Illinois | St. Louis Public Radio

Illinois

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Illinois lawmakers say a cigarette tax increase is on the table as a bipartisan committee strains to find $2.7 billion in cuts to the Illinois Medicaid program.

Two Republicans and two Democrats are charged with finding a deal. But they're confronting fundamental differences, including disagreement on the cigarette tax.

Democratic Sen. Heather Steans says Gov. Pat Quinn's administration floated a proposal that included $1.3 billion in cuts to Medicaid program spending, a $1 per pack increase in the cigarette tax and rate cuts to health care providers.

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Last week's record Mega Millions drawing made a winner of Illinois schools, too.

WBBM Radio reports that record Illinois lottery sales in the past nine weeks pumped $31.5 million into the fund devoted to public schools.

Lottery officials say that's mostly because of the multistate Mega Millions game that reached an all-time high $656 million before producing three main winners in a drawing Friday.

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March’s average temperature in St. Louis this year is almost 15 degrees above normal. If the forecast holds true tomorrow, St. Louis’s unusually high temperatures will make this the warmest March on record.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Mark Britt says the average temperature this month will be almost 61 degrees.

“The previous record of 1910 was only about 57.5 so that’s a considerable breaking of the record,” he said.  

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Updated at 1:55 to correct spelling of judge's name.

A second judge in Illinois has struck down a state law that requires all parties to consent before a conversation can be recorded.

The law in question makes it a felony to record without everyone's permission. Even recording public officials in public places can be illegal.

Cook County Judge Stanley Sacks ruled today that the law was unconstitutional because it could criminalize "wholly innocent conduct."

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An adviser to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says lawmakers would have to choose everything on a list of possible Medicaid cuts to get to the $2.7 billion proposed by the governor.

Among the options on a list prepared by Quinn's administration is a 9 percent reduction in payments to hospitals, doctors and pharmacies.

The list includes changing eligibility rules for nursing homes and at-home help so that some incontinent elderly people who can't prepare their own meals would be denied state-financed care.

(photo via Facebook/State Rep. Bob Flider)

Reporting from Jim Meadows was used in this story.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has named a former Democratic state representative from central Illinois to be the state's new Director of Agriculture.

If he's confirmed by the state Senate, Bob Flider will take over at a department that hasn't had a permanent director since October.

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Gov. Pat Quinn says his State of the State address will include a proposal for tax relief for Illinois families.

The Democrat gives his speech Wednesday in Springfield. He says he'll focus on talking about jobs and economic growth. Quinn says those are the issues foremost on people's minds.

During an appearance in Chicago on Tuesday, Quinn declined to give details of any of his proposals until Wednesday.

A spokeswoman says Quinn is expected to lay out an agenda that'll include several proposals.

Reporting from Illinois Public Radio's Amanda Vinicky was used in this story.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn will endorse legislation in his State of the State address next week that would raise Illinois' high school dropout age to 18, according to a statement from the Democrat's office.

The proposal would answer a call from fellow Democrat Barack Obama, who in his State of the Union address on Tuesday urged states to keep students in high school long enough for them to get their diploma.

(St. Louis Public Radio)

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed suit against ratings agency Standard and Poor's for fraudulently assigning high ratings to mortgage-backed investments despite their risk.

The suit filed today in Cook County - the state's largest - argues that instead of independently evaluating mortgage-backed securities, S&P gave them higher ratings than warranted to benefit investment bank clients and the agency's bottom line.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is urging legislative leaders to name lawmakers to a group set up to reform the state's ailing pension system.

Quinn's letter to leaders of the House and Senate says he wants the panel to start working with a top aide on his staff to craft fixes for a system of retirement benefits for state workers that's underfunded by $85 billion.

The letter says it is "critical that we work together this spring" to make the changes.

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Illinois has been given the lowest credit rating of any state in America by Moody's Investors Service.

Moody's lowered Illinois' rating Friday by another notch, to A2. No other state has such a low rating from Moody's. Only one other state, California, even gets the next-highest rating.

A lower rating generally means the state has to pay more interest when it sells bonds. That increases costs to taxpayers.

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Out today is the Environmental Protection Agency's latest Toxics Release Inventory, which allows the public to know what toxic chemicals are released into their communities. Information is released two years in arrears.

You can drill down in the data to your specific area here, but, in general, here are some of the findings for the states in our region, Illinois and Missouri:

Illinois:

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Reporting from Amanda Vinicky in Springfield was used in this report.

Illinois officials are hoping to start online sales for the Illinois Lottery early next year.

The U.S. Department of Justice made public on Friday a legal opinion that supports state-regulated online gambling, such as lotteries. Illinois was one of the states to ask for legal clarification on whether the Wire Act applies to online sales of lotto tickets.

St. Louis Public Radio

One person put a stop to more gambling in Illinois this year.  Gov. Pat Quinn refused to go along with a package that would have added casinos, expanded existing sites and put slot machines at horse tracks.  

Illinois seemed on track for the biggest gaming expansion since riverboat casinos went in the water 20 years ago.  The General Assembly approved it.  But Governor Quinn blocked the attempt.  Quinn wanted less gambling in what was a huge package. 

