Illinois Public Media News
The Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled a teacher can't be prosecuted for giving a classroom aide permission to strap a disruptive autistic student into a chair.
The Indianapolis Star reports the court this week dismissed charges of confinement, battery and neglect of a dependent against Indianapolis Perry Township teacher Catherine Littleton.
Court documents indicate the aide restrained the 12-year-old Perry Meridian Middle School student to keep him from harming himself in February 2010. The three-judge panel ruled that Littleton was immune to prosecution because she acted in good faith.
The judges wrote that the child wasn't harmed and laughed while being restrained.
Littleton remains on administrative leave without pay from the school.
The University of Illinois has broken ground on a $95-million facility that will one day encompass all the work for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
The state will foot half of the expense, through the capital bill Governor Quinn signed in 2009. The other half is coming from private donations to the university, although $10-million still remains to be raised. U of I President Michael Hogan told the gathering at Friday morning's groundbreaking that financial collaboration is making possible construction of a building that the university has sought since the 1970's.
"The state couldn't afford to foot the bill alone, nor could we, but working together, we've ensured that this great university will remain a world leader in high tech innovation and education for generations to come," said Hogan.
Gov. Pat Quinn said the building is a sharing opportunity, putting people who may be working alone into the same facility. ECE is currently split among six buildings.
"That kind of sharing of talented people can result in great things," Quinn said.
Quinn brought up the accomplishments of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
"He understood that technology is not a goal in and of itself," Quinn said. "The purpose is to communicate and bring people together. And I really see this building as doing exactly that in a living memory of what he accomplished on his days on earth."
The building will pull together electrical and computer engineering facilities currently spread throughout the U of I Urbana campus. A 400 seat auditorium in the new building will become one of the largest gathering spots on campus.
The project will create about 620 construction jobs, with completion scheduled for spring of 2014.
Eastern Illinois University has replaced its old coal-fired steam plant with one the largest renewable energy projects in the U.S.
The school holds a grand opening Friday afternoon for its Renewable Energy Center. The facility using gasification technology will rely on more than 27,000 tons of wood chips a year to heat the campus. The chips are fed into a low-oxygen, high temperature environment, and gas emissions will generate the steam for that heat.
EIU President William Perry says just a handful of American universities have this type of plant, one that will provide some academic lessons as well.
"We can do some public service in the areas of alternative energy," he said. "We plan to use the site, which has more land available for field trips, for K-12 students, and other individuals in the community who are interested in that kind of operation."
Perry says the savings on the energy contract allowed Eastern to pay off the cost of the energy center without state money or student fees. EIU Energy and Sustainability Coordinator Ryan Siegel says a lot of things had to fall in place.
That includes two bills passed by Illinois lawmakers - one extended the payback periods for performance contracts to 20 years, and another allowed pilot projects to be paid for under that same window of time.
Siegel says those measures, and the energy savings from the Center itself, will pay for the $80-million facility.
"The entire project reduced the forward energy and water consumption of campus," he said. "It reduced our future costs, allowing us to pay off the debt over a 20-year time frame."
The facility is the result of a collaboration with Honeywell. It's expected to save EIU more than $140-million over the next two decades.
(Photo courtsey of Eastern Illinois University)
State Senator Shane Cultra has come up with one way to try and reign in Medicaid costs.
Legislation sponsored by the Onarga Republican would require drug testing for those on public aid. It would require an initial test when applying for Medicaid, and subsequent random tests for current recipients. Cultra says the measure serves a dual purpose in that it targets those who need help, who will cost the state more if they aren't treated.
"There's going to be a cost savings just in identifiying those that are on drugs," he said. "Usually, there are family situations there. It's better for the family, it's better for everyone involved."
Cultra says he's confident the measure will get co-sponsors, but is skeptical the measure will find its way through the legislature in the approaching fall veto session. He says Democrats haven't looked kindly on similar measures.
The Senator notes federal regulators have objected to bi-partisan Medicaid reforms that were passed in January. One of them would have required applicants to produce more than one pay stub to prove income eligibility. But Cultra says any other method that Illinois attempts is considered a 'new' and forbidden eligibility restriction.
'I don't understand why they would do that, but even if we got this passed, maybe the federal government would do the same thing, we don't know," he said. "But I think it's a start."
Cultra says reforming Medicaid and other entitlement programs has to start somewhere. He says savings from the bill could 'astronomical' if it properly identified those who get their lives turned around.
