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Macomb Local News

Illinois is, once again, at the bottom of another list that ranks well run and poorly run states.

Illinois is, once again, near the bottom of another list that ranks well run and poorly run states, coming in at 43 in a report from 24/7 Wall Street.
By now, Illinois residents are used to these kind of headlines. 
The 24/7 Wall Street report focuses on Illinois' credit rating, which it says is the worst in the country for good reason. 
"Decades of budgetary mismanagement left the state unable to pay for many services and pension obligations," the report states. "Due to the state’s ongoing budget woes, Moody’s is threatening to further downgrade Illinois' rating. Such a move would make Illinois the first and only state with a junk credit rating."
State Rep. Dave McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, said taxpayers should blame the people in Springfield currently, and the ones who came before them, for the state's fiscal woes.
"The good news is that we have the best people, the best natural resources, and the best potential as a state," McSweeney said. "The bad news is that we have terrible politicians who create terrible policy."
The 24/7 Wall Street report ranks all of Illinois' neighbors higher. Michigan is the 16th best run state. The report grades states on jobs, credit rating, pension debt, and poverty levels.
McSweeney said those measurements ignore Illinois' other glaring weakness. 
"Taxes are the big problem here in Illinois," McSweeney said. "Not just the income tax increase. But property taxes and sales taxes. We have one of the highest tax burdens in the country when you combine everything together."
Illinois' property taxes have been ranking amongst the highest in the nation, something that could put Illinois lower than 43rd, were it considered in the report.
Only states with crushing poverty, and New Jersey because of its worst in the nation pension system, are ranked lower than Illinois in the new report. 


Mayor Inman announces Christmas Lighting Competition winners

Macomb Mayor Mike Inman has announced the winners of this year's Christmas Lighting Contest. The City of Macomb awarded a total of $225 in Chamber of Commerce Gift Certificates for 1st, 2nd & 3rd place prizes as follows:


1st Place – Curtis & Christine Farr at 625 Compton Parkway
2nd Place – Scott & Christine Edwards at 912 E. Oak
3rd Place – George & Ruth Ann Hartmann at 1915 W. Adams
The family of Marilyn Joyce Lock collaborated with the City of Macomb for the third straight year in sponsoring this contest. In memory of Marilyn, who passed away in 2015, the Locke family awarded a Grand Prize of $250 in Chamber of Commerce Gift Certificates to Tom and Donna Quick of 1342 Carolbeth Avenue.
Monte & Gina Colley of 269 Jana Road received Honorable Mention for their electronic Christmas lighting display. Honorable Mention in the business category went to Grand Prairie Assisted Living.


AG says Illinois taxpayers to begin paying for elective abortions Jan. 1

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office says it will argue that the state will begin implementing a new law after the first of the year that allows the use of tax dollars to pay for elective abortions for those on state employee health insurance and eligible Medicaid recipients.
The state arguing the effective date of House Bill 40 is Jan. 1 means plaintiffs in a lawsuit to block the measure will have to file expedited briefs leading up to a scheduled Dec. 28 hearing in Springfield.
Thomas More Society Special Counsel and state Rep. Peter Breen, R-Lombard, said last week “if we’re going to have an immediate enforcement, you will also see proceedings for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction coming from our side.”
The Attorney General’s Office indicated last week it will file a motion to dismiss the case.
One of the arguments that plaintiffs are making is that the legislative process was abused.
HB40 passed before the May 31 deadline for simple majorities, but was held from Gov. Bruce Rauner for more than four months. Democratic statehouse leaders also held Senate Bill 1, the school funding reform measure, from the governor for more than two months after it passed both chambers.
Rauner vetoed the school funding measure but lawmakers came together to pass a separate measure with bipartisan support.
Bucking his Republican base and going back on his earlier promises to veto the taxpayer-funded abortion legislation, Rauner signed HB40 this summer.
In response to questions about SB1’s delayed transmission, the attorney general earlier this year issued an opinion saying final legislative action is when the votes are taken, not when the bill is sent to the governor.
Breen said this is different.
“SB1 was going to need a supermajority of the legislature to go into effect, to override the governor's veto,” Breen said. “Here you’ve got bare majorities, and in the state Constitution a supermajority of the legislature can give a short effective date even after May 31st. So, from a technical perspective, we’re in a slightly different procedural posture.”
Regardless, Breen said there’s no money for taxpayer-funded abortions anyway.
“We’re $1.7 billion out of balance with the budget even as it passed and that’s before the extra money that would be added by HB40,” he said.
Breen estimates the taxpayer costs will be $15 million to $30 million dollars a year.
Both sides are scheduled to argue the case Dec. 28 in Springfield.


Illinois jobs' outlook good in 2018, but worse than all its Midwest neighbors

Illinois’ employers are looking to hire more next spring, just less than any other state in the Midwest.
Staffing agency Manpower interviews thousands of employers about their intentions to hire, fire or stand pat with their current workforce. In the first quarter of 2018, Illinois has an employment outlook of 13 percent, which Manpower calls promising. It is, compared to last year’s first quarter. But, all of Illinois’ neighbors have better outlooks.
Manpower finds their net employment outlook by taking the percentage of employers anticipating an increase in hiring activity and subtracting the percentage of employers expecting a decrease in hiring activity.
“Illinois is not growing at the same rate, especially for entry-level positions,” Manpower regional vice president Anne Edmunds said.
The vast majority of new jobs in Illinois are along the I-55 corridor in the Southwest Chicago suburbs, Edmunds said. In fact, Manpower is having trouble getting the skilled workers to go to them.
“In that area, we don’t have enough people to fill these jobs,” Edmunds said. “The shame of it all is that these professions pay between $70,000 and $100,000 a year for a good skilled trade.”
Illinois’ unemployment rate is still higher than the national average.
While the Chicago area is where much of the employment growth is in Illinois, Edmunds said it should be outperforming smaller cities with similar sectors.
“We should be comparable to Charlotte, North Carolina, because the banking and service industries are very similar,” she said. “Charlotte is growing faster.”
Manpower has a number of programs and partnerships for their customers to get the skills Edmonds says employers like those in the Chicago suburbs want.


Open Enrollment ends Friday, December 15th

The Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI) is reminding consumers that the 2018 Open Enrollment Period ends Friday, December 15, 2017. All Illinoisans needing health insurance coverage for 2018 must enroll by 11pm on Friday, December 15, 2017.
In past years, consumers had time to change plans in January after receiving their first premium bill.  With a shortened Enrollment Period ending December 15th, this is no longer an option, making it important to select the right plan the first time.
“We do not recommend passively re-enrolling because prices and plans change every year. Cost should not be the only factor in choosing a plan. For example, consumers should be sure to look at a plan’s provider network and coverage,” Hammer said.
This year, DOI partnered with GoHealth to improve the shopping experience for Illinoisans looking to purchase a 2018 health insurance coverage. Consumers who visit GetCovered.Illinois.Gov are now able to view individual plans offered both on and off the Exchange. Using the Connector tool on the website, consumers can arrange appointments with navigators and certified application counselors.
Consumers who have questions, or who are looking to sign up for a plan over the phone, may request to speak to a licensed insurance agent by calling 866-311-1119 Monday through Friday, from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Director Hammer implemented a statewide consumer outreach initiative, with at least one event in each of Illinois’ 102 counties, where consumers can meet one-on-one with a member of the Get Covered staff to ask questions and receive assistance.
“Illinois is a large state and our goal was to reach all parts of it. We wanted to sit down with people faceto-face in a place that is convenient for them,” Director Hammer said.
DOI has also been promoting the importance of the shortened Enrollment Period through social media, radio, and a campaign on Chicago’s transit system.
“It is our job at the Department of Insurance to protect consumers. Accidents and illnesses can happen at any time, and we are helping consumers protect themselves with health insurance before it’s too late,” said Director Hammer.


Closure of Du-Pont Good Hope Hi-Bred Facility coming second quarter of 2018

Per a McDonough County Voice report, Dupont Pioneer will “close and relocate some of the capabilities,” at its Good Hope Hi-Bred International facility in the second quarter of 2018. 


The following statement was released to The Voice by Gregg Schmidt with DuPont Corporate Communications: “Creating a strong independent agriculture company requires that we integrate our operations and establish a streamlined, efficient organization aligned with our strategic objectives. As part of this, we must establish an integrated, industry leading production organization with combined assets and capabilities optimized to deliver the innovative solutions our customers need.”


Schmidt added: “This includes addressing duplicative sites and facilities and relocating certain capabilities. It has been determined that we will close and relocate some of the capabilities at the Good Hope site. Through the integration process, our goal is to establish the strongest foundation possible for the intended agriculture company to drive sustainable growth over the long term.“


Schmidt did not provide information as to specifically when in the second quarter of 2018 the closure is expected to take place, nor did he provide details on the number of positions that will be impacted by this move. He mentioned that employees at the site are eligible to apply for open positions across the company.


With mid-year tax hike, Illinoisans will pay an average 4.35 percent in state taxes on 2017 income

Even though Illinois lawmakers passed a tax hike in July that raised the state income tax to just under five percent, that’s not what residents will see charged to them on their tax returns.
Since Illinois lawmakers overrode Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto in July, the tax rate has been 4.95 percent for individuals, trusts and estates and seven percent for corporations. But the six months that Illinoisans worked before the hike should see more of that income go into their pockets.
The Illinois Department of Revenue fixed this by averaging it out.
“The blended rate is based on the number of days under the former rate and the number of days under the new rate,” spokesman Terry Horstman said.
That means taxpayers are effectively paying 4.35 percent of their 2017 income to state coffers. Horstman says businesses that file using a different fiscal year have to either split the number of days in each tax bracket and pay accordingly or go through the long process of itemizing their income. Horstman suggests blending.
“It’s the more simple of the two methods and doesn’t require taxpayers to attach any additional schedules to their return,” he said.
Taxpayers are expected to send more than $5 billion in additional money to Springfield in 2017 income due to the tax hikes.
For more on the change, visit tax.illinois.gov.


