Illinois Public Media News
The Champaign County Board voted Thursday night to raise the salaries of its members for the first time in more than 20 years.
The board approved a pay increase from $45 a meeting to $80, and then voted a second time to bring that $80 figure down to $60. Democratic board member Michael Richards said he thinks that is too low.
"We have had people who have either not run or retired because it wasn't paying the babysitting bill on a four-hour meeting," he said. "Fifteen dollars is something, but I don't know if that's going to be enough of an increase to entice the quality pool to be better."
Opponents of the pay increase, like Republican board member Alan Nudo, worry this sends the wrong message at a time when county employees are being forced to take cuts to their salaries.
"I just don't feel it's appropriate for us to take a raise," Nudo said.
But County Board Chair Pius Weibel, a Democrat, said the county has been able to avoid pay cuts this year, and has actually granted some "small raises" and hired new staff to fill some vacancies, as the county's tax revenue stream begins to improve.
The pay hike would apply to the Champaign County Board starting in 2012.
There are some intriguing possibilities about witnesses Rod Blagojevich's defense attorneys could call as they mount their case next week at the former governor's retrial.
Attorney Sheldon Sorosky said Thursday the defense will call "people of some prominence'' but didn't say who.
The defense didn't call any witnesses at the first trial last year. But they did subpoena then-White House chief of staff and now Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, among others.
Blagojevich is accused of trying to sell or trade President Barack Obama's old U.S. Senate seat.
Emanuel's never been accused of any wrong doing in the case.
But witnesses described how Blagojevich hoped Emanuel would help him cut a deal where Blagojevich would name Obama friend Valerie Jarrett to the seat and Blagojevich would get a Cabinet post.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana says it will continue serving Medicaid patients through at least May 30 after receiving more than $50,000 in recent donations from 44 states and overseas.
The organization said in a statement Thursday that it hopes to continue services beyond May 30.
It says donors are responding to a new Indiana law removing much of its public funding. It's earmarking the money for Pap tests, breast exams, testing for sexually transmitted diseases and other health care for 9,300 Medicaid patients at its 28 health centers across Indiana.
A federal judge has set a June 6 hearing on Planned Parenthood's request for an injunction blocking the new state law signed last week by Gov. Mitch Daniels. She has said she'll rule on the matter by July 1.
Democrats released their proposal for new Illinois Senate districts today but did not provide population or voting information that would shed light on how the districts would affect elections.
Senate Democrats said their proposed map would create seven districts with more than 50 percent African-American voting age population, down from eight districts. It also would create five majority-Latino districts, up from four.
Other than that, Senate Democrats simply posted maps online that show the outlines of the proposed districts. They plan public hearings on Saturday and Tuesday to provide more detail.
Senate Republicans said they were reviewing the proposal but didn't yet know enough to comment on whether it's fair and meets constitutional requirements.
There's no word on when the Illinois House will release its proposal for House districts. Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, said he did not know when voters would get to see the House proposal.
Political maps are redrawn every decade based on U.S. Census figures. Democrats are in charge because they control the Illinois House, Senate and governor's office.
State lawmakers also have to draw new congressional districts. No proposal for that task has surfaced yet. Illinois is set to lose one of its 19 U.S. House seats because of population shifts.
Democrats plan to approve the maps before the scheduled end of the legislative session on May 31. After that, a supermajority would be required to pass the maps, which would give Republican lawmakers a say in the process.
The leader of the Senate remap process, Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, did not return calls seeking more information. His office referred calls to a Senate spokeswoman who said no further details would be released today.
An Indiana attorney will ask the state's Supreme Court to reconsider a controversial decision that involves police entry into homes.
The original case started with the arrest of Richard Barnes in Evansville, a city in the far southwestern corner of the state.
In late 2007 Evansville police tried to enter Barnes' home after being called to quell a domestic disturbance between Barnes and his wife. According to court records, Barnes told officers that they were not needed. Barnes and his wife tried heading back to their apartment. Police followed and then asked to be allowed inside. Barnes refused and shoved an officer. The officer entered anyway and subdued Barnes. Police eventually charged Barnes and a court convicted him on a misdemeanor count of resisting arrest.
Barnes attorney Erin Berger challenged the conviction on the grounds that police didn't have a warrant. The Indiana Appeals Court agreed. But after a ruling last week, the Indiana Supreme Court says Hoosiers cannot resist police entry into their home, even if that entry is illegal.
In a 3-2 decision, Justice Steven David wrote, "the right to reasonably resist an unlawful police entry into a home is no longer recognized under Indiana law."
David added that a resident's refusal to allow an officer entry could lead to further violence. The court says a resident can challenge the entry in court at a later time. But Justice Richard Rucker, a Gary native, dissented.
"A citizen's right to resist unlawful entry into her home rests on a very different ground, namely, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution," Rucker wrote. "In my view the majority sweeps with far too broad a brush by essentially telling Indiana citizens that government agents may now enter their homes illegally - that is, without the necessity of a warrant, consent, or exigent circumstances."
Berger's taking the usual step in asking the court to reconsider its ruling.
"The breath of the decision would absolutely allow a police officer to enter a home for no reason, whether there's a warrant or not, whether there's extenuating circumstances or not," Berger said Wednesday. "Citizens no longer have the right to even tell the officer 'No,' and close the door against the officer's hand."
Following the ruling, threats have been made against the judges of the Indiana Supreme Court, and protesters have planned a march in Indianapolis for next week.
