Macomb Local News Archives for 2018-03

McDonough County Animal Shelter with influx of adoptable animals following court case

The McDonough County Animal Shelter is taking applications for 37 puppies, six adult dogs, and five cats that currently don't have homes pending. The animals were released to the shelter via the conclusion of a recent court case. If you are interested in adopting, you can be added to the waiting list upon an approved application. 
 
In the coming days, the shelter will have pictures of the animals up on their facebook page. You can find out more by contacting the McDonough County Animal Shelter at (309) 837-2989, or visiting between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays (10 a.m.-noon Saturdays) at 101 East Tower Road in Macomb. 

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Congressman talks with workers who got bonuses from federal tax cuts

The dust has all but settled for the tax-and-spend battles in Washington this year, and while a central Illinois congressman is taking a victory lap on federal tax cuts, he’s defending a massive spending bill.
 
Touring an AT&T call center in Springfield Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis met with several employees while they worked in cubicles taking customer calls.
 
Julie Bergheger, a 40-year employee with the telecommunications giant, was one of the AT&T employees who got a $1,000 bonus in January, after the federal income tax cuts.
 
“How many times had you gotten the company to offer $1,000 bonuses,” asked Davis, R-Taylorville.
 
“I can’t really remember any bonuses,” Bergheger said.
 
“Really,” Davis said. “I’m sorry it took so long.”
 
“Yeah, that was nice,” Bergheger said.
 
Bergheger said she used the $1,000 bonus on her household spending. Another employee told Davis she spent her bonus on an upcoming family vacation.
 
Altogether, House Republicans say 4 million workers and counting are benefitting from the tax cuts as businesses across the country have paid out $4 billion in bonuses.
 
The tax reform permanently lowered the federal corporate tax rates from 35 percent, highest among industrialized nations, to 21 percent, about the middle of the pack. The individual rates were cut a few percentage points across the board, but those rates are set to expire after 2025.
 
Davis said he’s now pushing for the individual tax cuts to be permanent.
 
“We’re going to be able to pass my bill that will make the individual tax rates permanent and we’ll see if senators like Bernie Sanders, who have said they’re supportive of making those individual rates permanent, we’ll see if their rhetoric matches their vote,” Davis said.
 
While the tax-cut battle took up much of the energy last year in Washington, the first few months of this year has been focused on spending taxpayers' money. After one stopgap budget, and a looming government shutdown deadline, the House and Senate passed an omnibus spending package on to President Donald Trump last week.
 
After a morning tweet saying he was thinking of vetoing the 2,232 page, $1.3 trillion spending bill, Trump signed it Friday.
 
“But I say to Congress, I will never sign another bill like this again,” Trump said. “I’m not going to do it again.”
 
Davis didn’t like Trump’s take.
 
“The president probably disappointed me more in the last week than he has in a long time,” Davis said. “The president and his administration actually were negotiating this bill.”
 
Trump criticized the spending package for not addressing Dreamers – undocumented immigrants who were brought the U.S. as children – and not authorizing full funding for a southern border wall.
 
Davis said Trump should have highlighted the good things, like opioid overdose prevention money.
 
U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville, supported the spending bill while taking the president to task.
 
“I supported this omnibus bill, which represents a clear and final rejection of President Trump’s flawed budget,” Foster said in a statement. “I am especially pleased that this legislation would give the Centers for Disease Control the authority to conduct research on the causes of gun violence.”
 
Davis urged the administration to start spending the money they did approve for border security instead of complaining there’s not enough. Foster said the border wall spending is a “waste of resources we could allot elsewhere.”
 
“Despite these shortcomings, this bill is a step in the right direction,” Foster said.

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Illinois congressman: Dodd-Frank rollback will be a lifeline for farmers, small businesses

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives are set to consider roll-backs of high-profile 2010 regulations signed into law after the financial and mortgage crisis.
 
The bill received bipartisan support but is likely to be changed by House Republicans, potentially setting up another battle with Senate opponents warning that deregulation of the financial industry could trigger another crash.
 
The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act loosens restrictions put in place in 2010 under a set of laws referred to as the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
 
Signed into law in 2010, the Dodd-Frank law placed tighter restrictions on lending practices by financial institutions, moreso on larger banks. It also created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal department that has returned almost $12 billion to 29 million consumers and imposed about $600 million in civil penalties. It's also been the target of criticism because it's federally funded but not subject to congressional appropriations. 
 
Supporters like Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Plano, said the regulations put in place by Dodd-Frank were overly burdensome for community banks and local credit unions.  
 
“To think that a local community bank that’s making loans to farmers and small businesses is a threat to our national economy if they make a bad loan is ridiculous,” he said.
 
More than 40 community banks and countless credit unions have closed their doors since Dodd-Frank was enacted, Hultgren said.
 
The argument for deregulation has been that large banks are able to absorb the cost of government compliance much easier than community banks and credit unions with a much smaller payroll, making the addition of legal compliance assistance weigh more heavily on the institution’s bottom line.
 
Hultgren said that the larger banking institutions often called "too big to fail" had a hand in writing the Dodd-Frank legislation. 
 
Before the Senate vote, a story identified Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth as a potential Democratic supporter of the legislation. She ultimately voted against it. She wouldn't respond to requests for comment explaining her vote against the measure. 
 
Opponents say deregulating these banks could lead to another financial calamity.
 
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said “the American people aren't going to stand by while the big banks and other giant corporations run this economy and this Congress for their own benefit.”
 
Vanita Gupta, CEO of the Leadership Conference, urged lawmakers to oppose the bill saying it “would undermine one of our nation’s key civil rights laws and weaken consumer protections enacted after the 2008 financial crisis.”
 
Hultgren said the bill will likely get changed and sent back to the Senate before it lands on the president’s desk.
 

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McDonough County 4-H announces Annual Pork Chop Bar-B-Que

McDonough County 4-H will hold its Annual Pork Chop Bar-B-Que on Friday, May 4. The event will be held from 5-7:30 p.m. at the 4-H Center in Macomb. The event serves as the chapter's only fundraiser, with proceeds going to the 4-H Federation College Scholorship. 

 

The dinner features a fresh pork chop sandwich, baked beans, homemade apple sauce, a homemade cookie, and a drink. Tickets are $6 ahead of time at $7 at the door. Dine in and drive thru options are available. 

 

For tickets contact your local 4-H member or call (309) 837-5551. For more details, listen to my interview with Beth Chatterton of the McDonough County 4-H. 

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Macomb City Hall to hold Vietnam Veteran's Day Reception today

Macomb Mayor Mike Inman is encouraging the public to attend a Vietnam Veteran's Day Reception today, from 1:30-3:30 p.m. in the Macomb City Hall Community Room. March 29th commemorates the last day that U.S. troops were on the ground in Vietnam in 1973. Mayor Inman asks that “all citizens pay tribute to those who served and to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom.”  

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Upcoming classes at Spoon River College in Macomb

Spoon River College in Macomb will be offering an array of new classes in the coming weeks and months. There are fees to attend and pre-registration is required. Classes will be held at the Spoon River College Outreach Center located at 2500 East Jackson Street, Macomb, unless noted different.

 

For more information or to register, call Spoon River College at (309) 833-6031. Information about additional classes can be found on the web at www.src.edu/outreach. Descriptions of these classes were provided in a release from Spoon River College. 

 

CREATIVE WRITING: This NEW creative writing class will benefit anyone who would like to start a writing project or has a project that is sitting around ready to be finished. In this class you will brainstorm topics, construct opening paragraphs, and build your use of imagery while maintaining a continuity of theme. The class will end with strategies of how to complete your writing project. Class will meet on Thursdays, April 5, 12, & 19 from 9-10:30am.  Instructed by Randy Sollenberger.
 
INTRODUCTION TO IPAD (LEVEL I): The iPad can be a tremendous asset to your business or daily life!  Whether you’re already using an iPad or are considering purchasing one, this introductory class is for you! Join us to learn how the device works, what apps are available, and time-saving tips & tricks!  Class will meet on Monday, April 9th from 1-4pm. Instructed by Erin Orwig.
 
FOOD service sanitation manager certification:  All establishments which serve food must have one certified person on the premises at all times. In order to maintain your Illinois FSSMC Certificate, or in order to obtain a new FSSMC Certificate, you must complete an eight hour ServSafe® IDPH approved course and pass an exam accredited under the standards developed and adopted by the Conference for Food Protection with a score of 75% or better. This course, instructed by I Food Manager (IFM), covers up-to-date information on safe food handling, preparation, food storage, personal hygiene, and the prevention of food borne illnesses. Successful completion includes a certificate issued by the Illinois State Department of Public Health (IDPH). Class will meet on Monday, April 23rd from 7:30am-5pm. Instructed by Wanda Adkins of IFM.
 
INTRODUCTION TO FACEBOOK:  Facebook is used to stay connected! Do you want to communicate with your children & grandchildren?  Do you want to see what’s going on with your friends, send someone a birthday greeting, or even find a friend from high school?   This is an introductory course for newer Facebook users.  Topics include:  setting up a Facebook account, changing your privacy settings, creating and commenting on posts, how to find friends, how to “like” comments and events, and also how to upload pictures, videos, and more. Class will meet on Monday, April 23rd from 1-4pm.  Instructed by Erin Orwig
 
OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY:  Have you ever wondered what the best camera setting is to capture outdoor photos? In this 3-hour class you will learn how! This course will be “live” instruction. Participants will examine real life use of shutter speed, how to select the right aperture, and of course, outdoor lighting. Class will meet on Saturday, May 19th from 11am-2pm at the Glenwood Park entrance. Instructed by Bob Coker.

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Illinois' next Top 200 vote: Inventions and Innovations

Illinois' latest Top 200 list will have voters choosing between skyscrapers, cells phones, and Twinkies. 
 
The folks picking Illinois' bicentennial best-of list  this week are choosing Illinois' top inventions and innovations. 
 
Some of them are obvious. Chicago was home to the first skyscraper, and later the world's tallest. 
 
John Deere started making steel plows before making big green tractors. 
 
And Twinkies. Yes, Chris Wills at the Abraham Lincoln Museum said, Twinkies are from Illinois.  
 
"There was a bakery up in the Chicago suburbs. They produced a strawberry shortcake snack, but because strawberries were seasonal they could only produce that during strawberry season," Wills said. "So a baker hit on the idea of taking a sponge cake, and filling it with creme."
 
The rest is golden baked history. 
 
Wills said Illinois' other innovation that will surprise some people is likely to be pinball. 
 
"Pinball may not have been invented here. But all of the major companies that turned that into a staple of bars, playrooms, and arcades are all based in Chicago," Wills said. "Pinball as we know it in this country would not exist if not for Chicago."
 
The other choices on the list include barbed wire, the first TV remote and grain silos. 
 
This round of voting is open until Friday. People can cast a ballot at IllinoisTop200.com

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NAACP, Illinois police chiefs urge mutual respect between law enforcement, community

Police chiefs from across the state recently joined with community activists in Illinois to sign a pact designed to build trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.
 
Tensions continue to boil over in Sacramento, California, in the aftermath of the March 18 police-involved shooting of a black man in his grandmother’s backyard. The fatal shooting of Stephon Clark, who reportedly was unarmed, led to protesters blocking roadways and family members calling for criminal charges.
 
Just days after the California shooting, the Illinois chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) signed an agreement last week in Springfield to build a bridge of cooperation and mutual respect among police and communities.
 
“I was horrified and it really bothered me,” NAACP Illinois State Conference President Teresa Haley said of the California shooting. “We’re still dealing with this around the country.”
 
The agreement in Illinois was the product of years of discussions after a police-involved shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked unrest in late 2014.
 
Haley said one major element of the agreement is the focus on de-escalation training.
 
“Officers are supposed to be there to protect and serve, not hurt and harm,” Haley said. “And if you are afraid of someone that you're pulling over and that you're coming up on and you have a gun, we don’t want the first thing that you do is to shoot. We want you try to de-escalate the situation through the appropriate training. And when you see something, say something. And if you don't feel comfortable, call for backup.”
 
Oak Brook, Illinois, Police Chief James Kruger, who is the president of the IACP, said law enforcement officers believe in de-escalation training.
 
“Certainly that’s a matter of safety, not only for the community, but also for the officers as well,” Kruger said.
 
Other provisions include endorsing community policing, procedural justice, more diversity within law enforcement, and eliminating racial tensions.
 
Clarks’ family is urging criminal charges against the officer that reportedly fired 20 rounds in the March 18 incident in Sacramento.
 
In Illinois, Haley and Kruger were asked how to hold police accountable in such instances.
 
Kruger said there are high standards in the profession, and no chief wants bad actors in their ranks.
 
“We do have to work within the framework of state law, within collective bargaining rights, and try to work within that, but also try to hold our people accountable,” Kruger said.
 
Haley said, as a union member, she understands workers’ rights, but said more should be done.
 
“If that means firing them, fire them,” Haley said. “Let them fight with the union to get their jobs back, because that’s what we pay our dues for.”
 
Haley said ending the tensions between police and certain communities comes down to mutual respect and balancing your rights while complying with orders.
 
“We ask our community members to go home to talk to your family members about their rights and knowing what to do,” Haley said, “but at the same time still being respectful because we want you to live. Your life's most important.”
 
“The key is to get home,” she added. “If you get home you can say something and you can report it and you can tell someone.”
 
Both Haley and Kruger said the agreement they signed is a living agreement and the document will be shared at the NAACP’s national convention in hopes similar agreements can be implemented nationwide.

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Illinois House committee hears more debate after gun licensing bill veto

Proponents and opponents sparred Tuesday over the vetoed gun dealer licensing bill that could come up for an override attempt when lawmakers return to Springfield next month.
 
Senate Bill 1657 passed both chambers earlier this month, but Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the measure, saying it was overly burdensome on businesses.
 
State Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Addison, said Tuesday during a committee hearing in Chicago that Rauner’s veto, which came just days before the March 20 primary election, was a political ploy.
 
State Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, said it was a bad move for Rauner to veto the measure.
 
“But it was a dumb, dumb thing that we did as Democrats in 2013 and 2014 that we didn’t pass laws when we could,” Drury said.
 
Representing the Illinois State Rifle Association, Ed Sullivan laid out numerous reasons they opposed the bill. One in particular was that even if it was a $1,000 annual licensing fee, there wouldn't be enough resources for the state to enforce the measure. That would open a backdoor to closing down gun shops around the state, Sullivan said.
 
“If you have to license every dealer and you don’t have the manpower to do it and you can’t open without a license, that is a backdoor way to shut down dealerships through government intervention,” Sullivan said.
 
Of the nearly 16,100 witness slips filed to support, oppose, or claim neutrality for the hearing, only nine people testified.
 
One proponent was Dr. Karen Sheehan. She said the bill makes sense.
 
“If beekeepers are licensed, doctors are licensed, then gun dealers need to go through a similar process to make sure everyone is doing their best,” Sheehan said.
 
Federal Firearms Licensees of Illinois Executive Director Todd Vandermyde it’s true other professions have to get a state license.
 
“But nobody can point to one of those professions that has a federal license issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in order for them to do business,” Vandermyde said. “That they had to go through a site visit with an ATF agent before they could open their doors. That they had to go through a sitdown to talk about record keeping and compliance issues. That they are audited by the federal government and the BATF,” as gun dealer are.
 
Vandermyde said he and other gun-rights advocates are happy to talk about how to curb gun violence without measures that would restrict federally licensed businesses.
 
As the House sponsor of the vetoed Senate bill, Willis vowed for an override attempt, but the bill didn’t have a required supermajority when it initially passed.
 
Lawmakers are back in Springfield the second week of April.
 

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First Christian Church of Macomb to hold Second Annual Egg Glow

The First Christian Church of Macomb is holding its Second Annual Egg Glow. The event will take place Saturday March 31st at 7:30 p.m. at the Glenwood Park Stone Shelter.

 

Children Pre-K through 6th grade are encouraged to partake in this event. They must be accompanied by an adult. Participants should bring their basket and a flashlight.

 

Prizes will be awarded for the Pre-K/K, 1st-3rd grade, and 4th-6th grade age brackets. 

 

For more information on this year's event, along with other Easter happenings at the First Christian Church, listen to my interview with Kelly Ingersoll of the First Christian Church of Macomb. 

 

 

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What would a trade war with China mean for Illinois farmers?

Amid talks of a potential trade war with China, Chinese officials warned the United States it could place a tariff of up to 25 percent on American pork products.
 
Mike Doherty, senior economist and policy analyst at the Illinois Farm Bureau, said U.S. pork exports to China have grown to $1 billion over the past two years. Illinois, however, does not have as much pork production as other states, and he said states such as Iowa could see greater effects of such a tariff.
 
“Relatively speaking, it would affect Illinois a little less than say Iowa, where Iowa has much more pork production,” Doherty said.
 
Doherty said Illinois might be affected through corn and soybeans, two key state crops that also are key to pork production in the state.
 
“A portion of our corn and soybeans that grow here in Illinois go to feed those hogs that become those pork products that then get exported to China,” Doherty said.
 
So far, corn and soybeans do not appear to be a part of the possible tariff, Doherty said. Most of the state’s exports to China are for soybeans.
 
Doherty said that because of its export-heavy nature, farmers in the Midwest and in Illinois are more pro-trade and always looking for ways to get top dollar for their products.
 
“Farmers have been very consistent in the Midwest in that they are in favor of greater and greater trade opportunities,” Doherty said. “So, they are a pro-trade group of business people. “
 
About one-third of the Illinois crop of soybeans gets shipped to China, Doherty said. He said the state would not want any restrictions placed on its soybeans by China.
 
“The last thing Illinois would want would be for China to do anything that would restrict or reduce our sales of soybeans,” Doherty said.
 

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IDPH issues warning about synthetic cannabinoids

The Illinois Department of Public Health released a statement Tuesday, warning the public of the danger of synthetic cannabinoids. The drug is often called fake weed, K2, and spice. Since March 10, 2018, six Northeastern Illinois residents suffered severe bleeding after using it. 

 

“Despite the perception that synthetic cannabinoids are safe and a legal alternative to marijuana, many are illegal and can cause severe illness,” said IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D.  “The recent cases of severe bleeding are evidence of the harm synthetic cannabinoids can cause.”

 

Synthetic cannabinoids are not one drug, but hundreds of different chemicals manufactured and sold. These chemicals, which are called cannabinoids, act on the same brain cell receptors as the main active ingredient in marijuana. It is difficult to know what is in them or how one will react to the drug. The health effects of using synthetic cannabinoids, are unpredictable, and in some cases, life threatening. 

 

Anyone who has a serious reaction to synthetic cannabinoids should call 911 or go to the emergency department immediately.

 

 

 

 

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Author Debby Schriver to hold free event in Macomb

Author Debby Schriver will make a stop in Macomb next month to promote her book, Whispering in the Daylight. Schriver's book tells the story of The Alamo Christian Foundation, which is a Christian cult founded in 1969 by Tony and Susan Alamo. The event will be held Thursday, April 12 at Magnolia's (130 N. Lafayette, Macomb) from 4-6 p.m.
 
The event, which has been coined a “Sip, Sign & Dine,” event, gives readers an opportunity to meet Schriver, while enjoying complimentary wine, light hors d’oeuvres, and a chance to purchase their copy of Whispering in the Daylight.
 
For more details on the book check out Schriver's book website, and read the attached press release

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Court: State worker union to get automatic pay hikes despite Rauner freeze

Gov. Bruce Rauner won at the polls last week but was dealt a loss in the courts, when the Illinois Supreme Court said it wouldn’t hear his case against mandatory public sector pay raises.
 
The state’s highest court refused to hear Rauner’s appeal challenging the legality of taking away automatic pay increases, called step increases, from about 40 percent of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 membership. This refusal essentially makes the appellate verdict the law of the land.
 
Rauner stopped the step increases as part of negotiations that stalled in June 2015. He and the union still have yet to hammer out a new contract.
 
