News

Pages

Regional
6:00 am
Mon May 12, 2014

Springfield Police Lieutenant Retires Days After Receiving Promotion

Credit commons.wikimedia.org

Earlier this month,  the Springfield Police Department promoted two sergeants to the rank of lieutenant.  One has already retired, able to earn a higher pension because of the promotion.

Under state law, retiring police officers are allowed to collect pension benefits based on rank for their last day of employment.

Springfield Alderman Joe McMenamin says a lieutenant retiring at a rank he never served is quote 'offensive.' He says the public doesn't appreciate a "revolving door of promotions right before retirement.”

Read more
Budget FY15
5:02 am
Mon May 12, 2014

State Budget: "It's All In Such A State Of Flux"

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

After a weekend break, Senators will return to Springfield this afternoon, as the calendar draws closer to the scheduled May 31 adjournment.

While the end of the month is a key date, it's another one, about a half a year away, that will largely guide much of what happens these next few weeks: the November election.

Read more
State Week
9:25 am
Sat May 10, 2014

Listen To State Week - May 9, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

Getting attention is a plan to change  school funding that  would shift a larger share of the state funding to poorer school districts.  And scrutiny of Governor Pat Quinn's Neighborhood Recovery Initiative continues.

Read more
Poison Control vs. 911
6:37 am
Fri May 9, 2014

Senate Comes To Poison Control Center's Rescue

  Two emergency services are pit against each another in a fight for state funds. 

Illinois' Poison Control Center receives more than 82,000 calls a year. Some are from health care providers looking for expertise, but mostly they're from the general public.

"Some of them are very simple ones, like can I take Tylenol and Nyquil together? And the answer would be no," the center's director, Dr. Michael Wahl, says.

He says callers have often been waiting longer to get that advice. He says funding cuts, and the resulting staff shortages, have tripled wait times.

Read more
Election 2014
6:31 am
Fri May 9, 2014

Nursing Home Lawsuit Dogs Rauner

GOP nominee for governor, Bruce Rauner
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner has been able to self-fund much of his campaign. That's thanks to the fortune he made as a partner in a private equity firm. But some of his investments continue to haunt him politically.

Lawsuits attribute deaths at nursing homes to Rauner's former investment company, GTCR.

They allege that cost-cutting at one of the company's subsidiaries led to patient neglect.

Read more
School funding
5:17 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

Springfield Schools Would Get More Money With Funding Overhaul

Credit Wikimedia Commons

  Spring is budgeting time for schools in Illinois. Over the past few years, school officials in poorer districts have had to cut staff and programs in order to balance their checkbooks.

Declining state funding, coupled with decreased property values have resulted in a double-whammy shortfall, especially in districts that aren't property-wealthy to begin with.

Many local school districts would be 'winners' under a plan to overhaul how schools are funded in Illinois. That includes Springfield District 186.

Read more
Education Desk
4:33 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

District 186 Backs State Funding Change

Credit WUIS

Springfield District 186 is endorsing a change in state funding that would benefit the district.  Area Senator Andy Manar, a Democrat, is pushing the idea to re-work how the state doles out money to schools.  Manar says it would provide more equity between wealthy and poor districts.

Springfield public schools would receive nearly 6 percent more under the change. A statement from District 186 says an increase in funding would allow teaching positions to be restored and technology upgrades. It also says it could help avoid future budget cuts.

Read more
Education Desk
4:28 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

Higher Ed Retirement Board Accepts Pension Fix

Credit UIS.edu

The board of the State Universities Retirement System has voted to accept an interpretation of last year's Illinois pension reform law that says it won't inadvertently cut university retirees' pension.  

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, (http://bit.ly/RvIgwf) the board's executive committee voted unanimously on Thursday in Chicago to follow other state pension systems and accept the interpretation of the 2013 law.  

Read more
Regional
2:37 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

Finances Shelve Macon County Fair

Credit flickr/Georgebannister

Macon County's fair will not be held this year. It's the first break in almost 160 years and organizers say finances are the cause.

