Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - August 02, 2011

Urbana Congressman Votes Down Debt Ceiling Plan

Urbana Congressman Tim Johnson was one of just three Illinois Republicans to vote down the plan to raise the federal debt limit.

In a statement issued Monday afternoon, Johnson said the legislation "falls far short of making the fundamental structural reforms and the fundamental spending reductions necessary to get our nation working again."

GOP freshman Reps. Randy Hultgren and Joe Walsh also voted 'no.'

"Washington's spendthrift habits are the reason 87 Republicans were swept into the House in 2010," Johnson said. "That frustration has not changed. I also find it regrettable that under his new plan, Congress won't be able to revisit the debt ceiling until 2013."

Republican supporters of the plan included Rep. Aaron Schock of Peoria, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois' 11th District, and John Shimkus of Illinois' 19th District. Democrats Jesse Jackson Jr. of Chicago and Jan Schakowsky of Evanston opposed the plan.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - August 02, 2011

Retired Engineer Chosen for Champaign County Board Seat

Republicans have selected Gary Maxwell of Mahomet to fill a vacancy on the Champaign County Board.

On Monday night, a group of precinct committeemen also interviewed Mahomet Village Trustee Gerald Smith and retired hobby shop owner Mark Thompson before voting to appoint Maxwell - a retired civil engineer and land surveyor - for the District One seat left vacant in June by Larry Sapp's resignation.

Maxwell is a 30-year resident of Champaign County.

"Gary's experience and background will allow him to make wise decisions in a number of areas, particularly highway and rural code," said Champaign County Board Republican Caucus Chairman Alan Nudo in a party press release. "He is a great fit for the district."

Maxwell says his professional experience working with county boards helped him prepare for the opportunity.

Before the meeting, former Champaign County Board member Chris Doenitz withdrew his name, saying he felt a number of qualified candidates had come forward.

The County Board will vote to accept Maxwell's appointment at its meeting on Aug. 18th.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 01, 2011

Quinn Adviser Fined by Executive Ethics Commission

A senior adviser to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has been fined $500 for sending a political email from a state telephone.

The Executive Ethics Commission released a ruling on Jerry Stermer on Monday.

Stermer was the Democratic governor's chief of staff in January 2010 when he reported that he'd sent the questionable emails the previous month.

The commission determined one email from his state phone was to campaign staffers. The other two were sent from a private computer on a Sunday.

The commission noted Stermer held a high position in government and should be an example, but that he admitted and self-reported the violations.

Stermer resigned in August 2010 but was rehired in December as a senior adviser.

Quinn's office hasn't immediately responded to a request for comment.

(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)


AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 01, 2011

Quinn Signs Bill to Help Undocumented College Students

A college education will be more affordable for thousands of undocumented immigrants in Illinois.

Gov. Pat Quinn on Monday signed into law a bill that will set up privately funded college scholarships for children of immigrants, legal or not. The program's backers say it will be the nation's first state-created scholarship fund benefiting undocumented immigrants.

"[It's] certainly something that will get noticed around the country and in the Congress," said Margie McHugh of the Migration Policy Institute.

The Illinois measure could build support for a federal bill called the DREAM Act, according to McHugh. That bill, introduced in May by U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) would lay a path to citizenship for many undocumented students and military members who arrived in the country before age 16. Durbin has been pushing versions of this measure since 2001.

Opponents say helping out the young people rewards their parents for violating immigration laws.

Quinn signed the scholarships bill at Benito Juárez Community Academy, a mostly Mexican high school in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. He called the occasion a "landmark" day and told an auditorium of people that education is the key to opportunity in a democracy.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel attended the ceremony after announcing support for the measure in May. Lobbying led by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights helped push the bill through the Illinois Senate and House that month.

Under the measure, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission will create a nonprofit organization to manage the scholarship funds. High-school guidance counselors will receive training about the program. The immigrant families will also be able to join state-run college savings programs.

Illinois and several other states already provide undocumented students in-state tuition.

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - August 01, 2011

GOP Leaders To Choose New Champaign Co. Bd Member

Republican committeemen from Champaign County's District One will meet Monday evening to vote on a new county board member.

The meeting is scheduled for 5:30 PM, at 2919 Crossing Court (at the corner of Duncan and Windsor Roads) in Champaign. The location is the law office of Champaign County Republican Chairman Jason Barickman.

Larry Sapp resigned from the Champaign County Board in June, citing person reasons. He left a vacant seat in District One. The district covers northwest Champaign County, including Mahomet, Seymour, Fisher, Dewey, Foosland and a small part of Champaign..

The committeemen will interview four applicants for the county board seat --- former county board member Chris Doenitz, former Mahomet village trustee Gerald Smith, retired civil engineer Gary Maxwell, and retired hobby shop owner Mark Thompson.

