Monday, February 20, 2017

Senator Wants To Increase Illinois Speed Limit

A suburban state lawmakers wants to let you drive five miles-per-hour faster.  State Senator Jim Oberweis is pitching a plan to increase the speed limit to 75-miles-per-hour on interstates outside of Chicago.  Oberweis says most drivers already drive 75 or faster, and he says there's no need to set a speed limit that most people ignore.  Illinois increased the speed limit from 65 to 70-miles-per-hour on downstate interstates back in 2014.

Records Fall Across The State In February Warm-Up

It's now an official "record breaking" heat wave in Illinois.  The National Weather Service says more than a dozen cities set records for warmth over the weekend.  Yesterday's temperatures set records from the Quad Cities to Effingham. Forecasters say there's a chance more records could fall by Wednesday. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Normal Police Find Drugs and Explosives in Suspected Dealer's Home

Police in Normal found more than 100 explosive devices Thursday during a search of a suspected drug dealer Gilbert Wilson’s home in the 800 block of W. College Avenue in Normal. Wilson is charged with unlawful use of weapons, unlawful possession of marijuana (19 ounces) with intent to deliver.  Officers found 128 explosive devices each containing about a half ounce of dynamite or explosive powder.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Judge Denies Madigan's Request To Halt Pay During Budget Crisis

Illinois employees will continue to receive a paycheck despite the actions of state Attorney General Lisa Madigan.  A St. Clair County Circuit judge rejected a request from Madigan yesterday to halt state workers pay until lawmakers resolve the ongoing budget crisis.  The attorney general is expected to appeal the decision.

Bayne Skips Debate: Fake News

One of five candidates running for mayor of Bloomington decides to skip a meeting with voters Thursday night because of what he calls fake news. Ian Bayne didn't show up to a meeting with voters at Illinois State University. Tari Renner along with former firefighter Robert Fike, 1st ward alderman Kevin Lower and 8th ward alderwoman Diana Hauman moved past the issue, instead talking to the crowd about issues they say are more important.

Portillo's Update

The site of the future Normal Portillo's has been sold, keeping the Chicago-style hot dog restaurant on track to open in August. The Motel 6 at 202 Landmark Drive has closed and was sold Wednesday. Portillo's announced in December that the property would house its first Bloomington-Normal location.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Governor Rauner Delivers Budget Address

Governor Rauner is laying out his terms for a potential income tax hike in order to solve Illinois' financial mess.  While delivering his budget address yesterday, Rauner said he'll only back a permanent increase unless the plan being crafted in the state Senate comes with a permanent freeze on local property taxes.  The Republican also said he might go along with an expanded sales tax to help close the budget gap but dismissed tax hikes on food, medicines and retirement income.  The governor added that he wants economic and regulatory changes including an overhaul to workers' compensation and term limits on lawmakers.

Gas Prices Could Spike This Spring

Soaring gas prices could make your summer travel plans more expensive. According to GasBuddy, prices will jump between 35 and 75 cents per gallon in Illinois between now and Memorial Day. The agency blames refinery maintenance work and more expensive summer blends of gasoline for the increase, which could make gas prices in Illinois the third highest in the country for the second summer in a row.

Illinois Corn Farmers Could Be in Trouble

Corn farmers in Central Illinois may be in trouble. Mexico, one of the top corn buyers for the United States, may be choosing to get its corn elsewhere should the US scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement. A Mexican senator wants to introduce a bill that will allow Mexico to get its corn  from Brazil and Argentina. According to the Illinois Corn Growers Association, U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico have quintupled over the past 20 years.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Governor Rauner To Deliver Budget Address Today

Governor Rauner will be delivering his third budget address today at the Capitol.  During a Facebook Live appearance yesterday, Rauner said he'll attempt to push along the Illinois Senate's "grand bargain" spending plan.  He also plans to share his personal views on taxes, regulation, and properly funding schools.

Spike in Flu Cases

Flu season is in full swing and local hospitals are seeing more patients showing flu-like symptoms. There's been a spike in flu cases in the area. Advocate BroMenn is seeing nearly 60 patients per day in its emergency room. Health officials say we have entered peak flu season and the caseload is particularly high this year.

MC Sports Files for Chapter 11

MC Sports announced that it has filed for Chapter 11 and will begin liquidation sales at all of its stores. The company has 68 locations in seven different states, including stores in East Peoria and in Bloomington. It's unclear whether the stores in Central Illinois will close

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Congressman Rodney Davis To Hold Telephone Town Hall Meeting

Illinois Congressman Rodney Davis will be holding a telephone town hall tomorrow night.  The Taylorville Republican is expected to take questions from anyone who has signed up to participate.  The exact time of the event hasn't been released. Recently, protesters demonstrated outside Davis's Normal office asking him to not go along with President Trump's agenda.  

BPD Officer Injured During Arrest

A Bloomington police officer received a minor injury during the arrest of a man following an attempted armed robbery Monday morning at the Subway restaurant at 109 W. Jefferson Street. Police say a man came inside and demanded money from the register and an employee. No weapons were displayed or implied and the worker did not give the man any money. During questioning, the man became combative and injured an officer.