Spoon River College Surpasses Goal, Reaches $19,000 on #GivingSpoonDay

Spoon River College raised over $19,000 in a 24 hour period on what was deemed #GivingSpoonDay. This was the most amount of money raised by the college in the three years of the campaign. The college received over 265 seperate gifts on November 28, as the event was part of the larger Giving Tuesday movement to create a worldwide day of giving. 


“We really challenged our friends and our volunteers with this year’s goal,” said Colin Davis, SRC Foundation Director. “To surpass what we knew was a lofty goal is a wonderful testament not only to SRC, but to the communities in which our institution operates.  Time after time, we ask our friends to step up to the plate, and time after time, they deliver.”
The primary usage of these donations will be toward scholorships and financial aid for students. Through scholarships, community programs, student activities and facilities support, the SRC Foundation provides nearly $250,000 each year to SRC and its students.
Spoon River College began the #GivingSpoonDay campaign in 2015, raising $8,200 that year. In 2016, that figure increased to $15,000. 
With the annual growth of this event, Davis hopes this exposes more people to Spoon River College. 
“In addition to helping our students in any way possible, the idea of #GivingSPOONday is to reach as many people as possible and spread the mission of the SRC Foundation and help introduce, or re-introduce, people to Spoon River College,” said Davis.  “As #GivingSPOONday is primarily conducted through email, social media, friend-to-friend and other online marketing, it’s likely that over 25,000 people learned something about SRC and the SRC Foundation, and that’s a huge win, too.”
To learn more about the SRC Foundation, visit http://www.src.edu/foundation or call (309) 649-6260.


Illinois is not escaping the flu outbreak that has swept across parts of the country

Illinois is not escaping the flu outbreak that has swept across parts of the country. 
The Illinois Department of Public Health does not track flu cases, just the number of people who are hospitalized. 
So it's up to local public health departments to paint the picture of Illinois' early flu season, and the picture isn't pretty. 
Litchfield schools, in Montgomery County, canceled classes last week because so many students and teachers were out sick. 
Montgomery County Public Health Administrator Hugh Satterlee said that Litchfield's flu outbreak was the worst in the county and one of the worst in the state. 
"They had triple digits of kids out sick and being sent home from school," Satterlee said. "Things were even more difficult because they had staff that was out."
Hillsboro and a handful of other south-central Illinois schools have also seen high numbers of absences due to the flu. 
Satterlee said he's seen a slight uptick in the number of people looking for flu shots. For some people, it's a good thing. They kick-in after two weeks, according to Satterlee, but won't help you much if you're sick already.
The CDC last week said that flu season across the country looks to be early and severe. 


Illinois sustainable technology center looks statewide for businesses in wood heating study

Throughout the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) at the University of Illinois businesses have the opportunity to apply for a free engineering study regarding the potential cost savings of using low-value wood residues as heat. 
The ISTC has already helped six greenhouse operations gain insight into the costs of converting to wood heat. Now that study is being expanded to all businesses statewide. 
Illinois businesses have until December 31, 2017 to sign up for this offer. The ISTC is concluding a two-year wood fuel study, which is made possible through a $249,328 matching grant from the U.S. Forest Service.
Businesses selected will receive assistance with project scoping, engineering and financial analysis. You can read the full press release about this offer here
Interested businesses should contact Sriraam Chandrasekaran, lead research engineer of the ISTC, at (217) 300-1477 or schandr@illinois.edu.


Illinois lawmaker has low expectations for law tracking food deserts

One Illinois lawmaker has low expectations for a new law tracking so-called “food deserts” in the state.
Under the legislation, the Illinois Department of Public Health now must file an annual report to the General Assembly on the location of communities that supposedly lack access to fresh food, along with information on any health issues associated with “food deserts”.
State Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, questions the need for the new report to lawmakers, as the information already is available elsewhere.
“It’s just another layer of feel-good legislation that’s going to do a report that I can already find on the internet,” Batinick said. “The federal government already tracks this. There’s a website, you can go all the way down to the census tract, and you can see what areas are considered a food desert.”
Batinick also takes issue with how a “food desert” is defined.
“The way the federal government defines a food desert is if more than 500 people in a census tract are more than one mile from a major grocery store, then it’s a food desert,” Batinick said. “So most of my life I supposedly lived in a food desert, and I can tell you I never had trouble finding a banana.”
Supporters hope the information will raise awareness and potentially lead to increased access to healthy food across the state. However, multiple studies have shown access to major grocery stores and healthier eating are not necessarily correlated. That includes a 2011 study that used 15 years’ worth of data from more than 5,000 people in five cities.
Batinick also argues this law will result in extra work for someone in state government, with no guarantee anything ever will come of it.
“Seems like a lot in Springfield is done for the headline, but not for the follow through,” Batinick said. “I’m on the audit commission and I can tell you, it seems like we ask for a lot of reports and then we have a committee meeting about it where half the people don’t show up, we don’t really talk about it, and nothing ever comes of it. If we’re going to do these reports … it just seems to me we should always be following through and doing something with the data we collect.”
A spokesperson for Illinois Department of Public Health says no additional staff will be needed to compile the annual report, as they’ll simply use the federal data already found online.


As release of 2017 numbers approaches, will Illinois continue to lead the nation in population decline?

Twelve thousand more people left Illinois than arrived in 2014. That net loss of population doubled to 28,000 in 2015. Last year, the state shrunk by the equivalent of the residents of Pekin, at about 37,000. 
That's a bad sign, particularly for a state in such a fiscal quagmire as Illinois is.
“When you’re staring at a lot of fixed costs like Illinois has, and you’re starting to shrink in terms of the tax base, that’s not a positive thing,” said Aaron Renn, senior fellow at the nonprofit Manhattan Institute.
Illinois has more than $200 billion in unfunded pension and health care liabilities for current and future state retirees. The loss of population not only puts more of a burden on the taxpayers that have decided to stay, Renn said, but it is a major red flag for businesses looking to expand – no workers, no output.
“The most important thing in any corporate location decision is labor force,” he said.
While some Illinoisans leave the state for better weather or often chasing employment, a poll by the Paul Simon Institute at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale showed the primary reason for residents wanting an out-of-state zip code is high taxes here.
The coming Census release will be the first population count since the state’s budget impasse ended and the latest income tax hike took place in July. Lawmakers overrode Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto to pass a budget containing personal income tax increase to nearly five percent. While the new data will reflect population figures from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, before the tax increase went into effect, further population erosion doesn't bode well for those still in Illinois.
Renn said the most troubling aspect is that so many working-age people are leaving Illinois, “which means that a lot of the problems that the state has will be difficult to overcome through growth.”
IRS data released earlier this month showed 86,000 income taxpayers left the state in 2015 to other states.
While Illinois is leading the nation in population decline, Renn said many Rust Belt states have seen outmigration issues and trouble attracting new industries.
In many cases, he said, governments are forced to restructure their fixed costs to better reflect the realities of their smaller tax base.
“One of the things that we have seen in other places is debt restructuring or a form of bankruptcy,” he said. “Detroit still has a lot of problems but things seem to be looking up there.”
The Census data will be made public on Dec. 20.


Macomb Public Library District and Eagle View Community Health Systems to receive state funds

State Sen. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) of the 47th district, announced that Gov. Bruce Rauner has ordered the release of grant funds for two local capital programs. Eagle View Community Health Systems located in Stronghurst and Oquawka, and the Macomb Public Library District, will receive state funds for the first time since the 15 fiscal year.
Per Senate Republican Staff Press Secretary Mae Fitzpatrick Tracy said, “Both of these organizations are pillars of the community that are open to the public and important to the entire region, but they also play a particularly important role for low-income residents and some of our most vulnerable citizens.” 
Tracy also added, “Eagle View provides services to all individuals regardless of their ability to pay and offers a safe space for those who need health care. The Macomb Public Library District has brought the community together since 1882, providing free educational and recreational services to everyone. I’m thankful Governor Rauner has signed off on these grants so they can resume building and we can keep these essential organizations thriving in our district.”
Eagle View Community Health Systems, located in Stronghurst and Oquawka, has a grant total of $52,345, and its paid-to-date amount was $10,469. With funding focused on Eagle View resuming its construction and improving operations, the organization will receive the remaining $41,876 from the Illinois Capital Development Board (ICDB). The Macomb Public Library District is currently owed $238,207.50 in grant funds for its construction and development from ICDB, which is also due to be paid immediately.
“By providing financial resources to the Macomb Public Library District, we can help inspire the next generation of readers. Through investment in Eagle View Community Health Systems, we can increase access to health care in an underserved area. The people of Western Illinois will really benefit from these capital projects,” said Governor Bruce Rauner.
“The release of this much-needed funding is great news for local families and communities,” said State Rep. Randy Frese (R-Paloma). “The services provided by Eagle View Community Health Systems and the Macomb Public Libraries are essential to our well-being and our quality of life in West-Central Illinois.”
The ICDB has currently been approved to fund over 20 capital projects for Fiscal Year 18.  