Fair Board Treasurer Teresa Wilson said Wednesday during an Illinois Department of Agriculture hearing that the fair will not be held this year. Instead the board plans a smaller-scale Macon County Fairgrounds Festival to try to generate revenue. The hearing was held to determine if the fair can be reimbursed by the state for prizes.  

Read more
Business
8:28 am
Thu May 8, 2014

New Chamber President Says He Will Keep A Local Focus

Chris Hembrough
Credit GSCC

Chris Hembrough said he wasn't looking for a new job.  He's been the Executive Director of the local Big Brothers Big Sisters for the past 7 years.

"I wasn't looking around, but sometimes opportunities come your way, especially when trusted folks give you a lead of advice. So I threw my hat in the ring," Hembrough said.

Hembrough was selected as the new President and CEO of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, starting July 1. 

Read more
Harvest Desk
7:45 am
Thu May 8, 2014

Illinois Groups Want Expanded Trade With Cuba

Credit Illinois Cuba Working Group

Back in 1999, then Governor George Ryan led a delegation to the island nation of Cuba.   Since that time, a number of Illinois Agriculture groups have been working to ease trade restrictions to the small nation.   The Illinois Cuba Working Group recently sent a letter to President Barack Obama hoping to expand trade opportunities between the nations.  

Read more
Education funding
11:05 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Analysis Shows School Funding Plan Would Benefit Downstate Districts

Credit flickr/LizMarie_AK

  Downstate schools would be the primary winners under a proposed school funding overhaul before the General Assembly. A report from Illinois' board of education could lead to a regional divide when it comes up for a vote.

Illinois' public school system relies heavily on property taxes, often meaning the quality of a student's education will depend on his or her zip code.

But a proposal in the General Assembly would completely change the state's complicated funding formula.

Read more
Statehouse
5:58 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Republicans Want State Worker Wages Paid With Extra State Cash

Sen. Sam McCann addresses reporters about SB 3657, a bill that would allow the comptroller to use extra state dollars to pay employee back wages and old bills.
Credit WUIS/Lee Strubinger

A report says Illinois officials can look forward to more than a billion dollars in tax collections they hadn't been expecting this year. A group of lawmakers already has a plan for the money.

Thousands of state workers are owed an estimated 112 million dollars in back wages. Governor Pat Quinn negotiated raises with members of AFSCME back before the 2010 elections, but lawmakers never came through with the money to pay them.

Now some Republicans say this year's unexpected tax windfall ought to be used to finally make good on the contract.

Read more
Budget FY15
5:47 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Quinn, Rauner On The Business Of The State Budget

Gov. Pat Quinn told the Illinois Manufacturers' Association and the Illinois Retail Merchants' Association that "savage" cuts will occur if his budget plan does not pass.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  The two men dueling to be Illinois' next governor tried Thursday to win over business leaders with their plans for the state's finances. They both made appearances before a joint meeting of Illinois' retailers and manufacturers in Springfield.

Quinn got a standing ovation as he took the stage, but the response after that was lukewarm.

Just before Quinn's speech, several business owners had been at the podium, complaining about Illinois' high unemployment rate, regulations and taxes.

Read more
Statehouse
3:52 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Jury Duty: ¿Se Habla Español?

Cook County is among the locations where jurors would be allowed to serve with translators.
Credit Wikimedia Commons/user: kmaschke

Jury duty could soon be open to people who are not fluent in the English language. The Illinois Senate today approved a pilot program to provide translators for jurors.

Illinois law currently says jurors must be able to "understand the English language." This proposal would allow jurors who speak other languages to have interpreters.

It's the idea of Dan Locallo, a retired Cook County judge.

Read more
Education Desk
2:20 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Legal Interpretation May Erase Pension Glitch

Credit uis.edu

The State Universities Retirement System now says a troublesome piece of last year's state pension-reform law may not cut retirees' pensions after all.  

William Mabe is the executive director of the retirement system. He tells The (Champaign) News-Gazette (http://bit.ly/QfeCu8 ) that the language in law that would cost retirees' a year of pension should be interpreted as if it didn't _ because it wasn't intended to.  
That's based on the interpretation the Teachers Retirement System has been using when it looks at the law. Now SURS plans to follow suit.  

