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Regional
5:42 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Same Sex Couple Gets Marriage License In Champaign County

Marissa Meli, 28, and Laura Meli, 27, have been in a relationship for more than eight years, and on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 became the first same-sex couple in Champaign County to get a marriage license.
Credit Sean Powers/Illinois Public Media

Champaign County Wednesday became the second county in Illinois to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses before June 1st. That’s when a state law says same-sex couples can marry. 

A federal judge ruled last week that Illinois' same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. Urbana residents Marissa and Laura Meli were the first same-sex couple in Champaign County to get a marriage license.

They’ve been together for more than eight years, and they tell  Sean Powers that they’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.

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Election 2014
4:56 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

13th Dist. Congressional Candidate Erika Harold

Erika Harold
Credit Jim Meadows/WILL

Over the next few weeks, you'll be hearing from Congressional candidates running in Illinois' 13th District. There are three Republicans and three Democrats seeking their party's nomination.  

Attorney Erika Harold (R-Urbana) is making her second run for Congress. Two years ago, she tried to replace former Congressman Tim Johnson on the ballot after Johnson announced plans to retire from politics. But Republican Party chairs instead chose incumbent Rodney Davis.

Harold talks with  Sean Powers about her campaign and what she hopes to accomplish.

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Statehouse
2:44 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Lawmaker Calls For Reducing Propane Sales Tax

Credit flickr/rejon

A southern Illinois lawmaker wants to temporarily cut the tax on propane.  
The Belleville News-Democrat reports the proposal is being introduced by Salem Republican Rep. John Cavaletto.

He wants to lower the tax from 6.25 percent to 1.25 percent. If it's approved, the decrease would take effect June 1 and last through August.  
 

Cavaletto says the temporary reprieve could mean ``hundreds of dollars in savings for the average homeowner'' if they fill propane tanks before the temperature drops in the fall.  
His says his bill would offer one-time relief.  

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Election 2014
1:50 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Dillard Picks Up Teachers' Endorsement; Rauner Still Pouring Own Money Into Race

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kirk Dillard, a state senator from Hinsdale, accepts the endorsement of the Illinois Retired Teachers Association Wednesday in the Illinois Capitol.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kirk Dillard got the endorsement of a retired group of teachers Wednesday. But he’s still lagging front-runner Bruce Rauner, who continues to tap his significant personal fortune for his campaign.

The Illinois Retired Teachers Association has nearly 36,000 members. President Bob Pinkerton says this is the first time the group has endorsed a candidate for governor.

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Regional
11:51 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Springfield Close to Finalizing Budget

Credit springfield.il.us

The City of Springfield is putting the final touches on a nearly 600 million-dollar budget.

Aldermen have proposed several changes to the spending plan, which could be adopted tonight at a special council meeting.   Alderman Cory Jobe and others want to move nearly 80-thousand dollars from other areas to pay for a new inspector general position.  The job would involve investigating possible corruption within city operations.

Mayor Mike Houston says he will work with the position if it’s approved.

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Regional
11:30 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Springfield Pension Problem Worst in State According to Think-Tank

Credit illinoispolicy.org

A conservative think tank recommends the City of Springfield switch its employee pension system to a 401K style plan rather than a defined benefit.

"First and foremost you need to make sure the data is pure." -- Budget Director William McCarty

The Illinois Policy Institute presented aldermen data that indicate the city of Springfield has the worst funded pension system among larger cities in the state.

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Local Bands
11:03 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Local Group War Magic Plays Unique Neo-Folk

Mark Reynolds (left, on keys) & Alistair Reynolds (on guitar) of War Magic
Credit Rachel Otwell

War Magic is a local folk band that you probably haven't heart of. The group's been called "dream-folk" and "neo-folk" - and they've only played a handful of shows in town. Alistair Reynolds and Mark Reynolds recently joined us to talk about their project and share some of their unique music: 

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Business
8:45 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Illinois Products Expo This Weekend

Some of the best Illinois has to offer will be on display this weekend in Springfield.  It's the annual Illinois Products Expo at the Orr Building on the state fairgrounds.  More than 70 companies will be represented.  

Jennifer Tyree,  Bureau Chief of Marketing and Promotions with the Illinois Department of Agriculture, says it's a variety of offerings.

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This I Believe 2014
7:35 am
Wed February 26, 2014

I Believe in Snow Cones

Alex Brosseau - Southeast HS

I used to live right on the busiest street in the world. Maybe, I’m exaggerating a little bit, but it seemed pretty busy to me. Cars zoomed up and down the street, traveling around the world, and I wasn’t allowed to go past my block on my own, which now seems to be very logical, but at the time it seemed like the most ridiculous rule. On hot summer weeks when I was cooped up to my huge lawn and vast house, my sole escape was Snow Cone Tuesday.

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Statehouse
5:49 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Effort To Consolidate Pension Lawsuits

Efforts are underway to consolidate four lawsuits challenging Illinois' new pension reform law.  

