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WPXN Blog Archives for 2019-12

There will be increased Police Patrols today and tonight

(Springfield-jm) -- Of the more than 250 new laws that take effect New Year’s Day in Illinois, two deal with insurance coverage that could affect 20 percent of insurance plans statewide. One new law enacted this year and set to take effect New Year’s Day mandates insurance coverage for children’s epinephrine injectors when such devices are deemed medically necessary. Another measure beginning Jan. 1 allows insurance companies to offer optional coverage for hearing aids and sets the maximum cost at $2,500 for two years. State Rep. Tom Demmer said such laws only apply to insurance policies the state has legal authority over.



(Springfield-jm) -- The Illinois Department of Transportation says there will be increased police patrols for the New Year’s holiday. Traffic deaths are down this year and IDOT is hoping to keep it that way. Spokesperson Maria Castaneda says the public can expect to see more cops on the roads over New Year’s…



IDOT Spokesperson Maria Castaneda. Police will also be looking for speeders and distracted drivers. 



(Gifford-jm) -- Gifford’s water main project is moving forward. Bids for the project are expected to go out soon with the plans were to be completed by Christmas. The plans must be submitted to the state EPA before the project can be awarded. Trustees are expected to review bids in February.


(Undated-jm) -- Come January 1st, those wanting recreational marijuana will have options at two locations in the Champaign-Urbana area. The state recently approved NuMed in Urbana and Phoenix Botanical in Champaign for recreational licenses. Both currently are allowed to dispense for medical marijuana. Owners at both locations warn there may be a shortage of flowers however, they have edibles and vape cartridges available. Sales will be cash only.



(Springfield-jm) -- As recreational marijuana becomes legal for adults on January 1st the Illinois State Police is reminding there are still laws that need to be followed. Under the law, those 21 and over may have up to 30 grams of weed, up to five grams of concentrated T-H-C and up to 500 milligrams of products like edibles says I-S-P Director Brendan Kelly…



Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly. Kelly says you also can’t use pot in front of anyone under 21 and it will still be illegal to drive while you’re high. Employers can set their own policies about marijuana use, including having a zero tolerance rule. 



(Undated-jm) -- Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White is reminding that all drivers services facilities will be closed tomorrow for the New Year holiday. All facilities will reopen on Thursday.

(Springfield-jm) -- With the end of the year here, a wealth manager said it’s a good time for Illinois residents to evaluate what they can do to maintain more of their wealth. John Bever with Phase 3 Advisors, a wealth management group, suggests looking at charitable donations. He said talk to a professional about donor advised funds and bunching .In Illinois, if your wealth involves real estate, Bever suggests looking to clarify what the real estate is for. There’s something else Bever said to keep an eye on heading into the new year and that’s the proposed progressive income tax constitutional amendment.  There is one bright spot for Illinois: the state doesn’t tax retirement income. As for your investments with the possibility of a market sell-off over the next year, he recommends being prepared to make that a buying opportunity.



(Springfield-jm) -- State officials are urging the public to prepare now for potential spring flooding. According to the National Weather Service, abnormally moist ground conditions and high river levels in the upper midwest could lead to flooding this spring. Rachel Torbert with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources says that’s why it’s a good idea to consider flood insurance…



Illinois Department of Natural Resources Spokesperson Rachel Torbert. The Illinois Department of Insurance recommends reviewing your current homeowners policy to see if you have flood coverage. 

(Ludlow-jm) -- Bids for upgrades for the new Ludlow water system are expected to go out in early 2020. Fehr Graham Engineering told village leaders the letting of bids will take place in January. They also expect to close with the USDA in mid-March for grant funds that will pay off the bridge loan from a Paxton bank for the project.



(Hoopeston-jm) -- There’s a new pet grooming business in Hoopeston. Paw Spa n More opened in the former Schulers Greenhouse location at 1208 S. 2nd Avenue. Hours are Tuesday through Friday 8 am to 6 pm. For more information call 217-260-3313.


(Washington-jm) -- USDA's latest dairy outlook reveals minimum changes in the balance sheets for this year and next, but continued growth in product and class prices in 2020. Rod Bain reports…



Stiffer Traffic Fines go into effect January 1st

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) — Fifty wind farms have opened in Illinois since 2003 and more are in the works, but not everyone is on board. The state ranks sixth nationwide with 2,778 operational wind turbines, according to The (Bloomington) Pantagraph, which cited the American Wind Energy Association. McLean County is expected to have four wind farms soon. Illinois could make enough wind energy by 2030 to power the equivalent of 7.2 million average U.S. homes, according to the federal Department of Energy’s Wind Vision Scenario.



(Springfield-jm) -- The unemployment rate was down in nearly all Illinois metro areas last month. 13 out of the 14 metro areas enjoyed a decrease in the jobless rate in November, compared to the same time last year. State Department of Employment Security Spokesperson Rebecca Cisco says some areas set records…



Illinois Department of Employment Security Spokesperson Rebecca Cisco. Nine of the metro areas experienced over the year job growth as well, including Chicago and the Suburbs, Champaign-Urbana and the East St. Louis area. In Ford County the unemployment rate fell from 4 point 8 percent to 3 point 8 percent. In Champaign County the unemployment rate fell from 4 point 3 percent to 3 point 1 percent. In Iroquois County the unemployment rate fell from 4 point 4 percent to 3 point 6 percent.



(Rantoul-jm) -- A Rantoul man who allegedly entered a home last week in the 1800 block of Eater Drive and beat the person inside with a baseball bat faces up to 30 years in prison. Nicholas McMahon was charged with home invasion and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. He is free on bond. He is due back in court February 11th.


(Washington-jm) -- What do USDA's December reports reveal about U.S. beef production, price and export forecasts for next year? Rod Bain reports…




Tri-County Players have set auditions for their next play, “The Last Séance”, by Herb Hassler, for Saturday, January 4th from 10 – noon. The auditions will be held at the Paxton Market Street Theatre, 120 N. Market St., Paxton. We will be looking for 3 men and 6 women to fill the parts in this slick farce: A family-operated séance scam is laid out before us. Attempts to conceal the swindle lead to a number of surprising twists amid frenetic action. The final startling twist of the play reveals to us - and the family - why this must be the last séance.To audition, you will need to read excerpts from the play. We will begin practicing on Monday, January 6th. Practices will be Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. The show dates are February 14 – 16 and 21 – 23.For additional information or to set up a different time to audition, contact Tammy Belanger at 217-766-1174.


(Springfield-jm) -- When Illinois’ recreational cannabis law goes into effect on Jan. 1, the Illinois State Police officials said the agency won’t revoke Firearm Owners' Identification cards based solely on recreational use, but questions remain.  A defense attorney who focuses on Second Amendment cases said the matter remains a question mark. Here’s the conundrum: Recreational cannabis is legal in Illinois. Illinois also is one of the only states that require residents to obtain a card to own a firearm. The governmental entity charged with running that program and its daily background checks will also have knowledge of some people who are using cannabis, a no-no for gun ownership in the eyes of the federal government. While possessing less than 30 grams of cannabis flower has not been a crime in Illinois since 2016, it is still a Schedule I drug in the eyes of the federal government and gun buyers are specifically asked if they use cannabis. A “yes” answer to that question means a denial of the firearm sale. The punishment for lying on an FTR form is a felony. Felons cannot own guns in most cases. 



(Springfield-jm) -- Several new traffic safety laws take effect January first. Fines are going up in the new year for reckless driving, passing a stopped school bus and speeding in a construction zone. Another law, explained by Rockford Senator Steve Stadelman during floor debate, makes it illegal to stream movies or watch  youtube on your phone while driving…



State Senator Steve Stadelman of Rockford. Additionally, the maximum penalty for hitting a construction worker increases from 10 thousand dollars to 25 thousand.


(Paxton-jm) -- Paxton police have released their recent activity report. On December 26th Dusty Bouchard of Paxton was arrested for aggravated battery and home invasion. On December 23rd Michael Surratt of Paxton was arrested on a Kane County warrant.



(Springfield-jm) -- Minimum wage workers will be getting a raise in the new year. The state minimum wage will go up by a dollar January first from eight dollars 25 an hour to nine 25 an hour. When he signed the law back in February, Governor J-B Pritzker said it was time to pay workers a living wage…



Illinois Governor J-B Pritzker. This will be the first increase in a gradual phase in that will bring the minimum wage up to 15 dollars an hour in 2025. 



(Fisher-jm) -- The Fisher School District has received a commendable rating from the state in their recent report card. Juniors SAT scores as well as freshman and sophomore PSAT scores came in above the state average. The district says they are working on a plan to continue making improvements.

53 Year old Clifford Brewer arrested for 3 counts of first degree murder in Cullum

CULLOM, Ill. (AP) — A 53-year-old man has been arrested in the Christmas Day shootings of three people in a small eastern Illinois community. The bodies of a 51-year-old man, 48-year-old woman and a 27-year-old man were found at a home early Wednesday morning in Cullom. Dispatchers received a call about the shootings shortly after 2 a.m. State police say Clifford Brewer was arrested Wednesday and jailed on three counts of first-degree murder. A court hearing is expected today.  The names of the victims, their relationships to the suspect and a motive behind the shootings were not immediately released. About 550 people live in Cullom.


NEW LENOX, Ill. (AP) — An Illinois freeway has been shut down after a semitrailer rolled over and leaked acid onto the roadway. State police say the 33-year-old driver was heading west on Interstate 80 near New Lenox about 8 a.m. Thursday when the truck began to sway as he tried to change lanes. The vehicle struck the guardrail and rolled over in a ditch. An estimated 100 gallons (378 liters) of phosphoric acid leaked from the truck. Hazardous materials teams were called in to contain the chemical. No injuries were reported. Police say the driver was cited for improper lane usage. New Lenox is about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southwest of Chicago. 


CHICAGO (AP) — The Illinois Gaming Board has moved to revoke the license of a video gambling operator for allegedly offering a $5 million “illegal inducement” to the owner of a gambling parlor chain. A spokesman for Rick Heidner has dismissed the claim, calling it a "smear campaign." The board's disciplinary complaint earlier this month comes after Heidner's name came up in a federal search warrant of then-state Sen. Martin Sandoval's offices. Gov. J.B. Pritzker's administration has also said it won't sell state-owned land to Heidner for a proposed combined race track and casino project, Heidner hasn't been charged with wrongdoing. 



(Paxton-jm) -- Renovations to Clara Peterson Elementary School are pretty much wrapped up. There are just a handful of small projects left to be completed. Paxton Buckley Loda Schools Superintendent Cliff McClure talks about some of the features of the renovation…



PBL Schools Superintendent Cliff McClure.


(Buckley--jc)  Family and friends in and around the Buckley area are saying goodbye to a popular businessman, family member and friend on Saturday. Roger Weber of Buckley passed away on Wednesday morning . Roger owned and operated Weber Fertilizer and Trucking in Loda and Buckley. Weber’s interest ranged from cattle buying, the Buckley Dutchmasters, golf and fishng to playing cards. He was a devoted family man and cared for his family and community. He will be missed by all. Roger Weber’s funeral is set for Saturday morning at 11 at St John’s Lutheran Church in Buckley



Tri-County Players have set auditions for their next play, “The Last Séance”, by Herb Hassler, for Saturday, January 4th from 10 – noon. The auditions will be held at the Paxton Market Street Theatre, 120 N. Market St., Paxton. We will be looking for 3 men and 6 women to fill the parts in this slick farce: A family-operated séance scam is laid out before us. Attempts to conceal the swindle lead to a number of surprising twists amid frenetic action. The final startling twist of the play reveals to us - and the family - why this must be the last séance.To audition, you will need to read excerpts from the play. We will begin practicing on Monday, January 6th. Practices will be Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. The show dates are February 14 – 16 and 21 – 23.For additional information or to set up a different time to audition, contact Tammy Belanger at 217-766-1174.



(Undated-jm) -- Winter is hereand that means cold and snow. Experts have these tips to keep your four legged friends safe this winter. WPXN’s Jason Madden reports…



(Sprigfield--jc)  -- A new law will remove the statute of limitations for sexual assault crimes in Illinois.Lawmakers passed House Bill 2135 this spring. Oswego state Rep. Keith Wheeler introduced the measure in the House. Aurora state Sen. Linda Holmes introduced the Senate version. The law will remove the statute of limitations for the prosecution of sexual assault crimes against adults.  

General Counsel for the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault Sarah Beuning said the new law was “a very big deal in the message it sends to survivors about how serious sexual assault is as a crime.”


(Springfield--jc)  -- Illinoisans will soon find out if the state's population has continued to decline The U.S. Census is scheduled to release its annual population estimates on Monday for the 12 months that ended in July 2019. This estimate will be the final one before the federal agency begins its ten-year count next spring. Last year, Illinois became the sixth most populous state, losing an estimated 45,000 people and falling behind Pennsylvania.  Some experts in the field say the loss of population trend in Illinois is likely to continue



(Washington-jm) -- What are some of the reasons behind USDA's recent adjustment of hog prices down for both this year and next? Rod Bain has the details…




(Ludlow-jm) -- The Ludlow Grade School District is seeking a four point nine nine percent increase to their tax levy. The increase would bring in an additional $463,791 to the district. District leaders say the increase is due to a climb in the total equalized assessed valuation in the district from $17,4771,640 to $17,908,431.



(Springfield--jc)  Now that Christmas is over, a horticulturist at the University of Illinois Extension has some tips for disposing of your live tree. Some communities and waste haulers have recycling programs. U of I Extension’s Richard Hentschel says there are other ways of disposing of that holiday tree…



 U of I Extension Horticulturist Richard Henschel


(Fisher-jm) -- The Fisher School District has received a commendable rating from the state in their recent report card. Juniors SAT scores as well as freshman and sophomore PSAT scores came in above the state average. The district says they are working on a plan to continue making improvements.



(Gifford-jm) -- Gifford’s water main project is moving forward. Bids for the project are expected to go out soon with the plans expected to be completed by Christmas. The plans must be submitted to the state EPA before the project can be awarded. Trustees are expected to review bids in February.


Livingston County, State Police and local police are investigating a triple homicide in Cullom

(Cullom--jc)  Livingston County, State Police and local police are investigating a triple homicide in Cullom. The bodies of three people were found on Christmas by authorities There is a suspect in custody. Authorities say the victims were a 51 year old man, 48 year old woman and a 27 year old man. Their bodies were found just after 2 Wednesday morning. Autopsies are set for all three today. WPXN news will update this story on later newscasts. 



(Hoopeston-jm) -- The Hoopeston Public Library is hosting their Food for Fines Program. If you bring in canned or non-perishable food you will receive $1 off your fine for each item. The food will be donated to a local food pantry. The promotion runs through December 28th.



(Gifford-jm) -- The Champaign County village of Gifford is seeing an increase in the monthly revenue they receive from the state’s Motor Fuel Tax. The village receives between $3,200 and $3,300 each month. Previously, the village received between $1,800 and $2,000 each month.



(Springfield-jm) -- Road fatalities are down this year and the Illinois Department of Transportation is hoping it stays that way. 965 people have died on Illinois roads in 2019, a decrease of about 50 people. State and local police have increased enforcement for the holidays in an effort to keep those numbers down says I-DOT Spokesperson Guy Tridgell... 



I-DOT Spokesperson Guy Tridgell. Tridgell says in addition to seeing more police on the roads, law enforcement will be holding special details and roadside safety checks through the holidays. 


(Undated-jm) -- The CDC is warning that puppies are linked to a multi-state outbreak of an infection resistant to multiple drugs. So far 30 cases resulting in four hospitalizations of Campylobacter jejune has been reported in 13 states including Illinois.  The CDC says contact with puppies especially in pet stores are likely the source of the outbreak. Symptoms include diarrhea, stomach cramps and fever that lasts about a week. Those infected usually recover without antibiotics. The CDC recommends always washing your hands after touching puppies or dogs.


