Thursday, August 27, 2015

PBL Schools Placed on Lockdown

The PBL school district was placed on soft lockdown this afternoon due to a report from two elementary students at Eastlawn Elementary. According to a news release from the district, during recess, elementary students overheard two adult males walking outside the perimeter of the playground fence discussing threatening to harm someone. The threat was not necessarily directed towards these students or the rest of the student body. Students reported that the subjects were two male Caucasians approximately thirty years of age. The first wore a gray shirt and had red hair, and the second subject wore a black shirt and had brown hair. The Paxton Police Department was immediately notified and all other grade centers in the PBL School District were placed on soft lockdown. After searching the area, the police department did not find anyone matching these descriptions. Classroom activities proceed as normal inside the building. Anyone with further information is asked to contact the Paxton Police Department.

Stabbing Suspect Spits on Judge

A man suspected of multiple stabbings in central Illinois has been removed from a courtroom after reportedly spitting at a judge. The (Bloomington) Pantagraph reports 35-year-old Jason Hopkins appeared in court this morning for his arraignment. He faces attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault in connection with attacks on three people earlier this month in downtown Bloomington. Hopkins spit at Judge Scott Drazewski after a brief hearing where a mental exam was ordered for Hopkins. Deputies put Hopkins on the floor and removed him from the room. No injuries were reported. Court hearings were delayed as Drazewski left to change his robe. Workers were called to clean the bench. The Aug. 19 stabbing victims included a Pantagraph employee and a tourist from Germany.

Governor Wants More Local Control

Gov. Bruce Rauner has said he is for increased pensions for those who run toward danger while others run from it, but he vetoed a bill allowing those increased pensions because of another thing he says he's for: more local control. The bill allowed municipalities to vote to move police officers and firefighters into a different pension plan, and Rauner's veto message says it's the public – not a city council – which should decide. State representative Al Riley, the sponsor of the program, says that the employees would transfer from IMRF (Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund) to SLEP – the Sheriff's Law Enforcement program. The bill would have applied to firefighters and police officers who came in under the Tier II retirement system. Riley said it's possible lawmakers will try to override the veto.

New Law Limits Appointments

You could call it “Lou's Law.” Inspired by a $160,000-a-year appointment outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn gave his campaign manager, State Sen. Julie Morrison sponsored a bill reining in lame duck appointments. Lou Bertuca now is executive director of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority. Under the new law, this sort of appointment would be limited to sixty days if the governor is in the final ninety days of his time in office. Morrison is of the opposite party of the current governor but is glad they agree on this.

Governor Considers Contract Extension for Employee

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration is considering extending the contact of controversial budget consultant Donna Arduin as the administration and state lawmakers continue to struggle over a budget for the new fiscal year. The administration confirmed this afternoon that Arduin’s contract is “under review” for a possible second extension. Arduin, who has consulted with Republican governors in other states on budget issues, was initially hired on a $30,000 a month contract that was set to expire at the end of May, traditionally the end of the legislature’s spring session. However, with no budget in place, Arduin’s contract was extended until Friday at the reduced rate of $15,000 a month. She has so far collected about $165,000 from the state for her budget consultation services.

Judge Cancels Schock Hearing

A judge has canceled a Friday hearing on Aaron Schock's cooperation with a federal investigation after the former congressman turned over 10,000 financial records. U.S. District Judge Sue Myerscough ordered the Peoria Republican to provide her with documents he believes the government doesn't have a right to see in its probe of his office and campaign spending. Schock resigned March 31 after media reports about his spending, including a "Downton Abbey"-type redecoration of his Washington office. A grand jury has been meeting all summer in Springfield over the issue. The government wanted Schock held in contempt. Schock produced reams of financial records this week. He must turn over by Sept. 17 to Myerscough for private review nearly 3,000 documents he claims are unresponsive or protected by attorney-client privilege.

Legionnaire's Disease at Quincy Veterans' Home

Illinois authorities say eight residents of the Illinois Veterans' Home in Quincy have confirmed cases of Legionnaires' disease. The Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs and the Illinois Department of Public Health announced the cases Thursday, adding that there have been no known deaths related to the outbreak. The agencies say test results are currently pending for other residents. They say they're working closely with the Adams County Health Department to identify and mitigate possible sources of the Legionella bacteria. Legionnaires' disease is caused when water tainted with Legionella bacteria is inhaled into the lungs. It's considered particularly dangerous for elderly people and people with underlying health issues. The Illinois Department of Correction announced two weeks ago that one inmate at the Stateville Correctional Center was being treated for the illness.

Second City Offices Destroyed

The offices of one of the world’s most famous comedy troupes have been destroyed.

The Chicago offices of The Second City, which helped launch the careers of names like Bill Murray, Joan Rivers, Tina Fey, and Stephen Colbert, were severely damaged in a fire Wednesday.

Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Jose Santiago says what began as a grease fire in a restaurant below the offices quickly spread through a vent.

“There is a lot of damage here due to the fact that fire got its way into what we call the cockloft, the area located between the roof and the ceiling underneath,” Santiago said. “Once that happens, we were trying to breach from the outside, it was all bricked- covered.”

The main concern for firefighters was making sure the blaze didn’t spread to the nearby Second City Theater, and they accomplished that goal, though plenty of water had to be drained from that portion of the structure.

Chicago Alderman Brian Hopkins, whose ward includes The Second City, speculated the office building, which dates to the 1880s, may have to be demolished.

Three people suffered minor injuries as a result of the fire, including two firefighters and another person who had to be taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation.

The Second City says its postponing shows and classes for the time being. The vast majority of its memorabilia and archives were kept off site, though some items kept in workers’ offices were most likely destroyed in the blaze.

Newspaper Hosts Debate

The man who's raised less than $15,000 for his run at Aaron Schock's old 18th Congressional District seat came out swinging against the man who's raised more than $1 million, in the first of two debates before next month's special election.

Democrat Rob Mellon of Quincy says State Senator Darin LaHood's fundraising skills make him just like Schock.

"Like Aaron Schock, [LaHood] spends nearly all his time raising money," says Mellon. "But, don't you think that the cronies and the special interests expect something from that money?"

LaHood says his fundraising came mainly in small amounts from every one of the 19 counties in the district, and doesn't mean he doesn't want to see some campaign finance reform.

"We should have a system where you can google any particular candidate and find out where their money came from, who was the donor," says LaHood. "We should have a lot more transparency."

