Thursday, August 16, 2018

J.B. Pritzker: Governor Rauner's Plan Would Raise Property Taxes

The Democrat running for governor says his opponent's plan would raise property taxes.  J.B. Pritzker told a crowd in Bloomington yesterday that Governor Rauner's proposal to have local schools and the state's universities pay their own pension costs would pass the cost on to local taxpayers.  Pritzker says the price tag for the change would be in the billions of dollars.

New Texting While Driving Law

A new law signed by the governor now classifies first time texting while driving as a moving violation. This new law takes effect on July 1, 2019.  Previously, a first time offense of texting while driving was considered a non-moving violation and any subsequent offense was a moving violation.

Local Food Pantry for College Students

The Normal First United Methodist Church is joining  Illinois State University and Normal Township to create the first food pantry in Bloomington-Normal, exclusively for college students. National research indicates 40% of students on campus are dealing with a lack of food.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

25-Year Old Woman Charged with Animal Abuse

Animal abuse charges have been filed against a Wapella woman in connection with a video that allegedly shows her abusing a dog. The Pantagraph reports 25-year old Ashlee Kemplin was formally charged Tuesday with abuse to an animal and is due in DeWitt County Circuit Court for an arraignment on Sept. 5. The charges come after an investigation by the DeWitt County Sheriff’s Department following the release of a video on social media of the woman allegedly abusing a husky.

Unit 5 to Fix Diversity Problem

Unit 5 has an under representation of minority teachers and leaders say this is a hurdle they're trying to get around. WMBD TV reports that during the school districts last meeting a local NAACP Chapter called them out for lack of diversity.  Unit 5 says it has been working with local minority groups to find a solution. The district says it's reviewing their hiring process--a practice the NAACP Chapter says is one of the districts biggest issues.

Governor Rauner Promises A Million Dollars For Fairgrounds Coliseum

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner looks to be the biggest donor yet to the Illinois State Fair's foundation.  The governor yesterday said he's donating a million dollars to fix the State Fair Coliseum.  The Coliseum has been closed for the past two years because of structural weaknesses.  The governor says he's working with other donors to fix some of the other needs at the fairgrounds.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

McLean County Democrats To Fight Signatures In Election Consolidation Drive

Democratic leaders in McLean County are getting ready to challenge the folks who want to combine the county's two election offices.  Democratic chairman Eric Rankin yesterday said he thinks there are problems with signatures on the petition to consolidate Bloomington's election commission and the county's election office.  Rankin says he thinks Democrats can get the question removed from the November ballot.

Trial Delayed for Rogers

The Sept. 10 trial date for Bart Rogers, a former member of the management team that supervised the city-owned arena, has been postponed until October. Rogers is accused of stealing public money during the time he served as general manager of the firm hired by the city to oversee what was then U.S. Cellular Coliseum. The Pantagraph reports In July, the state filed a new charge against Rogers accusing him of illegally transferring $15,000 in 2013 from a CIAM bank account to Illinois Pro Sports, a company in which he served as a managing partner.

New Report: Only 24 Percent Of Kindergarteners Ready For School

A new report says three-quarters of Illinois kindergarteners aren't ready to start the first grade.  The Illinois State Board of Education yesterday released a report that says only 24 percent of young children are where they're supposed to be when it comes to social-emotional development, language and literacy, and math at the end of kindergarten.  A State Board spokeswoman said the report shows that Illinois has a lot of work to do in getting kids ready.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Report: Downstate Illinois Gets More Than it Pays In Taxes

A new report says Chicago and the suburbs essentially pay for the rest of the state. The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University released a report last week that takes a look at which parts of the state get more money from the state, and which parts pay more in taxes. The Institute says downstate Illinois gets anywhere from a dollar-24 to two dollars and 81-cents for every dollar they send to Springfield. Chicago gets 90 cents on the dollar, while folks in the collar counties get only 53 cents per every dollar they pay in taxes.

Illinois' Unpaid Bill Backlog Jumps Almost A Half-Billion Dollars

Illinois' list of past-due bills is getting bigger. Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza's office last week said the state's unpaid bill backlog jumped about a half-billion dollars last week. The comptroller's website says Illinois owes the people who do business with the state over eight billion-dollars. 

New Law Allows Illinois Students To Take More Dual Credit Classes

One of Illinois' newest laws could help high school students in the state get a jump on a college degree. Governor Rauner signed a law on Friday to change the state's school code to allow students to take more dual credit classes. The old law limited how many dual credit courses kids could take. The new law says as long as the classes are taught by qualified teachers, high school students can take as many as they please. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

State Fair Managers Correct Spelling Mistake On Butter Cow

There are a lot of people talking about the butter cow at the Illinois State Fair, but not because it's a beautiful sculpture.  The artists who crafted the cow out of nearly 600 pounds of butter misspelled bicentennial on the cow's plaque.  The double-N is in the wrong place.  The fair's Dairy Building manager, Marla Behrends, says they've fixed the typo and are ready to welcome visitors to the fair through next weekend.

