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posted: 12/27/2013 6:12 AM

Pension fix, gay marriage top 2013 Illinois news

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  • In this Oct. 1, 2013 file photo, Chicago Blackhawks players watch as their Stanley Cup Championship banner is lifted to the rafters during ceremonies before an NHL hockey game between the Blackhawks and Washington Capitals in Chicago. The story was voted as one of the top 10 stories in Illinois for 2013.

      In this Oct. 1, 2013 file photo, Chicago Blackhawks players watch as their Stanley Cup Championship banner is lifted to the rafters during ceremonies before an NHL hockey game between the Blackhawks and Washington Capitals in Chicago. The story was voted as one of the top 10 stories in Illinois for 2013.
    Associated Press

  • In this Nov. 20, 2013 file photo, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signs the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act into law while surrounded by elected officials during ceremonies on the campus of the University of Illinois Chicago in Chicago. Illinois became the 16th state to legalize same-sex marriage. The story was voted as one of the top 10 stories in Illinois for 2013.

      In this Nov. 20, 2013 file photo, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signs the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act into law while surrounded by elected officials during ceremonies on the campus of the University of Illinois Chicago in Chicago. Illinois became the 16th state to legalize same-sex marriage. The story was voted as one of the top 10 stories in Illinois for 2013.
    Associated Press

  • In this Jan. 3, 2013 file photo, a sign is carried during a rally by Illinois state union members and supporters in support for fair pension reform at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. In December Gov. Pat Quinn signed the pension overhaul legislation bill in Chicago. The passing of the landmark $160 billion legislation was voted the top story in Illinois for 2013.

      In this Jan. 3, 2013 file photo, a sign is carried during a rally by Illinois state union members and supporters in support for fair pension reform at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. In December Gov. Pat Quinn signed the pension overhaul legislation bill in Chicago. The passing of the landmark $160 billion legislation was voted the top story in Illinois for 2013.
    Associated Press

  • In this March 12, 2013 file photo, Gregg Brown of Bloomington, Ill., joins environmental group members to show support inside the Capitol rotunda in an effort to pressure lawmakers for a two-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing at the state Capitol in Springfield, Ill. Illinois lawmakers' passage of a unique consensus bill to regulate the controversial practice of oil and gas drilling known as "fracking" was as one of the top 10 stories in Illinois for 2013.

      In this March 12, 2013 file photo, Gregg Brown of Bloomington, Ill., joins environmental group members to show support inside the Capitol rotunda in an effort to pressure lawmakers for a two-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing at the state Capitol in Springfield, Ill. Illinois lawmakers' passage of a unique consensus bill to regulate the controversial practice of oil and gas drilling known as "fracking" was as one of the top 10 stories in Illinois for 2013.
    Associated Press

  • In this Feb. 9, 2013 file photo, the remains of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton are taken to her final resting place at the Cedar Park Cemetery in Calumet Park, Ill. Pendleton was killed on Jan. 29, when a gunman opened fire on her and some friends seeking shelter in a park from the rain about a mile from President Obama's Chicago home. first lady Michelle Obama attended the funeral with Senior White House Adviser Valerie Jarrett and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Chicago's continuing battle against gang violence was voted as one of the top 10 stories in Illinois for 2013.

      In this Feb. 9, 2013 file photo, the remains of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton are taken to her final resting place at the Cedar Park Cemetery in Calumet Park, Ill. Pendleton was killed on Jan. 29, when a gunman opened fire on her and some friends seeking shelter in a park from the rain about a mile from President Obama's Chicago home. first lady Michelle Obama attended the funeral with Senior White House Adviser Valerie Jarrett and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Chicago's continuing battle against gang violence was voted as one of the top 10 stories in Illinois for 2013.
    Associated Press

  • This Monday, Nov. 18, 2013 aerial file photo shows people walking down a street where homes once stood that were destroyed by a tornado that hit the western Illinois town of Washington. Two dozen tornadoes swept through the state killing seven people. It was voted as one of the top 10 stories in Illinois for 2013.