In the wake of Tuesday's deadly shooting of two employees of a Virginia television station, the two also were asked about gun control -- specifically, whether people who buy weapons at gun shows should be subject to criminal background checks. Mellon says he wants to protect Second Amendment rights while requiring background checks so that people who shouldn't have guns, can't get them.

"Can we knock it out or eliminate it entirely? No," says Mellon. "But, we can do the best we possibly can to make sure that the current laws on the books are enforced."

LaHood agrees that current laws should be better enforced, but something else needs done.

"I'm all for using taxpayer money to fund mental illness [treatment] -- to get to people who need that," says LaHood. "Taxpayer money should be spent on that."

One of the few other ways the two agreed: Mellon and LaHood both want the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba to end.

The debate was hosted by the State Journal-Register. Another debate is tonight in East Peoria.

Lawmaker Says House Session Is a Waste

One  lawmaker says he thinks the ongoing continuous session in the Illinois House is nothing more than a waste of time as long as there is no budget deal in place.
State Representative Tim Butler (R-Springfield) says the Committee of the Whole meetings like Tuesday's are becoming, in his words, "useless" and only stand to get worse.
"It's disappointing, because I don't think the leadership and the Governor have met for over a month," says Butler.  "There really, unfortunately, isn't a sense of urgency to get a budget deal done.  We've got, I've heard, upwards of 90% of state government being funded right now through various court orders and continuing appropriations and so on."
Butler says he believes 22 members were absent Tuesday, if that's any indication.  He says there are serious issues with groups not getting paid, and those groups needs to keep building pressure on legislative leaders to get something done.
"These folks have to continue to build the pressure a little bit on both sides," Butler says.  "I think both sides are to blame that we don't have a budget deal here."

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ford County Taxes Due Next Friday

Ford County Taxpayers are reminded that Friday, September 4th is the due date for the 2nd and final installment of the 2014 Payable 2015 real estate taxes. Taxes may be paid at the courthouse, at the drop box in front of the courthouse, any Ford County bank or by mail if postmarked no later than September 4th.

Sibley Man Sentenced for Sex Abuse

A 22-year-old Sibley man has been sentenced to four years in prison for having sexual intercourse with a 14-year-old girl on three occasions last March. Ryan Young pleaded guilty on June 29th to three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, a Class 2 felony, and was sentenced Tuesday by Ford County Circuit Judge Matt Fitton. Upon Young’s release from the Illinois Department of Corrections, he will be required to serve two years of mandatory supervised release, and register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Young was eligible to receive a sentence ranging from probation to up to seven years in prison, Yedinak said. However, in exchange for Young’s guilty plea in June, Fitton agreed to limit Young’s sentence to no more than five years in prison, with credit for time already served at the Ford County Jail. Young had previous convictions in Ford County for unlawful possession of a controlled substance and illegal consumption of alcohol by a minor. He was sentenced to probation in both of those cases.

UI Resignation Follows Similar Pattern

The resignation of the top administrator at the University of Illinois' flagship campus is following a familiar script: Step down under pressure, take a year off with pay, then return as one of the highest-paid members of the faculty. Chancellor Phyllis Wise became at least the sixth top administrator to resign from the university under difficult circumstances since 2009. Five have or are expected to return after a year's paid leave to high-paying campus jobs that wouldn't otherwise exist, while a sixth who announced his resignation this week will rejoin the faculty at the end of the month. The soft, lucrative landings into positions that often come with salaries of $200,000 a year or more are guaranteed by contracts commonly given to high-level administrators at many schools. Some experts say they're necessary to persuade qualified people to take jobs that — as the University of Illinois demonstrates — can be demanding and end badly. Other schools provide similar deals. Colorado State University President Tony Frank can leave his job and become a faculty member at $208,000 a year. And at California State University, a year off with pay is common for top administrators before they take up faculty jobs, a practice that has drawn criticism from other professors.

State Comptroller Accused of Lying

Attorneys asking the state to comply with an order to pay for services for the developmentally disabled say the comptroller's office is lying about having a shortage of cash. The state had been ordered to pay service providers by August 21, but the comptroller's office couldn't comply, blaming a "severe cash shortage." Attorneys were brought back before a federal judge Wednesday to possibly hold the state in contempt of court. While the judge made no ruling there, the state was given until Friday to explain which providers have and haven't been paid. Bill Choslovsky, attorney for Chicago's Misericordia Home, says any suggestion the state can't meet the financial demands of court orders and consent decrees is false. Choslovsky wouldn't speculate on why the state would take that action. Comptroller Leslie Munger didn't directly address those accusations in a statement released after the hearing.

War Veterans Take Honor Flight

World War II, Vietnam and Korean War veterans from central and southern Illinois received the trip of a lifetime to honor their service. The Land of Lincoln Honor Flight took a plane packed full of veterans and their guardians on a whirlwind trip to Washington D.C. to see the memorials – hundreds packed Springfield’s Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport to welcome them home Tuesday night. It was all a bit much to handle for Garland Ash of Macomb, a World War II veteran. Ash, an Army staff sergeant who says he saw a lot of action in the Pacific, says seeing the Memorials was great, and that’s about all he could say, as the outpouring of support was a bit much. Gov. Bruce Rauner was on hand to speak. The Land of Lincoln Honor Flight serves much of central and southern Illinois.

Farm Progress Show in Decatur This Year

Every other year, Progress City takes shape on 300 acres near Richland Community College in Decatur. In the odd-numbered years, Decatur hosts the Farm Progress Show, alternating with Boone, IA. Growing techniques, unattended aerial vehicles (which some call “drones”), and the latest and largest farming equipment are all part of it. On-stage entertainment includes Craig Morgan, and there will be a visit from TV's Mike Rowe as well. The dates are Sept. 1, 2, and 3.

Federal Judge Scolds State Officials

A federal judge in Chicago has scolded Illinois officials for not fully complying with her order that they pay providers of critical social services during an ongoing budget impasse. Judge Sharon Johnson-Coleman told state lawyers at a hearing today that they had 48 hours to explain which providers have and haven't been paid. Coleman added she's "very disappointed" the state missed a Friday deadline for certain payments and broached at least the possibility of holding the state in contempt. A comptroller's office attorney, John Stevens, cited cash flow issues. Gov. Bruce Rauner and lawmakers can't agree on a spending plan for the fiscal year that began July 1. But Coleman says one shouldn't "flout" a court order. Coleman says she understands the budgetary constraints but says human lives are at stake.