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

More than $44 million in federal transportation money is headed to Illinois for two projects in the Chicago area and one in Alton in southern Illinois.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is to announce the funding Thursday at a Chicago "L" station with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. It's part of more than a half-billion dollars in federal transportation funding for 46 projects in 33 states.

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Fresh off approving tax breaks for key Illinois businesses, Democrats and Republicans in the Illinois House are racing to end the corporate tax hike imposed this year.

House Republican Leader Tom Cross announced a plan Wednesday to return the corporate rate to 4.8 percent from 7 percent by 2014 - instead of 2025. He and business leaders proposed a step-down plan that in the meantime would lower taxes when the unemployment rate rises.

Tuesday, Democratic Rep. Jerry Costello II of Smithton introduced legislation that would eradicate the corporate hike starting Jan. 1.

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The leader of the Illinois State Rifle Association says he's pleased a Peoria judge signed an order barring the state police from releasing the names of 1.3 million firearm owner identification cardholders.

Richard Pearson says the order signed this week is further protection for gun owners, who won a similar victory this year when the state Senate passed a bill prohibiting public disclosure of people with FOID cards.

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This is a developing story - check back for updates.

Updated 12:49 p.m. with more on Judge Zagel's remarks, 1:19 p.m. with more detailed quotes, 2:01 p.m. with Blagojevich's reaction

Former Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been sentenced to 14 years in federal prison - becoming the fourth Illinois governor in 40 years to be sent to prison.

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Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn and the state's top four lawmakers have reached a deal to keep seven state facilities open until June.

Quinn had targeted mental health centers and centers and developmentally disabled, as well as a prison in Lincoln, for closure, saying the legislature had failed to appropriate enough money to operate them for the entire year.  The closures could have resulted in nearly 2,000 layoffs.

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Updated 3:47 p.m.:

A package of tax breaks for Illinois businesses made it through a legislative committee despite major concerns by lawmakers.

The House Revenue Committee approved the measure 6-0 Monday. But two important legislators said they may oppose the bill when it comes up on the House floor.

The package would cost state government about $250 million a year. That's down from $850 million in an earlier proposal.

(IEMA website)

Reporting from Illinois Public Radio's Sean Crawford used in this report.

Illinois is asking for broad input on homeland security planning.  
 
Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Jonathon Monken says he wants to engage the whole statewide community, not just those whose job it is to make sure Illinois is prepared.  In the past, the state took comments primarily from first responders and public health officials.  But Monken says this time, his agency wants to also hear from businesses, faith based groups and individual residents.  
 

(Robert Altman)

Gov. Pat Quinn says he doesn't support slot machines at Illinois racetracks.

Quinn on Monday discussed his objections to a gambling bill passed by lawmakers but not yet sent to him.

Quinn laid out a framework for gambling expansion that includes five new casinos in Chicago, southern Cook County, Lake County, Rockford and Danville.

He says the Illinois Gaming Board should choose the location in Lake County and not the Park City location passed by lawmakers.

Quinn also says he opposes slot machines at Chicago's O'Hare or Midway airports.

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Illinois's 44 regional superintendents have decided not to appeal a court ruling that upheld Gov. Pat Quinn's right to cut funding for their salaries from the current state budget.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Gov. Pat Quinn has announced two business agreements between Chinese and American companies.

Quinn was in Beijing during an eight-day trade mission Monday.

He says China-based Goldwind plans to build a $200 million wind farm in Lee County in north-central Illinois. Construction on the Shady Oaks project begins this fall.

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Illinois' unemployment rate shot up almost half a percentage point in August to 9.9 percent. And state officials are blaming the continuing struggles of the national economy and weak consumer confidence.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security said Thursday that Illinois' unemployment rate surged from 9.5 percent in July.

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Updated 1:25 p.m.

Reporting from Illinois Public Radio's Sean Crawford used in this report.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has followed through on his promise to veto legislation electric utilities fought hard to pass.  Quinn says it would be too costly for power customers.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Reporting from Illinois Public Radio's Sean Crawford and WBEZ's Sam Hudzik was used in this story.

Gov. Pat Quinn says he will need to lay off 1,900 state employees and close seven state facilities to live within a budget sent to him by the General Assembly.

"Decisions made by members of the General Assembly I may or may not agree with, but once they have adopted their budget, it is now the law of our state," Quinn told reporters in Chicago today. "We have to implement this in a responsible manner."

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A federal judge has ruled against state employees in a dispute over whether Gov. Pat Quinn can cancel raises promised in union contracts.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said Thursday it will appeal the ruling.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Updated with comments from Quinn, unions and lawmakers.

Reporting from WBEZ's Sam Hudzik and Illinois Public Radio's Sean Crawford was used in this report.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says job reductions will be necessary to help Illinois deal with a record budget deficit.

Sources told the Chicago Tribune that thousands of state workers could receive layoff notices.

(Illinois General Assembly website)

Reporting from Illinois Public Radio's Sean Crawford used in this report.

About a dozen Illinois state lawmakers are headed to Cuba this week for what's being called a trade mission.

Representative Jack Franks says the visit could boost state exports to Cuba.  The Democrat from Woodstock will be leading the week-long trip.  It's been 12 years since former Governor George Ryan traveled to Cuba in a high profile effort to build a new market for Illinois' farm economy.  Franks says trade with Cuba has fallen off since then.

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