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.
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.
ANNA, Ill. (AP) — Officials at a southern Illinois food pantry say they're in dire need of help to keep their shelves stocked.
The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan reported Saturday that the Shawnee Development Food Pantry in the Union County town of Anna suspended operations for two weeks earlier this month because there was no food to give away.
Officials say that's the first time in 20 years that the pantry has had to close its doors.
A truckload of food arrived a few days ago, and should last until the end of the week. But officials say they'll have to close again if no more food arrives.
They say the pantry typically serves about 200 households monthly, but that number has climbed as high as 335 households as more young families seek help.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Serving Illinois prisoners two meals a day instead of three was supposed to save the state money.
But Corrections Department officials told lawmakers this week it will cost $200,000 per prison to implement the "brunch" program.
Corrections spokesman Tom Shaer now says the main goal is to reduce inmate movement - a cost savings - and avoid serving breakfast in dark morning hours.
Prisons in Robinson and Galesburg have begun the program and the Mount Sterling lockup will follow soon. Shaer says the rest of the two dozen state prisons could follow after Jan. 1.
Prison director S.A. "Tony" Godinez said in early 2012 it would save $2 million in the following year. Shaer says there might be savings down the line but security is the top concern.
CHICAGO (AP) - A federal judge has sentenced an Illinois man to 30 years in prison for convictions on narcotics and firearms charges.
Thirty-five-year-old Joel Rivas was sentenced Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve. The U.S. Attorney's Office announced the sentence Thursday.
Rivas was convicted in July of drug charges, including conspiracy to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, and illegally possessing two guns.
The former Elgin resident was living in Chicago when he was arrested in 2010. That's when authorities say they found cocaine, marijuana and guns in an Elgin storage unit.
Prosecutors claimed that Rivas and another man, Ismael Miranda, distributed wholesale amounts of cocaine and marijuana to customers in Illinois between 2007 and 2010.
The 36-year-old Miranda pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
WHEELING, Ill. (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn says he's not discouraged that lawmakers came away from two days of their fall veto session without tackling any of the major issues on their agenda.
The Chicago Democrat says the days were valuable for discussion to "lay a foundation" on the state's pension crisis and same-sex marriage.
However, neither issue came up for a vote before lawmakers left town.
They'll be back next month. Quinn says that'll be the time to take votes.
A bipartisan panel has been tasked with coming up with a solution to Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension problem, but the panel has been stalled on a plan that would save an estimated $138 billion.
Meanwhile, advocates and opponents of legalizing same-sex marriage both held rallies this week in Springfield.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Lawmakers are working to change a small mistake in Illinois' new pet "lemon" law.
Democratic state Sen. Dan Kotowski, the legislation's sponsor, told a Senate committee that there was an error in the legislation that was passed by both houses last spring.
The amendment to the law allows owners to return a pet or be reimbursed for veterinary costs if it is discovered an illness was not disclosed by the seller. The original legislation said pet stores would have to pay owners up to twice the cost of the pet to offset treatment costs. Kotowski told a Senate committee that number should be changed to require reimbursement to match the cost of the pet.
The measure passed the Senate and now heads to the House.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois lawmakers are returning to the state capitol for a second day of their annual fall veto session.
After getting off to a sputtering start Tuesday, the schedule on Wednesday is shaping up to include a hearing on gambling and more requests by state agencies for additional funds.
Horsemen and officials from the Illinois racetracks want lawmakers to authorize a law that allows for online betting. And lawmakers are reviving talks on a larger gambling bill that stalled this spring.
Tuesday also saw a gay marriage rally as part of an effort to make such unions legal in Illinois.
Lawmakers have yet to address the state's $97 billion pension shortfall and tax incentives aimed at keeping Archer Daniels Midland Company's global headquarters in Illinois.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Sick military veterans who want medical marijuana would get it more easily under legislation that's getting committee approval.
The House Judiciary Committee sent Rep. Lou Lang's bill to the floor for consideration.
The Skokie Democrat is the sponsor of Illinois' first law legalizing the use of medical marijuana. Gov. Pat Quinn signed it in August.
But it requires a sick person to get a letter from a doctor. Veterans home doctors are federal employees - barred from approving cannabis use.
Lang's legislation would allow veterans to get a letter from the Illinois Department of Public Health certifying he or she has a condition that qualifies for marijuana treatment under the law.
The committee voted 10-6 to move the bill to the House floor.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A lawmaker pushing legislation to stiffen sentences for gun crimes called off action on the bill Tuesday.
Ryan Keith is a spokesman for Rep. Mike Zalewski of Riverside. He says Zalewski is still meeting with opponents of the bill with an eye toward compromise. It was scheduled for a committee hearing Tuesday.
The measure would require a 3-year prison sentence for illegally packing a loaded gun. Felons and gang members could get 10 years in prison.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has made it a legislative priority because of rampant gun violence in Chicago.
But the National Rifle Association is worried that law-abiding gun owners who are in the wrong place at the wrong time could get socked with a three-year sentence.