Meth law to protect children

SPRINGFIELD – Methamphetamine production is a mushrooming problem in rural Illinois, and some children are dangerously caught in the middle.

A parent who manufactures methamphetamine in the home deals with dangerous caustic chemicals, and the process is volatile, often leading to explosions. Fumes from the cooking process can be inhaled by children, exposing them to the drug – a powerful stimulant.

Pharmacies still await payment

SPRINGFIELD – Despite a $1.5 billion short-term borrowing plan enacted in May to help the state pay overdue public aid reimbursements, area pharmacists are still struggling because of a delay in those checks.

"Currently the amount past due our very small business is approximately $160,000 – in addition to current billings of about $55,000," said Carl Hudson of Hudson Drug Shop in Paxton. "Needless to say, this creates a tremendous strain on our abilities to maintain a normal business environment."

Visitors to state Web sites to receive more privacy

SPRINGFIELD – A new state law is designed to ensure that state agency Web sites are respecting the privacy of their online visitors.

"We want to make sure that state agencies keep up with the times, and if there are better ways to protect citizens who use state Web sites, we need to implement those techniques," said state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, who sponsored the legislation the governor recently signed into law.

Governor backs consumer protections

SPRINGFIELD – Unsolicited e-mail, known as "spam," would be easier to spot and delete, under legislation that Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed into law Monday.

The new law requires the sender of unsolicited e-mail advertisements to use the code ADLT: as the first four characters in the e-mail's subject line, and ADLT:ADLT to indicate adult-oriented e-mail ads.

More, smaller grants planned

SPRINGFIELD – More of Illinois' neediest college students will receive grants through the state's Monetary Award Program this school year, but the grants will be smaller than in years past, according to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

MAP grant amounts were cut by 5 percent last year, and the Illinois Student Assistance Commission recently decided to cut them again this year by 10 percent.

Yellow to orange: What changes?

SPRINGFIELD – The federal homeland security advisory alert level was raised from yellow to orange three times in the last year, but there is still frustration among some local governments as to how to respond to those changes.

A recent study by the National League of Cities found that nearly a third of cities weren't sure what to do when the threat level increased to orange on Feb. 3 and wanted more guidance from the federal government. In a conference call with the Council of State Governments Wednesday, Matt Bettenhausen, director for state coordination at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said the threat system is meant only to provide broad guidelines. Local governments and private industries can adapt those based on their own needs and infrastructure, he said.

Federal do-not-call registry popular so far in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – By Tuesday, more than 1 million people in Illinois had signed up for the federal do-not-call list, letting telemarketers know they've had enough.

Melissa Mertz, spokeswoman for Attorney General Lisa Madigan, said 1.1 million people had signed up by noon Tuesday, mostly through the toll-free phone number.

Donation helps Champaign child read

   CHAMPAIGN ? In many ways, Kody Patterson is just like any other 7-year-old. He plays T-ball and basketball, devours books and cartoons and loves to dance ? especially to hip-hop.

   Most people, his mother says, can't believe he's legally blind.

Governor signs contraceptives bill into law

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a bill into law Monday that will save some Illinois women hundreds of dollars in birth control costs each year.

The new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, requires state-regulated health insurance plans to cover birth control pills, patches, shots and other forms of prescription contraceptive drugs, devices and associated services for women. State employees will also receive those benefits, but the law does not include coverage of abortion or sterilization procedures.

It's Your Business: Grapevine Boutique to open in Sunnycrest Mall

Carol Davis-Hargest says she knows how hard it is for women who aren't skinny to find nice dresses and suits at stores in Champaign-Urbana. So, she's opening her own boutique at Sunnycrest Mall in Urbana that will fill that need for women sizes 14 and up.

Her shop, to be called The Grapevine Boutique, will open in late August or early September, she said.