Ill. pension fight could create deeper fiscal hole
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - With the fight over solving Illinois' worst-in-the-nation pension shortfall moving to the courts, the state faces a grim possibility: The plan could be tossed, and Illinois could wind up in an even deeper fiscal hole.
Lawmakers approved a bill Tuesday that they say eliminates the $100 billion unfunded pension liability, largely by cutting benefits.
Labor unions say it's unconstitutional and plan to sue once Gov. Pat Quinn signs it.
Court rulings on similar cases elsewhere have varied.
A bankruptcy judge in Detroit said Tuesday that city pensions can be cut.
But in Arizona a court said asking employees to contribute more to their retirement was illegal and made the state repay workers, with interest.
Experts say that could happen in Illinois, which has some of the country's stronger pension protections.
Fitch says Illinois pension action 'positive'
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A major credit-ratings agency says it sees Illinois lawmakers' passage of pension legislation as a "positive" development.
Fitch Ratings issued a statement Wednesday, saying it will analyze the pension measure that the General Assembly passed on Tuesday. The ratings agency says that's necessary to see if it enhances pension system funding and controls pension payments' effect on the state budget. Fitch also says it believes a legal challenge to the legislation is likely.
But the agency says the action is a "positive indication" of the state's willingness to address the issue.
Fitch rates Illinois an "A-" with a negative rating outlook. The agency says that's its lowest rating for a U.S. state. Lower ratings mean paying higher interest rates on borrowed money.
Pensions bill sent to Gov. Quinn for signature
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A bill aimed at fixing Illinois' hundred billion pension crisis is before Gov. Pat Quinn.
A spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton said Wednesday that the bill had been sent to Quinn.
The move came a day after the Illinois General Assembly approved the bill that is estimated to save the state $160 billion over the next 30 years.
The plan reduces benefits for current and retired public employees. Among other things, it also raises the retirement age on a sliding scale for some employees.
Quinn has said he will sign the bill "promptly."
Once signed, the law would take effect in June. However, unions that have been saying the bill is unfair and unconstitutional have vowed to sue.
Pension vote could alter Illinois governor's race
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The impact of Illinois' newly approved pension reform plan on the 2014 governor's race is already taking shape.
The most clear campaign boost from the passage of the $160 billion savings plan goes to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. Quinn says he was "put on earth" to fix the state's pension problem. Yet even he faces some potential ramifications of his vocal support of the bill from unions he's relied upon heavily for campaign contributions.
The Service Employees International Union told The Associated Press that it's unsure that it will endorse Quinn in November.
The Legislature approved the pension plan on Tuesday. Republicans say it doesn't go far enough. But political analysts say the issue is framed by the city of Detroit's bankruptcy, which would put employee pensions at risk.
George Lucas donates $25M to Chicago charity
CHICAGO (AP) - The George Lucas Foundation will donate $25 million to an after-school program for children in Chicago over the next five years.
Lucas says he's proud to support the city's After School Matters program. The "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" creator says the money will make it possible for underserved teens to participate in after-school programs in a safe environment and learn career and life skills.
The donation was announced Wednesday in Chicago. Late Chicago first lady Maggie Daley launched the program in 1991.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel also announced Wednesday that the city and partner agencies are making a $12.2 million investment in the program.
Man acquitted of murder in daughter's death
KANKAKEE, Ill. (AP) - A Kankakee jury has found a local man not guilty of first-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the 2011 death of his 2-year-old daughter.
But The (Kankakee) Daily Journal reports that after deliberating for 20 hours over three days the jury on Wednesday did find 19-year-old Tavarius Radford of Kankakee guilty of child endangerment. He faces up to 10 years in prison for that charge.
Michelle Radford died in October of 2011 and her father was arrested in December of that year. He has been in jail ever since.
After the verdict, the judge reduced Radford's bond from $250,000 to $50,000 and his attorneys say they will take up a collection to raise his bail.
Radford will likely be sentenced early next year.
Missing suburban Chicago woman's body found
WAUKEGAN, Ill. (AP) - Authorities say they've found the body of a missing northern Illinois woman and that autopsy results show she took her own life.
Lake County Chief Deputy Coroner Orlando Portillo said Wednesday that the body was identified as 63-year-old Anne Stroll of Gurnee. He says Stroll died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He did not provide any other details. Stroll was last seen Monday.
Stroll's husband told authorities she left a note saying she had gone on a bicycle ride but never returned. Authorities found her body during a search of the area on Tuesday afternoon.
Ametek acquires Powervar for $128 million
Ametek Inc. says it's acquired privately-held Powervar for about $128 million.
Ametek is based in Berwyn, Pa. It makes electronic instruments used by energy and aerospace companies.
Powervar is based in Waukegan, Ill. and makes power protection equipment used by the medical, retail and telecommunication industries. It has annual sales of approximately $70 million, Ametek said.
Shares of Ametek rose 12 cents to $48.78 in afternoon trading Wednesday. Its shares have risen nearly 30 percent so far this year.
Face transplants thriving 2 years after operations
CHICAGO (AP) - New research on face transplants may help guide future operations for accident victims needing this kind of drastic surgery.
Medical imaging on the nation's first full face transplant patient and two others shows that new blood vessel networks have formed joining their transplants with existing facial tissue.
That's according to doctors who presented their data at a medical meeting Wednesday in Chicago.
The same thing typically happens with other transplants and it helps ensure their success. But doctors from Brigham and Women's Hospital say this is the first time it has been shown with full face transplants.
The transplants all took place at the Boston hospital in 2011.
SEVERE WEATHER-POST OFFICE
Post office becomes outpost after Ill. tornadoes
WASHINGTON, Ill. (AP) - The post office in the central Illinois city of Washington is becoming a hub in the tornado-ravaged community as more than 1,400 people a day visit the facility to pick up their mail.
The (Peoria) Journal Star reports people are visiting the brick building because daily mail service has been cut off to many homes and businesses after the Nov. 17 storms. Instead, people visit the post office - sometimes daily - to pick up their mail.
Rebecca Brummitt is a local customer relations coordinator for the U.S. Post Service who normally works out of Peoria. Now she's working in Washington, helping residents of the community reroute their mail to temporary addresses.
She says some residents are grateful because "the mail was the only personal thing they had left."
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