News

Pages

Pensions
5:45 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

House: Senate Plan Only Knocks 5-Percent Off Pension Debt

Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook), left, and Rep. Darlene Senger (R-Naperville) say an analysis shows the Senate's pension bill saves about half of what was originally projected.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

A state pension overhaul backed by government employee unions may save only half of what advocates had promised.  That underscores an ongoing battle between the House and Senate over pensions, with only ten days left in the legislative session.  

 

There's general agreement on this much: that Illinois' public pension systems have $100 billion dollars in unfunded liabilities.  That's a fancy word that basically means "debt."

It's a big number that's getting Illinois in trouble with bond houses and eating into the state's budget.

Read more
Harvest Desk
1:36 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

Rural Development In The Farm Bill

Staunton, Ill., Mayor Craig Neuhaus (left) checks out the town’s new water plant with Hank Fey, a public works director.
Bill Wheelhouse / Harvest Public Media

As Congress fiddles with major farm legislation, there’s a portion of it that gets very little attention. Some say it is a difference-maker for job creation in small rural communities,and provides a boost those towns need. 

Read more
Severe Weather
1:01 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

Downtown Hannibal, MO Cleans Up After Powerful Storm

Brick shops in Hannibal Historic District among those blown apart by high winds
Credit Dominic Genetti

Monday night's severe storms stopped the presses of the local newspaper in Hannibal, Missouri. A widespread power outage prevented the Hannibal Courier-Post from getting a print edition to readers.  Reporters there, including Dominic Genetti, used the internet and social media to provide news updates on damage caused by 90 mile-an-hour winds.   As Genetti told Peter Gray on Illinois Edition Tuesday, two funnel clouds were reportedly spotted just outside of town last night:

Read more
Education & Community
11:32 am
Tue May 21, 2013

Foreign Exchange Students Wrap Up School Year In Central IL

Chris Reid (right) with foreign exchange daughter, Kairi Kosaka

  Foreign exchange students who spent this past school year in central Illinois with their host families are bidding them adieu. At a recent dinner 14 exchange students from countries like Spain, Thailand, and Germany shared meals from their native countries as they prepare to return home:

 

Chris Reid is mixing up a crockpot full of bright colored noodles and meatballs, food she helped her foreign exchange daughter from Toyko cook for tonight’s farewell ceremony…

Read more
Business Report
10:45 am
Tue May 21, 2013

WUIS / SJ-R Business Report: May 21, 2013

Tim Landis
Credit SJ-R.com

A major medical expansion, the retail boom continues in Springfield and we update farmers’ planting progress on this week’s business report with Tim Landis, Business Editor of the State Journal-Register:

Read more
Historic Preservation
1:08 pm
Mon May 20, 2013

Preservation Caucus Re-Formed At Statehouse

Credit Flickr

More than 2 million people a year visit Illinois state historic sites.  The locations play a big role in both state and local economies.   But they often lack political muscle.
So a more coordinated effort is underway to bring back the Historic Preservation caucus in the Illinois General Assembly.

Speaking on WUIS’ Illinois Edition, Chris Wills with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency says there is a need:

Read more
FY14 Budget
6:40 am
Mon May 20, 2013

Legislators' Budget Plans Expected To Cut Deeper Than Quinn's

Rep. Greg Harris (D-13), courtesy ILGA.gov
Credit ILGA.gov

Despite years of cuts to the Illinois state budget ... even more are ahead.  Legislators are still deciding where else they can slash spending.

 

"Human services" is a legislative phrase Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) says covers:

HARRIS: "All the state departments  dealing with health care, senior services, children services, so the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Medicaid, human services, mental health, substance abuse, Department of Aging, DCFS, public health and veterans... "

Read more
Prescription Pot
3:55 pm
Fri May 17, 2013

Illinois Senate Sends Medical Marijuana To Governor

Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, standing at right, debates medical marijuana in the Illinois Senate on Friday, May 17, 2013.
Credit Chris Slaby/WUIS

The Illinois Senate approved legislation Friday that would legalize the medical use of marijuana.

In the end, the vote was not that close — 35 senators voted yes, 21 no.

Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, sponsored the measure. He frequently reminds his colleagues he was once a prosecutor, and says the idea is to help people in pain find relief.

Read more
Bedrock 66
9:49 am
Fri May 17, 2013

JP Harris & The Tough Choices

  JP Harris & the Tough Choices play at the Hoogland Center for the Arts in Springfield tonight (5/17) as part of WUIS’ Bedrock 66 Live Concert Series. Harris’s music has been called “real country” and Harris calls his music “Hank Williams with a Motorhead attitude.” The Alabama native and Nashville transplant shares his music and what inspires it in this interview:

 

CLICK HERE to get tickets to tonight’s show.

