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Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media

Jackie Dougan Jackson grew up like many farm kids. She spent sunbaked summer hours detasseling corn, tending the crops so it can be pollinated. For farm kids, detasseling is one of the ultimate chores. For the 85-year-old Jackson, those memories still put a song in her heart.

Springfield’s Muni out-door theater is putting on its largest production yet. With a cast of just about fifty actors, plus chorus singers, Les Miserables cost 50 percent more than the average Muni show. When Les Mis recently became available to amateur theaters, The Muni was quick to buy the rights. The show is in its second week… performances start at 8:30. They are tonight through Sunday, and again next week – Thursday through Saturday. Here's the interview with cast members Sydney Assalley & Jerry Hicks and the vocal director, Damien Kaplan.

Governor Pat Quinn is giving legislators less than three weeks to come together on a pension overhaul. So far the formation of a rare “conference committee” is the only result of the special legislative session Quinn called to deal with the state’s pension problem.

roe51.org

Regional Offices of Education have often been an overlooked area of government.  But the elected positions have unwillingly been in the spotlight over the last couple of years when Governor Pat Quinn tried to eliminate them.  A compromise with the legislature resulted in a consolidation of the offices that is underway now.  44 offices are required to drop down to 35.   In Sangamon County, an agreement was reached this month to merge with Menard County starting in 2015.

Rep. Davis Asks Supporter To Step Down

Jun 20, 2013
U.S. House

 

Central Illinois Republican congressman Rodney Davis is asking a campaign official to step down from his party position after writing what's been called a racist email about Davis' primary challenger. 

Montgomery County GOP Chairman Jim Allen wrote an email suggesting Erika Harold could fill a "minority quota'' if she lost the Republican primary. The bi-racial Harvard law school graduate was crowned Miss America in 2003 and launched her campaign bid this month. 

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Midwest waterways are getting lots of attention this summer. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Environmental Protection Agency have immersed themselves in the ecology of 100 streams from Ohio to Nebraska. It’s a first-of-its kind effort to understand how ag runoff is not just changing the water but affecting the critters that live there. Harvest Public Media’s Abbie Fentress Swanson joined a crew on a rainy day while they gathered water samples and searched for fish eggs on three streams in central Missouri.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The presidents of Illinois' public universities are rallying behind a plan intended to bolster the pension system for their employees. The proposal was the subject of a state Senate hearing Tuesday in Springfield. But its future is far from certain.

One by one, university presidents told senators why they believe something must be done about pensions. University of Illinois president Robert Easter says his schools are at a competitive disadvantage for recruiting top faculty.

Amanda Vinicky

Members of Illinois' General Assembly return to the capitol Wednesday for a special session on pensions, where they're expected to pass off the problem to a yet another legislative committee. 

                      

    

What to do about Illinois' $100 billion pension debt has confounded legislators for years.

The most recent barrier: the House and Senate -- as well as the chambers' respective leaders -- are fixated on different plans.  So they've agreed to a new approach they're putting in motion Wednesday.

Thomas Jefferson was more than a founding father.  He was an avid gardener.  We’ve learned more about Jefferson’s passion for gardening thanks to Peter Hatch and the various books he has written.

Hatch is the retired Director of Gardens and Grounds at Jefferson’s Monticello.  He’ll speak on the UIS campus Thursday night.  He also talked with WUIS’ Sean Crawford about Jefferson’s gardens….

  While most high schools teach an assortment of foreign languages: Spanish, French, German – other types of languages are finding their way into classrooms. Like Java. Never heard of it? It’s basically a language computers speak. At one time, this area was something few kids found interesting. But in the era of video games and smart phones, technology is part of the average students’ everyday life. In the first of a two-part series looking at teaching tech, we look at how District 186 is getting the next generation of programmers ready:

The Springfield school board continues to discuss a rule on the books that requires administrators to live within district 186 boundaries. Vice president Adam Lopez has adopted the cause, saying the policy should either be enforced, or removed from regulations. It’s his wish to enforce it. But board member Donna Moore questioned the need for the policy:

MOORE: Can I ask a question … I know we have this policy… but what purpose does it serve? Is this policy helping us to achieve the goals that we’re trying to achieve in the school district? Or does it hamper it?”

Amanda Vinicky

  Governor Pat Quinn has signed into law what's touted as the nation's toughest regulations on "fracking."  

 

High-volume hydraulic fracturing is a controversial process used to reach oil and natural gas deep underground.

courtesy of the Illinois Press Association

Governor Pat Quinn says he's reviewing a measure that would lift Illinois' long-standing concealed carry ban. It took legislators months to reach a compromise, and still gun control and gun rights activists both say they're not happy.   Other critics say they're upset about a lack of government transparency.

The concealed carry legislation approved late last month creates a seven-member board to review applications from people who want to be able to carry a gun in public.

Under the measure, that board would be exempt from the state's Freedom of Information Act.

Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media

Individual state constitutions across the nation spell out a host of guaranteed rights for their citizens. For example, same sex marriage or collective bargaining. But what about the right to farm?  From the WUIS Harvest Desk,  Bill Wheelhouse reports on a drive to establish that guarantee:

The way hog farmer Bob Young sees it, city people just don’t understand farmers.

