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Statehouse
5:54 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Topinka Memorial To Be Held Next Week

Credit Comptroller website

A public memorial service for late Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka is scheduled for next week.
 
The comptroller's office says the memorial service will be held at 9:30 a.m.
Wednesday at Operating Engineers' Local 150 headquarters in Countryside.
 
Topinka died unexpectedly Wednesday at the age of 70 after suffering
complications from a stroke. Her passing came just weeks after she was elected
to a second term.
 
A news release says fellow state leaders, colleagues and family will share

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Regional
4:16 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Sierra Club Appeals FutureGen Decision

Credit WUIS

The Sierra Club is appealing an Illinois regulators' conclusion that the pollution controls for the FutureGen clean-coal project are adequate.  

The Sierra Club said in a news release Thursday that it has filed a state-court appeal of the Illinois Pollution Control Board's decision to allow the FutureGen project to proceed. The board last month rejected the environmental group's claim.  

The coal companies working on the FutureGen project, known as the FutureGen Alliance, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.  

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Business
4:11 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Springfield's Former Esquire Theater To Be Torn Down

The City of Springfield has reached a deal to have the former Esquire Theater demolished. 

The theater closed over a decade ago and the building has remained boarded up since then.  That's despite sitting along a busy stretch of MacArthur Boulevard near South Grand.   Alderman Joe McMenamin says the property's owner has agreed to tear down the building by spring.  The city's ordinance to begin fining vacant property owners was a factor.  He says the threat of fines also made potential buyers nervous:

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Let's Talk Kids
2:57 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Let's Talk Kids - "A Baby's Reach"

Credit mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

In my occupation of watching babies, I’ve noticed newborns actually reach for things that captivate them.  My studies had earlier taught me that reaching is achieved by four-month-olds, but sure enough, newborns exhibit a sort of primal reach for just a few weeks which extinguishes and then comes back a few months later.

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Business
12:17 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Workplace Fatalities Up In Illinois

Credit gcak12.org

The leading cause of on-the-job deaths in Illinois is vehicle accidents. 

172 people died on the job in Illinois in 2013, up  from the year before.   Almost a third of those deaths came from transportation accidents.   Laura Johnson is the Executive Director of the Iowa-Illinois Safety council.

"It really doesn't matter where your employee gets hurt does it? It is still a catastrophic event for your organizations. So we really push defensive driver training for our member companies".

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Politics
12:06 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Candidate Interview: Community Activist Samuel Johnson Runs For Mayor

Samuel Johnson
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

There are now five candidates in the running for Springfield mayor. Incumbent Mike Houston, county auditor Paul Palazzolo, alderman Gail Simpson, city treasurer Jim Langfelder, and perhaps the lesser known of the bunch - community activist Samuel Johnson. He joined us recently for this interview:   

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Statehouse
9:57 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Topinka Remembered For Sharp Tongue, Common Touch

Judy Baar Topinka in her Statehouse office on May 22, 2013.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has died from complications following a stroke. She was 70.

Topinka’s career spanned more than three decades in Illinois government. It was not without controversy, but her distinctive personality won the support of voters time and time again.

Topinka worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter before first running for office in 1980. She served in the Illinois House and Senate until 1995, when she was sworn in as treasurer.

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Statehouse
6:18 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Ill. Supreme Court Sets Schedule For Pension Case

Credit Il. Supreme Court website - state.il.us/court

The Illinois Supreme Court is allowing a speedy review of a state pension overhaul that a lower court has declared unconstitutional.
 
The court issued an order Wednesday granting the government's request for an
expedited appeal.
 
The court says the government must file its initial argument by Jan. 12. The
other side _ a group of state employees, retired teachers and others _ must
respond by Feb. 27.
 
The case involves the pension fix lawmakers and Gov. Pat Quinn adopted last

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Illinois Issues - Leadership
1:01 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Archives: 1995 Judy Baar Topinka Profile

Judy Baar Topinka
Credit Comptroller website

The following article ran in the March 1995 Illinois Issues magazine:

In a convention center filled with thousands of blue-suited, straitlaced Republicans, leave it to Judy Baar Topinka to tell a fart joke.

The elite of Illinois' GOP were gathered in Springfield for the January inauguration of the six constitutional officers. Having swept the state's top posts, the partisan crowd was in a celebratory make that downright giddy mood for the day's pomp and circumstance.

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Lincoln
11:17 am
Wed December 10, 2014

Special Events In 2015 At Lincoln Presidential Library And Museum

The Lincolns at the ALPLM
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

In 2015, it will have been 150 years since Abraham Lincoln died. It will also be the tenth anniversary of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield opening. These two milestones will be marked by special events, including an exhibit open now through 2016 that displays original speeches and Lincoln's death bed.