Ameren, Corn Belt Say Power Restored Near Bloomington

It was a blown fuse.  Ameren officials say a pair of fuses in Bloomington failed yesterday and knocked out power to almost 18 hundred customers.  Ameren and Corn Belt Energy said they both had customers in the dark yesterday afternoon.  It took crews about a half hour to get most of the lights back on. 

Illinois Election Managers: 76 Thousand Voters Hacked In 2016

The Illinois State Board of Elections says 76 thousand voters in the state had their information hacked back in 2016, not a half-million.  ISBE Director Steve Sandvoss wrote Governor Rauner a letter last week saying that the FBI's July indictment of Russia hackers mentioned 500 thousand voters having their personal information accessed.  But Sandvoss says the FBI assured him that Illinois had only 76 thousand exposures. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Unit 5 Finances and Your Property Taxes

McLean County Unit 5 is preparing to issue $16.5 million in bonds to help fund operating expenses, including additional staff and programs, over the next two years. According to the Pantagraph, a financial advisor informed the school board Wednesday that the bonds would add about $205 per year for two years to the average priced home in the district.

District 87 Moves Money to Stay Afloat

The tentative budget for 2018-19 reviewed by the District 87 school board on Wednesday night shows an operating deficit of nearly $2.6 million. Transfers from the working cash fund balance have been used to offset deficits. At the rate of transferring funds out of the working cash fund, the district has about three years left in that fund.

Skimmers Found At Central Illinois Gas Station

If you bought gas in Morton, Illinois, you may want to check your credit card statement.  Morton Police yesterday said they found credit card skimmers at two Circle K gas stations in town.  Morton Police say they don't know how long the skimmers were in place, or how many people were victimized.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Survey: Back To School Costs Top 500 Dollars

It's going to cost over 500 dollars to send kids back to school this year.  The consulting firm Deloitte is out with a new survey that says parents will spend, on average, 510 dollars to send their kids back to school this year.  That covers the cost of school supplies, clothes, and computers.  In all, Deloitte's Liz Verrill says parents will spend 28 billion-dollars on back to school shopping this year. 

Butler's Lawyers Seek Change of Venue in Coliseum Case

Could there be change of venue for one of defendants accused of stealing money from the city coliseum? Comments from city officials comparing John Y. Butler and his management firm, Central Illinois Arena Management,  to a Soviet Gulag and to convicted embezzler Bernie Madoff are among the reasons cited in a motion filed Tuesday to move Butler's criminal trial away from McLean County.

Libertarian Candidate For Governor Could Be Jailed Over Child Support

The Libertarian candidate for governor has two weeks to make good on three-thousand dollars in child support or he faces jail time.  A Lake County judge yesterday told candidate Kash Jackson, who's name is Grayson, that he's willing to wait a few weeks to see if Jackson's back child support comes through.  But the judge also threatened to jail Jackson for contempt after a shouting match in the courtroom, where Jackson complained about unfair treatment by the judge.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Normal Approves COLA Increases For City Workers

Government workers in the town of Normal will soon see bigger paychecks.  Town leaders last night approved a nearly two-and-a-quarter percent cost of living raise for 241 city hall workers.  Cops and firefighters have their own raises coming as well.  Normal's town manager says the 381 thousand-dollars for the raises is more than the town planned to spend. 

BBC Coming To Peoria For Story On Fentanyl

Peoria is about to become the face of fentanyl in Illinois.  A BBC crew is due in the city tomorrow to interview people for a story in the city's battle with the opioid drug.  The Peoria Journal Star reported yesterday that Peoria recently saw its 40th overdose death of the year.  The paper says producers also plan to interview managers at the Peoria Recovery Project to see how people are fighting their addictions. 

State Workers Sue To Get Patronage Jobs Back

Eight former state of Illinois workers are suing to get their jobs back, despite a ruling from the state's inspector general that says they never should have been hired in the first place.  The workers were all placed at their jobs by former Governor Rod Blagojevich.  The state's Executive Inspector General ruled in 2014 that they were illegally hired, and Governor Rauner moved to fire them.  The workers' lawyer, Don Craven, yesterday said the eight were fired essentially because they were Democrats. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Christensen Lawyers Defend Trump Meeting Info Request

Lawyers for the man accused of kidnapping a Chinese-born U of I scholar say they don't need all that much information from President Trump about the case.  Brendt Christensen's lawyers on Friday told the federal judge hearing his case that they only want a confirmation as to whether the president spoke to Chinese leaders about the disappearance and death of Ying Ying Zhang.  Christensen is facing the death penalty for her death last year.

