Illinois education board asks for more funding

Mar 12, 2013

A week after Governor Pat Quinn suggested lawmakers slash the state's education budget -- Illinois school officials are asking them to instead increase spending on schools. IPR’s Brian Mackey has more: 

 The chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education, Gery Chico, says public schools can't afford any more cuts. He says they're already eliminating extracurricular activities, getting rid of staff, and shortening the school day.

Region could form natural-gas buying group

Mar 12, 2013

The same consultant that helped establish a regional power-purchasing program for electricity is gauging interest in a similar program for natural gas.  Peoria Public Radio’s Alex Rusciano reports: 

 Charles de Casteja is the Managing Partner of Good Energy. He says the company is working with the Illinois Commerce Commission to put a referendum on next year’s spring ballot for a new gas-purchasing program:

A coalition of environmental groups accuse other advocates of selling out when it comes to the drilling technique known as "hydraulic fracturing."  IPR’s Amanda Vinicky has more.  

 Environmentalists have warned of the dangers of "fracking" - a process that extracts natural gas or oil by pumping millions of gallons of water and chemicals deep underground.That's why it was a big deal a couple weeks ago that the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council stood with business leaders to announce they'd reached an agreement that could pave the way for fracking in Illinois.

Group explains Illinois’ lagging economy

Mar 12, 2013

Illinois' economy usually rises and falls with the rest of the country. But a government forecasting group says as the nation slowly emerges from the recession, Illinois isn't. IPR’s Chris Slaby reports.

Peoria School District 150 says it wants voters to consider a one-percent sales tax increase on some retail sales.  Peoria Public Radio’s Alex Rusciano reports the District says new revenues are needed amid shrinking property tax and state aid funding: 

 District 150 is expecting a $10 million decrease in general state aid next school year.  District 150 also lost nearly four-million-dollars in property tax revenues the last two years.  Officials say that means less money for roof repairs, technology upgrades and health-life safety projects.  School Board member Rick Cloyd says he supports asking Peoria County voters to consider a one-percent sales tax increase:

Illinois, SEC reach settlement

Mar 11, 2013

Illinois has reached a settlement with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, which accused the state of misleading investors about the depth of its pension problems.

The top leaders of the General Assembly are sending strong signals they won't go along with key parts of Governor Pat Quinn's budget.  They're insistent Illinois spend less than the Governor has proposed.

The Illinois Department of Public Health says when it comes to HIV awareness, sexually-active women and young girls are often overlooked.  The Department putting a renewed emphasis on teaching women to protect themselves, and how to get tested.

If Governor Pat Quinn's agreement with AFSCME, Illinois' largest public employee union, goes through, new employees will be treated differently than those already on the payroll. Union members get pay boosts the longer they work for the state. Quinn's Chief of Staff, Jack Lavin, says it will take longer for new hires reach those step increases, and he says they'll start off making less too.  “And new, to achieve the top of that job classification it was previously eight years, now it’ll be 11 years.

Peoria looks to attract new call center

Mar 8, 2013

Peoria officials are working together to attract a new call center business to the city. Mark Rothert  is assistant Peoria County Administrator for Economic Development.  He says the company would create about 200 jobs if it locates in the area.

"Right now, immediately, if the company were to expand into Peoria, they could fill about 50 jobs immediately. So, with that potential of 200 jobs, this is a good project to be working on to help spur on our economic development," says Rothert.

Peoria’s Warehouse District is moving forward. Local, state and federal officials gathered in downtown Peoria for a symbolic ground-breaking. The event kicks off the Warehouse District and Washington Street improvement projects. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood joined Mayor Jim Ardis, former Mayor Dick Carver and others to kick-off the $30 million effort.

This week, we're talking with Ryan Campen, the director of "Frost/Nixon," which  opens this weekend at the Corn Stock Winter Playhouse. The play tells the story of the 1977 interviews between former President Richard Nixon and British television personality David Frost. Campen talks about his working with his cast to create portrayals of such iconic historical figures, and about his decision to incorporate live, audio-visual elements into the production.

The Illinois House continued test votes on measures to address the state's pension problem, and after a series of failures, one finally passed. But as IPR’s Brian Mackey reports, most Republicans are still boycotting the process.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn may have a hard time getting most of his budget through the General Assembly, but he is expected to act Friday on one proposal that doesn't require getting legislators' approval.  

The Peoria man who allegedly murdered his wife on Valentine's Day was seeing a young Lithuanian woman in the United States.  Multiple media outlets are reporting that was the message during a 20-minute bond-hearing for Nathan Leuthold. Prosecutors say Leuthold met the woman in Chicago about 20 times and also bought her clothes. A Peoria Police Detective also reportedly told prosecutors that they found a handwritten note believed to be from Leuthold’s wife, Denise. The note said she knew he wanted her dead and running around with a 20-year-old was making her look bad.