(Undated-jm) -- Changes are coming to changing table laws in 2020 in Illinois. State buildings, public places, retail stores over 5,000 square feet with public restrooms and restaurants that hold more than 60 patrons with public restrooms will now be required to have changing tables in both men’s and women’s restrooms. Industrial buildings, nightclubs and bars are exempt.



(Paxton-jm) -- Many school districts across the state are facing a multitude of challenges from funding to pensions and teacher retention. Paxton Buckley Loda Schools Superintendent Cliff McClure talks about some of the challenges facing the PBL school district…



PBL Schools Superintendent Cliff McClure.


(Undated-jm) -- Illinois home prices moved higher in November while statewide sales shifted lower amid tighter inventory. WPXN’s Jason Madden has the details…




(Peoria-jm) -- Those who have a sick child that is in OSF’s children's hospital in Peoria have another place to stay close by. Ronald McDonald House recently opened in the city. The 22 bedroom facility is expected to serve over 700 families annually. Ronald McDonald House’s provide a supportive place for families to stay while their child receives medical care.


(Washington-jm) -- More farmers who have been turned down for loans by the usual lenders are going to so called "alternative" lenders. Gary Crawford has the details…




(Paxton-jm) -- A local food pantry received a donation from an area business. Paxton Hardware and Rental sold ornaments for a Christmas tree with the money raised going to an area food pantry says Paxton Hardware and Rental employee Andrea Turner…



Paxton Hardware and Rental Employee Andrea Turner.



(Ludlow-jm) -- Bids for upgrades for the new Ludlow water system are expected to go out in early 2020. Fehr Graham Engineering told village leaders the letting of bids will take place in January. They also expect to close with the USDA in mid-March for grant funds that will pay off the bridge loan from a Paxton bank for the project.



(Fisher-jm) -- A Fisher intersection will see traffic control changes. The changes affect the intersection of Sangamon and Second Streets. Those traveling north and south on Second Street will now have a stop sign while Sangamon will be designated as a through street.



(Thomasboro-jm) -- The village of Thomasboro is moving forward with seeking to hire a full time police chief. The village had been discussing whether or not to hire an additional part time officer, contract full time service with the county or hire a full time police chief. Mike Martinez has currently been serving as interim police chief.


New W-4 Forms for 2020 Taxes

(Paxton-jm) -- A Bloomington man is facing charges of attempting to flee and elude police, driving with a revoked license and multiple warrants following a police chase Thursday night. Paxton police attempted to stop Nathaniel Robinson around 10:15 Thursday night in Paxton. Robinson fled west on Route 9 towards Gibson City where police found his vehicle in the ditch near Gibson City. He fled and was later apprehended in Sibley.



(Rantoul-jm) -- A Rantoul man has been arrested after shots were fired at a vehicle Friday morning. Police were called to the 600 block of Heath Drive for a report of shots fired. Officers located shell casings there as well as in the 600 block of Autumn Fields Lane. Alvin Parker approached police to report his vehicle had been stolen. Police learned Parker shot at the vehicle as it left. That vehicle was being driven by his girlfriend. The vehicle was located near Champaign and had been struck multiple times. No injuries were reported. Parker was taken to the Champaign County Jail on charges of resisting police and criminal damage.



(Urbana-jm) -- A University of Illinois police officer has been arrested for misusing law enforcement databases. Jerald Sandage was charged Friday with official misconduct. U of I police say Sandage misused law enforcement databases and security cameras to find personal information about women on and off campus. Sandage is also accused of sexually assaulting at least one of the women. 


(Roberts-jm) -- Roberts village residents will likely see an increase in their water bills. Mayor Rick Flessner says its because of a possible fine from the state over village employees picking up paint chips from the water tower project…



Roberts Mayor Rick Flessner.



(Undated-jm) -- Secretary of State Jesse White is announcing drivers services facilities will be closed Tuesday, December 24th and Wednesday, December 25th for the Christmas holiday. Facilities will reopen on Thursday, December 26th.



(Rantoul-jm) -- Rantoul village leaders are expected to approve a land lease agreement for the new sports complex at a special meeting tonight. The agreement calls for the village to least 65 acres near I-57 for $10,000 until July 1st. After that date the village will purchase the property for $860,000. The village will also transfer 33 acres of property as part of the agreement. Village leaders are also expected to approve a grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Tonight’s Rantoul village board meeting gets underway at 5:30 pm.



(Paxton-jm) -- The City of Paxton is moving forward with the streetscape project. Mayor Bill Ingold has the latest on the project…



Paxton Mayor Bill Ingold.



(Ford County-jm) -- Ford County ended fiscal year 2019 in the red. The county had a deficit of $25,000. 16 of the 19 categories in the general fund ended the fiscal year below their budgeted amount.


(Champaign County-jm) -- A ballot lottery to determine placement on the March 17th ballot in Champaign County was held at the Brookens Administrative Center. Robert Burkhalter will appear first followed by Susan McGarth for circuit clerk. For district 6 DeShawn Williams will appear first followed by Charles Young. For district 8, Giraldo Rosales followed by Emily Rodriguez and district 10 Connie Deland-Meyers followed by Mary King.


(Springfield-jm) -- The winter solstice is nearly upon us, and for hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans, the shorter days and falling temperatures can trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD. Mary Schuermann reports…




(Undated-jm) -- New year, new tax rates, even new tax forms. These are all of the issues taxpayers should ensure they’re prepared for next April by getting a “tax checkup” now. The IRS announced a re-designed W-4 form that will be the standard for new employees in 2020 but employers are suggesting current workers fill them out as well to ensure the correct amount is being taken out of their paychecks.  New to the form is a question about how much the employee’s spouse makes. In lieu of this, the IRS Tax Withholding Calculator will allow a family to figure out their liability for next year and withhold accordingly without having to tell the employer how much their entire family income is or if the worker has a second job. 


(Champaign-jm) -- A Champaign woman is suing a Champaign County Sheriff’s deputy and the department over a pat down search. Wylesha Ayres was pulled over in May on Dobbins Drive in Champaign for an expired license plate. The deputy searched Ayres for weapons, which she claims the deputy allegedly touched her inappropriately. In the suit, Ayres claims her fourth amendment right against unreasonable search was violated. She also claims she was subjected to humiliation, degradation, emotional pain and suffering. The deputy, Champaign County Sheriff’s Office and the county are listed in the suit.



(Rural Rantoul-jm) -- Firefighters from Rantoul and Thomasboro were called to a fire in the Fountain Valley area Saturday morning. Firefighters were called to a fifth wheel on fire just before 8:30 am. When they arrived the trailer was fully involved. Officials believe the cause was a space heater malfunction. The trailer was a total loss.



(Champaign-jm) -- Two people are dead following a house fire in Champaign. Firefighters were called to the fire on Sherwood Court late Saturday night. Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup says 49 year old Leslie Gill was pronounced deceased at Carle Foundation Hospital Sunday morning. An autopsy is scheduled for today. A 12 year old girl, who’s name has not yet been released also died in the fire.



(Paxton-jm) -- A local food pantry received a donation from an area business. Paxton Hardware and Rental sold ornaments for a Christmas tree with the money raised going to an area food pantry says Paxton Hardware and Rental employee Andrea Turner…



Paxton Hardware and Rental Employee Andrea Turner.



(Hoopeston-jm) -- Hoopeston Area High School will be hosting a four week baseball camp in January. The camp, in conjunction with US Baseball Academy will begin January 12th and is for players in grades 1-5. Those who register by December 24th save $30. The website is: us baseball academy dot com and enter promo code holiday 30 at checkout for the discount.



(Gibson City-jm) -- Gibson City leaders are expected to hear their fiscal year 2018-2019 audit at tonight’s city council meeting. The Gibson City city council meeting gets underway at 7 pm.



(Paxton-jm) -- Renovations at Clara Peterson Elementary School in Paxton are just about complete. Paxton Buckley Loda Schools Superintendent Cliff McClure says they are down to just some minor details…



PBL Schools Superintendent Cliff McClure.



(Paxton-jm) -- The Paxton Park District  handled a pair of financial matters at their December meeting. Park district commissioners approved the issuance $100,000 in general obligation bonds. They also updated their tax levy ordinance for the fiscal year beginning February 1 2020 through January 31 2021 to a levy of $107,000.



(Watseka-jm) -- Iroquois County leaders are looking into updating the county’s website and make it ADA compliant. In addition to the general updates and making it ADA compliant, department heads would like the ability to add more content on their pages. The redesign is expected to cost at least $20,000.



(Springfield-jm) -- A horticulturist at the University of Illinois Extension says if you’ve been keeping your bird feeder stocked, its important to not stop during the cold winter months. If you usually have a feeder out, birds will get used to stopping by your yard says the Extension’s Richard Hentschel. He recommends providing seed into mid-spring when plants start to come up. And if you don’t want the squirrels partaking…



University of Illinois Extension Horticulturist Richard Hentschel. Hentschel also suggests supplying water for the birds. 



(Undated-jm) -- Ford is recalling more than 500,000 pickup trucks because the carpet flooring can catch fire after a crash. The recall affects 2017 through 2019 super duty and super crew trucks. The company says the front seat pretensioner could generate excessive sparks that could ignite carpet.


The state unemployment rate fell to a historic low last month

(Chicago--jc)  --The first meeting of the newly formed Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform is set for Monday in Chicago.The first hearing will discuss the framework of future meetings.The co-chairs, Democrats from the House and Senate, issued statements saying they will look for “serious solutions” to “rebuild trust with the people of Illinois” in a bipartisan fashion. Senate Republicans opposed the commission’s creation because it was weighted toward Democrats. 



(Springfield-jm) -- While many people will hold off on house hunting until spring, data from millions of home sales show that closing after Christmas is less expensive. ATTOM Data Solutions compiles data from more than 23 million single-family home and condo sales over the past six years and found only three days of the year consistently offered discounts below what the estimated market value: Dec. 4, Dec. 26 and Dec. 31. In Illinois, December was the best time to buy a home at a discount, on average 5.3 percent below market price, which was the seventh-best discount in the nation.


(Springfield-jm) -- The state unemployment rate fell to a historic low last month. Illinois Department of Employment Security Spokesperson Sam Salustro says November was another good month, with the jobless rate coming in at three point eight percent…



Illinois Depart5809ment of Employment Security Spokesperson Sam Salutstro. The national unemployment rate for November was three point five percent. 


(Rantoul-jm) -- The Rantoul man who left the courthouse before the verdicts against him were read is back in custody. James Hunt was taken into custody following a court hearing Thursday. Hunt told the court he felt ill and went home. The Champaign County Judge didn’t buy the explanation and ordered him held until sentencing on January 31st. A jury found Hunt guilty of possession of cannabis and possession of cocaine. 


(Rantoul--jc)  -- Congratulations to Rantoul Police Department Officer Nick Pampinella who graduated from the University of Illinois Police Training Institute on Thursday Officer Pampinella completed the 14-week intensive course which provides the foundation for officers to serve their community. Officer Pampinella was also recipient of an academic achievement award which is given to the top 10% of graduating officers. Officer Pampinella will now begin an intensive field training program at the police department.



(Washington-jm) -- The US/Mexico/Canada trade agreement has cleared another hurdle. The House of Representatives has voted its stamp of approval.  Gary Crawford reports…




(Mahomet-jm) -- Farm Credit Illinois has a new CEO. Aaron Johnson has served as interim CEO following the sudden passing of former CEO Tom Tracy. Wednesday, Johnson was named CEO. Johnson joined Farm Credit Illinois in 1985.



(Springfield-jm) -- Attorney General Kwame Raoul is warning shoppers to be wary of sales pitches from alternative energy suppliers. Alternative energy suppliers are targeting holiday shoppers at malls, stores and office building lobbies says Attorney General Raoul. They’re trying to get customers to switch energy companies, promising lower rates and other incentives. Raoul says a new law effective January first requires suppliers to release more information about their prices and prohibits termination fees for residential and small business customers. 



(Undated-jm) -- Ameren Illinois customers will see a reduction in their power bills. The Illinois Commerce Commission approved an overall reduction of $7.05 million on power delivery charges. The reduction should save the typical residential power delivery customer about $1.13 a month.

(Undated--jc)  --Nearly $600,000 in taxpayer-backed grants are going out to for snowmobile trails in Stephenson, Ogle and Winnebago counties. More than $350,000 of that is going to the Illinois Association of Snowmobile Clubs.The Illinois Department of Natural Resources said the funding will be used for development, rehabilitation, operations and maintenance for snowmobile trail projects.



(Springfield-jm) -- People who have been negatively affected by the war on drugs can apply for $21 million in taxpayer-funded low-interest loans from the state to get started in the cannabis industry. The state’s cannabis legalization law created the Cannabis Business Development Fund, which will make low-interest loans available for qualifying applicants. The funds come from the licensing fees paid by existing dispensaries and cultivators.



(Springfield-jm) -- The Illinois Department of Transportation reminds that the latest road conditions are right at your fingertips. The website: getting around illinois dot com has up to date information about whether highways are ice or snow covered. I-DOT Spokesperson Guy Tridgell says it’s a good idea to check it before heading out…



IDOT Spokesperson Guy Tridgell. Again, the website is getting around illinois dot com.



(Danville-jm) -- A former Vermilion County Board member has been sentenced to two years in federal prison after using his position as an accountant  to operate a check-kiting scheme. Chris Leigh noticed in 2010, two of the three companies he worked for weren’t making enough to keep them all afloat so he began writing checks to fraudulently keep balances up. The bank noticed a pattern of large deposits that weren’t covered. The three banks lost over $1.3 million.



(Champaign County-jm) -- Champaign County is hiring an accounting firm to help the county’s treasurer's office get caught up. The treasurer’s office is facing a backlog of reconciling 2019 monthly bank statements that must be done by the end of the year. The treasurer’s office has been without their chief deputy who went on FMLA then stepped down. Clifton Larson Allen was hired to help and will be paid out of the county executive’s funds.



(Washington-jm) -- Before the event that gives us the reason for Christmas, trees were decorated by civilizations during the shortest day of the year. Rod Bain reports…




(Undated-jm) -- With the flu becoming more widespread, many area hospitals are taking precautions to protect patients. The CDC says seasonal flu activity peaks in January and February and ends as late as May. 20 percent of Americans get the flu every year. 1,300 people so far in the U-S have died from the flu with more than 23,000 hospitalized. Precautions being implemented at area hospitals include limiting inpatient visitors to no more than two at one time, they must be over 18 years of age and show no sign of illness. The CDC recommends covering your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing and to wash your hands frequently.


GREEN BAY, Wis. — After more than a year of uncertainty layered on a depressed farm economy, one of the largest dairy cooperatives in the country hailed today’s passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement by the House of Representatives.The House approval of legislation to implement the trade deal, known as USMCA, moves it to the Senate, which is likely to take up the legislation early next year.The three countries signed the agreement in November 2018, but their legislative bodies needed to approve. Mexico has done so and the Canadian legislature is expected to consider the deal next month. Last week, the Trump administration and Democratic leaders in the House said they had agreed on final details.

Illegally passing a school bus will cost you more starting in January

(Springfield-jm) -- The amount of overtime DCFS is paying is costing taxpayers millions of dollars. A recent investigation found the agency is paying out nearly $10 million in overtime in 2019. That’s up from over $8.6 million in 2017. The investigation uncovered over $1.6 million in overtime pay went to just 50 employees including a supervisor that makes over $100,000 a year.



