illinois

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The federal government's partial shutdown is worrying some Illinois government workers and retirees involved in a state audit.  Workers in four state health insurance programs need Internal Revenue Service documents to meet a late October deadline proving their dependents should still be eligible for coverage. But the shutdown means the IRS isn’t providing the documentation. 

Illinois military veterans are joining the effort to legalize gay marriage in the state. A group called "Veterans Unite for Marriage" is pressing the Illinois House to OK same-sex marriage during the legislative session that begins later this month.

Federal benefits are available to spouses of gay service members, but only if their marriages are recognized in their home states.

Illinois' legalization of medicinal marijuana takes effect January 1st and sets up a 4-year pilot program for state-run dispensaries and cultivation centers. While Illinois is predicted to enact some of the strictest regulations in the nation, law enforcement officials and prosecutors from neighboring states worry about transport of the drug over state lines. 

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Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says the state will seek to recover damages from Apple Incorporated after a federal judge found the company violated antitrust laws.  A U.S. District Court judge in New York ruled Wednesday that Apple conspired with book publishers to raise electronic book prices significantly in spring 2010.  Madigan says Apple and the publishers forced book buyers to pay millions more for e-books than they would have otherwise.  She says Illinois will be one of 33 states and territories trying to recover damages in a second trial.

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An Illinois bipartisan panel has finished a third meeting about the state's $97 billion pension crisis as another deadline set by Governor Pat Quinn lapses without a solution.  The group has now asked for reports of the cost-savings of a university-backed retirement funding proposal after meeting Monday. Quinn gave the committee a deadline of today to achieve pension reform.  Lawmakers moved to form the committee after a compromise couldn't be reached last month. 

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Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has yet to sign a bill that would put key pieces of the state budget in place.  Quinn has until July 15th to sign House Bill 214. If he doesn't, the Illinois comptroller won't have the ability to issue paychecks to state employees. Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson says the governor is carefully reviewing the bill. 

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Illinois high school juniors will be given a writing test for the first time in years next spring.

The test will be part of annual standardized tests, but lawmakers haven’t given the state board of education the money to pay for the essays.

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State auditors say the Illinois Department of Natural Resources didn't employ enough mine-safety inspectors the past two years to comply with state law.

An Illinois Auditor General's report released yesterday says the department had 10 inspectors for more than 40 mines. The state Coal Mining Act calls for at least 16 inspectors.

Jeff Jones / http://salinecountychamber.org

Wet weather has dampened some under-brush maintenance at the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois.

WSIL-TV reports that crews in the sprawling forest haven't been able to do as many controlled burns as they'd like because of wet conditions. Shawnee’s fuel specialist Scott Crist, says the burns help curb the potential spread of any fire that might erupt on the acreage. The controlled fires also help reduce shade that could kill off native grasses and flowers that need sunlight.

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The Illinois House completed seven hours of debate on the contentious issue of public gun possession by adopting a comprehensive plan long pushed by advocates.

The vote in favor of Representative Brandon Phelps' amendment doesn't mean concealed-carry got House approval. Phelps’ plan was one of a dozen amendments to a concealed-carry bill a federal court says Illinois must adopt by June. 

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