Illinois Public Media News
The Illinois House wants to give struggling schools a chance at saving money by having students in class only four days a week.
The measure easily advanced to the state Senate. Supporters say costs like busing students and electricity would be lower. The sponsor, Danville Republican Representative Bill Black, says it would require schools that drop a day to have longer hours when school is in session. That way, students would still be in class the same amount of time.
But opponents, like Chicago Democratic Representative Monique Davis, say the state should avoid placing money problems on the backs of students and their families. "I don't believe that children should be told you can stay home alone for a full day and take care of yourselves, take care of your little brothers, take care of your little sisters because the state can no longer afford to educate you," Davis said.
Under the proposal, school districts interested in dropping to a four day school week would have to hold public hearings. The State Board of Education would also review the plan.
Public education faces one-point-three billion dollars in cuts next school year. Governor Pat Quinn is suggesting lawmakers approve a tax increase to plug that hole.
With a major healthcare reform about to become law......many Illinoisans are left wondering what's in it for them. The Illinois Department of Insurance has put together a list of changes directly affecting people in the state.
Most provisions won't take effect until 2014, but residents could start seeing changes to their policies within the year. The state Department of Insurance expects health insurance rates to stabilize. The agency points out those seeking coverage won't be discriminated against because of a pre-existing illnesses.
The department's Director Michael McRaith says those changes will reduce trepidation on the part of Illinois consumers. "No longer will people be denied an application for insurance, be denied a claim that they filed with their insurance company, will be charged more because they've been sick or they might become sick in the future," McRaith said.
A major provision of the package is an insurance exchange system. McRaith says that will let Illinoisans shop around and pick from state approved policies. He adds that preventative services like mammograms will also be included. The changes will expand Illinois' Medicaid system, but there are no official cost estimates. One study found one third of Illinois residents have no health coverage.
The debate over the Olympian Drive extension will continue at an Urbana City Council committee-of-the-whole meeting in three weeks. Council members have put off a decision on a state-funded design engineering study for the road. It would be just the latest phase in a long-standing project that Mayor Laurel Prussing says would bring economic development --- and jobs --- to the north edge of the city. But opponents like Bill and Virginia Ziegler (left) and Leslie Cooperbrand (right) argue it would do more harm than good. AM 580's Jim Meadows reports on the Olympian Drive debate.
A crucial vote on the Olympian Drive extension will have to wait three more weeks.
The Urbana City Council voted last (Monday) night to keep a package of intergovernmental agreements in committee until the April 12th meeting. Those agreements are for a state-funded design engineering report on the proposed extension of Olympian Drive through the north edge of Urbana.
Council members said they needed to know more about the potential impact of the project. And most, like Alderman Dennis Roberts, said they had received lots of email about Olympian Drive --- most of it opposing the project.
"I probably received way more people's email who oppose the road", said Roberts. "But I think like many people on the council, that there hasn't been a real honest discussion on what we expect to happen here. And what the impacts are, and what the design potentials are. And I think it's the responsibility of the city council to plan --- far in the future."
IDOT has asked the Urbana City Council to make a decision on funding for the study by May 1st. Meanwhile, land acquisition for the road project would be delayed because the Champaign County Board --- which must sign off on buying right-of-ways ---- has put off a vote, possibly until next year.
Mayor Laurel Prussing says the Olympian Drive extension would bring business and jobs to the north edge of Urbana. But opponents say the road would cut through valuable farmland --- and they question how much development would actually be attracted.
A University of Illinois professor says it may take until November's elections to discover the real winners and losers in the US House passage of health care reform.
Institute of Government and Public Affairs Director Robert Rich says the first assumption is that President Obama is a winner for pushing through legislation that many didn't expect to pass. But Rich says he fully expects Republicans to campaign on the repeal of the legislation until the fall. He points to the fact that no Republicans voted for it in House, and Rich says he fully expects the same result in Senate when votes are taken on the final measure. "I think what that is... and Senator (John) McCain already said that the Democrats will pay a price for this... and I don't take that as him being necessarily correct," says Rich. "What I take that to be is the gauntlet has been let down, and to say that we're now on March 22nd, elections coming up this this fall, and this is going to be a major issue in the campaign."
Rich says children are immediate winners of the measure, since they can't be denied insurance for pre-existing conditions. He also says small businesses should benefit since they can form alliances to negotiate better insurance rates. The Executive Director of the Illinois-based Campaign for Better Health Care, Jim Duffet, says the first sign of the measure's passage is that people won't be turned down by their insurance company for having an illness. Duffett also credits lawmakers for including language that encourages entrepreneurism.
"There's so many people that would love to start a new business,' says Duffett. "So many people that would love to use their creativity and their minds to be able to create different jobs, take this idea and run with it. So many people have not been able to do that because they're fearful they cannot get health insurance for themselves or their family because they have a pre-existing condition. So that is going to be off people's backs." Duffet also commends the bill's authors for letting young people stay on their parents' insurance longer, until the age of 26.
Rich says everyone should keep in mind that what he considers the heart of the legislation, coverage of the uninsured, doesn't go into effect until 2014. Rich says that presents opportunities for a repeal both this year and in 2012. But Rich says that's unlikely... with a two-thirds vote required and President Obama still in office.
