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Around the state 3-2-18

Illinois Senate approves marijuana ballot question
SPRINGFIELD (AP) — Illinois voters would be able to say whether they support legalizing recreational marijuana under a proposal lawmakers have approved.
Senators voted 37-13 Thursday to put a non-binding question on the November ballot. Chicago Democratic Sen. Bill Cunningham is the sponsor. He says the referendum question will act as a statewide opinion poll.
The proposal now goes to the House for vote. To make it to the ballot, it needs Gov. Bruce Rauner's signature. The governor calls the effort misguided and legalization a mistake.
Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Kelly Cassidy introduced legislation to legalize recreational marijuana last year. The Chicago Democrats previously said they do not expect the measure to be debated this session.
Illinois legislators join to form children's health caucus
SPRINGFIELD (AP) — There's a new caucus made up of members of the Illinois House and Senate from both parties devoted to children's health.
A Wednesday statement from the office of the Senate president, Democrat John Cullerton, announced the creation of the bipartisan children's health caucus. It says the caucus will closely examine data on the health of children and adolescents in Illinois.
The co-chairs of the caucus are state Sen. Julie Morrison, a Deerfield Democrat; Sen. Chuck Weaver, a Peoria Republican; State Rep. Camille Lilly, a Democrat from Chicago; and Rep. Tom Demmer, a Republican from Dixon.
Morrison says health solutions for children should be based "on sound, up-to-date data." Weaver added that the caucus will look at "evidence-based" policies that ensure every Illinois child can attain "the highest level of health."
Monument to celebrate Special Olympics at site of 1st event
CHICAGO (AP) — A new monument near Chicago's Soldier Field will celebrate the Special Olympics and the site where its first event was held 50 years ago.
The Special Olympics is the largest sports organization in the world for people with intellectual disabilities. The first event was held in Chicago in 1968. Today, 5 million athletes from 172 countries participate.
Officials from the Special Olympics and the Chicago Park District will join other dignitaries at a Friday groundbreaking in Chicago for a 30-foot monument known as the Eternal Flame of Hope.
Among those attending Friday's event are Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, who as a park district employee helped start the Special Olympics. Athletes who participated in the first games also will attend.
Chicago will also host athletes for a 50th anniversary celebration this summer.

Armed private security guards hitting Chicago streets
CHICAGO (AP) — Armed security guards are starting to patrol a popular shopping area in downtown Chicago.
The two uniformed guards will be dispatched to State Street south of the Chicago River for several hours during the day and again in the late afternoon and evening in a visible effort to prevent retail theft and other crimes.
An organization of local businesses and organizations called the Chicago Loop Alliance hired a security company to patrol an area of Chicago where police are often busy racing from call to call and may not be able to respond as quickly as local businesses would like.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says he isn't concerned about the guards and explains that it isn't unusual for places like malls and high rises to hire private security firms.

Commanders sue sheriff, link layoffs to their union activity
CHICAGO (AP) — Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and other county officials are being sued by laid off jail commanders who allege their firings were in retaliation for union activity.
The 17 commanders allege in the lawsuit filed Thursday that Dart spared his political allies in the sheriff's office while eliminating longtime leaders in public safety roles.
The lawsuit contends the appointed positions are "unnecessary" and financially draining of the limited resources of the Cook County Sheriff's Office.
Responding to the lawsuit, Dart laid the blame for the layoffs at the feet of the Cook County Board and its president, Toni Preckwinkle. Both of whom are also being sued by the commanders.
Spokeswoman Cara Smith says the sheriff's office did the best it could with the "devil's game we had to play with this budget" after being targeted by the county board for cuts.

Chicago sees drop in gun violence in February
CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago police say February ended as the twelfth straight month to see a drop in gun violence.
The department released statistics on Thursday that show there were 38 homicides in February compared to 49 in February of last year. The number of shooting victims and shooting incidents also fell.
One of those killed was Commander Paul Bauer, who was shot, allegedly by a man wearing body armor and armed with a gun with a high-capacity magazine that carried 30 bullets.   Superintendent Eddie Johnson has often pushed for tougher gun laws he says will help reduce violence further and he is now urging state lawmakers to pass legislation that would outlaw high-capacity magazines as well as a ban on the civilian use of body armor.

Illinois man gets 2-year prison term for defrauding elderly
PEORIA (AP) — A central Illinois man has been sentenced to two years in prison for defrauding an elderly man of his life savings.
A federal judge handed down the sentence Wednesday for 42-year-old Deryl Wright of Pekin. The judge also ordered Wright to pay more than $100,000 in restitution.
Wright pleaded guilty last year to three felony counts of wire fraud.
Prosecutors say that between 2015 and 2017 Wright told the elderly man he needed to borrow money in order to receive an inheritance check from his father's death. They say he told the victim he would repay him from his inheritance money.
Authorities say there was no inheritance, and that Wright used the money for his personal benefit.
He was charged as part of a nationwide elder abuse sweep.

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