Schock Turns Over Financial Records

Former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock has surrendered more than 10,000 financial records to the U.S. government to comply with a subpoena. Schock's lawyers argue in the filing this morning that U.S. District Judge Sue Myerscough should dismiss a prosecutor's motion seeking to hold Shock in contempt for not complying with the subpoena. It says the surrendered records relate to campaign and political entities. The filing also says Schock's lawyers are offering Myerscough a chance to review nearly 3,000 other records that may contain references to financial transactions. The Chicago Tribune reports a hearing is planned Friday on the issue.

Mumps Cases Continue to Grow at UI

The number of mumps reports continues to grow at the University of Illinois.  In an attempt to combat the outbreak, health officials are offering two free vaccinations for students this week.  The highly contagious viral disease was first reported in April, and the numbers continued to climb over the summer.  So far there has been 98 confirmed cases.  Students who haven't received their MMR shots have a chance today and tomorrow at the Illini Union from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Former Illini Apologizes

An Illinois basketball player is apologizing to fans after his recent arrest in France.  Forward Darius Paul was arrested earlier this month after police received multiple reports that Paul was damaging cars and shattering windows.  Paul's family released a statement to the public on his behalf yesterday.  He apologized to his family, coach and teammates and for not keeping his promise to stay on the right path after his run in with the law last year.  His coach suspended him "indefinitely" last week for violating team rules.

Rantoul Man Convicted of Threatening Ex-Girlfriend

A Rantoul man is accused of breaking into his ex-girlfriend's home and threatening to kill her and her young daughter.  Mario Hayes was arrested yesterday morning in connection to the domestic violence report.  Hayes allegedly broke into the victim's St. Andrews Circle home earlier this month and attacked her.  When the woman attempted to yell for her ten-year-old daughter, Hayes, while holding a switchblade, said "I'm going to kill her too."  If convicted on home invasion and aggravated battery charges he could face up to 30 years behind bars.

Mt. Pulaski Water is Safe to Drink

Health officials say the water in the Village of Mt. Pulaski is okay to drink.  In recent weeks people have complained about the water being a murky brown color.  A sewer spokesman says the water tower is being cleaned and painted, but will remain safe to drink.  The project is expected to take about 90 days and is on track to be completed by October 1st.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

GCMS Parent Orientation is Wednesday Night

GCMS Elementary School will host its parent orientation tomorrow night. Orientation for 1st through 3rd Grade students will be from 5:30 until 6:15. 4th and 5th Grade orientation will last from 6:20 until 7:05. This is a parents-only meeting, not for students.

Controversial Paxton Bar Closes

A downtown Paxton bar that has been the site of three violent incidents in the past two years, including two stabbings, has closed its doors as a result of “bad publicity” and a subsequent rise in insurance costs, its owner said today. Shooky’s Bar had been in operation since May 1, 2010, before it closed for the final time Saturday night. Owner Michael Shook told the Paxton Record this morning that high insurance costs caused by bad publicity resulted in his decision to close the bar. The bar’s closure came nine days after a Paxton man with an extensive criminal history, 27-year old Nicholas Klein, was charged with aggravated battery for allegedly throwing two billiard balls at Shooky’s, striking another bar patron, Patrick Nuss, in the head with them. There were also two recent stabbings at the bar. Shook said he made the decision to close the bar a couple of months ago but did not announce the closure until last Friday.

State Fair Nearly Even in revenue Despite Attendance Drop

A total of 411,547 people visited the Illinois State Fair this year. Fair organizers said the visitors brought in $1,357,000 in gate and parking revenue. Despite fewer people attending the fair this year, the gate and parking revenue was just $55,000 shy of last year’s amount. Preliminary estimates show that one of the biggest contributors to the fair’s total revenue this year were grandstand ticket sales, which at $1.9 million were the second-highest in state fair history. This year’s fair also ranks fifth in number of grandstand ticket sales, with 51,420 being sold.

Governor Vetoes Heroin Legislation

The havoc heroin and other hard drugs wage costs more than a comprehensive bill attacking the problem and providing for treatment, says the sponsor of the bill – which the governor has mandatorily vetoed. The governor has a stated goal of reducing the prison population by 25 percent. State Representative Lou Lang says the amendatory vetoes of the heroin bill as well as of a marijuana decriminalization bill would counter that. Among other things, the bill provides for the availability of anti-opioid treatments. The veto message from Gov. Bruce Rauner said the state could not afford the Medicaid-funded treatment in the bill, which a statement from the governor's spokeswoman a day later asserts goes beyond the treatment private insurance would cover. Lang called that explanation “tap dancing.”

Social Studies Teaching Important

It does not have the glamour of a standardized test, nor is it one of the STEM fields, but without social studies, where would we be? Maryam Judar, the executive director of the Citizen Advocacy Center, a statewide group based in Elmhurst, says the original mission of our public schools was civics education. Anybody who has seen lobbyists ply their trade around the rail in the Capitol or has seen some of the horse-trading going on can tell you real life is not the same as a textbook. The Robert R. McCormick Foundation is helping front the money for three years' worth of teacher training.

Analyst: Gas Prices to Drop

One analyst says gas prices are likely to go back down in a big way now that a refinery issue has been fixed. says gas prices could end up dropping 50 cents a gallon or more over the next few weeks now that production is ramping up again at the BP plant in Whiting, Indiana. But, how is it that one refinery can cause so much havoc on prices? Patrick DeHaan, Senior Petroleum Analyst, says another such problem with the refinery could cause a similar price spike. Gas prices average $2.99 currently in Illinois according to GasBuddy, and DeHaan says Labor Day won't be much of a price factor.

First Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Illinois

Illinois regulators have announced the registration of the state's first medical marijuana dispensary. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional announced Tuesday the first registered dispensary is called Harbory. It's located in the southern Illinois city of Marion. Registration means the industry is one step closer to sales. But so far no growers have products to sell. Sales are expected later this year. The dispensary in Marion has completed the state's registration process including an inspection. It's now licensed to operate when medical marijuana becomes available. The department says dispensaries will continue to be registered on a rolling basis. Once approved, dispensary names and addresses will be posted on the department's website. Dispensary employees must be licensed under a separate process before a dispensary opens for business.

