who's never before served in government. But he's already looking to change it, and in significant ways.

Rauner is heading a petition drive to institute term limits, to make it harder for legislators to override a governor's veto, and to reduce the size of the General Assembly. His plan adds a handful of members to the Illinois House, but takes away 18 senators.

Rauner says that'll make elections more competitive.

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Election 2014
11:50 am
Tue September 3, 2013

Jil Tracy Chosen As Running Mate

Jil Tracy speaks at campaign rally Tuesday in Quincy.
Credit Jason Parrott/Tri States Public Radio

State Senator Kirk Dillard has selected a west-central Illinois lawmaker to join him on the ballot in his bid to be the state’s next Governor.  State Representative Jil Tracy stood before a crowd of about 150 in Quincy’s Washington Park and accepted Dillard’s request to run as lieutenant governor.

The Quincy Republican says she took a close look at all of the Republican candidates for Governor before making her decision.

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Harvest Desk
6:03 am
Tue September 3, 2013

My Farm Roots: Community Counts

Matt Pauly grew up in rural Kansas. After living in Europe and Asia, he moved back to the Midwest and now lives in Lawrence, Kan.
Credit Jeremy Bernfeld/Harvest Public Media

This is the thirteenth installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Matt Pauly has traveled the world  – he’s lived in New York, Paris, South Korea – but he’s still a farm boy at heart.

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Gambling
5:18 am
Tue September 3, 2013

Wager: 24-Hour Casinos?

Credit Amanda Vinicky

The Illinois Gaming Board is set to consider lifting a restriction that forbids casinos from staying open 24 hours a day. 

Illinois' casinos have previously tried, and failed, to get the okay to keep their doors open 24-7. Now they're trying again. The Gaming Board will consider a proposal Sept. 14.

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Harvest Desk
5:17 am
Tue September 3, 2013

Illinois County Relied Heavily On Crop Insurance Last Year

Tim Kelly, a John Deere dealer in Pontiac, Ill, says crop insurance payments kept business going as normal. Unlike after the drought of 1988.
Darrell Hoemann/ Midwest Center For Investigative Reporting

Farmers in the Midwest were devastated by a crippling drought in 2012. The federal crop insurance program paid out a record $17.3 billion. And in rural America, that money is still paying dividends. To understand the impact, Harvest Public Media reporter Bill Wheelhouse took a tour of Livingston County, Illinois. Farmers here received by far the biggest insurance payout in the nation.

On this sweltering day in mid-August, surrounded by healthy 8-foot tall corn stalks, Doug Wilson peels back the husks to see how his corn is looking. The verdict?

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Statehouse
5:21 am
Mon September 2, 2013

Quinn Again Pushes For Minimum Wage Hike

Gov. Pat Quinn is again making a push for raising Illinois' minimum wage.  
The Chicago Democrat has been visiting black churches in the Chicago area as he ramps up his 2014 re-election bid. On Sunday, he told congregants at Missionary Baptist Fellowship Church that helping those who live in poverty is a principle as old as the Bible.  
Illinois last raised the minimum wage in 2010.  

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Harvest Desk
5:08 am
Mon September 2, 2013

Farm Progress Show: Large Crowds, No Records

Credit Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Radio

Organizers of this year's Farm Progress Show say they'll wait to decide whether to keep an onsite annex when the nation's largest outdoor farm show returns to Decatur in 2015.  
This year's three-day show had about 600 vendors _ the most in its 60 year history. With so many vendors, organizers added an annex for new exhibitors.  

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Regional
5:06 am
Mon September 2, 2013

Christian County Considers New Jail

Christian Co. Sheriff Bruce Kettlekamp
Credit http://www.christiancountyil.com/sheriff.htm

Christian County officials say they may need a new jail to replace an aging facility that's often overcrowded and has a bad roof and leaking pipes.  
The jail in Taylorville was built in 1975 and was originally designed to hold about two dozen inmates. It's since been updated, but some weekends has as many as 60 inmates. When it's that crowded, some inmates have to sleep on the floor on mats.  
Sheriff Bruce Kettlekamp says the prison is ``busting at the seams.''  

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Harvest Desk
5:43 pm
Fri August 30, 2013

Drought Is Back In West Central Illinois

Credit flickr/dabadoo

West central Illinois is now in what is being called a moderate drought.  That's despite a relatively cool and wet start to the summer.

The US Drought Monitor's latest map shows moderate drought for the western half of Sangamon County and farther west all the way into Missouri.  

The state's climatologist, Jim Angel,  says most droughts move slow and take 3-6 months to develop. However, sometimes they can move  fast if conditions are right, leading to the term “flash drought”. This situation appears to be developing west central Illinois.

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Rail Consolidation
3:49 pm
Fri August 30, 2013

Springfield Gets Money For Rail Underpass

Credit WUIS/Peter Gray

The federal government has awarded a $14.4 million grant for a railroad underpass in Springfield that will improve service along the emerging 110-mph Amtrak route between Chicago and St. Louis.  
Four members of Congress from Illinois announced the award Friday.  
The Carpenter Street underpass is part of work to consolidate rail traffic on a line east of downtown.  
It will eliminate three street-level crossings, improving the safety of faster rail service through the state capital. It will also keep first responders from getting stuck at crossings.  

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