Illinois Public Media News
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.
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Radio)
The decision to pick Morgan County over three competing sites to host an underground carbon dioxide storage facility was a close one, according to FutureGen Alliance CEO Ken Humphreys.
The site --- announced by the FutureGen Alliance on Monday --- will store carbon dioxide produced at FutureGen's power plant in Meredosia, retrofitted with experimental low-emissions coal burning technology.
Humphreys said Morgan County's geology, and its proximity to the power plant made it a front-runner over competing sites in Christian, Douglas and Fayette counties.
"Any one of these four sites could be, would be amenable to storing the 39 million tons of CO2 from Meredosia," Humphreys said. "If one were to look at possibly expanding the storage site, there might be more differences."
But Humphreys said at this point it is premature to look at expanding the pipeline, adding that major construction should begin within a couple of years.
The site will be located about 30 miles away from the power plant North of Interstate 72 and west of Interstate Highway 123 on the eastern edge of Morgan County. FutureGen officials say this is not a pin pointed spot for the site, additional evaluations will have to be completed. The FutureGen project is expected to bring in 1,000 jobs to downstate Illinois and another thousand jobs for suppliers across the state.
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said plans by FutureGen to store carbon dioxide in Morgan County should give the area an economic boost.
"Bringing together all the components of FutureGen 2.0 will be a boost for Morgan County and result in thousands of good-paying jobs," Durbin said. "As host of the storage site, Morgan County will be on the map as a leader in clean coal research and technology attracting visitors from around the world."
While politicians and the business community cheer FutureGen's selection of Morgan County as the storage site, not everyone in the county is pleased with the decision. Andy Davenport owns farmland near FutureGen's selected area. When talks first started on where to put the leftover carbon dioxide he circulated a petition and got more than 300 people to sign. He said for a sparsely populated area, those numbers show people closest to the site do not want it.
"It's just very frustrating to be to have the people's voices ignored that own the land and live on the land out here," Davenport said. "We're going to be the ones that take the risk on this project, not the people in Jacksonville."
Davenport said the farmland he has owned for more than 30 years could be overtaken if the storage facility expands. He also said he is concerned about any environmental impact if the carbon dioxide leaks.
Meanwhile, this is strike two for Douglas County, which earlier lost out on its bid to host the original version of FutureGen.
But Brian Moody of Tuscola Economic Development in Douglas County says the work they did on their site proposal will help them compete for similar sequestration projects expected to come in the future.
"We've got a couple of those that look like they're going to be underway in Illinois," Moody said. "There's a project at ADM already. So we'll kind of wait and see what companies continue to look at the area. And again, I think we have a lot of the information that will spare them a lot of work in their site selection processes."
The U.S. Energy Department is committed to paying most of the cost of the $1.3 billion FutureGen project. The next step for FutureGen is an Energy Department environmental review, including comments from the public.
Developers of the FutureGen project have chosen Morgan County in western Illinois as an underground storage site for carbon dioxide generated by a nearby power plant they plan to refit with experimental low-emissions coal technology.
The FutureGen Alliance told The Associated Press on Monday that it picked Morgan County over sites in Christian, Douglas and Fayette counties. Project planners say the sequestration site will mean more than 1,000 short-term jobs and a few dozen permanent ones.
Carbon dioxide is linked to climate change. CO2 generated at the plant in Meredosia, which is in Morgan County, would be moved to the site through a pipeline that would be built. The current project was announced last year after the Energy Department scrapped plans to build a new experimental plant in Mattoon.
The wait is nearly over for the four Illinois counties hoping to be the FutureGen clean coal project's carbon dioxide storage site.
The FutureGen Alliance will announce its selection Monday. The alliance is a group of coal companies and other firms working with the U.S. Department of Energy on FutureGen.
The sites in contention are in Christian, Douglas, Fayette and Morgan counties.
Leaders hope the project could bring 1,000 construction and 150 permanent jobs to their communities.
The carbon dioxide would be generated by a power plant in Meredosia the project aims to refit with low-emissions technology. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas linked to climate change.
The project was announced last year after the Energy Department scrapped plans to build a new experimental coal plant in Mattoon.
A group of Indiana Democrats with no plans to return their state have the backing of unions on both sides of the state line this weekend.
