Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 27, 2011

Frerichs Says Bill on New Group Health Plans Still Alive

NOTE: This story was updated and expanded on 10/27/11.

State Sen. Mike Frerichs (D-Champaign) says he is disappointed that his bill to nullify the new group health insurance plans for state workers and retirees failed to survive a gubernatorial veto on Wednesday.

Senators failed to override the veto on a vote of 28-to-28, with Senate President John Cullerton voting Present. But Frerichs said the fight against what he sees as an inferior package of health plans isn't over yet.

"We're not done fighting, and this is a speed bump, it's not a roadblock," Frerichs said. "We still have a very good case going through the courts. And we still have time, because we extended contracts through June 30, to work on a solution in the spring session."

Frerichs was referring to the contract extensions of existing health plans --- including those from Urbana-based Health Alliance. They are meant to give time for the dispute over the health plans to play out. Frerichs' legislation would have gone further, canceling the new health plans entirely and starting the process of approving new contracts all over again --- but taking oversight of the procurement process to the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, and returning it to the Illinois Department of Central Management Services.

Frerichs also says he hasn't entirely given up on reaching a compromise with Governor Pat Quinn, despite his veto of the bill.

"The governor made fairly clear that he was opposed to this bill", says Frerichs. "But he did leave open the possibility of some sort of negotiations. So I'm going to listen to him, see if there's some sort of compromise that we can reach. If we can't though, we're prepared to go forward and try again."

Frerichs charges the Quinn administration with working to switch votes in the Senate on his bill, which passed the chamber 37 to 12 in May

The new health insurance plans announced by the Quinn administration last April drew criticism because they replaced existing health plans --- such as those from Health Alliance --- with ones not generally available in many counties or with certain physician groups --- such as Carle, which owns Health Alliance, and has an exclusive contract with them.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 27, 2011

Man Thought to be Gacy Victim, Found Living in Florida

A man thought to have been a victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy has been discovered living in Florida.

After the Cook County Sheriff exhumed remains of eight Gacy victims, the family of Harold Wayne Lovell came forward in an effort to find a match. Instead, they discovered that Lovell had been living in Florida all along. He'd vanished from Aurora in 1977 and had some trouble with the police along the way. Sheriff Tom Dart said the family was convinced Lovell was a victim based on a piece of jewelry found at Gacy's house. But they had no dental records to make a comparison at the time.

Lovell, now 53, has been reunited with his family.

Sheriff Dart said investigations have become more accurate over the past couple of decades.

"Back in the late 70s and prior to that, the way that missing persons were handled as a whole was not very scientific at all. And so people that had concerns back then, now would be the time whether or not they thought they were involved in the Gacy case or not. Come forward and have your DNA submitted," Dart said.

Dart said more than 120 families have come forward to see if their loved one is possibly among the victims. Results could be revealed in two to three weeks.

Gacy was convicted of murdering 33 men and boys in the 1970s. He was executed in 1994.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 26, 2011

Police Release Description of Events Leading up to Teen’s Arrest

The Champaign Police Department has released its account of what occurred early Monday morning when 18-year old Calvin Miller was arrested.

The arrest and alleged police beating of the teen sparked a protest from around 100 people at Tuesday's Champaign City Council meeting, including his father, activist Martel Miller. The press release described what occurred before Miller's arrest on counts of Resisting a Police Officer, Fleeing or Attempting to Elude, and a traffic signal violation.

In the release issued Wednesday night, police say an officer saw a van speeding as it left the University Village apartments about 1:30 a.m. Monday. Police say the officer had trouble catching up with the eastbound driver, who ran a red light at Moreland Boulevard and Marketview Drive, and the officer wasn't able to catch up until he reached Neil Street.

Police say the officer turned on his overhead lights, but the driver continued on until jumping from the moving van, which had slowed down just before hitting the front of a home on Arcadia Drive. Police say damage wasn't serious, and that the squad car made no contact with the van.

A foot chase then ensued, in which police say the officer gave out clear and loud commands for the subject to stop. Police say he jumped a fence in the 200 block of Arcadia, and fell to the ground. When ordered to put his arms behind his back, the man resisted. Police say when he reached for the officer's duty belt, the officer struck the subject with his hand to subdue him. When a second officer arrived, he used pepper spray before making the arrest.

Officers say the 18-year old Miller was taken to Carle Hospital for a medical evaluation before being transferred to the Champaign County Satellite Jail. He later posted bond and was released.

Champaign police say to date, there has not been a formal complaint filed regarding Miller's arrest, although Martel Miller said Tuesday he is talking to lawyers about his son's case.

Champaign Police says staff will assess the officers' responses to ensure that all actions were in accordance with departmental policies and procedures.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 26, 2011

Final Work Underway on UI Reactor Building

The final elements of an old atomic reactor on the University of Illinois' Urbana campus should be removed by next spring.

The decommission process is expected to start in the next few days. U of I Head of Nuclear Plasma and Radiological Engineering, James Stubbins, says the facility housed next to the Engineering Science Building was used a lot for research and training from 1960 through 1998.

That year, he says U of I administrators chose not to renew the license for financial reasons. Stubbins says it's a decision the university should regret.

"I think in terms of the campus, it's a real loss in terms of those kinds of capabilities," he said. "The argument was about budget, but (compared to) the actual cost of running the reactor, actually this is is much more expensive than what it would have cost to continue to run the reactor."

Stubbins says the facility was less of a threat over the last several years, particularly after the fuel was removed from the reactor in 2004. He says cleaning what remains won't require workers to be greatly protected.

"What we expect is even the dust levels inside won't be enough for people to have to wear respirators," said Stubbins. "We expect a normal kind of building tearing down working environment. But because we're using saws to go through the concrete, we don't even expect so much dust to be pushed up into the air."