Lawyers representing the respective groups of state retirees who filed class-action suits have asked the Supreme Court to allow them to present their cases as one.  

The groups share the common claim that the new pension reform plan violates the state constitution, which says benefits may not be diminished.  

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'Hastily Implemented'
11:50 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Audit Slams Anti-Violence Program Pushed By Quinn

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

An audit Tuesday criticized an anti-violence program Governor Pat Quinn pushed during his 2010 election campaign.Republicans wasted no time in calling for an investigation.

The non-partisan audit (PDF) says the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative was "hastily implemented" and did not use standard financial safeguards.

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District 186
4:31 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Dist. 186 Will Look At Additional Cuts To Budget

The original list of proposed cuts as presented to the School board on 2/24/14
Credit provided by District 186

As Springfield public schools look to save around $5 million dollars, jobs and programs are on the chopping block. And yet, some say even those cuts would not save enough. 

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Statehouse
4:07 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

House Sets Spending Cap — Down $1b From Last Year

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Illinois House took a key first step in the state budgeting process Tuesday.

It adopted what's called a "revenue estimate" — how much money Illinois is expected to be able to spend in the next fiscal year.

The cap, of $34.495 billion, is significant in several ways: It's about a billion less than last year's number, which means lawmakers are going to have extend the tax increase or find other sources of money, or they'll have to make a lot of cuts. On the other hand, it's not as bad as some people had feared.

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The Arts
11:22 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Students Compete With 'Poetry Out Loud'

Area high school students who competed in the 2014 Central Illinois 'Poetry Out Loud' Regional Contest
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Most teenagers spend more time on the internet chatting with friends than reading books - let alone poetry. However, the art form has seen a recent resurgence, and in some circles is even considered "hip." In Springfield, 14 area high school students recently competed in the regional version of the Poetry Out Loud contest to recite a wide variety of poems from memory.

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This I Believe 2014
7:35 am
Tue February 25, 2014

The Sneetches

Gabrielle Gardner - Southeast HS
Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

I believe that Sneetches are Sneetches. This probably sounds ridiculous to most people, but it is a belief that has greatly affected my outlook on life. In the children’s story “The Sneetches” by Dr. Seuss there is a very important lesson about people and their differences. In this story, there are Sneetches that live on the beach (or the beaches, as Dr. Seuss would say).  Some of these Sneetches were born with big stars on their bellies while others hadn’t anything on theirs.

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Regional
7:28 am
Tue February 25, 2014

FutureGen Gets OK For Morgan County Pipeline Route

FutureGen site in Meredosia
Credit WUIS

Illinois regulators have given the FutureGen Alliance the go-ahead for a 30-mile carbon dioxide pipeline.  

The  State Journal-Register reports  the pipeline would be buried at least four feet underground in northeast Morgan County. It'd be even deeper under farmland.  

The $1.68 billion project will refit a coal-fired power plant in Meredosia  in western Illinois. Authorities want to remove carbon dioxide from the coal and store it underground. The greenhouse gas is linked to climate change.  

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Regional
7:16 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Area Gets Money for Storm Cleanup

Sandbagging last spring at Meredosia
Credit Bill Wheelhouse WUIS

Some federal money is heading into the area to help pay for storm cleanup and recovery from last year.

The state will get $6470,000 to help pay temporary workers to help with the cleanup from flooding, tornadoes and other storms last April and May.

The most recent grant will be spent in Calhoun, Cass, Fulton, Mason, Morgan, Pike, Schuyler and Scott counties.

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Statehouse
6:00 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Prosecutor Backing Electronic Privacy Bill

The Illinois Senate is considering limits on the ways law enforcement can use electronic tracking information. Both privacy advocates and police are in favor of the change.

With the popularity of GPS-enabled smart phones, many of us are constantly broadcasting our location. And Illinois law doesn't have much to say about how that information can and can't be used against us in court.

Privacy advocates want restrictions. And even law enforcement can be left guessing as to what's legal.

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Harvest Desk
6:01 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Changing Dairy Industry Leaves Some Farmers In The Dust

Donnie Davidson turns off the lights in his dairy parlor. His family has been producing grade A milk in Holden, Mo., since the 1930s.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Donnie Davidson’s family has been producing bottled milk in Holden, Mo., since the 1930s. But the 63-year-old farmer decided to sell his herd of 50 milking cows in November after the roof on one of his barns collapsed from last winter’s snow.

Rebuilding the barn would have cost about $20,000. Then there were the costs of renovating a silo and paying for hired help since Davidson’s children won’t be taking over the business. It made financial sense to close the dairy, and grow crops and build a herd of beef cattle instead.

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Election 2014
1:29 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

13th Cong. District Candidate: George Gollin

George Gollin launches his bid for the 13th Congressional District on July 23, 2013.
Credit Jeff Bossert/WILL

University of Illinois physics professor George Gollin is one of three Democrats seeking their party's nomination in the 13th Congressional District, along with three Republicans.

He hasn't run for elected office before, but he tells  Sean Powers that he has worked on federal legislation, while serving on the board of a higher education group.

