Illinois Public Media News
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says the congressional district map he's signed into law is fair and protects minority voters' rights.
Quinn signed the proposal to change district lines--required every 10 years after the Census--on Friday. He says taxpayers had input at public hearings on both state legislative and congressional maps, even though the final product for the U.S. House was voted on less than 24 hours after it was publicized.
Critics point to only one district among 18 where Latinos represent the majority even though the Hispanic population in Illinois grew 32.5 percent. Illinois is losing one seat in the House in 2013 because of nationwide population shifts.
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady says the new congressional district lines are an attempt to "silence'' voters. Brady says voters sent a GOP majority to Congress just last fall. He says the map is unfair to Republicans. It lumps five GOP incumbents into districts where they'd have to run against other incumbents in 2012. Brady says Quinn "lost all claims to the label 'reformer' " by approving the map and says he hopes courts will overturn it.
He says the map was released on a Friday and approved on a holiday weekend to avoid public scrutiny.
In rural towns throughout Central Illinois, deciding where to attend worship service today could mean giving up youth activities or choir for a smaller service, or sacrificing a local connection to seek out parishioners of a similar age in a large congregation. As part of the series, 'Life on Route 150', Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert looks at rural churches, and what some in the region are doing to survive in today's climate.
(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)
A state budget plan on the Governor's desk will undergo some changes.
Governor Pat Quinn says he will put his own stamp on a spending package after lawmakers, primarily in the House, put together a bipartisan document that cut spending levels in areas like education and health care.
Quinn says those are priorities for him and hinted he will shift spending to reflect that. "It's obviously a tough budget time," Quinn said. "But that's why we have a Governor. The legislature doesn't dictate everything. We will look at their outline and make changes we think are better."
Quinn has no authority to add money to the budget, but he could rework spending lines so that money is freed up for what he wants.
Lawmakers could agree with his changes or try to override him. However, they are not set to return to the capitol until the fall. Quinn expects to act on his changes next week, before the new fiscal year begins July 1.
The way Illinois taxes businesses has developed a bad reputation. A growing number of companies cite it as a hindrance. Now, though, the leaders of the state Senate and House are making an overhaul of the tax structure a priority.
Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman sent a letter to Governor Pat Quinn in March outlining how Illinois lawmakers' actions were making it harder for him to withstand the heavy courtship of other states wanting the Peoria-based equipment-maker to relocate.
The letter set off a frenzy because Caterpillar's moving would be a major loss to Illinois. Oberhelman later refined his point and says the company has no plans to leave.
Nonetheless ... the focus was drawn to Illinois' business climate. Since then, there has been a drumbeat of headlines about this year's tax hike, and about subsequent tax breaks given to corporations like Motorola and Navistar to entice them to stay, which is why the House Speaker and Senate President formed a joint committee to consider overhauling the business tax structure.
Democratic Representative John Bradley of Marion will be a co-chair. "The idea being here that we're going to try to make Illinois keep up with the times and be handling the corporate tax structure that is efficient, fair, balanced and competitive manner," Bradley said.
Hearings will be held this summer, but times and locations haven't yet been set.
Christopher Kennedy is stepping down as president of Chicago's Merchandise Mart.
Kennedy, son of the late U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, made the announcement Thursday.
Kennedy has been with the Mart for 25 years. He's president of MMPI, the property management firm that owns the Mart, a sprawling complex at the heart of Chicago's design industry.
Joseph P. Kennedy bought the Merchandise Mart in 1945, but the Kennedy family no longer owns the building.
Christopher Kennedy says he's looking forward to spending the summer with family and focusing on his duties as chairman of the University of Illinois board of trustees.
He plans to take on a consulting role with MMPI through March 2012.
He's being replaced by Mark Falanga, who's been with MMPI for 17 years, on July 23.
Police in the Edgar County town of Paris are investigating a possible homicide of a woman in the southeast section of town.
Paris Police were called to a home on Highland Court Thursday evening, where they found the body of a woman.
Authorities are not releasing any information about the victim or possible suspects at this time.
