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Just over two weeks remain before the Illinois General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn for the summer, on May 31st. They still have a lot to deal with in that time — like pensions, concealed carry, same-sex marriage, and next year's budget. But an incident Wednesday in the Illinois House shows tempers are already starting to flare.

Amanda Vinicky

After several stumbles, an agreement  has been reached on how to regulate "fracking" in Illinois.  A House committee could vote on the package Thursday morning.  

  The oil and natural gas extraction technique known as hydraulic fracturing has been a boon for job creation in places like  North Dakota and Pennsylvania.

State legislators want the same in Illinois.

As do oil and gas drillers looking to make a handsome profit.

John Michael Presney To Play Acoustic Set In Rochester

May 15, 2013

John Michael Presney is a Rochester native who’s spent the last couple years touring the country as part of a musical production that he played rockabilly star Carl Perkins in. But 25 year old Presney has crafted a music-style all his own. And he has a new EP called ‘The Nighttime and the Dawn’ to prove it.

Third Springfield "PrideFest" On Saturday

May 15, 2013

  The third Springfield PrideFest is this Saturday. The all-day event celebrating gay pride includes food, drinks, and performances. The festival will be on Capitol Avenue between 4th and 6th streets downtown. WUIS’ Rachel Otwell recently spoke with Jonna Cooley about it, she’s the executive director of The Pheonix Center which puts on the event:

CLICK HERE for more info about the event on Saturday in downtown Springfield from noon to 9pm.

Garden Project Pairs Local Sponsors & Students

May 15, 2013
Rachel Otwell/WUIS

A local elementary school is teaching students about growing their own food with a hands-on project. Rachel Otwell recently visited the community garden across from McClernand Elementary School and spoke with instructors and students as they planted and tended to plots. She brings us this story:

Thinkprogress.org

Could Illinois be getting closer to legalizing the medical use of marijuana?  Dan Riffle is with the Marijuana Policy Project, which has lobbied state lawmakers to approve the law.  He was a guest on WUIS’ Illinois Edition with Sean Crawford. 

road construction
Gary Brown via Flickr (gsbrown99)

Less than half of the money in Illinois' Road Fund actually pays for highway construction and maintenance. That's the finding in a new audit (pdf) that also says the Road Fund overpaid for employee health insurance.

Calvin Christian

Members of the Springfield City Council are looking for a way to prevent further incidents like the one in April in which police records were apparently shredded or deleted after they were requested by a local reporter through the Freedom of Information Act.

Tuesday night aldermen passed out of committee an ordinance that would require all changes to union contracts be approved by the Council and signed by the Mayor.  Such contractual changes are known as memorandums of understanding, or MOUs. 

The Illinois House approved legislation Friday intended to crack down on so-called "flash mobs." It allows a longer prison sentence for anyone who uses social media to organize an attack.

 The Springfield school board decided last night it will begin interviewing search firms and may hire one to find a new superintendent for district 186. The district has an interim superintendent who took over for Walter Milton at the beginning of April. It’s been debated since then how to go about finding someone to permanently replace him.

siumed.edu

The American Cancer Society is now recruiting volunteers in central Illinois for its third major cancer prevention study.

Dr. Wiley Jenkins is an epidemiologist with the SIU School of Medicine and is a member of the Simmons Cancer Institute in Springfield.

He joined Peter Gray on Illinois Edition to explain why those who’ve witnessed a loved one’s battle with cancer should sign up to be a “volunteer champion”.

The Illinois Senate is expected to vote Thursday on the latest proposal to fix the state's drastically underfunded pension systems. In what's become a multi-year pension debate, many aspects of the plan have been put forth before. But it has one element that makes it unique.

ler.illinois.edu

Are government workers underpaid?  Bob Bruno says his research shows in many cases, they are.  He authored a study that found when comparing comparable jobs in the public and private sector, those who work for government, including teachers, get the short shrift.    Bruno is a professor of Labor and Employment Relations at the School of Labor and Employment Relations at the University of Illinois.  

He told WUIS' Sean Crawford the purpose of the study and how he went about the comparisons:

springfield.il.us

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says he's gathering more information about events last month that triggered allegations that the city destroyed files sought in a Freedom of Information Act Request.

Attorneys for Springfield resident Calvin Christian say the police department violated a state public records retention law last month by destroying dozens of internal affairs files subject to a FOIA request filed by Christian.

SJ-R

This week, Tim Landis of the State Journal-Register discusses the new use for the Maisenbacher House in Springfield, the city’s first major project tied to consolidation of rail traffic and a survey that shows small businesses play an big role in the area’s economy:

When a federal court declared Illinois' ban on letting people carry guns in public unconstitutional ... it also gave legislators an assignment: pass a concealed carry law by June 9. Lawmakers are in continued negotiations, but so far gun rights' activists have been unable to reach an agreement with those who favor stricter gun control.  Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is doubtful they will ... at least in time.  He fears that could leave Illinois temporarily without ANY real limits on who can carry a gun, and where.

New 186 School Board Starts Off With Tense Meeting

May 7, 2013
Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Tensions were high at last night’s (5/6) Springfield district 186 school board meeting as the 

  new board was seated and a president and vice president were appointed.

The meeting started with goodbyes for the previous school board members.

Landmarks Illinois

The Fernwood Mausoleum is more than just the story of a dilapidated building.  It’s a sad result for those who thought that they would spend eternity inside the enclosure located in the Greene County town of Roodhouse.

