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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois lawmakers have advanced a proposal to allow bobcat hunting for the first time in more than 40 years.
 
The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises reports the Illinois House voted 91-20 Thursday in favor of the measure. It now goes to the Senate.
 
Illinois banned hunting of the nocturnal animal in 1972. Bobcats were on the threatened species list from 1977 to 1999.
 
But supporters say the population has made a comeback.
 
Republican state Rep. Wayne Rosenthal of Morrisonville is the bill's sponsor.
 
He says the bobcat population is growing in rural, non-farming areas of western and southern Illinois.
 
The hunting and trapping season would occur sometime between Nov. 1 and Feb. 15. A hunter would be allowed to kill one bobcat per year.
Published in Local News
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A proposal to impose an additional tax on millionaires is advancing in the Illinois Legislature.
 
A House committee voted 6-4 along party lines Thursday to approve Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan's proposed constitutional amendment. It would tack a 3 percent surcharge onto income over $1 million.
 
The measure now advances to the House floor.
 
Madigan says the tax would raise $1 billion a year for elementary and secondary education - about $550 per student.
 
Republicans say the tax unfairly penalizes Illinois' most successful residents.
 
The issue is expected to be a focal point in the race between Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican Bruce Rauner, a wealthy businessman.
 
The candidates present starkly contrasting visions of how to fix Illinois' lagging economy and improve state finances.
Published in Local News
SPRINGFIELD, IL (AP) – Legislation that would allow minors and those with epilepsy to use medical cannabis in Illinois is one step closer to law.
 
A Senate committee passed the proposal on Tuesday without opposition.
 
State Sen. Iris Martinez is sponsoring the measure. The Democrat from Chicago says using medical marijuana improves the quality of life for minors suffering from epilepsy.
 
Supporters say consuming oil from the marijuana plant reduces seizures and doesn’t get children high. They say traditional epilepsy medicines are addictive and leave children feeling “stoned.”
 
Opponents say they’re against any measure legalizing marijuana use because it violates federal law. They also say legalizing marijuana for minors contradicts drug prevention programs.
 
The measure amending Illinois’ four-year medical cannabis pilot program now moves to the Senate floor.
Published in Local News
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn is calling for a "rainy day fund" in the Illinois state budget.
 
The Democratic governor made the proposal in his annual budget address Wednesday.
 
He says officials "need to build our reserves to protect taxpayers in the event of an economic downturn or an emergency down the road."
 
It's part of what Quinn says is a plan to provide "stability" in the long-term budget. He also called for "solid spending caps" to ensure the state doesn't defer its financial obligation.
 
He did not say how much money should be reserved in the rainy day fund.
Published in Local News
CHICAGO (AP) - The Illinois Department of Employment Security says unemployment held steady across the state in February at 8.7 percent.
 
The department said Thursday that the statewide jobless rate was unchanged from January. The federal government said earlier this month that the nationwide unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.7 percent. Illinois has one of the highest jobless rates among U.S. states.
 
The department said Illinois added a net 6,400 jobs in February. That's an improvement from January when the state lost jobs.
 
Companies that work in the professional and business services sector added 10,400 jobs in February and leisure and hospitality employers added 4,000 jobs. But firms in trade, transportation and utilities cut 6,100 jobs.
 
Manufacturing companies continued their decline in January by dropping a net 1,100 jobs.
 
Published in Local News
   CHICAGO (AP) - Chicago's mayor and the governor of Illinois are among those celebrating the life of gay rights activist Vernita Gray, who died Tuesday at age 65.
   Gray and her partner, Patricia Ewert, wed in the state's first same-sex marriage in November. Her terminal cancer and her wish to marry convinced a federal judge to order an expedited marriage license. That allowed the couple to get married before the June 1 effective date of Illinois' new same-sex marriage law.
   Gray had worked for gay rights for decades.
   Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised Gray's work for equality and civil rights in a statement Wednesday, calling her "an inspiration to all who crossed her path."
   Gov. Pat Quinn says Gray "fought for what she believed in and made a difference for people across Illinois."
Published in Local News
VIENNA, IL (AP) – Voters in southern Illinois’ Johnson County have rejected a ballot referendum that could have prompted the county’s governing board to restrict a form of oil drilling.
 
The ballot measure involving hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, was defeated by a 600-vote margin. More than 2,220 people voted against the provision, while about 1,600 supported it.
 
The non-binding referendum was meant to advise the Johnson County Commission whether it should resist efforts to open the county to fracking. The process involves blasting rock formations deep underground with water, sand and chemicals to release trapped oil and gas.
 
The issue for months has hijacked the County Commission meetings, pitting neighbor against neighbor.
Annette McMichael of Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment says it’s unclear where the anti-fracking effort in the county goes from here.
Published in Local News
CHICAGO (AP) - Republicans spent the day after the Illinois primary stressing the need to work together to reclaim the governor's mansion in November.
 
New GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner told a group of party officials at a "March to Victory" luncheon in Chicago that "division doesn't help anything."
 
The Winnetka businessman says the party must effectively communicate that it cares for people from different backgrounds.
 
Rauner was the victor of a costly, four-way primary Tuesday. He'll face Gov. Pat Quinn in the November general election.
 
Illinois GOP party Chair Jack Dorgan says the party must expand and appeal to Democrats and independents in all races.
 
Democrats also held a party breakfast at the Billy Goat Tavern in downtown Chicago on Wednesday stressing party unity.
Published in Local News
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois State Police say two southwestern Illinois firearms instructors were improperly certifying students trying to get concealed carry permits.
 
The agency says Tuesday that nearly 100 students who were taught by the pair will have their training invalidated and their applications denied. The instructors won't be able to teach and the agency is forwarding its findings to the St. Clair County State's Attorney's office.
 
More than 2,700 firearms instructors have been certified by the state to teach gun safety classes as part of Illinois' new concealed carry law.
 
All applicants have to attend at least 16 hours of training before they can apply for the licenses. The first licenses were distributed earlier this month.
 
About 46,000 applications have been submitted. Officials expect about 300,000 applications to be filed this year.
Published in Local News

St. Louis, MO (KTRS) - A question for registered voters in Illinois, have you voted today? If you answered no, you are in what appears to be an overwhelming majority.

 

Keith Dudding is an election judge in Madison County and says this year's attendance could be one for the books. Dudding says at his location, on two of 300 registered voters had cast a ballot in the first two-and-a-half hours of voting.

 

KTRS has discovered the same experience at other polling places. Our reporter visited three separate polling places and officials at all locations gave a similar story--turnout is historically low.

 

There is still time to get to the ballot--polls close at 7 PM. 

Published in Local News
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