Illinois Public Media News
Illinois lawmakers have approved major changes to the state's electricity system over Gov. Pat Quinn's veto.
Both the House and Senate voted to override the governor Wednesday.
They rejected Quinn's argument that the legislation guarantees unfair profits to power companies and seriously weakens the oversight power of state regulators.
The Senate voted 36-19 to override. Moments later, the House did the same on a 74-42 vote.
The legislation lets ComEd and Ameren raise rates to pay for improving electrical systems, including the creation of a high-tech "smart grid.''
Supporters say it will create jobs and help customers conserve energy. Critics call it a sweetheart deal for power companies.
The Illinois Senate is moving toward action on a gambling expansion based on Gov. Pat Quinn's recommendations.
Lawmakers passed a major expansion plan earlier this year, but Quinn says he'll veto it.
He wants a plan that creates five new casinos, including one in Chicago, but does not allow slot machines at race tracks.
A Senate committee debated the proposal today. A vote by the full Senate could come later in the day.
If the measure fails, it would help lawmakers argue that only the larger expansion can draw enough support to pass. That might build a veto-proof majority for expansion.
(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)
The Illinois Supreme Court has suspended convicted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's license to practice law.
The court acted Wednesday in response to a request from the state Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. The Commission noted he was found "guilty of crimes that involve moral terpitude and reflect adversely upon his fitness to practice law."
Blagojevich's legal career got off to a rough start. The ex-governor has described his first year at Pepperdine Law School as "almost catastrophic" because he was more interested with history books than law ones. It also took him a couple tries to pass the bar exam.
Blagojevich is currently awaiting sentencing on federal corruption convictions that he tried to personally profit from his appointment of a U.S. senator for the seat vacated by President Barack Obama and other wrongdoing.
The ruling won't have much impact on Blagojevich.
The Chicago Democrat has been a lawyer since 1984, but he hasn't practiced law since joining Congress in 1997. He was governor from 2003 to 2009, when he was impeached and removed from office.
For now, the Illinois Supreme Court's order is a temporary suspension. Suspension could lead to disbarment. Two other former Illinois governors - Otto Kerner and Dan Walker - were both disbarred following criminal convictions.
Blagojevich's lawyers could not be reached for comment, and the former governor's spokesman had no immediate response.
A company that supplies sandwiches to convenience stores, supermarkets and other outlets, is recalling two of its products, because they may be contaminated with Listeria.
St Louis-based Landshire Incorporated is recalling its Nike All-American and Nike Super Poor Boy sandwiches, after two samples from the company's plant in Caseyville tested positive for Listeria. The Illinois Department of Public Health says the sandwiches were made between Aug. 25 and Oct. 6. The Public Health Department says neither they nor Landshire have received any reports of confirmed illnesses due to the sandwiches.
Public Health officials say that Listeria symptoms vary, but can be serious and sometimes fatal in young children, pregnant women, the elderly and other with weakened immune symptoms. The symptoms can include fever, muscle aches, severe headaches and stiffness, abdominal pain and diarrhea. In pregnant women, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages or stillbirths.
If you've bought one of the sandwiches, you can return them to the place of purchase for a refund. They're identified by specific production lot codes affected by the recall range from 11 237 6 through 11 285 6. The codes can be found on the side or back of the individual packaged sandwich.
If you have questions about the sandwiches, you should contact Landshire at 314-925-4009.
The Illinois House has followed the Senate's lead and approved changes to give new life to electricity legislation that Gov. Pat Quinn opposes.
The House voted 91-24 Wednesday on the issue referred to at the state Capitol as "Smart Grid."
The Democratic governor opposes a plan allowing power companies to raise rates for system improvements like the high-tech grid. Critics say it would generate unfair profits and weaken state regulators.
Supporters say the new measure makes changes to address some complaints like the issue of power-company profits. They hope the adjustments will lure enough votes to override Quinn's veto of the original plan.
In East Central Illinois, five of seven representatives voted for the measure: Jason Barickman (R-Champaign), Dan Brady (R-Bloomington), Chad Hays (R-Catlin), Naomi Jakobsson (D-Urbana), and Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet). House members Adam Brown (R-Decatur) and Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth) voted against it.
Jurors in Chicago have started deliberating at the last trial related to a nearly decade-long investigation of ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
The panelists withdrew to a 25th-floor jury room Tuesday afternoon. They'll have to decide if a businessman once known as the King of Clout, William Cellini, conspired to shakedown the producer of "Million Dollar Baby.''
It could take them days to go through evidence presented over three weeks. The 76-year-old Republican from Springfield denies plotting with three others to squeeze the Hollywood executive for a $1.5 million donation to Democrat Blagojevich's campaign.
Prosecutors say Cellini's role was to gently broach the issue of a contribution, with another conspirator responsible for tightening the screws later. Jurors must determine if prosecutors proved Cellini delivered part of the extortion message.
