Illinois Public Media News
Former state Treasurer and failed U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias has a new post.
Gov. Pat Quinn has picked the 35-year-old Democrat to serve as chairman of the Illinois Community College Board. The part-time position is unpaid.
Giannoulias tells the Chicago Sun-Times that he's "incredibly excited" to help reform Illinois' community colleges. He says a well-educated work force is crucial to putting Americans back to work.
Giannoulias lost the U.S. Senate race to Republican Mark Kirk last year.
The next chancellor of the University of Illinois' Urbana campus says she is ready to get to work.
Dr. Phyllis Wise spoke to members of the university community Tuesday about her upcoming role at the U of I. Wise is currently the provost and executive vice president at the University of Washington. But she is expected to start her new job at the U of I in a couple of months.
Wise said she knows a lot about the financial challenges facing universities. She said UW has dealt with deep funding cuts in recent years from its state legislature.
"In Washington, they provide relatively little amount of money toward our overall budget," Wise said. "It's been pretty grim, but the state legislature really realized that they could not do it themselves, and they gave us tuition delegating authority."
Wise said UW administrators raised tuition by 20 percent, after increasing it 14 percent during each of the two previous years. She also said financial aid was increased at UW to expand the pool of students eligible for assistance.
Last spring, tuition at the U of I went up by 6.9 percent for the next school year. Wise said she suspects she will have a big role working with the Illinois General Assembly to convince lawmakers to raise state support for higher education.
Chris Kennedy, who chairs the U of I's Board of Trustees, said he is confident Wise's experience as a researcher and administrator will help the university boost support from the state and individual research grants.
"I think the fact that we were able to recruit her sends a strong message all over the United States that the University of Illinois is a place for great researchers and academic achievers," Kennedy said. "We want to increase our research grants and contracts because those are the grants and contracts that attract the great researchers. Those great researchers attract the great graduate students, who attract the great students. You have this tremendous snowball effect."
Kennedy said he expects the Board of Trustees will unanimously approve Wise's appointment, so that she can start Oct. 1st. If approved, all three U of I chancellors will be women for the first time.
Wise was chosen about three weeks ago after a nearly nine-month search, but her appointment wasn't made public until last week, according to UI Physics Professor Doug Beck, who led the search committee.
U of I President Michael Hogan has confirmed that Wise will earn $500,000 a year and $100,000 per year deferred if she stays in the position for five years.
Wise would replace interim Chancellor Robert Easter, who took the job after the 2009 resignation of Richard Herman following an admissions scandal.
"We are at a pivotal time in higher education," Easter said. "What's the future of a major research university like this? I think we're perfectly poised to discover that future. My advice (to her) would not be bashful to thinking about the faculty and leadership about how we move ahead aggressively in areas that will create our future."
Easter said following his two-year stint as interim chancellor, he hopes to gain emeritus status. He also said he plans to occasionally come back to the U of I to teach in the Department of Animal Sciences.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
Commonwealth Edison says smart grid technology could save customers more than $2.8 billion over the next 20 years.
ComEd released an analysis Monday from Black & Veatch that puts the cost of installing smart grid as less than or equal to the savings.
Mike McMahan, vice president of Smart Grid and Technology for ComEd, said a rate hike of $3 per customer would cover the cost of the technology, and it would be made up soon after the smart grid was installed.
"We estimate at least $2 of that would be returned to the customer on their bills at the end of the deployment period and there would be an additional $1 in savings associated with fewer outages," he said. "So benefit to the consumer that doesn't pass through the utility."
McMahan said the savings identified in the analysis would come from three major changes. First, the smart grid technology would eliminate manual meter reading, and thus meter reading jobs, because the smart meters would send information directly to ComEd. This would also mean, according to ComEd, more accurate bills and fewer service visits. Secondly, McMahan said smart meters would detect electricity theft and therefore cut down on energy losses. Lastly, McMahan said the new technology would bring enhanced disconnection and reconnection of services, minimizing collection costs during storms, power outages or even when a renter is ending their ComEd service.
