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   WASHINGTON, Ill. (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn says he's received a phone call from President Barack Obama after fatal storms hit Obama's home state.

   Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said Monday that Quinn received the call on his cellphone while touring damage in the central Illinois community of Washington.  The community was among the hardest hit. The White House confirmed the call, saying Obama relayed concern and expressed gratitude for the responders.

   Quinn gave Obama an update on the damage, relief efforts and emergency response. Quinn was with Washington Mayor Gary Manier, who also spoke to Obama.

   Authorities say six people died in Sunday's storms when tornadoes flattened homes and caused severe damage. So far seven counties have been declared state disaster areas.

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - An employee pension reform bill passed by the Legislature for the Chicago park district is being watched as a test case for statewide reforms, even as it poses a tricky dilemma for Gov. Pat Quinn.

Lawmakers say passage of the park district reforms shouldn't be interpreted as a blueprint for the success of a larger plan addressing the state's $100 billion pension problem. But it could be a test case for how pension reform deals will be interpreted by the courts.

House Speaker Michael Madigan's spokesman credits successful negotiations between the park district and labor union, something that hasn't happened statewide.

Quinn has been a champion of pension reform. But union officials who raised a late objection to the park district plan are among his biggest campaign contributors.

 

Published in Local News

   CHICAGO (AP) - The Illinois Department of Insurance and the state's major health insurer say they are reviewing changes to the health law announced Thursday by President Barack Obama that address policy cancellations.

   Obama said insurers can continue to sell policies canceled under the Affordable Care Act for at least one more year to existing customers. But insurers aren't required to continue the canceled plans.

   Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois officials say the company is "determining next steps" and will reach out to consumers who may have new options as a result of Obama's announcement.

   A spokesman says Illinois Insurance Director Andrew Boron has been in contact with federal authorities and is evaluating options, keeping in mind what's best for the state's consumers.

   At least 4 million Americans have received cancellation notices.

 
Published in Local News
Thursday, 14 November 2013 14:09

Police search for suspect in Caseyville

A metro-east school was placed on lockdown as a precaution as police search for a suspect.

Fox 2 reports that shots were fired at a business near Caseyville Elementary School around 12:30 PM. The search was centered around Highway 157 near Caseyville. The school was locked down only as a precaution.

More details as they are available right here.

Published in Local News

EAST ALTON, Ill. (AP) - Property taxpayers in southern Illinois are getting back roughly $8.4 million related to a now-closed hospital under legislation signed by Gov. Pat Quinn.

The Chicago Democrat signed a bill Wednesday that refunds money from the Wood River Township Hospital that closed in 2000. The hospital's fund had about $8.4 million after paying pension benefits and debt.

House lawmakers approved the bill last week. Supporters say they had several options on what to do with the money. They say giving it to property taxpayers seemed the most fair and popular.

In a Wednesday statement, Quinn says it's been a priority to reduce costs and improve services.

The hospital board estimates a person with a $100,000 home would receive a refund of up to $450.

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The annual Veterans Day parade in Illinois' capital city has a new rule this year: No politicians, and no campaigning.

The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reports the change is part of an effort to refocus the event on the military men and women who served the country.

Organizers also are banning participants from throwing candy to people lining the streets downtown Springfield.

Sam Montalbano is a parade organizer. He says World War II veterans "aren't going to be around much longer" and it's time to salute them.

Monday's parade will honor all veterans.

Politicians who served in the military may participate with their veterans groups, but they can't do any campaigning.

Instead of candy, participants will hand out small American flags.

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The Illinois Senate adjourned its fall session today without voting on tax breaks for Archer Daniels Midland Company or the newly merged OfficeMax and Office Depot.

Sen. Tom Cullerton is sponsor of the bill to give up to $53 million in tax breaks to Office Depot Inc., which emerged from the merger of Naperville-based OfficeMax and Florida-based Office Depot.

He expects lawmakers will return to Springfield in December to deal with the state pension crisis. Cullerton says some legislators wanted to wait to give out tax breaks until after they'd passed pension reform.

Sen. Andy Manar is sponsor of the ADM bill. He says he feels progress has been made on the $30 million ADM bill.

The incentives are aimed at getting the companies to keep their headquarters in Illinois.

 

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - An Illinois lawmaker is engaged to his partner just hours after the state Legislature approved same-sex marriage legislation.

State Rep. Sam Yingling of Round Lake Beach proposed to his partner during a celebration Tuesday at the Governor's Mansion. The couple has been together three years and has three children.

Yingling tells The Associated Press they'll get a marriage license as soon as the law goes into effect in June.

The Democrat says he's been carrying a ring back and forth to Springfield for about a year, waiting for the chance to propose.

He says the two grew up in Illinois and wanted to get married in their home state.

Gov. Pat Quinn says he'll the bill this month. Illinois will become the 15th state to allow gay marriage.

 

Published in Local News
Thursday, 31 October 2013 15:06

Food stamp cuts to hit Friday

CHICAGO (AP) - More than 2 million low-income Illinois residents who receive food stamps will soon see their benefits cut.

Beginning Friday, a temporary increase in food stamp dollars from the 2009 economic stimulus will expire.

The change will affect more than 47 million Americans. It comes as Congress is negotiating additional cuts to the program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

The Illinois Hunger Coalition says about 349,000 seniors and 886,000 children statewide will be affected.

Executive Director Diane Doherty says the benefits have provided "an important stepping stone" for struggling families.

Benefits vary based on income and other factors. The Agriculture Department says the cuts will mean a family of four will receive $36 less per month.

Nationally, the program has more than doubled in cost since 2008.

 

Published in Local News
Wednesday, 30 October 2013 16:21

Illinois school report cards due out tomorrow

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Thursday's release of "report cards" on school performance will show a drop in the percentage of students passing the Illinois Standards Achievement test last school year.

But that doesn't mean teaching or student performance has actually fallen. Rather, the decline in scores is a result of the state board of education's decision to toughen the grading scale for grade schools so it matches that used by high schools.

This year, only 62 of 863 districts achieved growth benchmarks set under federal No Child Left Behind law, down from 152 last year.

But if the old scoring method were still in use, more students would actually have made gains.

The change is part of the state's preparation to adopt more rigorous learning standards in the 2014-2015 school year.

 

Published in Local News

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