He says any areas with residual radioactivity should be removed first, followed by a concrete block that served as a biological shield, surrounding the reactor's core. Stubbins says any staff near the site at Springfield and Goodwin Avenues shouldn't be impacted.

The final work should be completed in May.

Categories: Education, Energy, Science

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 26, 2011

Ill. Lawmakers OK Electricity Measure Despite Veto

Illinois lawmakers have approved major changes to the state's electricity system over Gov. Pat Quinn's veto.

Both the House and Senate voted to override the governor Wednesday.

They rejected Quinn's argument that the legislation guarantees unfair profits to power companies and seriously weakens the oversight power of state regulators.

The Senate voted 36-19 to override. Moments later, the House did the same on a 74-42 vote.

The legislation lets ComEd and Ameren raise rates to pay for improving electrical systems, including the creation of a high-tech "smart grid.''

Supporters say it will create jobs and help customers conserve energy. Critics call it a sweetheart deal for power companies.

Categories: Energy, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 26, 2011

Ill. Senate Examines Quinn Gambling Ideas

The Illinois Senate is moving toward action on a gambling expansion based on Gov. Pat Quinn's recommendations.

Lawmakers passed a major expansion plan earlier this year, but Quinn says he'll veto it.

He wants a plan that creates five new casinos, including one in Chicago, but does not allow slot machines at race tracks.

A Senate committee debated the proposal today. A vote by the full Senate could come later in the day.

If the measure fails, it would help lawmakers argue that only the larger expansion can draw enough support to pass. That might build a veto-proof majority for expansion.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 26, 2011

State High Court Suspends Blagojevich Law License

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

The Illinois Supreme Court has suspended convicted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's license to practice law.

The court acted Wednesday in response to a request from the state Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. The Commission noted he was found "guilty of crimes that involve moral terpitude and reflect adversely upon his fitness to practice law."

Blagojevich's legal career got off to a rough start. The ex-governor has described his first year at Pepperdine Law School as "almost catastrophic" because he was more interested with history books than law ones. It also took him a couple tries to pass the bar exam.

Blagojevich is currently awaiting sentencing on federal corruption convictions that he tried to personally profit from his appointment of a U.S. senator for the seat vacated by President Barack Obama and other wrongdoing.

The ruling won't have much impact on Blagojevich.

The Chicago Democrat has been a lawyer since 1984, but he hasn't practiced law since joining Congress in 1997. He was governor from 2003 to 2009, when he was impeached and removed from office.

For now, the Illinois Supreme Court's order is a temporary suspension. Suspension could lead to disbarment. Two other former Illinois governors - Otto Kerner and Dan Walker - were both disbarred following criminal convictions.

Blagojevich's lawyers could not be reached for comment, and the former governor's spokesman had no immediate response.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 26, 2011

Tests for Lysteria Lead To Recall of Two Sandwich Lines By Landshire

A company that supplies sandwiches to convenience stores, supermarkets and other outlets, is recalling two of its products, because they may be contaminated with Listeria.

St Louis-based Landshire Incorporated is recalling its Nike All-American and Nike Super Poor Boy sandwiches, after two samples from the company's plant in Caseyville tested positive for Listeria. The Illinois Department of Public Health says the sandwiches were made between Aug. 25 and Oct. 6. The Public Health Department says neither they nor Landshire have received any reports of confirmed illnesses due to the sandwiches.

Public Health officials say that Listeria symptoms vary, but can be serious and sometimes fatal in young children, pregnant women, the elderly and other with weakened immune symptoms. The symptoms can include fever, muscle aches, severe headaches and stiffness, abdominal pain and diarrhea. In pregnant women, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages or stillbirths.

If you've bought one of the sandwiches, you can return them to the place of purchase for a refund. They're identified by specific production lot codes affected by the recall range from 11 237 6 through 11 285 6. The codes can be found on the side or back of the individual packaged sandwich.

If you have questions about the sandwiches, you should contact Landshire at 314-925-4009.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 26, 2011

House Approves Changes to ‘Smart Grid’ Measure

The Illinois House has followed the Senate's lead and approved changes to give new life to electricity legislation that Gov. Pat Quinn opposes.

The House voted 91-24 Wednesday on the issue referred to at the state Capitol as "Smart Grid."

The Democratic governor opposes a plan allowing power companies to raise rates for system improvements like the high-tech grid. Critics say it would generate unfair profits and weaken state regulators.

Supporters say the new measure makes changes to address some complaints like the issue of power-company profits. They hope the adjustments will lure enough votes to override Quinn's veto of the original plan.

In East Central Illinois, five of seven representatives voted for the measure: Jason Barickman (R-Champaign), Dan Brady (R-Bloomington), Chad Hays (R-Catlin), Naomi Jakobsson (D-Urbana), and Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet). House members Adam Brown (R-Decatur) and Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth) voted against it.

Categories: Energy, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 26, 2011

Deliberations Underway in Cellini Trial

Jurors in Chicago have started deliberating at the last trial related to a nearly decade-long investigation of ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The panelists withdrew to a 25th-floor jury room Tuesday afternoon. They'll have to decide if a businessman once known as the King of Clout, William Cellini, conspired to shakedown the producer of "Million Dollar Baby.''

It could take them days to go through evidence presented over three weeks. The 76-year-old Republican from Springfield denies plotting with three others to squeeze the Hollywood executive for a $1.5 million donation to Democrat Blagojevich's campaign.

Prosecutors say Cellini's role was to gently broach the issue of a contribution, with another conspirator responsible for tightening the screws later. Jurors must determine if prosecutors proved Cellini delivered part of the extortion message.


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