March Madness in Peoria

Mar 7, 2013

The I.H.S.A. March Madness Boys Basketball Tournament kicks-off Friday at the Peoria Civic Center. The March Madness Experience runs alongside the tournament. It features more than 15 games and other attractions to entertain kids and families. The I.H.S.A. tournament is one of the largest annual convention attractions hosted in the Peoria area. Don Welch is the C.E.O. of the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. He says its a great two-weekend event for the region. “It brings a lot of economic impact, about 5,000 hotel rooms. It fills all the restaurants and hotels.

The Komatsu facility in Peoria has four federal fines related to the death of an employee last summer.  A Komatsu employee was injured, and later died, after testing hydraulic cylinders for leakage when an equipment failure released hydraulic fluid.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says Komatsu failed to develop and train employees on understanding machine energy control procedures. OSHA says it found similar violations at the Peoria facility in 2011. It also says the company failed to correct repeated failures of machine parts or document annual inspection reviews.

Counties focus on mental illness, gun access

Mar 7, 2013

More Illinois counties are complying with a law intended to keep guns away from people with mental illness. IPR’s Chris Slaby reports: 

 An audit last year found only three county court clerks reported people with "disqualifying mental health conditions" to the Illinois State Police.  Now, that number's up to 27.  Jessica Tramme is chief of the firearm services bureau for the Illinois State Police.She says a change in January means judges MUST order court clerks to notify the State Police when people are found "mental defective" or "intellectually disabled."

Illinois pensions would eat up about a fifth of state spending under the budget Governor Pat Quinn proposed Wednesday. As IPR’s Amanda Vinicky reports, Quinn say it’s the most difficult budget he's ever submitted to the General Assembly.

Governor Pat Quinn's budget speech highlighted his administration's recent contract agreement with AFSCME, the state's largest government-employee union.

Days after Governor Pat Quinn vetoed a measure that would authorize a major expansion of gambling in Illinois, the state Senate is moving forward with new legislation that would expand gambling even further.  

There were few surprises Wednesday in Gov. Pat Quinn's budget address in the Illinois General Assembly. He called it a "difficult" proposal, with steep cuts in spending on education. So we challenged Statehouse reporter Brian Mackey to find seven things that were surprising about the governor's speech.

Congressmen from Iowa and Illinois want to improve health care in rural parts of their states. Wednesday, democrat Bruce Braley from Iowa's First District and republican Aaron Schock from Illinois' 18th district introduced the Rural Health Clinic Fairness Act.  Braley says Medicare currently has an incentive program, with grants up to 44-thousand dollars, to encourage hospitals and other health professionals to transition to electronic medical records. Their bill would make rural health clinics eligible for these grants. 

Animal rights group protests at Peoria Walmart

Mar 6, 2013

Mercy for Animals brought its national tour to the Walmart on University in Peoria.  The group is traveling the country protesting the living conditions of pregnant pigs at pork suppliers for Walmart.  Members of Mercy for Animals displayed a 10-foot inflatable pig in a narrow crate as part of its protest.  Phil Letten is with Mercy For Animals.  He says the display aims to highlight how pregnant sows live at some suppliers:

 In his annual budget address Wednesday, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn laid the blame on the General Assembly for forcing him to cut spending on schools and other key state priorities.  Quinn says the cost of pensions is "squeezing" Illinois' finances, to the point that he's calling for a $400 million hit to education.  IPR’s Amanda Vinicky reports:  Governor Pat Quinn unveiled a budget that spends around $35 and a half billion dollars from the state's main checking account.One fifth of that would go toward the states' public pension systems.

Lorraine Hansberry’s play “A Raisin in the Sun” tells the story of one African-American family in the early days of the civil rights movement. A production is now on stage at Bradley University. Reviewer Douglas Okey says the play has as much to say today as it did in 1959. He has this review for Peoria Public Radio and the Live Theatre  League of Peoria.

Opinions expressed are those of the reviewer, not those of Peoria Public Radio or the Live Theatre League.

The Peoria Police Department arrested Nathan Leuthold Wednesday morning for the murder of his wife, Denise Leuthold on February 14. Peoria Police Chief Steve Settingsgaard says  his department arrested the 37 year-old Leuthold in Pekin during a traffic stop they initiated. He says people have shared information that’s helped his department meet the probable cause standard to make Leuthold’s arrest. But Settingsgaard says detectives are still actively following-up on details.  

Illinois' finances were already bleak when Pat Quinn became governor in 2009.  Despite heavy cuts and an end to the national recession, they remain so.  

The first woman elected to statewide office in Illinois has died. Dawn Clark Netsch was 86. In January, she revealed she had ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

East Peoria to get new residential cable option

Mar 5, 2013

East Peoria residents will have another cable provider to choose from this summer.  Peoria Public Radio’s Alex Rusciano reports the City Council approved a franchise agreement with ITV-3: 

  The agreement means Comcast won’t be the only residential provider of TV, internet and phone service in East Peoria.  ITV-3 is owned by the same family that owns Family Video rental chain.  Levi Dinkla is Vice President of ITV-3. He says the agreement means more healthy competition: