News Around Illinois - January 8, 2020
Today's stories come from WBEZ, NPR Illinois, Illinois Newsroom, WSIU, and the Associated Press. You can find Illinois news 24/7 at illinoisnewsroom.org.
An Email From A Powerful Former State Lobbyist Hints At A Rape Cover-Up
A powerful former Springfield lobbyist and close friend of House Speaker Michael Madigan once sought leniency for a state worker in a disciplinary case by arguing that the worker “kept his mouth shut” about an unspecified rape in Champaign. In the previously undisclosed 2012 email, ex-lobbyist Michael McClain urged two top aides to then-Gov. Pat Quinn to avoid firing the worker, also telling them the man was politically “loyal” to Quinn and stayed silent about “ghost workers.” The disclosure of the 2012 email — which WBEZ obtained recently through an open-records request — immediately prompted calls for an investigation from Gov. JB Pritzker and the top Republican in the Illinois House, who called the email’s contents “horrific.” - Tony Arnold and Dave McKinney - WBEZ
Lawmakers Demand Answers on 'Seclusion Rooms'
Illinois lawmakers on Tuesday grilled officials about the practice of locking kids in “seclusion rooms” in schools. It’s the first legislative hearing since a news report brought attention to the practice late last year. The story, from ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune, revealed thousands of incidents in which kids with special needs were locked away, usually alone, and often for reasons that broke the law. Experts and advocates at the hearing told lawmakers that schools need more resources for training and oversight of all staff. Education officials also said there was a difference between legitimate, therapy-based de-escalation techniques and the abuse exposed by the investigation. - Mike Smith - NPR Illinois
New Law Requires Illinois To Better Regulate Coal Ash
URBANA - A new law passed last year requires the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to develop rules regulating ponds that store waste from coal-fired power plants. The agency released a draft rule last month and stakeholders met Monday in Springfield to share their thoughts. Andrew Rehn represents the clean water advocacy group Prairie Rivers Network. His group is pleased with some of the groundwater monitoring regulations in the initial draft. "Senate Bill 9 demands that the EPA develop a rule that’s stronger than the federal rule, and they definitely did so in the case of groundwater monitoring," said Rehn. Coal ash contains arsenic, chromium, lead and other minerals that can leech into groundwater, which are dangerous for human consumption. The Illinois EPA is taking public comment about the proposed rule through Monday January 13. - Brian Moline, Illinois Newsroom
Durbin Calls On Colleagues For War Powers Resolution
CARBONDALE - Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) is co-sponsoring a War Powers Resolution in response to the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. The Illinois Democrat took to the Senate floor on Monday, urging members of Congress to consider the resolution - which calls for debate and a vote to prevent further escalation of hositilities with Iran. Durbin says US leaders should remember lessons learned during and after the Vietnam War - particularly that Congress has the constitutional responsibility to officially declare war. President Donald Trump ordered the Jan. 2 strike against Soleimani after the death of an American contractor in Iraq. - Jennifer Fuller, WSIU News
Merging Governments Tops Property Tax-Reduction Plan
SPRINGFIELD - A draft task force report obtained by the Associated Press suggests lightening Illinois' property tax burden by consolidating local governments, ensuring that property assessments are standardized, getting better information on commercial properties and tightening up procedures for appealing assessments and allowing tax breaks for rundown areas undergoing redevelopment. The task force was pushed by lawmakers skeptical of Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker's plan to ask voters this fall whether to adopt a graduated income tax structure. The legislators want to ensure that additional revenue from income taxes helps reduce property taxes, the nation's highest behind only New Jersey. - Associated Press
Man Gets 13-Year Sentence For Making Counterfeit Pills
URBANA - A 13-year prison sentence has been handed a central Illinois man accused of producing counterfeit anti-anxiety pills at his home. Federal prosecutors alleged Stephan Caamano produced 4.3 million pills in his Champaign home and distributed them through the U.S. mail. The 24-year-old Caamano pleaded guilty in April to charges he operated a fake Xanax production scheme between March 2017 and May 2018. The charges included distribution of a controlled substance, money laundering and engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from unlawful activity. Caamano apologized before U.S. District Judge Michael Mihm sentenced him Monday. - Associated Press