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October 24, 2014, 7:48 am
970 WMAY News Archives for 2014-05

Lawmakers Adjourn After Approving Budget That Everyone Dislikes


Illinois lawmakers have adjourned for the summer… but they are leaving behind some unfinished business. 

 

The budget approved by both chambers holds spending flat for most essential state services… but fails to account for higher wages and other increased costs.  Legislative leaders say there will still have to be a vote on whether to extend the temporary state income tax increase… but that vote won’t come until after the November election.

 

Both Governor Pat Quinn and Republican opponent Bruce Rauner are sharply critical of the new state budget that won final legislative approval Friday. 

 

Quinn calls it “incomplete” and says it postpones the tough decisions.  Rauner says it’s a “broken, dishonest” budget that represents business as usual from the career politicians in Springfield… and blames it on “five years of failure” from Governor Quinn.  Rauner has not yet offered his own plan for fixing the state’s budget crisis.

Presidential Library Scorecard: Lincoln's Will Stay With IHPA For Now; No Funding For Obama's


The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum will not become its own independent agency for now. 

 

A bill to separate the facility from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency stalled in the Senate.  Senate President John Cullerton says more time and study are needed.  House Speaker Mike Madigan’s bill remains alive and could be acted upon during the fall veto session.

 

Meanwhile, Illinois is shelving a plan to offer $100 million to lure Barack Obama's presidential library and museum to his home state. That's because lawmakers wrapped up their spring session without approving it.

 

A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan says the idea depended on lawmakers approving a massive new state construction program. But neither got traction amid other budget problems.

Lawmakers Move To Protect Paychecks, But Other Issues Stall


The spring legislative session is over… but it may be best remembered for what didn’t get done. 

 

Although lawmakers passed a budget, both sides say it will have to be revisited after the November election.  And several major bills stalled… including state Senator Andy Manar’s school funding formula revamp, a bill to fully fund back pay owed to state workers, a proposed expansion of gambling in the state, and Speaker Mike Madigan’s attempt to turn the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum into an independent state agency.

 

Illinois lawmakers have voted to protect their own paychecks.  The General Assembly approved a bill that would prevent governors from withholding legislative pay in the future. 

 

It’s in response to Governor Pat Quinn’s move to block lawmaker paychecks last year, in a bid to force action on pension reform.

Same-Sex Marriage Becomes Legal In Illinois Sunday; Local Demand For Licenses Light


Same-sex marriage officially becomes legal in Illinois on Sunday. 

 

Sangamon County officials began offering marriage licenses to gay couples on Friday.  But in the first few hours, County Clerk Joe Aiello says his office saw only three couples, all of whom had earlier entered into civil unions and who can now have that union upgraded to full married status. 

 

Aiello says he expects demand for those same-sex licenses to pick up throughout the summer.

Springfield Looks To End Payout Perk For Future Nonunion Workers


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston is trying again to take a perk away from future non-union city workers. 

 

Houston has reintroduced an ordinance to end the lump-sum payouts of unused sick time when those employees leave their jobs. It would only apply to workers hired on or after July 1st.

 

A similar proposal was tabled by the City Council earlier this year.

Kincaid Mayor Faces New Charges


The mayor of Kincaid is facing new criminal charges. 

 

Doug Thomas had already been facing charges of violating an order of protection and possession of a controlled substance.  Now Christian County prosecutors have added a count of official misconduct, accusing Thomas of using village personnel on village time to do work at his home. 

 

Thomas has told media outlets in recent weeks that village crews often “help out” local officials and average Kincaid residents.

Presidential Library Bill Stalls In Senate; Cullerton Says More Time Needed For Study


House Speaker Mike Madigan's proposal to turn the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum into a standalone state agency will not pass the General Assembly this spring.

 

As 970 WMAY News was the first to report, a spokesperson says Senate President John Cullerton will not call the bill.  She says Cullerton believes more study of the proposal is needed.

 

Madigan had wanted to take the library and museum away from the control of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, because he says that agency is inhibiting hiring and acquisitions.  Madigan said creating a separate agency would be revenue-neutral, a claim denied by IHPA.

 

The bill remains in the Senate, and could be revived during the fall veto session.

Demand Light For Same-Sex Marriage Licenses On Day One


It’s a quiet start to the era of same-sex marriage in Sangamon County. 

 

On the first morning that marriage licenses were available for gay couples through the county clerk’s office, Clerk Joe Aiello says no one came in to obtain one.  Three couples did seek to have their previous civil union ceremonies upgraded to full marriage status. 

 

Aiello says he expects there will be more demand for marriage licenses as the summer goes on, and says he doubts that most gay couples timed their marriage plans to coincide with Sunday’s effective date for Illinois’s new same-sex marriage law.

Springfield Tries Again To End Sick Time Payouts For Nonunion Workers


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston is once again trying to end the practice of lump-sum payouts for unused sick time when nonunion city employees leave their jobs.

 

An ordinance on first reading next week would end those payouts for any workers hired on or after July 1st. The city had tried to end that policy earlier this year, but it was tabled by aldermen who said they didn’t have enough information about it. 

 

The mayor’s office has said ending the practice could save the city millions in pay and pensions.

 

Springfield Schools Honored For Student Performance


Two Springfield schools are being honored for consistent success and improvement. 

 

Iles School has received the Academic Excellence Award from the state board of education.  90% of Iles students have met or exceeded state standards for reading and math over the past three years. 

 

Harvard Park Elementary has gotten the Academic Improvement Award.  Reading and math scores there climbed 15 points between 2011 and 2013.

State Senate to Vote on Budget That Keeps Spending at Current Levels


The Illinois Senate is expected to vote today to approve a new state budget that even supporters admit won’t make ends meet.

 

The $35 billion plan that cleared the House earlier this week holds funding for education and other essential services at current levels… but doesn’t account for higher wages or other increased costs.

 

That raises the likelihood that either deep cuts… or more revenue… will be needed for the second half of the fiscal year, after the November elections.

State Audit Shows Medicaid Benefits Paid to Dead People


A new Illinois audit shows the state has paid out millions of dollars in Medicaid benefits… for people who were already dead.

 

In some cases, claims were paid for services that were supposedly provided to people who had been dead for years, or even decades.

 

State officials say they’ve recovered $7 million of the estimated $12 million in fraudulent payment… but auditors say they were not given the documentation to confirm that repayment figure.

Growing List of Ballot Initiatives Approved for General Election


Illinois voters will be asked to weigh in directly on key issues this year at an unprecedented level. There could be as many as seven ballot questions before voters this November… from proposed amendments to the state constitution to non-binding advisory referenda.

 

Among the questions that could be on the ballot are term limits, raising the state’s minimum wage, imposing a surcharge on the incomes of millionaires… and whether health insurance plans should be required to cover birth control, even though that’s been the law in Illinois for more than a decade.

 

Opponents say the ballot measures are really just an attempt by one side to get their supporters to the polls.

Fate of Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum as Standalone Agency Unclear


The fate of a bill to spin off the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum into its own state agency is unclear as the legislative session winds down.

 

Speaker Mike Madigan’s bill cleared the House earlier this week… but as of Thursday afternoon, it had not been assigned to a Senate committee, raising questions about whether there is the time, or the desire, to run the bill before lawmakers adjourn for the summer.

 

On Thursday, Tony Leone… who served in the past on advisory boards for the library and museum and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency… said lawmakers should take more time to study the issue before making any big decisions.

No Money for Needed Repairs at Governor's Mansion


Custodians at the governor’s mansion have had to move historic furnishings and close off the third floor… because of serious leaks in the roof of the aging structure.

 

A spokesman for Governor Pat Quinn tells the Lee Newspapers that furnishings from the Lincoln Bedroom were not damaged by the water.

 

But he also says that for now, there is no money available to undertake the extensive roof repairs needed at the mansion, which was built around 1855.

Smith's Campaign Aide was FBI Informant


A state lawmaker who is now on trial for bribery relied on a campaign aide to work out the details of the transaction, according to prosecutors… who revealed at Representative Derrick Smith’s trial Thursday that the aide was actually a paid FBI informant.

 

The informant recorded Smith accepting $7,000 in cash… after repeatedly urging the aide to make sure there was no paper trail for the payment.

Audit: State Paid Millions In Medicaid Benefits For Dead People


A new Illinois audit shows the state has paid out millions of dollars in Medicaid benefits… for people who were already dead. 

 

In some cases, claims were paid for services that were supposedly provided to people who had been dead for years, or even decades. 

 

State officials say they’ve recovered $7 million of the estimated $12 million in fraudulent payment… but auditors say they were not given the documentation to confirm that repayment figure.

GOP Lawmakers Want Statue Of Reagan At Statehouse


Some Illinois Republican lawmakers are pressing for a statue honoring President Ronald Reagan at the Statehouse. 

 

They want space set aside for the statue… which would be privately funded, and note that Reagan is the only U.S. President who was born in Illinois. 

 

Republican Senator Jason Barickman of Bloomington says he would also support space for a privately-funded statue for President Obama if someone wanted to take up that project.

 

Lawmakers Approve Bill Giving On-The-Job Protection To Pregnant Workers


Pregnant women should soon receive more on-the-job accommodations for their condition. 

 

The General Assembly has approved legislation that requires employers to provide pregnant workers special consideration… such as extended bathroom breaks and more comfortable seating. 

 

Governor Pat Quinn is expected to sign that bill into law.

Website Gives Rauner The Edge In November Election


Bruce Rauner has the edge in this fall’s race for governor… according to the political polling website fivethirtyeight.com.  

 

That site gives Rauner a 75% chance of unseating Democratic incumbent governor Pat Quinn in November.  But the site also notes that Quinn was down in most surveys in 2010… and still managed to win a full term in office, a surprise victory that the website calls “the biggest general election polling blunder of the past six years.”

Sangamon County to Issue Same Sex Marriage Licenses Friday


Same-sex couples in Sangamon County will be able to obtain marriage licenses, starting Friday… two days ahead of the effective date for the new state law that allows them to legally wed.

 

County Clerk Joe Aiello says issuing the licenses early will allow those couples to have ceremonies on Sunday… the first day they can do so under the law that was passed last year.

 

The marriage license costs $75 and both parties must be present and show a valid ID in order to obtain it.

 

The clerk’s office will be open Friday from 8:30am to 5pm… it is closed both Saturday and Sunday.

State Senate to Work on Spending Plan in Final Days of Session


Now it’s the Illinois Senate’s turn to take a crack at a new state budget.

 

The Senate has just a couple of days left in the scheduled session to complete work on a spending plan.

 

The current draft spends around $35 billion. But that may not be enough to cover all the expenses in the budget, raising the possibility of a vote after the November election on extending the temporary state income tax hike.

 

Legislative leaders say without more revenue, program cuts and layoffs will be virtually inevitable next year.

IHPA Asks for Delay in Making Presidential Library Standalone Agency


The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency board says it was “blindsided” by the proposal that surfaced last week to remove the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum from its control… and turn it into its own state agency.

 

Board chair Sunny Fischer says the board is remaining “open-minded” on the proposal, but is still asking lawmakers to delay action to give the board time to study the idea and weigh in.

 

Fischer disputes House Speaker Mike Madigan’s claim that the move would be “revenue-neutral,” saying it could cost around $2 million a year.

 

Madigan’s proposal has already cleared the House and is pending in the Senate.

Lawmakers Hearing Audit of Gov. Quinn's Troubled Anti-Violence Program


Illinois lawmakers… from both parties… are taking the Quinn administration to task over a botched anti-violence program that is now the subject of several investigations.

 

The Legislative Audit Commission heard testimony about the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, which funneled millions of dollars to groups in the Chicago area to combat street violence.

 

Prosecutors are looking into whether some of that money was in effect used to buy political favors.

 

Auditor General Bill Holland says at the very least, the program was crippled by mismanagement and poor oversight. More legislative hearings into the controversy are expected.

Springfield Police Search for Suspect in Domestic Violence Case


Springfield police are still searching for the suspect in a domestic violence incident last week that seriously injured a city woman.

 

29-year-old Jose Rivera is accused of inflicting severe head injuries on his girlfriend in that attack last week near 5th and Oberlin.

 

The State Journal-Register reports that Rivera may now be in the Chicago area.

 

Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call Springfield police or Crimestoppers.

Mayor Warns of Problems if Alderman Don't Reaffirm NAPA Contract


Springfield city officials are warning of higher costs and other problems if aldermen drag their feet on resolving a disputed contract with NAPA Auto Parts.

 

The Houston administration wants NAPA to be the exclusive parts supplier for the consolidated city garage. But that deal is on hold after it was discovered that the presumed legal basis for the no-bid contract apparently does not exist.

 

Budget director Bill McCarty says the delay is adding to the city’s costs… but is also hurting the morale of employees in the city garages, and raising the possibility that the city won’t be able to keep up with necessary vehicle maintenance of crucial vehicles like fire engines and public works trucks.

Sangamon County To Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses On Friday


Same-sex couples in Sangamon County will be able to obtain marriage licenses this Friday... allowing them to legally wed on Sunday, when the state's new marriage law takes effect. 

 

Since the county building will be closed Sunday, clerk Joe Aiello will issue licenses during regular hours on Friday, even though they can't legally be used until Sunday. 

 

The licenses will cost $75, and both parties must be present with a valid ID.

Illinois Man Did Not Have MERS After All


False alarm… it turns out an Illinois man who had been linked to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome never had the virus after all. 

 

Initial tests had indicated that the man may have gotten MERS, but was not infectious, following business meetings with an Indiana man who contracted the virus overseas.  But state health officials say more sophisticated tests show the Illinois man was never infected to begin with. 

 

Public health director Lamar Hasbrouck says it’s better to err on the side of caution.

Mayor's Office Warns Of Trouble Ahead From NAPA Delays


Mayor Mike Houston’s administration is warning of higher costs, lower morale, and other problems if aldermen drag their feet on the city’s disputed contract with NAPA Auto Parts. 

 

That contract is in limbo as aldermen weigh whether or not to reaffirm the deal… even though it was apparently based on erroneous assumptions about the legal rationale for the no-bid contract.  Budget director Bill McCarty says if aldermen don’t reaffirm the deal and the city has to start over, it will take months to complete the consolidation of the city’s garages… creating uncertainty for employees and increasing the risk that critical equipment will break down when it’s most needed. 

 

But Alderman Frank Edwards says he’s not really sympathetic to the administration’s pleas… since the problems are of their own making.

Tax Extension Question Likely To Come Back... After November Election


Whatever state budget is passed this week is unlikely to end the debate about whether the state’s temporary income tax hike should be extended. 

 

Senate President John Cullerton says lawmakers will almost certainly have to revisit the revenue question after the November elections.  And he tells the Associated Press that they will have to approve extending the tax increase or find some other source of revenue… or the state will have to endure painful program cuts and thousands of layoffs. 

 

House Speaker Mike Madigan says voters will have a clear choice between Governor Pat Quinn… who favors extending the tax and preserving services… and Republican Bruce Rauner, who has vowed to roll back the tax.

Springfield Boasts Low Cost-Of-Living Numbers


Springfield looks good compared to much of the rest of the state… and the nation… when it comes to cost of living. 

 

New numbers released by the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce show the cost of most basics in Springfield is often substantially lower here than in other Illinois cities, and well below the national average.  That’s especially true for utilities, which are more than 20% cheaper locally than for the nation as a whole.

 

The only area that exceeded state and national averages was health care.  Chamber officials say both the quality of care… and the demand for services… have driven prices higher here.

Lawmakers Seek Answers About Controversial Quinn Anti-Violence Program


Illinois lawmakers are grilling Quinn administration officials about the botched anti-violence program that has produced a scathing audit… and investigations by county and federal prosecutors. 

 

The Legislative Audit Commission conducted hearings into how the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative chose programs and agencies to receive state grant dollars… money which auditors say was often improperly or ineffectively spent. 

 

One senator says it will be up to those prosecutors to determine if the money was handed out for political gain… but says the hearings are intended to prevent this sort of waste from happening in the future.

