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CHICAGO (AP) - A Chicago-based research group says cleaning up Illinois' budget mess will require difficult decisions such as raising the income tax, slashing spending and imposing taxes on food, services and some retirement income.

In an analysis released Thursday, the Civic Federation's Institute for Illinois' Fiscal Sustainability says the state budget stalemate has only exacerbated Illinois' enormous financial problems. 

Illinois State Board of Education

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The Illinois State Board of Education has approved 29 school districts for low-interest and zero-interest bonds to pay for the construction and remodeling of schools.

The districts will be able to borrow, in total, $495 million through the Qualified School Construction Bond program. The program was created in 2009 as part of federal stimulus package after the Great Recession. 

Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune

President Barack Obama returned to his political beginnings Wed. and delivered an unprecedented hour-long speech to Illinois state lawmakers. He delivered the speech on the 9th anniversary of the day he launched his campaign for president from Springfield.

The point of the speech was to address the extreme political polarization he sees happening in the country - and Illinois. But afterwards, just about the only thing Republicans and Democrats agreed on is that the speech wouldn’t change things.

Illinois' school funding formula relies heavily on property taxes, resulting in deep disparities in districts’ levels of spending. When the state school board met this morning, members talked about a potential change to make the funding formula more equitable. 

Art lovers have a chance to spend one starry night in Vincent Van Gogh's bedroom for only $10.  The Art Institute of Chicago decorated a one-bedroom apartment to look like Van Gogh's painting of his bedroom in the south of France. 

President Barack Obama says lawmakers should rethink how congressional districts are drawn as a way to improve the country's political climate. 

Caterpillar positioned to sell machinery to Cuba

19 hours ago
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Caterpillar dozers may soon be available in a country that’s been off-limits to US exports for 55 years.

Cat announced Wed. that it will soon deal products to Cuba. Cat says it’s partnering with the company Rimco, based in Puerto Rico. Rimco currently deals for Cat in Puerto Rico and the Eastern Caribbean.

The partnership comes about two months after President Obama’s announcement that the US would open economic relations with Cuba.

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois motorists will stop receiving mailed notifications about vehicle emissions testing, starting with vehicle owners whose license plates expire at the end of March. 

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois Secretary of State's office announced the temporary policy changes regarding vehicle emission test notification and vehicle renewal procedures on Tuesday.

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CHICAGO (AP) - Chicago's City Council is expected to approve a $3.1 million settlement of a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Justice Department that alleged the police department's residency requirements discriminated against foreign-born applicants. 

On Wednesday, the Council will likely follow the recommendation made Monday by the council's finance committee to settle the class-action lawsuit. 

Kathryn Harris

A group that is devoted to the legacy of Springfield's favorite son will install its first African American and first female president this month.

Kathryn Harris will assume the duties of the Abraham Lincoln Association Thursday.   She's been vice president for nearly two years and has been a longtime board member.

"I am hoping to bring the attention of the community to the Abraham Lincoln Association through more diverse ways and get more membership and interest from other groups including African Americans and young people," she said.

 

 

Downtown Peoria Hotel Gets New Life

Feb 10, 2016
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Downtown Peoria is poised to get an additional 320 hotel rooms with the revitalization of The Four Points by Sheraton Hotel. Peoria Public Radio’s Tanya Koonce reports the hotel has been closed for nearly two years.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle says layoffs of county workers and program cuts are possible because the state of Illinois doesn't have a budget.

Chicago improv troupe Second City is opening a school focusing on comedic filmmaking and naming it after late writer-director-actor Harold Ramis.

A suburban Chicago store owner has been charged with selling synthetic urine to help people pass drug and alcohol tests.

A 9-foot-tall menorah at a University of Illinois Jewish student center has been damaged for a third time in less than a year. The center's rabbi believes school leaders haven't taken a strong enough stand against the vandalism.

An Illinois lawmaker wants to criminalize recording fights in order to post them online.   Rep. Terri Bryant says she was disturbed by a video of an altercation between two boys from her hometown of Murphysboro that was posted to Facebook. 

