As protesters flock Wisconsin's capitol in response to legislation to strip most public employees of bargaining rights, a group held its own rally on the University of Illinois campus.
About 125 people made up of university students and staff, and nearby residents stood in front of the Alma Mater statue chanting: "The workers united will never be defeated. The workers united will never be defeated. The workers united will never be defeated."
The Graduate Employees' Organization, a labor union representing 2,500 U of I teaching and graduate assistants, helped organize the event. Union member Stephanie Seawell said workers in Wisconsin and all across the country should be able to negotiate for better contracts, a right she criticizes Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for trying to take away.
"That fundamental right is being challenged in Wisconsin, and if it can be challenged in Wisconsin, it can be challenged here," Seawell said. "Workers should join together and say this is enough."
At the close of the rally, participants marched to the YMCA on campus to hold a 24-hour-a-day vigil, which Seawell said will last until Governor Walker backs down from his proposal to eliminate collective bargaining rights for most of Wisconsin's public employees.
The Indiana Senate has approved a contentious Arizona-style bill to crack down on illegal immigration.
The Republican-ruled Senate voted 31-18 Tuesday for the bill, which contains penalties for businesses that hire illegal immigrants and allows police officers to ask someone for proof of immigration status if they have a reasonable suspicion the person is in the country illegally.
Supporters say Indiana must act because the federal government has shirked its responsibility to deal with illegal immigration. Opponents say the bill will lead to racial profiling and hurt economic development.
Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels has declined to take a public stance on the proposal.
The bill was proposed by Republican Sen. Mike Delph of Carmel. He couldn't vote on his own bill because he's taking the bar exam Tuesday and Wednesday.
Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has been elected mayor of Chicago, to succeed the retiring Richard Daley.
With 86 percent of the precincts reporting, Emanuel was trouncing five opponents Tuesday with 55 percent of the vote to avoid an April runoff. Emanuel needed more than 50 percent of the vote to win.
The other major candidates _ former Chicago schools president Gery Chico, former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and City Clerk Miguel del Valle _ had hoped to force a runoff but were no match for Emanuel.
Chico had 24 percent of the vote compared to 9 percent for both del Valle and Braun. Two other lesser-known candidates each got about 1 percent of the vote.
Emanuel's win caps off a campaign that included an unsuccessful legal challenge to try to keep him off the ballot.
Champaign County authorities have renewed their call for the public to come forward with information on the 2009 murder of Holly Cassano. And they are revealing more information about the case that had previously been held back.
The 22-year-old Cassano was found stabbed to death at her home in the Candlewood Estates mobile home park in Mahomet, in November, 2009. But Sheriff's Lieutenant Ed Ogle said Cassano had also been sexually assaulted --- the information had been held back to help identify people who might make false confessions. Ogle said they believe the assault took place after the murder. He said that from the blood found at the crime scene, they believe the killer may have suffered cuts to his arms or hands during the attack.
"We want people to come forward with information about anyone who had cuts to their arms or hands during that period of time," Ogle said. "We're asking for people to think back to the night after Halloween, 2009, and recall any suspicious activity they may have noticed in their particular area --- that being in the Meijer's store or in the Candlewood area."
Holly Cassano worked as a cashier at the Meijer's store in Champaign, and Ogle said the killer may have known her from the store, or from Candlewood neighborhood on the northeast side of Mahomet.
Ogle said an FBI psychological profile indicates that the killer could be a young male, perhaps as young as a teen-ager, who had targeted Cassano before the attack. But he said they have no specific suspects at this time, although DNA evidence from the crime scene has helped them eliminate more than 100 people as suspects. Ogle and Sheriff's investigator David Sherrick emphasize that no scrap of information is too small or trivial, if it is related to the case.
Champaign County CrimeStoppers is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of a suspect in the Cassano murder. But Holly Cassano's mother, Toni Cassano, has been raising additional reward money, through the sale of bumper stickers asking for information into the crime. It was Toni Cassano who discovered Holly Cassano's body, after she had been babysitting Holly's daughter, who was then 17 months old. Nearly 16 months after the murder, Toni says she has not yet told her granddaughter what happened to her mother.
"And when it gets to the point that I have to tell her," she said. "I'm hoping that we have the name of the person who did this, and he is being held responsible, because I want to be able to tell her that there is justice."
If you have information relating to the murder of Holly Cassano, you should contact the Champaign County Sheriff's Department Investigative Unit at 384-1213, or call anonymously to Champaign County CrimeStoppers at 217-373-TIPS.
(With additional reporting from WFYI Public Radio's Marianne Holland in Indianapolis)
Indiana House Democrats are leaving the state to avoid a vote on Republican-led legislation restricting the rights of unions.