But the future for the nearly 100 bodies still housed at the mausoleum remains uncertain, nearly a century after it was built.  Costly repairs are needed.  Ray Coons, with the Illinois Valley Cultural Heritage Association, is among those volunteers working to save the site.

Eastvold Concedes In Tight School Board Race

May 6, 2013
sps186.org

 A Springfield school board race that was too close to call is now over. Katharine Eastvold announced today she has conceded in the race for subdistrict five. She lost by one vote to Donna Moore. A partial recount found that votes had been counted accurately. Eastvold says she considered asking a judge for a full recount but did not find enough evidence to warrant that move. A supporter of Eastvold had used the Freedom of Information Act to uncover election documents. But Eastvold says those documents failed to turn up information to justify dragging out the contest.

New Community Garden In Springfield

May 6, 2013

  Community gardens are cropping up in urban areas across the country. They’re a way for those without the yard space to grow their own food. Kemia Sarraf is the founder and president of the local group gen H Kids, which stands for Generation Healthy. She tells WUIS’ Rachel Otwell about how the group is bringing a new community garden to Springfield:

CLICK HERE for more information or email George@genHkids.org to register for a garden plot.

Court Gives AG More Time For Concealed Carry Appeal

May 3, 2013
facebook.com/lisamadigan

The U.S. Supreme Court is giving Illinois’ attorney general more time to decide whether to appeal a ruling that the state’s ban on the public possession of firearms is unconstitutional.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan now has until June 24 to ask the high court to hear the case.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found Illinois’ prohibition on the carrying of concealed firearms unconstitutional in December.  

It ordered lawmakers to pass legislation to legalize concealed carry by June 9.  The 30-day extension granted by the court Friday does not affect that deadline.

Eastvold May Pursue Full Recount For 186 Election

May 3, 2013

  Katharine Eastvold lost her run for Springfield school board by a single vote about three weeks ago. But she’s not quite done fighting for the seat. A partial recount earlier this week found the votes had been accurately recorded. Donna Moore was declared the winner by only one vote in subdistrict 5. But it’s not yet over. The next step says Eastvold is working with her lawyer to determine whether there’s enough evidence to warrant asking a judge for a full recount.

 The funerals for five people murdered last week in Manchester are over, but donations are still being sought to offset those costs.

The victims were five family members, including two small children. Services took place at the Mackey Daws Funeral Home in the town of Roodhouse. Justin Daws is the funeral director there. He says the burials also occurred this week – though payments have yet to be made. Daws says the area in west central Illinois is tight-knit and he will wait indefinitely for funds from the victim’s family to come in:

A plan that will leave state employees and teachers with reduced retirement benefits made it out of the Illinois House Thursday, potentially paving the way for the pension overhaul that has thus far eluded lawmakers.  But it also ignites a face-off between two of the state's top Democrats — with the potential to keep a pension overhaul as elusive as it's ever been.

Illinois' legislators have less than a month before they're scheduled to adjourn.  The Speaker of the Illinois House made some predictions about what will — and what may not — happen before then.

A measure to legalize same sex marriage in Illinois already got state Senators' approval.

But the Speaker of the Illinois House says there's not enough support for it to pass in that chamber.

Mike Madigan said in March that gay marriage was a dozen votes shy in the House. 

The Illinois House of Representatives on Thursday approved a massive overhaul of state pensions. It's the first time the House has passed such a plan after more than a year of negotiating and many failed attempts.

Its also the first time Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, put his full support behind a specific proposal.

Police officers from across Illinois gathered in Springfield Thursday to honor colleagues killed in the line of duty — including one killed in 2012.

On the Monday after Thanksgiving, Illinois State Police Trooper Kyle Deatherage was patrolling on his motorcycle on Interstate 55, about 30 miles south of Springfield. He pulled over another vehicle when the driver of a semi-truck is alleged to have hit and killed Deatherage. The driver has been charged with reckless homicide.

Illinois lawmakers are "weighing in" on Olympic organizers' decision to drop wrestling from the summer games. 

The Illinois House passed a resolution encouraging the International Olympic Committee to reinstate wrestling as an Olympic sport.   The state Senate is poised to do the same.

Former U-S House Speaker Denny Hastert made a special appearance in Springfield for it.  Hastert was a wrestling coach in Yorkville before he went on to Congress.  He says it's important to give young people the opportunity to reach for an Olympic dream. 

Central IL Foodbank Plans Big Move

May 2, 2013

  The Central Illinois Foodbank collects grocery items and gives them to charitable organizations in over 20 counties. The foodbank will be moving its Springfield location later this year to a new donated facility. Kaleigh Friend with the foodbank recently joined WUIS’ Rachel Otwell for this interview:

CLICK HERE for more information about the Central Illinois Foodbank.

Consumers who unwittingly buy a diseased animal from a pet store could get their money back under a measure approved by the Illinois Senate. 

 

It's similar to someone who buys a jalopy under false pretenses. But in this case, the "lemon" isn't a car.

It's a puppy. Or a kitten.

Someone who buys a dog or cat could get a refund, exchange their pet for a new one, or seek reimbursement for veterinarians' fees.

But only if the pet came from a pet shop.  That bothers Republican Senator Dale Righter of Mattoon, as those dogs can cost $1,000.

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