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Statehouse
7:30 am
Wed September 25, 2013

Same Sex Marriage Activists Target House Republicans

Greg Harris, IL State Rep. sponsoring same-sex marriage legislation
Credit AP

 A bill to legalize gay marriage in Illinois will be waiting for lawmakers when they head back to Springfield next month. The bill already passed the State Senate - but is stuck in the House. Now, proponents are in the midst of a lobbying campaign targeted at an unlikely group of lawmakers: House Republicans. But as WBEZ’s Alex Keefe reports, there are big hurdles to getting GOP representatives to vote yes:  

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Route 66
7:00 am
Wed September 25, 2013

Interview: 12th Route 66 Mother Road Festival

Cars line up during last year's festival
Credit route66fest.com

Over 1,000 classic cars will be on display in Springfield this weekend. It's time again for the International Route 66 Mother Road Festival - on its 12th year. We recently spoke with the president of the festival, Kim Rosendahl about it. She tells us the event is about more than just cars, it's about the lifestyle the iconic highway represents:  

CLICK HERE for more about the International Route 66 Mother Road Festival which kicks off in Springfield this weekend with a city night cruise on Friday.

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ISP Still Vetting Instructors
6:53 am
Wed September 25, 2013

Gun Trainers Waiting For Concealed Carry Curriculum

Credit Susan Stephens/WNIJ

There are now 54 concealed carry instructors approved by the Illinois State Police. Anyone who wants to apply for a permit to carry a concealed weapon has to put in sixteen hours in the classroom and shooting range with an official instructor.

         

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Statehouse
6:33 am
Wed September 25, 2013

Metra Panel To Meet In Chicago

Credit commons.wikimedia.org

A state panel charged with coming up with reforms for Metra and other Illinois public transit agencies is set to have a second public hearing.
 
The Northeastern Illinois Public Transit Task Force meets Wednesday in downtown Chicago.
 
Gov. Pat Quinn formed the group in August after allegations about political hiring at Metra. He's called for an overhaul of the commuter rail agency, PACE and other transit agencies.
 

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Harvest Desk
6:09 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

Largely Unpopular, Direct Payment Subsidies Persist

Farmer Bill Wendel says he doesn’t need his direct payments, sometimes known as “welfare for farmers.”
Credit Frank Morris/Harvest Public Media

Congress is bitterly divided on food stamps and other issues contained in the farm bill, but both political parties agree on something: the $5 billion-a-year farm subsidy called Direct and Countercyclical Payments has got to go.

The program shells out to farmers and land owners regardless of need or loss. It’s a hold-out from a farm bill that promised an end to subsidies and it’s holding on only because Congress is so dysfunctional.  

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Health Desk
3:51 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

ACA Insurance Plans May Be Cheaper, But At What Cost?

Credit flickr

  Although the grand opening of the Affordable Care Act is only a week away, Illinois is still waiting on the federal government to approve the insurance plans that will be available through it.  Even so, the governor today announced it will cost less to get coverage than originally expected.

Illinois submitted 165 different insurance plans to the federal government. Until the feds sign off on them, it's impossible for someone looking to buy insurance from the Obamacare "marketplace" to know how much they should plan to spend.

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History
11:39 am
Tue September 24, 2013

Dillinger's Death Mask Going On Display In Springfield

A plaster mask cast from the face of gangster John Dillinger after his death is going on display in Springfield.  
The Illinois State Police Heritage Foundation museum in Springfield will display the mask from Thursday to Saturday, and has extended its visitor hours this weekend.  
They say the mask is one of four cast from the face of the Prohibition-era gangster.  

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Harvest Desk
11:26 am
Tue September 24, 2013

Sticker Shock - It's Not Just On New Tractors Anymore

Some estimates peg the market for used farm equipment in the U.S. at more than $100 billion annually, about five times the amount spent on new equipment each year.
Credit The Knowles gallery/flickr

Buying a new farm tractor costs almost as much as a new home in a decent suburb.  

Shelling out $200,000 or more for shiny new John Deere, Case IH, New Holland or other name brand horsepower to work the fields of a 21st century Midwestern farm isn’t unusual, farmers and dealers say.

What seems more unusual, to newcomers to farm economics at least, is that those shiny new models aren’t the hottest selling big iron on many dealers’ lots.  That would be the used tractors that were traded in when the new models rolled off the dealers’ flatbed trucks.

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Education
10:19 am
Tue September 24, 2013

Testing Teachers Causes Unexpected Racial Division

Nearly all the students at south suburban Roosevelt Elementary School in Riverdale, IL, are African American. Principal Shalonda Randle says she’s made deliberate efforts to hire more teachers of color because her students identify with their success.
Credit Odette Yousef/WBEZ

Across the nation, states are considering ways to make teaching a more selective profession. The push for “higher aptitude” teachers has often come from the nation’s top education officials. “In Finland it’s the top ten percent of college grads (who) are going into education,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said to an audience of educators in Massachusetts last year. “Ninety percent don’t have that opportunity.”

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Harvest Desk
9:21 am
Tue September 24, 2013

Obamacare Could Be Tough Sell In Rural Areas

Bob Bernt and his wife, Kristine, have gone without health insurance for the last 20 years, and don’t plan on buying coverage to meet the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act.
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

The Affordable Care Act, often called “Obamacare,” takes a big step forward Oct. 1 when new health insurance marketplaces open for enrollment. Rural families are more likely to qualify for subsidized coverage, but reaching them to sign up will be part of the challenge.

So, will farm country take advantage of new health insurance subsidies? That’s the question in Nebraska.

Almost 200,000 Nebraskans don’t have health insurance. Nearly half of them are spread across the state’s rural areas.

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Health Desk
9:14 am
Tue September 24, 2013

Details On Next Phase Of Obamacare

Jim Duffett
Credit Campaign for Better Health Care

The Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, is among the most controversial domestic policy laws in history.  And it remains so just days before the next phase launches October 1.   At that time, a window opens allowing comparative shopping for coverage. 

While the debate in Washington continues, we wanted to take a closer look at the law and what it will mean for those who are uninsured and those who already have coverage. 

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Harvest Desk
8:27 pm
Mon September 23, 2013

Singer-Songwriter's Ode To Agriculture

Susan Werner's family has worked the land in Iowa for generations since emigrating from Germany in the 1860s.

Chicago-based singer-songwriter Susan Werner has worked on concept albums before – from jazz standards to pop classics to Gospel music for agnostics. But now she's turned to her farm roots for inspiration.

Werner, who's currently touring in the Midwest, desribes her new CD, Hayseed, as "egg meets art," celebrating agriculture through music.

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Statehouse
2:49 pm
Mon September 23, 2013

Durkin Begins Work As Illinois House GOP Leader

Rep. Jim Durkin
Credit ilga.gov

State Rep. Jim Durkin is officially beginning his tenure as Republican leader in the Illinois House.  
The Western Springs lawmaker was elected to the post last month but officially takes the reins Monday.  
His predecessor, state Rep. Tom Cross of Oswego, stepped down to run for state treasurer. Cross held the position for a decade.  

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Harvest Desk
2:30 pm
Mon September 23, 2013

ADM To Move Headquarters From Decatur

Credit ADM

Agribusiness giant Archer Daniel Midland Company says that after 44 years in Decatur, Ill., it is looking for a new location for its headquarters.
 
CEO Patricia Woertz says in a news release Monday that ADM needs what she called a global center with better access to customers and employees around the world. 
The company says it doesn't plan layoffs and will keep a workforce of 4,400 in Decatur, which also will become ADM's North American headquarters.  ADM says the new headquarters would have about 100 employees.
 
ADM is the largest employer in Decatur.

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File Shredding Lawsuit
11:51 am
Mon September 23, 2013

Houston: Leak Of Former Chief's Testimony "Unethical"

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston
Credit City of Springfield

Mike Houston says the court system doesn't appreciate when cases are "tried in public", and Springfield's mayor suggests "unethical" leaks of sworn testimony to the media are doing that by "coloring the situation".

