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.

An Illinois appellate court has ruled that back wages owed thousands of state government workers from 2011 to 2013 must be paid.
 
A panel of judges from the First District Appellate Court found that members of
the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees should get the
back pay and the Legislature's failure to appropriate enough money to cover the
raises is not a reason to renege on them.
 
The ruling supports an independent arbitrator's decision that the government's

Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Republican state Sen. Jim Oberweis have staked out opposing positions on whether to require universal background checks for firearms purchases.  

Oberweis is trying to unseat Durbin in November. They met Monday before the Chicago Tribune editorial board.  

Durbin says mandatory background checks would help keep convicted felons and mentally unstable people from getting guns. He says a federal law would reduce violence in places like Chicago, where police say felons get weapons from other states with weaker laws.  

espensorvik/flickr

If it seems as though the number of political ads on television has ramped up markedly this election, now there's concrete proof.  

Illinois has seen a roughly 30 percent increase in the number of TV ads and the money spent to air them this election cycle compared to four years ago, according to an analysis by the non-partisan Center for Public Integrity. That jump has been fueled by a neck-and-neck contest for governor pitting wealthy Republican Bruce Rauner against Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.  

 A children's hospital official in central Illinois faces a charge of embezzling $500,000 from the institution since 2008, according to a published report.

Springfield police on Monday arrested Margaret "Peggy" Curtin, 55, executive director of St. John's Children's Hospital, according to the report in the State Journal-Register. She is in custody at the Sangamon County Jail on $1 million bond, State's Attorney John Milhiser said in a news release Tuesday.

istockphoto.com

One Illinois group wants voters to be better informed about judges, who will be among the lesser known candidates on the November ballot.  

The Illinois Civil Justice League on Tuesday is unveiling an initiative to provide biographies, ratings and other background on 158 sitting judges in the state seeking retention and another 69 candidates in contested races for seats on the bench.  

bot.uillinois.edu

University of Illinois Board of Trustees Chairman Chris Kennedy said in a newspaper interview published Friday that the university was right to deny a faculty job to a professor whose anti-Israel Twitter messages were considered by some to be anti-Semitic.  

Courtesy of lpillinois.org

A Sangamon County judge is expected to rule today (Thursday 9/18)
on an appeal by Republican attorneys to remove a Libertarian candidate for
Illinois governor from the November ballot.
 
Sangamon County Circuit Judge Patrick Kelley heard arguments in which the GOP
attorneys questioned the validity of signatures Libertarian candidates gathered
to get on the ballot.
Political analysts say Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Chad Grimm could
draw votes that otherwise would go to Republican candidate Bruce Rauner

NOTE: This story has been updated.  More than 130 students and a few staff members from North Mac Intermediate School in Girard have been taken to hospitals with symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. North Mac superintendent Marica Cullen said a leaky pipe caused significantly high carbon monoxide levels, and the school - with about 640 students, was evacuated around 9 am she said.

Cullen says the number of affected students may continue to rise, as parents are being told to take their children directly to the hospital if they show any signs of being sick.

commons.wikimedia.org

 U.S. safety regulators are investigating complaints that the doors won't latch properly on some Ford Fiesta subcompact cars.
 
 The probe announced Monday by covers about 205,000 Fiestas from the 2011 through 2013 model years.
 
 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it has received 61 complaints about the doors. Some said the latches wouldn't catch. A dozen said a door opened while the cars were being driven. The agency says one person was hurt when a door rebounded after an attempt to close it.
 

flickr/LizMarie_AK

Nearly 100 organizations are joining together to push
Illinois lawmakers to pass a school funding reform proposal in the spring.
 
 Funding Illinois' Future members include community foundations, civil rights organizations, school officials, and business and education reform groups statewide. All support the passage of a school funding proposal sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Andy Manar of Bunker Hill.
 
 The legislation would overhaul Illinois' dated school funding formula, first put in place in 1997. While there's wide agreement that the state's funding

WUIS

Fifty-five workers who have been told they're being laid off by the Illinois Department of Transportation claimed in a lawsuit Friday that they're being fired to spare Gov. Pat Quinn election-campaign embarrassment over a hiring scandal.  

