Illinois Public Media News
Illinois is pushing ahead with implementing the nation's new health care law with support from its Democratic governor.
Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday started reviewing a plan to roll out the law from a council he appointed. The plan proposes new reins on health insurance companies and an online marketplace where people could shop for insurance.
Quinn calls the health care law "a vital part of economic recovery'' rather than a distraction from the urgent need for jobs. The governor's remarks came in written testimony to a congressional committee Tuesday.
Republican governors, in contrast, are worried about added costs to state budgets.
The law was enacted last March and has been lucrative for Illinois, bringing in nearly $290 million to state agencies, non-profits, nursing schools and hospitals.
Champaign County Board members have narrowly rejected a plan to extend Olympian Drive to Lincoln Avenue.
Tuesday night's 13-to-10 committee of the whole vote followed another backing the long-debated extension of Olympian itself. But opponents felt plans for the 'green route' or north-south 'S' curve connecting Lincoln to Olympian would impact too many landowners, with no guarantee the route would lure industry. Republican Alan Nudo favors further research, with those residents involved.
"I'm all for Urbana having commercial-industrial in this area, because that's what it's going to be," Nudo said. "It's in a mile and a half, and I think it's a fait accompli. But we need to take care of the residents in there, and do it right."
Nudo said a new phase of research will provide options, and enable for compromise.
Democrat Tom Betz said it is hard to disagree with those arguments and side with economic interests, but he supported the plan.
"We are creating an artery, and method by which development can take place," Betz said. "But I think it is more likely to happen as a result of this than if we do nothing. Right now, Olympian Drive kind of is a road to nowhere. The county needs some economic development. It's not just the city of Urbana."
Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing said she hasn't given up on the green option, and could return to the county board in two weeks. She said she wants to develop some cost estimates for an altered plan, but won't start over from scratch.
"We''ll modify what things cost, but we're not prepared to say 'we need to spend $170,000 (on a new study)," Prussing said. "What this is really - we can't find perfect. And sometimes, my philosophy is, you just gotta settle for excellent."
A study of options to the west would take 18 months. Champaign County Highway Engineer Jeff Blue said consultants can estimate the cost of some new alignments. But he said a new study should start by April, or the Olympian Drive project could risk losing the $15-million in state and federal money.
After months of controversy, the former Illinois State Police Interim Director officially has a new job. State senators on Tuesday confirmed Governor Pat Quinn's appointment of Jonathon Monken as director of the Emergency Management Agency.
Monken had served nearly two years as head of the State Police, a position Quinn selected him for despite Monken not having any background in law enforcement. He was never confirmed for that job. Monken said he tried to ignore the controversy.
"Really, what it comes down to is I tried to remove myself from that situation as much as possible and focus my attention on doing what my job was and focusing my attention on doing as well as I could for the state Police and for the state and for the governor," Monken said.
Senators overwhelmingly approved Monken for his new position. Only one voted against him. Monken touts his military experience in Iraq and Kosovo as his qualifications for the post. He says his time at the state police will serve him well in the new job.
Indiana House Minority Leader Pat Bauer said he and Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma are discussing a plan to meet Wednesday.
More than 30 Indiana House Democrats have stayed at Urbana's Comfort Suites since last Tuesday night following a legislative impasse that started over opposition to right to work legislation and bills impacting education.
Bauer acknowledged that there has been 'movement' between both parties, and he said he believes there's room for more of it.
"We don't negotiate, and that's the final deal," he said. "We have to take it to our caucuses. This is the traditional way of doing things."
Bauer said any meeting that takes place with Bosma needs to include discussion on the compromises the Democrats are seeking over a number of bills. Bauer said the House Speaker has spoken favorably over some of the amendments Democrats have offered, but is not willing to talk about every measure, like a voucher bill that would use taxpayer money to help parents send kids to private schools.
Bauer said if he does meet with Bosma, the Democratic caucus would stay in Illinois.
(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)
The jury foreman at impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's first trial says jurors recently held a reunion to reminisce about the sometimes stressful, 2 1/2-month trial.
James Matsumoto tells the Associated Press seven jurors and five alternates met in February at a winery/restaurant in suburban Chicago.