Yet all of this rests on the signature of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. Earlier this year, legislators in Springfield passed the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act that would authorize rate hikes for both ComEd and Ameren customers to foot the smart grid bill. Quinn has said he would not sign the measure, as he wants power companies, rather than consumers, to pay for smart grid.
The bill doesn't sit well with members of the Citizens Utility Board. Executive Director David Kolata said he supports installing smart grid, but he does not think this bill is the way to do it.
"I think this analysis is further evidence that smart grid would be good investment for consumers -- we do think it's something that will save consumers money in medium and long term," Kolata said. "It's the other parts, though, that are problematic. You have to make sure you get those right. It's serving as Trojan horse for significant regulatory changes that apply to all ComEd's costs -- if it was just smart grid, it would have passed already."
The bill is currently on Gov. Quinn's desk.
Illinois state employees injured while committing crimes no longer will be able to get workers' compensation under a new law signed by Gov. Pat Quinn.
The law stems from a 2007 wreck involving former Illinois State Police Trooper Matt Mitchell. Mitchell was driving more than 100 mph and using his cell phone on Interstate 64 in southwestern Illinois when his cruiser crossed the median and slammed into a car. The two Collinsville sisters in that car were killed.
Mitchell later pleaded guilty to reckless homicide and was sentenced to 30 months of probation. His claim for workers' compensation for his injuries was denied.
Quinn says Illinois' workers' compensation system is meant to protect workers injured on the job, not those who commit crimes.
The new law takes immediate effect.
(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)
A former aide to General David Petraeus has been nominated to be director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.
Gov. Pat Quinn said Friday that Erica Borggren will be taking over the position vacated by Iraq War Veteran Dan Grant, who is leaving the position to attend Harvard's Masters of Business program.
Quinn said he expects "unanimous approval" of Borggren by the state Senate.
"David Petraeus is a pretty good reference, don't you think Erica?" Quinn said. "I could read for a long time what he has said about Erica. 'Matchless ability to research and analyze the most complex issues.' 'Exemplary in every respect.'"
Borggren is an Army Veteran and served as a senior staffer and speechwriter for General Petraeus.
"As a daughter of Illinois, and as a veteran myself, I can think of no more exciting or worthwhile endeavor than this one," she said.
Borggren also praised Illinois and Gov. Quinn, saying the state is "at the forefront of the veteran community."
Previous Veterans' Affair director Tammy Duckworth also supports the nomination. Duckworth recently announced her run for Congress in the 8th District of Illinois.
Meanwhile, Quinn signed legislation Friday to make it an annual goal for the state to set aside a certain percentage of its contracts for businesses owned by vets.
According to Quinn's office, the new law would make the goal three percent of every state contract be reserved for businesses owned by veterans and service-disabled veterans. The governor said it's a way to recognize their service.
Eligible businesses must be based in Illinois, 51 percent owned by veterans and have annual gross sales of $75 million or less. Larger veteran-owned businesses are able to apply for exemptions.
Gov. Pat Quinn says that by the middle of September he hopes to name a nine-member commission that will establish private scholarships for immigrant children in Illinois both illegally and legally.
Quinn says he wants to make sure people who want to serve on the commission created by the Illinois Dream Act he signed this week have time to submit their names for consideration.
The Chicago Democrat will name the commission that has to raise private money to fund the scholarships because no taxpayer dollars will be used.
Immigrant children can qualify if they attend an Illinois high school for at least three years and have at least one parent who immigrated to the United States.
Quinn has already pledged $1,000 to the fund.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's office is working on legislation to restore funds to pay the salaries of the state's regional school superintendents.
