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New private foundation will cooperate with State of Illinois to preserve threatened fairgrounds.

As the Illinois State Fair of 2016 moved towards its scheduled close on Sunday, August 21, Gov. Bruce Rauner applauded the creation of a private foundation to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure that supports Illinois’ largest summer gathering.

“The State Fair is the best place for Illinois to show off its products and accomplishments, and to ensure we can continue to do that, so that our children and grandchildren can continue on with this same tradition, we must preserve the State Fair experience and the legacy of its entertainment for generations to come,” said Governor Rauner. “A foundation is the best way to ensure that the fairgrounds get the upgrades and renovations necessary for these important assets. And it allows the fairgrounds to be less reliant on state money while putting no additional costs on the taxpayers. This is a win for taxpayers and the agricultural community as a whole.”

With an estimated $180 million in deferred maintenance costs, the more than 190 buildings of the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield and the DuQuoin State Fair in Southern Illinois’ DuQuoin will require massive rebuilding to maintain a safe and secure fairgoing experience. Electrical, paint, plumbing, roofing, and structural repairs must be done on buildings that were built as long ago as 1892.

Gov. Rauner has led the push to create the new Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, announced on Sunday, August 14. Established by private-sector leaders of the agricultural community, the foundation will raise private funding and coordinate the revitalization and improvement of both fairgrounds. It is expected that large donors may receive recognition for their generosity in the form of sponsorship opportunities that will be seen by the hundreds of thousands of annual visitors to the Fairs and their grounds. Creation of the Foundation was the culmination of a push to save the State Fairgrounds led by Rep. Tim Butler and by former Rep. Raymond Poe, both of Springfield. Former Rep. Poe is currently the Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the State agency with overall responsibility over the State fairgrounds and state fair infrastructure.
Springfield, IL native Ryan Held earned a gold medal in the U.S. men’s 4x100-meter freestyle relay team victory on Sunday, August 7. As a member of the four-man relay team with U.S. Olympic legend Michael Phelps, the 19 year-old Held and fellow swimmers Caeleb Dressel and Nathan Adrian teamed to claim the gold in 3 minutes, 9.92 seconds.

A graduate of Sacred Heart-Griffin High School in Springfield, Held will be entering his junior year at North Carolina State University once the Olympic Games are over. He participated in the Olympic Trials held in Omaha, Nebraska in late June before heading to the U.S. team’s training camp in San Antonio, Texas in July. Held plans to return home to Springfield for a visit over Labor Day weekend September 3-5.

A total of 36 athletes from Illinois are competing in this year’s Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil which conclude on Sunday, August 21.
Public health trackers have now counted 46 cases of Zika infection in Illinois. The report from the Illinois Department of Public Health states that Illinois pregnant women are now counted on the list of people exposed to the mosquito-borne illness. The names of the Illinois patients have not been disclosed, as is standard in new disease outbreaks.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued a series of warnings and travel advisories in response to the widespread appearance of Zika in a range of tropical and subtropical ecosystems throughout the Western Hemisphere. In addition to outbreaks in Greater Miami and in Puerto Rico, the virus has been reported in all but twocountries south of the U.S. border. Affected countries include Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and all of South America except Chile and Uruguay.

Potential Zika patients are strongly urged to take standard precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Not all mosquitoes are genetically adapted to serve as vectors of the Zika virus. The mosquitoes that carry Zika live in tropical and subtropical environments and mostly bite during the daytime. As the Zika virus has now been proven to have the capability of spreading bysexual intercourse, standard precautions are also strongly urged in this area.
Insurance premiums for Obamacare will rise an average of 
11 percent, according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.



Insurers want to crank up the cost of health insurance premiums by as much as 45 percent for Illinois residents who buy coverage through the Affordable Care Act's marketplace.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, the most popular insurer on the state's Obamacare exchange, is proposing increases ranging from 23 percent to 45 percent in premiums for its individual health-care plans, according to proposed 2017 premiums that were made public Monday. The insurer blamed the sought-after hikes mainly on changes in the costs of medical services.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois said in a statement that the proposed rates are in line with those in many markets across the country, and the proposed increases don't tell the whole story. (Read the full article by Lisa Schencker of the Chicago Tribune by clicking here.)
Secretary of State Jesse White announced today that his office has reinstated the mailing of vehicle registration reminder notices to Illinois drivers. To offset the cost of the mailings, White is drafting legislation allowing his office to offer advertising space on the mailings. In addition, White is urging the public to sign-up for email notices to further reduce mailing costs.

The Secretary of State’s office discontinued mailing reminders in October 2015 due to the lack of funding as a direct result of the state budget impasse. The stop-gap budget recently passed by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor allows White’s office to reinstate the notices. “The notices are an essential tool for the public to be sure their vehicles are in good standing and avoid paying late fees and fines resulting from tickets issued by law enforcement,” White said. “The driving public paid the price for the budget impasse and it proved to be an unfair burden.

With the funds from the stop-gap budget the notices will resume. In addition, we are reducing the number of mailings and seeking alternative funding sources for the postage costs.” “Although we are now able to reinstate mailing the vehicle registration reminder notices, I continue to strongly urge motorists to sign up for email reminders,” said White. “Saving taxpayer dollars is always a priority of our administration.”

White noted that more than 2.3 million people have registered for the email notification, 800,000 of which signed up since October 2015. Vehicle owners can sign up for email notifications by visiting the Secretary of State website, www.cyberdriveillinois.com. To register for the program, vehicle owners will need their assigned registration ID and PIN, which can be found on their current vehicle registration card. If that information is not available, they can call the Secretary of State public inquiry division at 800-252-8980 to obtain the Registration ID and PIN. The one-time registration process will allow vehicle owners to receive a series of three email notices per vehicle each year highlighting the upcoming vehicle expiration date.
The Annual Heritage Days at the American Farm Heritage Museum are July 29-31.

Attendees may take a train ride, admire tractors and working farm engine displays, learn about farm life in the Little Red Barn, watch steam engines saw logs and thresh wheat, shop the flea market, tour the Hill’s Fort replica, listen to music in the air-conditioned main building, see the military museum display and eat some great food including hand-scooped ice cream. There will be horse pulls, tractor pulls, and kiddie tractor pulls. A church service is scheduled for 8:00 a.m. Sunday. (Learn more at WGEL Radio here.)
According to an article by Reboot Illinois writer Kevin Hoffman, more than 181,000 Illinoisans have a license to carry a concealed firearm, according to the Illinois State Police.

In July 2013, Illinois became the last state in the nation to legalize concealed carry after a federal circuit appeals court struck down a ban on carrying concealed handguns in December 2012.

The Illinois State Police began issuing licenses to residents in the spring of 2014; and as of June 1, 2016, there were a total of 181,489 active concealed carry licenses.

Using data provided by the state police, we’ve listed and mapped out which counties have the most concealed carry license holders per 1,000 residents as ranking counties based on the total number of active concealed carry licenses can be misleading.

For example, more than 47,000 permits have been issued to residents of Cook County — by far the most in the state — but the county ranks dead last for the number of license holders per 1,000 people (see the spreadsheet above for absolute figures).

Illinois’ concealed carry law is considered to be among the strictest in the nation, particularly because there are 23 prohibited places where a license holder can’t carry, such as public transit and public festivals that require a permit. In addition, private businesses can post anti-gun signs designated by the state police. While legislation has been introduced in recent years to loosen restrictions on where one can carry, including a controversial bill that would have permitted license holders to carry a concealed, loaded firearm on public transportation, no such measures have advanced through the General Assembly. (Read the complete article and see the chart by clicking here.)