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Published on May 6 2012 10:36 am
Last Updated on July 14 2013 4:07 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

The 24th Annual Veterans Memorial Vigil will conclude today at Oakridge Cemetery in Springfield.

Activities will include closing ceremonies at 11am, adding names to the Memorial at 11:30am, and the retiring of a 24-hour Honor Guard at noon.

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There are a few changes coming to the Illinois State Fair this year, thanks to the state's cash-strapped budget.  First, admission is going up; it'll be seven dollars for adults and three dollars for children and seniors.  They're also cutting back on the number of premium payouts for the competitions.  Fair Manager Amy Bliefnick says the changes won't impact the success of the fair, because there's still top name talent planned at the grandstand, carnival rides, and plenty of fair food.

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You and your favorite canine friends are invited to the 2012 Bark for Life of Effingham.  This year's Bark for Life will be held today from 4-6pm at Evergreen Hollow Park in Effingham at the Red Pavilion.  There will be demonstrations, games and food.  Register your team for $25.  Funds donated will benefit the Relay for Life of Effingham County.  Relay teams that participate in Bark for Life can count their Bark for Life funds toward their Relay for Life team.

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Law enforcement officers encourage families of their fallen comrades to reach out for help when they need it.  They say it can be very difficult to lose a loved one, especially in the line of duty.  Hundreds of officers gathered on the west lawn of the State Capitol this week to pay tribute to fallen officers.

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The Teutopolis Monastery Museum will be open for tours today, and every first Sunday of the month through November.  Tours will be available between 12:30 and 4pm.  Admission is $3 for adults and $1 for children.  The Museum is located on the second floor in the former Franciscan Novitiate building located behind St. Francis Catholic Church in Teutopolis.  The displays include items used by the Franciscan Friars when a monastery was located behind the church, as well as items depicting the early history of Teutopolis and tours of the stained glass windows in St. Francis Church.  For tours other than the first Sundays, phone Joyce and Ray Vahling at 857-3586.

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Illinois voters this fall will be asked whether to make it tougher for state and local governments to sweeten public employee pensions, under a measure lawmakers approved Thursday.  The proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution now goes on the November ballot following the Senate's 51-2 vote.  The House previously approved the measure.

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Illinois US Senator Mark Kirk has returned home to Fort Sheridan in Highland park after making steady progress in recovering from a stroke.  His family says, "Mark has progressed to the point where he can move home, and will continue to work on his recovery as an outpatient at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago."  Doctors removed a small section of the senator's brain following the stroke to ease the swelling.  Doctors say he has made steady progress in his recovery.

Kirk will soon begin a research trial aimed at returning him to his pre-stroke walking pace.  Doctors say he could suffer lasting paralysis on his left side.

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Illinois' budget crisis is hitting close to home for many parents.  The State says it can no longer pay for a childcare assistance program, which helps 100,000 families across the state pay for daycare.  Daycare providers who receive money from the State will come up short for at least the next several months, or until lawmakers decide whether the state can afford to restore funding.  Parents say this could force them to quit their jobs and stay home with the kids.

Meanwhile, a new report says more than half of the daycares in Illinois have not been inspected by the State.  The Chicago Tribune reports 55% of the approximately 12,000 daycare operations haven't had visits from state inspectors during their current three-year license period.  The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has some 3,000 employees, but only 123 are assigned to licensing.  State officials blame budget cuts and staffing shortages for the inspection failures.

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More than 60% of Illinois residents support a gaming solution that includes more casinos and the addition of slot machines at racetracks.  Backers see that as a way to create more than 20,000 jobs and generate nearly $200 million annually for the State.  According to a poll by Illinois Revenue and Jobs Alliance, most Illinoisans support the gambling expansion bill vetoed by Governor Pat Quinn this year.

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The State of Illinois is slowing down its push to raise the dropout age to 18.  The Senate Education Committee has decided the issue needs more study before Illinois raises the age for compulsory school attendance from 17 to 18.  The committee instead this week approved a proposal creating a commission composed of nearly two dozen education representatives to give the issue more scrutiny.

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Workers at a Galesburg elementary school have discovered a few pieces of history.  Grade books dating back to 1879 were found in the Silas Willard Elementary School basement, highlighting years that both President Ronald Reagan and famout poet Carl Sandburg attended the school.  The books are being donated to the Galesburg Public Library archives.

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Children will suffer if lawmakers don't find a way to restructure the state's pension and Medicaid systems.  That's according to Governor Pat Quinn, who says education funding will be squeezed tight unless lawmakers come up with a fix.  Quinn has outlined his own plans, which include increasing retirement age and employee contributions, plus adding a one dollar tax on cigarettes.  Lawmakers have a few weeks to get the job done, or Quinn said he'd call them back into special session during the summer.

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Muslims are now the third-largest religious group in Illinois after Roman Catholics and independent evangelicals.  The Chicago Tribune also reports that Muslims are also the fastest-growing denomination.  That's according to a census of American religious congregations.  Nationally, the study shows a mostly Christian nation with a lot of variety beneath the surface, including about 150 million Americans, half the population, who aren't engaged with a religious community.