Associated Press

Southeast Missouri State University has announced $178,903 to help people create new businesses in flood-battered areas.

A former southern Illinois high school teacher has been ordered to spend three years in prison on charges related to sexual misconduct with one of her female students in 2010.

Thirty-three-year-old Haven Kirkpatrick of Fairfield apologized to the judge before being sentenced Wednesday in Wayne County to four years of supervised release after her prison term. Additionally, she was fined $3,000 and was ordered to pay the family of the now-18-year-old victim more than $500 in restitution for counseling and medical expenses.

A man who helped a former Carbondale police officer rob a bank in 2008 has been ordered to spend seven years in prison.

WSIL reports 38-year-old Anthony Fike was sentenced Wednesday in Jackson County, where he pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated robbery.

Prosecutors say James Gaddis and Fike robbed the First Southern Bank in Carbondale in October 2008, making off with nearly $23,000. Investigators say Gaddis made a false 911 call before the holdup to divert police and used his police gun in the heist.

One year after civil unions came to Illinois, some lawmakers are beginning a push to authorize gay marriages.

The legislation was filed Wednesday by three members of the Illinois House. One is Rep. Greg Harris, who was instrumental in getting civil unions approved last year. The Chicago Democrat says it's too early to say whether gay marriage will become a major issue in this spring's session.

Harris hopes the bill triggers a period of education and lobbying to build support. Harris says that could take time but activity in other states shows the issue is gaining momentum.

Illinois lawmakers are considering a change to the state constitution that would guarantee crime victims a bigger voice in what happens to offenders.

The proposed amendment says victims have a right to be free from intimidation and abuse. It also says they have a right to speak on decisions like bail or parole and to see reports on early release and clemency decisions.

The Illinois House approved the amendment Wednesday. If the Senate agrees, the amendment would be put on the ballot for voters to consider.

The amendment is HJRCA29

A two-year study will look for the reason the treatment of lung cancer is lagging in southern Illinois.

Peoria based Caterpillar has announced it will not build a new plant in Illinois because of the state's current business climate.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Pat Quinn says the Governor hopes to address some concerns rasied by Caterpillar about Illinois' business climate. Spokeswoman Brooke Anderson on Wednesday said Quinn plans to announce pension and Medicaid reforms later this month. She declined to provide details.

A bill letting people in Illinois record public activities by police and other officials is moving forward in the state Legislature.

A House committee approved the bill 9-2 Wednesday, sending it to the House floor for further action.

State Rep. Elaine Nekritz says the legislation protects citizens who pull out cell phones or turn on a camera to record events they witness. The Northbrook Democrat says it's important to update the law because international visitors and journalists are coming to Chicago for the G-8 and NATO summits in May.

Gov. Pat Quinn says Illinois must cut its Medicaid budget by $2 billion to help solve the state's fiscal woes.

The Democrat offered no details Tuesday on how the goal would be accomplished. Some options are shrinking payments to doctors, cutting benefits and reducing how many people are eligible for the health care program covering 2.7 million poor and disabled Illinoisans.

It's National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and the Illinois Department of Public Health is urging African Americans to get tested.

Public health spokesperson Sabrina Miller says blacks are disproportionately affected by the disease and need to find out if they are infected. You can  find a location that offers free testing near you by texting: i-l and your zip code to 36363.  Or visit the website:

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was created in 2000 to mobilize and provide greater access to testing, health resources and education about the disease.

The Illinois State Library is launching "Text a Librarian," a new service patrons can use to text message questions to and receive answers from the library.

Doctors say Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk has reached an important milestone in his recovery from a major stroke.

The 52-year-old Republican was in good health when he had a stroke last month. Doctors believe a clot developed from a tear in an artery in his neck and lodged in his brain. Surgeons removed part of his skull to relieve pressure and allow the brain to swell.

Gov. Pat Quinn's latest plan to close state facilities is getting a cool reception from Illinois lawmakers.

They want to know more about cost, safety and economic impact. The governor wants to close a Tinley Park mental hospital and a Jacksonville center for people with mental disabilities. That would be the first step toward moving virtually everyone out of institutions and into group homes and other kinds of community care.

Quinn aides presented the plan Tuesday to the Legislature's Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability.

Doctors say Illinois US Sen. Mark Kirk has been upgraded to good condition and is continuing to improve after a major stroke.

A bankruptcy judge on Monday gave final approval to a plan by Lee Enterprises to re-finance its debt and allow the newspaper publisher to exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Lee is the publisher of the Southern Illinoisan and more than 40 other newspapers. It filed for bankruptcy protection on December 12th to compel some of its lenders to agree to a re-financing plan that gives the company more time to re-pay about $1 billion in debt.

The plan was approved last week, and it extends Lee's repayment dates out to 2015 and 2017.

Across the nation, state funding for higher education has declined because of a slow recovery from the recession and the end of federal stimulus money.

An annual study released Monday shows just how severe the reductions have been: some $6 billion, or nearly 8 percent, over the past year. That figure takes into account the loss of funds provided in recent years through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

James Harden said the air just outside the Menard Correctional Center smelled better than the air inside he's been breathing for the last 14 years.

The 36-year-old man was freed from the prison in Chester Friday after a judge vacated his wrongful conviction in the 1991 rape and murder of a young girl. DNA evidence cleared him.

But Harden was still waiting for his brother, 34-year-old Jonathan Barr, to be freed. He remained in custody and the reason wasn't clear.

The men were among five teenagers convicted of killing Cateresa Matthews in a Chicago suburb.

The U.S. Geological Survey has recorded 10 aftershocks following a 5.6 magnitude earthquake that shook central Oklahoma.

The USGS says aftershocks ranging from a preliminary magnitude of 2.7 to 4.0 have been recorded in the same area near Prague, about 45 miles east of Oklahoma City.

Two aftershocks of magnitude 4.0 were recorded at 3:39 a.m. and 9:07 a.m. Sunday.

USGS seismologist Paul Earle in Golden, Colorado said the aftershocks will likely continue for several days and could continue for months.

Federal officials say there's no hazard from high radiation levels detected on an empty cylinder that once contained uranium hexafluoride when the items were delivered Wednesday to the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

A Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman said the cylinder was shipped back to the Converdyne/Honeywell Metropolis Works Plant.

But, a whistleblower and former plant employee, Gary Vander Boegh, and an official with the union representing plant employees, said the high readings were a ``serious'' problem.