Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 04, 2012

Fighting Illini Edge Northwestern

Myke Henry made one of two free throws with 6 seconds left and Meyers Leonard blocked a shot just before the buzzer as Illinois pulled out a 57-56 victory over Northwestern on Wednesday night.

Leonard hit a free throw with 29 seconds left to put the Illini up 56-54, but Northwestern's Drew Crawford tied it on a tip with 17 seconds remaining.

After Brandon Paul drove but couldn't connect, Henry was fouled on a rebound follow-up. He made one free throw but missed the second.

Crawford rebounded and tried to drive the length of the floor, but the 7-foot-1 Leonard swatted the shot away. Leonard led the Illini (13-3, 2-1 Big Ten) with 12 points. Paul and Joseph Bertrand added 10 each.

Shurna, the Big Ten's leading scorer at 18.6 for Northwestern (11-4, 1-2), had 17 first-half points but just the three in the second under tough defense from Paul.

Categories: Education, Sports

AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 04, 2012

Former Bears Receiver Indicted on Drug Charges

A federal grand jury has indicted former NFL wide receiver Sam Hurd on drug conspiracy and possession charges after he and another man were accused of trying to establish a drug-dealing network.

The indictment Wednesday accuses Hurd and codefendant Toby Lujan on single counts of cocaine possession and conspiracy to possess cocaine. It also seeks forfeiture of $88,000 in cash by Lujan and a 2010 Cadillac Escalade by Hurd.

If convicted, both could be sentenced to 10 years to life in prison. Hurd was arrested Dec. 14 outside a Chicago steakhouse after authorities said he agreed to buy a kilogram of cocaine from an undercover agent. The Chicago Bears cut the former Dallas Cowboys receiver Dec. 16, two days after his arrest.

Categories: Criminal Justice, Sports
Tags: crime, sports

AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 04, 2012

Illinois Gets $186 Million for Rail Project

The Illinois Department of Transportation is getting $186 million for its high-speed rail project.

U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood awarded the money to IDOT on Wednesday. LaHood's office says the cash will be used to extend construction of the rail corridor to Joliet. That'll allow for 110-mph service along nearly 70 percent of the route.

Construction is already under way on the Chicago-St. Louis rail corridor. Work on the extension to Joliet will begin this spring.

LaHood says the Department of Transportation has invested more than $1 billion to create high-speed rail service in the Great Lakes-Midwest region. He says the project will ultimately reduce travel times and congestion while creating jobs and increasing business opportunities.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 04, 2012

Ameren Files for New Electric Delivery Rates

Ameren is disputing news reports that its latest filing for electric delivery rates in Illinois amounts to a rate hike.

But spokesman Leigh Morris said some customers would see an increase in delivery rates, but not others. He says this is the first rate application Ameren is seeking in connection with an upgrade of the electric grid --- and he said it's based on a new formula that accepts a lower return on equity and accounts for lower interest rates.

"This is based on actual spending," Morris said. "There's not forecasting involved with this. And this rate case will result in an overall reduction of approximately $19 million. That's an annual number."

However, Morris said customers in Ameren Illinois' Rate Zone Two - the former CILCO territory - will see an increase in rates. He said the other two zones, which serve former Illinois Power and CIPS customers, would see modest decreases in their rates.

But a spokesman with the Citizens Utility Board said there's more to the latest Ameren rate case than an initial change in rates. Jim Chilsen said the Ameren filing also sets the stage for Ameren's rate structure throughout the rollout of the improved electrical grid.

"Consumer advocates need to get involved, and need to make sure that Ameren is sticking to the law and that Ameren is being fair to consumers," Chilsen said. "And this is one of the biggest cases that we'll ever deal with, because it's determining what this formula will be that will determine rates for up to the next decade."

Morris said the rate filing with the Illinois Commerce Commission replaces a rate hike request filed last February. The new filing covers the first $17 million of what will eventually be $625 million in electric grid improvements over the next decade. If approved, the new rates should take effect in October.

Morris said consumers will be able to learn how the rate request would affect their personal electric bills starting Feb. 1. He said Ameren customers will be able to use the online rate estimator at IllinoisRateFaces.com, or call Ameren Customer Service at 1-800-755-5000.

Categories: Business, Energy

AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 04, 2012

Indiana Dems Plan to Stay Out of Session

The Indiana House speaker Wednesday called off what would have been the first day of the new legislative session after most House Democrats remained behind closed doors to discuss their response to a "right-to-work" bill pushed by majority Republicans.