House Approves Budget Amid Criticism of Delaying Tough Decisions


The Illinois House has approved yet another version of a new state budget… one which critics, and even some supporters, say puts off tough decisions until later.

 

The budget keeps funding for education and most other state services at current levels, despite the expected loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue when the temporary state income tax increase expires at the end of this year.

 

But the breakeven budget does not account for any increases in salaries or other expenses, meaning that it could force spending cuts or layoffs… or increase pressure for a vote to extend the tax hike… after the November elections.

House Approves Making Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Standalone Agency


The Illinois House has approved House Speaker Mike Madigan’s proposal to turn the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum into its own standalone state agency.

 

The measure passed the House on a vote of 84-to-29, and now heads to the Senate, with the clock winding down on the legislative session. Local lawmakers Raymond Poe and Sue Scherer both voted against the proposal, but Republican Rich Brauer voted in favor.

 

The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, which currently oversees the library and museum, estimates it will cost around $2 million annually to operate the facilities as a separate agency, but Madigan says the move won’t add extra costs.

State Senate Passes Manar's School Funding Revamp Bill


State Senator Andy Manar’s school funding revamp is halfway to passage. The Senate approved Manar’s bill, which would require that most state education dollars be allocated on the basis of need.

 

That could mean more cash for Springfield District 186… and significant reductions in funding for wealthier school districts… such as Ball-Chatham.

 

Republicans opposed the bill, saying those cuts will force many districts to raise local property taxes to make up for the loss of state dollars.

 

Manar’s bill now goes to the House.

Cupcakes and Sugary Drink Tax Debated at Statehouse


Illinois lawmakers are indulging their sweet tooth.

 

After an initial food fight over complicated amendments, the legislature has approved a stripped-down bill that will protect kids selling cupcakes and other small “home-kitchen” businesses that make only a small amount of money.

 

The so-called “cupcake girl” bill came about after Madison County authorities shut down a little girl’s cupcake stand.

 

Meanwhile, a committee has shot down a separate bill that would have imposed a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary soft drinks. Supporters had hoped to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for anti-obesity programs.

Aldermen to Further Debate Possible Inspector General at City Hall


Springfield aldermen have given preliminary approval to a study that will look at the need for an inspector general at City Hall… and the best way to structure that office.

 

But at least one alderman wants the $79,000 contract competitively bid. Representatives of a risk management firm will address the council about the study before a final vote next week.

 

Mayor Mike Houston questions the cost of the study… and the expense of creating an inspector general position once that study is done.

NAPA Contract Reaffirmation Remains in Committee


Springfield’s hope of bringing in an outside firm to provide parts for the upcoming consolidated city garage is still in limbo.

 

Aldermen kept a disputed contract with NAPA Auto Parts in committee Tuesday, after a motion to put it on next week’s agenda got only five votes, with three aldermen absent.

 

Mayor Mike Houston says NAPA is unlikely to agree to an immediate joint cancellation of the contract, despite questions raised after city officials discovered the assumed legal basis for the deal apparently does not exist.

 

Houston has asked aldermen to reaffirm the deal, and says he will invoke a 90-day cancellation clause if they don’t.

Police Looking for Suspects in Downtown Stabbing Death


Springfield police are still looking for two suspects in the stabbing death of a man outside a downtown tavern Sunday night.

 

Witnesses say 59-year-old James Michael Goins was killed by two black males who then stole his car. That car was later recovered outside an eastside motel, but no one is yet in custody.

 

The attack happened in a rear parking lot behind several buildings at 3rd and Washington.

 

Authorities are asking anyone with information about the crime to contact city police or Crimestoppers.

House Approves New Budget That Leaves Toughest Decisions For Later


The Illinois House has approved a third draft of a new state budget... one that holds funding for education and other services flat, but which doesn't leave any wiggle room for higher expenses in the coming year

 

As a result, many lawmakers -- and Gov. Pat Quinn -- say the budget puts off the tough decisions into later, opening the possibility that harsh spending cuts and layoffs, or a tax hike vote, will be needed after the November election.

 

That budget proposal is not on its way to the Senate yet; House Speaker Mike Madigan put a "hold" on the measure, leaving open the possibility of more changes before it goes to the other chamber.

 

 

Senate Approves Manar's School Funding Overhaul


The Illinois Senate has approved state senator Andy Manar's bill to revamp the way the state's schools are funded.

 

Under Manar's plan, most education dollars would be allocated on the basis of need, scrapping other criteria that have been in use since the current funding formula was put in place in 1997.  The bill would reduce the funding for wealthier school districts, although a recent amendment would cap the amount of that reduction.

 

Republicans opposed the bill, saying it will force some districts to raise local property taxes to make up for the lost state funding.  The bill now goes to the House.

Man Fatally Stabbed Downtown; Police Ask For Public's Help To Find Killers


Springfield police are investigating a fatal stabbing over the weekend in the downtown area. 

 

The 59-year-old victim was stabbed Sunday night in the rear parking lot of the Station House tavern… and died later at the hospital.  A witness says two black males attacked the victim and stole his car… the vehicle was recovered later outside an eastside motel.   

 

Police are asking for the public’s help as they try to identify and apprehend the suspects.

AG Nominee Schimpf Accuses Lisa Madigan Of Failing To Defend State Constitution


The Republican nominee for Illinois Attorney General is ripping incumbent Lisa Madigan’s legal reasoning in her defense of the state’s pension reform law. 

 

Madigan is arguing that the state’s fiscal crisis allows it to implement pension reform, despite provisions in the state constitution against diminishing pension benefits.  Paul Schimpf accuses Madigan of a conflict of interest for defending a law that was favored by her father, House Speaker Mike Madigan, instead of defending the state constitution. 

 

Schimpf says he would defend the Illinois Constitution... and would have refused to defend at least that portion of the pension law that decreases cost-of-living benefits.

Brauer: Stand-Alone ALPLM Is Idea Worth Considering


A local lawmaker says there may be some merit to the idea of splitting the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum off from the rest of the state Historic Preservation Agency. 

 

Republican Rich Brauer admits he was skeptical at first of Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan’s legislation.  But in an interview for the 970 WMAY News Feed, Brauer said he’s heard concerns from other state historic sites that they feel like the library and museum take up a disproportionate amount of resources, and hope that making it separate could free up more funding for other sites. 

 

Meanwhile, Madigan denies that his legislation is motivated by his friendship with the library and museum’s executive director, Eileen Mackevich.

Mayor Skeptical Of Inspector General Proposal; Aldermen To Debate Idea Tonight


This evening, Springfield aldermen will begin discussing a proposed study that could lead to a revival of the inspector general position at City Hall. 

 

Alderman Cory Jobe and others support spending $80,000 on a study to evaluate whether the position is needed and how it might be structured. 

 

But Mayor Mike Houston questions the need for the study… and says he’s not sure where the money will come from to pay for the position in the future.  Houston says the city is already capable of addressing allegations of wrongdoing at City Hall… and has done so when issues are raised.

Houston Predicts No Action This Spring On Police-Fire Pensions


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston predicts there won’t be any action by Illinois lawmakers this spring to address a growing crisis in Downstate police and firefighter pensions. 

 

But Houston suggests doing nothing for the time being would be better than adopting the plan floated last week by a Chicago-area lawmaker.  Democratic Senator Terry Link’s plan would have put a five-year moratorium on any changes to those plans… which Houston says would have blocked needed reforms. 

 

Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Houston said lawmakers will eventually have to deal with Chicago’s pension crisis… and says when they do, they’ll hopefully apply the same fixes to Downstate communities like Springfield.

Quinn Willing to Compromise As House Puts Together Budget Without Tax Hike Extension


Governor Pat Quinn says he is willing to compromise with the General Assembly on where tax rates should sit next year. But lawmakers may be moving on without Quinn.

 

Quinn had wanted to extend that tax hike in order to avoid what he calls “savage cuts” in education and other vital services.

 

But House Democrats are now at work on their third budget plan, one that assumes the 2011 temporary income tax hike will expire on schedule at the end of this year, but which also tries to minimize the impact of that lost revenue.

Committee Moves to Make Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Standalone State Agency


An Illinois House committee has approved a plan to turn the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum into a standalone state agency.

 

Currently, the facility is under the control of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. But the head of the library and museum’s advisory board says IHPA’s mission is different from the presidential library’s, leading to delays in staffing and acquisitions.

 

Steven Beckett contends there would be no additional cost to create a new state agency just to oversee the library and museum.

 

The House Executive Committee approved the plan on a 10-to-1 vote and sent it on to the full House.

Emergency Repairs to Grandstand Roof Before Races, More Work Expected Before Fair


State agriculture officials say a lack of state funding has contributed to the deteriorating condition of the roof at the Illinois State Fair Grandstand.

 

Crews had to make emergency repairs before this weekend's Springfield Mile motorcycle race after pieces of the roof fell into the seats below. Moisture in the roof had caused part of it to rust away.

 

The state has approved emergency funding to make long-term repairs to the structure before the fair opens in August.

 

Thousands of spectators will be in the Grandstand for a concert lineup that includes Boston, Steely Dan and Florida-Georgia Line.

Boy Recovering After Being Hit by Car


A two-year-old boy is recovering from minor injuries after he was struck by a car Monday afternoon.

 

Police reports say Jordan Ross of Beardstown was playing outside a house on North Fourth Street and apparently ran into the street, where he was struck by the vehicle.

 

The car attempted to stop, but bumped the boy, causing bruises and scrapes.

 

No tickets were issued.

Duckworth Pays Tribute to Fallen Service Members on Memorial Day


Illinois National Guardsman… and U.S. Congressman… Tammy Duckworth has paid tribute to veterans in two Memorial Day keynote addresses in Springfield.

 

Duckworth lost both legs and partial use of one arm in combat in Iraq nearly a decade ago.

 

She urged Illinoisans never to forget the real meaning of Memorial Day, and to do what they can to honor the service and sacrifice of veterans.

Gaming Revenue Down Slightly Statewide


State revenues from video gaming machines has fallen slightly… for the first time since the machines were legalized two years ago.

 

The Chicago Sun-Times reports April receipts dipped about two-percent compared to March.

 

Experts offer several theories for the decline… including people needing their disposable income to pay their taxes, or opting to spend their leisure time outdoors as warmer weather arrived.

 

Despite the drop-off, April was still the second-biggest month for gaming revenues since the machines went online in the summer of 2012.

Transferred Residents With Disabilities Doing Better, According to Survey


A study of the impact of closing the Jacksonville Developmental Center finds the vast majority of residents are doing as well, or better, in their new location as they were at JDC.

 

The survey from the University of Illinois at Chicago focused on interviews with family members of 65 JDC residents who were moved to more community-based facilities.

 

WLDS Radio reports 87-percent said their relative was doing the same or better. 13-percent said their relative was “somewhat worse,” but no one said they were “significantly worse.”

 

The numbers are a big turnaround from 2012, when most family members opposed the closure and said it would be harmful for their loved ones.

Quinn May Be Willing To Compromise On Tax Rate; House Works On Yet Another Budget Draft


Governor Pat Quinn says he is willing to compromise with the legislature on the question of tax revenue, as long as there is enough money to pay for all of the state's needs and obligations.  But with Quinn's original tax extension plan seemingly dead, the House is now trying to find some middle ground in a new budget draft.

 

Quinn originally proposed extending the 2011 temporary income tax increase, keeping the state tax rate at its current 5%. But that measure has found little support among lawmakers.  The governor was asked if he could settle for a lower tax rate, and responded that he is always willing to talk and compromise.

 

The House has proposed two separate budgets, passing one that relied on the higher tax rate, and rejecting a "doomsday budget" that incorporated billions in cuts.  Speaker Mike Madigan says lawmakers are now working on a third option that may fall somewhere in between.

Committee Approves Plan To Turn Lincoln Presidential Library/Museum Into Own State Agency


An Illinois House committee has endorsed a plan from House Speaker Mike Madigan to take control of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum away from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and turn it into its own self-contained state agency.

 

The legislation is backed by the chair of the library and museum's advisory board.  Steven Beckett says his board's mission is different than that of IHPA, and contends that staffing vacancies and other needs at the library and museum are going unattended as a result.

 

The House Executive Committee voted 10-1 in favor of the plan, which Beckett contends would not create additional cost for the state.  The bill now goes to the full House.

State Fair Grandstand Roof Crumbling; Officials Promise Repairs Before Fair Opens


State agriculture officials say a lack of state funding has contributed to the deteriorating condition of the roof at the Illinois State Fair Grandstand.

 

Crews had to make emergency repairs before this weekend's Springfield Mile motorcycle race after pieces of the roof fell into the seats below.  Moisture in the roof had caused part of it to rust away.

 

The state has approved emergency funding to make long-term repairs to the structure before the fair opens in August.  Thousands of spectators will be in the Grandstand for a concert lineup that includes Boston, Steely Dan and Florida-Georgia Line.

Sheriff: Targets Of Biggest Street Crime Sweep In Years Are ''Thugs,'' ''Gang Wannabes''


Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson describes many of the suspects in this week’s drug and gun sweep as, quote, “thugs.” 

 

More than 70 indictments have been handed down on charges ranging from manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance, to unlawful use of a weapon, to mob action. Williamson says many of the suspects are teenagers and gang members or “gang wannabes.”

 

City, county, state and federal authorities are all involved in the effort called “Operation Falcon.” Williamson says it’s the biggest push against street crime that he can recall in the last 15 or 20 years.

Madigan Wants To Take Control Of Lincoln Presidential Library/Museum Away From IHPA


House Speaker Mike Madigan has proposed taking control of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum away from the state agency that currently oversees it… and putting it under the jurisdiction of an independent entity. 

 

A spokesman tells the Chicago Sun-Times that Madigan’s move is not prompted by any dissatisfaction with current museum operations.  It’s unclear if it is connected to Madigan’s push for state funding for a future Obama Presidential Library in Illinois.

Lawmaker Wants To Speed Up Fracking In Illinois


An Illinois lawmaker has introduced a proposal to jump-start the practice of oil drilling known as "fracking" in Illinois.

 

Democratic State Representative John Bradley’s bill would skip the rulemaking process that is currently underway… speeding up the timeline to start hydraulic fracturing in Central and Southern Illinois. 

 

Bradley’s bill would place a moratorium on the practice in the northern part of the state.

NBA Star Iguodala Donates Shoes To Local Kids With XXL Feet


An NBA All-Star has become the MVP for some local youths. 

 

Lanphier High grad Andre Iguodala has donated dozens of pairs of his Nike AI brand shoes, size 16, back to his hometown. The donation, arranged through Green Toyota, will make life easier for some local teens who already wear those oversized shoes… but who have found it can be difficult to find them and expensive to pay for them.

Dozens Arrested In Local Drug-Gun Sweep Called ''Operation Falcon''


More than 70 people have been indicted on criminal charges in a wide-ranging, multi-agency enforcement action that local officials are calling “Operation Falcon.” 

 

Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Milhiser says the arrest warrants are aimed at stopping the flow of drugs and guns in Springfield and Sangamon County.  The individuals are facing charges ranging from unlawful use of a weapon, to manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance, to mob action. 

 

42 people were taken into custody Thursday, with police still attempting to serve an additional 30 arrest warrants on Friday.  City, county and state police and the U.S. Marshal’s office joined the state’s attorney’s office in the sweep.

''Doomsday Budget'' Crashes And Burns


A so-called “doomsday budget” for Illinois has met its own doom. 

 

The Illinois House has overwhelmingly rejected a budget draft that slashed billions of dollars in spending to account for the loss of revenue when the temporary state income tax hike expires at the end of the year.  Democrats say without the money from the tax hike, the only option is to impose drastic cuts on education and social services.  But Republicans say the draft budget was unnecessarily harsh. 

 

After brief debate Friday, only five House members voted for the “doomsday budget”… with 107 members voting “no.”