State Rep.: Bitcoin and blockchain here to stay as Illinois leads the way

With the soaring price of digital currency Bitcoin, and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group set to launch futures beginning Dec. 17, one state representative says the technology is here to stay.
Bitcoin broke $16,000 per coin Thursday. That’s more than triple what it was just three months ago. Back in 2010, Bitcoin prices were around $30.
CME Group said on its website the value “of a bitcoin has increased exponentially this year ... as investors clamor to join the cryptocurrency stampede.”
“CME Group plans to launch Bitcoin futures on Dec 18, offering investors a secure and regulated platform to trade the virtual currency,” the derivatives marketplace said.
There will never be more than 21 million Bitcoins, unlike paper money and central banks that can print more dollars or add assets on spreadsheets. Blockchain.info puts the current amount of Bitcoin in circulation at more than 16.7 million as of Dec. 5.
Erik Norland, executive director and senior economist of CME Group, wrote in a blog post to the group’s website, “[t]his feature makes supply almost perfectly inelastic.”
“Bitcoin’s limited and highly inelastic supply is also a major factor driving its price,” Norland wrote.” But he said rising transaction costs could cause a crash.
Illinois state Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, is part of the Illinois Legislative Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Task Force. The blockchain is the decentralized, secure yet transparent digital ledger behind the digital currency Bitcoin. He said while some think the decentralized currency is a gimmick, it’s here to stay.
“I’m skeptical there’s a bubble and I’m skeptical it’s going to burst,” Zalewski said. “Anything’s possible. Just based on the testimony we’ve received, the agency input, I’m very skeptical this is going to go away anytime soon.”
Zalewski said Bitcoin and the blockchain is transforming monetary policy at the federal and state level.
“It’s just another piece of the evolution of Bitcoin and the blockchain into the mainstream of our markets, our economic activity and our commerce,” he said.
Zalewski said Illinois is embracing the technology, unlike other states.
“New York took a very harsh regulatory stand on Bitcoin and blockchain and it opened opportunity for Illinois to step into a vacuum,” Zalewski said, “and we’re taking advantage of that right now, and I hope it will continue.”
Zalewski said the blockchain isn’t just for digital currencies like Bitcoin. It can also be used for consumers to have better control over things like medical or other vital records without having to rely on centralized databases.
“Imagine having your health records on the blockchain,” Zalewski said. “You control who gets them. You control to what level they’re disposed to other providers and on a real anecdotal level you don’t have to go to the office to get your transcripts delivered from one doctor to another, you just give them a thumb drive [with an encrypted key] and say ‘here it is.’”
Zalewski expects a legislative report from the blockchain task force in the next month or two.


Political reformer: Interesting only Democrats want campaign contribution clarification

One of Illinois' leading political reformers says it's interesting that only Democrats in the state are asking for a clarification about rules surrounding campaign contributions and quid pro quo concerns.
The laundry list of Illinois politicos and former politicos who are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to clarify the rules as to when a request for a campaign contribution becomes essentially a request for a payoff are all Democrats.
They filed a request with the high court to clarify the quid-pro-quo ruling that has former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich sitting in federal prison.
Sarah Brune, executive director at the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, wondered out loud Wednesday if it is because of the link between Democrats in Illinois and the public sector unions who contribute to them.
"Certainly, unions have constituted a large part of the funding stream for Illinois Democrats," Brune said. "[For] Democrats running federal races, unions constitute a less significant part of their funding than Democrats running in state races. But that's a minor point."
Brune said there is danger for both parties in getting too close to donors and a quid pro quo allegation. 
"It's definitely the case that Democrats take money from a union source, and then it can be seen as quid pro quo for certain legislation that is favorable to that union source," Brune said. "But the same thing can happen on the Republican side. If there are business donors, or wealthy donors and the Republicans are seen as sending state contracts there way."
In 2014, the last governor's race in Illinois, eight of the top 10 donors to former Gov. Pat Quinn were unions. That same year, all but one of the top 10 donors to Gov. Bruce Rauner were wealthy individuals.
The Democrats who are asking the court for clarification say they're not taking a position on the former governor, they just want guidance going forward. 


IDOT Annual Traveler Opinion Survey Available

How satisfied are you with our states public transportation Services? The Illinois Department of Transportation wants your feedback through its Annual Illinois Traveler Opinion Survey. The survey will help the department make proper improvements for a better transportation experience. IDOT wants to extend community feedback, so for the first time ever, they decided to make the survey available online. The survey starts today through Dec. 31. To take the survey visit www.idot.illinois.gov.


Macomb Armed Robbery Under Investigation

The Macomb Police Department is investigating an alleged armed robbery of a pizza delivery driver.


Macomb Police Depertment Lieutenant Lindsey May told KHQA this morning that the alleged robbery took place Tuesday night in the 500 block of West Orchard Street. Lt. May says the driver was met by two men, one of which was carrying a pistol, when he returned to his car after making a delivery. 


The driver described the alleged robbers as two African-American men, which were 6'2 and 5'5 respectively. The driver could not provide a description of their clothing, as it was too dark to see. The men left with an undisclosed amount of money.


If you have any information regarding the alleged crime, contact the Macomb Area Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or online




Illinois EPA Announces Annual Environmental Education Competition for Fifth & Sixth Grade Students

Fifth and sixth grade writers and artists from around Illinois are invited to compete in this year’s Poster, Poetry and Prose Contest sponsored by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA). This year’s contest theme is Illinois is Celebrating 200 Years! How Can You Be an Environmental Pioneer? focusing on helping to preserve and protect our air, land and water for the next 200 years in honor of Illinois’s bicentennial. Educators are asked to introduce historic environmental problems and how Illinois laws and citizen actions have helped make a healthier environment. Students are challenged to answer the question, “What would a modern environmental pioneer do to ensure Illinois has a sustainable future?”.
Each school can enter up to eight works, four posters and four written. Entries must be postmarked and sent in to the Illinois EPA by February 1, 2018. An in house panel from the Illinois EPA will judge all entries to select the finalists, whose entries are then judged by an outside panel of authorities to determine the top twelve winners. The top winning entries will be on exhibit in the atrium of the Illinois EPA’s headquarters building in Springfield from April 23 through May 21, and the top winners will be featured on the Illinois EPA’s homepage.
All finalists, together with their families and teachers, are invited to an awards ceremony and reception that will be held on April 21, 2018 at the Old State Capitol Historic Site in Springfield. After the awards ceremony, participants are invited to attend the City of Springfield’s Earth Awareness Fair on the Old State Capitol’s lawn.


Next date scheduled in lawsuit attempting to block taxpayer funded abortions

The next date has been set for Dec. 28 in the case pro life groups have brought against the state of Illinois, but it all depends on when the state plans to implement taxpayer-funding for elective abortions next year.
Gov. Bruce Rauner signed House Bill 40 in September saying no women should be denied the operation based of their ability to pay. The measure would pay for abortions for those on state employee health insurance and eligible Medicaid recipients.
The Thomas More Society and others, including the Catholic Archdiocese of Springfield, sued the state in Sangamon County Circuit Court to try and block a law from going into effect at the beginning of the year. Several statehouse Republicans also joined the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, objecting to taxpayer funding of abortions.
State Rep. Peter Breen, R-Lombard, who is also special counsel for the Thomas More Society, said following Wednesday’s scheduling hearing  that the next step depends on if the state plans to implement the law beginning Jan. 1.
“If the director of [Healthcare and Family Services] wants to be the grinch that ruins Christmas, then we will come in on [Dec.] 28th and we will argue because we’ve got to get in before Jan. 1, as we see it, to try and prevent public monies from being spent,” Breen said.
The state said it plans a motion to dismiss but was given 10 days to answer whether it plans to implement the law by Jan. 1.
Breen said one of their arguments is the legislative process was abused in passing the bill.
“We’re supposed to get our work done by May 31,” Breen said. “Work was not done on HB40 until September.”
Democrats passed the bill out of both chambers with simple majorities by May 10, but a motion to reconsider held the bill from being passed to the governor until Sept. 25. Rauner signed the bill Sept. 28.
Breen also said there’s no money for it anyway.
“Do you want to defund your universities to pay for elective abortions?” Breen asked. “Are we going to take money out of the mouths of poor children in order to pay for elective abortions? That’s the issue here. There’s no money for these procedures.”
Breen said the taxpayer cost could be between $15 million to $30 million, something he said the state can’t afford with a projected deficit of more than $1.5 billion if not more.
The next hearing date in the case is scheduled Dec. 28 at 1:30 in Springfield.


Governor, safety leaders launch safe-driving campaign

Gov. Bruce Rauner is teaming up with Illinois safety leaders to drive home the importance of the state’s Move Over law.
To launch the new “Give Them Distance” campaign, the governor gathered today with leaders from the Illinois Tollway, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Illinois State Police, AAA, the Mid-West Truckers Association and Secretary of State Jesse White’s office. The campaign launch took place at the O’Hare Oasis in Schiller Park.
“Awareness of this common-sense law is so important to our first-responders — and to anyone who has to pull off the side of the road to fix a flat or deal with engine trouble,” Rauner said. “Too many lives are being lost on our roadways. We want to make sure drivers know to slow down and move over for vehicles with flashing lights.”
The state’s Move Over Law, also known as Scott’s Law, was first enacted in 2002 after Lt. Scott Gillen of the Chicago Fire Department was struck and killed by an intoxicated driver on the Dan Ryan Expressway while assisting at a crash scene in December 2000. It requires motorists approaching stopped emergency vehicles with lights flashing to slow down and move over, changing lanes if possible to make extra room.
While most Illinois motorists are aware of the law as it pertains to emergency vehicles, many might not know that it was expanded in January 2017 to include any vehicle with hazard lights flashing.
Drivers who fail to comply face serious penalties, including a fine of up to $10,000, two-year suspension of driving privileges and possible jail time.
“Making the roads of Illinois the safest ever is one of my top priorities, and the Move Over law helps us to do that,” said Secretary of State Jesse White. “Every day, emergency personnel are working to serve and protect us. We need to do our part to help keep them safe by yielding the right-of-way to all emergency vehicles and taking precautionary measures for disabled vehicles.
“We don’t want drivers to be involved in crashes because they weren’t paying attention to emergency responders.”
"Within the last five years, two Illinois State Police troopers were killed in the line of duty and several others injured when motorists failed to move over for emergency vehicles,” said ISP Director Leo Schmitz. “These tragedies and countless others across the nation could have been prevented if drivers remained alert and simply followed the laws designed to keep them and other motorists safe."
“The Move Over law reinforces basic, common-sense rules you should always practice when encountering any vehicle on the side of the road anywhere,” agreed Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn. “Slow down, proceed with caution and change lanes if you can.”
Illinois Tollway Board Chairman Bob Schillerstrom said he hopes motorists take heed.
“We’re calling on other leaders, communities and drivers throughout Illinois to join us and spread the word,” he said.
Illinois was home to 1,073 traffic fatalities in 2016, the first time the state topped 1,000 since 2008, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. The number of fatalities stood at 1,015 through Tuesday, Dec. 5, of this year, according to provisional IDOT data.
Drivers are encouraged to visit www.GiveThemDistance.com for more information on this safe-driving initiative.


