Associated Press

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Sangamon County has seen a slight increase in homicides in 2014.   The State Journal-Register (http://bit.ly/13NaFns ) reports seven homicides were investigated in the past year, compared to five in 2013. Police made arrests in five of the 2014 homicide cases.  

Chief Deputy Joe Roesch of the Sangamon County Sheriff's Office says investigators spent weeks working on the first homicide. Three people were eventually arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the Jan. 31 shooting death of 24-year-old Justin Sharp.  

WUIS/Brian Mackey

The new year will see an increase in the amount Illinois pays into the state's five publicly-funded pension systems.  

The State Journal-Register in Springfield reports (http://bit.ly/13TU5CI) Illinois' auditor general on Wednesday released a report by the state actuary showing a more than $680 million increase in pension payments in 2015 to $7.5 billion.  

The report doesn't explain the increase. However, it noted three of the five pension systems lowered the estimated rate of return they expect from investments.  

ilga.gov

The brother of former state lawmaker Rosemary Mulligan says she has died after her health suffered in recent months.  

Stephen Granzyk says the 73-year-old Republican died Tuesday, months after moving into a retirement community in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines.  

Mulligan represented the Northwest suburbs in the Illinois House from 1993 to 2013. She was considered a social moderate with expertise in the state's human services budget and the disabled.  

flickr/jmorgan

Illinois veterans with disabilities will be eligible for more property tax exemptions under a law signed by Gov. Pat Quinn.  

Quinn signed the measure Tuesday. It takes effect immediately.  

The new law allows veterans with disabilities and their spouses expanded property tax exemptions. Disabled veterans will also see an increased homestead exemption to $100,000 from $70,000.  
 In a statement, Quinn says the law will help ensure that veterans aren't ``burdened by overwhelming property taxes.''  

Secretary of State's Office

Motorists may drive without an up-to-date vehicle registration sticker under a law that takes effect Thursday.

Gov. Pat Quinn has called for the closing of Tamms Correctional Center.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a plan that lets people charged with some minor traffic offenses pay penalties without a court appearance.  

In a Sunday statement, Quinn says the legislation helps reduce the burden on drivers and the court system by cutting the number of ``unnecessary minor cases.''  

Under the plan motorists cited with petty traffic violations can plead guilty and pay fines without showing up to court.  

Earlier this year, Quinn signed a law that ends the practice of posting a driver's license in Illinois as security after certain traffic citations.  

consumer product safety commission

Keurig is recalling some 7 million of single-serve coffee brewing machines because of reported burns.
 
 Keurig says its Mini Plus Brewing Systems, with model number K10, can overheat and spray water during brewing. Keurig says it had received about 200 reports of hot liquid escaping from the brewer, including 90 reports of burn-related injuries.
 

TobyKeith.com

Country singer Toby Keith will headline a concert celebrating Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner's inauguration. 

An audit has found that Illinois does a poor job monitoring and tracking children who run away from foster homes.  

Auditor General William Holland reported Thursday the Department of Children and Family Services does not keep reports on the total number of missing children in a year or their previous locations.  

In 2011 and 2012, DCFS estimated as many as 3,100 children went missing in up to 29,200 separate incidents. But they were not all runaways. They included wards of the state whose caregivers did not know their whereabouts.  

University of Illinois

 A University of Illinois task force on sexual assault has started meeting and plans to survey the school's three campuses to assess the situation at each.  

University spokesman Tom Hardy says the new task force met for the first time Wednesday. The group is supposed to finish surveys at the Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield campuses by the spring.  

Late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has been remembered
as a tough, honest leader with a signature sense of humor.
 
 Crowds filled a union hall in suburban Chicago on Wednesday to pay respects.
Individuals included the state's top leaders, lawmakers, local leaders and
Illinoisans who knew her for more than 70 years.
 
 Gov. Pat Quinn says Topinka took on tough challenges in life. She was also a
former state treasurer, GOP head and lawmaker.
 
