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Life after prison
12:06 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Ex-Offenders Get Job-Ready At DOC Opportunity Expo

Daniel Gordon poses for his new state I.D. photo at the expo on Tuesday. Gordon served 17 months in Jacksonville Correctional Center for a third DUI conviction and is trying to piece his life together, starting with a more stable job.
Credit 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.

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Statehouse
10:29 am
Wed June 11, 2014

Six Months Into Speed Limit Increase, Driver Fatalities Down Observers Say

Credit 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.

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Statehouse
12:47 pm
Tue June 10, 2014

Illinois Lawmaker Convicted Of Bribery

Rep. Derrick Smith found guilty
Credit 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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Statehouse
5:53 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

Governor Approves Supplemental Budget For Current Year

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has signed legislation allowing the state to spend an additional $1.8 billion in the current budget year.  

The measure passed the Legislature before the General Assembly adjourned for the spring last month.  It adds to the $35.4 billion 2014 budget lawmakers approved last May.  

Rep. Greg Harris is a Chicago Democrat and a House budget negotiator. He says the state had higher-than-projected revenue, thanks to an improved economy that generated more sales and income tax than was anticipated.  

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Science
4:30 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

Durbin: Climate Denial 'Mindless And Irresponsible'

Sen. Dick Durbin answers questions from reporters Monday after a speech at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield. The Illinois Democrat says it's "mindless and irresponsible" to ignore the scientists describing global warming.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

As Democrats in coal states rush to distance themselves from new federal regulations intended to address global warming — Senator Dick Durbin says Illinois is in a good position among coal-producing states.

The Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama says states have to gradually cut carbon pollution from power plants by 30 percent based on 2005 levels.

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Health Desk
3:14 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

Durbin: Raise Tobacco Tax To Fund Medical Research

Sen. Dick Durbin answers questions from reporters Monday after a speech at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield. The Illinois Democrat is calling for a higher federal tobacco tax to pay for more basic medical research.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Sen. Dick Durbin wants a cigarette tax hike to help pay for basic medical research. The Illinois Democrat made his case Monday in Springfield, before a group of doctors and scientists at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.

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Science
1:55 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

Kincaid Mounds Still Holding Secrets

Credit KincaidMounds.com

Archaeological work at site that straddles Massac and Pope counties in deep southern Illinois has been a decades-long project. albeit on an intermittent basis.   Kincaid Mounds is the location where Native Americans that were part of the  Mississippian culture lived and worked starting around 1000 years ago. 

Dr. Brian Butler, Past Director of the Center for Archaeological Investigations and Emeritus Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will discuss some of the more recent discoveries this week. 

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Harvest Desk
6:04 am
Mon June 9, 2014

Farmers Hope For River System Improvements

Shipping via barge is crucial for farmers near the Illinois River and across the Midwest, but many say U.S. river infrastructure is out of date.
Credit Kenneth Spencer/flickr

Farmers and ag groups in the Midwest say the U.S. river system needs an upgrade, and they’re hopeful it will come with proposed improvements in legislation recently passed by Congress.  

The nation’s rivers are essential for moving agricultural products to market.

“It’s our third coast, if you will,” said Jim Tarmann, field services director with the Illinois Corn Growers Association. “Over 60 percent of our grain exports move via the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. That’s how things get to our world markets.”

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Statehouse
6:00 am
Mon June 9, 2014

After Some Juvenile Arrests, A Fresh Start

Credit Flickr.com/banspy

A new law will automatically clear certain arrest records for juveniles when they turn 18. It’s meant to keep arrests that did not result in criminal charges from following kids into adulthood.

The law applies only to arrests for lesser crimes — mostly non-violent. Sex offenses and top felonies will stay on the books, as will any arrest that resulted in formal criminal charges.

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70 years since D-Day
2:24 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

Local WWII Vets Honored At D-Day Memorial

88-year-old Jim Hofstetter was 18 on D-Day, the day he enlisted. Hofstetter says he rejects the nostalgia of the "Greatest Generation" and says he sees huge potential for millennials.
Hannah Meisel/WUIS

It's been 70 years since allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy in one of the turning points of World War Two. A memorial service in Springfield Friday told stories of the young men on the front lines.

The young men of 1944 are old men now. But they still remember.

Springfield resident Jim Hofstetter was 18 on D-Day, the day he enlisted. He knew it was the height of the war, but he also knew he had a job to do for his country.

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State Week
2:17 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

Listen To State Week - June 6, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

A recap of the end of the just-completed Spring Legislative Session.

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Regional
6:56 am
Fri June 6, 2014

Three Locals Among Those Charged With Medicaid Fraud

Credit ago.mo.gov

Three area residents are among more than two dozen Illinois residents who have been charged with health care fraud stemming from federal investigations.

