Sunday, May 12 Local News

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Published on May 12 2013 10:52 am
Last Updated on July 14 2013 4:07 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

The question of constitutional intent has taken center stage in the state's efforts to get the pension systems under control. The constitution guarantees pension benefits for state workers, and calls it a contract between the worker and the state. Some think that means the state has no authority to change benefits at all.  But according to Senate President John Cullerton, the terms of a contract can be modified.  He says his pension plan, which passed Thursday, doesn't strip workers of their benefits but gives them more control over their retirement plan.

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A reminder that Effingham City Commissioner Brian Milleville is beginning Commissioner Office Hours tonight.  The office hours will be held in the Council chambers at Effingham City Hall from 5 to 7pm and will be offered every Sunday.  At times a second Commissioner may join Milleville.  Local citizens are invited to drop by to talk with Milleville about issues of interest.

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Illinois GOP officials are adjusting to the announcement that Chairman Pat Brady would step down.  Some Republicans say Brady's resignation -- amidst a recent controversy stemming from his public support for the state's gay marriage bill -- is a chance for the party to re-establish itself.  Brady said he was leaving his post because of his wife's health.

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Teenagers in Illinois are hitting the unemployment line more than most others across the nation.  A recent study by the Employment Policies Institute puts Illinois at number nine when it comes to out-of-work teens between 16 and 19.  The unemployment rate for that age group is 27-point-two-percent.  Experts say the state's high minimum wage could be a reason why teens are having a hard time finding work, but others say it could be because older workers are taking lower-paying jobs, thanks to the recession.

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Illinoisans are applying for gun permits faster than the state can keep up with them.  That's according to the "Journal-Register," which reports Illinois State Police received nearly 30-thousand applications for owner ID cards in April alone.  The card is mandatory to own a firearm legally in Illinois.  The normal wait time is around 30 days, but some applicants are waiting 100 days or more for their ID cards.   

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A group of college students who once portrayed Chief Illiniwek are pushing for the mascot's return to the University of Illinois.  A group calling itself the Council of Chiefs wants the Illiniwek character to live again at university-sponsored sports events.  The school banned the headdress-wearing and face-painted Chief mascot in 2007 because it was deemed offensive by Native Americans.  The group says it's trying to drum-up support from Native Americans and proposed Chief Illiniwek return at two on-field events each year as a trial run but so far university officials say no-way. 

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A 33-year-old man is being charged with four-counts of first-degree murder and residential arson in connection with a house fire in Percy.  The charges by the Randolph County State's Attorney claim Derrick Twardoski set the fire that killed four siblings ranging in age from five to 12..  Autopsies on the children are expected to be done today to determine the official cause of death.

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The use of medical marijuana could soon be a reality in Illinois.  The House has already cleared the bill and the Senate is expected to follow suit this week.  If Governor Quinn signs the bill, Illinois would be the 19th state in the nation that lets some sick people use marijuana to ease their pain.

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Illinois State University has a new president ... and higher tuition.  The school's board of trustees has voted to hire Timothy Flanagan, who is currently president of Framingham State University in Massachusetts, to replace Al Bowman who is retiring.  The board also voted Friday to raise tuition and fees for undergraduates entering ISU this fall by about two-percent.  Tuition rates for graduate students will rise by about 12 percent.

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The state is projecting unpaid sales taxes from online purchases to hit at least 212-million dollars this year.  The Illinois Department of Revenue estimates that's a rise from the 183-million bucks lost last year.  The figures come as the U.S. House considers a measure sponsored by Senator Dick Durbin that would allow states more power to force sales tax collections by online sellers.

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Local resident Norbert Soltwedel is looking for someone who might donate a modest-sized keyboard for a church group in the nation of Uganda in Africa.  Soltwedel said he'd have to pack the keyboard in his luggage so it can't be too large, and said a battery model would be just fine.  He is leaving for Uganda on Wednesday, so would like to hear from anyone who might have a keyboard to donate.