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Children's health
8:29 am
Thu March 6, 2014

Children's Advocacy Group Calls For Increased State Funding

 Low-income children in Illinois are getting better healthcare coverage. But a new study says racial and socioeconomic disparities still exist. Voices for Illinois Children, the advocacy group behind the research, says its number one obstacle is state funding.

The group cites the expansion of Medicaid — the state's health program for low-income individuals — as having the single biggest impact on the well-being of kids in poverty.

Republicans (and some Democrats) in the General Assembly say Medicaid spending is unsustainable, and needs to be rolled back.

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Education
7:56 am
Thu March 6, 2014

University Of Illinois Trustees To Vote On Sex-Change Insurance

Credit University of Illinois

University of Illinois trustees are expected to vote Thursday on adding coverage for sex-change operations to the health insurance plan used by many students at the flagship campus.  

Many of the Urbana-Champaign campus' more than 40,000 students use the insurance and would see costs rise by 15 percent in the proposal is approved. Undergraduates would pay $291 a semester starting next fall. That's an increase of $37.  

But university officials say most of that increase is due to the federal Affordable Care Act rather than adding sex-change coverage.  

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Regional
6:28 am
Thu March 6, 2014

Dead Animals Lead To Animal Cruelty Charges

The Kane County sheriff's office says it arrested a suburban Chicago woman after finding 10 dead animals and others that were malnourished on a pair of farms.  

According to the Daily Herald (http://bit.ly/1ne0I7r ), the horse, pony and other animals were found on farms near Maple Park and in Hampshire in Kane County. The discoveries were made after someone called to report a dead horse at one farm.  

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Statehouse
6:15 am
Thu March 6, 2014

GOP Governor Candidates Argue Pensions

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Republican candidates for Illinois governor are arguing about pension reform and the state's finances in the second-to-last debate ahead of the March 18 primary.  

State Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard, businessman Bruce Rauner  and Treasurer Dan Rutherford attended the debate Wednesday hosted by WGN-TV and the Chicago Tribune.  

Brady is the only one who supported a recent pension overhaul that cuts benefits for state workers and retirees. Dillard voted against it, which has been the reason that several unions have endorsed him.  

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Nation/World
6:13 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Durbin Calls For Russian Troops To Leave Ukraine

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is condemning Russia for sending military troops into the Crimean region of Ukraine.  
The Illinois Democrat introduced a resolution Wednesday calling for the troops' withdrawal and a negotiated settlement of any issues involving Crimea.  

Durbin also spoke on the Senate floor about a meeting he held last weekend in Chicago's Ukrainian Village neighborhood. He says he asked community members to gather after church for a conference call with the American ambassador in Kiev.  

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Regional
5:26 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Sangamon County Clerk Unsure About Same Sex Marriage Licenses For Now

Credit co.sangamon.il.us

The Sangamon County Clerk says he's still unsure it would be legal for him to issue same sex marriage licenses before a new law takes effect in June. 

Attorney General Lisa Madigan says a court ruling in Cook County opened the door for all Illinois' county clerks to issue the licenses immediately.  Some have started doing so.  But there are differences of opinion.  Like in Sangamon County, Clerk Joe Aiello says he's waiting.

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Concealed Carry
9:57 am
Wed March 5, 2014

Gun Rights Activists Rally For Fewer Gun-Free Zones

Pro-gun ralliers march toward the Statehouse on Wednesday. Signs like the one in the foreground express the rationale that women are better protected from would-be attackers with the right to carry.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Gun rights activists from across Illinois were in Springfield Wednesday, asking lawmakers to ease restrictions on where they're allowed to carry concealed weapons.

"Gun-free zones are killing zones," the crowd chanted in the Capitol rotunda. Hundreds of advocates marched to the Statehouse to rally for their Second Amendment rights. Among them was Sharon Mausey of Crab Orchard, in far southern Illinois. She says receiving her concealed carry license on Tuesday was a long-awaited dream come true.

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Election 2014
8:25 am
Wed March 5, 2014

Candidates Disagree On Government Unions

The men seeking the Republican nomination for governor of Illinois: state Sens. Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady, investor Bruce Rauner, and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois' primary election is less than two weeks away. The four men seeking the Republican nomination for governor agree on a lot of topics. But there is an issue in which one of the candidates has distinguished himself: government-employee unions. Brian Mackey takes us inside the debate over whether government workers ought to be able to negotiate over their jobs.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time listening to investor Bruce Rauner to know where he stands on public-sector unions. The disdain drips from a three word phrase he uses again and again and again:

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Springfield City Council
10:38 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Springfield Aldermen Not Ready To Commit To Hunter Lake

Credit cwlp

A majority of Springfield aldermen last night expressed doubt about an ordinance that would commit to building the second water source known as Hunter Lake. Council members voted down the plan.  
The city has long been concerned about finding a way to supplement Lake Springfield.   Recent droughts have added to the urgency.   

CWLP Director Eric Hobbie says regardless of the council’s vote, the city has to pursue a water supply alternative.

