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Bomb threat
6:28 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

Authorities Investigating Downtown Bomb

The Illinois Secretary of State Police Bomb Squad water cannon neutralizes bombs.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Authorities say they're investigating a pipe bomb that was found and destroyed Monday night in downtown Springfield. The Illinois Secretary of State Bomb Squad neutralized the bomb after it was found on the sidewalk outside of Brewhaus pub, on Sixth and Washington Streets.

Once local police were on the scene, the bomb squad responded by identifying the object, then disabling it in a water cannon.

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Millionaire's tax
5:27 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

Governor Approves 'Millionaire's Tax' As Advisory Referendum

Credit Wikimedia Commons

  This November, Illinois voters will be asked whether millionaires ought to pay more in taxes. The plan is being sold as a way to raise money for education. But opponents see more political motives.

Governor Pat Quinn signed the measure at a suburban elementary school on Tuesday.

The so-called "millionaire's tax" would rake an additional three percent off personal income greater than a million dollars ... with that money going exclusively to schools.

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Regional
4:17 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

Christian Co. Shooting Leaves Man Dead, Officer Wounded

Credit city data .com

Illinois State Police say a man in central Illinois shot and wounded a police officer before being killed by troopers during a later exchange of gunfire.
 
State police did not immediately release the name of the suspect killed Tuesday
morning at a home just west of Pana in Christian County.
 
State police say that law enforcers from various agencies responded to the home
where someone reported the presence of an armed man.
 
Police say the man shot a Pana officer before fleeing to the home's roof, which

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Lincoln
10:57 am
Tue July 29, 2014

Excavation Finds Courthouse Where Lincoln Worked

Archaeologists excavating near the McLean County Museum of History in Bloomington have unearthed part of the footprint of the 1836 courthouse where experts said Abraham Lincoln worked as an attorney.
 
 The discovery happened Monday on the first day of two to three weeks of archaeological work before construction starts on a new entrance into a planned
tourism center on the lower level of the history museum. Museum executive director Greg Koos says the find represents ``physical remains of an incredibly historical episode in McLean County.''
 

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Metra
7:34 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

Inspector General Finds Old Metra Practice Could Lead To Fatigued Conductors

Credit commons.wikimedia.org

  Officials at Chicago area rail transit agency Metra are being reprimanded for allowing workers to switch shifts without properly filling out paperwork. Illinois' inspector general says this practice could have led to fatigued conductors operating trains.

The so-called shift "swapping" created confusion at Metra, according to the office of the executive inspector general. In its three-year investigation, it concluded employees who were swapping shifts — usually to allow some to get a Saturday off — wouldn't fill out paperwork indicating they weren't working.

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Illinois State Fair
7:13 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

State Fair Officials Fined For Violating Gift Ban...For Beer Tickets

Illinois State Fair 2007
Credit Flickr/aka_kath

  Two individuals are being fined for violating ethics rules in their capacities of running Illinois' two State Fairs. Both incidents involved free beer tickets.

The state's Executive Inspector General found John Rednour Jr., the former manager of the DuQuoin State Fair, guilty of soliciting free beer tickets from a vendor in 2012. According to a report, Rednour asked for "a roll or two" of beer tickets. The tickets were valued at $4 each, which would total $4,000 to $8,000, but the vendor did not comply.

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Statehouse
9:39 am
Mon July 28, 2014

Clout On The Business Side of Medical Marijuana

Credit flickr/medicalmarijuana-information.com

Illinois has set its regulations for medical marijuana in the state.   While, those who may benefit medically are looking forward to the substance becoming available, those who are interested in making money growing it and selling it are getting there ducks in a row.  Kurt Erickson, Springfield Bureau Chief for Lee Enterprises newspapers has been covering the issue he joined a roundtable discussion with Bill Wheelhouse, Amanda Vinicky & Brian Mackey.

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Harvest Desk
6:25 am
Mon July 28, 2014

Illinois Farmers Market Prices Survey

There's a web site to track farmers market prices.
Credit Ill. Dept. of Agriculture

The University of Illinois Extension Service is now regularly surveying prices at farmers markets around the state.

According to The News-Gazette in Champaign the surveys of 11 farmers markets around Illinois are being conducted as part of a three-state effort that includes Kentucky and Tennessee.

The weekly price surveys are being published on the University of Kentucky Center for Crop Diversification's website.  

The idea is to give produce farmers an idea of what prices look like across the region.  

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Higher Ed
3:10 am
Mon July 28, 2014

UIS Enforcing Campus Housing Requirement

Credit Kaitie Devlin/WUIS

About two years ago, the University of Illinois Springfield had decided to make a new mandate for student housing. The rule entailed that both honor and traditional students must live on campus for their 1st and 2nd year of schooling. Even though the rule was made two years ago, the regulation was not implemented on campus, until now.

With the cost of housing along with more incoming students and their parents wanting to save money, could this requirement really be worth it in the long run?

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Budget FY15
4:35 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

State Police Cancels New Trooper Training, Citing Budget

Credit Flickr/connor395

  The Illinois State Police graduated 37 state troopers today Friday, the last class the academy will graduate for a while. State police officials say they can't train more due to the state's budget.

The 37 cadets took their oath in the auditorium of the Illinois State Police Academy in Springfield — in the last graduation ceremony it'll see in a while. This class was the fifth to graduate in a year.

A new group had been scheduled to begin the 27-week training on June 15; instead the session never started.

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Statehouse
3:45 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

Feds' Immigrant Numbers For Illinois May Not Tell Whole Story

Boys in a holding area at a Border Protection center in Nogales, Ariz. Generally, minors are put into deportation proceedings and given a "Notice To Appear" in immigration court, but they have permission to stay in the country while the U.S. decides their fate.
Credit NPR.

Federal officials say 305 unaccompanied children caught at the U.S.-Mexico border were placed with Illinois sponsors this year, but officials say hundreds more could be at shelters.  

The country faces a sharp rise in unaccompanied minors. They're placed at government shelters and then released to sponsors as they go through deportation proceedings. Often, sponsors are family members.  
The Chicago-based Heartland Alliance contracts with the federal government for area shelters and legal services. The group doesn't make shelter locations public for safety reasons.  

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State Week
2:53 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

Listen to State Week - July 25, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week's topics include the Illinois Inspector General's investigation into possible political hiring at the Illinois Department of Transportation.  Also, an overview of the state's rules and regulations regarding medical marijuana.

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IDOT
6:56 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

Inspector General Discloses Political Hiring Investigation

Attorney Michael Shakman's lawsuit accuses Gov. Pat Quinn's administration of political hiring at the Illinois Department of Transportation, which until late June was headed by Anne Schneider. In this photo, taken in April, Schneider is introducing a state roads plan with Quinn by her side.
Credit WUIS

  As Gov. Pat Quinn battles a lawsuit accusing his administration of political hiring, the state watchdog charged with investigating ethics violations is asking to get involved.

Confidentiality restrictions prevent the Inspector General from saying what he is or isn't looking into.

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Regional
5:39 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

Man Robbed By Fake Police On I-55

Credit wikimedia commons

Illinois State Police say a driver was robbed on Interstate 55 near Litchfield by men who impersonated police officers.  

According to the Belleville News-Democrat the man told police he was pulled over around 10 p.m. Tuesday by a sports utility vehicle with a flashing red light on its dashboard.  

The man said that when he stopped, three men wearing ski masks held him at gunpoint as they robbed him of more than $5,000 in cash. The robbers then tied him up with duct tape and left him in his car along the highway.  