Indiana lawmakers are also considering amending the law so police within the state follow protections laid out in the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment.
The FBI said it is investigating whether Unabomber Ted Kaczynski was involved in the Chicago-area Tylenol poisonings that killed seven people in 1982.
Kaczynski wrote in papers filed in federal court in California last week that prison officials conveyed a request from the FBI in Chicago for DNA samples.
Chicago FBI spokeswoman Cynthia Yates confirmed Thursday that the agency has asked for Kaczynski's DNA. She said he's refused to voluntarily give a sample but declined to say whether the agency could compel him to provide one.
The Tylenol case involved the use of potassium cyanide and resulted in a mass recall. Kaczynski said he has never possessed potassium cyanide.
Kaczynski is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty in 1998 to setting 16 explosions that killed three people.
(AP Photo/Department of Motor Vehicles, File)
Rahm Emanuel has lobbied Illinois leaders about bringing a casino to Chicago, the new mayor said Wednesday.
As he did during the campaign, Emanuel said he would like the casino to be city-owned.
"We have a casino in Chicago," Emanuel told reporters Wednesday after chairing his first city council meeting. "It just happens to be in Hammond, Indiana. And we're losing that revenue."
Facing a budget deficit in the range of $500-700 million, Emanuel said the gaming revenue could certainly be helpful, if it's done right.
"I have spoken to the leaders of both chambers, both parties, and the governor about the essentialness for a Chicago-owned casino here, as a way of both economic activity and revenue source," Emanuel said.
The new mayor declined to offer a prediction on whether it can happen during the final weeks of this legislative session, noting that casino legislation in the past has fallen apart.
"One issue can be alive a minute, something else can happen," Emanuel said of the legislative process. "So if I say something today - even now - by the time I get upstairs, it can be a different note."
Spokespeople for Democratic leaders said Wednesday that the General Assembly is not focusing on any proposals for a Chicago casino.
"We'll see if there's a detailed proposal that emerges and then we'll see how people treat it," said Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Mike Madigan.
Senate President John Cullerton "remains open to discussing a gaming proposal," wrote his spokeswoman, Rikeesha Phelon. "At this time, there is no pending legislation.
The license of Chicago's only noncommercial Latino radio station is for sale.
The board of the National Museum of Mexican Art has decided to unload the broadcasting license of youth-run WRTE, 90.5 FM, better known as Radio Arte, according to museum President Carlos Tortolero. Tortolero said the museum also plans to sell an 11,000 square foot building in the city's Pilsen neighborhood that houses the station and another museum youth program, Yollocalli Arts Reach.
"The funding, especially in radio, is going south," Tortolero said. "We have a building that's costing us money. We tried to borrow some money to do some things and [banks] are saying, 'No, no. You can't.' The banks are looking at us and saying, 'Hey, you have to get rid of some of this stuff.'"
Tortolero is meeting with potential buyers of the license. Those include Chicago Public Media, the parent of WBEZ. The museum has also brought a real-estate appraiser through the building. Tortolero said the museum, which launched both youth programs in 1997, plans to continue them.
But his moves have sparked opposition from some current and former Radio Arte volunteers. They say they're forming a cooperative to try to buy the station.
"We want to keep the frequency, name, license and transmitter," said Martín Macías Jr., 22, who produces a weekly news show for the station.
(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)
The Illinois Statehouse was crowded with people Wednesday, speaking out against proposed budget cuts.
Union members in purple T-shirts are angry about possible cuts to home health care and pension benefits. Mayors in gray suits and power ties oppose any move to reduce their share of income tax money.
Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said his city has already cut 72 positions, and reduced its budget by millions, the proposed income tax reductions would mean an additional 11-to-18 jobs lost. He says that means across the board reductions in areas like public works, safety, and local development.
"Services that will impact the quality of life that our citizens currently enjoy," Eisenhauer said. "And more importantly, services that, by their reduction or cut, will really make it even more difficult for us to go and attract new business, new industry, or new families coming into our community."
Meanwhile. nursing home employees and residents delivered petitions to Governor Pat Quinn's office Wednesday. All those groups and more say their funds are too important to cut. But they're not offering any suggestions on how state officials could avoid cuts and still balance the budget. Three different Illinois budget plans are being considered. All of them would include service cuts, but the amounts vary.
Illinois may be the new host of a maximum security federal prison.
Since late 2009, the state and federal government have been in negotiations and while there has been no official confirmation, legislators have confirmed terms of transferring the Thomson Correctional Center to the feds. President Barack Obama's original plan was to send Guantanamo Bay's terror suspects to Thomson. A backlash killed that plan.
Still the administration insisted it wanted to take the state-of-the-art prison off Illinois' hands, as it has barely been used. State legislators from northwestern Illinois, including Republican Representative Richard Morthland, say they were notified by Governor Pat Quinn of a deal.
Morthland said it was to be kept quiet because there are unfinished details. However, it appears the state will get $165 million for Thomson. That's lower than its $220 million appraised value. But Morthland said it will create needed high-quality jobs.
"They'll need places to live, there're going to need places to shop, and they're going to be providing a lot of services," Morthland said. "The Federal Bureau of Prisons has a preference to working with local producers, so the farmers in the area and other people will be able to do business with the prison. And so it's really going to be a great shot in the arm for northwestern Illinois."
Given crowding in Illinois correctional facilities, the state could surely use it to house its own criminals. But Illinois doesn't have the money to open the prison. Congress would still need to approve the purchase, but no further action is necessary at the state level.
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