Governor Signs New Rear-Facing Car Seat Law

Moms and dads are going to have to keep their rear-facing car seats for a little while longer.  Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner on Friday signed a new law that requires children stay in a rear-facing seat until they are two-years-old.  The new law is more specific than the old rules that simply required 'age appropriate' seats for all kids till age eight.

Normal to Tweak Budget for Pay Raises, Firetrucks

The Normal town council will vote tonight on whether to spend 51,000 dollars more than expected. If approved, the money will go to giving employees cost-of-living raises and providing about $1.14 million for new fire engines after one caught fire early this year.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

McLean County Starts Safe Haven Policy For Addicts

Add Bloomington-Normal to the list of cities with a safe haven program.  McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage yesterday announced the new policy that will allow people seeking help for drug abuse to go to a police station and not be arrested.  The sheriff says the idea is to get people into treatment and not into jail.

More Solar Farms Coming to McLean County

After officials signed off on the county's first four solar farms earlier this year, another five will come before the county's Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday. Th Pantagraph reports that  if all projects are built, the county will have nine new solar-generating facilities totaling 22 megawatts of capacity across 231 acres near Arrowsmith, Downs, Heyworth, Towanda and south Bloomington.

Illinois Among States Covered By Latest Cyclospora Recall

Illinois is one of the states covered by the latest recall over possibly tainted greens.  The USDA on Monday issued a new recall for lettuce and salad wrap ingredients packaged by Indianapolis-based Caito Foods.  The USDA says possibly tainted lettuce found its way to stores in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin.  The USDA says there are no reports of any illnesses yet, but a similar cyclospora outbreak in May sickened dozens of people.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

New Theft Charges Filed Against Former Bloomington Coliseum Manager

The latest theft charges against the former manager of Bloomington's city-owned coliseum accuse him of using taxpayer dollars to pay for minor league hockey.  The Bloomington Pantagraph reported yesterday on an indictment from late July against Bart Rodgers.  He's already facing charges for mismanaging the arena.  The new charges say Rodgers transferred 15 thousand-dollars from arena management accounts to the Illinois Pro Sports firm where he was a managing partner.

Illinois Lawmakers Set Two Online Gambling Hearings

Illinois lawmakers are giving themselves some time to agree to a deal on online sports betting before they're set to return to the Capitol this fall.  State Rep. Bob Rita yesterday announced two hearings on the issue, one for later this month in Chicago and the other set for October at the State Capitol.  Lawmakers are due back for the fall veto session in November.  Online gambling supporters hope to get a vote on a gambling expansion package when lawmakers return after the election.

Peoria Airport Managers Applaud Rapid Response To Emergency Landing

Managers at Peoria's airport say they are pleased with the response to yesterday's emergency landing.  No one was hurt when a Charlotte-bound American Eagle flight had to land 20 minutes after take off due to a loss of cabin pressure.  Airport director Gene Olson says the Illinois Air National Guard scrambled its firefighters to meet the plane, he says everyone worked as a team and did their jobs as well as they could

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Resurfacing on Veterans Parkway Has Begun

Resurfacing of Veterans Parkway from Washington Street north to Clearwater in Bloomington is underway. Crews are working at night from 9am to 7am through November. The Illinois Department of Transportation's $3 million project includes the busy Veterans at Empire intersection.

New Lotto Game To Benefit Fallen Officers

Illinois is letting people back the blue and perhaps win some money at the same time. Governor Rauner yesterday announced a new scratch-off lottery ticket that will raise money for the families of fallen officers or officers injured in the line of duty. The new ticket will split some of the purchase price between the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation Fund, the Police Memorial Committee Fund, and the Illinois State Police Memorial Fund.

Cat Posts Record Second Quarter Profit

The tariff tit-for-tat in Washington, DC doesn't seem to be slowing Caterpillar sales.  The heavy equipment maker yesterday posted a record second quarter profit based on strong sales in April, May, and June.  Cat officials are so confident about the company's strength that they raised their outlook for all of 2018.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Felony Charges After Fight, Wreck In Bloomington

Three women are facing felony charges after police say a fight led to a wreck in Bloomington. It happened very early Saturday morning on the city's west side. Police say the fight started as a disagreement over child support. Officers say the suspects managed to smash out a victim's car windows, then tried to smash the victim's car but missed and hit a building instead.

Suspect In U Of I Scholar's Death Ask For Presidential Info

The man facing charges for the death of a Chinese-born University of Illinois scholar wants to know if President Trump talked about his case. Brendt Christensen's lawyers on Friday asked to get any information they can from President Trump's Administration about Ying Ying Zhang's disappearance and whether the president spoke to Chinese officials about the case. Federal prosecutors are pushing charges against Christensen for Zhang's kidnapping and death, and his trial is set for April.

