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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.
 
Thursday, 02 January 2014 14:47
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A published report says groups with ties to the pension-reform law adopted last month have contributed close to $3 million to Illinois Supreme Court justices who might decide its fate.
 
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that six of seven justices have taken money in the past 13 years from labor unions, business groups and a political committee controlled by Chicago Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.
 
Retired teachers have sued to stop the pension-reform plan that cuts retiree benefits to reduce a $100 billion debt.
 
Most of the pension-related money went to former Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride. He accepted $2.5 million from both Madigan and business groups in a 2010 retention battle.
 
Current Chief Justice Rita Garman says court decisions are based on constitutional standards, not politics.
 
Thursday, 02 January 2014 13:47
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri's most prolific political financier gave nearly $1.3 million to various political causes in the closing weeks of 2013.
 
Online state campaign finance reports show that retired investment firm executive Rex Sinquefield gave $750,000 to Teachgreat.org, $495,000 to Grow Missouri and $25,000 to Missourians for Excellence in Government during the final weeks of December.
 
Teachgreat.org is backing a potential ballot initiative that would end tenure protections for public school teachers and instead make their employment contingent on student achievement.
 
Grow Missouri is backing a potential ballot initiative that would cut Missouri's income tax rates.
 
Missourians for Excellence in Government is a political action committee that has funded candidates, most notably St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay.
 
Online records show Sinquefield gave more than $3.8 million in Missouri political contributions in 2013.
Thursday, 02 January 2014 13:46
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CHICAGO (AP) - The new year is bringing relief to some Illinoisans newly insured under the nation's health care law. Others still aren't sure whether they're covered.
 
The major benefits of the law took effect Wednesday. But problems with the federal website meant many people signed up at the last minute. Insurers haven't processed all the paperwork.
 
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois has been adding staff to keep up with calls. Worried patients without insurance cards are calling doctors like John Venetos in Chicago, who's decided to provide care and risk he won't be paid.
 
Stroke survivor Nancy Pace of Benton says she's relieved to have good insurance for the first time since 2005. She called Blue Cross on Wednesday, paid her premium and got her member number over the phone.
Thursday, 02 January 2014 13:44
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