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Jim Leach caught up with Conan. Listen with the player above or download the mp3 here.
The newest comedy team on late night TV could be Conan O’Brien, and Abraham Lincoln.
The comedian and host of a nightly talk show on TBS visited Springfield with a camera crew Thursday.
O’Brien visited the Lincoln Presidential Museum, the Old State Capitol and other Lincoln sites, shooting video that will most likely be used when O’Brien’s show originates from Chicago later this month.
The lanky comic says he has a lot in common with Lincoln… including his height and a talent for statesmanship.
Executives with Vision Airlines say they are expecting Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to remain a popular travel destination for people in the Springfield area.
The carrier has taken over the direct Springfield-to-Myrtle Beach route that was thrown into limbo when Direct Air filed for bankruptcy this spring. The first Vision Air flights between the two cities took off Thursday, and will run twice weekly through the summer.
The success of the service will determine whether it will continue in future years, and may play a role in whether Vision Airlines will resume service between Springfield and Florida in the fall and winter months.
Illinois lawmakers have approved a budget that immediately drew fire from both those who say it spends too much and those who say it spends too little.
The spending plan reduces education funding below the current year's levels and may add to the budget worries for many local districts. That was sharply criticized by education advocates, but other lawmakers objected to what they see as overall spending increases in the budget.
The spending plan includes money to keep open a number of state facilities that had been targeted for closure by Gov. Pat Quinn, including the Jacksonville Developmental Center. But Quinn could still act on his own to close down some or all of them.
Although it was described as one of the most important issues of the legislative session, a pension reform deal will have to wait until later this summer at the earliest.
A pension plan shepherded by House Republican Leader Tom Cross had to be shelved when not enough Democratic votes could be found for passage. Most Democrats sided with House Speaker Mike Madigan, who opposed the Cross bill because it did not include a provision to let the state shift some pension costs back to local school districts, colleges and universities.
Governor Pat Quinn says the state does not have the option of failing to take action on pensions, and indicated lawmakers would be called back for a special session to hammer out a solution to the impasse.
Team Coco meets Team Abe...
Comedian and talk show host Conan O'Brien visited Springfield with a camera crew Thursday, and the end result may wind up on his nightly TBS show when it originates from Chicago in mid-June. O'Brien, a history buff, visited the Lincoln Presidential Museum and got video at various Lincoln-related attractions. He says he has some similiarities with Lincoln -- including above-average height.
O'Brien declined to say how the footage obtained in Springfield would be used in his Chicago broadcasts, saying that his team would have to evaluate what they shot to determine how it would be used.
Another dramatic twist in the pension reform fight at the Capitol.
House Speaker Mike Madigan is now dropping his call to shift pension costs for teachers back to local school districts.
Madigan says Governor Pat Quinn asked him to drop the idea, and while Madigan says he disagrees with Quinn on the issue, he went along with the governor’s request.
The pension shift could have cost District 186 and other local districts millions of dollars, and was opposed by House Republicans.
Setting the idea aside improves the chances of passing other parts of the pension reform package by tonight’s deadline.
The House has passed a budget bill, but lawmakers may have their work cut out for them to reconcile that spending plan with one passed earlier by the Senate.
The House budget spends significantly less than the Senate proposal, particularly on education.
Differences between the two plans must be worked out by tonight, or the legislative session could go into overtime, giving the minority Republicans a much greater voice in the budget negotiations.
Same-sex couples across Illinois say they can no longer wait for legislative action, and are now turning to the courts to make same-sex marriage legal.
More than two dozen couples, including two from Springfield, have joined two separate lawsuits aimed at forcing Illinois to recognize same-sex marriage.
The lawsuits contend the state’s civil unions law enacted a year ago does not provide equal or adequate protection for same-sex couples and their families.
Just months after it opened, the J. Parsons store in Springfield is closing, the latest setback for its Springfield-based parent company, THR and Associates.
THR has been mired in legal and financial challenges in recent months, with some employees filing suit claiming the company underpaid them. And the company bounced thousands of checks earlier this spring and is still working to repay the money it owes.
The company says the J. Parsons concept just didn’t work as well as predicted, and says it will now focus on its other retail business, the Buy Sell Trade stores located in Springfield and Jacksonville.
Union workers at Springfield’s Head Start program say the Urban League, which runs Head Start locally, is not complying with the workers’ contract.
Those workers staged an informational picket Wednesday to call attention to their complaints.
They say the Urban League shortchanged them on vacation time.
The agency says workers got less vacation time this month because the end of school meant they did not work a full month, and only earned six-and-a-half hours, not the full eight hours they would get in a normal month.
Not all District 186 schools are “out for the summer”.
There are two which are balanced-calendar schools, and they’re asking drivers to be aware their schools are still in session – so speed zones still apply.