''Sign-And-Drive'' Bill Heads To Governor's Desk


Illinois lawmakers have approved a bill that would allow drivers to simply sign the back of the ticket… rather than having to surrender their drivers license… after being pulled over for a traffic offense. 

 

Currently Illinois drivers must usually give up their license when they get a ticket… and don’t get it back until after the case is resolved in court.  But supporters of the change say being without a drivers license is too burdensome in this day and age. 

 

The bill… which would not apply to DUI offenses… now goes to Governor Pat Quinn.

Approximately 70 Warrants Executed by Springfield Police


The City of Springfield is confirming a rash of warrants being executed in Springfield overnight.

 

City Spokesperson Nathan Mihelich says approximately 70 warrants have been executed by Springfield Police on a wide variety of charges including drugs and weapons.

 

It’s unclear at this time how many arrests are associated with those warrants or if those warrants are connected somehow.

 

More details are expected throughout Friday morning.

Lawmakers to Vote on Budget That Slashes Billions in Absence of Tax Extension


Votes could start as early as today on an alternative state budget that slashes billions from the spending plan approved by the House just a week ago.

 

That earlier plan assumed that there would be revenue from an extension of the temporary state tax hike that expires at the end of the year.

 

But without the votes in place to pass that extension, House Democrats are now crafting a “doomsday budget” that they say will cut services to tens of thousands of people and force significant layoffs of workers.

 

House Speaker Mike Madigan says the impact of the cuts might make some lawmakers rethink their opposition to the tax extension.

Candidate Bell: Budget Doesn't Have to be Harsh


A local legislative candidate thinks a budget without the revenue from the income tax hike extension doesn’t have to be as harsh as Democrats are threatening.

 

But Republican Mike Bell concedes that it is likely to inflict pain on area school districts… including Edinburg, where he serves on the school board.

 

And Bell says he’s not sure Edinburg can absorb any more cuts, after years of scaling back.

 

Bell is a retired teacher and state worker. He is challenging Democratic incumbent Sue Scherer in the 96th House District.

Manar Proposes More Changes to School Funding Bill to Secure Votes


State Senator Andy Manar is making more changes to his school funding reform plan… in an ongoing effort to drum up enough support to pass it.

 

Manar’s bill would require that most state education dollars be allocated on the basis of need. That would pull state funding from wealthier school districts and shift it to poorer ones.

 

Manar’s latest amendment would cap the amount that the more affluent districts would lose, to no more than $1,000 per pupil.

 

Republicans still don’t like Manar’s plan, which they say funnels too much money to Chicago at the expense of Downstate.

Chance for Four-Time DUI Offenders to Get License Defeated in House


The Illinois House has voted down a proposal that could let four-time DUI offenders get another chance at a drivers license.

 

The measure got 52 votes… but needed 60 for passage. Sponsor Elaine Nekritz says some repeat offenders have turned their lives around and deserve a second chance.

 

But the bill was opposed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and former governor Jim Edgar, a staunch drunk driving opponent.

 

Nekritz used a parliamentary procedure to keep the bill alive for another possible vote before the end of the legislative session.

Springfield's Unemployment Rate Down to 5.7%


Unemployment in Springfield is down to its lowest level since before the 2008 economic collapse.

 

April’s jobless rate plunged to 5.7%... more than a full-percentage point less than it was both in March and in April of last year.

 

State officals say the Springfield area has added 2,000 jobs in the last 12 months, with half of those gains coming in the construction industry.

Man Receives 30 Years For Running Central Illinois Drug Ring


The man that authorities say ran a huge cocaine and heroin trafficking network across Central Illinois will spend the next 30 years behind bars.

 

Eddi Ramirez of Paxton was sentenced Thursday for his role in building that network that sold drugs in several cities, including Springfield. Authorities say he brought in cocaine from Mexico to sell it here.

 

Officials placed wiretaps on seven phones used by Ramirez as part of the case against him, eventually seizing nearly a million dollars in cash and a large quantity of drugs.

 

16 other people have also been prosecuted for activities related to Ramirez’s network, including five from Springfield.

Three Children Suffer Injuries in Two Separate Accidents


Three children are recovering from injuries suffered in two separate accidents.

 

Two sisters were hurt when their car ran off the road and overturned on the Williamsville blacktop Thursday afternoon.

 

The 17-year-old driver was hospitalized, while her 15-year-old sister was treated and released. Meanwhile, an 11-year-old girl required hospital treatment when she was struck by a car in Petersburg Wednesday night.

 

The driver said he did not see the girl and was not ticketed.

House Defeats Bill To Allow Driving Permits For Four-Time DUI Offenders


The Illinois House has defeated a bill that would have allowed people with four DUI convictions to petition to have driving privileges restored. 

 

52 House members voted in favor… but 60 votes were needed for passage.  Sponsor Elaine Nekritz says the bill would have helped people who have genuinely turned their lives around.  But the bill drew criticism from others, including former governor Jim Edgar. 

 

Nekritz could try to call the bill for another vote before the end of the legislative session.

Aldermen Propose CWLP Study Of Electric Cars


City Water Light and Power may soon undertake a study of how electric cars might fit into the city’s transportation… and utility… landscape. 

 

Some Springfield aldermen have proposed that study, after noticing that the new Hy-Vee store in town offers charging stations for electric vehicles. Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Bishop On Air,” CWLP chief engineer Eric Hobbie said the study would look at current and future demand for such charging stations… whether the city should make them publicly available, perhaps in place of some downtown parking meters… and if charging at home could become a drain on the electricity supply. 

 

Aldermen will discuss the proposal for that study next week.

Unemployment Plunges In Springfield; 2,000 Jobs Added Since Last Spring


New figures from the state show unemployment took a nosedive in Springfield last month. 

 

The capital city’s jobless rate plunged to 5.7% in April. That’s more than a full point-and-a-half lower than where the rate was in March, and more than a point less than it was in April of 2013.  Springfield is now one of four Illinois cities with an unemployment rate lower than the national average. 

 

The Department of Employment Security says Springfield has added 2,000 jobs in the past 12 months.

Drug Kingpin Sentenced To 30 Years In Prison


A Central Illinois man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for running a cocaine trafficking network that operated in several cities around the state… including Springfield. 

 

Federal prosecutors say Eddi Ramirez ran a supply chain of dealers, couriers and distributors that sold coke and heroin in Springfield, Champaign and Decatur. They call it one of the biggest drug networks ever in Central Illinois.

 

He was arrested after authorities wiretapped seven of his phones, eventually seizing nearly a million dollars in cash, along with cocaine that had been transported in from Mexico for sale here.  16 other people with ties to Ramirez have also been prosecuted for their role in the ring, including at least five Springfield residents.

Police-Fire Pension Deal Could Be In The Works


There’s word of a possible deal in the works on police and fire pensions… one that would leave current benefits intact while trying to guard against future budget-busting increases. 

 

Illinois Public Radio says State Senator Terry Link is trying to broker a deal that would include easing restrictions on where pension funds can invest their money.  It would also change the makeup of pension boards to give municipalities more of an equal voice in pension decisions.  The proposal would also impose a five-year moratorium on changes to pension benefits… preventing increases in benefits, but also limiting cost-cutting measures preferred by cities. 

 

The Waukegan Democrat says his proposal will bring stability to the pension funds… without violating the state constitution’s prohibition on cutting benefits.

Legislative Hopeful Downplays Impact Of Tax Hike Expiration


A local legislative candidate admits that painful cuts may be in store for area school districts if the new state budget does not include an extension of the 2011 income tax increase. 

 

But Republican Mike Bell says he is still opposed to that extension, because of the emphatic opposition of his constituents in the 96th House District. 

 

Bell… who is challenging Democratic incumbent Sue Scherere… says he doesn’t think the budget impact will be nearly as bad as Governor Pat Quinn is warning… and says that just as households have had to tighten their belts, state agencies are going to have to as well.

Girl Recovering After Being Struck By Van in Petersburg


An eleven-year-old girl is recovering from non-life threatening injuries after being struck by a vehicle in Petersburg.

 

Illinois State Police say that a van was slowing down for a stop light at the intersection of Rt. 123 and Rt. 97 Wednesday afternoon when the girl stepped off the sidewalk into the roadway.

 

The girl was transported to St. John’s Hospital in Springfield. There were no details provided about any possible pending charges.

Speaker Madigan Urges House to Find $3 Billion in Cuts


With time running out on the legislative session, House Speaker Mike Madigan says he does not have the votes to extend the state’s temporary income tax increase… and is now telling his Democratic caucus to come up with an alternative budget plan that slashes nearly $3 billion in spending for the coming fiscal year.

 

Madigan says that a meeting of House Democrats found only 34 votes to continue the tax hike beyond the end of this year. That’s well short of the 60 votes that would be needed to approve the extension.

 

Madigan says there’s still a chance that some members will change their minds when they see the impact of the steep budget cuts that will be required without the tax vote.

School Funding Allows Schools to Opt Out of PE and Other Subjects


Springfield may get a way out of a looming, and costly, mandate to provide physical education to all students.

 

District 186 is supposed to meet that mandate next year, but lacks the facilities and staff to carry it out.

 

Now state senator Andy Manar has amended his school funding reform bill to allow districts to opt out of a vast number of courses and lessons that are currently required under state law… including PE, drivers ed, black and women’s history, and the Holocaust.

 

Manar hopes the move will help encourage some reluctant lawmakers to support his bill… which would allocate most state education dollars on the basis of need.

Attorney General Candidate Says Focus Will Be Public Corruption


The Republican nominee for Illinois Attorney General says he will make public corruption the top priority of the AG’s office, ahead of consumer protection or other areas of focus.

 

Paul Schimpf says his background as a prosecutor and military veteran will make him more aggressive against government fraud than Democratic incumbent Lisa Madigan.

 

Appearing live on the 970 WMAY News Feed Wednesday, Schimpf said Madigan can’t be a government watchdog and still be a loyal daughter to her father… House Speaker and state Democratic Party chair Mike Madigan.

Police Searching for Suspects in Two Separate Domestic Violence Incidents


Springfield police are still searching for suspects in two separate domestic violence incidents that sent two people to the hospital.

 

In the first incident Tuesday night, a woman suffered critical head injuries at a residence near 5th and Oberlin.

 

A man is being sought in connection with that altercation. Hours later, a man sustained stab wounds to his arm.

 

Police say they are looking for a woman in connection with those injuries, which are said to be non-life-threatening.

Local Business Survey Shows Mixed Message About Minimum Wage


Local business owners are sending some mixed messages about the minimum wage.

 

In a survey of more than 200 businesspeople in a variety of industries, more than 80-percent said the ideal wage would be higher than the current state minimum of $8.25 an hour.

 

But more than 75-percent said mandating a higher wage would hurt small businesses. That same survey from UIS and the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce generally finds optimism over the prospects for the local economy in the next 12 months.

Two Hurt In Separate Domestic Violence Incidents In Springfield


Springfield police are investigating two separate domestic violence incidents that sent two people to the hospital. 

 

A woman was taken to the hospital with critical head injuries after an incident near 5th and Oberlin Tuesday night.  In an unrelated incident hours later, authorities say a man was stabbed in the arm by a woman at a residence at 15th and Cook.  His injuries are said to be non-life-threatening. 

 

In both cases, police at last report had identified suspects and were continuing to search for them.

Amendment To School Funding Bill Could Let Districts Opt Out Of Some Required Lessons


Springfield schools might get a way out of a looming mandate to provide physical education for all students… a requirement that District 186 doesn’t have the staff or facilities to carry out. 

 

State Senator Andy Manar’s school funding revamp has been amended to allow districts to opt out of teaching certain subjects… like PE, drivers’ ed, black history and the Holocaust. 

 

The move is intended to save money and reduce the impact of Manar’s school funding changes on wealthier districts.

Actress Discusses Power Of Prayer At Governor's Prayer Breakfast


Actress Jennifer O’Neill has talked about how prayer helped her overcome depression, domestic violence and even an early suicide attempt. 

 

The “Summer of ‘42” star was the featured speaker at the annual Governor’s Prayer Breakfast in Springfield.  She told the crowd at the Crowne Plaza that she looked for love in all the wrong places, trying to fill a “hole in her heart”… one that she says wasn’t filled until she turned to God.

Remap Reform Effort Hits A Snag


The fight to change how Illinois draws its legislative district maps could be in trouble. 

 

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the State Board of Elections has found problems with more than half of the signatures submitted to put a remap reform proposal on the November ballot.  And if those numbers hold, that proposed constitutional amendment could be kicked off the ballot. 

 

The group “Yes for Independent Maps” insists it has more than enough valid signatures… and suggests the elections board is using an unfair standard to determine which signatures will be allowed.  A final decision on those petitions is expected in July.

GOP Attorney General Hopeful Takes Gloves Off Against Lisa Madigan


The Republican candidate for Illinois Attorney General says Democratic incumbent Lisa Madigan will never be the watchdog against corruption that the state needs… because her family ties won’t let her. 

 

Madigan is the daughter of House Speaker and state Democratic Party chair Mike Madigan.  And her GOP opponent Paul Schimpf says she can’t be a loyal daughter and an aggressive fighter against public corruption at the same time. 

 

Schimpf says if he’s elected, he will put much more effort into combating corruption… vowing to prioritize that ahead of other issues in the AG’s office, like consumer protection.

Legislative Candidate Presses For Back Pay For State Workers


A Republican candidate for the Illinois House is calling on lawmakers to approve funding to provide long-overdue back pay to hundreds of state workers. 

 

Mike Bell of Edinburg says those workers are owed, and deserve, the money they were promised in their contract years ago.  The workers did not get that pay for months because the legislature did not appropriate enough money to cover it. 

 

Bell favors a bill that would use some of the money from the state’s April revenue windfall to provide the $112 million in back pay, but says the money should be paid even if it has to come out of general revenue.  Bell is running against Democratic incumbent Sue Scherer in November.

Local Businesses Have Favorable Outlook For Local Economy In Coming Year


Sangamon County employers have a generally positive view of the local economy for the year ahead… more so than they have in years, according to a new survey. 

 

The Economic Outlook Survey asked more than 200 business owners in a variety of categories about their plans and predictions.  51% say they expect employment to remain the same, and another 28% think it will grow in the coming year.  The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce says historically, that kind of positive outlook leads to more hiring and lower unemployment. 

 

And most businesses felt better about the future than they did six months ago. The results of the survey were first announced exclusively Wednesday morning on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show."

Man Stabbed in Domestic Dispute, Police Search for Woman


A man is in the hospital after being stabbed in a domestic dispute Wednesday morning, according to Springfield Police.

 

Lt. Ken Scarlet says police are searching several residences for a woman they say is involved and believe they’ll have her in custody soon.

 

Police say they responded to the residence at 15th and Cook around 7 Wednesday morning after a hospital called authorities about the stabbing.

 

Scarlet says the man went to a neighbor’s house for a ride to the hospital after being stabbed in the arm.

 

The stabbing injury is considered non-life threatening. Police believe it’s an isolated incident.

Springfield Passes New Ward Map, Keeps Minority Population in Ward 2


The approval of a new ward map for the City of Springfield has brought some old political resentments back to the surface.

 

Aldermen OK’d the map Tuesday night on a vote of 9-to-1.

 

The map creates a Ward 2 with a minority population of at least 60-percent, despite some proposed amendments in recent months that could have dropped the ward below that threshold.

 

Ward 2 Alderman Gail Simpson is unhappy that creating a solid majority-minority ward remains a contentious issue, more than 25 years after the city’s Voting Rights Lawsuit.

 

But other aldermen question whether the 60-percent figure is an actual requirement of that lawsuit.

Houston Asking NAPA to Cancel Contract, No Reaffirmation Vote Taken


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston isn’t waiting for a new vote on the city’s contract with NAPA Auto Parts.

 

Houston has notified aldermen that he has asked NAPA to agree to a mutual cancellation of the contract, so that a new request for proposals can be issued.

 

Aldermen approved that $3.75 million deal last month, making NAPA the exclusive supplier of parts for the city’s new consolidated garage.