Illinois Lawmakers Back Bill To Attract Bio-Based Businesses

Illinois lawmakers are pushing a measure designed to attract bio-based businesses to Decatur and the central part of the state.  The legislation would provide incentives to produce and sell new renewable products made from biomass and other renewable sources.  State Senator Chapin Rose says the bill would bring a number of jobs to Central Illinois.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Pontiac Correctional Officer Stabbed in the Head

The Pontiac Correctional Facility was on lockdown after a correctional officer sustained injuries on the job. According to the Union President of the Pontiac Correctional Facility, an inmate stabbed  a corrections officer in the head with a sharp object during the Sunday day-shift.  The inmate was subdued and the officer was transported to the hospital. The Union President says the officer was released and is able to walk around. The Illinois Department of Corrections confirmed that an officer was injured during an incident at the prison, treated, and released from a local hospital. The IDOC is investigating the incident.

State Comptroller Blames Rauner For Budget Crisis

Illinois' newly elected State Comptroller is blaming the state's budget crisis on Governor Rauner. Susana Mendoza told the "Southern Illinoisan's" editorial board that Rauner is failing to uphold one his most basic constitutional duties, which is too prepare and submit to the General Assembly a balanced budget proposal.  Mendoza claims Illinois is burning two-million-dollars in late-payment interest penalties every day w
ithout a spending plan.

Durbin Issues Collectable Stamp in Bloomington

Senator Dick Durbin visited the ‘Cruisin with Lincoln on 66’ visitors center Sunday afternoon, to issue a first of its kind stamp. A new collectors item from one of the stops celebrating the ‘Main Street of America’, the Senator says the museum is a great learning experience.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Rauner Wants Workers Paid for the Full Year

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner says he'll scuttle a Democratic plan to pay state employees because it doesn't pay them for the full year. The governor yesterday released a video to state workers explaining why he he will veto a proposal moving at the statehouse to guarantee their paychecks. Rauner says the plan in House only pays workers til the end of June. He wants them paid for the full year.

Protests Set With Competing Views on Abortion

Activists in Central Illinois are raising awareness about their views on abortion. This Saturday, there will be a pro-life protest is planned in front of Planned Parenthood in Peoria. A counter-protest in Bloomington will march for pro-choice rights from the McLean County History Museum to Lincoln Park downtown.

Got the Flu? Stay Away From Hospitals

If you have the flu in McLean, Livingston, or Woodford counties doctors want you to stay away from the hospital. Doctors in Bloomington-Normal Pontiac, and Eureka yesterday asked people who are sick with the flu not to visit anyone in a handful of local hospitals. Doctors say there's no need to risk getting patients even sicker.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Kennedy to Run for Governor

The latest Democrat to jump into Illinois' race for government likely has the biggest name. Chris Kennedy, son of Robert F. Kennedy, entered the race yesterday. Kennedy is painting himself as a reformer who can bring fiscal sanity back to Illinois. In addition to the famous family name, Kennedy is touting his business experience and his time on the University of Illinois' board.

Grand Bargain or Grand Bust?

Democrats in the Illinois Senate aren't giving up just yet. Leaders say the so-called 'grand bargain' is still alive despite yesterday's collapse. Not a single Republican voted for the bargain's reforms, they say Democrats are rushing the proposals. The idea is to trade a series of tax increases for some business reforms and come to terms on a budget. Democratic Senate President John Cullerton said thinks he there's still a chance to find an agreement.

Judge Orders Schock Docs Sealed

A federal judge isn't going to give the public a closer look at evidence in Aaron Schock's corruption trial. The judge yesterday ordered documents in the former congressman's corruption case sealed. The first judge in the case offered a glimpse at some of the evidence during a long battle over court records and subpoenas. Schock is facing fraud charges and a July trial after prosecutors say he lied about campaign and government spending.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Davis Encounters Protesters

The latest protestors came armed with post it notes and cut-outs to gather was
at Congressman Rodney Davis' office. The gathering in uptown continued the anger with Davis and President Trump. The Congressman says he doesn't like rah rah sessions last this week's town hall meetings or yesterday's protests. The crowd was just as angry about President Trump as anything else.

Proposed Shift in State Sales Taxes

You could soon pay less for Illinois' sales tax, but you'd pay the tax on more things. Including food and medicine. Illinois Senators yesterday tweaked their plan to raise taxes as part of the so-called 'grand bargain.' The idea is to lower the tax rate from six-and-a-quarter percent to five-point-seven-five percent and expand the list of taxable items. But lawmakers didn't take a vote.

Rauner Has High Hopes for DeVos

Illinois' governor says he's hoping for big things from President Trump's new education chief, but he's not waiting around. Governor Rauner yesterday said he's hopeful Betsy DeVos can bring school choice to the nation's education discussion. Rauner says he's a big support of charters and school choice. But the governor says he's not waiting on Washington D.C. to implement changes in Illinois schools.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Video gaming parlors in Normal have to serve a full dinner if they want to serve booze. Town leaders last night voted on a new set of rules requiring a full kitchen and five menu choices in order to sell liquor and have gambling. The new menu requirement comes as Normal is also banning video gaming from within 200 feet of a neighborhood.

