Politics and Government | WGLT

Politics and Government

Governor Bruce Rauner has cut back on institutional care available to seniors.  The Republican used an amendatory veto Friday to reduce the cost of the measure aimed at protecting people who get institutional or at-home care while officials develop a new way of measuring need. Chicago Democratic Rep. Greg Harris sponsored the plan. He says it ensures people getting assistance now won't get cut off by a new assessment process.  

Urban Land Institute

One of top urban planners in the U. S. gives high marks to the way Normal planned its uptown redevelopment. Tom Murphy, former Pittsburgh mayor and now with the Urban Land Institute, says the neighboring Marriott and Hyatt hotels are obviously a part of a well-thought out plan.

Illinois has joined 17 states supporting new domestic power plant limits being challenged in federal court by more than two dozen other states. The motion to intervene was filed in a federal appellate court in Washington by state Attorney General Lisa Madigan. California, New York and Virginia are among the other states siding with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, along with the cities of Chicago, New York and Philadelphia.  

The Bloomington Election Commission is upgrading its voting equipment. Director Paul Shannon says several hundred thousand dollars will pay for 30 new voting machines, or one per precinct.

Shannon says instead of a laser scan, the reader will be a digital picture scan of the ballot.

The machines are smaller and better for Americans With Disabilities Act compliance as well.

The cost is several hundred thousand dollars.
 

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Attorney, author and justice advocate Sister Simone Campbell is best know for leading Nuns on the Bus tours across America to draw attention to the concerns of low income workers, immigrants and people with disabilities. She's known to many in McLean County too, having given the 2013 Jim and Gwen Pruyne Lecture at New Covenant Community Church in Normal.

A special prosecutor in southwestern Illinois will review a levee district's repeated use of an auto body shop owned by its president. Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons is seeking the independent review of the business relationship between the Metro East Sanitary District and Andy's Auto Body & Towing, a Madison company owned by district president Andy Economy. The district's executive director crashed his government-owned SUV five times in the past three years.

Illinois Congressman Rodney Davis wants to give employers a hand in helping to pay off student loan debt for the recent college graduates they hire. The Taylorville Republican introduced a bill in the House this week that will let those employers offer a tax-free benefit of just over 5-thousand dollars to attract new hires --- and also help current workers with continuing education. Davis says current student loan re-payment programs are unfair.

Bloomington Sick Leave Buyback Remains Unchanged

Oct 26, 2015
Michael Hill / WGLT

The Bloomington City Council remains reluctant to change city policies for sick leave buyback. Aldermen voted in favor of a resolution to have staff look into the issue further, but have not made any adjustments to the rules that are currently in place for grandfathered employees.

Illinois State University Trustees will take up a budget resolution forecasting at least a ten percent cut in state funding next fiscal year. That is on top of whatever reductions come in the current year budget now deadlocked in Springfield. Jay Groves is an ISU spokesman.

Rauner Dismisses Criticism From Past Peers

Oct 22, 2015

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is sloughing off critical comments made by his a pair of his predecessors. IPR's Amanda Vinicky reports, on Illinois' 113th day without a state budget.

 

The Illinois Department of Employment Security reports the jobless rate dropped in September in all of the metro areas the agency tracks. But the department's director says job growth remains weak.

The Bloomington Normal unemployment rate is 4.3% down from 5% in September of last year. That's the lowest rate for September since 2007 when it was 3.9% in the twin cities. The metro area rate is the lowest in the state.

The Moody's credit rating agency has downgraded $26.8 billion in Illinois' general obligation bonds, saying the move was due to the state's weakening financial position during the year. In lowering the bond rating to Baa1 from A3, Moody's Investors Service said its expectation is that the ongoing stalemate on the budget due July 1 will lead to further deterioration of the state's finances.  

The lower a state's credit rating, the tougher, and more expensive, it is to borrow money.

A minor point of philosophy turned into a change in how the McLean County Board supports the B-N Advantage economic development program. Instead of that specific program sponsored by the Economic Development Council, Board Member Paul Segobiano said it was important to change to support the "concept" of development.

The report contains items like an east side highway project and a downtown Bloomington Hotel. Kyle Ham of the EDC said the language change was unimportant.

Northeast Normal will have a vacancy on the McLean County Board. Republican Sonny O'Connor is moving to be near grandchildren. She said in her final speech to the board that after a nephew showed her around the university in his southeast Texas town, O'Connor found a project to work on.

O'Connor told the Board she has spent 52 years in Bloomington-Normal.

O'Connor served seven years on the County Board in two different stretches. The seat will be filled by appointment until next year's election.
 

DCFS Agrees To Reforms

Oct 20, 2015

Illinois' troubled child welfare agency must outline a detailed plan to make improvements at residential treatment centers and in other areas by February 2016 under a federal court agreement.  
    

Sandi Jackson Reports To Prison

Oct 20, 2015

The wife of former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. has reported to prison on a conviction related to $750,000 in spending of his campaign money on everything from fur capes to vacations. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons says 52-year-old Sandi Jackson reported to the Federal Prison Camp at Alderson in West Virginia to begin serving her one-year sentence on a tax conviction related to the illegal spending.  

