Associated Press

The Associated Press is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering, supplying a steady stream of news to its members, international subscribers and commercial customers. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, it's a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members.

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Politics
6:54 am
Wed March 25, 2015

Jesse Jackson Jr. Prison Release Set For This Week

Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

A friend and former House colleague of Jesse Jackson Jr. says Jackson is being released from a federal prison Thursday and into a halfway house.  

Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy told The Associated Press he recently spoke with Jackson at the minimum security federal prison camp in Montgomery, Alabama.

The son of the civil rights leader has been serving a 2 1/2-year sentence after pleading guilty to illegally spending $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items.  

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Business
4:14 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

Jobless Rate Falls To 6% In Illinois

Unemployment continued to fall in Illinois in February, hitting 6 percent for the first time since 2008.  

The Illinois Department of Employment Security said Tuesday that the jobless rate fell to that level from a January rate of 6.1 percent. The national unemployment rate was 5.5 percent in February.

Unemployment has now fallen in Illinois for 11 of the past 12 months. In February 2014, the jobless rate was 7.9 percent.  

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Statehouse
7:37 am
Tue March 24, 2015

Lawmakers To Discuss House Plan To Fill Budget Hole

Lawmakers are scheduled to consider a new plan introduced by House Speaker Michael Madigan to end weeks of negotiations over plugging a $1.6 billion hole in this year's state budget.

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Statehouse
5:44 pm
Fri March 20, 2015

Attorney General Says Rauner's Anti-Union Proposals Illegal

Lisa Madigan at the 2015 inauguration
Credit WUIS/Brian Mackey

Illinois' Democratic attorney general has delivered a blow to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's efforts to weaken labor unions.
 
 Lisa Madigan on Friday issued formal opinions saying two of Rauner's proposals would be illegal.
 
 One would allow local governments to create so-called ``right to work zones''
where union membership would be voluntary. The other would let local governments opt out of prevailing wage agreements, which require workers on government
projects to receive wages that reflect local compensation for similar jobs.
 

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Politics
3:03 pm
Fri March 20, 2015

Report: Cong. Schock Under Federal Investigation

Aaron Schock

A person familiar with the case tells The Associated Press
that the Justice Department is formally investigating whether Rep. Aaron Schock
of Illinois, who has submitted his resignation, committed crimes with his office
expenditures and business dealings.
 
 The government is convening a federal grand jury in Springfield, Illinois, this
source says, and the FBI has started issuing subpoenas to compel people close to
the Republican congressman to testify. The source spoke only on grounds of

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Statehouse
2:18 pm
Thu March 19, 2015

State to divert 'fair share' fees from unions

Credit wuis

Gov. Bruce Rauner's office has instructed state agencies to begin diverting ``fair share'' fees from nonunion members' paychecks away from unions.  

A memo obtained by The Associated Press directs departments to create two sets of books to do it.  

The Republican governor signed an order last month ending the practice of collecting union fees from non-union members. He labeled it a First Amendment violation and asked a federal court to overturn the state requirement.  

Unions collect the fees to defray the cost of work that also benefits nonmembers.  

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Statehouse
8:28 am
Wed March 18, 2015

State Sen. LaHood Will Seek Schock's Seat

Credit Illinois General Assembly

Illinois state Sen. Darin LaHood has announced his candidacy for U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock's soon-to-be-vacant congressional seat.

The Republican from Dunlap made the announcement Wednesday on WMBD radio in Peoria.

LaHood says he has received "a lot encouragement" to run and that he'll campaign on his state Senate record, which includes being a strong advocate for ethics reform.

LaHood has served in the Senate since 2011. His father is former U.S. Transportation Secretary and Congressman Ray LaHood, who preceded Schock in Congress.

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Politics
1:57 pm
Tue March 17, 2015

Congressman Schock Announces Resignation

Congressman Aaron Schock speaks to reporters in this November 2013 file photo.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Republican Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinois says he's resigning his House seat amid questions about his spending.

In a statement on Tuesday, Schock said he would step down effective March 31.

