News

Series Part 2: Prison Deaths In Illinois

Jul 9, 2014
flickr/Fiona Dalwood

Between 80 and a hundred people die behind bars in Illinois every year.

The average age of the people who die is 54.

The Department of Corrections says it carefully reviews every death, but information on deaths provided to Chicago public station WBEZ was scattershot and incomplete.

Rob Wildeboer continues our series, “Of natural causes: Death in Illinois prisons.”

Keith Dean has a manila envelope that causes him a lot of grief and regret, but he can’t throw it out.

flickr/alkruse24

Illinois has broken its streak of late grant payments to schools for the first time since 2007.
 
 State Superintendent Christopher Koch praised the news in a letter to school officials dated July 1.  But Koch warned them not to bank on the same thing
happening next year.
 
 Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka's office says timely payments for specialized grants and programs in 2014 are due to an influx of $1.3 billion in revenues the
state hadn't originally budgeted for.  
 
 Next year's $35.7 billion state budget signed by Gov. Pat Quinn banks on

Series: Death In Illinois Prisons

Jul 9, 2014
flickr/meesh

Between 80 and a hundred people die each year inside Illinois prisons.

Chicago public station WBEZ has been seeking information about those deaths, but the Department of Corrections under Governor Pat Quinn is taking a “trust us, nothing to see here” attitude.

However, persistent and disturbing complaints from inmates and their families make it hard to just move along.

Robert Wildeboer will bring us some of their stories and the department’s response this week as part of our series “Of natural causes: Death in Illinois prisons.”

capitol
Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  2014 is only halfway over, but Illinois' new fiscal year just began last week. The state closed out its year with a billion-dollar growth in tax revenue.

The state took in $32 billion in revenue this past fiscal year, more than $7.6 billion of that in sales tax. That's up almost 4.5 percent from last year.

Jim Muschinske, who analyzes revenues for the state's forecasting commission, says that's not amazing, but it's a healthy increase.

Roger McGuinn press photos

The 2014-2015 entertainment lineup at the Sangamon Auditorium is a mix of the old and new. 

From classic rock like the Moody Blues and classic comedy from Bill Cosby to lesser known performers with unique styles and Broadway shows.

Auditorium Director Bob Vaughn visited with WUIS' Sean Crawford on Illinois Edition to preview the upcoming season.  

You can find a list of all the performers and ticket information here.

acphospitalist.org

A new annual licensing fee for hospitals that's taking effect in Illinois will finally fund a system for reporting medical errors that was established by state law back in 2005.

 Crain's Chicago Business reports the new fee will raise about $1.7 million annually. The fee was part of legislation signed by Gov. Pat Quinn last week.  

The fee of $55 per hospital bed will fund a system for hospitals to report mistakes such as performing surgery on the wrong body part. The idea is to improve patient safety by analyzing how errors occur.  

flickr/justinshearer

The number of home sales in the Springfield area set a record last month.  The average price per home was also an all time high.

The real estate market continues to recover, coming out of the recession.  The Capital Area Association of Realtors says June numbers show a nearly 30 percent jump in homes being sold, compared to the same period a year ago.  And it's a good time be a seller.  The median home sale price was above $136,000.  Both are all time marks.  

It's possible the severe winter resulted in pent up demand.     

Lindenwood University

Archaeological research has turned up some interesting finds in St. Charles, Missouri. 

Old living floors for two buildings have been identified and one of the buildings is believed to be associated with the town's founder, Louis Blanchette. The site dates back to around 1770.

Dr. Steve Dasovich, Director of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at Lindenwood University, his students and volunteers have been doing the research. 

Ameren.com

On this week's WUIS-SJR Business Report Tim Landis discusses Ameren's efforts to acquire land for the Illinois Rivers Transmission Line. Also the status of the Taylorville Energy Center land and a Chik Fil A coming back to Springfield.

City of Springfield

Workers are patching eight leaks in the roof at the nearly 160-year-old Executive Mansion in Springfield.
 
A spokesman for Gov. Pat Quinn tells The (Springfield) State Journal-Register
(http://bit.ly/1naGY6E ) for a Tuesday story that inspectors found the leaks.
Work started shortly after the governor approved emergency roof repairs on June
30. Officials expect work to be done in a few weeks.
 
The amount of money spent on the repairs won't exceed $40,000 and will cover

States Working Out Kinks In Agritourism

Jul 8, 2014
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Colorado already draws thousands of visitors each year for skiing, hiking, beer drinking and, most recently, marijuana sampling. In 2012, those visitors spent more than $16 billion in the state. Tourism officials want more and they’re looking to do it by bringing well-educated “traveling foodies” to the state.

data.illinois.gov

The people of Illinois are feeling particularly gloomy about their state, with its high unemployment, billions of dollars in debt and decades-long battles against corruption.  

The bad mood surfaces in public-opinion polls that startle even the pollsters. And now it's shaping one of the nation's most competitive governor's races.  

MODOT

Two Mississippi River bridges are closed due to flooding, and with more storms in the forecast, there is growing concern that conditions could worsen in parts of Missouri and Illinois.  

The Champ Clark Bridge at Louisiana, Missouri, closed yesterday. The next nearest bridge is in Hannibal, Missouri, 35 miles to the north.  
The Quincy Memorial Bridge in Quincy, Illinois, shut down this morning. The impact there isn't as severe because Quincy has two bridges, and the other is not threatened.

flickr/Daniel Borman

Illinois Democrats are outpacing their Republican counterparts in fundraising so far in the 2014 election cycle.  

Crain's Chicago Business reports that Democrats have almost twice as much cash on hand as Illinois Republicans with $26.9 million. Democrats control the governor's mansion and the state Legislature. Crain's examined the finances of candidates for statewide office, state party organizations and county organizations.  
 Republican businessman Bruce Rauner trails Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn by about $1.5 million in cash on hand in the Illinois governor's race.

wuis

Unions representing government workers are expanding while organized labor has been shedding private sector members over the past
half-century.
 
A majority of union members today now have ties to a government entity _ at the federal, state or local levels.
 
Roughly 1-in-3 public sector workers is a union member, compared with about 1-in-15 for the private sector workforce last year. That's according to the
Bureau of Labor Statistics.
 

  Former Democratic U.S. Sen. Alan Dixon of Illinois has died.

State Week logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that state employee pension benefits are protected under the state constitution, countering lawmaker's efforts to overhaul the state's underfunded pension system.

Firefighters have burned down the home where five members of a central Illinois family were beaten to death in 2009.  

Ten members of the Beason Fire Department on Thursday set the small, white, one-story house where Rick and Ruth Gee and three of their children were killed ablaze. Beason is about 30 miles south of Bloomington.  

Beason fire Chief Jim Hubrich told The Pantagraph in Bloomington that the Gee family asked him for help demolishing the house. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency signed off on the plan.  

flickr/tripp

Gov. Pat Quinn has ordered a moratorium on political hiring at the Illinois Department of Transportation and is requiring executive-level staff in every state agency to undergo training about proper hiring practices.  

The Chicago Democrat's actions come amid questions about whether state jobs were improperly filled based on clout rather than qualifications.  

The Associated Press obtained copies of memos sent Thursday by Quinn's attorney to IDOT leadership and the heads of all agencies, boards and commissions.  

Meat Prices Higher This Independence Day

Jul 4, 2014
flickr/Clemensv.Vogelsang

According to the USDA, beef prices have increased more than 10 percent and pork prices are up more than 12 percent over last summer. University of Missouri livestock economist Scott Brown says a combination of high feed prices, drought and a hog virus devastating the pork supply are to blame.

“I will say that we are at unprecedented levels in terms of where we are on consumer prices. We have been seeing growth over the last four or five years generally,” Brown said.

And soon, Brown predicts, you’ll see higher prices at restaurants as well.

moonstarsandpaper.blogspot.com

Summertime means Farmer's Markets.  Springfield has several, but a relatively new one has popped up on Springfield's east side.  Lee Strubinger sat down with Wendy White-Mitter and Mary Rogers from St. John's Hospital, which sponsors the market.  One of the challenges of the East Side Farmer's Market, they say, is that goes underutilized...

Illinois Supreme Court Building
Illinois Supreme Court

The Illinois Supreme Court says free health care is a protected retirement benefit for certain government employees. It was cause for celebration among those who’ve opposed Illinois' attempts to save money by cutting retirement benefits. But Illinois' pension battles are far from over.

Many state retirees used to get premium-free health insurance. When the law was changed to make them pay, a group of them sued.

Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Illinois' state fire marshal is warning people to steer clear of personally handling fireworks this Independence Day. He says setting off fireworks without a permit could be grounds for arrest.

While buying fireworks is illegal in Illinois, many residents cross state lines to obtain them from Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri. Illinois State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis says that causes major problems, especially around the Fourth of July.

Unions were upset with Governor Pat Quinn for his role in Illinois' pension overhaul.  But that didn't stop the state's largest teachers' union from endorsing him.  

The Illinois Education Association hasn't even had a year to get over the legislative equivalent of a knife-in-the-back.

Though the IEA endorsed Quinn in the 2010 governor's race, he both advocated for, and signed, the law that reduces public school teachers' pensions.

flickr/Robert.S. Donovan

Illinois children are required to attend school at a younger age and young adults seeking driver's licenses must complete training under several new laws effective this week.  

Children must enter kindergarten by the time they are 6 years old under one new law. The previous requirement was 7 years old. State officials say that might mean higher costs for some schools.  

Another new law requires students to learn CPR and how to operate machines used for emergency heart problems.  

Magazine Spotlights Challenges Facing Young Girls

Jul 2, 2014
MightyStrongGirls.blogspot.com

Mighty Strong Girls is a magazine to help navigate girls of all ages through various obstacles they may face in "girl world".

Amy Denney, founder and editor, had no idea that her religious faith would lead her to start a magazine for preteen to teenage girls. Mighty Strong Girls is a quarterly magazine that coordinates with the seasons of the year. The magazine also has a website, where there is a blog to express on almost any topic the girls want to discuss.

WBEZ

Former Gov. George Ryan has finished a year of supervision following his release from home confinement last summer after a prison sentence for corruption convictions.

Ryan was released from prison in January 2013 and was confined to his home until last July. At the time his lawyer and friend former Gov. Jim Thompson said that Ryan was subject to another year of supervision and some travel restrictions. That ends this week.

IWU.EDU

A former U.S. attorney and legal counsel to former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar has been named acting legislative inspector general.
 
The Legislative Ethics Commission announced in a statement received Tuesday
that J. William Roberts of Springfield took over in an acting capacity on
Tuesday.
 
In addition to his tenure as counsel to Edgar and U.S. attorney for the central
district of Illinois, he also was Sangamon County State's Attorney.
 
Roberts takes over for Tom Homer, a former Democratic lawmaker and appellate

The Capitol
Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Illinois' economy was slow to feel the effects of the Great Recession, and has been slow to recover from it. The state's Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is submitting a five-year plan to the General Assembly, with suggestions for business growth ... and more state spending.

DCEO's blueprint includes measures that stalled in the legislature this spring, including raising the minimum wage to $10-dollars an hour, doubling a tax credit for the poor and investing in major infrastructure.

flickr/meeshpants

Not long ago, it seemed every time a different type of crime started making the news, members of the Illinois General Assembly would rush to increase the penalty for that offense. But today — with prisons stuffed beyond capacity and state finances ailing — lawmakers have begun taking a more deliberate approach. Brian Mackey reports on a criminal sentencing culture change in the Illinois General Assembly.

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