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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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This I Believe 2014
7:35 am
Fri February 28, 2014

26 Letters

Amelia Paries - Lanphier HS
Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

From the moment we're born, we're bombarded with an endless array of words. Long, short, pretty, ugly—but all meaningless. Until we’re taught to read and write. But, even before then, we have to learn the alphabet. It's amazing, truly, how many ways those 26 little letters can be manipulated; the seemingly endless combinations that make up the language we know and take for granted. I love words. I love how they can take simple bedding and turn it into softly ruffled sheets, bathed in sleepy whispers and sweet dreams.

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Harvest Desk
3:44 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

DOT Extends Fuel Emergency As Propane Costs Fall

www.eia.gov

Truckers delivering much-needed heating fuel to homes and businesses throughout the Midwest will remain on the road longer now that the federal government has extended regional emergency declarations

Liquid propane was in short supply in dozens of states during the month of January.  

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Regional
1:34 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

State Police Investigation on Local Officers Released

Credit commons.wikimedia.org

A 300 page report by Illinois State Police investigating  alleged misconduct by two Springfield Police detectives Paul Carpenter and Jim Graham has been released. 

After several Freedom of Information Act requests by local  media outlets for several years, Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Schmidt ruled that the report should be made available to the public. 

Springfield Corporation Council Todd Greenburg says his office can review about 250 pages every 30 days, stretching release of the full document over nine months. 

Follow the link for the first installment. 

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Regional
11:56 am
Thu February 27, 2014

Full Audio of Oak Ridge Cemetery Closed-Talks

Credit Flickr photo by edebell

Before Tuesday's Committee of the Whole meeting, Springfield City Council held a special meeting to release the full audio from a November 5, 2013 executive session discussion about Oak Ridge Cemetery.

Mayor Michael Houston said release of the audio required majority consent of the council.

The vote came after a Sangamon County Judge John Schmidt ruled the discussion a violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.  The topic of the audio is a plan to seek proposals for private management of the city-owned cemetery.   The plan has since been abandoned.

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Regional
9:37 am
Thu February 27, 2014

Springfield Approves Budget, Creates New Position

Credit springfield.il.us

The city of Springfield approved a nearly 600 million dollar budget Wednesday for the new fiscal year.

New to the budget this year is an inspector general position, which officials set aside 79 thousand dollars to fund. 

Council member Cory Jobe before making the position permanent, they will look at results from the first year.

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This I Believe 2014
7:35 am
Thu February 27, 2014

The Most Powerful Element

Kelsey Hubble - Southeast HS
Credit Randy Eccles / WUIS

During my freshman year of high school, my circle of friends was fairly limited.  I had three friends who I associated with daily, and I was perfectly content with this.  In place of expanding my social standing and friend group, I spent a good number of my days walking home after school and doing nothing besides laying in my room listening to music.  This might sound lonely to some, but I was happy doing it, so I felt no need to change.  Music was and is one of the greatest companions I’ve had, and one of the best tools I feel people can use to connect with themselves, and even others.

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Statehouse
6:43 am
Thu February 27, 2014

DCFS Director Resigns After One Month

Arthur Bishop
Credit WBEZ

The director of the state's child welfare agency who pleaded guilty to stealing money from clients of a Chicago social-service agency 20 years ago has resigned from his post.  

Department of Children and Family Services Director Arthur Bishop submitted a letter of resignation to Gov. Pat Quinn's office Wednesday. The letter notes that his background could be a distraction for Quinn in the upcoming election.  

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Disaster Aid Denied
6:00 am
Thu February 27, 2014

Illinois Politicians Challenge FEMA Formula UPDATED

A home all but wiped away in Washington, Ill. during the November tornado.
Lee Strubinger/WUIS

UPDATE:  On Tues., March 4, FEMA denied Illinois' appeal for public assistance for nine counties.  

This week, Gov. Pat Quinn gave a keynote speech at a forum in Washington, D.C. on natural disasters. The governor says Illinois has suffered a record-number of incidents in recent years. And yet the state has come up short when it's sought help from the federal government. That includes a rejection following the outbreak of 25 tornados in Illinois at the end of last year — tornadoes from which the towns of Washington, Gifford, and others are still recovering.

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Regional
2:00 am
Thu February 27, 2014

Study Shows Demand For Residential Space In Downtown Springfield

Credit flickr/pasa47

The Sustainable Design Assessment Team has been focused on the future of Downtown Springfield for about two years. 

SDAT sees the need for more residential space downtown.  A recent study confirms that view. 

"We're really talking about millenials, people in their 20's plus or minus.  And we're talking about the other end of the spectrum, empty nesters," Action Committee Co-chair Chuck Pell said.  Students from UIS or SIU could also be another group looking for a downtown living experience. 

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Minimum wage debate
5:56 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Ralliers Demand Minimum Wage Bump

Minimum wage workers and union members rally for a higher minimum wage in the Capitol rotunda.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  The battle over raising the minimum wage got lot louder on Wednesday. Several hundred minimum wage workers and union members rallied in the Capitol.

A coalition of unions and activist groups lobbied lawmakers and shared their stories of life on minimum wage.

Rachel Bittenbender is 25 and earning $8.25 an hour. She works just shy of full-time at a fast food restaurant in Dixon, near Rockford.