 Portraits of Topinka lined an entrance, along with photos of past campaigns,

wuis

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner's inaugural festivities will include a dinner at the Illinois Capitol, a concert and a free event at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
 
The Winnetka Republican launched a website Monday with a schedule for the 2015
inauguration.
 
Rauner takes the oath of office during a ceremony Jan. 12. Rather than the
traditional inaugural ball that evening, he's planning a concert with a
yet-to-be-named ``famous musical act.''
 

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says the death of Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka leaves essentially two vacancies that should first be filled by outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn and then Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner. But she says voters should also get a chance to cast ballots for the office in 2016.
 
 Topinka died last week. The Republican had won a second term, which starts next
month.  
 
 In a legal analysis released Monday, Madigan says Quinn should appoint someone
until Jan. 12, when the current term ends and new elected officials are sworn

Illinois' senators say federal defense legislation includes a request to a study if a National Park designation is merited for the New Philadelphia archaeological site in western Illinois.  

Congress on Friday sent the defense bill to President Barack Obama. Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk say the bill includes a provision directing the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study on the site.  

WUIS

Illinois Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner has named an attorney for Indiana's former governor and a former longtime aide to U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert to serve in his administration.  

In a Thursday statement announcing the hires, Rauner says attorney Jason Barclay and Kathy Lydon bring ``invaluable experience.''  

Barclay is a partner at Barnes and Thornburg in Indianapolis. He was legal counsel for former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. He will be Rauner's general counsel.  

Agribusiness company Archer Daniels Midland says it plans to
open a new informational technology center next year in Kentucky that will
eventually employ about 200 people.
 
The Chicago-based company said Thursday that the new center will open in the
second half of 2015 in Erlanger, Kentucky, with about 100 contractors and ADM
employees and eventually expand.
 
The center will be in the same complex as ADM's WILD Flavors offices in
Erlanger. The town is about 15 miles southwest of Cincinnati.
 

Comptroller website

A public memorial service for late Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka is scheduled for next week.
 
The comptroller's office says the memorial service will be held at 9:30 a.m.
Wednesday at Operating Engineers' Local 150 headquarters in Countryside.
 
Topinka died unexpectedly Wednesday at the age of 70 after suffering
complications from a stroke. Her passing came just weeks after she was elected
to a second term.
 
A news release says fellow state leaders, colleagues and family will share

WUIS

The Sierra Club is appealing an Illinois regulators' conclusion that the pollution controls for the FutureGen clean-coal project are adequate.  

The Sierra Club said in a news release Thursday that it has filed a state-court appeal of the Illinois Pollution Control Board's decision to allow the FutureGen project to proceed. The board last month rejected the environmental group's claim.  

The coal companies working on the FutureGen project, known as the FutureGen Alliance, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.  

Comptroller website

Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has died, less than 24 hours after having a stroke.  

A statement from her office says the 70-year-old Topinka died early Wednesday morning following complications from the stroke.  

She'd reported discomfort and was admitted to a hospital in Berwyn. After undergoing testing, she lost consciousness Wednesday and was pronounced dead shortly after 2 a.m.  

Topinka, a Republican, won a second term last month in a tough race with Democratic challenger Sheila Simon, the former lieutenant governor.  

state.il.us

State workers behind a challenge to an Illinois
pension law declared unconstitutional are opposing the government's attempt to
have it speedily heard by the Illinois Supreme Court.
 
 Attorney General Lisa Madigan asked the court last week to hasten its schedule
for considering the case. She argues that the government needs a decision
quickly because if it can't implement the law, it would have to find a way to
make up about $1 billion in savings in the first year.
 

Rod Blagojevich
U.S. Government

A jury has found a racetrack owner liable in a civil racketeering case that involved actions during Rod Blagojevich's time as Illinois governor.  

