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Local News

NWS: Severe Weather Likely This Afternoon

 

Widely scattered strong to severe thunderstorms will develop across central Illinois late this afternoon into the early evening. Given unseasonably high amounts of instability and wind shear in the environment, the thunderstorm cells will be capable of producing damaging wind gusts in excess of 60 mph, large hail greater than quarter-sized, and a few tornadoes. Further west...a solid line of thunderstorms is expected to develop along a cold front across Iowa and Missouri early this evening. This line of storms will surge eastward into central Illinois tonight. At this time, it appears the greatest risk for widespread severe weather will develop across the Illinois River Valley between 6pm and midnight...along the I-55 corridor between 9pm and 3am...and further east to the Indiana border between 3am and 6am.

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Community Action Touting Spring Programs

Community Action is touting a big spring within the organization they hope will not only help them in their mission of ending the cycle of poverty, but also help bring awareness to their communities about their organization. 
 
There are a few fundraisers coming up according to Alison Rumler-Gomez, Executive Director of Community Action. Coming up in March, the community can enter into a Lipsynch Battle for a $25 registration fee. 
 
 
Gomez  adds that Cheese Burger in Paradise is coming up on April 22. It will be held at Lincoln Banquet Center. There will be a silent auction and a live auction.
 
 
The funds raised from this event will go into unrestricted funds which is used for anything that might pop up for families in need.
 
 
To get tickets you can call their office at 732-2159 and you can pick them up there or you can send them a check and you will receive the tickets in the mail, but the easiest way is to buy online at capcil.info. You can also buy at the door.

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Rauner Hoping To Expand Reach of Medicaid

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration is seeking to tweak the Illinois Medicaid program. 
 
The administration will seek a vendor that will provide managed-care services to a greater number of Illinoisans.
 
 
The new vendor will provide managed-care services to 80 percent of Medicaid clients, up from the current 65%. .Nearly two-thirds of the state's 3 million Medicaid clients are on managed-care plans.

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A Wrap on FFA Week with Tri Valley

FFA Week concluded last Friday after five full days of events and activities to spread the word about about the program as well as having some fun. 
 
Throughout that week our Noon Farm Show on The Big 1520 AM/92.3 FM WHOW caught up with officers from different chapters around central Illinois who have expressed how being apart of the organization has benefited them, not only in discovering possible career paths, but in helping them develop life skills.
 
Skip Riddle, President of the Tri Valley FFA chapter and the Section 9 President, is one such student. He always wanted to farm, but credits FFA with giving him a strong base in the practical aspects of farming. The Tri Valley chapter has had a successful year so far, some of the highlights being the CDEs and competing with their record books. Riddle specifically has had a productive year.
 
 
The FFA chapters in central Illinois all celebrated FFA week with different activities, but their goal to involve and educate their peers and their communities through various outreach programs is the same.

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Products Expo This Weekend

Illinois grows and processes a lot of food. And this weekend is a showcase for all of it and more at the state fairgrounds. 
 
The Department of Agriculture’s 19th annual Illinois Products Expo gives attendees the chance to talk to food makers, graze their offerings and buy what you like. Morgan Booth with the IDOA says Illinois products rum the gamut from edibles to smellables. 
 
 
If you want to go, head to the Orr Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Saturday and Sunday. Its five bucks to get in, kids are free and so are the food samples.

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App Available For Visiting Illinois Historic Sites

There’s an app for that now applies to learning about state historical sites. The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency has a new experience history app. 
 
Chris Wills says the app will help you plan a trip and give you tips for what to do when you get to where you are going.
 
 
To find and download the app, find “historic sites of Illinois” on I Tunes or “IHPA” on Google Play. The app will also let you donate money to be used to help improve the site that you are visiting. 

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Clinton Schools Leader Discusses Recent Meeting With Governor

Governor Bruce Rauner addressed area school leaders last week in Springfield and one local leader says the message was encouraging.
 
Superintendent of Clinton Schools Curt Nettles spent a few days in Springfield last week and says the Governor addressed school leaders encouraging them and thanking them for their hard work.
 
 
Nettles says he feels good the Governor seems to be on the side of education but feels worried because House Speaker Mike Madigan has yet to weigh in on the negotiations in the Grand Bargain in Springfield.
 
 
At last week's Board of Education meeting, Nettles indicated some of the messages from his meetings in Springfield were discouraging. He further discussed some of the proposals given by the Governor in his budget address a few weeks ago. 
 
We'll have more on that later this week. 

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Monticello Announces Personnel Decisions at High School

The administration team at Monticello High School will look a little different next year.
 
Superintendent of Monticello Schools, Dr. Vic Zimmerman (right) indicates they have hired Dan Sheehan from Argenta-Oreana Schools to be the High School's assistant principal and athletic director. Additionally, current high school principal Tip Reedy has accepted a position as Superintendent of Williamsville Schools.
 
 
Additionally, last week Dr. Zimmerman submitted his letter of retirement to the Board of Education in Monticello. The Superintendent explains it will be effective following the 2020-2021 school year.
 
 
Dr. Zimmerman says he will poll the teachers, students and community for what they'd like to see in the next principal at the high school. He indicates that position will go up on their website this week and will remain open until late-March. 

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Governor Attending Republican Governors Association Meeting

GOVERNOR BRUCE RAUNER IS ATTENDING THE REPUBLICAN GOVERNORS ASSOCIATION MEETING IN WASHINGTON D-C THIS WEEKEND.
 
THE GROUP IS HOLDING IT’S WINTER MEETING AND GOVERNOR RAUNER SAYS HE LOOKS FORWARD TO COMPARING NOTES WITH HIS COLLEAGUES FROM OTHER STATES.
 
 
RAUNER SAYS HE’S INTERESTED IN HEARING WHAT HAS WORKED IN OTHER STATES AND WHAT HASN’T AND ALSO DISCUSSING WAYS TO BOOST THE STATE’S MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY.

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Lack of Rain Means Abnormally Dry Conditions for Illinois

A LACK OF RAIN THIS MONTH IN ILLINOIS HAS THE U-S DROUGHT MONITOR TAKING NOTICE.
 
THIS FEBRUARY WILL END UP AS ONE OF THE WARMEST ON RECORD IN ILLINOIS…AND ONE OF THE DRIEST SAYS STATE CLIMATOLOGIST JIM ANGEL.
 
 
“ABNORMALLY DRY” IS THE FIRST STAGE OF DROUGHT CONDITIONS. ANGEL SAYS THE MILD FEBRUARY HAS ALSO BEEN CONFUSING FOR EARLY SEASON PERENNIALS WHICH ARE COMING OUT A LITTLE EARLY.

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Several Legislators Propose Ways to Honor President Obama

LLINOIS LAWMAKERS ARE CONSIDERING SEVERAL WAYS TO HONOR FORMER PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA.
 
ONE PIECE OF LEGISLATION MARKS AUGUST 4TH, OBAMA'S BIRTHDAY, AS A SPECIAL DAY TO COMMEMORATE THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN PRESIDENT. ANOTHER MAKES THAT DATE A STATE HOLIDAY. GOVERNOR BRUCE RAUNER WAS ASKED ABOUT HIS THOUGHTS ON THE SUBJECT.
 
 
ADDITIONAL BILLS WOULD NAME I-55 AND THE TRI-STATE TOLLWAY AFTER OBAMA.

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Weekly Weather Summary

This past February will go on record as one of the warmest. A low pressure system will bring in rain, snow, and colder temperatures this weekend. State climatologist Jim Angel has the lastest...
 

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High School Students Making Progress in Advanced Placement Exams

RECENT DATA SHOWS MORE ILLINOIS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS ARE TAKING ADVANCED PLACEMENT EXAM.
 
A-P CLASSES AND THE SUBSEQUENT EXAM CAN HELP STUDENTS EARN COLLEGE CREDIT...AND NEARLY 50 THOUSAND KIDS FROM THE CLASS OF 2016 GAVE IT A SHOT. STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION SPOKESPERSON JACKIE MATTHEWS SAYS THEY PERFORMED VERY WELL.
 
 
ILLINOIS RANKS 10TH IN THE NATION FOR THE PERCENTAGE OF STUDENTS FROM THE CLASS OF 2016 WHO SCORED A THREE OR HIGHER ON THE A-P EXAM. THE BOARD IS ALSO PRAISING SCHOOLS LIKE JOLIET TOWNSHIP HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT THAT ARE WORKING HARD TO MAKE SURE MINORITY AND LOW INCOME STUDENTS ARE TAKING THE TEST AND PERFORMING WELL.
 
 
NEARLY 50 THOUSAND STUDENTS FROM THE CLASS OF 2016 TOOK AT LEAST ONE A-P EXAM…AND MORE THAN 33 THOUSAND GRADUATES SCORED A THREE OR HIGHER WHICH IS NEEDED TO EARN COLLEGE CREDIT.

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Power Outage in Clinton This Morning

Power went out across Clinton this morning at approximately 3 am. 3300 Ameren customers were without power.
 
Ameren indicated on their website that power had been restored for Dewitt County residents. A cause for the power outage has not been announced. This story will be updated.

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Chamber Ag Banquet Saturday

It's not too late to be a part of this year's Chamber of Commerce Ag Banquet, set for Saturday night.
 
Janel Baum-Thomas was a part of the Chamber Committee that organized this year's event and explains they will have a panel discussion this year that will have topics that range from things at a national level to a local level.
 
 
The panel will feature four producers from DeWitt County with experiences of all types. Baum-Thomas feels whether you work in agriculture or not, there is likely a takeaway for everyone.
 
 
The lead speaker and panel moderator will be Nic Anderson from the Illinois Livestock Development Group. Baum-Thomas says he will be hitting on several topics that hit close to home and are hot topics across the country.
 
 
The event is tomorrow night at the Clinton Country Club with a social hour starting at 5 pm, dinner served at 6 pm and the presentation to get underway at 7 pm.
 
Tickets are free when you pick them up from participating sponsors. For more information contact the Clinton Chamber of Commerce at 217-935-3364. 

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High School Students Making Progress in Advanced Placement Exams

RECENT DATA SHOWS MORE ILLINOIS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS ARE TAKING ADVANCED PLACEMENT EXAM.
 
A-P CLASSES AND THE SUBSEQUENT EXAM CAN HELP STUDENTS EARN COLLEGE CREDIT...AND NEARLY 50 THOUSAND KIDS FROM THE CLASS OF 2016 GAVE IT A SHOT. STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION SPOKESPERSON JACKIE MATTHEWS SAYS THEY PERFORMED VERY WELL.
 
 
ILLINOIS RANKS 10TH IN THE NATION FOR THE PERCENTAGE OF STUDENTS FROM THE CLASS OF 2016 WHO SCORED A THREE OR HIGHER ON THE A-P EXAM. THE BOARD IS ALSO PRAISING SCHOOLS LIKE JOLIET TOWNSHIP HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT THAT ARE WORKING HARD TO MAKE SURE MINORITY AND LOW INCOME STUDENTS ARE TAKING THE TEST AND PERFORMING WELL.
 
 
NEARLY 50 THOUSAND STUDENTS FROM THE CLASS OF 2016 TOOK AT LEAST ONE A-P EXAM…AND MORE THAN 33 THOUSAND GRADUATES SCORED A THREE OR HIGHER WHICH IS NEEDED TO EARN COLLEGE CREDIT.

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Cubs World Series Trophy Coming To Springfield

Millions came to see it after a 108 year wait, now Downstate Illinois gets a chance to see the Cubs World Series Trophy. 
 
The trophy will come to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield March 8th after the Cubs finish showing it off at their Cactus League/Spring Training home in Arizona. 
 
The Library/Museum's Chris Wills says the news is the result of a great working relationship with the Cubs.
 
 
The first 500 fans will receive wristbands and be assured a chance to take a picture with the trophy beginning at 12:30. Additional fans will be admitted if time permits. No shelter will be provided overnight or during the day of the event, so fans should dress appropriately for the weather.

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Governor Reacts To AFSCME Vote

It’s not a decision to strike but the choice is now on the table for ASFCME members as they voted in strong numbers to support authorizing one. 
 
