Pension Reform is now the law of the land and a public sector union coalition isn’t happy.
Governor Pat Quinn signed the measure to shore up Illinois worst-in-the-nation pension crisis.
The We Are One Coalition promises a court fight, claiming the measures passed by lawmakers this week is an unconstitutional diminishment of benefits.
State Treasurer Dan Rutherford who is running in the GOP primary for governor opposed the legislation saying there is a constitutional argument.
Rutherford hopes for an expeditious resolution to the issue and says that all parties should have a role in the final outcome.
The resignation of the City of Springfield’s Acting Corporation Counsel had nothing to do with recent dust ups over questions of conflicts of interest, according to Mayor Mike Houston.
The mayor says that John Mehlick did have some frustrations with dealing with Aldermanic requests, but this week’s exchange with Ward 5 Alderman Sam Cahnman dealing with possible conflicts of interest didn’t play a role in his decision.
There were also questions about Mehlick’s role in a case involving FOIA Shred Case Plaintiff Calvin Christian when Mehilick was a judge, but Houston dismissed that concern as a possible conflict of interest.
Houston says Mehlick informed him of his plan to depart the city way before this week’s city council meeting. Mehlick’s last day is December 14.
Houston says he will actively seek a replacement for the office.
The mayor also says he is still seeking a replacement for a police chief.
Both offices were left vacant earlier this year in the wake of revelations over the destruction of police internal affairs files.
Mayor Mike Houston calls a DJ recently arrested in downtown Springfield a “liar.”
The incident early Tuesday morning downtown Springfield involved the arrest of Sean Layton, also known as DJ Evo.
Layton tells WMAY he was told by the arresting officer that orders were given by Mayor Houston after he the mayor received a call from a lawmaker who was staying above the bar Monday night. Houston denies that he had any role in the arrest.
Layton was arrested for disorderly conduct.
In an effort to trim more from the Springfield School Budget, teachers could be asked to take on one extra period a day.
Interim Superintendent Bob Lemming tells the State Journal-Register that the move could save the school district more than $1 million, from an already estimated $6 million that needs to be cut from the upcoming budget.
The move could eliminate a collaboration period teachers have to work on things like new common core standards and move them to spend more times with students.
The Springfield School Board could take up the measure later this month.
Meanwhile, members of the school board will be meeting with candidates to take on the superintendent job behind closed doors this weekend with planed public session with the final two or three candidates next week.
Those who were hoping to see Willie Nelson a couple of months ago will get their chance late in 2014.
The concert scheduled for this past September at the Sangamon Auditorium was postponed when the 80-year-old country singer became ill.
Organizers announced the concert will now take place August 12th at Sangamon Auditorium. Tickets are on sale now.
Ticket holders from the postponed September show can have the same seats. Those who have tickets and are unable to make the rescheduled concert have until January 24th to request refunds.
Pension reform is now the law… and soon it will be the subject of a lawsuit.
Governor Pat Quinn signed the bill almost as soon as it reached his desk. Quinn says the $160 billion plan is a vital part of fixing Illinois’s fiscal crisis… and he believes the courts will uphold it for that reason.
But public sector unions say no amount of savings trumps the state constitution… and they say they are preparing a suit that will seek to overturn the new law because it unfairly reduces current and future pension benefits.
Year-to-date jobless claims in Springfield are at their lowest level in more than a decade.
The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce says the figures for September and October were delayed because of the partial federal government shutdown… but the numbers appear to be worth the wait.
Around 8500 jobless claims have been processed locally so far this year… compared to around 10,000 at the same point a year ago. The Chamber says it’s the best showing since 2002.
Mayor Mike Houston admits that it may not be easy to find another local attorney to take on the job of corporation counsel for the city.
Two people have resigned from that post in less than six months… Mark Cullen back in July because of the police department file shredding incident, and now his temporary replacement, John Mehlick, has resigned.
Houston says Mehlick had multiple reasons for leaving, including frustrations over his dealings with aldermen. And the mayor says that frustration isn’t lost on other local attorneys, who may be reluctant to take on the headaches associated with the job.
Springfield Mayor Mike Houston has some blunt words for the club DJ who accused him of pulling strings to get the DJ arrested.