A spokesperson for the governor said Rauner still disagrees with the ruling because “the state is not obligated to pay wage increases because the General Assembly has not appropriated sufficient funding.”
 
Lee Adler, professor at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, said Rauner isn’t fighting unions for the state, but for his campaign.
 
“I believe that Mr. Rauner has used all of his battles with the public-sector unions to try to increase his political popularity,” he said. “[Step increases] provide the state of Illinois with a set of built-in incentives that encourage hard-working public employees to remain in their positions and develop further skills.”
 
Adler, who also represents union firefighters as a practicing attorney in New York, said it’s common for employees to forgo a step increase as part of a bargaining process with an employer that’s shown serious financial shortcomings.
 
Illinois is the most financially unstable state in the nation, according to a recent report by U.S. News and World Report. The state's public pension debt, publicly stated at $130 billion, is estimated to be as high as $250 billion by credit ratings agency Moody’s Investors Services, which puts the state just above speculative, or junk, grade.
 
AFSCME workers are some of the highest paid state workers in the nation, with an average pay of more than $63,000, not counting benefits. Illinois’ median wage is just under $32,000.
 
Although Rauner and the union seem to be at the very definition of impasse, the union insists that they are still negotiating in good faith with the governor, who is seeking a state Supreme Court ruling that would allow him to impose his last, final offer on the union.
 
An administrative law judge said it seems like AFSCME is slow-walking the negotiations.
 
“The [u]nion seemed as interested in what was happening away from the table as it was what was occurring at the table,” Sarah Kerley said.
 
The appellate court must now instruct the Illinois Labor Relations Board to decide on how it will reconcile the ruling, which is expected later this year.
 

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IDOT rewards innovative ideas from staff that improve safety, save taxpayer money

A $20 light installed on a salt truck could save taxpayers big in costly damaged truck and bridge repairs, and that’s one reason the idea won the top prize at a first-ever innovation contest for the Illinois Department of Transportation.
 
Of 100 submissions from IDOT frontline staff, 10 were highlighted at the department’s headquarters Monday in Springfield.
 
IDOT Secretary Randy Blankenhorn said after touring the various districts over three years, it was beyond time for such a contest.
 
“We’re innovative every single day,” Blankenhorn said. “The people are out there fixing problems and doing good things and we need to reward people for that and we need to say thank you and, more than that, we need to take these good ideas and use them across the state.”
 
IDOT Riverton Maintenance Yard Temporary Lead Worker Brian Mendenhall said his team’s idea is simple: Install a $20 light that drivers can see to know they’re able to clear a bridge overpass.
 
“District 6, in the last four years, has had three trucks hit either a bridge or a sign structure, totalling out the trucks,” Mendenhall said. “And between the trucks and the bridge repair on top of that, you’re talking in excess of $200,000 or greater.”
 
That idea came in first place, and the Riverton team will get the equipment equivalent of a new skid steer loader, a cost Mendenhall said could be up to $150,000.
 
“This will be able to update us and get things to a newer technology and newer attachments and things that we use,” Mendenhall.
 
Second place was Peoria-based District 4’s jack attachment for installing a plow blade. Operations and Maintenance Field Engineer James Bell said the tool will help cut down on workers’ compensation costs.
 
“Any time we can come up with any type of way that we can do the work a lot easier and a lot safer, we’re going to explore those,” Bell said.
 
The Peoria team will get $10,000 in new equipment.
 
Third place was IDOT District 5’s team with a PVC piping cover for truck outdoor temperature sensors. The cover keeps the $300 sensor safe from being fried during hot-water truck washes.
 
“It’s basically under [$8],” District 5’s Billy Burris said of the cover. “And the thing's going to last five years and it works on every truck we have and it’s very portable. Any yard can make it probably with the stuff they have in the yard already, so it’s very cheap.”
 
Burris’ crew won a catered lunch.
 
The contest was the first Mendenhall had seen in his 16 years with IDOT.
 
“They’ve done great steps, leaps and bounds over the past couple of years to include people on the smaller levels to get ideas,” Mendenhall said. “It helps us to feel that we’re welcome and we’re a part of the process and our thoughts and things are important also.”
 
“This administration we have in here now is very inclusive, very transparent,” said Bell, who’s been with IDOT for 13 years. “I think that’s when trust is built and in my time here, there’s sometimes been a disconnect with management and frontline people … Now things are really starting to trend upward and we’re really happy to be in this situation.”
 
Several of the ideas have already been developed and implemented on a local level, but Blankenhorn said he hopes to roll out all the innovative ideas across the state over time for greater workplace safety, greater customer service and taxpayer savings.

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Curtis calls for Hammond to join him in public forum

Following last Tuesday's Illinois Primary Election, Democratic Candidate for State Representative of the 93rd District, John Curtis, released a statement to the media. With the results of the primary, in which republican incumbent Norine Hammond beat out challenger Joshua Griffith, set in stone, Curtis says he would like to see Hammond join him in a public forum.

 

“What I’m hearing is that people want regular and direct access to their public officials and to their candidates.  If Representative Hammond truly wants to continue to represent the hard-working people of the 93rd District, then she should be willing to join me in meeting constituents in our small towns and rural communities so that we can talk about how we improve our communities and bring jobs and economic opportunity back to our region," Curtis said.

 

Curtis, who ran against Hammond in the 2016 Election, is calling for a "return to citizen-based democracy and a series of public forums to address issues and challenges facing the 93rd District," according to the release. 

 

“Our heritage in this region and state includes a series of famous debates more than 150 years ago staged by Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas,” Curtis said. “We have the opportunity to capture the spirit of those times when ideas mattered more than 30 second ads and negative attacks.”

 

The 93rd District includes all or parts of Brown, Cass, Fulton, Knox, Mason, McDonough, Schuyler and Warren Counties in west-central Illinois.

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New Illinois poll shows bipartisan agreement on the criminal justice system

New polling from Southern Illinois University found 73 percent of state voters think the state spends too much money on incarceration and not enough on education and treatment.
 
John Jackson, a visiting professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and co-director of the polling operation at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, said Democrats and Republicans agree that both the Illinois and national criminal justice systems have issues.
 
“People on the left and people on the right have generally come to an agreement, at least a majoritarian agreement, that there are some real problems with our criminal justice system,” Jackson said.
 
Jackson said it is rare for the public to agree on issues like this in today’s political climate. He added that these kinds of opinions are needed to start the process of change.
 
“It is fairly rare in American politics these days,” Jackson said. “We are much more polarized, and it is what is required for there to be action.”
 
Fifty-five percent of respondents said the criminal justice system was biased against black people, which the researchers said was influenced by where respondents live. Chicago and its collar counties were at least 60 percent in agreement, while 42 percent of downstate residents agreed.
 
“The outstate or downstate, whatever it should be called, is more Republican and more conservative than the rest of the state,” Jackson said.  
 
The poll also asked about the quality of water in Illinois, with 69 percent ranking the water as excellent or good.
 
“People are mostly pretty satisfied with water quality in Illinois, and we have abundant supplies of good water,” Jackson said, adding that respondents agreed that water safety is very important in the state and that government should keep it safe.
 

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Wesley Village to hold Open Interviews

Wesley Village in Macomb is holding open interviews Monday, April 2 from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. at its community center (1200 E Grant St.). Wesley Village currently has openings in its Food Service Department, as well as a need for CNA's and nurses in the Health Care Department. 

 

The positions offered range from part-time, to full-time and PRN for all shifts. Home Health openings depend on your location. Full-time employees receive benefits and 401k. For more information visit Wesley Village on Facebook

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Judge allows lawsuit accusing Madigan of running 'sham candidates' to go forward

(Photo of Madigan via Chicago Magazine)
 
A federal judge has ruled that a lawsuit accusing House Speaker Michael Madigan of running "sham candidates" in a 2016 election can move forward.
 
U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly ruled that the powerful Chicago Democrat’s 2016 primary challenger for his state House seat can pursue part of his lawsuit claiming Madigan staged two dummy candidates to divert support from Jason Gonzales.
 
"Gonzales alleges that when they became aware he was running, Madigan and his associates [the other defendants] put up two candidates – Joe Barbosa and Grasiela Rodriguez – to dilute the Hispanic vote," according to court records. 
 
In the decision, Kennelly said that Gonzales had sufficiently accused Madigan of violating the voting rights of Gonzales and others in the 22nd Illinois House district by allegedly placing the two “sham candidates” on the ballot. 
 
“This is ten times the level of anything the Russians have done in our election system,” said Anthony J. Peraica, Gonzales’ attorney. “Someone has to hold [Madigan] accountable and we intend to do that.”
 
Kennelly referred to a 1973 decision by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (Smith v. Cherry) that found that by voting for one of the false choices, voters in that election were essentially supporting the person who placed the fake candidates on the ballot. This was Kennelly’s rationale for allowing this portion of the case to move ahead.
 
Allegations of sham candidates are nothing new in the history of Illinois politics. State Rep. Bob Rita was accused of doing the same this in last week’s primary election. The Blue Island Democrat and Madigan ally won decisively.
 
Gonzales filed the civil suit against Madigan and other defendants in 2016. No criminal charges have been filed.
 
Peraica said that Madigan could be responsible for paying Gonzales hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign expenditures if the judge rules against the speaker. It could also set a local precedent ending the practice of placing straw candidates on the ballot.
 
Gonzales’ political committee spent $287,016 on his primary campaign, according to elections expenditures. 
 
Madigan’s attorneys sought to dismiss the charges, claiming Gonzales and others can’t prove that they spent more because of the additional candidates on the ballot, asserting the defendants should not be liable to pay back what Gonzales’ attorneys are seeking in damages.
 
Kennelly dismissed Gonzales' defamation charges against Madigan. Those charges stem from Madigan and others’ portrayal of Gonzales as a convicted felon. He was pardoned in 2015 of felony charges by then Gov. Pat Quinn. Kennelly said that Gonzales was a public figure at the time, therefore must prove a higher standard of defamation. The judge also noted that Gonzales didn't claim that he was granted a pardon because he was innocent. Peraica said he and his client will ask the judge to reconsider that decision. 
 
Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are Madigan’s political committee, Friends of Michael J. Madigan, the 13th Ward Democratic Organization, the Prisoner Review Board, Shaw Decremer, one of Madigan’s former top political captains, state Rep. Silvana Tabares, D-Chicago, and Graciela Rodriguez, who along with Joe Barbosa were the two alleged “sham candidates.”
 
Madigan’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 
 
Madigan is fighting multiple lawsuits against him and his political operation. Kennelly's decision came in the same week a former campaign worker sued Madigan's campaign alleging her complaints about being sexually harassed by one of Madigan's top political operatives prompted retaliation rather than redress.
 

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Gun debate heats up with rallies Saturday outside Illinois' capitol, around the country

Tensions were hot on a cold and raining Saturday afternoon outside the Illinois State Capitol where gun-control advocates and Second Amendment supporters shared opposing views.
 
Springfield was one of many cities across the country where the 'March For Our Lives' demonstrations were organized to have youth express their fears of gun violence in schools, five weeks after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that took the lives of 17 students and faculty.  
 
On one side of the street about 200 people gathered in gusty winds, persistent rain and 40 degree temperatures to chant “shame on the NRA.”
Lillian Stevens attends Springfield High School and urged her peers to push for more gun control.
 
“We will no longer sit idly by,” Stevens said through a bullhorn. “We will raise our voices and force action to be taken so that our lives won’t be. … And we will send our younger siblings and our own children to school and not have to wonder whether or not they will come back home by the end of the day.”
 
Among signs calling for weapons bans and stiff gun control measures, other students said it’s time to put the guns down.
 
On the other side of the street a group of gun-rights advocates had a different message.
New Berlin resident, 19-year-old Kyle Connolly, attends Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri. He said the gun-control wave among his peers is troubling because the focus is wrongly being turned to an inanimate object.
 
“You can lay a gun on a table, it’s not going to shoot and kill anyone,” Connolly said. “It’s the mental health of the people that are doing the crime … and causing the deaths.”
Connolly said as evidenced in last week’s Maryland school shooting, an armed and vigilant resource officer rapidly neutralized a school shooter.
 
“Whereas it was about 30 minutes in Florida and no cops when it and nothing was happening and 17 people were killed,” Connolly said. “So I feel like putting an armed guard in a school that can neutralize a threat is honestly the best way to stop what is happening.”
 
Lance Gilbert of Springfield said as a former security officer at the state capitol, he carried a gun to protect those inside. But when he worked for K-12 school security, that wasn’t allowed.
 
“The reality is, the politicians feel their lives are important but they’re not willing to do what needs to be done to protect the students,” Gilbert said.
 
Linda Canter, a Springfield resident rallying with the March For Our Lives group went as far as to advocate for gun bans.
 
“Nobody needs a machine gun or a rapid-fire weapon that they can mow down hundreds of people with,” Canter said. “If it’s a military-grade weapon it doesn’t deserve to be in the hands of a private citizen.”
 
Fully automatic firearms, where a depressed trigger rapidly fires, are already prohibited without a permit. At statehouses across the country and in the U.S. Congress there are proposals to ban semi-automatic weapons, where one trigger pull fires one round.
 
Longtime Springfield-area gun-rights activist Tom Shafer said he’s seen the encroachment on his rights gun by gun.
 
“Several years ago all they’ve talked about was handguns,” Shafer said. “Now apparently they’ve moved over to long guns, so apparently as the winds shift, their demands shift, but it still affects my Second Amendment rights, which I stand on firmly as well as all of the Bill of Rights.”
A measure up in the Illinois Senate would ban anyone under 21 from having a semi-automatic weapon.
 
Connolly said that goes too far.
 
“I don’t think that taking it away is the answer,” the 19-year-old said. “If I’m 18, why should you take away my guns, but I can vote. So I feel that if you should get one responsibility at the age of 18 they shouldn't take away another responsibility.”
 
Connolly said he’s a minority among his peers when it comes to debating the Second Amendment.
 
“In being a gun supporter at the age of 19, and being in high school and college, I think a large amount of that is a lot of the teachers and administrators of schools are liberals,” Connolly said. “Meaning liberal policies are being pushed into schools and kids at a younger age are being pushed into the left wing and not necessarily exploring what they think because of pressure to be one way form the school.”
 
Shafer said any shooting death is a tragedy, but he saw Saturday’s March For Our Lives demonstrations as a political stunt.
 
“These people are being misled by the left into furthering their political agenda,” Shafer said, “which takes away my second amendment rights.
 

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Agenda for March 26 Macomb City Council Meeting released

Below is the full agenda for the upcoming meeting of the Macomb City Council Committee of the Whole. The meeting will be held at 5:15 p.m., at Macomb City Hall. 

 

ROLL CALL
 
PUBLIC HEARING TO CONSIDER A LIQUOR LICENSE APPLICATION SUBMITTED BY MARIA DEJESUS BERMUDEZ DBA LOS TAPATIOS FOR A CLASS R PLUS OL AND SS LIQUOR LICENSE AT 1319 EAST JACKSON STREET, MACOMB, IL
 
PUBLIC COMMENTS
 
Discussion on the bids received for the 2018 Street Improvement Project – North Randolph Street.
 
Consideration of an ordinance to create a Class R plus OL and SS liquor license for Maria DeJesus Bermudez d/b/a Los Tapatios.
-This ordinance will be presented for first reading. A copy is attached for your review.
 
Discussion on the proposed agreement between the City of Macomb and Macomb Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
-A copy of the proposed agreement is attached for your review. Discussion is planned.
 
Discussion on an ordinance to amend Sections 15-216 and 5-215(2) of the Municipal Code of Macomb to amend the location of 20 minute restricted parking and handicapped parking for the southeast corner of Washington Street at Randolph Street.
-This ordinance had first reading last Monday night and further discussion is planned.
 
Discussion on an ordinance to amend Section 15-164 of the Municipal Code of Macomb to amend the Municipal Code wording for the location of stop sign on Pearl Street at Jefferson Street.
-This ordinance had first reading last Monday night and further discussion is planned.
 
Discussion on an ordinance to amend Section 15-215(1) of the Municipal Code of Macomb to amend parking on Normal Street as it is restricted from 2 AM – 6 AM.
This ordinance had first reading last Monday night and further discussion is planned.
 
Discussion on an ordinance to amend various sections of Chapter 19, 20 and 23 of the Municipal Code of the City of Macomb, McDonough County, Illinois relating to department titles, grammatical or typographical errors
-This ordinance had first reading last Monday night and further discussion is planned.
 
Discussion on an ordinance to amend two sections of Chapter 7 of the Municipal Code of the City of Macomb, McDonough County, Illinois (Plumbing).
-This ordinance had first reading last Monday night and further discussion is planned.
 
Discussion of an ordinance to amend various sections of Chapters 19, 20 and 23 of the Municipal Code of the City of Macomb, McDonough County, Illinois to adopt the standard details and amend for reference to the standard details.
-This ordinance had first reading last Monday night and further discussion is planned.
Agenda
March 26, 2018
Page 2
 
Review of proposed FY 2018 – 2019 budget for City of Macomb.
 
Other business.
 
Executive Session
 
To consider information relative to:
 
a) Appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance or dismissal of an employee of the public body or legal counsel for the public body, pursuant to Sec. 2(c)(1) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
b)Collective Bargaining matters between the public body and it’s employees or representatives, or deliberations concerning salary schedules for one or more classes of employees, pursuant to Sec. 2(c)(2) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
c) The purchase or lease of real property for the use of the public body, pursuant to Sec. 2(c)(5) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
d)The setting of a price for sale or lease of property owned by the public body, pursuant to Sec. 2(c)(6) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
e) Pending or probable litigation, pursuant to Sec. 2(c)(11) of the Open Meetings Act.
 

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Macomb Park District cancels Prairie Egg Hunt due to anticipated weather forecast

The Macomb Park District announced that the Prairie Egg Hunt, scheduled for Saturday, March 24 at Lakeview Nature Center, is canceled. This comes as a result of the anticipated weather forecast. The Prairie Egg Hunt is still scheduled for Sunday, March 25, from 1-5:00 p.m at the Lakeview Nature Center. 

 

More information on the Macomb Park District and upcoming events is available on Facebook and Twitter. There you can find out about programs, special events, cancellations, and other Macomb Park District News!

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'Peorians Who Changed the World' discussion to be held at Riverfront Museum

The Peoria Riverfront Museum is teaming up with the Peoria Journal-Star to hold a panel discussion titled 'Peorians Who Changed the World'. The free event will be held Thursday, March 29 at 6 p.m. at the Riverfront Museum. 

 

The panel of Peoria-area journalists will focus on the lives of famous Peoria natives, including: Comedian Richard Pryor, feminist icon Betty Friedan, Susan G. Komen Foundation founder Nancy Brinker, civil rights promoters Senator Everett Dirksen and the Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian, and broadcast personality Bishop Fulton Sheen. 

 

Per a release from the Riverfront Museum, the event will be moderated by Journal Star Executive Editor Dennis Anderson. It includes commentary on the biographies of celebrated Peorians by celebrated Journal Star journalists, editors and columnists and provides an opportunity for public Q&A.

 

More information is available at the museum, by phone: (309) 686-7000 or online at RiverfrontMuseum.org.

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Wesley United Methodist Church holds Rummage Sale

The Welsey United Methodist Church in Macomb is holding a Rummage Sale. The event runs today until 6 p.m., and then continues Saturday 8 a.m. to noon in the lower level of the church at 1212 W. Calhoun Street.

 

The sale features low prices on items from local donors. Per the church's website, the sale includes "good quality men's, women's and children's clothing; books, household items; shoes; toys and puzzles; furniture; plus a "better room" with higher-end jewelry; collectibles; gently-worn designer clothing; shoes; handbags; and more."

 

The money raised will go to church missions. For more information on the rummage sale, as well as the Wesley United Methodist Church's upcoming Streaming Days, listen to my interview with Pastor Howard White. 

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YMCA of McDonough County to hold Family Outdoor Show Fundraiser

The YMCA of McDonough County will hold its Family Outdoor Show Fundraiser Saturday March 24-Sunday March 25 at the YMCA (400 E. Calhoun St., Macomb). The event runs from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Sunday. 