 

But after that vote, aldermen learned that city staff had erroneously based the no-bid contract on a purchasing agreement through the state… an agreement that doesn’t exist.

 

An ordinance asking aldermen to reaffirm the NAPA contract is still pending before the city council, but several aldermen now say they’re inclined to scrap the deal and start over.

IHSA Comes Under Scrutiny Over Finances


Critics say the Illinois High School Association is too secretive and controlling in the way it manages high school sports and collects a share of revenue from those events.

 

But supporters say the non-profit group does a great job for student-athletes… and should be left alone. Both sides clashed frequently during a legislative hearing Tuesday into IHSA operations.

 

The hearing was motivated in part by concern from media organizations that IHSA rules make it difficult for them to cover sanctioned sports. Other lawmakers are also concerned about how the IHSA spends its money, including six-figure salaries for its top officials.

GOP Pushes for Tax Increase Ballot Initiative


Illinois Republican lawmakers think voters should have a say in whether or not the state’s temporary income tax increase is extended.

 

The GOP lawmakers want a non-binding referendum put on the November ballot to measure voter sentiment on keeping the tax hike in place.

 

They say it’s the only way to ensure public input in a budget process that is tightly controlled by the Democratic majority in the General Assembly.

 

And they say Democrats should support the referendum idea, since they favor that approach on other issues.

 

The House on Tuesday approved a non-binding referendum asking voters if the state’s minimum wage should be increased.

Rep. Smith Requests Delay in Bribery Trial


A judge is expected to rule today on a Democratic state lawmaker’s request to postpone his trial on bribery charges for a few days.

 

Representative Derrick Smith is scheduled to go on trial next week on allegations that he took a $7,000 bribe in exchange for helping to steer a state grant.

 

But Smith says he needs to be in Springfield for critical votes during the final days of the legislative session, and is asking the start of the trial to be pushed back a week.

 

House Speaker Mike Madigan confirms that Smith would be a “yes” vote if the bill to extend the state income tax hike is called in the House before the end of session.

Panel: Streamlining Local Government Won't Be Easy


The participants in Tuesday’s forum on trying to shrink Illinois’s record-setting number of government units all agree: it won’t be easy.

 

The panel discussion on “smart streamlining” was sponsored by the Better Government Association and broadcast live on 970 WMAY.

 

Panelists say trying to consolidate or eliminate governmental bodies is difficult because of outdated laws, concerns over lost jobs or reductions in service, and fears that political influence might be cut. The BGA is pushing for passage of a pending bill that would make it easier for local jurisdictions to cut the number of governmental bodies in their area, but would not mandate that they do so.

 

You can hear the full forum as a podcast, available here:

Westboro Baptist Church to Protest in Springfield Next Month


The legalization of same-sex marriage in Illinois next month could bring some familiar visitors.

 

Members of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church say they will picket at the State Capitol and outside the Sangamon County Building on Monday, June 2nd.

 

That’s one day after the new state law takes effect, and the first day that marriage licenses will legally be issued to gay couples in Sangamon County.

 

The anti-gay Kansas congregation has announced local pickets in the past, but hasn’t always shown up… such as a planned protest against a performance of “The Laramie Project” in Springfield several years ago. That protest never materialized.

State Rep. Poe Suffering From Blood Disorder


State Representative Raymond Poe says he is battling a blood disorder, but is feeling good and is able to maintain his regular schedule.

 

The veteran Springfield lawmaker tells the State Journal-Register that he’s been diagnosed with a condition called MDS.

 

He sought treatment after noticing that he felt fatigued.

 

Poe says he and his doctors are still deciding on a course of treatment.

 

The 70-year-old Republican has served in the House for nearly 20 years, and is running unopposed in November.

Westboro Baptist Says It Will Protest In Springfield Next Month Against Same-Sex Marriage


The legalization of same-sex marriage in Illinois next month could bring a visit from the notorious Westboro Baptist Church. 

 

The anti-gay Kansas congregation says it will picket at the State Capitol on Monday, June 2nd… even though lawmakers are already scheduled to be home on their summer recess by that point. 

 

The picketers say they will also target the Sangamon County building that same day… the first day that same-sex couples can legally obtain a marriage license from the county clerk’s office.

 

Westboro Baptist has not always made good on its threats to appear here; the group threatened to picket a performance of "The Laramie Project" several years ago, but then never showed up.

IHSA Under Scrutiny From Illinois Lawmakers


The Illinois High School Association is coming under scrutiny from Illinois lawmakers. 

 

The private non-profit group oversees most high school sports and other extracurriculars. 

 

Critics say the IHSA is too secretive, favors some schools over others, and takes too much money from member schools.  But supporters say it does a good job protecting student-athletes and ensuring fair competition.

BGA Head: Incentives May Be Needed As Next Step To Spur More Government Efficiency


The head of a government watchdog groups says it may take an incentive program to get local governments really committed to the cause of efficiency. 

 

Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association says he understands why many local governments might resist efforts to shrink or consolidate them… because of the impact on employees who might lose their jobs.  Shaw says an incentive plan that helps with the costs of consolidation, or pays for training and placement for employees, might clear a path for meaningful cuts that would create greater long-term savings. 

 

The BGA sponsored a special panel discussion on government streamlining, heard live Tuesday on 970 WMAY.

GOP Lawmakers Want Tax Hike Extension To Go Before Voters In November


Republicans in the Illinois legislature want voters to have their say before any final decisions are made on extending the state’s temporary income tax increase. 

 

The GOP lawmakers want to put a non-binding referendum on the ballot this November.  They say it’s the only way to give the public a voice in a budget process that is now controlled exclusively by the veto-proof Democratic majorities in both chambers. 

 

The Republicans note that Democrats have supported other ballot questions, including one proposal for a non-binding vote on the minimum wage.

Davis Rips VA Secretary


Congressman Rodney Davis says he doesn’t understand why the head of the Veterans Administration still has his job. 

 

Davis is livid over revelations that a number of military veterans may have been denied care for months at VA hospitals… and allegations that VA staffers covered up the deficiencies in order to protect their own salary bonuses. 

 

Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Davis says it’s both a lack of resources and a lack of leadership that have led to the problems… and while there’s no sign yet that VA facilities in Illinois have had similar problems, Davis says it could have happened here. He says VA Secretary Eric Shinseki should lose his job because of the scandal.

Rep. Franks Introduces Bills to Reduce Number of Governmental Bodies


An Illinois lawmaker says citizens need the opportunity to take it upon themselves to get a handle on the state’s explosion of governmental bodies.

 

Democratic Representative Jack Franks is sponsoring two major bills on the issue, including one which would let voters across Illinois take action to eliminate or combine some governmental bodies.

 

Franks says those sorts of changes can’t be forced on voters, but right now those that want change can’t do anything about it.

 

The issue of Illinois’s record-setting numbers of local governments is the subject of a forum this morning in downtown Springfield.

 

We will carry that conversation live starting at 8:30, here on 970 WMAY.

 

Dist. 186 Votes for New Calendar, Early Dismissal


Springfield public school students will be getting out of school one hour early, one day per week, starting in the fall.

 

The school board voted five-to-nothing Monday to adopt a new calendar with that one-hour early dismissal every Wednesday, to give teachers set time every week for collaboration and professional development.

 

No one spoke against the proposal, which Superintendent Jennifer Gill says will help teachers plan and adapt strategies for more effective instruction.

 

The new calendar also gives District 186 the day off for Presidents Day, instead of Lincoln’s Birthday.

Lanphier High School Hoping for More Funding to Keep Programs


Lanphier High School officials are hoping for some help to maintain progress that they’ve made over the past three years under a multi-million-dollar School Improvement Grant.

 

The grant paid for some additional staff positions and a longer school day, and helped with the development of new approaches to reading and math.

 

Test scores are higher than they were at the start of the grant, but remain below where they should be.

 

Superintendent Jennifer Gill says until state and local budget questions are settled, there’s no way to know if more money can be found to keep those Lanphier programs going.

Official: Dist. 186 Staffer Had Mumps


Infectious diseases continue to cause problems for public health officials… and others… around Illinois.

 

District 186 officials say they don’t believe anyone else is at risk after a staffer was diagnosed with mumps.

 

The staffer… who had been vaccinated against the illness… was not in direct contact with students during the time she was contagious.

 

Other staff members who were in contact with her were notified.

 

Meanwhile, state health officials say an Illinois man who tested positive for the MERS virus is not infectious.

 

But they also say they expect more cases of the respiratory bug to be brought into the U.S. by travelers visiting regions where the outbreak is more widespread.

Quinn, Madigan Still Working to Get Votes for Tax Hike Extension


Governor Pat Quinn and House Speaker Mike Madigan say they are still working to line up the votes to pass an extension of the state’s temporary income tax increase.

 

But Madigan acknowledges he’s still well short of the 60 votes he will need for approval.

 

Quinn spent more than two hours Monday urging House Democrats to support his tax plan, but many are reluctant to cast that unpopular vote in an election year.

 

Quinn says his philosophy is “hope for the best, and work for it.”

Alderman Cahnman Censured By Illinois Supreme Court


Springfield Alderman Sam Cahnman has been censured by the lllinois Supreme Court.

 

In an order handed down on Friday, the high court declined Cahnman’s request for a full review of the disciplinary action against him.

 

He had been recommended for censure by the panel that oversees attorney conduct, which found that Cahnman had misrepresented his actions in obtaining a page from a judge’s calendar book six years ago.

Springfield's Catholic Church Excommunicates Woman for Violating Doctrine


A Springfield woman who underwent an ordination ceremony to become a Catholic priest has been excommunicated from the Church.

 

Bishop Thomas John Paprocki has issued a statement saying Mary Keldermans was automatically kicked out of the Church when she took part in that ceremony in violation of Catholic doctrine.

 

Only men are allowed to become Catholic priests.

Lawmaker: Give Citizens More Say In Reducing Government ''Bloat''; Live Panel Discussion Tuesday Morning On 970 WMAY


An Illinois lawmaker says citizens need the opportunity to take it upon themselves to get a handle on the state’s explosion of governmental bodies. 

 

Democratic Representative Jack Franks is sponsoring two major bills on the issue, including one which would let voters across Illinois take action to eliminate or combine some governmental bodies.  Franks says those sorts of changes can’t be forced on voters, but right now those that want change can’t do anything about it. 

 

The issue of Illinois’s record-setting numbers of local governments is the subject of a forum Tuesday morning in downtown Springfield.  We will carry that conversation live starting at 8:30, here on 970 WMAY.

Springfield School Board Approves Calendar With Early Dismissal One Day Per Week


Springfield public school students will be getting out of school one hour early, one day per week, starting in the fall. 

 

The school board voted five-to-nothing Monday to adopt a new calendar with that one-hour early dismissal every Wednesday, to give teachers set time every week for collaboration and professional development.  No one spoke against the proposal, which Superintendent Jennifer Gill says will help teachers plan and adapt strategies for more effective instruction.

 

The new calendar also gives District 186 the day off for Presidents Day, instead of Lincoln’s Birthday.

Lanphier Touts Some Successes From School Improvement Grant


Lanphier High School officials are hoping for some help to maintain progress that they’ve made over the past three years under a multi-million-dollar School Improvement Grant. 

 

The grant paid for some additional staff positions and a longer school day, and helped with the development of new approaches to reading and math.  Test scores are higher than they were at the start of the grant, but remain below where they should be. 

 

Superintendent Jennifer Gill says until state and local budget questions are settled, there’s no way to know if more money can be found to keep those Lanphier programs going.

District 186 Staffer Contracts Mumps; State Officials Expect More MERS Cases


Infectious diseases continue to cause problems for public health officials… and others… around Illinois. 

 

District 186 officials say they don’t believe anyone else is at risk after a staffer was diagnosed with mumps.  The staffer… who had been vaccinated against the illness… was not in direct contact with students during the time she was contagious.  Other staff members who were in contact with her were notified. 

 

Meanwhile, state health officials say an Illinois man who tested positive for the MERS virus is not infectious.  But they also say they expect more cases of the respiratory bug to be brought into the U.S. by travelers visiting regions where the outbreak is more widespread.

Cahnman Censured By Illinois Supreme Court


Springfield Alderman Sam Cahnman has been censured by the lllinois Supreme Court. 

 

In an order handed down on Friday, the high court declined Cahnman’s request for a full review of the disciplinary action against him.  He had been recommended for censure by the panel that oversees attorney conduct, which found that Cahnman had misrepresented his actions in obtaining a page from a judge’s calendar book six years ago.

Quinn, Madigan Still Short Of Votes For Tax Hike Extension


Governor Pat Quinn and House Speaker Mike Madigan say they are still working to line up the votes to pass an extension of the state’s temporary income tax increase. 

 

But Madigan acknowledges he’s still well short of the 60 votes he will need for approval. 

 

Quinn spent more than two hours Monday urging House Democrats to support his tax plan, but many are reluctant to cast that unpopular vote in an election year.  Quinn says his philosophy is “hope for the best, and work for it.”

Lawmaker Pushes Measures To Bring ''Government Glut'' Under Control; Live Panel Discussion Tuesday Morning On 970 WMAY


An Illinois lawmaker says the state has to start getting a handle on its runaway number of local governmental bodies. 

 

Representative Jack Franks is pushing legislation that would put a moratorium on the creation of new units of local government… and another bill to make it easier for local communities to dismantle or combine governmental bodies. 

 

Meanwhile, 970 WMAY and the Better Government Association will present a live panel discussion on streamlining local governments Tuesday morning, starting at 8:30am.  Listen for the "Jim Leach Show" live from the Sangamo Club Tuesday morning, followed by the panel discussion from 8:30 to 10am.

State Health Director Expects More MERS Cases On U.S. Soil


Illinois’s public health director says one thing is certain about the arrival of the MERS virus on American soil… there will be more “imported cases” into this country. 

 

Dr. Lamar Hasbrouck says when anywhere in the world is just a plane ride away, there’s no question that someone else carrying the virus will bring it into the U.S.

 

So far, one Illinois resident has been diagnosed with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus after meeting and shaking hands with someone who brought the bug back from overseas.  But the Illinois man did not become seriously ill, and new tests show he is not infectious and poses no danger to the public.

Woman Who Underwent Catholic Ordination Is Excommunicated


Springfield’s Catholic bishop has issued a notice of excommunication to a woman who recently took part in a ceremony to be ordained a Catholic priest. 

 

Mary Keldermans underwent that ordination ceremony at the Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Church in Springfield… because Catholic doctrine does not allow women to become priests.  Bishop Thomas John Paprocki says, as a result, Keldermans was automatically excommunicated from the Church and is no longer allowed to take part in Catholic sacraments or services. 

 

Paprocki’s statement says anyone else taking part in that or similar activities outside Church teaching also risk excommunication.

Jobe: Inspector General Could Cost Up To $200K Per Year


A proposed $79,000 study of how to construct the position of Inspector General at Springfield City Hall will also help determine how much it will cost to maintain that position in the future. 

 

Alderman Cory Jobe says his proposed study will focus on whether the job needs to be full- or part-time… or whether it could be handled by an outside firm, such as the risk management company that he wants to conduct the study. 

 

Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Jobe says it’s too soon to say how much an Inspector General’s Office would cost going forward, but he wants to keep it to less than $200,000 a year.

School Board To Vote Tonight On New Calendar, With Early Dismissal One Day Per Week And Change In School Holidays


The Springfield school board will vote tonight on a new school year calendar that will have students getting out of school one hour early, one day per week. 

 

That proposed one-hour early dismissal on Wednesdays will give teachers an hour each week to focus on professional development.  The early dismissal will take the place of some of the current teacher in-service days, where students are out of school for the full day. 

 

The proposed calendar would also change one school holiday.  Under the new calendar, kids would get Presidents Day off and go to school on Lincoln’s Birthday… currently it’s the other way around. 

 

The meeting gets underway at 6:30 tonight (Monday) at the school board offices on West Monroe.