(Springfield-jm) -- Illegally passing a school bus will cost you more starting in January. The fine for a first offense will double to $300 starting January 1st and you could lose your license for 3 months. A second and subsequent offense is also doubling. That will now cost you $1,000 and you could lose your license for a year. State law says you must stop if a bus has their red lights flashing and their stop sign extended.



(Springfield-jm) -- Governor J-B Pritzker is signing what he calls a monumental pension consolidation law. The new law combines the state’s 649 downstate and suburban police and firefighter pensions into just two systems. Governor Pritzker says this will be a relief to local governments and taxpayers…



Illinois Governor J-B Pritzker. Pritzker says having only two funds will also reduce paperwork and management costs. 


(Paxton-jm) -- Paxton Police have released their recent activity report. On December 6th no tickets were issued and no injuries reported following a two vehicle accident at Accolade Health on Fulton. On December 10th no tickets were issued and no injuries reported following a two vehicle accident at Pine and Maple. On December 11th no tickets were issued and no injuries reported after a vehicle struck the Paxton Civic Center. On December 13th Myra Lewis of Chicago was arrested for forgery, unlawful acquisition of a controlled substance, possession of fraudulent identification and possession of cannabis after police were called to Hudson’s for a report of a forged prescription. On December 16th, Anthony Bower of Paxton was arrested for criminal trespass and violation of bail bond.



(Pesotum-jm) -- District 10 Illinois State Police based in Pesotum have released results of special traffic enforcement patrols held in Champaign County during the months of November and December. During the patrols, troopers issued four occupant restraint citations, 35 speeding citations, 18 distracted driving citations and 86 other violation citations.



(Buckley-jm) -- Christ Lutheran High School in Buckley is gearing up for their annual Wintorum. Executive Director Sandy Spitz explains what Wintorum is…



Christ Lutheran High School Executive Director Sandy Spitz.



(Rantoul-jm) -- The village of Rantoul has approved an agreement with a Champaign company for design and bid work for four roof projects. The village is looking to redo the roofs at the Rantoul Business Center, the wastewater treatment plants traveling bridge building, the water treatment west plant and the power plant. Costs are estimated at just over $97,000.



(Paxton-jm) -- The rates and schedule for the 2020 Paxton pool have been set. Paxton Park District officials set the dates and time for the pool at 1-5 Monday through Friday with an additional timeslot of 6-9 on Wednesday. Daily admission will be $3 with pool passes set at $55 for an individual, $95 for two and $25 per additional person. Weekends the pool will be closed unless it is sponsored. Sponsored days will be from noon to 4 with an admission price of $1.



(Washington-jm) -- A member of the U.S. soybean industry is optimistic for increased bean exports to China. Rod Bain has the details…



(Undated-jm) -- Doctors say cases of strep throat are up so far this year. They say the early cold weather is keeping people inside around each other causing germs to easily spread. If you do get strep throat, they recommend staying home and taking antibiotics.


(Springfield-jm) -- A pair of researchers are suggesting the best way to reduce property taxes in Illinois is for the state to take over a greater share of funding for public schools and consolidate some units of local government. Frank Manzo, policy director at the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, and Robert Bruno, director of the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, argue in a new report that such a plan would not only hold down future property tax hikes, but it would actually help create jobs and stimulate the state’s economy. Manzo and Bruno argue that the state’s current property tax system and its school funding system are structurally flawed. Specifically, they point to the fact that property taxes account for two-thirds of school funding in Illinois while the state pays only about 27 percent, or about half the national average. In their report, Manzo and Bruno note that Illinoisans pay the seventh-highest property tax rates in the country and that roughly two-thirds of all property taxes go to school districts. Average Illinois homeowners pay 7.4 percent of their income on property taxes, compared to just 4.95 percent in income taxes. Using economic modeling formulas, Manzo and Bruno estimate the net impact of increasing the state’s investment in education and holding down school district property taxes would be to grow the Illinois economy by about $1.2 billion and adding up to 14,000 new jobs.



(Danville-jm) -- Those who use VA services in Danville can expect some changes next year. VA Illiana has announced they will end 24 7 urgent care beginning in January and go to 8 to 3:30 every day. The VA cites staffing issues for the change.


(Springfield-jm) -- The state’s cannabis policy czar says they will be working to make sure patients don’t face a medical marijuana shortage come January first. Some patients are worried that with the legalization of recreational marijuana, there won’t be enough of the medical variety to go around. But the Governor’s Senior Advisor for Cannabis Control Toi (toy) Hutchinson says they are already monitoring the situation…



Governor’s Senior Advisor for Cannabis Control Toi Hutchinson. The law requires dispensaries selling both types to have a monthly supply of medicinal cannabis on hand comparable to what they had before pot was legalized. Hutchinson says violators face fines and possibly losing their license. 



(Rantoul-jm) -- A Rantoul man has been sentenced to probation for mugging a man in the village. William Marshall pleaded guilty to robbery after admitting he used a baseball bat on the victim and robbing him of his phone, keys and money in the 700 block of Willow Pond back in July. In exchange for his guilty plea, a more serious charge of armed robbery was dismissed.



(Ashkum-jm) -- District 21 Illinois State Police in Ashkum have released November enforcement numbers. During the month, troopers issued 596 citations and 785 written warnings including 7 for DUI, 66 seat belt violations and made 33 criminal arrests. Troopers also investigated 90 traffic accidents, one of which was fatal.


(Paxton-jm) -- The IHSA has dropped plans to change the high school football playoff format. Paxton-Buckley-Loda Athletic Director Brock Neibuhr talks about the vote reversal…


Paxton-Buckley-Loda Athletic Director Brock Neibuhr.



(Ford County-jm) -- The Ford County Board has approved the county’s snow removal policy. The county highway department will have one shift of employees to plow 172 lane miles using three trucks. They won’t begin clearing snow until at least two inches has fallen and would begin at 4 am and if conditions allow end by 6 pm. The highway department says they intend to make one pass on every route by 7 am Monday through Friday and 8 am on weekends and holidays. Plow operators would be on call to assist first responders if needed. They will not apply de-icers or traction materials due to budget, storage and equipment limitations.



(Iroquois County-jm) -- The Iroquois County Board has banned cannabis establishments in unincorporated areas. The 18-0 vote ban includes cultivation centers, craft growers and processing, dispensing and transportation organizations.



(Undated-jm) -- Police are offering some tips to prevent holiday package thefts. WPXN’s Jason Madden reports…



(Springfield-jm) -- Illinois has modernized and made available online spending, employee pay, and procurement contracting, but still needs improvement in keeping the public informed about subsidies given to companies for economic development.  In a report on all fifty states’ processes and laws when issuing tax breaks or other governmental sweeteners to select businesses, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and its affiliated nonprofit Frontier Group graded states based on their transparency. Illinois got a “C-,” which put it in the top third of all states.

Illinois' congressional representatives are preparing to vote with the rest of the U.S. House on two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump

(Springfield-jm) -- Illinois’ congressional representatives are preparing to vote with the rest of the U.S. House on two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Democrats claim Trump abused his power in asking Ukraine to investigate a political rival and obstructed Congress looking into it. U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood waited until Tuesday to announce that she would vote in favor of impeachment. U.S. Rep. John Shimkus won’t be in DC this week as he is on a personal trip to visit his son in the Peace Corp in Tanzania, a trip he said has planned for six months. Regardless, he said he wants it to be known the impeachment articles are quote “pretty bogus”. The overall vote is expected to be mostly along party lines with some Democrats across the country joining Republicans to oppose impeachment, something Shimkus said shows it’s a partisan effort. 



(Springfield-jm) -- A Capitol dome study conducted earlier this month revealed “some obvious flaws on the exterior of the dome,” a state employee said Tuesday. Inspectors also found cracks inside the structure and changes made over the years that have altered the Statehouse’s historical profile. The flagpole atop the Capitol needs to be replaced and the holiday lights will probably need to be hung in a different manner, Harl Ray, senior project manager for the secretary of state’s Department of Physical Services, said at a Capitol Architect board meeting. The firm’s final report, expected by mid-January, will include “a detailed and prioritized list of recommended corrections and repairs to guide future preservation efforts of the Illinois State Capitol Dome,” according to its website.



(Rantoul-jm) -- A Danville man has been arrested for allegedly breaking into a home in Rantoul. Police were called to the 1300 block of Juniper Drive for a report of a man breaking into a residence armed with a knife. Witnesses told police a man chased two kids into an apartment. The man confronted a resident of the home and a struggle ensued. The suspect was identified as 24-year-old Willie Barfield. When he was arrested an officer found him in possession of a controlled substance and he allegedly bit a correctional officer while being processed. He was arrested and charged with home invasion, possession of a controlled substance and resisting a police officer. 



(Paxton-jm) -- The sale of the Paxton Airport is expected to be finalized in early 2020. The city council learned of the plans at their December meeting. A North Carolina man is looking to purchase the airport for his crop dusting business. The city agreed to sell the airport in February of 2017 for 100,000 cash and a bank note for 50,000.



(Gibson City-jm) -- A Gibson City golf course could close at the end of the year unless a group of can save it. A potential investor is seeking people to pool $225,000. That’s how much it costs to operate the course annually. If the group can’t come up with at least $200,000 by the end of the year, the course will close.



(Ford County-jm) -- The Ford County Clerk’s Office has held a lottery to determine placement on the March 17th primary ballot for a pair of contested races. For two 2 year terms in District 2, incumbent Tim Nuss of rural Roberts will appear first followed by newcomer Lesley King of Piper City and incumbent Robert Lindgren of rural Loda. For circuit clerk, Kammy Johnson Anderson will appear first followed by Suzie Shell both of Paxton.



(Springfield-jm) -- Gov. J.B. Pritzker said that House Speaker Michael Madigan knows how he feels about the cloud of corruption at the Illinois statehouse, although the governor said he hasn’t spoken directly about the issue with the leader of the state’s Democratic party. The latest in a series of a stream of corruption news included a report that a Madigan ally had tried to thwart the governor’s selection of a chief of staff. The Chicago Sun-Times this week reported former ComEd lobbyist Michael McClain sent messages to the governor’s office to try to block the governor’s choice. 


(Springfield-jm) -- Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he fully supports allowing refugees to resettle in Illinois and he is expected to sign a letter to the Trump administration to that effect in the coming days. Such a letter of consent is now required from state and local officials under an executive order that President Donald Trump issued earlier this year. Under that order, state and local officials have until Dec. 25 to issue written statements of consent. Pritzker’s comments came after the humanitarian aid organization World Relief and 77 Illinois pastors who are part of the Evangelical Immigration Table sent letters to Pritzker and 14 other governors urging them to support refugee resettlement, even as the Trump administration sharply curtails the number of refugees allowed into the country.



(Springfield-jm) -- A group of shareholders filed suit against Illinois-based Exelon Corp. alleging corrupt lobbying practices under the dome in Springfield caused the company's stock prices to fall. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, said stockholders who bought between February  9 and November 1 watched Exelon shares plummet after news of the company received multiple subpoenas related to lobbying activities with the Illinois General Assembly. The suit claims the utility company’s stock dropped 2.83 percent during the time period due to news of its lobbying activities and reports of “kickbacks” to officials. 



(Springfield-jm) -- About 700 hemp growers and processors are getting some of their questions answered about the new industry at a hemp summit in Springfield. This was the first year industrial hemp could be grown in Illinois and it’s proven to be a popular alternative crop option for producers. Illinois Department of Agriculture Director John Sullivan says the summit covered everything from market prices and pesticides to hemp testing for T-H-C…



Illinois Department of Agriculture Director John Sullivan. Sullivan says summits will likely be held at least once a year.



(Champaign County-jm) -- The Champaign County Housing Authority has been awarded a one point five million dollar grant. U-S Representative Rodney Davis announced the grant from the U-S Department of Labor. The grant money will be used to establish a new YouthBuild program to prepare 16 to 24 year olds for the workforce.



(Ludlow-jm) -- The Ludlow village board will be changing their meet times come 2020. The village board had held their monthly meetings on the first Monday. Now come January, the meeting will be held the second Tuesday at 7 pm. The change is to accommodate the village attorney and bookkeeper.



(Fisher-jm) -- The village of Fisher has approved an extension of their franchise agreement with Ameren Illinois for an additional 20 years. After that the agreement will be on a year to year basis. As part of the agreement, the village will receive an annual payment of $7,800.



(Ford County-jm) -- Ford County has set their tax levy for the upcoming fiscal year. The county hopes to collect about $3 point 615 million in property taxes.



(Springfield-jm) -- A new report from the Better Business Bureau warns virtually anyone in Illinois could be victimized by rental scammers. A new study by the organization shows the fraud is widespread and affecting every part of the country. A national survey found that 43 percent of people have encountered a fake listing online and about 5.2 million people have been ripped off by rental scams recently. The scam often involves copying the photo and description of a property already listed somewhere online and then changing the contact information. According to the report, more than five million consumers have lost money to such scams. 


Another state police squad car was struck as a result of a Scott's Law violation

(Washington-jm) -- Illinois’ Congressional delegation wants to raise hundreds of millions of dollars per year by taxing vaping products and then use that money to stop children from vaping. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi announced the “Providing Resources to End the Vaping Epidemic Now for Teenagers,” or PREVENT Act in Chicago. They said local public health officials face a daunting task given the prevalence of e-cigarettes. If enacted, the bill would tax importers and manufacturers of vaping materials based on how much they produce. Krishnamoorthi estimated the tax would bring in $200 million. 



(Springfield-jm) -- Illinois State Police reported the 27th crash this year that involved a state police squad car that was struck as a result of a Scott’s Law violation as the agency continues to work to educate motorists about the law during what has proven to be a deadly year for troopers. The weekend traffic crash involving an Illinois State Police squad car was the 27th. So far this year, Illinois State Police squad cars have been involved in a total of 71 crashes. Twenty-seven of those involved a violation of Scott’s Law. Three state troopers were killed in crashes this year. By comparison, in all of 2018, there were eight trooper-involved crashes that resulted in a Scott’s Law ticket. In 2017, there were 12 and 2016 there were five.



(Springfield-jm) -- Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs is urging Congress and the President to help reunite people with old savings bonds. The U-S Treasury has a record of all bond recipients and when they stopped earning interest says Treasurer Frerichs…


State Treasurer Michael Frerichs. Under current law, the treasury is not mandated to track down bond owners. Illinois Congressman Danny Davis is sponsoring legislation requiring the federal government to release the bonds to individual states, so they can eventually be returned. 



(Rantoul-jm) -- Rantoul Police are investigating a robbery in the village. Police say a man was walking near Congress and Marshal around 4:15 Thursday morning when he heard someone yell from behind. The victim turned and saw a black man in his 20s. The man grabbed him and demanded his wallet and cell phone. No injuries were reported. Anyone with information is asked to call Rantoul police.



(Rantoul-jm) -- A Rantoul business sustained nearly $10,000 in damage after a snowplow struck it Monday morning. Firefighters from the Rantoul Fire Department were called to Perfect Nails just before 5 am. They say a snowplow clearing snow accidentally struck the building causing two windows to break and damaged the brick ledge that holds the windows up. No injuries were reported. The building was deemed structurally safe.



(Washington-jm) -- The U.S. agricultural trade value totals for October are almost identical to October a year ago. Gary Crawford has the details…




(Undated-jm) -- Data from the Illinois Department of Transportation shows the number of fatal crashes in the state in the past year is down. So far in 2019 there have been 940 fatalities. Last year there was 987. Locally, in Ford County there were 4 fatal accidents this year, down from 6 in 2018. In Iroquois County there were 8 fatal accidents down from 12 last year. In Champaign County there were 9 fatal accidents last year there were 20. In Vermilion County there were 10 in 2019 with 11 last year. 



