Illinois briefs: 7/26/2011

*Heat wave now blamed for 12 Chicago-area deaths*

The recent heat wave in the Chicago area has now claimed 12 lives.

Autopsy reports released Monday by the Cook County medical examiner’s office show heat stress was a secondary factor in the death of a 78-year-old woman. The primary cause of her death was heart disease.

Authorities say most people killed by the heat have pre-existing conditions that are made worse by high temperatures. The last similar heat wave in the region in 1995 resulted in more than 750 deaths over a five-day period.

The Chicago area has since developed a heat response plan that includes more cooling centers and well-being checks to the elderly.

*Quinn continues to defend budget without raises*

Gov. Pat Quinn is defending signing a budget that state officials say didn’t fully fund 12 of 14 agencies even before the Chicago Democrat canceled raises for thousands of state workers.

Quinn said Monday he signed the budget lawmakers passed in May because it was better to have one even with “shortcomings” and “flaws.” If the Democrat-controlled General Assembly hadn’t passed a budget by June 1 Republicans would have gotten a say because more votes would be needed to pass it.

Quinn has said he can’t pay the 2 percent raises worth about $75 million because he says lawmakers didn’t give him enough money in the budget. A circuit judge on Friday granted Quinn’s request to hold off on paying nearly 30,000 affected state workers their raises.

*Chicago’s first protected bike lane completed*

It’s a milestone for Chicago bike enthusiasts.

Chicago’s Department of Transportation says the city’s first protected bike lane has been completed on the city’s near northwest side, not far from downtown.

The lane is one that separates bike riders from vehicles. It’s called a cycle track and is being tested on a half-mile stretch. Flexible posts are being used to separate bikers from traffic.

Transportation department spokesman Brian Steele tells The Chicago Tribune that the cost of the project is about $140,000.