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Regional
11:47 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

City Close To Downtown Property Purchase

Credit springfield.il.us

The City of Springfield is one step away from acquiring the now vacant YWCA building and surrounding property in the downtown.  Aldermen agreed to the deal during a Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday night.   Purchasing the almost 2 acres across from the Governor's Mansion, will cost the city over one and a half million dollars.   The city will use Tax Increment Financing money to buy the land.

It's been a long process to get to this point.   Ward Six Alderman Cory Jobe says this is property that's been targeted since he got elected.

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Statehouse
3:40 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

Court: Unplayed Blagojevich Tapes To Stay Sealed

An appellate court in Chicago says transcripts of FBI wiretaps
not played at Rod Blagojevich's corruption trials will remain sealed.
 
The 7th U.S. Court of Appeals is still mulling its decision on the imprisoned
former Illinois governor's request to toss his convictions.
 
Appellate courts typically unseal documents submitted as part of an appeal. But
prosecutors later asked that the transcripts submitted to the appeals court not
entered into evidence at the trials remain under seal. Blagojevich's attorneys
wanted them opened.  
 

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Education
2:36 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

School Officials Call Potential Cuts 'Devastating'

As the state legislature threatens additional cuts to local schools, education officials are firing back. Some say taking more money away from students would be morally reprehensible.

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Harvest Desk
12:45 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

Could Our Food Supply Be A Target For Terrorism?

A bioterror attack that introduced a virus like foot-and-mouth disease could devastate the U.S. livestock industry. Regulators are proposing new rules meant to protect the food system from terror attack.
Credit Jeremy Bernfeld/Harvest Public Media

It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster. Villains in trench coats scheme ways to cause the most destruction and chaos. They settle on a food company, an easy target, and plan to lace the products with a chemical or pathogen. The hero finds out the plan with enough time to save the day.

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Health Desk
11:57 am
Tue March 11, 2014

State Panel Approves Memorial-Passavant Affiliation

Passavant Area Hospital
Credit Passavant Hospital

The affiliation of two area health care organizations is a step closer to becoming a reality.  Passavant Area Hospital in Jacksonville plans to join Memorial Health System, which oversees three other hospitals including Memorial Medical Center in Springfield.

Tuesday, the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board unanimously approved the change.   
Ed Curtis, Memorial's CEO, says the affiliation is on target to take effect April first.  Afterward, he says patients won't notice an immediate difference in how they access health care:

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Science
10:54 am
Tue March 11, 2014

Science Lecture Looks At Early Spanish Exploration Of Interior U.S.

Credit Ill. State Museum

This month's Illinois State Museum Science Lecture Series will focus on early Spanish exploration of what would become the United States.   Dr. Kathryn Sampeck is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Illinois State University.

She has been doing archaeological research in the southeast to get a better idea of those expeditions and how they changed history.    

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Student loans
9:41 am
Tue March 11, 2014

Lawmaker Wants European Model Of Student Loans

Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo)
Credit ilga.gov

  A plan that could lead to Illinois changing its student loan repayment programs is moving through the General Assembly. The new method would let students pay back loans based on their income, instead of a set schedule.

The model is a European one, often used in the U.K. and Australia, says sponsor Jack Franks (D-Marengo). Franks says he wants to prevent college grads from being shackled to large debt payments.

Currently, students have to begin making steady payment shortly after they graduate, whether or not they've found a job, and regardless of how much that job pays.

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Election 2014
8:43 am
Tue March 11, 2014

Interview With U.S. Senate Candidate Jim Oberweis

Jim Oberweis
Credit Oberweis for US Senate

Voters this month will decide the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.  It's a race between two suburban businessmen, Doug Truax and Jim Oberweis.

The Oberweis name is recognizable for the Illinois based dairy business the candidate started and still owns along with an investment firm.

Oberweis,  67, is also known for his previous five failed campaigns.  That included unsuccessful attempts to run for U.S. Senate. He won a state Senate seat in 2012. 
 

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Gun Control
6:11 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Majority Feel Less Safe Since Concealed Carry Law

As Illinois gun owners increasingly are allowed to carry their firearms as they go about their daily lives -- a new poll shows half of Illinois voters feel less safe. Qualifying gun-owners began receiving their licenses to carry loaded firearms earlier this month.

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Health Desk
1:38 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

State Health Panel Wants To See Expansion Of Health Jobs

LaMar Hasbrouck, IDPH Director
Credit WUIS

A state panel has released nearly two dozen recommendations to deal with the increase in patients expected under the Affordable Care Act.  However, some of those ideas will be hard to get approved.

