Illinois Public Media News
More than 200 new laws take effect in Illinois starting Jan. 1. Under some of the new laws:
_Synthetic marijuana, sold in convenience stores and gas stations under names such as "K2'' and "Head Trip,'' will be outlawed. The law makes possession or sale of the products a felony with penalties ranging from 1 to 60 years.
_People convicted of first-degree murder must be added to a new first-degree murder database, similar to the sex offender registry, when they're released from prison or any other facility. The public database would include names, addresses, employment places, schools attended and photos for offenders for up to 10 years after release from prison.
_Convicted sex offenders who are employed at or attend a college or university must register with campus public safety.
_School boards can suspend or expel a student who makes an explicit threat on a website against another student or any school employees or personnel.
_People with an order of protection issued against them must surrender their Firearm Owners Identification Card until the order is lifted. Anyone convicted of domestic battery is ineligible to obtain or keep an FOID card.
_Motorcyclists stopped at a red light may proceed through the light if it fails to change to green after a reasonable length of time.
_Animal-control facilities scanning a lost pet for a microchip also must look for other common forms of identification, including tattoos and ID tags.
_Antique vehicle owners have unrestricted use of highways from April 1 through Oct. 31 if they obtain an expanded-use registration.
(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)
Illinois' 2012 congressional elections are beginning to shape up after dozens of candidates officially filed to run by a Tuesday afternoon deadline.
Seventy-eight people are running for Illinois' 18 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Illinois Democrats have taken advantage of the once-in-a-decade process of redrawing congressional boundaries to try and make things harder on Republicans next year. And for some GOP candidates, it will be.
Two incumbent Republicans - Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Don Manzullo - are being forced into a primary in the 16th Congressional District, which covers much of north-central Illinois. In Chicago's northwest suburbs, outspoken Tea Party Republican Joe Walsh has chosen to run in his current 8th district in order to avoid facing fellow GOP Congressman Randy Hultgren in the 14th. Hultgren is running unopposed in the March 20 Republican primary, but Walsh still must survive the contest against two other candidates.
On the Democratic side, long-time incumbent Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. is being forced into a primary against former Rep. Debbie Halvorson. The primary in Illinois' 8th district will likely be another closely watched race. Iraq war veteran and former Obama administration official Tammy Duckworth is facing off against Raja Krishnamoorthi, in a newly redrawn district that's more favorable to Democrats.
Candidates have until next week to object to their opponents' nominating papers.
National Democratic officials have repeatedly described Illinois as a "center of gravity" in the Democrats' efforts to reclaim the House majority. But Republicans say they're in a good position to keep their majority delegation, and that Democratic leadership in the state is out of touch. They see an opportunity to grab the state's only open congressional seat in southern Illinois following the sudden retirement of a longtime Democrat, Rep. Jerry Costello.
Democrats may have an advantage with the new map, which cuts down the number of districts by one, preserves existing Democratic-leaning districts, creates new ones and pits several Republican incumbents against each other. All but one of the state's Republican congressmen sued to overturn the map, which Democrats crafted because they control the state Legislature and governor's office.
Even federal judges who upheld the map's legality acknowledged that it was a "blatant political move to increase the number of Democratic congressional seats."
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson (R-Urbana) will face two challengers in the March primary for Illinois' 13th Congressional district race. It is the first time Johnson has faced a primary battle since 2000.
Retired iron worker Frank Metzger, 70, of Glen Carbon filed his paperwork before Tuesday's 5 p.m. deadline.
The other challenger, who filed last week, is veterinarian Michael Firsching of the Madison County community of Moro. The Democratic primary for the 13th district will remain the same as announced last week. Physician David Gill will take on first-time candidate and Greene County State's Attorney Matt Goetten.
And the re-drawn 15th Congressional District won't include a primary battle. Next fall, Republican Congressman John Shimkus will take on pro-life Democrat and retired nurse Angela Michael of Highland.
The Illinois primary is March 20. The State Board of Elections said Tuesday that 78 people submitted paperwork before the deadine.
Prosecutors have charged two Indianapolis women with making false claims to try to collect money from funds intended for victims of the Indiana State Fair stage collapse.
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry says Stephanie Murry and Sandra Hurn were charged Tuesday with forgery, attempted theft and perjury. Hurn also was charged with theft.
Authorities say the women each submitted claims totaling $22,500 to a private relief fund and the state tort claim fund.
Prosecutors say both women submitted falsified hospital records detailing injuries they claimed to have suffered at the Aug. 13 concert that killed seven people. A prosecutor's office spokeswoman says neither woman is believed to have attended the concert.
Murry's attorney didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment. Hurn had no attorney or listed phone number.
Eastern Illinois Foodbank Could Win $10,000 from Kraft
As the University of Illinois' football team gears up to take on UCLA this weekend in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, fans from both team's hometowns are trying to garner enough support for their area food banks.