Republican Speaker Brian Bosma tried three times Wednesday afternoon to gavel the House into order, but each time no more than five of the 40 Democratic members were on the floor.

Bosma says he'll try to have the House meet on Thursday, but that a Democratic boycott won't lead to Republicans backing off on the measure.

"This summer, economic development experts, the folks responsible for attracting employers here, told us that between a third and a half of employers that are looking to put something someplace are leaving Indiana off the table because we're not a right-to-work state," Bosma said.

House Democratic Leader Patrick Bauer says the party's lawmakers will stay out until the GOP meets a demand for more public hearings on the bill.

"We refuse to let the most controversial public policy bill of the decade be railroaded through with the public being denied their fair and adequate input," he said. "What's the urgency? Are they ignoring the public input? They have not made the case to the public that Indiana is in dire need of an anti-paycheck bill."

Last spring, most Democrats spent more than a month in a hotel in Urbana, partially out of protest over the same legislation. Indianapolis Rep. Vanessa Summers, when asked how long her fellow Democrats would remain behind closed doors, replied, "Two hours, 10 hours, 12 hours, who knows?''

Bosma asked her to have Bauer contact him.

(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Radio)

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 04, 2012

Indiana House Dem Leader Hints At Possible Walkout

The leader of Indiana's House Democrats hinted Wednesday that party lawmakers may walk out for the second year in a row to oppose the same Republican "right-to-work" bill blocked last year by their five-week boycott.

House Democratic Leader Patrick Bauer told The Associated Press that his caucus plans to meet Wednesday to debate how to handle the GOP proposal that would make Indiana the 23rd state to bar businesses and private unions from mandating that workers pay union fees for representation.

Bauer led the walkout last year. But new fines and lawmakers concerned about re-election in 2012 have made the group wary of another. A few hours before the session started, Bauer referenced the U.S. Senate's filibuster as the minority party's best tool for taking on the majority. He said a similar effort in Indiana would require the vast majority of his caucus to act in unison.

"Here it takes a caucus of at least a substantial minority," he said in an interview.

After Democrats walked out last year, House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and his Senate counterpart, Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, passed new fines of $1,000 a day on each lawmaker who leaves the Statehouse for more than three days in a row.

House Democrats could also decide to stay meeting in their caucus room indefinitely, effectively denying Republicans the numbers needed to conduct business without actually leaving the state. It is unclear, though, whether that would be as effective in blocking the "right-to-work" bill.

Bosma said Tuesday he had not taken a tally, but is confident he can lock in the votes he needs to pass the measure.

Indiana's Senate Democrats lack the numbers needed to block the measure in their chamber - Indiana's Senate has no filibuster - where they are outnumbered by Republicans 37-13. Thus the focus has been squarely on the House Democrats.

Bosma and Long set a Friday hearing for both the Senate and House versions of the "right-to-work" bill. The respective measures will move through both chambers simultaneously.

"We have options so that we can react to whatever Rep. Bauer and his team have planned," Bosma said Tuesday.

A last-ditch option for House Democrats is trying to sway at least 10 Republicans to their side. Republicans hold a 60-40 majority in the House and would need at least 51 votes to pass the measure.

The Indiana AFL-CIO has been airing TV and radio ads targeting Republicans who may be vulnerable in the 2012 elections if they vote in favor "right to work." Bosma and Gov. Mitch Daniels have been airing their own ads throughout the state in support of the measure, and the National Right to Work Committee has sent staffers to the state to build grass-roots support for the measure.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 04, 2012

Indiana Lawmakers to Debate ‘Right to Work

Indiana's legislative session will be short this year - it's expected to last until March - but judging by the political tone set before the start of the session Wednesday, the debate will be furious.

The Republican leadership, as well as Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, have already vowed to make so-called right-to-work legislation the centerpiece of their agenda - a move that's already stirred an uproar among Hoosier Democrats. If approved, the legislation would prohibit companies from making employees pay dues to a union as a condition of employment.

The GOP attempted to push the issue through the General Assembly in 2010, but Hoosier Democratic state representatives scuttled debate by fleeing Indiana and holing up in Illinois for more than a month.

Indiana Legislative Insight Publisher Ed Feigenbaum does not expect such a boycott this time.

"I think there will be a number of parliamentary maneuvers that Democrats will employ that will be to their strategic advantage that will show their displeasure," he said.

Those maneuvers could include delays in showing up for quorum calls or otherwise disrupting business without leaving the Statehouse.

Supporters of current right-to-work proposals say Indiana needs such a law to attract businesses. Democrats say the move is an attempt to hurt organized labor and that such laws in other states have driven down wages.