      This Monday, Nov. 18, 2013 aerial file photo shows people walking down a street where homes once stood that were destroyed by a tornado that hit the western Illinois town of Washington. Two dozen tornadoes swept through the state killing seven people. It was voted as one of the top 10 stories in Illinois for 2013.
    Associated Press

  • In this Aug. 26, 2013 file photo, safety guard Renee Green watches as parents walk with their children on the first day of school in Chicago. The Chicago Public Schools announced in May it would close about 50 schools and programs to deal with a budget deficit and lower attendance numbers, The closures forced many children to walk designated "Safe Passage" routes possibly crossing through gang boundaries to get to a new school. The ambitious plan sparked protests and lawsuits and could help define _ for better or worse _ Mayor Rahm Emanuel's term in office. It was voted as one of the top 10 stories in Illinois for 2013.

      In this Aug. 26, 2013 file photo, safety guard Renee Green watches as parents walk with their children on the first day of school in Chicago. The Chicago Public Schools announced in May it would close about 50 schools and programs to deal with a budget deficit and lower attendance numbers, The closures forced many children to walk designated "Safe Passage" routes possibly crossing through gang boundaries to get to a new school. The ambitious plan sparked protests and lawsuits and could help define _ for better or worse _ Mayor Rahm Emanuel's term in office. It was voted as one of the top 10 stories in Illinois for 2013.
    Associated Press

  • In this Nov. 27, 2013 file photo, Vernita Gray, left, and Patricia Ewert smile at friends after they were married in Chicago by Cook County Judge Patricia Logue, the first gay marriage in Illinois. A judge ordered the Cook County clerk to issue an expedited marriage license to Gray and Ewert before the state's gay marriage law takes effect in June 2014, because Gray is terminally ill. The story on the Illinois General Assembly approving the gay-marriage bill was voted as one of the top 10 stories in the state for 2013.

      In this Nov. 27, 2013 file photo, Vernita Gray, left, and Patricia Ewert smile at friends after they were married in Chicago by Cook County Judge Patricia Logue, the first gay marriage in Illinois. A judge ordered the Cook County clerk to issue an expedited marriage license to Gray and Ewert before the state's gay marriage law takes effect in June 2014, because Gray is terminally ill. The story on the Illinois General Assembly approving the gay-marriage bill was voted as one of the top 10 stories in the state for 2013.
    Associated Press

  • In this May 3, 2007 file photo, film critic Roger Ebert, center, his wife Chaz, left, and their granddaughter Raven Evans, right, arrive for the Chicago premiere of the Broadway hit "The Color Purple." Ebert's death in April 2013 was voted as one of the top 10 stories in Illinois for 2013.

      In this May 3, 2007 file photo, film critic Roger Ebert, center, his wife Chaz, left, and their granddaughter Raven Evans, right, arrive for the Chicago premiere of the Broadway hit "The Color Purple." Ebert's death in April 2013 was voted as one of the top 10 stories in Illinois for 2013.
    Associated Press

  • In this Dec. 5, 2013 file photo, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn poses with elected officials after he signed the pension overhaul legislation bill in Chicago. The passing of the landmark $160 billion legislation was voted the top story in Illinois for 2013.

      In this Dec. 5, 2013 file photo, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn poses with elected officials after he signed the pension overhaul legislation bill in Chicago. The passing of the landmark $160 billion legislation was voted the top story in Illinois for 2013.
    Associated Press

  • In this Aug. 14, 2013 file photo, former Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, Sandra, arrive at federal court in Washington to learn their fates when a federal judge sentences the one-time power couple for misusing $750,000 in campaign money on everything from a gold-plated Rolex watch and mink capes to vacations and mounted elk heads. The story was voted as one of the top 10 stories in Illinois for 2013.

      In this Aug. 14, 2013 file photo, former Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, Sandra, arrive at federal court in Washington to learn their fates when a federal judge sentences the one-time power couple for misusing $750,000 in campaign money on everything from a gold-plated Rolex watch and mink capes to vacations and mounted elk heads. The story was voted as one of the top 10 stories in Illinois for 2013.
    Associated Press

  • In this Jan. 16, 2013 file photo, assault weapons and hand guns are seen for sale at Capitol City Arms Supply in Springfield, Ill. Illinois became the last state in the nation to allow the concealed carry of firearms after a federal court ruling and lengthy negotiations in the General Assembly. The story was voted as one of the top 10 stories in Illinois for 2013.