 

The event features a variety of local vendors, along with speakers, live music, and food. Admission is $5 per person, with family rates available. Families are encouraged to come together, as it is a family-friendly event with a number of kid-centric activities. 

 

K100 will be having a live remote broadcast at the event 1-3 p.m. on Saturday, with guests on live to discuss the event. For a preview of the event, listen to my interview with Carla Teslicka and Holly Scott from the YMCA of McDonough County. 

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Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center to hold blood drive at Astoria High School

The Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center will hold a Community Blood Drive at Astoria High School on Thursday, April 12. The event will be held 8:45 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. in the gym (402 N. Jefferson St., Astoria, IL).  

 

Donors must be at least 17 years of age, unless they are 16 with a parental permission form. Donors must also weigh more than 110 pounds. A photo I.D. is also required to donate. The procedure should take 45 minutes to one hour. 

 

To donate, please contact Garry Bastien at (309) 329-2156 or visit www.bloodcenterimpact.org and use code 1014 to locate the drive.
 

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After narrow primary defeat, Ives supporters mixed on whether they'll support Rauner in November

After Gov. Bruce Rauner narrowly defeated challenger Jeanne Ives in the primary for Illinois’ Republican candidate for governor, the question is now whether the first-term governor can persuade frustrated conservatives to vote for him this fall.
 
When the numbers were tallied, Rauner had bested the conservative suburban Chicago lawmaker. But Ives turned out to be something more than the fringe candidate Rauner portrayed her as early in the campaign. He won by 20,000 votes, according to unofficial election results.
 
Considering more than 330,000 Republicans voted for Ives, Rauner must now get them back on board in time for November’s general election if he has a chance against billionaire Democrat J.B. Pritzker.
 
Supporters at her post-election rally highlighted some of the challenges Rauner will face in bringing the party together.
 
State Rep. Allen Skillicorn said he wouldn't support Rauner. 
 
“Absolutely not,” he said. “His campaign was dishonest and dishonorable.”
 
Rauner ran TV and digital ads before the primary that claimed Ives was powerful Democrat House Speaker Michael Madigan's favorite Republican. Media outlets and other Republicans said the claim wasn't true.
 
Alexander Rodriguez of Joliet says he’ll pull the lever for Rauner this November but won’t be happy about it.
 
“I will not fundraise. I will not donate. I won’t have a yard sign in my house,” he said. “He’s going to be on his own.”
 
State Rep. Peter Breen, R-Lombard, was more pragmatic about Rauner.
 
"Gov. Rauner stated in the media that he’s heard the message, and I believe he has," Breen said. "Gov. Rauner is our party’s nominee, and I support him 100 percent."
 
Breen was one of Rauner's most vocal opponents, taking him to task for his flip-flop on a bill that put more public dollars toward abortions. 
 
Wearing an anti-Rauner shirt, Susie Ejzak from Palatine said there’s no chance Rauner will get her support.
 
“Absolutely not,” she said . “He’s a Democrat and I haven’t voted for a Democrat since 1976.”

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3 Top Entrepreneurs Won prizes at the 6 County Fast Pitch

The following release comes from the University of Illinois Extension. Congratulations to all of the winners and participants in the competition! 
 
"On Wednesday, March 14th entrepreneurs competed in the 6 County Fast Pitch Contest vying for cash and prizes to help turn their idea into a new or expanding business in the counties of Henderson, Henry, Knox, Mercer, Stark and Warren Counties in Illinois. 
 
The 20 entrepreneurs presented their ideas to a panel of judges during confidential individual 10 minute “fast pitch” sessions. They competed in three different categories, Existing Business Expansion, Manufacturing/Fabrication and Retail/Service. At 2 p.m. the winners were announced during an awards ceremony at the Alpha United Methodist Church. The grand prize winner in each category was awarded $2,500 cash, up to $35,000 in media advertising donated by Regional Media, Gatehouse, Galesburg Radio, and WRMJ radio;  $1,800 marketing consultation donated by Dave Dunn’s Masters Educational Services; up to 8 hours of customer service training from University of Illinois Extension, a $500 Scholarship to related coursework at either Carl Sandburg College, Blackhawk College, or Blackhawk East from their Foundations,  accounting services donated by Thomas L. Irons, EA Accounting Systems, Inc, and continued consultation and support from Western Illinois University’s Small Business Development Center. 
 
The 3 grand prize winners were:
 
Manufacturing/Fabrication/Distribution – Andrea Konie for her business Dinners On Me. Her business is based out of Cambridge in Henry County.
 
Existing Business Expansion – Linda Putnam for her business Linda’s Salsa. Her business is based out of Monmouth in Warren County.
 
Retail/Services – Shawn Kendall – Trademark Vacations for his potential business.  His business is based out of Galva in Knox County.
 
“The goal of this contest is to identify local entrepreneurs and help provide them the support they need to succeed.” said Russell Medley, Community and Economic Development Educator from University of Illinois Extension who has been on the Fast Pitch committee since 2011.  He added “The vast majority of jobs in the US are started by small business.  We wanted to provide an opportunity for entrepreneurs in our 6 county region to achieve success and hopefully, in the long run, to spur the creation or growth of a business and jobs in our local communities.”  
 
A panel of 9 judges listened to the contestants give their pitches and determined the winner. Judges included: Gary Camarano, Director of the Whiteside County Economic Development Department, Annette Ernst, Village Administrator, Coal Valley, IL, Kevin Evans, Director- Illinois Small Business Development Center at Bradley University, Julie Forsythe, Vice President, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce, Salvador “Sal” Garza, Manager, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity in the Office of Regional Economic Development, Galesburg, IL, Anne Heinze Silvis Assistant Dean and Program Leader, Community and Economic Development, University of Illinois Extension, Janice McCoy, County Director, University of Illinois Extension, Carroll, Lee and Whiteside Counties, Sean Park, Program Manager for Value Added Sustainable Development Center, Illinois Cooperative Development Center, Illinois Wind Access Center and Business Advisor for the Small Business Development Center at Western Illinois University, and Keith Williams, Coordinator of Business Programs, and Instructor of Economics and Business Administration at Carl Sandburg College.  
 
The 2018 prize sponsors of the 6 County Fast Pitch included: Accounting Systems, Inc., Black Hawk College East Foundation, Black Hawk College Quad Cities Foundation, Carl Sandburg College Foundation, City of Galva, First Mid-Illinois Bank & Trust, Galesburg Radio, Gatehouse Media, Masters Educational Services, Office Specialists, Inc., Regional Media, University of Illinois Extension, Western Illinois University’s Small Business Development Center, and WRMJ Radio. 
 
Organizations who planned the event included: City of Aledo, City of Galva, Carl Sandburg College, First Mid-Illinois Bank & Trust, Galesburg Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Small Business Development Center at Western Illinois University, Kewanee Economic Development Corporation, Knox County Partnership for Economic Development, Mercer County Better Together, University of Illinois Extension, and Western Illinois Works, Inc.,"
 

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One 'Madigan Republican' loses seat in Republican primary

(Photo via Chicago Magazine)
Most of the Republican state representatives who voted for Illinois' 32 percent income tax hike opted to retire, but most of those who did run won their primary contests. 
 
Six of the Republicans who voted for last summer's 32 percent income tax increase ran for re-election in Tuesday's Republican primary. Five of them, including IL-93 incumbent Norine Hammond, won their race.
 
State Rep. David Reis, R-Olney, lost. 
 
John Jackson, a professor at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, said that's not surprising. 
 
Jackson said that local lawmakers often win or lose because of how they deal with voters back home, not because of the votes they take in Springfield. Case in point was targeted state Rep. Terri Bryant. 
 
"She's been very good about working the district, about being visible in the district. She's get lots of friends from before she was a state representative," Jackson said. "She's played her role for years."
 
Bryant won her race in southern Illinois by 838 votes, nearly an 11 percent victory. 
 
Jackson says while local lawmakers won because of their personal connection to voters, he thinks Gov. Bruce Rauner's narrow victory over challenger Jeanne Ives was because of Rauner's lack of a connection with voters. 
 
"I don't think that Gov. Rauner has ever built that personal warmth and connection to the backbone of the party, to the main line of the party," Jackson said. 
 
Rauner defeated Ives in the Republican primary for governor by about 20,000 votes. 

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New Hancock County State's Attorney sworn in

Rachel Mast was sworn in as the new Hancock County State's Attorney at 9 A.M. Wednesday morning. Mast was appointed to the position following the death of State's Attorney Jason Pohren. Pohren, 39, died from a heart attack Monday morning. 

 

Mast has served as the First Assistant State's Attorney in Hancock County since November 2016. She previously worked as the First Assistant State's Attorney in McDonough County from February 2014-October 2016. 

 

Prior to that, she worked for several firms in the Greater Chicago Area. She graduated from North Carolina Central University School of Law. She received her undergraduate degree from Western Illinois University. 

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State Rep. open to letting free market, not government, decide health club fees

A state representative with a bill to increase the cap on annual gym membership fees says he’s open to lifting the cap altogether.
 
State Rep. Jaime Andrade, D-Chicago, said current law caps health club fees at $2,500 a year. That was enacted in 1965.
 
“$2,500 in 1965, according to present day value, is actually $20,000,” Andrade said.
 
He said existing law isn’t adjusted for inflation.
 
“Everything has gone up,” Andrade said. “You could have bought a [Ford] Mustang for $1,500 in 1965. A Mustang goes up to $85,000 … now.”
 
Andrade’s bill would increase the cap health clubs can charge to $6,500 a year. He said right now, club members are being nickeled and dimed for using a towel, for an extra spinning class, for daycare or access to a driving range, when they’d rather have that all included in their membership.
 
“The facilities, they want to accommodate, but they say ‘we can’t, we can’t do it because we’re hampered by this cap that was introduced in 1965’,” Andrade said.
 
With the proliferation of boutique fitness facilities, and low-rate or no-contract health clubs, Andrade said he’s open to lifting that cap entirely and letting the free market decide.
 
“The way the current law is, it never took in the fact of inflation, and now the free market does more than enough to protect the consumer,” Andrade said.
 
The Illinois Attorney General is opposed to the measure increasing the cap, Andrade said, but the AG’s office has yet to respond to requests from Illinois News Network seeking comment.
 
The Illinois Chamber of Commerce supports House Bill 4275.

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Big spenders Rauner, Pritzker to face off in November

(Photo via STLtoday.com)
The race is set for November’s gubernatorial election, and it’s sure to be a big-spending affair with two independently wealthy men leading the major parties.
 
Republican incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner declared victory Tuesday night over conservative challenger Jeanne Ives. Rauner said it was a hard fought victory.
 
“To those of you around the state of Illinois who wanted to send me a message, let me be clear, I have heard you,” Rauner said. “I have traveled the state and I have listened to you.”
 
Rauner won by just a few percentage points, according to preliminary totals. He said it’s time to unite on key issues facing the state.
 
“We cannot keep spending and taxing and relying on career politicians if we expect a better tomorrow,” Rauner said.
 
The incumbent governor said Democratic candidate J.B. Pritzker is House Speaker Michael Madigan’s hand-picked candidate and both Pritzker and Madigan want to tax Illinoisans more, something Rauner pledged to fight.
 
Pritzker, the declared winner in Tuesday’s Illinois Democratic Primary, took more than 40 percent of the vote in a crowded field of candidates.
 
After declaring victory, the billionaire told a crowd at a Chicago hotel Tuesday night that he would work for a graduated income tax, legalized recreational marijuana and better health-care options.
 
“Let’s institute a progressive income tax so that we can lower the tax burden on the middle class and those striving to get there,” Pritzker said. “Let’s work toward universal health care by passing my plan for a public option.”
 
During the campaign, Pritzker wouldn't say what rates he would place on incomes if voters approved changing the constitution to allow for a progressive tax. A Democrat proposal introduced in the General Assembly would increase the income tax on a majority of Illinoisans.
 
Pritzker also told the crowd he wouldn’t let President Donald Trump “have an inch of Illinois.”
 
“And I will take every inch away from Bruce Rauner,” he said.
 
Pritzker is self-financing his campaign. In the primary, he donated $69.2 million of his own money. Chris Kennedy, his nearest competitor in terms of fundraising, donated $6.9 million.
 
Before Tuesday’s outcome, Illinoisans already witnessed huge political spending in the governor's race.
 
The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform puts the total funds raised and spent in the 2018 race for governor at $162.8 million. The bulk of that comes from Rauner and Pritzker, so November's general election is expected to be even more expensive.
 
Rauner spent $65 million for the office in 2014.
 
The job of Illinois governor pays $177,000 a year.
 
While Pritzker won the Democratic primary with more than 40 percent of the vote in a crowded field, preliminary totals had state Sen. Daniel Biss and businessman Chris Kennedy snag just over 20 percent of the vote each.
 
Ives went into the primary with more than $3.9 million raised. Rauner had more than 14 times that.
 
Ives battled negative ads from Rauner’s campaign that flooded airwaves and mailboxes, saying Ives was “Madigan’s favorite candidate,” though political watchdogs and media outlets said the claims were not true.
 
Rauner has also been buying ads attacking Pritzker’s past relationship with imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

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Kwame Raoul, Erika Harold to vie for Illinois Attorney General

(Photo via Patch.com)
 
Illinois will get its second African American attorney general in state history after this fall's general election. State Sen. Kwame Raoul and former Miss America Erika Harold will face off in November. 
 
Race will be perhaps one of the few things that Republican Harold and Democrat Raoul have in common. Both are African American, but they have vastly different views of the state of Illinois and the country in general.
 
Raoul used his victory speech in the Democratic race for attorney general to attack President Donald Trump, Harold's alleged past comments about gay parents, and her ties to the Gov. Bruce Rauner. 
 
He then said he hopes to run a more dignified race this fall. 
 
"We can spend all our time talking about who supports who," Raoul said. "Or we can spend our time talking about the details of what the next attorney general will do."
 
Harold, who was backed by Rauner, said that she wants to move past her Miss America crown. 
 
"It's such a humbling feeling to know that voters throughout the state found that my message resonated with them" Harold said after declaring victory Tuesday night. "I am going to work hard to make them proud. And I am going to work hard to introduce myself to the rest of the voters in the state."
 
Raoul defeated former Gov. Pat Quinn by about three percentage points. Preliminary numbers show that with 94 percent of the votes counted, Raoul had 357,481 votes compared with Quinn's 324,565 votes.
 
Harold beat her GOP challenger Gary Grasso by about 20 percentage points. Preliminary numbers show that with 94 percent of the votes counted, Harold had 354,881 votes to Grasso's 241,444. 
 
Roland Burris was Illinois' last black attorney general. He won the office in 1990. 

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Illinois Primary Election Results

 

Governor Democrat Primary

97% Of Precincts Reporting
  JB Pritzker 556,196 46%
  Daniel Biss 322,588 26%
  Chris Kennedy 293,913 24%
  Tio Hardiman 20,001 2%
  Bob Daiber 14,531 1%
  Robert Marshall 13,872 1%

Governor Republican Primary

97% Of Precincts Reporting
  Bruce Rauner (Inc.) 342,842 52%
  Jeanne Ives 320,625 48%

Attorney General Democrat Primary

97% Of Precincts Reporting
Kwame Raoul 366,875 30%
  Pat Quinn 333,434 27%
  Sharon Fairley 151,554 12%
  Nancy Rotering 112,644 9%
  Scott Drury 95,630 8%
  Jesse Ruiz 66,524 5%
  Renato Mariotti 48,623 4%
  Aaron Goldstein 37,325 3%

Attorney General Republican Primary

97% Of Precincts Reporting
  Erika Harold 359,103 59%
  Gary Grasso 244,531 41%

U.S. House - District 18 Democrat Primary

100% Of Precincts Reporting
  Junius Rodriguez 14,938 42%
  Brian Deters 14,127 39%
  Darrel Miller 6,720 19%

U.S. House - District 18 Republican Primary

100% Of Precincts Reporting
  Darin LaHood (Inc.) 61,576 79%
  Donald Rients 16,493 21%

State Representative - 93rd District Republican Primary

100% Of Precincts Reporting  
  Norine Hammond (Inc.) 5,211 54%
  Joshua Griffith 4,469 46%

McDonough County Sheriff Republican Primary

100% Of Precincts Reporting
  Nicholas M. Petitgout 2,987 64%
  Justin Lundgren 1,198 26%
  Bryan Baca 456 10%

McDonough County Board District 3

100% Of Precincts Reporting
  Tammie Brown-Edwards (D) 324 29%
  Jace Shoemaker-Galloway (D) 284 26%
  Jarad Huffman (D) 269 24%
  Caren Bordowitz (D) 235 21%

McDonough County Committeeman Colchester Precinct

100% Of Precincts Reporting
  Sue Marshall (D) 29 71%
  David Peterson (D) 12 29%

McDonough County Committeeman Emmet Precinct

100% Of Precincts Reporting
  Dick Marcott (D) 56 59%
  Timothy D. Frier (D) 39 41%

McDonough County Committeeman Macomb Precinct

100% Of Precincts Reporting
  Dana R. Walker (D) 29 62%
  Chase Dewitt (D) 18 38%

Industry Township Cemetery Tax Levy

100% Of Precincts Reporting
  Yes 115 64%
  No 66 36%

Astoria Fire Protection District Tax Levy

100% Of Precincts Reporting
  Yes 10 50%
  No 10 50%

Hancock County Board Member District 2

100% Of Precincts Reporting
  Don Little (R) 232 76%
  Dallas S. Neff (R) 73 24%

Hancock County Board Member District 3

100% Of Precincts Reporting
  Thomas A. Rodgers (R) 197 57%
  Jerry Smith (R) 147 43%
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Drury on legislative inspector general: 'They don't really do much'

(Photo of State Rep. Scott Drury via Daily Herald)
The state representative alleging House Speaker Michael Madigan solicited campaign donations in exchange for advancing legislation is being urged to report the matter to the legislative inspector general, but only as a way to further highlight the flawed process of filing ethics complaints.
 
State Rep. Scott Drury, who is running in Tuesday’s primary to snag the Democratic nomination for Illinois attorney general, has claimed Madigan asked for $56,000 from Drury's campaign fund to be donated to a list of Democrats in exchange for advancing legislation that Drury proposed. Madigan’s spokesman Steve Brown has denied the claim.
 
Anti-violence advocate Denise Rotheimer, who filed a complaint to the LIG against Democratic state Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, alleging he abused his power by sexually harassing her, said Drury should go through the process as she did.
 
“If [Drury] goes through the process, experiences the similar grievance that I endured by not having a complete investigation done, then he can go out there and join me in my voice saying that we need to reform this process to make sure that these investigations are complete and thorough and trustworthy,” Rotheimer said.
 
Drury, D-Highwood, said he doesn't have faith in the office of the Legislative Inspector General.
 
“I think the Legislative Inspector General, we’ve learned in the harassment scandal, they don’t really do much,” Drury said.
 
The LIG concluded Silverstein’s behavior was unbecoming of a legislator, but did not provide any disciplinary recommendations other than for him to be counseled.
 
The LIG is appointed by the Legislative Ethics Commission made up of four Democratic and four Republican state lawmakers. The LIG post was vacant for nearly three years until Julie Porter was appointed in November. Following Rotheimer’s public disclosure, it was also discovered there were two dozen complaints filed against lawmakers that were collecting dust.
 
As to his allegations, Drury said Madigan’s story has changed over time.
 
Drury shared documents with Illinois News Network that he said show that in late 2016 Madigan asked him for campaign contributions in exchange for advancing legislation Drury was pushing.
 
Brown, Madigan's spokesman, first responded “there’s no element of it that I understand to be accurate.”
 
After reviewing documents Drury provided, Brown clarified.
 
“We were trying to raise money for Democrats in that period,” Brown said. “Drury had money. The original request was to help with the independent expenditure campaign.”
 
Even so, Brown said: “Nothing in the documents reflects quid-pro-quo.”
 