However, the state’s largest employee union says they are prepared to do everything they can to find an alternative path. 
 
Governor Bruce Rauner says that his administration has made their last and best final offer and it’s time to accept the contract and keep the state working. 
 
 
More than 80 percent of AFSCME members voted to authorize a first-time strike against the state.

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AFSCME Votes To Authorize Strike

The largest union for Illinois state workers has voted on the potential for a strike and Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch reveals a strike authorization vote wasn't close.
 
 
AFSCME has been working without a contract since the summer of 2015.

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DeWitt County Resident Asks For Special Zoning Permission, Board Says No

DeWitt County resident Jamison Holt just wants to give his kids room to raise livestock for FFA and 4-H projects and to raise beef for himself.
 
Which is why the rural DeWitt County resident was seeking an overturn of a ruling by the Zoning Board of Appeals to deny him that request at the Thursday night DeWitt County Board Meeting. 
 
The DeWitt County ordinance states a structure, in this case a property fence, must be built no further than 200 feet from a property line. 
 
Holt initially started to build a fence for such a purpose, however, the project did not get completed in the time his permit allowed. Then in reapplying, he learned the fence could not be built in the area he originally intended due to an ordinance change. The ordinance change established a fence as a structure, which could not be within 200 feet of a property line with the purpose containing certain farm animals. He is contending a fence should not be considered a structure, as the USDA does not consider a fence a structure because it does not have a roof.
 
 
The DeWitt County Board has the authority to overturn rulings made by the Zoning Board of Appeals. In answering questions from the Board, Zoning Administrator Angie Sarver explains the area Holt resides is considered residential not farm ground.
 
 
Holt explains there are three lots in his considered subdivision, however, he points out his property tax bill shows $53 in agriculture property taxes along with other discrepancies.
 
 
Doug Smith is a resident in the area being discussed and says his property was purchased as a residential lot. He says any exceptions made to the ordinance for the property would cause him a hardship if allowed.
 
 
The Board ultimately voted down the variance being sought by Holt. Many offered Holt their sympathies and acknowledged the ordinance was poorly written and needed to be changed.
 
Holt declined comment after the meeting.
 
Also at the Thursday night Board meeting:
 
>>The Board approved the purchase of a new vehicle for DeWitt County Animal Control not to exceed $20-thousand.
 
>>The Board approved a new security system for DeWitt County Animal Control's facility.
 
>>The Board approved the upgrading of the fuel tank station with an ethernent communications model for a cost of just short of $13-hundred. 
 
>>The Board approved entering into a contract with Chastain and Associates for engineering services for the sewage treatment plant replacement at cost just over $23-thousand. 

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Local Business Owner Readies To Branch Out

Joe Sartie, owner of Snappers Bar and Grill on the Clinton Square, is a community oriented idea man.
 
So naturally when brew pubs started to crop up across the area, Sartie saw an opportunity for something new. The organizer of the annual Brushville concert on the square and the business owner explains he plans to take the former downtown dry-cleaner facility and turn it into a brewery.
 
 
According to Sartie, he is partnering with some friends from Decatur to brew the beer. He calls it 'dipping his toes in the water' and seeing where the idea takes him.
 
 
Sartie feels the downtown Clinton Square is on the up-and-up and hopes to continue to do his part in helping it grow. He feels the summer events that are starting to grow in popularity on the square are only going to add to the viability of the brewery. 

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FFA Week Spotlight: Clinton & Mt. Pulaski

Two area FFA chapters are reaching out to their communities and schools during FFA week.
 
The Clinton FFA chapter makes FFA week about outreach as well as an internal celebration. Riley Donelson, vice president of the Clinton chapter, indicates that they hosted spirit dress up days to get the entire student body involved and aware of the FFA program.
 
 
Kevin Toohill, Clinton chapter president, says that the chapter is very involved with career development events. Members are able to learn and take part in different agricultural fields that they may be interested in as a career at these events.
 
 
The Mt. Pulaski FFA chapter is involved in many competitions throughout the school year. Vice president Skye Kratzinger indicates that the chapter takes part in food science, public speaking, meat judging, and parliamentary procedure competition events.
 
 
A major part of FFA is record book keeping. Lucas Ailsworth, president of the Mt. Pulaski chapter, says that FFA members are involved in supervised agricultural experience record book keeping. Members are involved in an agricultural business and keep records of their expenses and compete in record book competitions.
 
 
The Mt. Pulaski chapter holds their FFA Week during March, instead of the week that it is traditionally held nationally. They say this allows them to do more outdoor activities involving their peers and the youth of the community. 

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Governor Pushing for Higher Standards for Students, Schools

GOVERNOR BRUCE RAUNER IS URGING THE ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION TO ADOPT STRONG STANDARDS FOR SCHOOLS AND STUDENTS.
 
ISBE MUST SUBMIT A PLAN ON IMPLEMENTING THE “EVERY STUDENT SUCCEEDS ACT” TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. GOVERNOR RAUNER SAYS THAT SHOULD INCLUDE SUPPORTING GOOD TEACHERS AND HELPING ALL KIDS SUCCEED.
 
 
GOVERNOR RAUNER SAYS THAT SHOULD INCLUDE COLLEGE READINESS EFFORTS…ESPECIALLY IN AREAS LIKE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY.
 
 
THE GOVERNOR ALSO WANTS TO MAKE SURE STUDENTS ARE WELL PREPARED FOR COLLEGE AND CAREERS AND THAT PARENTS AND TAXPAYERS KNOW HOW WELL THEIR LOCAL SCHOOLS ARE DOING.

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State Fair Reveals Grandstand Acts

The Illinois State Fair is going public with its first Grandstand concerts. 
 
Half of the lineup is finalized and State Fair Manager Kevin Gordon reveals an act that should be familiar to any country fan who hasn't slept under a rock the last few decades.
 
 
Other big names include classic rock legend John Mellencamp on the final day of the fair, August 20th. Country star Chase Rice has been tabbed to perform August 11th. 
 
Pop star Jason DeRulo takes the stage August 17th and it could be a sleepless evening for any livestock left at the Fairgrounds on August 19th as metal act Five Finger Death Punch turns up the volume. A ticket sales date has not been set. 

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Duckworth Calls For Trump To Get Back To Basics

It's been an eventful first month in office for President Donald Trump, but with key cabinet choices confirmed, Senator Tammy Duckworth hopes Trump shifts his focus to a topic he raised on the campaign trail.
 
 
Duckworth says it's time for more action, and less words....
 
 
Senate Democrats began promoting a $1 Trillion infrastructure plan last month.

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Clinton Man Arrested On Meth, Moonshine Production Charges

A Clinton resident is in jail tonight after he was arrested for production of meth and a moonshine distillery.

 

32-year old Richard A.P. Gharrett of Clinton was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of methamphetamine manufacturing materials, a class 2 felony.  

 

He is incarcerated in the DeWitt County jail pending a bond hearing.  If convicted, this felony range from probation up to 7 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Additional charges may be filed by the DeWitt County State’s Attorney.  

 

No other information was available.

 

TF6 is a multi-agency enforcement unit specializing in narcotics enforcement.  TF6 is composed of officers from the Clinton Police Department, DeWitt County Sheriff’s Office, McLean County Sheriff’s Office, Piatt County Sheriff’s Office, Illinois State University Police Department, and the Illinois State Police.  Task Force 6 was assisted by the Clinton Police Department, DeWitt County Sheriff’s Department and the Illinois Liquor Control Commission.

The public is reminded that charges are merely accusations and criminal defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.  Persons having information regarding illegal drugs are encouraged to contact the TF6 tip line at www.taskforce6.com.

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Maroa-Forsyth and Blue Ridge Celebrating FFA Week

FFA chapters across the nation this week will be hosting festivities to celebrate FFA Week.
 
The Maroa-Forsyth FFA chapter places an emphasis on business outreach during FFA Week. Reed Jostes, treasurer of the Maroa-Forsyth chapter, indicates their chapter makes sure that members get to meet business leaders that are in the area that they are interested in.
 
 
Jostes says business development is a year-round outreach program for the Maroa-Forsyth FFA chapter. He emphasizes the importance of this outreach due to only having a majority of members who wish to have careers in the agribusiness field.
 
 
The Blue Ridge FFA chapter hosts an annual petting zoo for elementary students to promote FFA. Nick Becker indicates that the petting zoo will feature many different farm animals, and the agribusiness class will have a project that will coincide with the petting zoo.
 
 
Every FFA chapter highlights FFA week differently with many chapters celebrating with spirit dress up days and various outreach programs.

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Farming and Running for Office At Same Time

An Illinois farmer proved you can run for a seat in the General Assembly and grow a record-sized crop all at the same time -- and live to tell. 
 
Marengo farmer John Bartman did it last year and thinks more farmers belong in the Illinois statehouse.
 
 
Bartman entered the race late after the McHenry County Democratic Party slated him to run due to former Representative Jack Franks' decision to run for a county office. Bartman came up short, but hasn't ruled out another run. He plans to share his experience next week at an Illinois Farm Bureau conference in Springfield. You can still attend. Contact your county Farm Bureau.

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Plans Being Pushed To Help Ease the Strain of Losing a Doctor

Health insurance plans can be expensive and confusing to sign up for. And even when you keep the same plan from year to year your plan may change without you knowing. 
 
That has the potential to leave patients breaking long relationships with doctors. And Representative Chad Hays of Danville in favor of a bill that would set up a grace period to allow patients to work with existing doctors while they look for a new one.
 
 
The bill would also make sure that health insurance providers have up to date information on in-network doctors on their websites. 

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Clinton Schools Leader Addresses Governor's Budget Proposal

Area school leaders have discussed skepticism towards Governor Bruce Rauner's proposal to fully fund education and fully fund transportation and special education.
 
At the Tuesday night Clinton Board of Education meeting, Clinton Schools Superintendent Curt Nettles says the state remains on time with their general state aid payments, however, they are still well behind on the transportation and special education reimbursements. 
 
 
While the Governor's promises would be somewhat groundbreaking in Illinois, Nettles points out there is a lot of disagreement on how to balance the Illinois budget, leaving a lot of questions for educators.
 
 
According to Nettles, the Governor will address school leaders at a special conference Nettles will be at Wednesday. Nettles says he will be curious about what hte Governor has to say to his peers.
 
 
Also at the Tuesday night Board of Education meeting, the Board approved the hiring of Sacha Young as Principal of Clinton Elementary School for the 2017-18 school year as Principal Mary Diener is set to retire.
 
Nettles updated the Board on the CDL program and says the first round of students are set to complete their coursework this week.
 
We'll have more on those stories soon on Regional Radio News. 

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FFA Week Spotlight: LeRoy

It's national FFA week this week and our afternoon Farm Show on WHOW kicked it off with officers from the LeRoy FFA chapter. 
 
President MacKenzie Brackett and Reporter Taylor Spiker indicate the week is aimed to spread the message of FFA to their classmates and they have plenty planned for this week, not only for FFA members, but for the entire school.
 
 
LeRoy FFA has a busy spring ahead as the two indicate there will be a Farm Day where the grade school student can get up close and personal with some animals in May. And for the FFA members themselves, the warmer weather means it's time for district proficiencies, job interviews and public speaking. 
 
 
The two emphasize the importance of joining FFA and the impact it's made on their high school careers. They say though farming is a part of being in the organization it is not the only part. It teaches responsibility, leadership and life skills. 

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Cubs, Cardinals Rivalry Centerpiece of New Lincoln Library/Museum Exhibit

Four scores and seven innings ago. On President's Day, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum shifted its focus to a Civil War with much smaller stakes, the the rivalry between Cubs and Cardinals fans in Illinois. 
 
State Historian Samuel Wheeler says the exhibit will debut March 24th. He says the new exhibit will feature interactive fun that will allow rival fans to make their mark.
 
 
Wheeler says baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and both organizations are giving the exhibit a boost.
 
 
The exhibit will remain open through the rest of the year. Items featured will include a cap worn by Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood, the second-base bag stolen by Lou Brock to break the modern record for steals in a season, gear worn by Albert Pujols, Sammy Sosa, Rogers Hornsby, Fergie Jenkins, and much more.

