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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A second major rating agency is downgrading Illinois' credit worthiness.

Moody's Investors Service lowered the state's $27 billion in outstanding bonded indebtedness to A3 from A2. The new rating's three levels above junk status.

Illinois already has the worst credit rating among the states.

Fitch Ratings downgraded Illinois' credit on Monday.

Both firms blame lawmakers' lack of action on a $97 billion shortfall in its public-employee pension systems.

The Legislature adjourned its spring session without adopting a plan to make up the difference over 30 years.

Moody's says its rating "assumes the government will not take action to reduce the state's pension liabilities any time soon."

A credit-rating downgrade means it costs the state millions more to borrow money when it sells future bonds to finance long-term construction projects.

Published in Local News

   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Springfield and Sangamon County officials have announced an agreement with the state on design work for consolidating train traffic through Illinois' capital city. The effort is part of high-speed rail development.

   The agreement made public Wednesday involves nearly $8.7 million to pay for half of the design work. The project would move rail traffic through the downtown core farther out to a corridor on the city's east side.

   The deal was signed by Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider, Springfield Mayor Michael Houston and Sangamon County Board Chairman Andy Van Meter.

   The project is part of the Chicago-to-St. Louis high-speed rail development. There is no current funding for train traffic consolidation.

   The plan would include new track alignments and separating automobile and train traffic in spots.

   

 
Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, IL (AP) — The Illinois attorney general's office says the federal appellate court has given the state an extra 30 days to lift its ban on concealed weapons.

The court on Tuesday granted Attorney General Lisa Madigan's request to allow Gov. Pat Quinn more time to review legislation passed last week.

However, on issuing its ruling, the court said it would not issue another extension of its mandate past the new deadline of July 9.

Illinois was the last state in the union banning the concealed carrying of guns when, in December, the court struck down the ban. The court gave lawmakers until June 8 to legalize the concealed carry of firearms.

Madigan said the Sunday date would have shortened the time set in the state constitution to allow Quinn to review legislation.

Published in Local News

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) - A jury has found a 34-year-old man guilty of first-degree murder in the beating deaths of five of his ex-wife's relatives in central Illinois.

The verdict in the trial of Christopher Harris was announced Friday.

In sometimes tearful testimony, Harris admitted to killing 14-year-old Dillen Constant. But Harris said he did so only after the teenager bashed the rest of his family to death at their home in Beason in September 2009.

Harris was also accused in the deaths of Dillen's mother, Ruth Gee; his stepfather, Rick Gee; his 16-year-old sister, Justina Constant; and 11-year-old stepbrother Austin Gee.

Harris' brother, Jason Harris, testified that Christopher Harris told him he killed all five victims after a night of drinking and drug use.

 

Published in Local News

   ST. LOUIS (AP) - Rivers in the nation's heartland are rising yet again, and with heavy rain in the forecast, parts of Iowa, Missouri and Illinois are bracing for another round of flooding.

   The National Weather Service said Wednesday that 2 to 4 inches of rain will be common as strong storms fire up through Friday; some areas could see up to 6 inches.

   How bad things get will depend on how much rain falls and where.

   The weather service says a worst-case scenario would be widespread heavy rain along the Mississippi River north of St. Louis, and along the Missouri River. The Mississippi and many of its tributaries are already above flood stage, and the Missouri is getting close.

   Forecasters say the Mississippi could reach its highest level at St. Louis in nearly two decades.

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - With just three days to go, lawmakers are inching along on a solution to Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension crisis

Both chambers are at odds with how to move forward with two complete overhauls. Meanwhile, three smaller pension bills - dealing with retirement age, salary caps and cost-of-living increases - have moved out of a committee to the Senate floor. Senators could vote on those before Friday's adjournment.

A spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton says lawmakers are trying multiple approaches to send Gov. Pat Quinn a complete plan.

Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a key player in pension talks, says a bill that'd require state universities and community colleges to start picking up their own pension costs was expected to be filed Wednesday.

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois Senate President John Cullerton is meeting with key lawmakers to attempt a compromise on legislation allowing people to carry concealed guns.

Spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon says Cullerton met earlier Wednesday with Senate and House members who have rival, but similar, measures.

Phelon says there are "core compromises" that can be made to create an acceptable plan.

A top Senate committee voted Tuesday to reject a House-approved version that not only allows the public possession of weapons but invalidates all local ordinances on firearms, such as Chicago's assault-weapons ban.

The same committee advanced a plan by Senate Democrats that excludes the pre-emption of local laws and includes tighter restrictions on carrying guns while drinking alcohol.

 

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A key Illinois House committee has advanced legislation to add five new casinos and scores of slot machines. But the sponsor is working on rewriting language on tax rates and oversight of a Chicago casino before the full House takes a vote.

Governor Pat Quinn has vetoed two earlier measures to expand gambling.

 

Published in Local News

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) - A southwestern Illinois judge whose colleague died of a cocaine overdose while the two were on a hunting trip is stepping down from the bench as he defends himself against federal heroin and gun charges.

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook resigned Wednesday through his attorney by letter to the chief judge, John Baricevic. Baricevic says the letter is brief and doesn't offer a reason for Cook's departure.

Cook was charged last Friday with possessing heroin and having a gun while illegally using controlled substances. He's pleaded not guilty.

The Illinois Supreme Court now must pick Cook's replacement.

A fellow judge, Joe Christ, died of a cocaine overdose in March while with Cook at the Cook family's hunting cabin in western Illinois' Pike County. That probe continues.

 

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill.  • The Illinois Senate Executive Committee defeated legislation allowing the public possession of firearms, a bill that just last week passed the House 85-30.

The Democratic-controlled committee voted 6-8 on Tuesday. Opponents objected to the plan sponsored by Democratic Sen. Gary Forby of Benton, saying it'd curb all local firearms ordinances.

Committee Chairman Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, says such pre-emption is "a bridge too far."

The committee's taking up a Democratic measure that leaves local firearms regulations in place — city ordinances such as Chicago's assault-weapons ban.

 
Published in Local News

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