State Police have been called in to lead the investigation, and say there's no indication of threats or danger to the public.
The Edgar County Coroner's office and Edgar County State's Attorney's office are also taking part in the investigation.
State Treasurer Dan Rutherford says he supports the vote by Illinois lawmakers on Wednesday to pass appropriations for construction projects --- without the extra money for social service spending that Senate Democrats tried to tack on.
The Republican Rutherford, a former state senator himself, said the vote is just one of the places where lawmakers have made progress in reining in spending this year. But he said just cutting discretionary spending will not be enough --- if the state of Illinois doesn't gain control of the $130 billion underfunding of its pension funds for state employees and teachers.
"As the state treasurer of Illinois, I went and cut 50% of my vehicle fleet," Rutherford said. When I went into office, I cut 73% of the cell phones and Blackberries. All of that adds up to money, but it's not going to fix the problem. It's the unfunded liability in our pension systems --- that we have to look to addressing what type of pension systems we have in place for the public employees."
Rutherford supported legislation (SB 512) during the spring session that would have provided a range of pension options and contribution levels for current state employees --- as a way to control costs. The bill was withdrawn by Illinois House leaders in the face of opposition from state employee unions.
Opponents questioned the claims of supporters that the measure follows constitutional language requiring the state to live up to contracts. Rutherford said he hopes that hearings scheduled for this summer will help build support for the bill in the upcoming fall session.
Champaign's police chief has been named to head an organization that networks with fellow officers around the state.
R.T. Finney will be installed this weekend as the next President of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. In his 1-year term, Finney will help develop standards in training, and discuss legislation impacting officers throughout the state.
Finney says the organization's conferences have proved an invaluable place to compare notes with others in the profession, particularly with small police departments that have 10 or fewer officers.
"Getting together with smaller departments, and getting together with larger departments than ourselves - that certainly lends itself to more experiences than we could ever have on our own," said Finney. "Just the aspect of knowing what you went through, and what somebody else went through is invaluable in terms of networking,"
Finney has been part of the ILACP since 1997. Before being made Chief of Police in Champaign, Finney worked in Quincy and Carbondale.
He'll be installed as the organization's president at its annual conference this weekend in Champaign. The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police represents about 12-hundred officers throughout the state.
The last event in the city of Champaign's 150th anniversary celebration is an open family-oriented party Thursday night.
The city is using the brand-new Boneyard Second Street Basin development as the backdrop for what it calls a Unity Celebration. The first one-thousand attendees will be treated to free food, and there will be music, entertainment and games.
LaEisha Meadards is heading up the sesquicentennial events for the city. She says another highlight will require the help of as many Champaign residents as possible. "All of the visitors who come to the Unity Celebration will get together and take a community-wide photo," Meadards said. "It will be used as a commemorative item for city-related documents, and it will be on sale for the community at large."
During a dedication ceremony at 5:40, the city will also place a time capsule at the Boneyard commemorating a series of 150th-anniversary events that began more than a year ago. The Unity Celebration takes place tomorrow evening from 5:30 to 8:30 with the community photo at 6:10.
State construction projects will go on without further trepidation. Senators approved funding for them Wednesday, and at the same time knocked down their own pay a bit as they returned to the Capitol for the first time since the end of the regular session.
The threat had been looming that roadwork and all other ongoing infrastructure projects would need to shut down, including the project to rebuild Lincoln Hall on the University of Illinois' Urbana campus. The legislature adjourned in May without voting to pay for them.
Senate Democrats had tried holding back the $18 billion as a way to pressure the House to approve more money for education and human services, but they ultimately backed down from those demands. Governor Pat Quinn says that ensures thousands of construction workers will keep their jobs.
But Democratic Senate President John Cullerton says concerns remain with the budget, which is on Quinn's desk. "We will take up the shortcomings of the House budget that we did pass, when we come back perhaps in the fall, most likely in January," Cullerton said.
It's relatively insignificant, but about $500,000 will be saved via another measure headed to Quinn. It freezes elected officials' pay and requires they take 12 furlough days. Legislators' base salary will be about $65,000, though some earn more for extra duties.
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