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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

Several new traffic laws take effect in Illinois January 1st.  

 

The speed limit on rural interstates will go up from 65 to 70-miles-per-hour.  Madison and St. Clair Counties can opt out on heavily congested highways.  Penalties for speeding will get tougher.  Driving more than 26 miles-per-hour over the speed limit will be a Class B misdemeanor.  Exceed the limit by 35 miles-per-hour and is a Class A misdemeanor.  

 

And the use of hand-held cellphones will be banned.  Fines run from 70-to-150-dollars.  Cause a fatal accident because of cellphone use and you could spend three years in prison.  Bluetooth headsets, earpieces, and voice activated commands are still allowed. 

Published in Local News
CHICAGO (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn is heading to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to deliver holiday cards to wounded armed service members from Illinois.
 
Visiting the troops during the holidays has become an annual tradition for the governor. During the last eight years, he has traveled to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany - the largest American hospital outside the United States. But his office says in a news release that because so many service members have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, he decided to go to Walter Reed instead.
 
Quinn will be giving wounded service members cards made by Illinois children when he visits the hospital Friday. He says the cards are the children's way of saying thank you to men and women who can't be home during the holidays.
Published in Local News
CHICAGO (AP) - Unemployment dropped in Illinois in November to 8.7 percent. It was the third straight monthly decrease but Illinois' unemployment rate remains one of the highest nationally.
 
The Illinois Department of Employment Security said Thursday that the addition of a net 10,300 private-sector jobs helped push unemployment down by two-tenths of a percent in November. The federal government said earlier this month that national unemployment dropped to 7 percent in November from 7.3 percent a month earlier.
 
According the monthly Illinois report, the state added 6,100 construction jobs in November and 6,700 jobs among trade, transportation and utility companies.
 
But the state's manufacturers cut payrolls by a net 10,300 jobs. And government employers cut 4,400 jobs.
 
Published in Local News
Wednesday, 18 December 2013 15:58

Governor Pat Quinn wants to raise minimum wage

CHICAGO (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn says he wants to raise Illinois' minimum wage to at least $10 by Christmas of next year.
 
The Chicago Democrat who's seeking re-election campaigned on the issue in 2010 and mentioned it during his annual address this year.
 
The minimum wage in Illinois is $8.25. Quinn said Wednesday that raising the wage will help eliminate poverty.
 
Illinois last raised the minimum wage in 2010. There's legislation pending in Springfield to increase it, including a call for $15 an hour.
 
However Republicans and business groups say raising the minimum wage kills jobs. Quinn says that claims are flat wrong.
 
Some business groups have also accused Quinn of trotting out the issue ahead of the 2014 election.
 
Quinn says it's not a new issue for him.
 
Published in Local News

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