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Poverty
8:17 am
Thu January 30, 2014

Illinois Poverty Remains Stubbornly High

Credit Georgetown University

A new study finds Illinois' overall poverty rate is about the same as it was a half century ago.  

The report released Thursday by the Chicago-based Social IMPACT Research Center says almost 15 percent of Illinois residents lived below the federal poverty line in 2012, about the same percentage as in 1960.  

That's despite scores of state and federal aid programs and a dramatic drop in the number of older people in poverty.  

Poverty has increased among working-age men and women, and 1 in 5 children are in poverty. It's highest among blacks and Latinos.  

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State of the State
6:00 am
Thu January 30, 2014

Quinn Proposes Modest Agenda; Republicans Warn of Cost

Gov. Pat Quinn speaks with reporters in this file photo.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn delivered his sixth State of the State address Wednesday. As Brian Mackey reports, Quinn's speech was pretty much what you'd expect from a man fighting to keep his job despite some of the lowest approval ratings of any governor in America.

Quinn laid out a list of proposals that seem finely honed to appeal to Democratic voters: increasing the minimum wage, doubling a tax credit for the working poor, and requiring at least two days of sick time for all employees.

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General Assembly Calendar
7:28 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Lawmakers' Light Spring Calendar Allows For Campaigning

  Legislators will descend on the capital city Wednesday, to hear the governor's annual state-of-the-state address. It's the first day they'll be in Springfield this year.

The General Assembly had a jam-packed 2013. It started with new members being sworn into office, and ended with new laws legalizing same-sex marriage and overhauling state pensions.

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Another pension lawsuit
7:15 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Union Conglomerate Files Pension Lawsuit

Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  A coalition of labor unions has called Illinois' new pension law "theft." Now they've filed a lawsuit. It comes a day before Governor Pat Quinn is expected to herald the law in his State of the State address.

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State of the State
7:00 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

State Of The State: Many Promises, No Funding Plan

Gov. Pat Quinn
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  A hike in the minimum wage, sending more children to preschool and more grants for low-income college students are all part of the agenda Governor Pat Quinn laid out Wednesday in his State of the State address. But critics are already calling it fantasy.

Five years to the day after he first became governor, Pat Quinn tried to make the case that Illinois is "making a comeback."

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Propane Availability Shortage Drives Up Cost
6:49 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Lawmakers Aim To Ease Propane Cost In Cold Winter

Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon)
Credit ilga.gov

  The polar vortex returned to the Midwest this week, with frigid temperatures making it difficult for Illinoisans to keep their houses warm. Winter has been especially harsh for people who heat with propane, which has seen a near four-fold price increase in the wake of a regional shortage.

State Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) says the cost of propane is forcing families to make difficult decisions.

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Harvest Desk
4:42 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Sangamon Co. Farmers Settle Subsidy Misuse Claims UPDATE

Credit wattpublishing/flickr

The Department of Justice says a central Illinois farming business has paid $5.3 million to settle allegations it used fake partnerships to avoid limits on federal subsidies its owners could receive.  

The department said Wednesday that Dowson Farms of Divernon has agreed to the out-of-court settlement but the terms do not include an admission of guilt. Divernon is about 15 miles south of Springfield.  

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Harvest Desk
4:28 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Central Illinois Farm Owners Settle U-S Subsidy Allegations

Credit wattpublishing/flickr

The Department of Justice says a central Illinois farming business has paid $5.3 million to settle allegations it used fake partnerships to avoid limits on federal subsidies its owners could receive.  

The department said Wednesday that Dowson Farms of Divernon has agreed to the out-of-court settlement but the terms do not include an admission of guilt. Divernon is about 15 miles south of Springfield.  
A message left at Dowson Farms' office seeking comment was not immediately returned.  

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Election 2014
3:36 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Quinn Challenger Says No "Comeback" For Illinois

Credit uis.edu

Gov. Pat Quinn's challenger in the March primary says the Chicago Democrat's claims that ``Illinois is making a comeback'' don't add up.

Tio Hardiman is a Hillside Democrat and the former director of a Chicago anti-violence program.  
He spoke following Quinn's State of the State address Wednesday in Springfield. Quinn said during the speech that Illinois has improved since he took office.  

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Education
3:34 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Quinn Lays Out Ed. Initiatives But Doubts Arise

Governor Quinn spent much of his State of the State address on Wednesday addressing education. He says investing in education is a sure way to grow jobs as well as the economy. It's a sentiment that's hard to argue with. His focus on early education was an echo of President Obama's own emphasis on the subject in his last two State of the Union addresses, and Quinn has also previously pushed the idea of making pre-K more widely available. New this year though, Quinn says he wants to double the amount of MAP scholarships offered, which help low-income students attend state universities.