Read more
Pension Cost Shift
5:47 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

Universities Agree To Pay Pension Tab

SIU President Glenn Poshard, left, and U of I President Robert Easter, center, testify at a House hearing Thursday on the pension cost shift.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois universities and community colleges have signed on to a deal that would have them pick up the cost of their employees' retirement benefits.  It's part of lawmakers' ongoing efforts to reduce how much the state is spending on pensions. 

Illinois has cut its spending on universities for years ... and even more reductions are expected next year.

School administrators say it's forced them to hike tuition, and to leave positions unfilled.

Read more
Guns
5:44 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

Senate Weighing Tight Concealed Carry Proposal

Credit Mark Holloway via Flickr

An Illinois Senate committee has approved legislation that would pave the way for concealed-carry of firearms in Illinois. But gun-rights advocates say it's too restrictive, and the measure faces an uphill climb.

State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, was trying to negotiate a compromise with gun-rights supporters. But ultimately he went his own way. His proposal would not allow guns in schools, day cares, casinos, and stadiums.

Read more
Health Desk
3:00 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

Advocates For Disabled Fight Special Ed Rule Change Proposals

Mary Farnsworth speaking against proposed rule changes at May 6th public hearing in Springfield
Credit Peter Gray

The State of Illinois caps the number of high needs learners who share the attention of a single special education teacher.

For the past decade, there has also been a limit on how many children with disabilities can be placed in what are known as “general education” public school classrooms.

But those rules could soon be repealed.

The mother of a young man with autism has joined advocates for the disabled who say the proposed change has to do more with cost-savings than with properly educating kids.

FARNSWORTH: “My name is George Farnsworth.”

Read more
Leo Lunch
7:00 am
Thu May 16, 2013

Republicans Demand Vote On Lion-Meat Ban

Credit Flickr.com/thebuffafamily

Just over two weeks remain before the Illinois General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn for the summer, on May 31st. They still have a lot to deal with in that time — like pensions, concealed carry, same-sex marriage, and next year's budget. But an incident Wednesday in the Illinois House shows tempers are already starting to flare.

Read more
Illinois Hires Tax Credit
5:58 pm
Wed May 15, 2013

Fracking Deal Back On Track

Environmentalists who oppose any form of high-volume hydraulic fracturing in Illinois protest at the Capitol in March.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

After several stumbles, an agreement  has been reached on how to regulate "fracking" in Illinois.  A House committee could vote on the package Thursday morning.  

  The oil and natural gas extraction technique known as hydraulic fracturing has been a boon for job creation in places like  North Dakota and Pennsylvania.

State legislators want the same in Illinois.

As do oil and gas drillers looking to make a handsome profit.

Read more
Music
4:37 pm
Wed May 15, 2013

John Michael Presney To Play Acoustic Set In Rochester

John Michael Presney is a Rochester native who’s spent the last couple years touring the country as part of a musical production that he played rockabilly star Carl Perkins in. But 25 year old Presney has crafted a music-style all his own. And he has a new EP called ‘The Nighttime and the Dawn’ to prove it.

Read more
Community
4:33 pm
Wed May 15, 2013

Third Springfield "PrideFest" On Saturday

  The third Springfield PrideFest is this Saturday. The all-day event celebrating gay pride includes food, drinks, and performances. The festival will be on Capitol Avenue between 4th and 6th streets downtown. WUIS’ Rachel Otwell recently spoke with Jonna Cooley about it, she’s the executive director of The Pheonix Center which puts on the event:

CLICK HERE for more info about the event on Saturday in downtown Springfield from noon to 9pm.

Read more
Community
4:17 pm
Wed May 15, 2013

Garden Project Pairs Local Sponsors & Students

Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

A local elementary school is teaching students about growing their own food with a hands-on project. Rachel Otwell recently visited the community garden across from McClernand Elementary School and spoke with instructors and students as they planted and tended to plots. She brings us this story:

Read more
Health Desk
11:03 am
Wed May 15, 2013

Medical Marijuana Advocates See Illinois Victory Ahead

Credit Thinkprogress.org

Could Illinois be getting closer to legalizing the medical use of marijuana?  Dan Riffle is with the Marijuana Policy Project, which has lobbied state lawmakers to approve the law.  He was a guest on WUIS’ Illinois Edition with Sean Crawford. 

Read more
Audit
6:30 am
Wed May 15, 2013

Road Fund Overpaid For Health Insurance

Credit Gary Brown via Flickr (gsbrown99)

Less than half of the money in Illinois' Road Fund actually pays for highway construction and maintenance. That's the finding in a new audit (pdf) that also says the Road Fund overpaid for employee health insurance.

