Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 29, 2009

Illinois House Adjourns Friday with No Action on Budget, Ethics

The Illinois House has adjourned for the evening without voting on a proposed tax increase as Gov. Pat Quinn had requested.

Democrats say they simply lack the votes to pass a tax increase. In a private meeting, they considered several options but couldn't agree on anything.

The situation increases the possibility of lawmakers approving a budget that falls billions of dollars short of covering the state's expenses. That would require massive cuts in services to Illinois residents.

Quinn says an incomplete budget is not acceptable.

The House also took no action Friday on a bill to limit campaign contributions

The Illinois Senate passed the measure Thursday night, and lawmakers suggested it would have the necessary support in the House. The bill, which Gov. Pat Quinn also backs, could resurface on Saturday.

The reform bill limits individual contributions to $5,000 a year and $10,000 from a corporation or political organization. Illinois currently has no limits on campaign contributions.

Republicans have criticized the bill for having too many loopholes. The head of a reform commission Quinn appointed to clean up Illinois government has complained it doesn't go far enough.

Lawmakers are running out of time before the session ends on Sunday.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 29, 2009

UI President White to Meet with Admissions Office Over ‘Clout List

University of Illinois President Joseph White wants to meet with admissions officials to be sure no inappropriate pressure was placed on them to enroll students who otherwise may not have been.

Friday's Chicago Tribune makes reference to a 'clout list' of prospective students who it contends received special consideration over the last five years. The newspaper says one such student who was admitted after initially being rejected by the U of I is a relative of convicted political fundraiser Tony Rezko. White says no one should feel pressure to admit a student because someone with political clout takes an interest.

"I have made it clear from the time I'm president that I will never exert such pressure and I never have," says White. "And that admissions officers and other people in the University are not to succumb to such pressure - that admissions decisions are to be based on the merits." White says he will often forward information to admissions officers regarding a prospective student, but that doesn't mean he's urging that the person be enrolled to the U of I. The president does say that lists of inquiries about a hopeful student, some through the urging of politicians, aren't unusual at institutions like the U of I and University of Michigan, where he served as interim president. But White says the Tribune was wrong to call the U of I list 'secret.

Categories: Education, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 29, 2009

Illinois American Water Files with State Regulators for Rate Increase in Champaign District

Champaign-Urbana area customers of Illinois American Water would pay nearly 35 percent more for their water service, under a rate request that the company filed Friday with the Illinois Commerce Commission.

This is the second rate increase that Illinois American says is needed to help pay for the new water treatment plant the company built west of Champaign. But spokesperson Kathryn Foster says the increase would pay other improvements as well. She says the increase also includes revenue to pay for "enhancements to the Mattis Avenue water treatment plant, to enhance water quality and operations reliability. And we're also investing in replacing and relocating mains, hydrants and meters."

In all, Foster says the rate hike request reflects more than 37-million dollars spent on the water system in Illinois American's Champaign District. An average residential customer's water bill would go up about 10 dollars, to 41-dollars-67 cents a month. The new rate schedule would also mark a switch from bi-monthly to monthly billing.

Whatever rate increase the ICC approves for Illinois American Water would take effect in the spring of next year. Foster says the next step is the state's comprehensive review process, which will include public hearings and opportunities for public comment.

Categories: Environment

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - May 29, 2009

The Movies and Science

Researchers have found an opportunity for public education in a Hollywood blockbuster. "The DaVinci Code" offered a rich backdrop of religious history in laying out its plot. And in its sequel "Angels and Demons," author Dan Brown injects physics - the Vatican is threatened by a bomb planted by the shadowy organization the Illuminati. Its explosive charge is based on antimatter stolen from CERN, the Swiss particle physics laboratory that produces antimatter in its Large Hadron Collider. Physicists want to step in with some caveats. University of Illinois professor Kevin Pitts says CERN, the collider and antimatter are very real, but he tells AM 580's Tom Rogers that antimatter's potential is just starting to be realized.

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 29, 2009

Righter Says Bill to Limit Campaign Contributions Has Too Many Loopholes

A bill to limit campaign contributions passed the Illinois House nearly unanimously in March. But Republicans opposed the bill on a near party-line vote when an amended version passed the Illinois Senate Thursday night.

State Senator Dale Righter of Mattoon voted against the bill in the Executive Committee and on the Senate floor. He says the amendment from Oak Park Democrat Don Harmon would add loopholes that set relatively high limits for transfers between political committees --- and no limits on in-kind contributions, like when one politician pays for TV time or campaign mailings for another. He says that will just concentrate more political power in the hands of the legislative leaders.

"While you've capped everyone else's ability to be involved monetarily in the political system, you have left virtually uncapped the legislative leaders," says Righter, who says the bill would only increase leaders' power when it comes to providing or withholding campaign support.

As amended, the bill would cap campaign contributions at 5-thousand dollars a year from individuals, ten-thousand dollars a year from groups like corporations or unions, and 90-thousand dollars a year from political committees.

