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Constitutional Amendment
6:35 am
Mon April 7, 2014

Legislators Vote Against Capping Their Careers

Credit flickr/danxoneil

  Voters may still get the chance to decide if they want to limit how long legislators can serve ... but no thanks to legislators themselves.

Although elections have been compared to popularity contests, as a whole, "politicians" aren't all that popular.

Which may be way polls show voters find the idea of term limits so appealing.

Unless, of course, you're a legislator.

Senator Darin LaHood, a Republican from Peoria, nonetheless introduced a term limits plan.

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UIS Theatre
6:00 am
Mon April 7, 2014

'How I Learned To Drive' At UIS

Missy Thibodeaux-Thompson

The theater department at University of Illinois Springfield is known for putting on thought-provoking and modern plays. The one premiering this weekend is no exception, called 'How I Learned to Drive' it follows the tale of a woman looking back at her adolescence, a time wrought with some pretty heavy issues. Rachel Otwell recently spoke with the director, Missy Thibodeaux-Thompson and actor and co-dramaturg Christina Craig: 

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State Week
3:03 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

Listen To State Week - April 4, 2014

This week, a proposal for a state constitutional amendment on voting rights, a proposal for a graduated tax rate, and suggestions for a pension change for the city of Chicago.

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Statehouse
2:55 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

State Manager Fined; Had Employees Do His Homework

A former Illinois Department of Employment Security manager has been fined for directing his co-workers to do his college homework on taxpayer time.  

An April 3 report by Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza  says 63-year-old Clyde Redfield was fined $2,500. He resigned from his $71,000 job in 2012 after the allegations surfaced.  

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Education
11:50 am
Fri April 4, 2014

Schools Consider New Test Fee Amid Budget Worries

Credit creative commons

State education officials are considering retaining a
traditional college-readiness test for high school juniors but passing the cost along to school districts and possibly the students' families.
 
The move is one cost-cutting possibility after Illinois schools have seen close to $1 billion in cuts since 2009. Educators warn of more drastic cuts if
lawmakers decide not to extend a temporary income tax hike set to expire at the end of 2014.
 
State board officials estimate it will cost $14 million for all high school

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Regional
11:43 am
Fri April 4, 2014

NTSB Report On Taylorville Plane Crash Nearly Done

A detailed report on a fatal central Illinois plane crash could be ready soon, more than 18 months after a dozen skydivers jumped from the aircraft just before it went down.
 
The August 2012 crash in Taylorville killed pilot Brandon Sparrow, who stayed
at the controls when the twin-engine plane stalled and began to roll. It took a
steep dive and crashed just yards from an occupied home.
 
Tom Latson is an investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board. He
tells The (Decatur) Herald & Review (http://bit.ly/1pZz3Xh ) that he expects his

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Graduated income tax
9:47 am
Fri April 4, 2014

Graduated Income Tax Moves Forward After Stumble

  An effort to change Illinois' income tax from a flat to a graduated structure is making headway in the General Assembly. The plan, where the more you earn the more you pay, has been revived after a setback last week.

When another proposal for a graduated income tax was up for debate last week, it was shot down before even getting to the floor. But Representative Christian Mitchell, a Democrat from Chicago, says his proposal is different: Its income-based tax brackets are lower than the previous version.

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Education
1:46 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Senator Suggests Switching School Funding Distribution

Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, says his kids' art classes are held in a former janitors' closet -- a sign of what happens as a result of Illinois' school funding formula.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

    

Critics of the way Illinois funds schools say it's wrong that the quality of a child's education is based largely on her zip code.

That's because schools are mostly funded by local property taxes. While Illinois takes that into account when determining how much state money to give each district, it's not the predominant factor.

A new proposal, backed by Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, would make local need the number one test.

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DEMO Project
1:39 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Local Professor Combines Art, Lincoln & Drones

Erica Holst, curator of collections at SAA and artist Mike Miller
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

This weekend two openings will take place on the campus of the Springfield Art Association. One will combine the artworks of University of Illinois Springfield faculty in an exhibit called, Trigger: New Work by UIS Art Faculty. That will be in the new M.G. Nelson Family Gallery. The reception is on Friday, 5:30-7:30pm. The exhibit will run through April 25.  

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Coal industry
12:57 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Environmental Groups Call For Enforcement Of Coal Regulations

  Environmentalists in central Illinois are calling for tougher regulations on the coal industry. They say coal companies are using land to profit, then leaving residents with a mess.

Director of the Sierra Club's Illinois Chapter Jack Darin acknowledges the regulations the state already has in place. He says the problem is Illinois' lax enforcement of those laws against coal companies.

"Unless they're held accountable for these actions, then what good are the strongest regulations that the state can write?" he said.

