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   Illinois' efforts to keep drunk drivers off the roads is earning recognition from Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.  MADD has given the state its highest rating for drunk-driving prevention.  

   Illinois has earned five stars in MADD's 2014 Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving report, which was released Thursday.  Some of the reasons cited in the report:  the state's use of sobriety check points and an all-offender ignition interlock law that took effect in 2009.

Published in Local News
Thursday, 09 January 2014 03:12

Blue Cross extends payment deadline to Jan. 30

   CHICAGO (AP) - People who signed up recently for health insurance with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois now have until Jan. 30 to pay their first month's premium and still get coverage for all of January.
   Company spokesman Greg Thompson says customers must pay their first month's premium before coverage for medical benefits begins. But claims for services received between Jan. 1 and when the first payment is received will be processed retroactively.
   Blue Cross has the most customers in the state's individual market.
   Thompson says the company is extending the payment deadline to give customers extra time to plan their household budgets.
   The extension applies to people who bought a Blue Cross plan either on the new insurance marketplace or directly from the insurance company.
 
Published in Local News

Ameren Missouri and Illinois crews are also dealing with the perilous conditions.

There are nearly 53-hundred customers in St. Clair County without power and 500 in Macoupin County without power in Illinois.

In Missouri, crews are working to restore power to a dozen customers in St. Charles and about 30 customers in St. Louis County. The St. Louis County customers have been affected by a downed power line at Lindbergh and Schuetz. Over 600 customers in Jefferson County are crossing their fingers that power will be restored to them soon. 

Published in Local News
BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) - St. Clair County officials say they've reached a tentative contract with emergency dispatches after years of negotiations.
 
The Belleville News-Dispatch reports the contract was approved by the southwestern Illinois county and runs through 2014.
 
Negotiations first began in 2011, but became contentious about how on-the-job experience was counted for work at a 911 answering service at the county sheriff's department.
 
The deal includes retroactive pay increases for 2011, 2012 and 2013 as well as an increase for 2014. Employees who leave their posts within three years of being hired will have to reimburse the county for a portion of their training expenses.
 
The previous contract for the dispatchers expired in January 2012.
 
Published in Local News
CHICAGO (AP) - The new year is bringing relief to some Illinoisans newly insured under the nation's health care law. Others still aren't sure whether they're covered.
 
The major benefits of the law took effect Wednesday. But problems with the federal website meant many people signed up at the last minute. Insurers haven't processed all the paperwork.
 
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois has been adding staff to keep up with calls. Worried patients without insurance cards are calling doctors like John Venetos in Chicago, who's decided to provide care and risk he won't be paid.
 
Stroke survivor Nancy Pace of Benton says she's relieved to have good insurance for the first time since 2005. She called Blue Cross on Wednesday, paid her premium and got her member number over the phone.
Published in Local News
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The amount Illinois must pay to keep pace with its pension systems should grow less than 2 percent next year but still total nearly $7 billion.
 
A state actuary's report that Auditor General William Holland released Tuesday says taxpayers must pay $6.86 billion in the fiscal year that begins July 1. That's up about $100 million from this fiscal year.
 
Lawmakers adopted a reform plan in early December for the five pension systems to cut a $100 billion debt. But it doesn't take effect until June 1 and has been challenged in court.
 
The actuary suggested that three systems covering teachers, university employees and general state employees lower the estimated investment return they expect. It made the same suggestion last year but the numbers didn't change.
Published in Local News
Tuesday, 31 December 2013 03:18

More than 200 new IL laws take effect Jan. 1

   More than 200 new laws will go into effect in Illinois tomorrow, including some new traffic rules.  A new 70 mph interstate speed limit kicks in on January 1.  The law allows high-population counties like Madison and St. Clair to post lower speed limits.  But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that neither county appears to be opting out.
   Also starting tomorrow, it will be illegal to use a hand held cellphone while driving.  Hands-free devices will still be allowed.
   Other laws that take affect at the first of the year will limit police use of drones, ban electronic cigarettes and tanning beds for minors, make tossing a cigarette butt on the ground a Class B misdemeanor, and make it a crime to use GPS to track someone without their permission.
   Controversial new laws on concealed weapons, gay marriage and medical marijuana will take effect later in the year.
 
Published in Local News
CHICAGO (AP) - State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says Illinois residents will get a breakdown of state spending in income tax returns received in 2014.
 
Topinka announced the initiative on Monday. She says her office will also make the information available online.
 
In a statement, Topinka says there shouldn't be a mystery when it comes to public dollars in the state.
 
The tax return inserts will show what state agencies spend each year. It also gives a picture of the state's unpaid bills over time.
 
Topinka says that Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas started a similar insert in the previous tax season.
 
Published in Local News
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois will end the year with overdue bills totaling $7.6 billion.
 
Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka's office says the amount is about 16 percent less than the $9 billion owed at the end of 2012. That's according to a Monday story in the Rockford Register-Star.
 
Topinka spokesman Brad Hahn says it's unclear how the landmark pension-reform package adopted this month will affect the backlog.
 
For one thing, retired teachers and other educators have filed a lawsuit over the plan to save $160 million over 30 years by cutting benefits. They say it's unconstitutional.
 
Hahn says the backlog benefited this year from $1.3 billion in tax revenues that officials didn't expect.
 
Topinka's office had predicted as late as a month ago that the year-end backlog would be closer to $9 billion.
 
Published in Local News

CHICAGO (AP) — Drivers in St. Louis southern Illinois suburbs will soon see their top speed limit increased to 70 miles per hour.

The Illinois Department of Transportation says about 87 percent of interstate highways and 98 percent of rural interstates under its jurisdiction will be increased to 70 under the new law taking effect January 1st.

IDOT officials say crews will start installing 70 mph signs and removing 65 mph signs in early January.

Transportation officials urge motorists to obey posted speed limits. They say the 70 mile per hour speed limit will be in effect on segments of Illinois interstates that can accommodate the higher speed while maintaining safety.

About 28 percent of the Illinois Tollway's 286-mile system will be increased to 70 miles per hour.

Published in Local News

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