Illinois

(via Flickr/List)

Another heat-related death has been reported in Madison County, Ill.

Mildred M. Guide, 79, of Collinsville, Ill. is the latest person to fall victim to this season's sweltering weather, the Madison County Coroner announced in a statement.

According to the coroner's statement, Guide's home had a working air conditioner installed, but that it had been turned off. The temperature inside the house was reportedly near a possible 100 degrees.

Two dogs, kept as family pets, were also found dead inside the home, the coroner's statement said.

The first heat-related death reported in Madison County this season was that of 51-year-old Mitsunari Uechi on July 11.

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Gov. Pat Quinn is defending signing a budget that state officials say didn't fully fund 12 of 14 agencies even before the Chicago Democrat canceled raises for thousands of state workers.

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Unemployment in Illinois increased to 9.2 percent in June, the second straight month the state jobless rate increased.

The state Department of Employment Security on Thursday laid part of the blame on weak consumer confidence they said was hindering the national economy.

The national unemployment rate hit also 9.2 percent in June. That was up from 9.1 percent.

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Illinois' education chief says the state hasn't provided enough money to institute a new education reform law that's been praised nationwide.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law last month legislation that makes it harder for teachers to strike and easier for districts to fire them, among other things. The bill had support from unions and advocacy groups.

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About 20 percent of seniors and people with disabilities will lose prescription drug coverage because of cuts in the Illinois state budget.

State officials are sending letters to 43,000 participants saying they won't qualify for "Illinois Cares Rx" as of Sept. 1. Those who are still enrolled will pay more out of pocket for their prescriptions.

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Illinois home foreclosure activity rose 4 percent in June compared to the previous month, but was down 25 percent from one year earlier.

A report released Thursday by Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac shows Illinois with 6,541 homes receiving initial foreclosure filings last month.

Another 1,944 properties were scheduled for auction sale and 2,529 properties were repossessed by banks.

Looking at the first six months of the year, Illinois foreclosure activity fell 29 percent compared to the same period last year.

(via Flickr/List)

The sweltering summer temperatures that have gripped the Midwest are being blamed in the suspected heat-stroke death of a 51-year-old man in southwestern Illinois.

Madison County Coroner Stephen Nonn says Mitsunari Uechi was found unresponsive Sunday night in his Granite City mobile home by his live-in mother and later was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Nonn says the home's air conditioner wasn't working, and the man's body temperature was 104 degrees when he arrived at the hospital.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

A major state employee union has asked an arbitrator to decide whether Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn can cancel scheduled raises for thousands of workers.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees sought the ruling Thursday. Quinn announced last week he was canceling the $75 million in raises to help deal with the state's budget crisis.

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Illinois is down to just reading and arithmetic. Writing skills will no longer be tested during the state's standardized exams for high school juniors every spring.

The Chicago Tribune reports that eliminating the writing exams will save about $2.4 million amid the state's budgetary shortfalls.

Illinois had already dropped writing assessments for elementary and middle school students last year.

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

Illinois had offered health insurance coverage to all children. But now there's an income cap to get the state-backed coverage - critics call it shortsighted.

As the name "All Kids" suggests, all children were eligible, but as of July 1, only families within 300 percent of the poverty level can apply.

That's an income cap of $67,000 for a family of four.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says he's ready to go to court over canceling pay raises for nearly 30,000 state workers.

Quinn defended his decision to deny the raises by blaming the General Assembly for not appropriating the necessary money. He said Tuesday the state can't provide the increase unless lawmakers set aside enough money.

The raises are required under state government's union contracts.

(via Flickr/ChrisEaves.com)

Reporting by Illinois Public Radio’s Amanda Vinicky used in this report.

The cuts Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn made to hospitals probably won’t be the final deal. The administration is using the move in an effort to further its agenda.

Illinois reimburses hospitals when they take on low-income patients who are on Medicaid, and state law sets the rate hospitals are to be paid.

UPI/Bill Greenblatt

Reporting by WBEZ’s Robert Wildeboer used in this report.

Within the next few weeks, attorneys for ousted Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich will be asking Judge James Zagel for a mistrial. That’s unlikely to succeed, which means they’ll move on to a higher court. Still, Blagojevich’s testimony could cause problems for an appeal.

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Reporting by Illinois Public Radio’s Sean Crawford used in this report.

Illinois has a reputation not only as a hotbed for public corruption, but also as a place where high ranking officials are prosecuted for misdeeds. Former U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald, who is known for his clashes with the GOP’s old guard, is partly to thank for that.

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Reporting from Illinois Public Radio's Luke Runyon used in this report.

Asian carp - the invasive fish that's plagued Illinois rivers and is threatening the Great Lakes could soon become a staple at food banks.

Todd Main, with the state Department of Natural Resources, says there's more than two hundred million pounds of Asian carp swimming in the state's rivers.

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

Murderers convicted in Illinois will no longer be sentenced to death row as the state ban on capital punishment takes effect Friday.

It won't remain in place long if Republican Representative Dennis Reboletti of Elmhurst has his way.

Reboletti says he will try pass a law reinstating the death penalty.

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Updated 1:39 p.m. and again at 3:27 p.m. with information about union.

Gov. Pat Quinn wants to cancel raises for thousands of state employees to help cope with the Illinois budget crisis.

The administration notified 14 state agencies and the affected unions that the 2 percent raises won't be paid as required by contract.

Quinn's office said Friday that lawmakers did not provide enough money in the new budget to cover raises for nearly 30,000 employees.

(Robert Altman)

Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and horse tracks used to be the only options for legal gambling.

Then came riverboat casinos.

For years race track owners  in Illinois have asked lawmakers to allow slot machines at their tracks, creating so-called "racinos."

Now all it will take is a signature from Governor Pat Quinn.

But as St. Louis Public Radio’s Maria Altman reports, it’s not a sure thing.

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Updated 11:39 a.m. with information that George Ryan was at his wife's side when she died.

The wife of imprisoned former Illinois Gov. George Ryan has died.

An attorney for the governor, Andrea Lyon, confirmed that Lura Lynn Ryan died Monday at a Kankakee hospital. She was 76, and had been diagnosed last year with incurable lung cancer. She'd been hospitalized since Friday and had been on a respirator.

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Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed two traffic safety measures Monday. Quinn said in a press release that the new laws are “common sense measures that will help all motorists in Illinois arrive at their destinations safely.”

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Updated at 3:41 p.m. with information about pledged lawsuit from Republicans.

The Illinois Republican congressional delegation is deriding Gov. Pat Quinn's decision to approve a new map for U.S. House districts.

The 10 GOP congressmen Illinois Republican congressional delegation in the  pledged a lawsuit in a statement Friday over what they say is a "highly partisan map that tears apart communities."

(via Flickr/KellyB.)

State officials say unemployment in all 12 Illinois metro areas dropped in May, and all but three of those regions added jobs or were unchanged.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security put out its monthly metro and county-level unemployment stats Thursday. The department says the biggest decreases last month were in Peoria, Rockford, Danville and the Kankakee-Bradley area.

Rockford remains the area with the highest unemployment rate at 10.7 percent. But that's down from 14.2 percent a year earlier.

(via Flickr/KellyB.)

The Illinois Department of Employment Security says the state's unemployment rate increased to 8.9 percent in May. That's up from 8.7 percent just a month earlier and the first monthly increase since January 2010.

The department said Thursday in its monthly release on the statewide unemployment picture that:

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The Illinois treasurer has bad news for thousands of people who put money into college savings accounts last week: They're not getting a matching donation they had expected.

Participants in the Bright Start savings program were told that deposits of up to $250 would be matched dollar for dollar. The offer was limited to the first 2,500 people.

But the Bright Start website didn't display up-to-date information. It showed the matching money was still available even after all 2,500 slots had been filled.

(Illinois House of Representatives via Google Maps)

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has signed legislation redrawing the state legislative districts.

Quinn signed the bill Friday approving a redistricting map that will make life tougher for Illinois Republicans over the next 10 years.

(Illinois Redistricting Committee via Google Maps)

The Democrat-controlled Illinois Senate has approved new congressional districts that try to erase Republican election gains.

The 34-25 vote Tuesday sends the map to Gov. Pat Quinn.

(Screen capture via Google Earth/Illinois Senate Redistricting Committee)

Illinois Democrats have released a much-anticipated map of new congressional districts.

The new map shows the state with 18 U.S. House districts after it lost one of its seats because of slowing population growth in the latest census.

The congressional map is a chance for Democrats to try to neutralize Republicans who captured a number of U.S. House seats in the last election.

(Screen capture via Illinois House Republicans website)

Updated at 3:52 - Replaced story from the Associated Press with story from Illinois Public Radio.

Reporting from Illinois Public Radio's Luke Runyon was used in this report.

Republicans at the Illinois statehouse Thursday countered new legislative boundaries drawn by the ruling Democrats. The GOP touts its map as far superior, but at this point it may be moot.

(Illinois House of Representatives via Google Earth)

An Illinois House committee has approved new legislative districts despite opposition from a leading Latino advocacy group. The districts drawn by Democrats advanced on a party-line vote.

You can see the full map, and interact with it, here.

It's not clear when the full House might vote.

Previously, parts of the St. Louis Public Radio listening area were under a tornado watch. This tornado watch has now been lifted.

For the latest updates from the National Weather Service, see this update page.

Joplin, Mo. was also hit particularly hard from this round of tornadoes and storms. Fatalities have been confirmed.

See previous updates after the break.

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