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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - An Illinois lawmaker wants tax soft drinks as part of an effort to promote healthy living.
 
The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises Newspapers reports the legislation is being sponsored by Sen. Mattie Hunter, a Chicago Democrat.
 
Her proposal would charge a penny-per-ounce surcharge on sugary drinks that are sold in sealed containers.
 
Money generated from the levy would be used to pay for a variety of health services and educational efforts.
 
But Hunter's plan is already drawing criticism from the Illinois Coalition Against Beverage Taxes. The group is an alliance of manufacturers, retailers and union workers. They say taxing sodas would hurt the economy and cost the state jobs.
 
Other states have a similar tax, but previous efforts haven't been approved in Illinois.
Published in Local News

 

   Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency not to follow through on its own proposal to reduce amounts of ethanol that must be blended with gasoline.  
   The EPA wants to reduce by billions of gallons the amount of biofuels required in gasoline sold in America.  The agency says the additive is less necessary with more fuel-efficient engines and lower fuel demand.
   Governor Quinn says lowering the requirement could hurt farmers growing renewable fuel crops, like corn.  His office says Illinois' ethanol industry is one of the nation's largest.  
   Critics say ethanol isn't as environmentally friendly as advertised.  The pressure to grow more crops for ethanol has led to planting in areas that might otherwise be set aside for conservation.  Critics also say diverting crops for fuel has contributed to rising food prices.  
   But ethanol advocates say its essential to American energy independance.
 
Published in Local News
CHICAGO (AP) - A federal lawsuit against Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford details an ex-employee's sexual harassment allegations, but government watchdog groups say the lawsuit's political corruption claims are just as worrisome.
 
Rutherford is in a four-way Republican gubernatorial primary. He says the allegations are false and politically motivated. He spent Tuesday refuting the claims and questioning the lawsuit's timing.
 
The allegations include forcing employees to do campaign work on state time, which is prohibited.
 
Common Cause Illinois officials say the claims raise questions about Rutherford's leadership. An Illinois Campaign for Political Reform spokeswoman says voters are already corruption weary with two previous governors sent to prison
Published in Local News
CHICAGO (AP) - Treasurer Dan Rutherford was set to make a big splash in the Republican race for governor this week with his television ads scheduled to hit the airwaves. Instead, he's seeing headlines about allegations of misconduct made by an employee.
 
The Republican called a last-minute news conference last week to say unspecific claims by an employee in his office were untrue and connected to his rival Republican Bruce Rauner.
 
Political experts say the move was risky weeks from the March 18 primary.
 
For one, he opens himself up to more scrutiny. Democratic campaign strategist Pete Giangreco says there are more questions than answers.
 
However, Rutherford could use the attention to his advantage. Political analyst Thom Serafin says it raises Rutherford's exposure level and if handled correctly could benefit him.
Published in Local News
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Nonprofit workers, union leaders and groups representing the developmentally disabled are making a push at the Illinois state Capitol for higher caregiver wages.
 
What supporters are calling the "Care Campaign" will deliver 10,000 postcards to Gov. Pat Quinn's office Tuesday. They'll urge him to support legislation increasing wages for caregivers at community nonprofits supported by state funds.
 
Supporters say state funding hasn't kept up with inflation, resulting in low pay for workers. They say many workers take on overtime hours, work second jobs and rely on food stamps to make ends meet.
 
The push comes during a difficult budget year for the state. Budget experts expect Illinois to lose about $1.5 billion in revenue next year if the state's temporary income tax increase is allowed to expire as scheduled.
Published in Local News
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - The sub-zero temperatures Illinoisans experienced last month added up to the eighth coldest January on record.
 
Illinois state climatologist Jim Angel says the statewide average temperature in January was 18.2 degrees - 8.1 degrees below the average of 26.3 degrees. Angel is with the Illinois State Water Survey at the University of Illinois.
 
The coldest January on record was in 1977, when the average temperature was 10.3 degrees.
 
January snowfall was above average for most of the state except in far southern Illinois, where snow totals were from 1 to 6 inches. Northeastern Illinois had between 25 and 30 inches of accumulation thanks to lake-effect snow.
 
Chicago recorded low temperatures at zero or below zero on 13 days. The city had its third snowiest January on record.
Published in Local News
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) - An Illinois man has been charged in connection with a shooting that injured two people at a concert in Cape Girardeau.
 
The Southeast Missourian reports 22-year-old Deontae L. Petty of Bellwood, Ill., was charged Wednesday with first-degree assault and  armed criminal action after the shooting Saturday at the Arena.
 
A probable cause statement from Cape Girardeau police says witnesses identified Petty as the man who was escorted out of the building by security but returned shortly afterward and fired into the crowd attending the Rich Homie Quan concert.
 
A 29-year-old man was shot in the chest and a 20-year-old man told police he was shot in the leg. It was unclear how serious their injuries were.
 
Online court records don't list a lawyer for Petty.
Published in Local News
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois labor unions have filed a lawsuit seeking a new plan to reduce the state's $100 billion pension shortfall declared unconstitutional.
 
The We Are One Illinois Coalition of public employee unions filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Sangamon County Circuit court.
 
The long-anticipated legal challenge comes weeks after Gov. Pat Quinn signed the measure into law and ahead of his annual State of the State address.
 
The bill approved by the Legislature in early December saves an estimated $160 billion, largely by cutting benefits for employees and retirees.
 
Unions say it violates the state constitution, which says benefits may not be diminished. Several other lawsuits have been filed on behalf of retirees.
 
Supporters of the plan believe the Court will uphold it because it's necessary to repair the state's finances.
Published in Local News
   CHICAGO (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn heads into a critical election-year State of the State address this week with his top priority of pension reform inked into the law.
   The speech on Wednesday is a chance for Quinn to lay out goals for the year and recap his accomplishments.
   But how much credit the Chicago Democrat can take for what he's called the signature achievement of his governorship is up for debate.
   Quinn has won praise for keeping pension reform in the public sphere with his populist tactics, like withholding legislator pay. Pension reform was once a topic more common among economists and business groups.
   However, he's also been criticized for those methods and not doing more to broker the deal himself. Some say he only took notice when there weren't other options.
 
Published in Local News
CHICAGO (AP) - The Illinois Department of Employment Security says the state's unemployment rate dropped in November for a fourth straight month. But the 8.6 percent rate is still one of the highest in the country.
 
The department said Friday that the state lost a net 3,200 jobs in December. Officials blamed brutal cold for decreases in, among other areas, construction jobs.
 
But Department Director Jay Rowell says Illinois' economy remains on track for moderate expansion.
 
The unemployment rate fell from 8.7 percent in November. The national unemployment rate for December was 6.7 percent. That's the lowest figure since late 2008.
 
Construction jobs were reduced by 4,500 in December. Government, labor and hospitality and educational and health services employers also all cut jobs.
 
Trade, transportation and utilities firms added a net 4,500 jobs.
Published in Local News

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