The Democratic governor's administration fired the so-called ``staff assistants'' last month in an IDOT shake up over a state investigation that found the agency hired 255 people over 10 years without going through proper channels to give everyone a chance to be hired.  

UIS.EDU

University of Illinois trustees on Thursday approved a $5.64 billion budget for the current fiscal year. That's an increase of $11.1 million, or .2 percent.  

University President Robert Easter said the small increase reflects in part of the university's hope that it can keep students costs from rising too rapidly. A year on campus at the flagship campus in Urbana-Champaign costs a student more than $20,000.  

The vote by the Board of Trustees approving the new spending plan was unanimous and made without comment.  

Jim Meadows, WILL

University of Illinois trustees on Thursday voted not to hire a professor whose anti-Israel Twitter messages were deemed anti-Semitic by some, raising the likelihood of a lawsuit and further campus protests.  

Steven Salaita, who last year accepted a job to begin teaching this fall in the university's Native American Studies Program, has threatened legal action if the university rescinded the offer. His attorneys have said if he isn't hired, they'll go to court to try to get an injunction to force the university to hire him.  

UKberrinet/flickr

Supporters of high-volume oil and gas extraction said Wednesday that they'll seek dozens of changes in proposed rules to govern the practice in Illinois that appear to violate a hard-won compromise between industry and environmentalists.  

A coalition of industry groups will outline more than 65 areas of concern to a legislative panel that must decide whether the rules _ written by the Department of Natural Resources to implement a new hydraulic fracturing law _ can take effect as written, said Mark Denzler vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers Association.  

flickr/ThoamsdeAquino

It's unclear if state officials will release complete information about companies seeking to grow or sell medical marijuana in Illinois.  

Applications from prospective companies aren't subject to state open records laws, according to the law that legalized medical marijuana in Illinois. The application period opened Monday and will close Sept. 22. Melaney Arnold, a spokeswoman for Illinois' medical marijuana pilot project, said the state won't release any information about the number of applicants until after the deadline.  

Bruce Rauner
brucerauner.com

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner outlined an education reform plan Monday that touched on teacher merit pay, overhauling
tenure and changing the state's school funding formal, but the proposal didn't contain specifics on what exactly he would change or how he would accomplish
them.
 
 The venture capitalist said his ideas would help create ``world class schools''
and he vowed to increase school funding in the first year if he wins office
without raising the income tax or property taxes. He said he wanted to change

Illinois Attorney General

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Monday defended her right to give legal advice to state lawmakers conducting a probe into a troubled
Chicago anti-violence program that was overseen by Gov. Pat Quinn's administration.
 
Madigan's role has been questioned by Paul Schimpf, a Republican attorney running against the three-term Democrat in the November election. His campaign
has argued that she faces a conflict of interest because a member of her staff served as co-chair of the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority Board, which

Days after a 17-year-old girl accused of leaving her newborn baby alive in a trash bin was arrested for child abandonment, prosecutors in the west-central Illinois community of Jacksonville have decided to charge her with attempted first-degree murder.

According to The Jacksonville Journal-Courier,  http://bit.ly/1qHULly , prosecutors announced Monday the teen will be tried as a juvenile. Her name has not been released because of her age.  

flickr/NicholasEckhart

Eight of Illinois' 30 interstate rest areas that have been closed are set to reopen this fall.
 
Maintenance was required at the closed facilities, but it's not clear why most
of it happened around the same time period, Paris Ervin, a spokeswoman for the
state Department of Transportation, told the Springfield bureau of Lee
Enterprises newspapers (http://bit.ly/1pH3tfX ).
 
The Salt Kettle rest area, on Interstate 74 west of Danville, parts of the
Silver Lake rest area, along Interstate 70, and the Gateway rest area,

WBEZ

Entrepreneurs wanting to cultivate or dispense medical marijuana under a new Illinois law are getting their chance to be considered.  

The state on Monday was to begin accepting applications from aspiring cultivation centers and dispensaries vying for one of a limited number of permits.  

A state law enacted last year authorized a four-year pilot project that will expire in 2017, but so far, not a single marijuana seed has been planted. State officials have said the first products may be sold next year.  

