Illinois Public Media News
The Indiana House speaker says he'll allow a vote on whether to send a contentious right-to-work bill to a statewide referendum.
Republican Speaker Brian Bosma said Friday he believes legislators should decide the issue but won't use parliamentary tactics to block consideration of Democrats' proposal for a statewide vote in November.
Such referendums have rarely, if ever, been held in Indiana on proposed laws, but House Democratic leader Patrick Bauer says Indiana voters should decide the issue.
The House is expected to debate amendments to the bill on Tuesday, and Bauer had said Democrats might resume their boycott if their bid for a vote on holding referendum was blocked.
The Republican-backed bill would make Indiana the 23rd state to ban union contracts that include mandatory representation fees.
The former Republican nominee for Illinois governor is giving up the legislative perk of handing out college scholarships.
Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington joins dozens of lawmakers who have ended the decades-old practice. Brady says the state's fiscal situation and the General Assembly's failure to reform the program triggered his decision.
The (Decatur) Herald-Review reported Friday that the decision came just a week after Brady's office sent out notices seeking applicants.
State officials say at least 78 of the Legislature's 177 members have quit the program, which has been criticized for more than a decade because some have used it to reward campaign contributors.
Brady lost the 2010 race for governor to Democrat Pat Quinn.
(With additional reporting from the Associated Press)
The state's top Republican legislative leaders say Illinois' income tax hike hasn't been a solution to the state's fiscal problems, and they're pushing for an immediate repeal.
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation last year that raised the personal tax rate to 5 percent from 3 percent for four years, which is a 67 percent increase. Corporate taxes also went up.
The goal was to help bring Illinois out of its deepest budget hole in history.
A report by the Illinois Policy Institute claims the increase made Illinois less competitive for business and had other negative impacts.
Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno and House Minority Leader Tom Cross want an immediate repeal and support legislation filed last year.
Cross said the state needs to look at steeper budgetary cuts, pension reform, and salary freezes for union workers.
"If you're an Illinois taxpayer, you ought to resent this, and you ought to be angry about this," he said. "You ought to say, 'Why didn't you do the things you know needed to be done, and we could have avoided going down this road?'"
Democratic State Representative Naomi Jakobsson of Urbana said the tax hike was the right thing for the state.
"We knew that it wasn't going to magically solve all of the problems overnight," she said. "But at the same time it set the tone for working on the budget the way we did last year, and I anticipate the way we will again this year."
Quinn's office disputes the GOP leaders and think tank's claims. A spokeswoman said the increase brought in $7 billion last year.
Airlines have canceled more than 425 flights at Chicago airports as a snow storm sweeps across the region.
The Chicago Department of Aviation says more than 325 flights were canceled at O'Hare International Airport and delays to and from the East Coast averaged 20 minutes. Southwest Airlines has canceled all flights in and out of Midway International Airport, totaling more than 100 flights or 25 percent of the airport's flights.
The National Weather Service in northern Illinois predicts 6 to 8 inches of snow in Chicago and Joliet and 4 to 6 inches in Rockford, Dixon, LaSalle and Pontiac. Between 2 and 5 inches of snow are forecast in central Illinois.
Ice and snow covered roads were reported around Freeport, the Quad Cities, Bloomington and Jacksonville.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) wants to know why so many suspects charged with murder and other serious crimes are simply being allowed to live their lives after they flee the country.
The Illinois Democrat is scheduled to meet Thursday with federal, state and local law enforcement officials in hopes of coming up with a plan to capture international fugitives who've committed crimes in the state.
Durbin has urged U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to do something after a newspaper reported that scores of fugitives remain free even though, in many cases, authorities know exactly where they are.
The Chicago Tribune found a lack of coordination between local, federal and international agencies to capture suspects, some of whom the paper's reporters found living openly in their hometowns in Mexico.
An Indiana legislator is broadening her proposal for a state law on how the national anthem should be performed.
The proposal from Republican Sen. Vaneta Becker of Evansville would require any performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner'' in any public place be in its entirety and without embellishment. She had earlier proposed a bill for the state education department to set standards for singing and playing of the national anthem at public schools.
Becker told a state Senate committee Wednesday that she believes such a law might not be very enforceable but would send an important signal about the respect the national anthem deserves.
She says the bill isn't aimed at off-key singers. It sets a possible $25 fine. The committee won't vote on the bill until at least next week.
An Indiana House committee has approved a bill for a broad statewide smoking ban that's tougher than a proposal that failed in the Legislature last year.
