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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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Regional
6:28 am
Thu March 6, 2014

Dead Animals Lead To Animal Cruelty Charges

The Kane County sheriff's office says it arrested a suburban Chicago woman after finding 10 dead animals and others that were malnourished on a pair of farms.  

According to the Daily Herald (http://bit.ly/1ne0I7r ), the horse, pony and other animals were found on farms near Maple Park and in Hampshire in Kane County. The discoveries were made after someone called to report a dead horse at one farm.  

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Statehouse
6:15 am
Thu March 6, 2014

GOP Governor Candidates Argue Pensions

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Republican candidates for Illinois governor are arguing about pension reform and the state's finances in the second-to-last debate ahead of the March 18 primary.  

State Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard, businessman Bruce Rauner  and Treasurer Dan Rutherford attended the debate Wednesday hosted by WGN-TV and the Chicago Tribune.  

Brady is the only one who supported a recent pension overhaul that cuts benefits for state workers and retirees. Dillard voted against it, which has been the reason that several unions have endorsed him.  

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Nation/World
6:13 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Durbin Calls For Russian Troops To Leave Ukraine

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is condemning Russia for sending military troops into the Crimean region of Ukraine.  
The Illinois Democrat introduced a resolution Wednesday calling for the troops' withdrawal and a negotiated settlement of any issues involving Crimea.  

Durbin also spoke on the Senate floor about a meeting he held last weekend in Chicago's Ukrainian Village neighborhood. He says he asked community members to gather after church for a conference call with the American ambassador in Kiev.  

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Regional
5:26 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Sangamon County Clerk Unsure About Same Sex Marriage Licenses For Now

Credit co.sangamon.il.us

The Sangamon County Clerk says he's still unsure it would be legal for him to issue same sex marriage licenses before a new law takes effect in June. 

Attorney General Lisa Madigan says a court ruling in Cook County opened the door for all Illinois' county clerks to issue the licenses immediately.  Some have started doing so.  But there are differences of opinion.  Like in Sangamon County, Clerk Joe Aiello says he's waiting.

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Concealed Carry
9:57 am
Wed March 5, 2014

Gun Rights Activists Rally For Fewer Gun-Free Zones

Pro-gun ralliers march toward the Statehouse on Wednesday. Signs like the one in the foreground express the rationale that women are better protected from would-be attackers with the right to carry.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Gun rights activists from across Illinois were in Springfield Wednesday, asking lawmakers to ease restrictions on where they're allowed to carry concealed weapons.

"Gun-free zones are killing zones," the crowd chanted in the Capitol rotunda. Hundreds of advocates marched to the Statehouse to rally for their Second Amendment rights. Among them was Sharon Mausey of Crab Orchard, in far southern Illinois. She says receiving her concealed carry license on Tuesday was a long-awaited dream come true.

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Election 2014
8:25 am
Wed March 5, 2014

Candidates Disagree On Government Unions

The men seeking the Republican nomination for governor of Illinois: state Sens. Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady, investor Bruce Rauner, and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois' primary election is less than two weeks away. The four men seeking the Republican nomination for governor agree on a lot of topics. But there is an issue in which one of the candidates has distinguished himself: government-employee unions. Brian Mackey takes us inside the debate over whether government workers ought to be able to negotiate over their jobs.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time listening to investor Bruce Rauner to know where he stands on public-sector unions. The disdain drips from a three word phrase he uses again and again and again:

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Springfield City Council
10:38 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Springfield Aldermen Not Ready To Commit To Hunter Lake

Credit cwlp

A majority of Springfield aldermen last night expressed doubt about an ordinance that would commit to building the second water source known as Hunter Lake. Council members voted down the plan.  
The city has long been concerned about finding a way to supplement Lake Springfield.   Recent droughts have added to the urgency.   

CWLP Director Eric Hobbie says regardless of the council’s vote, the city has to pursue a water supply alternative.

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Obama Presidential Library
8:25 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Speaker Madigan Proposes $100 Million For Obama Library

Credit BarackObama.com

  The Democratic and Republican leaders of the Illinois House are taking opposing views on whether Illinois should promise taxpayer money to try and lure President Barack Obama's library and museum to Chicago.

The head of Illinois' Democratic Party, Michael Madigan, wants Illinois to spend $100 million dollars on a Presidential Library and Museum for Barack Obama.

It's up to Obama to choose where it'll be located.

