In a June 30, 1995 file photo, Alan Dixon meets reporters on Capitol Hill.
(Dennis Cook/AP)
July 06, 2014

Former U.S. Senator Alan Dixon Dies

Former Democratic U.S. Sen. Alan Dixon of Illinois, who spent 12 years on Capitol Hill, has died.

His son Jeffrey Dixon tells The Associated Press that the 86-year-old died Sunday at his home in Fairview Heights.

He had recently been hospitalized for heart problems, but his condition had improved and he had returned home.

Dixon served in the U.S. Senate from 1981 to 1993. He also had a long career in state politics, serving in the Illinois House, Illinois Senate and as the state's treasurer and secretary of state.

He lost the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat in 1992 to Carol Moseley Braun. She was the first African-American woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate.

The Belleville-born Dixon was an attorney.

His memoir titled "The Gentleman from Illinois" was published in 2013.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Springfield - the Senate's No. 2 official - says Dixon was known for his honesty, hard work and commitment to Illinois.

He says Dixon was the first statewide Democrat to voluntarily make a full disclosure of his financial holdings and started bipartisan Illinois congressional lunches - which continue today.
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago says Dixon was a "great leader and representative who always put the public's interests first.''

And Republican U.S. Senator Mark Kirk called Dixon a 'dedicated public servant who spent the majority of his life representing the people of Illinois'. "But for his leadership, Illinois would have lost Scott Air Force Base - the largest employer south of I-80. We owe Alan a debt of gratitude for all he did for our state.," said Kirk, in a press release.
Dixon began his professional career as a public official.

May 27, 2014

Madigan Denies Friends Drive Lincoln Library Plan

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has denied that personal friendships are driving his proposal to make the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum a separate state agency.

A House committee on Monday approved the Chicago Democrat's idea to break the decade-old institution off from the Historic Preservation Agency. The measure moves to the House floor.
Madigan confirmed he is a friend of library and museum director Eileen Mackevich and her longtime friend Stanley Balzekas.

Balzekas runs a Chicago museum of Lithuanian culture and is landlord for Madigan's state office. But Madigan says he has not been lobbied by either.
Mackevich told the Chicago Sun-Times that the library and museum would be stronger as a stand-alone agency.  She said she has no personality clash with Preservation Agency director Amy Martin. 

Urbana Attorney Steve Beckett is chairman of the library and museum's advisory board.

He said he and other members of the board have been disappointed at how little say they have in the operation of the Springfield institution.

"We have struggled with vacancies, particularly on the library side," he said.  "We have an an internationally pre-eminent library that is currently down 17 staff members."

He said with the museum having a different mission from the Historic Preservation Agency, it would be better off on its own.

Michael Madigan
(Seth Perlman/AP)
May 16, 2014

House Panel Advances Illinois Minimum Wage Ballot Question

An Illinois House panel has approved House Speaker Michael Madigan's plan to ask voters whether the state should increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour.

The plan to put a nonbinding question on the November ballot passed the House Revenue Committee by a 12-7 party line vote Friday. It comes after Illinois Democrats have struggled to find enough votes to increase the state's minimum wage from $8.25 to $10.65 per hour.
Some Democrats in swing districts joined Republicans in resisting the effort, amid fears that companies might lay off workers or hire fewer new ones.
Madigan noted "differences of opinion'' among members Friday when he presented the proposal. 
He said it's "clear the state needs to be doing more to reduce economic inequality.''

August 26, 2013

Madigan Pension Fix Would Save Less Than Estimated

The estimated savings on a pension proposal backed by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan earlier this year is nearly $25 billion less than originally thought.

That's because the Teachers Retirement System - one of Illinois' five pension systems - says it made a mistake in its calculations. The change was outlined in a Monday letter to a bipartisan panel tasked with coming up with an approach to solving Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension crisis.

Madigan's plan involves across-the-board cuts in benefits. It was originally touted to save Illinois about $187 billion over 30 years. However, the new estimate is about $163 billion in the same time period.