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Bustos Won't Run For Governor

Quad Cities Congresswoman Cheri Bustos has decided her political future remains in Washington. 
 
She will focus on her work in the US House after she was appointed to a junior leadership position for House Democrats last month. 
 
She had spent several weeks considering a run for Governor.

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AFSCME Vote Totals Out Soon

The votes have been cast, and all eyes are on AFSCME Council 31, as they prepare to release totals on a state worker strike authorization vote. 
 
The largest state employee union will reveal their results before the week is out. AFSCME officials say thousands upon thousands of members voted during the three week period. 28-thousand of the union's 38-thousand members are eligible to take part in a walkout while Corrections personnel are forbidden from striking. 
 
The Rauner Administration insists a strike would be illegal for all state workers based on an agreement signed last fall. A strike authorization vote doesn't necessecarily mean the union will strike. 
 
The union is currently challenging Governor Rauner's attempts to implement contract terms in court. AFSCME officials recently announced they would accept a four-year wage freeze and higher health insurance costs but the Rauner Administration rejected the proposal. 

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City Paves Way For Construction of New Gas Station

The Clinton City Council, Monday night at the regular City Council meeting, set in motion the next phase of a new gas station to come to Clinton.
 
A TIF District was expanded to encompass the planned site at Van Buren, Grant, White and Jackson Streets and City Administrator Tim Followell says the ball is now in the court of the developer, Meyer Oil. 
 
 
Many have questioned the need for an additional gas station in Clinton and also the location of the proposed establishment. Followell has no concerns about the location or the addition of another gas station in the community.
 
 
Meyer oil also has a Mach 1 gas station facility in Champaign, however, Followell says it is unlikely the Clinton station will look like that as the Champaign site is a truck stop, and the area of town they are building cannot support a truck stop style facility.

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Maroon Madness Set For March 4

The biggest event of the year is right around the corner for the group that helps support your athletes.
 
The Clinton Athletic Booster Club's annual Maroon Madness event is set for March 4 this year and Boost Club President Brian Ennis, indicates this year's event will once again centered around their wildly successful reverse raffle giveaway.
 
 
Ennis explains the reverse raffle is a way for the Booster Club to give back to the people who have supported them all year long. He indicates that the money raised this year will not be set aside for anything in particular, but will be available for any athletic needs that may pop up. 
 
 
In the past, Maroon Madness has garnered anywhere from 11,000 to 16,000 dollars. Ennis indicates the funds have been put toward purchases like scoreboards for the baseball and football fields and new wrestling mats.
 
 
Tickets are 100 dollars a piece, allowing four individuals entry. If you would like to get involved, you can contact anyone involved the Clinton Athletic Booster Club, any Athletic Board member, Barry Gurvey in the Clinton high school athletic department for tickets or contact Ennis directly at 217-433-8769. 

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Local Superintendent Skeptical of Governor's Big Budget Message

Governor Bruce Rauner talked big during his Budget Address last Wednesday and one local Superintendent says she's skeptical the legislature can deliver.
 
The Governor proposed record funding levels for Illinois schools and fully funding the education and special education funds of Illinois districts. Susan Wilson is the Superintendent of Blue Ridge Schools and is not confident those proposals will be fulfilled until the major players of the Illinois legislature all come together.
 
 
The Governor last week also held steadfast in his desire for a property tax freeze, despite concerns from leaders about such action. Wilson indicates the Blue Ridge Board of Education has taken actions to help counter a likely tax freeze.
 
 
According to Wilson, the district is essentially issuing their own bonds, buying them and increasing their tax base. She says the money will go to some projects at their various facilities and will not come from the tax payers. 
 
 
Wilson says the tax freeze legislation is not anything new as Rauner has had this on his radar since he campaigned and took office. She feels if it does go through, it will be very hard to repeal, and might be a permanent freeze. 

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Bill Sets Uniform College Standards for Freshman

A BILL IN THE ILLINOIS HOUSE SETS UNIFORM ADMISSIONS STANDARDS FOR STATE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES. 
 
THE MEASURE REQUIRES SCHOOLS TO ADMIT FRESHMEN WHO RANK IN THE TOP 10 PERCENT OF THEIR HIGH SCHOOL CLASS. REPRESENTATIVE ANDRE THAPEDI OF CHICAGO IS SPONSORING THE LEGISLATION AND SAYS IT’S ABOUT INCREASING STUDENT DIVERSITY AT COLLEGES THROUGHOUT THE STATE.
 
 
IT’S OPPOSED BY THE STATE BOARD OF HIGHER EDUCATION AND THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS. THE U OF I’S JENNIFER CREASEY:
 
 
CRITICS INCLUDE THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS…WHERE ADMINISTRATORS SAY ADMISSION POLICIES SHOULDN’T BE PUT INTO STATE LAW.

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Having High Cholestrol Can Double Your Risk of Heart Disease

AS WE RECOGNIZE HEART HEALTH MONTH…AND NUTRITION EXPERT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS EXTENSION OFFICE REMINDS THAT HAVING HIGH CHOLESTEROL CAN DOUBLE YOUR RISK FOR HEART DISEASE. 
 
WHILE THE BODY NEEDS FATS FOR ENERGY, HORMONE PRODUCTION AND PROTECTING ORGANS, THE WRONG TYPES OF FATS CAN CAUSE HIGH CHOLESTEROL SAYS THE U OF I EXTENSION’S LISA PETERSON.
 
 
PETERSON SAYS ANIMAL AND DAIRY PRODUCTS OFTEN HAVE THE MOST SATURATED FAT.
 
 
PETERSON SAYS DIETARY GUIDELINES SUGGEST LIMITING SATURATED FAT TO LESS THAN 10 PERCENT OF YOUR CALORIES PER DAY.

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Free Tax Help from Warner Library

The Warner Library has teamed up with AARP to help you with your taxes with no cost to you. 
 
The deadline to file taxes this year is April 18th and with that date swiftly approaching, be sure to make your appointment with the library online, over the phone or in person before April 15th.
 
 
That's Janet Ward, Librarian at the Warner Library in Clinton who says the library does have tax forms for you to use, including additional forms that the IRS may not have given you. There are a few things you will need to bring with you in order to get the job done.
 
 
The library is open from 9AM-9PM Monday to Thursday, 9AM-5PM on Fridays and 9AM-4PM Saturdays. To set up an appointment by phone, call 935-5174.

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Experts See Hope For State Budget

Following Governor Rauner’s budget address this week, some experts following the state’s budget impasse are seeing light at the end of the tunnel. 
Rauner agreed to sign off on an income tax increase, and expand the sales tax to include some services if the legislature would accept some of his ‘turn-around’ agenda, especially reforms to workmen’s compensation. 
 
His budget outline, which would include cuts along with the tax hikes would come close to closing the gaping budget hole the state now faces, and sounds similar to the so-called ‘Grand Bargain’ proposed earlier by senate leadership. 
 
Jak Tichener, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy institute at SIU says if there is a deal, it will have to be based on the ‘Grand Bargain’ coming out of the senate.
 
 
Tichener says he is more optimistic of a breakthrough than at any time in the past two years.
 
 
Each day the state continues without a budget, bond ratings plummet, bills go unpaid and interest and service charges grow by millions of dollars a day.

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Bill Would Increase Marketplace Access for Farmers, Small Businesses

A NEW LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE AIMS TO GET MORE LOCAL FARMERS AND SMALL BUSINESSES INTO THE MARKETPLACE. 
 
THE LEGISLATION AIMS TO PROTECT CONSUMER SAFETY WHILE MAKING IT EASIER FOR SMALL PRODUCERS TO SELL THEIR FOOD. IT STREAMLINES FARMER’S MARKET REGULATIONS THAT NOW VARY FROM COUNTY TO COUNTY, EXPANDS THE SALE OF HOMEMADE FOODS AND MAKES IT EASIER FOR PRODUCERS TO SELL RAW MILK. REPRESENTATIVE SONYA HARPER OF CHICAGO SUPPORTS THE EFFORT.
 
 
REPRESENTATIVE WILL GUZZARDI OF CHICAGO SAYS THE IDEA IS TO OPEN UP THE MARKETPLACE SO SMALL FARMERS CAN MORE EASILY SELL DIRECTLY TO THEIR CONSUMERS.
 
 
BILLS IN THE PACKAGE ALSO LETS PRODUCERS APPLY FOR A STATE LICENSE TO GROW INDUSTRIAL HEMP AND SELL HEMP PRODUCTS.

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Clinton Volunteers Starting Up Parent Teacher Organization

After a long absence in the community, community members are trying again on a parent teacher organization in Clinton schools.
 
Most PTOs aim to provide schools with volunteers and funds for events and necessary resources. Elementary principal Beth Wickenhauser indicates Nicole Finch is heading up the organization and notes the organization is calling on the community to help them take over some of the existing fundraisers as well as getting the community more involved in the schools. 
 
 
According to Wickenhauser, the organization is hoping to get enough volunteers from the community to spread the  workload across a lot of people.
 
 
The business community might be called upon. Rather than hoping to tap their financial resources, Wickenhauser says they hope business leaders will be willing to be a part of in the classroom outreach.
 
 
To volunteer, contact Lincoln School at 935-6383, Douglas Elementary School at 935-2987, or Clinton Elementary school at 935-6772.

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Agronomy Day Set For Early March

Area farmers with questions about the use of Dicamba tolerant soybeans on their operations are invited to a free conference in early March.  Local Farm Broadcaster, Jared White has more....
 

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Court Rules in Favor of State Workers

State employees looking to keep getting their paychecks won a sense of relief on Thursday but the fight isn’t over. 
 
A St. Clair County Judge ruled against Attorney General Lisa Madigan who was seeking to cut off employee pay because there was no appropriation to spend the money. But Madigan says she will appeal the ruling because the state’s constitution requires lawmakers to approve the spending. 
 
Governor Bruce Rauner had opposed Madigan’s lawsuit and issued this statement after the court’s decision.
 
“We’re pleased our hard working state employees, who show up to work every day on behalf of the people of Illinois, will continue to be paid. It is our hope the Attorney General drops this lawsuit so the bipartisan negotiations in the Senate can continue in order to reach a balanced budget with changes to get our state back on track.”

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Rep. Butler Wants To Change State Seal

State Representative Tim Butler believes the state should tweak one of its symbols before next year's bicentennial celebration. 
 
Three Butler bills related to the bicentennial passed through the Illinois House yesterday, including a change to the State of Illinois seal.
 
 
Butler said the legislation does not require current state seals to be replaced but will change the date on new seals going forward.

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Another Democrat For Governor Emerges

Madison County Regional Schools Superintendent Bob Daiber has launched a bid for the Democrat party nomination for Illinois Governor in Edwardsville. 
In the event Monday afternoon, Daiber says jobs and education will be his campaigns key focus:
 
 
Dauber, who will run as a Democrat, claimsa strong resume of employment, education, achievements and awards, and says he believes the support for his candidacy is strong as well:
 
 
Dauber says a workable state budget; education, crime reduction and jobs make up the foundation of his platform. He also vows to veto any right to work legislation if elected, which brought cheers from the supporters attending the declaration rally.
 
Daiber plans to remain on the job as regional schools chief for the time being. He says that could change sometime down the road. Primary balloting for the Governors race is more that a year away, March 20th, 2018. 
 
So far Daiber and Chris Kennedy, son of the late Robert Kennedy, are the only announced Democratic candidates. 

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Another Threat Discovered At Clinton Junior High School

Another threat was discovered at Clinton Junior High School Thursday night.
 
The threat was discovered in the eighth grade portion of the school after school hours. The discovery temporarily forced a pause in the extra curricular activities at the school. It was once again unfounded. 
 
Superintendent Curt Nettles and Clinton Police Chief Ben Lowers declined comment on the discovery. 
 
The threat is the latest discovery of a rash of unsubstantiated threats made to the building in the last month. 
 
The latest discovery comes on the heels of an all school body assembly where students were addressed by school officials and local authorities. 
 
At least one incident has been resolved. 