The House members staying in Urbana over a stalemate with Republicans over labor and education bills saw more than 100 supporters line Lincoln Avenue Saturday. They included Bret Voorhies, a coordinator for the United Steel Workers, who said the GOP's efforts are an attack on working people in general.
"We're the ones who go to capitol hill and fight bad trade deals," Voorhies said. "Bad trade deals are hurting every single worker. We're the ones that fight for increases in minimum wage. Obviously, most union people make more than minimum wage. We're the ones who fight for increases in workman's comp. All workers benefit from workman's comp."
A group of University of Illinois law students who were at Friday's rally also visited Madison, Wisconsin in the past week to back worker's rights in the protest there. The Indiana lawmakers have stayed at Urbana's Comfort Suites since Tuesday, where they also picked up the support of Mayor Laurel Prussing. She said the city has a long history of supporting working people.
"I told them that Urbana is in favor of collective barganing," said Prussing. "I think we treat our employees very fair. And that they're engaged in a very important fight for worker's rights that took hundreds of years to accomplish, and we don't want to see it undone."
Gary Democrat Vernon Smith called the support 'exhilarating' after spending their week developing hundreds of amendments in meetings. But he said there has been no indication their Republican colleagues are ready to negotiate.
Saturday's rally included a small contingent, three people, from a Tea Party group involving Illinois and Western Indiana residents. They say regardless of how the Democrats vote, they need to return to the capitol and do their jobs.
Social network invitations asking people to come to Champaign to celebrate the so-called Unofficial St. Patrick's Day on Friday, March 4 have prompted the city to take precautionary action.
One page on Facebook indicates more than 13,000 people are expected to show up.
Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart said the city will prohibit bars and package liquor stores in campus town from selling or serving alcohol before 11 AM. He also said bars will not be allowed to serve pitchers of alcohol or shots of pure alcohol. Instead all drinks must be served in paper or plastic cups.
"I wouldn't mind if it was just our local U of I students, and each bar had a celebration to celebrate St. Patrick's Day or something," he said. "But (it's different) when all the outside schools start coming here looking for a big blowout drunken affair, and don't give a care about damage they do to the city."
Schweighart's office will not be issuing multiple keg permits for parties, making it illegal to have more than one keg at each residence.
Meanwhile, University of Illinois officials are taking steps to minimize disruptions to classes and campus operations during the Unofficial St. Patrick's Day celebrations. The U of I also noted that if students drink too much alcohol, they should not be afraid to go to the hospital for care because they "will not get in trouble.
(Additional reporting from the Associated Press)
Indiana House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer has confirmed that he and more than 30 other Democrats are staying in Urbana for the weekend.
Speaking with reporters Friday, Bauer said his party is committed to fight for the thousands of demonstrators that have flocked to the capitol in Indianapolis. He said Republicans aren't willing to compromise on legislation like the controversial 'right to work' measure and others that drove his party across the state line.
Bauer admits the trip is costing the Democratic Party, who's been paying for rooms at the Comfort Suites, and legislators have incurred personal expenses, like clothes and food. But he said it is a small price to pay when looking at the big picture.
"The workers are sacrificing," Bauer said. "These people - 10,000 on Thursday. They have given up their salaries. They're fighting for their very existence if you will, they're fighting for their families. They're fighting to be able to put food on the table. Our sacrifice is small for what they face."
Bauer said this legislative session is 'the most partisan session in modern Indiana history', noting that just 29% of the bills that went out of the House were bipartisan. The Democratic leader says he would be willing to change his tune if House Speaker Brian Bosma was willing to negotiate, but there has been no word of it so far.
Bauer said that he expects a group of supporters from Indiana to arrive Saturday at the hotel in Urbana where Democrats have been staying, though he was not sure how many people were coming. Neither Republicans nor Democrats have budged since the stalemate began Tuesday. The House is in recess until Monday, but protesters on both sides staged small demonstrations Friday at the Statehouse.
Bauer has said there had been discussions about commiserating with Wisconsin Democrats, who have left their state over similar issues, but he said that's not likely given the weather.
(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)
Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly took the first significant action on their plan to strip collective bargaining rights from most public workers, abruptly passing the measure early Friday morning before sleep-deprived Democrats realized what was happening.