State Selling Aircraft

The beleaguered state of Illinois checkbook has received a welcome, if small, deposit with the sale of surplus aircraft. Gov. Rauner announced this afternoon that five aircraft sold this month for $2.5 million. The Republican says selling the aircraft also avoided an additional $1 million in inspections and repairs. The sale comes after three previous attempts by the Department of Central Management Services to dispose of a Beechcraft twin-engine turboprop, a Sikorsky helicopter and three Cessna single-engine planes. Rauner says officials consulted aviation experts and, with a new marketing plan, received multiple bids. The Beechcraft was among planes that fly shuttle flights daily between Chicago and Springfield. The lighter airplanes are used for such purposes as wildlife surveys. Rauner grounded all aircraft July 1 because of the budget crisis.

Gibson City Council Meeting Notes

The Gibson City Council met in regular session last evening. The owner of Sammers 2 requested that his business be allowed to have a fenced in area to serve alcoholic beverages outside during the Harvest Festival. The Council tabled the request until the next Council meeting. Also tabled until the next council meeting is the consideration to approve stop signs at Melvin and Meadow Rue. An ordinance needs to be written and approved before the council can approve the stop signs being installed. The Council agreed to accept a sealed bid for a 2003 Ford Crown Victoria for $755.00 to Barry Schlichman. City Superintendent Randy Stauffer told the council that the North Park project should be completed in the next two weeks. Alderman Hall asked Superintendent Stauffer what the  time table for the removal of the medians on Lott Blvd is. He indicated that would be the next project to be started after some engineering work is completed and after the North Park Project is completed. Gary Lutterbie told the council that he is currently getting estimates on the cost of breaking up the concrete and filling in around the pond located at the Jordan Industrial Park. Brandon Roderick, the Council liaison to the committee also told the council that there are plans for volunteers to remove the dead trees and brush located around the pond. The council then adjourned.

Rain Helps Crops in Illinois

Rain helped the crops a little in the week just past, says the USDA's state statistician in Illinois.

“There was actually some corn harvested in Sangamon County last week,” says a surprised Mark Schleusener. “I don't think the bulk of producers will get going with their combines until after Labor Day.”

The current ratings for progress and condition: Corn is three percent mature and 56 percent in good-to-excellent condition. Soybeans are 88 percent setting pods and 52 percent in good-to-excellent condition.

“The state averaged 1.39 inches” of rain last week, says Schleusener almost .75 inches more than normal. “When August hit, things kind of dried out quickly, so that rain was welcome.

State Parks in Need of Repairs

State parks have a combined $720 million in repair needs, according to a new investigation.

The Better Government Association report says the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has been delaying maintenance projects for years, to the point where the total cost of completing repairs is more than double the department's annual operating budget.

The majority of those needed repairs are for buildings and trails. BGA investigator Katie Drews recounts an example from the 26-mile-long Rock Island Trail, a hiking and biking path near Peoria.

"They've seen a lot of erosion, they've seen just massive holes, essentially, in the middle of their trail, that's been there for years now, without ever being repaired," Drews said.

The eroded section is closed off, but it also essentially cuts the usable portion of the trail in half.

Drews also mentions millions in maintenance needs at Illinois' most visited state park, Starved Rock, including sewer repairs, campground upgrades, and roofs needing to be replaced.

Budget cuts and decreased staff at the DNR may be one reason why so many projects have been delayed, and Gov. Bruce Rauner had proposed reducing the DNR's budget by another $16 million for this fiscal year.

Three Potential Plane Crashes in Illinois

A Washington Post analysis claims that of 70 so-called "near-misses" involving aircraft and drones in the U.S. this month, three were in central Illinois.
According to the Post's analysis of FAA reports, two were reported in Springfield, and one was in Taylorville. Mark Hanna, Executive Director of Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield, says he wasn't made aware of any such reports, but that doesn't mean he's not concerned -- especially during times when the air traffic control tower is unmanned.
"Hobbyists and those people that are now seeking to operate these drones, are going to have to kind of come into line with some of the operational facets that come with operating in and around the vicinity of an airport," says Hanna.
Hanna says that means adhering to FAA rules prohibiting flying drones within five miles of an airport. Otherwise, Hanna says he and others in the aviation community are excited to have something new to add to flying history.
"At the end of the day, it's aviation," says Hanna.  "So, a lot of us in the business are really excited that there is something new for people to get excited about."
Hanna cites the uses they can have for farmers, real estate developers, public safety officials, and others.  But, he says he's just as concerned that their misuse can cause serious problems for other aircraft.

Fallout at University of Illinois Continues

The fallout continues from the recent controversies surrounding the University of Illinois.
The U of I announced Monday that Provost Ilesanmi Adesida  is resigning at the end of the month and will return to the faculty.  Adesida  was among several U-of-I administrators...including Chancellor Phyllis Wise...who were recently found to have used personal e-mail hide correspondence on controversial topics.  Wise stepped down earlier this month.

Acting Chancellor Barb Wilson says officials will name an interim provost
quickly.  She's pledging to consult with faculty and student leaders on
the decision.

Monday, August 24, 2015

UI Chancellor Stepping Down

The second-ranking official at the University of Illinois' Urbana-Champaign campus says he will resign over what he calls controversies on campus. Provost Ilesanmi Adesida said in an emailed statement Monday he'll step down Aug. 31. His resignation follows this month's exit of the top official at the flagship campus, Phyllis Wise. In his statement Adesida said "current controversies are causing distraction to the administration and the student body, and I do not want to contribute to those distractions." Wise announced plans to resign just before the university released more than 1,000 pages of emails in which she and others used private accounts to discuss university business without public scrutiny. Adesida was among those using private emails to discuss business. Adesida said he plans to rejoin the faculty.

Pension Crisis Affecting Cities

The pension-funding crisis undermining the stability of Illinois and Chicago is rippling through hundreds of smaller governments, squeezing budgets as officials prop up teetering police and fire retirement funds. The city of Danville has reduced its firefighter ranks by 27 percent in five years to lower retirement costs. The tiny Chicago suburb of Stone Park sold $2 million in bonds last year to bolster the police pension, which had just six cents for every dollar owed retirees. The squeeze comes from about 650 police and fire pension funds and is largely overlooked in the deepening Illinois and Chicago pension crises. The state is saddled with $111 billion in unfunded liabilities. Chicago and its public school system, with a combined shortfall of almost $30 billion, face the prospect of bankruptcy. Half of local retirement systems are less than 60 percent funded, according to a May report from a commission created by the legislature to monitor Illinois's long-term debt position. Even those in better financial condition share a trait with weaker peers: mounting pressure from state-enacted benefit increases, resulting in higher taxes and service cuts to cover the costs of 11,000 retirees and 22,000 active public-safety employees.