Schock, a four-term lawmaker, said he was taking the step with a "heavy heart." He said that questions about irregularities in his campaign finance and congressional spending accounts over the past six weeks have proven to be a "great distraction" and have made it too difficult for him to serve.

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Regional
3:17 pm
Wed March 11, 2015

U.S. EPA Declares Mahomet Aquifer A Primary Drinking Water Source

Credit flickr/JennDurfey

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has added an extra layer of regulatory protection for a central Illinois aquifer by declaring it a primary source of drinking water.  

The EPA on Wednesday said the Mahomet aquifer is primary water source for more than 750,000 people in central Illinois. That guarantees extra scrutiny of any project there that includes federal finances.  

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Statehouse
6:30 am
Tue March 10, 2015

Illinois Lawmaker To Be Treated For Cancer

 An Illinois lawmaker has announced he will receive treatment for recently diagnosed esophageal cancer.  

State Rep. Frank Mautino of Spring Valley says his doctor found a mass in his esophagus during a routine physical in late January. The 52-year-old Democratic lawmaker says he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer after a biopsy was conducted in February.  

Mautino told The (Ottawa) Daily Times  during a phone interview on Monday that doctors have told him the cancer is 97 percent treatable.  

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Regional
5:35 pm
Mon March 9, 2015

Innocence Project Works To Clear Name Of Waukegan Man

Angel Gonzalez
Credit Il Dept. of Corrections

A suburban Chicago man who spent 20 years in prison for abduction and rape has been exonerated after DNA evidence indicated he was wrongfully convicted.  

Despite the decision Monday by Lake County prosecutors to drop the case against 41-year-old Angel Gonzalez of Waukegan, the man was not allowed to walk away from Dixon Correctional Center.  

Gonzalez attended the hearing in Lake County Court. But he was sent back to Dixon, where he still faces a three-year term for a late 1990's conviction of damaging state property at another prison. 

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Business
7:35 am
Fri March 6, 2015

Nissan Recalls More Altimas

Credit nissanusa.com

 Nissan is recalling 625,000 more cars in the U.S. as part of a growing problem with faulty latches that can allow hoods to fly open while cars are moving.
 

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Education Desk
6:28 am
Fri March 6, 2015

House Speaker Creates School Funding Task Force

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

 Illinois' longtime House speaker is forming a bipartisan task force to examine a way to fix the state's  school funding formula.  

Michael J. Madigan's office announced Thursday the panel would include lawmakers from various regions of the state. It's scheduled to meet for the first time next Wednesday in Springfield.  

The last major school funding formula overhaul took place in 1997. While there's wide agreement the current formula doesn't effectively distribute state dollars to students across the state, how it should be changed remains under debate.  

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Lincoln
8:54 am
Thu March 5, 2015

Lincoln Carriage Headed To DC

A South Bend museum is lending a carriage once belonging to President Abraham Lincoln to a museum in Washington, D.C.  

The Lincoln carriage is being moved Thursday from the Studebaker National Museum to the National Museum of American History. The South Bend Tribune (http://bit.ly/1Gn7fJ2 ) reports it will be on display at the Smithsonian museum this spring in an exhibition commemorating the 150th anniversary of the president's assassination.  

The carriage carried Lincoln and his wife to Ford's Theatre, where he was shot on April 14, 1865.  

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Arts and Culture
7:10 am
Thu March 5, 2015

Books Chosen For Statewide Reading Program

One of the books for Illinois Reads
Credit wttw

Illinois' statewide reading program has announced its 2015 book selections.

The Illinois Reading Council on Wednesday named books for everyone from adults to newborn babies. The program is intended to promote reading for people of all ages.

The selections include several by authors with ties to Illinois.

Among the selections for adults is ``Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football'' by Rich Cohen and ``Identical'' by Chicago author Scott Turow.