      In this Jan. 16, 2013 file photo, assault weapons and hand guns are seen for sale at Capitol City Arms Supply in Springfield, Ill. Illinois became the last state in the nation to allow the concealed carry of firearms after a federal court ruling and lengthy negotiations in the General Assembly. The story was voted as one of the top 10 stories in Illinois for 2013.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

The Illinois General Assembly's much delayed agreement on fixing a $100 billion pension funding shortfall was the overwhelming, nearly unanimous choice among Associated Press members and staffers for the top story of in the state in 2013.

It was another busy year in Illinois, with the December pension vote highlighting a string of important measures passed by lawmakers, including gay marriage, the right to carry concealed weapons and regulations for the controversial oil-drilling practice known as "fracking." But politics wasn't alone in drawing headlines: Also voted among the top stories were deadly tornadoes in November, the sentencing of former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to prison, the Chicago Blackhawks' Stanley Cup victory and the passing of Roger Ebert, one of the country's most loved film critics.

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The Top 10 ranking is based on an annual survey of AP members and staffers, conducted in mid-December. Votes were cast by editors and reporters from across Illinois.

The annual Top 10 list:

1. Pension reform

State lawmakers pass landmark $160 billion legislation to reform what is considered the nation's worst case of underfunded public employee pension systems. Advocates say the measure, signed by Gov. Pat Quinn, will improve the state's financial outlook by cutting benefits for workers and retirees and guaranteeing future pension funding. But labor unions are promising a legal fight.

2. Gay marriage

Same-sex couples will be allowed to marry in June after lawmakers made Illinois the 16th state in the country and the largest in the heartland to allow gay weddings. Soon after Quinn signed the bill before a festive crowd in Chicago, a judge ordered Cook County to allow the state's first gay marriage in expedited fashion for a couple because one of the pair is terminally ill.

3. Concealed carry

Illinois became the last state in the nation to allow the concealed carry of firearms after lengthy negotiations in the General Assembly. Under a deadline from a federal judge, lawmakers fashioned and approved a compromise bill, then rejected Quinn's demands for further restrictions. The state is currently drawing up rules and regulations for the law to go into effect on June 1.

4. Deadly tornadoes

Two dozen tornadoes strike the state Nov. 17, killing seven people. The winds were blowing over 190 miles per hour, and neighborhoods were flattened in towns such as Washington, Gifford and Brookport. In Washington, residents said the death toll could have been higher, except that many townspeople were in church and received alerts on their smartphones. Rebuilding efforts are now under way.

5. Chicago violence

The city continues to battle gang violence. While Mayor Rahm Emanuel tries to draw attention to dropping crime statistics, the headlines continue focusing on high-profile tragedies, such as the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, who had attended President Barack Obama's inauguration festivities, and the wounding of 13 people, including a 3-year-old boy, in an indiscriminate gang revenge incident.

6. Jesse Jackson Jr.

The former congressman and son of civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson pleaded guilty and began serving a 2 year prison term for misuse of $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items, including wall-mounted elk heads and rock-star paraphernalia. His wife, former Chicago alderman Sandi Jackson, was sentenced to one year in prison, to be served when the former congressman is freed.

7. Roger Ebert

Famed movie critic Roger Ebert, who had the most famous thumb in Hollywood, died at 70, just two days after undergoing radiation treatment for a recurrence of cancer. Born in Urbana, the Pulitzer Prize-winning critic rendered decisions that influenced a nation of moviegoers and could sometimes make or break a film with intelligent, accessible reviews that didn't talk down to ordinary movie fans.

8. Stanley Cup

The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup for the second time in four years. The win over the Boston Bruins was sealed with two last-period goals just 17 seconds apart, letting loose delirious celebrations by thousands of fans in Chicago and a pre-dawn tour of the city by players holding the cup aloft in their favorite taverns and steakhouses.

9. School closings

Chicago officials closed nearly 50 public schools at once in a move to deal with a $1 billion budget deficit. City officials said the closings were necessary because of falling school enrollment and efforts to shore up the city's struggling education system. But critics say the closings disproportionately affected minority neighborhoods and endangered children who may have to cross new gang boundaries.

10. "Fracking"

Lawmakers approved a unique consensus bill to regulate the controversial practice of oil and gas drilling known as "fracking." Proponents say it contains the toughest proposed regulations in the U.S., opening the door for what supporters hope will be thousands of badly needed jobs in southern Illinois. But new issues arose when the state began a public comment process.

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