Drury, a former federal prosecutor, called the change a red flag.
 
“The original statement months ago was ‘oh, this has been disputed and it’s not real.’ And now it’s completely shifted to them saying ‘oh, well this was just an ask for a contribution,’ ” Drury said. “So their story has changed over time, which I know as a prosecutor, is never good when the story starts one place and it ends up somewhere else.”
 
Drury has called for a special counsel to investigate wrongdoing.

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Illinois voters to make big decisions today

The question on today's primary ballot is about more than just winners and losers. Today's vote is also a look at the future of the state's political parties. 
 
There are some similarities in the Republican and Democratic race for governor.
 
Both parties have a rich, self-funded, moderate front runner. Think Gov. Bruce Rauner and JB Pritzker.
 
And both parties have an upstart, more radical challenger. Think state Rep. Jeanne Ives and state Sen. Daniel Biss. 
 
DePaul professor Nick Kachiroubas said it'll will be interesting to see which kind of candidate Illinois voters pick.
 
"I think a majority of people say 'I know Illinois is screwed up, and I just want some politicians to go in there and fix it. Instead of talking about fixing it'," said Kachiroubas, an associate teaching professor in the School of Public Service at DePaul University in Chicago. "And I think some people don't care if those politicians are Republicans or Democrats."
 
Voters will narrow the races for governor, Attorney general, and congress.
 
Kachiroubas said they will also essentially decide more local races like state rep, sheriff, and some county-wide offices. 
 
That's where, Kachiroubas, said people's votes count the most. 
 
"Sometimes people think 'Well, I don't really like the candidate for this office,' or something that they see on TV," Kachiroubas explained. "But they don't realize that some of these other lower races really do affect their daily lives more than some of the [bigger] races that we see on TV."
 
Kachiroubas said every election there seems to be at least one or two races that are decided by a few – or a few dozen – votes. 
 
Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. You can see who's on the ballot and where to vote by calling or finding your local election office online.

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Democratic ballots eclipsing Republicans in early voting in downstate GOP strongholds

Early voting results from counties outside of the Chicago area are hinting of a downstate surge of Democrat voters.
 
A number of county clerks are reporting significant numbers of early voters in their counties.
 
Even without Bloomington voters who have their own clerk, Mclean County Clerk Kathy Michael said Democratic early voting spiked.
 
“It was six-to-one Republican four years ago,” she said. “Now, Democrats have exceeded the Republicans in early voting.”
 
Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten said Monday that his office is seeing a big turnout, also led by Democrats.
 
“We’re at about 5,600 Democrats versus about 3,000 Republicans,” he said. “Normally for a mid-term primary in Champaign County, more Republicans vote than Democrats.”
 
Hulten estimated 10,000 votes cast before the polls open in Champaign County, just 1,000 fewer than the 2016 presidential primary turnout.
 
In Springfield’s Sangamon County, Clerk Don Gray said Democrats are voting in higher numbers this year too, moreso than Republicans.
 
“Republicans are keeping pace, but they’re not at the level that Democrats are turning out at,” he said.
 
Sangamon County’s 2016 primary election saw such massive turnout that polling places had to extend their hours.
 
In Cook County, Clerk David Orr reported more than 100,000 residents voted early. In 2014, 34,700 total voters cast ballots before polls opened on election day.
 
On the Democratic ballot is J.B. Pritzker, billionaire heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune; Chris Kennedy, Chicago businessman and son of Robert F. Kennedy; state Sen. Danel Biss, D-Evanston; Tio Hardiman, Bob Daiber, and Robert Marshall.
 
On the Republican ballot will be incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner and challenger Jeanne Ives, a Republican state representative from Wheaton. Also on the Republican ballot are Erika Harold and Gary Grasso, two lawyers seeking the GOP nomination to replace retiring Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
 
The list of Democrats seeking Madigan’s office is long, featuring former Gov. Pat Quinn; Chicago state Sen. Kwame Raoul; Northern Illinois state Rep. Scott Drury, a former federal prosecutor; Sharon Fairley, Aaron Goldstein, Renato Mariotti, Nancy Rotering, and Jesse Ruiz.

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Durbin, Duckworth, LaHood and Bustos call on President Trump to support Peoria Ag Lab

(photo of Peoria Ag Lab via centralillinoisproud.com)

 

On Monday, a bipartisan group of the Illinois congressional delegation called on President Donald Trump to once again scrap plans to close the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR) in Peoria. U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) joined U.S. Representatives Darin LaHood (R-IL-18) and Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17) joined forces to write a letter to President Trump about this.

 

The Trump Administration’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposed closing 12 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculture Research Service (ARS) laboratories, including the Peoria Ag Lab, and partially closing eight.  President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget also proposed closing the Peoria Ag Lab, but members of the Illinois congressional delegation were able to secure funding in the House and Senate appropriations bills.   

 

“This proposal would hurt the nation’s capacity to innovate, reduce our competitive edge in the global agricultural marketplace, cut jobs, and hurt farmers and rural America,” the members wrote in a bipartisan letter to President Trump.  “We strongly urge you to reconsider your recommendation to close NCAUR.”

 

The letter was also signed by U.S. Representatives Bobby Rush (D-IL-01), Robin Kelly (D-IL-02), Dan Lipinski (D-IL-03), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL-04), Peter Roskam (R-IL-06), Danny Davis (D-IL-07), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL-08), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09), Brad Schneider (D-IL-10), Bill Foster (D-IL-11), and Randy Hultgren (R-IL-14).

 

The Peoria Ag Lab was created by Congress in 1938 as one of four agricultural research labs, and officially opened in 1940.  The Peoria Ag Lab is the largest of all USDA ARS labs with over 200 employees, including 80 Ph.D. researchers. 

 

The full letter can be seen here

 

 

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Legislation requiring retired state lawmakers cover half of their health benefits advances to Senate floor

A state Senator who plans to retire soon says lawmakers have to lead the way on pension and retiree benefit reforms.
 
Illinois taxpayers are on the hook for $130 billion of unfunded pension liability with the worst funded public sector pensions of any state. Then there’s the fully taxpayer subsidized health care state government retirees get on top of that. Both promised benefits have been enshrined in the state constitution by the Illinois Supreme Court.
 
State Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, said state lawmakers also get those perks.
 
“As things stand now, legislators get free health coverage after 8 years,” Bivins said. “So they can be here 8 years, retire or leave and get free health coverage.”
 
That needs to change, he said. 
 
Bivins’ legislation would require future legislative retirees in the system to pay for half of their health benefits in retirement.
 
“I don’t know of too many private sector [employees] or others that get free health coverage after they leave in just 8 years, so I think it’s the fair thing to do,” Bivins said.
 
After joining system, he was surprised what he found.
 
“When I came here the pension discussion hadn’t really heated up, although the issue was there,” said Bivins, who joined the Senate in 2008. “As it heated up I looked into getting out, well I couldn’t get out.”
 
His measure would give the option to current retirees to opt into paying half of their health costs.
 
Bivins said his measure is meant to save money and show other public sector workers that lawmakers are serious about pension and benefit reform.
 
“If we’re talking about other people’s pensions, other people’s benefits and we’ve got the issue of the state constitution, then you have to look at other areas and different directions to try to correct this,” Bivins said.
 
The measure passed out of committee with little debate last month and heads to the Senate floor for consideration. 
 
GARS is the worst funded of all the state’s systems. All combined, taxpayers are on the hook for more than $200 billion in pension and retiree healthcare liabilities.
 

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Local jobless report: growth mostly north of I-80

The latest city-by-city jobs report shows that many Illinois cities – but not all – added jobs in 2017.
 
Unsurprisingly, Chicago added the most. 
 
The Quad Cities, Bloomington-Normal, Champaign-Urbana, and Rockford also all added jobs last year. 
 
Bob Gough, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Employment Security, said the state as a whole added 41,000 jobs in 2017. Almost 24,000 of those were in or around Chicago. 
 
"You have to realize and recognize that the job growth that the state is experiencing is north of I-80," Gough said. 
 
Gough added that some downstate communities – Springfield, Danville and Carbondale – all lost jobs throughout 2017. 
 
Anecdotally, Gough said state leaders hear all the time about young people in central and southern Illinois moving to find work in Chicago, or even out of state.
 
"When you look at the job-seeking millennials, many of whom are coming from the downstate communities, any of them want to go to the big city," Gough said. "And whether that's Chicago or another big city, that seems to be what they are doing." 
 
Changing that migration, Gough said, is the challenge that Illinois is facing. 

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NIU research seeks better method of predicting tornado outbreaks

Predicting tornado outbreaks could get a bit easier thanks to research taking place at Northern Illinois University.
 
Victor Gensini, assistant professor of meteorology at NIU, said he’s developed a model that can identify weather patterns most likely to cause multiple tornados.
 
“We go back through our historical records, we find a tornado event,” Gensini said, “and we look at the jet stream pattern and atmospheric ingredients, the fingerprint, if you will, in the environment of what’s left behind. Then we use what we gather and learn to anticipate into the future.”
 
Gensini says his model could forecast severe weather events two or three weeks in advance.
 
“We’re not ever going to be able to predict if a tornado is going to hit your house days before it happens,” Gensini said. “But we might be able to get an idea about if we’re going into an active period of severe weather or is this going to be a lull in
tornadic activity.”
 
The model is called the Extended Range Tornado Activity Forecast (ERTAF). Gensini is in his the third year of research and says additional data only will help to improve his model.
 
“We have a long way to go,” Gensini said. “We’re writing grants, trying to get funding for graduate students to work on these projects. Every year is a data point. We make these forecasts, we learn from the mistakes. We refine and try to get better.”
 
What’s the practical application of knowing weeks in advance of an increased risk of severe weather or a tornado outbreak?
 
“For the average public member, this might not mean much,” Gensini said. “It might give you an opportunity to review severe weather safety plan. You might change the batteries in your weather radio. But there are a couple sectors that are
really interested in using this information. No. 1 would be emergency managers. If an emergency manager knows we’re going into an increased period of severe weather, he or she might change the operations plan or make sure staff is
scheduled for that week.”
 
Gensini said there’s been some private-sector interest in his research and he’s also had initial discussions with weather-related government agencies, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
 
“The hope would be in the future we can work with NOAA to adopt an outlook that’s more for public consumption. I think we might see is more movement on the private sector side and then we’ll see how the government reacts. It’s just been a
slow process so far.”
 
Either way, Gensini said he’s committed to the process.
 
“From a scientific perspective, we don’t really care how the information is used, we just want to see how far in advance we can predict these events.”

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Election reform group: Illinois unique in voters publicly declaring party affiliation at polling place on primary day

Be prepared to publicly declare a political party in front of the election judges, and others in line, when you go to vote in Illinois’ primary Tuesday.
 
Drew Penrose, law and policy director of the non-partisan group Fair Vote, said primaries where everyday voters participate in elections were meant to battle corrupt political parties selecting candidates and office holders without voter input.
 
Some states have closed primaries where voters register for a party before voting. Penrose said Illinoisans on primary day do things differently.
 
“It’s the only state that I’m aware of where you go, you declare a political party affiliation and then the person who is handing you a primary ballot has to announce in a voice loud enough for people to hear in the polling place which party affiliation you are affiliating yourself with,” Penrose said.
 
Counties' elections offices also compile lists of voters and what party they're affiliated with if they voted in a primary. That can also disenfranchise voters who don’t want to be singled out for publicly affiliating with one party over another.
 
Penrose said with how Illinois’ political districts are, most primaries for local offices practically determine the outcome of the general election because of a lack of real competition.
 
“It doesn’t have to be the case that all or most elections are decided at the primary election stage,” Penrose said.
 
Another problem with Illinois’ primary system, Penrose said, is it freezes out independent voices that may have important policy issues to add to the conversation that aren’t being addressed by the major party candidates.
 
Illinois’ political system is categorized into established parties and non-established parties. The established parties, the Republicans and Democrats, get taxpayers to pick up the tab for their primary, like Tuesday’s election. The non-established parties select their candidates internally.
 
Penrose said being heard is essential in any election cycle.
 
“Third parties and independent voters are often not included in a big way, especially in the primary stage,” Penrose said.
 
Penrose said changing the process to a rank-choice system, where voters select and rank multiple candidates in one election, can add more voices and ideas to the process “where there are more than two choices on the ballot, where they’re allowed to participate in debate, and where they’re not ashamed as spoilers and told to get out of the election.”
 
Penrose said this rank-choice voting avoids the need for any runoff election, which can cost taxpayers more for a follow-up election featuring the top two vote getters. For information on rank-choice voting, visit FairVote.org.
 
Illinois voters can request a non-partisan ballot on primary day if there’s a ballot referendum in their area, but that will not have any choices for political office, only referendum questions.

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Bicentennial coin contest gives Illinois residents a chance to make history

The Illinois State Treasurer’s Office is offering an opportunity for Illinois residents to showcase their artistic abilities by entering a statewide contest to design the 2018 Bicentennial Medallion.
 
Stuart Layne, executive director of the Illinois Bicentennial, said designs should highlight some part of the state's 200-year history.
 
“I think we are open to all designs,” Layne said. “That's why we reached out to the public to seek some creativity.”
 
Entrants can only submit one design. May 1 is the deadline to enter the contest.
 
The public will vote on the top five designs between June 1 and June 15, and the winner will be chosen June 18.
 
Layne said the winning design could be in Illinois households across the state for years to come.   
 
“Coins are a very valued commemorative item when you do celebrations like this,” Layne said. “Even beyond coin collectors, people like to buy things and keep them as commemorative items.”
 
Contest judges from the Treasurer’s Office want to see content uniqueness, accuracy, quality, creativity and completion.
 
Layne said the coin is a key part of the bicentennial merchandise collection.
 
“I think the coins and stamps play not only to the small set of collectors, but people who are interested in history, people who want to have a memento from the bicentennial,” Layne said.
 
Information about the contest and other ways to take part is available online at Illinois200.com.

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Missing Macomb man located safe in Massachusetts

Mike Elbert, a 35-year old Macomb man who had been missing since 3/7, has been found safe in Massachusetts. 

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State lawmakers have around 30 scheduled days left to pass budget

After cancelling session and committee hearings in Springfield Thursday, the Illinois General Assembly is off for the next few weeks. When they come back, they'll have about a month's worth of working days to pass a plan to spend about $37 billion in taxes. 
 
The House was off this week. The Senate adjourned Wednesday and canceled Thursday. Both chambers aren’t back in session until the second week of April.
 
When they come back, they only have about 30 business days scheduled to pass a budget before the May 31 deadline.
 
State Sen. Andy Manar, who chairs an appropriations committee, said he understands if taxpayers think lawmakers are wasting time not being in session.
 
“Well, a lot of people say that when we’re here we waste time, too,” Manar, D-Bunker Hill, said. “So, it’s a darned if you do, darned if you don’t type of scenario.”
 
“My committee is gonna meet several times during this Easter break,” Manar said.
 
No appropriations committee dates and times in the coming weeks have been published.
 
While he doesn’t agree with every aspect of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget, Manar said this year's is on better footing than previous years', “which I think puts the legislative process in a better position to facilitate a compromise.”
 
Rauner’s budget relies on most of the $5 billion income tax increase lawmakers imposed over his veto last summer.
 
State Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, said the budget should be top of mind “because the taxpayers have entrusted their hard-earned money to us. I think how we spend it is of utmost importance.”
 
He added: “We have got to make this a priority."
 
McCarter said lawmakers were focused this week on passing gun legislation that he said if enacted into law could possibly be challenged and overturned by the courts.
 
“We don’t need to be distracted by these things,” McCarter said. “We need to be accountable to taxpayers.”
 
The deadline to pass a balanced budget with simple majorities is May 31. After that, a supermajority is required.
 
Last year, lawmakers went into overtime to pass a budget and income tax increase over the governor’s veto. The two years before that, lawmakers didn’t pass a full year’s budget at all, leaving spending virtually unchecked.

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Rauner unveils long-term plan and short-term options for Quincy Veterans Home; still no estimated cost

In the years-long wake of 13 veterans dying of Legionnaires disease at the Quincy Veterans Home, and just days before a primary election, Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration presented a plan to deal with the outbreak, but there’s still no solid estimate of how much it will cost.
 
Visiting the Quincy home Thursday, Gov. Bruce Rauner said the long-term plan is to build a modern veterans care facility.
 
Rauner advisor Mike Hoffman, who is also the director of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, said bids are out and they hope to know the cost soon.
 
“I expect by sometime this fall we will have a plan chosen and we’ll be able to work with the federal government and the General Assembly to get the money appropriated,” Hoffman said.
 
Hoffman said the modern facility should plan to care for current veterans, as well as veterans of the future, including multiple amputees and others.
 
“We need to make sure we’re taking care of behavioral health issues,” Hoffman said. “We need to make sure that we take care of things like post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, homeless veterans. There’s a lot of different areas that a new comprehensive, world-class campus will allow us to take care of.”
 
If the ongoing recommended remediation doesn’t get rid of the legionella that’s taken the lives of 13 veterans since 2015, then Rauner said the state will work to relocate the vets to another facility. That plan would include purchasing a nursing home and adding new modular buildings as a temporary option while the permanent plan is finalized and completed.
 
Rauner said no expert has recommended a mass relocation, “and we are committed to not doing that because it has its own very high risks.”
 
“But we do need to have options available if for some reason all the new steps we’re taking aren’t as effective as we want them to be, or as we need them to be,” Rauner said.
 
Rauner dismissed critics who’ve said he’s not doing enough, or has moved slowly in tackling the problem.
 
“It’s not appropriate to play political football with the important issues of our veterans’ health,” Rauner said. “We have acted promptly and effectively implementing every recommendation that the national experts have recommended that we do.”

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Pritzker hounded by reported tax evasion schemes in final debate before primary.

Illinois’ Democratic candidates for governor used their last public debate before the primary to pound front-runner J.B. Pritzker on his secret offshore tax holdings.
 
On the day of the Democrats’ final debate before the March 20 primary, the Chicago Tribune released an investigation showing another of Pritzker’s various offshore companies is working on purchasing land from the city of Chicago.
 
The billionaire heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune has been dodging Chicago Tribune reporters seeking a comment about newly discovered offshore holdings of his being tied to a potential purchase of land owned by the city of Chicago, according to the Tribune.
 
Throughout the debate hosted by WTTW’s Chicago Tonight, Pritzker repeated that any divestments from his Hyatt inheritance go to his philanthropic organizations, splitting the slight difference between a trust and a company.
 
“There were trusts created generations ago. I don’t receive any distributions from those trusts. Those distributions go to charity,” he said.
 
Records leaked from an offshore law firm that have become known as the Paradise Papers show Pritzker has formed offshore companies as recently as 2011.
 
The paper reports Moreau Capital Holdings Ltd., which is owned by Pritzker and was created in the Bahamas, is part of a deal with his brother, Robert, to purchase the riverfront land. They reportedly aim to sell duck boat tours out of the location. Pritzker said the paper was incorrect.
 
State Sen. Daniel Biss was the first to pounce.
 
"J.B. Pritzker set up companies offshore, probably to avoid taxes, and spent the entire last year lying about it,” Biss said.
 
Chris Kennedy, a Chicago businessman and son of the late Robert F. Kennedy, said Pritzker’s dishonesty should disqualify him.
 
“We’re interviewing for a job to be the next governor of the state of Illinois,” Kennedy said. “You should never hire someone who lies to you during a job interview because if they’ll lie to you to get the job, they’ll lie to you to keep the job.”
 
Pritzker and Kennedy went after Biss’ support for a pension reform bill that would eventually be shot down in the courts. Kennedy took heat over comments that were seen as supportive of taxing retirement income.
 
All three gave varying degrees of dissatisfaction with House Speaker Michael Madigan and his handling of ongoing harassment allegations on his watch.
 
Illinois’ primary elections are Tuesday.
 
The winner of the Democratic primary will face either Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner or his GOP primary opponent, Rep. Jeanne Ives.