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Education Desk
5:38 am
Thu March 5, 2015

Cornel West Cancels U of I Speech Over Salaita

Cornel West scrubs U of I speech over Salaita rejection
Credit npr.org

A prominent civil rights activist and academic has canceled a speech at the University of Illinois because of the school's decision to rescind a job offer to a Native American studies professor.  

Cornel West said Wednesday that he will not speak at the Urbana-Champaign campus because of the dispute between the university and Steven Salaita. West was scheduled to deliver a lecture in April.  

He called the university's decision to rescind the job offer ``a moral scandal.''  
 A university spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.  

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Regional
11:40 am
Wed March 4, 2015

Illinois Hires Firm To Evaluate Shuttered Eagle Creek Resort

The Eagle Creek resort in better days.
Credit Illinois Issues

Documents show Illinois has a nearly $130,000 contract with a Chicago engineering firm to evaluate the closed, taxpayer-owned Eagle Creek Resort on Lake Shelbyville.  

The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises (http://bit.ly/1F9slHf ) newspapers reports Globetrotters Engineering Corp. will take a look at what it could cost to make repairs and reopen the resort. That includes evaluating the condition of floors and the potential cost of upgrading electrical systems.  

The company's contract with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources lasts through September.  

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Politics
7:13 am
Tue March 3, 2015

Congressman Schock Pays For Another Flight That Had Been Billed To Taxpayers

Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock has reimbursed the U.S. government for more than $1,200 to travel to a Chicago Bears football game last November.  

A spokesman said late Monday that Schock wrote a check to cover the costs of the trip. The congressman previously charged the private air travel to his House office account, which is funded by taxpayers.  

Newly released congressional expense reports show Schock charged more than $14,000 in private air travel last fall. Those costs add to a list of several flights he took on planes owned by donors.  

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Congress
5:48 am
Tue February 24, 2015

Lawmaker Billed For Private Planes, Concerts

Aaron Schock

Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock spent taxpayer and campaign funds on private planes to fly around the country on aircraft owned by some of his donors.  

An Associated Press review of his expense records found the flights. There also were other travel and entertainment charges, including for a massage company and music concerts.  

Schock's use of congressional and political funds to pay for trips on supporters' aircraft raises new questions amid an ethics inquiry already underway. The expenses include a trip for $11,400 and apparent trips before last November's elections.  

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Statehouse
8:24 am
Mon February 23, 2015

Plan Would Make More Fireworks Legal In Illinois

Credit flickr/MarkHarkin

An Illinois lawmaker wants to make it legal to sell fireworks such as Roman candles and rockets in the state.  The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/1vTNJLd ) Sen. Chapin Rose introduced legislation Friday to allow the sale of so-called ``consumer'' fireworks.  

The Mahomet Republican says taxing fireworks sales could generate at least $10 million each year.  

A Consumer Products Safety Commission report found Illinois is one of 10 states that don't allow the sale of consumer fireworks. Illinois does allow sparklers and other novelties.  

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Pensions
1:03 pm
Thu February 19, 2015

Supreme Court Schedules Pension Arguments For March 11

The Illinois Supreme Court has announced it will hear oral arguments in the state's landmark pension-overhaul case on March 11.

Arguments will begin at 2:30 p.m. in the high court chamber in downtown Springfield.  

The Illinois General Assembly and former Gov. Pat Quinn adopted a plan in late 2013 designed to cut into the $111 billion deficit in four state pension programs built by years of underfunding.  

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Statehouse
5:41 pm
Fri February 13, 2015

Rauner Appoints Aide's Wife To Commerce Job

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has appointed the wife of a
top aide to a $121,000 post at the Department of Commerce and Economic
Opportunity.
 
Rauner's office Friday said Andria Winters of Chicago would be replacing Dan
Seals as the department's assistant director.
 
Winters' husband, Aaron, is Rauner's deputy chief of staff for policy.
 
Andria Winters previously worked at Motorola Mobility. Like her husband, she is
a former aide to U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk and served on Rauner's transition team.
 

