CHICAGO SCHOOL CLOSINGS
Chicago Board of Ed votes to close 50 schools
CHICAGO (AP) - The Chicago Board of Education has made a final vote to close 50 schools.
The ambitious proposal that sparked protests and lawsuits could help define - for better or worse - Mayor Rahm Emanuel's term in office. The board voted Wednesday.
City officials say the closings are necessary because of falling school enrollment and as part of their efforts to improve the city's struggling education system. But critics have blasted Emanuel and schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, saying the closings disproportionately affect minority neighborhoods and will endanger children who may have to cross gang boundaries to get to a new school.
Protesters rallied during the board's meeting Wednesday. They also sent busloads of teachers, parents and students to Springfield to lobby lawmakers to approve a moratorium on the closings.
ILLINOIS FLOODING-DISASTER RELIEF
14 Illinois counties get federal disaster help
CHICAGO (AP) - Fourteen more Illinois counties will receive federal disaster aid after last month's flooding.
Gov. Pat Quinn's office announced the aid on Wednesday afternoon. The state and its congressional delegation originally asked for federal help for 16 more counties. The new federally approved list doesn't include Putnam and Warren counties. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency says it is reviewing the status of those counties to determine further action.
The list includes Bureau, Crawford, Henderson, Knox, Livingston, Marshall, Mason, McDonough, Peoria, Rock Island, Schuyler, Stark, Tazewell and Woodford counties. They are in addition to 11 other Illinois counties that already are receiving federal help.
A disaster declaration allows people and businesses to apply for federal loans and reimbursements to help pay for storm and flood damage repairs.
Ill. General Assembly overrides 'Smart Grid' veto
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois lawmakers have overridden Gov. Pat Quinn's veto of legislation that addresses so-called Smart Grid technology.
The Illinois House voted Wednesday to again approve the legislation, a day after the Senate approved it for a second time. Quinn vetoed it May 6, saying the proposal weakened oversight and forced automatic rate hikes.
ComEd and Ameren pushed the bill to clarify legislation allowing the utilities to raise rates to fund the high-tech system. But the Illinois Commerce Commission and both utilities disagreed over implementation. ComEd filed an appeal over technical matters and faces a lawsuit over installation delays.
ComEd says with the new law the average residential customer will pay 40 cents more a month starting in 2014 and 80 cents more in 2017.
Increased speed limit bill goes to Ill. governor
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Legislation increasing the speed limit on interstate highways in Illinois to 70 mph is headed to Gov. Pat Quinn.
The House approved the bill 85-30 Wednesday. The current maximum speed limit is 65 mph.
Sponsoring Rep. Jerry Costello II says the bill is good for business. The Smithton Democrat says it will allow companies to move their wares more quickly.
Gov. Pat Quinn's Transportation Department opposes the increase. But spokeswoman Brooke Anderson says Quinn will review the bill.
House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie says studies show increased speeds result in more crashes and deaths.
But a Jacksonville Republican Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer says motorists heading south avoid Illinois, meaning fewer stops for fuel and food.
Illinois Senate approves sex education bill
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A proposal that revamps sex education in Illinois public schools to include information about contraception and sexually transmitted diseases has cleared the state Senate.
Current state law says sex education should focus on abstinence as the "expected norm." Schools can opt out of teaching sex education altogether.
The bill senators approved Wednesday says sex education curriculum would still stress abstinence but include information on protection and STDs. Districts would still have the option of not teaching sex education and parents could chose to opt out their children.
Senators voted 37 to 21. The House approved it last month and a spokeswoman says Gov. Pat Quinn supports it.
Opponents say it's an issue of losing local control and abstinence-only programs teach valuable principles.
New Ill. House guns bill excludes parks, transit
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Compromise Illinois House legislation to regulate the carrying of concealed weapons would ban guns in parks and on public transportation.
Rep. Brandon Phelps filed the legislation Wednesday. An analysis of the bill by The Associated Press shows it would ban weapons in municipal parks and athletic areas. It also would ban firearms on public buses and trains - a must for most Chicago Democrats fearing a slew of weaponry on public transit.
A federal appeals court ruled in December Illinois must allow citizens to carry concealed weapons.
Phelps is a Harrisburg Democrat who opposes too many restrictions. But his own measure failed. He filed the new version after a meeting earlier Wednesday in Speaker Michael Madigan's office.
Springfield man gets 65 years in killing
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A central Illinois judge has sentenced a Springfield man to 65 years in prison for armed robbery and murder.
The State Journal-Register reports (http://bit.ly/10lK64x) Wednesday that 23-year-old Antonio Phillips received the sentence. He was convicted in March of shooting 24-year-old William "Wes" Suggs in the face in 2009 and leaving his slumped over a steering wheel. Passers-by found Suggs.
Circuit Judge Leslie Graves gave Phillips 50 years for murder. Phillips received another 15 years under Illinois law for using a gun.
Prosecutors said Phillips is a danger to the community. Defense attorney Craig Reiser filed a motion for the judge to reconsider the sentence.
Judge convicts Chenoa man in 3-year-old's death
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) - A McLean County judge has found a Chenoa man guilty of first-degree murder in the April 2011 death his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter.
The (Bloomington) Pantagraph reports (http://bit.ly/10Mv5Eq) Judge Rebecca Foley on Wednesday found that 25-year-old David Gharrett is responsible for the death of Destiny Cox. Prosecutors say the little girl died of head trauma after Gharrett slammed her into the bathtub while he was babysitting.
Gharrett's attorney argued the girl choked on jalapeno peppers and hit her head on a bathtub after falling from Gharrett's arms. The attorney says Gharrett attempted to revive the girl and officials mistook injuries sustained in his botched CPR attempt as signs of abuse.
Gharrett did not testify during the bench trial. However, several witnesses testified they witnessed physical and emotional abuse by Gharrett.
Jurors at Trump civil trial go home; no verdict
CHICAGO (AP) - Jurors went home shortly after beginning deliberations on whether Donald Trump cheated an 87-year-old woman in a skyscraper-condo deal.
The jury began deliberating Wednesday after closing arguments at the civil trial in Chicago. They went home after about 90 minutes. And they'll resume Thursday morning.
The case focuses on Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago. Jacqueline Goldberg alleges the "Apprentice" star wooed her into buying properties by promising her a profit-sharing plan, then reneged after she committed to buy.
In his closing argument, Goldberg attorney Shelly Kulwin said Trump engaged in a bait & switch scheme. He also said he found Trump repulsive.
Trump attorney Stephen Novack says such personal attacks reveal an absence of evidence. He says Goldberg signed a contract stipulating the profit-sharing could be canceled.
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