Grace Period for Bulk Waste Pickup Ends

The two-week grace period for bulk waste pickup in Bloomington end tomorrow. Starting Aug. 1, Public Works crews will collect bulk waste, sod, dirt, concrete, rock, and shingles at the curb. The City will charge $25 per bucket for bulk waste or $100 per bucket for sod, dirt, concrete, rock, and shingles.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Three-Month-Old Burned By Fireworks, Mom Charged

A three-month-old baby is recovering in a Springfield hospital after being burned by fireworks that went-off inside a car. Police in Bloomington say it happened just after midnight on Wednesday when Roman candles went off inside a car. Three adults were also treated for burns, then arrested on a host of charges including child endangerment. 

Governor Rauner Skipping Trump Visit To Metro East

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner won't be on the stage when President Trump arrives in the Metro East. The governor said earlier this week that he won't be in Granite City with the president later today. Rauner said he's already been to the area in the past week or so. The governor's opponent this fall, Democrat J.B. Pritzker, says Rauner is avoiding the president.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Farmers React to Trump Aid Package

The Trump Administration announced a $12 billion plan to provide emergency aid to farmers who are struggling under an escalating trade war with China and other trading partners. While the farmers and agriculture groups were grateful for the aid, they all pointed out this is a short-term fix to a long-term problem. Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall says the USDA announcement is substantial but says they cannot overstate the dire situation that farmers face because of lost export markets.

Uniformed Deputy Added to Court Screening Post

Sheriff Jon Sandage said Tuesday that the county has moved to a more uniformed presence at screening in response to a defendant's self-inflicted stab wound with a knife he smuggled into the courthouse. As a result, a McLean County deputy has been assigned to the screening station at the McLean County Law and Justice Center. 

Salvation Army Needs Your Help

The Salvation Army in Bloomington is used to helping others but now they are asking for help after one of their water heaters broke over the weekend. Since then the residents and staff have been air-drying clothes and reusing towels. The Salvation Army is expecting the repairs to exceed $20,000. They hope to have a temporary solution to the problem by the end of the week but they are asking for any donations from the public whether it be money or towels

Monday, July 23, 2018

Next Step Unclear For Bloomington-Normal Sports Complex

City leaders in Bloomington-Normal want to know more about a proposed 43 million-dollar sports complex, but no one seems to know what the next step will be. Consultants pitched the complex last week as a place to host soccer and baseball tournaments, but warned the fields would never pay for themselves. Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner says he wants to figure out how to finance the proposal, while Bloomington Alderman Scott Black says he wants to know if voters would even support the project before moving ahead.

Democratic Congresswoman Wants Election Security Answers From Governor

A Democratic congresswoman is asking for answers about election security in Illinois. Congresswoman Robin Kelly last week asked Governor Rauner for a report on what the state has done to prevent another hack, like the one that targeted the Illinois State Board of Elections back in 2016. Kelly says Illinois has three serious security vulnerabilities that need to be addressed.

Proposal to Reduce Female Prison Population

A proposal by reform advocates would cut the number of women locked up in Illinois prisons by as much as half. The Chicago Tribune reports that nearly 2,300 women are now serving time in Illinois. Reform advocates argue that the corrections system has largely ignored the needs of female inmates, many of whom suffered years of trauma, abuse or poverty before winding up behind bars.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Bloomington Sex Offender Stabs Himself At Courthouse After Conviction

The sheriff in McLean County says he wants to know how a convicted sex offender smuggled a knife into court.  Deputies say 78-year-old Johnny Icard stabbed himself with the knife after a jury convicted him yesterday of predatory criminal sexual assault.  Prosecutors say Icard abused a six-year-old neighbor girl.  The sheriff says Icard should survive his wound, and is due to be sentenced in late August.

Two Illinois Congress Members Named To Farm Bill Committee

A pair of Illinois Congress members will help decide the next farm bill.  Republican Rodney Davis and Democrat Cheri Bustos yesterday said they've been named to the joint House and Senate Committee that will write the next law that deals with both farm subsidies and food and nutrition programs.  This is Davis' second time on the farm bill committee.

Senator Dick Durbin Wants Answers About President Trump's Helsinki Comments

Illinois' senior U.S. senator is joining nearly a half dozen other top Democrats in Washington, DC in demanding answers about what President Trump said at his meeting with Vladimir Putin.  Senator Dick Durbin and five other senators on Tuesday fired off a letter to the White House asking for a clarification about the comments and commitments the president made during the meeting in Helsinki.