Governor Pat Quinn Monday, vetoed a measure that would have put casinos in Chicago, Danville, Rockford and Chicago's suburbs.

A tentative agreement between Governor Pat Quinn and the state's largest public-employee union, AFSCME, means retired workers finally know how much they should budget for health care. And it means the state will finally get the savings it had already been counting on.

State AFSCME deal carries effects

Mar 4, 2013

   A tentative agreement between Governor Pat Quinn and the state's largest public-employee union, AFSCME, means retired workers finally know how much they should budget for health care.  And it means the state will finally get the savings it had already been counting on. State and university employees who retired after long government careers have not had to pay any health care premiums. A new state law requires them to contribute. But how much they pay was subject to contract negotiations. And AFSCME and the Quinn administration's negotiations dragged on for 15 months.

Tri-County Commission details top priorities

Mar 4, 2013

  Local, state, and federal lawmakers or their aides attended an annual meeting held by the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission yesterday. Larry Whitaker is the Chair of the Tri-County Commission. He says the meeting is an opportunity to update lawmakers on projects, as well as for the commission to get feedback from them: “The other thing that we think that’s important is that the community understand through our legislators the work the commission’s doing.

Quinn vetoes gambling bill

Mar 4, 2013

Legislation to expand gambling the General Assembly approved nearly two years ago is finally dead. As IPR's Amanda Vinicky reports, Governor Pat Quinn vetoed a measure that would have given Illinois five new casinos.

When Governor Quinn gives his annual budget address later this week, he's expected to highlight Illinois' plethora financial problems. Which is what frustrates supporters of gambling expansion, who say more casinos would be like hitting the jackpot.

With Governor Pat Quinn scheduled to give his budget address this Wednesday, the director of the state's agriculture department says he's expecting another round of budget cuts. IPR’s Chris Slaby has more:

Already, Bob Flider says his agency has seen its state funding cut in half, from 41 billion dollars five years ago to about 21 billion in the current budget year. Flider says the department is looking into alternative funding, like by soliciting foundation grants.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is scheduled to present his budget address in Springfield later this week.

Illinois has once again run out of money to help needy students go to college. The cutoff to be considered for a MAP grant expired over the weekend. IPR’s Brian Mackey has more.

Cuts expected for IL Ag Department

Mar 1, 2013

  The director of Illinois' Department of Agriculture says the agency will have to "get creative" if its budget continues to get cut.   IPR’s Chris Slaby reports. In the last five years, the Illinois Department of Agriculture has seen its state funding cut by nearly half.  Ag Director Bob Flider says he's expecting more cuts in the next budget.  So he's looking for alternative revenue sources. “Other states have been able to, through foundations, bring in some dollars.  We're going to be looking at some of those possibilities as well.”  But he says finding private donors will take time.

Quinn to give budget address this week

Mar 1, 2013

  Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is scheduled to present his budget address in Springfield later this week. “Obviously our pension reform will be part of the address, the need for getting that done right and getting it done now,” Quinn says.   Illinois is reported to have the worst-funded pension system in the country - and has about $97 billion in unfunded obligations. Quinn has said the pensions are unsustainable.

  A 22-year-old Pekin man faces federal charges of for a conspiracy to distribute heroin that led to the deaths of three people.  Anthony Mansini is charged with distributing more than 1,000 grams of heroin since 2008.  The federal indictment says he belonged to a heroin conspiracy that killed three people last year.  Pekin Police Chief Greg Nelson says the case is significant: “It’s big for Pekin because we were able to arrest somebody that we could show is responsible for deaths, and since that arrest we have not had any deaths.  Herin is back, it’s cheap, it's potent and dengerous.

  The Obama administration is urging the U.S. Supreme court to take a legal stance that could affect Illinois’ same-sex marriage fight.

IL House votes to ban cell phones while driving

Mar 1, 2013

  The Illinois House Friday once again voted to ban the use of cell phones while driving.  The legislation would prohibit holding a cell phone up to your ear while driving. But it would still be legal to use a speakerphone or headset, and to make calls to emergency personnel. "There are elements of Big Brother in this bill. There's no way that you can get around that." Rep. David Harris is a Republican from Arlington Heights.

This week, we're talking with George Stelluto, Music Director of the Peoria Symphony Orchestra. Their concert Saturday night features music of Mozart, Rossini, Maurice Ravel and Jacques Ibert. Stelluto talks about the pieces on the program and how they fit together. The concert will also feature a performance by winners of the Peoria Symphony Guild's young artist competition.