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Family of missing Macomb man seeks public assistance

Michael Elbert, "Mike", age 35, of Macomb disappeared from his home in the middle of the night on March 07, 2018. He is considered missing/endangered. Also missing is his red 2000 Dodge Dakota Sport 4 door ext cab with Illinois license plates.

 

Mike is 5'9", weighs 135 lbs with light brown cropped hair and light facial hair. He has numerous tattoos. 

 

This is not in his character. He has been recently stressed due to trying to secure new employment and endured a recent pregnancy loss with his wife. They are due for another child later this year and it’s possible stress caused an emotional situation.  

 

His wife was able to track his phone's location to the Haverhill, MA area. His family states that he doesn’t have friends nor family in Massachusetts. He took both he and his wife’s phones with him, yet took no clothing. His "Find my location" feature on his phone is no longer working as his cell phone(s) are turned off.

 

Anyone with information about Mike should contact the Macomb Police Dept. at (309) 833-4505, or your local police. Please reference Case #18-003114. You may request to remain anonymous. For more information, please see: http://lostnmissing.org/missing/melbert/ A Facebook page has also been arranged to bring awareness. 

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Ives: Rauner is doubling down on his lies

(Photo via Daily Herald)
Gov. Bruce Rauner’s primary challenger Jeanne Ives says the governor is doubling down on statements about her that many have said are lies.
 
If you turn on the TV, radio, or open your mail, you may see, hear or read political advertisements from Rauner’s campaign that say “Ives refuses to repeal the Madigan tax hike,” “Ives might just be Mike Madigan’s favorite Republican,” and “Ives even defends Madigan.”
 
Rauner was asked Wednesday in Springfield about the political ads his campaign is flooding airwaves and mailboxes with, ads that Politifact, several newspaper columnists, watchdog groups and newspaper editorial boards around the state have said make false statements about Ives.
 
“It’s crystal clear, the track record of Rep. Ives,” Rauner said.
 
“[Ives] has said that she would not roll back [House Speaker Michael] Madigan’s income tax hike now, the one that I vetoed,” Rauner said Wednesday. “And she has indicated that she would not fight back hard against Madigan. That’s very clear.”
 
Ives, a Republican state representative from Wheaton, said Rauner is a liar.
 
“The Daily Herald says it's utterly laughable that Jeanne Ives is the lackey of Mike Madigan,” Ives said. “Everybody knows that who’s been watching down there and Rauner is doubling down on his lies.”
 
Ives said Rauner’s ads reach a level of dishonesty she’s never seen before. But, Ives said, Rauner has a record of saying one thing and doing another.
 
“This is a guy who has lied to everybody about everything for the last three years,” Ives said. “He lied to Cardinal [Blase] Cupich, he lied to every single Republican legislator saying he’d veto the taxpayer funding of abortion bill, and then he signed it. So he has no problem lying outright to folks, so it’s no surprise that he’s running lies about me.”
 
Ives' campaign ads have gone after Rauner for supporting taxpayer-funded abortions, legislation effectively making Illinois a sanctuary state and other issues. Her "Thank you, Bruce Rauner" TV spot was widely criticized for its portrayal of a transgender woman, illegal immigrants and women who get abortions.
 
Rauner and Ives have only appeared once together in the same room – for a Chicago Tribune Editorial Board forum last month. Ives said that’s because he can’t defend his record.
 
“He embarrassed himself in that debate,” Ives said, “and he’s worried because he can’t talk to anybody about real policy choices and he can’t defend his record. He wants to blame everything on Mike Madigan and not take ownership of his three years of failed governorship. And that’s the truth. And that’s why he doesn’t want to debate me.”
 
The primary is Tuesday.
 

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Corruption expert: Claims against Madigan warrant investigation at Illinois capitol

An expert on fraud and corruption says there’s enough to the quid-pro-quo claims against House Speaker Michael Madigan by a Democratic state representative to warrant a special counsel investigation.
 
State Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, who's running for the Democratic nomination for Illinois Attorney General in the March 20 Primary Election, shared documents with Illinois News Network that he said shows in late 2016 Madigan asked him for campaign contributions in exchange for advancing legislation Drury was pushing. 
 
Drury said he and Madigan had a dinner at the Union League Club in Chicago in October 2016. He said at that meeting, Madigan asked about the status of the bill and for 20 percent of Drury’s campaign funds – more than $50,000.
 
After Drury got back draft legislation reworked by Madigan’s office, Drury said Madigan called Oct. 27 to ask about the donation.
 
Drury said that Tim Mapes – who is the clerk of the House, Madigan’s chief of staff and the executive director of the Democratic Party of Illinois – sent him a list of Democratic candidates to donate to for a total of $56,000. Drury said he decided instead to donate to two political action committees that were not on the list.
 
“I was in these meetings,” Drury said. “They're documented and I knew that they should be documented and that’s what I did.”
 
The documents Drury provided included a string of emails between him and Madigan staffers, a memo Drury wrote with a detailed timeline of the events, and the Mapes memo with suggested Democrats Drury could donate to along with dollar amounts.
 
“We were trying to raise money for Democrats in that period,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said after reviewing Drury’s documents. “Drury had money. The original request was to help with the independent expenditure campaign.”
 
Brown said: “Nothing in the documents reflects quid-pro-quo.” 
 
Saint Xavier University Center for the Study of Fraud and Corruption Director David Parker said that while the documents were cherry-picked by Drury, the timing of the events raised questions. Parker said the timing of Drury's meeting with Madigan for dinner, a few days later a phone call, and then just a few hours later a list from Madigan’s office requesting $56,000, was troubling.
 
“I mean just within hours, I think most people who would look at this would [think] there’s a little bit of a smell to it, you know,” Parker said.
 
Drury has called for a special counsel to investigate any wrongdoing under the dome in Springfield.
 
Parker said that because Madigan is both the House Speaker and Democratic Party of Illinois chairman, a special counsel investigation may be warranted.
 
“There’s enough here for maybe a special counsel,” Parker said. “I’m not going to say prosecutor, because I can’t say there’s enough here for criminal, but it’s certainly with the conflicts I think more people would be comfortable and feel better about state politics to have a better idea of how it’s being played.”
 
Drury wouldn't say he would forward the information to law enforcement. He said he knows law enforcement reads the news and that they'll make their own determination whether to proceed with any investigation. 
 
“I certainly felt that I had to, through my campaign committee, come up with a large amount of money in order to get legislation passed,” Drury said. “So if you want to call that pay to play, if you want to call it a shakedown, you can put whatever term you want on it.”
 
Madigan has repeatedly said he will not step down as either House Speaker or his role as chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois, despite growing calls from within his own party to do so. 
 
Brown dismissed Drury's claims.
 
“He has this delusional problem, saying it’s all connected,” Brown said of Drury. “Scott has always been a difficult guy to work with. That’s part of his challenge in the General Assembly.”

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Fatal crash in Henderson County

A single-vehicle fatal traffic crash occurred in Henderson County Wednesday afternoon. The driver was not wearing a seatbelt. 

 

At 12:35 p.m. Wednesday, a 42 year old male of Little York, Illinois was killed in the crash. He drove his 2011 red Chevrolet pickup northeast on IL Rt. 94 near County Road 1650 E. in Henderson County. His truck left the right side of the roadway, struck a guardrail and rolled down an embankment. An investigation by the Illinois State Police is ongoing. 

 

Henderson County Coroner, Henderson County Sheriff’s Department, Biggsville Fire and EMS, Oquawka Fire and EMS, and Illinois Department of Transportation were the assisting agencies. 

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Your $5 NCAA pool is illegal, but could help change state law

Your office's $5 NCAA pool is technically illegal. And that's one reason why sports betting supporters hope to be able to change Illinois' laws. 
 
Gambling experts say people will bet $10 billion on the NCAA basketball tournament this month, almost all of it illegally. 
 
A good chunk of that betting comes $5 at a time in offices, at taverns, and among friends who fill out brackets. 
 
State Sen. Napoleon Harris, D-Harvey, said that so many people wanting to bet on the games shows the need to legalize sports betting in the state. 
 
"I think that makes the case that [sports betting] should be legal," Harris said Wednesday from his statehouse office. "When you have so many people wagering that type of money, why shouldn't the government make money [from] it."
 
Sports betting in most states is banned by federal law. 
 
A 1991 law said that any state that didn't already have sport gambling couldn't approve it after the fact. 
 
The U.S. Supreme Court will decide this spring if that law can stand. 
 
Harris has a plan already on file to legalize sports gambling in Illinois, if the Supreme Court allows it. 
 
Harris said opening up sports books would bring in new money to Illinois, although not necessarily new gamblers. 
 
"Everyone for the most part knows that this goes on year-in, year-out," Harris said. "Whether you're talking about filling out NCAA brackets, you're talking about picking a winner in the Super Bowl, the World Series, etc."
 
Untill the law changes, Illinois State Police say sports betting is illegal. 
 
"The State Police's Gaming Enforcement will be out looking for sports betting at licensed gaming locations throughout the state during the NCAA bracket period," Lt. Matt Boerwinklewith the State Police said in an email. "Sports betting is illegal in the State of Illinois and is not tolerated by the ISP."

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Rauner vetoes gun shop license bill, sponsor pledges override attempt

Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill to require gun dealers get licensed through Illinois, saying the measure was too onerous.
 
The sponsor of the bill said he plans to attempt an override.
 
Rauner’s office said in a statement that Illinois gun dealers already are licensed by the federal government and that 2,700 small businesses in the state would be jeopardized by the unnecessary new layer of state regulations.
 
“We have ample proof that such narrowly focused legislative responses make for good political cover,” Rauner said in a statement, “but they do little to stop the illegal flow of guns into Illinois or prevent people from committing thousands of crimes in our state each year with illegal guns.”
 
Federal Firearms Licensees of Illinois Executive Director Todd Vandermyde said the governor made the right move.
 
“This was an absolutely crushing and onerous regulation of small business as a way to run those small businesses out of business,” Vandermyde said, “making it harder for people in downstate and other areas to sit there and be able to acquire a firearm legally.”
 
Democratic state Sen. Don Harmon, who sponsored the bill, criticized Rauner's decision. Harmon said the governor vetoed the bill for political reasons ahead of the March 20 primary.
 
“This was an attempt to reach a reasonable balance and [Rauner] is just copping out and looking for excuses to veto the bill because it offends his political base,” Harmon said.
 
Harmon said federal regulations didn’t go far enough to find straw-buying patterns.
 
“If the same guy comes in and buys 400 guns in the course of the year, that’s not going to be revealed from the inventory of guns in, guns out,” Harmon said. “This bill would give local law enforcement the ability to take a crack at putting those patterns together.”
 
Vandermyde said the bill required small dealers to install video surveillance cameras everywhere a gun could be carried on the premises.
 
“That would be the bathroom,” Vandermyde said. “They had to run a trailer bill to try and adjust that because that’s just how onerous this was.”
 
Harmon said he will file a motion to override, but the initial vote in both the Senate and House did not produce the necessary supermajority for an override.
 
The Senate is expected to hear several other measures in committee this week that the House sent over, including a ban on devices that increase the firing rate of semi-automatic weapons, an increase in the purchasing age of some weapons to 21, and a longer waiting period to buy certain weapons.

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Some Illinois lawmakers want permanent Daylight Saving Time

Now that most are out of the hangover from the beginning of Daylight Saving Time, should we never do that again?
 
As good as it feels to have that extra hour of sleep in the fall, the effect of near total darkness before most in Illinois are out of work has people grumbling.
 
State Rep. Tom Bennett’s district in eastern Illinois shares a boundary with the eastern time zone, meaning people there have some of the earliest sunsets in Illinois. He has a resolution urging Congress to keep DST permanently, which would give most of his constituents more than 270 days with sunsets after 6 every year, compared to around 230, depending on location.
 
“Iroquois County is a great county, but a lot of rural areas there are impacted by that,” Bennett, R-Pontiac, said. “Maybe it’s time that we look at this a little differently.”
 
It appears that Congress has already taken note. The U.S. Committee on Energy and Commerce sent a letter Monday to Energy Secretary Elaine Chou, asking her to explore permanent DST.
 
“Every year the change from Standard to Daylight Saving Time is greeted with at least some level of befuddlement and confusion,” the letter read.
 
Locally, two bills in the General Assembly would do away with DST and make it permanent, respectively. Both have yet to be granted consideration. 
 
Some studies point to increased depression from lack of sunlight but warn that it’s the morning hours that the sun really lifts the mood.
 
Beginning on the second Sunday in March and ending on the first Sunday in November, Daylight Saving Time has been in effect for the U.S. since 1918 to help conserve energy for the war effort during World War I. But the concept had been around in Western Europe before that. Then, French Ambassador Benjamin Franklin wrote an essay in 1784 on the potential benefits of adopting the process of shifting clocks forward to better align waking hours to sunlight.
 
The official duration of Daylight Saving Time was extended in 2005 by Congress to cover 238 days of the year.

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Wallethub report: Illinoisans shoulder heaviest state and local tax burden in nation

Illinoisans shoulder the heaviest state and local tax burden in the nation, according to a report released Tuesday by financial site WalletHub.
 
In the site's annual ranking of taxpayer burden by state, WalletHub found that Illinois households spend 14.89 percent of annual earnings to pay state and local taxes. That comes out to $8,299 per median U.S. household. They pay federal taxes on top of that. 
 
This is the second consecutive year that Illinois has been ranked 51st in the nation in WalletHub's study. In terms of overall taxes, Illinois was followed by Connecticut (50), Nebraska (49), New York (48) and Rhode Island (47). The state's with the lowest overall taxes were Alaska (1), Delaware (2), Montana (3), Nevada (4) and Wyoming (5). The study looked at all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
 
Illinoisans pay about $8,300 per home in state and local taxes. Residents in Connecticut, which finished second highest to Illinois, pay about $7,720 per household annually. Alaskans, with the lowest tax burden, pay $3,164.
 
The latest report comes after a $5 billion income and corporate tax hike in 2017, but the report appears to have based its income tax rankings on 2014 numbers, when the tax burden was still 5 percent.
 
Illinois' worst-in-nation ranking is in terms of median U.S. households and assumes a number of income and spending characteristics, including an annual income of $55,754 and a median U.S. home value of $184,700, according to WalletHub.
 
The biggest reason for Illinois’ high tax burden was property taxes.
 
“You’re paying a high property tax on property that is already increasing [in value],” WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez said. “Unfortunately, it’s only gotten worse."
 
Illinoisans seem to be voting against the high taxes with their feet.
 
“All too often, customers come in and say that they’re leaving,” said Bob Anderson, a Wonder Lake barber and McHenry Township trustee who has spent decades advocating against township government. “They can’t pay the property taxes anymore.”
 
State Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, wasn’t surprised by the ranking.
 
“If we don’t bring down the burden of government on the people, they will leave,” he said. “Our problems don’t begin with not taxing people too much. It’s because we’ve spent too much in the state of Illinois.”
 
Meanwhile, wages in the Prairie State are stagnant.
 
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Illinois' wage growth as of Q3 in 2017 was only .6 percent. This could be because many Illinoisans aren't working. A February report by Moody's said Illinois is at a 40-year low for workforce participation.
 
The report comes a week before Illinois' gubernatorial primary election. The leading Democratic candidates for governor are calling for a change to the state's constitution to allow for a progressive income tax in which higher wage earners would pay higher rates.
 

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Road work on South Dudley Street in Macomb to begin Wednesday

The City of Macomb Department of Public Works announced Tuesday that there will be a temporary street closure on South Dudley Street in Macomb, beginning Wednesday, March 14. The closure will be in effect from Jackson Street to Washington Street for work on the new CVS building. The work is expected to take two days, with street being reopened each evening.

 

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Combined hospital bed and outpatient tax increased by $140 million annually under new assessment program

Surrounded by Republicans and Democrats, Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday signed legislation that updates the state’s hospital assessment program, an effort that could bring $3.5 billion in federal funds to Illinois, but also raise hospital bed and outpatient taxes by $140 million annually.
 
The existing Hospital Assessment Program is set to expire at the end of June. Department of Healthcare and Family Services Director Falisia Norwood said the new measure signed Monday updates the state’s hospital assessment program by having more Medicaid dollars follow more beneficiaries.
 
“That means that additional dollars will follow the individual and services that they receive in the hospital,” Norwood said.
 
State Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, said the updated law is critical to capture more federal dollars.
 
“All done, not through state money, but by the hospitals themselves putting in an assessment, a tax on their beds and getting a match from the federal dollars and getting it redistributed back out now more than ever based on the care they’re providing Medicaid patients,” Steans said.
 
The Illinois Health and Hospital Association said the existing hospital assessment program is the combination of two separate taxes. As it is now, there is an occupied bed tax of $218 per bed. Then there’s a second outpatient tax of 0.008766 multiplied by each hospital’s outpatient gross revenue.
 
The updated program still uses two separate taxes. The occupied bed tax goes down to $197 per bed while the outpatient multiplier goes up to 0.01358.
 
Overall, the tax collected per hospital bed combined with the outpatient multiplier will increase by about $140 million annually, something IHA said is aligned with federal maximum tax levels.
 
Norwood said there’s also critical funding for safety net and critical access hospitals for vulnerable communities and support for graduate medical education for additional physician training.
 
But because the measure is dependent on the federal government’s approval, Norwood said it has a bridge.
 
“That is to really get the feds to support our continuous use of the existing Medicaid program and the reimbursements structure until they approve the new program,” Norwood said.
 
Norwood said the state plan will be submitted to the federal government as early as next week.
Steans and others praised the bipartisan work on the bill.
 
Asked if such bipartisan agreement is possible with the upcoming budget negotiations, Republican state Rep. Patti Bellock said the single issue of the hospital assessment is different than the full budget.
 
“When you’re talking about the entire budget of the state of Illinois,” Bellock said, “you’re talking about several hundreds of different groups, different committees.”

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Monmouth-Roseville teacher pushes for IL-47 write-in campaign

Kurt Fowler, a teacher in the Monmouth-Roseville School District, will again vie for an opportunity to challenge for the State Senator seat in Illinois 47th District. Fowler, who will run as a Democrat, will need at least 1,000 write-in votes on the March 20 primary to have the chance to battle Republican incumbent Jil Tracy.
 
Fowler attempted a write-in campaign during the 2016 race as well, after then-incumbent John Sullivan announced that he would not seek re-election. The 47th District includes Adams, Brown, Cass, Hancock, Henderson, Mason, McDonough, Schuyler, and Warren counties as well as parts of Fulton and Knox counties. 
 
Below is a statement Fowler provided Macomb News Now about his background and his platform. 
 
My name is Kurt Fowler, I grew up near the intersection of Henderson, Hancock and McDonough counties on a family farm, where my mother still lives. I worked at Maytag in Galesburg for 21 years, starting out on the assembly line and then in maintenance. I was one of the final seven union workers when it closed in 2005. While at Maytag I attended Carl Sandburg College and Monmouth College. After the closing, I earned my Masters and Teaching Certificate at Western Illinois University. I am currently in my 7th year teaching in the Monmouth-Roseville School District. I have a pretty thorough understanding of the problems our district faces and would be honored to serve for you in Springfield.
 
I feel my background makes me a good candidate to represent the 47th district. I have lived in this area my whole life. Growing up on a farm, I understand the family farmer and the struggles that farmers have. When Maytag closed and moved some production to Mexico, It was a critical time in my family’s life. We ended up on Food Stamps and Medicaid while I went back to school to get my Masters/teaching degree. I understand the struggles of those who have lost good paying jobs as businesses leave the state and country. There are so few of these types of jobs left in Illinois. I do not want to see another business leave our area. As a teacher, and as a parent, I have seen both sides of the education system. Our school has a student population with nearly 75% on free and reduced lunches. Our school districts are owed money by the state, it appears that debt will not be paid. We have a huge discrepancy in public education funding. Hopefully the new education funding bill will solve some of our problems. Many of our area schools have trouble hiring and keeping educators because of low wages and benefits. We are facing a teacher shortage. 
 