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Hydraulic fracturing
5:18 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

Business, Labor Leaders Urge Quinn Administration To Finish Fracking Rules

Credit wikimedia commons

  Business and labor leaders are urging Illinois' Department of Natural Resources to finish the rules for hydraulic fracturing. The coalition says it's left wondering if the governor's administration might be dragging the process for political reasons.

It's been over 400 days since the General Assembly passed a law to allow hydraulic fracturing in Illinois. Proponents say the technique of drilling for natural gas deep in the ground will lead to job and revenue growth.

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Pensions
6:29 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Illinois' Credit Prognosis: Negative

Wall Street's view of Illinois' financial health has taken a hit, thanks largely to the state budget that took effect at the start of this month. Pensions also continue to be a drag. 

When Illinois Democrats passed the state's latest budget, many seemed to hold their nose. Credit ratings agencies are more direct: Standard & Poors has revised Illinois' credit outlook to "negative." 

It says the new budget "is not structurally balanced and will contribute to growing."

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Affordable Care Act
4:09 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Durbin Files Legislation Reacting To Hobby Lobby Decision

Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  U.S. Senator Dick Durbin wants companies exempt from offering birth control in their healthcare plans to make that known to potential employees.

It's a response to the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court last month, which determined certain business owners don't have to pay for contraceptives that violate their religious beliefs. These so-called "closely held" companies — typically small, family owned businesses — are exempt from the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate.

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Arts
10:47 am
Wed July 23, 2014

"The Civil War" Becomes A Downtown Musical

Credit alplm

You may know the story of the war between the states.  But what is often overlooked is the emotional drama the period had on those who lived through it.

The musical "The Civil War" brings that part of the story to the stage in downtown Springfield starting Thursday night. 

"It's not a history lesson, although you learn a lot," Co-director Phil Funkenbusch said. "It's really a concert theatre piece."

"Instead of telling the story of the Civil War, it's really telling the stories about the people involved in the war."

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Regional
7:18 am
Wed July 23, 2014

Court OKs FutureGen Financing Plan

Site of FutureGen plant in Meredosia.
Credit WUIS

A court says state regulators can force Illinois electricity customers to help pay for the $1.6-billion FutureGen project.

The 2-1 decision Tuesday by the Illinois Appellate Court OKs a state plan to charge an estimated $1 to $1.40 a month to help pay for the long-delayed project.  

Ken Humphreys is CEO of the FutureGen Alliance. The group of coal companies is working with the U.S. Department of Energy on the project. Humphreys says the court decision will keep the project moving.  

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Election 2014
4:29 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Republican Attorney General Candidate: Pension Changes Unconstitutional

Republican candidate for attorney general Paul Schimpf
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  The Republican candidate for Illinois Attorney General is criticizing incumbent Lisa Madigan for defending the state's pension overhaul law, which he thinks is unconstitutional.

A clause in the state's constitution says that once earned, pension benefits shall not be diminished.

The pension law, passed last year, law reduces cost of living benefits paid out to state employees and public school teachers. That, and other changes, haven't actually taken effect yet; a lawsuit challenging the law is ongoing.

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Education Desk
12:22 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

With GED, Illinois Bundles Job Training

A new approach to adult education in Illinois puts GED instruction in the context of job skills, such as nursing, welding or operating a forklift.
Credit Mike Mozart (flickr.com/jeepersmedia)

Illinois is trying to expand educational opportunities for adults who didn't finish high school. That means moving beyond the GED.

The Census Bureau says average monthly earnings of a high school grad are nearly 10 percent higher than those of someone with a GED. And while a third of high school grads eventually earn a bachelor's degree, the GED number is 1 in 20.

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Statehouse
12:12 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Trucker Asks: Are Police Above The Law?

A screenshot of the video Brian Miner posted of being pulled over in June by an Illinois State Trooper.
Credit Brian Miner, You Tube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-dJgFdfl3I)

It has been just over half a year since Illinois made it illegal to talk on your phone while driving without the use of a hands-free device. There are some exceptions: you can hold your phone if your car is stopped -- say at a railroad crossing for a freight train -- and in park or neutral, or if you pull off onto the shoulder. The law also makes an exemption for law enforcement. A recent YouTube sensation that raises the question: should police get special treatment?

    

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Statehouse
6:53 am
Tue July 22, 2014

Fire Closes State Building Today

Credit wandtv.com

The Illinois Secretary of State's office has closed its Howlett Building in Springfield for the day because of a small fire.

Secretary of State spokesman Dave Druker says the fire happened about 1:15 a.m. Tuesday in a mechanical room at the building, which is part of the Illinois State Capitol complex.  

He says firefighters quickly put out the blaze but the air conditioning in the building isn't working and crews need to work on mechanical issues.  

Druker says the agency hopes to reopen the office building on Wednesday.  

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Education Desk
6:47 am
Mon July 21, 2014

Houston Says District 186 Needs To Build Credibility Before Asking For Tax Hike

Credit montanapublicmedia.org

WUIS is asking the candidates for Springfield mayor to talk about education issues facing the community. Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says he's concerned that most new single family homes in the area are in suburban school districts.   He says an increase in funding for District 186 is probably needed, but says the school board needs to build credibility first.

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Guns
12:06 am
Mon July 21, 2014

Attorney General Wants To Send Concealed Carry Cases Out Of Court

Credit flickr

Illinois gun owners who've been denied a concealed carry permit can appeal. But instead of going through the courts, Illinois' Attorney General wants a state panel to decide those cases.

There are about 200 concealed carry denials before Illinois courts, brought by people who say they shouldn't have been deemed dangerous or a threat to public safety by Illinois' Concealed Carry Licensing Review Board.

Until recently, applicants didn't actually know why they were rejected.

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Harvest Desk
1:46 am
Sat July 19, 2014

Crop Insurance Programs Subject Of Intense Farm Bill Lobbying

Mark Crawford stands at his farm near Danville, Ill. Crawford, who grows corn, soybeans and wheat on his large farm, said the crop insurance programs are important parts of the risk-management safety net for farmers. (Darrell Hoemann/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting)

After two years of debate, the U.S. Congress passed a Farm Bill this year that replaced direct subsidies to farmers with an ever increasing multi-billion dollar federal crop insurance program.

During that time, at least 80 groups spent more than $50 million in lobbying efforts that included ensuring their interests in the often criticized program were well-represented.

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Election 2014
5:26 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

No School For Kids On Election Day

Credit wikimedia

Illinois students could get a day off of school come election day. Schools are often at the heart of a community, metaphorically, if not literally. That's part of the reason they've long been voting sites.

But with shootings at schools across the country, some lawmakers are concerned the practice is dangerous.

Most of the time visitors need to sign in before entering a school; they say allowing anyone in on election day is asking for trouble.

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State Week
3:53 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

Listen to State Week - July 18, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, GOP gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner proposed more ways to fix the state's budget woes.  Also, a state legislative commission has pushed back the investigation into Governor pat Quinn's controversial Neighborhood Recovery Initiative until October.

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Regional
3:39 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

25 Years Since Chicago Bound Flight Crashed In Iowa

It has been 25 years since the passengers on United Flight 232 braced themselves for impact and prepared to die.  

Back in 1989, the jetliner carrying nearly 300 people from Denver to Chicago lost all hydraulic power after the rear engine exploded. It crash-landed in Sioux City, Iowa, cartwheeling down the runway in flames and breaking apart in a cornfield.  

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Statehouse
3:25 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

Prosecutors Say Blagojevich Attorneys Misread Ruling

Prosecutors responding to a new argument in Rod Blagojevich's appeal say the former governor's lawyers have misrepresented a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in another case.  

Blagojevich's lawyers say an April ruling by the high court found that soliciting contributions is corruption only when a politician makes explicit promises to take official action for a donation.  

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