Illinois Public Media News
The University of Illinois' new president is getting high praise from Governor Pat Quinn.
He calls former faculty member and administrator Robert Easter an outstanding choice to lead the university for two years after Michael Hogan officially steps down July 1st.
"I know he has the utmost respect of all of the students, the faculty, and the administration." Quinn said Monday. "And it's all about the students. We shouldn't forget that. The university is set up for the education of men and women who are going to make a difference in the world."
Hogan resigned Thursday amid faculty concerns about his leadership. Quinn says he knows Easter well. The two recently traveled together as part of a trade mission to China.
Quinn also wished Hogan well, calling him an excellent scholar who simply didn't work out.
"It was probably the right thing to do to have this change," the governor said. "And I think it's important for us to move on and not to dwell on the present."
Meanwhile, Quinn urged the Illinois Senate to end a controversial legislative scholarship program after passing the House last week.
While the Supreme Court hears arguments on the federal health care law this week, one of its local supporters argues that the law is already providing benefits.
Full implementation of the Affordable Care Act is still two years away. But Claudia Lennoff of Champaign County Healthcare Consumers said some benefits are helping people now.
She said that thanks to the law, her organization no longer hears stories from people whose health insurance has been rescinded due to a particular health event, like a newly diagnosed disease.
"One lady, who I remember, who had just gotten diagnosed with cancer tumors in her brain; and all of a sudden, when she was just about to start receiving treatment, she was noticed that her health plan, and she would not be covered for that. And then was scrambling to get health insurance," Lennoff said. "So we don't see those kind of cases any more, thank goodness. "
In addition to providing help to those already insured, Lennoff said the federal health care law is also bringing more uninsured people to her office. She said people who were barred from coverage due to the cost or a pre-existing condition now have new opportunities for coverage.
Lennoff said she's optimistic that the benefits of the federal health care law will survive a challenge before the Supreme Court --- even if the "individual mandate" requiring all Americans to buy health insurance is struck down.
A candidate for Champaign County Circuit Clerk said she doesn't want to sue the County Clerk's office over its decision to count the votes in favor of her opponent in last week's Republican primary.
Election results show Stephanie Holderfield lost to Rick Winkel by 245 votes, even though Winkel withdrew his candidacy in early February. Speaking Monday with her attorney, Mark Hewitt, by her side, Holderfield said votes cast for Winkel should not be counted since he dropped out of the race.
"I hope to move forward in a positive manner as a Republican in Champaign County," Holderfield said. "I think it's very important that everyone understand that we may have some hiccups in the road but it's how we come through those hiccups, those bumps that make us better for it."
In cases where a candidate drops out of a race, the Illinois State Board of Elections has said votes for that candidate should be ignored. That recommendation is binding for state races, but only advisory on local elections.
The Champaign County Republican Party said a weighted vote will be conducted by precinct committeemen to determine a nominee, which could happen sometime in the next month. Holderfield said she is confident she will get the support needed to head to the General Election in November.
Winkel has said he will formally withdraw as a candidate after the ballots are certified
Illinois Public Media's Celeste Quinn visits Mary Ann Pettigrew, a long-time resident of Danville, Illinois. Pettigrew spent a number of years working as a Registered Nurse for the Santa Fe Railroad, for an oil company in the Middle East and St. Francis Hospital in Peoria. She came back to Danville in the early 1970s and has lived at the house on Buchanan Street ever since.
(With production assistance from Crystal Kang)
New rules that could greatly expand the number of Indiana's public schools subject to state takeover are on hold while state legislators take a longer look at the proposal.
More than 100 schools in 76 districts had feared the new rules could put them at risk of takeover, but The Indianapolis Star reports (http://indy.st/GRw6lk ) that a legislative change would give those schools a fresh start.
The proposal from the state Board of Education called for any school receiving Fs in four consecutive years in state evaluations to face takeover, along with schools that received any combination of Ds and Fs for five straight years.
Currently, only schools rated an F for six consecutive years face state takeovers.
Legislators are expected to establish a study committee to review the rules.
A person familiar with the coaching search at Illinois says the Illini are interested in talking to Ohio's John Groce.
The person said Sunday that Illinois turned its attention to Groce after Brad Stevens said he will stay at Butler. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the search to replace fired coach Bruce Weber is ongoing.
A message was left seeking comment from Ohio basketball spokesman Drew Wiseman.
Groce coached Ohio to a 29-7 record this season and a spot in the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament. The Bobcats lost 73-65 to top-seeded North Carolina on Friday in one of the best games of the tournament.
Stevens had reportedly been an Illini target after Shaka Smart elected to stay at VCU
Stevens says he is "happy and extremely grateful'' to be at Butler.
