Illinois Public Media News
More Illinois parents are opting out of some school-required vaccinations for their kids, according to a new study by the Associated Press.
The study says the rate of vaccine exemption is 5.3 percent in Illinois, making it one of eight states where more than five percent of public school kindergartners do not get all the vaccinations that are required for attendance. Alaska had the highest rate, at nine percent.
Dr. Kenneth Soyemi works in the infectious disease department at the Illinois Department of Public Health. He said parents seek exemptions for some vaccines for medical, religious and, in states that allow it, philosophical reasons. Soyemi said kids who don't get vaccinated could make diseases like measles and whooping cough harder to contain.
"Presuming children are not vaccinated in the school, if measles comes into the school, it's going to spread like wild fire," Soyemi said.
The survey also found more than half of all states have seen at least a slight rise in vaccine exemptions in last five years. Illinois is one of 10 states where the rate of vaccine exception increased more than 1.5 percentage points.
The Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to consider a dispute over whether the state must begin enforcing a law requiring parents to be notified before their children can obtain an abortion.
The law dates back to 1995 but has never been enforced because of various court actions.
It would require doctors to notify the guardians of a girl 17 or younger before she has an abortion. There are exceptions for emergencies and cases of sexual abuse, and girls could bypass the notification requirement by going to a judge.
Opponents claim it violates the privacy, equal protection and gender-equality clauses of the Illinois constitution.
The Supreme Court said Wednesday that it will hear arguments on whether to start enforcing the law.
The city of Champaign has revealed the four finalists vying for the top job with its police department.
Those being considered as the next Champaign police chief are Urbana Assistant Chief of Police Anthony Cobb; Oak Forest, Illinois Chief of Police Gregory Anderson; St. Louis, Missouri Police Lieutenant Colonel Antoinette Filla; and East Lansing, Michigan Police Captain Kim Johnson.
The police force in Champaign has faced heavy criticism in the last few years over police-community relations, specifically in the African American community.
There have been new calls for a citizens police review board in the wake of the 2009 police shooting death of teenager, Kiwane Carrington. A number of citizens also allege officers used excessive force when arresting two African American youths in the last couple of months.
Two of the people being considered to head the police department - Cobb and Johnson - are African American.
Current Police Chief R.T. Finney announced last summer that he was retiring, and Deputy Chief Holly Nearing will take over him on an interim basis starting next week.
The four finalists will be interviewed Dec. 7 - 9. They will also take part in a public forum Thursday, Dec. 8 at 7pm at the city building. Champaign Human Resources Director Chris Bezruki said the new police chief is expected to begin work in February or March.
(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)
A budget deal reached among Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and lawmakers will keep seven state facilities open and preserve nearly 2,000 jobs at those locations, at least for now.
The agreement saves the Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln, the Jacksonville Developmental Center and other facilities.
The plan won General Assembly approval Tuesday. Gov. Quinn had targeted a handful of developmental centers, prisons and psychiatric hospitals for shutdown after the legislature failed to provide enough money to keep them operating. Quinn's budget director, David Vaught said layoffs were only considered as a last resort.
"It's very important in a time of recession," Vaught said. "We've lost 20 percent of our state employees over the last eight or nine years. We have the lowest state employee ratio to population of virtually any state. I think one may be tied with us. We are right down at the bottom. We are not overstaffed in state employees."
The plan involves shifting money, although no additional spending was added to the overall budget. The deal will prevent shutdowns and layoffs through the end of the fiscal year in June. Vaught noted that some positions could be lost through attrition.
Vaught said the agreement also calls for reducing state payments to a variety of special-purpose funds. The state's $55 million contribution to the workers' compensation fund, for instance, would be cut by $10 million. About $95 million that ordinarily would go to pension systems would instead be diverted to preventing the closures.
There would be enough reductions that some services in the Department of Human Services could get some additional money, Vaught said. The biggest beneficiaries would be community mental health services, which would get $30 million, and substance abuse programs, which would get $28 million.
The Archer Daniels Midland Company is asking all non-essential employees who work in the company's Decatur office to work from home on Wednesday, Nov. 30.
The company's trading floor will be open, and all trading floor employees should report to work in the office.
Other ADM employees are being asked to report to the corporate office building only on an as-needed basis.
The Illinois House overwhelmingly rejected a $250 million package of tax breaks meant to help businesses and keep several major companies from leaving the state.
Only eight people voted for the package, while 99 opposed it Tuesday. It's still possible another version of the tax breaks could be considered.
The financial exchange company CME Group Inc. and Sears Holdings Corp. have threatened to leave if they don't get some tax relief.
Other companies across the state could benefit from an array of smaller tax credits in the bill. It also includes relief for individual taxpayers and low-income workers.
The measure passed the Senate earlier.
After her older brother disappeared in 1976, Laura O'Leary suspected that the 19-year-old construction worker had probably died at the hands of John Wayne Gacy. But the family was never able to prove it.
They got little help from authorities. And they couldn't locate any dental records to compare with the skeletal remains found beneath the serial killer's house.