Macomb Area Chamber of Commerce celebrates Amtrak Station renovations with ribbon cutting

The Ambassador Committee of the Macomb Area Chamber of Commerce, the City of Macomb and Amtrak officials celebrated the recent renovations at the Macomb Amtrak Depot (120 E. Calhoun St.) with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, December 5. 


The renovations included ADA accessibility. The upgrades consisted of a new exterior ramp, interior and exterior door modifications, and a remodeling of the bathrooms and seating area inside the station. The project was completed by local firms McClure Engineering and Laverdiere Construction. 


Macomb was chosen as the pilot program for many federally-funded Amtrak renovation projects to be done across the United States.


“We were happy to be chosen by Amtrak to be part of this pilot project,” said Mayor Mike Inman. “We believe the local approach taken with this project, saved tax payer dollars,” Inman added. 


For more information, visit the City of Macomb website.


(Center: Mayor Mike Inman cuts the ribbon, ushering in the completion of the Macomb Amtrak renovations)



Questions arise over how tax reform will affect home values

The housing industry is warning that federal tax reform legislation will mean big home value losses across the country, but others say the tax cuts and growing economy will make up for it.
The National Association of Realtors is pushing Congress to reconsider some of the changes in its tax reform packages that recently passed. They say removing the mortgage interest deduction as well as other subsidies for homeowners will result in the average house losing $22,000 to $34,000 in home value.
The proposed GOP tax overhaul would remove the mortgage interest deductions for any home worth more than $500,000, as well as cap the property tax deduction at $10,000, meaning residents of states with high property taxes like Illinois would pay more to the federal government on April 15 because many wouldn't be able to deduct all of their local tax bill.
Of the 6.1 million Illinois tax returns filed with the IRS in 2015, 1.4 million deducted mortgage interest and 1.7 million deducted property taxes. The NAR estimates that the average Illinois homeowner deducts $7,700 in mortgage interest and $6,750 in property taxes, well under the proposed $10,000 cap.
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Belleville, said last week that 78 percent of his southern Illinois district uses the standard deduction, thus having no need for itemized exemptions.
The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that $39 billion in property taxes will be written off of federal returns in 2017.
Chris Edwards, editor of downsizinggovernment.org, said the extra money in Illinoisans’ wallets from a higher standard deduction and economic growth will give that lost home value back over time.
“Middle and upper-middle income households are going to get tax cuts out of this bill,” he said. “That’s the most important aspect.”
Edward Pinto, co-director of the American Enterprise Institute’s International Center on Housing Risk, said removing the subsidies for expensive homes will put more affordable homes on the market and even more money in Illinoisans’ wallets since they're more inclined to buy lower-priced homes.
But Pinto said the bigger pinch will be felt on the state and local governments like Illinois that have been reliant on these tax carve-outs to subsidize their high cost of government.
“Illinois has been able to benefit from a large number of federal tax deductions, three of which are being constricted,” he said. “This should be a wake-up call for Illinois.”
Both Pinto and Edwards point out that the percentage of homeownership is nearly the same as it was decades ago, leading one to believe that the tax deductions haven’t had the effect that realtors say.


Bloomington Republican State Senator: Illinois should legalize marijuana

Add a Republican senator from central Illinois to the growing list of Illinois lawmakers who say the state should legalize recreational marijuana. 
State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, says he is ready to support legal, recreational marijuana if the law is written correctly. 
"I think fiscal conservatives need to be in this debate," Barickman said Tuesday. "It is inevitable that this is going to happen. Our opportunity is either to sit on the sidelines and watch how it happens, and not influence the outcome or put ourselves at the negotiating table."
Barickman says that way he can try and shape how a legal, recreational marijuana program will work. And he can shape how the hundreds of millions of dollars that Illinois could see in new taxes is spent. 
"I would like to see these revenues pay down our backlog of bills, our debt, our pension liabilities," Barickman said. "I'd like to see us move our income tax rates."
Industry experts say legal, recreational marijuana in Illinois could be worth as much as $700 million a year. 
Barickman said he's ready to vote yes for legal marijuana, but not to co-sponsor the plan.  He expects other Republicans to also endorse marijuana, and he hopes Gov. Bruce Rauner changes his mind. 
Barickman said marijuana supporters are modifying the existing legalization legislation. He hopes to see a new plan in February of 2018. 
Lawmakers could vote next year, but many speculate that a vote won't occur until after the November 2018 gubernatorial election. 


Governor Rauner launches 24/7 helpline to combat opioid epidemic

Americas’s opioid crises reaches an all time high. Governor Bruce Rauner, announced today that there will now be a statewide helpline service that will be available to all suffering addicts. The helpline will be available 24 hours a day, every day of the week. Their goal is to provide a confidential outlet where users, and others affected by the crisis can talk out problems and seek help finding local treatment facilities.


This program is funded by federal grant dollars from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. If you or someone you know is experiencing opioid use disorder, call 1-833-2FINDHELP.


Illinois lawmaker proposes undergrads can fill state-wide substitute teaching vacancies

With much of Illinois facing a substitute teacher shortage, a state lawmaker wants to give college students a chance to get into classrooms sooner.
According to the state Board of Education, one in four teachers in Illinois missed more than 10 days of class last year. With the pool of substitute teachers to fill their spots continually getting thinner, a bill filed by state Rep. Lindsay Parkhurst, R-Kankakee, would allow education undergraduates to fill that position.
“They’re already in the field so it’s not like we would be decreasing the standard for substitute teachers,” Parkhurst said.
Students would need to have accumulated 90 college credit hours before they could step foot into the classroom. Currently, Illinois requires a substitute to have at least a bachelor's degree. The change would not only help the districts scrambling for substitutes, but it would give these undergraduates the opportunity to be paid for further in-classroom experience, and even make inroads with a desired district.
Parkhurst said the state’s regulations are making the shortage worse.
“There’s a lot of regulations for testing and certification,” she said. “It’s affecting schools, teachers and students.”
The legislation is modeled after Michigan’s recent changes to its standards for substitute teachers.
Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill into law this year that would lighten the burden of potential substitute teachers in Illinois. The law reduced the licensing fee by $50, removes an additional written skills test, and allows teachers that have received their licenses elsewhere to be further considered.


Opioid Overdose Awareness, Education and Prevention Course comes to Macomb

The City of Macomb, McDonough County Health Department and Human Services Center are holding an Opioiod Overdose Awareness, Education and Prevention Course on Thursday December 14. The event will run from 6:30-8:00 p.m. inside Macomb City Hall. The course is free and includes Naloxone (Narcan) training. 




Illinois Bicentennial Exhibition to Open February at Peoria Riverfront Museum

Peoria Riverfront Museum announces the opening of a major exhibition on the Illinois Bicentennial next February 3. The exhibition, “Celebrate Illinois: 200 Years in the Land of Lincoln,” Feb. 3 through June 3,  will feature more than 100 Illinois artifacts, such as the cufflink that President Abraham Lincoln wore the night he was assassinated and other statewide and Central Illinois items.
For the past few months museum curators have been gathering Illinois objects and their stories, working closely with the National Park Service and Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which loaned the cufflink, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Illinois State Museum, and Knox College archives and Galesburg Colony Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
The museum recently became an official partner with the Illinois Bicentennial Commission, “Illinois 200,” and is the first museum to be an affiliate, as well as to host a major bicentennial exhibition.
"The Peoria Riverfront Museum is proud to be the first in Illinois to comprehensively celebrate the bicentennial with a spotlight on amazing Illinois personalities and objects that tell stories,” said John D. Morris, “our history curator, Lottie Phillips, has diligently worked for many months to gather the incredible array of objects that offer inspiration for the people of Illinois today."
Earlier this fall, the museum installed the 31-ft. bronze Lincoln sculpture, “Return Visit,” facing the Illinois River, with the assistance of local businesses and individuals, to usher in the Illinois Bicentennial. The sculpture is on loan from the Seward Johnson Foundation through October.


In the decade since the U.S. plunged into a recession, Illinoisans are making little more than they did back then

In the decade since the U.S. plunged into a recession, Illinoisans are making little more now than they did then.
In ten years since December 2007, Illinois and Nevada have seen the lowest wage growth in the nation, based on data through June of this year. Illinoisans’ wage growth was 0.6 percent in the second quarter of this year, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. But since June, Nevada has seen major growth, likely putting it just ahead of Illinois since the recession began.
State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, says the stagnant wages are a symptom of low business investment in the state. Businesses that are seeking to expand, he said, are often doing so in other states.
“These job creators want to expand, hire more and buy more equipment. That’s why they’re in business,” he said. “They don’t want to expand elsewhere, but they have no choice.”
He says Illinois households have seen their monthly bills rise steadily over the past decade – higher income taxes and healthcare costs associated with the Affordable Care Act, especially.
“Premiums have skyrocketed in cost,” he said. “That’s made worse by the fact that we raised state and local taxes.”
Syverson warned that, if the state doesn’t take steps to make Illinois more competitive for business, Illinoisans’ paychecks will continue to be stagnant.
According to the bureau, the Consumer Price Index, a measure of inflation, has risen by about 2 percent annually.