Federal prosecutors Thursday announced charges against 29 people who allegedly abused a health care program funded by Medicaid. 

The program pays for personal assistants to help Medicaid recipients stay in their homes.   The Feds says the defendants allegedly submitted false claims for hours worked when they had other full time jobs, were in jail or the client was hospitalized.

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Statehouse
4:43 am
Fri June 6, 2014

Legislator Pay: Too Much or Too Little?

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

A state senator and candidate for higher office on Thursday sought some attention for giving up a portion of his pay. This comes after Illinois lawmakers — for the first time in years — did not vote to symbolically cut their own pay. This form of salary self-denial has become popular in Illinois, but its roots are much deeper than that.

The base salary for a member of the Illinois General Assembly is $67,836 a year.

During the Great Recession, when Illinois’ finances were tanking, lawmakers decided to give some of that back.

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Health Desk
4:57 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

St. John's Hospital To Lay Off 43 Managers

Credit St. John's Hospital

St. John's Hospital in Springfield has announced it will lay off 43 managers over the next few months.  

President and Chief Executive Charles Lucore  says cutting management costs will help preserve the quality of patient care.  

The (Springfield) State Journal-Register quotes him as saying the decision was driven by financial pressures from the Affordable Care Act as well as the lower reimbursements.  

The 43 positions represent about 1 percent of the hospital's workforce.  

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Regional
3:58 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

Intent of Inspector General To Curb Corruption In City Operations

Credit springfield.il.us

Springfield officials are considering adding a position that will take a closer look at misbehavior in city government.

The description of the investigator general job is still pretty vague, but the city has hired a consultant to outline how it will work.   City council members pointed to incidents such as the police file shredding scandal to show the need for the post.  

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Grandstand
11:11 am
Thu June 5, 2014

Robin Thicke Coming To Illinois State Fair

Robin Thicke on the cover of Blurred Lines.
Credit the artist

Pop singer Robin Thicke will perform Sunday, Aug. 17 at the Illinois State Fair Grandstand.

The booking, announced Thursday, is the latest in a lineup that already includes Florida Georgia Line, Jake Owen, Steely Dan, and Pitbull.

Thicke is known for hits such as "Blurred Lines," "Lost Without U," and "Give It 2 U."

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Voting
11:04 am
Thu June 5, 2014

Legislation Aims To Preserve Schools As Polling Places

Credit wikimedia

  Illinois lawmakers are looking to keep schools available as polling places on election day. It comes as some election authorities move to what critics say are less accessible locations.

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Regional
9:57 am
Thu June 5, 2014

SOHO Expands In Multiple Directions

Credit SOHO Facebook

SOHO music festival will take place in downtown Springfield this weekend.  It's the tenth year for the festival.  Lee Strubinger sat down with Eric Welch, the executive director of SOHO music festival.  Charity is the main caveat for SOHO.  And Welch says the theme this year is "bigger."

Here's a link to SOHO information and here's the line-up.

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Arts
7:17 am
Thu June 5, 2014

Jazz Trio Wins Award For Springfield Recording

Credit Credit http://werticocainandgray.wordpress.com

A Chicago-based jazz trio has earned an award for an album recorded live during a performance at a Springfield theater.  

The trio of Paul Wertico, David Cain and Larry Gray recorded their album ``Sound Portraits'' last summer at the Hoogland Center for the Arts. It won top honors for a live performance at the annual Independent Music Awards given out on Tuesday.  

Wertico is a seven-time Grammy Award winner who teaches jazz studies at Roosevelt University in Chicago. He says the performance was 100 percent improvised and came ``spontaneously from the heart.''  

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Harvest Desk
6:38 am
Thu June 5, 2014

Canada Jonesing For Piece Of American (Hemp) Pie

Canada legalized hemp in 1998 and many companies there are anxiously awaiting cultivation in the U.S. At Centennial Seeds in Colorado, growers have started planting.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

The U.S. market for foods and beauty products that contain hemp is growing, but American manufacturers that use hemp have their hands tied. The crop is still illegal to cultivate, according to federal laws, which means the current American hemp industry, estimated at $500 million per year, runs on foreign hemp.

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Statehouse
6:00 am
Thu June 5, 2014

Legislation Would Make Charter Schools Follow State Law On Special Ed, ELL

The Illinois General Assembly has approved legislation intended to make charter schools follow state laws for special education. But some lawmakers see this as the latest attack on charter schools.

  Charter schools already have to follow federal laws on special education and for students who are just learning English. But according to the Illinois State Board of Education, a "handful" say they were exempt from stricter state requirements.

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Regional
9:00 am
Wed June 4, 2014

Juvenile Sex Trafficking Happening Here

Poster for Our Children Are Not For Sale awareness campaign.
Credit chicagodrugwar.info

When you hear about sex trafficking, often times what comes to mind is international smuggling of women. That may be happening, but there is also a problem of local teenagers getting used in sex trafficking within Illinois.