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Statehouse
2:57 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Republican Candidates Are Critical Of Governor's Speech

Republican candidates for Governor during a recent debate. (L-R) Bill Brady, Dan Rutherford, Bruce Rauner and Kirk Dillard.
Credit WUIS

State Sen. Kirk Dillard says Gov. Pat Quinn missed the biggest issues facing Illinois during his State of the State speech.
 
The GOP gubernatorial candidate says Quinn used ``perfume'' to cover up Illinois' economic outlook. Dillard says Quinn's speech was a populist, re-election speech.
 
Dillard also criticized the governor for not addressing plans for the income
tax increase set to expire in 2015. He says the budget is a ``foot on the throat
to economic development.''
 

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Statehouse
1:51 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Gov. Quinn Calls For Minimum Wage Increase

Gov. Pat Quinn says raising Illinois' minimum wage is about dignity and decency. 

Quinn reiterated his push Wednesday during his State of the State address. He says he wants to raise the state's $8.25 rate to at least $10 an hour. 

"Our minimum wage workers are doing hard work.  They are putting in long hours.  Yet in too many instances, they are living in poverty.  That's not right.  That's not an Illinois value.  that's not a fair shake."

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Lincoln
9:47 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Spielberg To Receive Lincoln Award In March

Steven Spielberg
Credit wikipedia

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation is planning to honor Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Spielberg.  

The foundation says it will award the ``Lincoln'' director its Lincoln Leadership Prize in Chicago on March 19. ``Lincoln'' star Sally Field will present the award. According to the foundation, the prize is given to those with character, conscience and a commitment to democracy and service.  

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Statehouse
6:00 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Illinois 'State Of The State' Address At Noon Today

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Governor Pat Quinn gives his sixth State of the State address at noon today in Springfield. It comes in an election year that has Quinn seeking a second full term as governor.

Quinn has spent a lot of time talking about the state's pension problems in recent years. Now, with a bid for re-election on the line, he's turning to more populist issues, like an increase in the minimum wage.

Here's Quinn last month: "When we put more purchasing power in the hands of hard-working people, they're not going to admire the money in the bank vault."

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Harvest Desk
5:49 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

U.S. House To Vote On 2014 Farm Bill

Credit Ron Cogswell

  The U.S. House is set to vote on a new farm bill Wednesday, after House and Senate negotiators earlier this week agreed on compromise legislation combining each chambers' drafts.

This 2014 farm bill has been a long time coming.  At least one farm bill watcher from the Midwest is pleased that Congress has finally reached an agreement on the farm bill after years of debate.

  Jonathan Coppess, who teaches law and policy at the University of Illinois, says negotiations dragged due to the size - roughly one trillion dollars - and complexity of the bill.

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Statehouse
4:55 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

Durkin Says Job Creation Should Be Legislature's Focus

Rep. Jim Durkin
Credit ilga.gov

The Illinois House Republican leader says his top priority is legislation meant to reduce unemployment. Jim Durkin’s comments come ahead of Governor Pat Quinn’s State of the State Address Wednesday.

Illinois’ unemployment rate last month was 8.6 %. That’s down almost a full point from a year ago.  But House minority leader Jim Durkin - from Chicago’s southwest suburbs - says it’s still too high.

"It’s clearly understandable why we have governors from our surrounding states coming into Illinois seeking to poach our good employers, our good job creators," Durkin said.

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Business
2:38 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

WUIS / SJ-R Business Report: New Downtown TIF, Bank Mergers

Credit SJ-R

The State Journal-Register's Business Editor Tim Landis talks with WUIS' Sean Crawford about an effort to create a new downtown tax increment financing district in Springfield, community banks getting bigger and more ID checks for certain purchases.  

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Pensions
11:48 am
Tue January 28, 2014

Unions Sue Over Pension Law

Credit wuis

Illinois labor unions have filed a lawsuit seeking a new plan to reduce the state's $100 billion pension shortfall declared unconstitutional.  

The We Are One Illinois Coalition of public employee unions filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Sangamon County Circuit court.  
The long-anticipated legal challenge comes weeks after Gov. Pat Quinn signed the measure into law and ahead of his annual State of the State address.  

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UIS
9:52 am
Tue January 28, 2014

Decision Made: UIS Will Remain 'Prairie Stars'

uis.edu

The UIS team name will remain the same, after over a year of discussions on whether or not to change it. A consultant group hired by the university came up with suggestions like  the Springers, Sabers, and Mammoths. The consultant group cost the university nearly $20,000. After putting together a task force and soliciting the opinions of students, alumni, and faculty, a decision has been made. UIS Chancellor Susan Koch told WUIS, "Prairie Stars may not be the perfect name, but it's our name. And it's been our name since the 1970s ...