Mautino Voted Auditor General

Oct 20, 2015

The Illinois House and Senate both hurried to pass one measure during their one-day session. They voted to make Democratic State Representative Frank Mautino the state's next auditor general.
   

Republican Senate Leader Christine Radogno says it makes sense to have a seasoned legislator in the job.

Mautino will take over the new role in January as Bill Holland is retiring.  He'll be in charge of scrutinizing state funds and investigating government agencies' and programs' performance.

Mautino will be only the third person to hold that post in Illinois history.

Bloomington Council Hears From Developers

Oct 19, 2015
Michael Hill / WGLT

Developers are looking at investing in downtown Bloomington, with help from the public sector. Bloomington Aldermen heard from Jeff Giebelhausen and David Bentley during a committee meeting. Each developer had a different proposal for the area. 

Finding affordable housing is a growing problem in Bloomington Normal. Laura Furlong is the CEO of MarcFirst and a member of a study panel on the issue for the League of Women Voters.

A McLean County League of Women Voters study suggests home ownership is declining and the amount of money people pay for rent is more stressful now than it was fifteen years ago. There has been an 18% increase in the share of income needed to afford a three bedroom apartment over the last fifteen years.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says he has pronounced doubts about U.S. attempts to bolster one side or another in the Syrian conflict. Durbin spoke to reporters recently after a trip to Greece. The Illinois Democrats says only the most minimal of military aid is being contemplated, and that is not likely to produce a difference in the struggle.

Illinois's newest congressman has not decided who he will support for House Speaker. Peoria Republican Darin LaHood says he wants to interview the candidates to find out how they want to move the country forward.

LaHood took office only a month ago. He says Congress needs to pass a budget, a federal highway reauthorization, and a trade agreement that promotes agriculture job creation.

The House Speaker's job became available after John Boehner said he would step down.
 

Schools in Illinois’ neediest districts including Peoria 150 are being forced to spend federal funds to prop up the state’s Teacher Retirement System.  Public schools that serve a significant number of low-income students receive federal Title One grants, earmarked for initiatives to close the achievement gap. If a school uses those funds to hire certified teachers, the school has to pay into that teacher’s retirement account.   

Jessica Handy, government affairs director with Stand for Children Illinois, says this cost Springfield schools more than 1.7 million dollars last year.

A new survey shows more than three-quarters of Illinois human service agencies have cut programs and are serving fewer clients because of the state's budget crisis. Almost one-third say they could run out of money in one month or less.  

The United Way of Illinois has released findings of a survey of 544 agencies statewide.  They say the responses show the situation is worsening for agencies and the people who rely on them as the budget impasse stretches on. 

United Way officials were joined by business and labor leaders who called on lawmakers to find a resolution.  

State records show that the former Illinois education superintendent left the position earlier this year with nearly $207,000 in severance and unused vacation payments. A public records request shows Christopher Koch received $89,000 in severance and $118,0 for 138.5 unused vacation days. Records also show that several dozen other Illinois State Board of Education staffers who left the agency also received cash bonuses and unused vacation payments.  

Municipal Residency Requirements Not A Priority

Oct 19, 2015
Ivo Shandor / Wikimedia Commons

Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner says he can see why Springfield's mayor is saying he wants people who get a city check to live in the city. Nearly a third of capitol city employees don't.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin appears reluctant to boost American military aid to Ukraine too much. Speaking to reporters after a trip to the eastern European nation, Durbin acknowledged that the Ukrainians are crying out for American Javelin anti-tank missiles to combat Russian armor. But, Durbin says the Obama administration does not believe those would make a difference. Durbin says the U.S. does not want to give Russian President Vladimir Putin a pretext to escalate.

Governor Bruce Rauner had $58.3 million dollars in income last year. The Republican has released tax returns for 2014, showing he paid more than $18 million in federal and state taxes.

His effective Federal tax rate was about 26%. His overall effective rate was 31%

The Rauner family foundation also gave more than $3.3 million to charity.
 

Congressman Rodney Davis says he approves of President Obama's decision to slow withdrawal of U.S. Troops from Afghanistan. Speaking to reporters on a conference call, the Republican Davis said keeping 9,800 troops there until late next year is in the country's interests.

"I think the disastrous results of what we saw from his drawdown in Iraq may have prompted this and I gotta give him kudos for making a decision that philosophically he never thought he would make when he was running for that office."

If former Congressman Aaron Schock keeps spending money on lawyers at this rate, his campaign fund will be out of money by the next quarterly filing period. The most recend Federal Election Commission report shows the Peoria Republican spent $900,000 in legal fees in the third quarter and still owes $747,000. He has less than $1.2 million cash on hand. Since Schock resigned under an ethics cloud and a grand jury investigation into his personal and campaign financial dealings, Schock has spent nearly $2.7 million on lawyers.

Illinois candidates for U.S. Senate in 2016 are reporting millions of dollars in campaign money raised in the third quarter. Democrat Tammy Duckworth's campaign said Wednesday it raised $1.46 million. Aides say the congresswoman has $2.8 million in the bank. Duckworth is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge first-term Republican Sen. Mark Kirk.  

Kirk reported contributions of $1.05 million since June.  His campaign says he has $3.62 million on hand.  

Both campaigns say the expansion of their donor bases suggested wide, grassroots support.  

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