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8:41 am
Thu January 9, 2014

One-Third Of Illinois Homes "Underwater"

A third of Illinois homes are "underwater".
Credit debt.org

A new report says almost one-third of Illinois homes are ``deeply underwater'' meaning that they're worth at least 25 percent less than what's owed on the loans. 

The report released Thursday by Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac says that represents almost 775,000 Illinois homes. The report is based on data from December.  

Only Nevada and Florida fare worse, with 38 percent and 34 percent of homes deeply underwater, respectively. 

But the report has some good news.

Nationally, the percentage of deeply underwater homes is falling.  

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Statehouse
7:42 am
Thu January 9, 2014

State Pension Shortfall At $100.5 Billion

A state report shows the amount of money taxpayers owe five state pension plans hit $100.5 billion on June 30.

But that's $3 billion less when not using a counting method adopted five years ago that made the pension picture brighter.  

Auditor General William Holland released a report Wednesday that estimates the total retirement-fund debt based on a process called ``smoothing'' _ considering gains and losses during the past five years.  

Without smoothing and instead considering current market value of assets, the total unfunded liability is $97 billion.  

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Business
6:02 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

Auto Insurance On The Rise

Illinois drivers should get ready to pay more for insurance.  
Crain's Chicago Business reports (http://bit.ly/1ggCmGt ) major insurers in Illinois are raising rates.  
Northbrook-based Allstate says in a regulatory filing that rates for customers will climb between 2.5 and 3.5 percent later this month.  
Esurance rates are rising about 3.2 percent in late January, while Geico expects to boost prices by 2 to 3 percent in March.  

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Statehouse
5:56 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

Quinn Backs Corrections Director

Director Godinez
Credit WBEZ

Gov. Pat Quinn is supporting his prisons director after a Republican challenger called for the director to be fired.  
 Sen. Kirk Dillard is a GOP candidate for governor. He said Wednesday that Democrat Quinn should fire S.A. ``Tony'' Godinez  for hiring a man with arrests and apparent one-time gang ties.  

Dillard says it's ``outrageous'' that ex-gang members are ``running the prisons.''  
Xadrian McCraven  was an $111,000-a-year senior policy adviser to the Department of Corrections' parole chief before he was fired Friday.  

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Harvest Desk
5:10 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

Study: Cover Crops Can Ward Off Soybean Diseases

Visitors to the Peoria Farm Show learn about seeding cover crops in this 2013 file photo
Credit Peter Gray/WUIS

Midwest farmers who rely on healthy soybean harvests have one more reason to consider adding cereal rye into their crop rotation in 2014.

Research conducted in Illinois indicates certain cover crops left in the ground during the winter make the soil less vulnerable to diseases that attack the leaves and root systems of soybeans planted the following spring.

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Statehouse
7:46 am
Wed January 8, 2014

Quinn's Running Mate Remains in Connecticut Until March 1

Paul Vallas
Credit pbs

Gov. Pat Quinn's running mate will continue working in Connecticut until March 1, just before Illinois' primary election.   The Chicago Sun-Times reports (http://bit.ly/19SJTfX ) Paul Vallas will keep working as superintendent of Bridgeport public schools.  

Vallas submitted his resignation to Bridgeport officials on Dec. 31 and is required to give a 60-day notice.  
Illinois' primary election will be held March 18.  

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Statehouse
7:23 am
Wed January 8, 2014

Quinn Signs Another Pension Measure

Gov. Pat Quinn
Credit wikimedia

Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a pension-reform measure for the Chicago Park District.  

The legislation Quinn signed Tuesday is designed to deal with a $971 million deficit in the district's pension program. When lawmakers approved it in November, experts hailed it as example of compromise for what was then an elusive solution to the five state pension systems' $100 billion hole.  

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Health Desk
11:06 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Memorial's Ed Curtis On Passavant Partnership

Credit Passavant Area Hospital

Passavant Area Hospital in Jacksonville could soon be affiliated with Memorial Health System, which already oversees hospitals in Springfield, Taylorville and Lincoln.
The Passavant Board has agreed to partner with Memorial, pending regulatory approval.

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Education
9:17 am
Tue January 7, 2014

District 186 Still Negotiating With Gill

Jennifer Gill

Jennifer Gill was chosen as the new superintendent for Springfield District 186 after a months-long search. But negotiations have yet to be finalized.   Gill, who currently works for McLean County schools, says the holidays slowed talks, but expects a contract will get done.

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Science
8:37 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Digging Up Big Surprises In Iowa

Credit Illinois State Museum

Iowa and Illinois have a lot in common, but look below the surface to see some important differences.  That's what paleontologists have been doing for decades.  Their work has resulted in the discovery of fossils that show prehistoric giant camels and mammoths once called Iowa home.  That work and more will be part of a lecture Wednesday night in Springfield. 

Chris Widga, Assistant Curator of Geology at the Illinois State Museum, will deliver a presentation "Recent Adventures in Iowa Paleontology." 