So O'Leary waited, clinging for more than 30 years to a few items that once belonged to William George Bundy - a bracelet she'd given him for his 18th birthday, a high school photo ID and an autographed school book.
O'Leary's worst suspicions were confirmed Tuesday, when authorities announced that Bundy was one of the eight unidentified young men found under Gacy's home.
"Today's terribly sad, but it is also a day that provides closure," O'Leary said. "We have been waiting for a long time for closure."
The identification of Bundy came weeks after the sheriff's office issued a public plea for families of young men who disappeared in the 1970s to submit DNA samples for comparison with the victims' remains.
Investigators exhumed the remains earlier this year, hoping that the passage of time and advancement of technology would work in their favor. They established a hotline and a website for people to file reports.
O'Leary, who was 15 when her brother vanished, said she immediately went to the site after hearing the news. She and her brother, Robert, provided DNA samples. The sheriff's office also received a call from a friend of Bundy's who said he believed his friend may have worked for Gacy.
"For so many years, we've had unanswered questions," O'Leary said. "There were no leads. Time went by."
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said the office received calls from 29 states and developed a total of 125 leads, 80 of which required follow up.
Eleven DNA samples were submitted in connection with some of the seven other victims. Four samples did not match, and investigators are waiting on the others, working with a lab at the University of North Texas.
"People are really desperate to find their missing loved ones, and there are not a lot of outlets," Detective Jason Moran said.
He said investigators were learning more about Gacy, his victims and gaps in police work in the 1970s and 1980s, including missing-persons reports that were never followed up or pursued.
Gacy is remembered as one of history's most bizarre killers, largely because of his work as an amateur clown. He was convicted of murdering 33 young men, sometimes luring them to his Chicago-area home for sex by impersonating a police officer or promising them construction work.
The building contractor stabbed one and strangled the others between 1972 and 1978. Most were buried in a crawl space under his home. Four others were dumped in a river.
Gacy was executed in 1994.
Bundy, who grew up in Chicago, was last seen in October 1976 heading out to a party, authorities said. He had forgotten his wallet at home.
A day after he vanished, his family filed a missing-persons report. But, O'Leary said, "it wasn't pursued aggressively."
Bundy's family contacted authorities again when news of Gacy and his victims became public, but they had no way to identify any remains. Their dentist had retired and destroyed all dental records.
Two years later, Bundy's remains were found under Gacy's house, identified only as "Victim No. 19" because his was the 19th body removed from a crawl space beneath Gacy's home.
Investigators said there is no way to know for sure the circumstances of Bundy's death or how he came into contact with Gacy. But Dart said it appeared the motive was luring Bundy with the promise of construction work.
Bundy's disappearance and the unanswered questions weighed heavily on O'Leary's family. Her parents died years ago.
"My mother, she was never really the same," O'Leary said, declining to discuss matters in detail. She said she and her brother want time to heal.
O'Leary and her brother recalled Bundy as a teenager who had a lot of friends, was an excellent diver and excelled at gymnastics. Many of her girlfriends wanted to date him, she joked.
She said learning the truth about his fate allowed the family to close a door. Bundy's amended death certificate was submitted to the Cook County medical examiner's office.
The family plans to put up a grave marker for Bundy in the spring and have a ceremony at the cemetery where other relatives are buried.
"The sorrow will eventually go away," she said. "And I'll have a place to visit him."
(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
The NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars have reached an agreement to sell the small-market franchise to Urbana businessman Shahid Khan.
Majority owner Wayne Weaver made the announcement Tuesday, hours after he fired coach Jack Del Rio and gave general manager Gene Smith a three-year contract extension. He said Khan will have 100 percent control of the team. Weaver called Khan "a great American success story'' and said the Pakistan-born entrepreneur plans to keep the team in Jacksonville.
Khan, a University of Illinois alumnus, is the owner and CEO of the Flex-N-Gate Group based in Urbana, Ill. Khan had been a candidate to buy controlling interest in the St. Louis Rams last year. In September, the U of I named an addition to its College of Applied Sciences after Khan and his wife Ann, who donated $10 million to help fund construction of the facility.
The sale of the franchise and the firing of Del Rio are the city's most significant news since the team's inception in 1993.
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Media)
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Media)
Starting in January, Illinois will allow couples who obtained civil-union licenses this year to file joint state income tax returns, a symbolic change that likely won't save couples money but that one gay-rights group called an important step.
Monday's announcement comes after Illinois became the seventh state, along with the District of Columbia, to give same-sex couples significant legal protections. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the state's civil union law in January.
That bill included the right to decide medical care for an ailing partner and the right to inherit property, but it didn't include the ability for same-sex couples to file a joint tax return.
While federal law does not allow same-sex couples to submit taxes together, Quinn pushed for the state to make the change after signing the civil union bill, Illinois Department of Revenue spokeswoman Susan Hofer said Monday.
"This was basically the governor saying, 'Find a way to make this work,'" she said.
New tax paperwork and other details haven't been finalized. Officials plan to have same-sex couples who will file individual federal returns also fill out a joint federal return for the state's use only, Hofer said.
The state income tax forms are based on a couple's adjusted gross income on the federal return.