Besides Republicans, the reform groups also oppose the bill, including the state Reform Commission set up by Governor Pat Quinn. They want tighter limits on contributions, including caps on in-kind donations. But Quinn is supporting the bill, saying it's the best that can be done at this time.

The measure now goes back to the Illinois House.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 28, 2009

High Court Hears Arguments in Disputed Terre Haute Mayoral Election

The Indiana Supreme Court has heard arguments over who is the rightful mayor of Terre Haute in a legal fight that has gone on since shortly after the 2007 city election.

Attorneys for Mayor Duke Bennett and former Mayor Kevin Burke appeared before the justices Thursday, arguing over whether Bennett was eligible to run for office.

Bennett won the election by 107 votes out of some 12,000 cast, but the state appeals court last fall ruled that the results should be thrown out.

That court sided with Burke's contention that Bennett was barred from being a political candidate because he worked at a mental health agency that received federal funding.

Bennett's lawyers asked the Supreme Court to decide how broadly the federal Hatch Act should apply to Indiana candidates.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 28, 2009

Quinn, IL Lawmakers Continue Haggling Over a State Budget

Gov. Pat Quinn says he remains optimistic that Illinois lawmakers will raise income taxes to help balance the state budget.

The Democratic governor said Thursday that Illinois won't be able to pay its bills or provide vital services without the nearly $4 billion a tax increase would provide. Quinn says he's confident lawmakers will "live up to their responsibilities'' by passing a balanced budget.

State government faces a budget deficit of at least $11.6 billion. But legislators show little interest in raising taxes. They are talking about passing a budget that would only cover part of the state's annual expenses. That would postpone tough budget decisions until later in the year.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 28, 2009

Peoria to Build a Memorial to Singer Dan Fogelberg

The central Illinois community of Peoria has approved a memorial to singer Dan Fogelberg.

The songwriter _ whose hits "Leader of the Band'' and "Same Old Lang Syne'' helped define the soft-rock era _ was a Peoria native whose music career was nurtured in Champaign-Urbana as a University of Illinois student. He died in 2007 at his home in Maine after battling prostate cancer. He was 56.

The city council this week unanimously approved plans to place the memorial at Peoria's Riverfront Park. The man leading the push for the memorial, Hugh Higgins, says he's thrilled by the decision.

Higgins supports a memorial featuring a boulder etched with the lyrics of one of Fogelberg's songs. The project will be paid for by donations. Higgins estimates the cost at around $10,000.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 27, 2009

Vermilion County State’s Attorney says Police Shooting of Kaiyewu Justified

The Vermilion County state's attorney says officers from the Champaign and Vermilion County sheriffs' departments, and the University of Illinois police acted properly when they shot a 23 year old medical student to death near Oakwood --- ending a police chase that began in Douglas County.

State's Attorney Randy Brinegar says his conclusion comes after reviewing a more than 300-page state police report, and 30 audio and video recordings about the shooting of "Toto" Kaiyewu of Texas on April 6th.

Brinegar says there's "limited" squad car video that shows Kaiyewu brandishing a machete as he approaches police, after police stop-sticks forced him to stop his car on I-74 near the Oakwood exit. And he says "independent witness statements" confirm threatening behavior in his initial encounter with a police officer in the Douglas County town of Villa Grove. Brinegar says the statements confirm "that the suspect did place his car in reverse and back up toward the Villa Grove police officer."

Brinegar had little to say about why Kaiyewu acted as he did. He says an autopsy and toxicology tests found only marijuana and caffeine in his system. He would not comment on Kaiyewu's mental state, and said he would not release his medical and psychological records without permission from his family.

The family of Toto Kaiyewu questioned last month whether he truly threatened officers. Brinegar says his heart goes out of Kaiyewu's family and friends, and calls his death "every parent's nightmare".

Categories: Criminal Justice
Tags: crime

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 27, 2009

Burris Tours Central Illinois Still Adamant That He Did No Wrong

Senator Roland Burris is in the midst of a two-day tour through some central Illinois cities while still denying offering to pay for his appointment to the Senate.

On Wednesday Burris toured the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - he watched a brief presentation on supercomputers, toured a soybean research lab and met with U of I chancellor Richard Herman.

But the visit is being overshadowed by Burris' appearance in a wiretapped phone conversation released by a federal judge this week. In it, Burris is heard telling the brother of former governor Rod Blagojevich that he'd "personally do something" for Blagojevich's campaign fund if he were appointed to the Senate. Burris says he never gave any money and has been open about it.

"We said that we would look at this transcript and might have to supply some additional information. That's all that we did. There was no attempt to do any wheeling and dealing to not disclose," Burris told reporters. "That did not take place."

Burris said the Illinois House impeachment committee didn't ask about the conversation with Robert Blagojevich when Burris testified - and that's why he said he hadn't mentioned it. He says he's been transparent with that committee, US Senate investigators and others.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

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