Next phase to link kids with primary care docs

About a year after Gov. Rod Blagojevich's new health care program for children was first launched under the name All Kids, the next phase of the program – linking each enrolled child with a primary care doctor – is headed to East Central Illinois.

And when it arrives, a state official promises, there will be more than enough doctors available to serve all children enrolled in this Medicaid program, along with their parents enrolled in another Medicaid health care program called FamilyCare.

Governor signs smoking ban

SPRINGFIELD – Smoking in public places will be stubbed out by New Year's Day, under a statewide ban Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed into law on Monday.

"I am proud to sign this legislation that makes it safe for people to visit or work in restaurants and bars without putting their health at risk," he said.

Sale of $1.4 billion of loans almost finished

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Student Assistance Commission is preparing to sell off another chunk of the state's student loan portfolio.

The sale of $1.4 billion worth of loans "is on track to close on July 31," said ISAC spokesman Claude Walker. It will include 369,000 loans to about 192,000 borrowers, 90 percent of whom are out-of-state students from out-of-state schools, he said.

Leaders tout $1 billion in rate relief

SPRINGFIELD – Ameren electricity customers in Illinois would get a break on their electric bills under a deal announced on Monday.

Senate President Emil Jones, House Speaker Michael Madigan, and his daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, flew to Peoria, Decatur, Cahokia and Marion to announce the agreement. It is expected to come up for a vote in the General Assembly this week.

Top UI administrator wrapping up career

Steve Rugg, a top University of Illinois administrator in planning and administration, will retire next month.

The 63-year-old Rugg said he has passed the point where his service credit accumulates with the state retirement system and, with a new leadership team in place at the university, the time had come for him to announce his retirement.

Youths continue tradition, showing off livestock at fair

URBANA – Squirt bucked like the steer he is as Ryan Willard tackled him with a trimmer.

"He doesn't like having his hair cut," said Emily Willard of Armstrong, who will show the year-old crossbred steer at the Champaign County Fair this week. "He's not usually like that."

Rantoul man faces cocaine charge

Rantoul man faces cocaine charge

URBANA – A 21-year-old Rantoul man is due back in court Sept. 18 after being charged with having cocaine intended for sale.

Woman gets 6 years in prison

URBANA – Calling her "a parent's worst nightmare," a Champaign County judge Monday sentenced an Urbana woman to six years in prison for trying to lure a girl into prostitution.

Pearl Bigham, 27, who listed an address in the 1100 block of Lanore Drive, last Thursday withdrew a plea she had previously made in June to child pornography and instead pleaded guilty to soliciting for a juvenile prostitute. The latter charge carried the possibility of probation.

Vermilion County Fair Queen focused on academic ambitions

OAKWOOD – Though the Vermilion County Fair is over, 2007 Fair Queen Brooke Stevens still has plenty of royal duties.

She'll make public appearances and compete at the state queen pageant in January.

Georgetown schools may have to borrow funds

GEORGETOWN – If county tax and state aid payments are not received soon, school officials may have to borrow funds in order to meet expenses, Superintendent Kevin Tate said Monday.

The Georgetown-Ridge Farm school district has a $10.46 million budget for the current fiscal year. The district plans to generate about $10.15 million in revenues during the fiscal year, leaving a projected deficit of $301,000.