Author, social worker teaches resilience

Feb 9, 2016
Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio

District 150 principals and assistant principals got a lesson on strategies to encourage students to tap into their resilience, during a workshop at Woodruff Career and Technical Center Tues.

Christian Moore Social is the author of "The Resilience Breakthrough" and has counseled youth in schools, corrections facilities and homeless programs.  

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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) - Police say Bloomington had a second consecutive year of record-low numbers of serious crimes in 2015. 

There were no homicides last year - the first year without one since 1997. 

Police Chief Brendan Heffner says "we will keep working hard" to keep the number low. The percentage of serious crimes in 2015 was 11.6 percent lower than a year earlier. There were 232 fewer reports of serious crime than the 2,001 in 2014.  The 2014 decrease was 13.3 percent from 2013.  

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CHICAGO (AP) - Illinois officials say college students should continue to apply for financial aid, even though the state budget impasse has put grants for needy students on hold.

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission is encouraging students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The form determines if a student is eligible for most financial aid programs, including Illinois' Monetary Award Program, or MAP grants. 

 

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An effort to revitalize vacant properties into community assets might get some extra love and recognition in Peoria this Valentine’s Day.

The City is asking residents to participate by using the hashtags #LoveThatLot and #GrowPeoria with photos of revitalization efforts in their neighborhoods.

The effort coincides with the national #LoveThatLot campaign sponsored by the Center for Community Progress.

A newspaper report says a man who's serving 15 years in prison for running an underage prostitution operation did so out of an apartment obtained with the help of the Peoria Police Department.

The Democratic candidates for Illinois’ U-S Senate seat had their first informal debate today.

And it grew contentious over the issue of Laquan McDonald’s death and prosecuting police officers.

 

The Chicago Tribune editorial board asked the three candidates if the federal government should investigate practices at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office.

The fate of Illinois' budget impasse could be influenced by the leader of the free world. At least, that's what Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder is hoping for. 

Illinois State Museum

The Illinois State Museum in Springfield plans to re-open by charging admission fees and consolidating departments...if lawmakers go along with the idea.

Governor Bruce Rauner agreed last week to let the museum and its satellite locations reopen if they don't require state money to operate. Rauner closed the museum last October because the state didn't have a budget. Representative Tim Butler, a Republican from Springfield, says charging a five dollar admission fee to visitors is reasonable compared with other museums in Illinois and in other states. 

HSHS St. John's Hospital

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois owes Springfield's two largest hospitals $76 million for the care of state workers, retirees and dependents, an amount that continues to grow due to the state's budget impasse. Memorial Medical Center is owed $46.3 million from the State Employees' Group Health Insurance Program. The hospital also is owed $10.9 million in Medicaid bills. 

Chief Executive Officer Edgar Curtis says the not-for-profit hospital isn't going to lay off any workers, freeze hiring or downsize any programs that affect patients.

Environmental contractor still not getting paid

Feb 8, 2016
Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio

Illinois’ ongoing budget impasse has forced many nonprofits and state agencies to lay off workers, trim services or even shut down. That vulnerability is also impacting state environmental contractors, and that could pose a public health concern.

Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio

The University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria hosted a simulation day for local public school students on Saturday. 

The program run by medical students is called GUIDES. The acronym stands for Guide, Understand, Inform, Drive, Educate and Serve. It started in 2011, but this is the first year the initiative included kids from local high schools. 

The goal is to provide mentoring and hands-on medical learning to low income and minority students. 

Money keeps state government going.  From services to employee paychecks.  So, how does the State of Illinois function when it's piling up more bills than it can cover?    

FBI data shows Illinois has recorded 38 gun-related domestic violence homicides since 2006, but the number is likely higher because the data is incomplete. 

Gov. Bruce Rauner has rejected legislation to reopen the Illinois State Museum, but says it may operate again if the museum can find its own funding through entry fees, donations and partnerships. 

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