Area unemployment jumps significantly from December

Mar 14, 2013

The number of people filing unemployment claims jumped 1.7 percent from December to January.  TheIllinois Department of Employment Security reports the unemployment rate at ten percent in the Peoria Metropolitan Statistical Area.  That’s also a nearly one-percent increase from the same time last year.  Even so 800 more jobs were added from the same time last year due to gains in Educational-Health Services.  But the manufacturing and Business Service areas saw declines year-to-year.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan doesn't want Illinois to allow fracking, a controversial process that injects a mixture of water and chemicals deep underground to reach oil and natural gas reserves.  

Republicans are fighting the idea that Downstate and suburban schools are the only ones getting a "free lunch" from Illinois state government. House Speaker Michael Madigan has has used the phrase in describing how local school districts should have to pay the employer's share of pension costs for teachers. That expense is currently covered by the state for all school districts, except Chicago.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan is waiting to see what the General Assembly does before deciding if she'll ask the US Supreme Court to weigh in on Illinois' concealed-carry ban. A federal court has given the state until June to pass a law that will allow people to carry guns in public.

House Speaker Michael Madigan says there's not enough support in the Illinois House to pass same sex marriage. He says it is a dozen votes short.  But the measure's sponsor, Chicago Democratic Representative Greg Harris, says the number's less. Harris says there is still work to do, but he believes when the time comes, it will pass.

Steamboat Classic running in mid-June

Mar 14, 2013

Peoria’s first Marathon is scheduled for May. But the 40th annual running of the Steamboat Classic is a month later. The road race that attracts world class runners is Saturday, June 15th.

Peoria County is facing a nearly $700,000 cut in state funding that’s proposed by Governor Pat Quinn.  Peoria Public Radio’s Alex Rusciano reports: 

Quinn is proposing a 20-percent cut to a certain state fund that feeds local governments.  Assistant Peoria County Administrator Scott Sorrel says the proposed cut would mean less money to pay for several county services:

Peoria to hold first marathon

Mar 13, 2013

The first ever Peoria marathon is taking place this Spring. As Peoria Public Radio’s Deborah OldenKamp reports the Run River City Marathon also features a marathon relay, a 25-K, and a 5-K, as well as a youth run.

The marathon series is May 19th, with events beginning at 7 that morning. Marathon organizer Adam White says four years ago Champaign began their marathon events.

Madigan supports fracking moratorium

Mar 13, 2013

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan doesn't want Illinois to allow fracking, a controversial process that injects a mixture of water and chemicals deep underground to reach oil and natural gas reserves.  IPR’s Amanda Vinicky reports. 

 Companies are longing to access the oil and natural gas laced in the rocks of the New Albany Shale, in southeastern Illinois.

As the country's economy slowly improves, an economist says there are several reason why Illinois' is not. Edward Boss the chief economist for the state's government forecasting commission. He says Illinois is one of just a handful of states at risk to fall back into a recession.

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.