The situation is the ongoing lawsuit filed by local newspaper columnist Calvin Christian, which claims the city destroyed dozens of documents he was seeking through the Freedom of Information Act.

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Harvest Desk
3:12 am
Mon September 23, 2013

Why Farmers Want New Equipment

Illinois farmer Len Corzine is surrounded by some of his brand new farm equipment.
Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media

On a hot August day in late August, Kevin Bien stands in the shade of a large gray piece of farm equipment.  The brand marketing manager for Gleaner Combines gives his best spiel to a group of farmers attending the Farm progress Show  in Decatur.   Torque, efficiency, and new technology are among his key points for the prospective buyers of the large machines that can run anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000.    

And farmers are buying. Frequently.

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Election 2014
9:31 pm
Sun September 22, 2013

With No Competition, Dems Endorse Quinn

Gov. Pat Quinn addresses Democratic Party leaders Sunday in Springfield. Although he’s running unopposed in next year’s primary, he sought and won the official Democratic endorsement for re-election.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Many of Illinois' top Democrats met in Springfield Sunday to pick a slate of statewide candidates. Although several politicians had considered challenging Gov. Pat Quinn in next year's primary, they all backed off by the time of Sunday's meeting.

From the tone at Sunday's meeting, you'd never know a week before, Quinn was facing a tough primary fight. But then Bill Daley dropped out.

You'd also never know Quinn has spent months berating state lawmakers over guns and pensions.

You'd never know it because Quinn was unanimously endorsed for re-election.

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Nation/World
11:42 pm
Fri September 20, 2013

Vote On New U.S. Attorney Set For Thursday

Zachary Fardon

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin's office says the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to vote next Thursday on President Barack Obama's nominee to be the next chief federal prosecutor in Chicago.  
Obama chose Zachary Fardon in May to head the U.S. Attorney's Office for northern Illinois. After more than a decade in the high-profile post, Patrick Fitzgerald resigned last year to enter private practice.  
Durbin spokesman Max Gleischman says the committee will take up Fardon's nomination and likely vote the same day. The full Senate would then vote, possibly just days later.  

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Statehouse
5:34 pm
Fri September 20, 2013

Judge Delays Decision On Lawmaker Paycheck Dispute

A Cook County Circuit Court judge says he will rule next month on a lawsuit challenging Gov. Pat Quinn's decision to halt lawmaker pay until they address Illinois' pension crisis.  
Judge Neil Cohen said Wednesday he would issue his decision by Sept. 26. But on Friday, Cohen said he'll rule no later than Oct. 3.  
House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton sued Quinn after the governor used his line-item veto to cut money for legislator salaries from the state budget. The legislative leaders say Quinn's action is unconstitutional.  

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Congressman Convicted
3:34 pm
Fri September 20, 2013

Jackson Jr. Auction On Hold Over Authenticity Issues

Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.
Credit Congressional website

The U.S. Marshals service is suspending a high-profile auction of clothing and memorabilia belonging to convicted former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. because of questions about the authenticity of some items.  
The agency said Friday that it was scrapping the online auction because of questions about a guitar purportedly signed by Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen.  
The service says it will ``conduct a secondary review'' of the items out of ``an abundance of caution.''  

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State Week in Review
3:14 pm
Fri September 20, 2013

Listen To State Week - September 20, 2013

This week's topics include Bill Daley's decision to drop out of the Democratic Primary for Illinois Governor, legal arguments over Governor Quinn's suspension of lawmakers' pay, and debate before the Illinois Supreme Court on the legality of changing retirees' health care.

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Election 2014
4:28 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

Democrats To Slate ... Even Though There's No Competition

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin speaks at a previous meeting of leading Democrats - the party's county chairmen - in Springfield this summer. Durbin, who's running for re-election, is expected to attend Sunday's meeting of the Democratic State Central Committee in Springfield. He faces no primary challenge.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Illinois' leading Democrats will meet in Springfield on Sunday. They're supposed to decide endorse candidates for next year's primary election ... even though there are no longer any competitive races.

Democrats have rarely slated candidates in recent years.

But this time - with incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn facing a primary challenge from former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley - the state party was going to consider picking a favorite.