Urbana police have received two reports of attempted child abductions after nine reports of similar incidents in the Champaign area in the past two weeks.
The latest report occurred Tuesday just before 12-30 pm. In a press release, Urbana police say a 14-year old female was walking along Kinch Street on the city's southeast side when a man in a pickup truck offered her a ride. The student declined and he drove away. The driver is as a black male in his 30's with a 'chubby face' and mustache wearing a red shirt or jacket, driving a newer-looking silver truck.
The second report came from August 31st, when an Urbana Middle School student walking at Florida and Broadway reported a red-haired man in his 40's with a muscular build and goatee ordered the boy to get into his car. The student kept walking until he arrived home.
Urbana police say they're working with numerous local agencies, including District 116 schools, and extra patrols have been placed around school zones. Officers are reminding children to call 9-1-1 if a stranger offers them a ride, and to provide physical descriptions on the drivers, and license plate numbers if possible.
Opening statements are expected to resume Thursday in the public corruption trial of William Cellini.
In his opening statement for the prosecution on Wednesday, Greg Deis told jurors that Cellini wasn't on the board of the Teachers Retirement System and yet he controlled how the agency invested some of its $30 billion in assets.
Deis says Cellini got people jobs with TRS and got them appointments, and they did what he told them to do. He says that allowed Cellini to steer state contracts not to the most qualified businesses, but to those willing to give campaign contributions to former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Cellini has long been influential behind the scenes in Illinois politics, but defense attorney Dan Webb said others hatched the plot - not his client. And he told jurors that whatever they think about fundraising, lobbying and politics, they need to judge this case on the facts.
Webb gave only half his opening statement late Wednesday and will finish it Thursday morning. Then prosecutors will call their first witness, which is expected to be Keith Bozarth, who once headed TRS.
The head of one Urbana grade school says having parents walk there with kids at least once a year is nothing new. But she said the fear brought on by attempted child abductions in Champaign has reinforced the need for safer neighborhoods.
Three busloads of kids stopped a couple blocks short of school Wednesday to participate in International Walk to School Day. Around 50 students made the trek along Fairview Avenue, accompanied by a few teachers and parents.
King Principal Jennifer Ivory-Tatum said the school was quick to react to Champaign's 9 reports of attempted abductions in the last several days. She said the district reminded parents of expectations in terms of walking in groups with family members and neighbors. And Ivory-Tatum said the parents responded.
"We've had an increase in car pickups, and we've actually had a lot of parents who have been walking to the school at the end of the day, and walking home with kids," she said. "We're being pretty precautionary I think."
Marty Hynds said her grandchildren, both fifth graders, walk to Martin Luther King Elementary each day. She's felt safe, watching them from a window on their way to and from school. But Hynds said kids who don't regularly bus to school still need more safeguards.
"It would be nice if we have more police patrolling during school hours - just someone who can watch after the kids, if they needed someone, even a parent, who can be assigned to a corner," Hynds said.
Ivory-Tatum said the police reports prompted the term 'stranger danger' - a kid-friendly term to remind students to steer clear of strangers.
"Staying with the group and going straight home and not playing around in the neighborhood," Ivory-Tatum said. "We've had lots of conversations about (what to do) if a stranger walks up to you, what do you do? So yes, we want to be proactive."
Because of school, Amanda Campbell says her five-year old daughter Kaya would know what to do if confronted by a stranger, but said all parents are concerned right now.
"Usually, the mornings are taken care of, but we (Campbell and her husband) were a little worried about the afternoon stuff when all the attempts started happening," Campbell said. "And it's a crazy world. It's said that we have to think about it."
Walk to School Day has yielded other ideas from parents. Replies through District 116's Safe Routes to School Coalition have resulted in additional sidewalks and signage, reminding motorists to slow down.
(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)
Attorney General Lisa Madigan stopped in Danville on Wednesday to talk about tightening up a law that tracks the sale of pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in the production of methamphetamine.
The Methamphetamine Precursor Control Act, which was established in 2006, sets up restrictions for consumers who purchase more than two packages of pseudoephedrine products at a time or products with more than 7,500 milligrams of pseudoephedrine in a 30-day period. Madigan said those restrictions helped cut the number of meth labs in the state in half from 2006 to 2007.
"When meth first hit our communities, we hit back hard to drive meth makers and users out of Illinois," Madigan said in a statement. "But meth is a unique drug. It's like a virus that mutates, so we must retool our responses to how this drug is made."
