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Immigrant licenses measure advances

SPRINGFIELD – The cause of immigrants who lack Social Security numbers but wish to obtain driver's licenses and buy insurance edged forward in the House on Wednesday.

The House Executive Committee voted 10-2 to allow the licenses for an estimated 300,000 undocumented immigrants who could be eligible in Illinois.

Obscure state agency carries heavy burden

Gary Meyer is the first to admit most Illinois consumers probably have no idea what he does, or even that the bureau he works for exists.

As a products and standards inspector with the Illinois Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Weights and Measures, Meyer travels the state measuring and weighing products, whether it's a bushel of potatoes or a container of potato salad.

Praise for shelter aired

CHAMPAIGN – On a cold Saturday morning in December, Charles Doty got up from his cot at the TIMES Center and was shocked by the face that stared back at him in the bathroom mirror.

His eyes were nearly swollen shut. His face, neck and feet were full of fluid. He sat down to have a cup of coffee, thinking he might feel better. A staff member for the homeless shelter hurried over, saying "We've got to get you out of here."

Two Urbana teaching jobs among possible cuts

URBANA – Sharply divided school board members added one teacher's job to their list of potential cuts Tuesday, and at least one more job is on the line.

Board President Joyce Hudson didn't attend the meeting because she was sick, but she watched the action on cable television, phoned staff members to communicate her opinions on issues, and when the vote on teachers' jobs and several other issues stalled at 3-3, Hudson came in to tip the balance in favor of those cuts.

Five-man band lets music do the talking

CHAMPAIGN – "The Flintstones Theme" has probably never before been played at the University YMCA's Know Your Universities series, whose topics rarely lend themselves to cartoons.

New York jazzman Cecil Bridgewater changed all that Tuesday with a beboppy rendition of the animation theme, as well as "Take the A Train," in which his five-man band rivaled Duke Ellington's.

Health center can't keep up with demand

CHAMPAIGN – For more than two years, the growing medical needs of low-income and uninsured people have been steadily gaining on what Frances Nelson Health Center in Champaign has to offer.

About a month ago, the clinic could no longer keep up. It started a waiting list for new patients, and those on it now number about 200, said Frances Nelson's site director, Andrea Goldberg.

Insurance legislation advances

SPRINGFIELD – A House committee on Tuesday advanced legislation designed to help companies find the best deals on health insurance, but the insurance industry still has some problems with the bill.

HB 4059, sponsored by state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, would require insurance companies upon request to provide employers with figures showing the amount of money paid out for health coverage annually and the types of claims paid. Firms would then be able to use that information to get more accurate quotes from other insurers and shop around for the lowest premiums, but may not use the information for any other purposes, Jakobsson said.

Township taking action to deal with medical bills

URBANA – Medical bills for indigent clients have exceeded expectations in Cunningham Township, forcing the township to move to amend its budget and to dip into savings.

Cunningham Township Supervisor Carol Elliott said she budgeted $150,000 for medical bills this fiscal year, which ends June 30, but has already spent $144,000 for the township's approximately 80 general assistance clients, with several bills still outstanding.

Urbana council gives final OK for Wal-Mart

URBANA – With little fanfare or controversy, the Urbana City Council gave final approval Monday night to a Wal-Mart Supercenter project at the southeast corner of U.S. 150 and Illinois 130.

Aldermen unanimously approved a final plat for the first phase of the project, which will include a roughly 200,000-square-foot supercenter and an accompanying gas station on 27 acres.

Area man selected for development post

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Monday put Vermilion County Board Chairman Todd Lee in charge of implementing his "Opportunity Returns" economic development plan for East Central Illinois.

The plan for Champaign, Vermilion, Piatt, Douglas, Ford and Iroquois counties is slated to be next in the governor's series of 10 regionally targeted job growth initiatives, but a date for the announcement has not yet been set, said Blagojevich spokesman Andrew Ross. Plans for six other regions have already been released.