Houston says Sean Layton… who goes by the name DJ Evo… is, quote, “a liar.” Layton was booked on a disorderly conduct charge Monday night after police said he kept blaring his music at a downtown bar, creating a nuisance.
Houston denies any involvement with the incident, and suggests Layton is simply trying to cause controversy or make a name for himself.
The “Help Wanted” sign is out again in Springfield’s corporation counsel office.
Retired judge John Mehlick, who had been serving as Mayor Mike Houston’s top lawyer since the summer, has submitted his resignation, effective December 14th.
A spokesman for Houston was in the meeting where Mehlick announced his decision, but says Mehlick did not offer a reason for his departure.
Mehlick stepped in after Mark Cullen resigned as corporation counsel following revelations about his role in the police department file shredding scandal.
But in recent weeks, Mehlick has clashed with aldermen on several issues… including their claims that he has dragged his feet on drafting ordinances for them.
Two Springfield aldermen say their issues with the Houston administration go straight to the top… and suggest that the most recent public dispute makes it look like the mayor has something to hide.
Houston and his legal team said this week that Alderman Sam Cahnman has a conflict of interest and should not be involved in discussions over settling the police department file shredding lawsuit.
Plaintiff Calvin Christian has retained Cahnman to defend him in several recent traffic citation cases brought by the city.
But Cahnman… who has demanded more disclosure from the mayor’s office about the file shredding case…says it looks like the mayor just wants to silence him. Alderman Joe McMenamin agrees.
A local lawmaker is questioning why judges are being singled out for special treatment on the issue of pension reform.
While the bill passed this week makes significant changes to four of the state’s five public pension systems, the system that governs pensions for judges was exempt.
Republican Representative Bill Mitchell of Forsyth says that decision makes judges a “new aristocracy” who don’t have to face the same rules or challenges as other public employees.
Critics of the pension reform bill contend judges were left out in order to improve the chances that the bill would withstand a court challenge.
A DJ at a downtown Springfield club… who was arrested this week for playing music too loud… says he was targeted by someone with high-level connections.
Sean Layton, who works under the name DJ Evo, is charged with disorderly conduct and a city noise ordinance violation.
Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Kramer Show” Wednesday, he believes the complaint originated with a state lawmaker who was staying in an apartment above Marley’s Pub… and contends that official contacted people high up at Springfield City Hall to force a police response.
City officials deny the allegation.
A police report indicates Layton repeatedly failed to comply with requests to turn down the level of bass in the music.
Sangamon County officials say thousands of county residents are uninsured… but so far, only dozens have approached the county health department about trying to find a policy under the Affordable Care Act.
The health department is now meeting with residents who have signed up for one-on-one appointments to navigate the state and federal insurance exchanges.
Around 15 people have found coverage… all of them under the state’s expanded Medicaid program.
County health director Jim Stone says his staff hasn’t yet had to take the revamped federal healthcare.gov site out for a spin… but he expects that will happen soon, and he hopes the site truly works better than it did in the weeks after it was first launched in October.
For the second time in six months, the person serving as the top lawyer for the City of Springfield has resigned.
The city issued a one-sentence statement saying Acting Corporation Counsel John Mehlick has submitted his resignation, effective December 14th. No reason was given for Mehlick's decision to step down. Mayoral spokesman Nathan Mihelich says he was in the meeting when Mehlick informed Mayor Mike Houston of his intention to resign, but Mihelich says Mehlick did not offer any specific reason for the decision.
Mehlick was appointed by Mayor Mike Houston to replace Mark Cullen, who resigned last summer following revelations about his role in the police department file shredding scandal. Mehlick is a retired judge.
Stay with 970 WMAY for updates on this developing story.
An area lawmaker is critical of the fact that judges were left out of the pension reform deal that reduced benefits for most other public sector workers in the state.
Republican Bill Mitchell says judges get a much larger pension than the average teacher or state worker… but they will continue to receive the compounded three-percent cost-of-living increase that is being taken away from the other pension systems.
He says the bill turns judges into a “new aristocracy” and "super-citizens" who can't be touched by the same rules that affect other public employees. Some opponents of the pension bill believe judges were specifically excluded to improve the chances that the bill won't be struck down by the courts as unconstitutional.