Quinn cut their funding earlier this year. But the Superintendent for Champaign and Ford Counties says she is pessimistic that anything will be settled prior to start of the legislature's fall veto session. That means Jane Quinlan and other superintendents won't get paid until November or December. Quinlan said it is a hard time of the year to be dealing without income.
"All bus drivers have to have refresher courses," Quinlan explained. "We've had a number of people in the office trying to get their authorization to substitute teach in schools, we provide the training for new administrators that they need to take before they can evaluate staff. There are a number of things that like that going on this month that are critical to getting school started."
Quinlan said there does not appear to be plan in place for superintendent's offices that are forced to close.
"If it's a case where you have savings or you have a spouse who's employed, you're able to perhaps work longer without a paycheck," she said. "Though I think most people understand that they expect to be paid when they're working."
A spokesman for the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, Ryan Keith, said the governor could be looking into using money from the State Board of Education as a short-term fix, but he said there is no specific proposal yet.
The governor's office expects to have more information about this legislation next week, but Keith questions whether the measure needs approval by lawmakers this fall anyway.
Quinlan said it is more likely that legislators override the governor's original veto of the superintendent funding when the fall veto session begins in October.
Postcards are in the mail to Illinois low-income senior citizens eligible to ride free on public transit.
The Department on Aging announced Wednesday the postcards went to seniors enrolled in the Circuit Breaker program.
Those seniors remain eligible for free rides on public buses and trains.
Free rides are ending for other seniors, although they'll still get reduced fares. Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation in February to limit the "Seniors Ride Free" program to low-income seniors.
Seniors in the Circuit Breaker program may need to contact their local public transit agency for a free ride card.
To qualify for Circuit Breaker assistance, an applicant's total income for 2010 must be less than $27,610 for a household size of one.
(Photo courtesy of erekslater/Flickr)
President Barack Obama is praising a bipartisan deal that will end the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration and get thousands of workers back on the job.
Obama says the nation "can't afford to let politics in Washington hamper our recovery.''
He says he's pleased to see leaders in Congress working together to settle the issue.
The FAA flap has become another embarrassment for the federal government.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced a deal to extend the FAA's operating authority through mid-September. Under the plan, the Senate will approve a House bill that includes a contentious provision cutting $16.5 million in subsidies for rural communities. Democrats say the administration will use authority under the deal to waive those cuts.
(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn continues to meet with those who have an interest in gaming legislation lawmakers approved earlier this year.
Quinn said he is listening to both critics and supporters of a plan to add 5 new casinos in the state, including one in Chicago, Danville, Rockford, Lake County and Chicago's south suburbs. The measure would also allow slot machines at Chicago airports and at horse tracks, including the State Fairgrounds in Springfield.
"Last Friday I saw the Rockford people," Quinn said. "This Friday I am seeing the horsemen and people involved in raising horses. There are others who are interested in the bill, both pro and con. I think there are some strong critics of the bill that are on our schedule. I want to make sure everyone gets their voice heard."
Quinn has been critical of the gaming expansion, saying it is "top heavy." However, he has said he is willing to consider a Chicago casino if it is done properly.
Supporters say the gaming legislation will bring a revenue windfall to the state. But opponents warn it lacks regulatory safeguards and should be rejected.
The Chicago Crime Commission has criticized the legislation, calling it "flawed" and saying it will lead to corruption. The watchdog group said Wednesday that Quinn shouldn't sign the law because it cannot be successfully implemented.
Lawmakers passed the legislation in May, but Illinois Senate President John Cullerton has a legislative "hold'' on it so lawmakers can try to work out a deal. With that hold in place, Quinn cannot act on the bill.
"The senate president continues to talk to the governor about what specific concerns he there might be, if there is a need to go back in and tighten up various language," Cullerton spokesman John Patterson said.
But sources say Cullerton will send the bill to Quinn's desk by the end of the month, regardless of a possible veto from Quinn.
If Quinn vetoes or changes the bill, the General Assembly will need to pass it again. The veto session starts the last week in October.
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