Illinois Man First Person-to-Person Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Case in US


An Illinois man who has tested positive for the MERS virus appears to mark the first case of person-to-person transmission of the potentially deadly bug within the U.S.

 

But the Illinois patient has shown only mild symptoms, similar to a cold, and is currently in good health.

 

Authorities say the man had a business meeting with an Indiana man who contracted the virus in the Middle East… and the virus was apparently transmitted when the two shook hands.

 

Illinois public health officials still insist the virus is not easily transmitted to humans, but say they will continue to track the virus and watch for other possible cases.

Proposal Hires Risk Management Firm to Evaluate Inspector General Position


Springfield aldermen will be asked to approve nearly $80,000 to hire a risk management firm that will help the city revamp its long-dormant inspector general position.

 

Alderman Cory Jobe is among those pushing to reinstate the position, this time under the control of the aldermen.

 

The proposal from that firm says it will conduct a “high-level review and validation” of the need for an IG, create a blueprint for the office, and administer an interim inspector general’s office until a permanent system is set up.

 

That ordinance is on first reading this week.

Mayor Pushes Forward with Reaffirmation Vote On NAPA Deal


The Houston administration is pressing ahead with its request for the Springfield City Council to reaffirm a contract with NAPA Auto Parts… even though the original legal basis for that contract apparently does not exist.

 

The mayor wants NAPA to be the exclusive parts supplier for the new consolidated city garage.

 

The $3.75 million contract was brokered through a group called the National Joint Powers Alliance. City staff erroneously assumed that there was an agreement between the state of Illinois and NJPA that would allow the no-bid contract.

 

Although there is no evidence of that agreement, the mayor’s office insists the contract is valid, but wants a revote on it nonetheless.

 

If aldermen don’t reaffirm the deal, Houston says he will have to cancel and re-bid the contract.

Task Force to Discuss Heroin in Springfield Today


A legislative task force studying a growing epidemic of heroin use in the state will hold its fourth hearing today in Springfield.

 

Representatives of the State Medical Society, the Illinois Hospital Association and the Illinois Department of Insurance will be among those on hand for that hearing getting underway at 10am at the Capitol.

 

Last month, the House unanimously passed a resolution declaring a “Heroin State of Emergency in Illinois” because of a spike in arrests and overdoses.

Washington Residents Still Battling Psychological Damage From Tornado


Six months after their community was devastated by a tornado, residents of Washington are continuing to rebuild their homes and businesses… and are still working to repair the psychological damage.

 

One resident says the sound of freight trains now unnerves him, because it sounds so much like the noise from the tornado.

 

Kris Lancaster says he used to love watching storms… so much so that he was injured by debris as he videotaped the approaching twister last November.

 

He says he now hates storms.

Schneider Elected New Chairman Of Illinois GOP


The new head of the Illinois Republican Party says Illinois is a “corrupt one-party state” under Democratic rule… but vows the GOP will change that this November. 

 

Tim Schneider was elected Saturday to lead the party.  Schneider is a small businessman and member of the Cook County Board. 

 

He replaces Jack Dorgan, who left the party’s top job to join the campaign of GOP governor candidate Bruce Rauner.

Illinois Man Has MERS Virus, But Shows No Signs Of Illness


An Illinois man has tested positive for the MERS virus after coming into contact with the Indiana man who had the first known case of the disease in the U.S. 

 

State health officials say the unnamed Illinois man met and shook hands with the Indiana man twice before the virus had been diagnosed. 

 

So far, the Illinois man is in good health and has not shown any symptoms of the potentially fatal illness itself. The man and his family continue to be monitored by doctors.

State Finds No Evidence Of Agreement That Served As Basis Of NAPA Deal


The state of Illinois has told the City of Springfield there’s no evidence of an intergovernmental agreement that had served as the legal basis for the city’s recent contract with NAPA Auto Parts. 

 

City staffers had relied on material found on a website to conclude that the agreement existed and allowed the city to go around usual bidding procedures for that contract. 

 

The Houston administration contends the contract is binding anyway, even without that agreement… but is nonetheless asking aldermen to reaffirm the NAPA contract in an ordinance introduced Friday by the mayor.

 

Aldermen Propose $79K Review Of Need For Inspector General


Several Springfield aldermen are proposing that the city hire a risk management company to evaluate the need for an inspector general… and to make recommendations on how to structure the position. 

 

Alderman Cory Jobe is among those seeking that review, after Jobe said scandals like last year’s police department file-shredding fiasco showed him that there was a need for greater oversight. 

 

The proposal calls for the city to pay $79,000 for that review.

Christian Could Get Internal Affairs Investigation Of Cop, But Perhaps Not For Months


Calvin Christian could get the internal affairs investigation he wants against the Springfield cop who arrested him this week… but it might not happen for a very long time. 

 

The attorney hired by the City of Springfield to represent it in Christian’s federal lawsuit against the city says Christian's excessive force complaint could go to IA… only if Christian formally requests it through his attorney.  Jon Gray Noll says the case will be accepted and investigated... if Christian's attorney submits a request and affidavit outlining the nature and scope of the complaint. 

 

But the timing of such an investigation is uncertain.  If Christian intends to add the latest incident to his lawsuit alleging a pattern of harassment by police, Noll says the complaint would have to be pursued as part of that lengthy litigation… with no internal affairs action until the lawsuit is resolved. 

 

So far, Noll says Christian’s attorney has not made the request.

Springfield Airport Sees Big Gains In Ridership


Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport is boasting big increases in ridership over last year. 

 

More than 17,000 passengers flew into or out of the airport last month… a 50-percent increase over April of 2013.  And from January through April of this year, ridership is up 39% compared to the first four months of last year. 

 

Allegiant Airlines had the biggest gain in passenger totals, thanks to its addition of twice-weekly flights between Springfield and Orlando last fall.  But American Airlines had a 28% increase in ridership, and United was up 6% over last year.

Madigan Puts Budget Bills On Hold


Just hours after his caucus approved a budget without sufficient revenues to pay for it, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan has put those budget bills on hold. 

 

The bills would ordinarily go automatically to the Senate, but Madigan used a procedural move to keep them in the House for the possibility of further action.  Madigan told the Chicago Tribune that the move was necessary in case the House wishes to revise the spending bills.

Illinois Voters May Get Chance To Weigh In On Minimum Wage Hike


The full Illinois House will vote next week on a measure that would allow voters to offer their opinion on raising the state's minimum wage to $10 an hour.

 

A House committee has approved that non-binding referendum, which is being sought by Speaker Mike Madigan.  Madigan sees the advisory referendum as a way to keep the issue alive after a bill that would have imposed the wage hike faltered in the legislature.  Illinois currently has a minimum wage of $8.25 an hour, higher than the federal rate, but below what many people think is needed for a "living wage."

 

The referendum could also pay political dividends for Democrats, who hope the politically-popular wage hike will draw more of their supporters to the polls in November.

Approved Budget Bills Include Revenue From Unapproved Tax Hike Extension


The Illinois House has approved dozens of appropriations bills to form a budget that is balanced… only if the state extends the temporary income tax increase that’s supposed to expire at the end of the year.

 

The votes were along party lines, with most Democrats in favor and all Republicans voting “no.”

 

The GOP says the budget bills are unconstitutional, because they are based on revenues that don’t exist at the moment, since the legislature has not voted on the politically unpopular tax hike extension.

Christian Claims Police Planted Drugs, Injured Arm, in Recent Arrest


New charges and countercharges are flying between Springfield police and longtime nemesis Calvin Christian.

 

Christian was arrested again Monday night, accused of resisting and obstructing an officer during a traffic stop of a vehicle in which Christian was a passenger.

 

But Christian is firing back… claiming that a city cop planted drugs in the vehicle, and that the officer injured Christian’s shoulder while forcefully moving him around.

 

Christian already has a pending federal lawsuit accusing police of a campaign of harassment.

 

He also wants to file an internal affairs complaint against the officer, but the city says it will not pursue an IA complaint while the federal suit is ongoing.

CeaseFire Says Progress Being Made Reversing Street Violence


Call it “anti-social media.” The organizer of Springfield’s CeaseFire program says Facebook, Twitter and similar sites are adding a new dimension to the recent rash of shootings around the city.

 

Larry Hemingway says the people who are taking part in the violence are often bragging about it online, frequently using their own unique slang.

 

He says those social media sites often have more information faster than law enforcement can compile it through old-fashioned detective work.

 

CeaseFire says it’s making progress in trying to reduce that violence… and says one of the participants in the shootings has recently come forward and offered to help get the situation under control.

Bill Regulating Private Animal Shelters on Hold


A bill that private animal shelters feared would put them out of business is now on hold… and will be revised.

 

The bill had already passed the state Senate unanimously before groups like the Animal Protective League in Springfield even became aware of it. It would have required private shelters to turn over stray animals to their local animal control department within one business day.

 

Sarah Moore with the APL in Springfield says that would have overwhelmed animal control, leading to more euthanasia of pets and perhaps forcing private shelters to close.

 

House sponsor Wayne Rosenthal says he has heard the concerns and is withdrawing the bill until at least next fall.

Springfield Police Chief In Fender Bender


It's the kind of accident that could happen to anyone... but it happened to Springfield Police Chief Kenny Winslow. 

 

Winslow's city-owned vehicle sustained minor damage when he ran into an SPD squad car in the city's parking ramp this week. The squad car was not damaged. 

 

The chief says he was distracted while adjusting the volume on his police radio and didn't see the car stopped in front of him.  Winslow says no citation was issued because the accident happened in the ramp and not on the street.

Calvin Christian Arrested On Charge Of Obstructing Officer; Christian Claims Cop Roughed Him Up, Planted Drugs


Calvin Christian is back in trouble again.  The Springfield reporter with a long series of run-ins with city cops was taken into custody again Monday night on a charge of resisting and obstructing an officer. 

 

Christian was a passenger in a vehicle that was pulled over around 8th and South Grand because of heavily-tinted windows.  Police found what appeared to be cannabis in the vehicle. 

 

As officers questioned Christian and the driver, they say Christian refused orders to stay away from the driver and to face the vehicle. Christian denies refusing any direct order… and accuses the police of planting the marijuana in the vehicle. 

 

The police report says an officer grabbed Christian’s shirt to steer him to the back of the vehicle… but Christian says the officer grabbed his arm and shoulder, and twisted until Christian felt a “pop.” Christian later asked to be taken to the hospital for treatment of shoulder pain.  He was transported to the county jail after being released from the emergency room.

 

Read the police reports from Monday's arrest at this link.

 

 

Pension Reform Measure Blocked by Sangamon County Judge


Illinois’s controversial pension reform law will apparently not take effect as scheduled on June 1st.

 

A Sangamon County judge has indefinitely blocked implementation of the law, while legal challenges to it wind their way through the courts.

 

The decision is a victory for a coalition of public sector unions, who call the new law a “pension theft” measure that violates the Illinois Constitution.

 

Governor Pat Quinn and other supporters of the law say it will stop the financial bleeding in Illinois pension funds.

 

But they also say the delay won’t hurt the state budget in the coming year, because they hadn’t yet factored in any savings from the law.

Illinois House to Vote on New Budget That Includes Money From Tax Extension


The Illinois House is set to start approving pieces of a new state budget as early as today… one that assumes there will be revenue from extending the state income tax increase, even though the tax extension has not been voted on yet.

 

House Speaker Mike Madigan says that’s by design, telling reporters Wednesday that the budget votes are intended to increase pressure on reluctant lawmakers to approve extending the tax hike.

 

But Republicans say voting on a budget where spending far exceeds the currently-available revenue violates the state constitution’s balanced budget requirement.

Education Funding Advisory Board Calls for Billions More for Schools


An advisory panel recommends Illinois pour nearly five-billion dollars more into education next year… and says not doing so would represent a “moral failure.”

 

The Education Funding Advisory Board, or EFAB, says the state should be spending more than 87-hundred dollars per pupil.

 

Currently, lawmakers have set the funding level at just 61-hundred dollars… and have not even appropriated enough money to cover that amount.

 

The chairwoman of the panel acknowledges there’s virtually no chance that the legislature will follow EFAB’s recommendation, but says it demonstrates the huge gap between what the state is doing, versus what it should be doing.

Driving Permit After 4 DUIs Approved by Committee


An Illinois House committee has unanimously approved a bill that would let someone with four DUI convictions seek a restricted driving permit.

 

Current state law prohibits any driving privileges for anyone with more than three DUI convictions, but Democratic Representative Elaine Nekritz says there are some people who have gotten clean and sober after repeated mistakes earlier in life, and says they deserve another chance.

 

The 15-to-nothing vote sends the bill to the full House floor.

Trimming Limbs From Around Power Lines Can Trees Unsightly


Some Springfield residents are upset by what they see as a hatchet job done on their neighborhood trees.

 

The city hired a contractor to trim back branches away from overhead power lines… but the extensive cutting has resulted in some seriously misshapen trees.

 

City Water Light and Power chief engineer Eric Hobbie acknowledges that, but says the trimming is needed to prevent power outages.

 

He says the difference is more noticeable at first because it is so stark, but says it will be less blatant in the future.

Park District Secures Funds for Fireworks at Carillon


Fireworks will be back at this year’s Carillon Festival.

 

A huge display has been a regular part of the annual festival at Washington Park each June… but this year, the fireworks were in jeopardy because of a lack of funding.

 

But now park district officials confirm that they have secured enough donations for the fireworks to go on.

 

The display on Friday, June 6th, is funded through gifts from the Rees Carillon Society, the Springfield Parks Foundation, and private donors.

Advisory Board Recommends Illinois Spend Billions More On Education


A panel that recommends funding levels for education in Illinois says the state should pour nearly five-billion dollars more into schools next year… and anything less is a “moral failure.” 

 

That’s the assessment of the Education Funding Advisory Board.  EFAB calculates how much money is needed per pupil to properly educate each student in the state.  The state budget is then supposed to make up whatever portion of that isn’t covered by local revenues. 

 

But in recent years, state lawmakers have approved funding levels far below the recommendations… and have not even fully funded that reduced level.  EFAB says the state has a moral and financial obligation to schools to improve funding levels.

NAPA Deal Not Springfield's First Purchase Through NJPA


The Houston administration is offering more ammo to bolster its case that there’s nothing unusual about the way it put together its deal with NAPA Auto Parts. 

 

City Hall released a long list of local government purchases from across Illinois that were made through the National Joint Powers Alliance.  The city says those purchases total millions of dollars. They include some previous purchases by the City of Springfield which may now also be in question. 

 

Mayoral spokesman Nathan Mihelich says purchases through NJPA are competitively bid… but they are bid through that organization, not through the city.  Aldermen are still considering whether to re-open the NAPA agreement because of questions about whether the city has legal authorization to enter into deals through NJPA.

Alderman Ready To Pursue New Projects Along MacArthur


Now that Hy-Vee is up and running, a Springfield alderman is turning his attention to other neglected areas of the MacArthur Boulevard corridor.

 

Specifically, Alderman Joe McMenamin is setting his sights on the long-vacant Esquire Theatre near MacArthur and South Grand.  Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Bishop On Air,” McMenamin said the property could be perfect for several different uses, including residential.

 

But hurdles remain, including difficulty in making contact with the property owner.  The shuttered theater is now owned by AMC and its overseas parent company.  McMenamin says he’s been trying to reach the theater chain for a long time without success… but says he will step up his efforts to make something happen at that location.

Springfield Residents Complain About Misshapen Trees After Trimming Program


Some Springfield residents are unhappy with the results of a new round of tree trimming around town. 

 

The city hires a contractor to trim tree branches back away from power lines… because falling or entangled limbs are one of the biggest causes of power outages.  But the trimming has left some misshapen trees that residents consider downright ugly. 

 

City Water Light and Power chief engineer Eric Hobbie agrees the trimmed trees are unsightly, but he says that’s because extreme trimming was needed in areas where the problem had been neglected for a while.  He says people will get used to it, and future trimming won’t be as drastic.