Manufacturers: Fed tax cut will be great, but Illinois must change to compete with neighbors

A central Illinois congressman says residents hit with high property taxes and a recent state income tax hike will benefit from the tax reform making its way through Congress.
The House and Senate versions that Republicans passed are different, and they must be reconciled before being sent to the president.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, said even with the various changes reconciled, the measure will mean small businesses in Illinois will get a lower federal tax burden.
“Those who believe in their local communities, those who’ve invested their time, their talent and their savings in our communities to provide that service, they’re going to get more money in their pocket,” Davis said. “I think that’s a good thing. That’s not a bad thing when you take money out of Washington and put it back home.”
But critics say tax cuts will create big deficits to the tune of more than $1 trillion.
“You’re going to see any deficit swallowed up by economic growth,” Davis said. He noted the economy under President Barack Obama was stagnant at 1 percent growth but the most recent economic indicators under President Donald Trump have growth at more than 3 percent.
The stock market surged in early trading Monday following the news of tax reform passing the Senate over the weekend.
But will any potential growth be felt in Illinois?
The state’s leading manufacturing group said federal tax cuts will help manufacturers but there still needs to be big changes in Illinois for the state to be able to compete.
Illinois Manufacturers’ Association Vice President Mark Denzler said dropping the federal corporate income tax by 15 percent will benefit Illinois manufacturers.
“The federal tax reform is great,” Denzler said. “It’s going to help every manufacturer across the country. We’re excited about the opportunity for the first tax reform in decades. However, we now need to move and we need to get many of these changes made in Illinois so we can start competing with our neighboring states.”
Denzler has joined others from the business community for years calling on Illinois lawmakers to help lower the state's workers’ compensation costs and high property taxes.
All Illinois’ neighboring states, Denzler said, are adding tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs, but Illinois is “stuck in neutral.”
Congressional Republicans hope to get the bill to Trump before the Christmas break.


Illinois Student Assistance Commission Announces 2018-19 Illinois State Scholars

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) announced its annual Illinois State Scholars list. More than 20,000 students state-wide have been honored for their academic achievements. 


Per a ISAC press release, "the 2018-19 Illinois State Scholars rank in approximately the top ten percent of high school seniors from 737 high schools across the state. Honorees are chosen based on a combination of exemplary ACT or SAT test scores and sixth semester class rank."


While the recognition does not come with any monetary award, it is designed to help pave the way for students to have the ability to attend college. 


“On behalf of ISAC, I congratulate all of this year’s State Scholars for their exceptional work and wish them much success in their future endeavors,” said Eric Zarnikow, ISAC executive director in the press release. “Thank you also to the teachers, parents, coaches and other mentors who support our students, inspire them, and help them navigate a path to college. You make a tremendous difference not only in our students’ lives, but in improving economic prosperity and building a bright future for our state.”


Below is a list of students who earned this recognizition in Adams, Cass, Fulton, Hancock, Henderson, Knox, McDonough, Schuyler and Warren counties. 


Adams County


Central High School
Aden, Isaiah
Ennis, Brooke
Rankin, Zachary
White, Lauren
Liberty High School
Spilker, Avery
Payson-Seymour High School
Helton, Allison
Hull, Lissa
Maiers, Megan
Tedrow, Melina
Walker, Rebecca
Zanger, Aidan
Quincy Notre Dame High School
Brecht, Holly
Broemmer, James
Brown, John
Cloninger, William
Eversman, Elizabeth
Kovachevich, Cy
Marcolla, Sophia
Martin, Kristin
McCulla, Alaina
McPherson, Madison
Peters, Hannah
Schlepphorst, Emma
Sturhahn, Autumn
Quincy Senior High School II
Amos, Benjamin
Ary, Jacob
Askew, Carlie
Beck, Hannah
Bordewick, Breanna
Brown, Anna
Crickard, Grace
Crossan, Reece
Cullo, Raven
Davidson, Emma
Degitz, Taylor
Disseler, Jenna
Erke, Sierra
Fuglaar, Hannah
Gorman, Anne
Gorman, Katherine
Kanauss, Lorral
Katenin, Haley
Kim, Molly
Knight, Connor
Marks, Kendall
Mast, Kayla
McIntyre, Sarah
Mero, Bryce
Meyer, Rachel
Molidor, Margot
Osborne, Devin
Reichert, Trevor
Seaman, Adelle
Shoot, Aaron
Sly, Claire
Sonethongkham, Justin
Spohr, Alexandra
Spooner, Zachary
Stephens, Sophia
Stevenson, Alec
Tenhouse, Collin
Vogler, Kathryn
Wilson, Rachel
Wollaston, Chaney
Unity High School
Graham, Georgia
Schrader, Amanda
Shupe, Amber
Tallcott, Cordin


Cass County
A-C Central High School
Kesselring, Cheyenne
Smith, Baylor
Beardstown High School
Blake, Whitnee
Hobrock, Autumn
Perez, Xenia
Perry, Lyndel
Riddle, Isaac
Seaman, Natalie
Trujillo, Karina
Warden, Elisabeth
Virginia High School
Anderson, Cole
Fulton County
Canton High School
Crumley, Dalton
Dailey, Nicholas
Foose, Alana
Hayes, Emma
Johnson, Riley
Mathews, Elyse
Mathews, Kaitlyn
Noonan, Caylin
Strob, Ashlyn
Weyers, Joshua
Wheeler, Evan
White, Julia
Cuba Jr Sr High School
Kington, Connor
Luthy, Lake
Lewistown High School
Embree, Tayler
Endsley, Kassidy
Palmer, Emilie
Walmsley, Amy
Welker, Josie
Spoon River Valley High School
Eathington, Katelyn
Hanlin, Alexis
Hisey, Megan
Semande, Elizabeth
V I T Cons High School
Boggs, John
Hancock County
Hamilton High School
Koblas, Andrew
McIlmoil, John
Munson, Electa
Pfeiferling, Kailee
Illini West High School
Artman, Connor
Bryan, Jacob
Duffy, Hannah
Junk, Zachary
Smith, Sophie
Southeastern High School
Glick, Lauren
Warsaw High School
Cluff, Emily
Lucie, Emily
Roskamp, Justin
Stevenson, Cicely
Henderson County
West Central High School
Armstrong, Kenna
Knox County
Abingdon Avon High School
Ginther, Taylor
Landers, John
Mason, Johnathon
Powell, Andrew
Galesburg Senior High School
Armon, Grace
Brown, Makailee
Carl, Jacob
Contreras, Rafael
Cypert, Samantha
Foster, Rebecca
Gebru, Sophia
Hawkins, Clark
Hostens, Taylor
Leahy, Christopher
Lingafelter, Megan
Oeth, Brenden
Oldfield, Sophia
Palmer, Lauren
Rush, Nicholas
Wallenfelsz, Sarah
Wenstrom, Grace
Williams, William
Knoxville High School
Brewster, Hannah
Krug, Kelley
Lenz, Emily
Nixon, Ryan
Ponder, Shelby
Soper, Marissa
Rowva High School
Peters, Nathan


McDonough County 


Bushnell Prairie City High School
Batson, Abigail
Ferguson, Nathaniel
Garzee, Mariah
Hiel, John
Larson, Taylor
Sargeant, Paige
Spangler, Hannah
Statler, Alyx
Teel, Trenten
Macomb High School
Duncan, Alexander
Hall, William
Howard, Hannah
John, Lawson
Jorgensen, Leah
Knowles, Scarlett
Laprad, Ethan
Lester, Nicole
Li, Theodore
Litchfield, Kathleen
Mahmoud, Fatima
Mann, Kelsi
Sperry, Isabel
Torrance, Nicholas
Wang, Mengzhu
Williams, Benjamin
West Prairie High School
Blackledge, Samuel
Butterfield, Courtney
Herman, Karlee
Zellmann, Pema
Schuyler County
*There are no 2018-19 State Scholars for Schuyler County
Warren County 
Monmouth-Roseville High School
Bricker, Jessie
Cook, Melissa
Dulin, Riley
Fisher, Kaitlyn
Frieden, Lane
Hnin, Siang
Hofmann, Arika
Neal, Cora
Plate, Madelyn
United CUSD #304
Bishop, Olivia
Frieden, Zachary
Gregory, Claire
Gregory, Vada
King, Janelle
Simonson, Sara



John Curtis discusses race for representative of 93rd district in Macomb News Now interview

Following his announcement that he has filed to enter in the race for Representative of the 93rd district of Illinois, John Curtis sat down in our Macomb News Now studios for an interview. Curtis, who is running as a Democrat, discussed his background, his experience running in the 2016 race, and the changes he'd like to see at the state level. You can listen to my full conversation with Curtis here


WIU announces monthly First Wednesday Art Program

The Western Illinois University Department of Art will host its monthly First Wednesday program from 7–9 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6 in Garwood Hall, the Heating Plant Annex (HPA) and the WIU Art Gallery.
The event is open free to anyone who wants to experience art. This month's schedule includes:
Garwood Hall Activities
Printmaking – Professors Jan Clough, Bill Howard, Garwood 13 
Glitter Screenprinted Holiday Cards – Professor Susan Czechowski, Garwood Hall 11
Art Project for Children – Associate Professor Ta-teh Ku, Garwood 24
Life-Sized Portrait Drawings – Professor Bruce Walters, Garwood 22 
Holiday Themed Vintage Photos - Professor Jenny Knavel, Garwood 37
Painting Workshop – Senior art major Roberto Mata Torres, of Macomb, Garwood 30
HPA Activities 
Sculpture – Associate Professor Duke Oursler, HPA 105
Ornament Making - Professors Kat Myers and Julie Mahoney, HPA 107
The WIU Art Gallery will also be open during the First Wednesday event.
For more information on the monthly program, contact WIU Professor of Art Tim Waldrop at TD-Waldrop@wiu.edu or the WIU Department of Art at (309) 298- 1549.