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Sen. Brady, Rep. Mitchell React To Governor's Budget Address

Governor Bruce Rauner gave his annual Budget Address to a special joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives of the 100th General Assembly. 
 
The budget remains the biggest challenge to the state of Illinois, with the current impasse reaching almost its second year, and a backlog of unpaid bills climbing to $11.3 billion. 
 
State Representative Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth) was pleased the Governor recognized Republicans and Democrats are going to need to work together for anything to be accomplished.
 
 
State Senator Bill Brady was pleased the Governor once again called for a balanced budget. He calls the Governor's address positive.
 
 
In his Address, the Governor acknowledged the difficult position the state is in, but also noted significant progress that has been made through bipartisan compromise in the Senate. 
 
The Governor also emphasized job creation as the cornerstone for economic growth, something for which the budget must account for. 

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Top Democrat Says Stopgap Budget Should Be Considered

On Wednesday the Governor presented ideas about what could comprise a budget in the coming year, but a leading House Democrat says he’s hasn’t seen a current budget book. Greg Harris the Dem’s top budget man says a 198 years of standard budget making process in Illinois has gone out the window with Bruce Rauner. And so the state slogs into another year without a comprehensive spending plan.
 
The Gov has maintained he has little interest in signing a stop-gap spending bill but Harris says it should be considered to keep critical state operations and services running.
 
 
Harris says he remains hopeful about what he may see in the senate’s package of budget bills once they reach the house. 

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Democrat Leader Says Governor Going Down Wrong, Familiar Path

Democrats are responding to Governor Rauner's latest budget address. State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, the budget negotiator for the House Democratic caucus, says the Governor is going down a wrong, familiar path.
 
 
Harris maintains Democrats have done their part to compromise...
 
 
Harris maintains Democrats are offering a plan to boost the economy with economic reforms that will boost the middle class while providing good jobs for working families and helping businesses grow.

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Governor Rauner Presents General Assembly With Budget

Governor Bruce Rauner delivered his third budget address before a joint session of the General Assembly Wednesday afternoon.
 
The Governor addressed school funding for much of the address and proposed record funding levels for schools in the upcoming budget.
 
 
Many local school leaders have been critical of the state's lack of funding mandated categoricals. The Governor Wednesday proposed fully funding transportation and special education funding.
 
 
The Governor Wednesday proposed increasing the road infrastructure program by 200-percent.
 
 
The property tax freeze legislation has leaders of a variety of entities concerned. Governor stood steadfast in his desire for a property tax freeze Wednesday.
 
 
Governor Rauner says he supports a sales tax increase, however, he does not want to see that applied to the citizens groceries and medicines.
 
 
The Governor also proposed a 10-percent increase in MAP funding, adding two Illinois State Police cadet classes and keeping jobs a priority. 

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Officials Address Clinton Junior High School Students Over Recent Threats

Clinton Junior High School students gathered for an all-student body assembly first thing Wednesday morning in light of a rash of threats made at the building.
 
According to Superintendent Curt Nettles, the message from him was the behavior was appreciation for 99-percent of the student body that go through the day without causing a disturbance.
 
 
Clinton Police Chief Ben Lowers says his message to the student body was the actions of the individuals involved is a crime. He says it is not a prank and it is not funny.
 
 
According to Nettles, he encourages parents to talk to their kids about the threats and what they mean for everyone else. He points out, if a student has a problem or they know something is wrong, find an adult they can trust.
 
 
Chief Lowers says students who make threats to students will be held accountable for their actions. He feels often times, these types of actions are a cry for help from the individuals.
 
 
Nettles calls the assembly an eye opener for some of the students. He also feels Principal Drew Goebel's message was well received and adds the consequences will be severe.
 
 
The incidents continue to be investigated with one threat being resolved. Chief Lowers calls these acts a lack of respect for the educational process and the peers and authorities around them. 

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Chamber Ag Banquet Featuring New Format

If you're interested in attending the Clinton Chamber of Commerce's annual Ag Banquet, there's a new format for this year's event.
 
Janel Baum-Thomas was a part of the Chamber Comittee that organized this year's event and explains they are going to a panel discussion rather than the speaker format of year's prior. She say the topics are also going to be of local relevance.
 
 
The panel will feature four producers from DeWitt County with experiences of all types. Baum-Thomas feels whether you work in agriculture or not, there is likely a takeaway for everyone.
 
 
The lead speaker and panel moderator will be Nic Anderson from the Illinois Livestock Development Group. Baum-Thomas says he will be hitting on several topics that hit close to home and are hot topics across the country.
 
 
The event is Saturday February 25 at the Clinton Country Club with a social hour starting at 5 pm, dinner served at 6 pm and the presentation to get underway at 7 pm.
 
Tickets are free when you pick them up from participating sponsors. For more information contact the Clinton Chamber of Commerce at 217-935-3364. 

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Rauner Hosts Facebook Live Event on Eve of Budget Address

Governor Bruce Rauner will give his third budget address today but before standing before lawmakers he took to Facebook for another live event where he took questions from citizens. 
 
Rauner’s position on the aforementioned budget was a common topic. He says that for years he’s been saying for years the state needs to do something different but he won’t stand in the way of others ideas to fix the state. 
 
 
Critics of the Governor say he’s constitutionally responsible to submit a budget for review. Rauner said he did that once and the House ignored his reconditions and moved to pass an unbalanced budget. The Governor addresses the state today at noon.

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Secretary of State Endorses Seatbelts on School Buses

Millions ride on roadways and highways everyday without being buckled into their seats. And in spite of seat belt laws around the nation no one is breaking the law. 
 
Now that might change in Illinois. 
 
Secretary of State Jesse White now says he supports a law requiring seat belts on school buses. SOS Spokesperson Dave Druker says they want to see a standard three point belt in bus seats to keep kids safer.
 
 
This is far from a new issue in Illinois or other states, but cost has often been cited as a reason to keep seatbelts off of buses. 

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Monsanto Continuing Ag Research While Merger Holds

Monsanto recently broke ground on a nearly one billion-dollar plant upgrade as the company plans to provide farmers tools to fight the broadleaf weeds that have become more prevalent in recent years. 
 
Chief Technology Officer Robb Fraley says even though the company awaits approval for its merger with Bayer, research and development remain top priorities.
 
 
Fraley says Monsanto will invest about one-point-five billion dollars this year in research and development. That’s impressive in ag circles, but he says pharmaceutical companies will invest more than eight billion. He adds the pending merger will allow them to grow their commitment to innovation.
 
 
Fraley will speak Thursday at the Illinois Soybean Summit in Peoria. For more information on the summit visit ilsoy-dot-com, slash, summit.

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Munger Discusses New Position

Leslie Munger is back in state government. The former Comptroller was named Deputy Governor by Governor Bruce Rauner earlier this month. 
 
She'll once again talk numbers, as the budget will be a primary focus but she'll also call upon other aspects of her experience in the new post.
 
 
Munger says it's crucial that a budget is passed soon, especially with overdue bills gobbling up much of Illinois' revenue.

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Third Threat Made To Clinton Junior High School Tuesday

Local authorities were once again called to Clinton Junior High School Tuesday at approximately noon for another threat made to the school.
 
A threat to the building was made for the third time in less than three weeks and according to a message sent via School Reach, the threat, which forced the lockdown of students in an isolated area of the building, was once again unsubstantiated after two thorough searches of the building. 
 
Clinton CrimeStoppers is offering a cash reward of $500 to anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest and conviction of those involved.
 
Principal of Clinton High School, Drew Goebel indicates the students and staff will gather first thing Wednesday morning where students will be addressed by Police Chief Ben Lowers and Superintendent Curt Nettles.
 
Authorities continue to investigate the incidents.
 
Anyone with information about the threats are encouraged to contact local authorities at 217-935-9441 or CrimeStoppers at 217-935-3333.
 
CrimeStoppers phone line does not utilize caller identification and is not recorded. CrimeStoppers reminds the public, they want your information, not your name. 
 
Superintendent Nettles and Chief Lowers could not be reached at the time of this story. 

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Task Force Six Arrests Clinton Residents On Unlawful Use of Weapons Charges

Task Force Six has arrested a pair of Clinton residents on unlawful use of weapons charges. 
 
According to a release from Task Force Six, on Monday, Task Force 6, with assistance from the Clinton Police Department, DeWitt County Sheriff's Office and U.S. Department Of Justice Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, arrested Robert H. Hawkins, 42, and Tomeco T. Hawkins, 41, both of Clinton, Illinois, for unlawful use of a weapon, Class 3 felonies. 
 
Both posted $1,000 bond and were released.   If convicted of a class 3 felony, the sentencing ranges from probation up to 5 years incarceration in the Illinois Department of Corrections. 
 
The public is reminded that charges are merely accusations and criminal defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.  
 
Persons having information regarding illegal drugs are encouraged to contact the 
Task Force 6 tip line at www.taskforce6.com.  

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Clinton Schools Announce Pre-K Screenings

Parents will soon be able to schedule screenings for their students for pre-kindergarten.
 
Principle of Lincoln and Douglas Elementary Schools in Clinton, Beth Wickenhauser, indicates the screenings begin in March, but sign up for screening times begin in February.
 
 
If you've never had a child screened before, or are new to the process, Wickenhause explains they are seeking out milestone with their motor skills.
 
 
According to Wickenhauser, the screenings aren't an indictment on parenting, but rather, it is simply making sure students may be ready for pre-kindergarten.
 
 
Because of funding, Clinton schools can only take so many students in their pre-K classes. Wickenhauser says because of the limited spaces available, they target the highest need students first.
 
To get you child scheduled for a screening at one of the elementary schools, contact Douglas School at 217-935-2987 or Lincoln School 217-935-6383.

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Governor Not Giving Great Detail About Wednesday Budget Address

The Governor is getting set to give another budget address but every year he has done so the state has gone without a comprehensive state spending plan. 
 
The state Senate is still working on a broad compromise that would strive to balance the state budget. Bruce Rauner says as he prepares for Wednesday he is appreciative of the work the Senate has done.
 
 
Rauner has said little about what his message will be on the during his budget address.
 
Hear the Governor's budget address in its entirety on The Big 1520 AM/92.3 FM WHOW and online at dewittdailynews.com.
 
The Governor is set to take the podium in front of the General Assembly shortly after noon.

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Clinton Teens To Be Learning About Dating Violence

Abuse in relationships will be the topic of discussion for your teen in their health period at school starting this week.
 
Professionals from DeWitt County DOVE will be at Clinton High School starting this week, discussing teen dating violence and other subjects related to abuse happening in high school relationships. Megan Neville, with DeWitt County DOVE, explains this is something they do year after year at the high school.
 
 
Neville indicates dating abuse and dating violence among teens is more common than you might think. She feels it's becoming a more approachable topic as well.
 
 
A new challenge facing teens is the use of social media. Neville says this is one avenue that continues to expand the avenues of bullying and abuse. She feels with social media there is no escape.
 
 
Neville says the term 'dating violence' is often not the physical abuse of a bad relationship, and starts much more innocently and builds over time. She hopes as they continue to get their message out to students, the cycle of abuse in relationships begins to diminish.

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University of Illinois Hosting Ag Tech Summit

Agriculture, from agribusiness to the individual farmer, has always been a leader in technology innovation, and to be competitive in today’s world, farmers have to be near the cutting edge. 
 
The University of Illinois is one of the nation’s leaders in both technology and agricultural research, and the U of I Research Park is holding an AgTech Innovation Summit next week, February 23rd to unveil the latest developments in technology of equipment, data management, genetics and other leading edge technologies that will be impacting agriculture in the near future. Laura Bleill (Bl-eye-ill) is associate director of the Research Park.
 
 
The tech summit on the 23rd is free to anyone interesting in the latest ag technology, but you do need to preregister for the daylong event. 
 
 
The AgTech summit is free to all nterested farmers and agri-business people.

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Duckworth Taking on Massive Price Spike on Anti-Overdose Medication

U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, along with colleague Dick Durbin, is seeing red after another pharmaceutical company dramatically increased the price of a life saving medication. 
 