I have become increasingly dissatisfied with the State of Illinois. I believe that we need to send new faces to Springfield, and perhaps we can once again have a functioning government. I would be honored to be one of those new faces. 
 
I would like the opportunity to represent our 47th District in Springfield.  Please write-in Kurt Fowler for State Senator 47th Legislative District.
 

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Illinois State Police to conduct patrols in Fulton and Henderson counties

Illinois State Police (ISP) District 14 Commander Jon Dively announced Monday that the ISP will engage in two unique patrols in Fulton and Henderson counties during the month of March. 

 

In Fulton County, ISP will conduct Alcohol Countermeasure Enforcement (ACE) patrols. This allows the ISP to focus on preventing, detecting, and taking enforcement action in response to violations associated with imaired driving and illegal transportation or consumption of alcohol or drugs. 

 

In Henderson County, ISP will conduct Nighttime Enforcement (NITE) patrols. Per the release, NITE patrols allow the ISP to focus on preventing, detecting, and taking enforcement action in response to impaired driving and occupant restraint violations, especially between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. 

 

In both counties, officers will strictly enforce violations. These violations include:

 

-Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

-Safety Belt and Child Restraint Use

-Speeding

-Distracted Driving; and,

-All Illinois Vehicle Code and Criminal Violations

 

Both projects are funded through the Illinois Department of Transportation. 

 

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Future uncertain for proposed Illinois gun laws

Gov. Bruce Rauner seems to be leaning against the one new, proposed gun law that Illinois lawmakers sent him.
 
The rest are bottled up in the Senate as lawmakers try and find a future for gun control in the state. The Illinois House and Senate stamped their approval on a half dozen or so gun control plans at the beginning of the month. But they fully approved just one, a new plan to create state licenses for smaller gun dealers in Illinois. 
 
Last week, Gov. Rauner said he's not sure about that plan. 
 
"The federal government already regulates these gun dealers," the governor said Friday. "We’ve gotta be careful about putting too many redundant regulations that won’t really change or improve anything, but it may actually hurt small businesses in the state of Illinois."
 
Rauner said his team is still evaluating the proposal. 
 
The rest of the proposed gun laws went to a Senate subcommittee last Friday, meaning they're an extra step away from seeing a final vote. 
 
And if they do get to a final vote, there are still questions about constitutionality, particularly with a plan to set a 21-year-age limit for buying an assault-style rifle. 
 
"You could be a 20-year-old veteran from Kandahar who has bought one of these rifles. And the state of Illinois is going to tell you you have to surrender that," Todd Vandermyde, a lobbyist for a group of federally licensed firearms dealers in the state told lawmakers. "The state of Illinois is going to require that you surrender your property. I think you have some Fifth Amendment issues with that."
 
Vandermyde said there are some areas where gun dealers and gun enthusiasts are willing to work with lawmakers. He points to a proposed ban on bump stocks. 
 
But state Sen Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, angrily said bump stocks are a one-off issue, and that he'd rather stop the flow of guns into his neighborhoods. 
 
"It's not white suburbanites who are walking into my district and shooting black kids on the west side [of Chicago]. But who the hell is selling them the guns?" Harmon said. 
 
Vandermyde said that 60 percent of guns that are used in shootings in and around Chicago come from outside the state of Illinois. 
 
"Do you think there are white suburban gun dealers involved in this?" Harmon again asked out loud. "I am tired of this. The carnage has to stop."
 
In addition to the 21-year-old age restriction to buy a rifle, the Senate subcommittee listened to arguments for but did not vote on a plan to ban gun magazines that hold more than 10 bullets, a plan to ban body armor, the proposed ban on bump stocks, and a new requirement that people wait three days to pick up a rifle that they've already purchased. 

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Higgins Hall water disconnect to cause minor traffic interruption

Per a press release from the City of Macomb Public Works Department, beginning Monday, March 12, weather permitting, a contractor will be disconnecting the water to the old Higgins Hall building. There will be minimal traffic interruption.

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Statehouse plan would increase infrastructure by $1 billion

Could a proposal be coming to increase the taxes you pay at the pump? An infrastructure funding bill at the statehouse would require some kind of revenue increase, but not everyone thinks that’s necessary.
 
State Rep. Marcus Evans, D-Chicago, said his House Bill 5084 lays out a plan for infrastructure projects across the state for the coming fiscal year.
 
“My plan adds an additional billion dollars of resources,” Evans said. “I didn’t specifically say where the resources were coming from, but the plan talks about if we had a billion, what would the results be?”
 
To get that additional billion dollars, would that take 10 cents more tax per gallon of gas? Fifteen cents? Twenty cents more a gallon? Evans wouldn't say, but he’s open to discussion.
 
“As an elected official, I have my own ideas, but I want to listen,” Evans said. “It may come from this tax, from that tax, we’ll determine that at a particular point, but for me it’s a discussion.”
 
Midwest Truckers Association Executive Vice President Don Schaefer said they’re open to finding more revenue for roads, but the state should repeal the Commercial Distribution Fee first. That fee can cost truckers up to $400 extra a year, Schaefer said.
 
“And that’s money that does not go for roads,” Schaefer said. “It just goes into that big black hole of the government piggy bank.”
 
Schaefer also opposed any proposal for a vehicle miles traveled, or VMT, tax that would tax drivers per mile.
 
The Competitive Enterprise Institute said instead of increasing gas taxes, policy makers need to reform burdensome regulations and prevailing wage requirements to make existing tax dollars stretch further.
 
Schaefer agreed.
 
“We have crippled this process of improving our infrastructure,” Schaefer said. “We can permit to death, we can regulate to death, and we can hold back money and thus our infrastructure is failing us. We need to look at all of these reforms because the process takes forever.”
 
“Unless we change some of this, we’re going to be sitting here five years from now with crumbling roadways, crumbling waterways, and what have you, because of the fact that we’re so burdened by regulations that we can’t get the work done,” Schaefer said.
 
Evans said he’s open to discussing such proposals.
 
As to when his measure would be finalized, Evans couldn't say.
 
“I don’t have an expectation for the solution to come maybe during this session,” Evans said, “because the governor is still looking to be conservative on transportation.”
 
The regular session ends May 31. The next fiscal year begins July 1.
 
Gov. Bruce Rauner laid out his vision for infrastructure in Illinois during his budget address last month.
 
“Our budget provides $2.2 billion in pay-as-you-go funds for the Department of Transportation’s annual road program,” Rauner said. “Additionally, we will provide $511 million in new capital funds for other IDOT needs in FY19.”
 
Rauner said to pay for it, the state should find savings through various spending reforms like a pension cost shift, selling the Thompson Center in Chicago and savings in state employee group health insurance, among other proposals.

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Report: Illinois is 2018's least fiscally stable state

Illinois is the most financially unstable state in the nation, according to new ranking by U.S. News and World Report.
 
The ranking of 2018’s most fiscally unstable states was conducted by McKinsey & Company, the global management and consulting firm. The report considered credit rating and state public pension liability to rank states on long-term stability. For short term, the report measured each state's cash solvency and budget balance. 
 
Illinois was 50th overall.
 
The state’s pension debt – commonly estimated at $130 billion, but measured as high as $250 billion last summer by Moody’s – was a factor. That debt load was cited by Moody’s and other creditors as a cause of the state’s near junk rating.
 
Rankings by short-term stability used the amount of liquid funds in a state’s budget and how balanced the state’s budget is.
 
Illinois’ current budget that passed last July, despite Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto, is $1.5 billion in the red, even with a $5 billion income tax hike, according the Civic Federation.
 
“Illinois has been one of the most fiscally irresponsible, fiscally mismanaged state’s for decades,” Gov. Bruce Rauner said of the report.
 
Rauner’s been at the helm of the state since January 2015.
 
“I can’t even find a year where we’ve had a truly balanced budget in this state,” he said.
 
Rauner’s budget battle with the Democrat-controlled General Assembly led to two years without a formal budget.
 
Utah got the top overall spot in terms of fiscal stability. Indiana and Missouri were in the top 10.

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Plan would force Illinois governors to detail true employee costs

Illinois' comptroller says Gov. Bruce Rauner is spending twice what he should on workers in his office – even though on paper, the governor is holding the line on the budget. 
 
Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza told reporters Thursday that the governor officially has a budget of just under $5 million a year. But Mendoza said Rauner is actually spending twice as much. Mendoza said the governor's budget is supposed to be $4.9 million a year. Thanks to off-shoring, she said, the governor is actually spending $10.2 million a year. 
 
"According to the budget that the governor presented, there's only 44 employees that work for the governor," Mendoza said. "When in reality that number is 102."
 
Mendoza said most of those people are being paid from budgets in other state agencies. And that's not just state agencies that may have a connection to that worker's job. Mendoza pointed to the state's education czar getting $250,000 out of the  Department of Human Services' budget, and the governor's deputy chief of staff is getting $140,000 from the Illinois State Police’s budget as examples. 
 
That's why Mendoza said she is pushing what's being called the Truth In Hiring Act to stop payroll off-shoring.
 
"The act says if you work in the governor's office, you will be paid from the governor's payroll," Mendoza said. "Your salary will be counted in the governor's budget. Your salary will not be pulled from agencies that are supposed to protect the most vulnerable."
 
Rauner's office on Thursday issued a statement that said all state agencies report to the governor, and the governor has power over those agencies. The statement goes on to say that as part of the governor's administration, those agencies "carry out the necessary functions of state government."
 
Lawmakers in both political parties are supporting Mendoza's idea for slightly different reasons. 
 
Democratic State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, said if Illinois is ever going to repair the broken image of state government, taxpayers have to be able to trust that government is being honest. 
 
"We use words like 'debt transparency' and 'off-shoring.' But when you go back home and you go to a town hall meeting or a block club, people will ask, 'What do you mean you have no idea how how much the state owes? Doesn't any one keep the books?'," Harris said. "People think of it as shenanigans and monkey business."
 
Republican David McSweeney, R-Barrington, said the Truth in Hiring Act is a way for the governor to lead by example, and actually cut spending. 
 
"We need to have accurate accounting, and we obviously don't have it in the governor's office. It's not just Governor Rauner, but other governors," McSweeny told reporters at the statehouse. "Why doesn't Gov. Rauner reduce his budget by 10 percent? Lead by example."

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Measure requiring notification of Legionnaires outbreak passes out of committee, will be amended

A state representative wants the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs to notify veterans’ home residents and workers within 24 hours of a Legionnaires Disease outbreak, but others think the measure should be more clear and more broad.
 
Over a three-year period, 13 residents of the Quincy Veterans Home died of Legionnaires Disease and dozens were sickened. New cases have popped up in the past few weeks.
 
State Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, said when she heard of the most recent cases, she went into action to begin drafting House Bill 4278.
 
“My sole intent of the bill was just for Legionnaires and it was reactionary. The day I heard this happen in Quincy, I was on the phone trying to get this started,” Scherer said.
 
IDVA’s Legislative Liaison Eric Murphy said they support the concept of the bill, but think it would be better if it encompassed more than just the veterans department.
 
“Any buildings where the public has access – hospitals, nursing homes, universities, the capitol complex, state facilities, multi-family and multi-residential homes,” Murphy said.
 
Scherer said she feared including more in the bill will lead to its demise.
 
Just last month, notice went out to employees at the capitol complex in Springfield that legionella bacteria was found in the water system.
 
Murphy said he also wanted more clear definitions.
 
“We do have concerns, the first one is there is no definition of what constitutes an outbreak,” Murphy said. “There’s different definitions out there.”
 
State Rep. Michael Halpin, D-Rock Island, wanted clarity on when the 24-hour clock should start.
 
Other suggestions included expanding who would get notified to include visitors.
 
State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, filed House Bill 4278, which would require public reporting if two or more cases of any infectious disease is confirmed within a month. That bill is held in the House Rules Committee.

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Speaker Madigan denies inaction in years-old domestic dispute involving lawmaker

A former girlfriend of state Rep. Bob Rita says her late father asked House Speaker Michael Madigan to intervene in a domestic case she brought against Rita more than 15 years ago. She said it was met with deaf ears, a claim Madigan's spokesman disputes.
 
Rita, D-Blue Island, was acquitted in April 2003 of domestic violence charges stemming from an altercation with then-girlfriend Liz Hogan. She claimed he threw her to the ground and threatened to rape her. 
 
Hogan, now a married preschool teacher, said Thursday that her father, former state Rep. Andy McGann Sr., went to Madigan, D-Chicago, two weeks after the incident, before the case went to trial, begging Madigan to protect Hogan.  
 
“Mike Madigan said that he couldn't do anything about it,” Hogan said Thursday at a news conference. "It was nothing and all my dad could say was, 'I'm so sorry about all of that.' "
 
Rita was acquitted of the charges in April, three months after he took office. He’s been elected every two years since then, mostly in uncontested races.
 
Hogan’s father died in 2008. McGann and the speaker were friends, Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said. Madigan sponsored a death resolution in McGann’s honor. 
 
"I remember him sitting there in the church, crying, in one of the pews," Hogan said of the speaker at McGann's funeral. She says she didn't recall speaking to Madigan then.  
 
Madigan has no recollection of any conversation with McGann regarding the lawmaker's daughter and Rita during that time, Brown said.
 
"Madigan should have acknowledged the problem, addressed it," Hogan said. "Someone should have talked to Bob Rita about it."
 
Hogan’s announcement came at a news conference in Chicago where she was joined by teacher Mary Carvlin, who’s challenging Rita in the March 20 primary election. 
 
Rita comes from a politically connected family. His father, John Rita Sr., was Blue Island’s mayor. His mother was an alderman and Calumet Township official, a position in which he succeeds her. His sister, Nancy, is currently an alderwoman in Blue Island’s third ward. His brother, John, was the city’s public safety director.

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Macomb City Council Agenda for Monday, March 12

The full agenda for Monday's meeting can be seen below.

 

COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE

MACOMB CITY COUNCIL
MONDAY, MARCH 12, 2018
MACOMB CITY HALL
5:15 P.M.
 
ROLL CALL
 
PUBLIC COMMENTS
 
Discussion on the placement of a handicapped parking space on the south side of Washington Street, just each of the Randolph Street intersection.
-A memo from CA Torreson is attached. Discussion is planned.
 
Discussion to correct the language in the city code to conform with the current signage at the intersection of Pearl and Jefferson Streets.
-A memo from CA Torreson is attached along with a copy of the ordinance. Discussion is planned.
 
Discussion on removing the no-parking 2:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. on Normal Street between Jackson and Adams Streets.
-A memo from CA Torreson is attached, along with a copy of the ordinance. Discussion is planned.
 
Discussion amending various sections of the Municipal Code relating to Public Works department titles, grammatical or typographical errors
-A copy of the ordinance is attached. Discussion is planned.
 
Discussion on amending Chapter 7 of the Municipal Code relating the Plumbing Code.
-A copy of the ordinance is attached. Discussion is planned.
 
Discussion on a request from Macomb Beautiful to plant a White Oak in Chandler Park.
-Attached is a memo from CA Torreson along with a copy of the request. Discussion
is planned.
 
Discussion on alcohol use at Spring Lake Park.
-Attached is a memo from CA Torreson for your review. Discussion is planned.
 
Budget Work Session.
 
Other business.
 
Executive Session
 
To consider information relative to:
 
a) Appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance or dismissal of an employee of the public body or legal counsel for the public body, pursuant to Sec. 2(c)(1) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
b)Collective Bargaining matters between the public body and it’s employees or representatives, or deliberations concerning salary schedules for one or more classes of employees, pursuant to Sec. 2(c)(2) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
c) The purchase or lease of real property for the use of the public body, pursuant to Sec. 2(c)(5) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
d)The setting of a price for sale or lease of property owned by the public body, pursuant to Sec. 2(c)(6) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
e) Pending or probable litigation, pursuant to Sec. 2(c)(11) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
 
 

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New tariffs imposed by President Trump could bring both good news and bad news for Illinois manufacturers

Illinois manufacturers could see both benefits and drawbacks to new tariffs put in place by the Trump administration.
 
President Donald Trump announced a 25-percent tariff on steel and a 10-percent tariff on aluminum imported into the U.S. There are exemptions for Canada and Mexico, pending a possible renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
 
Mark Denzler is vice president and COO of the Illinois Manufacturers Association. He says this state could be affected more than others.
 
“Illinois manufacturing is a very large part of our economy, employing about 600,000 workers,” Denzler said. “We’re also a very diverse manufacturing economy, so this is going to have a profound impact in a couple of different ways.”
 
Denzler says some companies will benefit from the move. For example, U.S. Steel has announced it will rehire about 500 workers in Granite City, which appears to be in part because of the new tariffs. But others won’t be as lucky.
 
“Illinois is the second largest [state] importer of steel, for example, so when you see those increased prices, that’s going to trickle down,” Denzler said. “We use a lot in the auto industry and heavy equipment. And so that’s going to have a negative impact on a lot of manufacturers in Illinois as well.”
Denzler says tariffs paid by manufacturers generally are absorbed into the price of products. That mean Illinois consumers soon could be paying more for various goods.
 
“It’s generally the case,” Denzler said. “For example, if the auto sector has to pay additional costs to procure steel, that would probably increase the cost of the car to the consumer.”
 
Denzler says the impact of the tariffs will be lessened due to the Trump administration carving out Canada and Mexico, which account for about one-third of the steel imports into the U.S. He says he hasn’t yet heard of any other manufacturers who are planning to add jobs in the state.
 
“There’s a number of steel companies in Illinois, and I think they’re all taking a look at it,” Denzler said. “A couple of them were represented at the White House a week or so ago when the president was talking about some of these decisions. But we have not yet heard from anyone else outside of U.S. Steel.”
 
Denzler says the IMA has not yet staked out an official position on the tariffs.
 
“We’re going to wait and see what happens,” Denzler said. “It’s a federal issue and we’re largely a state trade organization. At this point, we’ll look at the announcement and talk to our members before any decision is made.”

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Macomb Area Chamber of Commerce celebrates Lucie, Scalf, Sutton & Bougher relocation with ribbon cutting

The Ambassador Committee of the Macomb Area Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting and attended an open house on March 7 to celebrate the recent relocation and renovation of the office of Lucie, Scalf, Sutton & Bougher – Attorneys at Law.
 
Located in the former Cowin Accounting office (202 N. Lafayette Street), the law office has served McDonough, Hancock, Henderson, Fulton, Schuyler, Warren and Knox counties for over 40 years. They are a general practice firm with an emphasis in Estate planning, Real estate, Family law, Tax preparation, Criminal Law and DUI cases.
 
For more information, call (309) 833-1702, visit www.lucielaw.com or find them on Facebook.
 
 

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Illinois lawmaker looks to block proposed constitutional amendment for graduated income tax structure

A state representative hopes to get enough support for his measure opposing a change to the state’s constitution for a progressive income tax to kill any such move.
 
There are two measures in the Senate for an amendment to change Illinois’ flat income tax rate to a graduated, or progressive, income tax rate, where people with higher incomes pay at higher rates. 
 
One such proposal in the House is from state Rep. Christian Mitchell.
 
“We have to amend the constitution by getting a ballot initiative through that says that we can have a graduated income tax where we can charge higher-income people higher rates and lower income people lower rates and that’s what my bill would do,” Mitchell, D-Chicago, said.
 
State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, said he’s looking for more support on his bill opposing a progressive income tax.
 
“A progressive income tax is a code phrase for a massive tax increase,” McSweeney said. “It says ‘I want to raise your taxes through the roof. I want to become California, I wanna increase your taxes,’ and that’s wrong. So we want to stop that tax increase in the state of Illinois.”
 
Mitchell said he wants to have companion legislation spelling out the rates, though he couldn’t immediately say what the rates would be.
 
“If we’re able to get this done, if you give us the authority to do this, here’s what we would have you pay,” Mitchell said. “And my instinct is I’ve never seen a rate structure that I would support where 90 percent of people don’t get a tax cut.”
 
McSweeney doesn’t buy it.
 