Party Treasurer Habeeb Habeeb says it's a good slate of candidates. He says the party would love to have someone hold the seat for a while, but a 2012 candidacy wasn't a requirement.

"I don't think we strictly asked that," he said. "We just asked about their background. It would be great if they get some experience and they would continue to run, and they have indicated to us that they would run in the general election after that. But I don't believe we asked that question on the application."

The 13 committeemen will cast weighted ballots to choose their recommendation. It will be sent on to the Champaign County Board, which must choose another Republican to serve in the post until the next election in November of 2012. It's expected to act on the party's recommendation at its August 18th meeting.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - August 01, 2011

Treasurer: Illinois Investment Funds Remain Safe

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

As lawmakers in Washington scramble to vote on a debt ceiling compromise, Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford says he is keeping a close eye on the state's finances.

Rutherford said rising interest rates are helping the state earn more than expected in investments.

President Barack Obama and Congress reached a tentative deal Sunday. The Senate and House still need to vote on a plan by August 2nd, or risk defaulting on its loan obligations.

Rutherford said Monday the state earned $22,000 in interest more than typical for such a trading day. The Republican noted that interest rates have been increasing since early last week amid concerns about the debt-ceiling debate in Washington.

Rutherford said the state will have about $7 billion to invest over the next month.

"The worst case scenario is we would move that $7 billion into zero interest, meaning we gain no interest, but it would be FDIC secured," he said.

Rutherford said if if the debt ceiling isn't raised in time, he is ready to move the state's investment portfolio to 'no interest' accounts. Doing so he said could ensure that the General Assembly has the funds it needs for certain programs.

"The General Assembly has appropriated moneys, and whatever cash they have is what they use to pay the bills," Rutherford said. "Where we come in at is making sure it's secure and that if we can draw additional interest. We have benefit to try to add more into the treasury because of those interests."

Rutherford's staff had about $3 billion that was liquid and available for investment Monday, including $1 billion from the state's portfolio. He joined his investment staff for trading Monday morning.

Rutherford said Illinois is getting about a 50 percent reduction in federal dollars compared to last year. He wouldn't comment on whether he supports the deficit-cutting plan unveiled Sunday, but he said he is anxious to see the debt ceiling raised so that billions of federal dollars continue flowing to the state.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 01, 2011

Asset Sales Raise $7 Million for Victims of Decatur Ponzi Scheme

Sales of homes, jewelry and other assets that once belonged to a former Decatur resident convicted of investment fraud have raised more than $7 million. But that's less than a third of the money William Huber was convicted of stealing.

The (Decatur) Herald & Review reports (http://bit.ly/pVqG6C) that court documents indicate most of Huber's former assets have been found and sold.

That includes homes in Florida and California as well as cars and clothes. One of the more recent sales was $39,000 worth of jewelry.

Huber was sentenced to 20 years in prison in December after he pleaded guilty to running a Ponzi scheme that stole $23 million from investors.

Huber is now 62 and in prison in California. He's appealing his sentence claiming it's too long.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 01, 2011

Judge Sets Blagojevich Sentencing Date

A federal judge has set an Oct. 6 sentencing date for ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Judge James Zagel set the date during a status hearing Monday. Blagojevich didn't attend the hearing.

Legal observers say Zagel is likely to sentence Blagojevich to about 10 years for a lone conviction at his first trial and convictions on 17 corruption counts at his retrial. The retrial convictions in June included trying to sell or trade President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat.

Blagojevich was last in court in July to sign papers putting up his home and another property as collateral for a $450,000 bond that lets him remain free while awaiting sentencing. The 54-year-old did appear last month to sign papers putting up his home and another property as collateral for a $450,000 bond that lets him remain free while awaiting sentencing.

(AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 30, 2011

A Decade After TeraGrid, U of I Heads Up Digital Network

The University of Illinois is the lead researcher for a $121 million digital network funded by the National Science Foundation. The Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment, or XSEDE for short, is seen as an expansion of the TeraGrid project, which started in the late 1990s.

Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert spoke with project leader John Towns about how the focus has shifted to a larger partnership with more top-research universities.

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Categories: Education, Technology

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 30, 2011

Kirk, Durbin Question Airline Fare Increases

U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk are questioning airline fare increases after a ticket tax holiday was created by the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration.

The two Illinois senators have sent a letter to the head of the Air Transport Association asking why most carriers aren't passing the savings along to customers.

Other senators also are putting pressure on the carriers about the fare increases, and so is U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The FAA shutdown eliminated the airlines' authority to collect ticket taxes, which funds the FAA and airport construction. But nearly all carriers raised fares equal to the taxes.

Kirk, a Republican, and Durbin, a Democrat, say they worry the recent price increase is "a collective effort to take advantage of federal inaction.


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