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Term limits
9:34 am
Mon March 10, 2014

Rep. Rodney Davis Supports Term Limits; Won't Self-Impose

  Calls to institute term limits in Illinois have gained traction in the race for governor, helped along by a well-funded campaign that seeks to limit how long politicians can serve in the state legislature. A freshman Congressman says he supports the effort ... but only to a degree.

Congressman Rodney Davis (IL-13) says he has not yet signed the petition that calls for limiting members of the Illinois General Assembly to eight year terms. But he says that he would.

Davis, a Republican from Taylorville, says he also backs term limits for Congress, at least in concept.

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Statehouse
7:19 am
Mon March 10, 2014

Illinois Pays Penalty For Bad Fiscal Image

Professor Martin Luby
Credit igpa

When it comes to finances, the State of Illinois has a poor reputation.   New research shows how the state's negative perception is costing taxpayers. 

Illinois already has the worst credit rating among states.  And while that adds to the cost of borrowing money, Illinois winds up paying even more because investors view it as risky of default.

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Election 2014
6:00 am
Mon March 10, 2014

Why Are Republicans Avoiding Social Issues?

The four candidates for governor seem to be downplaying social issues in this year's Republican primary.
Credit WUIS

Illinois' economy has been topic A among the men seeking the Republican nomination for governor. Getting far less attention are social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. For a party whose rough primaries have often been compared to “circular firing squads,” the lack of focus on the topic is unusual. Brian Mackey looks at what’s behind the social silence.

State Sen. Kirk Dillard, from Hinsdale, can tell you exactly how close he came to winning the Republican gubernatorial primary four years ago.

MACKEY: “Was it 193 votes?”

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Harvest Desk
9:13 am
Sat March 8, 2014

Hog Virus Causing Pork Price Spike

Hog producer Phil Borgic of Nokomis, Ill., lost one full month of piglets to the PED virus.
Credit Peter Gray/WUIS

  Shoppers are already paying more for pork and bacon than they did last year and many economists expect those prices to continue climbing for the next few months.

Chris Hurt, an agricultural economist at Purdue University, watches the market for lean hog futures– the anticipated price of hogs heading to market soon. The futures price hit record-highs in early March, Hurt said, which will translate to expensive and bacon in the supermarket in the coming months.

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Statehouse
5:41 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

Audit Of Quinn Program Sent To Authorities

A scathing audit of an anti-violence program launched by Gov. Pat Quinn in 2010 has been sent to law enforcement authorities.  

Republican lawmakers released a letter Friday from Auditor General William Holland. It indicated the audit of Quinn's $55 million ``Neighborhood Recovery Initiative'' went to James Lewis, U.S. attorney for the central district of Illinois, and Ricardo Meza, the state's executive inspector general. The legislators had asked Holland to forward his findings.  

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Higher Education
2:44 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

U of I Plans Presidential Search Panel

Robert Easter

The University of Illinois hopes to have a new president selected by January.  

The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports a 19-member search committee will be appointed in May to recruit and review candidates to replace President Robert Easter.  

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State Week
1:37 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

Listen To State Week - March 7, 2014

This week, more discussion of the upcoming primary elections, gun rights activists press for fewer restrictions, and differences of opinion in the state legislature over next year's budget.

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AP Awards
11:27 am
Fri March 7, 2014

What Do Pensions and Concussions Have in Common?

Associated Press

WUIS stories on pensions, concussions, crop insurance, and tornado recovery are being recognized with four 2013 Illinois Associated Press Broadcasters awards: 

Local Radio:

Best Investigative Report: WIUM-FM, “50% Plus One,” Rich Egger
2nd Place: WUIS-FM, “Judges' Pensions”, Amanda Vinicky

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DEMO Project/Springfield Art Association
10:05 am
Fri March 7, 2014

New Media Art Exhibits On The SAA Campus

Brian Charles Patterson is an artist from Utah who creates unique video and audio compilations. His exhibit that addresses climate change is called, 'As Long As There Is No Tomorrow.' It will be at the at DEMO Project (732 N. 4th St.) now through March 29th. The opening is Friday night from 6 to 9 at the Springfield Art Association.

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Election 2014
6:59 am
Fri March 7, 2014

Big Opportunity For Republicans As Poll Shows Quinn "Dread"

  The Republican race is heating up as the March 18 election nears, but Gov. Pat Quinn faces only nominal primary opposition. He's likely safe for now, but a new poll shows Quinn could have trouble holding onto his seat come the general election.