The two Senators from Illinois teamed up with 29 other Senators to demand answers from Kaléo Pharmaceuticals for massive price hikes for an easy to use injector device that contains opioid overdose drug Naloxone and the injector device Evzio The price has surged from $690 in 2014 to $4,500 now. 
Sen. Duckworth says in many price gouging cases, the companies are pharmaceutical in name only.
 
 
You may not have to worry about opioid addiciton, but Duckworth says you're impacted by the price surges regardless
 
 
The 31 Senators say the price hike threatens to price-out families and communities that depend on Naloxone to save lives.

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DeWitt County SWCD Annual Meeting Recap

Despite the state of Illinois' continued budget woes, local conservation officials remain committed to protecting DeWitt County's soil and water.  That was the message delivered Friday morning at the Clinton Country Club to around 50 local residents at the 73rd annual meeting of the DeWitt County Soil and Water Conservation District.  
 
Myron Kirby, Chairman of the DeWitt County SWCD Board of Director, (pictured right) told the crowd that their local office continues to be well supported locally and federally, however state monies are still unreliable.  Despite that, he says the DeWitt County staff continues to serve landowners. 
 
 
Soil and Water Conservation Districts across the state have been struggling due to the ongoing budget stalemate in Springfield.  Kirby, who just recently served two years as President of the statewide Soil & Water Conservation District Association, provided an update on that lack of reliable funding.  He explains that while some state funds have trickled down to local offices, the amounts are nowhere near enough to have a real impact.
 
 
In order to continue to serve local landowners with conservation practices, local SWCD offices are relying more on federal funds.  Kirby credits organizations such as the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service with making it possible to continue to protect local resources for future generations.
 
 
In addition to a breakfast and presentation from Pheasants Forever, the morning meeting also featured an election for the DeWitt County SWCD Board of Directors.  Kirby and Randy Dean were both re-elected to a two year term on the board.  
 
Pictured below: Jason Bleich of Pheasants Forever Addresses the group.
 

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Monticello Superintendent Watching Tax Freeze, Pension Reforms in Grand Bargain

The Senate continues to hash out various aspects of a grand bargain at the Statehouse with the Governor's budget address on the horizon.
 
The grand bargain negotiations are being watched by just about everyone, including Monticello Superintendent Dr. Vic Zimmerman, who says he is watching closely the property tax and pension portions of the negotiations.
 
He indicates the property tax legislation is a great idea in theory, especially for him a homeowner, but he says it is not for the taxing bodies that rely on those steady revenues in light of state funds decreasing.
 
 
Dr. Zimmerman calls the tax freeze "absolutely not a good thing" because of the impacts it would have not only on school districts, but other taxing bodies across the state of Illinois.
 
 
According to Dr. Zimmerman, the pension reform cost shifts are likely to shift from the State of Illinois to local districts to fund. He explains it is frustrating because it wasn't districts who created the mess at hand.
 
 
Dr. Zimmerman says the only way for revenues to increase in Illinois is ultimately a tax increase of some sort. He says the state needs more revenue while the alternative is reducing expenses, which would be hard to do.
 
He says if a tax increase is the answer, it has to be accompanied with responsible spending and not new programs. 

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Governor Touts Auto Industry

The biggest car show in the United States is underway in Illinois this week. The Chicago Auto Show is open at McCormick Place along Lake Michigan. 
 
Governor Bruce Rauner was at the ribbon cutting of the show and highlighted how many manufacturers build cars and parts in Illinois.
 
 
The auto show is open now through the 20th.

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Proposed Illinois Legislation Would Aid Ag Transportation

In Springfield, all new bills had to be introduced in the House or Senate by Feb 10th for consideration during the spring legislative session. Don Schaefer of the Midwest Truckers Assoc says a number of them deal with transportation and impact farmers.
 
For example, the length limit on trucks is 65 feet on state roads, but only 55 feet on local roads. This can be an issue for farmers who have to limit themselves to 55 feet for the first couple of miles before hitting the highway to deliver grain and livestock.
 
When you buy trucking equipment, there is a sales tax exemption when over 50% of your hauling is interstate transportation. The Illinois Deptartment of Revenue used to consider delivery to a river terminal the first stop on interstate travel, but recently stopped doing that, causing farmers to lose the tax exemption. Schaefer says legislation would restore that exemption for farmers who haul to the river. 
 
Don Schaefer of the Midwest Truckers Association.

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Big Slash In State Spending to Get Budget in Order

A new report says Illinois' financial situation has gotten so bad that the state would have to slash spending by more than 26 percent to balance next year's budget through cuts alone. The nonprofit Civic Federation released its proposed five-year plan for stabilizing Illinois' finances on Friday. The group says lawmakers' delay in passing a balanced state budget means fixing the problem will take longer and require more dramatic measures.

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Donations Match For Elections Program Created

NEW LEGISLATION AIMS TO GIVE THE PUBLIC A STRONGER VOICE IN ILLINOIS ELECTIONS.
 
THE MEASURE, SPONSORED BY SENATOR DAN BISS OF SKOKIE, CREATES A SMALL DONOR MATCH PROGRAM FOR CONSTITUTIONAL OFFICERS AND LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS. HE SAYS THAT WAY, EVERYDAY PEOPLE, NOT JUST THE WEALTHY CAN MAKE AN IMPACT IN POLITICAL RACES.
 
IT’S SUPPORTED BY THE ILLINOIS CAMPAIGN FOR POLITICAL REFORM’S DAVID MELTON.
 
BISS SAYS THE PROGRAM WOULD MAKE THESE SMALL DONATIONS WORTH A LOT MORE THROUGH THE MATCH, AND REDUCES THE INFLUENCE OF BIG DONORS AND SPECIAL INTERESTS.

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Lincoln Library Plans Lincoln Birthday Celebration

THE ABRAHAM LINCOLN PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM HAS SEVERAL EVENTS PLANNED THIS WEEKEND IN HONOR OF ABE LINCOLN’S 208TH BIRTHDAY. 
 
ADMISSION TO THE MUSEUM WILL BE FREE SUNDAY, WHICH IS LINCOLN’S BIRTHDAY. SPOKESPERSON CHRIS WILLS SAYS THERE WILL GUEST SPEAKERS, A PRESENTATION ON LINCOLN’S WHITE HOUSE AND SOME NEAT DISPLAYS.
 
 
THERE WILL ALSO BE PILGRIMAGES TO LINCOLN’S TOMB IN SPRINGFIELD AND FOLK DANCERS AT THE OLD STATE CAPITOL ON SUNDAY. 
 
 
SPECIAL EVENTS WILL ALSO BE HELD AT THE DAVID DAVIS MANSION IN BLOOMINGTON AND IN MT. PULASKI IN HONOR OF LINCOLN.

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A Number of Ideas Floating to Honor Obama

Democratic lawmakers from Chicago want to honor former President Barack Obama on his birthday by making that date a state holiday. But they have a difference of opinion on whether that would mean a day off for the state. Two proposed House bills would make August 4th a "legal holiday," which lead to the closure of state government offices. A Senate proposal would make "Barack Obama Day" commemorative only without a holiday. Efforts to make Obama's birthday a holiday last year failed to get out of a House committee. Yet another proposal in the state house is to rename the Tri-States Tollway in Chicago after Obama. 

 

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Illinois Designates Zombie Preparedness Month

LAWMAKERS IN THE ILLINOIS HOUSE WANT YOU TO BE READY FOR ANYTHING… AND ARE DECLARING OCTOBER “ZOMBIE PREPAREDNESS MONTH” IN ILLINOIS. 
 
REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS WELCH OF WESTCHESTER IS LEADING THE CHARGE AGAINST THE UNDEAD, HOPING IT SPURS FAMILIES INTO ACTION.
 
 
THE MEASURE PROMPTED THIS BIT OF COMEDY FROM HIS COLLEAGUE, REPRESENTATIVE WILL DAVIS.
 
A FEW LAWMAKERS WEREN’T IMPRESSED, SAYING THEY HAVE BIGGER ISSUES TO DEAL WITH SUCH AS A STATE BUDGET.

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Clinton Jr. High School Put on Lockdown After Threat

An unsubstantiated threat forced the lockdown of Clinton Junior High School this morning.
 
Authorities were notified this morning shortly after 9 am of a threat made to the junior high school inscribed on a bathroom stall. Police Chief Ben Lowers indicates a thorough search of the school found the threat to be unfounded and students were released to normal activities just after 10:30 am.
 
 
With this being the second unfounded threat to the school in as many weeks, the Chief says they will take each threat seriously regardless of the source and treat students and staff safety as their top priority.
 
 
Authorities continue to investigate the threat. 

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Cerro Gordo Schools Targeting Spring Election For Buildings Referendum

The Cerro Gordo Board of Education is targeting the spring election to take a referendum to the voters for updates to their facilities.
 
Superintendent of Cerro Gordo Schools, Brett Robinson, indicates the renovations would include an addition, renovations and updates to the junior and senior high campuses.
 
 
Part of the planned work is to increase parking at the junior and senior high campus. Robinson says sometimes parking for their more popular events can become tight with a good turnout.
 
 
Robinson explains the community will likely see a slight tax increase but he says the increase should not be as much thanks to the one cent sales money they receive from Piatt and Macon Counties.
 
 
Robinson hopes to organize a community group to begin getting information out to their voters about the referendum and the plans for their buildings. He notes he cannot push a yes or no vote but can provide information about what the plans are to anyone interested. 

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Mendoza Says Governor Not Doing His Responsibility

As pressure continues to mount at the state house to pass a budget that lawmakers and the governor can agree to another elected official is being dragged into the fight. 
 
Comptroller Susana Mendoza says she will follow what a court case in St. Clair County tells her to do when it comes to authorizing payments to state workers. But Governor Bruce Rauner has encouraged Mendoza to ignore what the court may decide and continue to pay them. 
 
She says she won’t and notes if they are up to talking about what each other should be doing… it’s up to Rauner to submit the budget. 
 
 
The Attorney General will argue the case next week and the court’s decision on state worker pay is expected by the end of the month.

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Manar Says Compromise Will Take More Effort

The Illinois Senate returned to work Thursday after a disappointing stall in efforts to reach a budget deal. Efforts to strike a compromise deal fell apart as Senators voted down a pension reform plan. 
 
Three other budget bills that passed did so without Republican support. Republicans say they want to vote on a full agreement. Both sides say they'll continue to work toward a deal. Democratic State Senator Andy Manar recapped the struggles of the compromise effort.
 
 
Governor Rauner is set to lay out his latest budget plan next Wednesday.

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Former Ag Secretary Advising New USDA Appointee

Former Illinois Ag Director and USDA Secretary John Block will turn 82 next week. He is still involved on his family’s Knox County farm, and he also still has a presence in Washington. 
 
Block is optimistic that appointed USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue will do a good job after his confirmation.
 
 
Block says he advised Perdue to build allies within the cabinet, which he quickly learned as he tried to lift the Russian grain embargo. The embargo dramatically hurt US grain prices while Russia found new sources throughout the world.
 
 
Block believes farmers will benefit from regulatory relief and hopes the estate tax can be fully repealed. He says the tax code, in general, needs to be simplified.

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CCEF Awards Annual Teacher Grants

Teachers and students in the Clinton district were surprised Thursday afternoon when representatives from the Clinton Community Education Foundation (CCEF) showed up in various classrooms to award their annual teacher grants.
 
Over $5000 went into this year's classrooms and Barbara Gullone, with the CCEF indicates that number is low, though over all, they were very pleased with the ideas teachers had for their classrooms this year.
 
 
Picture below: (left to right) CCEF's Ruth Lowers, Amanda Brady, BOE Liason Nancy Stokowski, CCEF's Barbara Gullone
 
 
First grade science teacher Amanda Brady says her class will be bringing in an incubator to watch chicken eggs hatch.
 
 
Picture below: left to right: CCEF's Barbara Gullone, Rebecca Howell, BOE Liason Nancy Stokowski, CCEF's Ruth Lowers
 
 
Third grade teacher Rebecca Howell indicates her class is going to be upgrading some of their learning based math resources with their grant.
 
 
Special education teacher at Clinton Elementary School, Autumn Kenney has to print off books for her students to read which doesn't allow them to take home a traditional book with color for pictures. She explains now they will have traditional books to take home.
 