(Undated-jm) -- Medicare costs are going up in January for some seniors. Medicare Part B premiums will be going up $9.10 to $114.60 a month. Medicare Part B deductibles will also be going up. They are expected to rise $13 to $198 per year. Medicare Part A inpatient hospital deductibles will also be on the rise up $44 to $1,408 per benefit period. The increases are expected to negate most of the one point six percent cost of living adjustment increase that’s expected.



(Chicago-jm) -- Tis the season for shopping and in 2019 that means shopping online. This year, Cyber Monday was the biggest digital shopping day ever with sales of $9.4 billion, and thieves want those packages. Filing a police report will not always get you your merchandise back and not every company will refund or replace them. If the driver delivered the package, the company is not responsible for the loss. But protecting yourself when it comes to online shopping should start way before the package is delivered. If you get an email from a friend saying, ‘Check out this site for great deals,’ and you click on it, you may be going to bad sites.


(Springfield-jm) -- Attempts to change ethics rules in Springfield have been slow to develop at the Illinois statehouse, but not for a lack of trying, according to an analyst who said lawmakers have been filed dozens of ethics bills, but few have advanced. Lawmakers in the House and Senate filed more than 6,300 bills since January. The Center for Illinois Politics reviewed all the bills filed this year and found 89 addressed ethics reforms of some kind. Of the 89 ethics bills, 24 had to do with term limits, redistricting reform, elections or campaigns; 16 bills involved proposed lobbyist registration changes; 12 bills involved ethics and ethics investigations; 11 involved so-called revolving-door prohibitions that would prevent lawmakers from immediately becoming lobbyists after leaving elected office. Twenty-nine other bills addressed gambling, public contracting, House and Senate rules, economic interests and sexual harassment, according to The Center for Illinois Politics.



(Springfield-jm) -- Efforts are underway to help reduce the rates of suicide among first responders in Illinois. A new First Responders Suicide Task Force, created this year by the passage of House Bill 2766, will try to address the emotional health needs of emergency response personnel in Illinois. The task force has 18 members, including four members each from the House and Senate, along with others appointed by various bodies around the state.



(Springfield-jm) -- Governor J-B Pritzker is announcing efforts to improve early childhood care and education in Illinois. Governor Pritzker says he wants to make Illinois the best state in the nation for families raising young children. That includes making sure kids enter kindergarten with the skills to pay attention, read and solve problems…



Illinois Governor J-B Pritzker. The Governor says the state will be investing more in child care reimbursement rates for low income families, and in training for child care workers. He also created a special commission that aims to get more Illinois kids into quality pre-school programs. 



(Loda-jm) -- The Loda village board has approved the rezoning of the former Loda Grade School. The school had been zoned for residential, but following a request from the Aardsma family, it was rezoned to manufacturing. The Aardsma family will use the facility for the distribution department for Mulberry Lane Farm.



(Pesotum-jm) -- Illinois State Police in Pesotum have released results of recent Alcohol Countermeasure Enforcement Patrols. District 10 troopers issued one DUI citation, 4 occupant restraint citations, two for drivers license offenses and 23 citations for other offenses. State Police say drugs or alcohol is involved in more than 30 percent of all fatal crashes in Illinois. They say one person is killed every 53 minutes in the U-S by someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol.



(Undated-jm) -- Winter is coming and that mean’s cold temperatures. Experts have tips to staying safe and warm. WPXN’s Jason Madden has the details…




(Rantoul-jm) -- The village of Rantoul will hold a special meeting next week. The focus of the meeting is to finalize the purchase of land for the new sports complex. The sports complex would be built on 60 acres south of Walmart. The special meeting will take place at 5:30 pm on Monday, December 23rd.



(Undated-jm) -- Illinois farmers are on pace to experience one of the worst years for harvesting because of cold, wet weather. A wet spring and a cold autumn have combined to produce less than ideal conditions for growing crops, causing a delay in the harvest of corn and soybeans. Mike Doherty, senior economist and policy analyst with the Government Affairs and Commodities Division of the Illinois Farm Bureau, said that the delay yielded fewer amounts of corn and soybeans than normal. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, 100 percent of the state’s corn had been harvested around this time last year while the soybean harvest is lagging 5 percent behind average.



(Springfield-jm) -- Illinois is still dealing with a recession hangover due to a mix of mortgage-friendly laws, high property taxes, and population declines, per a new analysis. Q4 of 2019 marks 10 years since the low-point of the national housing crisis. Nearly one in four mortgaged homes had negative equity, meaning the market value of the property is worth less than the value owed in mortgage. In the 12 months ending in September, they estimate homes across the country saw their homes value increase by 5.1 percent. Homeowners in Idaho saw the nation’s largest increase of 10.9 percent, gaining $25,800 in equity on average. Illinois, however, saw a fraction of those gains, nearly equal to inflation. Home equity was up nearly only an average of $1,300 for your typical homeowner in Illinois.


Iroquois County Murder suspect killed after high speed pursuit with Colorado State Troopers

(Iroquois County-jm) -- Matthew Borden, 43 of Melvin, the suspect in wanted on an outstanding warrant in Iroquois County charging him with First Degree Murder in the Deaths of Pamela Willimas of Martinton and 50 year old Brian Musk of Milford was killed after leading Colorado State Troopers on a high speed pursuit before crashing his stolen vehicle and firing at officers. Both Iroquois County murders are under investigation by the Iroquois County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Marshal's Service. WPXN news will continue to update this story as information becomes available.



(Springfield-jm) -- A new state program provides free home smoke alarms to families served by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. According to the National Fire Protection Association, three out of five home fire deaths result from fires where there was no working smoke detector. That’s why it’s so important to make sure families are protected says DCFS Spokesperson Deborah Lopez…



DCFS Spokesperson Deborah Lopez. Illinois law requires all homes to have a smoke alarm within 15 feet of every bedroom and at least one on each floor.



(Gilman-jm) -- The Iroquois West School Board is expected to approve their tax levy at tonight’s school board meeting. In addition, school board members are expected to discuss and possibly approve the districts strategic plan as well as discuss and possibly approve an improvement plan for the middle school. The Iroquois West School Board meeting gets underway at  7 pm at the Iroquois West High School board room in Gilman.



(Cissna Park-jm) -- The Cissna Park School Board is expected to approve the 2019-2020 school improvement plan at tonight’s school board meeting. In addition, school board members are also expected to approve the adoption of a seniority list for certified and educational support staff and approve the districts tax levy. The Cissna Park School Board meeting gets underway at 7 pm.



(Washington-jm) -- Government officials from both our nation and China confirmed Friday that agreement has been reached on the first phase of a new trade deal, which in part would boost U.S. ag exports. Rod Bain reports…




(Undated-jm) -- If you plan on traveling for the Christmas holiday plan for more people on the roads and in the air. Triple A reports an estimated 115 point 6 million people will be traveling between December 21st and January 1st. That’s four percent more than last year. Triple A says low unemployment and more disposable income are causing the boost in numbers.



(Paxton-jm) -- Are you looking for the right Christmas gift to give to that special someone? One area business may be able to help. Hudson Drug and Hallmark in downtown Paxton has a wide variety of gift options says Owner Andy Hudson…



Hudson Drug and Hallmark Owner Andy Hudson.



(Washington-jm) -- The U-S House has passed a bill to lower prescription drug costs. The bill empowers Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, offer new benefits for seniors and cap out of pocket costs at $2,000 a year. About $360 billion of the projected 10 year sayings will be used to establish coverage for dental, hearing and vision.


(Paxton--jc)  --Congratulations to the Paxton Buckley Loda F F A Agronomy team for placing 6th in the State! The team consists of Christina White, Jasmine Miles- 6th place individual, Aden Grohler and Jeremiah Ager. Also Congratulations to the P-B-L F F A Meats team for placing 9th in the State! The team consisted of Tera Brown, Collin Wieneke, Jordan Delaney, and Matteo Vasquez. 

(Urbana-jm) -- An arrest warrant has been issued for a Rantoul man after he fled from the Champaign County courthouse before the verdict against him was read. 40 year old James Hunt was on trial for drug charges. During jury deliberations, Hunt and his attorney were waiting when they were told to return to the courtroom. Hunt asked to use the restroom before returning to the room but never returned. He was convicted of a lesser charge of possession of cocaine, possession of cannabis and obstructing justice. He was acquitted of unlawful use of a weapon.



(Springfield-jm) -- As jackpots soar, it’s tempting to join an office or friend’s pool. The Illinois Lottery has some tips to keep your pool running smoothly. Some create a one-time pool for big prizes, like the current Mega Millions Jackpot, while others have been part of a group for years. Whichever the case, Lottery Spokesperson Jason Schaumburg offers this advice…


Lottery Spokesperson Jason Schaumburg. More tips and lottery pool group sign up sheets are available online at: illinois lottery dot com.



(Gibson City-jm) -- The Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley School Board is expected to approve their tax levy at tonight’s school board meeting. In addition they are also expected to approve their behavioral threat assessment procedures. The Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley School Board meeting gets underway at 6:15.


(Kempton-jm) -- The Tri-Point School Board will discuss some school policies and tonight’s school board meeting. In addition, school board members are expected to review the districts report card from the state, approve the districts tax levy and consider remodeling the bus barn in Piper City. The Tri-Point School Board meeting gets underway at 7pm.



(Springfield-jm) -- A horticulturist at the University of Illinois Extension Office offers some advice for choosing and storing your firewood this winter. While pretty much anything goes outside, the same doesn’t hold true when burning inside. The Extension’s Richard Hentschel recommends using dry, seasoned firewood, which means it has been cut and split. Stay away from wood with sap like pine and if you store the wood outside…



University of Illinois Extension Horticulturist Richard Hentschel. Hentschel says you shouldn’t bring the wood indoors unless you’re going to burn it within a week. That way any bugs burrowed in don’t have time to get out of dormancy and cause a nuisance in your home.



(Watseka-jm) --First degree murder charges have been added in Watseka stabbing case. Iroquois County Prosecutors have charged 23-year-old Andre Maiden with two counts of first degree murder, involunatry manslaughter and aggravated battery. Maiden is accused of stabbing 22 year old Isaiah Nelson on November 21st outside Baier Funeral Home in Watseka. Maiden will be back in court December 19th.


(Paxton-jm) -- Are you having a hard time finding that perfect gift for your mailman, your kids favorite teacher or maybe your best friend? The Paxton Area Chamber of Commerce can help. Alan Meyer, President of the Paxton Area Chamber of Commerce recommends chamber bucks…



Paxton Area Chamber of Commerce President Alan Meyer.



(Undated-jm) -- High health care costs are crimping American holiday spending. 53 percent say health care bills have eaten into money that otherwise would have been spent on the holiday according to a survey by Aflac. Nearly one in four surveyed said they would be spending less while one in five said they are not making any purchases this year.


Illinois State Police reminds motorists that is illegal to leave your car running and unattended

(Springfield-jm) -- Every Illinois household would have to pay $11,000 to cover the cost of taxpayer-subsidized healthcare benefits for retired state workers, a figure that is expected to grow, according to a new report from public finance watchdog Wirepoints. Illinois has more than $137 billion of unfunded pension liabilities for retired state employees. That is up more than $3.5 billion from the year before, according to the Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. That doesn’t include healthcare costs. Some employees who work 20 years for state government get healthcare coverage with no copays. Wirepoints President Ted Dabrowski said numbers from state actuaries show the state provides 567,000 public sector workers and retirees subsidized health insurance benefits. Those getting fully subsidized benefits could cost $200,000 to $500,000 per retiree. To cover the expected $68 billion in healthcare liabilities would cost each household thousands of dollars.



(Springfield-jm) -- As cold weather grips most of the state, it is not uncommon to see a car left unattended and running, but many motorists don’t realize this is against Illinois state law. The Illinois State Police is reminding drivers who leave their cars running and unattended could face fines or a bigger problem: Car theft. Drivers could face up to a $250 fine. The law does not apply to cars with a remote starter system. In those instances, the doors are automatically locked, which prevents someone from being able to get in.



(Springfield-jm) -- Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office is suing Juul Labs, the largest manufacturer of e-cigarettes. The lawsuit alleges that Juul is violating the state Consumer Fraud Act by misrepresenting the ability of its product to help people quit smoking and by promoting vaping to teens says Attorney General Raoul…



Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul. Raoul says this is just the beginning, as his investigation into other e-cigarette manufacturers and retailers continues. 



(Hoopeston-jm) -- A Hoopeston man has been arrested on multiple charges. Police say a woman reported her minor pregnant granddaughter had been battered. Police arrested 22-year-old James Brayboy on charges of aggravated battery, domestic battery, battery of an unborn child and criminal trespassing. He was taken to the Vermilion County Jail.



(Washington-jm) -- Surprises are few and far between in USDA's new round of crop reports. In fact, surprises are pretty much missing this month.  Gary Crawford reports…




(Gibson City-jm) -- Parts of Gibson City are under a boil order. City officials say a water main broke near 15th and Church Streets. Residents affected will have a door hanger on their door.



(Rantoul-jm) -- The village of Rantoul is the latest community to pledge funds to bring the state’s basketball tournament back to the area. The village is contributing $5,000 to bring the tournament back to Champaign-Urbana. Savoy recently voted to contribute $10,000 and Champaign voted to contribute $50,000. The IHSA will select the location for the 2021, 2022 and 2023 tournament location in March.


The Paxton Park District will hold their breakfast with Santa on Saturday, from 8-10:30 am.

Children are invited to storytime with Santa at the Watseka Elks Lodge on Saturday starting at 9 am.


(Springfield-jm) -- Illinois lawmakers were only five voters away from reaching a deal to build a Chicago casino, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said this week in a discussion about her lobbying trip to Springfield last month. An amended Senate Bill 669 was the target that Lightfoot and other Chicago lawmakers couldn’t get across the finish line. The bill would have removed costs that were to be put on a potential developer of a Chicago casino, increase the city's share of casino revenue, and lower the amount of potential revenue the state would get from a Chicago casino. Some lawmakers bristled at the changes. They said the bill would have lowered builder costs only at the expense of the state’s cut of gambling revenue, potentially putting projects in the Rebuild Illinois infrastructure plan at risk.  But her lobbying efforts hit a roadblock when news broke that a state lawmaker had been arrested for allegedly offering a state senator who had been wearing a federal wiretap a series of bribes in exchange for supporting another piece of gambling legislation.



CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois officials say they're inching closer to selling a Chicago building that houses state government offices. Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday that Illinois has selected a project manager to oversee the sale of the James R. Thompson Center following a competitive process. He says Ernst & Young Infrastructure Advisors, LLC will also help with relocation options for current employees. Pritzker says the building has outlived its purpose and costs $17 million annually to operate. The Thompson Center was designed by architect Helmut Jahn and opened in 1985. Parts have fallen into disrepair and there heating and cooling issues. 



(Springfield-jm) -- Governor J-B Pritzker is urging business leaders to get involved in the state’s census 2020 effort. The Governor spoke to a group of employers in Chicago, stressing the importance of getting an accurate count. He says the more people counted in Illinois, the more federal money Illinois will receive…



Illinois Governor J-B Pritzker. Governor Pritzker is asking members of the business community to talk about the census with their employees, and offer to let staff complete the form on census day from their work computers. 



(Ashkum-jm) -- District 21 Illinois State Police in Ashkum have released results of recent occupant restraint enforcement patrols. The detail was held December 2nd in Kankakee County. 18 seat belt citations and one child restraint citation were issued.



(Undated-jm) -- More than 17,000 high school students in Illinois are being recognized by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission for outstanding academic achievement. WPXN’s Jason Madden has the Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School scholars…




(Fisher-jm) -- Fisher high school has a new athletic director. The school board recently approved Cody Diskin to take over as high school athletic director and k through 12 dean of students. Currently Diskin serves as high school physical education and drivers education teacher and head boys basketball coach. Diskin takes over for Jake Palmer who is taking over as grade school principal.



