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FDA

Organic spinach sold exclusively at Target stores because of possible Listeria contamination. 

Simply Balanced Organic Chopped Spinach 10-oz steam in bag is  being recalled by California based  Superior foods.

Sandi and Jesse Jackson Jr. at the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver
WUIS/Illinois Issues

A friend and former House colleague of Jesse Jackson Jr. says Jackson is being released from a federal prison Thursday and into a halfway house.  

Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy told The Associated Press he recently spoke with Jackson at the minimum security federal prison camp in Montgomery, Alabama.

The son of the civil rights leader has been serving a 2 1/2-year sentence after pleading guilty to illegally spending $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items.  

Illinois already ranked last in the nation in state support for public schools. Cuts announced this week will just make a bad situation worse. But some pending legislation could bring more money to Springfield public schools.

Unemployment continued to fall in Illinois in February, hitting 6 percent for the first time since 2008.  

The Illinois Department of Employment Security said Tuesday that the jobless rate fell to that level from a January rate of 6.1 percent. The national unemployment rate was 5.5 percent in February.

Unemployment has now fallen in Illinois for 11 of the past 12 months. In February 2014, the jobless rate was 7.9 percent.  

One fix to this year's budget comes in the form of an across-the-board cut of 2.25 percent. It would affect Illinois schools, which already say they don’t get enough state funding.

To soften the blow, the deal includes $97 million the governor and State Board of Education can use to help schools that are desperately in need. House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie says a school would have to have serious financial problems to qualify for the assistance.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

UPDATE: Afaf Rashmawy tells us while there is still yet to be a buyer, Holy Land will close after Saturday, April 25th. Lunch and dinner will both be served that day.

Illinois State Board of Education will have $97 million to distribute to school districts most affected by the unexpected 2.25 percent cut in the current fiscal year budget, expected to be adopted this week. But Mary Fergus, spokesperson for the board, couldn't say how those funds would be distributed. Instead, she offered this statement:

Brian Mackey / WUIS

The Illinois House on Tuesday voted to patch a 1.6-billion-dollar hole in the current state budget.

  The budget was supposed to get Illinois through June, but already the state's running out of money for things like court reporters and prison guards. That’s in part because Democrats passed an incomplete budget last year — not wanting to raise taxes or cut spending.

Now Democrats and Republicans — including Gov. Bruce Rauner — say they’ve found a solution. But it continues to mostly avoid that difficult choice.

A series of executive moves for a local employer on this week's WUIS SJR Business Report with Bill Wheelhouse and Tim Landis.

Amanda Vinicky

There's a reason analysts say Illinois has the nation's lowest credit rating. It has the nation's largest unfunded pension liability. A 2013 law that’s facing a challenge before the Illinois Supreme Court is intended to help.

Illinois is facing a budget hole in the billions, thanks to a rollback of the income tax. If the high court tosses out the pension law, there'll be more fiscal pressure.

Analysts like Moody's Ted Hampton say the rating won't likely drop further, even if the justices toss the law because the rating already presumes the law cannot be implemented.

Lawmakers are scheduled to consider a new plan introduced by House Speaker Michael Madigan to end weeks of negotiations over plugging a $1.6 billion hole in this year's state budget.

Chicago Vs. Illinois

Mar 23, 2015
flickr/Daniel X. O'Neill

In politics, local government, like city wards, can be seen as the “minor leagues.” This is where candidates are scouted and get recruited to run for higher office.

But time and again, state legislators from Chicago do the opposite. They leave behind jobs in the Statehouse to serve on the City Council.

So that begs the question: What’s more important? Making sure potholes are filled, garbage is picked up on time and what the neighborhood watch group is up to?

flickr/John Walker

Wisconsin and Virginia have begun conversations about privatizing flagship public universities. Now, Illinois is about to have the discussion. Bloomington Republican State Senator Bill Brady has introduced a bill to privatize Illinois' public universities over six years.

Brady notes that the state also supports needy students at private institutions and it's possible the state would increase that kind of aid. Brady says operating costs on campuses might fall if state procurement rules and other mandates were to be lifted.

Kevin Bradford could justifiably be called the godfather of Springfield's underground punk music scene. He's only 32, but he's managed to help create and feed a culture of do-it-yourself musicians and their fans in a way that is truly incomparable in the city. Bradford recently announced he'll be stepping down as the owner/operator of Black Sheep Cafe (1320 S 11th St.) The good news is, he's not going far.

Sex traffic in the US isn't exclusive to people forced to come here against their will. Illinois residents and natives have also become part of the black-market industry. So says Jody Raphael, a DePaul University law professor and researcher. She'll speak Tuesday night at 7pm at UIS (info HERE). She recently spoke with us about her work:

Flickr/Images_of_money

The Springfield area is mirroring national statistics on home sales.     

The latest monthly report from the Illinois Association of Realtors shows February home sales in Sangamon county totaled 153. That is an increase of 4.1% over the same time last year.  Those numbers fall in line with national statistics showing an increase of 4.7% in existing homes.

Illinois's numbers overall weren't as good. Sales were by 1.7% statewide.

