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The Kraft Foods Group is recalling nearly 250,000 boxes of its macaroni and cheese dinner.  The recall comes after metal was found in some packages.

The recalled product is limited to the 7.25-oz. size of the Original flavor of boxed dinner with the “Best When Used By” dates of September 18, 2015 through October 11, 2015, with the code “C2” directly below the date on each individual box. The “C2” refers to a specific production line on which the affected product was made.

The Illinois Senate on Thursday confirmed the Rev. James Meeks as chairman of the State Board of Education. It comes over the objections of a gay-rights group.

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Xavier McElrath-Bey was arrested when he was 13 years old. The Chicagoan went to prison for first degree murder for a gang-related crime. He left prison on good behavior at the age of 27 with a college degree in hand.

State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie wants to make sentencing for minors more lenient. House Bill 2471 would prohibit judges from sentencing minors to life without parole. House Bill 2470 would allow minors to have their sentence reviewed after serving 15 years.

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Gov. Bruce Rauner's office has instructed state agencies to begin diverting ``fair share'' fees from nonunion members' paychecks away from unions.  

A memo obtained by The Associated Press directs departments to create two sets of books to do it.  

The Republican governor signed an order last month ending the practice of collecting union fees from non-union members. He labeled it a First Amendment violation and asked a federal court to overturn the state requirement.  

Unions collect the fees to defray the cost of work that also benefits nonmembers.  

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Ten years ago, three friends got together in New Jersey and formed an outfit called the Screaming Females. They were brought up in the gritty DIY scene, producing their own albums, doing their own promotion, and playing in houses and basements. These days, they still play in houses and basements, but they travel across the country doing it (and they also play in some more mainstream venues too.)

 In a recent Illinois Issues article, I looked at the post-recession budget stories of three other populous states: New Jersey, California and Texas. These states have all had ups and downs following the economic collapse in 2008. Some of the details are enviable, like Texas' economic growth and California's ability to balance its budget after grappling with staggering deficits. Other aspects serve as cautionary tales of how not to deal with big budget challenges, like pension funding.

Brian Mackey speaks with Illinois Issues reporter Rhonda Gillespie about her trip to Selma, Alabama, for the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

AlistairWillis.com/Tabitha Blair Photography

The Illinois Symphony Chamber Orchestra will give you a bit of Mozart and more during performances at the First Presbyterian Church in Springfield Friday night.  The shows begin at 6 and 8 p.m. and feature the Overture to Don Giovanni and Symphony No. 35 "Haffner". 

Music Director Alistair Willis talks about the challenges of conducting classic compositions like those and new works. 

The Chamber Orchestra will perform a world premiere piece by the acclaimed Uzbekistani composer Dimitri Yanov-Yanovsky, who has collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble. 

The Corporation for Enterprise Development

A new analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Stateline found that “in all 50 states, the percentage of ‘middle-class’ households — those making between 67 percent and 200 percent of the state’s median income — shrunk between 2000 and 2013.”

In Illinois, according to the assessment, that share slipped from 49.8 percent in 2000 to 45.8 percent in 2013. The median income in this state was $56,210 in 2013, down from an inflation-adjusted $64,201 in 2000.

For the first time in years, legislation to raise the minimum wage is advancing in the Illinois House.

Raising the wage has been a hot topic for years. Illinois voters overwhelmingly supported the idea at last November's election. The Senate voted for an increase last month. And even Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner says he can get behind it — if it comes after a long list of pro-business legislation.

Darin LaHood
Illinois General Assembly

The State of the State Blog looks at the effectiveness and culture of Illinois government.

The day after Congressman Aaron Schock announced his surprise resignation, politicians were moving quickly to replace him. State Sen. Darin LaHood, a Republican from Dunlap, says he’s already filed paperwork to open a federal campaign fundraising account.

Gun owners from around Illinois rallied in Springfield in support of their Second Amendment rights. Illinois Gun Owner Lobby Day, or IGOLD, consists of a march to the Capitol and a rally aimed at getting the attention of the governor and legislators.

Valinda Rowe, a gun rights activist and organizer of the event, says this is the first time a governor has met with them since IGOLD started in 2007. They gave Gov. Bruce Rauner informational packets and told him about their concerns.

 

As Illinois struggles with public school funding, state officials received some expert advice today:

You have a rare opportunity; don’t mess it up. 

Safer Lock

Nick Gore was 20 years old when he started taking pain pills recreationally. His substance abuse turned into a dependency that lasted seven years and eventually led to heroin use and jail time.

Representative Rob Martwick wants to require locking caps for all opioid pill bottles. The caps would have a combination lock that only the person prescribed the medication would know. Gore says this could have stopped his access to the drugs.

Bruce Rauner at Illinois Chamber forum.
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois politicians continue to be focused on the massive money shortfall for the current budget year.

Illinois is running out of money, and it’s beginning to hurt. A day-care program that helps low-income parents hold jobs has run dry, and soon Illinois might not be able to make payroll at state prisons.