The House health committee voted 9-3 in favor of the bill Wednesday after adding an exemption for retail tobacco shops. The bill would prohibit smoking in most public places and workplaces, including bars. The proposal would allow smoking only on the gambling floors of casinos, fraternal and veterans clubs and cigar and hookah bars.
Its sponsors expect some legislators will try to add exemptions for bars when the bill is debated in the full House.
A Senate committee chairman says a bar exemption that the House approved last year might be needed for the restrictions to win passage.
The Salvation Army is exploring the prospect of creating a family shelter in Decatur.
The facility would be separate from the city's existing Salvation Army building, located at 229 W. Main Street. Major Robert Gauthier, who works at the Decatur office, said planning for the project is still in the very early stages.
"Well, we have to do a feasibility study, and then determine whether or not we can raise the money needed, not only to build a facility but also to operate it," Gauthier explained.
This week, Decatur's Salvation Army dedicated a new room to its existing building that is an extra 11,880 square feet. It will be used as a space for community groups and emergency housing following a catastrophe. Gauthier said in the past, the center's gym was used for emergency assistance, but he said it didn't really provide enough space.
"If for some reason (the Emergency Management Agency) would be affected by the disaster, then of course the Salvation Army would be available to them," Gauthier said. "It would also give us a place to feed people who may be displaced from their homes, as well as house people."
The Salvation Army has provided service in the city for nearly 125 years.
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Radio)
Agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland Co. says it will cut 1,000 jobs from its company-wide work force of 30,000. The move will cut about 15 percent of the Decatur-based company's corporate staff.
The news is a blow to the central Illinois community. Decatur City manager Ryan McCrady said he learned about the layoffs the same way others did, through news reports. The town received no advance warning.
Decatur is home to ADM's world headquarters. The agribusiness giant employs 4,000 people in the city. McCrady said it is too soon to know how many jobs will be lost locally, but he said he expects the community will be able to handle the cuts.
"They've been through these situations before," McCrady said. "This announcement isn't great news for us. But when you package it with all the other things that have gone on, it's two steps forward, one step back. And we'll get through this."
At this point, the impact on Decatur is uncertain. ADM spokesman David Weintraub said the company will not announce any layoffs until February, after a number of employees have been offered a voluntary retirement incentive.
"Employees who are 57 or older and have seven or more years of service and are salaried can elect to retire early, and we're giving them an inventive to do so," Weintraub said. "That will reduce the number of people who are affected."
Weintraub says the impact on any specific community won't be known immediately. He said the cuts were brought on by increased competition in the global agri-processing business, and the company is now focused on ways to improve productivity, as well as reduced energy usage.
McCrady said he has been told by the company the cuts will not affect production in the city.
"That's good news because of course ADM is a big player in Decatur, but there are many other smaller businesses that supply and support them," McCrady said. "So when you have a cut in production, it's a compounded negative effect on your community."
McCrady said all the city leaders can do is wait to see which jobs ADM targets. He said the city has proven resilient in the past. He also said the Decatur economy is cyclical. McCrady points to cuts Caterpillar made in 2009 during the downturn. Since then, that company has rehired many workers and re-invested in Decatur.
ADM does everything from processing crops to make food ingredients, to shipping grain overseas. The past year has been a volatile one for agribusiness companies, with crop prices swinging wildly on global markets.
(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
A citizen's watchdog group says it will appeal Ameren's latest rate hike.
On Tuesday, The Illinois Commerce Commission granted the utility a $30-million request - roughly 60-percent of what it originally wanted for natural gas delivery rates. The request before the ICC was filed 11 months ago.
Ameren spokesman Leigh Morris says Ameren doesn't make any money on the natural gas itself. He says the utility is still determing what impact the hike will have on bills. Delivery rates impact a third of a customer's natural gas bill.
Morris says it's a matter of calculating what are called tariffs through Ameren's old CILCO, CIPS, and Ameren IP territories.
"They're a matter of public record, and will be available both on our website (www.AmerenIllinois.com), and they're in a filing with the Illinois Commerce Commission," Morris said.
Citizens Utility Board spokesman Jim Chilsen questions the company's need for the hike when its parent company reported 3rd quarter earnings of more than $380-million. He says the ruling threatens to wipe out potential savings due to a mild winter.
"It's the absolute worst time for a rate hike, with the economy the way it is," said Chilsen. "We are pleased that it appears the company didn't get as much as it wanted. But we're disappointed with today's (Tuesday's) ruling because it gave the company more than it needed or deserved."
In the next few weeks, Chilsen says CUB will ask the ICC to re-hear the case. If the argument is rejected, the Commerce Commission can appeal that decision as well.
Morris says he expects the increase will show up on bills by February.
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