Statehouse
5:36 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

Pension Costs High, But Slowing

The amount Illinois must pay to keep pace with its pension systems should grow less than 2 percent next year but still total nearly $7 billion.  

A state actuary's report that Auditor General William Holland released Tuesday says taxpayers must pay $6.86 billion in the fiscal year that begins July 1. That's up about $100 million from this fiscal year.  
Lawmakers adopted a reform plan in early December for the five pension systems to cut a $100 billion debt. But it doesn't take effect until June 1 and has been challenged in court.  

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Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October, 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit. Before her arrival at Michigan Radio, Sarah worked at WDET-FM as a reporter and producer.

Year In Sound
2:43 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

Voices In The News 2013

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

As we get ready to welcome 2014, we thought we’d take a few minutes to reflect on some of the voices in the news this past year in Illinois state politics and government. People in the Capitol were busy with same-sex marriage, medical marijuana, and dozens of other issues. What follows are a few of the more memorable moments.

Gov. Pat Quinn: “This is no small issue. This is a choice about whether we will make the tough decisions necessary to balance our budget by reforming our public pension systems."

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Education
1:44 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

John Wood Community College To Get Worker Training Money

Credit John Wood Community College

Two Illinois colleges will share in a $29 million federal grant to retrain unemployed workers for high-skill jobs in transportation, distribution and logistics.  
Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey will lead a consortium of nine colleges in eight Mississippi River states with the goal of placing people in jobs and boosting economic development.  

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Driving Conversation
11:53 am
Tue December 31, 2013

'Siri, Tell Me About The Hands-Free Law'

Bluetooth headsets are among the ways one will be permitted to talk and drive beginning in 2014. Holding a phone, however, will be banned under Illinois law.
Credit Flickr user DeclanTM (Creative Commons)

Jan. 1 brings a new Illinois law that limits talking on the phone while driving. It's often been referred to as "cell phone ban." But it's actually a bit more nuanced.

The law starts out by saying you cannot drive while using an electronic device such as a phone or laptop. But it's not that cut-and-dry. For example, you can place a call if it only requires pressing one button.

SIRI: *ding*
MACKEY: Siri, can you make a call for me?
SIRI: "With whom would you like to speak?"
MACKEY: How about Illinois State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond?

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Need for Speed
11:36 am
Tue December 31, 2013

70 mph New Year's Day? Not So Fast ...

This Illinois Department of Transportation map shows where the speed limit increases to 70 mph as of Jan. 1, 2014.
Credit IDOT

Beginning Jan. 1, the maximum speed limit in Illinois will increase to 70 miles an hour. But you might want to hold off on the throttle for at least a few weeks.

While the new 70 mph law technically goes into effect at midnight on New Year's Day, it's going to take the Illinois Department of Transportation a little while to get all the new speed limit signs put up. Until then, IDOT spokeswoman Paris Earvin says, "We really encourage motorists to obey the posted speed limits."

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Regional
3:21 pm
Mon December 30, 2013

Police Concerned About Concealed Carry

Credit flickr/creative commons

Illinoisans can start applying for permits to carry concealed guns later this week.  And some cops are already worried about the new law.

"They don’t know how this will all roll out, and they’re worried about every one of their normal encounters - whether it be a domestic disturbance call, a traffic stop - uh, now potentially having additional weapons," said Colonel Marc Maton of the Illinois State Police.

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Statehouse
2:09 pm
Mon December 30, 2013

State Spending To Be Part Of Tax Returns

Credit Illinois Department of Revenue

State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says Illinois residents will get a breakdown of state spending in income tax returns received in 2014. 

Topinka announced the initiative on Monday. She says her office will also make the information available online.   In a statement, Topinka says there shouldn't be a mystery when it comes to public dollars in the state.  

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Regional
9:53 am
Mon December 30, 2013

Higher Speed Limits in Illinois in 2014

A map of 70 MPH speed limits.   Drivers in the Springfield area will still have a speed limit of 65 mph around the city.    The lower speed limit affects motorists from the south side of the city to the northwest side of Springfield.

Politics
5:45 am
Mon December 30, 2013

Audio Of Blagojevich Appeals Hearing Now Available

Credit WUIS file photo

The sometimes contentious and surprising audio from the appeal hearing of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is now online.

Attorneys spent an hour arguing Blagojevich’s appeal on December 13th.  Leonard Goodman told judges that Blagojevich never intended to commit fraud, he thought he was engaging in political horse trading.

That led Judge Frank Easterbrook to repeatedly ask Blagojevich’s attorney about a case called  Cheek.

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