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Regional
2:10 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Springfield Mayor's State of The City Address, Full Audio

Credit springfield.il.us

Springfield Mayor Michael Houston celebrates his administration's accomplishments since he took office in 2011.  He addressed the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce in the Prairie Capital Convention Center.

 Audio FileFull audio of Mayor Houston's 2014 State of the City address to Chamber of CommerceEdit | Remove

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Budget address
1:45 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Gov. Quinn Calls For Keeping Higher Income Tax Rate

Illinois residents would continue paying a 5-percent income tax rate under the much-anticipated budget proposal Governor Pat Quinn presented today. 

Illinois' income tax rate is supposed to expire in January, midway through the fiscal year.

Gov. Quinn says that would cause "savage cuts" to schools and other critical state services.
Instead, Quinn wants to make the higher income tax rate permanent.

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Regional
9:19 am
Wed March 26, 2014

City Asked To Change Triune Contract, Aldermen Uncertain

Credit springfield.il.us

The company that manages Springfield's workers comp caseload wants to go outside the county for a key hire.  City aldermen questioned that move last night.

The contract with Triune Health Group says the nurse representative it used must be in Sangamon County.  The company says the job is highly specialized and it can't find anyone within the county who is qualified.

Instead, the firm wants to use a nurse in Macon County.  Some aldermen at the committee of the whole meeting were left scratching their heads, since the Springfield area has a wealth of healthcare workers. 

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Harvest Desk
11:00 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Will Cougars, Black Bears And Gray Wolves Be Protected In Illinois?

Nov. 21 photo of male mountain lion, euthanized by IDNR
Credit Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources (IDNR)

The Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources wants to add black bears, gray wolves and cougars to the state's list of protected species. But there is disagreement on how much protection should be given when there is a safety concern.

On November 20, 2013, a family near Morrison, Ill. asked state conservation police officers to kill a cougar found hiding under a building on their land.

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Progressive income tax
5:38 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Progressive Income Tax Supporters: Most Taxpayers Would Get Break

  Advocates have been moving for months to give Illinois a progressive income tax. Instead of the same flat rate for everyone, those who make more would pay more. As Hannah Meisel reports, supporters are finally getting specific.

Backers of the plan argue most Illinoisans would get a tax cut.

Senator Don Harmon, a Democrat from Oak Park, says this provides the state a new choice, instead of extending the 2011 income tax hike or making deep cuts to services.

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Business
5:28 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Business Report: Hy-Vee Hiring, High Speed Rail and Farmland Prices

Tim Landis
Credit SJ-R

On this week's WUIS / State Journal-Register Business Report,  hundreds have been hired to work at the new Hy-Vee store on Springfield's MacArthur Boulevard.  But we still don't know an opening day for the store.  And, a Girard grocery store that's been in place for a century changes hands. 

WUIS' Sean Crawford also talks with the SJ-R's Business Editor Tim Landis about work getting closer on the Carpenter Street underpass and what, if anything, can we read into farmland prices flattening out in 2013.

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Sports
4:42 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Wierzba Out As UIS Men's Basketball Coach

Ben Wierzba
Credit UIS Athletics

The University of Illinois Springfield is looking for a new men's basketball coach.   The school announced today that Ben Wierzba's contract won't be renewed. 

He spent four years leading the Prairie Stars finishing with an overall record of 39 wins and 69 losses. His career as head coach was highlighted by leading the program to a 15-13 record in his second year in 2011-12 as the team finished 12-6 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference.

Athletic Director Kim Pate says a search for a replacement will begin immediately. 

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Statehouse
4:14 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Plan Would Expand Use Of Medical Marijuana

Credit BrettLevinPhotography/flickr

Legislation that would allow minors and those with epilepsy to use medical cannabis in Illinois is one step closer to law.  

A Senate committee passed the proposal on Tuesday without opposition.  

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Budget address
10:32 am
Tue March 25, 2014

Gov. Quinn's Budget Address Could Answer Income Tax Question

  In a speech that could be pivotal for both his re-election campaign and for the state's finances, Governor Pat Quinn will Wednesday present his annual budget proposal. His administration is tight-lipped about what he has in mind. 

Illinois lawmakers — at least most of them — have agreed the state has about $35 billion dollars to spend next year.

But as House Republican Leader Jim Durkin says,

"How we distribute that money and divvy it up is a whole different analysis."

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Regional
10:31 am
Tue March 25, 2014

UIS Students 'Recharge' Before Night Classes

Credit WUIS/Lee Strubinger

Commuter student, by nature, spend less time on the UIS campus.  But the University is trying a new way to engage those students in activities.  There's a bribe involved, a practical one.

I'm standing in a restaurant area in the most high traffic part of the university, the Public Affairs Center.  The restaurant is a dimly lit room mainly used for meetings and donor meals.  In the corner a few people are sitting around a table.  I sit down and plug my dying iPhone into one of the power-strips on the tables.

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ALPLM
8:00 am
Tue March 25, 2014

"Women & The Right To Vote: Does It Matter?" - Event Thursday

Angela Winand (left) & Eileen Mackevich

It's been nearly a century since women gained the right to vote through a federal amendment. But there are still lessons to be learned from the suffrage movement, and many women still face inequality. Female lawmakers, historians, and political scientists will convene at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum's Union Theatre in Springfield on Thursday night to discuss the lasting impact of women's suffrage. Issues discussed will include the fight for equal pay and representation in government.

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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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