Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 25, 2012

Madigan:  GOP Will Block Cigarette Tax Hike

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan supports a cigarette tax increase to shore up Medicaid but is predicting Republicans will block the idea.

The Chicago Democrat also said Wednesday that Gov. Pat Quinn's plan to cut pension costs is "a good start.''

Quinn proposes raising cigarette taxes by $1 a pack. That would raise about $670 million to help close a $2.7 billion Medicaid shortfall. But Republicans want more spending cuts.

Madigan is unsure what health care reductions will be acceptable to House Democrats.

Quinn also wants dramatic changes to ease pensions' impact on the budget. They include raising the retirement age and requiring bigger worker contributions.

Madigan says Quinn's plan has good ideas that will be challenged by outside groups.

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Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 25, 2012

Illinois Lawmakers Back on Track to Expand Gambling

Illinois Lawmakers Back on Track to Expand Gambling

The debate over a Chicago casino and adding more gambling across the state could be starting up again. Some state lawmakers and the governor say a gambling bill could be passed this year, possibly even this session.

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Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 25, 2012

UIC to Study Weight Loss After Breast Cancer

Researchers in Chicago are launching a study to find out whether weight loss can help African-American breast cancer survivors.

The University of Illinois at Chicago study is funded by a five-year, $3 million grant from the National Cancer Institute.

Melinda Stolley is leading the research. She says poor diet, lack of physical activity and obesity contribute to breast cancer progression.

The randomized study will recruit 240 breast cancer survivors who finished their treatment at least six months ago. Study participants need to be overweight, able to participate in moderate physical activity and not currently in a structured weight-loss program.

UIC will coordinate with the Chicago Park District to carry out the study in the Roseland-Pullman, Englewood, Austin, South Shore and Lawndale neighborhoods of Chicago.

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Categories: Education, Health, Science

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 25, 2012

Durbin to Sit on Transportation Bill Conference Committee

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin says he has a seat on the joint committee of Senate and House members who will work on a new version of the national transportation funding bill.

Durbin's office said Tuesday that the Democratic Illinois senator was appointed to the Senate-House Conference Committee by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Durbin says that Illinois depends on "robust federal investment" in transportation to keep the state economy moving. Durbin says he's focused on a bill that will create jobs and protect public transit, rail and highway investments.

Late last month President Barack Obama signed a three-month extension of a transportation bill to keep federal highway and transit aid flowing. The move prevents a widespread shutdown of construction projects.

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WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 25, 2012

Danville Building Makes State’s Historic List

The tallest building in Danville is on this year's top ten list of endangered places from the preservation group Landmarks Illinois..

The Bresee Tower located at 925 N. North Vermilion Street was built in 1917 as the First National Bank, and it has been vacant since 2006. The owners of it cannot afford to renovate it, but that hasn't stopped the county, city, and other local groups from working out a plan to preserve the property.

Dana Schaumberg, who is the executive director of Downtown Danville Incorporated, said there has already been talk about ways to bring the building back to life.

"The first floor would be really a near place to have a restaurant," she said. "There's actually like a little Mezzanine levels where you could have little private dining areas, and then also office space for the middle floor. And then the higher floors can be higher-end residential."

This year's list of endangered historic places in the state includes the usual mix of farmhouses, residences and government buildings. But it also includes five neighborhood schools.

The schools are Enos Elementary School in Springfield, Franklin Elementary School in Jacksonville, Pekin Community High School West Campus, El Paso-Gridley High School, and Harrisburg High School, but they represent similar buildings across the state.

Landmarks Illinois, the non-profit group that publishes the annual list of endangered places, said saving historic schools can be a particularly hard sell.

Jean Follett is the director of Landmarks Illinois. She said leaders would rather be able to point to a new school ... a monument, she calls it.

"It's great for them to be able to leave office and say that they've built this many new schools," Follett said. "Nobody's going to care if they say they've renovated 20."

Illinois' school construction law only allows funding to replace aging schools. A proposal under consideration in the House would change the law to allow funding to rehab such schools.

Two modernist buildings also made it on the list. among the 10-most endangered historic places in Illinois. Follett said mid-20th-century structures are increasingly at risk.

Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago ... with its curving walls and oval, porthole windows ... does not seem like an obvious candidate for historic preservation.

"Initially, I think, when we started talking about Prentice Hospital, people were thinking it was one of the ten ugliest buildings in Chicago and why were we trying to save it?" Follett said.

Follett has been trying to save Prentice because it was designed by Bertrand Goldberg, who was a Chicago architect with an international reputation .

This year's top-ten endangered list also includes Blair House, a Lake Bluff residence that was celebrated when it was built in 1955.

"We're really finding a lot of mid-century modern things that need our help," Follett said. "Because they are kind of the ugly ducklings in a lot of people's minds, and they are unprotected for the most part."

Both Prentice and Blair are vacant, and face demolition to make way for new construction.

Other sites to make it on the list include the residential Hotel Guyon in Chicago, Maywood Home for Soldiers' Widows, Fox River Country Day School in Elgin, Freeport City Hall, Bruch-Guertler House in Alton, and Marbold Farmstead in Greenview.

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Categories: History
Tags: history

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 25, 2012

Dental Groups Blast Proposed Cuts to Medicaid

If Illinois lawmakers approve Gov. Pat Quinn's proposal to reduce Medicaid services to close a $2.7 billion hole, then dental care in the state would also take a hit.

