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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed a compromise plan to plug a $1.6 billion hole in this year's budget and avert shutdowns of state programs and services.

Rauner signed the legislation Thursday evening, hours after the Democratic-led Senate approved it 32-26, with all 20 Republicans voting for it. Two days earlier, the House also approved the bills with full GOP support.

Following weeks of negotiation, Rauner reached the deal with Democratic legislative leaders, even though the majority of Democrats in both chambers voted against the compromise.

The plan authorizes him to transfer $1.3 billion from other purposes, including parks and conservation. The rest comes from a 2.25 percent across-the-board budget cut. It also gives Rauner authority over $97 million to distribute to needy schools.


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's prison reform commission is examining ways to reduce the state's inmate population by 25 percent in 10 years.

That's the goal established for the more than 20-person commission composed of lawmakers and experts from nonprofits, academia and law enforcement during the panel's first meeting Thursday.

The Republican governor says the state needs a corrections system that restores people "to productive lives and protects our families." He signed an executive order in February compelling the newly-formed panel to provide him by July 1 preliminary options reforming the system in which half of all parolees return within three years.

A one-quarter reduction by 2025 would bring the current prison population of about 48,000 down to approximately 36,000. Illinois' prison system was designed to house about 32,000 inmates.


Southern Illinois State Representatives show support for Weston McGheen. Left to right are Representatives C.D. Davidsmeyer (100th Dist.), Adam Brown(102nd Dist.), Avery Bourne (95th Dist.), Terri Bryant (115th Dist.), John Cavaletto (107th Dist.), Charlie Meier (108th Dist.), Brandon Phelps (118th Dist.) and David Reis (109th Dist.)


State Representatives from across Southern Illinois have become the latest to support the recovery of 14-year-old Weston McGhee of rural Salem by donning their Superman shirts.  

McGhee remains in Children's Hospital in St. Louis fighting for his life following a tragic car-garbage truck collission that occured during dense fog on Route 37 at Basom Road north of Salem earlier ths month.  

Joining State Representative John Cavaletto of Salem on the House Floor in their Superman shirts were Representatives C.D. Davidsmeyer (100th Dist.), Adam Brown(102nd Dist.), Avery Bourne (95th Dist.), Terri Bryant (115th Dist.), Charlie Meier (108th Dist.), Brandon Phelps (118th Dist.) and David Reis (109th Dist.).  

Weston is known for wearing his 'superman' t-shirt under his athletic gear for 'good luck' which is where the idea for these shirts came from. The campaign uses the hashtag #WestonStrong to encourage Weston and support his family to stay strong. 


Christina Thomason

A 23-year-old Salem woman made her first appearance in Marion County Court Thursday morning on two counts of first degree murder in connection with the Tuesday morning death of her three-month-old child.  

Christina Thomason of North Trenary Street indicated she planned to hire her own attorney.  Judge Steadlin explained to Thomason she could gain her release by posting $100,000 cash on the $1-million bond set on the arrest warrant by Judge Ericka Sanders. A hearing on status regarding Thomason's efforts to obtain counsel was set for April 1st at ten am.   

Marion County State's Attorney Matt Wilzbach told WJBD news earlier Thomason admitted to the circumstances that led up to the suffocation death of Aribella Thomason.  Christina Thomason was brought in for questioning a second time by the Southern Illinois Child Death Review Task Force after a child forensic pathologist who conducted an autopsy on Tuesday said her initial story did not match the evidence.    

"During the course of that interview, she ultimately acknowledged the baby was crying, she could not get the baby to stop crying, so she put the baby in the bassinet, covered her up with several blankets, including covering up her face, mouth and nose, and proceeded basically to go away for an hour," said Wilzbach.  "Obviously when she came back the baby was dead which prompted her to call 9-1-1."

Wilzbach says during that hour after Thomason had allegedly placed the blankets over the baby, she spent 10 to 15 minutes on the stool in the bathroom listening on a baby monitor until the baby stopped crying.  She then told police she took about a 35 minute shower.   Thomason then got her two-year-old daughter up.  At that point, she told police she found the baby not breathing and called 9-1-1.  Wilzbach says Thomason acted calmly during the 9-1-1 call.  He reports the mother was the only adult present in the home at the time of the incident.  Wilzbach says Thomason basically listened to her baby die.

During the questioning, Thomason reportedly brought up seeing CSI type shows where it took about an hour for a baby to suffocate.  

Thomason's first version of the story to police was she rolled up a blanket and placed it under her daughter's head in the bassinet to prop her up.  She said after returning from a 35 minute shower, she found her daughter had turned her head into the blanket and was not breathing.  

After the child forensic pathologist said the story wasn't plausible, task force members tried to recreate without success what happened based on Thomason's original statement.    

Wilzbach reports one of the first-degree murder counts claims Thomason intentionally killed her daughter.  The second count claims Thomason's actions created a strong probability of death to the child.  

Wilzbach confirms the State's Attorney's office has also captured comments Thomason was making about the baby's death from Facebook that could possibly be entered into evidence as well.  He noted some of the comments before her second interview with police didn't match what she told police.  Investigators also found it unusual how quickly Thomason had set up a gofundme.com site to try and raise money for her daughter's funeral.

A shelter hearing was also held Thursday morning on guardianship of Thomason's two-year-old daughter.  The hearing was delayed until April first after Thomason was warned if she took the stand in the guardianship hearing, whatever she said could be used against her in the criminal case.  In the interim, the two year old will remain in protective custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. 

Wilzbach says Thomason has a third child who is being cared for by a relative.  Since there is no formal paperwork on the guardianship of the child, a petition to determine wardship has been filed with the court.  


One of the six people who was arrested in a meth bust at a Central City home in January has pleaded guilty.

19-year-old Quienton Jolliff of North Cherry in Centralia entered a plea to a charge of unlawful delivery of a meth precursor.  He was sentenced to four years felony probation and 59 days in jail with credit for time served.  

A second count of possession of more than 900 grams of methamphetamine was dropped as part of the plea.  

Jolliff was present at the home of 33-year-old Anthony Johnston and 31-year-old Stephanie Miller on Breese Street when sheriff's deputies went to the home to ask questions about recent pseudoephedrine purchases.  

Sheriff's Deputies at the time say they were given permission to search and allegedly found a one pot meth lab that had finished cooking and ingredients for a second meth lab.




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