The political battle is over a bill that prohibits union membership and fees from being a condition of employment, while also disallows payroll deductions for union dues. In the Indiana House, 67 members are needed to take action, but only 63 showed up after House Democrats walked out Monday. Only two returned Tuesday morning.
Without Democrats at the statehouse, Republicans don't have a quorum to conduct business. Republican Governor Mitch Daniels said he is waiting for the Democrats to come back to Indianapolis.
"I'm not going to divert a single trooper from their job of protecting the Indiana public," Daniels said. "I trust that people's consciences will bring them back to work. I choose to believe that our friends in the minority, having made their point, will come back and do their duty."
The House Democrats are now headed out of the state, to either Illinois or Kentucky. Both states have Democratic governors, a condition that prevents the lawmakers from being taken into police custody and returned to Indiana.
Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock will challenge longtime U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar in next year's Republican primary.
Mourdock announced his Senate bid during a Tuesday news conference in downtown Indianapolis with about 200 supporters.
He told the gathering he appreciates Lugar's decades of service to Indiana but said the six-term Republican has lost touch with the state's needs. Mourdock says he has the support of 67 of Indiana's 92 county Republican chairmen for his Senate run.
Mourdock has courted tea party groups that have been disgruntled with Lugar and say he hasn't been conservative enough.
He told the gathering that Lugar doesn't respect the tea party movement.
Mourdock is from the Evansville area and has been state treasurer since 2007.
Macon County Clerk Steve Bean says having solely write-in candidates for a Decatur city council race means counting the ballots could take longer than a typical primary.
But Bean also anticipates a low voter turnout for a non-mayoral election of 3-to 5-thousand voters. He noted the spelling of all six candidates' names are very different, making it easier for election judges to read the name in the single blank provided. Four of the six names will advance to the April 5th ballot.
The voter needs to indicate their choice for the council seat formerly held by Adam Brown, who was elected to the state legislature in November. Bean stated that it is an expensive election.
"The State Board (of Elections) would not allow us to cut any corners," he said. "We had to set up all the machinery, which is an expensive deal. We had to print regular ballots, hiring election judges, the cost of publishing in the newspaper, the cost of polling places and everything - it's about $100,000, which all the taxpayers in Macon County will pay."
One candidate, Reggie Anderson, is not eligible to serve in office due to a felony conviction. But Bean said Anderson, who has a felony robbery charge on his record, may challenge Decatur's municipal code if he is successful in April. Bean said if Brown had resigned earlier, that would have forced candidates to fill out nominating petitions, and someone could have filed an objection.
"But since Mr. Brown waited so late (to resign from the City Council), there's no way to legitimately remove a write-in candidate," Bean said. "Nobody has ever wanted to challenge the city's municipal code."
Also running are Jamie Duies, Robert Lewis, Pat McDaniel, Ed Bland Junior, and James Thomas Taylor.
Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten expects as few as 100 voters to turn out Tuesday for a city council race in which the challenger has suspended his campaign.
He said Urbana's Ward 2 race between council member Eric Jakobsson and Brian Dolinar is costing the county about $7,000. Dolinar quit campaigning more than a week ago after a meeting with his opponent. He said Jakobsson will make a good council member, and was happy to see he was knocking on doors to garner support. Hulten admits he would like to see more of a contested race.
"I think given that the county's spending the money to administer the election, I would think that would be the least that they could do," Hulten said. "But on the other hand, it's our job and our responsibility at the county clerk's office to run the election. And so we're going to do it as cost efficiently and effectively as possible. And for the 100 or 200 or 300 voters that we have tomorrow, we're going to make sure that they get first class service."
Hulten said much of the cost for this election is the result of state mandates. They have required his office to remain open the last three weekends for early and absentee voting, while his staff receives overtime pay. Hulten said just five voters have turned out in the last 3 and a half weeks, and none of them came in on the weekend.
"A significant piece of the cost would be reduced if the state would simply allow us to manage the election process as we can to anticipate demand instead of forcing us to have a one size, fit-all early voting and absentee voting program," Hulten said.
No resolution appeared imminent Monday to the stalemate over union rights in Wisconsin, leaving Senate Republicans resigned to forge ahead with less-controversial business such as tax breaks for dairy farmers and commending the Green Bay Packers on winning the Super Bowl.
As the standoff entered its second week, none of the major players offered any signs of backing down in a high-stakes game of political chicken that has riveted the nation and led to ongoing public protests that drew a high of 68,000 people on Saturday. Thousands more braved cold winds and temperatures in the 20s to march again on Monday, waving signs that said "Stop the attack on Wisconsin families" and "solidarity."