In Sangamon County, the median home price was nearly $2,000 lower then a year ago. The median price in Sangamon County was $116,900.

Tennessee Department of Human Services

Gaps in the current year's budget mean that the state has stopped paying for its Child Care Assistance Program, and day care providers are worried about more issues in the future.

The program that provides assistance for parents to pay for child care could experience more financial problems if Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposals become next year's budget.

Sen. Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat, says cutting government assistance to day care has negative consequences in other areas.

bankruptcy court
flickr.com/andy_kiel

An Illinois Republican has proposed changing state law to let cities and towns declare bankruptcy.

As state government considers cutting back the money it shares with municipalities, Rep. Ron Sandack says it ought to give cities more tools to fix their own finances. Sandack says letting cities threaten bankruptcy would give them more leverage in dealing with unions.

Wikimedia Commons/Aivazovsky

If you want to learn about something, you need to listen to people that know about it.  And if what's going on in the world piques your interest, a good place to start is the World Affairs Council of Central Illinois.   

Weekly sessions on various topics get underway Tuesday, March 24 as part of the Great Decisions series. 

Frank Kopecky is on the board member and a retired UIS faculty member. He spoke with WUIS' Sean Crawford:

The weekly series takes place at the Laurel Methodist Church at Walnut and South Grand in Springfield.  Here is the full list:

US CPSC

U-S Senator Dick Durbin says a common household item has become too tempting for some kids and it's making them sick.

Durbin said last year he learned about the alarming number of children eating the little pods that some laundry detergent manufacturers produce.  Poison control centers had over 17-thousand reports last year. 

Durbin is pushing for a law to require changes, like redesigning the packets...

Aaron Schock
Aaron Schock / Instagram

Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock resigned this week amid questions about his spending of taxpayer money. When the news broke, political reporter Chris Kaergard of the Peoria Journal Star was in the Republican's Downton Abbey-inspired office, waiting for a previously scheduled interview.

WUIS/Brian Mackey

Illinois' Democratic attorney general has delivered a blow to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's efforts to weaken labor unions.
 
 Lisa Madigan on Friday issued formal opinions saying two of Rauner's proposals would be illegal.
 
 One would allow local governments to create so-called ``right to work zones''
where union membership would be voluntary. The other would let local governments opt out of prevailing wage agreements, which require workers on government
projects to receive wages that reflect local compensation for similar jobs.
 

A person familiar with the case tells The Associated Press
that the Justice Department is formally investigating whether Rep. Aaron Schock
of Illinois, who has submitted his resignation, committed crimes with his office
expenditures and business dealings.
 
 The government is convening a federal grand jury in Springfield, Illinois, this
source says, and the FBI has started issuing subpoenas to compel people close to
the Republican congressman to testify. The source spoke only on grounds of

senchapinrose.com

  

Under Governor Bruce Rauner’s budget proposal, public universities are facing a 32 percent cut. Legislators took testimony Thursday on how those cuts would affect each school. 

Each school president testified that Rauner’s reductions would force them to cut courses, decrease scholarships, and layoff staff. Illinois State University say it might have to cut 400 jobs. Northern Illinois University could raise freshman tuition by 75 percent. 

screamingfemales.bandcamp.com

Tune into this week's episode of The Scene with Scott Faingold of the Illinois Times and Rachel Otwell.

Events discussed this week include:

The Kraft Foods Group is recalling nearly 250,000 boxes of its macaroni and cheese dinner.  The recall comes after metal was found in some packages.

The recalled product is limited to the 7.25-oz. size of the Original flavor of boxed dinner with the “Best When Used By” dates of September 18, 2015 through October 11, 2015, with the code “C2” directly below the date on each individual box. The “C2” refers to a specific production line on which the affected product was made.

The Illinois Senate on Thursday confirmed the Rev. James Meeks as chairman of the State Board of Education. It comes over the objections of a gay-rights group.

flickr/meeshpants

Xavier McElrath-Bey was arrested when he was 13 years old. The Chicagoan went to prison for first degree murder for a gang-related crime. He left prison on good behavior at the age of 27 with a college degree in hand.

State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie wants to make sentencing for minors more lenient. House Bill 2471 would prohibit judges from sentencing minors to life without parole. House Bill 2470 would allow minors to have their sentence reviewed after serving 15 years.

wuis

Gov. Bruce Rauner's office has instructed state agencies to begin diverting ``fair share'' fees from nonunion members' paychecks away from unions.  

A memo obtained by The Associated Press directs departments to create two sets of books to do it.  

The Republican governor signed an order last month ending the practice of collecting union fees from non-union members. He labeled it a First Amendment violation and asked a federal court to overturn the state requirement.  

Unions collect the fees to defray the cost of work that also benefits nonmembers.  

blacksheepspringfield.bigcartel.com

Ten years ago, three friends got together in New Jersey and formed an outfit called the Screaming Females. They were brought up in the gritty DIY scene, producing their own albums, doing their own promotion, and playing in houses and basements. These days, they still play in houses and basements, but they travel across the country doing it (and they also play in some more mainstream venues too.)

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