Blago Sentencing Won't Be Delayed

A federal court has denied a request by imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to delay his resentencing while he asks the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case. An order from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago denies last week's request by the Illinois Democrat's lawyers. The order says resentencing won't interfere with the high-court appeal. Blagojevich is serving a 14-year prison term, including for trying to sell President Barack Obama's old Senate seat. A three-judge panel overturned five of his corruption convictions in July and ordered his resentencing on the 13 remaining counts. The 7th Circuit earlier refused Blagojevich's request for a full-court rehearing, so the Supreme Court is his last hope of getting more convictions tossed. No date has yet been set for resentencing.

New Major General from Illinois

The newest major general in the U.S. Army used his promotion ceremony to show how grounded he is. Gen. Richard Hayes, Jr., the adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard, says his wife, Danette, is the real heroine, holding down the home front while he has deployed to such places as Kosovo and New Orleans. That post-Katrina service was cited by Gov. Bruce Rauner in lauding Hayes before awarding him a second star. Hayes notes the Guard is now working on a post-earthquake drill, as if the New Madrid Fault were to sustain a 7.7 quake.

Iran Nuclear Deal Top Priority

The Iran nuclear deal seems to be the top priority for Illinois Democrats in Congress when they return to Washington. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin expects motions on the agreement aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program to be considered soon after Congress reconvenes. Durbin supports the deal, as does U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky. She acknowledges Republicans may have the votes to pass a motion to block the deal, but doesn't believe there's enough support to override a presidential veto of that motion. U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis's priorities begin with the hope that the Senate considers his legislation on labeling foods which claim to be free of genetically modified organisms. Congress returns from its month-long recess on September 8.

Protesters March in Chicago

Protesters angry over cuts to home care assistance for seniors temporarily stopped cars along one of Chicago's busiest streets. 22 protesters blocked off traffic on Chicago's Michigan Avenue for a few minutes, with hundreds more cheering them on from the sidewalk. That crowd included legislators entangled in the budget fight, like State Rep. Greg Harris. Gov. Rauner has proposed changing how senior citizens qualify for the Community Care Program, which provides assistance to keep seniors with assets of $70,500 or less out of more expensive nursing homes. The protesters called on him to raise taxes instead. The protesters responsible for blocking traffic weren't arrested, but instead given tickets. The governor's office pinned the need for cuts on Democrats.

Overtime Pay to be Decided

A federal judge is deciding whether Chicago police officers are entitled to overtime pay for fielding work-related calls and emails on their smartphones when off the clock. U.S. Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier heard closings this morning in a bench trial stemming from a lawsuit brought against the city by members of an organized-crime bureau. The case could help draw clearer lines nationwide between when a worker is on or off company time in the age of the smartphone. A city lawyer, Jennifer Naber, argued that clear policies are already in place instructing officers to file for overtime for work done on smartphones after hours. But plaintiffs' attorney Paul Geiger said officers are often browbeaten into not filing for the OT. Schenkier's expected to render a decision within weeks.

Comptroller Fights for Her Job

The comptroller handles the state's checkbook, but the Illinois Democrats who want that job say it's part of the fight for what kind of society we should have, and the ongoing story of income inequality.

The governor appointed Republican Leslie Munger after the passing of Judy Baar Topinka last December – a month after Topinka's re-election and a month before she was to be sworn in. The solution the legislature reached was for the appointment to last only until after the 2016 election;

On stage on Democrat Day at the state fair, Mendoza said, “Powerful, well-funded interest groups are trying to stoke anger and fear to gain political power: power they wish to use for further enrichment of the wealthiest at the expense of the rest of us.”

“I had a conversation with the governor,” Biss said. “I said, 'It seems you are trying to get involved in a race to the bottom to push wages down,' and he said, 'Daniel, we don't have any choice.'”

Both also slammed Munger's characterization of herself as Rauner's “wingman.”

Munger is running to keep her job.

Repairs to Governor's Mansion Needed

The repairs are underway on the Executive Mansion's roof.

The official residence of the governor, a few blocks east of the Capitol in Springfield, is getting an $8-12 million rehab, the first significant non-emergency work since the early 1970s. The building is about 160 years old.

Henson Robinson Company in Springfield was chosen for a nearly $500,000 roof replacement.

Dave Blanchette, who used to work for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, says, “It's a wonderful, historic building. It's a treasure for the citizens of Illinois. It's listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and it's certainly worthy of preservation and continued use.”

During and after the gubernatorial campaign, Gov. Bruce Rauner criticized the stewardship of the mansion and said it was a metaphor for state government under the man Rauner defeated, Pat Quinn. Blanchette, who also served as a Quinn spokesman, said money was appropriated under a capital projects plan but never was spent. Blanchette cites the likely negative public reception to spending money on a governor's mansion, particularly after the criticism for the elaborate work done at the Capitol – complete with a $669,000 set of copper doors.

“Sometimes,” Blanchette says, “you've just got to bite the bullet and spend money on things, because, if you don't, you've got to spend money on them in the future.”

There is now an Executive Mansion Association, and the money is being raised privately.

Gill Hoping for Win Again

A familiar face to Illinois politics is hoping a change of party affiliation will improve his chances for winning a congressional seat he has 4 times tried to win.

Bloomington physician David Gill, who ran his previous campaigns for the 13th district congressional seat as part of the Democratic Party, has announced his 5th run will be as an independent, “Perhaps my message will be taken more seriously by some individuals, you know I was always out there saying I wasn’t being directed by Nancy Pelosi or Steve Israel, in fact I beat them in the 2012 primary and they weren’t involved in my campaigns prior to that.”

Gill narrowly lost to current Republican Congressman Rodney Davis in their 2012 race by roughly 1000 votes and in 2014 was defeated in a primary by Democratic nominee Ann Callis.

Gill acknowledged the uphill battle of running as an independent, but said he was still confident in his chances of winning in 2016.

“The standard independent campaign doesn’t get a lot of support… but this is something I wouldn’t be doing if I didn’t think I could win and I do think it can be won and I’m excited about it.”