Another plan from Senate President John Cullerton, which had union support, was estimated to save roughly $47 billion over the same timeframe.

July 17, 2013

Ousted Metra CEO Describes Rough Illinois Politics

A former California transit executive tapped to clean up Chicago's scandal-tarnished Metra commuter rail agency says he was pushed out for doing exactly that and resisting pressure from Illinois politicians.

Alex Clifford was allowed to speak publicly for the first time Wednesday about his lucrative buyout agreement, which critics have called hush money and a waste of taxpayer funds.

Inquiries into the deal have led to revelations that House Speaker Michael Madigan asked Clifford's staffers to give a pay raise to a Metra employee who was a contributor to political campaigns benefiting Madigan.

Clifford told the Regional Transportation Authority Wednesday he believed Madigan's actions betrayed a "moral and ethical flaw."

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown says the speaker was merely supporting a recommendation by the employee's supervisor and did nothing improper.

Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, Governor Pat Quinn, center, and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton.
(Seth Perlman/AP)
June 07, 2013

Madigan, Quinn Finally Connect on Pensions

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says he finally got in touch with House Speaker Michael Madigan. The governor said he’s called a meeting to address pension reform.

After last week’s disappointing end to the legislative session, Quinn tried to meet with legislative leaders to address what he calls the top issue facing the state - pension reform.

But Quinn said Speaker Michael Madigan doesn’t have a cell phone and couldn’t be reached.

On Friday, Quinn said he had a “pleasant” conversation with Madigan earlier that day and there will be a meeting on Monday.

“I’m telling our legislators, ‘Stop meandering. Forge an agreement that I can sign into law so we can resolve this problem,’” Quinn told reporters Friday at an unrelated news conference announcing an honorary street name for Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick.

Quinn has called lawmakers back to Springfield for a one-day special session on June 19th. But it’s not yet clear how negotiations over pension reform will have changed by that time or what legislators will be voting on.

May 22, 2013

Cullerton Urges House Vote on Pension Plan

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton is urging a House vote on his pension-reform plan even though Speaker Michael Madigan has his own proposal.

Cullerton told The Associated Press Wednesday he believes House members want to vote on his measure to close a $97 billion debt in the pension systems.

 House members say the Cullerton legislation doesn't save enough money. Cullerton says it can survive a court challenge.

Madigan moved his plan to the Senate. Cullerton says there isn't enough support to pass it there.

Cullerton points out his legislation got 40 votes in the Senate - an extraordinary majority - while Madigan's plan got just two more than the 60 votes needed to pass the House.

March 13, 2013

House Speaker Madigan Backs Moratorium on Fracking

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan says he supports a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing over legislation calling for regulations on the practice.

The Chicago Democrat spoke to reporters in Springfield Wednesday, a day after environmental groups rallied at the State Capitol, saying fracking is unsafe and needs more study.

Madigan didn't explain his position except to say, "Read about what happened in Pennsylvania.''

The issue there has become controversial, including questions over water quality near drilling sites.

Fracking uses high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals to break rock formations that then release oil and natural gas.

Lawmakers have proposed legislation - written with the industry's help -  that outlines some of the strictest regulations nationwide.

Gov. Pat Quinn has praised the legislation as a jobs bill.

March 07, 2013

Illinois Lawmakers OK Cap on Salary Amount for Pensions

Lawmakers have found at least one fix for the state's multibillion-dollar pension problem that could pass the Illinois House.

Two Republicans joined Democrats Thursday in voting 65-7 to cap the salary that pension benefits are based on at the Social Security Index. Currently that's $113,000 per year.

Supporters estimate it could save Illinois $1 billion annually.

The vote was part of a process Democratic Speaker Michael Madigan is using to gauge where legislators stand on possible reforms. It's the first amendment in two days of debate to get enough votes to pass.

Republicans have criticized the process and have refused to participate in most of the votes.

Legislators rejected a 10-year freeze on cost-of-living adjustments and a measure to require employees to contribute 4 percent more to their retirement.

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