Curtis kicks off campaign run

The press release posted below comes from John Curtis' campaign team. Curtis officially filed his paperwork to run as a Democrat in the race for State Representative in Illinois' 93rd District. In the 2016 race, Curtis fell to Republican incumbent Norine Hammond. Curtis was edged out by nearly three thousand votes, as Hammond gained 54.6% of the vote to Curtis' 45.4%. 


We will have John Curtis in studio later this morning to discuss his campaign and the platform he is running on. 


For Immediate Release: Dec. 4, 2017


John Curtis officially kicked off his campaign for State Representative of the 93rd District of Illinois by filing papers to run as a Democrat.

Curtis is a farmer, teacher, and business owner who lives in Macomb, Illinois. 
“I’m running because I believe in the American Dream, if people work hard they should be able to get ahead,” says Curtis.  “We can provide those opportunities by making sure the economy works for everyone, by investing in our kids’ future, and by cleaning up Illinois government.”
Curtis believes he is the best candidate to bring people together and change how things are done in Illinois.   “As a farmer, I know what a hard day’s work is.  As a teacher and business owner, I am deeply invested in my community.  Illinois government is a mess.  People are ready for new faces, new ideas, and new ways of doing things in Illinois.”


Quincy officials spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on Chicago hotels and food

Quincy taxpayers took it on the chin more than once in 2017 – a 32 percent income tax increase at the state level and a city property tax increase with another one possibly on the horizon in 2018.
That didn’t stop Quincy officials from spending thousands of dollars on Chicago hotels and food while attending a conference in September.
The Illinois News Network sent Freedom of Information requests to two dozen municipalities across the state to find out how much their officials spent at the Illinois Municipal League’s annual conference in September. Of all towns examined, Quincy spent more than any other.
Their total of $17,823.76 includes more than $11,000 for lodging at the Hilton Chicago, where the conference was held.
Quincy also sent more people than any other municipality examined by INN. A total of 12 city staffers, elected officials and aldermen accompanied Mayor Kyle Moore to the three-day conference. Moore’s office would not respond to requests for comment.
Other cities that spent less either sent fewer people or didn’t allow taxpayers to pick up the tab for expenses like dinners and hotel stays.
LaSalle, for instance, sent four city officials for a total expense of $1,296. LaSalle spending policies do not allow city officials to bill taxpayers for hotel rooms for drives that can be made to and from in the same day, and allow attendees to expense just one lunch during the three-day conference.
“This is exactly, exactly why people are so upset,” said Adam Andrzejewski, chief executive officer at Openthebooks.com. “What’s the public purpose to send 13 officials basically to a big party at a fancy hotel to drink and eat on the taxpayer dime? It’s taxpayer abuse, plain and simple.”
On Monday (Nov. 27), the Quincy City Council adopted a “Truth in Taxation” resolution, signaling another possible tax increase measure in the coming month.
The conference costs $310 in registration fees per attendee. Quincy paid a total of $4,680 to the IML. Officials have complimented the conference as a source of information on local government best practices that would be difficult to get elsewhere.
This year's three-day conference included presentations on municipal finance issues, grant writing, maximizing tax revenue, budgeting, police issues and dozens of other topics. All three municipalities are members of IML.


State kicks off year-long bicentennial celebration on Illinois' 199th birthday

A year-long celebration has begun to ring in Illinois’ 200th anniversary of becoming a U.S. state, and it was kicked off with events, projects and even a new beer to help make that happen.
From Chicago to Springfield Sunday, signature events recognized the state’s 199th birthday, all leading up to Illinois’ 200th birthday Dec. 3, 2018.
“This is an opportunity to celebrate all that has been great in our first 200 years and lay the foundation for 200 more years of growth and prosperity,” Gov. Bruce Rauner said during an event at Navy Pier in Chicago Sunday.
One hundred winners of the state’s 100-Day Countdown video contest watched the cast of Hamilton performing in Chicago raise the curtain on the year-long celebrations.
A couple of signature projects are right in middle of the capital city of Springfield.
The Executive Mansion in Springfield, also known as the governor’s house, is a signature project. That’s undergoing $15 million in renovations funded by private donations.
Another project just east of the mansion is the Illinois Bicentennial Plaza slated for downtown Springfield.
“This will link the Lincoln’s home area with the mansion and with the capitol and the Old State Capitol,” Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder said. “So we’ll hopefully have some commonality with regards to landscape design”
The $2 million plaza project will be funded half from the state realtors association and half from a Springfield tax increment finance district.
Langfelder said the project is expected to be completed in August 2018.
It’s uncertain what will happen with the now vacant, grass-covered, city-owned block just north of the Executive Mansion that used to house a now-demolished YMCA building.
“I put a self-imposed deadline for the end of year,” Langfelder said of when he’ll move forward with what could go on that block.
Whatever project is approved for that block, only the sewer updates will be completed by summer 2018 in time for the bicentennial. The rest of the project, which is not a signature event, will wait until after the bicentennial, Langfelder said.
Another signature project is a K-12 education curriculum featuring a wallboard display for all public schools being put out by the Illinois State Board of Education.
In Springfield Sunday at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, the bicentennial beer was officially unveiled. Hand of Fate Brewing’s Illinois Farmhouse Ale was initially selected during the state fair. Founder and head brewer Mike Allison said it means his young Petersburg business will get a statewide reach.
“It will be limited for just a little while, but you’ll see it start to expand throughout the state throughout the year,” Allison said.“We wanted to make it as much about Illinois as possible, so we use grains that are pretty commonly grown in Illinois, corn, wheat, oats, also barely.”
Also announced was an exhibit at the ALPLM featuring artifacts from former Presidents Obama, Reagan, Grant and Lincoln.
“Partners and event and project managers planning activities between [Sunday] Dec. 3, 2018, can apply for endorsement to become an official part of Illinois Bicentennial,” a news release from Rauner’s office said. That can be done by visiting the website Illinois200.com.
Events continue Monday at noon with cities across the state raising a bicentennial flag.


Lawmaker: State fee for local tax payments 'slipped by' during budget process

An Illinois lawmaker who wants to roll back the fee that the state charges local governments to collect taxes says it slipped by during the summer. 
State Rep. Anthony DeLuca said that he knew the state was going to keep some tax dollars that used to go to local governments.  But, despite being in charge of a local government committee, he didn't know the new Illinois budget would include a two-percent fee to process tax collections. 
"Somehow this fee, this Administrative Fund Fee, kind of went by unnoticed and without any opportunity for debate," DeLuca said, who voted for the budget that created this fee. 
And that's part of the problem with how Illinois crafts budgets, he said.
"I knew about some of the reductions to the Local Government Distributive fund," DeLuca said. "But this issue never came up. It was never brought to my attention."
DeLuca wants to roll back the two percent fee to just one percent. That would save cities and towns across the state about $30 million a year. 
Cities and counties across the state say their losses due to the fee will further hurt them fiscally. 


IEMA Points Out Important Holiday Safety Tips

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency is suggesting different tips to stay safe during the holiday season. Some tips include keeping a flashlight with extra batteries and making sure to keep a first aid kit, vehicle preparedness kit, and a smoke alarm detector around the house. You can find these safety kits at either a hardware store or a department store. Never leave candles unattended around the house and make sure to test your holiday lights and other electrical decorations for safety conditions. For more safety tips visit www.Ready.Illinois.gov


U of I Dean Kidwell to Visit Macomb

The Dean of the University of Illinois' College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Science (ACES) from the Champaign-Urbana campus, Kimberlee Kidwell, is scheduled to make a special appearance in Macomb. She will be meeting with the University of Illinois' extension staff and tour the Discovery Gardens around 3 p.m on December 4th. She also plans to visit Henderson, Knox and Warren counties as well. 


10th Annual St. Paul Cookie Walk Set for Saturday

  The kickoff for the holiday season begins with the 10th Annual Cookie Walk at Dickens on the Square. This event is a fundraiser for the Women's Guild. There will be cookies and candies sold by the pound and other items will be available for purchase. The Cookie Walk will be held this Saturday from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Taylor Hall located at 125 South Randolph Street. If you have any questions, please contact Sally Adams at 773-299-0003.


Abingdon Conservative Griffith Challenges Hammond in Representative Race

Joshua Griffith, a conservative republican from Abigdon, filed his petitions to run for Illinois State Representative of the 93rd District. The following is a statement from Griffith, as he looks to defeat incumbent Norine Hammond in the March primary. 


"Yesterday (11/27/17) I filed my petitions to run for state representative of the 93rd district. The recent 32% tax increase, which was supported by the current representative Norine Hammond, was a major factor in my decision to run for office. Over the past six weeks, we have traveled the district and met hundreds of voters while circulating petitions. As we visited on their door steps, I listened to their frustration with our current representative. They feel like their voices aren't being heard by Ms. Hammond. I am going to Springfield to represent the great people of this district and ensure that government does not continue to take our families' hard-earned money without any reforms. I am looking forward to the opportunity to meet many more great families and individuals of this district in the coming months." -Joshua L. Griffith Conservative Republican for IL 93rd State Representative You can reach Josh at 309-299-4055.


