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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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  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.

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.  

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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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.”

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.

Listen To State Week - May 9, 2014

May 10, 2014
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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.

Host Amanda Vinicky and guests Kent Redfield (UIS) and Andy Maloney (Chicago Law Bulletin) discuss legal troubles for both Bruce Rauner and Gov. Pat Quinn among other topics.

CapitolView is a production of WSEC-TV/PBS Springfield, Network Knowledge.

  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.

Bruce Rauner
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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  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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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.

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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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.  

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. 

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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  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.

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.

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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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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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.  

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.

  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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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."

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.

  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.

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