While you were on break: the local, state and national news you missed

Edward Cox, Manuel Rapada, and Jia You

Dec. 15: Evanston hosts gun buyback program

Evanston residents turned in 45 firearms during a gun buyback program Dec. 15, the day after the Newtown, Conn., school shooting. The program came weeks after its chief organizer, Carolyn Murray, lost her 19-year-old son Justin in a Nov. 29 shooting on Evanston’s west side. Residents turned in 26 handguns, 15 rifles and four shotguns. The city offered $100 for each returned gun, using $4,500 of the $19,050 raised for the event. It remains unclear how the city will use the remaining funds, which include $10,000 donated by Northwestern.

— Jia You

Jan. 1: Cook County sales tax falls, certain CTA pass rates increase

Cook County rang in 2013 by lowering the county sales tax to .75 percent, completely eliminating a 1 percent county sales tax increase imposed under then-county board president Todd Stroger in 2008.

“I kept my promise to residents to eliminate the sales tax hike, the most significant pledge of my 2010 campaign,” current county board president Toni Preckwinkle said at a press conference.

Meanwhile, rates for some forms of CTA payment went up Jan. 1. As The Daily first reported in November, regular fares for buses and trains will remain the same. The price for CTA 30-day passes increased $14, from $86 to $100, while daily pass costs nearly doubled, jumping from $5.75 to $10.

— Manuel Rapada

Jan. 1: Congress avoids ‘fiscal cliff’

Congress reached a deal early in the new year to avoid the “fiscal cliff” of mandatory spending cuts and tax increases that economists feared might send the country back into recession.

The deal, which passed the House and Senate with some bipartisan support, extends the Bush-era income tax cuts to all but the wealthiest American individuals making more than $400,000 a year . The payroll tax holiday, which reduced such taxes by 2 percent, expired, leaving many Americans with smaller paychecks.

Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell helped reach the deal in the Senate. The House approved the plan Jan. 1.

The deal will lead to an increase in federal debt, according to the Congressional Budget Office, due to less revenue and more government spending.

— Edward Cox

Jan. 3: Kirk returns to Senate after stroke

Nearly a year after suffering a stroke, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) returned to the U.S. Senate on Thursday, climbing 45 steps up the Capitol on the first day of the 113th Congress, the Washington Post reported. Vice President Joe Biden greeted the Illinois Republican at the foot of the Capitol steps, and fellow Congress members cheered as Kirk walked the steps with the aid of a four-prong cane. Kirk continues working on the Senate appropriations, banking and health-education-labor committees along with the Special Committee on Aging.

— Jia You