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Business
12:01 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Former Illiopolis Plant Nearly Demolished

Credit csb.gov

State environmental regulators say a former plastics plant in central Illinois where a 2004 explosion killed five people is now all but demolished and cleaned up.
 
The explosion at the Formosa Plastics plant in Illiopolis happened on April 23,
2004. Federal safety officials ruled a worker mistakenly opened a valve on a
high-temperature reactor. The small town is 25 miles east of Springfield.
 
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Kim Biggs tells The State
Journal-Register in Springfield (http://bit.ly/1lrbXc1 ) that a couple of

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Business
10:21 am
Thu April 3, 2014

Alert Lifted At Illinois Nuclear Plant

Credit nrc.gov

An alert imposed after smoke was spotted at the Quad Cities Generating Station in western Illinois was lifted after eight hours.  

Exelon Generation officials say the smoke was spotted Wednesday after a pipe released water onto an electrical system.  
Spokesman William Stoermer says Quad Cities Unit 2 had been removed from service Monday so workers could replace a valve. The unit was in being restarted when smoke was detected around 1:40 p.m. The alert was lifted around 9:30 p.m.  

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Election 2014
5:56 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Political Map Question Could Be On Fall Ballot

A group that wants to change the way Illinois draws its political districts says it has the signatures it needs to put a measure on the November ballot.
 
The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises reports (http://bit.ly/1pPeAGA) that
the group Yes! For Independent Maps announced Tuesday that it has nearly 350,000
signatures. The group needs nearly 300,000 signatures for voters to consider
their plan.
 
That plan would amend the Illinois constitution to require state legislative

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Education
4:29 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Manar Introduces Bill Changing School Funding

Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill)

A group of Democratic lawmakers Wednesday introduced a long-awaited piece of legislation that would dramatically change the way schools are funded in Illinois for the first time since 1997. The sponsors call the measure the most comprehensive way to ensure equity across the state but say there's still work to do in gaining broad support on the regionally divisive issue.

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Gas tax
12:48 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Business Leaders Propose Increased Gas Tax For Road Repairs

  Advocates for infrastructure investment want to raise the gas tax to fix Illinois roads. The new revenue would go toward maintenance which they say is long overdue.

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Minimum wage debate
12:27 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Madigan Throws Support Behind Raising Minimum Wage

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  House Speaker Michael Madigan says there is "strong support" in the chamber for a hike in Illinois' minimum wage. That's one of the big issues in the governor's race.

Businesses don't like it, but a plan to raise Illinois' minimum wage from $8.25, to $10.65 an hour, is before the General Assembly.

Advocates continue to try to drum up the necessary votes.

It appears they'll have help from the powerful Illinois House Speaker. Madigan says it's a matter of "fairness" and "equity."

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Endangered historic sites
12:19 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

10 Ill. Historic Sites 'Endangered' Without Federal Tax Credit

The Uptown Theatre in Chicago is on Landmarks Illinois' 2014 list of endangered historic sites.
Credit wikipedia

  An Illinois preservation group has put out its annual list of most endangered historic places. State funding may be a long shot, but enthusiasts are working to save a federal tax credit.

Among the ten endangered sites is a camp in Senator Pam Althoff's (R-McHenry) district. Camp Algonquin, in unincorporated McHenry County, is a rare relic of the open-air camp movement at the turn of the last century.

Althoff, a Republican from McHenry, says the community can save the camp if local advocates campaign effectively.

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12:08 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Debate Over Opting Out Of Health Insurance For Religious Reasons

Lead in text: 
Here & Now recently spoke with U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinois about a bill he sponsored called The Equitable Access to Care and Health Act (EACH).
recently spoke with U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinois about a bill he sponsored called The Equitable Access to Care and Health Act (EACH). The bill would allow individuals to opt out of mandatory health insurance by writing "sincerely held religious beliefs" on their tax return, along with a sworn statement explaining their objection.
Budget
10:40 am
Wed April 2, 2014

Expert Says State Of Illinois Needs Better Financial Planning

Nancy Hudspeth
Credit IGPA

Illinois is like most states when it comes to budget challenges.  Leaders must decide how to use tax dollars to pay for a variety of services. 

But Illinois ranks low when it comes to financial planning.  Nancy Hudspeth says some changes are needed.  She's the Associate Director of the Fiscal Futures Project at the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs. 

Hudspeth wrote an article on the subject that appears below:

 

Better fiscal planning tools could improve Illinois’ budget process

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Regional
6:00 am
Wed April 2, 2014

City May Set Retirement Age For Police Force, Mayor Vetoes Zoning Change For Liquor Store

The City of Springfield may be looking at setting a mandatory retirement age for all new police hires.  During Tuesday’s city council meeting, both the city’s mayor and police chief say they support a cut off at age 60.

