SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A bipartisan committee of lawmakers has approved a plan to deal with Illinois' $100 billion pension problem. The measure now moves to the House and Senate for consideration.
The Associated Press confirmed with six members of the 10-member panel that they had signed the measure Monday after arriving in Springfield for a special session.
Leaders announced the plan last week. It comes nearly five months after a special committee was formed to tackle the problem.
The proposal pushes back workers' retirement age on a sliding scale, has a funding guarantee, adds a 401k-style option and reduces the employee contribution.
It also would replace the current 3 percent annual cost-of-living increases. Retirees would continue to receive that rate up to a certain amount of annuity payments, based on years of employment.
There's more fallout from a loaded handgun found inside a bathroom at the Missouri Capitol last month.
The aide to House Speaker Tim Jones who left that gun behind has resigned. The speaker's chief of staff, Tom Smith, confirmed Thursday that Dave Evans had resigned September 27.
Smith says he was satisfied with the corrective actions Evans agreed to after the incident but that Evans thought it was best for him to step down.
A 2011 Missouri law allows elected officials and their employees to carry concealed firearms inside the Capitol if they have permits.
NEW YORK (AP) — From New York's Liberty Island to Alaska's Denali National Park, the U.S. government closed its doors as a bitter budget fight idled hundreds of thousands of federal workers and halted all but the most critical government services for the first time in nearly two decades.
A midnight deadline to avert a shutdown passed amid Congressional bickering, casting in doubt Americans' ability to get government services ranging from federally-backed home loans to supplemental food assistance for children and pregnant women.
For many employees of the federal government, Tuesday's shutdown meant no more paychecks as they were forced onto unpaid furloughs. For those still working, it meant delays in getting paid.
Park Ranger and father-to-be Darquez Smith said he already lives paycheck-to-paycheck while putting himself through college.
"I've got a lot on my plate right now — tuition, my daughter, bills," said Smith, 23, a ranger at Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park in Ohio. "I'm just confused and waiting just like everyone else."
The impact of the shutdown was mixed — immediate and far-reaching for some, annoying but minimal for others.
In Colorado, where flooding killed eight people earlier this month, emergency funds to help rebuild homes and businesses continued to flow — but federal worker furloughs were expected to slow it down.
National Guard soldiers rebuilding washed-out roads would apparently be paid on time — along with the rest of the country's active-duty personnel — under a bill passed hours before the shutdown. Existing Social Security and Medicare benefits, veterans' services and mail delivery were also unaffected.
Other agencies were harder hit — nearly 3,000 Federal Aviation Administration safety inspectors were furloughed along with most of the National Transportation Safety Board's employees, including accident investigators who respond to air crashes, train collisions, pipeline explosions and other accidents.
Almost all of NASA shut down, except for Mission Control in Houston, and national parks closed along with the Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo. Even the zoo's popular panda cam went dark, shut off for the first time since a cub was born there Aug. 23.
As the shutdown loomed Monday, visitors to popular parks made their frustration with elected officials clear.
"There is no good thing going to come out of it," said Chris Fahl, a tourist from Roanoke, Ind., visiting the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park in Hodgenville, Ky. "Taxpayers are just going to be more overburdened."
Emily Enfinger, visiting the Statue of Liberty, said politicians need to find a way to work together.
"They should be willing to compromise, both sides, and it discourages me that they don't seem to be able to do that," she said. "They're not doing their job as far as I'm concerned."
Joe Wentz, a retired federal employee from Lebanon, Va., visiting San Francisco with his wife, bought tickets to visit Alcatraz on Thursday — if it's open.
Wentz said he's frustrated that some politicians are using the budget to push changes in the Affordable Care Act.
"We've been disgusted a long time that they're not working together," he said.
The shutdown was strangely captivating to Marlena Knight, an Australian native visiting Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. She was confounded that the impasse focused on the nation's health care system — an indispensable service in her home country.
"We can't imagine not having a national health system," she said. "I just can't believe that this country can shut down over something like a national health system. Totally bizarre, as an Australian, but fascinating."
It turns out an institution as massive as the federal government takes some time to grind to a total halt: Many federal workers were being permitted to come in Tuesday to change voicemail messages or fill out time cards. But after that, they were under strict orders to do no work, even check their email.
With no telling how long the budget standoff will last, even programs not immediately affected could run out of cash.
Barbara Haxton, executive director of the Ohio Head Start Association, said its preschool learning programs would be in jeopardy if a shutdown lasted more than two weeks. March's automatic budget cuts meant nearly 3,000 children lost access to services and there could be dire consequences if the budget standoff drags on.
"It's not as though this is a throwaway service. These are the poorest of the poor children," Haxton said. "And our Congressman still gets his paycheck. His pay doesn't stop and his health insurance doesn't stop."
Associated Press reporters Kathy Matheson in Philadelphia, Joan Lowy in Washington, D.C., Dylan Lovan in Louisville, Ky., Terence Chea in San Francisco and Amanda Lee Myers in Cincinnati contributed to this report.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn is lashing out at lawmakers after the Illinois House approved a concealed carry bill that he says "puts public safety at risk."
Quinn says he opposes the plan because it would wipe out local gun ordinances - including Chicago's ban on assault weapons. Quinn issued a statement minutes after the House passed the bill on Friday.
He says that Chicago and other local communities should be able to keep their gun-control ordinances on the books.
Quinn is vowing to do all he can to prevent the bill from passing in the Illinois Senate.