West Nile Virus Season Returns


It’s West Nile Virus season again. 

 

The virus is often fatal to birds, and can be transmitted to humans by mosquito bite.  After a major outbreak several years ago, fewer cases have cropped up in recent years… but the disease still has the potential to be fatal in humans. 

 

The state health department is sending $3 million to health departments around the state to assist in their mosquito control efforts… and is urging people to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Mayor Houston Asks Aldermen to Reaffirm NAPA Contract or Expect Loss of Cost Savings


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says aldermen should reaffirm the city’s contract with NAPA Auto Parts… but if they don’t, he’s prepared to cancel the deal and start a new bidding process.

 

Houston says he understands the concerns of some aldermen, after it was discovered that city staffers had erroneously assumed a legal basis for that no-bid contract, a basis that may not actually exist. But Houston says he agrees with Corporation Counsel Todd Greenburg, who believes the contract is valid anyway, despite the error.

 

Houston says if aldermen don’t re-approve the contract, he will invoke a 90-day cancellation clause and put it up for bid… but warns that could mean more delay and cost for the new consolidated city garage.

HY-Vee Opening Brings Hope of Revitalizing MacArthur Boulevard


The long-awaited new Hy-Vee store in Springfield has opened to great fanfare… and only partly because of its selection of food and other amenities.

 

The store is also seen as a crucial step forward in a two-decade effort to restore some of the past glory and economic vitality along MacArthur Boulevard.

 

The $24 million complex replaced a dilapidated, abandoned department store and bowling alley, and is expected to spur other development along the corridor.

 

Mayor Mike Houston declared it one of the nicest stores he’s ever seen.

State Budget Proposal Includes Temporary Income Tax Increase


Illinois lawmakers are set to vote this week on a budget that’s based on extending the state’s temporary income tax increase… even though they have not yet actually voted on keeping that tax in place.

 

The budget that’s expected to go before the House this week is similar to the budget proposal put forward by Governor Pat Quinn earlier this year, and avoids what Quinn calls the “savage cuts” that would be necessary if the tax hike expires on schedule.

 

But Republicans say the budget vote is just a way to put more pressure on the legislature to approve the unpopular tax hike extension.

Sheriff, Treasurer, County Clerk to get 4.5 Percent Raise Over 4 Years


Some Sangamon County officeholders will be getting a raise next year… and for the next few years after that.

 

The county board has approved a schedule of raises for sheriff, treasurer and county clerk… totaling four-and-a-half percent over the next four years.

 

The raises take effect with the new terms of those officeholders.

 

Current treasurer Tom Cavanagh and county clerk Joe Aiello are both running unopposed this fall and will get the raises when their new terms start in December.

 

The higher salary will also apply to the winner of the sheriff’s race between Republican Wes Barr and Democrat Jeff Regan.

Kincaid Votes to Fire Police Chief


There’s more turmoil in the village of Kincaid.

 

The village board has voted three-to-two to fire police chief Richard Adams, following his arrest earlier this year on official misconduct charges.

 

Adams is accused of using village staff on village time to do work on his personal property.

 

The firing was opposed by Kincaid Mayor Doug Thomas… who is also facing unrelated criminal charges for violating an order of protection.

 

Thomas told WICS that it’s not unusual for village employees to do work for village officials.

Houston Acknowledges Concern Over NAPA Deal; Asks Aldermen To Reaffirm Vote


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says he understands the concerns raised by two aldermen about the validity of the city's deal with NAPA Auto Parts... but nonetheless is standing by the deal, and is asking aldermen to do the same.

 

Houston sent a memo to the City Council Tuesday confirming that an error by the city's purchasing staff mischaracterized the legal basis for entering into that no-bid, $3.75 million deal with NAPA to stock the city's new consolidated garage.  Even so, Houston says he accepts the judgment of Corporation Counsel Todd Greenburg that the contract is valid.

 

Houston is asking aldermen to reaffirm the deal with another vote.  But if they decline to do so, Houston says he will invoke the contract's cancellation clause and re-bid it.  That would add delay and cost to the effort to consolidated the city's garage operations under one roof, according to the mayor.

Hy-Vee Opens To Enthusiastic Reception; Mayor Has High Hopes For Future MacArthur Development


Mayor Mike Houston says it’s unlike any grocery store he’s ever seen… and one of the most anticipated openings he can recall.  Now city officials just hope that the public’s response to the new Hy-Vee store will match the hype. 

 

Tuesday’s grand opening drew around 150 people before the doors even opened at 6am. And Houston says the enthusiastic response indicates a level of excitement about South MacArthur Boulevard and its future potential that he hasn’t seen in years. 

 

The $24 million complex is viewed as a turning point in efforts to revitalize the business climate along that major commercial corridor.

Fustin Defends Fire Fund


Springfield Fire Chief Ken Fustin is defending his department’s use of a pool of money that is allocated and spent outside the control of the City Council. 

 

The Foreign Fire Insurance Fund is a tax paid by out-of-state companies from the receipts they collect from the sale of insurance policies to Illinois residents.  The money is collected by the Illinois Municipal League and sent directly to fire departments around the state, each of which decides how to spend the money. 

 

Critics call it a “slush fund,” but Fustin rejects that characterization.  Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Bishop On Air,” Fustin said the money pays for equipment and other essentials that the department’s official city budget doesn’t cover.

Area Law Enforcement Saturate Streets With Patrols


Springfield police say they’re making some headway against the recent rash of violence that has led to more than two dozen reports of shootings and shots fired.

 

SPD Lieutenant Don Mumaw (MOO’-maw) says there have been saturation patrols in many of the neighborhoods that have been the most frequent scenes of those shootings incidents.

 

State police and county deputies have been assisting Springfield cops with those expanded patrols.

 

Mumaw says the result is a significant decrease in reports of shootings over the past week.

MacArthur Hy-Vee Opens Today


Today’s official opening of the Hy-Vee store on South MacArthur is about more than just convenient shopping for that neighborhood.

 

City officials and business leaders along that corridor see the $24 million store complex as the linchpin for the revitalization of an area that used to be one of Springfield’s busiest shopping hubs.

 

The store has well over 600 full- and part-time employees.

 

It’s also the subject of a full-page newspaper ad today, taken out by local labor unions, thanking the company for using union labor to build the store under the shell of the old K-Mart complex.

Springfield Aldermen Question Legitimacy of NAPA Contract


It could feel like déjà vu at tonight’s Springfield City Council committee of the whole meeting.

 

The city’s contract with NAPA Auto Parts… which was the subject of weeks of debate before being approved by aldermen last month… could be back on the table tonight.

 

Some aldermen are questioning the validity of the agreement to provide parts for the city’s new consolidated garage. That’s because a state purchasing agreement that was used as the legal basis for the no-bid deal may not exist.

 

City attorney Todd Greenburg says the contract is valid anyway, because aldermen approved it.

Union Coalition Moves to Block Pension Law


A coalition of public sector unions is asking a Sangamon County judge to block enforcement of the state’s new pension reform law until all the legal challenges against it are settled.

 

The We Are One Coalition says people are being forced to make retirement decisions based on the law that is scheduled to take effect on June 1st… and while the group says it expects that law will be overturned, those retirement decisions could be irreversible.

AP Review: Todd Renfrow's Daughter Given IDOT Job


The daughter of former Sangamon County Democratic Party chair Todd Renfrow is among those who apparently got a job at the Illinois Department of Transportation in violation of the rules against political hiring.

 

An Associated Press review of 45 of those IDOT hires finds more than half had connections to Democratic officeholders or party leaders.

 

Renfrow’s daughter landed a $39,000 a year job screening applicants for snow plow and highway maintenance jobs… a post that critics say should not have been a political hire.

Springfield's Educator and Administrator of the Year Named


A pre-K teacher at Springfield’s Early Learning Center has been named Springfield’s Educator of the Year.

 

Dee Dee Duffy was honored at a luncheon Monday sponsored by Horace Mann Educators.

 

Lincoln Magnet School principal Nichole Heyen was chosen Administrator of the Year.

City Attorney Still Insists NAPA Contract Is Legal; Aldermen May Seek To Reopen $3.75 Million Deal


The lengthy debate over a contract between the City of Springfield and NAPA Auto Parts may not be over yet, after all.

 

Aldermen approved a three-year, $3.75 million deal for NAPA to provide all the inventory for the new consolidated city garage.  But they did so based on assurances that the no-bid contract was allowed under an intergovernmental agreement between Illinois and Minnesota.  Now city officials concede that they “assumed” there was such an agreement, based on information they found on a website… but they don’t know for sure that it exists.  Alderman Frank Edwards says that false pretense should make the NAPA contract null and void.

 

But city attorney Todd Greenburg says when Springfield aldermen approve a contract, it becomes law… even if it contradicts the city’s normal procedures. [Both Edwards and Greenburg appeared live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show.”] Edwards says he’d like to see the contract put on hold until the legal confusion is sorted out.

AP: Renfrow's Daughter Among Those Who Benefitted From Political Hiring At IDOT


The daughter of former Sangamon County Democratic Party chair Todd Renfrow is among those who apparently got a job at the Illinois Department of Transportation in violation of the rules against political hiring. 

 

An Associated Press review of some of those IDOT hires finds many had connections to Democratic officeholders or party leaders.  Renfrow’s daughter landed a $39,000 a year job screening applicants for snow plow and highway maintenance jobs… a post that critics say should not have been a political hire.

Quinn To Establish Commission To Mark State's Upcoming 200th Birthday


Planning is already underway to give Illinois a big birthday party in 2018. 

 

Governor Pat Quinn has announced the creation of an Illinois Bicentennial Commission to mark the 200th anniversary of its statehood.  The governor, statewide constitutional officers, and the directors of several state agencies will each get to appoint members.  Another 40 members will be chosen from various walks of life, including business, the military, the education community, and the arts. 

 

Quinn wants the yearlong celebration to leave a “lasting legacy” for future generations.  To mark Illinois’s 100th birthday in 1918, the state built the Centennial Building in Springfield.  The governor's office says the 2018 observance will "rely heavily" on private donations.

Springfield Cops Step Up Seat Belt Enforcement


Another local police agency is stepping up its traffic enforcement efforts, well ahead of the Memorial Day holiday. 

 

Springfield police say they will intensify patrols and enforcement of seat belt laws in the weeks ahead as part of the "Click It or Ticket" campaign.  They are hoping to get all drivers and passengers in the habit of buckling up.  That’s especially true of those in the back seat, where compliance is only around 77-percent, compared to more than 93-percent for drivers and front-seat passengers. 

 

An Illinois law that took effect in 2012 now requires all occupants of a vehicle to wear a seat belt.

Springfield Home Sales Climb In April


After a long cold winter, home sales in the Springfield area are starting to show signs of a spring thaw. 

 

The Capital Area Association of Realtors says home sales were nearly four-percent higher in April than they were a year earlier… and median home prices are also on the rise.  Year-to-date, though, sales are still lower for 2014 than they were at the same point in 2013. 

 

The association says it expects the pace of home sales to continue to increase as buyers who held off during the brutal winter now start to make their way into the market.

City Officials Say NAPA Deal is Law, Aldermen May Push to Reopen


Just weeks after approving a $3.75 million deal for NAPA Auto Parts to provide the inventory for Springfield’s new consolidated city garage, some aldermen are questioning the validity of that agreement.

 

The contract did not have to be competitively bid because it was tied to an intergovernmental agreement through the state of Illinois.

 

But now city officials confirm that they only “assumed” such an agreement was in place, and are trying to determine if that agreement actually exists.

 

Even so, corporation counsel Todd Greenburg says the NAPA deal is valid because aldermen approved it.

 

But Alderman Frank Edwards isn’t so sure, and says the contract may have to be reopened.

Plastic Grocery Bag Ban Could be Brought Back Up at Springfield City Hall


Talk of restrictions… or an outright ban… on plastic grocery bags in Springfield could be revived before the Springfield City Council.

 

Alderman Gail Simpson proposed the idea a couple of years ago, but it found little support among other aldermen.

 

But the State Journal-Register reports that after Chicago imposed a partial ban on the bags, Simpson is now thinking about trying again.

 

She says rather an outright ban, the city could consider several alternatives, including a partial ban, user fees, and a greater emphasis on recycling the bags.

Hy-Vee Opens Tuesday


The newest competitor in Springfield’s crowded grocery store market opens its doors Tuesday morning.

 

The Hy-Vee store on South MacArthur will include a full-service restaurant, full-time chefs and dieticians on hand, and a dry cleaner on premises.

 

The store is also seen as the anchor of a long-awaited new era of development along the MacArthur corridor.

 

The $24 million complex, which also includes an adjacent gas station and convenience store, officially opens Tuesday morning at 6am.

St. Johns Plans Transition of Psychiatric Care for Seniors


St. John’s Hospital is planning to transition its psychiatric care beds to serve only senior citizens, perhaps by the end of this year.

 

And that’s raising concerns about where younger psych patients will be able to get in-patient help.

 

The State Journal-Register reports the decision is being made because of a growing need for geriatric psychiatric assistance… and because that older population does not mix well with younger patients who have psychiatric disorders.

 

The move could force younger patients to seek treatment in other Central Illinois cities like Decatur or Bloomington.

New Questions About NAPA Deal: City Insists Contract Is Legal, But Some Aldermen Challenge Validity


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston’s administration is defending the legality of the recent deal with NAPA Auto Parts to provide inventory for the new consolidated city garage. 

 

Some aldermen are now questioning the deal, because they say it was based on an intergovernmental agreement that may not actually exist. 

 

City corporation counsel Todd Greenburg says city staff “assumed” that agreement was in place… but insists that even if it wasn’t, the contract is legal because aldermen approved it.

Report: Feds Looking Into Spending By Former Ball-Chatham Superintendent


Federal prosecutors have reportedly been looking into allegations that thousands of dollars may have been misspent under former Ball-Chatham school superintendent Robert Gillum. 

 

The State Journal-Register obtained a copy of a subpoena for records that was served on the Ball-Chatham district more than a year ago.  There’s no word on the current status of that investigation.

Hy-Vee Store Preps For Tuesday Grand Opening


Workers are putting the finishing touches on Springfield’s new Hy-Vee store ahead of its grand opening on Tuesday. 

 

The store on South MacArthur has hired more than 600 full- and part-time employees.  Hy-Vee corporate executives say those workers have been trained and drilled on customer service, and say that will help the store thrive against its competitors. 

 

Hy-Vee is the second-largest employee-owned company in the country.

Expanded Police Patrols This Month On Sangamon County Roadways


Illinois State Police are not waiting for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend to step up traffic patrols. 

 

Extra police manpower is already on area highways… looking for speeders, drunk drivers, or those violating seat belt or cell phone laws. 

 

The extra patrols in Sangamon County are scheduled to run through most of this month, including the long holiday travel period.

Chickens Take Up Residence At Governor's Mansion


It’s not Governor Pat Quinn… but someone is living full-time at the Executive Mansion in Springfield. 

 

Eight chickens have taken up residence in a coop that’s been built on the Mansion lawn.  The chickens are providing fertilizer for the gardens there… and in turn are producing eggs that become part of the menu for guests who stay overnight there. 

 

The chickens and coop were donated as part of an effort to promote food sustainability.

Illinois State Police Investigation on Springfield Police File Shredding Complete


A state police report on the destruction of Springfield police internal affairs files last year is now in the hands of special prosecutors.

 

The State Journal-Register reports a number of files were handed over to the state’s attorneys appellate prosecutor’s office late last month.

 

That office is reviewing the information, but won’t comment on whether it may pursue criminal charges against anyone involved in that file destruction.

 

Mayor Mike Houston has said in the past that he is also waiting for that report before determining if any disciplinary action is required against city employees who played a role in the scandal.

More Reports of Shootings, Springfield Police Continue Investigating


There have been two more shootings since Wednesday night that may… or may not… be connected to the string of gunfire incidents around Springfield since March.