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Regional
6:24 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Bus Accident In NE Missouri Injures Students

Ewing is in Lewis County, just northeast of Quincy, across the Missouri border.
Credit city-data

Authorities in northeast Missouri say a school bus accident has injured nearly two dozen students.  

The accident happened around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday north of Ewing in Lewis County.  
Missouri State Highway Patrol Lt. Brian Anderson says the bus rolled over into a ditch. Anderson says 18 students suffered minor injuries and five were more seriously hurt.  

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Business
4:18 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Business Report: Chamber Search, Grocery Aisles Go "Local" and Gold's Gym

Tim Landis
Credit SJ-R

The State Journal-Register's Business Editor Tim Landis discusses the bankruptcy of Gold's Gym, which plans to remain open. 

Also, the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce's search for a new Director and Shop N Save's plans to "localize" its stores. 

Read the latest stories from Tim in the SJ-R.

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Budget address
12:08 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Nursing Home Advocates Relieved Over Gov. Quinn's Budget Address

  Nursing home advocates say they're relieved by Gov. Pat Quinn's budget address last week. The governor says state has already been cut enough.

Two years ago, Gov. Quinn announced drastic cuts to Medicaid, the state's healthcare program for the poor, disabled and elderly. Medicaid helps pay for nursing homes, so when the legislature followed through on these cuts, many facilities shut down or laid off workers.

Pat Comstock, with the Healthcare Council of Illinois, says these cuts persisted through last year. But this year, she says things are looking brighter.

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Voting rights
12:00 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Madigan's Voting Rights Law Makes Strides

  As other states enact stricter voting restrictions, Illinois lawmakers are looking to protect against suppression. A House committee Tuesday advanced the constitutional change.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan was hard pressed when asked to give an example of a case in Illinois when an eligible voter was denied access to register or to take a ballot.

"I'm not in the position to cite examples ..."

But Madigan says it has happened in states that have attempted to enact voter ID laws that discriminate against minorities, or that cut early voting periods short.

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The Hoogland
7:00 am
Tue April 1, 2014

'Enchanted April' Play At The Hoogland

Carly Shank (L) and Leigh Steiner
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Enchanted April is a play set nearly a decade ago about two English women who go off to Italy together for a vacation in an empty castle. They advertise for traveling companions, and the result is a story rich in self-awakenings that combine the unique personalities and life-experiences of four women. We recently spoke with two actors in the play which opens this weekend in Springfield, Carly Shank and Leigh Steiner.

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Harvest Desk
6:45 am
Tue April 1, 2014

While Farm Life Changes, FFA’s Blue Jacket Stays The Same

The blue corduroy jackets sported by high schoolers in FFA have been a part of the group's brand since its founding in 1928.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

The blue corduroy jacket worn by high school students in FFA, formerly the Future Farmers of America, is an icon of rural life. To the average city dweller the jacket is a vestige of dwindling, isolated farm culture, as fewer and fewer young people grow up on farms. The numbers tell a different story however. In spite of that demographic shift, a record number of kids are donning blue jackets this year.

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Regional
6:17 am
Tue April 1, 2014

EPA Seeks Public Input on FutureGen in West Central Ill.

Future Gen Plant in Meredosia
Credit WUIS

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is accepting public comments on a plan to inject carbon dioxide beneath west central Illinois.

FutureGen Industrial Alliance wants to capture carbon dioxide from a coal-burning power plant in the Morgan County village of Meredosia, then inject it into underground wells near Jacksonville, about 20 miles to the east.  

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Budget address
2:39 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Quinn's Proposed Bump In Education Funding Not Immediate

  Governor Pat Quinn is selling his budget plan — with its extension of Illinois' income tax increase — as a way to better fund schools. But that boost doesn't come right away.

During his budget address, Gov. Quinn introduced big plans for education: modernizing classrooms. A "birth to five" early learning intiative. And more money for elementary and high schools.

"Over the next five years, my plan calls for the biggest education investment in state history," he said. "Every child should have an excellent school."

Notice he said "over the next five years."

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Tornado damage
1:19 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Lawmakers Propose Tax Break For Businesses Blighted By Tornadoes

On the edge of destruction in Washington, Ill. The community was ravaged by tornadoes on Nov. 17.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Four months ago, tornadoes whipped through Central Illinois, ravaging communities like Washington and Gifford. As the towns rebuild, some lawmakers want to give businesses a break when fixing up their properties.

Rebuilding after a natural disaster can be expensive; insurance money only covers so much. A proposal making its way through the General Assembly could help ease that burden on businesses, by providing a property tax break.

Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) says this would help stabilize local economies.

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