 
Pictured below: (Left to right) Mrs. Kenney, Stokowski, Lowers and Gullone
 
 
Laura Molitoris and Monica Kessinger are fourth grade teachers at CES and Kessinger indicates their grant will allow their students to take field trips while staying in the classroom.
 
 
Pictured Below: (Left to right) Lowers, Gullone, Stokowski, Mrs. Molitoris, Mrs. Kessinger
 
 
One of the grants will support the fifth grade students in through their DARE curriculum. According to Eric Douglas, students who attend a certain amount of DARE classes then graduate are going to have a paid trip to a Normal Cornbelters baseball game thanks to the CCEF teacher grants. 
 
 
Pictured below: (Left to right) Gullone, Mr. Douglas, Lowers, Stokowski
 
 
High School Art Teacher Tracie Manning says she is purchasing studio lighting for her photo class.
 
 
Pictured below: (Right to left) Lowers, Mrs. Manning, Stokowski, Gullone
 
 
Ray Karcher teaches in the industrial arts department at Clinton High School and received a grant to help pay for equipment for his students taking an automotive class.
 
 
Pictured below: Lowers, Stokowski, Mr. Karcher, Gullone
 
 
Junior high teacher Ginger Morgan also received a teacher grant, however, she was absent Thursday during the presentations. Her grant is going towards demonstrations of osmosis processes in the classroom.
 
Grant award totals ranged from $80 all the way up to $1000, which the maximum amount classrooms can receive.

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Warner Library Touting New 'Wow-brary' Program

If you receive the Warner Library's month e-letter, you've likely seen notices about their new 'wow-brary' program.
 
Assistant Director at the Warner Library, Bobbi Perryman indicates it is a new, interactive system they are introducing which allows their patrons to request books, movies and other items within the library at a tap of the phone or click of the button.
 
 
Perryman says it's going to be much interactive for users and much more convenient at the same time.
 
 
As technology continues to advance, libraries are keeping up with the times. Perryman says their website is mobile friendly now and the former newsletter was starting to become more dated, but the 'wow-brary' will refresh the look.
 
 
To get signed up for the library's monthly newsletter and have the new 'Wow-brary' newsletter sent to your email inbox, just stop in to the library at 310 North Quincy Street. The library does not need your name, just an email address. 
 
You can also learn more by calling them at 217-935-5174. 

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Proposed Water Testing Regulations Has Area School Leader Perplexed

'Unfunded mandates' has become almost as common a term among school leaders as 'lesson plan' or 'honor roll'.
 
A recent proposal by Illinois lawmakers seeks schools to test the drinking water for lead, a proposal an area school leader says is very worth while. Dr. Kristen Kendrick-Weikle however, doubts if lawmakers have thought about the cost of this proposal.
 
 
According to Dr. Kendrick-Weikle, the proposal would impact their district as only school buildings of a certain age would have to get tested. She notes though, there's very little information available about who could test for districts or even how much that process might cost.
 
 
This recent mandate is another example of why school leaders are frustrated when lawmakers claim to be fully funding education and claim education is a priority. Dr. Kendrick-Weikle says schools are like a business that is not getting paid.
 
 
Dr. Kendrick-Weikle says sometimes it may feel like lawmakers don't hear the cries of their constituents, but she says districts and community members cannot afford to sit back and not do anything. 

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Senate Taking Votes on Grand Bargain Bill

THE ILLINOIS SENATE STARTED VOTING ON THE SUPPOSEDLY BIPARTISAN “GRAND BARGAIN” WEDNESDAY, BUT WITHOUT REPUBLICAN SUPPORT.
 
A FEW OF THE BILLS WERE CALLED FOR A VOTE…RECEIVING EITHER NO’S OR PRESENT VOTES FROM G-O-P LAWMAKERS. REPUBLICANS ARGUED THAT THERE SHOULDN’T BE ANY VOTES UNTIL THE ENTIRE PACKAGE IS FULLY NEGOTIATED. SENATOR DON HARMON OF OAK PARK DISAGREED.
 
 
SENATE PRESIDENT JOHN CULLERTON HAD SAID HE’D START CALLING BILLS IN THE LARGE BUDGET AND REFORM PACKAGE THIS WEEK. BUT SENATE MINORITY LEADER CHRISTINE RADOGNO SAYS SHE WAS SURPRISED HE WENT AHEAD WITH THE VOTES…SINCE THE ENTIRE DEAL IS STILL UNDER NEGOTIATION.
 
 
THE SENATE PASSED BILL REGARDING LOCAL GOVERNMENT CONSOLIDATION AND PROCUREMENT REFORM BUT A MORE CONTROVERSIAL BILL ON PENSION REFORM FAILED.

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Rep. Mitchell Condemns House Comittee's Immigration Safe Zone Bill

An Illinois House committee passed a bill Wednesday afternoon to further protect illegal aliens who may reside in Illinois.  
 
Sponsored by a Westchester Democrat, creates the Immigration Safe Zones Act.  The bill provides that schools, medical treatment and health care facilities, and places of worship may not grant access to State and local law enforcement agencies that have entered into an agreement with United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement without a proper warrant. State Representative Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth) says the state of Illinois is broke and this measure just makes that situation worse. 
 
 
The measure also requires the Department of Human Services to provide training or make training available to teachers, administrators, and other staff of elementary and secondary schools, as well as to medical treatment and health care facilities, on how to deal with immigration issues and how to notify families of those issues in multiple languages.

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Chris Kennedy Joins Race for Governor

Voters in Illinois won’t be electing a Governor for two more years but the race may have unofficially started today. 
 
Democrat Chris Kennedy announced via email yesterday morning, he is a candidate and a video posted to YouTube.
 
 
Kennedy has been a Chicago resident for 30 years and has been a businessman, non-profit leader and the Chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. 

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Rural Economic Development Conference Coming March 8, 9

The Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs is hosting their 28th annual Economic Development Conference March 8 and 9 at the Abraham Lincoln Hotel in Springfield. 
 
The Institute for Rural Affairs, based at Western Illinois University is directed by Dr Chris Merritt.
 
 
Who should attend the Economic Development Conference on March 8 and 9th?
 
 
If you have an interest in economic development in your community, information on the conference is available at the institute website, WWW.iira.org, of search for the Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs. 

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Illinois Senators Troubled By Price Spikes from Pharmaceutical Giant

U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth are up in arms over the latest case of a pharmaceutical company's dramatic price hikes of a life saving medication.
 
They're teaming up with 29 other Senators to demand answers from Kaléo Pharmaceuticals for massive price hikes for an easy to use injector device that contians opioid overdose drug naloxone.
 
The price has surged from $690 in 2014 to $4,500 now. Senators say the price spikes have occured while Congress has been working to help states and local communities acquire Naloxone and the Evzio device. 
 
They say the price hike threatens to price-out families and communities that depend on naloxone to save lives.

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Snow Causing Havoc on Area Roadways

Vehicles in several parts of DeWitt County are being reported off the roads as snow hammers central Illinois.
 
US Highway 51 has been lightly treated and has resulted in vehicles off the road both north and south of Clinton.
 
Pictured Right: vehicles in ditch south of Clinton on US Highway 51. 
 
Authorities advise travelers slow down and give yourself plenty of time for arrival to your destinations. 
 
Additionally, give yourself plenty of room between yourself and the vehicles ahead of you. 
 
Snow is expected throughout the afternoon hours with accumulations of three inches likely. 
 
Heyworth schools dismissed at 2 pm. 
 
Youth group activities at Clinton's First Christian Church have been canceled for tonight as well.
 
Keep it to dewittdailynews.com for the latest in closings and cancellations. 

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CHS Principal Planning New Opportunities for Students

Your high school student may soon get the opportunity first hand to see what it's like to run their own business or be in the health care field.
 
Those are just some of the plans for Clinton High School Principal Jerry Wayne (right), who is seeking new programs for high school students in Clinton and the surrounding area. Wayne is working to bring a business class to area high schools that would engage students and the community.
 
 
According to Wayne, the program is designed so the district does not take on the cost of the program. He feels it allows businesses to invest in youth and show them the ropes of running a business and students would then take their lessons and use those in another semester. 
 
 
In addition to the business class opportunity, Wayne says he's also seeking a partnership with Warner Hospital and Health Services. He says their CEO, Paul Skowron approached him about some opportunities they could offer their studetns.
 
 
Wayne says both programs are in the early stages of their development. He points out they are continuing to work with Warner Hospital and Health Services and hopes it could be up and going by April. 
 
The CEO program requires a lot of work to partner with the community and get students involved. He says it is likely that program is not ready until the 2018-19 school year.
 
These two programs are developing on the heels of the district introducing the first of its kind CDL course for seniors.

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Mild Finish To Winter Expected

Illinois, along with the entire Midwest, has gone through a string of months, starting last fall of above to much above normal temperatures. February looks to be another month where temps will end up well above normal, with little to no snow. 
 
After a mild first week of the month, DTN chief meteorologist Bryce Anderson says the long range forecast looks more like March than February.
 
 
While the mild temps might be good for people and heating bills, there is some downside, says Anderson. Earlier draw on soil moisture, earlier weed and insect activity and winter wheat coming out of dormancy before it should. 
 
 
Anderson expects above normal precipitation for the rest of the month, but generally in the form of rain, not snow. 

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Congressman Davis Weighs in on DeVos Confirmation

There have been close confirmation votes as President Trump's Cabinet continues to take shape. 
 
The biggest nailbiter may have come today as Senators decided the fate of Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. Congressman Rodney Davis has his own thoughts on the confirmation process for the Trump Cabinet.
 
 
DeVos was voted in by a tiebreaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence. 

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Duckworth Speaks Out Against DeVos

The U.S. Senate vote on Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos went down as expected with a 50-50 tie and Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote. 
 
Senator Tammy Duckworth was among Democrats who said the confirmation process confirmed their concerns about DeVos views and experience.
 
 
Duckworth said her concerns about DeVos would impact the nation for an extended period.
 
 
Duckworth and Senator Richard Durbin both voted against the DeVos nomination.

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Clinton City Council Approves Gas Station, Micro-Brew Groundwork

The groundwork has been laid for a new gas station and micro-brew businesses in Clinton.
 
Monday night at the Clinton City Council meeting, the Council approved bringing an area of the community into a TIF district for a new gas station in Clinton. City Administrator Tim Followell indicates there's also a TIF re-development agreement for the coming oil company.
 
 
According to Followell, once the plans are all finalized at the next Council meeting, that will open the door for the company to begin the process of acquiring the properties on that block and begin their preparations of the land.
 
 
Additionally, the Council began laying the foundation for the community to host the increasingly popular micro-breweries. According to Followell, the Council approved the re-zoning of areas of town to host these establishments.
 
 
With the ordinance change, the next step for the community is to wait for the developers to come forward with plans. 

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Chamber Dinner Recap

The Clinton Chamber’s Annual Dinner was held on Saturday, January 28, 2017 at Clinton Country Club.  Ed Cicenas (EMC Photography), the Chamber’s new president, presided over the annual meeting.  State Senator Chapin Rose made a surprise appearance before dinner.  
 
Outgoing officers / board members were Ryan Utterback, President & past VP (Utterback Real Estate), and Dexter Peterson, Vice President and past president (Peterson Insurance Services, Inc.) 
 
Newcomers on the Chamber board of directors are Josh Shofner (First National Bank & Trust Company), and Byron Conner (Clintonia Eagle Theater).  Other members of the board include Jason Frantz (Jason Frantz - State Farm Insurance Agent) who returned for a second three year term, Janelle Baum-Thomas (Baum Chevrolet-Buick & DeWitt County Farm Bureau), Paul Skowron (Warner Hospital & Health Services), Brett Nauman  (Exelon Generation / Clinton Power Station), Allison Shuppara (Richland Community College Clinton Higher Education Center), and Stephanie Torbert (DeWitt Savings Bank).
 
After the annual meeting, a fundraising auction was held. Chamber members donated items and gift certificates for the auction. Lance Schmid’s (Lance Schmid Auctions / Clinton Auto Auction) expert auctioneering skills were well received by the crowd. The evening continued as "Zoo Improv" provided comical entertainment. 
 
The Chamber wishes to thank our members for their donations, Lance Schmid for donating his auctioneering services, EMC Photography for taking photos during the event, and Clinton Country Club for providing their beautiful banquet facility for the event.

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Social Security Benefits May be Taxable

With the beginning of the year comes tax season.
 
Jack Myers with Social Security, indicates that some Social Security benefits may be taxable. When filing your federal income tax keep in mind your benefits may be taxed based on if you are filing as an individual or a joint return and how much your combined income is.
 
 
The income threshold is higher for filing a joint return. Myers indicates that these income thresholds are for federal tax only. The state of Illinois does not tax Social Security benefits, but it varies from state to state.
 
 
Myers indicates that Social Security will mail out an SSA-1099 in case if your benefits are taxable. If you did not receive one or misplace yours, a copy is available through your mySocial Security account.
 
 
Myers says that there is a voluntary tax withholding option for individuals who know that they are going to have their benefits taxed. The withholding are percentage based. The form is available from the IRS website.
 
 
For more information visit the website, socialsecurity.gov, or call 800-772-1213. Social Security cannot give tax advice.

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Possible State Budget Progress This Week

The state legislature is back in session after taking last week off. The action will be in the senate where Senate president Cullerton and the minority leader have been piecing together a budget. 
 
Mark Gebhards, Farm Bureau’s Exec. Dir. Of Governmental Affairs and Commodities says the hope is a budget bill can be wrapped up and sent to the house in short order.
 
 
While the House has some concerns over changes to some state union rules and workmen’s compensation, a suit filed by the State Attorney General’s office saying the state lacks authority to pay state workers in the continued absence of budget is putting additional pressure on the statehouse. A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for February 16th.
 
Meanwhile, Gebhards says the governor has yet to weigh in the pending senate budget plan. 
 
 
Farm Bureau members can get an update on the situation in Springfield, as well as Washington at the Governmental Affairs Leadership Conference March first and second at the Abraham Lincoln hotel, and Prairie Capitol Convention Center in Springfield. For details on the GALC conference, check out ILFB.ORG or your county Farm Bureau.

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Action On State Budget Could Come This Week

Action at the State House is picking back up this week and the leader of the Senate says it’s time for the state to move forward. The original package of bills has been reworked and is still designed to give a little and compromise a little for a state budget. 
 
Senate President John Cullerton says a hike to the minimum wage won’t be part of the grand bargain. But enough is enough and state government has to start working again.
 
 
The Senate will hold hearings on the bills and expects votes by the end of the week.

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New Skills To Be Taught To Prisoners

Prisoners who have made good choices behind bars are going to be possibly rewarded with time spent at a new life skills reentry center in Kewanee. 
 
Warden Tony Williams says that they will teach individuals how to operate in the free world after being locked up for years. 
 
 
The Department of Corrections is hopeful inmates who go through the program will have lower rates of committing crimes again and winding back in prison. 

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Davis Fighting For Coverage of Pre-Existing Conditions

Congressman Rodney Davis is introducing a health care bill designed to protect people with pre-existing conditions from discrimination by insurance companies. 
 
Davis wants the legislation to be a part of the package of bills that will replace Obamacare. For Davis it's a matter of common sense but it's also personal.
 
 
Davis and other House Republicans are working on what they're calling the Better Way Agenda, a 37 page healthcare plan designed to replace Obamacare.

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Clinton High School Names Football Coach

Nick Blackburn is the new Clinton High School football coach.
 
At a special School Board meeting Monday night, the Board of Education did one final interview with the Decatur St. Teresa graduate who says this a community with great talent and feels it is a great community.
 
 
Blackburn says he is excited to begin building relationships with the student-athletes, the community and coaches. 
 
 
Blackburn says he's most looking forward to starting to build relationships and getting to know the staff he'll put together.

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Leslie Munger Back With New Title

Former Comptroller Leslie Munger has resurfaced. Governor Bruce Rauner brought Munger back to state government with a new title. Munger has been named Deputy Governor.
 
Rauner believes Munger, who fell to Susana Mendoza in her re-election bid, can "bring people together to find long-term solutions for our state and its residents.” 
 
Rauner's office says as Deputy Governor, Munger will add her voice to the state’s budget discussions and work with nonprofit leaders to address their challenges and increase their financial security.

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Congressman Davis Releases Statement on Iran Sanctions

Congressman Rodney Davis is weighing in on new sanctions against Iran after a ballistic missile test this week. The test violated UN Security Council resolutions. 
 
Davis says quote - “This is not the first time Iran has tested ballistic missiles over the last year, but it’s the first time our government has taken steps to stop this illicit and dangerous behavior by the world’s leading state sponsor of terror”
 
Davis added quote - “I applaud the administration’s move to lead with strength and prevent the spread of terror by imposing new sanctions on Iran.”

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Clinton Board Could Decide on Football Coach Tonight

The Clinton Board of Education could make their decision tonight on the vacancy in the high school football coaching position.
 
Superintendent Curt Nettles indicates a special meeting has been set bring a recommendation to the Board tonight. He notes the meeting will be closed during the discussion portion with a potential vote to follow.
 
 
A special search committee was put together to interview the candidates and that committee came to Nettles and Athletic Director Barry Gurvey with a recommendation. The two then did further homework to decide to bring the candidate to the full board for a vote.
 
 
Nettles says the committee worked very hard to find the right candidates for the head coaching vacancy and thanked them for their efforts during this search. 

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Clinton City Council To Take Early Steps For Approval of New Gas Station

A new gas station could be on in its way in Clinton and the City Council tonight will take action to begin paving the way for them to come to the community.
 
The city block is bordered by West Van Buren, South Grant, West White and South Jackson. According to City Administrator Tim Followell, the City Council will be bringing that city block into an existing TIF distirct.
 
 
This project has been widely speculated among social media followers and Followell says the developer is from Tuetopolis and plans to build a Mach1 gas station.
 
 
Followell indicates the site is at least two or three months from the block having its structures demolished and construction started. He notes though, once the ball gets rolling, it could be by next winter the place is up.
 
 
Followell says the closing for the property will then be at the Council's second meeting in February, set for February 20.

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Bill Would Let Teens Become Organ Donors

SECRETARY OF STATE JESSE WHITE IS BACKING LEGISLATION THAT LETS 16 AND 17 YEAR OLDS SIGN UP FOR THE STATE’S ORGAN DONATION REGISTRY. 
 
UNDER CURRENT LAW, YOU MUST BE 18 TO JOIN THE REGISTRY, BUT WITH THOUSANDS WAITING FOR AN ORGAN…SECRETARY WHITE SAYS TEENS SHOULD BE ABLE TO VOLUNTEER TO GIVE THE GIFT OF LIFE.
 
SPONSORED BY REPRESENTATIVE DEB CONROY, HER HUSBAND IS AMONG THE THOUSANDS WAITING FOR AN ORGAN.
 
 
UNDER THE BILL, PARENTS COULD ULTIMATELY REVOKE THE DONATION IF SOMETHING HAPPENS TO THEIR TEEN. 47 OTHER STATES HAVE A SIMILAR LAW.
 
IF SOMETHING HAPPENS TO THE TEEN, THE PARENTS CAN OVERRIDE THE DECISION TO DONATE. ABOUT 300 PEOPLE DIE EACH YEAR WAITING FOR A TRANSPLANT.

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Radon Risks Video Released By EMA

THE ILLINOIS EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY IS RELEASING A NEW VIDEO TO HELP EDUCATE REALTORS AND HOME BUYERS ABOUT THE DANGERS OF RADON.
 
RADON IS THE LEADING CAUSE OF LUNG CANCER IN NON-SMOKERS…AND UNDER STATE LAW, HOME SELLERS MUST PROVIDE INFORMATION ABOUT THE RISKS TO THE BUYER. THIS VIDEO MAKES IT EASIER TO GET THE MESSAGE ACROSS SAYS IEMA SPOKESPERSON PATTI THOMPSON.
 
 
STATE LAW REQUIRES SELLERS TO PROVIDE INFORMATION TO BUYERS ABOUT RADON…WHICH IS A COLORLESS, ODORLESS GAS. THIS VIDEO OFFERS INFORMATION ABOUT THE RISKS AND WHAT CAN BE DONE IF YOUR HOME RADON LEVELS ARE TOO HIGH.
 
 
HOMES DO NOT HAVE TO BE TESTED FOR RADON BEFORE THEY ARE SOLD, BUT IF A TEST HAS ALREADY BEEN CONDUCTED, HOMEOWNERS HAVE TO DISCLOSE THE RESULTS TO THE BUYER. THE VIDEO IS AVAILABLE ONLINE AT: RADON DOT ILLINOIS DOT GOV.

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IDOT Urging Safe Driving During Super Bowl

THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION AND STATE POLICE ARE ASKING RESIDENTS TO BE RESPONSIBLE THIS SUPER BOWL SUNDAY. 
 
STATE TROOPERS AND MORE THAN 100 LOCAL POLICE DEPARTMENTS ARE BEEFING UP ENFORCEMENT THIS WEEKEND. THEY'LL BE LOOKING FOR DRIVERS WHO HAVE HAD TOO MUCH TO DRINK SAYS I-DOT SPOKESPERSON GIANNA URGO.
 
 
SUPER BOWL SUNDAY IS ONE OF THE MOST ALCOHOL INFUSED CELEBRATIONS OF THE YEAR…SO STATE AND LOCAL POLICE WILL BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR DRUNK DRIVERS.
 
 
DURING THE SUPER BOWL WEEKEND LAST YEAR…STATE POLICE MADE 200 ALCOHOL RELATED ARRESTS.

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Study Reveals Coffee, Tea Adding Extra Calories

A NEW STUDY FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS ILLUSTRATES THE EXTRA CALORIES YOU MAY NOT REALIZE YOU’RE CONSUMING IN YOUR DAILY COFFEE OR TEA. 
 
U OF I KINESIOLOGY PROFESSOR RUOPENG AN (ru-peng ann) CONDUCTED THE STUDY AND FOUND THAT ABOUT TWO THIRDS OF COFFEE DRINKERS AND ONE THIRD OF TEA DRINKERS ADD THINGS LIKE SUGAR, CREAMERS AND OTHER FLAVORING TO THEIR CUPS. AN SAYS THAT ADDS ABOUT 40 TO 70 CALORIES PER DRINK.
 
 
PROFESSOR RUOPENG AN (ru-peng ann) SAYS WHAT THEY MAY NOT REALIZE IS THAT THOSE EXTRAS ARE ADDING 40 TO 70 CALORIES PER DRINK.
 
 
TIPS FOR REDUCING THOSE EXTRA CALORIES INCLUDE SKIPPING WHIPPED CREAM AND FLAVORING, AND REQUESTING THAT DRINKS BE MADE WITH FAT-FREE OR LOW-FAT MILK

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February is American Heart Month

FEBRUARY IS AMERICAN HEART MONTH AND THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH WANTS TO RAISE AWARNESS ABOUT YOUR RISK FOR HEART DISEASE.
 
WHILE YOU CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT HAVING A FAMILY HISTORY OF HEART PROBLEMS…THERE ARE SOME THINGS YOU CAN ADDRESS TO LOWER YOUR CHANCES SAYS PUBLIC HEALTH SPOKESPERSON MELANEY ARNOLD.
 
 
ARNOLD SAYS THEY WANT PEOPLE TO REALLY ASSESS THEIR HEALTH.
 
 
ARNOLD RECOMMENDS CONSULTING WITH YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT WHAT KINDS OF SCREENING TESTS ARE AVAILABLE AND HOW YOU CAN LOWER YOUR RISKS.

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Clinton High School Set To Roll Out CDL Program Later This Month

If you're a farmer or grain elevator operator, a first of its kind program at Clinton High School might get your attention.
 
Clinton High School is set to roll out their long anticipated CDL program later this month. Principal Jerry Wayne indicates they have six students ready to begin the course in partnership with Richland Community College.
 