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Statehouse
2:36 pm
Fri February 13, 2015

Rauner Taps Florida Democrat To Head DCFS

George Sheldon
Credit wikipedia

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has selected a Florida Democrat to lead Illinois' troubled Department of Children and Family Services.
 
George Sheldon ran Florida's Department of Children and Families from 2008 to 2011. He's credited with expanding adoption opportunities for gays and lesbians, reducing the number of children in state custody and making state records more
easily accessible.
 
Sheldon also served as an assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President Barack Obama.
 

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Statehouse
6:27 am
Fri February 13, 2015

IDOT Nominee Has A DUI On His Record

Credit Illinois Department of Transportation

Gov. Bruce Rauner's nominee to head the Illinois Department of Transportation was arrested for drunken driving in 2004.  

The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers  reports Randy Blankenhorn failed a blood alcohol content test during a traffic stop in Sangamon County.  

According to court records, Blankenhorn pleaded guilty to DUI and received a year of supervision and a $795 fine.  

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Statehouse
6:54 am
Tue February 10, 2015

Democrats Skeptical Over Rauner 'Fair Share' Dues Order

Credit www.ilga.gov

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton says his legal staff is reviewing an executive order issued by Gov. Bruce Rauner that eliminates dues paid by workers who aren't public union members.  
 
 Rauner says 6,500 state employees are forced to pay ``fair share'' fees at an
average of $577 a year for each worker.
 
 Cullerton is a Chicago Democrat. He and others are skeptical about whether the
Winnetka Republican has the legal ability to challenge the fee. Unions have
fired back at the governor, saying they intend to work to have the order

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Statehouse
1:22 pm
Mon February 9, 2015

$3M In Illinois Governor's Mansion Repairs Made

Credit Wikimedia/Teemu08

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) Documents show that about $3 million in repairs were made to the Illinois Governor's Mansion last summer.  The State Journal-Register reports that documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show the repairs included patching roof leaks that damaged walls and contributed to black mold. An emergency generator was replaced and a valve was installed to prevent recurring flooding. About another $2.8 million of repairs are pending at the Capital Development Board.

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Politics
3:06 pm
Fri February 6, 2015

Cong. Schock Back Home After Week Of Controversies

Aaron Schock

Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock says he hopes
constituents see him as ``still the same person'' after a week dogged by
controversies in Washington.
 
 The Peoria Republican returned to his central Illinois district Friday. It was
his first visit since a watchdog group called for an ethics probe into how he
paid for extravagant decorations of his Washington office, and after a staffer
resigned because of racist remarks on Facebook.
 
 Schock got a warm reception at one of his first stops. Several locals at a

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Health Desk
10:59 am
Wed February 4, 2015

Illinois Approves Medical Marijuana Patients

Credit Credit flickr/eggrole

Illinois has now approved approximately 1,000 patients
for the state's medical marijuana program.
 
 Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said Wednesday that
about 14,000 people have started the patient registration process. Of those,
about 2,100 have submitted at least part of the application.
 
 Some newly licensed growers say they'll be ready to provide medical marijuana
this summer. Gov. Bruce Rauner awarded licenses Monday to marijuana growers and
retailers across the state.
 

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Business
5:10 pm
Tue February 3, 2015

Time Runs Out On FutureGen

Credit Bill Wheelhouse/WUIS

The Department of Energy says it has suspended the long-planned FutureGen clean-coal project in western Illinois.  

DOE spokesman Bill Gibbons told The Associated Press  on Tuesday the department concluded the project couldn't meet a September deadline to use its $1 billion in federal stimulus funding.  

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Statehouse
6:28 am
Fri January 30, 2015

Rauner Defends Higher Staff Salaries

Credit WUIS

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is defending paying his staff members significantly more than his predecessor, saying he'll pay what he has to for top
talent.
 
The Republican told reporters Friday that some of his administration hires from the private sector were taking pay cuts to work in state government.
 
 The Associated Press found annual salaries of ten top staffers in Rauner's administration outpace those of comparable aides to former Gov. Pat Quinn by
roughly $380,000 _ or 36 percent.
 

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