“There are a few that come out here and think we got to change everything so we can make it city living,” he said. “And that won’t work.”

Amanda Vinicky

With college tuition on the rise, Illinois House Republicans say they want to give working class families a break, and an incentive to go to a school in state.

 

Rep. Adam Brown graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign in 2007, but in that short time, tuition's steadily gone up.

BROWN: "The average cost for tuition, fees and books right now -- $26,000 and ten years ago that was $19,000.”

ilga.gov

What will the special legislative session next week accomplish?

"Nothing," says Rep. Rich Brauer (R-Petersburg).  Brauer was a guest on WUIS' Illinois Edition Thursday.  He talks pensions, concealed carry, same sex marriage and the state budget:

For two decades Springfielders have celebrated Juneteenth. It's a holiday commemorated in most states. It marks the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas in 1865, which came two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

UIS

UIS Associate Professor Jason Pierceson is the author of “Same Sex Marriage in the U.S.:The Road to the Supreme Court.”  The book recounts how the issue has evolved as we await opinions on two key cases.

Wikipedia

Before Gen. Benjamin Grierson won acclaim for his tactical raid that helped the Union forces take Vicksburg.  But before then, he was a music teacher in Jacksonville.  This weekend, the community’s annual event to honor Grierson takes place.   Plenty of free events that tie history and entertainment together are part of Grierson Days.

Ron Gray coordinates the festival:

  WUIS has brought you interviews with all the new Springfield school board members seated last month. Today we speak with Scott McFarland – he’s serving his second term on the board. McFarland recently saw the closures of multiple schools in his district on the north-east side of town. He tells WUIS about that as well as problems within the previous school board:

The Springfield school board has four new members, they were seated last month. WUIS has brought you interviews with three of them, today we speak with the fourth – Chuck Flamini, who also is the new school board president. In this interview he tells us about his background with the district, the search for a new superintendent, the district budget, and more:

Peter Gray, WUIS

Illinois lawmakers have approved a measure to legalize and regulate the carrying of concealed handguns.

Governor Pat Quinn’s office says he’s now “carefully reviewing” the legislation.

Advocates on both sides of the gun debate say a provision requiring hands-on training is an important part of the bill now awaiting the Governor’s action.    

Peter Gray visited a central Illinois gun range to learn more about what will be required of people who want to carry a loaded weapon in public.

SOHO is in its 9th year of highlighting local bands with a downtown street festival. The festival begins tonight (Fri. 6/7) and goes through Saturday. There will be food and alcoholic beverages on site as well as a kids area on Saturday. Local art will be on display and for sale. The event benefits the Mini O’Beirne Crisis Nursery in Springfield.

Here's the interview with Eric Welch who is the founder of and heads the music fest:

 

  Michigan native Marshall Crenshaw hasn’t stopped playing music since he rose to fame in the 1980s. It’s been a career that spans just over 30 years – he’s also been an author, actor, radio host, and music producer.

Rachel Otwell

  Country music seems to be a genre that’s either loved or hated. But even country-lovers don’t always agree on which type is the best. Country roots music is bit of an umbrella label, including honky-tonk, folk, and rockabilly. It’s gained a foothold across the nation with artists like Pokey LaFarge and the Old Crow Medicine Show providing alternatives to Top 40 contemporary country offerings.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

My Farm Roots,  a series from WUIS and Harvest Public Media, tells Americans’ stories and memories of rural life.  Because when you hail from farm country, roots run deep.
Times are good on the farm right now, but that hasn’t always been true. Many of today’s young farmers grew up in the shadow of the farm crisis on the 1980's and watched as rural areas were ripped apart by debt and foreclosures.
Those hard times will always stay with them.  Today, an Iowa farmer tells his story:


newphiladelphiail.org

A series of public lectures in west central Illinois begins tomorrow night at the Kinderhook Lodge in Barry.  The series will discuss the Underground Railroad, Civil War military service, emancipation and safe havens, like the nearby historic town of New Philadelphia.

Illinois' credit rating has suffered another downgrade.

It follows the General Assembly's adjournment Friday without any agreement on what to do about the state's pension systems.

 

A string of previous downgrades already left Illinois with the lowest bond rating in the nation.

None of those spurred legislators to reach a compromise - and there's no telling if this latest one will be any different.

Fitch lowered Illinois from an A to an A- rating, a status that means it may cost more when the state borrows money.

Dan Rutherford campaign sign
Brian Mackey/WUIS

The first candidate to formally announce he’s running for governor of Illinois has vowed to live in the Executive Mansion in Springfield. The refusal of recent governors to move to Springfield has become a sore spot with permanent residents of Illinois’ capital city.

Republican state Treasurer Dan Rutherford is making his long-anticipated campaign for governor official on a three-day tour of Illinois that began Sunday in — wait for it — Chicago.

Dan Rutherford greets supporters.
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Monday is day two of state Treasurer Dan Rutherford's three-day tour of Illinois. He's meeting with supporters to say he's officially running for governor. Rutherford has been laying the groundwork to run for years, making the formal announcement one of the least surprising events in Illinois politics. So we asked reporter Brian Mackey to find something about Rutherford's announcement that was surprising.

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