 
According to Wayne, the program will come at no cost to students as Write Stuff For Kids of Clinton has stepped up to foot the bill to start out.
 
 
Wayne believes the six students initially in the program is a good starting point for the program. He hopes to see that number grow as the program continues to build.
 
 
Wayne indicates this is the first CDL program offering at the high school level in Illinois. He credits Superintendent Curt Nettles with putting in the legwork to get this program off the ground. 

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Monticello Schools Begin New Evaluation of School Buildings

After two failed referendums, Monticello is still in the same situation with their school buildings they were almost five years ago.
 
Superintendent of Monticello Schools, Dr. Vic Zimmerman says since the second failed referendum almost a year ago, the Board took a break in their evaluation of the district's facilities. He notes, now, they are ready to revamp that effort.
 
 
According to Dr. Zimmerman, the district will likely look to remodel the high school to accommodate 21st century classrooms. He also notes, it could be an addition to the current high school or combining schools as well.
 
 
Technological infrastructure will likely be a part of the future plans of the facilities at Monticello schools. Dr. Zimmerman feels technology plays too big of a role in education today to not have it in Monticello schools.
 
 
The Board of Education is seeking community members to join their committee. If you're in Monticello and would like to be a part of this process, contact Dr. Zimmerman at 217-762-8511. 

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Lincoln College Continues Expansion of Four Year Programs

Central Illinois' Lincoln College continues its transition from a two year school back to its roots as a four year school. Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Gigi Fansler, says the school is offering students more career and academic avenues.
 
 
Lincoln College has expanded its campus footprint. The school recently acquired apartments at the north end of campus earlier this month. College officials expect one hundred additional students this fall. 

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Scovill Zoo Preparing For 2017

If working with animals in your free time and spreading a love of nature and conservation is something you enjoy, a local zoo is hoping you'd consider donating your time this summer.
 
Volunteers are a big part of the success of the Scovill Zoo in Decatur and Director Ken Frye says their volunteers take on a variety of roles.
 
 
Frye indicates volunteers are asked to take part in a special series of training classes offered at the zoo. They get underway early next week and run throughout the spring. 
 
 
Frye says there are a lot of classes because a lot of information is given out. While attendance at each and every class is not required, he hopes volunteers will make as many as possible.
 
To get more information about volunteering at Scovill Zoo in Decatur, visit ScovillZoo.com or contact them at 217-421-7435 and speak with Ben Rapson. 

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State Police Warn of Circulating Phone Scam

THE ILLINOIS STATE POLICE IS WARNING THE PUBLIC ABOUT ANOTHER PHONE SCAM. 
 
THE CALLS HAVE BEEN RECEIVED STATEWIDE, CLAIMING TO BE FROM THE STATE POLICE AND ASKING FOR MONEY FOR TROOPER PENSIONS OR FALLEN OFFICER’S FAMILIES SAYS SERGEANT MIKE LINK.
 
 
THE LATEST SCAM THAT SEEMS TO BE OCCURRING STATEWIDE HAS THE CALLER PRETENDING TO BE FROM THE STATE POLICE AND ASKING FOR MONEY FOR TROOPER PENSIONS AND FALLEN OFFICERS.
 
 
LINK SAYS THERE IS ANOTHER PHONE SCAM MORE PREVALENT IN NORTHERN ILLINOIS…WHERE THE CALLER SAYS THEY ARE WITH THE STATE POLICE AND ASKS FOR MONEY BECAUSE THERE IS A WARRANT OUT FOR YOUR ARREST.

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Education Commission Returns Only Framework

Reform is needed but just how to do it is going to be left to later debates. 
 
The Governor’s School Funding Reform Commission released a report that lists a number of things to consider when it comes to improving public grade schools, but the group calls it only a framework. 
 
Commission member and Republican State Senator Jason Barickman says he’s comfortable with the fact that there aren’t a series of bills that are coming on the heals of the commission.
 
 
The report says the state does need to spend $3.5 billion over the next 10 years, so every school district can be at or above adequate funding. 

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DeWitt County Habitat for Humanity Focused on New Program

Interest thus far has been minimal in a new program through the DeWitt County chapter of Habitat for Humanity, but leaders hope to turn that around in 2017.
 
Last year, Habitat introduced locally the national program, A Brush with Kindness. Rick Heath with Habitat says A Brush with Kindness can a number of smaller scale projects for local homeowners.
 
 
Like the home building program through Habitat, the Brush with Kindness is an income based eligibility, however, Heath points out there is a lot of wiggle room and he says the best thing to do is just inquire with someone in your neighborhood involved with Habitat.
 
 
Heath indicates anyone who applies for a project, they must own the home. 
 
For more information about a project at your home and to inquire with Habitat for Humanity, their Re-Store location at East Washington Street is open Saturday's from 8 am to noon. Applications are available there and Habitat volunteers can answer any questions at that time as well. 

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Lincoln High School Superintendent Watching Senate's Grand Bargain

Local school leaders are closely watching the Senate's grand plan as lawmakers tackle a number of issues close to school leaders.
 
One Superintendent feels until House Speaker Mike Madigan joins the fold, the negotiations may not go anywhere. Superintendent of Lincoln High School, Bob Bagby indicates the absence of Madigan has him concerend some of the proposals may never materialized.
 
 
Bagby predicts Madigan coming up with his own plan, then take it to the Senate and the process will start again.

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January Warm, Lacked Snow

THE NUMBERS ARE IN AND JANUARY ENDED UP BEING A PRETTY MILD MONTH IN ILLINOIS. 
 
LAST MONTH WAS THE 14TH WARMEST JANUARY ON RECORD IN ILLINOIS…WITH THE STATEWIDE AVERAGE TEMPERATURE COMING IN AT 31 POINT FOUR DEGREES. THAT’S FIVE DEGREES ABOVE NORMAL SAYS STATE CLIMATOLOGIST JIM ANGEL.
 
 
ANGEL SAYS PRECIPITATION WAS ABOUT NORMAL…BUT NOT MUCH OF IT WAS SNOW.
 
 
ANGEL SAYS THE FORECAST FOR THE NEXT COUPLE OF WEEKS CALLS FOR AN INCREASED CHANCE OF WARMER THAN NORMAL TEMPERATURES.

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Strong Demand For Locally Grown Food

Locally grown has become a buzzword in Agriculture as more farmers look for ways to market their products directly to local consumers, and consumers are looking for those locally produced items. 
 
While we often think of locally grown items as coming from smaller fruit and vegetable operations, that is not always the case. The Ropp family in McLean County has been in the diary business for six generations, milking Jersey cows. 
 
About a decade ago, Ken Ropp, on a whim, decided to try his hand at cheese making. Using his own milk, he produced small batches of cheese and sold it directly from the farm a couple of days a week. Demand quickly grew so they moved to farmers markets, and later to retail grocery stores. 
 
Today, Ropp Jersey Cheese is produced seven days a week and sold in over 200 outlets in a 200 mile radius of McLean county. Ropp says the cheese business adds value to their milk, and eliminated the ups and downs of the market for raw milk.
 
 
Ropp says the consumer is looking for locally grown products, as evidenced by the growth of farmers markets around the state. 
 
 
As Ropp works with retailers who sell his cheese, he discovers a strong demand from grocery chains for more locally produced items, whether it is fruits and vegetables, value added items like cheese and meat or nearly anything edible that can produced in Illinois. 
 
Grocers are also feeling the demand for locally produced food and are finding demand often outstrips available supplies.

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Bipartisan Commission Making Headway in School Funding Formula

Governor Bruce Rauner’s bipartisan School Funding Reform Commission makes headway toward a new school funding formula. The 25 member commission wrapped up six months of work with a new framework that could pave the way for a new mindset in funding schools. 
 
State Senator Andy Manar (Bunker Hill-Democrat) is pleased the framework sets the stage for schools with bigger poverty issues to get more help. Manar is pleased with talk of a level playing field for school funding, but he wants action not words.
 
 
The framework would lead to funding targets for each district based on student population needs. It's estimated to cost an additional $3.5 billion to $6 billion.

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Bourne Legislation Would Keep State Workers Pay Going

State Representative Avery Bourne (R-Raymond) has joined colleagues in filing legislation designed to keep the paychecks rolling for state workers, regardless of what Attorney General Lisa Madigan does in court.
 
 
Madigan is seeking to have a court order that called for continued worker checks thrown out. The legislation would make state worker pay a continuing appropriation, guaranteeing payment during a budget impasse, and prevent a government shutdown.

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Durbin Says No To Sessions

Senator Dick Durbin was among Democrats voting against the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions to become the next Attorney General in the Judiciary Committee this morning. Sessions' nomination was approved in an 11-9 partisan vote. 
 
While Sessions is not a part of the Trump Administration yet, Durbin believes he's already acting in an unofficial capacity as a loyal advisor on immigration. Durbin believes Washington Post reports that Session is tied to executive orders on immigration that limited travel from certain nations with a mostly Muslim population.
 
 
Durbin also says he doesn't believe Sessions will pursue the investigation into reports of Russian interference in the November election.

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CH Moore Homestead Offseason Underway

The CH Moore Homestead closes its doors to the public during the first few months of each to year to spruce up the aging historical landmark in DeWitt County.
 
Director of the Homestead and its corresponding DeWitt County Museum, Joey Woolridge indicates this year the focus of the offseason is to begin restoring some dated windows that have nearly become a liability.
 
 
According to Woolridge, her focus this winter will be to work on a new exhibit for this spring and summer. She explains this will be a big year for the Homestead and she hopes the new exhibit is the highlight of the year for them.
 
 
Getting a school in Clinton originally did not come easily and Woolridge indicates Moore was very much in support of the idea, but the community did not share his enthusiasm. She explains once he came out opposed to the idea, that is when the school came to be.
 
 
 
Woolridge hopes to have some special events at the Homestead this year to commemorate the several milestones they'll be celebrating. Details on those have yet to be released. 

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Ideal Time To Eagle Watch At Clinton Lake

If you're into bird watching or enjoying nature and the cold elements aren't too much for you, this is a very good time to get out and see a high volume of eagles locally.
 
DNR Conservation Police Sargaent John Williamson indicates eagles are very popular right now at Clinton Lake because of the warm water discharge from the power plant.
 
 
Eagles are a federally protected species and Williamson notes they still have a cold case from over a year and a half ago when an eagle was shot and ultimately killed that authorities are looking for tips on from the southern McLean County area. He says all it takes is one tip to break a case open.
 
 
The tip-line for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is 800-TIPS. 

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Caterpillar Changes Headquarters Plans

Caterpillar Tuesday announced it has cancelled plans for a global headquarters in downtown Peoria. Cat will move its new headquarters to Chicago by year's end. 
 
Company spokeperson Rachel Potts told W-M-B-D radio they will lease space in Chicago, which will be a minimum expense compared to previous plans;
 
 
Potts says the Chicago move will affect about 300 employees, about 100 of which would relocate from Peoria. She says central Illinois will have a major role in the equipment manufacturer's future;
 
 
In February, 2015 Caterpillar announced plans for a nearly two-million square foot global headquarters campus in Peoria, spanning about 30 acres along the city's riverfront area.

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Policy Group Says State Cut Spending By Millions

A budget proposal from a conservative action group in Illinois proposes freezing property taxes for five years, making schools and universities pay the full price of their pension benefits and cutting Medicaid spending by $415 million a year. 
 
John Tillman the CEO of the Illinois Policy Institute also wants to see the Local Government Distributive Fund cut to any community over 5,000 residents, that’s a share of the state income tax that’s shared with communities. It would save an alleged $1.75 billion a year but Tillman says cities would easily be able to absorb the cut in support from the state.
 
 
Tillman says the communities impacted would be able to save more than what had been given to them when prevailing wage laws and collective bargaining rules would be rolled back as part of a broader spending plan. 

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Durbin Says Muslim Ban Based on Fear, Not Facts

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin took to the Senate Floor today to lash out against President Trump's executive order limiting travel from several Muslim majority nations.
 
 
Over the weekend, Durbin joined colleague Tammy Duckworth in calling on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Inspector General to start an independent investigation into what they believe may have been an illegal implementation of President Trump’s executive order. 

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