First State Bank of Illinois Becomes Fortress Bank

The following is a press release from the First State Bank of Illinois. The Western Illinois bank is changing its name to Fortress Bank.
LaHarpe, IL, December 1, 2017 ? In 2014, First State Bank of Illinois expanded the bank footprint with the opening of a loan production office in the Quad Cities. Late last year a building was purchased at East 53rd Street and Interstate 74 in Davenport. A new full service banking center will open for business in that location in January, 2018.
Now that the bank has expanded beyond Illinois, the time has come to develop a brand that is not tied to a certain geographic area. On December 1st, First State Bank of Illinois will become Fortress Bank. A new logo (at right) will be introduced along with the new name, symbolizing the trust, innovation, and strength of a dynamic financial institution.
“Our customers should rest assured that we are not changing ownership,” said Andy Bastert, President - Western Illinois Region. “Fortress Bank will continue to serve our communities with the same focus on agriculture, business, and mortgage banking, and our staff will not be impacted in any way. We are also committed to our ties with the communities in which we live and work. Community support has been an integral part of our bank’s history and will continue.”
The foundation of Fortress Bank was built on providing best in class banking products and services to the agriculture based communities served by the bank. Over the years Fortress Bank has evolved into a full service commercial bank with expertise in business banking as well as mortgage lending. Fortress Bank is approaching $400 million in assets, a new record for the bank. This level of assets does not include our sizeable residential mortgage servicing portfolio.  
Bank History
First State Bank began business in 1904 in the west-central Illinois town of Burnside. The bank is a privately held organization that serves customers in western and central Illinois, eastern Iowa, and throughout the Midwest.
The bank currently operates ten banking centers located in LaHarpe, Carthage, Hamilton, Macomb, Monmouth, Peoria, Pekin, Blandinsville and Colusa, Illinois and Bettendorf, Iowa.  
The bank’s impressive growth is attributed to these three unique advantages: (1) Direct access to the bank’s decision makers who are some of the best ag, business and mortgage bankers and advisers in the industry; (2) commitment to providing our customers with the latest technology in banking; and (3) Innovative and responsible financial solutions to enable our clients access to the funding they need to make their dreams become reality.


The Republican Tax Reform Bill Could Change the Way Illinois Parents Save for Education

The Republican tax reform bill now being considered in Congress could change the way Illinois parents save for education.
Part of the proposal would expand eligible expenses for 529 college savings plans to include elementary and high school costs. Lindsey Burke, director of the Center for Education Policy at the Heritage Foundation, says it would be good policy.
“We already tax preference higher education savings in this way,” Burke said. “It only makes sense that we treat K-12 education the same way.”
Families with 529 plans can put post-tax earnings into an account. Any interest or growth is free from federal taxes when withdrawn, if used for eligible education expenses.
The expanded 529 plans, with essentially unlimited contribution limits, would replace existing Coverdell education savings accounts. Those accounts can be used for K-12 expenses, but are limited to just $2,000 in contributions annually. Current Coverdell holders would be eligible to rollover the funds to a 529 plan.
“This is their own post-tax dollars,” Burke said. “And, of course, the more you put in on the front-end, the more interest can accrue into your account as long as you’re putting it toward K-12 and higher education expenses.”
Another advantage to 529s is that anyone can contribute to the account, not just parents.
“You can have friends or extended family contributing into your account,” Burke said. “You’ll get five years from birth until kindergarten to put your own money in and have that interest accrue, but it’s also five years that other folks can contribute to the account as well.”
Thirty-five states, including Illinois, also offer credits or deductions for contributions to 529 accounts.
As of 2011, there were more than $135 billion in total investments in 529 plans. Burke says it’s clear that not just the wealthy benefit from this kind of program.
“This would help families across the board, but it’s overwhelming middle-income Americans who benefit from these accounts,” Burke said.
Families also could use 529 savings to pay for expenses associated with apprenticeship programs.


Illinois' GOP Congressman call Durbin, Duckworth hypocrites over tax comments

Illinois’ U.S. Senators are warning their House GOP counterparts that voting for the tax reform bill will hurt the state’s working class. Republicans are wondering where this concern was when state Democrats were raising taxes this summer.
In a letter, Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth told Illinois’ GOP Congressmen that voting in favor of the coming tax reform bill will hurt the state’s working-class families and bail out corporations.
On the Senate floor Tuesday, Durbin said the tax overhaul will ultimately hurt most Illinoisans.
“It’s no secret that this plan would bankroll massive tax cuts for the wealthiest people in America and the largest corporations, and it would raise taxes on middle-income families,” Durbin said. "If that seems like contrary thinking to what most Americans were looking for, it is.”
The GOP delegation responded. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Plano, wondered where Durbin and Duckworth were when their local party members were increasing income taxes on the working class families that they’re now so interested in.
“It was completely done by Democrat leadership down in Springfield and yet our senators said nothing to speak up for middle-class families,” he said, calling them “hypocritical.”
State-level Democrats, aided by a handful of defecting Republicans, overrode the veto of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner this summer to institute a permanent 33 percent income tax increase, costing the average Illinois household about $1,000 annually.
“The state legislature, led by Democrats, passed the largest [permanent] tax increase that Illinois has ever seen,” Rep. Mike Bost, R-Belleville, said. “What we’re trying to do is give them the largest tax reduction that they’ve ever had.”
The Republican congressmen also dispute Durbin's and Duckworth's claims about the tax reform plan being a tax hike.
Specifically, the Democratic senators warned GOP representatives that eliminating or scaling back the ability to deduct state and local taxes (SALT) would result in underfunded schools and other local services. The House GOP plan would reduce the deduction to $10,000.
“As the state with the fifth highest number of taxpayers who claim this deduction, Republican efforts to eliminate or gut SALT would hit Illinois especially hard,” the letter said.
The reason Illinoisans would feel the pain of a state and local tax deduction rollback is because they pay more to their local governments in taxes than all but a few states. Critics say the SALT deductions essentially amount to the federal government subsidizing high-tax taxes, which it ought not to do.
Bost said 78 percent of his district doesn’t even benefit from the deduction since most claim the standard deduction, which would increase under the GOP plan.
The tax reform bill could come up for a vote in the Senate as soon as Friday.


John Hallwas to be Parade Marshal for 2018 Heritage Days

The Macomb Heritage Days Committee has selected author, speaker, and historical activist John Hallwas as the parade marshal for the 2018 Macomb Heritage Days Festival. 
According to WIU archivist Kathy Nichols, who also specializes in the local and regional past, Hallwas is the most well-published historian in the history of not only our town and county, but the entire western Illinois region. In fact, with 28 Illinois-related books in print, introductions to half a dozen other books by Illinois authors, and seventy Illinois-based articles published in journals and magazines, he is the most widely published living author focused on our state. And that’s aside from his several hundred newspaper column articles, mostly on historical topics, that have appeared since 1980—in several papers. “On Community” appears in the Voice. He is also the author of four Illinois plays that have been performed in various towns, and he writes a column titled “Forgotten Voices from Illinois History” for Illinois Heritage magazine.
Hallwas has two degrees from WIU and, except for his two years of doctoral study in Florida, has been in town since 1963. He married a local girl, also a WIU student, Garnette Stockstad, in 1966, and they raised two sons while he taught at Western. After 34 years, he retired in 2004, but as many local residents know, he remains actively involved, on the state and community levels. His wife is also involved in several civic groups. 
Hallwas has won more than two dozen national, Midwestern, state, and local awards for his accomplishments—including the Faculty Service Award for Excellence in Adult-Education from the National University Continuing Education Association, the MidAmerica Award for Distinguished Scholarship from the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature, the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award for his work as a statewide speaker, the WIU Distinguished Faculty Lecturer Award, etc. He is the only Distinguished Professor Emeritus in Western’s history, and the annual Hallwas Liberal Arts Lecture is named for him. 
Also, two of his Illinois historical books, The Bootlegger and Dime Novel Desperadoes, were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. The former has become the most well-known book about McDonough County, and it inspired a recent documentary film. The latter won the Midland Award (“Best Book from the Midwest”) in Biography. Other books of his have won awards for excellence as well, including Macomb: A Pictorial History. 
Hallwas has also done a dozen programs for local/regional and state television, such as A History of Western Illinois University (2008), Macomb’s Historic Places (2009), Macomb’s Historic Homes (2011), and Macomb in the Sixties (2017). A new TV program, intended for a statewide audience, titled A Sense of Place in Illinois—with Writer John Hallwas, will be released early in 2018. 
Hallwas has spoken in well over 100 Illinois communities, commonly on Illinois-related topics, like “Small-Town Culture in Illinois,” “Lincoln’s Great Speeches,” “The Mormon Era at Nauvoo,” and “The Literature of the Illinois Frontier.” And he has taught dozens of Elderhostel and LIFE Adult-Education classes related to local and regional history. (He will present a special, Bicentennial-related talk in our town during 2018.)
His wide-ranging historical activism has also been unmatched in our community, and that includes being a past president of the McDonough County Historical Society, a co-founder and president of the Western Illinois Regional Studies Association, a co-founder of The Friends of Oakwood Cemetery, a co-chairman of Heritage Days, the chair of the Advisory Committee of the Illinois State Historical Library (now the Lincoln Library), a member of the Advisory Board of the Illinois State Historical Society, etc. 
Hallwas was the originating voice (as well as the dedication speaker) for the modern WIU Soldiers’ Memorial, erected on campus in 2010, and the Women’s Social Service Memorial, erected in Chandler Park by the Women’s Club in 2015. And he has been the speaker for several historical re-dedication ceremonies—of City Hall, the Public Library, etc.—as well as the leader of many tours—of the historic downtown, Oakwood Cemetery, Western’s Sherman Hall, and the Compton Park neighborhood. (He will lead a tour of notable early graves at Oakwood Cemetery in the spring of 2018, when it receives a state historic site designation.) 
Although he has published on many famous Illinoisans, such as Chief Black Hawk, Abraham Lincoln, Robert G. Ingersoll, Jane Addams, and Carl Sandburg, Hallwas has also used his local history books and newspaper articles to call attention to hundreds of Macomb-area people of the past. So, his work has deepened the scope and significance of our local heritage. 
As Mayor Mike Inman said of Hallwas when presenting him with the first Macomb Cultural Achievement Award a couple years ago, “He has broadened our local understanding and fostered awareness of the meaning of the Macomb experience,” and “he has been a proponent of community and social commitment with an impact on our whole region.” 
So, as the Heritage Days Committee looks ahead to the Illinois Bicentennial year, they feel that selecting Hallwas as the 2018 Heritage Days Parade Marshal is a fine way to emphasize the historical character of Macomb—and our place in the state’s cultural heritage. 