“What they’re saying is that they want to go to a progressive income tax system and say ‘trust me,’ and then pass a bill [with specific rates] later on,” McSweeney said. “And remember if the constitutional amendment passes, they can keep raising rates over and over and over again.”
 
McSweeney said Illinois' flat income tax is one of the only business friendly things the state has going for it. He said businesses would be repelled by a progressive tax.
 
Mitchell is the only one listed on his bill. McSweeney’s measure has 15 members on board. Both are held in the House Rules committee.

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Poll: 4 of 5 voters think Illinois on wrong track

A new poll shows Illinoisans are upset with just about all things political.
 
The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale asked 1,000 Illinois voters if they thought the state was moving in the right direction.
 
Eighty-four percent of voters said they thought the state was on the wrong path while nine percent were satisfied with the state's trajectory. Their feelings about the nation as a whole were slightly more optimistic, with 27 percent choosing the right track option while a total of 64 percent chose wrong direction. Another 9 percent said they didn't know.
 
Institute director John Shaw said the discontentment in Illinois was greater than any other state.
 
“It would be hard to overstate just how angry, frustrated and disgruntled Illinois citizens are with their government,” he said. “More than four out of five say that the state is headed in the wrong direction. Those are numbers you don’t find in many democracies.”
 
It's not a new trend.
 
“Voters have been more negative about the state of Illinois than the rest of the country since the inception of our poll in 2008,” said Charlie Leonard, an institute visiting professor and one of the designers of the poll.
 
President Donald Trump and Gov. Bruce Rauner both have low approval ratings, but long-time House Speaker Michael Madigan is lower still, with a 21 percent approval rate.
 
“When we started these polls in 2008, Madigan was actually seen in a positive light,” SIU Professor John Jackson said. “The governor and those who support the governor have made Madigan public enemy number one.”
 
When asked about their opinion of Congress' recent tax code overhaul, 53 percent of Illinois voters said they opposed the tax cut with 15 percent strongly opposed and 38 percent opposed, while 2 percent responded “neither.” The question was largely split down party lines, with 80 percent of Democrats opposed and 75 percent of Republicans in support of the tax law changes.
 
One thing that voters were high on was the legalization of recreational marijuana. On a question asking if they favored or opposed “the legalization of recreational marijuana if it is taxed and regulated like alcohol,” the poll found 66 percent favored it. Democrats led the way on this one with 78 percent support while Republicans were split at 49 percent support and 49 percent in opposition. 
 
Jackson said some of the voters' attitudes toward their state can be attributed to negative political messaging.
 
The polls found:
 
  • President Trump’s job approval was 36 percent positive and 62 percent negative.
 
  • Gov. Rauner’s total positive rate was 31 percent with 63 percent negative.
 
  • Speaker Madigan had a 21 percent approval rate and a 68 percent disapproval rate.
 
  • Two-thirds of the voters favored legalizing recreational marijuana.
 
  • Eighty-five percent of voters want lawmakers to wait a year after they resign before becoming a lobbyist.
 
A majority of voters, 54 percent, said their local government was moving in the right direction, while 37 percent said the wrong direction and 10 percent didn’t know.
 
The institute found in a 2016 poll that more than half of Illinoisans would move out of the state if they could. Their top reason: High taxes.

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WIRC & WIRC-CAA Boards meeting agenda for Thursday, March 8

A meeting of the Western Illinois Regional Council and the WIRC-Community Action Agency Boards is scheduled for Thursday, March 8, at 5:00 pm at the Spoon River Outreach Center, 2500 E. Jackson Street, Macomb. You can view the agenda below. 

 

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Drury alleges Madigan solicited campaign donations in exchange for advancing legislation

State Rep. Scott Drury, a Democratic candidate for Illinois attorney general, said powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan solicited $56,000 in campaign funds in 2016 to advance Drury's legislation to protect data on students' computers.
 
The claims about Madigan, who also is the Democratic party chairman, come in the runup to the March 20 primary election.
 
Drury, D-Highwood, said he was asked by Madigan’s political operation to donate to other Democrats in conjunction to showing interest in Drury’s bill. A spokesman for Madigan denied any such arrangement. Drury said he never donated the money and the legislation never advanced.
 
“Here I was trying to pass a bill and as I’m making calls on the legislative side within minutes, I’m getting calls on the political side to set up meetings to ask me for large five-figure sums from my campaign committee,” Drury told Illinois News Network. “And that should never exist anywhere in politics, especially in the state of Illinois.”
 
“I was in shock,” Drury said. “It made me feel disgusting.”
 
Madigan controls how legislation moves through the House.
 
“That was already debunked,” Madigan spokesperson Steve Brown said in denying the allegations. “There’s no element of it that I understand to be accurate.”
 
Brown declined to provide specifics.
 
Other Democrats cast doubt on Drury's claims.
 
“Members help other members,” House Deputy Leader Lou Lang, D-Skokie, said. “Members help candidates that aren’t members. We make campaign donations in the regular course. But I’ve never heard any legislative action be dependent on any of that. I think that would be not a good idea. I certainly have not been involved in any of that.”
 
Former Democratic state Rep. Jack Franks, who’s now the McHenry County Board chairman, has worked with both Drury and Madigan. He said he didn’t believe Drury's story.
 
“That’s a very serious accusation against someone, that’s why I don’t believe it,” Franks said. “Because if it would have happened, I know Scott, he would have blown the whistle. That’s why I don’t think it’s true.”
 
Franks said if the claims were true, then Drury should have forwarded the information to law enforcement and to the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. The ARDC handles misconduct complaints involving lawyers.
 
Drury has been a critic of Madigan, and is the only Democrat not to vote for Madigan as speaker last year. Drury also called for an independent special counsel to investigate wrongdoing by lawmakers within the legislature. He wouldn’t say if he would forward his claims about Madigan to authorities.
 
“I’m putting this out in the public so that we can shine a light on it so the public can come to their own decisions about what this means,” Drury said. “But to me, I can tell you that in real time, as it was happening to me, I certainly felt that there was a connection between the bill I was trying to pass and the request for money.”
 
Franks said that during his 18 years in the legislature, he'd never heard of similar allegations.
 
“I’ve dealt with the speaker,” Franks said. “He knows where the lines are. And I’ve never ever heard anyone ever accusing him of trying to shake someone down for legislation.”
 
Drury described it as a quid-pro-quo type interaction.
 
“I certainly felt that I had to, through my campaign committee, come up with a large amount of money in order to get legislation passed,” Drury said. “So if you want to call that pay-to-play, if you want to call it a shakedown, you can put whatever term you want on it.”
 
Drury said in a timeline he provided to Illinois News Network that legislation he filed to protect the data of school children using classroom technology stalled for two years. Near the end of session in 2016, Drury said Madigan’s attorney approached him on the House Floor and said that Madigan wanted to speak over the summer about the bill.
 
Drury said he and Madigan had a dinner at the Union League Club in Chicago in October 2016. He said at that meeting, Madigan asked about the status of the bill and for 20 percent of Drury’s campaign funds.
 
The next day, Drury said he called Madigan to tell him that he wouldn't trade legislation for campaign contributions. Drury said that Madigan told him he also doesn't do that.
 
After getting back draft legislation reworked by Madigan’s office, Drury said Madigan called Oct. 27 to ask about the donation.
 
Drury said that Tim Mapes, who is the clerk of the House, Madigan’s chief of staff and the executive director of the Democratic Party of Illinois, sent him a list of Democratic incumbents and candidates to donate to for a total of $56,000. Drury said he decided instead to donate to two political action committees that were no on the list.
 
“It shows the real conflict of interest that exists when the Speaker of the House is also the party chair,” Drury said, “Because what you see is the intermixing of a legislator as myself trying to pass legislation at the same time when the party chair is trying to raise money for the party and those two things should never come together and no one should ever be made to feel like they need to contribute money in order to get a bill and a good law.”
 
Others at the statehouse have raised concerns about Madigan’s dual role.
 
“You want somebody as party chair who’s looking out for the entire state, all races, not necessarily mixing it in with the policy of what you’re trying to accomplish in one chamber,” state Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, told INN last month. “I just think there’s some inherent conflict that can come about because of that.”
 
State Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena, said her bill barring such dual roles would address the problems caused by that concentration of power.
 
“When you have such a large concentration of power, what did you think was going to happen,” McDermed said.
 
McDermed said her bill “would make things better for taxpayers because the interest of the party are not always the same as the interest of the people, the citizens of the state. When only the interest of the party, in other words maintaining control into the next election, when that’s the only objective, the people, the citizens, are lost.”
 
“I think the Speaker does a wonderful job as Speaker and also as the chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois,” Lang countered. “I see no conflict.”
 
Brown said other high profile Democrats like former Gov. Pat Quinn expressed approval of Madigan being both the House Speaker and Democratic Party chairman before flipping his opinion now that Quinn is running for attorney general.
 
“These people are desperate for attention,” Brown said. “[Drury is] a candidate taking money from a lot of people with connections to [Gov. Bruce] Rauner.”

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Illinois' 2018 drought conditions look like 2012

Drought conditions are bad for farmers and consumers in Illinois. In 2012, drought-related expenses racked up a $30 billion bill, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.
 
This year could be just as bad.
 
Jim Angel, the Illinois state climatologist, said in 2012 the U.S. experienced a second-year La Niña and that is happening in 2018, too.
 
The La Niña climate cycle typically causes unusually dry weather in parts of the U.S.
 
In 2012, dry weather patterns persisted through the winter, spring and summer months. A deluge of recent wet weather in Illinois may be a game changer this year.
 
“That’s built up the soil moisture and the stream flows and the lake levels so we’re in physically better shape this year right now than we were in 2012,” Angel said.
 
La Niña also can have a negative impact on farming in Illinois.
 
Angel said there has been a trend of wetter springs in recent years, which leads to planting delays that remain well into the summer months.
 
“We’ve had this case in the last couple years of very wet springs and then you turn around and get right into drought conditions, which can be just as troublesome as the long-term drought because you go from one extreme to the other,” Angel said.   
 
The long-term impacts of drought conditions for consumers are higher food prices.
 
Farms face a tougher road with disruption of agriculture production, according to Angel.
 
“You feel it the strongest on the farm and in the farm communities; and if you live in the city, you will see it in the food prices moving forward,” Angel said.   
 
Being prepared for drought conditions is key. Many farmers invest more in irrigation equipment and focus on soil moisture management in their fields. Using drought-tolerant seeds can also be a money-saver for farmers.
 
For consumers, cost-saving efforts may be as simple as changing what you buy at the grocery store, according to Angel.
 
“What you’re seeing in the grocery store is higher prices but also different selections of things, so some things may not be in season or may not be available, but there is always room to substitute those,” Angel said.   
 
Drought conditions during the months of June, July and August are most concerning because that is the heart of the growing season, Angel said.
 
“It’s already the time of year when we use the most water, so even in a good year we could use quite a bit of water during those months and so that’s when we are probably the most vulnerable,” Angel said.   

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McDonough County Republican Central Committee announces Lincoln Day Dinner

The McDonough County Republicans will hold their annual Lincoln Day Dinner event on Saturday, March 17. The annual event, featuring prominent speakers at both the local and state levels, will be held in the WIU Grand Ballroom. 

 

The night kicks off at 4:30 p.m. with a press conference featuring Candidates for McDonough County Sheriff, Bryan Baca, Justin Lundgren and Nick Petitgout. That will be held in the Capital Ballroom at Western Illinois University. A Social Hour and Silent Auction will follow at 5:00 p.m. The program starts at 6:00 p.m. 

 

The keynote speaker for the event is Candidate for Illinois Attorney General, Erika Harold. Other speakers include United States Congressman Darin LaHood, Illinois State Senator Jil Tracy, Illinois State Representative Norine Hammond, and Candidate for Secretary of State Jason Heller. 

 

Tickets are $35 each and must be purchased by Monday, March 12. Call Donna (309) 833-1633, Lorraine (309) 221-2648 or Mary (309) 255-0213 for tickets. Vegetarian entree's are available upon prior request.

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Macomb Public Works announces opening of yard waste site, no sticker pick up

The City of Macomb Public Works has announced the opening of the City Yard Waste Site, along with its No Sticker Yard Waste Pick Up program. 

 

The Yard Waste Site (Tower Road) will open to City of Macomb residents on Thursday, April 5, 2018.  The hours of operation for the Yard Waste Site are Thursday through Sunday, 10 AM through 6 PM.
 
The “No Sticker” Spring Yard Waste Collection will begin Monday, March 26, 2018 through Thursday, May 3, 2018.
 
Yard waste must be placed in Kraft-type paper bags, marked cans or bundles. Bags, bundles or cans may not exceed 50 lbs. Brush and branches must be cut to 4-foot lengths and tied with twine only into bundles less than 2-feet in diameter. Bundles may not exceed 50 lbs. Bundles tied with wire will not be collected. Waste Management totes may not be used for yard waste.
 
 

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Illinois House Democrats mostly stand by Madigan after harassment controversy

Lawmakers in the Illinois House are back today after three weeks of continuing scandal within House Speaker Michael Madigan’s political and legislative operations. Despite some high-profile calls for him to step down, many rank-and-file Democrats are standing by the state's most powerful politician.
 
The scandal started last month when Madigan’s office announced Kevin Quinn, a long-time political operative within Madigan’s political and legislative operations, was being let go. The announcement preempted public accusations by campaign staffer Alaina Hampton that Quinn made repeated unwanted advances toward her.
 
Just last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission gave Hampton a notice of the right to sue Madigan’s political operation.
 
“Alaina is working with her legal team to consider all her options as she seeks to change the sexist culture that protected her harasser,” a spokesperson for Hampton said.
 
The week after Quinn’s dismissal, Madigan announced another political operative, Shaw Decremer, was found to have acted inappropriately toward a political candidate and campaign staff. Decremer, a volunteer, also was let go, Madigan’s office said.
 
Just last week, Madigan held an evening news conference outlining nine cases of alleged wrongdoing within his legislative office over the past five years. The accusations included harassment, unwanted advances, intimidation, manipulation and retaliation. The internal review gave vague details about the nine cases. 
 
The review didn't include six broad categories of complaints, such as complaints by a member about another member; complaints by a member about a lobbyist; complaints by a lobbyist about a member; complaints by staff about a member regarding manner of treatment or derogatory comments; or complaints about another caucus leader, caucus member or caucus staff. Unresolved complaints also were excluded.
 
Asked if the list shows a culture conducive to such conduct within his office, Madigan said “there’s no culture with me … we don’t tolerate inappropriate behavior. We just don’t tolerate it.”
 
The document outlining the nine cases said the staffers accused of wrongdoing were either monitored or directed to be counseled by an ethics officer.
 
State Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, who’s butted heads with Madigan in the past, said Madigan should step down. Drury said he's frustrated that Illinois government leaders aren’t being held to the same standards as those other industries.
 
“The movie industry, the casino industry, the music industry, why in government can’t that happen? That should be the first place,” Drury said. “In government, that should happen automatically, but for whatever reason in the state of Illinois people are terrified of one man so much that they can’t ask for the obvious, which is for him to step down from that position so we can move forward.”
 
Drury is pushing for an independent special council to investigate allegations of harassment, abuse and misconduct in state government and political organizations.
 
“These incidents aren’t just happening in his campaign offices,” Drury said. “These are happening in the capitol, in government, and citizens have the absolute right to know what is going on in their government.”
 
Drury said Madigan’s revelation of the nine cases over five years within his legislative office raised more questions than it answered.
 
Several other Democrats in the Illinois House were also polled on whether Madigan should step down.
 
State Rep. Marty Moylan, D-Des Plaines, said the “sharks are circling the waters for no reason.” He said Madigan is properly handling the allegations of wrongdoing within his offices.
 
State Rep. Michael Zalewski, D-Riverside, said Madigan has taken responsibility and is pushing to make the environment under the dome better for everyone.
 
“For staff, for lobbyists, for the media, for those coming into the building advocating for a cause, for the members,” he said.
 
State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, said Madigan will follow through with promised improvements.
 
"This is a learning process for all of us and I know he's committed to making things better," Feigenholtz said.
 
State Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, said he wants more information before making any determination.
 
State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, dismissed calls for Madigan to step down as party chair or House speaker.
 
When Madigan revealed the nine cases within his office, he urged other legislative leaders to follow suit and show how they've handled similar allegations in their offices. So far, no other leaders have given an accounting of how many cases they've had or how those cases were dealt with.
 
A spokesman for Senate President John Cullerton said doing so would violate policy.
 
“In the Senate, our personnel policies spell out that any complaints are to be treated in as confidential a manner as possible in order to protect the privacy and rights of the victim,” Cullerton spokesman John Patterson said in an email. “Our priority is a professional work environment in which anyone who feels victimized can come forward with confidence knowing that their rights and privacy will be protected.”
 
Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady’s office said the same thing.
 
“Sexual harassment in the workplace is unacceptable. Those who come to work must be able to do so in a safe, harassment-free environment,” Brady’s office said in an email. “Our personnel policy clearly prohibits sexual harassment and ensures that complaints are handled in a confidential manner in order to protect the privacy and rights of victims.”
 
“The House Republican Caucus has a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of harassment to ensure a safe environment throughout the Capitol,” House Minority Leader Jim Durkin spokesperson Eleni Demertzis said in an email.
 
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said the speaker's office was able to protect privacy while providing details about how the cases were handled. 
 
Brown said Madigan "would encourage others to do same.” 

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Illinois wants to tear down, rebuild Quincy vets home, eventually

The latest plan to deal with Legionnaires disease at the Quincy veterans home is to tear down the dorms where dozens of veterans have gotten sick, but that could take years. 
 
Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs Director Erica Jeffries said it's useless to simply replace the plumbing at the Quincy veterans home. Jeffries told lawmakers looking for answers Monday on how to stop the Legionnaires outbreaks that have killed 13 and sickened dozens of other veterans since 2015 that the plan now is to build new dorms. 
 
"We do not want to spend years tearing up 70-year-old buildings to put brand new piping in," Jeffries said. "When we know that that might not be a a total solution."
 
But, Jeffries said, the new plan could take five years. 
 
It will take months just to get a report on the broad strokes of what it will take. Jeffries promised lawmakers an updated report by May. 
 
State Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, said Illinois has been fighting Legionnaires at the Quincy home since 2015. 
 
"The time is now," Castro said. "Task forces are wonderful, but we can't wait till May. How many more people are going to get sick."
 
Thirteen veterans have died and dozens of others have gotten sick from Legionnaires at the home since 2015. Four new cases were reported last month alone. 

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With two weeks of rain, Illinois had wettest February on record

Most of Illinois only got a couple weeks of rain last month, but it was enough to make it the wettest February in recorded history.
 
What started off as a dryer-than-normal month ended up breaking records for precipitation. State Climatologist Jim Angel said the statewide average precipitation was 5 inches last month, the wettest February on record for Illinois.
 
“That’s darned near twice the normal [average precipitation] and then some,” Angel said.
 
The rains caused rivers to swell, putting homes and businesses under water.
 
Angel says it’s especially remarkable considering much of the state didn’t get any rain for the first two weeks of the month.
 
“It started out very dry so it’s quite a comeback from that dry period,” he said.
 
It was enough flooding for Gov. Bruce Rauner to declare Iroquois, Kankakee and Vermilion counties state disaster areas due to flooding. The flooding caused homeowners and businesses millions of dollars in damages across the state.
 
On the bright side, Angel said all that precipitation will be good for the state’s crops once hotter and dryer months come.
 
“We are pretty much fully recharged in terms of soil moisture,” he said.
 
While the freshly soaked subsoil won’t withstand a drought like the one in 2012, Angel says it will come in handy should the state go a couple weeks without rain.

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WIU asks state for $430 million while EIU seeks $38 million

Western Illinois University is asking lawmakers for hundreds of millions of dollars more than it received last year, calling the requested funding “critical.”
 
Four of Illinois’ public universities presented their budget requests to a Senate committee Thursday. Illinois State wants $65 million in state dollars, Northeastern asked for $33 million, Eastern Illinois asked for $38 million. But WIU president Jack Thomas told the committee that his school needed $430 million next year. He said the funds, largely for capital improvements, are vital.
 