Police in west-central Illinois' Jacksonville says a 17-year-old girl is charged with child abandonment in connection with the discovery of a newborn baby found alive inside a trash bin.  

Police say the girl was arrested Thursday night, five says after the baby boy was found unclothed by an employee who heard a noise coming from the receptacle while taking out garbage.  
Investigators believe the child had been born less than 12 hours earlier.  

Gov. Pat Quinn says he'll ask the Illinois Department of Transportation's secretary for a new review of hiring connected to a position that's been the subject of an investigative report and federal lawsuit.
 
Last month the Office of the Executive Inspector General reported the agency
sidestepped clout-busting regulations and improperly hired 255 ``staff
assistant'' positions in the past decade. Also last month, IDOT announced it
laid off 58 people still holding that position and abolished the title.
 

news.illinois.edu

University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise says the faculty hiring process should change amid an ongoing controversy over the decision to rescind a job offer to one professor.  

Wise told The News-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1pNBeCb ) that new professors shouldn't be working before they've been approved by the Board of Trustees.  

The university recently decided not to hire Virginia Tech University professor Steven Salaita over a series of profane anti-Israel Twitter messages that some students and university donors say were also anti-Semitic.  

flickr/rosmary

A Quincy hospital and one across the Mississippi River in Missouri are restricting visitors because of an apparent respiratory virus outbreak that largely affects children.  

The Quincy Herald-Whig (http://bit.ly/1lwGCsi) says Quincy's Blessing Hospital is restricting anyone under 12 years of age from visiting there until further notice to help guard against spreading the virus. Such restrictions at Missouri's Hannibal Regional Hospital apply to children 16 years old or younger.  

flickr/JasonRojas

The mayor of Springfield says he wants police officers to start wearing body cameras next year.  

The State Journal-Register reports (http://bit.ly/1w5F2P8 ) Mayor Mike Houston said Tuesday he'd like to allocate up to $200,000 in the next budget year for wearable cameras. The small cameras would attach to officers' uniforms and record interactions with the public. Videos could be used to review incidents, especially if an officer were accused of inappropriate behavior or excessive force.  

Kirk.Senate.Gov

Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk says the United States should take a hard line against the Islamic State group.  

Islamic State extremists released a video Tuesday purportedly showing the beheading of a second American journalist. It also warns President Barack Obama that as long as U.S. air strikes against the group continue there'll be continued violence.  

WUIS

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved permits for the FutureGen coal project to store carbon dioxide underground.

The permits approved Tuesday are a key piece of the project. FutureGen aims to capture carbon dioxide from coal at a power plant in western Illinois and store it. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas linked to climate change.  
The EPA said the permits are the first of this type for carbon sequestration.  

cannabisnews.org

Thousands of patients in Illinois will be able to start requesting permission to use marijuana under a new state law.

Authorities begin accepting applications for medical marijuana Tuesday from patients whose last names start with letters A through L. Caregivers can also apply on their behalf.  

Lawmakers adopted the medical marijuana law in 2013. Under its provisions, patients must have a written certification from a doctor and get a background check. The state is required to respond to a completed application within 30 days.  

flcikr/Univ. of Delaware's REC photostream

There is evidence of the beginning of a soybean crop infection in some parts of west-central Illinois.
 
University of Illinois Extension educator Mike Roegge says some fields started
showing signs two weeks ago and affected areas rapidly expanded. He tells The
Quincy Herald-Whig (http://bit.ly/1u2B1uo ) that's ``not a good sign.''
 
The soil-based fusarium organism causes the sudden death syndrome. Roegge says
the organism keeps the plant from sending water and nutrients to the leaves. The
leaves start dying and turn yellow and brown.
 

Police say a newborn baby found alive inside a trash bin in the central Illinois community of Jacksonville is in good condition.

Lt. Chris Johnson of the Jacksonville Police Department says authorities are still searching for the mother of the infant. The baby was apparently placed in the trash bin Saturday morning, less than 12 hours after it was born.  

Johnson says police aren't releasing the gender of the baby or exactly where it was found.  

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