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EAST ALTON, Ill. (AP) - Property taxpayers in southern Illinois are getting back roughly $8.4 million related to a now-closed hospital under legislation signed by Gov. Pat Quinn.

The Chicago Democrat signed a bill Wednesday that refunds money from the Wood River Township Hospital that closed in 2000. The hospital's fund had about $8.4 million after paying pension benefits and debt.

House lawmakers approved the bill last week. Supporters say they had several options on what to do with the money. They say giving it to property taxpayers seemed the most fair and popular.

In a Wednesday statement, Quinn says it's been a priority to reduce costs and improve services.

The hospital board estimates a person with a $100,000 home would receive a refund of up to $450.

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The annual Veterans Day parade in Illinois' capital city has a new rule this year: No politicians, and no campaigning.

The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reports the change is part of an effort to refocus the event on the military men and women who served the country.

Organizers also are banning participants from throwing candy to people lining the streets downtown Springfield.

Sam Montalbano is a parade organizer. He says World War II veterans "aren't going to be around much longer" and it's time to salute them.

Monday's parade will honor all veterans.

Politicians who served in the military may participate with their veterans groups, but they can't do any campaigning.

Instead of candy, participants will hand out small American flags.

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The Illinois Senate adjourned its fall session today without voting on tax breaks for Archer Daniels Midland Company or the newly merged OfficeMax and Office Depot.

Sen. Tom Cullerton is sponsor of the bill to give up to $53 million in tax breaks to Office Depot Inc., which emerged from the merger of Naperville-based OfficeMax and Florida-based Office Depot.

He expects lawmakers will return to Springfield in December to deal with the state pension crisis. Cullerton says some legislators wanted to wait to give out tax breaks until after they'd passed pension reform.

Sen. Andy Manar is sponsor of the ADM bill. He says he feels progress has been made on the $30 million ADM bill.

The incentives are aimed at getting the companies to keep their headquarters in Illinois.

 

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - An Illinois lawmaker is engaged to his partner just hours after the state Legislature approved same-sex marriage legislation.

State Rep. Sam Yingling of Round Lake Beach proposed to his partner during a celebration Tuesday at the Governor's Mansion. The couple has been together three years and has three children.

Yingling tells The Associated Press they'll get a marriage license as soon as the law goes into effect in June.

The Democrat says he's been carrying a ring back and forth to Springfield for about a year, waiting for the chance to propose.

He says the two grew up in Illinois and wanted to get married in their home state.

Gov. Pat Quinn says he'll the bill this month. Illinois will become the 15th state to allow gay marriage.

 

Published in Local News
Thursday, 31 October 2013 15:06

Food stamp cuts to hit Friday

CHICAGO (AP) - More than 2 million low-income Illinois residents who receive food stamps will soon see their benefits cut.

Beginning Friday, a temporary increase in food stamp dollars from the 2009 economic stimulus will expire.

The change will affect more than 47 million Americans. It comes as Congress is negotiating additional cuts to the program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

The Illinois Hunger Coalition says about 349,000 seniors and 886,000 children statewide will be affected.

Executive Director Diane Doherty says the benefits have provided "an important stepping stone" for struggling families.

Benefits vary based on income and other factors. The Agriculture Department says the cuts will mean a family of four will receive $36 less per month.

Nationally, the program has more than doubled in cost since 2008.

 

Published in Local News
Wednesday, 30 October 2013 16:21

Illinois school report cards due out tomorrow

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Thursday's release of "report cards" on school performance will show a drop in the percentage of students passing the Illinois Standards Achievement test last school year.

But that doesn't mean teaching or student performance has actually fallen. Rather, the decline in scores is a result of the state board of education's decision to toughen the grading scale for grade schools so it matches that used by high schools.

This year, only 62 of 863 districts achieved growth benchmarks set under federal No Child Left Behind law, down from 152 last year.

But if the old scoring method were still in use, more students would actually have made gains.

The change is part of the state's preparation to adopt more rigorous learning standards in the 2014-2015 school year.

 

Published in Local News

ANNA, Ill. (AP) — Officials at a southern Illinois food pantry say they're in dire need of help to keep their shelves stocked.

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan reported Saturday that the Shawnee Development Food Pantry in the Union County town of Anna suspended operations for two weeks earlier this month because there was no food to give away.

Officials say that's the first time in 20 years that the pantry has had to close its doors.

A truckload of food arrived a few days ago, and should last until the end of the week. But officials say they'll have to close again if no more food arrives.

They say the pantry typically serves about 200 households monthly, but that number has climbed as high as 335 households as more young families seek help.

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Serving Illinois prisoners two meals a day instead of three was supposed to save the state money.

But Corrections Department officials told lawmakers this week it will cost $200,000 per prison to implement the "brunch" program.

Corrections spokesman Tom Shaer now says the main goal is to reduce inmate movement - a cost savings - and avoid serving breakfast in dark morning hours.

Prisons in Robinson and Galesburg have begun the program and the Mount Sterling lockup will follow soon. Shaer says the rest of the two dozen state prisons could follow after Jan. 1.

Prison director S.A. "Tony" Godinez said in early 2012 it would save $2 million in the following year. Shaer says there might be savings down the line but security is the top concern.

Published in Local News

CHICAGO (AP) - A federal judge has sentenced an Illinois man to 30 years in prison for convictions on narcotics and firearms charges.

Thirty-five-year-old Joel Rivas was sentenced Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve. The U.S. Attorney's Office announced the sentence Thursday.

Rivas was convicted in July of drug charges, including conspiracy to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, and illegally possessing two guns.

The former Elgin resident was living in Chicago when he was arrested in 2010. That's when authorities say they found cocaine, marijuana and guns in an Elgin storage unit.

Prosecutors claimed that Rivas and another man, Ismael Miranda, distributed wholesale amounts of cocaine and marijuana to customers in Illinois between 2007 and 2010.

The 36-year-old Miranda pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Published in Local News

WHEELING, Ill. (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn says he's not discouraged that lawmakers came away from two days of their fall veto session without tackling any of the major issues on their agenda.

The Chicago Democrat says the days were valuable for discussion to "lay a foundation" on the state's pension crisis and same-sex marriage.

However, neither issue came up for a vote before lawmakers left town.

They'll be back next month. Quinn says that'll be the time to take votes.

A bipartisan panel has been tasked with coming up with a solution to Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension problem, but the panel has been stalled on a plan that would save an estimated $138 billion.

Meanwhile, advocates and opponents of legalizing same-sex marriage both held rallies this week in Springfield.

 

Published in Local News

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