State News

State news stories and features from Illinois Public Radio.

Over 200 people rallied outside the state capitol building in Springfield over the weekend to show support for immigrants.

Ameren Illinois officials say that more than 200 employees and contract workers are on their way to help with recovery efforts after Hurricane Irma.

A central Illinois soldier who died when the USS McCain collided with an oil tanker near Singapore last month has been remembered as a hero.

The college year has started again, and for many students, that means anxiety over debt is here again, too.

The Institute for College Access and Success found the class of 2015 in Illinois graduated with an average debt of 26-thousand-dollars.

A Democrat hoping to be Illinois’s next governor selected one of his former campaign employees Monday to be his running mate.

North Shore State Representative Scott Drury has selected Alex Hirsch as his running mate. Campaign records show Hirsch was paid by Drury’s campaign fund in 2014 and ‘16.

But it doesn’t appear Hirsch has ever run for political office.

Drury hasn’t advertised his selection on Facebook or Twitter. Instead, in an emailed statement, he describes Hirsch as a Bernie Sanders supporter and a millennial, but also as a “long-time trusted advisor.”

Fall Freshman enrollment at Eastern Illinois University is down 14% from last year -- but overall fall enrollment is down by only 5%.

Illinois State Secretary of Education Beth Purvis will leave office on Friday. That's according to a news release from Governor Bruce Rauner's office.

Purvis will be joining a national nonprofit organization and overseeing educational philanthropy.

“Beth has been a tireless advocate for Illinois children and families,” Gov. Rauner said in the news release. “We are deeply grateful for her efforts.”

As of this month – Illinois is required to have updated signage for emergency situations at rail-road crossings. People can call the number on these standardized blue signs to report track obstructions or other safety issues at specific locations. If a crossing gate is malfunctioning, for example, railroad authorities need to know. 

Signs with this emergency information have been around since the  mid 1970s, says Chip Pew, railroad safety specialist for the Illinois Commerce Commission. But the signs were not standardized, making it difficult for pedestrians and motorists to properly locate them.

The information "might have been on a sticker, wrapped around an appliance...in many cases it was on a large placard, sometimes on a small sign," Pew says.  In response to this lack of uniformity-- not just across Illinois, but across the United States, the Federal Railroad Administration began the Emergency Notification System (ENS) program in 2011, with the expectation that the blue signs would be fully implemented by September 1, 2017. 

To make sure the public is aware of the blue signs and the looming deadline,  Pew and a team of volunteers have been conducting outreach through a program called Operation Lifesaver, that focuses on railroad safety education. 

"People are shocked that [the] information has been there for that long and did not know it, but they find that the blue sign is very visible and that the information it contains is obviously very important," Pew says.

With the added attention to the blue signs, Pew says he hopes people think more about their safety around railroad crossings. 

Operation Lifesaver volunteer, Gordon Bowe, echoes this sentiment. Bowe is a retired Metra conductor who now uses his free time to educate kids, teens and adults about the dangers of rail crossings. During his time as a conductor, Bowe witnessed accidents where motorists or pedestrians did not yield to his oncoming train. He says he would like for people to understand that crossing gates exist for a reason.

"A lot of [people] don't realize that from the first blink of [the crossing] light, the road is closed", explains Bowe, "they think it's 'do I have the capability of getting across before I get hit?' "

He says it only takes 20 seconds for a train to reach that crossing after the lights go off. 

Illinois ranks second in number of track miles and crossings--right behind Texas. It's also in the top five states when it comes to train-vehicle accidents. 

Western Illinois University’s short-term goal is to stabilize enrollment at 10,000 students, but it came up a bit short this fall.

A judge has allowed lawyers for a 27-year-old suspect in the abduction of a University of Illinois scholar from China to withdraw from the case on grounds he can't foot the legal bills. 

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is urging residents to take precautions after credit-monitoring company Equifax said a breach exposed information about 143 million Americans.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Thursday she plans to end the Obama administration’s rules for investigating allegations of sexual violence on campus.

Two SIU-Carbondale students who are a part of the DACA program remain hopeful about completing their college careers.

That's even though President Donald Trump announced this week he's ending the program, which deferred deportation proceedings for certain young undocumented immigrants.

Chicago Among Cities Vying For 2nd Amazon Headquarters

Sep 8, 2017

Chicago plans to pursue Amazon's second headquarters, a spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel says.

Amazon announced on Thursday that it's hunting for a second home outside Seattle. The company said it will spend more than $5 billion to house as many as 50,000 employees.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Emanuel spokesman Grant Klinzman says the mayor has spoken with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos about choosing Chicago for the site. Klinzman says Chicago plans to respond to Amazon's request for proposals.

Illinois State Representative Litesa Wallace, D-Rockford, will be the new running mate for State Sen. Daniel Biss in his campaign for the governor's office.

Illinois ACT Scores Increase

Sep 8, 2017
ATC.org

Illinois' scores for the ACT college entrance exam have increased statewide for 2017 as the number of students taking the test has dropped.

 

Students posted a 21.4 score across all four subjects on the exam. The statewide score is the highest in the last five years.

 

But while test scores are up, the number of test takers has dropped by about 21,500 since 2016.

 

More than two months after the Illinois General Assembly finally approved a state budget, Gov. Bruce Rauner is moving ahead with a plan to begin cutting into the $15 billion backlog of bills.

Labor Day is typically seen as a turning point in an election year, the time when regular voters start paying attention. But for the 2018 election—still more than a year away—that adage about Labor Day may need to be updated.

DACA Supporters Rally At U of I in Champaign-Urbana

Sep 7, 2017
Mark Schultz / Illinois Public Radio

 

University of Illinois students, faculty and staff rallied on the Urbana campus Wednesday in defense of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. 

Amtrak and the Illinois Department of Transportation said new locomotives will be put into use on a number of routes, including the Illinois Zephyr/Carl Sandburg service between Quincy and Chicago.

Illinois gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss has dropped his running mate citing disagreement over a stance on Israel. 

Law enforcement officials and drug-policy experts have differing takes on whether Illinois should legalize general use of marijuana. 

State Farm has extended a helping hand towards victims of Hurricane Harvey, making a $40,000 donation to the Midwest Food Bank on Wednesday.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is embarking on an eight-day trade mission to Japan and China later this week.

Until now, Rauner has spent more time criticizing the Illinois business climate than promoting it. Rauner says he wasn’t traveling to aggressively promote Illinois because he thought it was inappropriate.

There was no budget for two years, and Democrats were blocking his anti-union agenda. Even though Rauner didn’t get that passed, he’s now going to personally recruit companies abroad anyway.

Fall enrollment at SIU-Carbondale dropped by over 14-hundred students, a decline of nearly nine percent from last fall.

SIU-C's 2017 fall enrollment stands at 14,554.

Illinois is among 15 states suing to block President Donald Trump's plan to end a program protecting young immigrants from deportation.

Illinois saw cooler-than-average temperatures in August and the National Weather Service says the lower temperatures are expected to continue in September.

It’s been two months since Illinois government finally passed a full budget. Legislators hoped that would accelerate the payment of overdue bills, which total more than $15 billion. But the governor’s office is holding that up.

Peoria Public Radio

CHICAGO (AP) - Gov. Bruce Rauner says children shouldn't be left in limbo, but addressing issues raised by ending a program aimed at protecting young immigrants from deportation is up to Congress. 

Ashlee Rezin / AP Photo

CHICAGO (AP) - A 2006 donation from Illinois gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker to ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich's re-election is raising questions. 

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