By "Liking" the Kraft Fight Hunger Facebook page and playing a two-minute trivia game, a user has the chance to donate meals to Feeding America, one of the largest anti-hunger organizations in the country.
A Danville man faces murder charges in connection with the death of his mother on Christmas Day.
Forty four year old Michael Gibbs made his first appearance in Vermilion County Circuit Court Tuesday afternoon. Eighty four year old Ethel Gibbs was found dead in her apartment on East View Drive Sunday.
Danville Police have not disclosed how Gibbs died. An autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday morning.
Michael Gibbs, who lists the same address as his mother, faces four counts of first degree murder, and one of aggravated battery. He remains in custody on $1-million bond, and will be back in court Jan. 12.
A new investment group has completed its purchase of the company that owns the Chicago Sun-Times.
A spokesman for Wrapports LLC says its transaction to buy Sun-Times Media Holdings LLC closed Monday. Sun-Times Media also owns a chain of newspapers in suburban Chicago and Indiana.
Sun-Times Media filed for bankruptcy in March 2009 and was led out of bankruptcy later that year by an investment group headed by Mesirow Financial president James Tyree. Tyree died earlier this year.
While the newspaper has slashed costs and cut dozens of staff positions, the Sun-Times won a Pulitzer Prize earlier this year for local reporting.
Its new ownership group is led by technology investor Michael Ferro Jr. and Timothy Knight, the former publisher of Long Island, N.Y., newspaper Newsday.
Different communities are asking residents to recycle their Christmas trees instead of throwing them out.
The Champaign County Forest Preserve has set up tree drop off points at three of its forest preserves in Mahomet, Penfield, and Homer. Trees can be dropped off through Jan. 20.
The forest preserve's Director of Natural Resources, Daniel Olson said some of the donated trees are put underwater in lakes and rivers, so that fish can have a place to hide. Meanwhile, he said other donated trees are used to provide nutrients to existing vegetation.
"We chip a lot of it into mulch, and then we do put it around our tree that helps with the health of the tree," Olson said. "It helps with the longevity of how long that tree will be around."
Olson said tree giving appears to be down this year, but he said he expects it to pick up soon.
Urbana is also reminding people to recycle their Christmas trees this season. Each year, the city collects around 1,600 Christmas trees for its annual recycling program.
Urbana Environmental Sustainability Manager Bart Hagston said during the first couple of weeks of January, residents should leave their trees out on the curb before 6 a.m. on days when their recycling is picked up.
"Well, to preserve landfill space, we like to keep these trees out of the waste stream and they also help to provide material which can be used for landscaping projects and that's why we like to send them out to the landscaping recycling center where they'll be grounded up," Hagston said.
People who do not live in Urbana can still recycle their Christmas trees through the city by dropping them off at the Urbana Recycling Center at 1210 E University Ave.
The city of Champaign has a similar recycling program in place from Jan. 2 through Jan. 13. Residents can leave their trees within four feet of the curb by 6:00 a.m. on their scheduled collection date.
Danville city officials will also be collecting Christmas trees from curbs from Jan. 3 through Jan. 13. The trees will be collected and processed through the city's yard waste recycling program. Questions may be directed to Danville Public Works - Solid Waste Division at 431-2288.
People interested in recycling their trees in any of these communities are reminded not to include any extra debris, like tree stands or ornaments.
Sears and Kmart will be closing more than 100 stores after disappointing holiday sales revenue. The holiday season is the most crucial time of year for retailers to haul in a profit, and this year Kmart and Sears fell way short of their goals.
Sears Holdings Corp. owns the companies and is based in Northwest Suburban Hoffman Estates. The corporation says same-store revenue fell 5.2 percent to date for the quarter at Sears and K-Mart.
Both stores blame revenue drops on diminished consumer electronic sales. Kmart also had less inventory on layaway and lackluster clothing sales this year, and Sears saw a decline in home appliances.
Sears has more than 4,000 stores in the US and Canada. Closing 100-120 stores is expected to generate more than $140 million dollars in cash inventory sales. Sears Holding Corp. anticipates additional proceeds from the sale or sublease of real estate holdings.
Earlier this month Illinois passed a huge corporate tax incentives bill to keep companies like Sears headquartered in Illinois. The company was threatening to leave the state if it wasn't given tax breaks.
Indiana State University officials are looking at ways to keep students in college after seeing the retention rate for first-time students fall to a record low 58 percent.
The Tribune-Star reports the rate for African-American students is an even lower 40 percent.
Provost Jack Maynard says the goal is to get the retention rate back up in the high 60 percent range.
An ISU panel is drafting a three-year retention plan to present to President Dan Bradley in January. Ideas could include required tutoring and tighter admissions standards.
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