"The Walking Dread." That's the headline "We Ask America" used on its website to announce the results of its latest Illinois poll, a brief survey of just over 1,100 likely Democratic voters. As in, probable members of Quinn's own party.

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Harvest Desk
8:42 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Harvest Blog: State Lawmakers Munch (Free?) Lunches

a-tisket, a-tasket, a policy-shaping basket?
Credit openclipart.org

When the "lobbyist" armed with a free basket of treats is a smiling farm kid, what state lawmaker could say no to the gift? 

That was the scene at Ag Lobby Day in the Illinois State Capitol, its rotunda invaded by a veritable army of bushel basket-toting FFA members.

The FFA lunch hour food distribution lent some younger voices to the chorus of voices advocating on behalf of Illinois agribusiness.

But if anyone knows there's "no such thing as a free lunch", it's farmers.

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Harvest Desk
7:00 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Ag Lobby Lining Up Against GMO Food Labeling

Sen. David Koehler (D-Peoria)
Credit ilga.gov

Farmers, their lobbyists and legislators met in the Capitol Thursday to talk about legislation that would affect one of Illinois’ biggest industries – agriculture.

One proposal “big ag” is fighting would change the way food is labeled in Illinois.

State Senator Dave Koehler says consumers ought to know whether processed food they buy contains genetically engineered ingredients. 

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Statehouse
6:04 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Fifth Lawsuit Filed Against Illinois Pension Law

An Illinois House voting board in December shows the results for what would become a pension overhaul law.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

A fifth lawsuit has been filed by state employees challenging Illinois' new pension law.  
The lawsuit from current and former employees at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and Parkland Community College was filed in Champaign County Circuit Court Thursday.  

It says the legislation passed by the General Assembly in December violates several provisions of the state constitution, which says retirement benefits should not be diminished or impaired and private property should not be ``taken or damaged for public use.''  

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Election 2014
5:15 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Dillard Campaign Gets On TV: Watch

Senator Kirk Dillard, R- Hinsdale, who's trying for the second time for the GOP nomination for governor.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

With less than two weeks until the primary election, Bruce Rauner will no longer be the only candidate airing self-promotional T-V ads in Illinois. Senator Kirk Dillard is airing campaign commercials of his own.

The commercials Bruce Rauner has been airing for months, thanks mostly to the more than $6 million dollars he's put into his campaign, have helped him surge ahead in polls for the GOP race for governor.

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Election 2014
4:15 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Interview with 13th Dist. Congressional Candidate Michael Firsching

Michael Firsching
Credit Sean Powers

A veterinarian from Illinois’ Metro East area is making a third primary bid for Congress.  Michael Firsching previously ran for the state's old 19th Congressional district, and lost a primary 2012 bid for the 13th district.

He lost to Congressman John Shimkus in 2010, and he was defeated in 2012 by former 13th District Congressman Tim Johnson of Urbana.  This year, Firsching is in a field of six candidates, three from each major party, including Republican incumbent Rodney Davis of Taylorville.

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District 186
2:24 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Budget Talk: Bob Hill On Challenges Facing District 186

Bob Hill
Credit sps186.org

Dozens of District 186 employees will be without a job come the end of the school year. A week ago the interim superintendent, Bob Hill, suggested cutting teaching jobs at all levels. On Tuesday he came to the board with further cuts, including in technology and special education. 

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Election 2014
11:56 am
Thu March 6, 2014

Dillard's AFSCME Endorsement: Too Little, Too Late?

AFSCME is the third government-employee union to endorse state Sen. Kirk Dillard for governor, coming after the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Republican candidate for governor Kirk Dillard has picked up the endorsement of the the state's largest government-employee union. But with less than two weeks until the election, Brian Mackey asks if it's too little, too late.

Dillard's endorsement from AFSCME comes after front runner Bruce Rauner has been blanketing the state with television ads for months.

Rauner has been pounding a message that he'll fight so-called "government union bosses." He says state employees bargaining for salaries and benefits is "corrupt" and "immoral," and one of Illinois' biggest problems.

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Health Desk
11:52 am
Thu March 6, 2014

Student Food Allergies Change Classroom Policies

Credit flickr/stevendepolo

About one-third of teachers are keeping food out of their classrooms to avoid problems with students who suffer from allergies and other health issues.  

Horace Mann, a Springfield based insurance company,  conducted a nationwide survey of educators that includes questions about food policies. 

The survey shows in an average elementary school classroom with about 24 students, teachers say they have 1 to 2 students with food allergies.

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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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