(Gifford-jm) -- The Gifford Grade School District has received their report card from the state. The report card shows a 45 percent proficiency rating in English language arts, 36 percent in math and 72 percent in science. The report card also shows that of the 185 students in the district, 92 percent were white with one percent black and seven percent two or more races. It also shows 31 percent of them fall in the low income category.


St. Christopher Episcopal Church in Rantoul will hold their Bake and Cookie sale on Saturday from 9-2.


The Iroquois County Animal Rescue will hold their annual Christmas Garage Sale on Saturday from 10-3 at the Watseka Park District.


Hunters in Illinois harvested more than 75 thousand deer during the firearm deer season.

(Springfield-jm) -- Illinois lawmakers took funds meant to help the Illinois State Police facilitate gun registrations, concealed-carry licensing and other services and used the money for other purposes without paying it back, according to a gun-rights group. An investigation conducted in conjunction with the Illinois State Rifle Association and state Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego, with the aid of state researchers found the General Assembly has siphoned almost $30 million over the past five state budgets.  A memo from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability sent to Wheeler showed more than $13 million swept from the State Police Firearm Services Fund in fiscal years 2015 through 2019. With another fund having been raided of $15 million, lawmakers took $28.5 million in fees paid for by the state’s more than 2 million Firearm Owners' Identification cardholders.



(Springfield-jm) -- The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is overworked and understaffed to the point that it is putting residents’ health in danger, according to a report from the University of Chicago. The report said the agency's workforce has been cut by about 50 percent from 2003 to 2018. At the same time, the agency has been given more responsibility for regulating businesses and less in federal support in recent years. Mark Templeton, clinical professor of law at the University of Chicago, said the department isn’t capable of doing all it should to protect residents. The solution, the report said, is more funding from the state in the form of increased business fees and statewide charges on plastic bags and bottles and a statewide stormwater fee.



(Springfield-jm) -- Hunters in Illinois harvested more than 75 thousand deer during the firearm deer season. Preliminary figures put the grand total at 75 thousand 349 deer. Counties with the largest deer harvest include Jackson, Randolph, Pike, Fulton and Williamson. 



(Washington--jc)  -- The Independent Community Bankers of America Wednesday told the House Agriculture Committee that farm banks have stable ag loan portfolios but remain concerned about rural economic conditions. I-C-B-A community banker Steve Handke encouraged lawmakers to maintain a strong farm bill with robust crop insurance tools. Handke said total farm debt is now over $415 billion, so a modest increase in USDA guaranteed farm loan limits is warranted, and he stressed the need to level the playing field between community banks and the tax-advantaged Farm Credit System.



(Washington-jm) -- The U.S.-China trade deal is fast approaching a December 15th deadline. Stephanie Ho has the details…




(Gibson City-jm) -- Country Financial along with the Illinois Farm Bureau is hosting an Agribusiness Seminar this morning in Gibson City. Doug Yoder from Country Financial will discuss the farm bill as well as provide an update on crop insurance. Brad Clow from Country Financial will provide an update on crop claims. The meeting gets underway  at 8 am at Railside Golf Course.



(Springfield-jm) -- One area state lawmaker is hoping to put a curb on tax increases in Illinois. 53rd District State Senator Jason Barickman of Bloomington hopes to see some tax reforms when lawmakers return to the capitol in January…



State Senator Jason Barickman of Bloomington.



(Springfield-jm) -- Tuition at Illinois four year universities has jumped over 61 percent in the last 15 years according to a new report. Tuition for the 2004-2005 school year was $8,797. For the 2019-2020 school year, tuition was up to $14,166. That makes the increase the 20th largest in the nation. Tuition did drop one percent between the 2018-2019 school year and the 2019-2020 year.

(Springfield-jm) -- U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said a report about FBI officials filing inaccurate information to get a surveillance warrant for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 highlighted the need for reforms. Before Wednesday's hearing on the report, Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin had downplayed its significance. On Wednesday during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Durbin said what happened was the latest in a series of cases where the surveillance courts were misled by the FBI dating back to 2002. U.S. Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, said Durbin’s statement was interesting because some Democrats sought to minimize the report. Illinois U.S. Rep Darin LaHood of Peoria, said the reported wrongdoing was not fake news. He agreed with Durbin that changes were needed.



(Springfield-jm) -- Illinois county courthouse compliance with a law requiring them to provide nursing mothers access to a private room has so far been “decidedly mixed,” an analysis found. The state’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union called 77 facilities to assess their implementation of a 2018 statute which mandates circuit courthouses to offer a lactation room. It was to be fully enforced by June of this year. At a minimum, those spaces should have a chair, table and electrical outlet, according to the law. A sink with running water should be provided “where possible.” Almost 20 facilities across the state lack a designated space, the report found. In 11 courthouses, parents are told to pump breast milk in a restroom, the sanitary condition of which could contaminate the milk. And another 14 buildings had an area that did not meet the statute’s requirements.



(Springfield-jm) -- The Cook County State’s Attorney is taking steps to vacate the first thousand low-level marijuana convictions in Illinois. A big part of the recreational cannabis bill is expunging the records of those busted for small amounts of pot. Governor J-B Pritzker says these minor offenses have held people back for too long…


Illinois Governor J-B Pritzker. Hundreds of thousands of people in Illinois are eligible. Many will have their records pardoned or expunged automatically while others will have to file a motion. 



(Sibley-jm) -- Sibley village leaders have approved their tentative tax levy. The new levy is up about five percent. They expect it to bring in an additional $26,392 to the village.



(Undated-jm) -- More than 17,000 high school students in Illinois are being recognized by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission for outstanding academic achievement. WPXN’s Jason Madden has the Cissna Park, Iroquois West and Milford High School scholars…




(Thomasboro-jm) -- Dollar General could be coming to the Champaign County village of Thomasboro. Overland Group, an investment group interested in bringing the store to the community, is looking to purchase the property at the northeast corner of US 45 and Flatville slab. The village is looking at estimates to expand water and sewer service to the location.



(Washington-jm) -- Those in the business of growing, harvesting, and selling Christmas trees are not just busy during the holiday season. Rod Bain reports…




(Washington-jm) -- Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger says he is continuing his fight for more affordable medications. Some of the proposals Kinzinger is pushing includes legislation that would increase access to generic medication options, reverse unreasonable policies preventing patients from saving money at their pharmacy and closing loopholes that increase rebates for pharmaceutical companies.

AG Secretary Sonny Perdue is welcoming a breakthrough on the USMCA deal with two of this country's most important agricultural markets.

(Washington-jm) -- Illinois’ Congressional delegation appears to be split along party lines after the U.S. House announced articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Majority Democrats in the U.S. House announced two articles of impeachment they plan to vote on before the Christmas break. While some Illinois representatives have already taken a position on the issues, Naperville Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster’s office said the Congressman will review the articles, but didn’t have an immediate response. U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood of Peoria, said this close to the 2020 election, Congress should take a step back. 



(Springfield-jm) -- Gov. J.B. Pritkzer on Tuesday laid out some of his legislative priorities for next year, including tighter ethics rules for elected officials. After signing a bill on workforce diversity, Pritzker was asked his priorities for the 2020 legislative session that starts in late January. The governor said work was needed on pensions, expanding early childhood education, criminal justice reform, and reducing the price of healthcare, child care and education. The Illinois legislature has been marred by indictments of lawmakers, office raids by federal authorities, at least one wire-wearing state senator and other allegations of unethical behavior involving legislators and lobbyists. The governor said ethics reforms would be a legislative priority for next year.



(Springfield-jm) -- Governor J-B Pritzker is signing a new law to help diversify the workforce tackling new capital projects in Illinois. The law includes a 25 million dollar investment in recruiting and training new apprentices to work on the construction projects. The goal is to reach populations underrepresented in the trades industry. Governor Pritzker says as Illinois rebuilds and repairs, people will be put to work…



Illinois Governor J-B Pritzker. The law also sets up a review panel to help ensure contractors are hiring a diverse workforce.



CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — University of Illinois athletic officials say football fans have been thirstier than expected. Memorial Stadium beer sales totaled roughly $488,000 at home games. When school officials announced plans earlier this year to sell beer, they predicted sales in the low six figures. Sales were strongest during three Big Ten football games: Nebraska, Michigan and Wisconsin. The lowest came during a sparsely attended loss to Northwestern two days after Thanksgiving. Campus police say fan arrest and ejection statistics have been consistent with previous years. Officials say revenue will be split between the university's Division of Intercollegiate Athletics and Spectra, which provides concessions for athletic events.



(Washington-jm) -- AG Secretary Sonny Perdue is welcoming a breakthrough on the USMCA deal with two of this country's most important agricultural markets. Stephanie Ho reports…



The Illinois Manufacturer’s Association along with the American Soybean Association applauded the announcement. According to the American Soybean Association, Mexico is the number 2 market for whole beans, meal and oil. Canada is the number 4 buyer of meal and number 7 buyer of oil.

(Paxton-jm) -- The Paxton-Buckley-Loda School Board is expected to approve their tax levy at tonight’s school board meeting. In addition, school board members will hear the latest on the demolition of Eastlawn Elementary and could consider an intergovernmental agreement with the Ford County Sheriff’s office. A tax levy hearing for the Paxton-Buckley-Loda School Board will take place at 6pm with the monthly meeting to follow.



(Rantoul-jm) -- Some Rantoul residents will soon receive a survey in the mail asking them about their gas service in the village. The villages gas division is evaluating the public awareness program aiming to share natural gas safety information with residents on the base. The surveys can be completed online or by mail.



(Paxton-jm) -- Those looking to celebrate the Christmas holiday season can do so at the State Street Mall. The Paxton Area Chamber of Commerce is holding their first Jingle and Mingle says Chamber President Alan Meyer…



Paxton Area Chamber of Commerce President Alan Meyer.



(Springfield-jm) -- Lawmakers diverted nearly $30 million over the past five years from Illinois State Police funds to cover other government spending, something a statewide gun-rights group said was unacceptable. About 2.3 million Illinoisans hold a Firearm Owners' Identification Card that allows them to buy and own firearms. The card costs $10 for 10 years with $6 going to the Wildlife and Fish Fund, $3 to the State Police Firearm Services Fund and $1 for the State Police Services Fund. Concealed carry licenses cost $150 for five years. Of that, $120 goes to the State Police Firearm Services Fund, $20 goes to the Mental Health Reporting Fund and $10 goes to the State Crime Laboratory. The State Police Firearm Services Fund is meant to administer the state’s Firearm Owner Identification Card law, conduct background checks for firearms-related services and concealed-carry licensing. A memo from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability sent to state Rep. Kieth Wheeler, R-Oswego, in September showed that in fiscal years 2015 through 2019 more than $13 million was swept from the State Police Firearm Services Fund for other purposes.


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — State officials have approved two more cultivation centers to grow marijuana ahead of the start of legal recreational sales next year. The Illinois Department of Agriculture announced sites in Shelbyville and Albion on Tuesday, bringing the total number of cultivation centers to 16. Initially, only cultivation centers that have been licensed to grow medical marijuana can apply for recreational use. The other centers are in cities including Aurora, Dwight and Joliet. Sales start Jan. 1. Michigan also recently began legal sales of recreational marijuana after voters approved it last year.



SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois State Board of Education has submitted its proposed rules for how schools can restrain students who exhibit dangerous behavior. The rules filed Tuesday seek to protect children and faculty from outbursts but ban the use of prone restraints except as a last resort and the practice of locking such students in timeout rooms all by themselves. The rules were drafted in response to a report last month by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica that found that public schools were misusing timeout rooms. They will be open to public comment until Feb. 4.



(Springfield-jm) -- The Illinois Fire Marshal’s Office is offering some tips to stay safe during this holiday season. Christmas lights, candles and dried out trees all pose a fire hazard says Fire Marshal Spokesperson J-C Fultz. That’s why it’s important to keep your tree well watered and to make sure your lights are used only as intended. Additionally…



State Fire Marshal Spokesperson J-C Fultz. According to the National Fire Protection Association, two out of every five home decoration fires occur because the decorations are too close to a heat source. More than a third are started by candles.



URBANA, Ill. (AP) — A former assistant pastor of an Illinois church has been accused of sexually assaulting a teenager in the congregation. The News-Gazette reports 48-year-old Roger VanRaden was arraigned Monday on sexual assault and abuse charges in a Champaign County courtroom. He was released from jail after posting bond and ordered back to court Jan. 21. The Associated Press left a message for a public defender assigned to his case. Prosecutors say the charges stem from contact he had with the girl from about 2015 to August of this year. Investigators say most of the incidents happened at Faith Baptist Church in Champaign.



(Fisher-jm) -- The Fisher school district is seeking a 15 percent balloon levy increase this year. The district is looking to capture all available tax money. The district however, is limited to just one point nine percent due to a tax cap in Champaign County. It’s estimated to bring in about $4 million.



(Undated-jm) -- More than 17,000 high school students in Illinois are being recognized by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission for outstanding academic achievement. WPXN’s Jason Madden has the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley  High School scholars…




(Rantoul-jm) -- The Rantoul Area Chamber of Commerce will hold their Business after Hours this week. The event will take place at the Knights of Columbus on Thursday from 5:30-7:30 pm. The event will feature an ugly sweater contest and 50/50 raffle among other things.



(Springfield-jm) -- 2020 is an election year. 53rd District State Senator Jason Barickman of Bloomington says that will impact issues being voted on at the state capitol when they return for the spring session in January…



53rd District State Senator Jason Barickman of Bloomington.



(Urbana-jm) -- University of Illinois schools will no longer ask applicants about their criminal past until after they’re accepted into the university.  The U of I announced that it will no longer include a question on its application asking about criminal convictions. School officials could initiate a process to deliberate whether or not to rescind the invitation to attend after acceptance. Advocates like William Vavrin, a U of I alumni and founder of Yes Apply Illinois, said removing the question on the front end was a good first step, but asking about criminal history in the second part of acceptance shouldn’t be done.  Most applicants who have to admit to a criminal past don’t complete the application after seeing they must “check the box,” Vavrin said.


Nearly 20 percent of the cigarettes smoked in Illinois were purchased outside of the state.

(Springfield-jm) -- Nearly 20 percent of the cigarettes smoked in Illinois were purchased outside of the state. That’s the estimate from the nonprofit Tax Foundation. In conjunction with the Mackinac Center, the group tabulated the smoking rate in each state, estimated how much residents smoked on average and compared the estimated tax revenue against what states actually collect. In Illinois, the report estimated that 17.2 percent of all cigarettes consumed were brought into the state from elsewhere. The Illinois Department of Revenue reported more than $63 million in taxes collected in November from cigarette stamps, or the record of sale origin located on the packs. The penalty for smuggling cigarettes in Illinois is $15 per pack up to 100 packs and $25 per pack for someone caught with more than 100 packs, or ten cartons. 



(Springfield-jm) -- The state's sports wagering program won't be ready for the Super Bowl, but it might be ready for March Madness. Some people may already be placing sports bets online after last Spring’s Supreme Court ruling allowing states to offer sports wagering, but Illinois’ legal program is not yet up and running. Those hoping to place bets from the couch may have to wait even longer. As part of the state’s $45 billion of capital spending for projects around Illinois, lawmakers approved sports betting. That money will go toward vertical construction projects such as schools. State Rep. Michael Zalewski of Riverside, said Monday that he had hoped to roll out sports betting before the Super Bowl. But that would only be for sports betting at brick-and-mortar gambling operations.



(Springfield-jm) -- State officials are working to provide more help to Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. 230 thousand people in Illinois are living with Alzheimer’s and nearly 600 thousand are acting as caregivers. Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton took care of her late mother who suffered from dementia and has spent the last several months talking to others in similar situations about their needs…


Illinois Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton. Governor J-B Pritzker says the state is working to streamline services and is putting more funding towards helping patients and caregivers.



