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Ranked 50th
7:24 am
Tue August 20, 2013

Illinois' Education Funding Under Review

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois ranks 50th among the states in the share of education funding that comes from state government. The formula used to distribute that money dates back to the '90s.

On Monday afternoon, a group of state senators began working on an update.

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Statehouse
5:51 pm
Mon August 19, 2013

Illinois Speed Limit Going To 70 MPH

Credit flickr/theeggplant

Illinois' top speed limit will go up on many highways beginning in January.  Governor Pat Quinn has signed a new law increasing the speed limit from 65 to 70 m.p.h.                
Quinn bucked the advice of his Department of Transportation, which opposed the legislation.
IDOT says a higher speed limit will raise average speeds leading to more crashes and fatalities.
But the measure's sponsor, Rep. Jerry Costello (D_Smithton) says more accidents happen because of vehicles traveling at different speeds ... not because of higher speeds.

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Regional
11:32 am
Mon August 19, 2013

Auburn Mayor Approves Video Gambling

The issue of video gaming machines has created a divide in the town of Auburn. 

Mayor Barb Stamer cast a tie breaking vote against gambling earlier this year.  Now, she's changed her mind.  (UPDATE: 6:45 a.m. Tuesday) The matter came up at Monday's Auburn City Council meeting and Stamer cast the tie-breaking vote in favor.

Towns small and large have had to decide whether or not allowing the machines is worth the cut the communities will receive from gamblers.

Stamer spoke with WUIS' Sean Crawford on Illinois Edition:

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Election 2014
11:09 am
Mon August 19, 2013

Ducky Democrats Dog Congressman Davis

Nafia Khan (in duck suit) and DCCC organizer Lauren North were on the Illinois State Fairgrounds for Republican Day. They accuse Congressman Rodney Davis of "ducking" constituents, something his spokesman dismisses as "political funny season."
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Political campaigns are gearing up for next year's elections. So, too, are political pranksters.

Congressman Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, has lately found himself being shadowed by a giant duck.

Technically it's a woman in a duck suit: "Uh, yes, it is very warm in the duck costume."

This is Nafia Khan. She and a handful of other activists are on the Illinois State Fairgrounds, holding signs that accuse Congressman Davis of "ducking" constituents. They say he's not holding any town hall meetings.

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Harvest Desk
8:39 am
Mon August 19, 2013

Howard Buffett: Farmer Of The World

Admitting he’s a boy who loves big toys, Howard Buffett stands on his John Deere tractor on his Arizona research farm.
Credit Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

Five years ago, Howard G. Buffett was at a meeting of an international food aid agency when he was told that feeding the millions of starving people in Africa was simple.

Just give them better seeds, someone said.

That advice might work on some philanthropists. But Buffett, son of billionaire Warren Buffett, happens to be an Illinois farmer.

“This guy was explaining to me how to farm and he’d never been on a farm in his life,” he said. “So it really kind of irritated me. I came home and said, ‘OK, I’m going to have data to show these guys.’”

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UIS Theatre
7:00 am
Mon August 19, 2013

UIS Theatre Announces Upcoming Season

Eric Thibodeaux-Thompson

Eric Thibodeaux-Thompson, the director of the Theatre Department at University of Illinois Springfield, joins WUIS to tell us about the upcoming season: 

CLICK HERE for more information about the upcoming theater season at UIS as well as info on how to audition or become part of the productions.

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New Law
5:44 am
Mon August 19, 2013

Statewide Fine For Littering, Tossing Cigarettes

Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton)
Credit ILGA.gov

Tossing trash anywhere besides a garbage will soon cost you no matter where you are in Illinois.  A new law imposes a statewide fine for littering.

State Senator Bill Haine hates litter, saying "it's irresponsible, it pollutes beautiful environments, God's creation, it creates ugliness."

He hates it so much, he says he goes around his neighborhood in Alton, picking it up himself.

"We don't have a dog anymore, but I use a Pooper Scooper, which is a remarkably efficient way to pick up litter," he says.

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Harvest Desk
4:02 am
Mon August 19, 2013

My Farm Roots: Winning Respect

Danelle Myer grew up on a conventional farm, but now runs a small, local vegetable farm outside Logan, Iowa.
Credit Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

This is the eleventh installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Danelle Myer owns a small vegetable farm and like many other small farmers, she’s passionate about the kind of operation she wants to grow: a small, local business.

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Education
6:40 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

Law Expands Sex Ed Curriculum

Credit flickr

Students in Illinois public schools that teach sex education will now be taught about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases _ not just abstinence.  
Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation Friday that requires schools to provide the information. It takes effect Jan. 1.  
Sen. Heather Steans sponsored the bill. The Chicago Democrat says it's intended to help prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.  

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Statehouse
4:44 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

New Law To Ban Hand Held Phone Use While Driving

Using a hand-held cell phone while driving in Illinois will be illegal on Jan. 1.  
Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation Friday aimed at reducing distracted driving. It requires motorists to use speaker phones or headsets that allow for one-digit or audio dialing.  
Illinois joins 11 other states and Washington, D.C. in banning hand-held phone use on the road.  
Texting while driving is already illegal in Illinois.  
Sen. John Mulroe  -- a Chicago Democrat and sponsor -- says he wants motorists to ``keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.''  