Pro-union supporters say they want to get a jump on the debate and are expected to flood the Statehouse Wednesday afternoon, but they may encounter resistance. State police last week announced a new 3,000-person cap on the number of people allowed inside the Statehouse at any given time.

Unions quickly shot back, calling the limit a move by Daniels' administration to stifle debate.

Republican Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman said Tuesday that the rules don't discriminate against anyone, and that the limit is based on public safety concerns. He added that the limits will be evaluated daily.

Aside from union legislation, lawmakers are also expected to again consider a statewide smoking ban, legislation that failed to get past the committee level in 2011. Supporters want such a ban to be implemented in time for the Super Bowl, which will be hosted in Indianapolis next month.

A statewide smoking ban has been sought by Indiana state Rep. Charlie Brown (D-Gary) for years without success.

With no budget to approve, this session is considered the "short session" and must be completed by March 14.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 04, 2012

Champaign Officer Blasts City Council Over Arrest Investigation

A Champaign police officer is accusing city council members of conducting a 'witch hunt' by seeking an independent review of a June 5 arrest.

Art Miller's comments before the council Tuesday night came three weeks after council members granted city manager Steve Carter the authority to find a firm to investigate the incident. In the police video leaked online, an officer pepper sprayed a college-age African American after he was picked up for jaywalking. The officer also put hands on the neck of the young man in the back of a patrol car. The arresting officer has been cleared of wrongdoing by the Champaign police, Illinois State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Hiring a firm to look at the incident, and the police department's use of force policy will cost $60,000 to $100,000. Miller called the move 'a colossal misuse of taxpayer money' when the city is looking at cuts to the police department's front desk, and he said the council doesn't remind the public of the good work officers do.

"When I chose to answer the call to be a police officer, I knew there was a segment of society that would despise me in what I stand for," Miller said. "But never once did I think I would face such scorn and animosity from officials from the city I work for."

Mayor Don Gerard took exception, citing his comments to the press about officer raises and promotions.

"Every single member of this council appreciates our police department, and I take great exception on behalf of every single one of them for every comment that says: 'nobody ever likes us, nobody ever gives us any praise,' because it's ridiculous and it's nonsense," he said. "We do constantly. Turn on your radio. Read the newspaper."

Gerard also said it's 'tiresome' for him to hear the June arrest has been investigated three times, saying 'it's been investigated zero times' with no interviews conducted.

In response, Miller simply said the mayor has his opinion, and, "I have my opinion. That's the beauty of our country.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 03, 2012

Ameren Seeks Rate Hike Request for Grid Work

Ameren, which supplies electricity to central Illinois, has filed a plan with the Illinois Commerce Commission seeking a rate hike to help pay for an upgrade of its distribution grid.

Vice president Craig Nelson says Tuesday's filing is the beginning of an effort by the utility to modernize the grid over the next 10 years to meet the service expectations of Ameren's 1.2 million customers.

The Illinois Legislature in November passed legislation allowing Missouri-based Ameren and Chicago-based Commonwealth Edison to boost rates with less regulatory oversight in exchange for an upgrade of the electrical grid.

Despite that, ICC spokesman Randy Nehrt tells The Pantagraph in Bloomington that regulators have a responsibility to conduct a thorough investigation of the proposal.

If approved, the rate hike takes effect in October.

Categories: Energy, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 03, 2012

US Sen. Durbin Wants Banks to Use Disclosure Form

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) says banks need to be more transparent as college students start up bank accounts.

In a visit to the University of Illinois' Urbana campus Tuesday, Illinois' Senior Senator called on financial institutions to voluntarily adopt a disclosure form for fees. The announcement comes after Bank of America and other institutions imposed and quickly canceled monthly fees on debit card holders.

Durbin says institutions should all adopt a 1-page disclosure form created by the Pew Charitable Trusts, rather than the more than 100-page statements currently released by most banks. He says the form should be as simple as reading health information labels at grocery stores.

"And you know where to look for calories, for sodium, for carbohydrates, for other things that might be important to you," Durbin said. "This kind of disclosure form brings that kind of information when it comes to financial institutions."

Greg Anderson with University of Illinois Employees Credit Union says the disclosure forms are worth a look.

"What we've seen in the past with truth in lending that he spoke of, truth in savings, the Credit Card act of 2009, all spoke to more disclosure, making it easier for consumers to compare, and credit unions fall right into that," Anderson said. "I think it's kind of a natural for us to take part and follow with that."

Durbin has written a letter to Illinois' State Board of Higher Education as well as the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities, asking their help in contacting lending institutions.


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