(Roberts-jm) -- The village of Roberts continues to meet with officials from the state EPA regarding their handling of the villages water tower painting project. Mayor Rick Flessner has the latest…



Roberts Mayor Rick Flessner.



(Buckley-jm) -- Buckley is seeking a tax levy increase. Village trustees recently approved the tentative increase. Once approved they expect to see an increase from $53,131 to $55,788.



(Paxton-jm) -- Paxton city council members will have a light meeting tonight. On the agenda is reviewing the tax levy, discuss and approve safety signage at Holmes and Elm, Holmes and Maple and Holmes and American and consider Mayor Bill Ingold’s appointment to the library board. The Paxton city council meeting gets underway at 7 pm.



(Washington-jm) -- Food shoppers will probably not experience very much sticker shock at the grocery store next year. Gary Crawford reports…




WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumers ramped up their credit card spending in October. The Federal Reserve said that total consumer borrowing rose in October by a seasonally adjusted $18.9 billion, up from a September increase of $9.6 billion. It was the biggest increase in borrowing in three months and was driven by a jump in use of credit cards. Borrowing in the Fed’s category that includes credit cards rose by $7.9 billion, which followed a small $187 million increase in September and an actual decline in August. The category that covers auto loans and student loans increased by $11 billion, up from a gain of $9.4 billion in September.



WASHINGTON (AP) -- China is waiving punitive tariffs on U.S. soybeans and pork while the two sides negotiate a trade deal, the Ministry of Finance said. Beijing promised in September to lift the tariffs, adding to conciliatory steps that raised hopes for a settlement. The government announced then that Chinese importers were placing orders but no details of when the tariff exemption would take effect were released. The two sides have raised tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s goods, disrupting global trade and threatening to depress economic growth. Another U.S. tariff hike on an additional $160 billion of Chinese imports is due to take effect Dec. 15.


(Springfield-jm) -- Nearly every other Illinois lawmaker in the General Assembly could run unopposed in the 2020 election. The deadline to file paperwork for the 2020 March primaries was last Monday. Unless local party leaders intervene to put a candidate on the ballot, 54 out of the 118 Illinois state representatives will be the only choice from the state’s major parties in November. Twelve of the 20 senators up for re-election won’t face opposition from the other party, but a number face primary challenges. That’s higher than the national average of just under one-third.



(Undated-jm) -- As high school seniors make plans for college, e-commerce website WalletHub has released its list of the best college towns in America, and several Illinois college towns made the grade. Researchers looked at more than 400 college towns and cities across the nation. WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez said the team looked more 30 metrics for the research. The metrics included categories such as the cost of living, quality of higher education and crime rate. Charleston, home of Eastern Illinois University, was the highest-ranked Illinois town on the list. It ranked 19th overall out of 415 towns and cities and fourth on the list of “Best Small Cities.” Also in the top half of the list was the University of Illinois in Champaign. A category that Champaign did not perform well in was housing costs. Overall, Champaign ranked 111th.



(Springfield-jm) -- Instant tickets make a great gift, but the Illinois Lottery reminds they are only for adults. They are great stocking stuffers but instant games are not meant for minors says Lottery Spokesperson Jason Schaumburg…



Lottery Spokesperson Jason Schaumburg. The lottery says studies show that one of the risk factors for gambling addiction is gambling at a young age.


(Sibley-jm) -- Sibley village leaders fear a water leak somewhere below the village may be much larger than what they first believed. In November, the daily average was 39,000 gallons that was up from 37,000 gallons in October. Normally, the village uses around 24,000 gallons a day. Village officials estimate the 30 day loss is around 300,000 gallons. Residents are asked to report any water pressure issues to the village.



(Rantoul-jm) -- Rantoul village leaders are expected to approve utility fees at tonight's village board meeting. Trustees will be asked to approve rates and fees for water, wastewater, natural gas and electricity services provided by the village. In addition, they are expected to approve an extension for ambulance service from OSF Pro Ambulance. The Rantoul village board meeting gets underway at 6pm.



(Undated-jm) -- More than 17,000 high school students in Illinois are being recognized by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission for outstanding academic achievement. WPXN’s Jason Madden has the Rantoul Township High School scholars…




(Undated-jm) -- Flu season is off to an early start across the area. The CDC reports widespread flu activity in five states including Illinois. Nationally, four children have died from the flu. 


WASHINGTON (AP) — American businesses have complained for years that they can’t find the workers they need to fill available jobs. November’s robust hiring gain suggests that at least some have found a way to do so. With the unemployment rate now at a half-century low of 3.5%, many economists have also warned that hiring would soon slow simply because there are fewer unemployed workers available. That day may still come, but it didn’t in November. Employers added 266,000 jobs last month, the most since January. Monthly hiring has, in fact, picked up since earlier this year: It averaged 205,000 for the past three months, up from a recent low of 135,000 in July.


FOID Cards still required after request for suspension of requirement denied

Paxton -- A former Paxton police chief has died. Bob Bane died Sunday at Gibson Area Hospital. Cox Knapp Funeral Home is handling arrangements.


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois officials want travelers’ opinions on the state’s transportation system. An online survey that’s now open runs through Dec. 31 asks travelers to weigh in on everything from the cleanliness of Illinois roads to other drivers’ behavior. Questions also focus on road conditions, residents’ commuting habits and removal of snow and ice. The Illinois Department of Transportation said the survey has been conducted annually since 2001. The agency’s acting secretary says the information collected is vital to the transportation system.



(Springfield-jm) -- A three-judge panel denied a request from a gun-rights group for an emergency suspension of Illinois’ Firearm Owners' Identification card law. The Fourth District Appellate Court ruled that Guns Save Life, an Illinois-based organization that advocates for Second Amendment rights, didn’t prove the need for a temporary stay on the state’s FOID card program, but did appear to approve of other aspects of the challenge. In a complaint filed against Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly in May, Guns Save Life said that the state’s fee to apply for or renew a FOID card “places a tax upon the free exercise of a constitutional right and is violative of the Second Amendment as well as the Fourteenth Amendment.”


(Springfield-jm) -- 2020 is not just the start of a new decade but it also marks an election year for several high profile positions. State Senator Jason Barickman of Bloomington says election years will have an impact on the issues being addressed in Springfield…



53rd District State Senator Jason Barickman of Bloomington. Lawmakers return for the spring session in January.



(Urbana-AP) -- The University of Illinois campuses have adopted a new “box blind” policy, where it will no longer require students to disclose their criminal background during the initial application process. Arguing that it discouraged potential students from applying, a student-led coalition urged the university to remove questions about an individual's criminal and disciplinary history. For safety concerns or potential threats, the policy still allows the university to ask about any criminal history, but only after an admissions decision has been made. 



(Urbana-jm) -- The trial for a Rantoul man accused of burglary at an abandoned factory in the village has been declared a mistrial. Rantoul police were investigating a suspicious vehicle on Shellhouse Road on the villages west side. An officer heard a noise coming from the building and discovered Patrick Henderson on the roof with a grinder and two tool bags with him. Prosecutors claimed Henderson was caught before he could take anything. Henderson’s public defender argued there was no keep out or private property signs on the building.



(Champaign-jm) -- Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup is releasing the name of the man killed in a workplace accident in Champaign Friday. 58-year-old Billy Thomas of Mansfield died of blunt force injuries he received when a large end loader struck him while backing up. The Champaign County Coroner’s office and sheriff’s office continue to investigate.



(Gibson City-jm) -- Gibson City leaders are expected to approve a pair of agreements at tonight's city council meeting. Council members will consider approving a CDAP loan agreement as well as approving Mayor Dan Dickey to sign an agreement for professional services with Fehr Graham. Council members will also discuss the tax levy and consider a buy local policy. The Gibson City city council meeting gets underway at 7 pm.



(Washington-jm) -- With the release of USDA's December Crop Production report and World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates days away, what might be some of the items of interest in each report? Rod Bain reports…



(Undated-jm) -- Extremely hot weather appears to prompt early labor, leading to as many as 25,000 early births every year in the U.S., according to a study. The research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, analyzed data on 56 million births from 1969 to 1988, matching the birth dates to weather events in the counties where babies were born. But when researchers looked at birth rates over the days and weeks that followed extreme heat events, they found a decline in births. It's unclear why unusually hot days might set childbirth into motion, but dehydration may play a role. When the body becomes dehydrated, it releases hormones, such as oxytocin, that are also involved in labor.


(Springfield-jm) -- After a report that exposed the widespread practice of putting public school students in isolation rooms, the Illinois State Board of Education put a stop to the practice. After hearing from schools, the board is now allowing specific practices to be used in certain crisis situations. The Illinois State Board of Education reacted after the Nov. 19 release of a joint report from ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune that documented 20,000 instances when school officials put students, mostly special education students, into isolation rooms during the 2017-18 school year. The practice involved putting students alone in locked rooms, sometimes for hours, and physically restraining them to the point that they could not move or had trouble breathing. Last week, the Board of Education announced it was amending the emergency rules “after receiving significant feedback from schools and advocates across the state.”



(Springfield-jm) -- Gov. J.B. Pritzker expects cannabis cultivation jobs to double as the cannabis market opens for legal recreational sales beginning Jan. 1. Some 30 medical dispensaries set to begin recreational sales around the state. Pritzker said as many as 75 more dispensary licenses will be awarded in May. Ascend Illinois Director of Manufacturing David Jerome said the jobs pay from about $12 an hour to $18 an hour and higher. The company hires from the local labor market as much as possible. Applicants for the next round of cannabis licenses will be opened on Tuesday and run through Jan. 2. There will also be opportunities for people to apply for smaller-scale craft grower licenses. People interested in becoming a budtender, someone who works the sales counter at a dispensary, must have state-approved training within 90 days of being hired.


(Springfield-jm) -- The Illinois Department of Public Health says it’s not too late to get your flu shot. Flu cases are picking up in Illinois, but haven’t peaked yet says Public Health Director Doctor Ngozi Ezike. She says there’s still time to be vaccinated…



State Public Health Director Doctor Ngozi Ezike. Other things you can do to avoid spreading the flu include washing your hands frequently, covering your coughs and sneezes and staying home when you’re sick. 



(Ludlow-jm) -- The Ludlow Grade School District has received a commendable rating from the state in their recent report card. The report card showed a graduation rate of over 67 percent. 36 percent of students were proficient in the English language arts, 22 percent in math and 53 percent in science. The district was rated 100 percent low income and had a 19 percent chronic absenteeism.



(Champaign County-jm) -- Unincorporated areas of Champaign County will have to wait to find out if recreational marijuana sales would be legal in their communities, even after it becomes legal next month. The Champaign County board has debated multiple times on the controversial ordinance to prohibit such business in communities like Penfield. The county board sent the measure back to committee. The committee will likely not meet again until January or February.

(Rantoul-jm) -- Rantoul Township High School school board members are expected to discuss tax issues at tonight's school board meeting. Board members will be asked to approve the district tax levy as well as a property tax relief grant application. The annual audit as well as approving a job posting for a speech and language pathologist position will also be discussed. The Rantoul Township High School school board meeting gets underway at 7 pm.


(Undated-jm) -- More than 17,000 high school students in Illinois are being recognized by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission for outstanding academic achievement. WPXN’s Jason Madden has the Fisher High School scholars…




(Undated-jm) -- A final tally of babies born in the U.S. last year confirms that the birth rate fell again in 2018, reaching the lowest level in more than three decades. The report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics finds there were 3,791,712 births registered in the U.S. in 2018, down 2 percent from 2017. A closer look at the data suggests that Americans are not having enough babies to sustain the population. The total fertility rate for 2018 was 1,729.5 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44. (The fertility rate refers to how many children women have overall; birth rate refers to how many children women have in a single year.) But in order for the nation to reproduce its population and remain stable, the CDC says there would need to be 2,100 births per 1,000 women. That means each woman needs to have at least two babies to replace fathers and mothers, as well as account for extra deaths. The data also show that women are waiting longer to have children. Birth rates among women in their 20s and early 30s declined, but they started to increase slightly among women 35 to 44. The teen birth rate, for girls between the ages of 15 and 19, fell 7 percent, from 18.8 births per 1,000 women in 2017 to 17.4 births per 1,000 in 2018.


Plenty of Holiday Events Going on this Weekend in the WPXN listening Area.

(Springfield-jm) -- Despite putting more tax dollars into the state’s five pensions funds, Illinois' unfunded liability continues to increase. The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability reported the unfunded liability for the state's five public sector pensions stood at $137.3 billion. State Rep. Joe Sosnowski, a Rockford Republican on the commission, said that’s up more than $3.5 billion from last year despite taxpayers putting more into the funds. In 2005, Illinois had $38.6 billion in unfunded liabilities and the pension systems were 60 percent funded. In 2014, those liabilities grew to $104.6 billion while the systems slipped 42.9 percent funded.  In the spending plan lawmakers approved this summer, taxpayers paid $9.2 billion into the pension systems from a $42 billion state budget. The projected contribution for the next fiscal year is $9.8 billion. COGFA projects by 2025, taxpayers will pay $10.9 billion. By 2045 the projected taxpayer contribution would be $19.2 billion.



(Springfield-jm) -- State Rep. David McSweeney never voted for a tax increase and as he prepares to leave office, he's formed a new organization to continue his fight for taxpayers. McSweeney said that he hadn't voted for any bill that would have increased the burden on Illinois taxpayers. He created Cut Illinois Taxes Now, an educational nonprofit to highlight just how much of an Illinois taxpayer’s paycheck really goes to state and local governments and to “show how those taxes hurt the working families of Illinois.” The effort, McSweeney said, is to counteract others who want to persuade residents that Illinois is a low-tax state. 



(Paxton-jm) -- The City of Paxton will ring in the Christmas holiday season this weekend. Last weekend's Christmas parade was postponed until this weekend due to the weather says Paxton Area Chamber of Commerce President Alan Meyer…



Paxton Area Chamber of Commerce President Alan Meyer. You can hear the parade here on WPXN.



(Sibley-jm) -- The village of Sibley’s lone employee will receive a pay raise. Following a 4-2 vote, village trustees approved a $100 per month increase for Merlin Tjarks. Tjarks handles the villages maintenance and water issues.



(Paxton-jm) -- Several sports and extra curricular teams in the Paxton-Buckley-Loda School District are receiving recognition. Superintendent Cliff McClure talks about the accomplishments…



PBL Schools Superintendent Cliff McClure. 



(Paxton-jm) -- 71 Illinois nursing homes are being named in a violation report from the state, including two locally. Accolade Senior Living in Paxton and Gilman Healthcare were named in the report. The report did not indicate what the violations were.



(Paxton-jm) -- A Paxton bank is hosting a holiday food drive. The Frederick Community Bank is collecting food at their main branch location in downtown Paxton. The bank is taking donations through Friday, December 13th. The donations benefit families in the Paxton-Buckley-Loda School District.



(Washington-jm) -- Government payments have been playing a much bigger role this year in the farm income picture. Gary Crawford has the details…




(Undated-jm) -- The Illinois Department of Public Health is reminding folks to get their flu shots. Central Illinois is starting to see flu sporadically, but things are expected to get worse. According to IDPH, flu season usually peaks between December and February, but they've seen it last as late as May. Doctors said the most vulnerable population are the elderly and young children.


Rantoul Township High School Madrigals will hold their dinner tonight and tomorrow at 6pm. Tickets are $17.50 each. For more information or to get your tickets call 892-6049.


The Paxton annual Bag Sale and Christmas open house will take place today through Monday, December 9th at participating businesses in Paxton.