Quinn's Medicaid plan includes eliminating the adult dental care program to save $51.4 million annually. There are about 172,000 adults receiving Medicaid-funded dental services each year in Illinois.

Dionne Haney with the Illinois State Dental Society said cutting dental care under the Medicaid program would be a mistake, leaving many people with dental emergencies turning to hospital emergency rooms for care.

"At that point, those physicians on staff are not able to actually treat the condition, but would potentially prescribing medications for the pain and the infection that that potential dental emergency is taking, and not looking at the long-term effects of the patients care," Haney said.

According to the Illinois State Dental Society, the state ranks 48th in the country for its Medicaid funding rates. Haney worries Illinois' ranking could worsen if the cuts go through.

"Any further cuts would drive dentists having trouble making ends meet to see these patients because the reimbursement rate is so slow," she said. "It may have some dentists opting out of the program."

Nancy Greenwalt is the executive director of Smile Healthy, a nonprofit group in Champaign that provides dental care to underserved families. Smile Healthy coordinates the Frances Nelson Dental Center, which provides care to Medicaid patients.

Since opening in November, Greenwalt said the Frances Nelson Dental Center has had about 1,200 patients, about half of which are on Medicaid. Greenwalt said cutting the adult dental care program would be a mistake.

"There's just thousands and thousands of people out there who need dental care," she said. "You know, low-income, uninsured adults, adults on Medicaid who don't know where to go. We need access to more care."

Gov. Quinn has said that the cuts are needed to help prevent the entire Medicaid system from collapsing. He has also said if something isn't done to rein in Medicaid spending, then those costs will squeeze spending in other areas, like education and public safety.

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 24, 2012

Audit Finds College Illinois Deficit Remains

A state audit has found that the troubled College Illinois prepaid tuition plan continues to run a deficit as the agency that runs the program searches for a way get it back on track.

The Illinois Auditor General's office issued an annual report Tuesday on the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. It found the tuition program's deficit dropped $76 million as of June 30, 2011, down to $262 million. However the commission itself notes that by another accounting method the audit also uses the deficit rose slightly from $531 million to $536 million.

Commission spokesman John Samuels says the agency is working with lawmakers on a plan to try to repair problems with the program.

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 24, 2012

Photo Shows US Sen. Kirk Looking Alert Months After Stroke

The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago has released a photo of Sen. Mark Kirk that is the first public image of the Illinois Republican since his January stroke.

The photo shows Kirk with closely trimmed hair, looking alert and sitting up as he rests his right arm on a table.

The director of the institute's Center for Stroke Rehabilitation, Dr. Richard Harvey, also gave an update Tuesday on Kirk's progress with recovery.

Harvey says the senator has walked more than 10 miles in total since he arrived at the center in February. He's also able to climb stairs and get in and out of vehicles.

Doctors have said the 52-year-old Kirk should make a full mental recovery, although they expect the stroke will limit movement on his left side.

(Photo courtesy of The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago)

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 24, 2012

Report: State Fails to Inspect Day Care

A published report says more than half of Illinois day cares haven't been inspected by the state.

The Chicago Tribune reported in its Sunday edition that 55 percent of the approximately 12,300 day care operations haven't had visits from state inspectors during their current three-year license period.

The Tribune reports that the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has nearly 3,000 employees, but only 123 are assigned to licensing.

The newspaper reports that caseloads for licensing workers often are double what they should be. The Tribune cites agency figures that it analyzed in its investigation.

State officials blame budget cuts and staffing shortages for their inspection failures.

Agency officials say that department is hiring four workers to reduce its background-check backlog and plans to hire more licensing workers.

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Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 24, 2012

Unit 4 School Board Member Changes Position on Bonds

A Champaign Unit 4 school board member has changed his mind about issuing up to $14.5 million in working cash bonds.

But procedural language kept the full board Monday night from voting to reverse the action it took in late February. Board member Dave Tomlinson said Jamar Brown could change his vote to a no, but the board couldn't initiate a vote of its own to abandon the bonds.

Since Unit 4 has already started discussions with the firm CTS for building upgrades, Tomlinson said such a move would violate Robert's Rules of Order.

Brown said he is still supportive of what the bonds would pay to support, but he believes better options to pay for that work should be sought out.

"I just wanted to change my vote from a yes to a no," Brown said. "But I do still support the work being done. So I will still continue to move forward to get the work done in the district, because I don't want to stop it."

Brown said he was concerned that none of the work the bonds were going for, including geothermal systems at Unit 4's middle schools, would be completed this summer. But District Chief Financial Officer Gene Logas said the timeline for some of that work has changed.

Meanwhile, Board President Sue Grey said the amount of the bonds isn't set in stone.

"The other piece of this is really looking at what it most urgent," Grey said. "Again, remember that working cash bonds were to be issued up to $14.5 million. Everybody keeps saying 'they're issuing working cash bonds for $14.5 million. No we're not. We're issued up to $14.5 million."

The working cash bonds have prompted complaints from the public, who believe a tax hike should have gone before voters.

A special Unit 4 board meeting could be held next Monday, where it could approve contracts for air conditioning and geothermal wells at its two middle schools. Quick action is required to complete the work over the summer.

Grey said she is not concerned Brown changed his vote, saying nothing has changed for the rest of the board when the bonds were unanimously approved in February.

The Unit 4 board also swore in its newest member Monday night. Illeana Saveley is filling the unexpired term of Greg Novak, who passed away in March.

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