Illinois is the last state in the nation that bans concealed weapons, and the bill comes after a federal appeals court ordered lawmakers to pass a concealed carry law by June 9.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The Illinois House has approved a plan to allow qualified gun owners to carry their weapons in public.
Illinois is the only state in the country without a concealed-carry law. A federal appeals court says that's unconstitutional and has ordered the state to enact such a law by June 9.
The proposal adopted today was brokered by state House Speaker Michael Madigan, but it's opposed by several of his fellow Democrats, including the governor.
Gov. Pat Quinn's office has called the plan a "massive overreach" because it would wipe out all local gun regulations, including Chicago's ban on assault-style weapons. That's a deal-breaker for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who backs tough restrictions to curb the city's gun violence. Quinn says he'll work with the state Senate to "stop it in its tracks."
Senate President John Cullerton, another Chicago Democrat, also opposes the measure.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri House committee has advanced a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at protecting gun rights.
The amendment approved on Tuesday would define the right to bear arms as "unalienable" and require the state to defend against any "infringement" of that right. It would also include defending one's "family" with a firearm as a guaranteed constitutional right.
Sponsoring Republican Sen. Kurt Schaefer, of Columbia, says the legislation would protect against proposed gun control laws at the state and federal level.
The Senate passed the same measure earlier this year. If passed by the full House, Missouri voters would need to approve the constitutional change.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The Illinois House has approved a comprehensive pension-reform plan for the first time after years of talks.
The House voted 62-51 Thursday to advance the measure sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan.
The Chicago Democrat's proposal is designed to close a $97 billion deficit that dogs the state's pension plans. Underfunding for decades has left the accounts short of what they need.
The legislation requires employees to contribute 2 percent more of their earnings to their pensions. They would also have to delay retirement and accept less-generous annual cost-of-living increases.
The state would guarantee it would make its required contribution every year.
The measure now goes to the Senate where President John Cullerton has his own ideas about reform.
CHICAGO (AP) - The leader of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus has signed on to co-sponsor a measure that would authorize same-sex couples to marry in the state.
Rep. Ken Dunkin announced his support for the legislation Tuesday. The Chicago Democrat says gay families living in his district are waiting for the state to treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve.
Dunkin says the legislation would provide equal protection under the law for all families.
The proposal received Senate approval in February. Supporters say they are working to secure the 60 votes needed to pass the measure in the House.
If the bill becomes law, it would make Illinois the 10th state to allow same-sex marriage. Illinois approved civil unions in 2011.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Several hundred gun-rights advocates rallied at the state Capitol as the Missouri House voted to allow certain school personnel to carry concealed weapons in school buildings.
The House voted 115-41 to send the measure to the Senate Thursday.
The Missouri Sports Shooter Association held a previously scheduled rally in the Capitol rotunda while the House was debating the bill. Many lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, spoke at the event and promised to continue to push for more gun rights.
The House bill would also lower the minimum age required to carry concealed weapons and allow firearms less than 16 inches to be openly carried by people with valid permits.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, a Democrat who represented eastern Ohio in Washington for two terms after winning a write-in campaign, died Sunday in a Florida hospital, the Ohio Democratic Party announced. He was 70.
Wilson had suffered a stroke in February while vacationing with his family and was recovering at a rehabilitation center, Democratic Party officials said. He fell ill Saturday night and was admitted to a hospital in Boynton Beach, where he died at about 2:30 p.m. Sunday with his family by his side, the officials said.
Wilson spent 14 years in Columbus and Washington championing for the people of eastern and southeastern Ohio. He secured federal funding for police departments, airport improvements and small business incubators, among other project.
Before being elected to Congress, Wilson served in the Ohio House of Representatives from 1997 to 2005. He then served two years in the Ohio Senate.
"I served with Charlie in the State Legislature for six years and he was a loyal friend in good times and bad," Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern said in a statement. "An outspoken advocate for working people, Charlie never wavered in his service to his constituents or his lifelong pursuit to help improve the lives of others."
Wilson won his first congressional campaign in 2006 as a write-in candidate, filling the seat vacated by Gov. Ted Strickland. He had failed to gather enough petition signatures to qualify for the state's primary, requiring him to run as a write-in for the 6th Congressional District stretching from Youngstown's southern suburbs to the tip of the Ohio River near Portsmouth.
Wilson, who represented a coal-heavy district, served on the House Committee on Science and Technology.
He lost bids for Congress in 2010 and 2012.
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, who defeated Wilson in 2012, said he was saddened to hear of his death and expressed condolences to his family.
"Although Charlie and I were political opponents, we were never enemies. He served with honor in the Ohio state legislature and in Congress," Johnson said in a statement.
Before entering public service, Wilson was owner of several small businesses throughout the Ohio Valley. He attended Ohio University in Athens and while still in college, worked as a UAW member on the assembly line at the Ford Automotive auto plant in Lorain.
Wilson is survived by four sons, one of whom served as his campaign manager in the 2006 race and went on to succeed him in the Ohio Senate.
"Throughout his extraordinary life, Congressman Wilson was motivated by a desire to serve his country and a passion for the causes most important to the constituents of Southeast and East Ohio," his family said in a statement. "Congressman Wilson served with honor, dignity and an unwavering sense of civic responsibility to the families of our region. Charlie will be remembered for his boundless energy, his honest approach, and his dedication to improving the lives of our future generations."
Funeral arrangements were incomplete.