The IC Santa Elf Patrol will be making stops in the area Friday, December 6th through Sunday, December 8th. December 6th: Onarga (6:30-8:30 pm), December 7th: Gibson City (8-10:30 am), Melvin (12-1:30), Roberts (1:45-3), Thawville (3:30-5) and Gilman (6-8), December 8th: Danforth (10:30-12) and Ashkum (1-2:30)


Hooves of Hope in Potomac will hold their Breakfast with Reindeer on Saturday, from 730 to noon.


The Milford Fun Days committee will hold their Santa Breakfast on Saturday, from 8 to 11 am.


The Watseka Park District will hold their Good Morning Shopping Event on Saturday from 9-12.


The village of Sibley will hold their Night on the Town from 5 to 8 pm on Saturday. Activities include carriage rides, Christmas carolling and an appearance by Santa.


The Gifford State Bank Parade of Lights will be held on Sunday at 5pm in downtown Gifford.

(Springfield-jm) -- A new report highlights significant differences in the number of industry regulations at the state level, including in Illinois, which was ranked as one of the most regulated states in the nation. The recent report from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University was part of the group's State RegData project. It looked at the number of industry regulations on the books across most of the country. Researchers said this was the first look at state business regulations. The findings found vast differences in the number of regulations among some states.



CHICAGO (AP) — The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has experienced major staffing cutbacks and dwindling funding in recent years, according to two new reports. The agency’s workforce was reduced by 38% percent between 2008 and 2018, more than any of the 47 states studied in an Environmental Integrity Project report released Thursday.



(Paxton-jm) -- One local business will be showing their appreciation for their customers this weekend. Sunday Hudson Drug and Hallmark in downtown Paxton will hold their annual customer appreciation day says Owner Andy Hudson…



Hudson Drug and Hallmark Owner Andy Hudson.



(Roberts-jm) -- The Ford County village of Roberts is seeking an increase to their tax levy. Village leaders approved a 3 point 4 percent increase recently. The money will be collected next summer.



(Gifford-jm) -- The village of Gifford will ring in the Christmas holiday season with a lighted Christmas parade. The parade will take place on December 8th and is sponsored by the Gifford State Bank says Spokesperson Stacey Huls…



Gifford State Bank Parade Spokesperson Stacey Huls.



(Springfield-jm) -- The survey plays a crucial role in several ways, from our representation in Washington to funding for local communities. The Illinois State Board of Education is working with the state to make sure you can take part in the US Census survey. ISBE officials said from an education standpoint, federal funds are affected by a state's population.



(Undated-jm) -- One area Congressman is voicing his opinion of the impeachment inquiry of President Trump. Congressman Darin Lahood said it should be the voters that decide President Donald Trump's impeachment. The congressman said instead of impeaching the president, lawmakers should be worrying about passing the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement.



(Springfield-jm) -- Days after one group of Illinois House Republicans demanded Speaker Madigan resign amid FBI investigations and harassment cases that have tainted his caucus for decades, another group, in a State Capitol press conference, called on Governor Pritzker to call a special session of the Illinois General Assembly specifically to address ethics reform in Illinois government. State Representative Dan Caulkins of Decatur called it a very special issue that cannot be ignored.  He said that in order for legislators to have any credibility with the people in the state, we need to reform what happens in the statehouse…



State Representative Dan Caulkins of Decatur.



(Springfield-jm) -- The Trump administration is about to impose new regulations that would tighten eligibility rules for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, in a way state officials say could cut off benefits for an estimated 140,000 Illinoisans. The new rules apply to a category of SNAP recipients ages 18 to 59 known as “able-bodied adults without dependents,”. Currently, who meet the program’s income eligibility limits are limited to three months of benefits during any 36-month period unless they work at least 20 hours a week or are enrolled in a job training program. The new rules, which will take effect in April, will tighten the regulations governing those waivers by limiting them to counties with unemployment rates above 6 percent. It is one of several changes to SNAP eligibility being implemented or considered by the Trump administration.


The Sheldon Fun Days Committee will hold their Christmas Event tonight from 4 to 6:30 pm at the Sheldon Public Library. Activities include crafts, cookie decorating, storytime and a visit from Santa.


The Elliott Amvets will hold Family Night meals tonight. The meal includes fish and chicken plus two sides for $10. Also available for purchase are $1 sodas, $2 beers and $4.50 mixed drinks.


Mistletoe Market at Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana will take place tonight from 4-10 pm.


The village of Rantoul will hold their annual lighted Christmas parade tonight at 6 pm.


The 2019 Rantoul Holiday Shop Hop will take place on Saturday from 9-1 in downtown Rantoul.

The Lakeview Country Club in Loda will hold their Membership Raffle on Saturday from 3-6 pm. Cost is $100 per ticket. Call Doug McCoy at 217-249-4515 or Katie Lane at 850-8660-7572 for more information or to get your ticket.


The 2019 Fisher Holiday Expo will be held at the Fisher Community Building from 10am -3pm. Over 25 vendors and artists will be selling their wonderful goods. There will also be a bake sale to raise money for the Art program at Fisher Grade School. The annual Fisher Lighted Christmas Parade will be at 5pm followed by a Community Christmas Social hosted by the Fisher National Bank. Visit with Santa and enjoy refreshments and music.


The Foosland Sportsman’s Club will hold their splatterboard shoot on Sunday. Breakfast begins at 6 with the shoot starting at 8.


Minimum wage set to increase on January 1 2020

(Springfield-jm) -- In less than a month, employers with minimum-wage employees in Illinois will have to raise wages. The state’s minimum wage is on its way to $15 an hour by 2025. Beginning on New Year’s Day, the minimum wage goes up from $8.25 to $9.25 an hour. There will be a second increase to $10 an hour on July 1, 2020. Then $1 more per year until the minimum wage hits $15 an hour.



(Springfield-jm) -- A decline in hunter participation could mean less conservation funding in Illinois. The decline is part of a nationwide trend and has been occurring for nearly half a century. Jared Duquette, who manages the Wildlife and Hunter Heritage Program for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said that hunting plays an important role in the economy and the environment. A survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2016 says that around 5 percent of Americans older than 16 hunt, which is about half of the number around 50 years ago with no signs of it trending upward. Last year, the state received $13.1 million from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act.



(Paxton-jm) -- PRIDE in Paxton along with the Paxton Area Chamber of Commerce will hold their annual Business Open House this weekend. Paxton Area Chamber of Commerce President Alan Meyer talks about the Business Open House…



Paxton Area Chamber of Commerce President Alan Meyer. The parade that was originally scheduled for last Saturday will take place at 1:30 pm this Saturday. You can hear it here on 104.9 WPXN.


(Paxton-jm) -- A new business in downtown Paxton is holding their grand opening this weekend. Junebug Crafty Gifts is opening at 165 S. Market Street in downtown Paxton. After this weekends grand opening, the store will be open regularly Wednesday through Saturday, 9 am to 6 pm.



(Bloomington-jm) -- Nearly 70 students across the 53rd State Senate District were in Bloomington recently as part of State Senator Jason Barickman’s Youth Advisory Council. Students learned about state government and discussed issues with Senator Barickman. The Youth Advisory Council is open to high school students in the 53rd District.



(Washington-jm) -- The U.S. ag industry is looking forward to lower tariffs and improved market access to Japan after that nation's legislative body approved a mini-trade deal between the two countries. Rod Bain reports…




(Springfield-jm) -- Whether 2019 was a good year for Illinois taxpayers depends on who you ask. Lawmakers passed a series of major laws, including cannabis legalization, expanded gambling and a $45 billion multi-year infrastructure plan. That came with increased taxes and fees, which included doubling the state’s gas tax. State Rep. Carol Ammons of Urbana, said this year has been historic. State Sen. Robert Martwick,  of Chicago, said taxpayers should be pleased with the state budget, which he said was balanced. State Rep. Darren Bailey of Xenia, had a different take. He said taxpayers in his southern Illinois district are fired up.Taxpayers are on the hook for more than $134 billion in unfunded pension liabilities just for the state’s pension systems. Lawmakers left for the year after the fall session. They’re back in late January for the second year of the 101st General Assembly.


(Springfield-jm) -- A group of Illinois Republicans asked Gov. J.B. Pritzker to call lawmakers back to Springfield this month to address corruption concerns amid federal probes into lawmakers and lobbyists. State Reps. Blaine Wilhour, Allen Skillicorn, Dan Caulkins, Brad Halbrook and Andrew Miller called for the governor to force lawmakers to return for a special session with the sole purpose of addressing political corruption. Pritzker Wednesday afternoon signed measures aimed at strengthening ethics laws in the General Assembly. One bill will require more detail about a lawmakers monetary interest disclosures when they begin a new term. Another creates the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform, a task force that will provide recommendations to the governor and General Assembly on how to further strengthen ethics laws by March 31st of 2020. 



(Springfield-jm) -- Nonprofit groups across Illinois used Giving Tuesday to highlight the work they do, including Honor Flight groups that fly military veterans to Washington D.C. for reflection and honor. Steven Wheeler, the veteran coordinator for Land of Lincoln Honor Flight, which covers more than 30 counties in central Illinois, said the three-day trips to D.C. the nonprofit organizes are free for the veterans. The group relies on donations to pay for the expenses. Land of Lincoln Honor Flight has facilitated trips for more than 4,000 veterans.



(Paxton-jm) -- Santa will be making several stops in Paxton this holiday season. The jolly old man has when he will be in town…






(Thomasboro-jm) -- The Thomasboro Grade School Board has new leadership. William Wilken and Dallas Johnson were voted to be the board’s President and Vice President respectively. Wilken, who previously served as the board vice president, takes over for Jane Sprandel who resigned recently.



(Paxton-jm) -- Elevator repairs will likely be coming to the Ford County Courthouse. The county building commission discussed the repairs recently. It’s estimated to cost around $134,000 and could take up to 9 weeks to complete. Committee members expressed concern not only with the price tag but also the amount of time the elevator will be down. The engineering group hired to plan the project will look into ADA accommodations while the elevator is down. Work on the elevator in the jail is on hold. That project could cost upwards of $112,000.



(Washington-jm) -- The Trump Administration announced Wednesday changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue talks about the changes…




(Springfield-jm) -- When the state of Illinois cuts a check, its remitting payment in one of the most expensive and least secure methods possible. Adopting new ways to pay, according to a report from the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute, could not only protect against fraud, but save people who don't have a bank account money on check-cashing fees. The state pays people and businesses in several ways for several purposes, including direct deposit for child support disbursements, EBT cards for food assistance and cash for lottery winnings. In 2018, state agencies paid out more than $1.3 billion in paper checks, according to the report. With one in five Illinoisans lacking any type of bank account, this means extra costs and security issues.

French fries could soon be harder to come by due to a poor potato crop

(Undated-jm) -- Statewide fewer parents are deciding to vaccinate their children due to religious exemptions. Last year, there were roughly 4,000 more religious exemptions statewide for vaccines. Doctors call this a disturbing trend. If this trend continues, doctors warn we could see outbreaks and even epidemics.



(Springfield-jm) -- Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White plans to extend the hours of some driver service facilities to accommodate the high demand for REAL IDs. The demand for federally compliant REAL ID driver’s license and identification cards has been high. Since the Secretary of State's office began offering the federally compliant driver licenses and ID cards this spring, it has processed about 500,000 REAL ID cards across the state. The cards are modified versions of the regular state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. Starting in October 2020, the REAL ID cards will be required for all airline travel, including domestic flights. The federally compliant ID cards will also be required to get into federal buildings and military bases.


(Springfield-jm) -- 2020 will be a big and important year politically not just in the United States but also in Illinois. When Illinois voters go to the polls in November, not only will they be casting ballots for the President of the United States but also for a constitutional amendment to change the state’s tax system to a graduated income tax says 53rd District State Senator Jason Barickman of Bloomington…



53rd District State Senator Jason Barickman of Bloomington.


(Peoria-jm) -- After OSF HealthCare recently announced a notice of termination to Meridian, OSF is now claiming Meridian owes them millions of dollars for outstanding claims. Meridian owes OSF millions of dollars for outstanding claims for services provided over the past five years. OSF has been accepting Meridian for many years and the termination is set to take effect December 15.



(Paxton-jm) -- Yesterday was Giving Tuesday and one area group reached their fundraising goal. The Paxton-Buckley-Loda Education Foundation was looking to raise $3,000 to provide books to Clara Peterson Elementary students. The group reached their goal meaning every student would receive a new book each month through the end of the school year.



(Rantoul-jm) -- Property owners in the Rantoul Township High School district will see some relief on their tax bills. The districts property tax rate has declined to $2.62 per $100 assessed value. That’s down from a high of $2.95 per $100 in 2017 and $2.68 per $100 last year. That means a person with a $150,000 home will pay about $33 less. The district says increased equalized assessed value and an increase in funding from the new funding formula allowed the district to lower the tax levy.



(Paxton-jm) -- Hudson Drug and Hallmark in downtown Paxton is our Business of the Day today. For those looking or the perfect gift this Christmas, Andy Hudson says they have a wide variety of gifts for you to choose from…



Andy Hudson with Hudson Drug and Hallmark in downtown Paxton. 



(Undated-jm) -- Police want to help you keep your purchases from being stolen. The National Retail Federation expects holiday spending to go up by about four percent. Officers say there are steps you should take to make sure you do not fall victim to a crime. They say to lock your doors and keep gifts out of sight. If you are getting something delivered to your home, try to be home when it gets there.



NEW YORK (AP) — This year, holiday stress may take on a whole new meaning for online retailers. Amazon, Walmart and others have promised to deliver more of their orders within 24 hours of customers clicking on “Buy.” The coming weeks will be the first test of whether they can make that happen during the busy holiday shopping season, when onslaughts of orders and bad weather can lay waste to even the best delivery plans. 



(Undated-jm) -- A new report out shows more young people are using marijuana, especially college students. The study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics says 2 out of 5 people between the ages of 18 and 22 had smoked pot. The study was conducted between 2002 and 2016.


(Undated-jm) -- A total of 202,465 firearm background checks were run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check system on Black Friday, making it the second-highest single-day for these checks, according to data from the FBI. The number of background checks this year increased 11% versus 2018 but 2017's Black Friday had a slightly higher total of 203,086. The FBI emphasized that the data does not represent the number of firearms sold but rather the number of firearm background checks initiated, and a one-to-one correlation cannot be made between a firearm background check and a firearm sale. Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting estimates that November 2019 firearm sales "may come in at about 1.5 million units, and December 2019 sales as high as 1.7 to 1.8 million," according to its own algorithm for calculating sales. The firm predicts the 2019 total gun sales will be higher than 2018, but lower than 2016 and 2017.



(Undated-jm) -- French fries could soon be harder to come by due to a poor potato crop, experts said. Cold, wet weather in the United States and Canada has damaged potato crops. Potato processors are struggling to keep up with the french fry demand in North America, Bloomberg reports. The damage to the crops has also means smaller potatoes. French fry processors usually want longer potatoes. That could translate into pricier fries or restaurants serving smaller portions.



(Paxton-jm) -- Property tax owners in the Paxton-Buckley-Loda School District should expect to pay less next year. Superintendent Cliff McClure says the tax levy has decreased again this year…



Paxton-Buckley-Loda Schools Superintendent Cliff McClure.



(Gibson City-jm) -- A local internet service provider is looking to expand their services to other parts of the county. Metro Communications is looking to provide service to Gibson City and Elliott. A representative of the company spoke to Gibson City officials recently. Currently, Gibson Area Hospital and their clinics use Metro Communications services. Metro Communications took over Conxxus after they filed for bankruptcy.



(Paxton-jm) -- The Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School GIVE Club will hold a Toys for Tots benefit concert this Saturday. The concert will take place at noon at the Hope Vineyard Church in downtown Paxton. Those attending are asked to bring either a new toy or make a monetary donation.