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Obama Presidential Library
8:25 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Speaker Madigan Proposes $100 Million For Obama Library

Credit BarackObama.com

  The Democratic and Republican leaders of the Illinois House are taking opposing views on whether Illinois should promise taxpayer money to try and lure President Barack Obama's library and museum to Chicago.

The head of Illinois' Democratic Party, Michael Madigan, wants Illinois to spend $100 million dollars on a Presidential Library and Museum for Barack Obama.

It's up to Obama to choose where it'll be located.

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Election 2014
11:54 am
Tue March 4, 2014

U.S. Senate Candidate: Republican Doug Truax

Doug Truax
Credit Truax for Senate

At the top of the ticket this year in Illinois is a race for the U-S Senate. 

Republican Doug Truax is running against a state Senator, Jim Oberweis in the G-O-P primary.  The winner will take on Democrat Dick Durbin in the fall.  

Truax is making his first bid for political office.   Oberweis lost five previous elections, including two unsuccessful bids for U-S Senate, before being elected to the Illinois General Assembly.  

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Statehouse
10:49 am
Tue March 4, 2014

Republican Wants Federal Scrutiny Of Anti-Violence Program

Sen. Christine Radogno
Credit senatorradogno.org

A Republican legislative leader wants a federal review of a Chicago anti-violence program ordered by Gov. Pat Quinn.
 
Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno says an audit of the $55 million Neighborhood Recovery Initiative need more scrutiny.
 
Her comments were reported (http://bit.ly/MKJO2D ) by the Chicago Sun-Times.
 
A late February audit said the program was so hastily organized and sloppily
executed that auditors questioned 40 percent of expenditures claimed by service
providers.
 

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Election 2014
10:39 am
Tue March 4, 2014

13th Congressional District Candidate David Green

Candidate David Green

Over the last few weeks, you’ve heard from Congressional candidates running in Illinois' 13th District. There are three Republicans and three Democrats seeking their party's nomination.  

Champaign Democrat David Green works as a social policy analyst with the University of Illinois’ Institute of Government and Public Affairs. Green said he believes Congress functions well for 1 percent of Americans.

He told Sean Powers that he feels he can bring a voice to Washington that is more representative of the rest of the country.

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Economy
9:56 am
Tue March 4, 2014

Slow Economic Growth Due To Harsh Winter Weather

Credit flickr/kb35

Illinois' economic growth slowed in February and a University of Illinois economist says you can probably blame it on the weather. 

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Harvest Desk
9:10 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

U.S. Wastes Nearly One Third Of Food Produced

Americans wasted an estimated 133 billion pounds of food in 2010, according to a USDA study.
Credit flickr/petrr

Nearly a third of the food available to be eaten in the U.S. is thrown out instead. And all of that wasted food comes with a steep price tag.

According to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans wasted an estimated 133 billion pounds of food in 2010, the most recent year data is available. That’s 31 percent of the food sold at grocery stores and served in restaurants. The study does not include food wasted prior to the retail level.

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Education
7:35 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Military Children Hampered By Illinois Laws, Advocates Say

Credit flickr/LizMarie_AK

  Moving to a new state is never easy, especially when you’re a school-aged kid. But for military families who move more frequently than most, laws in Illinois create a unique challenge — and, in some cases, a barrier to entry.

Think back to the last time you were ‘the new kid.’ Maybe it was freshman year of college, or when you started a new job or even joined a book club.

Now multiply that ‘new kid’ experience by three and factor in how awkward grade school is … and you might be a little closer to knowing what it’s like to be a military kid.

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Environment
7:16 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Environmental Groups Call For Controls For Coal Ash

Credit Courtesy of Wiki Commons

  There are 90 aging coal-ash pits in Illinois — piles of slag left behind when coal is burned for energy. Now coal-ash residue is starting to show up in the water supply. Environmental groups are asking for tougher state regulations.

The Sierra Club of Illinois and the Prairie Rivers Network are among a number of environmental groups lobbying the state to hold energy suppliers accountable for coal-ash pollution.

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Higher Education
7:06 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Universities Feeling Pressure From Decreased Enrollment

Credit University of Illinois, Springfield

  Enrollment is down at many of Illinois' public universities. As Hannah Meisel reports, the lost tuition is hurting schools' bottom line.

As the state has cut funding to higher education, universities have made up for the losses by raising tuition. But when there are fewer students to pay, colleges feel the squeeze all over again.

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Taxing retirement income
6:54 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Civic Federation Calls For Taxing Retirement Income

  As more baby-boomers retire, Illinois is increasingly missing out on a revenue source. Of the 41 states with an income tax, Illinois is one of only three that exempt all pension income.

A new report from the Chicago-based Civic Federation says Illinois needs to take a longer-term approach to budgeting; one that is rooted less in politics, and more in reality. Most notably. the group recommends Illinois extend its current income tax rate for a year before gradually rolling it back.