“These funds are critical in order for Western to remain competitive and to continue to provide optimal services to our region,” he told the committee.
 
Western Illinois University's formal request, Senate Bill 3375, was for $46 million. WIU’s total estimated 2017 budget was $237.3 million.
 
"Now is the time for a full state-appropriated budget of $62 million for Western Illinois University to support our students, classrooms, employees, programs, and infrastructure," Thomas said. "If we want our students, faculty and staff to remain in the state, and if we want to provide exemplary social and intellectual capital to rebuild Illinois' economy, the state must fund regional public higher education institutions."
 
Thomas said Western Illinois University needs $15.7 million more than Senate Bill 3375, including an additional $2 million for student financial aid, $4 million for critical deferred maintenance projects and $9.5 million for salaries and operations, Thomas said.
 
On top of WIU's state-appropriated budget request, Thomas asked for full Monetary Award Program funding of $11 million. MAP provides grants to eligible students who financial help to pay for college. Thomas also sought $357.6 million for capital development projects.
 
University spokeswoman Darcie Shinberger said school leaders seek capital development funding from state lawmakers every year and Thursday's request was no different from past years. She said the university doesn't expect to get all of $357.6 million, but said it was important to keep that figure in front of legislators.
 
Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said he thinks state schools have expanded too much considering they’ve lost so many students to other state’s schools.
 
“Does it not trouble you at all that, in the last 35 years, we’ve lost 50,000 students in public four-year and community colleges and at the same time we took eight campuses to 13?” he asked.
 
On net, Illinois schools lost about 150,000 students to other states since 2000, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.
 
WIU froze tuition last year after seeing an 11 percent drop in undergraduate enrollment. University officials blame the decline in enrollment on a lack of state funding because the two-year budget impasse.
 
But recent studies also have shown university spending has far surpassed enrollment growth in recent decades. An analysis by Local Government Information Services, a self-described government watchdog, found that the University of Illinois’ annual budget spiked 13-fold over enrollment growth since the early 1970s when adjusting for inflation. And a 2015 report by the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus sharply criticized the higher education system for administrative bloat and generous perks and benefits given to administrative staff.
 
“At the same time tuition and student debt are rising at a breakneck pace, the administrative systems of public institutions have expanded into sprawling behemoths, with some of those at the very top enjoying lavish perks, including expense accounts, club memberships, vehicles and golden parachute severance payments,” the report said.
 
Senators also asked university leaders about their capacity to pay for more of their retiree pension costs, something largely paid for by the state.
 
In his budget address, Rauner proposed that schools should be gradually shouldering more of their public pension costs over the next four years.
 
Eastern Illinois President David Glassman echoed the other three university officials, saying that university budgets couldn’t handle a new cost like that in just four years.
 
“It would be a major, major challenge for EIU and for most, if not all, other universities,” he said.
 
Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, said he favors schools paying for a larger portion of their retirees’ pensions, but said the universities should also have a say in the benefits, now decided by the state.
 
“It’s absolutely ridiculous for any institution to say "this is your salary, but we’re going to leave the benefits up to another entity,” he said.
 
A number of school officials agreed with him.
 
Others with EIU said they would have to raise tuition rates to pay for the extra pension burden.

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Fishing Licenses Impact Illinois Economy

Fishing license sales have been either flat or declining in Illinois for the past 10 years.
 
The loss of sales have a direct impact on the Illinois Department of Natural Resources' ability to enhance environmental habitats and Illinois’ multi-billion dollar fishing industry.
 
Dan Stephenson, the chief of Fisheries for IDNR, said 650,000 to 700,000 fishing licenses are sold every year.
 
IDNR is trying to get those numbers up, according to Stephenson.
 
Changing demographics is part of the reason for declining sales.  Stephenson said younger people are not engaging in outdoor activities like older generations before them.
 
Getting anglers to renew their licenses has also been an issue.
 
“We’ve got what is called an R3 initiative,” Stephenson said.
 
“It’s reactivation, retention and recruitment of anglers.”
 
The licensing fees along with an excise tax on fishing equipment provides most of the funding for IDNR’s Division of Fisheries, according to Stephenson.
 
License sales help run the hatcheries that supply fish to various fishing locations throughout the state.
 
“We’ve got 65 people in the division of fisheries,” Stephenson said.    
 
“We have three different hatcheries throughout the state, and we raise fish there to stock in our lakes and waters.  In our hatcheries we raise about 19 different species of fish and we raise about 10 to 12 million fish per year.
 
These fish sustain a multi-billion dollar fishing industry in the state.
 
“The hatcheries that stock the fish and the biologists that work out there on the field on the lakes, the work that they do generates about $2 billion to $3 billion a year in the state of Illinois,” Stephenson said.   
 
“Those fishing license sales are really an important driver of the whole economy.”
 
Stephenson said IDNR have been hit hard financially over the past two decades, and they are in the process of making a comeback.
 
“Right now, I am down to just 12 biologists for all the lakes in the state,” Stephenson said.
 
“I’ve got six biologists that work on the rivers and streams.  We’re a little short on manpower now.  We’re trying to correct that.”
 
Fishing licenses went on sale March 1.  Residential fishing licenses cost $15.
 
People under the age of 16 and people with disabilities do not have to pay for fishing licenses.
 

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Proposed FARM ACT means less regulation for Illinois farmers

The proposed Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act gives farmers one less regulation to follow and one less burden to bear. 
 
Under the FARM Act, which was recently introduced in the U.S. Senate, farmers nationwide would be exempt from having to report emissions from the natural process of manure breaking down on their land and one expert said that’s a good thing.
 
Tasha Bunting, the assistant director of Commodities and Livestock for the Illinois Farm Bureau, said she supports this bipartisan bill, which intends to protect farmers from being burdened by unnecessary reporting.
 
“If the act is not passed, farmers would be required to report manure emissions for anything over 100 parts per million for ammonia and that would impact nationwide, over 100,000 farmers,” Bunting said.
 
The FARM Act falls under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), which became a law in 1980, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
 
CERCLA requires sites like landfills and mines to notify authorities when they release large quantities of hazardous materials.
 
“The original intention was not to regulate farms," Bunting said. "It was for Superfund sites and places with toxic chemicals.  It was never intended to regulate farmers and agricultural places."
 
Bunting said many farmers had difficulties reporting air emissions under CERCLA.
 
The process for maintaining and figuring out the actual breakdown of manure emission is difficult, according to Bunting. 
 
“Some of the tables and functions that they (farmers) were sharing are outdated, and so it was going to take a little bit of re-figuring and trying to estimate what those actual numbers would be,” Bunting said.
 
Bunting believes this bill is a positive step forward for Illinois farmers.
 
“The FARM Act that has been introduced would exempt them (farmers) from the reporting mechanism, yet still have the farmers continue making improvement on farms to protect the air and water quality,” Bunting said.
 
 

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Illinois House inches closer to passing official revenue estimate for first time in years

Illinois lawmakers moved a step closer to passing an official revenue estimate for the first time in years.
 
The Illinois Senate passed one last year, but the House neglected to even bring one up for a vote, despite a constitutional requirement to pass a balanced budget every year.
 
The Illinois Constitution says in Article VIII, Section 2 “The General Assembly by law shall make appropriations for all expenditures of public funds by the State. Appropriations for a fiscal year shall not exceed funds estimated by the General Assembly to be available during that year.”
 
While the state’s bipartisan government forecasting group, the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, provides a revenue estimate and the governor’s Office of Management and Budget provides a revenue estimate, a revenue estimate resolution is traditionally passed by both chambers. However, the House hasn’t passed a revenue estimate resolution since Gov. Bruce Rauner took office in 2015.
 
For the coming fiscal year, Rauner’s office expects the state to bring in $37.7 billion, outside of fund transfers and federal sources. The state’s government forecasting group put the estimate at $37.6 billion.
 
State Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, said it’s promising that the governor’s office and COGFA have very similar numbers as lawmakers craft a budget.
 
“If we can abide by a strong revenue number, whether that’s formalizing a resolution or not, I think we need to really get a budget done by May 31,” Zalewski said.
 
State Rep. Keith Wheeler said the state has to pass a revenue estimate. He said an official revenue estimate protects taxpayers from government overspending.
 
“It’s a first step towards saying ‘here’s what you said you’re going to spend based on how much we’re going to give you’,” Wheeler, R-Oswego, said. “And ‘if you spend more than that, obviously it creates a debt problem,’ and deficit spending we know does not help the state of Illinois.”
 
Wheeler has been calling for an official revenue estimate resolution since he took office three years ago.
 
Zalewski defended the lack of an estimate last year saying the Rauner administration wasn’t realistic with it’s budget proposal.
 
Last year lawmakers passed a budget over the governor’s veto. They also passed an income tax hike over the governor’s veto. The rate last summer went from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent for individuals.
 
State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, was quick to point out in committee Thursday that the revenue estimate for the coming fiscal year from the governor’s office includes that income tax increase.
 
“When this phony governor gives these speeches saying he didn’t favor the tax hike, he’s relying on the revenue,” McSweeney said. “When he said he favors going to 3 percent, we know the truth.”
 
McSweeney has endorsed Rauner's primary opponent, state Rep. Jeanne Ives.
 
The governor's office couldn't immediately be reached for comment. A message seeking comment from the governor’s political campaign was not immediately returned. 
 
Zalewski, the chairman of the House Revenue and Finance Committee, said they’ll have more meetings about a revenue estimate in April leading up to the budget deadline of May 31. The next fiscal year begins July 1.

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Pothole got your tire? The state may pay for that

The temperature swings in Illinois are causing potholes that could be mistaken for tunnels and damage from hitting one could cost hundreds of dollars, but drivers may be able to get some of that money back from the state of Illinois.
 
The Illinois Department of Transportation handles claims for pothole-related vehicle damage on state roads, but spokeswoman Gianna Urgo said not all claims are eligible for pay outs.
 
“The department evaluates each claim based upon strict negligence and liability standards established by the Illinois Court of Claims,” she said.
 
Pay attention to who is responsible for the damaged roadway, as claims to the state are limited to reported potholes on state-maintained roads.
 
“Routes comprising the state highway system will typically be known as ‘interstate’ or ‘Illinois Route’ et cetera,” she said.
 
The department didn't have data on number or total payouts of the claims.
 
Nationally, potholes caused $3 billion in damage in 2016 alone, according to AAA.
 
“The average pothole repair costs $300,” AAA spokeswoman Beth Moser said. “That’s significant when so many drivers don’t have the funds to make these repairs.”
 
Moser said motorists should make sure to have a spare tire and not just a tire kit.
 
Other claims could be filed with a local government responsible for maintenance of that roadway.
 
While some potholes are unavoidable, Urgo says the best policy is to avoid them.
 
Go to idot.illinois.gov to find the local office where you would submit a pothole report and file a claim.

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Calls for spending caps return as population shrinks, tax burden grows

A pair of Illinois lawmakers are calling for spending caps as state government continues to tax more and spend more despite the state's declining population.
 
The Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability provided its revenue estimate for the coming fiscal year to lawmakers this week. The commission projects the state will bring $37.5 billion in to its General Revenue Fund, nearly $800 million more than the current fiscal. Personal income tax is up more than half a million, something COGFA notes is from the increased income tax rates. The commission also notes Illinoisans pay twice as much in income tax to the state than they did a decade ago.
 
Americans for Prosperity Illinois State Director Andrew Nelms said Illinois isn't doing well.
 
“And it’s not because the taxpayers aren’t doing their fair share and aren’t pulling their weight,” Nelms said. “In nominal dollars, taxpayers are paying double in personal income taxes than they were just a few years ago.”
 
Because the state's population continues to shrink, the tax burden is mounting for those who remain.
 
Lawmakers, over Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto last summer, hiked the individual income tax rate by 32 percent, from 3.75 to 4.95 percent. They also passed a budget that spends every bit of that, and then some, leaving the current budget out of balance.
 
State Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee, said Illinois doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.
 
“The talking point that we need new revenue is false and over 10 years we’ve double the amount of revenue we’ve collected, actually more than doubled the amount of revenue we’ve collected,” Skillicorn said. “It’s a spending problems. It’s a significant spending problem.”
 
Skillicorn and state Sen. Tom Cullerton are calling for spending caps.
 
Cullerton, D-Villa Park, said taxpayers want to see the state living within its means.
 
“So the goal is eventually to turn Illinois instead of being a state full of liabilities, [into] a state that has reserve funds [and] utilize that for better projects,” Cullerton said.
 
Both Cullerton and Skillicorn have constitutional amendments in their respective chambers that would cap the state’s spending the following year to the growth of the state’s economic output, measured by gross domestic product.

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Macomb City Council Meeting Agenda for Monday, March 5

Here is the full meeting agenda for the upcoming Macomb City Council meeting. 

 

AGENDA
MACOMB CITY COUNCIL
MONDAY, MARCH 5, 2018
MACOMB CITY HALL
5:15 P.M.
 
MEETING CALLED TO ORDER
PLEDGE
ROLL CALL 
 
CONSENT AGENDA
 
Minutes of the Macomb City Council meeting held on Tuesday, February 20, 2018 and Committee of the Whole meetings held on Monday, February 26, 2018.
 
Claims and Account
 
PUBLIC COMMENTS
 
UNFINISHED BUSINESS
 
Consideration of a resolution to rename and amend the established Downtown Façade Improvement Program of the City of Macomb, Illinois to the Downtown Renovation Grant Program.
A copy of the resolution is attached for your review. Final action will be in order.
 
Consideration to approve the updated Zoning Maps A and B.
This was discussed last Monday night and final action will be in order.
 
Other unfinished business.
 
NEW BUSINESS
 
Consideration of a resolution authorizing execution and amendment of Section 5311 Grant agreement.
A copy of the resolution is attached for your review. Final action will be in order.
 
Consideration of a resolution accepting the terms and conditions of the Special Warranty as part of the City’s application for Section 5311 financial assistance.
A copy of the resolution is attached for your review. Final action will be in order.
 
Consideration to approve the Federal Transit Administration FY19 Certifications and Assurances.
A copy is attached for your review. Final action will be in order.
 
Consideration to authorize the transfer of $30,000.00 from CDAP Fund to the Community Improvement Fund for the Blight Reduction Program.
Attached is a memo from CDC Heitner for your review. Final action will be in order.
 
Consideration for authorization to solicit bids for the 2018 Street Improvement Project.
Attached is a memo from PW Director Coker for your review. Final action will be in order.
Agenda
March 5, 2018
Page 2
 
NEW BUSINESS – Continued
 
 
Other new business.
 
COMMITTEE REPORTS
 
ALDERMANIC REPORTS
 
MAYORAL APPOINTMENTS
 
EXECUTIVE SESSION
 
a) Appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance or dismissal of an employee of the public body or legal counsel for the public body, pursuant to Sec. 2(c) (1) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
b) Collective Bargaining matters between the public body and its employees or 
representatives or deliberations concerning salary schedules for one or more classes of employees, pursuant to Sec. 2(c) (2) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
c) The purchase or lease of real property for the use of the public body, pursuant to Sec. 2(c) (5) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
d) The setting of a price for sale or lease of property owned by the public body, 
pursuant to Sec. 2(c) (6) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
e) Pending or probable litigation, pursuant to Sec. 2(c) (11) of the Open Meetings Act.
 
COUNCIL ADJOURNMENT 

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Drury, Biss double down on calls for Madigan to relinquish power after harassment revelations

Two Democratic lawmakers are doubling down on their call for House Speaker Mike Madigan’s ouster after this week’s revelations of allegations of wrongdoing by employees in his legislative office, but many others are standing by the speaker, who also serves as head of the Democratic Party of Illinois.
 
Madigan, D-Chicago, released a one-page document Tuesday summarizing an internal review of how his office handled nine cases of harassment and other misconduct by staffers in the past five years. The allegations included unwanted advances, intimidation, retaliation and manipulation. That came two weeks after Madigan’s political operation was rocked with similar complaints that resulted in the termination of two campaign operatives.
 
State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, said she has confidence in Madigan’s handling of the harassment scandal in not just his legislative office, but also the Democratic political operations.
 
“This is a learning process for all of us and I know that [Madigan] is committed to making things better,” Feigenholtz said.
 
State Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, who’s running to replace Madigan’s daughter as attorney general, said Madigan needs to go. He said those not willing to come out with strong criticism of Madigan will be on the wrong side of history.
 
“They're looking at the world as Madigan is always going to be the leader, and they can’t see what it would look like without him and so they’re taking his side,” Drury said.
 
“The public is right on this one. There's something really fishy, that doesn’t smell right going on here, and we need answers and as public officials who are elected by those constituents. They should be calling for the same thing I am,” Drury said. “Madigan, at a minimum, should step down as speaker of the House.”
 
Drury was the only Democrat in the House that didn’t vote for Madigan to be speaker in 2017. He said he’s experienced Madigan’s wrath for speaking out.
 
State Sen. Daniel Biss, who’s running for governor, was more blunt. He said the internal review shows Madigan’s actions are more akin to sweeping the problem under the rug rather than decisively solving the problem.
 
“Certainly I’ll say that the statement Speaker Madigan’s office put out about those nine examples did not increase my confidence in how he’s handling this issue,” Biss, D-Evanston, said.
 
Biss said Madigan should step down as party chair and that other Democrats will have to come to their own conclusion.
 
Madigan has dismissed calls for him to step down, calling it election-time fodder by the far-right and people running for higher office.
 
Hutchinson said she’s hopeful the sunshine on the issue of harassment and discrimination will light the path for other voices to come forward. She also said it’s important for her male colleagues to be part of the conversation.
 
“We need to have male allies,” Hutchinson said. “We need to have people that get the fact that you shouldn't be concerned about this just because you have a wife, a daughter or a sister, you should be concerned about this because we exist. And we’re 50 percent of the population, and we all have to work together.”
 
State Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, said it’s important to address the issue in a way that doesn’t scare others who’ve been wronged from coming forward.
 
“If we do a shoddy, slipshod, quick-fix job with this investigation, with these allegations, I think other potential victims who might be out there are going to feel like it’s not right to come forward, like they’re not going to get the results that they deserve,” he said.
 
Both the House and Senate have task forces investigating harassment and discrimination in public and private sectors.
 
The House task force presented a draft proposal this week that aims to strengthen harassment and discrimination protections in state and local governments.
 
“The General Assembly must develop well-reasoned policies for reporting, investigating, and taking action against those who violate the policies,” the working draft document said. “Any policy must (i) provide an opportunity for the person making the allegation to remain anonymous; (ii) recognize the importance of confidentiality for both the accuser and the accused during the complaint and investigation process; and (iii) provide due process to both parties.”
 
There’s also a panel of Democratic lawmakers Madigan picked to look into how to deal with allegations within political operations. That group put out a statement earlier this week saying “We will hire our own staff without input from the Democratic Party of Illinois.”

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Citizens March Community and Seniors Day features Colorectal Cancer Awareness and Anticoagulation

Citizens Bank will be hosting its monthly Community and Seniors Day today. The event will take place at 127 South Side Square and will go from 8:30 AM to 10:30 AM. This month's event features Colorectal Cancer Awareness and Anticoagulation. All services offered will be free.
 
Western Illinois Health Care and Heartland Health Care will be joining the event to offer regular monthly services such as blood sugar, blood pressure, pulse, and cholesterol readings. McDonough District Hospital will also be attending the event to offer a special service.
 
McDonough District Hospital will be on hand to focus on Colorectal Cancer Awareness and Anticoagulation. March is Colorectal Cancer Prevention Month. Colorectal cancer is one of the most common and preventative cancers. MDH Outreach Services educators will be passing out free hemoccult kits, which help prevent colorectal cancer. Those who attend Community and Seniors Day can also sign up for “Colon Health is Whole Health,” a class that takes place March 28 at MDH. 
 
For more information on this free event, listen to my interview about the event from Wednesday's K100 Morning Show. 
 
 

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