News

  It could be December before a judge decides on the legality of Illinois' pension overhaul law for at least another five months. Attorneys met Thursday in Sangamon County Court and agreed on a timeline for the case.

Current and retired state employees, teachers and university workers are suing Gov. Pat Quinn over the pension overhaul passed by the General Assembly late last year.

Though it was to have already begun taking effect, a judge has put it on hold until its legality is sorted out in court.

WUIS/Lee Strubinger

A long awaited children’s museum in Springfield is a step closer to becoming reality.   Construction on a building for the Kidzeum of Health and Science will begin this year.
 

A $1 million dollar grant from the state, along with an additional $675,000 in TIF funds from the city of Springfield, are enough to get the work underway.  The facility will occupy the old Schnepp and Barnes building,  a nearly 70 year old structure on East Adams in the downtown area.   

Gov. Pat Quinn says he has no intentions of testifying before a legislative commission about the scandal-laden anti-violence program he started
in 2010.
 
The Chicago Democrat hasn't been subpoenaed or invited less informally. But seven former officials with his administration have been compelled to appear
before the Legislative Audit Commission next month. They're expected to address problems with management and spending under Quinn's $55 million Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.
 

udot.utah.gov

Traffic signals designed to prevent accidents are being installed on Springfield's west side.

Flashing yellow arrows will display at several intersections along Wabash Avenue, including at the White Oaks mall entrances.
The state Department of Transportation says the arrows have resulted in significant reductions in crashes where they are in place in other areas.  Statistics show intersections account for more than 30 percent of accidents.  

flickr/Ajay Suresh

Gov. Pat Quinn has signed off on a measure that allows psychologists in Illinois to prescribe medication to patients.  

The governor signed the legislation Wednesday in Chicago. It was sponsored by Sen. Don Harmon of Oak Park and Rep. John Bradley of Marion, both Democrats.  
Psychologists have to receive specific training for prescription-writing privileges and be required to work with a coordinating physician.  

ilga.gov

A Republican lawmaker wants Gov. Pat Quinn to testify before a legislative commission over a scandal-plagued anti-violence program.  

State Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine is a frequent critic of Quinn. He claimed Wednesday that Quinn is ``hiding'' as an audit commission probes the Chicago Democrat's approximately $55 million Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.  

Bruce Rauner
Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner has unveiled what he says is phase three of his plans to "Restore Illinois." It's focused on how the state taxes businesses.

In a statement — he released the plan via social media, rather than at a live event — Rauner says he wants to close "special interest loopholes."

Like a tax break for buying a racehorse.

And, in a risky move as he seeks to win newspaper editorial boards' endorsements, he wants Illinois to begin taxing newsprint.

Brian Mackey/WUIS

  The Illinois Teachers' Retirement System says it expects a lower return on its pension investments in the next year. That means the state will have to cover more of the cost of teacher pensions.

TRS says it's still a good assumed rate of investment return at 7.5 percent. That falls in line with similar pension systems nationwide. But it's not as profitable as 8-percent, which TRS had been using for the previous few years.

Dave Urbanek is with TRS. He says the unpredictable nature of the international economy spurred the decision to lower the rate.

wikimedia/Joi Ito

``Star Wars'' creator George Lucas has selected Chicago to build his museum of art and movie memorabilia.  

Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, confirmed the decision. McCaffrey did not have any immediate details about the much-anticipated decision by the filmmaker. But the choice is a major victory for Emanuel and the nation's third-largest city, which was competing with San Francisco for the museum.  

ILGA.gov

Subpoenas are going out to five former members of Gov. Pat Quinn's administration who were involved with his plagued anti-violence program, but two other insiders will not be served. As Quinn seeks reelection, he continues to be dogged by a program rolled out just before his last, close race for governor.

Republicans contend the timing wasn't a coincidence; they allege Quinn rushed to introduce the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative to curry favor with Chicago area leaders before the 2010 election. A state audit and media reports reveal it was botched.

SJ-R.com

On this week's WUIS/State Journal-Register Business Report, the SJ-R's Tim Landis talks about efforts to slow the growth of video gambling in Springfield.

We also hear how one company is adding jobs at the same location another firm has been making layoffs and THR and Associates founder Jeff Parsons is told to report to court:

Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Negotiations between residents of the 10th Street Corridor and the Illinois Department of Transportation , now that there is a go-between for the high speed rail project. A new ombudsman says he will be independent of either side.

Retired Judge Theodis Lewis will mediate discussions and disputes as the city and state get going on construction of the 10th Street Rail Corridor. Lewis' position was announced in downtown Springfield, on the site of the first phase of construction, at 10th and Carpenter. An underpass is slated to begin in late summer.

Amanda Vinicky

The Libertarian Party of Illinois is running a candidate for Governor, and all of the other statewide races. But the race could be over before it begins.

Chad Grimm, a 33-year-old health club manager from Peoria, and the Libertarian party's nominee for Illinois governor, has some unconventional political views; he believes Illinois should completely do away with a state income tax, and that there should be no -- as in zero - regulations on guns: Not the type, not where they're allowed, not who can have one.

WUIS/Brian Mackey

Illinois legislators have voted to subpoena seven former state officials to answer questions about a troubled 2010 anti-violence program started by Gov. Pat Quinn.  

A subcommittee of the Legislative Audit Commission voted Monday. They were initially considering just one person for subpoena, but Democrats on the committee said they'd decided to hear from everyone at once. The matter requires a signature from a co-chairman, state Rep. Frank Mautino, a Democrat who wasn't at the meeting.  

