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December Enrollment Still Unknown
7:31 am
Mon January 13, 2014

Another Affordable Care Act Deadline This Week

It has been roughly two weeks since the first batch of consumers who signed up for the Affordable Care Act have been able to use their insurance. There's another deadline this week.

Consumers who signed up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act by Christmas saw their new benefits kick in Jan. 1.

There's no telling how many Illinois residents that is: the government hasn't released enrollment numbers for December. But insurers and so-called navigators, who are charged with helping people sign up, reported a last-minute rush.

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Harvest Desk
6:23 am
Mon January 13, 2014

Forget The Golf Course, Subdivisions Build Around Farms

The Bucking Horse subdivision in Fort Collins, Colo., will include a working CSA farm, complete with historic barn, farm house and chicken coop.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

For decades, housing developments in the suburbs have come complete with golf courses, tennis courts, strip malls and swimming pools. But make way for the new subdivision amenity: the specialty farm.

A new model for suburban development is springing up across the country that taps into the local food movement. Farms, complete with livestock, vegetables and fruit trees, are serving as a way to entice potential buyers to settle in a new subdivision.

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Election 2014
5:03 am
Mon January 13, 2014

Minimum Wage Is A Campaign Issue

Credit flickr

Raising Illinois' minimum wage has emerged as the first significant campaign issue for candidates hoping to become Illinois' next governor. And it could take center stage throughout the year.  
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn says he wants to raise the $8.25 hourly rate to at least $10 by year's end. But a coalition of business groups that worry raising the rate would kill jobs say they'll try to stop the efforts.

Next month there'll be an Illinois Manufacturer's Association forum where organizers say minimum wage will be a main topic.  

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Harvest Desk
4:27 pm
Fri January 10, 2014

Planting Less Corn In 2014

Falling corn prices and questions about ethanol demand could lead Illinois farmers to plant fewer acres of corn this year.  

Patrick Kirchhofer is manager of the Peoria County Farm Bureau. He tells the (Peoria) Journal Star that farmers are instead taking a closer look at soybeans this year. That's after several years of increasing corn production fueled by higher prices.  

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Regional
4:24 pm
Fri January 10, 2014

Cold Weather Impacted Blood Supply

Health officials are putting out the word that supplies are running low after blood drives in Illinois were canceled because of this week's winter weather.  
At the Central Illinois Community Blood Center in Springfield, officials say there have been about 600 fewer donations.  
And in the St. Louis area, more than 30 different blood drives were canceled.  

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Harvest Desk
4:05 pm
Fri January 10, 2014

Illinois Led Nation In Soybean Yields In 2013

2013 Soybean Yields (Bushels And Change From 2012)
USDA NASS

U.S. farmers harvested more corn in 2013 than in 2012, while the soybean harvest declined slightly, according to USDA reports released Friday. 

In 2013, Illinois farmers saw the best soybean yields in the nation, outpacing the soy heavyweight of Iowa. In 2013, the state of Illinois reported 49 bushels per acre, while Iowa farmers only got 45 bushels per acre out of their fields last year.

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State Week
1:30 pm
Fri January 10, 2014

Listen To State Week - January 10, 2014

This week's topics include how the debate over the state's minimum wage may affect the Republican candidates for Governor, and calls for a change of leadership at the state's Department of Corrections.

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Arts & Culture
11:57 am
Fri January 10, 2014

'Dumb Records' Is Latest Addition To Southtown Culture

blacksheepspringfield.com

A new record store is opening in Springfield this weekend. Making a profit off vinyl records may sound risky, but the four co-owners have a lot experience building a following in the punk music scene especially. Kevin Bradford recently joined us to talk about it. He owns Black Sheep Cafe, a music venue, and will be one of the co-owners of the record store at 1107 South Grand, called Dumb Records: 

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Statehouse
7:35 am
Fri January 10, 2014

Republican Candidate For Governor Kicked Off The Ballot

Republicans, including (from left) Tres. Dan Rutherford's running mate Steve Kim, Sen. Kirk Dillard and Sen. Bill Brady - both of whom are running for governor - stood in line to file their elections paperwork late last year.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Whether Governor Pat Quinn will have a primary opponent is still undecided. But there's one fewer candidate seeking the Republican nomination.

There's a way to win an election long before election day: get your opponent knocked off the ballot -- challenging their paperwork for not meeting the rules.

That helped clear the way for Barack Obama when he was trying to begin his political career in the Illinois Senate.

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Regional
3:39 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Federal Aid Denied To Tornado Damaged Counties

Credit Peoria Public Radio

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied a request for aid to local governments in Illinois after deadly tornadoes swept the state in November.  

FEMA sent a letter on Thursday to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency saying that damage after the storms wasn't severe enough to warrant federal help. The storms left at least 7 people dead statewide and destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses.  

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Statehouse
1:06 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Professor Says Publicly Funded Campaigns Are Better for Voters

UIS Political Scientist Michael Miller
Credit courtesy of Michael Miller

An expert on campaign finance says his studies show that government funding of state level races is better for voters and candidates.  Michael Miller of the University of Illinois Springfield makes the case in his new book "Subsidizing Democracy: How Public Funding Changes Elections And How It Can Work In The Future". He spoke with Bill Wheelhouse:

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Let's Talk Kids
12:44 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Fill Up to Give Away

You’ve probably had this experience.

Your day is too full already with too many places to be.  As you race from one point to the next, you glance down at your fuel gauge and discover you’re running on fumes.

What to do?  If you stop to fill your gas tank it will make you later than you are already.  But the alternative is worse.

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Sports
10:23 am
Thu January 9, 2014

U Of I Athletic Director Could Get A Raise

Mike Thomas
Credit University of Illinois

University of Illinois trustees are considering giving Athletic Director Mike Thomas a raise and a contract extension.  
Trustee James Montgomery said Thursday that under the proposal Thomas' base pay would be increased to $554,000 and extended by two years. Thomas was hired in 2011 on a five-year contract with a base salary of $475,000.  

A trustees' committee will consider the proposal Thursday in Chicago. Any changes would eventually have to be approved by the full board of trustees that governs the university.  

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Health Desk
9:15 am
Thu January 9, 2014

The Cost Of Keeping A Small Town Ambulance Service

Credit Auburn Ambulance Service

When it's a matter of life and death, you call for an ambulance.  But seconds can save lives.  Having an ambulance close by is a luxury for some communities, especially in smaller, rural areas.  There's a cost and often, the number of calls are too few to support it.

In Auburn, it's a similar story.  But the Auburn Area Ambulance Service won't give up.  The not for profit has found a way to get donations.  It's launched a subscription service.

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Business
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

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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