The jury in federal district court in Chicago on Monday awarded $26.3 million in damages to four Illinois riverboat casinos. The damages are tripled because the case fell under the civil racketeering statute, making the recovery more than $78 million.  

The trial involved a pay-to-play deal allegedly involving the now-imprisoned Blagojevich and John Johnston, a member of the Illinois racetrack industry.  

WUIS

The nation's first high school sports governing body to face a class-action concussions lawsuit warns that legal action could result in wealthier schools keeping their football programs and cash-strapped ones eliminating them.  

Illinois High School Association Director Marty Hickman said in a Friday news conference that court-imposed policies, such as mandating physicians be present at all practices, would be costly.  

Hickman says the result would be that ``the haves are going to continue to have (football) and the have-nots are not going to have it.''  

ilga.gov

A former Illinois state representative has changed his plea to guilty in a child pornography case.  
 
 The Chicago Sun-Times reports (http://bit.ly/12HVLiu ) that Elgin Democrat
Keith Farnham pleaded guilty Friday in federal court in Chicago as part of a plea deal. He faces five to 20 years in prison.
 
 Earlier this year, the 66-year-old had pleaded not guilty to possessing, receiving and transporting child pornography.
 

Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office has asked the Illinois
Supreme Court for an expedited hearing of her appeal of a lower court's
declaration the state's pension overhaul is unconstitutional.  
 
 Madigan announced the motion Thursday. It says issues raised are of
``widespread public importance'' to state government and seeks a ruling in
advance of lawmakers' May 31 budget approval deadline.
 
Madigan's office had already filed the appeal concerning the 2013 law designed
to reduce roughly $100 billion in unfunded liability.  
 

WUIS

A final piece of Gov. Pat Quinn's legacy is up in the air as lawmakers leave Springfield without sending him legislation increasing Illinois' minimum wage.
 
Quinn championed the issue during his tough re-election bid. But there are few
options to tackle it before Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner takes office.
 
Quinn can call a special session, but there's the embarrassing risk of
lawmakers refusing to act. He also can attempt to persuade House Speaker Michael
Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton to agree to a special session.
 

flickr/John Liu

Illinois lawmakers have approved eavesdropping restrictions to replace those the state Supreme Court declared unconstitutional last spring.

The Senate voted 46-4 Thursday to prohibit recording private conversations without the consent of everyone involved.  

It goes to Gov. Pat Quinn. A spokesman says Quinn has not made a decision on whether to sign it.  

Abraham Lincoln is surely the most famous Republican from Illinois.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

A 165-year-old letter from Abraham Lincoln could be just the thing for the history buff in your family. That is, if you have $40,000 to spare.  

A rare documents dealer in Philadelphia is selling an 1849 letter penned by Lincoln that offers insight into his stint as a congressman.  

Raab Collection President Nathan Raab says the letter gives a revealing view of Lincoln before he became president. He says that letters from this time period are extremely rare.  

The letter describes an incident between Lincoln and a friend seeking a political appointment.  

Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Illinois Senate has passed legislation that would raise the state's minimum wage. The legislation would by 2019 increase Illinois' minimum wage to $11 an hour for workers 18 and older. The bill won't impact Chicago's decision to raise its wage to $13 by 2019.  The House adjourned without voting on it.

 An investigation found that four Illinois Department of Human Rights employees supposedly examining discrimination complaints forged signatures and falsified documents to cover for work they didn't do.  

The report Monday by the Office of the Executive Inspector General also found supervisors failed to monitor the four investigators, who resigned in 2011 and 2012.  

Illinois lawmakers are reconvening for the final scheduled week of their fall veto session. They are expected to make a push to advance a proposal increasing the state's minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2017.  

Republican governor-elect Bruce Rauner  is scheduled to make an appearance Tuesday morning at the state Capitol.  

Gov. Pat Quinn's office says the outgoing governor has been meeting with lawmakers and gathering support for the proposal.  

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