Some Democrats are reacting coolly to Governor Pat Quinn's call on lawmakers to stay in Springfield over their spring break to work on budget issues - but Quinn's challenger says "bring it on."
Quinn wants a vote soon on his proposal to raise the state income tax rate by one percent to help bolster education funding in the midst of a 13 billion dollar budget deficit. Republican candidate for governor Bill Brady says he's in favor of an early vote too, but for a different reason.
"We're ready to go tomorrow," Brady said. "The sooner the better, because it's time that he stopped living in fantasy land, and it's time that he realized that the real picture is that we're not going to raise taxes. We're not going to do that to Illinois families and businesses, and we're going to deconstruct and construct a budget that's balanced."
Brady says he's against any sort of tax increase in this year's general assembly. Democratic House leader Mike Madigan will only say he's taking the idea of an early vote on an income tax increase under advisement.
Brady made a weekend appearance at a Champaign County GOP event headlined by former Bush administration advisor Karl Rove.
Champaign, Urbana and University of Illinois Police were conducting special patrols on the U of I Urbana campus Friday, following a report of a home invasion and aggravated battery early Friday morning.
Authorities say that as the occupant of an apartment in the 400 block of East Healy was opening her door... she was grabbed from behind, and struck in the face several times. She was treated at a local hospital.
The attacker is described as a 35-year old black male, 5 foot 10, 170 pounds, wearing a dark shirt, jeans, and tan hat.
A sketch is on line at www.publicsafety.illinois.edu
An Urbana man was arrested on the University Illinois Quad Friday afternoon, after allegedly snatching a woman's purse and threatening to use a syringe to stab passersby who pursued him.
Jeff Unger of the U of I News Bureau says U of I and Champaign Police have charged 20 year old Nathaniel Huff with robbery, aggravated battery and possession of a syringe. Authorities say Huff is not a student.
The incident occurred on the south end of the Quad, near Gregory and Lincoln Halls. Unger says Huff allegedly grabbed a woman's purse and ran off. But a number of people in the vicinity ran after and restrained him, despite Huff's threats to stab them with the syringe. No one was injured. Police aren't sure if anything was in the syringe.
In a season where the Fighting Illini's bid to make the NCAA tournament fell short, a study by Forbes magazine says it's still among the most financially viable college basketball programs.
The team ranked 5th in the magazine's study and tops among Big Ten Conference teams with a value of $20.8 million. Reporter Peter Schwartz analyzed 'dividends' that teams can generate, including money for academics and scholarships, their athletic conference, and their community at large. In Forbes' third annual ranking of the most valuable college basketball teams, Schwartz says the U of I's athletic department was also able to keep costs for basketball down while helping a lot of so-called 'non-revenue' sports like volleyball and tennis.
Schwartz also says being one of the primary attractions of the area doesn't hurt. "There's even more professional sports competition in and around the area as well, but at the same time, being in Urbana and not being in Chicago actually plays to the programs' benefit." says Schwartz. Schwartz says the Illini's most impressive figures include $7-million in gate receipts, and more than $4 million coming from season ticket holders. Schwartz says success on the court also plays a role into a team's financial success. The Fighting Illini are hosting at least one postseason game next week as part of the NIT Tournament. Schwartz says that will help a team, but it's not a deciding factor in its final ranking in the study.
Other Big Ten schools on Forbes' list of the 20 most valuable teams include Indiana, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Minnesota. Tops on the list was the North Carolina Tar Heels, with a value of $29 million.
In an attempt to take the politics out of drawing county board district boundaries ... the Champaign County Board voted Thursday night to form a special Redistricting Commission, in which the majority of members will be citizens from the community. County officials believe the commission may be a first for Illinois.
The new commission is an attempt to get past district maps drawn to favor whichever party holds the majority on the county board. For the map to be based on 2010 Census data, the Champaign County Board will vote on a map drawn up by a commission made up of four county members --- two from each party --- and seven at-large members representing different sectors of the community, such as business, labor, farmers, students --- and political independents. Democrat Steve Beckett says the goal is to come up with district boundaries that are drawn fairly and don't favor one party over another.
"I think it uses these principles, and it tests maps", says Beckett, "and it tries to look at one that doesn't bust up villages and doesn't bust up townships, and tries to make things compact and contiguous as our statute wants us to do, and have the right population and take into account and take into account federal requirements."
Most Republicans on the county board voted for the new commission, but only a third of the county board's Democratic majority did so. Among the opponents, Urbana Democrat Tom Betz says there's simply no way that politics can be taken out of the redistricting process.
"This is a nice attempt", said Betz. "It's very good public relations. I hope it turns out to be more than good public relations. But let's not kid ourselves that politics is out of this picture, because this is going to be very political.
Betz predicted the real politics would begin when the at-large members of the Redistricting Commission are chosen. The nominations will be made by Champaign County Board Chairman Pius Weibel, who actually voted against the measure. The county board will vote to ratify Weibel's choices.
The commission rules aim for openness, with proposed maps posted on the Internet, and subjected to public hearings. Past voting data would not be considered in drawing up district boundaries. But the Champaign County Board will still have the final say on district boundaries for the 2012 election.
Page 619 of 712 pages ‹ First < 617 618 619 620 621 > Last ›