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Higher Education
9:46 am
Tue January 28, 2014

Interview: Lincoln Land Community College President Charlotte Warren

LLCC President Dr. Charlotte Warren
Credit LLCC

When the Crown III coal mine south of Springfield recently closed, Lincoln Land Community College stepped in. The school's truck driver training has offered special classes to displaced workers.  President Charlotte Warren says the classes are full, although more could be held.  

It's one example of services offered at Lincoln Land.   Warren says the college provides academic offerings for students who plan to go on for a baccalaureate degree, dual credit classes for some high schoolers and specialized programs to serve the community.

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Regional
8:46 am
Tue January 28, 2014

Mailboxes: A Casualty Of Winter Weather

Credit flickr/jkwerner2

If you're maintaining a city budget in Illinois you better keep some money on hand to pay for mailboxes. Lots of them.
 
Mailboxes that sit along the side of streets are frequent casualties of winter
snow-plowing.
 
Champaign city officials tell The News-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1aYPH5y ) that
over the past three winters at least 232 people have complained that snowplows
have damaged their mailboxes.
 
The repairs and replacements cost a combined $6,582. That doesn't include the
labor.
 

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School Choice
7:00 am
Tue January 28, 2014

School Choice Movement Pushes Agenda

Credit http://schoolchoiceweek.com

 Ask any teacher, superintendent, or government official about it and many would say education funding is in need of some serious change. Local districts are struggling to make ends meet as state and federal appropriations drop - and that means layoffs, school closures, and even shortening the school day in some cases. Some education reform activists say the answer to fixing this problem and others within the system is something called "school choice."

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Statehouse
6:00 am
Tue January 28, 2014

Gambling Push Resumes in East St. Louis

Rep. Bob Rita is to convene a hearing on gambling expansion at the Casino Queen in East St. Louis.
Credit Paul Sableman (pasa47) via Flickr

An Illinois lawmaker is attempting to revive talks over a massive expansion of gambling in the state. The effort begins Tuesday evening at a casino in East St. Louis.

After years of effort, talks to expand gambling broke down last spring. The issue receded amid high-profile legislation dealing with pensions, concealed carry, and same-sex marriage.

Now Rep. Bob Rita, a Democrat from Blue Island, is trying to get gambling back on the front burner.

He's planning several public hearings across the state, beginning at the Casino Queen in East St. Louis.

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Education
12:57 pm
Mon January 27, 2014

Students Must Make Up Cancelled Classes

 Four extra days of class have been added to the calendar for Springfield public schools, pushing the last day to June 4th. WUIS took a look at how it's decided that school should be canceled ...

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Health Desk
8:52 am
Mon January 27, 2014

Credit Cards Could Be Off Limits For Medical Marijuana

Credit flickr/eggrole

People who buy medical marijuana in Illinois might find out it's cash-only.  

Lawmakers approved using cannabis for medical conditions last summer. But the Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reports selling and using marijuana remain federal offenses, so it's unlikely pot dispensaries will be able to open a bank account or get a line of credit.  

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Lincoln
8:45 am
Mon January 27, 2014

Security Review After Lincoln Home Break-In

Credit flickr/tjjohn12

Workers at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site in
Springfield are reviewing security procedures after a man broke in to the
basement.
 
The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reports (http://bit.ly/1dIqzN9 ) a man
from Marshall in southeastern Illinois pleaded guilty to trespassing and
criminal property damage after being found in the basement earlier this month.
 
Jordan Clark was sentenced to time served and ordered to pay $3,000 in
restitution.
 

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Regional
7:55 pm
Sun January 26, 2014

Another Round Of School Closings Monday

Some Amtrak trains are not running today in downstate Illinois.

  School Closings for Monday Jan. 27

A-C Central

Athens

Auburn

Ball Chatham

Bradley University

Calvary Academy

Decatur

Edinburg

Greenview

Illinois State University

Jacksonville

Jacksonville Routt

Lincoln public schools

Lincoln College

New Berlin

Pawnee

Pleasant Plains

PORTA

Riverton

Rochester

Robert Morris University

Sangamon Valley

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Statehouse
5:55 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

Lawmaker Calls For Drug Test As Welfare Prerequisite

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Nearly three million Illinoisans receive benefits in the form of food stamps, welfare or medical help. But one lawmaker says too much of this assistance is being "drained" by drug users.

Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) is proposing changes to the way beneficiaries qualify for assistance. He wants to require drug testing when people sign up for welfare. The representative says the state pays money to people without assessing their ability to be productive.

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Regional
3:58 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

Citizens' Efficiency Commission Report Released

Karen Hasara
Credit news.uis.edu

A Sangamon County panel has unveiled its recommendations for streamlining local government and saving money.

The Citizens Efficiency Commission offered 23 specific proposals... ranging from joint purchasing among agencies to public safety changes.

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