Updated: 3/06/15 - 5:37 AM

Warmer Weather Ahead, But Not Time for Planting
With warmer and spring-like temperatures on the way next week, farmers can look ahead to the planting season. La Salle County Farm Bureau President Monty Whipple says the warmer temperatures may melt the snow away, but fields are at least a month-and-a-half away from planting corn and soybeans. The Illinois Department of Agriculture said earlier this week that soil temperatures are running about normal for this time of year at 40 degrees, but Whipple says corn cannot be planted until soil temperatures reach at least 52 degrees. He says this time of year is more ideal for oats, which only a small percentage of area farmers plant.

January Housing Numbers Down
January housing numbers in the area show that sales are down year-over-year. Reports from the Illinois Association of Realtors show La Salle County sales were down 14 percent in January with 67 homes sold this year, compared to 78 in 2014. In Bureau County, home sales were down 19 percent with 17 homes sold, compared to 21 in 2014. Putnam County housing numbers rose as four homes were sold there this year, up from one in 2014. Sales in Livingston County were also down in January by 38 percent with 13 homes sold this year, compared to 21 in 2014. Throughout the state, home sales were down four percent, but prices for homes were up, averaging at $150,000.

Crude Oil Spill in Northwest Illinois
A freight train loaded with crude oil has derailed in northwestern Illinois and bursting into flames. The incident in Galena in Jo Daviess County has prompted authorities to suggest that everyone within 1 mile evacuate, however only two people did so. Galena City Administrator Mark Moran says the evacuation was prompted by the presence of a propane tank near the derailment.

Fixing the State's School Funding
Illinois' longtime House speaker is forming a bipartisan task force to examine a way to fix the state's outdated school funding formula. Michael J. Madigan's office says the panel would include lawmakers from various regions of the state. The last major school funding formula overhaul took place in 1997.

Unions Suing Rauner
Twenty-seven unions are suing Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner over his executive order ending a requirement that state workers pay union dues even if they don't want to join. One labor leader says Rauner is obsessed with stripping away the rights of state workers. The governor's spokesman says unions are clinging to what he calls the "broken status quo."

Income Tax Credit
Democrats in the Illinois Legislature are proposing to double the state's earned income tax credit over five years. Supporters say the tax break helps low-paid workers. Sponsors announced the proposal during a news conference Thursday detailing a report on child poverty in Illinois.

"Top 10" List for Medical Marijuana Applications
The Illinois Department of Public Health has created a "Top 10" list of tips for people applying for medical marijuana cards. Department spokeswoman Melaney Arnold says the list answers common questions about the multi-step process. The first tip covers meeting with a doctor to discuss marijuana. Others explain submitting fingerprints, the $100 fee and the requirement for a passport-style photo.

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