Still, Madigan said drug users have pursued "one-pot" or "shake 'n bake" meth production, which can be accomplished using legal amounts of pseudoephedrine.
To address problems surrounding small-scale meth production, lawmakers are working to update a pilot system used by pharmacies to track the sale of pseudoephedrine permanent. That system, which has operated since June 2010 and is set to expire in January, allows pharmacies to block pseudoephedrine sales that exceed the legal purchasing amount.
State Rep. Chad Hays (R-Catlin) joined Madigan in Danville on Wednesday. Hays said the revised law will not only track people who buy more than the legal limit of pseudoephedrine products, but it will also check purchasing patterns of people who buy that substance at different stores over a short period of time.
"It really gives law enforcement a better tool to track frequent flyers if you will who are setting up a pattern of purchasing this substance for the intent of producing methamphetamine," Hays said.
In Illinois, customers must show a photo identification and sign a purchasing log maintained by pharmacies whenever they buy it.
The state this week also unveiled a marketing plan where posters will be placed in pharmacies across the state warning people to be aware of pill buyers for meth users or producers.
Madigan made stops throughout the day in Quincy and Cahokia. She was joined today by Sens. William Haine (D-Alton) and John Sullivan (D-Rushville), and Reps. Jerry Costello II (D-Smithton) and Jil Tracy (R-Quincy). Also in attendance were representatives of the Illinois Sheriff's Association, the Illinois State Police, Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, Illinois Retail Merchants Association, Illinois Pharmacists Association, Illinois State's Attorneys Association, Illinois Department of Corrections, the Meth Project, and law enforcement in Adams, St. Clair and Vermilion counties.
A jury has been impaneled in Chicago at the last trial stemming from a federal investigation of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
A judge seated 12 jurors Wednesday, the third day of millionaire William Cellini's trial. The next step will be opening statements. Prosecutors say the 76-year-old conspired to shake down the producer of "Million Dollar Baby'' for a campaign donation to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Cellini denies the charges.
The Springfield Republican once called the King of Clout for the influence he wielded in the corridors of power in both Repubican and Democratic administrations, like Blagojevich's.
The judge vetted more than 50 would-be jurors over three days. He dismissed a few who said they believed lobbyists and political fundraisers undermined the political system.
(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)
Longtime Illinois Congressman Jerry Costello says he won't run again because he plans to pursue other interests. The 62-year-old Belleville Democrat on Tuesday announced that he won't seek re-election next year.
Costello has been in office since August 1988, when he was picked to fill the term of the late U.S. Rep. Melvin Price. Costello serves in the 12th District, which includes Belleville, East St. Louis, Alton and Carbondale.
Costello is the senior Democrat on the House's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the second-ranking Democrat on the Science, Space and Technology Committee. Looking back on his career, Costello said he's most proud of securing a future for Scott Air Force Base, and seeing construction start on the new Mississippi River Bridge. He said that it has been his plan to not stay in Congress forever.
"It's about a personal decision to pursue other things in my life," Costello said. "You have to make a decision - do you want to continue to do what you're doing just to do it, or do you want to move on and do other things and be productive in other ways."
Costello said he'll remain in the Metro East area, and wants to teach and do some charity work. He also said he will support the Democratic candidate who best represents the principles of the party and the 12th congressional district.
"Anyone who has an interest in running who has similar views that I have I would ask you to step forward," Costello said. "I will take look at the candidates and make a decision then if I am going to get involved in supporting a particular candidate in the primary of next year."
There's been speculation about whether or not Costello's son would succeed him in office. His son, also named Jerry, is currently a Democratic member of the Illinois House of Representatives. Costello said his son has no interest in running for Congress at this time.
Meanwhile, Democrat Jay Hoffman, who's already announced his candidacy in the new 13th Congressional District, said this isn't the time for speculation on any future political considerations. He said now should be a time to honor Costello and his list of accomplishments.
President Barack Obama said Costello has "proudly'' represented southern Illinois in the U.S. Congress as a "fierce advocate'' for improving transportation infrastructure. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn calls Costello a "tireless advocate'' for his district. Congressman John Shimkus calls Costello's decision a "great loss for southern Illinois'' as well as a personal loss.
But the head of the Illinois Republican Party is cheering the news. Pat Brady said replacing Costello with a GOP candidate would be one of that party's top priorities next year. He said the district has been trending Republican for several years, and he's buoyed by recent GOP victories in Illinois congressional and state senate races.
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
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