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Education Desk
11:05 am
Wed May 14, 2014

WUIS Engage: Chris Farrell Discusses The Impact Of Education On The Economy

Chris Farrell
Credit Marketplace

On May 2, WUIS held an engagement event at the Hoogland Center for the Arts.  It featured Chris Farrell, Economics Editor for the Marketplace programs and Business Week. 

He touched on several education related topics and gave his views. 

"I think education and local economic development are two sides of the same coin," Farrell said. "When someone says what should we do to grow our economy, simply say education."

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Pensions
6:20 am
Wed May 14, 2014

Decision Could Come Today On Pension Delay

The vote in the Illinois House on the 2013 pension overhaul law.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

A hearing set for this afternoon could determine if some, or even all, of Illinois' new pension law will be suspended.

The pension law is supposed to take effect next month.

The We Are One coalition of unions wants a hold put on the entire law, until a broader lawsuit seeking to have it declared unconstitutional is resolved.

Anders Lindall is a spokesman for AFSCME, the state's largest public employees union. He says once someone retires, that can't be reversed.

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Daily Egyptian
8:30 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

House Budget Plan Could Help Save SIU Student Paper

  Southern Illinois University Carbondale's financially-struggling student newspaper would get an infusion of cash under newly introduced legislation.

A spending measure filed in the Illinois House would give The Daily Eqyptian 70-thousand dollars.

The paper had asked for a nine-dollar-per-semester student fee, but the SIU Board of Trustees has not given approval.

The Daily Egyptian's faculty adviser, Eric Fidler says he's still hopeful that will happen this summer. But he says the 70 thousand dollars would be a buffer.

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Regional
12:56 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

As Hy-Vee Opens, City To Focus On Further MacArthur Development

Credit WUIS/Lee Strubinger

Despite the rain Tuesday morning, customers arrived in droves to the unveiling of the the new Springfield Hy-Vee supermarket along MacArthur boulevard. 

The city offered special tax incentives in hopes of spurring growth along MacArthur.

Springfield Alderman Cory Jobe was president of the MacArthur Boulevard Business Association when the idea to bring Hy-Vee about came around.  He says the building brings life to the core of the city.

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Science
6:21 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Raise A Cup To The "Black Drink"

The yaupon holly, or Ilex vomitoria
Credit US Fish and Wildlife Service/public domain

Imagine a caffeinated concoction that, when ingested, resulted in bouts of vomiting.  You might prefer to stick with your gourmet coffee.

But the "Black Drink" as it is known was part of a ritual. The vomiting was done for purity.  It turns out, early societies imbibed.  Even the Cahokia civilization about 1000 years ago.  That's roughly 500 years earlier than records of consumption elsewhere.  Research has found residue in ceremonial cups that confirm the Black Drink was used at Cahokia.

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Blue Laws
6:02 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Buy A Car On Sunday? Dealers Say No

Car dealers could legally operate on Sundays in Illinois until the law was changed in 1982.
Credit Alden Jewell (Flickr/autohistorian)

An Illinois lawmakers is trying to change state law so car dealers can be open on Sundays. But he's facing long odds.

When Sen. Jim Oberweis, from Sugar Grove, learned it was against the law for a car dealer to be open on Sunday, his Republican instincts kicked in.

"Being a business guy, I thought that I would be the hero of the automobile industry by getting this over-reaching government off the backs of car sales," Oberweis said.

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Pensions
12:49 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Deal Reached On University Pensions

Gov. Pat Quinn signs the pension overhaul, known sometimes as Senate Bill 1, into law in December, 2013.
Credit Harvey Tillis / Illinois Information Service

Even as the "We Are One" broad coalition of unions seeks to prevent any of the pension law from taking effect next month, a new agreement would prevent parts of it from being implemented.

It mostly affects university and community college employees nearing the end of their careers.

The deal, between the State Universities Annuitants Association and the attorney general, could put a stop to a surge of retirements at Illinois' public universities.

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Gambling expansion
5:42 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Bob Rita Makes Another Push For Gambling Expansion

Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island), worries the Casino Queen in East St. Louis is too close to horse racing track, Fairmont Park, in Collinsville, and thus would exclude Fairmont from slot machines.
Credit Paul Sableman (pasa47) via Flickr

  While Illinois lawmakers continue to debate whether to extend the income tax increase. But that's not the only source of money being considered. Backers of expanding gambling also project the state would get a windfall.

State Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island) is once again taking a stab at gambling expansion.

He's got two options: Either authorizing a casino for Chicago, or a broader plan that would put casinos in Chicago, Danville, Rockford, Lake County and the south suburbs. Horse race tracks would also be permitted to have slot machines.

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Education Desk
5:10 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Pre-K Teacher Named Educator Of The Year

Dee Dee Duffy
Credit Horace Mann

Dee Dee Duffy has been teaching in District 186 for 25 years.  Monday she was honored as the 2014 Horace Mann Educator of the Year.  Duffy is an Early Start Pre-Kindergarten teacher at the Early Learning Center. 

Also, Nichole Heyen, principal of Lincoln Magnet Middle School, was named Administrator of the Year. She's been in District 186 for 14 years.

Both were honored at a luncheon ceremony. 

The program has been in existence since 1998.  An independent panel makes the selections. 

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Housing
1:56 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Lawmakers Consider Tax Credit For Distressed, Vacant Communities

Credit Wikimedia Commons

  Lawmakers are exploring a way to stabilize Illinois communities hit hard by the Great Recession. Advocates say a statewide property tax credit would boost development in blighted areas.

When houses are left vacant, it drives down property values for the entire block. In Cook County alone, there are an estimated 55,000 such vacancies.

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Statehouse
1:45 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

AP: IDOT Hires Had Political Clout

Dozens of state jobs involved in a dispute over whether they should be free of politics were filled by Gov. Pat Quinn's administration with candidates who were politically connected or gave campaign money to the governor's party.  
That's according to an Associated Press review of state documents.  

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Harvest Desk
10:00 am
Mon May 12, 2014

Chilli Parlor Re-Opens Serving Century Old Recipe

WUIS/Lee Strubinger

A Springfield culinary landmark has re-opened it's doors.  The Dew Chilli parlor was established in 1909, but it closed about 20 years ago.    Mark Roberts is the new owner and a longtime fan.   Lee Strubinger went to the parlor's recent grand opening and he presents this audio postcard:

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.  

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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. 

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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