"After I pay my bills? That's about it," she said. "I have a little bit aside to help with some groceries...and then get my car with some gas if I need it for that week."

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Regional
5:42 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Same Sex Couple Gets Marriage License In Champaign County

Marissa Meli, 28, and Laura Meli, 27, have been in a relationship for more than eight years, and on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 became the first same-sex couple in Champaign County to get a marriage license.
Credit Sean Powers/Illinois Public Media

Champaign County Wednesday became the second county in Illinois to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses before June 1st. That’s when a state law says same-sex couples can marry. 

A federal judge ruled last week that Illinois' same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. Urbana residents Marissa and Laura Meli were the first same-sex couple in Champaign County to get a marriage license.

They’ve been together for more than eight years, and they tell  Sean Powers that they’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.

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Election 2014
4:56 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

13th Dist. Congressional Candidate Erika Harold

Erika Harold
Credit Jim Meadows/WILL

Over the next few weeks, you'll be hearing from Congressional candidates running in Illinois' 13th District. There are three Republicans and three Democrats seeking their party's nomination.  

Attorney Erika Harold (R-Urbana) is making her second run for Congress. Two years ago, she tried to replace former Congressman Tim Johnson on the ballot after Johnson announced plans to retire from politics. But Republican Party chairs instead chose incumbent Rodney Davis.

Harold talks with  Sean Powers about her campaign and what she hopes to accomplish.

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Statehouse
2:44 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Lawmaker Calls For Reducing Propane Sales Tax

Credit flickr/rejon

A southern Illinois lawmaker wants to temporarily cut the tax on propane.  
The Belleville News-Democrat reports the proposal is being introduced by Salem Republican Rep. John Cavaletto.

He wants to lower the tax from 6.25 percent to 1.25 percent. If it's approved, the decrease would take effect June 1 and last through August.  
 

Cavaletto says the temporary reprieve could mean ``hundreds of dollars in savings for the average homeowner'' if they fill propane tanks before the temperature drops in the fall.  
His says his bill would offer one-time relief.  

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Election 2014
1:50 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Dillard Picks Up Teachers' Endorsement; Rauner Still Pouring Own Money Into Race

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kirk Dillard, a state senator from Hinsdale, accepts the endorsement of the Illinois Retired Teachers Association Wednesday in the Illinois Capitol.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kirk Dillard got the endorsement of a retired group of teachers Wednesday. But he’s still lagging front-runner Bruce Rauner, who continues to tap his significant personal fortune for his campaign.

The Illinois Retired Teachers Association has nearly 36,000 members. President Bob Pinkerton says this is the first time the group has endorsed a candidate for governor.

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Regional
11:51 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Springfield Close to Finalizing Budget

Credit springfield.il.us

The City of Springfield is putting the final touches on a nearly 600 million-dollar budget.

Aldermen have proposed several changes to the spending plan, which could be adopted tonight at a special council meeting.   Alderman Cory Jobe and others want to move nearly 80-thousand dollars from other areas to pay for a new inspector general position.  The job would involve investigating possible corruption within city operations.

Mayor Mike Houston says he will work with the position if it’s approved.

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Regional
11:30 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Springfield Pension Problem Worst in State According to Think-Tank

Credit illinoispolicy.org

A conservative think tank recommends the City of Springfield switch its employee pension system to a 401K style plan rather than a defined benefit.

"First and foremost you need to make sure the data is pure." -- Budget Director William McCarty

The Illinois Policy Institute presented aldermen data that indicate the city of Springfield has the worst funded pension system among larger cities in the state.

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Local Bands
11:03 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Local Group War Magic Plays Unique Neo-Folk

Mark Reynolds (left, on keys) & Alistair Reynolds (on guitar) of War Magic
Credit Rachel Otwell

War Magic is a local folk band that you probably haven't heart of. The group's been called "dream-folk" and "neo-folk" - and they've only played a handful of shows in town. Alistair Reynolds and Mark Reynolds recently joined us to talk about their project and share some of their unique music: 

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Business
8:45 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Illinois Products Expo This Weekend

Some of the best Illinois has to offer will be on display this weekend in Springfield.  It's the annual Illinois Products Expo at the Orr Building on the state fairgrounds.  More than 70 companies will be represented.  

Jennifer Tyree,  Bureau Chief of Marketing and Promotions with the Illinois Department of Agriculture, says it's a variety of offerings.

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This I Believe 2014
7:35 am
Wed February 26, 2014

I Believe in Snow Cones

Alex Brosseau - Southeast HS

I used to live right on the busiest street in the world. Maybe, I’m exaggerating a little bit, but it seemed pretty busy to me. Cars zoomed up and down the street, traveling around the world, and I wasn’t allowed to go past my block on my own, which now seems to be very logical, but at the time it seemed like the most ridiculous rule. On hot summer weeks when I was cooped up to my huge lawn and vast house, my sole escape was Snow Cone Tuesday.

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Statehouse
5:49 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Effort To Consolidate Pension Lawsuits

Efforts are underway to consolidate four lawsuits challenging Illinois' new pension reform law.  

Lawyers representing the respective groups of state retirees who filed class-action suits have asked the Supreme Court to allow them to present their cases as one.  

The groups share the common claim that the new pension reform plan violates the state constitution, which says benefits may not be diminished.  

Read more

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