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.

Layoffs at multiple unemployment offices begin Friday

Feb 27, 2013

Layoffs at several state unemployment offices will begin Friday.  And the move has nothing to do with the federal sequestration.  Ironically, it's brought on by a better economy.   Illinois Department of Employment Security Director Jay Rowell says his agency runs the opposite of the economic cycle: "So when companies start to lay off workers at the start of an economic recession, we're busier.  We then receive more money from the federal government. We're entirely federally funded.

  Peoria County is looking to better gauge how well it’s Planning and Zoning staff interact with residents. Peoria Public Radio’s Alex Rusciano reports:  Peoria County Administration says it’s been hearing accounts that staff in the Planning and Zoning Department allegedly aren’t being courteous or professional in the field in some cases.  Scott Sorrel is Assistant Peoria County Administrator.  He says the County will start surveying people: “We have no way of saying whether that’s a true statement or not.

PIPCO recognized by state

Feb 27, 2013

PIPCO Safety Director Bob Janssen is the winner of the 22nd annual Governor’s Award for Workplace Health and Safety. Janssen has worked for the Peoria Industrial Piping Company for 21 years. Illinois Department Of Labor Director Joseph Costigan says jobs in construction have some of the highest rates of injury in the country. He says Janssen exemplifies great leadership in achieving safer jobs throughout our communities.

Peoria County seeks input for economic development plan

Feb 27, 2013

Peoria County’s Economic Development Department is hosting a set of public forums this week. The department is seeking public input on how individual counties fit into the regional economic plan. The forums aim to identify the assets of individual communities within the counties. Local residents, officials and business owners can attend the forum tonight from 6-7 at West Peoria City Hall, tomorrow from 6-7 at the Princeville Heritage Museum or Tuesday March 5 from 7:30-8:30 at the Chillicothe City Hall.

Review - "Rashomon"

Feb 27, 2013

A murder trial becomes the basis for questions about credibility and truth in the classic play “Rashomon.” A production of the play opened last weekend at Illinois Central College Theatre. Cara Rosson has this review for WCBU, and the Live Theatre League of Peoria. Opinions expressed are those of the reviewer, not those of WCBU or the Live Theatre League.

OSF HealthCare System is taking over eight medical sites from Proctor Hospital.  Peoria Public Radio’s Alex Rusciano reports:

  Former state lawmaker Robin Kelly is the last Democrat standing in the race for Jesse Jackson Junior’s old congressional seat.

House panel approves same-sex marriage measure

Feb 26, 2013

Same-sex marriage moved one step closer to becoming the law of Illinois Tuesday.  A House panel voted to advance the measure. Now it has to get through the full House, where backers acknowledge they're still trying to round up votes.Although Democrats have a large majority, not all of them are expected to support it.  Representative Luis Arroyo of Chicago voted "yes" in committee.

Peoria primary election sees low voter turnout

Feb 26, 2013

1st District Peoria City Council candidates Gary Sandberg and Denise Moore secured spots on April’s general election ballot.  Moore captured more than 70-percent of the vote. Sandberg got 20-percent. They beat out challenger Randy Emert in Tuesday’s primary election.  In the Fifth District race, incumbent Dan Irving and challenger Casey Johnson tied to captured the most votes, beating write-in candidate Dan Adler.  The Peoria City Election Commission reports more than 500 people voted in the First District race and 650 voted in the Fifth District.

Adams and Jefferson streets in downtown Peoria could be changed from one to two-way. But that likely will not happen anytime soon. The Peoria City Council is asking city staff to create an implementation plan for transition. That would include how extensive the city would go with the street changes. Most city council members also voiced concern about how much the effort might cost and how the city might pay for it. At-Large Peoria City Councilman Ryan Spain offered the motion to create the implementation plan.

85 billion dollars in across-the-board budget cuts set to begin this Friday would have an immediate impact at Scott Air Force Base in the Metro East. About 13,000 work at the military base and its one of the largest employers in the St. Louis region.