U of I

University of Illinois officials say they plan to announce the next president for the state's flagship institution by December.  But the process is only just getting started.

President Bob Easter will retire next year.

The search committee in charge of recommending a replacement to the U of I's board of trustees must sift through around 120 candidates.    Some candidates are nominees, and others are those who are qualified to fill the position but already hold a significant post elsewhere.

Illinois Lottery

Illinois' lottery contractor will likely be $200 million short of the money it promised the state this year when the fiscal year ends next week.
 
Northstar Lottery Group has never reached the profits it signed onto when it
took over in 2011.
 
The contract says falling short of goals by 10 percent two years in a row is
reason to end the partnership, and this year would be the second consecutive
year it hasn't made its goal.
 
Northstar CEO Tim Simonson says that his company has achieved higher profits

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Voters will get to weigh in on whether Illinois should raise its minimum wage for adults to $10 an hour. Gov. Pat Quinn approved the ballot question Sunday, and wasted no time campaigning on the issue.

The question is just advisory — lawmakers don’t have to heed the people’s advice — but supporters of the increase say they hope it’ll pressure reluctant legislators to go along.

Critics say this is a ploy to get more Democrats to the polls — since turnout tends to be lower in non-presidential election years.

Screengrab via YouTube

  Sixteen police officers from across Illinois were awarded the state's Medal of Honor Friday in Springfield. One officer had previously been honored as state trooper of the year.

In April 2013, State Trooper Brad Williams responded to a five-victim homicide in the tiny village of Manchester, in Western Illinois. Traveling by motorcycle, he chased the suspect for miles, joined by dozens of other officers along the way.

In the end, the suspect stopped his car and shot at police. Williams pulled his weapon and fatally shot the man.

State Week logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

Citizen initiatives on redistricting and term limits are facing challenges on their way toward inclusion on the November ballot.  Governor Quinn signs legislation undoing cuts to the Medicaid program.  Also, Illinois Congressman Peter Roskam loses his bid to join the House leadership team in Washington D.C.

Illinois Board of Higher Education

A just-released investigation by Illinois' Inspector General's office found that the former head of the state board of higher education abused public resources and wasted state funds, among other findings.

pikecoil.org

A special prosecutor has been appointed to handle the
case of Pike County's sheriff, who is accused of misconduct.
 
The Quincy Herald-Whig reports (http://bit.ly/1l6HtOo ) that Ed Parkinson with
the Illinois State's Attorney Appellate Prosecutor's Office has been assigned to
Sheriff Paul Petty's case. Petty is due in court for a hearing on Friday.
 
An Adams County judge ruled earlier this month that having the Pike County
State's Attorney's office prosecute the case was a conflict of interest.
 

springfield.il.us

A Springfield alderman wants to make sure that other insurance companies get the chance to cover CWLP properties for the city.

At the last city council meeting, aldermen approved a 3 year contract with R.W. Troxell to insure the city owned utility.  The cost is around $1.8 million per year.

Under city code, however, anything with a cost over 25 thousand dollars must be competitively bid.
Ward 7's Joe McMenamin says the Mayor's administration got around that caveat by claiming insurance is a service, rather than a purchase.

cyberdriveillinois

The Illinois Secretary of State office's main computer briefly stopped working, halting transactions for about three hours.

news.illinois.edu

University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise says that a new medical school being proposed in Urbana-Champaign should be small and what she called complementary.  

Wise spoke to a group of faculty in Urbana Wednesday about the idea.  
According to The News-Gazette she said a lot of work still needs to be done on the proposal. But she said if done right the school could be an important addition to the area and the state.  

flickr/vagawi

Gov. Pat Quinn has signed new legislation meant to improve oversight of used-tire storage and processing sites that can pose major environmental hazards.  

Thursday's signing comes one year after a massive fire broke out at a tire-recycling facility in central Illinois.  
The June fire at J&R Used Tire Service in Hoopeston engulfed tens of thousands of tires and took weeks to extinguish. Many homes in neighboring communities had to be evacuated. The cleanup also took several weeks.  

flickr

The AARP says Illinois has improved opportunities for elderly people to remain in the community. But it says there are still too many living in nursing homes who need not be.

There are good reasons for helping seniors to stay independent, or at home, getting help -- and out of long-term care facilities.

WUIS/Lee Strubinger

A familiar face to the Springfield City Council hopes to return after a hiatus from city government.  Chuck Redpath is running for alderman, again.  But this time to represent the city's first ward:

legendsofamerica.com

There was more coal mining under the city of Springfield than previously thought.

Some cases of mine subsidence in the south part of Springfield last year led to a discovery that more ground under Springfield had been mined for coal.

Scott Elrick with the State Geological Survey says they found an area between MacArthur and Fifth and  between Ash and Laurel that had been mined in the 1800's.

Elrick compares the finding to a new discovery when doing family genealogy.

Agritourism A Growing Opportunity On The Farm

Jun 19, 2014
Harvest Public Media/Luke Runyon

Farms aren’t just for food any more. With the local food movement growing, more savvy farmers are putting a price tag on more than those organic tomatoes. They are instead marketing and selling the “farm experience” in the form of agritourism attractions.

Operation Kidsafe

Mark Bott had the idea for Operation Kidsafe 11 years ago.  Since then, more than 1 million children have participated.

The program is free.  It allows kids to be photographed and fingerprinted and lets parents obtain other safety information.  The parents are handed a document that can be updated.   No personal information is given and there is no databasing.

"So you will always have a document that's ready to hand to law enforcement," Bott said.  Of course, no one wants to ever see the information needed.

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