A committee of Indiana lawmakers is recommending their colleagues approve "right-to-work'' legislation when they return in January for their 2012 session.
The Legislature's Interim Study Committee on Employment voted 5-4 along party lines Wednesday to advance the proposal. Senate and House Republicans have already announced plans to introduce bills for consideration during the upcoming session.
The divisive issue sparked a five-week walkout by House Democrats during this year's session. New fines put in place by the Republican-led Legislature make another walkout much less likely.
"Right-to-work'' would prohibit workers from being required to pay union representation fees. Indiana's unions spent much of the summer protesting the measure at the study committee's hearings and packed its final hearing Wednesday.
A late night accident in Douglas County killed both the driver and her passenger.
Illinois State Police say 27-year-old Ashleigh Herschberger of Arthur apparently over corrected when her SUV went off the roadway on US Route 45, south of Arcola, shortly past midnight on Tuesday night. The vehicle then swerved to the left, striking the ditch and then rolling over several times.
Both Herschberger and her passenger, 26-year-old Summer Pollock of Humboldt were ejected from the vehicle and killed. The News-Gazette has identified the two as sisters.
State Police suspect alcohol was a contributing factor to the crash.
The topic of police abuse brought out a large crowd to Tuesday night's Champaign City Council study session. It wasn't an item on the agenda, but it grew out of the alleged police beating of a teenager who was stopped by Champaign police over the weekend for a traffic violation.
At least a hundred people showed up in support of 18-year-old Calvin Miller. They wore yellow "I stand with Calvin Miller" signs.
Multiple news reports say Miller was pulled over by police at around 1:30 Monday morning, and he fled the scene after his car damaged the front porch of a home.
Miller is free on bond after he was picked up for resisting arrest.
During a discussion about the city's finances, council member Will Kyles asked to break from procedure by allowing the audience to have public comment about issues unrelated to the agenda. Calvin Miller's father, Martel Miller, stood up and spoke. Martel claims his son was beaten by a police officer.
"This is my son! He got beat. How can you make something for five years from now if you haven't counted the lawsuits that are going to come down from police abuse?" Miller said. "Have you counted that in your budget for five years?"
Miller said the Champaign Police Department needs to deal with several of its officers who have abused their authority.
"The African American community should not be scared of the police," Miller said.
It has been a couple of years since the 2009 police-shooting death of Champaign teenager, Kiwane Carrington. Critics say that incident was a symptom of long-standing problems in Champaign police-community relations, particularly involving African-American youth. Now with the alleged beating of Calvin Miller, there is renewed anger and frustration.
Patricia Avery, a member of the city's community and police partnership, spoke at the meeting. Avery said the culture of the Champaign Police Department must change.
"We've been working at this problem for a very long time, and every time I think we're starting to make some progress, something like this happens where we have to step back," Avery said. "And then it's almost like, 'What do you do now? What do you say?' I'm really very disturbed by this."
The city is exploring a proposal to create a Citizens Police Review Board. Mayor Don Gerard said he is open to such a group.
"I ran for mayor for a reason, and a big part of that was the Kiwanne Carrington incident," Gerard said. "I was frustrated with how I perceived the leadership to respond. Now I'm in this position, and I have to stand up and be representative of the community."
Martel Miller said he hasn't filed a lawsuit, but he said he is talking to lawyers about his son's case.
A few years ago, eavesdropping charges were filed against Miller, who helped make a documentary attempting to show differences in how police officers in Champaign County treat minority residents compared to white University of Illinois students. Those charges were later dropped.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
Remembrances of Terry Masar are pouring in from around the Champaign-Urbana community, particularly from the music scene.
The Urbana man who operated Nature's Table restaurant died Sunday at the age of 61. Greg Danner says he was friends with Masar at the University of Illinois before he installed the restaurant's first stereo system in the early 80's. He says Nature's Table quickly became an institution for music, particularly jazz.
"I think what Terry was looking for in his group of friends was music students, and of course, a lot of the jazz musicians came from amongst them, and even the faculty," said Danner. "It immediately, like the day it opened, turned into a hangout for the U of I music department."
Danner says many of the performances at the restaurant were of the impromptu variety, and musicians that are still popular in the area today got their start there. U of I violin instructor Dorothy Martirano says she played in a string quartet at Nature's Table. She says Masar made a point of seeing that a lot of people, particularly young people, had a place to perform. She says some of those students went on to become successful in places like Chicago and New York.
And Martirano says Masar's personality kept students coming back to the restaurant.
"Everyone wanted to play at Nature's Table," she said. "So I feel fortunate to have been a part of that. And the other thing about Terry was that he was incredibly generous. If you were in some kind of financial need or any kind of need, he was very generous."
Nature's Table operated in the 1980's and 90's.
Terry Masar was found dead in an Urbana hotel room Sunday night. Authorities are calling it an 'unexpected death'. Autopsy results haven't been released.
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