Two Springfield aldermen say the Houston administration’s handling of the Calvin Christian settlement makes it look like the mayor is guilty of… something.
Both Sam Cahnman and Joe McMenamin made similar statements (live on 970 WMAY's "Bishop On Air") in response to the contention from top city officials that Cahnman should recuse himself from discussions of the settlement in the Christian case because of a potential conflict of interest.
Cahnman has represented Christian in several traffic cases, but he says the administration’s attack on him smacks of an attempt to cover up its own issues.
Sangamon County health officials are picking up the pace of appointments to help local residents get signed up for required health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
The health department has scheduled dozens of appointments to assist people in navigating the online signup. But county health director Jim Stone says so far, all of those people have wound up going through the state’s expanded Medicaid program… not the troubled federal website, so he still doesn’t know if the nagging problems with healthcare.gov have really been fixed.
Stone says a full contingent of staff is on standby to help people sign up for coverage before a December 23rd deadline. [To schedule an appointment, call the Sangamon County Department of Public Health.]
A new study of the state’s readiness for a major disaster finds Illinois is in line with most of the nation in its ability to respond to big emergencies.
The National Health Security Preparedness Index gives the state high marks for its ability to test for and detect potential causes in the event of a widespread event involving food contamination, and also for its plans to distribute and dispense medical supplies on a large scale.
But the state ranks below average for its plans to identify and mobilize medical personnel who may be needed in a crisis, and to provide assistance to special needs populations in a public health emergency. State health officials say they’re working on ways to shore up those deficiencies.
The next stop will be a courtroom in the fight over public sector pensions in Illinois.
The General Assembly on Tuesday approved a major pension reform bill that aims to save $160 billion over 30 years by reducing cost-of-living increases and raising the retirement age for many workers.
Unions representing teachers, state workers and others say the legislation is an unconstitutional reduction of the benefits that the state has promised to provide, and say they will sue to have it overturned.
A new round of fireworks has delayed a vote on the proposed settlement between the City of Springfield and the reporter who is suing over shredded police department internal affairs files.
Attorney Jon Gray Noll, who was hired by the city to represent it in the cases brought by Calvin Christian, says Alderman Sam Cahnman has a conflict of interest and should not be involved in the settlement discussions.
Cahnman is representing Christian in one of the numerous traffic citation cases that is included in a separate federal lawsuit in which Christian accuses the city of harassment.
The new wrinkle led aldermen to delay a planned emergency passage vote on the settlement.
That vote will now take place in two weeks… when it will require fewer votes for approval.
In other City Council action, aldermen approved a new three-year contract for Springfield firefighters.
The only “no” vote came from Alderman Joe McMenamin, who voices concerns about the contract’s pay raises and its impact on the city’s pension debt.
The council also lifted a moratorium on boathouse construction at Lake Springfield… and approved a program that will encourage minority students to pursue careers in engineering or other fields related to railroad work.
The city, Sangamon County, and Hanson Professional Services will each contribute $20,000 to that effort.
A bill that would have given tax breaks to Archer Daniels Midland and other Illinois corporations, in order to keep some of their jobs in the state, has stalled.
The Senate approved the $88 million package on Tuesday, but the House adjourned without acting on the bill, meaning nothing can happen until the legislature’s spring session.
ADM said in a statement that it is now reviewing its options about where to relocate its global headquarters, currently based in Decatur, and will have an announcement soon.
A scare that prompted a lockdown of a downtown Springfield office building has now become a matter for the police.
A portion of the Governor’s Office of Constituent Services, across from the Capitol, was closed down when a powder spilled from an envelope.
The powder was just baby powder and posed no danger, but a note in the same envelope constituted a “legitimate threat,” according to Springfield fire chief Ken Fustin.
Fustin would not elaborate.
He’s been one of the state’s two U.S. Senators for nearly three years… but Republican Mark Kirk remains an unknown quantity to many voters.
A new survey finds 32-percent of voters have a favorable opinion of him… while an identical 32-percent have a negative view.
But 37-percent say they have no opinion of Kirk at all.
Kirk spent more than a year largely out of public view as he recovered from a debilitating stroke he suffered in early 2012.
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