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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A coalition of labor unions and state retirees is asking a judge for an expedited ruling in a case challenging the constitutionality of Illinois' pension law. 

Attorneys filed the motion in Sangamon Circuit Court Thursday. They want Judge John Belz to factor in a Supreme Court decision that found health insurance premiums were a protected retirement benefit for state workers.

The groups say the same issue is central to their suit over the pension law, which increases employee contributions and reduces benefits. They say the law violates the state constitution, which says public employee benefits cannot be "diminished or impaired." 

Lawmakers and state officials have said that Illinois' financial crisis is bad enough to warrant the plan despite the constitutional clause. 

The parties will appear in court Sept. 4. 

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The state's top ethics investigator says the Illinois Department of Transportation improperly hired more than 250 employees in the past decade. 

Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza's report says the practice began in 2003 but continued under Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. 

Meza says IDOT circumvented hiring rules meant to ensure people are hired on merit, not on political clout. He says the agency's practice of hiring "staff assistants" to do jobs that should be protected from political influence denied those job opportunities to countless qualified candidates on the basis of merit.

Meza's report was posted on a state government website Friday. Quinn's office announced Thursday that IDOT would lay off the 58 current staff assistants and make other reforms.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The Illinois Supreme Court is refusing to take up an appeal of a lower court's ruling that prohibits a vote on term limits from appearing on the November ballot.

The Supreme Court issued the order Friday afternoon shortly after the Illinois State Board of Elections certified the Nov. 4 ballot. 

Proponents of term limits for Illinois lawmakers, including GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, wanted a referendum question on the ballot that would limit legislators to eight years in office and make it more difficult to override a veto. 

A circuit court judge found the measure violated a provision of the constitution that requires changes to the legislature be both "structural and procedural." An appellate court affirmed that decision earlier this week. 

Rauner released a statement saying that “Pat Quinn, Mike Madigan and the Springfield career politicians won today, and the people of Illinois lost.  But the people will have the final say.  A pro-term limits General Assembly pushed by a pro-term limits Governor can put this critical reform in place any day they want.  Illinoisans should have that in mind when they vote this November.”

Raccoon Grade School Superintendent Matt Renaud says that the district has about four years worth of cash reserves saved up before deficit spending stemming from a 89% proration of General State Aid becomes a problem. The Raccoon School Board passed a tentative 2015 budget during their board meeting on Thursday. 

Deficit spending in the education fund is estimated to be around $113,000. Deficit spending in the transportation fund is estimated to be around $112,000.

Renaud says that if the district had received the money it was owed by the state of Illinois over the past five years, it wouldn't be in the fiscal shape it's in.

"Generally speaking, the education fund would be balanced. The transportation fund would be balanced. Operations and maintenance would still be somewhat deficit, but not nearly like it is" said Renaud.

In personnel moves, the district accepted the resignations of Girls Basketball Coach Lacy Scott and Title I aide Jeanna Finley and hired Erica Burroughs to replace Finley. 

An exhibition match for the Marion County 4-H Shooting Sports program took place in July at the Rend Lake Shooting Complex near Ina. Five members of the Marion County Clay Busters participated, testing their ability to shoot at clay targets as the targets were propelled through the air from different directions.

Winning in the shotgun category was Devin Krutsinger of Kinmundy as Advanced Champion, Tyler Moody of Salem as Intermediate Champion, and Cotter Hiestand of Alma as Beginner Champion.

Other "Clay Busters" participating in the event were Cole Gordon of Iuka and Ryan Krutsinger of Kinmundy.

The Shooting Sports Archery Division met earlier this month for an exhibition match of their own. Champions were Rhett Bullard of Iuka as Advanced Champion, Matthew Beard of Xenia as Intermediate Champion, and Kristi Moody of Salem as Beginner Champion. Also participating were Kaleb Lacey of Kinmundy and Wyatt Reich of Dix.

Marion County 4-H will begin a new year on September 1st, 2014. Youth aged 8 as of September 1st or between 3rd grade and age 18 are eligible to enroll. For more information, contact Marilyn Thompson with the University of Illinois Extension at 548-1446.

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