Robert Easter takes the helm as president of the University of Illinois on July 1, when the resignation of current President Michael Hogan takes effect. Easter earned his doctorate at the U of I in the early 1970s before taking a faculty position there. He recently served as Dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, and then interim Provost and Chancellor on the Urbana campus. The university has gone through a rough period over the last few years marked by an embarrassing admissions scandal, and the resignations of two presidents.
Easter will stay on as president for two years, and he tells Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers that he's ready to help move the university forward.
As Illlinois adults sip their coffee and unfold their newspapers early Sunday morning, state officials say they can also become some of the first people in the country to buy lottery tickets online.
Illinois will become what lotto officials say is the first state in the U.S. to sell tickets over the Internet when the high-security website goes live around 7 a.m. Sunday. Online players will be able to buy up to $10 worth of Lotto or Mega Millions tickets, and state lawmakers are already considering whether to add Powerball into the mix.
The Illinois Lottery estimates e-ticket sales could net hundreds of thousands of new players, and bring in between $78 million and $118 million in new revenue for the cash-strapped state, half of which would fund capital projects. State lawmakers signed off on the online pilot program in 2009, but implementation had been held up pending legal approval from the U.S. Justice Department, which finally came in December.
In Illinois, where lotto tickets must be bought at a licensed retailer, the plan hasn't been without controversy. Some retail groups have worried that online lottery sales, which they say account for up to 50 percent of revenue at some convenience stores, would take a huge bite out of their in-store business. And anti-gambling advocates complain Internet ticket sales could tempt addicts and underage buyers.
But Illinois Lottery Superintendent Michael Jones said the system is secure, and require would-be gamblers to turn over their names, addresses, Social Security numbers and credit card information before they click "buy."
"But there's also the psychological protection that if you attempt to circumvent our rules by playing underage, or playing from outside the state, and you win, we do a winner validation for any prize over $600," Jones said Friday. "And we won't pay you."
Meanwhile, retailers and convenience store owners have been in talks with Jones and Northstar Lottery Group, the private company that runs the Illinois lotto. The store owners had been pushing for a bump in their five percent commission rate to offset a feared drop in in-person ticket sales, as well as a plan to require that online tickets be purchased exclusively using designated debit cards that could only be bought and recharged at brick-and-mortar stores.
But business groups seem to have quieted down after striking a deal to require that Illinois study the effects of online ticket sales on retailers, and the viability of the debit card idea. That plan will be tacked onto the bill that would add Powerball to the Internet pilot program. The amendment is designed to "lift the opposition that the convenience store owners have had," and will likely be introduced next week, according to the bill's sponsor, State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, D-Evanston.
Retailers say they have a symbiotic relationship with the Illinois Lotto. But they're staying vigilant.
"These concerns are not going away, but at least we now - I shouldn't say 'at least' - we now have - or will have - a mechanism to determine whether our concerns play out," said David Vite, CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, which represents 5,100 convenience stores across the state.
Legislation to prevent cozy relationships between lawmakers and lobbyists has been squashed by an Illinois Senate panel.
The measures would have required officials to disclose family members who are lobbyists. Legislators also would have been barred from becoming lobbyists for one year after serving, and they couldn't negotiate for lobbying jobs while still in public office.
The measures were buried Friday in a subcommittee controlled by Senate Democrats.
The sponsor says he isn't giving up. Republican Sen. Darin LaHood of Dunlap hopes to find a Democrat willing to sponsor his legislation.
LaHood says the measures would make the state more transparent and start to clean up Illinois' reputation for corrupt government.
The bills are SB3646, SB3647, SB3648 and SB3649.
The Illinois House Friday approved a measure intended to prevent state universities from using private headhunters to find new faculty and administrators.
The proposal says no tuition or tax dollars could be used on outside search firms. Representative Chapin Rose says the state cannot afford to use headhunters. He says universities should be able to handle the job in-house.
"When you stop to consider the amount of people we're already paying that traditionally, 20 years ago, would do these functions -- why -- have we just gone completely insane?," Rose said. "Why can't they just do what was done 20 years ago which is go hire a dean or a faculty member or whoever?"
Rose, a Republican from Mahomet, says the University of Illinois spent more than $250-thousand dollars on an outside firm to find a new chancellor for the Urbana campus.
But he praised the Board of Trustees for naming longtime U of I administrator Robert Easter the next university president, without a search committee or headhunter. At least two lawmakers say the legislature might be micromanaging. Representative Ann Williams is a Democrat from Chicago.
"I'm wondering if there are any other examples in Illinois statute where we dictate how much, or what items can or cannot be expended by a public university," Williams said.
The measure passed 91 to 9 and now goes to the Senate.
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