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Harvest Desk
4:28 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

State Fairs: A Summer Tradition

Credit Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media

It’s August. The days are growing shorter, fall is approaching, but summer isn’t done just yet. All over the country folks are flocking to that ultimate summer tradition: the state fair.

Carnival rides and games, meat on a stick, livestock competitions – the Midwest does state fairs up right. And for many, summer in the Midwest isn't complete without a trip to the state fair. For others, a virtual visit will have to do.

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Theatre In The Park
9:44 am
Fri August 16, 2013

Little Women The Musical At New Salem

Austin Dambacher, Rhett Wagner & Will Barnhart

Most people are probably familiar with the story of 'Little Women', a novel by  Louisa May Alcott about four sisters living during the Civil War and their quests to find meaning in life and true love. What you might not know is that it's been made into a musical. You can see a local production of that this weekend at the Theatre in the Park in New Salem.

We recently spoke with three men who are part of the production; Austin Dambacher who plays Professor Bhear, Rhett Warner who plays Laurie, and Will Barnhart, the director: 

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Clash or Compromise
6:42 am
Fri August 16, 2013

Republican Voters Face Competing Visions For A GOP Governor

More than a hundred Republicans heard from their party leaders and top candidates at the State Central Committee and County Chairmen’s Association meeting on Thursday in Springfield.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois Republicans are at a crossroads. The party has a historically small number of people in the Illinois Senate, and a small minority in the House, too. But Republicans are also hopeful about 2014, when they have the chance to win back the Illinois governor's office, ending 12 years of Democratic rule.

Party leaders and candidates rallied in Springfield Thursday at the Illinois State Fair, where the men competing for the top of the ticket each said they're uniquely qualified to revive the Illinois Republican Party.

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State Fair Political Days
7:11 pm
Thu August 15, 2013

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk Back On Central Illinois Stage

In his first major appearance in central Illinois since his stroke in January, 2012, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk told a crowd of Republicans at the Illinois State Fair to “never give up.”
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

 A year-and-a-half after his stroke, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk returned to central Illinois for the first time this week.  Members of his party gave him a warm welcome at a Republican rally Thursday at the Illinois State Fair. 

Senator Kirk made his way slowly across the stage, aided by a cane. It has been a long, slow, partial recovery since his stroke last January.

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Higher Education
1:38 pm
Thu August 15, 2013

U of I Outlines Master Plan

Administrators at the University of Illinois hope to hire 500 new faculty members in the next five to seven years, while spending $70 million to renovate classrooms.  
That's according to the school's three-year master plan that was released Wednesday.  
 The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/13nitLI ) the plan was created following nearly two years of planning.  
The school also wants to increase scholarships and revise general education requirements to encourage students to take more classes in different academic departments.  

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Statehouse
11:26 am
Thu August 15, 2013

Quinn Appoints Panel To Investigate Metra

Credit commons.wikimedia.org

Gov. Pat Quinn has appointed a 15-member independent panel including former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to investigate fraud and overhaul Chicago-area public transportation.  
The move follows allegations of political hiring at Metra and calls for change at its overseeing board, the Regional Transportation Authority.  
The Chicago Democrat issued an executive order Thursday creating the Northeastern Illinois Public Transit Task Force. Quinn previewed the idea last week.  

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Authors
11:00 am
Thu August 15, 2013

Writer Collects Personal Stories On Recession In Springfield & Across US

Lee Somerstein & his travel companion Trooper
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Lee Somerstein is a writer and blogger traveling the country and collecting stories about how people have been impacted by the recession. He recently made a stop in Springfield and joined us in studio to talk about his findings here and in the other places he has visited:  

CLICK HERE to see Somerstein's blog, where you can read about his travels and the stories he's collected so far about the recession.

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State Fair Political Days
5:59 am
Thu August 15, 2013

Democrats' Divide Deeper Than Quinn v. Daley

The Director's lawn on the fairgrounds is usually full on Governor's Day, when Democrats traditionally rally; instead it was largely empty on Gov. Pat Quinn's revised version, which featured multiple bands.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Illinois Democrats put on happy faces Wednesday in Springfield for one of the party's biggest annual gatherings.  But even as they brushed off suggestions of turmoil and division within their ranks, a prominent member of the party was being sentenced to prison, another didn't show up and there's a battle for the top of the state Democratic ticket.  

A state fair is a place for tradition: carnival rides, corn dogs, barnyard animals.  And politicians.

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District 186
3:05 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

Programs Address Obesity In Springfield Schools

Despite health initiatives and efforts to get kids fit and active, the percentage of obese and overweight students in Springfield's district 186 may surprise you. Locally, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine is studying those rates in certain classrooms, and helping implement a national program meant to curb the trend. We recently spoke with Dr. David Steward about it, he is the associate dean for community health and service at SIU School of Medicine:  

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Illinois State Museum
2:44 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

Lecture On Civil War Excavations In Southern Ill.

