Illinois | St. Louis Public Radio

Illinois

(via Flickr/The National Guard/M. Queiser/Missouri National Guard)

The floods affecting southern and southeastern Missouri and towns along the Mississippi River have resulted in hundreds of closed roads in the state, along with neighboring areas in Illinois.

Updated 1:32 p.m. April 26:

The City of Fenton has announced that The River Road in Fenton, Mo. at the intersection of Yarnell Road and Larkin-Williams Road is now closed.

In Missouri:

(via Flickr/photohome_uk)

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

The Illinois Department of Transportation doesn't keep statistics on accidents unless a moving car is involved.  That's why Ed Barsotti with the League of Illinois Bicyclists says "dooring" was invisible in state record books.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn granted 85 clemency petitions and denied 189 others in the latest round of action to clear a backlog of cases left by his predecessor, ousted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Quinn granted pardons and expunged convictions in most of the cases Friday that included offenses from burglary and drug charges to armed robbery and reckless discharge of a firearm.

This latest action brings the number of clemency petitions Quinn has granted to 467. He has denied 728 other petitions.

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State officials say the March unemployment rate dropped in every Illinois metropolitan area for a record seventh consecutive month.

A report released Thursday by the Illinois Department of Employment Security shows that the Rockford metropolitan area with the state's highest unemployment rate, at 13.3 percent. That's almost 4 percentage points lower than the same time last year.

The Kankakee-Bradley metropolitan area March rate was second-highest, at 12.7 percent.

Other metro areas with jobless rates over 10 percent were:

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Illinois lawmakers have set aside billions of dollars to pay state obligations as part of what Democrats call a more responsible approach to the budget.

The state Senate sent the governor legislation that devotes nearly $8 billion to paying off debt and making pension payments.

Senate President John Cullerton said Friday the goal is to make sure the state doesn't duck these obligations or pay them with borrowed money.

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The federal judge for Rod Blagojevich's second corruption trial almost immediately refused a request from the former governor's lawyers this morning to delay by several weeks the opening of the proceedings

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Reporting from Illinois Public Radio's Amanda Vinicky added to this report at 5:29 p.m. April 12, 2011.

Gov. Pat Quinn is taking his push for workers' compensation reform to Illinois business leaders.

Participants in Business Lobby Day in Springfield applauded the Democrat when he called for fixing a system critics say costs employers too much and is driving them from the state.

via Flickr/J_D_R

Starting next year, Illinois businesses will see a tax increase and the recently unemployed will lose a week of unemployment benefits.

That's because of a compromise bill passed this month in the Illinois Legislature.

The Rockford Register Star reports the deal is part of a longer-term plan to help contribute to Illinois' depleted unemployment trust fund, which is $3 billion in debt to the U.S. Treasury.

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Names of people authorized to own guns would be declared secret under legislation approved by the Illinois House.

The state police would be barred from releasing information on people who have Firearm Owner Identification cards.

The House approved the bill 98-12 Friday. It now heads to the Senate.

The attorney general ruled last month that the list of people with FOID cards must be released under the state Freedom of Information Act.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Gov. Pat Quinn says the state has to spend money to ensure Illinois has safe roads and bridges.

Quinn on Thursday announced the latest update to the state road program that includes improving more than 3,200 miles of roads and replacing or repairing 611 bridges over the next six years.

He says the timing of the announcement was tied to a law that requires the state to announce its long-term road program.

Construction costs are estimated at $11.5 billion for the extensive list of projects. Money for the road program will come from federal, state and local funds.

(via Wikimedia Commons)

Reporting from WBEZ's Tony Arnold used in this report.

Illinois' two U.S. senators are saying party leaders are trying to avoid a government shut down. Lawmakers are facing a Friday deadline to finalize the federal budget.

Illinois' senior U.S. senator, Democrat Dick Durbin, said budget negotiations with House Republicans and Speaker John Boehner are close to wrapping up.

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A law enforcement group is supporting legislation to address a backlog of jail inmates waiting to be transferred to crowded state psychiatric facilities.

(via Wikimedia Commons/United States Senate)

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

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk says Libyan rebels should be given weapons to help them quickly overthrow Moammar Gadhafi's regime.

The Illinois Republican says furnishing weapons will help end the Libyan war and limit costs for the United States and its allies. 

Kirk spoke with reporters Friday. He says the conflict in Libya needs to be finished quickly. 

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Gov. Pat Quinn is getting ready to propose changes to the workers' compensation system in Illinois.

The Chicago Democrat on Friday said both the law and the Workers' Compensation Commission must be revamped. He says changes to the law would make the system more affordable for businesses while remaining fair to workers.

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Updated 3:20 p.m. with Illinois Public Radio story including more detail and comment from Rutherford.

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

Illinois' treasurer invests the state's money. The Comptroller pays the bills. A measure approved by the Senate today would merge the two constitutional offices.

Supporters say it makes "sense" - literally and metaphorically. According to projections, the consolidation would result in a savings of $12 million.

View Locations of found radiation from Japan in IL in a larger map

The map above depicts the locations highlighted in the following story where trace amounts of radiation from Japan have been found in Illinois - Will County and Springfield, Ill.

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

Trace amounts of radiation from Japan have shown up in Illinois. But state officials say there's no reason for concern.

Minute levels of radioactive materials have been detected in both northern and central Illinois.  The state's Emergency Management Agency says radioactive iodine was found in grass clippings in Will County and in an air sample collected at a lab in Springfield.

Lower gas taxes lure drivers to Mo.

Mar 28, 2011
futureatlas.com | Flickr

With lower state taxes on gasoline, among others, Missouri is easily undercutting its border mate, Illinois, when it comes to the price to fill up.

One of the cardinal rules about interstate travel through the Midwest: "gas up before you hit Illinois." Illinois levies a hefty 42 cents per gallon tax on gasoline, among the highest gas taxes in the country.

Check out more of this feature on the Missouri-Illinois border wars for cheap gasoline by our own Adam Allington. It aired on Marketplace Morning Report earlier today.

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk says the size of the evacuation zones around the six nuclear power plants in Illinois should be reviewed.

Kirk and fellow U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin held a forum Friday with a panel of four nuclear experts that resembled a congressional hearing to talk about safety in Illinois in the wake of the disaster in Japan.

(St. Louis Public Radio)

Sen. Dick Durbin says he wants answers from nuclear experts about the safety of some of Illinois' aging nuclear plants in the wake of the crisis in Japan.

The Democrat says he and fellow U.S. senator, Republican Mark Kirk, will host a forum in Chicago on Friday that will include the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

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Illinois tax collectors have a message for residents who skirt sales taxes online and out of state: Start paying up.

The cash-strapped state will step up enforcement this year of the decades-old "use tax," which applies to many items bought online or in another state.

The state offers a guide to taxpayers who didn't keep receipts and want to pay their share. Someone making $50,000 annually, for example, would be expected to pay $27 in "use tax."

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Administrators of a southwestern Illinois school district say financial problems have forced them to lay off or not renew the contracts of 71 employees, including more than five dozen teachers.

Cahokia School District 187's board made the move during a special meeting Monday night.

The laid-off workers include 62 teachers, two teachers' aides, a school psychologist and a social worker.

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The number of broadband Internet connections in Illinois has exceeded the number of phone landlines for the first time.

comedy_nose / Flickr

The Cahokia School Board will meet tonight to decide whether to lay off up to 70 teachers because of a budget deficit.

School officials have said that lower tax revenues and delayed state payments have left Cahokia's budget about $1 million in the red. Brent Murphy, president of the Cahokia Federation of Teachers, says he hopes that reducing instructors and other staff is not the only solution.

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Action on releasing information about Illinois gun permits is being postponed until a court finishes reviewing the issue.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office said Friday it will halt all procedural steps on its ruling that the names of people with Firearm Owner Identification cards should be made public.

A Peoria court has issued a restraining order barring release of the information.

Gov. Pat Quinn says he plans to seek higher fees on power generator Exelon Corp. to ensure the safety of Illinois nuclear power plants in the aftermath of Japan's nuclear crisis.

Quinn says he met with state emergency management officials on Wednesday to discuss the safety of the state's 11 nuclear reactors.

He says the events in Japan show the need to review the safety of the plants.

(via Flickr/jglazer75)

Updated 4:10 p.m. March 17, 2011 with Gov. Quinn's comments.

Gov. Pat Quinn says he opposes a package of budget cuts proposed by Illinois Senate Republicans.

The Chicago Democrat said Thursday the "foolhardy" cuts would kills jobs and weaken the economy just as Illinois recovers from a recession.

The Republican plan includes cuts to education, health care and local government. They estimate the savings at $6.7 billion.

The two biggest pieces are the most difficult.

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An Illinois Senate committee has voted to raise cigarette taxes by $1 a pack and use the money for construction projects around the state.

Senators split along party lines Wednesday, with nine Democrats supporting the increase and six Republicans opposing it. The measure now goes to the full Senate.

Democrats say the cigarette tax could replace other sources of construction money that are tied up in a legal dispute. They also say it would cut state health costs by discouraging smoking.

Republicans argue the increase would disproportionately fall on the poor.

(via Flickr/jglazer75)

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

Illinois State Republican lawmakers continue to push for a rollback of the recently passed income tax increase, but still haven't given their list of cuts to make up the difference. Senate Democrats are calling their bluff.

Flickr |neil conway

The Illinois Supreme Court is considering a case that could determine whether the state can pursue wages earned by prison inmates.

Lawyers presented their arguments Tuesday.

Inmate Kensley Hawkins has saved about $11,000 during his 21 years in prison by squirreling away the income he makes as a furniture assembler. He makes about $75 a month.

(via Flickr/Robert Scoble)

Updated 2:12 p.m. March 11, 2011 to include Overstock.com information.

Amazon.com has made good on its threat to cut ties with Illinois affiliates because of a new law requiring the online store to collect sales taxes.

Amazon notified its Illinois partners Friday that it will stop doing business with them on April 15. It calls the tax law "unconstitutional and counterproductive.

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