Read more
Medical marijuana
12:42 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Medical Marijuana For Juvenile Epilepsy Moves Forward

Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) listens as Adam Frederick testifies on behalf of his daughter, Michaela (pictured in Frederick's hand), who uses cannabis oil to control her seizures. Lang was the original architect of the medical marijuana law passed last spring.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  As Illinois' medical marijuana pilot program is still getting up and running, lawmakers are already looking to add a new category of patient: children with epilepsy.

At just two months old, Michaela Frederick's tiny body suffered up to 100 seizures a day. A lack of oxygen to her brain at birth is thought to have caused her severe epilepsy.

Traditional FDA-approved drugs have been able to cut that number of seizures in half. But her father, Adam Frederick, says they put Michaela in a vegetative state.

Read more
Statehouse
7:57 am
Wed May 7, 2014

Lawmakers With Subpoena Powers — Necessary, Or Just for Show?

Gov. Pat Quinn touted the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative as he was up for election in 2010.

  A group of lawmakers granted themselves subpoena power Tuesday, to further an investigation into an anti-violence program favored by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. Brian Mackey looks at whether it's necessary — or just for show.

The Neighborhood Recovery Initiative was rushed out in fall 2010, as Quinn was up for election.

Read more
Harvest Desk
7:50 am
Wed May 7, 2014

It's Farmer's Market Season!

Fresh bread and baked goods from Central IL Catering at the 2013 Illinois Products Farmers Market
Credit Il Dept. of Agriculture

The first of Springfield's farmer's markets will open tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon at the state fairgrounds. 

The Illinois Products Farmer's Market is across the from the grandstand and features a bevy of local and state products, from food to beer, wine and more. 

Kendra Schilling is the market manager. 

With the growth of farmer's markets, Schilling says Springfield has yet to reach a tipping point for demand.

Read more
Regional
10:14 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

Springfield Video Gaming Restrictions In Place, City Delays Ward Map Vote

Credit springfield.il.us

Those applying for video gaming licenses in the city will have deal with new parameters set up by the Springfield council.

Aldermen approved a measure that requires establishments with video gaming have to earn a least 60 percent of their revenue from food and beverage sales. 

Ward 6 alderman Cory Jobe says he’s hopeful no additional ordinances regulating video gaming will be needed.

Read more
Income tax
5:05 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

Nursing Home Advocates Call For Income Tax Extension

Credit WUIS

  Advocates for nursing homes say if Illinois does not keep income tax rates where they are, thousands of seniors could lose access to care. But it's not yet clear whether the General Assembly will make the tax hike permanent.

Lawmakers have a little less than a month to pass a budget for the next fiscal year -- a budget that nursing homes rely on to subsidize their operations.

Advocates say if the state's income tax is allowed to roll back as scheduled at the end of the year, nursing homes are projected to take a 14 percent funding cut.

Read more
Harvest Desk
1:28 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

Chinese Market Could Help Rid Rivers Of Asian Carp

Recently processed Asian carp hang in racks at the Two Rivers Fisheries processing plant in Wickliffe, Ky. The fishing industry hopes demand from China can both create a market for, and help rid U.S. rivers of, the invasive species.
Credit Jacob McClelland/Harvest Public Media

Water experts worried about Asian carp may have new hope. They’re turning their eyes to China, where a carp-hungry populace may be the key for stemming the tide of the invasive fish.

Asian carp are taking over U.S. waterways, including the Mississippi River and tributaries like the Illinois and Missouri Rivers, where they out-compete native fish.

In China, carp is cheap and a common meal-time fixture. Now, a carp fishing industry is springing up along carp-infested U.S. waters and processors are exporting the U.S. problem fish to Chinese diners.

Read more
Statehouse
9:00 am
Tue May 6, 2014

Former Lawmaker Says Change Is Needed In State Budgeting

Rick Winkel
Credit IGPA

Rick Winkel served in the legislature from 1995 to 2003.  Now he is Director of the Office of Public Leadership at the University of Illinois' Institute of Government and Public Affairs. 