Brent Bohlen

In our most recent Midwest Travel segment, Mary Bohlen visited the Quad Cities and tells us about some of the interesting and fun sites to see. 

You can read her latest article in the Illinois Times.

BrettLevinPhotography / Flickr

Critics of Rep. Kelly Cassidy’s proposal to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a ticketable offense consider the bill a first step toward the state making possession of the drug legal.

House Bill 218, introduced by the Chicago Democrat, calls for possession of 30 grams of cannabis to be reduced to a civil — instead of criminal — offense, punishable by issuance of a ticket and a fine of up to $125.

Pew Research Center

The foreign-born population in the United States is projected to soar to record highs over the next half-century, a Pew Research Center analysis of Census projections shows.

Projections indicate that the immigrant population of 78 million will be nearly 19 percent of the U.S. population by 2060.

The Census Bureau projects that the previous immigrant share of the nation’s population will surpass the previous 1890 high of about 15 percent as soon as a decade from now.

Institute for Women's Policy Research

  Illinois earned a B- in a new report assessing status of women’s employment and wages in the states.

The report is a project of the Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

According to the assessment, in Illinois, women earn 80 cents for every dollar men earned, and women will not receive equal pay in the state for another 50 years.
Meanwhile, 30 percent of women in Illinois have low-wage jobs.

Illinois ranked 16th overall. States were scored 1 to 5 and Illinois received a 4.11.

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On this week's Business Report Tim Landis tells us what's filling up some of the warehouse space at the old Capitol Records facility in Jacksonville.  Also a major church construction project is underway and a century old Springfield firm closes.

Darin LaHood
Illinois General Assembly

Illinois state Sen. Darin LaHood has announced his candidacy for U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock's soon-to-be-vacant congressional seat.

The Republican from Dunlap made the announcement Wednesday on WMBD radio in Peoria.

LaHood says he has received "a lot encouragement" to run and that he'll campaign on his state Senate record, which includes being a strong advocate for ethics reform.

LaHood has served in the Senate since 2011. His father is former U.S. Transportation Secretary and Congressman Ray LaHood, who preceded Schock in Congress.

Republican state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington
WUIS/Illinois Issues

State Senator Bill Brady says he will not be among the Republicans seeking Schock's Congressional seat. In a statement Wednesday he said he has decided to remain in the State Senate because of his business interests and desire to help Governor Rauner make changes.

He mentioned the names of four potential candidates for the job including his brother Ed Brady, Representative Dan Brady (no relation) & Senators Darin LaHood and Jason Barickman.

The Governor will set a date for the special election.

WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois law allows doctors to refuse to provide services and medications, like abortion and birth control, if it goes against their religious beliefs, but an effort backed by the ACLU and Planned Parenthood would make sure a doctor still provides patients with information about those options.

Sen. Daniel Biss proposes changing what's called the Right to Conscience Act to ensure patients receive information about all of their options, even if their doctor's religious beliefs mean the physician won't provide those services.

Springfield candidate for mayor Jim Langfelder, the current City Treasurer, visited the WUIS studios for a conversation about the issues.  Langfelder talked about his vision for Springfield, including CWLP.

IAR

Candidates Paul Palazzolo and Jim Langfelder debated the issues on the evening of March 12. 

The debate was sponsored by the Illinois Association of Realtors, the Capitol Area Realtors and the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.

WUIS' Amanda Vinicky and the SJ-R's Bernie Schoenburg were moderators.

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Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

Arguments before the Illinois Supreme Court on the state's pension reform law.

Amanda Vinicky

Republican Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinois says he's resigning his House seat amid questions about his spending.

In a statement on Tuesday, Schock said he would step down effective March 31.

Schock, a four-term lawmaker, said he was taking the step with a "heavy heart." He said that questions about irregularities in his campaign finance and congressional spending accounts over the past six weeks have proven to be a "great distraction" and have made it too difficult for him to serve.

Bruce Rauner
brucerauner.com

Union members and state employees can expect another pension battle ahead, regardless of what the state Supreme Court says about Illinois' landmark 2013 law. 

BrettLevinPhotography / Flickr

Rep. Kelly Cassidy wants to change the criminal code for people caught with marijuana. Her proposal would reduce the punishment for having less than 30 grams of the drug from a Class C misdemeanor to a 100 dollar ticket.

Anyone caught with larger amounts would be charged with a misdemeanor, rather than a felony.

"This will allow for certainty and uniformity in the state. It will also allow us to save significant money at the state and the local level, and put our criminal justice resources to much better use," Cassidy said.

During a mayoral debate on Thursday night, candidates Paul Palazzolo and Jim Langfelder were both hesitant to criticize the Springfield City Council when asked what they thought was its biggest mistake.

Palazzolo says his biggest issue is the city's hiring of an inspector general and questions the need. He says an inspector general looks at past events. He would rather see funds go toward the hiring of a city planner.

"I think those funds are better spent in a proactive manner, rather than a reactive manner," Palazzolo said.

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