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Statehouse
11:14 am
Wed December 10, 2014

Officials Unclear On Filling Topinka Vacancy

State Comptroller's Web Site Remembering Topinka

With the death of Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, it would seem that the next step is for the Governor to appoint a successor.  However, election officials are unsure about the process:

The constitution says the governor would choose someone to fill out the term until the next election. Except the term ends January 12  and an election has already been held.   State Board of Elections Director Rupert Borgsmiller says they are not sure how to handle it:

"Nobody knows at this point by looking at the  constitution and the election code itself"

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Statehouse
6:22 am
Wed December 10, 2014

Judy Baar Topinka Dead At 70

Credit Comptroller website

Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has died, less than 24 hours after having a stroke.  

A statement from her office says the 70-year-old Topinka died early Wednesday morning following complications from the stroke.  

She'd reported discomfort and was admitted to a hospital in Berwyn. After undergoing testing, she lost consciousness Wednesday and was pronounced dead shortly after 2 a.m.  

Topinka, a Republican, won a second term last month in a tough race with Democratic challenger Sheila Simon, the former lieutenant governor.  

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Statehouse
6:07 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

Public Employees Argue Against Fast Review Of Pension Law

Illinois Supreme Court justices
Credit state.il.us

State workers behind a challenge to an Illinois
pension law declared unconstitutional are opposing the government's attempt to
have it speedily heard by the Illinois Supreme Court.
 
 Attorney General Lisa Madigan asked the court last week to hasten its schedule
for considering the case. She argues that the government needs a decision
quickly because if it can't implement the law, it would have to find a way to
make up about $1 billion in savings in the first year.
 

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Business
10:59 am
Tue December 9, 2014

WUIS SJ-R Business Report - Sale Of President Lincoln Hotel, Layoffs Starting At Benedictine

Tim Landis chats with Bill about the purchase of the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel, layoffs at Benedictine University and Viper Mine Files Its Application for Expansion.

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Statehouse
5:56 am
Tue December 9, 2014

Blagojevich Era Lawsuit Leads To Damage Awards for Casinos

A jury has found a racetrack owner liable in a civil racketeering case that involved actions during Rod Blagojevich's time as Illinois governor.  

The jury in federal district court in Chicago on Monday awarded $26.3 million in damages to four Illinois riverboat casinos. The damages are tripled because the case fell under the civil racketeering statute, making the recovery more than $78 million.  

The trial involved a pay-to-play deal allegedly involving the now-imprisoned Blagojevich and John Johnston, a member of the Illinois racetrack industry.  

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Science
8:28 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Science Lecture: Past, Present And Future Of Illinois Freshwater Mussels

Credit Illinois State Museum

You might not realize it, but the lowly freshwater mussel can fill in some of the gaps of history.  Researchers are doing just that here in Illinois, seeing how mussel species have developed and in some cases, died off.  This type of research also shows the impact of changes in ecosystems.   

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Hail A Cab, App An Uber
3:01 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Online Ads Hint At Rideshare Expansion Downstate

Credit Taxi by Ben Fredericson Ipad wallpaper

Hints are popping up that the controversial rideshare service called Uber may be expanding its reach in Illinois.

Uber is riding a wave of victory in Illinois. The company fended off regulations it said were too onerous, and helped the General Assembly craft a compromise measure instead. That's awaiting action from the governor.

But the rideshare service may already be making good on plan to grow outside the Chicago region.

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Code Switch
11:33 pm
Sun December 7, 2014

SNL Ferguson Sketch Cut For Time

SNL sketch cut for time this weekend satirized Ferguson.

Sports
5:10 pm
Fri December 5, 2014

IHSA: Lawsuit Could Lead Some Schools To Cut Football

Credit WUIS

The nation's first high school sports governing body to face a class-action concussions lawsuit warns that legal action could result in wealthier schools keeping their football programs and cash-strapped ones eliminating them.  

Illinois High School Association Director Marty Hickman said in a Friday news conference that court-imposed policies, such as mandating physicians be present at all practices, would be costly.  

Hickman says the result would be that ``the haves are going to continue to have (football) and the have-nots are not going to have it.''  

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State Week
1:43 pm
Fri December 5, 2014

Listen to State Week - December 5, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

The two-year session of the 98th General Assembly comes to a close.

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Let's Talk Kids
1:25 pm
Fri December 5, 2014

Let's Talk Kids - "Kids and Electronics"

Credit mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Most families I know struggle with screen time.  Televisions, phones, computers and iPads—a plethora of electronic communication and entertainment devices lure children and their parents.  The use of electronics is an issue that begs for management control from this generation of parents.  Obesity, sleep issues, behavioral problems, impaired academic performance, and a desensitization to violence have all been tied to over-exposure to electronics.