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Statehouse
10:37 am
Mon February 24, 2014

State Fiscal 'Toolbox' Available To Better Explain Budget Issues

David Merriman
Credit igpa

Illinois, like many states, suffered financially during the recession.  But an economist says Illinois was in a weaker position to deal with the challenge.    

David Merriman is with the University of Illinois' Institute of Government and Public Affairs.  
The Institute has developed what's called the Illinois Budget Policy Toolbox.  Merriman says it will provide information on the state's finances and analysis of proposals that come up during an election year.

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This I Believe 2014
7:35 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Great Sacrifices Give Great Rewards

Pauline Kersjes - Springfield HS
Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

    It is July 31st. I am standing in an airport far away from here. I turn around for the last time and see my parents and three sisters waving goodbye with tears running down their faces. I have not cried a single tear today. I think the tears are all gone. I cried enough yesterday. I am way too excited to cry anyway. Today it is finally going to happen. I have been waiting for this moment for almost two years. I believe that this year is going to be worth it.

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Statehouse
7:18 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Quinn Getting Campaign Operation in Gear

Credit Amanda Vinicky

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is ramping up his re-election campaign. 

Quinn's campaign announced over the weekend the Chicago Democrat has hired Illinois native Bill Hyers to serve as chief strategist. 

Hyers most recently managed Bill de Blasio's successful campaign for mayor of New York. In 2012 he managed President Barack Obama's Pennsylvania campaign operation. He was Midwest director for Obama in 2008.  

Quinn is seeking his second full term. He faces a lesser-known opponent, anti-violence activist Tio Hardiman of Hillside, in the March 18 primary.  

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Higher Ed
6:00 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Legislation Would Block Faculty Loans

Illinois lawmakers are considering whether to crack down on universities giving a certain type of interest-free loan to faculty. Except it doesn’t seem to be happening in Illinois.

State Rep. Jack Franks, a Democrat from Marnego, says the legislation is meant to prevent universities from abusing their tax-exempt status.

“What we found was that tax-exempt universities were giving interest-free … loans, and also forgiving loans, for second homes for professors, at a time when students are taking on excessive debt," Franks says.

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Harvest Desk
6:18 pm
Sun February 23, 2014

Are Low Corn Prices Here To Stay?

Credit dok1/flickr

The days of record high corn prices are gone, at least for now, and they’re only going to continue their decline, according to projections released this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (PDF)

You can pin part of the blame on the 2012 drought, when corn hit an all-time high of $8.31 per bushel. The dry conditions made corn a limited commodity.

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Statehouse
4:25 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

AP: Rutherford Spent $27k To Probe Lawsuit Charges

Dan Rutherford

Documents obtained by The Associated Press show Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford spent nearly $27,000 in taxpayer money on an investigation into allegations of political coercion and
sexual harassment against him.
 
 The Republican candidate for governor revealed the cost of the report under the
Freedom of Information Act. But his lawyers have refused to disclose results of the investigation into the former employee's charges.
 
 Edmund Michalowski claimed in a federal lawsuit Feb. 10 that Rutherford

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Regional
3:50 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Lake Decatur Water Release Could Result In Flooding Along Sangamon River

Lake Decatur
Credit flickr/lewismarien

City officials in Decatur say they are releasing large quantities of water out of Lake Decatur that could lead to flooding and other problems along the Sangamon River.  

The city said in a news release Friday that water flowing down the river and snowmelt have led to high water in the lake. Lake Decatur sits on the eastern edge of the central Illinois town.  
The lake is fed by the Sangamon River. The river then flows out of the lake and eventually winds its way west toward Springfield.  

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Regional
3:41 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Two Tornado Touchdowns In Sangamon County Thursday

The National Weather Service in Lincoln has confirmed  at least 7 tornadoes developed in central and east central Illinois  during the late afternoon hours of February 20th.  Two reports of the confirmed  tornadoes were in Sangamon County. An NWS Lincoln damage assessment team is  still out doing surveys on the other tornadoes.
 
 
  .Divernon, IL Tornado (Sangamon County)...
 
  RATING:                 EF-0
  ESTIMATED PEAK WIND:    80 MPH
  PATH LENGTH /STATUTE/:  0.2 MILES
  PATH WIDTH /MAXIMUM/:   75 YARDS
  FATALITIES:             0

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Statehouse
2:44 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Same Sex Couple Weds In Cook County After Judge's Ruling

One Illinois same-sex couple has gotten married after a judge ruled ruled gay couples in the Chicago area don't have to wait until June to marry.
 
Mercedes Santos and Theresa Volpe were married Friday afternoon in downtown Chicago. They have been together 22 years and have three children. Clerk David Orr said he would start offering the licenses Friday after the federal judge's ruling. It applies only to Cook County.
 
A judge waived the 24-hour waiting period for Santos and Volpe because they were plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
 

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State Week
1:47 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Listen To State Week - February 21, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, the latest news from the candidates vying for the Republican nomination in the next Governor's race.

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