Following his race with Davis in 2012, Gill temporarily served as the Assistant Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health under former governor Pat Quinn.

Universities Taking Steps to Prevent Sexual Assault

Universities in Chicago are taking steps to prevent and respond to sexual assaults on campus.  Governor Bruce Rauner signed the bill late last week, which requires colleges to provide confidential advisers to sexual assault victims.  School leaders must also give victims additional safety options such as changing class schedules or campus housing accommodations.  The law is expected to take effect next year.

Woman Struck By Foul Ball at Wrigley Field

A woman is hospitalized after being struck by a foul ball at Wrigley Field.  The incident happened during last night's game between the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves.  Player Kyle Schwarber lined a foul ball and hit the fan.  The game was suspended while emergency crews took the injured woman away on a stretcher.  There's no word about her condition.

Missing Plane Found Near Casey

Officials say a missing plane has been found in Weir.  Emergency crews spotted the plane crash Saturday after an extensive search of the area.  Search efforts began late last week after the aircraft didn't arrive in Casey.  The plane crashed in a farm field and the pilot was found dead at the scene.  The incident is under investigation, and no additional information has been released.

Tornado Touches Down in Naperville

The National Weather Service is confirming two tornadoes in DuPage County.  An E-0 tornado touched the ground last Tuesday and traveled three miles from Naperville to Woodridge.  The tornado damaged several trees in the area and caused a powerline to fall.  Forecasters say E-0 tornadoes are the weakest on the scale.  Media outlets also reported that a second weak tornado touched down in a backyard in Downers Grove and caused a tree to fall onto a parked car.

University of Chicago Ranked Among Best in the Nation

The University of Chicago is ranked among the best schools in the nation.  That's according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities which put the campus in ninth place.  The school was recognized for its social sciences, mathematics and medicine programs.  Northwestern and Harvard universities also ranked in the top 20.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Fairbury Fair Continues This Weekend

The Fairbury Fair continues tonight and through the weekend at the fairgrounds on the south end of Fairbury. Midway rides begin at 6:00 this evening. A demolition derby will be held at the grandstand at 7:00 tonight, and Breaking Storm will be performing in the beer tent at 8:00. Tomorrow, there is a 5K Run and Two-Mile Walk beginning at 8 a.m., with registration at 6:30. The Talent Show is at Noon in the grandstand. A Kids’ Baggo Tournament begins at 1:00. Midway rides will run throughout the afternoon and evening, and there will be stock car racing at the grandstand at 6:30 p.m. Jury’s Out will be in the beer tent at 8 p.m. On Sunday, a community worship service will take place at 10 a.m. in the grandstands. A chili cook-off, antique farm display, and a baggo tournament will be held at Noon. Midway rides begin at 1:00 Sunday afternoon. Breann and Tommy Neal will be singing in the beer tent as well. WGCY will have the live broadcast of the Fairbury Fair Talent Show beginning tomorrow at Noon. Kent Casson will be serving as emcee for the event.

Radiologist Visions New States

The look of our nation would change drastically if the ideas of Dr. Robert Marshall take hold. Marshall, a radiologist who lives in Berwyn, says he wants to redistribute the nation's population by dividing the ten most populous states into smaller ones. This would create an America of perhaps 75 states and, thus, about 150 U.S. Senators. Illinois would become four states: Chicago and the rest of Cook County would be two, and Interstate 80 would divide the rest of Illinois into the other two. South Illinois could also be home to the nation's capital. Marshall says the “New York – Washington power axis” must be broken up; somewhere such as East St Louis is a better place to conduct the nation's business, and moving the capital there would create jobs, he says, “from Peoria to Metropolis.” Marshall, who says he was shut out of Democrat Day activities at the Illinois State Fair, ran in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary in 2010.

Aviation Company Appeals for Tax Break

A Moline-based aviation company has asked the Illinois Supreme Court to reverse an appellate decision striking down a property tax break granted to them two years ago. Last month, the appellate court ruled that the tax break for Elliott Aviation was unconstitutional and violated the state's special legislation clause. The company appealed that decision Wednesday. In February 2013, legislation exempting fixed-base operators leasing land at the Quad City International Airport from taxation was approved by lawmakers and signed by then-Gov. Pat Quinn. The (Moline) Dispatch reports the decision was in response to Elliott Aviation's plans to either expand in Moline or Des Moines, Iowa. The Moline School District filed a lawsuit questioning the constitutionality of the exemption. Elliott Aviation intervened and won in lower court, but the district appealed.

UI Menorah to be Replaced

The director of a Jewish center on the University of Illinois campus says a new menorah will be erected to replace the nine-foot fixture that was recently knocked over.  Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel says the damaged menorah will be put back in place this weekend, but he says a new, larger and sturdier menorah is planned and that 75-hundred-dollars has been raised toward its construction.  Police say they don't have any suspects in the vandalism that was caught on security video Wednesday morning, the second such incident this year.

GCMS School Board Notes (8/20)

The GCMS School board approved new wall achievement plackards
for the Middle School Gym at a cost of $1,600.00 to replace the current
banners. The Board also approved the bid from Kleins Fence and Deck
for fencing at the new parking lot and fencing for the H.S. Garbage bin
at a cost of $9,880.00. Bids for a new maintenace truck will also be
In other action the school board approved the following;
The schoolwide plan for ES and MS.
The Ford county Special Education Cooperative Budget for 2016.
 The contract with Hennemenn Engineering to complete
the required ten year Health Life Safety Survey and Report for the
H.S, The concession/weight room building, and the Elementary
School at a cost of $14,750.00.
The School/Community Liaison job description.

In other action the Board accepted the resignation of Amber
Frick as a teacher aide and the resignation of Sadie Grice
as Library Clerk.

The Board approved the following personnel employs:
Hannah Libovitz as Library Clerk beginning this school year
at a salary of $20,448 plus benefits.
Cathy Walker Steidinger beginning this school year to perform
the duties of the School/Community Liaison at an annual salary
of $12,000.00.
Katrina Schoonover as a paraprofessional at a rate of $10 per hour.
Samantha Landeck as a paraprofessional at a rate of $10 per hour.
Tammy Walker as a paraprofessional at a rate of $10 per hour.
Cheryl Carlson as a speech-language pathologist on behalf of
the Ford County Special Education Cooperative at a TRS rate
of $57,800.00 for 190 days beginning this school year. 