Not anymore. Daley's no longer in the running. He dropped out. Leaving Quinn without a serious challenge.

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Religion
3:49 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

Former Jacksonville Priest Under Investigation For Abuse

Credit Springfield Diocese

A priest who formerly served at a Jacksonville church is under investigation for sexual misconduct.   The Springfield Diocese issued a statement saying the Reverend Robert "Bud" DeGrand has temporarily withdrawn from the ministry.   He most recently was involved with parishes in east central Illinois in Sigel, Neoga, Green Creek and Lillyville.

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Arts
1:07 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

Two Classic Movies Screen In Lincoln

This weekend through next week, two motion picture classics from 1962 will alternate screenings at the Lincoln Theater 4 in Lincoln, Illinois - To Kill a Mockingbird and Lawrence of Arabia.   Bob Meyer talks with independent theater owner David Lanterman about the two movies' enduring appeal and the advantages of screening great films of the past alongside the latest Hollywood releases.

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Election 2014
11:44 am
Thu September 19, 2013

Grogan Says He's Best Qualified To Be Treasurer

Bob Grogan
Credit Dupage County official website

A suburban Chicago Republican running for Illinois treasurer says he has the best qualifications for the job as an accountant and county auditor.  

Bob Grogan of Downers Grove is the only 2014 opponent so far to House Republican Leader Tom Cross.  
Grogan says he knows he doesn't have the name recognition that Cross does, but he's spent years straightening out public finances and wants to do the same for the state. Grogan is a certified public accountant who worked for a downtown Chicago firm. He's since been twice elected auditor of DuPage County.  

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Regional
8:06 am
Thu September 19, 2013

Book Uncovers Violent Greene County History

Credit thewitwerfiles.com

D.L. Dennis set out to write a book about a century old chapter in his family's history as well as the history of one west central Illinois town.  The Witwer Files follows his grandfather's time as marshal in the Greene County community of Hillview.  In 1915, Witwer shot and a killed a man and was brought up on charges of murder.  He was eventually acquitted.  

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The Underwear Test
7:35 am
Thu September 19, 2013

Resolution Calls on Governor To Live in Mansion On Session Days

In downtown Chicago, the city's flag and the state flag fly side-by-side. Gov. Quinn's office says he lives in both Chicago and in the capital city.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  You never know what'll come up during a candidates' debate. Back in 2010, it was Gov. Pat Quinn's underwear.

As proof that he lives in Springfield, Quinn offered that he keeps his underwear at the governor's mansion.

It's become clear he also keeps pairs in Chicago.

Like his predecessor, Rod Blagojevich, Quinn has repeatedly come under fire for not spending enough time in the capital.

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Regional
7:29 am
Thu September 19, 2013

Jacksonville's Ken "Jawbreaker" Norton Dies At 70

Ken Norton

Former heavyweight champion and Jacksonville native Ken Norton has died at the age of 70 following a series of strokes.

A friend of the Norton family tells the Associated Press the ex-boxer from central Illinois passed away Wednesday in a care facility near Las Vegas. 

Here's more from the State Journal-Register, which tapped into its archive as it remembered the boxer:

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Illinois Supreme Court
6:30 am
Thu September 19, 2013

Should State Retirees Pay For Health Insurance?

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Retired state workers who collect pensions in Illinois started paying health insurance premiums this summer. That's because of a change in the law last year — previously health insurance was free for anyone who retired with at least 20 years of service.

A number of retirees sued over the change. The case was argued Wednesday before the Illinois Supreme Court.

A few months ago, Illinois began collecting one percent of pension income from retirees who are eligible for Medicare, two percent from those who aren't.

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Health Desk
7:08 pm
Wed September 18, 2013

Report: Illinois Lags In Health Services For Poor

Credit flickr

A new report says Illinois ranks 36th among the states for delivering health care services to its low-income residents. 

The Commonwealth Fund released a scorecard Wednesday on how states are
performing on health care coverage, prevention and treatment of low-income
people.
The report looks at 30 health indicators and finds wide geographic variations
with big gaps between the highest-performing and lowest-performing states.

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