The vote ended three straight days of punishing debate in the Assembly. But the political standoff over the bill - and the monumental protests at the state Capitol against it - appear far from over.
The Assembly's vote sent the bill on to the Senate, but minority Democrats in that house have fled to Illinois to prevent a vote. No one knows when they will return from hiding. Republicans who control the chamber sent state troopers out looking for them at their homes on Thursday, but they turned up nothing.
"I applaud the Democrats in the Assembly for earnestly debating this bill and urge their counterparts in the state Senate to return to work and do the same," Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, said in a statement issued moments after the vote.
The plan from Republican Gov. Scott Walker contains a number of provisions he says are designed to fill the state's $137 million deficit and lay the groundwork for fixing a projected $3.6 billion shortfall in the upcoming 2011-13 budget.
The flashpoint is language that would require public workers to contribute more to their pensions and health insurance and strip them of their right to collectively bargain benefits and work conditions.
Democrats and unions see the measure as an attack on workers' rights and an attempt to cripple union support for Democrats. Union leaders say they would make pension and health care concessions if they can keep their bargaining rights, but Walker has refused to compromise.
Tens of thousands of people have jammed the Capitol since last week to protest, pounding on drums and chanting so loudly that police providing security have resorted to ear plugs. Hundreds have taken to sleeping in the building overnight, dragging in air mattresses and blankets.
With the Senate immobilized, Assembly Republicans decided to act and convened the chamber Tuesday morning.
Democrats launched a filibuster, throwing out dozens of amendments and delivering rambling speeches. Each time Republicans tried to speed up the proceedings, Democrats rose from their seats and wailed that the GOP was stifling them.
Debate had gone on for 60 hours and 15 Democrats were still waiting to speak when the vote started around 1 a.m. Friday. Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer, R-Waukesha, opened the roll and closed it within seconds.
Democrats looked around, bewildered. Only 13 of the 38 Democratic members managed to vote in time.
Republicans immediately marched out of the chamber in single file. The Democrats rushed at them, pumping their fists and shouting "Shame!" and "Cowards!"
The Republicans walked past them without responding.
Democrats left the chamber stunned. The protesters greeted them with a thundering chant of "Thank you!" Some Democrats teared up. Others hugged.
"What a terrible, terrible day for Wisconsin," said Rep. Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee. "I am incensed. I am shocked."
GOP leaders in the Assembly refused to speak with reporters, but earlier Friday morning Majority Leader Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, warned Democrats that they had been given 59 hours to be heard and Republicans were ready to vote.
The governor has said that if the bill does not pass by Friday, the state will miss a deadline to refinance $165 million of debt and will be forced to start issuing layoff notices next week. However, the deadline may not as strict as he says.
The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said earlier this week that the debt refinancing could be pushed back as late as Tuesday to achieve the savings Walker wants. Based on a similar refinancing in 2004, about two weeks are needed after the bill becomes law to complete the deal. That means if the bill is adopted by the middle of next week, the state can still meet a March 16 deadline, the Fiscal Bureau said.
Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach said he and his colleagues wouldn't return until Walker compromised.
Frustrated by the delay, Senate Republican Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, Jeff Fitzgerald's brother, ordered state troopers to find the missing Democrats, but they came up empty. Wisconsin law doesn't allow police to arrest the lawmakers, but Fitzgerald said he hoped the show of authority would have pressured them to return.
Erpenbach, who was in the Chicago area, said all 14 senators remained outside of Wisconsin.
"It's not so much the Democrats holding things up," Erpenbach said. "It's really a matter of Gov. Walker holding things up.
Democratic state Sen. Rickey Hendon of Chicago has resigned from the Legislature.
In a letter to Senate President John Cullerton, Hendon called yesterday a "wonderful day,'' going on to say he has enjoyed working in the Legislature.
While Hendon did not give a reason for stepping down, the assistant majority leader wrote he hoped supporters will accept his decision and allow him to move on with his life.
The 57-year-old Hendon was elected to the 5th District seat in 1993.
Hendon's name has come up in a federal grand jury investigation of how state money was handed out to various groups.
A number of them report receiving the grants with Hendon's assistance. But there has been no indication Hendon has been targeted by the investigation.
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