SPRINGFIELD, IL (AP) - Doctors providing primary care in Illinois can get higher Medicaid reimbursement rates through the end of 2014.
Illinois officials are reminding doctors to sign up online for the higher rates, which are expected to increase by an average of 93 percent. If doctors sign up by June 30 they can get reimbursed at the higher rate retroactively to the beginning of this year.
Julie Hamos is director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. She says the temporary raise should help increase doctors' participation in Medicaid.
That's important because thousands of uninsured Illinois residents will be newly eligible for Medicaid in 2014.
The pay increase for primary care was authorized by the Affordable Care Act.
The jobless rates in Missouri and Illinois are moving in opposite directions.
Despite adding 4,600 jobs in May, Missouri's rate climbed to 6.8 percent from 6.6 percent in April. For the first time in several months, the government sector added jobs.
In Illinois, the unemployment rate fell in May to 9.1 percent. It was the second straight monthly drop after a series of increases earlier this year. State officials says that May's decrease was due in part to gains in construction employment.
Illinois' jobless rate still remains much higher than the 7.6 nationwide unemployment rate for May that was reported earlier this month.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois lawmakers have convened a special session in Springfield, where they're expected to move ahead with plans to form a committee to deal with pensions.
Moving to committee requires a vote by both the House and Senate.
Gov. Pat Quinn met separately with Democratic and Republican legislative leaders Wednesday morning.
Republican House Leader Tom Cross says the governor wants to move ahead quickly so pension reform can be voted on by early July in another special session.
House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton each would get three appointees to the 10-member committee. Cross and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (rah-DOH'-nyoh) each would get two.
Illinois' $97 billion unfunded pension liability is the worst in the nation.
Alton, Illinois police are reminding residents, do not bring concealed weapons to this weekend's Block Party.
Despite the Madison County State's Attorney issuing new guidelines on conceal carry this week, the police will arrest anyone found with a concealed weapon. State's Attorney Tom Gibbons agreed with this weekend's prohibition. New rules from Gibbons stated that people in Madison County can have a loaded gun in their car or person if they have a firearm owner's ID card.
But, that is not the case for this weekend's event.
CHICAGO (AP) - If Illinois becomes the 19th state to legalize medical marijuana, experts say there may be scores of legal questions for businesses.
Crain's Chicago Business reports the bill that was approved by lawmakers in Springfield is prompting questions from observers.
The measure, which is awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn's signature, is being billed as the strictest in the nation. It's not clear if Quinn will sign it.
The measure's sponsor says there'd be minimal impact on employers with a zero-tolerance drug policy.
But critics say there could be legal issues related to hiring and firing workers who test positive for the drug or show up to work while they're impaired.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A 140-year-old Illinois prison housing the state's toughest criminals could one day be home to a modern and ecologically friendly power-generator.
The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises Newspapers in Illinois reported Friday that Department of Corrections officials are studying whether Menard Correctional Center in southwestern Illinois could be run by waste products from other prisons.
Officials say wood, paper and food waste could be burned to generate about 10 percent of the power used at Menard, a 3,600-inmate prison built in the 1870s that's located about 60 miles southeast of St. Louis.
Jen Aholt is the CEO of Illinois Correctional Industries. She says the industries division could turn the refuse into dried, burnable pellets and transport them to Menard.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn wants lawmakers to return to Springfield later this month, but some legislators aren't sure why.
Quinn released a statement Thursday criticizing lawmakers for failing to address the state's nearly 100-billion dollar pension shortfall and calling a special session which begins June 19th. The announcement follows news that Moody's Investors Service is lowering Illinois' credit rating. But a spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan says he believes the special session is to deal with guns, not pensions.
Quinn is currently considering conceal-carry legislation that was passed last week. Quinn hasn't said if he'll sign the plan. If he vetoes it, lawmakers could override the veto.
EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (AP) - Concealed carry legislation is pending before the Illinois governor but the state's attorney in Madison County says citizens can start carrying weapons immediately.
Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons said Thursday that "it serves no just purpose" to deny citizens the ability to carry weapons. The Illinois Legislature passed concealed-carry legislation during its recent session under order by a federal appeals court, which ruled the state's ban unconstitutional. That legislation is awaiting action by Gov. Pat Quinn, who hasn't said if he will sign it or not.
The Belleville News-Democrat reports that Gibbons says people can carry a concealed weapon in his county as long as they meet seven requirements. Those requirements include possessing a valid Firearm Owner's Identification Card. Citizens also must be carrying the weapon for self-defense.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A second major rating agency is downgrading Illinois' credit worthiness.
Moody's Investors Service lowered the state's $27 billion in outstanding bonded indebtedness to A3 from A2. The new rating's three levels above junk status.
Illinois already has the worst credit rating among the states.
Fitch Ratings downgraded Illinois' credit on Monday.
Both firms blame lawmakers' lack of action on a $97 billion shortfall in its public-employee pension systems.
The Legislature adjourned its spring session without adopting a plan to make up the difference over 30 years.
Moody's says its rating "assumes the government will not take action to reduce the state's pension liabilities any time soon."
A credit-rating downgrade means it costs the state millions more to borrow money when it sells future bonds to finance long-term construction projects.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Springfield and Sangamon County officials have announced an agreement with the state on design work for consolidating train traffic through Illinois' capital city. The effort is part of high-speed rail development.
The agreement made public Wednesday involves nearly $8.7 million to pay for half of the design work. The project would move rail traffic through the downtown core farther out to a corridor on the city's east side.
The deal was signed by Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider, Springfield Mayor Michael Houston and Sangamon County Board Chairman Andy Van Meter.
The project is part of the Chicago-to-St. Louis high-speed rail development. There is no current funding for train traffic consolidation.
The plan would include new track alignments and separating automobile and train traffic in spots.