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Pensions
7:20 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Don't Bank On Pension Savings Just Yet

House Speaker Michael Madigan sponsored the pension overhaul, which state employees' and teachers' unions say unfairly cuts their benefits.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

With the new year comes the annual process of crafting a new state budget.  Money will be tight, despite a pension law that's supposed to save $160 billion dollars over the next 30 years.

Legislators who voted to cut state employees' and teachers' retirement benefits say they had no choice. Nearly a fifth of the state budget was going into Illinois' pension systems. Meaning there was less money to spend elsewhere. The pension law is supposed to ease that so-called "squeeze."

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Statehouse
3:37 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

11,000 Apply For Concealed Carry Permits So Far

The online application system to apply for permits was officially launched in Illinois on Sunday. On Monday, Illinois State Police said they had received 4,525 applications for concealed carry permits were received within 24 hours. The other 6,500 applications came from firearms instructors who the state let apply early for permits to help test the functionality of the online application system.  

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Regional
2:57 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Tuesday Closings

Credit Minneapolis Public Schools

The following closures are for Tuesday, January 7:

Schools:

A-C Central

Athens

Auburn

Ball Chatham

Calvary Academy

Capital Area Career Center

Goodwill's Vocational Rehab program and classes will be closed January 7. Both Goodwill buses and SMTD buses that transport Vocational Rehab participants will not be running tomorrow.

Greenview

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Regional
2:21 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Another Cold Night Ahead; Motorists Advised To Stay Home

Credit flickr/stinnett

The snowstorm that dumped several inches on Illinois has moved out of the state.  But high winds and extremely cold temperatures make for another night of dangerous conditions.   Interstates have slick spots from where blowing snow has covered the road.  Many secondary roads are in much worse shape.  
Ann Schneider, Illinois' Transportation Secretary, says her agency has been advising the public to avoid driving...

"And so it's still very treacherous for motorists and we strongly encourage motorists if they don't have to travel, please don't. Stay home," Schneider said.

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Regional
7:25 am
Mon January 6, 2014

Secretary of State's Offices Closed Today

Secretary of State Jesse White
Credit Secretary of State's Office

The Secretary of State's office is closing all 138 of its facilities around Illinois. Agency spokesman Dave Druker ) says officials decided to shut the locations on Monday because of bad road conditions in central and southern Illinois, along with the dangerous cold in northern Illinois. Offices are set to reopen on Tuesday. 

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Regional
7:16 am
Mon January 6, 2014

Road Closings in Sangamon County

Sangamon County reports that portions of the following roads are closed due to drifting snow. 

CH 40 – W. Loami Road from Chatham to Morgan Co. line.

CH 45 – Johns Creek Road from Loami to Thayer Rd.

CH 6 – Thayer Road from Morgan Co. line to Thayer.

CH 47 – Prairie Creek Road from Pleasant Plains Road to Farmingdale Road.

CH 10 – Pleasant Plains Road from Old Jacksonville Road to Pleasant Plains.

CH 48 – Prairie School Road from Sherman Road to Logan Co. line.

CH 16 – Buffalo Hart Road from IL 54 to Logan Co. line.

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Regional
5:40 am
Mon January 6, 2014

Many Weather Related Closings Across Region Today

University of Illinois Springfield & Lincoln Land Community College along with most other colleges are closed today.

Springfield District 186, Jacksonville and surrounding school districts closed.

SIU Health Care, Springfield Clinic and Memorial Physician Services closed today.

Most waste hauling in Springfield is canceled today.

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Regional
6:10 pm
Sun January 5, 2014

UIS & Springfield 186 Closed Monday.

Credit Minneapolis Public Schools

The University of Illinois Springfield is closed Monday due to weather conditions.  UIS is operating under its essential services policy.

Springfield School District 186 is closed Monday, as is the Jacksonville School  District and most other area schools.

Other colleges closed on Monday include Bradley University, Illinois College, Illinois State University, Lincoln College, Lincoln Land Community College, Robert Morris University, SIU School of Medicine and Western Illinois University,

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Regional
4:13 pm
Fri January 3, 2014

City Of Springfield Declares Snow Emergency Beginning This Weekend

Credit springfield.il.us

The Springfield Office of Public Works is preparing its response for a winter storm as the National Weather Service has predicted heavy snowfall between midnight and noon on Sunday.

A Snow Emergency will go into effect Saturday night at 8 p.m. and will remain in effect until Tuesday at 12 a.m. When a snow emergency is declared, all vehicles must be removed from the routes within four hours of activation.  

The City of Springfield issued the following news release:

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Lincoln
3:13 pm
Fri January 3, 2014

Author Of Mystery Lincoln Letter Identified

Credit ALPLM

It's been more than 25 years since workers renovating Abraham Lincoln's home found a letter fragment in a mouse's nest inside a wall.  
But researchers think they've finally identified the author of the mystery letter as newspaper editor Andrew Johnston.  