Illinois has a flat income tax of 5 percent, so the benefits couples receive from filing together for federal taxes won't apply at the state level, Hofer said. Still, she added that couples wil still have some additional benefits, like property tax exemptions or education assistance tax credits.
"It's a fairness issue," she said. "And that's the way the governor presented it."
The policy would have no bearing on filing federal taxes jointly because of federal restrictions on gay marriage.
"But this is still a major step because it allows civil union couples to be treated in the same way as married couples are treated, and that's exactly what the lawmakers intended," said Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov.
Cherkasov said he hopes Illinois' recent efforts to extend rights to same-sex couples carry over to the federal level. He also said the change would benefit same-sex couples in the future if lawmakers change the state tax code.
"We wanted to make sure that we don't give up on that fight now only to create a real disadvantage for civil-union couples later down the road," he said.
According to the group, Illinois will become the 10th state, along with Washington, D.C., to allow joint state tax returns.
State lawmakers are back in Springfield on Tuesday to try to pass legislation that will keep a pair of major corporations happy enough to stay in Illinois while also doing something for smaller businesses and everyday taxpayers.
A scaled-back tax package is before the General Assembly after it became clear earlier this month during the regularly scheduled veto session that there wasn't enough support for a larger and more expensive version. However, there is still no telling if the new plan will succeed.
What's now the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group cites its namesake city as its birthplace when in 1848 the world's first futures exchange was created.
Sears came to the city not long after in 1887. The company is now in suburban Hoffman Estates.
Despite their long histories in Illinois, both fixtures are threatening to leave. They are being lured by other states with bids of tax breaks and incentives.
Illinois legislators fearful of losing all of those jobs are back at the capitol crafting a counter offer.
Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion), who chairs the House Revenue Committee, has pushed a plan that creates, extends and increases a smattering of other taxes to the benefit of other businesses, and to individuals.
Bradley's proposal has an annual price tag of $250 million, which is $850 million less compared to an earlier proposal. It would include $85 million in relief for Chicago-based financial exchanges that are threatening to leave the state. It also includes $15 million in tax credits for Hoffman-Estates based Sears, which says it may also move.
"We're trying to create fairness, we're trying to create balance, we're trying to spend the money we have as wisely as possible and we're trying to do it in a sustainable manner," Bradley said. "I wish we had more, I wish we could do more. But the reality is that we need to pay bills, we need to keep these companies in Illinois, we need to provide as much relief as we can small businesses and working men and women."
At about $600 million less than the earlier package, Bradley said the plan he is sponsoring is what Illinois can afford.
Businesses groups like the Chamber of Commerce and Manufactures Association say they are pleased with the proposal. They like that it no longer retroactively reverses a tax break that lets companies delay paying taxes on big machinery purchases. They also like that it extends a research and development tax credit, that it partially reverses a suspension of the net operating loss deduction, and it provides relief on the estate tax.
The GOP's negotiator, Rep. David Harris (R-Arlington Heights), said the plan is designed to benefit small and medium businesses.
"The objective is to key in, for business proposes, to show that it's not just the big guess, but small and medium businesses that we want to help as well," Harris said.
There's even a live theater production tax credit, after Broadway in Chicago has continually testified it will help bring acts to the city.
That wide range is why House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago) gets miffed.
"I think there are serious questions about the top heavy nature about this proposition," Currie said. "I think there are serious questions about the issue of whether we ought to just jump when some other state says 'we're going to steal your businesses away from you.'"
Currie suggests the General Assembly consider narrow measures targeted solely at the Mercantile Exchange and Sears. The package has blossomed because legislators will be attracted to the various components. Especially when they are hearing protests like that of Toby Chow, with the Make Wall Street Pay Illinois coalition.
"Let me tell you what fairness really means," Chow said. "It means saying no to further budget cuts, which will pile misery upon misery for the 99 percent, and it means saying no to tax breaks which will pile idle wealth upon idle wealth for those in the 1 percent. It means standing up to their extortion and blackmail and threats to leave Chicago."
In the spirit of appeasing some of those concerns, the package breaks not just for businesses but also to individual taxpayers. It increases the earned income tax credit, to the benefit of the working poor. But the credit's significantly smaller in this new, scaled back version of the package.
Gov. Pat Quinn's budget director David Vaught said the administration wants more.
"That makes a huge difference to that single mother, and it also makes a huge difference to our economy," Vaught said. "So, it makes a huge difference out there for those folks who are not happy with government."
That's not to mention critics who argue the package does nothing for the middle class. The standard tax exemption gets a one-time raise, but going forward it will not be tied to inflation as originally proposed.
House sponsor John Bradley said there is pressure to add here, subtract there, but he said he will continue negotiating in an attempt to get enough votes. But at some point, he said, it will be time to move forward.
If getting a package through the General Assembly is being done to please the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, time is nearly up. Its chairman was upset earlier this month because the legislature couldn't get it done during its regularly scheduled veto session. That's why lawmakers hurried back.
To the consternation of some legislators, nobody from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange present at the committee was wiling to testify how long it'll wait.
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