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Advocacy Group Pushes For Affordable Childcare Fundsposted December 19th, 2014
An advocacy group for children and families worries the state’s financial woes will have a bigger impact on the most vulnerable residents in 2015. Emily Miller is the Policy Director for Voices for Illinois Children. She says access to affordable childcare needs to be a priority when lawmakers return to Springfield in January. Miller tells WDCB News current state funding levels are already hurting families. She says lawmakers already underfunded childcare by 27% in the current state budget. Miller says that means in February or March current childcare programs will start feeling the effect of those cuts and 11,000 children will be cut from the programs. She thinks there will be a further erosion of access to affordable childcare in the next budget if the General Assembly can’t agree to new revenue. The state income tax rate will reset to just over three percent on January first. Experts say it will leave a one billion dollar hole in this year’s budget and two billion in the new fiscal year.
Increased Coyote Activity Reported Across DuPage Countyposted December 19th, 2014
DuPage Forest Preserve ecologist Dan Thompson has lived in the county all his life. He says as a kid, seeing a coyote was a rare occurrence, but that isn’t the case anymore. The dog-like animals are widespread in the county and are increasingly comfortable living in suburban neighborhoods. That habituation has in recent years led to more attacks on family pets. Thompson tells WDCB News the attacks typically reflect a perceived territorial threat. He says coyotes aren't interested in humans, but they can view a family dog as invading their home territory and react. Thompson says imagine how you would feel if you were sitting in your family room and a random person walking through your house. He says chances are you wouldn't just sit idly by and not react. This time of year coyotes become more obvious because the leaves are off the trees and bushes and they have to work a little harder to find food. Thompson says people need to realize if they have bird feeders in their yard, spilled seed will attract small mammals and that will attract coyotes.
U.S. Attitudes Toward Cuba Shiftingposted December 18th, 2014
Wednesday, President Barack Obama announced the U-S and Cuba have agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations. The shift in foreign policy could be the beginning of the end of a political stand-off that’s spanned five decades and ten U.S. Presidents. Some Republican elected officials are criticizing the President’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba. North Central College political science professor Dr. Bill Muck tells WDCB News American attitudes toward Cuba are changing. Obama is looking to expand economic ties with Cuba, open an embassy in Havana and review that country's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. But Congressional approval would be needed to lift the countries’ trade embargo.
Flu Hits Early This Yearposted December 18th, 2014
Already this year, flu forced one Chicago area school to close its doors for several days and schools in Oak Park are also dealing with high absenteeism. The Illinois Department of Public Health says seasonal flu is already taking a toll. The Department’s Melanie Arnold says the virus’s early arrival doesn’t necessarily mean this will be a tougher year for flu. Arnold tells WDCB News seasonal flu is a wildcard. She says it can sometime spike early, it can spike in January or February or even later in the season so it's very difficult to predict what it will be like going forward. Arnold says people do tend to congregate more during the holiday season and that can push incidents higher, so it's important to stay home if you're sick even if that means missing a holiday party. The Illinois Health Department says it’s not too late to get a flu shot and it reminds people to employ the “three-Cs” this flu season. Arnold says that means: cover your cough, clean your hands, and confine yourself to home if you’re sick.
Holiday Travel Expected to Increaseposted December 17th, 2014
More Americans will be hitting the road this holiday season. Triple-A projects a 4% increase in holiday travel this year compared to 2013. An estimated 98.6 million Americans will drive or fly over 50 miles from home between December 23rd and January fourth. AAA Chicago’s Beth Mosher tells WDCB News the surge in travel is being fueled in part by low gas prices. According to gasbuddy.com, gas prices are just under $2.70-a gallon in the Chicago metro area. An estimated five million Illinoisans will travel this holiday season.
Workers Wrap Up Western End Of Jane Addamsposted December 17th, 2014
Drivers will have an easier go of it on the western end of the Jane Addams Tollway. The Downers Grove based Illinois Toll Highway Authority celebrated the completion of a massive reconstruction project this week. Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur says the project between Rockford and Elgin came in on time and under budget. She tells WDCB News I-90 was in desperate need of attention. Lafleur says the pavement was literally crumbling under the pressure of traffic and the entire highway needed to be rebuilt. She says as when the Tollway made the decision to rebuild, it new there was a need for added capacity, so the project added a lane and an extra wide inside shoulder that could offer future capacity for bus rapid transit or other needs. The celebration will be short-lived, workers will begin working on the eastern section of the Jane Addams early next year. Lafleur says when that’s complete in 2017, I-90 will be a state of the art corridor between Rockford and O’Hare.
Senate Report on CIA Interrogation Practices Unlikely to Lingerposted December 16th, 2014
A new poll released by the Pew Research Center reveals just over half of Americans believe the interrogation methods used by the CIA against terrorism suspects following 9/11 were justified. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA interrogation practices has drawn heated reactions from both Democrats and Republicans. What’s unclear is if the report will lead to any repercussions or policy changes? College of DuPage political science professor Dr. David Goldberg tells WDCB News criminal charges are unlikely, but the report could ignite a broader conversation. According to the Pew survey, only 23% of Americans says they are following the story “very closely”. The report also revealed … those who are following the story approve the CIA’s techniques.
What's The Future For The State Comptroller Officeposted December 16th, 2014
Elected leaders from across the state will gather tomorrow in Countryside to remember Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. The Riverside Republican died last week from complications of a stroke. Her death refueled the debate over the need for a State Comptroller and Treasurer. Political historian Kent Redfield says lawmakers can’t just dissolve the office. He tells WDCB News the 1970 Constitutional Convention created the two offices as a financial check-and-balance. Redfield says the two offices probably don't make a lot of sense in 2014, especially in light of the fact that the state now has an Auditor General and a series of other safeguards. He says the two offices were a reaction, possibly an over-reaction to a theft from the State Treasurer's office in th 1950s. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued an opinion on the vacancy. She says Governor Pat Quinn can appoint someone to fill the current term, then Governor Elect Bruce Rauner will be to appoint someone for the term that begins in January.
With Budget In Place, Congress Looks Ahead to 2015posted December 15th, 2014
Despite lots of political rancor surrounding President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration, Republicans and Democrats were able to come together on a spending plan that funds almost all of the government through September 30th. The one exception is the Department of Homeland Security … which is only funded through the end of February. Benedictine University political science professor Dr.Phil Hardy says the stage is set next year for some heated debates on immigration. He tells WDCB News with Republicans in control of the Senate … there will be a noticeable shift in the policies that emerge from Congress next year. Hardy says it’s unclear if Republicans will be able to leverage Department of Homeland Security funding for immigration roll-backs.
Regulators Approve Another Com-Ed Rate Hikeposted December 15th, 2014
As part of the plan to bring ‘smart grid’ technology to Illinois, state lawmakers made it easier for utilities to get rate hikes to offset the costs. The Citizens Utility Board’s Jim Chilsen says the Illinois Commerce Commission approved a $239-million increase for Com-Ed. It’s the second rate hike in as many years. Chilsen tells WDCB News it’s time for the utility to deliver on the promise of improved service. He says people want to see that the upgrades aren't just going to lead to a series of rate hikes, but that they will actually lead to benefit for consumers. Chilsen says there is a lot of frustration about energy prices overall, and there's a lot of pressure on Com-Ed to show results from the higher rates. CUB plans to appeal the increase that is set to take effect next month. Chilsen is concerned the higher rates will hit consumers during what could be another very cold winter.