State News

State news stories and features from Illinois Public Radio.

Illinois has created a network of emergency foster care homes. Department of Children and Family Services Director George Sheldon says these homes are places youth in the state's care can be sent in lieu of emergency shelters.  Sheldon told a legislative panel today that there's currently capacity for 36 kids.  His goal is to have room for 50.

Ngufra / Wikimedia Commons

URBANA, Ill. (AP) - University of Illinois officials are reporting new cases of hand, foot and mouth disease among students on the Urbana campus.

Dr. Robert Palinkas says 10 new cases bring the total to a little more than 70 since the beginning of the semester.

He says campus housing units are focusing on sanitation and some affected students have been isolated.

The leader of Illinois' largest utility is appealing to lawmakers’ competitive spirits to get them on board with overhauling energy regulations. Com-Ed CEO Ann Pramaggiore says many Fortune 500 companies have committed to meeting sustainable energy goals.

Studies have found that about one-third of low-wage workers say they'll never be able to afford retirement. The problem is particularly acute among minority women.  The issue has been driven home by a photo of an 89-year-old man in Chicago hunched over, trying to push his cart that offered frozen treats. The photo went viral and people donated more than $384,000 to his retirement. 

Medicaid has long been the stepchild of government health care programs. Now it's finally coming into its own, even as the 2016 presidential election could change its fate.  Under President Barack Obama, the federal-state program for low-income people has expanded to cover more than 70 million individuals, and it has shed much of the social stigma from its earlier years as a welfare benefit.

New research shows cigarettes contribute to more than 1 in 4 cancer deaths in the U.S. The rate is highest among men in southern states where smoking is more common and tobacco control policies are less strict.  The American Cancer Society study found the highest rate among men in Arkansas, where 40% of cancer deaths were linked to cigarette smoking. Kentucky had the highest rate among women at 29%.

The Obama Foundation

Some of the White House materials bound for President Barack Obama's presidential library in Chicago will start making their way from Washington, D.C., to Illinois this week. Beginning Wednesday, commercial trucks will carry documents, artifacts and gifts accumulated over Obama's tenure to a temporary storage facility in Hoffman Estates.

Air Force Lt. Col. Vianesa Vargas says over two dozen troops in Washington, D.C., will take materials now stored at the National Archives and Records Administration and load them onto semitrailers for the 700-mile trip.

istorija / Flickr/Creative Commons

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A graduate student at the University of Illinois' Springfield campus has started a food pantry for students.

Malayzja Anderson is helping to stock donated, nonperishable food items for the new UIS Cares initiative. She says student meal plans start to deplete around this time of the semester so students may not eat as much. She says UIS Cares lets them "come in and just grab something to supplement them."

 The pantry will be open Nov. 17 and Dec. 1. Organizers say students also can email them to set up a time to pick up food.

Cubs Own October, Fans Confident About World Series

Oct 24, 2016
Lava / Flickr

No more curses, no more goats, no more Bartman or just plain bad luck. All those the evil spirits are now done and gone thanks to the Cubs winning the National League pennant on Saturday. And cubs fans are feeling confident as the team heads into game one of the world series on Tuesday against the Cleveland Indians. Illinois Public Radio’s Michael Puente reports.


After receiving inquiries the Illinois State Board of Elections has issued an alert to assure voters of the integrity of the upcoming election.

It comes as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump continues to claim that the election is "rigged." In Wednesday night's debate, Trump was cagey about whether he'll accept the outcome on November 8.

The board's assistant director Jim Tenuto says tampering with electronic voting machines or coordinating a statewide effort to cheat would be difficult, given that elections are locally-managed.

Illinois makes it tough for new party and independent candidates to run for office, especially when compared with the petition rules for Democratic and Republican candidates, but even a leading established party politician says the requirements are too tough.

angela n. / Flickr/Creative Commons


PEORIA, Ill. (AP) - The Peoria-based construction and mining equipment company Caterpillar Inc. is opening its first permanent office in Chicago.

The Caterpillar office will have 45 employees and be located in the downtown Merchandise Mart building along the Chicago River. The new Chicago "Digital and Analytics Hub" expands on operations already housed in Peoria.

The latest data shows the number of unemployed Illinois residents is at its lowest since September of 2007.

But officials with Governor Bruce Rauner's administration say Illinois is still lagging when it comes to job growth.

The Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates has endorsed a tentative contract agreement reached with the city's school district.  According to the union, the delegates approved the four-year deal by a 2-1 ratio. The contract proposal now will go before the union's approximately 28,000 members on Oct. 27 for final approval.

