Illinois Public Media News
Republican Ron Stephens is resigning from the Illinois House seat he's held for 27 years.
Stephens has been the senior GOP member of the House. The Greenville Republican says he's stepping down for personal reasons.
Stephens has represented the 102nd House District, which covers all or parts of Bond, Clinton, Madison, St. Clair, Effingham, Fayette and Shelby counties. His term would have expired in January 2013.
His resignation means that Republican Party chairmen in his district will pick someone to serve the remainder of Stephens' term.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn will not say whether he thinks the state tollway should increase rates.
The Illinois Tollway says the plan is necessary to pay for a $12 billion project to repair and expand Chicago-area expressways. When pressed by reporters, Quinn refused to take a stand on the issue.
"We're going to let the whole process take forward," Quinn said. "The Tollway has a board; they're going to have public hearings, and I think that's a healthy thing, to have the public have a chance to speak."
The Tollway Board is scheduled to vote on a plan by Aug. 25. If it passed, toll hikes would take effect starting next year. Officials said the proposed increase would probably be between 40 to 75 cents.
A watered-down version of what began as a panhandling ordinance has been approved by the Urbana City Council.
The measure that passed on a 5-to-1 vote Monday night instead bans what's called 'aggressive solicitation,' or those who ask for money in a threatening or intimidating matter. The new ordinance removed portions that banned any requests for donations in the Philo Road Business District.
Alderwoman Diane Marlin said those who aggressively beg in that area have brought one unintended consequence.
"Basically, people who have been approached, or aggressively solicited or felt threatened, their reaction is to just stop patronizing businesses where this occured," she said. "That's a survival tactic."
The new measure still prohibits solicitation near an ATM or bank. Public opponents, including resident Ron Custer, argue that laws already on the books in Urbana should handle what the council is trying to address. Custer is one of several opponents who has come out in the last few weeks to speak out about the issue.
"I mean, when we hear anecdotes of somebody being terrorized in their car, and somebody else saying 'oh this happens routinely,'" Custer said. "Doesn't that sound like something that could have been responded to effectively by now?"
Opponents also say the original ordinance unfairly targeted poor people, and didn't distinguish from those who intimidated from those who casually ask for money.
One change to the new ordinance allows violators to perform community service as an alternative to paying a fine. That's an idea welcomed by Alderman Eric Jakobsson.
"That certainly will not dilute what we're hoping to acheive with this, whether we achieve it or not," Jakobsson said. "It definitely moves it in a direction of actually even being more than a deterrent, but being a positive outreach, to the extent that that's possible."
City council members will do an 18-month review in Jan. 2013. Alderwoman Heather Stevenson voted down the measure, saying the issue weighs heavily on civil liberties. She suggested that the public as well as police officers should learn more about existing laws.
Mayor Laurel Prussing and Alderman Dennis Roberts did not attend Monday's council meeting.
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.
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.
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)
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)
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.
(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.
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.
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