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Education
3:05 pm
Fri January 3, 2014

Bitter Cold Could Mean More Time Off For School Kids

Credit flickr

School administrators in Illinois say they're closely monitoring the forecast to decide whether to cancel or delay classes because of bone-chilling weather that's expected to hit the state.   The cold is coming as many students are preparing to return to school following holiday break.

The National Weather Service says air temperatures below zero will be accompanied by dangerous wind chills Monday and Tuesday.  

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State Week
1:26 pm
Fri January 3, 2014

Listen To State Week - January 3, 2014

This week's topics include the state's system for accepting Concealed-Carry applications, the many lawsuits filed against the recent law changing the state's pension system, and a look back at some top stories from 2013.

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Health Desk
6:24 am
Fri January 3, 2014

Springfield Hospital Acquiring Passavant In Jacksonville

Passavant Hospital, Jacksonville
Credit Passavant Area Hospital

Jacksonville's Passavant Area Hospital is going to become part of Memorial Health System.   It will become the fourth hospital to go under the Memorial umbrella.   A joint news release says the two organizations have signed an affiliation agreement.  It still needs regulatory approval.

Passavant is a 93 bed hospital with about 900  full and part time workers.
Memorial's three hospitals have more than 500 beds. It employs more than 5,700.

Along with Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, the  System also has hospitals in Lincoln and Taylorville.

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Regional
6:30 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

Wolves Could Be Slowly Moving Back Into Illinois

Credit fws.gov

A modest but perceptible uptick in the number of wolves roaming in from Wisconsin has forced Illinois to begin considering the possibility that permanent wolf populations could take hold.  

Illinois' wolves were hunted to extinction 150 years ago. But since a first confirmed sighting in 2002, wolf sightings have gone from rare to regular. There have been at least five the last three years.  
Nearly all are thought to have come from Wisconsin, which has more than 800 wolves.  

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Statehouse
2:23 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

Law Limits Use Of Disabled Parking Placards

A state law taking effect yesterday limits the use of free on-street parking by the disabled.  
Now, only motorists whose impairments prevent them from being able to pay a meter can park for free in those spots.  

Before, anyone with a disability parking placard could do so.  
Now, motorists will have to get statements from doctors affirming they cannot feed parking meters, for example, because they use wheelchairs or cannot walk more than 20 feet.  

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Statehouse
2:10 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

State Retirees Sue Over Pension Law

A group of retired state employees has filed a lawsuit challenging a new Illinois plan to eliminate the state's $100 billion public pension shortfall.  

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Lincoln
10:58 am
Thu January 2, 2014

Attendance Up At Lincoln Presidential Museum

Credit presidentlincoln.illinois.gov

Officials at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
and Museum say attendance was up more than 7 percent in 2013, thanks in part to the popularity of Steven Spielberg's film ``Lincoln.''
 
The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reports (http://bit.ly/Km7rhf ) nearly 314,000 people visited the museum through November. That's about 10,000 more visitors than in all of 2012. Attendance is on pace to be the highest since 2010.
 
In 2009 _ the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth _ more than 600,000 people
visited the Springfield museum.
 

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Statehouse
10:55 am
Thu January 2, 2014

Justices Get Campaign Money From Groups Involved In Pension Battle

Credit flickr/RandyvonLiski

A published report says groups with ties to the pension-reform law adopted last month have contributed close to $3 million to Illinois Supreme Court justices who might decide its fate.  

The Chicago Sun-Times reports (http://bit.ly/1aqJQ5n ) that six of seven justices have taken money in the past 13 years from labor unions, business groups and a political committee controlled by Chicago Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.  
Retired teachers have sued to stop the pension-reform plan that cuts retiree benefits to reduce a $100 billion debt.  

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Judges' Qualifications Questionned
6:29 am
Thu January 2, 2014

New Tax Appeals Tribunal Open For Business

Credit Illinois Department of Revenue

An Illinois Independent Tax Tribunal years in the making is up-and-running today. It gives businesses and individuals who have problems with their tax bills a new avenue to get them overturned. Still there are early concerns over who Gov. Pat Quinn has nominated to serve as the tribunal's Chief Administrative Law Judge.

Say a business doesn't agree with how much the state Department of Revenue says it owes in sales taxes. Before, it had two options: fight the tax bill in court (though that costs time and money) or plead the case to the Department of Revenue.

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Regional
6:39 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

Thousands Of Tornado Victims Apply For Federal Help

Credit wikimedia commons

Illinois officials say more than 2,000 people in counties declared federal disaster areas after tornadoes struck in November applied for federal assistance.  
Gov. Pat Quinn visited the central Illinois community of Washington on Tuesday.
 
His office says more than $1.6 million in federal grants and more than $5.6 million in low-interest loans have been approved.  
Washington was hit hard by one of the roughly two dozen tornadoes that struck on Nov. 17. Seven people died and thousands of buildings were damaged or destroyed.  

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