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Election 2014
11:54 am
Tue March 4, 2014

U.S. Senate Candidate: Republican Doug Truax

Doug Truax
Credit Truax for Senate

At the top of the ticket this year in Illinois is a race for the U-S Senate. 

Republican Doug Truax is running against a state Senator, Jim Oberweis in the G-O-P primary.  The winner will take on Democrat Dick Durbin in the fall.  

Truax is making his first bid for political office.   Oberweis lost five previous elections, including two unsuccessful bids for U-S Senate, before being elected to the Illinois General Assembly.  

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Statehouse
10:49 am
Tue March 4, 2014

Republican Wants Federal Scrutiny Of Anti-Violence Program

Sen. Christine Radogno
Credit senatorradogno.org

A Republican legislative leader wants a federal review of a Chicago anti-violence program ordered by Gov. Pat Quinn.
 
Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno says an audit of the $55 million Neighborhood Recovery Initiative need more scrutiny.
 
Her comments were reported (http://bit.ly/MKJO2D ) by the Chicago Sun-Times.
 
A late February audit said the program was so hastily organized and sloppily
executed that auditors questioned 40 percent of expenditures claimed by service
providers.
 

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Election 2014
10:39 am
Tue March 4, 2014

13th Congressional District Candidate David Green

Candidate David Green

Over the last few weeks, you’ve heard from Congressional candidates running in Illinois' 13th District. There are three Republicans and three Democrats seeking their party's nomination.  

Champaign Democrat David Green works as a social policy analyst with the University of Illinois’ Institute of Government and Public Affairs. Green said he believes Congress functions well for 1 percent of Americans.

He told Sean Powers that he feels he can bring a voice to Washington that is more representative of the rest of the country.

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Economy
9:56 am
Tue March 4, 2014

Slow Economic Growth Due To Harsh Winter Weather

Credit flickr/kb35

Illinois' economic growth slowed in February and a University of Illinois economist says you can probably blame it on the weather. 

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Harvest Desk
9:10 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

U.S. Wastes Nearly One Third Of Food Produced

Americans wasted an estimated 133 billion pounds of food in 2010, according to a USDA study.
Credit flickr/petrr

Nearly a third of the food available to be eaten in the U.S. is thrown out instead. And all of that wasted food comes with a steep price tag.

According to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans wasted an estimated 133 billion pounds of food in 2010, the most recent year data is available. That’s 31 percent of the food sold at grocery stores and served in restaurants. The study does not include food wasted prior to the retail level.

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Education
7:35 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Military Children Hampered By Illinois Laws, Advocates Say

Credit flickr/LizMarie_AK

  Moving to a new state is never easy, especially when you’re a school-aged kid. But for military families who move more frequently than most, laws in Illinois create a unique challenge — and, in some cases, a barrier to entry.

Think back to the last time you were ‘the new kid.’ Maybe it was freshman year of college, or when you started a new job or even joined a book club.

Now multiply that ‘new kid’ experience by three and factor in how awkward grade school is … and you might be a little closer to knowing what it’s like to be a military kid.

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Environment
7:16 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Environmental Groups Call For Controls For Coal Ash

Credit Courtesy of Wiki Commons

  There are 90 aging coal-ash pits in Illinois — piles of slag left behind when coal is burned for energy. Now coal-ash residue is starting to show up in the water supply. Environmental groups are asking for tougher state regulations.

The Sierra Club of Illinois and the Prairie Rivers Network are among a number of environmental groups lobbying the state to hold energy suppliers accountable for coal-ash pollution.

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Higher Education
7:06 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Universities Feeling Pressure From Decreased Enrollment

Credit University of Illinois, Springfield

  Enrollment is down at many of Illinois' public universities. As Hannah Meisel reports, the lost tuition is hurting schools' bottom line.

As the state has cut funding to higher education, universities have made up for the losses by raising tuition. But when there are fewer students to pay, colleges feel the squeeze all over again.

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Taxing retirement income
6:54 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Civic Federation Calls For Taxing Retirement Income

  As more baby-boomers retire, Illinois is increasingly missing out on a revenue source. Of the 41 states with an income tax, Illinois is one of only three that exempt all pension income.

A new report from the Chicago-based Civic Federation says Illinois needs to take a longer-term approach to budgeting; one that is rooted less in politics, and more in reality. Most notably. the group recommends Illinois extend its current income tax rate for a year before gradually rolling it back.

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