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CHICAGO (AP) - The question of raising the minimum wage, both in Illinois and nationally, has emerged as a significant 2014 campaign issue. Gov. Pat Quinn and other Democrats are pushing to raise the state's minimum wage of $8.25 per hour, and most Republicans oppose the idea, arguing it could push employers to actually cut jobs. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.
 
Here are edited excerpts of what Illinois' six gubernatorial candidates told The Associated Press about where they stand on the issue:
DEMOCRATS:
GOV. PAT QUINN, CHICAGO: "People are making $8.25 an hour in Illinois. That's not enough in my book ... How are we going to treat folks in our society who do some of the hardest jobs imaginable, get paid very, very modest wages we need to raise?"
 
TIO HARDIMAN, HILLSIDE: "The minimum wage should be raised to at least $12.00 per hour. However, we have to eliminate the (corporate) Head Tax or cut the Head Tax by 50 percent in Illinois before increasing the minimum wage."
 
------------------------
REPUBLICANS:
STATE SEN. BILL BRADY, BLOOMINGTON: "I believe the state and federal minimum wage rates need to be paired. I support a moratorium on increases in the Illinois minimum wage until such a time that the federal rate has caught up with our state rate."
 
STATE SEN. KIRK DILLARD, HINSDALE: "In an environment where jobs could possibly be negatively impacted, increasing the minimum wage is unwise ... Illinois cannot take the chance that more people will be out of work because of a minimum wage increase. Small businesses will be impacted the most and these are the very businesses that employ the bulk of Illinois residents."
 
BUSINESSMAN BRUCE RAUNER, WINNETKA: "Without action from Washington (to raise the federal minimum wage), I would favor increasing Illinois' minimum wage if we also adopt creative solutions to avoid further damage to our state's already shattered business climate. That can be done by providing incentives to small businesses to help offset the added costs. It can be done through workers' compensation reform, tort reform and elimination of other impediments to job growth."
 
STATE TREASURER DAN RUTHERFORD, CHENOA: "I believe every American should be able to make as much money as possible, legally and ethically. State government should not put an artificial cost of doing business, increase on a business, church or local unit of government."
Published in Local News
Thursday, 16 January 2014 13:26

Softball record set in eastern Illinois

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Talk about a fly ball.
 
A Champaign man has set the new Guinness World Records Book mark for catching a softball from the greatest height.
 
The Champaign News-Gazette reports 53-year-old Chris Shields managed to catch a softball tossed out of an ultralight plane hovering 250 feet above the ground.
 
Shields said he decided to go for the record after his 10-year-old daughter, Olivia, suggested the idea after watching him catch a pop-up.
 
He checked with Guinness officials who agreed to create the category.
 
Shields was able to catch the ball in his mitt last July on the second try.
 
He says the record is for fun, but adds it gives him a "street credential."
Published in Local News

   Illinois residents are applying for permits to carry concealed weapons at a rate of more than 1,000 a day - leaving local police agencies worried they won't be able to identify applicants with a history of violence.    

   Illinois law gives the State Police 120 days to investigate applications and issue permits. But at the beginning of the process, the law gives local police agencies 30 days to do their own investigations and ask a state panel to deny a request.  

   State Police officials say their checks are thorough enough to prevent unqualified applicants from slipping through the cracks.

Published in Local News
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois is creating a statewide system to regulate access to firearms by people who have mental health problems.
 
The Department of Human Services unveiled an online database Monday that will be used to compile information about people a professional deems a "clear and present danger" to themselves or others.
 
Human Services Secretary Michelle R.B. Saddler says Illinois' new concealed-carry law broadened the requirements of who must report information and kind of details must be shared.
 
Mental health professionals must report people in Illinois who've been declared in court to be mentally disabled, developmentally disabled, or meet qualifications for posing a "clear and present danger."
 
That information is checked against a list of those qualified to own a gun. The Illinois State Police then investigate the matter.
 
Published in Local News
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois residents have just begun applying for licenses to carry concealed weapons. But lawmakers have already begun tinkering with the new law.
 
The Arlington Heights Daily Herald reports Monday that legislators have introduced bills to increase penalties for carrying guns where they're not allowed; punish instructors who don't carry out training; and lower the legal age for carrying.
 
Illinois became the last state in the nation to allow concealed carry last July. It allows anyone with 16 hours of training to pay a $150 fee to get a license.
 
Villa Park Democratic Rep. Deborah Conroy wants to increase criminal penalties for taking a gun into a school. Republican State Rep. Ed Sullivan of Mundelein (MUN'-dih-lyne) wants instructors who commit fraud to go to jail.
 
Published in Local News
CHICAGO (AP) - Three more health insurance carriers are giving Illinois customers who signed up in December more time to make their first payments.
 
   Land of Lincoln Health has extended its payment deadline to Jan. 31 for people signed up for plans with coverage effective Jan. 1.
 
   Aetna customers now have until Jan. 14 to pay their first premium for January coverage. Coventry customers have until Jan. 17.
 
   Earlier this week, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois extended its deadline to Jan. 30 and Humana pushed its cutoff to Jan. 31.
 
   It's the latest in a string of deadline extensions for people buying insurance under President Barack Obama's health care law. An original New Year's Eve payment deadline fell by the wayside after the technical problems of the federal insurance shopping website HealthCare.gov.
 
Published in Local News

   Illinois' efforts to keep drunk drivers off the roads is earning recognition from Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.  MADD has given the state its highest rating for drunk-driving prevention.  

   Illinois has earned five stars in MADD's 2014 Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving report, which was released Thursday.  Some of the reasons cited in the report:  the state's use of sobriety check points and an all-offender ignition interlock law that took effect in 2009.

Published in Local News
Thursday, 09 January 2014 03:12

Blue Cross extends payment deadline to Jan. 30

   CHICAGO (AP) - People who signed up recently for health insurance with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois now have until Jan. 30 to pay their first month's premium and still get coverage for all of January.
   Company spokesman Greg Thompson says customers must pay their first month's premium before coverage for medical benefits begins. But claims for services received between Jan. 1 and when the first payment is received will be processed retroactively.
   Blue Cross has the most customers in the state's individual market.
   Thompson says the company is extending the payment deadline to give customers extra time to plan their household budgets.
   The extension applies to people who bought a Blue Cross plan either on the new insurance marketplace or directly from the insurance company.
 
Published in Local News

Ameren Missouri and Illinois crews are also dealing with the perilous conditions.

There are nearly 53-hundred customers in St. Clair County without power and 500 in Macoupin County without power in Illinois.

In Missouri, crews are working to restore power to a dozen customers in St. Charles and about 30 customers in St. Louis County. The St. Louis County customers have been affected by a downed power line at Lindbergh and Schuetz. Over 600 customers in Jefferson County are crossing their fingers that power will be restored to them soon. 

Published in Local News
BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) - St. Clair County officials say they've reached a tentative contract with emergency dispatches after years of negotiations.
 
The Belleville News-Dispatch reports the contract was approved by the southwestern Illinois county and runs through 2014.
 
Negotiations first began in 2011, but became contentious about how on-the-job experience was counted for work at a 911 answering service at the county sheriff's department.
 
The deal includes retroactive pay increases for 2011, 2012 and 2013 as well as an increase for 2014. Employees who leave their posts within three years of being hired will have to reimburse the county for a portion of their training expenses.
 
The previous contract for the dispatchers expired in January 2012.
 
Published in Local News

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