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Regional
12:05 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Alderman to Propose COLA Cuts for Non-Union Employees Again

Credit springfield.il.us

During the last two Springfield City Council meetings one alderman proposed shifting the responsibility of who gives pay raises to non-union employees.  But his colleagues have refused to go along.

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Pensions
11:45 am
Mon March 3, 2014

Supreme Court Consolidates Pension Lawsuits

Credit WUIS

The Illinois Supreme Court has ordered that four lawsuits challenging Illinois' new pension reform law be consolidated.  

The March 3 order transfers the case filed by a group of retired teachers in Cook County Circuit Court to Sangamon County Circuit Court, where the three other cases were filed.  

The court says all of the cases will be heard together in Springfield.  
Each of the groups' lawsuits share the common claim that the new pension reform plan violates the state constitution, which says benefits may not be diminished or impaired.  

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Public Policy
8:52 am
Mon March 3, 2014

Across The Board Budget Cutting Is Not So Simple

Credit IGPA

When politicians talk about budgets, someone invariably brings up the idea of across the board spending cuts.   It's easy to understand.  it also plays into an inherent fear of big government.

WUIS'  Sean Crawford talked with Chris Mooney, the Director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois.   Mooney wrote about the topic as part of a new project called the Illinois Budget Policy Toolbox. 

Mooney says across the board cutting is more complicated than it seems.

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Statehouse
8:14 am
Mon March 3, 2014

Illinois Business Groups Say Deregulation Saved Consumers $

Business groups say utility competition has saved consumers money.
Credit AARP

A new report says electricity deregulation has saved Illinois customers up to $37 billion over the past 16 years.  

The report being released Monday by four business groups says the average household has paid $3,600 less overall than if the average annual electricity rates had stayed the same.  

Deregulation kicked in in 1998, allowing Illinois utilities to compete for business on the open market rather than being regulated monopolies whose rates were set. The utilities before deregulation both supplied and delivered electricity to customers, who had no other choices.  

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Statehouse
7:17 am
Mon March 3, 2014

Civic Federation Has Plan To Balance Illinois Budget

Credit Civic Federation

The Civic Federation is releasing a new proposal it says will balance Illinois' budget, eliminate its bill backlog and reduce taxes.  

The plan includes capping spending to help the state pay off its $5.4 billion backlog of unpaid bills over the next five years.  

It also would extend the state's temporary income tax increase by a year before reducing tax rates gradually, and calls for taxing pension and social security income.  

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Harvest Desk
7:02 am
Mon March 3, 2014

Food Hubs Could Provide Crucial Link For Amish

Illinois Farm Bureau’s Michael Doherty, left, speaks with a group of Amish farmers at a recent food hub education meeting, as organizer Dave Bishop looks on.
Peter Gray/Harvest Public Media

  

Lacking the infrastructure of traditional suppliers, many local farms that want to connect to restaurants, schools and other big buyers are using the Internet to reach customers. Groups of farms are banding together to form regional food hubs, leveraging online ordering, tracking and marketing tools to cut down on costs and to try to keep local food systems viable for growers and affordable for consumers.

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Fourth Amendment
6:00 am
Mon March 3, 2014

Legislation Targets Conservation Police

Conservation police officers check the license of a trapper in this Department of Natural Resources photo.
Credit DNR/D.J. Case and Associates

A group of lawmakers is challenging the broad powers enjoyed by Illinois' conservation police officers. At issue is whether the officers can operate on private land without a warrant.

Illinois law lets conservation police enter "all lands and waters" to enforce the Wildlife Code. The idea is, even if you have a huge private forest, you’re not allowed to, say, shoot a deer out of season.

State Rep. Dennis Reboletti, a Republican from Elmhurst, says just about every other type of police officer operates under stricter limits.

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Harvest Desk
1:49 am
Mon March 3, 2014

Farmers Bid Farewell To Big Expense Tax Write-Offs

Credit flickr/mostly dans

It could be yet another sign that the good times are over.

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Regional
9:52 pm
Fri February 28, 2014

Kincaid Police Chief Arrested

Credit city-data

The Illinois State Police Friday arrested the Kincaid Village Chief of Police for official misconduct.  According to a news release, investigators brought 45-year old Richard S. Adams into custody. 

 

Authorities say the investigation revealed Adams was using his position to have repairs of his residence completed by village employees on village time.  

 

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State Week
2:24 pm
Fri February 28, 2014

Listen To State Week - February 28, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, money and the run-up to the Republican gubernatorial primary.  Also, a scathing audit result for a state anti-violence program.

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Higher Education
11:33 am
Fri February 28, 2014

SIU: Most Missing Computers Found

Credit procurement.siu.edu

Southern Illinois University in Carbondale says it has accounted for most of the more than 250 computers that an audit noted were missing last summer.  

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan (http://bit.ly/1fvZVIg ) reports that the university's assistant provost and chief information officer says an initial search recovered 76 of the 256 computers that had been listed as missing. David Crain says another search turned up 61 more computers.  

Crain says that most of the remaining computers were found to have been transferred to surplus.  

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