The Board then adjourned.

Illinois State Police Using Drones

The Illinois State Police is getting some use out of what you might think of as a drone, but that's not what they call it.
State Police have two Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or UAS's, that they can deploy statewide to any type of emergency, according to State Police Captain Matt Davis. Davis says the system, which has a camera on it like many drones, can be used like it was a first responder of sorts.
"This technology would mostly be used for situational awareness," says Davis.  "We'd be able to deploy the technology to let the fire and EMS know exactly the nature of the situation, the natures of the chemicals being spilled out into the environment, and the flow patterns away from the rail car."
That's in the event of something like a train car leaking hazardous materials as was the case during a disaster drill outside Springfield this week; but Davis says it can also be used in serious traffic crashes or fires.
"In crash scenes, in crime scenes, it's a tool that we can put on the scene to very quickly and accurately document scenes," says Davis.  "You get the birds-eye view, so to speak, and it's a very helpful tool for quick and efficient documentation of scenes."

Davis says in the few months the UAS program has been up and running, they've had no serious problems or glitches.

Congressman Says There Are Problems in VA

Congressman Rodney Davis says the problems are starting to pile up again at the Veterans Administration, and that means the director has got to go.  
Officials at the Los Angeles VA allegedly shredded veterans' benefit claims documents without ever processing them according to a new report.  Davis says that's reason enough for Secretary Bob McDonald to be shown the door.
"I think the President should fire Secretary McDonald, or I think he should resign," says McDonald.  "He clearly hasn't solved the problems that we have even given him the flexibility to solve."
Davis says depending on how you define "better" -- sure, things at the VA might be better since last year's scandal over appointment backlogs and other things, but he doesn't see it.
"There's still a backlog of appointments.  There's still a backlog of disability claims.  There's still reports of different facilities being mismanaged," says Davis.  "We need to have an overhaul at the executive level."

McDonald -- former CEO of Proctor and Gamble -- replaced Eric Shinseki, who resigned amid the initial scandal.

Democrat Day Observed at State Fair

Out of the governor's office for the first time in twelve years, and holding only one of the two U.S. Senate seats from Illinois, you'd think Illinois Democrats would have little to celebrate.

Instead, the master of ceremonies on Democrat Day at the Illinois State Fair Thursday thanked Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

“Look around you!” shouted State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie). “The Democratic Party has never been as organized and as energized as it is right now!”

That sentiment did not hold much more than an hour, as the day's final speakers were left to address a sea of empty chairs.

Nevertheless, three members of the state's U.S. House delegation, four hopefuls for U.S. Senate, and two candidates for comptroller were among those on stage. Even the 2016 presidential race came up.

State Treasurer Mike Frerichs served as a proxy for Hillary Clinton, painting her as a champion for education and proposing that “we take radical approach to make sure more Americans – regardless of their income level – are able to get the skills they need to get a good job, that's someone I want to follow.”

That was not the only presidential politicking of the day. Dr. Willie Wilson, undaunted from his unsuccessful campaign for mayor of Chicago, said, “My platform is simple: economic development, education, public safety, equal opportunity for all citizens, equal women's pay.”

Mild Winter Could Be Coming to Illinois

Illinois could see a mild winter.  State Climatologist Jim Angel says National Weather Service data shows Illinois has an increased chance of above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation for the winter months of December, January, and February.  The prediction is based largely on the developing El NiƱo in the Pacific Ocean.

Illinois Bans Gay Conversion Therapy

Illinois is now the fifth jurisdiction in the country to outlaw the practice of trying to change the sexual orientation of gay youth.  A bill was signed by Governor Rauner yesterday that would ban so called "gay conversion therapy." The measure bars any mental health providers from engaging in treatment aimed at changing minors from gay to straight.  Similar bans also exist in California, New Jersey,  Oregon, and Washington DC.

High School Football Coach Arrested on Drug Charges

A football coach in Rockton is out of custody after being arrested on drug charges.  Hononegah High School coach Timothy Sughroue [[ shuh-grow ]] was released this week after surrendering to authorities.  Sughroue is accused possessing a painkiller.  The school named two interim coaches while he remains on administrative leave.

Man Pleads Guilty to SIU Bomb Threats

A Chicago man will be sentence later this year after admitting to sending bomb threats to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.  Prosecutors say Derrick Dawon Burns pleaded guilty yesterday to sending at least four threatening letters to students and staff.  Three of the letters were titled "The War on SIU."  Burns was enrolled at the school from 2011 to 2013.  He was arrested after the FBI reportedly matched his fingerprints to some of the letters.

Bloomington Man Facing Charges in Wednesday Attack

A Bloomington man is facing multiple charges including attempted murder following three attacks downtown.  Jason Hopkins is accused of stabbing two men and knocking down another Wednesday afternoon.  All three victims are expected to survive.  Jason Hopkins is being held on one-million-dollars bond.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Disaster Loans Available

The U.S. Small Business Administration announced today that federal Economic Injury Disaster Loans are available to small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and private nonprofit organizations located in Illinois as a result of excessive rain and flooding beginning on May 1, 2015. The disaster declaration includes the following counties: Clark, Cook, Crawford, Edgar, Iroquois, Kankakee, Lawrence, Wabash, White and Will in Illinois. Under this declaration, the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program is available to eligible farm-related and nonfarm-related entities that suffered financial losses as a direct result of this disaster. With the exception of aquaculture enterprises, SBA cannot provide disaster loans to agricultural producers, farmers, or ranchers. Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application via SBA’s secure website at

Jesse White to Retire

Secretary of State Jesse White is calling it a career. Illinois’ longest serving secretary of state, first elected to that post in 1998 after decades of previous public service, is finally retiring – for real this time. White says he’ll focus on the Jesse White Tumblers, a group he founded in 1959 and which he says has helped more than 16,000 young people in Chicago. He says he won’t completely step away from politics, though. White won his first election in 1998 with 55 percent of the vote, and easily won reelection four times – garnering well more than 60 percent each time.