Governor Pat Quinn reached a tentative contract deal with the state's largest government-employee union early this morning. It comes as the union had increasingly been talking about going on strike. IPR’s Brian Mackey has more.       

Illinois lawmakers Thursday heard arguments over whether to ban future sales of so-called "assault weapons." Chicago and Downstate legislators remain split on the issue. And as IPR’s Chris Slaby reports, police officials are split too.

An expansion of Medicaid under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul is one step closer in Illinois.

Officials in Illinois have found the first cases of a devastating bat disease known as white-nose syndrome in that state. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources says laboratory tests confirmed the fungal disease in two species of bat in four counties, including Monroe County in the Metro East. IDNR endangered species manager Joe Kath says bats play an important role in the environment — and in our economy.

For the 2nd year in a row, tuition and housing rates at Millikin University are NOT going up. The small private school in Decatur announced Thursday that full-time undergraduate tuition for the academic year starting in the fall would stay at 27-thousand-8-hundred-52 dollars a year --- the same as this year and the year before. Meanwhile, the average annual housing rate will stay at 5-thousand dollars.

It was billed as a "day of pensions" in the Illinois House. But it turned into about a half-hour's worth. IPR’s Brian Mackey has more on why Illinois lawmakers are having such a hard time confronting the state's 100-billion-dollar problem.

Quinn, AFSCME reach tentative deal

Feb 28, 2013

  After 15 months of negotiating, Illinois' largest government-employee union has reached a tentative contract deal with the administration of Governor Pat Quinn.  AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall says the specifics will be kept private for now: "It's a three-year agreement. The details are going to be reviewed by our entire rank-and-file membership. ... The ratification process will get started the week of this coming Monday, March 4." Published reports indicate union members would get pay raises -- even though Quinn declined to pay out some raises from the last contract.

Area passenger rail hopes hit funding snag

Feb 28, 2013

Chances are slim for securing current federal funding to help bring passenger rail service between Peoria and Bloomington/Normal.  Peoria Public Radio’s Alex Rusciano reports:  The Mayors from Peoria and Normal traveled with staff to Washington D.C. in January asking for $4 million to pay for the rail project’s environmental review and pre-engineering costs.  Officials with the federal transit administration are now saying that there’s no federal planning money currently available to help pay for the project.

Changes coming in healthcare

Feb 28, 2013

Iowa Health System and its affiliate Methodist Medical Center hosted an informational session yesterday on Coordinated Care.  More than a hundred business people attended the event to learn more about changes coming to the healthcare system. 

Despite the snow, hundreds of shareholders came to Deere and Company for its annual meeting. Wednesday morning at world headquarters in the Quad Cities (Moline), they voted on routine business, watched videos, listened to the CEO, and asked a few questions. 

  A proposal advancing in the Illinois General Assembly would prohibit colleges and universities from requiring students to reveal social media passwords. But that ban would not apply to elementary and high schools.  IPR’s Chris Slaby reports. Universities would be barred from asking for social media passwords or forcing students to open up their accounts. Elementary and high schools can require kids hand over passwords if they believe the accounts have evidence the student violated school policy. But schools' policies would have to warn parents that's a possibility.

The Illinois Senate hasn't provided a single vote in favor of three appointments by Governor Pat Quinn to the Southern Illinois University board of trustees.

People decide to own guns for a variety of reasons. Some buy them for protection or hunting – or for history. IPR’s series “Our Guns” has been profiling local gun owners. Today we delve into the world of antique gun collecting. Illinois Public Radio’s Alex Keefe visited one of the country’s biggest antique arms auction houses, in northwest Illinois.

An Illinois legislative hearing on college affordability Wednesday shows the cost of updating university housing has students paying more.

Wednesday brought the latest in a long line of proposals to fix the state's underfunded pension systems. The measure also comes as members of the Illinois House of Representatives are set to have a marathon debate on pensions Thursday. Illinois Public Radio’s Brian Mackey has more.         

Some relief on Mississippi River water levels

Feb 27, 2013

  Recent heavy rains and snow falls have the region’s shippers breathing a sigh of relief.   It was feared that low water levels on the Mississippi River would shut down shipping last month, but shippers say they're now back to handling full loads.  Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Mike Peterson says despite the good news, extended drought conditions mean river levels could drop again.  “We’re still in a drought, we’re going to expect possibly low river levels if we don’t snowpack and precipitation over the spring and summer.