A.G. Madigan Opposes Trump's Temporary Travel Ban

Illinois' Attorney General is among those fighting President Trump's immigration order. Lisa Madigan joined 15 other states yesterday in asking a federal court to end the President's order to stop issuing visas to people from seven countries in the Middle East and north Africa. Madigan says Illinois is home to two-million immigrants and refugees and she wants to see the state stay "a safe and welcome home” for them.

Parts of State's "Grand Bargain" to be Voted on in the Senate

The top Democrat in the Illinois Senate says compromise is the key to finally ending the state's budget woes. John Cullerton yesterday told a crowd in Chicago that he still has hope for the so-called 'grand bargain' in the Illinois Senate. Senators could start voting on the plan's tax increases this week.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Normal Town Council Could Vote Tonight on Gambling Rule

Normal is looking at gambling. Town leaders could vote tonight on a new 200 foot rule to keep gaming parlors away from neighborhoods. The council is also expected to take another look at the town's video gaming ban. Leaders put the ban in place last year in order to review the rules.

Normal Town Council to Vote on Overpass or Underpass

Leaders in Normal may be ready to spend 13-million dollars on a new railroad underpass. The town is expected tonight to tell a consultant whether to study a simple rail crossing near the Uptown Station or to pursue the much more expensive option. Normal town leaders are looking at more expensive project as a way to grow the city's center in coming years.

Papers: Shut Down State Government

Shut it down. Editors at The Pantagraph and other Lee Enterprises newspapers in Illinois, are calling for a shutdown of Illinois state government. The papers yesterday ran an editorial saying a judge's order to stop paying state employees is the only way to force Illinois' bickering leaders to agree on a state budget. The editors say Illinois' politicians won't budge unless they are forced to act by "thousands of Illinoisans angrily screaming on the Statehouse steps."

Friday, February 3, 2017

Burger Joint/Oberwiess Restaurant Opening Soon

The twin cities are getting another restaurant. This is actually two-in-one eatery.  Burger Joint and Oberweiss is opening a combo burger and shake restaurant in the old Carlos O'Kelly's building. The plan to to hire about 50 part time workers. Champaign is also getting a Burger Joint/Oberweiss combo. No word yet on incentives for the new restaurant.

Rauner Has Concerns About Obamacare Repeal

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is warning Illinois might not be able to afford a full Obamacare repeal. The governor told "The Daily Herald" yesterday he's told President Trump's office that the state needs something to replace the health care law that's added more than 600-thousand people to Illinois' Medicaid rolls. That may be the fear. Illinois depends on billions of dollars in matching money from Obamacare. The state will be in far worse shape if those dollars disappear.

Former Cub Davis Ross Headlines Evening of Stars

Grandpa Rossy will be coming to Bloomington-Normal. David Ross, who retired after the 2016 season with the Chicago Cubs, will be keynote speaker for the 24th American Red Cross Evening of Stars at 7 p.m. April 18 at the Marriott Hotel & Conference Center in uptown Normal.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

State School Funding Report Lacks Details

The long awaited report into how Illinois can better pay for its public schools is little more than a review of the problems facing local school leaders. The report released yesterday talks about a new funding formula that'd be unique to each school district and the need for three-and-a-half billion dollars in new school money. State Senator Jason Barickman says that's only a suggestion. The report doesn't state how to make any of the recommendations reality. The report is also silent on the cost of pensions, sky rocketing property taxes, and the ever-growing list of mandates on local schools.

Rauner Still Pushing for Reforms

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner isn't talking about a price tag for the state's next budget. Instead he's talking about what he needs from a budget agreement with statehouse Democrats to move forward. The governor told "The Chicago Tribune" yesterday that he wants structural reforms, including workers' comp changes and pension reforms, as part of a budget deal. If not, Rauner says lawmakers should just let him cut the state's budget.

Fitch Downgrades State's Credit Rating

Illinois' already worst in the nation credit rating is getting even worse. Fitch Ratings lowered the state's credit to a few steps above junk yesterday. Fitch says Illinois hasn't had a real budget in two years and is spending far more than the state can afford. Even if Illinois gets a budget this year, Fitch says the state is years away from repairing its credit and reputation.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

No Arrests in Bear the Dog Abuse Case

It looks like no one will be held responsible for the abuse that Bear the dog suffered. Ford County's sheriff yesterday said his investigation into the case hit a dead end. Another dog's owner found Bear strapped to a bridge post last year, his mouth was taped shut, and the dog was shot. Sheriff Mark Doran says he talked with Bear's owners, but he could never link anyone to the abuse. The sheriff says the case is closed unless new evidence can be found.

Proposed Shopping Center at Former GE Plant

A buyer wants to develop the site of the former General Electric plant in east Bloomington into a shopping center, but the deal is contingent on receiving city incentives. Christopher Zoellner of Balke Brown Transwestern, a St. Louis realty firm brokering the sale, which is under contract tells the Pantagraph the plan is to construct a 180,000-square-foot retail shopping center — what's known in the industry as a power center.  The center would be occupied by larger tenants, with stores varying in size from 15,000 to 60,000 square feet.