 

In one incident, police responded to a report of shots fired near a home on South 12th Street. No one was hit or hurt there, but in a second incident a few hours later, a man was wounded in the leg.

 

Police Lieutenant Dan Mounce says the department is still investigating possible ties to more than two dozen other shootings in the last two months.

 

There have been a couple of arrests on weapons charges in recent days… but it’s unclear whether they are connected to some or all of those recent incidents.

CeaseFire in Springfield Works to Stop Rash of Street Violence


A group that is trying to put a stop to the rash of violence on Springfield streets admits it isn’t easy to get young people to listen.

 

CeaseFire began operating through the Springfield Urban League in early March… right around the time that police say rival groups of individuals began targeting each other in a series of retaliatory shootings.

 

Andre Neal with CeaseFire says his group tries to get involved and mediate disputes before they get out of hand… and to encourage people to pursue non-violent ways of settling their conflicts. He’s urging the community to help reinforce that message.

School Funding Plan Receives Support From Some School Superintendents


Springfield District 186 is supporting state Senator Andy Manar’s proposal to revamp Illinois’s school funding formula.

 

The district stands to get $2.5 million more in state funding next year if Manar’s plan is adopted… money that it says it would use to rehire laid-off teachers and enhance technology for students.

 

Other Central Illinois superintendents are also endorsing the plan, which allocates most state education dollars on the basis of need.

 

Pana superintendent David Lett says his district would also “win” under Manar’s plan… but after years of state funding cuts, “winning” only means “breaking even.”

Two More Springfield Shootings May Be Linked To Recent Rash Of Violence


Two more shootings in Springfield… and authorities are operating under the assumption that both are connected to nearly 30 incidents of gunplay among rival groups of individuals since March. 

 

City officials say one incident Wednesday night involved shots fired… and perhaps shots returned… but no one was hurt.  However, one person was shot in the leg in an incident on Ladley Court, off of Normandy Road, Thursday morning. 

 

There are still no arrests yet in the string of shootings, which now totals 29 in just over the past two months.

CeaseFire Seeks Community Help To Promote Anti-Violence Message


A group that is trying to slow or stop the violence on Springfield streets is asking the community to help steer at-risk youth to them. 

 

CeaseFire responds to reports or threats of violence… trying to mediate disputes and encouraging people to look for ways other than fights or gunfire to resolve their differences.  But appearing live on the 970 WMAY News Feed, Lead Outreach Coordinator Andre Neal acknowledged that it can be difficult to get some teens and young adults to listen to them. 

 

Neal hopes family members and friends will refer youth to CeaseFire before they get into serious trouble.  You can contact the CeaseFire office on Brandon Court at 572-6768.

District 186 Endorses Manar Funding Plan; Springfield Would Gain $2.5 Million


Springfield public schools are coming out in support of State Senator Andy Manar’s school funding revamp. 

 

District 186 could gain $2.5 million next year under Manar’s proposed formula.  The district says with that money, it could restore teaching positions and boost student use of technology. 

 

Superintendent Jennifer Gill says even though some districts lose money under the plan, she sees Manar’s approach as more fair and equitable than the current formula.

Manar Hopes Even Those Who Could Lose Funds Will Support School Finance Overhaul


Even though dozens of Illinois school districts would lose state funding under his plan, State Senator Andy Manar believes lawmakers will still support his school funding revamp… because they know the status quo isn’t working. 

 

Manar says changing the funding formula… so that almost all state dollars are allocated on the basis of need… is just the first step.  He says there also needs to be more overall money devoted to education, in order to lessen the impact of the proposed formula overhaul. 

 

But Manar says even if his bill doesn’t pass this year, it’s not a failure… because it has people thinking about the school funding formula for the first time in years.

Mixed Bag for Local School Districts in Proposed Funding Reform


Springfield District 186 would get $2.5 million more and Riverton schools would get an extra million… but Ball-Chatham and Rochester would see their funding cut.

 

That’s some of the breakdown from the State Board of Education on the impact of State Senator Andy Manar’s proposal to revamp school funding in the state.

 

By allocating most state funding on the basis of need, districts with higher rates of poverty would see more state funds coming in, while more affluent districts would lose ground.

 

Manar says the numbers show the stark imbalance in how districts around the state are currently funded.

McCann: Revenue Windfall Should Pay Employee Back Pay


A local lawmaker says the state should take advantage of an unexpected revenue windfall last month to pay some of its overdue bills… including a debt owed to hundreds of state workers.

 

Republican Senator Sam McCann says $112 million of that billion-dollar spike in revenues should be used to provide back pay to those employees, whose contractually-obligated pay raises were held up when the legislature failed to appropriate money for them.

 

McCann says after those workers get the money they’re owed, the rest of the windfall should be used for other overdue bills… not for new spending.

Gov. Quinn, Gov. Candidate Rauner Speak to Manufacturers and Retailers


Governor Pat Quinn and Republican opponent Bruce Rauner have very different views of the business climate in Illinois.

 

Both viewpoints were on display as the candidates appeared separately before a joint meeting of manufacturers and retailers in Springfield.

 

Quinn says he has worked to make the state more business-friendly… and touted recent initiatives to lower business fees and provide tax breaks to some small businesses.

 

But the more enthusiastic reception was given to Rauner, who told the business group that they were being taken for granted… and used as nothing more than a piggy bank for the politicians.

Parsons Ordered to Pay $12 Million in Wages to Former Employees


The head of a defunct Springfield company has been ordered to pay more than $12 million in back overtime wages to his former employees.

 

The State Journal-Register reports a federal bankruptcy judge handed down that ruling against Jeff Parsons for his practices as the founder of THR and Associates.

 

Parsons is now reportedly in Texas, and the judge found that he is hiding personal assets in order to keep them away from his creditors.

 

A lawyer for former THR employees says they will aggressively go after Parsons to force him to pay up.

Veteran Springfield Cop Retires Days After Promotion


A top Springfield cop says there’s nothing the department can do to prevent what happened this week.

 

A 26-year veteran of the force submitted his retirement papers Tuesday… just days after being promoted to lieutenant and getting a small pay raise. Some aldermen questioned the timing of the retirement and its impact on the city’s strained police pension fund.

 

Deputy Chief Dennis Arnold says Brian Cummins only got a small pay hike with the promotion that took effect last Friday… and says there is nothing in department rules or city ordinance to prevent him from doing what he did.

Springfield Cop Retires, Just Days After Promotion


A veteran Springfield cop has decided to retire…just days after being promoted to the rank of lieutenant. 

 

Brian Cummins has been on the force for 26 years… and was promoted from sergeant to lieutenant just last Friday.  But on Tuesday, police department officials confirmed that Cummins has submitted his retirement papers. 

 

Deputy Chief Dennis Arnold says the department did not know of Cummins’ plans before he was promoted… but also says that under existing rules, that couldn’t have been used him to deny the promotion in any event.  Arnold says Cummins will only get a small pay raise and pension boost from the promotion.

Jerome Village President Hopes To Snag Gaming Parlors Rejected By Springfield


If the city of Springfield doesn’t want any more storefront video gaming parlors, other nearby communities may be more than happy to take them. 

 

Jerome village president Michael Lopez says demand for those gaming parlors presents an opportunity for much more revenue for his landlocked village… although it would require a vote by the village board to increase the number of liquor licenses allowed in that community. 

 

And appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Bishop On Air,” Lopez says he expects many other small communities… from Grandview to Southern View… will also be looking for ways to capitalize on the new limits on gaming imposed by the Springfield City Council.

Springfield Aldermen Vote to Limit Video Gambling to Certain Businesses


Storefront video gaming parlors won’t keep popping up around Springfield.

 

The City Council has approved new restrictions that would only allow gaming licenses for businesses that make most of their money from food or beverage sales.

 

Alderman Cory Jobe says the new rules will protect the gaming revenues of local bars and restaurants that have made an investment in the community.

 

The new rules won’t take effect until May 31st, allowing time for two planned storefront parlors to complete the licensing process they had already started.

 

Meanwhile, aldermen have postponed a vote on a new ward map for Springfield. They want more time to review possible changes to that map.

School District Will Vote on One Day A Week Late Start or Early Dismissal


It’s nearly certain that students in District 186 will either start school one hour late… or get out an hour early… one day per week, next school year.

 

At a forum Tuesday night to get community input, district officials confirmed that one of those two options will likely be adopted later this month.

 

Public opinion seems to be tilting in favor of the early dismissal, which many parents said would be less disruptive for their families.

 

That hour per week would be used by teachers for training and professional development, replacing some of the full in-service days on the current school year calendar.

Woman Dead After Interstate Accident


A Springfield woman is dead after a crash on Interstate 55 Tuesday afternoon.

 

59-year-old Sharon Kosmider was pronounced dead in the emergency room of Memorial Medical Center, several hours after her car ran off the road as she was traveling northbound on the interstate near the Stevenson Drive exit.

 

An autopsy will be conducted today to determine the exact cause of her death.

School District to Evaluate Policies After Surprise Lockdown Drill


District 186 officials say they will review their policies for lockdown drills after one such exercise alarmed students and parents at Springfield High School Tuesday.

 

The school was put on a hard lockdown, and students at one point were ordered to get down on the floor. They weren’t told it was a drill, and some students texted parents about the alarming situation.

 

Superintendent Jennifer Gill says she and other district officials heard complaints after the drill was over. She says district administrators and principals will discuss the pros and cons of those surprise drills.

Park District Keeps Cop on Job Despite Harassment and Defacing Property


The head of the Springfield Park District says park police will be striving to live up to higher standards in the future.

 

Derek Harms is responding to a story you heard first on 970 WMAY.

 

Documents (here and here) obtained by WMAY News show a park district cop was disciplined after several incidents of harassing subordinates, including one in which vulgar images were etched onto park district property.

 

But instead of facing criminal charges for that damage, then-Sergeant Brian Crolly was suspended for five days without pay, and remained on the force.

 

Crolly is no longer a sergeant, but Harms says that was because of a reorganization in the police force, not because of Crolly’s actions.

Springfield High Lockdown Was Just A Drill


What appeared to be a real… and dangerous… situation at Springfield High School turns out to have been nothing more than a drill. 

 

The school was placed on a hard lockdown Tuesday afternoon… prompting some alarmed students to text their parents.  Some students had been told to get on the floor… but were not notified that it was just a drill. 

 

A person answering the phone at Springfield High says no students were ever in actual danger.

Park District Cop Keeps Job, Despite Incidents Of Vandalism, Harassment


In a story you’re hearing first on 970 WMAY, a Springfield Park District police officer still has his job… despite admitting that he defaced park property and harassed subordinates with sexually graphic pictures and graffiti. 

 

Documents obtained by 970 WMAY News show that Brian Crolly was a sergeant when the offenses took place.  He served a five-day suspension without pay but remained on the force.  Crolly’s rank was later changed to patrolman status, but Park District officials say that was because of a realignment of the department, not as punishment for his actions.

 

Park District director Derek Harms was not in charge when the incidents occurred… but says all the department can do now is insist on higher standards going forward.

 

Read more and see supporting documents here: http://wmay.com/hosts/greg-bishop/posts/98388

Zimmers: Local Tax Hike Talk On Hold For Now


The new president of the Springfield school board thinks any talk of a local tax hike to support public education is on hold for the foreseeable future. 

 

Mike Zimmers says there is still a need for more revenue… to keep the district from bouncing from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis, as it has done in recent years. 

 

But appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” he said it doesn’t make sense to raise the issue now, until the district has done more to regain the trust of skeptical voters.

Jobe Says Bel-Aire Should Be Shut Down For Good


Springfield’s notorious Bel-Aire Motel has been slapped with hundreds more building code violations… but one alderman says those enforcement actions don’t go far enough. 

 

Alderman Cory Jobe says Mayor Mike Houston should move to shut down the Bel-Aire for good.  The residential motel has been cited for violations ranging from mold to a lack of working smoke detectors. 

 

Jobe says the facility is an eyesore and blight on the community and a hazard to the residents.  And he says the absentee owner is laughing and thumbing his nose at the city.

Hill Kept On Temporarily to Help Transition at Dist. 186


Jennifer Gill is on the job as Springfield’s new school superintendent… but the most recent interim superintendent will hang around for a few more weeks, too.

 

Monday night, the Springfield school board approved rehiring Bob Hill to serve for two more months as “special assistant to the superintendent.”

 

In addition to assisting Gill with the transition, Hill will review and rewrite school board policies to ensure they conform with state law.

 

He’ll be paid $650 a day… the same rate he earned as interim superintendent.

 

He’s expected to work fewer than 30 days in the new position, earning around $19,000.

Zimmers Becomes Dist. 186 School Board President


Mike Zimmers has been chosen to be the new president of the Springfield school board.

 

The former teacher and administrator was selected by his fellow board members Monday night on a vote of 6-to-1.

 

Board member Judy Johnson voted “no,” even though Zimmers was the only person nominated for the position. She was unhappy that it appeared that other board member had already decided on Zimmers, but that Zimmers had not reached out to her.

 

Zimmers says he did not seek out or campaign for the job. He vows to be honest and outspoken in his new position.

 

Chuck Flamini… who did not want another one-year term as board president…was elected vice-president.

Dist. 186 Budget Available for Public Review


A proposed new budget for District 186 is now on file for public review… ahead of a vote next month.

 

The budget has a surplus of more than $2 million in the education fund… bolstered in part by transfers from the district’s operations and transportation funds.

 

But that surplus does not take into account possible additional cuts in state funding… or the impact of any pay raises that might be included in a new contract with Springfield teachers.

 

Those contract talks are continuing.

McCann Open to Keeping Income Tax Increase to Fund Schools


A local Republican lawmaker says he might be willing to vote to extend the temporary state income tax increase… because he says Democrats have left the legislature with few other options.

 

State Senator Sam McCann says Democratic budgets the past four years have not prepared the state for the end of the tax hike… and as a result, taking that revenue away now could cause serious problems.

 

McCann says he will be open-minded about the tax hike vote… but will insist on guarantees that the money will go to the most urgent needs, like fully funding education.

15 Confirmed Mumps Cases in Sangamon County


There are now 15 confirmed cases of mumps in Sangamon County. And at least four of the people who have gotten sick have proof that they had the mumps vaccination.

 

County public health director Jim Stone says the outbreak remains a mystery, particularly how the illness is affecting people who should have immunity from the vaccine or a past bout of the mumps.

 

But Stone says up-to-date vaccinations are still the best defense against contagious diseases like mumps… and good hygiene practices are also essential.

Tractor Driver Ticketed for DUI After Colliding With Car in Menard County


A man driving a tractor has been ticketed for DUI after his rig collided with a car on Route 97, sending a Petersburg couple to the hospital.

 

State police say 53-year-old Eric Golden of Tallula was towing a field planter southbound on 97 in Menard County when he crossed the center line, striking a northbound vehicle driven by 64-year-old Gregory Johnston. Johnston and his wife Linda were taken to Memorial Medical Center for treatment.

Nolls Honored for Lincoln Depot Preservation


A Springfield attorney and his wife have been named the city’s preservationists of the year.

 

Jon Gray Noll and Pinky Noll were honored by the Springfield Historic Sites Commission for their efforts to maintain and preserve the historic train depot at 10th and Monroe… commonly known as the Lincoln Depot, since it’s where Abraham Lincoln delivered his farewell speech to Springfield before being sworn in as President.

Zimmers Elected Springfield School Board President


Mike Zimmers has been elected to serve as president of the Springfield school board for the coming year.

 

Zimmers was the only board members nominated for the position, yet the vote on his selection was not unanimous.  Board member Judy Johnson voted against Zimmers, after earlier complaining that he had apparently been chosen for the job by other board members without anyone consulting her.  Zimmers said he did not "politick" for the job, and said he would be an outspoken advocate for the district in his new post.

 

Chuck Flamini... who opted not to seek another term as board president... was chosen to serve as vice-president for the coming year.  Johnson nominated Scott McFarland for that post, but the nomination died for lack of a second.