The 14 Senate Democrats who skipped town Thursday to indefinitely delay a vote on Republican Gov. Scott Walker's bill stripping most collective bargaining rights from nearly all public employees remained missing in action for a fifth day.
"You have shut down the people's government, and that is not acceptable," Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said during a brief meeting Monday setting the agenda for Tuesday's Senate session.
Two of the missing Democrats participated by phone from an undisclosed location.
"You're not in negotiations. There is no negotiation," Fitzgerald said, cutting off one of the Democrats on the phone. "You need to get back to the floor of the Senate and offer any ideas you may have on final passage. That's where we're at. There is no negotiation."
Both the Senate and Assembly planned to be in session on Tuesday to take up the bill, but at least one of the missing Democrats needed to show up for a vote to be taken in the Senate. Assembly Democrats planned to offer dozens of amendments that could push a vote into Wednesday or later.
Although Tuesday's list of items, including the resolution honoring the Packers, is largely bipartisan, Fitzgerald hinted that he might try to push some more controversial ones later, even if the Democrats aren't back. Among the possibilities is a vote on the question of whether voters should be required to show identification at the polls.
The Democratic senators taking part in the scheduling meeting urged Republicans to accept the offer made by the unions under which they would accept paying more for benefits as Walker wants but still retain their collective bargaining rights.
Another compromise offered by Republican Sen. Dale Schultz would remove collective bargaining rights just for two years
"It's time for all of us to move forward," said Democratic Sen. Dave Hansen of Green Bay over the phone to the Republicans.
Walker has rejected both offers, saying local governments and school districts can't be hamstrung by the often lengthy collective bargaining process and need to have more flexibility to deal with up to $1 billion in cuts he will propose in his budget next week and into the future.
"It will never get to me because other than that one state senator, all the rest of the Republicans are firmly behind our proposal," Walker said in an MSNBC interview on Monday, calling it an unacceptable short-term fix.
The emergency plan he wants the Legislature to pass would address this year's $137 million shortfall and start dealing with the $3.6 billion hole expected by mid-2013. The benefits concessions would amount to $30 million this year, but the largest savings Walker proposed comes from refinancing debt to save $165 million.
That portion must be done by Friday for bonds to be refinanced in time to realize the savings by June 30, the end of this fiscal year.
Walker said not passing the bill by Friday would make even deeper cuts necessary and possibly result in laying off 1,500 workers over the next four months.
Thousands of those affected and their supporters marched on the Capitol for a seventh straight day. Hundreds of them have been sleeping in the rotunda every night and several districts have had to close after so many teachers called in sick. The Madison School District was closed Wednesday through Monday but was expected to reopen Tuesday.
Districts in central Wisconsin were also closed Monday, but that was because of 10 to 12 inches of snow. Milwaukee schools were shut down for a pre-scheduled midsemester break. Those closures, on top of Monday being a previously scheduled furlough day for state workers, resulted in another large crowd Monday but an official estimate was not yet released.
At noon, guitarist Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine took to a stage on the Capitol steps to fire up the crowd. He said he flew in from California to lend his voice to the protest.
"The future of workers' rights will be decided in Madison, Wisconsin," he said. "You're making history here."
He joked that he could hardly play the guitar because his fingers were numb. He sang a song with the refrain, "For the union men and women standing up and standing strong!" Each time he repeated that lyric, the crowd roared.
Walker's plan would allow unions representing most public employees to negotiate only for wage increases, not benefits or working conditions. Any wage increase above the Consumer Price Index would have to be approved in a referendum. Unions would face a vote of membership every year to stay formed, and workers could opt out of paying dues.
The plan would also require many public employees to cut their take home pay by about 8 percent by contributing more of their salaries toward their health insurance and retirement benefits, concessions the unions have said they're willing to accept.
But Walker and Republicans are showing no willingness to budge while the Senate Democrats say they are prepared to stay away for weeks if that's what it will take.
A contentious labor bill that is drawing hundreds of protesting union members to the Indiana Statehouse has cleared a Republican-led House committee.
The House Labor Committee voted 8-5 along party lines Monday to advance the so-called right-to-work legislation, which prohibits union membership and fees from being a condition of employment.
Backers argue the bill would remove an impediment to business in the state, while opponents say such laws drive down wages by weakening unions.
The bill is so controversial that Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels has said he would prefer that legislators focus on other issues for fear that the proposal could wreck the political chances of other more important bills.
The right-to-work bill now moves to the full Republican-led House for consideration.