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Statehouse
11:30 am
Fri December 5, 2014

Former Lawmaker Pleads Guilty In Child Porn Case

Fmr. Rep. Keith Farnham
Credit ilga.gov

A former Illinois state representative has changed his plea to guilty in a child pornography case.  
 
 The Chicago Sun-Times reports (http://bit.ly/12HVLiu ) that Elgin Democrat
Keith Farnham pleaded guilty Friday in federal court in Chicago as part of a plea deal. He faces five to 20 years in prison.
 
 Earlier this year, the 66-year-old had pleaded not guilty to possessing, receiving and transporting child pornography.
 

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Illinois Issues - The Scene
10:16 am
Fri December 5, 2014

"Priceless" Art Show At DEMO

The artists with their works (L) Judah Johnson & Brad Balster
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Ever walked around an art gallery and marveled at the works you know you would never be able to afford? Well, here's your chance to get a piece of art for free. Judah Johnson and Brad Balster are both local artists with a flair for nostalgia and screen printing.

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Harvest Desk
6:02 am
Fri December 5, 2014

Tougher Times Put Young Farmers Dreams On Hold

Like many beginning farmers, Grant Curtis wants to invest in his operation but expectations of low prices are tying his hands. (Abby Wendle/Harvest Public Media)

Grant Curtis remembers the day he went shopping for his first tractor.

“It was an eye opening experience,” he said. “Walking into a dealership, getting the prices, walking back to the bank and pleading my case. Saying, ‘I want to get back to the farm, but I need a way to do that.’”

Curtis, in his early twenties at the time and without farmland of his own, joked that the only thing he offered as collateral was sweat. But grain farming is a seriously expensive business.

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Statehouse
5:54 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

Attorney General Seeks Fast Review Of Illinois Pension Law

Lisa Madigan

Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office has asked the Illinois
Supreme Court for an expedited hearing of her appeal of a lower court's
declaration the state's pension overhaul is unconstitutional.  
 
 Madigan announced the motion Thursday. It says issues raised are of
``widespread public importance'' to state government and seeks a ruling in
advance of lawmakers' May 31 budget approval deadline.
 
Madigan's office had already filed the appeal concerning the 2013 law designed
to reduce roughly $100 billion in unfunded liability.  
 

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Statehouse
5:38 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

Quinn's Options On Minimum Wage

Credit WUIS

A final piece of Gov. Pat Quinn's legacy is up in the air as lawmakers leave Springfield without sending him legislation increasing Illinois' minimum wage.
 
Quinn championed the issue during his tough re-election bid. But there are few
options to tackle it before Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner takes office.
 
Quinn can call a special session, but there's the embarrassing risk of
lawmakers refusing to act. He also can attempt to persuade House Speaker Michael
Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton to agree to a special session.
 

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Statehouse
4:56 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

Illinois Lawmakers Approve Eavesdropping Legislation

Credit flickr/John Liu

Illinois lawmakers have approved eavesdropping restrictions to replace those the state Supreme Court declared unconstitutional last spring.

The Senate voted 46-4 Thursday to prohibit recording private conversations without the consent of everyone involved.  

It goes to Gov. Pat Quinn. A spokesman says Quinn has not made a decision on whether to sign it.  

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Politics
1:11 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

After Frustration With Current Admin. Alderman Simpson Wants To Be Mayor

Gail Simpson
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

With five hopefuls throwing their name in the ring to be Springfield's next Mayor (current Mayor Mike Houston, Sangamon County auditor Paul Palazzolo, city treasurer Jim Langfelder, activist Sam Johnson, and Ward 2 Alderman Gail Simpson), WUIS is reaching out to hear from each candidate on why the desire the role.

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History
12:03 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

1849 Lincoln Letter For Sale

Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

A 165-year-old letter from Abraham Lincoln could be just the thing for the history buff in your family. That is, if you have $40,000 to spare.  

A rare documents dealer in Philadelphia is selling an 1849 letter penned by Lincoln that offers insight into his stint as a congressman.  

Raab Collection President Nathan Raab says the letter gives a revealing view of Lincoln before he became president. He says that letters from this time period are extremely rare.  

The letter describes an incident between Lincoln and a friend seeking a political appointment.  

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Illinois Issues - Code Switch Illinois
8:00 am
Thu December 4, 2014

Transforming A Personal History Of Racism

Jim and Debbie Pauley at their home
Rachel Otwell/WUIS

The holidays can bring out the compassionate side of people. Some might be inspired to donate to charities or take on volunteer work. For one local man, helping the less fortunate is something he does on a daily basis. But it wasn't always that way.

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