McCann Won't Rule Out Vote To Extend Temporary Tax Hike Under Certain Conditions


He’s not happy about it, but a local Republican lawmaker says there may not be much choice but to extend the state’s temporary income tax increase. 

 

Senator Sam McCann says Democrats have painted themselves into a corner, crafting budgets over the past four years that depend on that additional revenue, rather than looking for ways to wean the state budget off of the tax hike. 

 

McCann says he will keep an open mind about voting to extend the increase, which is set to expire at the end of the year… but only if the money is allocated for the state’s most urgent needs, like fully funding education.

Three More Mumps Cases Reported In Sangamon County


Three more mumps cases have been diagnosed in Sangamon County… bringing the total so far this year to 15.  That’s five times as many cases locally as was reported in the last three years combined. 

 

Public health director Jim Stone says one of the three newly-diagnosed cases involves a person under the age of 18… but all of the other cases are in adults between the ages of 25 and 53. 

 

And most of those who got sick did not know whether or not they had been vaccinated… but at least four of the 15 cases are in people who could show proof that they had at least one mumps vaccination in their lifetime.  Stone says vaccination is still the best defense against the disease.

School Board To Vote On Retaining Hill For Two Months To Ease Transition To New Superintendent


Jennifer Gill will preside over her first Springfield school board meeting as the new Superintendent of District 186 tonight.  But on the agenda is a proposal to keep the most recent interim superintendent on the payroll for a few more weeks. 

 

The board will vote on a proposal to retain Bob Hill’s services through the end of June. Hill would serve as a special assistant to the superintendent, to help with the transition, and also to work on updates to board policy and administrative rules and regulations. 

 

He would be paid $650 per day… the same rate he was making while serving as interim superintendent from January through April.

Callis Camp Calls GOP Claim Of Plagiarism A ''Lie''


Illinois Republicans are accusing Democratic congressional candidate Ann Callis of plagiarizing portions of her campaign website.  But Callis’s campaign calls that claim a “lie.”

 

A press release from the GOP says two of the sections on Callis’s “Issues” page appear to have been lifted nearly verbatim from the website of another Democratic candidate, Staci Appel of Iowa.  Portions of two other sections also have strong similarities to corresponding sections on Appel’s website. 

 

But the Callis campaign says its website was up before Appel’s.

Man Suffers Smoke Inhalation Attempting To Get Antique Car Out Of Burning Garage


Riverton authorities say a man suffered smoke inhalation when he tried to rescue one of his family’s antique cars from a burning garage early Monday. 

 

The fire that broke out in the attached garage of that home on Brickler Road appears to be electrical in nature, according to Riverton Fire Chief Louie Rogers. 

 

He says everyone in the home got out safely, but one man went inside trying to retrieve one of the cars, and took in a lot of smoke.  The man was taken to the hospital, but there was no immediate word on his condition.  Two antique cars were reportedly damaged in the fire.

Fire Crews Respond to Early Morning Garage Fire


One subject is being transported to the hospital from smoke inhalation after a fire at an attached garage was extinguished by fire fighters.

 

Fire crews from Riverton, Sherman, and Dawson responded to the fire early Monday morning at the 3500 block of Brickler Road, which is between Riverton and Spaulding.

 

No further details were immediately available.

No Arrests in More Than 20 Connected Shootings


Bullets are still flying around Springfield, even after city leaders and top law enforcement officials delivered a stern warning to the shooters on Friday.

 

Shots were fired at a house on South 25th Saturday night, with one bullet going through a window and lodging in a wall.

 

Police think more than 20 shooting incidents in the past two months are linked to rival “groups” of people retaliating against each other.

 

But so far no one has been charged in connection with those shootings.

Springfield's Only Indoor Public Pool to Stay Open This Summer


Eisenhower Pool will stay open this summer.

 

The city’s only indoor public pool was closed down last summer in a cost-cutting move when the park district’s other, outdoor pools opened for the summer.

 

But the State Journal-Register reports that closing the pool did not save as much money as district officials had anticipated.

 

Critics said shutting down Eisenhower made it tougher for some families to make use of park district pools… since the two outdoor pools are both located on the north end of Springfield.

Illinois Contingent in DC Split on Minimum Wage, Benghazi Investigation


Even when they come together to celebrate joint successes, political divisions are never far from the surface for local members of Illinois’s congressional delegation.

 

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin and Republican congressmen Aaron Schock and Rodney Davis had kind words for each other at an event Friday at the newly-renovated 183rd Fighter Wing in Springfield.

 

But afterwards, the politicians had sharp disagreements on current Capitol Hill issues.

 

Durbin says Senate Democrats will keep pushing for a vote on a minimum wage increase… while Schock says such a move would kill job creation.

 

And Davis praises the creation of a new select committee to look into the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya… but Durbin says that committee is just a political stunt.

FOIA Requests Up Across Many Illinois Cities


Many Illinois cities say they’re seeing a sharp increase in the number of requests for records under the Freedom of Information Act… driving up costs and taking staff away from other responsibilities.

 

And many of those requests are coming not from the media, but from regular citizens looking for information about various aspects of government.

 

Attorney Don Craven, who specializes in FOIA cases, says the increase may be the result of greater awareness and interest from citizens.

 

But he says in some cases, cities are now requiring a formal FOIA request for information that they used to just hand out without one… driving up the numbers.

Multi-Agency Response Seeks To Stop Rash Of Shootings Across Springfield


Law enforcement agencies from Springfield police to the FBI are working together in hopes of stopping a string of more than 20 retaliatory shootings among two “groups” of people around town. 

 

Mayor Mike Houston says the team of city, county, state and federal agencies has a plan in place to end the violence… but declines to elaborate on what strategies it is using. 

 

Investigators are still asking for the public’s help with compiling enough evidence to make arrests in that rash of shootings.

Quinn On TV Blitz In Response To Investigations Of Anti-Violence Program


Governor Pat Quinn is on a PR blitz… trying to defend his handling of a controversial anti-violence program that is now the subject of multiple investigations. 

 

Quinn appeared on five Chicago TV stations Friday, insisting that he responded quickly to the first signs of trouble in the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.  An audit found that millions of dollars may have been misspent.

Contractor Pleads Guilty To Fraud On Capitol Renovation Project


The former head of a Peoria-area construction company has pleaded guilty to using a minority-owned business as a front… so that he could land a contract for work on the State Capitol renovation project. 

 

Attorney General Lisa Madigan says Steven Roeschley told the state that he would hire that minority business to do part of the work, in order to comply with the contract specs.  But Madigan says he never did so. 

 

Roeschley was ordered to pay $800,000 restitution and serve 30 months probation.

Ribbon Cut On $24 Million Renovation At 183rd Fighter Wing


The ribbon has been cut on a $24 million renovation project at Springfield’s 183rd Fighter Wing. 

 

Improvements at the Air National Guard base include a complete overhaul of the unit’s communications facilities.  U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says the project is a testament to the importance of the Fighter Wing’s current mission… and holds the hope of potential future growth and expansion of the 183rd.

Community Forums Set To Discuss District 186 School Calendar


Springfield school officials will hold two community forums to discuss possible changes to the school calendar… including a proposed weekly late start or early dismissal to allow time for teacher training.

 

One forum will be Tuesday evening at 6:15 at Ridgely School on North 8th. The other is Thursday afternoon at 12:15 at the school board offices on West Monroe.

String Of Related Shootings Numbers At Least 20; Houston Delivers Warning To Those Involved


As many as 20 shooting incidents in Springfield over the past two months may be related to the same “groups” of individuals, according to city police.  And multiple agencies -- city, county, state and federal -- are now involved in the effort to stop the escalating violence. 

 

Mayor Mike Houston has a pointed warning for those involved in the string of shootings and retaliations.  He says those responsible will be caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent… including juveniles, and anyone who provides any assistance or help to the shooters. 

 

But so far, police have still been unable to make any arrests, and are still asking for the community’s help to bring the shooters to justice.

Federal Prosecutors Investigating Quinn's Anti-Violence Programs


Federal prosecutors in Springfield are the latest to open an investigation into whether state grant money intended for anti-violence programs was misspent, according to a published report.

 

The federal probe follows similar moves by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to look into the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, a $55 million program started by Governor Pat Quinn shortly before the 2010 election.

 

Money from the program was supposed to be used for job-training programs and other efforts to reduce street violence in Chicago.

 

But critics say the money was spent frivolously… and contend it was simply an attempt by Quinn to buy votes before the election. The governor’s office says it will cooperate with any investigations.

Despite Signatures, Group for Independent Maps Faces Challenge


A group that wants to change the way legislative district maps are drawn in the state says it has nearly twice as many signatures as needed to put its proposal on the November ballot.

 

But the group “Yes for Independent Maps” is still facing a legal challenge.

 

An ally of House Speaker Mike Madigan has filed suit, claiming the group’s remap reform proposal goes too far with its proposal to set up an independent commission to draw legislative maps… including rules that would prohibit commission members from running for office for ten years after serving.

 

But the group says it’s confident its proposal is constitutional and will go before voters in the fall.

Gill Spends First Day as Dist. 186 Superintendent Touring Schools


Jennifer Gill already has a full plate… after just one day on the job as Springfield’s new school superintendent.

 

Gill started the job Thursday… nearly five months after she was originally chosen as the permanent replacement for Walter Milton, who left District 186 more than a year ago.

 

She is meeting with students, teachers and administrators… and says she is also working with the school board on contingency plans in case state funding is cut even further in the budget talks happening now at the Capitol.

Unlikely Springfield Beach Opens This Summer


It’ll be another hot dry summer for beach lovers in Springfield. Mayor Mike Houston sees virtually no chance that the Lake Springfield Beach will reopen this year… despite sporadic interest from some aldermen.

 

The beach has been closed since 2008 because of budgetary reasons… after years of operating at a loss.

 

The city is still paying to maintain the beach house… even though it’s only occasionally rented out for parties and receptions.

 

Houston says the city has talked with vendors about perhaps turning the beach house into a restaurant, but little progress has been made.

Bill Cosby Books Gig in Springfield October 5th


Legendary comedian Bill Cosby will perform in Springfield this fall. Cosby has been booked to play Sangamon Auditorium on Sunday, October 5th.

 

Cosby became famous as a stand-up comedian, and with groundbreaking TV roles on “I Spy” and his own 1980s sitcom, “The Cosby Show.”

 

Tickets go on sale next Friday, May 9th. Prices range from $39.50 to $69.50.

Report: U.S. Attorney In Springfield Also Probing Quinn's Anti-Violence Program


Federal prosecutors in Springfield are now reportedly looking into how millions of dollars in state grant money was spent. 

 

The Chicago Sun-Times reports the U.S. Attorney’s Office has sought records from the state in an effort to determine how that money… which was intended for anti-crime and violence programs… was actually spent and by whom. 

 

Governor Pat Quinn’s office says it is cooperating fully with all investigations.

Rauner Sets Up Hotline, Urges State Workers To Become Whistleblowers Against Quinn


GOP governor candidate Bruce Rauner is enlisting state workers to help fight perceived corruption by other state workers in Governor Pat Quinn’s administration. 

 

Rauner’s campaign has set up a hotline to encourage people to report allegations of wrongdoing within state government… and campaign volunteers passed out information about the hotline to state employees at the Thompson Center in Chicago Thursday. 

 

The campaign says it will accept anonymous tips and will protect the identity of whistleblowers.  The number is 855-PAT-TIPS.

Houston: ''We Do Have A Plan In Place'' To Deal With Street Violence


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says people are not coming forward with information on a string of recent shootings because they fear retaliation from the shooters… not because they mistrust police. 

 

But Houston says it’s important for anyone with information about the crimes to come forward, before an innocent bystander gets hurt. 

 

Appearing live on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show," the mayor said the city is working with county and federal law enforcement and prosecutors on strategies to reduce or end Springfield’s street violence.

Houston: Everything Is On Table To Deal With Police, Fire Pensions


Everything is on the table as mayors around the state and Illinois lawmakers discuss possible solutions to a growing police and fire pension crisis. 

 

That’s according to Mayor Mike Houston… who declines to comment on what specific actions he favors to reduce Springfield’s $230 million unfunded liability -- including proposals to shrink or freeze cost-of-living adjustments for retired firefighters and cops. 

 

But Houston warns that while every idea might be discussed… not every idea is necessarily constitutional, which could limit the city’s and state’s options.

Gill Takes Over As Springfield School Superintendent


It’s a busy first day on the job for new Springfield school superintendent Jennifer Gill. 

 

Although she was hired months ago, Gill had to finish up responsibilities at her job in McLean County before officially taking over in District 186.  Much of her first day was spent on school visits, talking with students, teachers and administrators. 

 

She also plans more community outreach in the days ahead… while also continuing to work with her staff and the school board to determine options if the district faces even more cutbacks in state funding.

Remap Reform Group Submits 532,000 Signatures; Challenge Pending


A group that hopes to change the way legislative district maps are drawn in lllinois has submitted more than half-a-million signatures to put the measure on the November ballot.  But the group was facing a legal challenge even before the ink was dry on its petitions. 

 

A lawyer linked to House Speaker Mike Madigan is suing… saying the proposal goes beyond what the state constitution allows for ballot initiatives.  But the group “Yes for Independent Maps” insists its proposal is legal… and necessary to stop remapping from being used as a way to help politicians at the expense of the public.

Gov. Quinn Scrutinized for IDOT Hiring, Anti-Crime Grant Funds


Governor Pat Quinn says he has been taking steps to address scandals swirling around his administration… and says voters will trust him to do the right thing.

 

Quinn is on the defensive after Cook County prosecutors began asking for records related to misspent grant money from an anti-crime program… and his own inspector general launched an investigation into allegations of improper political hiring at the State Department of Transportation.

 

Quinn’s Republican opponent Bruce Rauner says Quinn, quote, “has engaged in significant corruption,” and Rauner compared Quinn to his one-time running mate… imprisoned former governor Rod Blagojevich.

Rauner Files Petitions for Term Limits Referendum


A group chaired by GOP governor candidate Bruce Rauner has submitted more than 590,000 signatures in a bid to put legislative term limits before voters this November.

 

Rauner says term limits are needed because right now, the power of incumbency and the effects of political corruption combine to deny voters true choices at the ballot box.

 

If the measure survives legal challenges and is adopted by voters, an eight-year term limit would take effect at that time… meaning no lawmaker would be forced out by term limits until the year 2023.

Attorney Files Suit Against Term Limit and Redistricting Referendum Proposals


A challenge has already been filed seeking to keep a legislative term limits proposal and redistricting reform off the ballot this November.

 

An attorney with ties to Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan has filed the suit, alleging that both measures are not allowed under the state constitution. Madigan opposes both of those proposals.

 

An earlier term limits proposal was struck down by the state Supreme Court in the 1990s.

 

The new proposal has been revised in hopes of surviving a legal challenge, but the lawsuit contends it’s still unconstitutional. Supporters of the remap reform effort plan to submit their petition signatures today.

Downstate Mayors Urge Legislature to Address Public Safety Pensions


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston is joining with other Downstate mayors to demand action from the Illinois General Assembly on the growing police and fire pension crisis affecting cities across the state.

 

Houston says he and the other mayors respect the sacrifices made by cops and firefighters… but he says unless something is done to get pension costs under control, cities are facing big tax increases or sweeping cuts in services.

 

The mayors are not offering specific proposals on how to fix those pensions… but say one major area that must be addressed is the three-percent cost-of-living adjustment, compounded annually, that police and firefighters currently receive.

House Committee Again Approves $100 Million for Obama Museum


A do-over has led to the same result.

 

An Illinois House committee has once again approved using up to $100 million in state capital construction funds in hopes of landing the Obama Presidential Library and Museum for Chicago.

 

The committee used a procedural move two weeks ago to approve that funding and list it as a unanimous vote in favor.

 

But Republicans on the committee… who weren’t present during that earlier meeting… objected, leading to Wednesday’s revote.

 

The measure passed again, along party lines.

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