"Our Children Are Not For Sale" is the name of an awareness campaign to make people aware of what could be happening to homeless and runaway youth.   Bill Wheelhouse spoke with Stacy Sloan, Human Trafficking program manager at the Department of Children and Family Services.  She sheds some light on the issue.

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'Credit Negative'
8:46 am
Wed June 4, 2014

Moody's: Budget Could Undo 'Significant Progress'

"I don't know how you can blame us or the governor for a negative bond rating," Senate President John Cullerton says. "The Republicans are the ones saying, 'Don't raise the taxes, we don't need that. Make structural changes,' whatever that means."
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The credit rating agency Moody's says Illinois is at risk of undermining progress toward better finances. It says the failure to extend current income tax rates could lead to a worsening deficit.

Moody's says because lawmakers failed to stop an automatic tax cut scheduled for the end of the year, Illinois could have to increase its backlog of unpaid bills. The state already has the lowest credit rating in the nation.

Republicans say this shows Illinois needs to further reduce costs, but Democratic Senate President John Cullerton says there isn't that much left to cut.

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Harvest Desk
5:34 am
Wed June 4, 2014

Now Appearing: Hemp, For The First Time In Decades

At Centennial Seeds in Lafayette, Colo., Ben Holmes is testing hemp varieties. Holmes made his name distributing and breeding strains of medical and recreational marijuana, but recently has become a prominent figure in Colorado’s fledgling hemp industry.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

A handful of farmers are set to plant the country’s first hemp crop in decades, despite federal regulations that tightly restrict the plant’s cultivation.

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Regional
4:21 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Schock Dedicates Pavillion In Western Illinois, Hopes To Establish National Park

Credit Amanda Vinicky

An effort to create a national park at former town site in western Illinois remains stalled in the US Senate.  Congressman Aaron Schock, a Republican, is part of a bi-partisan group of lawmakers seeking the designation for New Philadelphia.

That site in Pike County marks the first town in the country founded by an African American.  Frank McWorter was a freed slave who created the community in 18-36.
Schock says creating a national park would allow more people to know the story of McWorter.  He says it work in tandem with Lincoln attractions in Springfield.

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Arts
10:34 am
Tue June 3, 2014

Ringing In The 53rd International Carillon Festival This Week

Credit Carillon-Rees.org/SCVB

Springfield will play host to a world class music event starting Wednesday.   The International Carillon Festival brings some of the best on the instrument to Washington Park.  

Springfield Park District Carillonneur Robin Austin will be among the performers, along with Christian McWhirter, who researched music to be performed Wednesday night, a program titled "Lincoln and the Music He Loved."

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Regional
6:22 am
Tue June 3, 2014

Pike County State's Attorney Abruptly Resigns

Credit Pike County

The Pike County State's Attorney abruptly resigned yesterday, prior to a hearing regarding criminal charges against the Pike County Sheriff.

Media reports say that State's Attorney Carrie Boyd left a voice mail for the Pike County Board Chairman resigning. Boyd reportedly cited family and personal issues.

She had filed the charges against Sheriff Paul Petty.   Petty is charged with felony misconduct for allegedly ordering a body to be embalmed before a toxicology test could be performed in a 2012 heroin death.

A special prosecutor will be named for the case.

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Business
5:25 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

Ill. Coal Industry: EPA Emission Regulations "Unfair"

Credit flickr/oatsy40

The head of an Illinois coal industry trade group is panning President Barack Obama's plans for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.  

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency unveiled the proposed regulations on Monday in an effort to cut power-plant carbon dioxide emissions. The Illinois Coal Association's Phil Gonet calls them ``unfair.'' He says the rules could squeeze the supply of U.S. electricity, raising rates.

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Statehouse
5:22 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

Term Limits Push Has Enough Signatures, But Lawsuit Still Threatens

Movers load a box containing the nearly 600,000 signatures gathered in an effort to impose term limits on Illinois lawmakers.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois officials say a citizens' initiative to put term limits on state legislators has gathered enough signatures to appear on the ballot. But there are other roadblocks before that can happen.

  Collecting nearly twice the number of required signatures paid off for the Term Limits and Reform group.

Rupert Borgsmiller, director of the Illinois State Board of Elections, says a sample validated roughly 61 percent of those signatures. He says he expects to present those findings to the board for final approval on June 17.

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Election 2014
5:16 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

Rauner Says He Won't Push To Repeal Same Sex Marriage Law

Bruce Rauner
Credit WUIS

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner says Illinois voters should have decided whether same-sex marriage should be legal in the state. But now that it's the law he won't advocate changing it.  
Illinois' law allowing same-sex marriage took effect Sunday. Gay rights groups say Rauner has opposed efforts for the law and has previously vowed to work against them. 

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