Democrats Pledge Opposition to Rauner

Illinois Democrats, set back on their heels by an "epic struggle" with first-year Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, pledged Thursday to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in opposition while a potentially bruising primary for a U.S. Senate race took shape. The party controlling both houses of the General Assembly marked Democrat Day at the Illinois State Fair in the unfamiliar position of defense, locked in a row with Rauner over a state budget. The first-time officeholder, carrying an agenda to curb union power, ended a dozen years of Democratic residence in the governor's office last fall in an election drawing fewer than half of eligible voters to the polls. It marked a day of jabs at Rauner for attacks on the middle class, the minimum wage, labor rights and working families. But Thursday afternoon at the traditional, old-style state fair rally, few answered the trumpet to arms. Many dignitaries hit the gates before the speeches ended. Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza, a candidate for state comptroller, told about 50 stalwarts, "Thanks for sticking around."

Illinois' Unemployment Rate Falls

Illinois' unemployment rate continued to fall in July, hitting 5.8 percent. That's the lowest unemployment rate the state has seen since 2008. The Illinois Department of Employment Security said Thursday in its monthly report on unemployment that the jobless rate fell from 5.9 percent in June. The federal government said earlier this month that the national unemployment rate was 5.3 percent in July. The agency said Illinois added a net 1,900 jobs for the month. However, agency Director Jeff Mays complained that the country as a whole has added jobs at a faster rate this year. Illinois' government, construction, and leisure and hospitality sectors in July each added more than 2,000 new jobs over what they lost. The agency said the number of unemployed workers fell 2.3 percent to 373,600.

Governor Rauner Releases Federal Funds

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed legislation to release $5.4 billion in federal funds during a stalemate over the state budget. The measure signed into law Thursday would provide funding for social programs such as energy assistance, cancer screenings and family nutrition. It takes effect immediately. The money was available but couldn't be spent because the Republican governor and Democrats who control the legislature haven't agreed on a budget for the fiscal year that started July 1. Spokesman Lance Trover says Rauner signed the measure "because it will help those in need without adding to the state's budget deficit." House Speaker Michael Madigan attempted to add some state spending authority to a Senate plan last week, but then backed off. The Senate gave final approval to the bill Wednesday.

UI Hires Former Big 12 Commissioner as Consulting Firm

The University of Illinois has hired a consulting firm led by former Big 12 Conference Commissioner Dan Beebe as it deals with allegations of mistreatment by former athletes. The contract says the Dan Beebe Group was hired this month to help the school "prevent, identify and appropriately respond to misconduct." The cost will be $50,000 for a year. The contract was first reported by The Champaign News-Gazette. The university provided a copy on request to The Associated Press but a spokeswoman was not available for comment. The university this year has faced allegations from former football and women's basketball players of mistreatment by coaches. The basketball players sued. A former women's soccer player sued the school claiming she was cleared to play too soon after a concussion.

Red Light Camera Chief Pleads Guilty

The former chief executive of a red-light camera company changed her plea to guilty on Thursday in a scheme that funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to secure $124 million in city of Chicago contracts. Karen Finley, a longtime executive at Phoenix-based Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., looked calm as she pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Chicago, telling Judge Virginia Kendall she understood she now faced the possibility of spending up to five years behind bars. Finley, 55, of Cave Creek, Arizona, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit federal-program bribery. Under the terms of a plea deal, prosecutors agreed to dismiss more than a dozen other counts. Sentencing was set for Feb. 18.

Thursday's Fairbury Fair Schedule

Fairbury Fair Schedule for today will begin with judging of exhibits at 8:00 a.m. The Red Cross Bloodmobile will be parked at the fairgrounds from 3 until 7 this afternoon. Midway rides will start at 6:00 p.m. and continue throughout the evening. The Meat Goat Show is today; registration is at 5:30 p.m., with the show beginning at 7 p.m. The tractor pull is this evening in the grandstands, beginning at 7:00. Twitter Bug is performing in the beer tent from 7 until 11 this evening as well.

Blago Case May Go To Supreme Court

The last hope to get more convictions against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich thrown out is to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
With the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rejecting his request for a rehearing before the full court, the highest court is his final appeal option.
Typically, the Supreme Court addresses cases where there is a national interest or a lack of consensus among federal courts . Blagojevich attorney Len Goodman believes since this case deals with what qualifies as corruption, it meets the Court’s standards.
“It seems like there’s now a real conflict and this is something that the Supreme Court needs to look at,” Goodman said. “They really haven’t addressed campaign contributions in the criminal context since the 90s.”
Goodman argues the case lowered the standard for what constitutes a bribe to there being any connection between campaign contribution and an act of a public official.
“By that standard, no politician could survive a federal prosecution,” Goodman said.
As for how long it will take to find out if the Court will take the case, Goodman says he was 90 days to file the appeal. After that, it may take months for a decision, but Goodman says it won’t be as long as the 19 months Blagojevich had to wait between the arguments and ruling in his first appeal.

MAP Grants Approved

There's plenty of state spending, even though the legislature never passed a budget that the governor would sign.

An exception to that spending is $373 million the governor proposed for the MAP grants. The Monetary Assistance Program helps college students, and the Senate Wednesday passed a bill to restore that money.

“The crux of the issue here,” argued Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont), “is that we're spending at the rate of $38 billion a year without a budget, with only about $32 or $33 billion in revenue. And, since budgeting is about choices, we're closing our windows on choices of how we might manage taxpayer dollars best.”

Randy Dunn, president of Southern Illinois University, said the issue is important enough to draw him away from student move-in activities.

“Half of the students who still identify as a student of color are getting some sort of MAP support,” he told lawmakers. “57 percent of these studenst are also first-generation college-goers.”

The bill now goes to the House, which is in next week.

SB 2043 has passed the Senate, 37-0-14.

Illinois Senate Overrides Rauner's Veto

The theme of reducing the strength and influence of public employee unions in Illinois is losing steam.

The Illinois Senate Wednesday overrode Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of a bill which would allow the state and unions to send matters to arbitration if they cannot agree. It also bans strikes and walkouts in those labor disputes.

“It's one of the worst bills I ever heard about in Illinois history,” Rauner said Tuesday in urging senators to uphold his veto.

After the override, the governor's office issued a statement accusing the senators who voted for it of placing special interests above Illinoisans. One of those senators is a Republican, State Sen. Sam McCann (R-Plainview), whose Springfield-area district includes many state workers.

After the vote, McCann said he was simply voting in line with a “vast majority” of the constituents who contacted his office.

Asked by reporters if he and Rauner could still co-exist, McCann said everyone has to be an American and an Illinoisan before being partisan. And asked about retribution from Rauner for not toeing the line, McCann nodded, said, “Have a good day,” and walked away.

The Senate voted to override the governor's veto on SB 1229, 38-15.