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CHICAGO (AP) - After wrestling with public pension reform for months, Illinois legislative leaders say lawmakers might only need a single day to pass their plan for dealing with the $100 billion crisis.

The 10-member conference committee on pension reform is set to meet in Springfield Tuesday. If six of the 10 members sign a report agreeing to terms of a deal, both chambers could bring legislation up for a vote the same day.

House Speaker Michael Madigan's spokesman, Steve Brown, says the legislation could be considered in both chambers simultaneously.

Legislative leaders announced this week they had reached agreement on a plan that would save $160 billion over 30 years.

Along with Gov. Pat Quinn, they have spent recent days calling members and asking them to support the plan.

Published in Local News

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) - Ted Nugent is the latest artist to join the lineup for a benefit concert that will raise money for victims of the Illinois tornadoes.

The Pantagraph in Bloomington reports the 64-year-old Michigan rocker will perform at the "Rock to the Rescue" concert on Dec. 4. The concert will be at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington.

Other artists already announced include Richard Marx, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Survivor and Larry the Cable Guy.

Styx guitarist James Young and REO Speedwagon guitarist and singer Kevin Cronin are both Illinois natives.

Tickets are on sale and cost between $28 and $58.

The National Weather Service says two dozen tornadoes hit the state on Nov. 17, killing six people. More than 2,400 homes were damaged or destroyed.

 

Published in Local News
Wednesday, 27 November 2013 12:38

Madigan spokesman says pension deal reached

CHICAGO (AP) - A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan says legislative leaders have reached a deal to solve the state's $100 billion pension crisis.

Steve Brown says he was told of the agreement following a leaders meeting Wednesday.

Brown says the speaker's staff is putting together an "explanatory memo" for lawmakers and will send details of the proposed legislation to them Friday.

The leaders have been working with a proposal developed over the summer and autumn by a bipartisan committee of lawmakers. The committee plan would save the state $138 billion over 30 years.

The state's pension crisis, deemed the nation's worst, comes after lawmakers have shorted or skipped payments to its public pension funds for decades.

Both the House and Senate are being called back to meet in Springfield Dec. 3.

Published in Local News

CHICAGO (AP) — Governor Pat Quinn's administration has announced Illinois will allow the one-year extension of existing health insurance plans proposed by President Barack Obama.

Friday's announcement sets Illinois apart from some other states led by Democrats. Those states rejected the president's proposal, saying it could leave many consumers with substandard coverage.

Obama announced last week he wants insurers to have the option to renew plans that would otherwise be canceled because they fall short of requirements in the nation's health law.

The proposal was meant to help the president regain credibility after his frequent promise that Americans who liked their plans could keep them.

At least 4 million Americans received cancellations notices — including about 185,000 in Illinois.

It's unclear how Illinois insurers will react. They aren't required to renew the policies.

Published in Local News
Friday, 22 November 2013 09:24

Deer hunting starts in Illinois

Hunters, get your guns. It's deer hunting season in Illinois. The annual firearm hunting season starts today and runs through Sunday. Then it picks up again for another four days between Dec. 5 and Dec. 8. Bow hunting season runs much longer. According to the Department of Natural Resources, the number of deer killed last year with bows and firearms was about 180,000. The highest density of deer in Illinois are typically in the woods along the watersheds of the Mississippi, Rock, Illinois and Kaskaskia rivers and in the Shawnee Hills in Southern Illinois. Hunters can give the deer to the IDNR for donation to food pantries around the state. 

Published in Local News
Thursday, 21 November 2013 17:10

Unions plan 'emergency days' to lobby lawmakers

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Legislative leaders discussed a developing plan to deal with Illinois' $100 billion pension crisis as the state's biggest employee unions planned a lobbying push to oppose it.

The "We are One Coalition" represents the state's major public employee unions. It alerted members this week about "emergency call-in days" next week and on Dec. 2-3.

Members are being asked to call lawmakers and urge them to vote against pension bills that don't have union support.

Legislative leaders spoke Thursday about a plan they say could save close to $150 billion over 30 years. Officials reported progress but said more meetings are expected. Lawmakers have been alerted about a possible special session on Dec. 3.

Unions say they weren't consulted about the plan and that they think elements of it are unconstitutional.

Published in Local News
Wednesday, 20 November 2013 09:02

Illinois governor to sign gay marriage into law

  CHICAGO (AP) - Illinois is about to join the ranks of states allowing same-sex marriage.

   Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign a bill Wednesday making Illinois the 16th state to legalize gay marriage. The event will be held at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

 

   Illinois allowed civil unions in 2011. But it was a bumpy road to same-sex marriage in President Barack Obama's home state.

   The Illinois Senate approved the measure in February, but the House sponsor said he didn't have the votes. It wasn't called until this month and passed by a close margin.

   Those who opposed the measure included some of Illinois most well-recognized religious leaders.

   Same-sex couples will be allowed to wed starting in June.

Published in Local News

   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

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