Graham Elementary and Southern View will not end their 2011-12 school year until Thursday, June 7th.
The schools will also begin their 2012-13 term on July 19th.
That’s about a month earlier than other district schools.
The district is requesting motorists to remain cautions when driving past schools – regardless of the time of the year.
The Illinois State Fair is only a couple of months away, and the Illinois State Museum Foundation is looking for individuals who make a difference in their Illinois community, showing Illinois spirit through hard work and dedication to helping others.
Nominations are being accepted for Illinoisan of the Day at the Illinois State Fair.
Each winner will be invited to receive gifts and honors on stage during their special day at the Fair.
Nomination forms can be requested by calling the Museum Foundation at 415-4408, or can be printed from the museum’s website at statefair museum.org.
The deadline for nominees is June 15th.
Winners will be announced at the Annual Corndog Kickoff on Saturday, July 14th inside the Orr Building on the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
Two Springfield couples are among more than two dozen around the state who are suing for the right to marry.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal are representing those same-sex couples in two separate, but nearly identical, lawsuits filed against Cook County Clerk David Orr. The suits allege that depriving those couples of the right to marry is unconstitutional and relegates the couples to second-rate status. They say that civil unions are inadequate because they are poorly understood and not equally recognized around the state.
Lawyers for the two groups say the courts are an appropriate venue to protect the couples’ civil rights. Even so, they say it could take two to three years for the cases to make their way through the courts.
Illinois lawmakers have approved a hefty increase on tobacco taxes, a key plank of Governor Pat Quinn’s Medicaid reform efforts.
Quinn says he will quickly sign the increase, which will raise the tax on cigarettes by a dollar a pack, to a total of $1.98.
The measure will also double taxes on other forms of tobacco.
The proceeds, combined with additional federal matching funds, will generate more than 700-million dollars for the cash-strapped Medicaid system.
Tensions are riding high, and frustration is boiling over, as lawmakers try to find an answer to the state’s growing pension crisis.
Republican Representative Mike Bost of Murphysboro yelled and tossed papers in the air on the House floor Tuesday, as he vented anger over House Speaker Mike Madigan’s refusal to consider GOP amendments to Madigan’s pension reform bill.
And House Republican leader Tom Cross suggested Madigan was actually trying to kill pension reform, and said Madigan was to blame for the mess the state is in today.
The pension reform bill cleared a House committee Tuesday, but no one’s sure if the votes are there for approval by the full House.
Springfield police aren’t saying what may have led up to a deadly shooting outside a home on North 14th Street early Monday. But eyewitness accounts have led officers to a suspect in the fatal shooting.
34-year-old Johnny Ray Priester was arrested Tuesday morning by members of the U.S. Marshal’s Violent Fugitive Task Force.
He’s accused of firing as many as nine shots into a crowd of people outside the home.
20-year-old Quinton Harden was struck in the head as he tried to shield others from the spray of bullets, he died a few hours later.
The debate over same-sex marriage in Illinois is about to head into the courtroom.
The American Civil Liberties Union plans to hold news conferences today in Springfield and Chicago to announce the filing of lawsuits aimed at forcing the state to give gay couples the same rights and benefits of marriage that straight couples now have.
Several same-sex couples will be plaintiffs in the lawsuits, which could eventually make their way to the Illinois Supreme Court, setting the stage for a landmark ruling.
A two-year search has finally led to a new music director for the Illinois Symphony Orchestra.
Alistair Willis is a Grammy nominee who formerly worked with symphonies in Seattle and Cincinnati, and was a guest conductor with orchestras around the world, including Chicago and St. Louis.
He was one of five finalists to succeed the last music director for the ISO, Karen Lynne Deal.
A suspect has been arrested in the fatal shooting of a Springfield man early Monday.
Members of the U.S. Marshal's Violent Fugitive Task Force arrested 34-year-old Johnny Ray Priester in connection with the death of 20-year-old Quinton Hardin outside a home on North 14th Street around 3:30 Monday morning. Witnesses say Hardin was struck in the head as he tried to shield others in a group of people outside the home from the hail of bullets.
Police did not immediately release a picture of Priester, citing the ongoing investigation, and did not offer additional details about what may have led to the shooting or how they identified Priester as their suspect.
An Illinois House committee has approved a pension reform plan on a vote of 6-3, sending the measure to the full House. Representative Raymond Poe (R-Springfield) voted against the measure.
It would require state workers to choose between their current guaranteed 3% annual cost-of-living adjustment, compounded -- or accepting a smaller COLA in exchange for access to a state health care plan.
The measure also seeks to transfer future pension costs for teachers and college and university employees from the state to those local school districts. District 186 says that change could mean millions of dollars in new expenses for the cash-strapped district.