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CHICAGO (AP) - A new report says electricity deregulation has saved Illinois customers up to $37 billion over the past 16 years.
 
The report being released Monday by four business groups says the average household has paid $3,600 less overall than if the average annual electricity rates had stayed the same.
 
Deregulation kicked in in 1998, allowing Illinois utilities to compete for business on the open market rather than being regulated monopolies whose rates were set. The utilities before deregulation both supplied and delivered electricity to customers, who had no other choices.
 
The legislature also restructured the natural gas market.
 
The report was issued by the Illinois Manufacturers' Association, Illinois Retail Merchants Association, Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Business Roundtable.
 
Electric rates have risen recently as utilities make "smart grid" improvements.
Published in Local News
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois officials say the state's backlog of unpaid bills is decreasing.
 
The Springfield State Journal-Register reports the backlog is expected to fall to $5.6 billion by June 30, which is the end of the current fiscal year. That's down from a high of $9.9 billion in 2010.
 
The figures came from a letter acting budget director Jerome Stermer wrote to legislative leaders, adding that the unpaid tab was $6.4 billion in December.
 
The newspaper's story is part of GateHouse newspapers' series on Illinois' backlog of unpaid bills.
 
Lawmakers from both parties say the state has made progress, but say there's still more work to be done.
Published in Local News
CHICAGO (AP) - Illinois State Police officials say the first concealed carry licenses are being mailed.
 
Officials say the first permits are being sent to new license holders on Friday. Illinois State Police say they've approved 5,000 applications so far.
 
State Police Col. Marc Maton (MAY'-tahn) says state police have denied 300 applications and received objections from local law enforcement agencies on 800 applicants.
 
Maton says 46,000 applications have been received so far.
 
Illinois gun owners began applying for the permits in January after the state became the last in the nation to allow people to carry concealed guns.
 
State officials believe as many as 400,000 people will apply for the concealed carry permits during the first year of the law.
Published in Local News
BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) - A southwestern Illinois lawmaker wants communities around the state to be able install speed cameras, which are only allowed in Chicago.
 
The Belleville News-Democrat reports Rep. Jay Hoffman has introduced legislation that'd allow communities of all sizes to install the devices.
 
Legislation signed by the governor in 2012 limited speed cameras to cities with at least 1 million residents, making the statute apply solely to Chicago.
 
Hoffman is a Belleville Democrat. He says he wants "one uniform law for the whole state."
 
Speed cameras are only allowed in designated safety zones - areas near a school or a park. Drivers caught by the cameras can face $100 fines. Money generated from the tickets can only be used for public safety initiatives, construction or infrastructure maintenance.
 
Published in Local News
Tuesday, 25 February 2014 15:13

Illinois budget heads to full House

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - An Illinois House Committee says the state will have $34.5 billion to spend in the upcoming fiscal year.
   Lawmakers approved a resolution for 2015 spending on Tuesday.
   Marion Democrat John Bradley is the chairman of the Revenue and Finance Committee. He says the number factors in the January 2015 expiration of the state's temporary income tax increase. The current Illinois budget has $35.6 billion in revenue.
 
   Bradley says budgeters will be cautious and prudent this spring.
 
   Lawmakers face an anticipated $3 billion budget hole that comes from the expiration of the tax increase as well as about $1.3 billion in increased costs to required programs and services.
   The measure now heads to the full House.
 
   The House will negotiate the budget with the Senate, which also approves revenue amounts.
 
Published in Local News
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A Chicago violence-prevention program ordered by Gov. Pat Quinn was so poorly put together that auditors questioned 40 percent of the expenditures turned in by contractors.
 
   The Neighborhood Recovery Initiative announced by Quinn in August 2010 spent $55 million in the first two years that were examined by Auditor General William Holland. His report was released Tuesday.
   The effort was run by the now-defunct Illinois Violence Prevention Authority. But the agency relied on recommendations from Chicago aldermen when choosing community agencies to run the programs. Those agencies charged $4.4 million, but poor record-keeping led auditors to question $1.8 million of that spending.
   The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority took over the Violence Prevention Authority last year. A spokeswoman says the program has been revamped with much tighter grant rules.
Published in Local News
St. Louis, MO (KTRS) - Madison County law enforcement is trying to get the word out to local businesses on how to deal with some of the new gun laws in the state of Illinois.  
 
States Attorney Tom Gibbons and Chief Deputy Sheriff Brad Wells were on hand at the Edwardsville/Glen Carbon Chamber of Commerce meeting Teusday morning to discuss questions and concerns over the new conceal carry law that was passed last summer.  
 
The major topics covered at the meeting included how businesses handle the concealed carry law, what to do should those businesses want to prohibit its customers or employees from carrying concealed weapons, safe harbors for gun owners, and what to do in the event of a shooting incident.
 
On July 9th, Illinois became the last state in the country to allow carrying concealed firearms in public.  Registration for the conceal carry licenses have been going on since January.
 
Published in Local News
EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) - A southwestern Illinois county is weighing whether to commit $500,000 toward an East St. Louis station along an emerging high-speed Amtrak route.
 
The Belleville News-Democrat reports St. Clair County's governing board is considering the investment.
 
The state is working to connect Chicago and St. Louis with a 284-mile rail track capable of allowing trains to reach 110 mph.
 
The board will consider using the money to aid the Illinois Department of Transportation with the design and planning of the station.
 
Board Chairman Mark Kern last week asked the panel's other members to support the station.
 
The total cost of an East St. Louis station is unclear.
 
The project is expected to be completed in 2017.
Published in Local News
CHICAGO (AP) - Cook County Clerk David Orr says he'll start issuing marriage licenses immediately for same-sex couples.
 
Orr made the announcement Friday, just after a federal judge ruled gay couples in the Chicago area don't have to wait until June to marry. That's when the state law is set to take effect.
 
Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman's order says there is no reason to delay same-sex marriages. Her finding applies only to Cook County.
 
Orr says he'll keep the downtown Chicago Bureau of Vital Records open an extra two hours on Friday evening - until 7 p.m. He says he's doing that to accommodate any couples who want to get marriage licenses after work. Only the downtown Chicago will issue same-sex licenses on Friday. All Cook County offices will offer licenses on Monday.
Published in Local News

   The strong line of thunderstorms that sped through the St. Louis area Thursday afternoon spawned a tornado in central Illinois, about 50 west of Springfield.  

   Emergency Services officials in Cass and Morgan Counties had reported the twister just before 3 p.m.

   Morgan County Sheriff Randy Duvendack says the storm caused no damage.    

Published in Local News
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