State officials say the unemployment rate in Illinois held steady at 5.5% in September, and the number of jobs in the state grew.  The Illinois Department of Employment Security, in its monthly unemployment report, says that the state added 7,400 jobs since August and has added 43,400 jobs since September 2015.

A state agency survey shows nearly 400 state jobs could be relocated to Springfield from elsewhere in Illinois. The Department of Central Management Services survey asked state agencies to report on where their jobs are located and the potential to move them to Springfield. 

A pair of state legislators say this election season has exposed an ethics loophole that Illinois needs to close, but there are suspicions the introduction of the measure in the midst of a heated campaign season is itself a political gesture.

It's illegal for a director of a state agency, or any public employee for that matter, to use government resources for political purposes, but Illinois has no restrictions prohibiting agency directors from being identified by their title in campaign ads.

Because Illinois is a northern state and the former home of Abraham Lincoln, it isn’t typically associated with slavery. But there was slavery in Illinois for more than 100 years.

Even after Illinois entered the Union, loopholes in its laws allowed the practice to continue, making the future Land of Lincoln a quasi-slave state. 

In the midst of campaign season, two Illinois lawmakers are proposing a new ethics law.

The bipartisan legislation would bar state agency directors from being in campaign ads and brochures.

State Sen. Sam McCann, a Republican from Plainview, has no opposition in the general election. But first he had to win a bruising primary.

McCann says constituents complained when the state director of agriculture, Raymond Poe, appeared in campaign material endorsing his opponent.

Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has renewed his emphasis on finding waste in taxpayer-funded health care programs.  Rauner appeared at a Chicago news conference to release a report from a task force he created in April to study the matter.

Illinois Department of Agriculture officials say they're temporarily closing the Coliseum at the state fairgrounds after engineers discovered structural deficiencies indoors.  The building will stay closed until repairs can be made.

The Springfield City Council has approved an ordinance limiting payments in coins to $20 and no more than $5 in pennies.  The new law is an effort to stop the practice of paying debts with change. 


NBA star Derrick Rose says he's thankful that a Los Angeles jury rejected a rape lawsuit against him and two friends.  Jurors cleared the NBA star and two friends in a lawsuit that accused them of gang raping his ex-girlfriend when she was incapacitated from drugs or alcohol.

Gage Skidmore

Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney is in Chicago today to promote Mark Kirk’s re-election campaign for the U.S. Senate.

"I was shot, my car was stolen, it was not a good night." So says Kathryn Harris while explaining her try at being a police officer. Tonight she got in a patrol car and pulled over an officer/instructor who went through a couple of challenging scenarios, like the ones police face regularly.

Phil Chess, co-founder of the iconic Chicago blues and rock 'n' roll label Chess Records, died Wednesday in Tucson, Ariz. He was 95.

Phil and his brother, Leonard Chess, emigrated to the U.S. from Poland in 1928. Chess Records biographer Nadine Cohodas told their story to NPR in 2000.

"It was a scrappy kind of existence," Cohodas said of the Chess brothers' early years in Chicago. "Their father was very determined and he opened a junk shop, as did many other immigrants from Eastern Europe."

Woodford County Jail

EUREKA, Ill. (AP) - A Bloomington high school teacher has been charged with first-degree murder in her husband's stabbing death.

Bond is $1 million for 30-year-old Sarah Mellor of Bloomington, who teaches Spanish at Bloomington High School. Prosecutors say 31-year-old Mark Mellor of Bloomington was stabbed late Saturday during an argument with his wife at a private campsite in rural Woodford County. Sarah Mellor remains jailed at the Woodford County jail in Eureka.

 Prosecutors say relatives drove Mark Mellor from the campsite to a hospital where he was pronounced dead at 12:15 a.m. Sunday. The McLean County coroner said preliminary autopsy results found he died from a stab wound to the chest.

Ann Althouse / Flickr/Creative Commons

CHICAGO (AP) - Officials say hundreds of drinking fountains in Chicago parks have been shut off after testing revealed high levels of lead in the water.

Chicago Park District officials said Tuesday they decided to take 459 of their 2,435 water fixtures out of service based on samples collected during the summer. 

Consultants found a wide range of lead levels in Chicago parks and Park District facilities, similar to earlier reports from Chicago Public Schools, suburban school districts and schools operated by the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Unions today co-sponsored a forum on nuclear energy in Illinois, part of an effort to save a pair of nuclear plants that Exelon is taking steps to close.  Exelon says the plants in Clinton and the Quad Cities are money-losers. 


University of Illinois officials say they've seen more than 60 cases of hand, foot and mouth disease among students since the beginning of the semester.  Dr. Robert Palinkas says the rate has slowed, so the infections may have peaked.