Matsumoto says most jurors felt they did their best during 14 days of deliberations _ though some regretted they deadlocked on 23 of 24 counts. A retrial starts on April 20.
Matsumoto says one juror described shopping at Target recently when Blagojevich's wife Patti recognized her as a juror, walked over and struck up a conversation.
He says a lone holdout juror who prevented conviction on several serious charges helped organize the union but, at the last minute, wasn't able to attend.
(With additional reporting from the Associated Press)
Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis is leaving his job immediately and won't stay on for two more months as Mayor Richard Daley had asked him to do.
Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale confirmed the move Tuesday and says former Superintendent Terry Hillard will take over in the interim.
The embattled Weis is a former FBI agent who was hired by Daley three years ago. He's known for months that none of the major mayoral candidates, including Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, planned to extend his contract.
Daley on Monday told reporters he hoped Weis would stay until Daley's term ends in May. But Weis, whose 3-year contract ends Tuesday, decided to leave immediately after he was not given a written contract extension.
When it came to replacing Weis, Daley turned to former Superintendent Terry Hillard.
Hillard was police superintendent from 1998 to 2003. He served with the police department for 35 years before retiring in 2003. He became the department's first black chief of detectives in 1995, holding that position until he was promoted to superintendent.
Hillard is currently a partner at Hillard Heintze, a private security and investigations firm. He will take a leave of absence from his company.
Daley says Hillard will serve as interim superintendent beginning Wednesday until the end of Daley's term in May.
(Photo courtesy of Illinois Public Radio)
The Flash Index of the Illinois economy reached 96.1 in February --- the first time it's broken 96 in two years. The increase from January's reading of 95.9 is small --- just one fifth of a point. And its accuracy is a little shakier than usual, due to the state income tax increase.
The Flash Index is based on an analysis of Illinois state income and sales tax revenue. With revenue from the new state tax hike beginning to come in, Fred Giertz said he can't be certain how much of the higher revenues in February were from the tax hike, and how much was from higher economic activity. Still, the University of Illinois economist said he is pretty sure the Illinois economy showed some improvement.
"Less sure than in a typical month, but relatively sure, because the changes seem to correspond with what I predicted in terms of the change in the tax revenue," Giertz said. "So it seems to be reasonable. But again, there's a bigger chance for imprecision or error this month, compared to other months."
The Flash Index February reading of 96.1 does not yet show actual growth in the Illinois economy. To do that, the Index has to break 100.
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is joining with 550 mayors nationwide in calling for stricter national gun laws.
He is part of the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a national political movement seeking to push two initiatives through Congress. They want a comprehensive national database of people who are prohibited from buying guns and they want every gun sale to be subject to a background check.
Daley says he doesn't understand why this kind of legislation has been so hard to pass.
"There's something wrong with America," Daley said. "I don't understand it. It's not just elected officials, it's people in general. They are not outraged about this."
Daley said Americans ought to be ashamed by gun violence.
He made his comments near a truck sponsored by the group Mayor's Against Illegal Guns. The truck keeps a running tally of American's killed with guns since the Tucson shootings in early January. At the beginning of the press conference the digital display read 1,731. By the end, two more people had been added to that tally.
Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan says two people helped him make his historic decision clear the state's death row in 2003: An innocent man who was once two days away from being executed and a childhood friend who asked if Ryan was going to allow his son to be put to death.
Ryan's comments came last March in a deposition taken at a federal prison in Indiana, where Ryan has been locked up since late 2007 after his conviction of corruption charges. The deposition was released to the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune after the newspapers filed freedom of information requests.
Under questioning by a city of Chicago attorney, Ryan angrily denied his decision had anything to do with the federal probe that led to his conviction.
Abraham Lincoln fans have failed, again, to set a new world record.
State officials had hoped to break the record for the most people reading aloud at the same time. They organized a mass reading of Lincoln's Farewell Address two weeks ago, with people across the country taking part.
But as numbers come in, it's clear the event drew only a fraction of the people needed. Organizers tell The (Springfield) State Journal-Register that the total so far is about 13,000, while the world record is 223,363.
An attempt to break the record last year by reading the Gettysburg Address out loud also failed to set a record, but it came much closer. That event had about 180,000 people.
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