He wrote a recent op-ed that criticizes how budgeting is done.  He said more transparency is needed, including data that is easier for people outside of government to understand.

"When that data is available and provided openly, understandably so it's concise and legible and put in a format that's consistent," he said.  "Opening up the process before decisions are made and afterward."

Read more
Term limits/Redistricting
5:12 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Citizen Initiatives Begin Navigating Statutes, Lawsuits

Illinois State Board of Elections employees work to verify a sampling of petition signatures for two citizen-initiated constitutional amendments.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  Even as a lawsuit could nullify them, the state board of elections has begun a tedious — but necessary — task of preparing a pair of proposed constitutional amendments for the November ballot. The two citizen initiatives aim to strip lawmakers of the power to draw their own maps and to limit their terms in office.

A dozen-or-so workers sit at tables at the board of elections building in Springfield.

Sliding, one at a time, more than 105,000 pieces of paper through scanners," said Rupert Borgsmiller, director of the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Read more
Election 2014
4:35 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Diana Rauner Distances Herself From Budget Requests

Bruce Rauner stands with wife Diana on primary election night, March 18, 2014.

  Gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner is a Republican, but his wife says she is not. As Rauner's campaign continues to criticize Governor Quinn's stance on taxes, Rauner's wife has a stake in the cause.

Just after the March primary election, Illinois was introduced to Diana Rauner, Bruce Rauner's wife. She introduced herself as "a lifelong Democrat."

She's also the CEO of Ounce of Prevention, a Chicago-based non-profit that uses state grant money to help promote early childhood education.

Read more
Harvest Desk
7:17 am
Mon May 5, 2014

Schnucks Recalling Deli Item

Credit schnucks.com

Schnucks is recalling chicken salad because of possible listeria contamination.  

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Saturday that Schnucks Kitchen of O'Fallon is recalling about 130 pounds of curry white meat chicken salad with walnuts due to possible contamination with listeria monocytogenes.  

The USDA says the product came in sealed three-pound bags and was produced April 24 before being shipped to Schnucks stores for deli distribution in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin.  

Read more
Election 2014
6:01 am
Mon May 5, 2014

Still Waiting For Comprehensive Budget Plan From Rauner

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner speaks to Sangamon County Republicans in March.
Credit Hannah Meisel

The two men vying for governor disagree on a lot of issues, most notably what to do about Illinois' budget. Still, it's hard to compare the two, because one plan doesn't seem to exist.

It was nearly a month ago, at an event for Sangamon County Republicans that the party's nominee, Bruce Rauner, said "we'll be coming out with a comprehensive plan, that will be recommending about what we should change in our regulations and in our tax code and in our spending structure, in the, in … relatively near future."

So far, though, that hasn't happened.

Read more
Regional
4:22 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Springfield Takes Harsh Stance Against Recent Spike In Gun Crimes

Mayor Mike Houston, Springfield Police Chief Kenny Winslow, State's Attorney John Milhiser and Sangamon County Under Sheriff Jack Campbell address the media about Springfield's recent gun crimes.
Credit WUIS/Lee Strubinger

Springfield has seen a recent spike in gun violence.  City and County officials are calling for a cease fire.

The Springfield Police Chief says there have been 20 shooting incidents since the beginning of March.  He says it has even involved local teenagers. 

Since summer break is approaching, the city says it’s developing a strategy for handling the violence.

Though no specifics on the strategy were given, Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says the city will come down hard on those taking part in gun crimes.

Read more
State Week
3:03 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Listen To State Week - May 2, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

  The panel discusses several investigations into Governor Pat Quinn's administration and allegations of corruption, also a couple ballot initiatives - one on term limits and another regarding redistricting.

Read more
Breaking
2:31 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Motion Filed To Put Pension Law On Hold

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

A court is being asked to prevent any aspect of Illinois' pension overhaul from taking effect, until it's decided whether the law is constitutional. A motion was filed Friday in Sangamon County Court.

Read more

Pages