Southern Illinois University

Southern Illinois is home to Civil War artifacts and historical sites that many people don't know about, and archeologists say there's potential for even more exploration and excavation to be done. Mark Wagner heads the Center for Archeological Investigations at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He's speaking tonight at 7pm at the Illinois State Museum about his findings, we recently caught up with him: 

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Harvest Desk
1:50 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

Congressman Schock Talks Farm Bill

Cong. Aaron Schock talks with constituents in western Illinois
Credit Scott Stuntz

With Congress in its August recess, the farm bill is stalled and many are pessimistic about getting a new bill passed before the current extension expires on Sept. 30. Still, farm country legislators aren’t exactly giving up hope.
Republican Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock was asked about the farm bill at a town hall style meeting in in his district this week.
He said that he thinks the most likely outcome is that the House will pass a “food stamp bill,” to go along with a agriculture portion it passed in June. That could put the farm bill back on track.

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Education
12:27 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

Interview With UIS Chancellor Susan Koch

Chancellor Susan Koch
Credit uis.edu

University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch sat down for a conversation with WUIS on the show Illinois Edition.  Topics include efforts to attract international students, a major building project, possible expansion in Peoria and getting more UIS students living in downtown Springfield. 

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State Fair
11:31 am
Wed August 14, 2013

No Heightened Security For Butter Cow

The 2013 Illinois State Fair Butter Cow
Credit Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media

Organizers of the Illinois State Fair say they're not changing security procedures after vandals threw paint on a butter cow at the state fair in Iowa. 
Jeff Squibb is a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Agriculture. 
He tells The Pantagraph (http://bit.ly/1cB7iD1 ) that a refrigerated case holding the butter bovine is locked all the time in the fair's Dairy Building, while a webcam streams live images of the sculpture. 

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Public Corruption
10:11 am
Wed August 14, 2013

Jackson: "I Misled The American People"

Jesse Jackson, Jr.
Credit wikipedia.org

An emotional Jesse Jackson Jr. says he "misled the American people.''

He made the statement Wednesday to a federal judge who is sentencing him for misusing $750,000 in campaign money.

Pausing and appearing to get choked up in the Washington courtroom on Wednesday, Jackson Jr. also apologized to his mother and his father, civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson.

He added: "I take responsibility for my actions and am very sorry for what I've done.''

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Statehouse
6:00 am
Wed August 14, 2013

Two Years In, 'Budgeting For Results' Still Ramping Up

Members of the Budgeting for Results Commission at a hearing Tuesday in Springfield.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

An Illinois government panel trying to help the state set spending priorities is already at work on next year's budget. But after two years, the group is still waiting for the chance to make its mark on spending.

The idea behind Budgeting for Results is to focus state spending on agencies and programs that meet a list of seven priorities, like education or public safety.

But although the Budgeting for Results Commission has been meeting, taking testimony, and publishing reports for about two years, its work has yet to affect the budget.

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Election 2014
8:43 pm
Tue August 13, 2013

Pension Chairman Raoul Possible Democratic Challenger

Chair of the pension conference committee Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) talks with Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) at a July meeting in Chicago.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  Governor Pat Quinn already has one primary challenger, but there's talk he may get more. 

A lot of politicians are heading to the capital city this week; it's the State Fair, and a time for annual political meetings and rallies.

Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul was driving down from Chicago Tuesday afternoon, in time for his fundraiser last night at a Springfield bar.

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Springfield Parks
12:37 pm
Tue August 13, 2013

Interview: Leslie Sgro, Springfield Park Board President

Leslie Sgro
Credit Springfield Park District

It's been a challenging year so far for the Springfield Park District. It faced a backlash earlier this year after it was discovered the former executive director had created his own policy for paying out vacation and sick time without Park Board's consent. And the fiscal situation is on lean times according to park board president, Leslie Sgro. She recently joined WUIS for this interview: 

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Higher Education
11:41 am
Tue August 13, 2013

Debate Over University Research Open Access

Illinois' public universities could have to share more of their research, under a new state law. 

Pick a subject. Any subject.  And two things are likely true:

-someone at a university is researching it, and

-the results of that research are getting published, probably in a scholarly journal.

There's the journal of Sewage and Industrial Wastes. Contemporary European History. The African Music Society Newsletter ...  all of which gets the information out to experts in the given field.

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Statehouse
8:48 am
Tue August 13, 2013

New Law Recruits Casinos To Assist With Child Support Collection

Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation that lets casinos and race tracks garnish gambling winnings from parents who owe back child support.
 
The new law that was signed Monday takes effect immediately. It's aimed at chipping away at the state's nearly $3 billion backlog in unpaid child support.
 
The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reports the money would be turned over to the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. From there, it'd be distributed to parents.
 

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Harvest Desk
8:24 am
Tue August 13, 2013

Honeybee Health In Illinois: A Tale Of Two Apiaries

Peter Gray/WUIS

The stakes are high for honeybees.

A survey conducted by the USDA shows apiaries continue to lose nearly one third of hives each year.

That has led some environmental activists to push for further restrictions on a pesticide used to treat seed corn.

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