(Paxton-jm) -- Our Business of the Day today is Hudson Drug and Hallmark in downtown Paxton. This Sunday, Hudson Drug and Hallmark will hold their customer appreciation day says owner Andy Hudson…



Hudson Drug and Hallmark Owner Andy Hudson.



NEW YORK (AP) — There’s a powerful new player watching what you buy so it can tailor product offerings for you: the bank behind your credit or debit card. For years, Google and Facebook have been showing ads based on your online behavior. Retailers from Amazon to Walgreens also regularly suction up your transaction history to steer future spending and hold your loyalty. Now banks, too, want to turn data they already have on your spending habits into extra revenue by identifying likely customers for retailers. Banks are increasingly aware that they could be sitting on a gold mine of information that can be used to predict or sway  where you spend. Historically, such data has been used mostly for fraud protection.



(Undated-jm) -- Giving women with very dense breasts an MRI scan in addition to a mammogram led to fewer missed cancers but also to a lot of false alarms and treatments that might not have been needed, a large study found. The results give a clearer picture of the tradeoffs involved in such testing, but they can’t answer the biggest question, whether it saves lives. For women with dense breasts trying to decide on screening, “the dilemma remains,” Dr. Dan Longo of the New England Journal of Medicine wrote in an editorial published with the study. About half of women over 40 have dense breasts and about 10% have very dense ones. That raises their risk of developing cancer and makes it harder to spot on mammograms if they do. U.S. regulators are making rules to require that women get breast density information when they have mammograms, and many places provide it now. But what to do if you have dense breasts is unclear  it’s not known if more or different types of screening such as MRIs or ultrasounds help.



(Undated-jm) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new report warning that superbugs that resist antibiotics have killed nearly twice as many people as previously thought. C. difficile caused nearly a quarter of a million hospitalizations and at least 12,800 deaths in 2017. It's one of five antibiotic-resistant urgent threats identified in the report. Two of them were newly added since 2013. One, the fungus Candida auris, wasn't even on the CDC's radar five years ago. But there's some good news in the report. Since 2013, there has been an 18% drop in deaths from all types of antibiotic-resistant infections.


Taxpayers Shouldn't Pay Lawmakers Full Monthly Salary If They Only Work One Day

(Springfield-jm) -- In less than a month, adults 21 and older will be able to legally buy and use cannabis in Illinois. While the number of locations where consumers will be able to buy cannabis products will be limited, the first phase of the rollout begins Jan. 1. State officials have approved 29 medical cannabis dispensaries to sell recreational cannabis starting Jan. 1. Adults will be able to buy and carry up to 30 grams of cannabis flower. There are lesser amounts allowed for edibles and oils. With limited supplies expected, the law requires retailers to keep a 30-day supply in reserve for medical users. Gov. J.B. Pritzker said more licenses will be awarded a few months after the first round.



(Springfield-jm) -- A state lawmaker doesn’t want taxpayers to pay a lawmaker’s full monthly salary if that person resigns after working for only a single day during that month. When state Sen. Martin Sandoval steps down from office on Jan. 1, he will get paid for the entire month. State Rep. Mike Murphy, said the legislation he filed would change that. House Bill 818 remains in the House Rules Committee where it’s been since it was first filed.



(Undated-jm) -- Safety experts have some tips to keep kids warm while they wait for the bus. Kids should wear layers, hats and gloves while waiting for the bus. They also recommend if possible, for kids to remain in a warm vehicle until the bus arrives. Experts say kids lose heat faster than adults.



(Washington-jm) -- The nation's corn harvest progress remains well behind schedule. Stephanie Ho reports…




(Rantoul-jm) -- Rezoning of the former auto dealership building in Rantoul will be before the village board at tonight’s study session. Taco Bell is looking to build on the east side of the McDonalds but needs to be rezoned from residential to commercial. Village trustees will also review an ambulance contract with OSF Pro Ambulance and review and discuss the possible sale of some property on the former Chanute Air Force Base to the University of Illinois. The Rantoul village board study session gets underway at 6pm.



(Savoy-jm) -- More than $20 million in construction is planned at Willard Airport in Central Illinois during the next two years. The  work includes reconstruction of a runway, an added taxiway and a redone entrance road to the University of Illinois-owned airport in Savoy. Airport officials also expect a new U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility to be completed and opened early next year. Long term, airport officials hope to secure federal funding to renovate the terminal which was built in 1988 and add an air control traffic tower.



(Paxton-jm) -- PRIDE in Paxton is gearing up for the Christmas holiday season. Happening again this year is the Business Open House says PRIDE in Paxton Director Terri Hancock…



PRIDE in Paxton Director Terri Hancock.


(Undated-jm) -- Once MRSA gets into households, the deadly superbug can take hold and spread easily, a study published shows. And more often than not, the bacteria hitched rides into the homes on children. Researchers found that in households of people with a MRSA infection, the bacteria can be found on surfaces including refrigerator handles, bath towels, light switches, video game controllers and even pets, according to the study in The Lancet Infectious Diseases. MRSA, or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, is a bacterium that’s resistant to several antibiotics, including methicillin. People can become infected with MRSA if the bacteria enter the body through a break in the skin. Indeed, when people get MRSA outside of health care settings, the infections most often show up as skin infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms can include redness, swelling, pain and pus, and oftentimes, fever.


URBANA, Ill. (AP) — The University of Illinois has joined more than 200 higher-education institutions worldwide in a letter declaring a “climate emergency” ahead of a major United Nations global warming conference in Madrid. The “SDG Accord” is an effort by colleges and universities to support global sustainable development goals and urge action to prevent climate change. The News-Gazette reported on Sunday that the university system’s president, Tim Killeen, signed on to the plan. The strategy includes mobilizing more resources for “action-oriented” studies, going “carbon neutral” by 2030 or 2050, and expanding environmental and sustainability education.



(Springfield-jm) -- At least three elected positions in the Illinois statehouse won’t be chosen by voters, rather party leaders will select the replacements and doing so could prove contentious in one case. State Rep. Luis Arroyo resigned in October after he was arrested on bribery charges. He has pleaded not guilty. As a local party official, Arroyo had a role in selecting his replacement, but House Speaker Michael Madigan threatened to challenge the selection if Arroyo participated in the process. If the House rejects Arroyo's replacement, the seat would be vacant.


(Washington-jm) -- Soybeans still need to be harvested in the northern Corn Belt. Stephanie Ho reports…




(Undated-jm) -- The American Red Cross is urging people to give a life-saving gift this holiday season, by making an appointment to donate blood or platelets. By donating, this would ensure a sufficient supply is available for patients who are needing blood transfusions throughout the holiday season. Blood donations impact over 1 million people and all blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients.



DANVILLE— Conservative Vermilion County Treasurer Darren Duncan, a seventh-generation farmer from Rossville and advocate for reduced spending and common-sense government is formally launching his campaign for the GOP nomination for the 15th Congressional District in the March 2020 primary. The 48 year old, made his formal announcement in a campaign video  on Monday and in a speech to Vermilion County Republicans in Danville.     Duncan has served as Vermilion County Treasurer since 2017, improving technology in the office, getting tax bills out on time for the first time in years, and making distributions to local school districts and townships earlier than ever. He previously worked to stop unnecessary spending as a member of the Vermilion County Board. He also served two terms on the Rossville-Alvin school board, where he worked to reduce the district’s reliance on debt.



(Springfield-jm) -- Lawmakers will have several issues to address when they return to the state capitol in 2020. One of the main issues is ethics reform. But that’s not the only issue state lawmakers will be dealing with. 53rd District State Senator Jason Barickman of Bloomington says they will also be faced with creating the new budget…



Local State Senator Jason Barickman of Bloomington.


(Undated-jm) -- A new Inspector General audit of the Social Security Administration  found that it paid $1 billion in benefits to individuals who do not have Social Security numbers. Because the audit was of a sampling, the actual amount is estimated to be much higher.  It also found that unless corrected, the Social Security Administration will continue to make a combined $372 million in improper payments annually because it is not following regulatory guidelines in doing so. The audit includes recommendations and a 60-day deadline to respond. The law requires the Social Security Administration to obtain Social Security Numbers of representative payee applicants. Social Security Numbers are required to verify identification, benefit eligibility, and to determine if the applicant is a felon or has a history of poor payee performance or misuse of the program.


All OSF HealthCare patients using Meridian Medicaid and Medicare plans will have to find a different provider after the healthcare announced its decision to terminate its contract with Meridian

(Springfield-jm) -- When governors present balanced state budgets, a new report found they are often leaving out the cost of infrastructure repairs, omissions that can lead to potholes and other problems along with big bills in future budgets. The nonprofit Volcker Alliance, as part of a larger series of studies on government transparency, estimated deferred maintenance costs to be as high as $873 billion. Those costs were either obscured or deferred in state budgets, the report found. “Combined with a reported federal backlog of $170 billion, the national total deferred maintenance cost may be at least $1 trillion,” according to the report. The Rebuild Illinois infrastructure plan is largely funded by doubling the state’s motor fuel tax from 19 cents to 38 cents per gallon in July.



(Springfield-jm) -- Four political committees controlled by House Speaker Michael Madigan paid $275,000 to settle a federal sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former campaign worker. Former campaign worker Alaina Hampton sued House Speaker Michael Madigan’s political operation in 2018 claiming retaliation after she made allegations of sexual harassment against former Madigan aide Kevin Quinn. Quinn was fired just before Hampton made her claims public.



(Paxton-jm) -- Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School is being recognized by the state. Superintendent Cliff Mcclure says the school has been named one of the top stem schools in Illinois…



Paxton Buckley Loda Schools Superintendent Cliff McClure.


(Undated-jm) -- All OSF HealthCare patients using Meridian Medicaid and Medicare plans will have to find a different provider after the healthcare announced its decision to terminate its contract with Meridian. Meridian Medicaid and Medicare has been accepted at the facility for years. After months of discussion, the termination is set to take effect December 15th. Meridian members who want to remain with OSF providers can choose a different managed Medicaid plan during the open enrollment period, which is now under way. Both Carle and Christie Clinic accepts Meridian. 



(Washington-jm) -- Will the long term decline in the U.S. agricultural trade surplus continue in this current 2020 fiscal year? Gary Crawford reports…




(Danville-jm) -- Every year, certain cemeteries make the extra effort to remember the fallen during the holidays. They aim to do this with the help of Wreaths Across America. But wreath sponsors are still needed in our area. The Danville National Cemetery is only 9.5% to its goal for this year. Only 1,136 out of 12,000 wreaths have been sponsored. If the cemeteries aren't able to get enough sponsors then some gravestones will have to go without a wreath. National Wreaths Across America Day is December 14 this year.



(Springfield-jm) --  State lawmakers will have several issues to handle when the spring session begins in January. One of the big issues is ethics reform. Local State Senator Jason Barickman talks about one of the major ethics reforms he wants to see passed…



53rd District State Senator Jason Barickman of Bloomington.



(Undated-jm) -- Medical marijuana users may be noticing a limited supply. This year, more medical conditions were approved for people to use medical cannabis. That, along with the upcoming recreational use, may make it difficult for patients to access it due to a limited supply. Industry experts said this might mean patients will have to adjust the type of cannabis they use. Since marijuana is still outlawed federally, any cannabis sold in Illinois must also be grown in the state.



(Undated-jm) -- Many people take opioids after undergoing surgery or for chronic pain, but what if there was an alternative to these addictive drugs? A new pilot program is offering cannabis as an alternative drug in Illinois. The program is only one year in, but the state's said it's already drawing attention. That's because, in Illinois, you don't need to have an active opioid prescription to get medical marijuana. You just need to have a qualifying condition to be approved.



(Springfield-jm) -- A horticulturist at the University of Illinois Extension has some tips for picking out and caring for your Christmas tree. The extension’s Richard Hentschel says cutting your own tree ensures it’s fresh, especially since it’s been such a cool, damp fall. For precut trees: giving it a good shake to see how many needles fall off is a helpful indicator. When you get home... 



State Extension Horticulturist Richard Hentschel. Once the tree is set up, Hentschel recommends waiting at least a few hours before decorating so the branches open up again. Trees need a lot of water, especially during the first couple of days, if you want it to last.


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A bribery charge against a state legislator and federal investigations into lobbying have Illinois lawmakers promising to tighten the rules of soliciting and exercising influence in the Statehouse, with a renewed focus on the ridiculed process of financial disclosure. The General Assembly wrapped up its fall session this month by adopting legislation to streamline information about lobbying, government contracts and campaign contributions, but delayed examining fiscal reporting required of legislators and other state policymakers.



(Springfield-jm) -- A tax professional has suggested some things Illinois tax filers should consider as they look to close out the year and begin the 2019 tax filing season. Leonard and Associates Managing Partner Michael Leonard said if you have kids, the No. 1 thing is getting a 529 college savings plan. For people 70 years old, Leonard suggests filers take their required minimum distribution and give it to charity. For typical W2 filers, Leonard said don’t worry about receipts because there’s not much to write off.



(Gifford-jm) -- The village of Gifford will ring in the Christmas holiday season with a lighted Christmas parade. The parade will take place on December 8th and is sponsored by the Gifford State Bank says Spokesperson Stacey Huls…



Gifford State Bank Parade Spokesperson Stacey Huls.



(Urbana-jm) -- After hiring multiple private investigators and interviewing witnesses, lawyers for three alleged victims of a former UI professor say they’ve been unable to find the man they need to serve with a court summons. Gary Xu, formerly the head of the UI’s East Asian Languages and Culture department, is the subject of a September 10 lawsuit that accuses him of using his position to take advantage of numerous young, Chinese students.Since the suit was filed, lawyers for the victims say that multiple interviews with “witnesses familiar with” Xu and multiple private investigation firms have failed to produce Xu’s current location  meaning he hasn’t yet been served a court summons. The plaintiffs have until December 9th to serve him his summons.

(Washington-jm) -- Here's a look at the latest USDA report on farm labor. It shows more hired workers and higher wages than a year ago. Gary Crawford reports…




(Watseka-jm) -- The Watseka Police Department has a new officer, this one with four legs. With an increase in narcotic usage, the department recently acquired a K-9. The dog is trained to detect drugs such as cocaine, heroin, meth, ecstasy and more. Overdose deaths in the county doubled last year from 4 to 8. 



(Paxton-jm) -- The Paxton-Buckley-Loda Education Foundation’s first year in creating an endowment fund has been a success. The foundation recently gave their first distribution from the endowment says PBL Schools Superintendent Cliff McClure…



PBL Schools Superintendent Cliff McClure.



(Undated-jm) -- Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., yet one in eight Americans who suffer from the condition can't afford to take the medication they need to stay alive, according to a new study from the American Heart Association. To save money, many patients either skip doses, take a lower dose than what is prescribed or delay filling a medication, the study found. Roughly 2.2 million Americans reported not taking their pills as prescribed, the AHA found. 



(Undated-jm) -- According to a new report by The Commonwealth Fund, rising premium and deductibles contributions have outstripped wage growth over the past decade. More and more middle-class Americans are paying a greater percentage of earnings for health care. The report analyzed survey data from 40,000 private-sector employers, as well as income data from the Census Bureau. Median household income in the United States between 2008 and 2018 grew 1.9% per year on average, rising from $53,000 to $64,202. But middle-class employees' premium and deductible contributions rose much faster -- nearly 6% per year over that same decade. In 2008, middle-class workers spent about 7.8% of household income on premiums and deductibles. By 2018, that figure had climbed to 11.5%.



(Springfield-jm) -- It was just a few years ago that the approved use of a powerful herbicide was expanded to soybeans. Now environmental groups say native trees in Illinois are becoming collateral damage. Mary Schuermann reports…



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