CHICAGO (AP) — 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 tornados 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.
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 TORNADOS: Two dozen tornados 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 townsfolk were in church and received alerts on their smartphones. Rebuilding efforts are now underway.
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