Read more
City Council
10:26 am
Mon May 13, 2013

Aldermen Want More Oversight Following File-Shredding Incident

Calvin Christian says he has been unfairly targeted by Springfield police officers
Credit Calvin Christian

Members of the Springfield City Council are looking for a way to prevent further incidents like the one in April in which police records were apparently shredded or deleted after they were requested by a local reporter through the Freedom of Information Act.

Tuesday night aldermen passed out of committee an ordinance that would require all changes to union contracts be approved by the Council and signed by the Mayor.  Such contractual changes are known as memorandums of understanding, or MOUs. 

Read more
#attack
2:36 pm
Fri May 10, 2013

Illinois House Targets 'Flash Mob' Violence

The Illinois House approved legislation Friday intended to crack down on so-called "flash mobs." It allows a longer prison sentence for anyone who uses social media to organize an attack.

Read more
District 186
10:27 am
Fri May 10, 2013

Dist. 186 To Interview Search Firms Re: New Superintendent

sps186.org

 The Springfield school board decided last night it will begin interviewing search firms and may hire one to find a new superintendent for district 186. The district has an interim superintendent who took over for Walter Milton at the beginning of April. It’s been debated since then how to go about finding someone to permanently replace him.

Read more
Health Desk
9:24 am
Fri May 10, 2013

Volunteers Sought For Cancer Research Study

Wiley D. Jenkins, Ph.D. MPH
Credit siumed.edu

The American Cancer Society is now recruiting volunteers in central Illinois for its third major cancer prevention study.

Dr. Wiley Jenkins is an epidemiologist with the SIU School of Medicine and is a member of the Simmons Cancer Institute in Springfield.

He joined Peter Gray on Illinois Edition to explain why those who’ve witnessed a loved one’s battle with cancer should sign up to be a “volunteer champion”.

Read more
Pensions
7:00 am
Thu May 9, 2013

Labor's Pension Deal: Best Bet Or Too Good To Be True?

The Illinois Senate is expected to vote Thursday on the latest proposal to fix the state's drastically underfunded pension systems. In what's become a multi-year pension debate, many aspects of the plan have been put forth before. But it has one element that makes it unique.

Read more
Business
11:37 am
Wed May 8, 2013

Researcher Says Government Workers Underpaid

Bob Bruno
Credit ler.illinois.edu

Are government workers underpaid?  Bob Bruno says his research shows in many cases, they are.  He authored a study that found when comparing comparable jobs in the public and private sector, those who work for government, including teachers, get the short shrift.    Bruno is a professor of Labor and Employment Relations at the School of Labor and Employment Relations at the University of Illinois.  

He told WUIS' Sean Crawford the purpose of the study and how he went about the comparisons:

Read more
Springfield City Government
11:19 am
Wed May 8, 2013

City Leaders Respond To File Shredding Lawsuit

30 Springfield Police Dept. Internal Affairs records are said to have been expunged or destroyed
Credit springfield.il.us

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says he's gathering more information about events last month that triggered allegations that the city destroyed files sought in a Freedom of Information Act Request.

Attorneys for Springfield resident Calvin Christian say the police department violated a state public records retention law last month by destroying dozens of internal affairs files subject to a FOIA request filed by Christian.

Read more
Business
1:02 pm
Tue May 7, 2013

WUIS / SJ-R Business Report: May 7, 2013

Tim Landis
Credit SJ-R

This week, Tim Landis of the State Journal-Register discusses the new use for the Maisenbacher House in Springfield, the city’s first major project tied to consolidation of rail traffic and a survey that shows small businesses play an big role in the area’s economy:

Read more
Guns Blazing
11:01 am
Tue May 7, 2013

NRA Lobbyist: 50/50 Chance For A Concealed Carry Law By Deadline

When a federal court declared Illinois' ban on letting people carry guns in public unconstitutional ... it also gave legislators an assignment: pass a concealed carry law by June 9. Lawmakers are in continued negotiations, but so far gun rights' activists have been unable to reach an agreement with those who favor stricter gun control.  Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is doubtful they will ... at least in time.  He fears that could leave Illinois temporarily without ANY real limits on who can carry a gun, and where.

Read more
District 186
9:55 am
Tue May 7, 2013

New 186 School Board Starts Off With Tense Meeting

The new 186 school board is sworn in
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Tensions were high at last night’s (5/6) Springfield district 186 school board meeting as the 

  new board was seated and a president and vice president were appointed.

The meeting started with goodbyes for the previous school board members.

Read more

Pages