Illinois Harassment Task Force Struggles to Answer Question: "Who do Lawmakers Answer to?"

In the first meeting of the legislators tasked with reforming their own sexual harassment procedures, there were many more questions than answers. The biggest question was about who was responsible for lawmakers when they’re the harassers.
The Sexual Harassment Task Force was created in reaction to reports of rampant sexual harassment against lawmakers and others in Springfield. The first meeting was held Wednesday. Lawmakers asked the advocates and officials about what they should do to manage the behavior of elected officials. Suburban Chicago Republican Margo McDermed’s corporate background made her wonder who lawmakers answered to in terms of professional conduct.
Springfield Republican Tim Butler questioned how much punishment the General Assembly can deal before running up against Constitutional protections.
Ultimately, no action was suggested. The task force will meet again in December and is slated for coming up with recommendations by December 2018, after next year's midterm elections.


Maple Avenue Christian Church Taking Reservations for Annual Christmas Eve Dinner

The Maple Avenue Christian Church is once again serving the Macomb community with its annual Christmas Eve Dinner. For the twelfth consecutive year, the church will take reservations for free delivery, carry-out and dine-in meals on Christmas Eve. 


MACC will serve a dinner of ham, potatoes, green beans, rolls and dessert that day. Delivery and carry-out will run from 3:30-5:00 p.m. Dine-in at the church at 1300 Maple Avenue in Macomb will go from 5:00-6:00 p.m. The dinner will be followed by a 6:30 p.m. Christmas Eve Service at MACC. 


To make a reservation contact the church at (309) 837-9318. Reservations must be made by December 18. For more information visit the church's website and the MACC Facebook Page


You can listen to my interview with Maple Avenue Christian Church Senior Minister Donnie Case here


Illinois Congressmen Speak Out Against Proposed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Rule

The government agency responsible for protecting consumers is trying to make millions of homeowners’ sensitive data public.
In its proposed 2018 rule changes, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wants to add more reporting requirements when a homebuyer gets a mortgage. The requirements that have been in place since the 1970’s are meant to root out discrimination but critics say too many banks are exempt from it to be effective.
Illinois Congressman Randy Hultgren says the new disclosure rules would require banks to make enough information public that it puts homebuyers at risk of identity theft, especially with seniors.
He also says the CFPB has a long track record of abuse and should be held more accountable.
The National Association of Federally Insured Credit Unions has come out against the proposed change as well. In a letter to the bureau, the association said expanding the disclosure requirements would put an even bigger burden on its members, as well as heighten the risk of fraud and identity theft.


Macomb Woman Killed; Rushville Woman Airlifted in Fulton County Crash

A two vehicle head on collision on U.S. Rt. 24 in Fulton County Tuesday left one woman dead and another airlifted to OSF St. Francis Hospital. The Fulton County Sherriff's office announced today that Doris K Setser, 82, of Macomb was killed in the crash. Lori B. Harmon, 52, of Rushville, was airlifted from the scene. Her condition is known at this time. 


At approximately 2:39 p.m. on Tuesday, Setser was operating a 2003 Buick Rendezvous traveling westbound on Rt. 24 west of Chaney Road. Her vehicle traveled into the eastbound lane, striking a 2000 Chevy Silverado 1500, which was driven by Harmon. Setser was pronounced dead at the scene by the Fulton County Coroner. Harmon was transported to OSF via lifelight. A dog in the Harmon vehicle was injured and transported to a local veterinarian, where it later died due to its injuries. 


The crash remains under further investigation. 


More Pension Costs Brings Angst From Both Sides

Illinois lawmakers will have to pour over a half billion dollars more than last year into the state’s retirement accounts in their next budget. The rapidly growing number has both sides of the aisle asking for some sort of pension reform.
A November report by the nonprofit Civic Federation estimates that Illinois lawmakers will have to make an $8.4 billion pension contribution in their next budget. With an estimated 89 percent of that figure coming out of the General Revenue Fund, that is a quarter of the state’s budget and $589 million higher than the current minimum contribution.
Members of the House Personnel and Pensions Committee are concerned about it crowding out state services, but their hands are constitutionally tied when they look to fix it.
State Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside and vice-chair of the committee, worries that the growing obligation puts the state in a tough spot, but he said the promises were made and lawmakers now need to find a better solution.
“It puts an additional strain on a likely strained budget process,” he said. “We do have to maintain our commitments, but it really does create a difficult dynamic for us.”
State Rep. Tom Morrison, R-Palatine and the committee’s GOP spokesman, calls the growing cost evidence that raising taxes isn’t going to solve the state’s financial woes.
“Our real solution is comprehensive pension reform as they’ve done in other states,” Morrison said. “We have got to be honest with our taxpayers and public employees alike in that we are in a system that isn’t sustainable.”
Illinois lawmakers placed a historic tax increase on businesses and individuals in July when they voted to override Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of a $5 billion tax hike.
Illinois’ pensions are protected from any cuts by language in the state's Constitution. In recent years, lawmakers have passed laws to reform the state’s pensions but have been shot down in court. Morrison said the only way the state will get out from under the growing pension burden is to change the state’s governing charter to allow for changes to state pensioners’ plans. This is akin to what a number of other states have done in the last decade, including California in 2012.


Illinois Congressman Won't Seek Re-Election to One of Nation's "Safest" Seats.

One of the nation’s safest Congressional seats is up for grabs after a 13-term U.S. representative from Illinois abruptly announced he would vacate it.
First elected to Congress in 1992, Chicago Democrat Luis Gutierrez now says he will not seek re-election. In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Gutierrez wouldn’t give a reason for giving up the seat.
“I’m in such a good place today. It’s time,” he said. “I’m not leaving when I’m 85 and on a respirator.”
Less than 24 hours after his announcement, Chicago Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa and Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia announced they’re looking to replace Gutierrez. Garcia received Gutierrez’s endorsement Tuesday. Others are reportedly also weighing their chances to win one of the safest Democratic congressional seats in the nation.
According to the Cook Partisan Voting Index, the 4th Congressional district is heavily Democratic, and only 17 other U.S. House seats are more firmly blue. Since 1992, Gutierrez received more than 75 percent of the vote in every general election, if he was challenged at all.
The district has been at the center of the country's gerrymandering debate since it’s odd shape resembles that of a horseshoe and is only as wide as an interstate in one section.
Defenders of partisan map-drawing say the irregular district connects two areas of largely Latin American descent, thus complying with the Voting Rights Act.
Gutierrez has been arrested multiple times for illegal protests, often in support of immigrant rights. He was also part of the group of lawmakers that filed articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.
Gutierrez wouldn’t reveal what his next steps were but he did rule out runs for Chicago mayor and Illinois governor. He said he would travel the country as well as focus on the recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, where his family originates.


Quincy Veterans' Home Legionnaires' Disease Update

One resident at the Illinois Veteran's Home in Quincy was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease over the weekend. The resident was diagnosed while being treated at a local hospital and has since been released.  


The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) and Illinois Department of Public Health are working with with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Adams County Health Department to help ensure the safety and well-being of the residents and staff at the home.


This is not the first time the home has been plagued by Legionnaires' disease. Two years ago, twelve residents at the Illinois Veteran's Home were killed by the disease while 54 were sickened by it. 


The IDVA said in a release:


"The IVHQ completed an extensive renovation of its plumbing systems last year in response to the 2015 Legionnaires’ disease outbreak.  Renovations included construction of a water treatment plant capable of providing higher-quality water for the Home’s sensitive population.  IDVA continues to test and treat its water for harmful bacteria, including Legionella.  Along with additional chlorine treatments, IVHQ maintains hot water at 150 degrees to prevent the growth of Legionella.  Hot water is then mixed with cold water to a temperature of 110 degrees, which allows for the maximum control of bacteria while protecting residents from scalding."


Per the release: 


"The CDC reports there has been a rise in the number of cases of Legionnaires’ disease over the past 15 years, with 6,000 cases reported nationwide in 2015. Approximately 300 cases are reported each year across Illinois."



Attorney General Madigan Files New Supreme Court Brief Opposing Third Travel Ban

(Release from Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office)
On Monday Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on opposing the federal government’s third travel ban and the Department of Justice’s application for a stay of a preliminary injunction halting enforcement of that ban.
The amicus brief, filed in Trump v. Hawaii, urges the Supreme Court to reject the Department of Justice’s emergency stay application, which seeks a complete stay of the Hawaii district court’s preliminary injunction against the third travel ban. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently declined to stay the portion of the injunction that prevented the federal government from implementing the third ban against individuals from six predominantly Muslim countries who have a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States. 
In part, the brief states: 
“All of amici States benefit from immigration, tourism, and international travel by students, academics, skilled professionals, and businesspeople. The disputed provisions of the Proclamation – like the previous bans – significantly disrupt the ability of our States’ public universities to recruit and retrain students and faculty, impairing academic staffing and research, and causing the loss of tuition and tax revenues, among other costs. The Proclamation also disrupts the provision of medical care at our hospitals and harms our science, technology, finance, and tourism industries by inhibiting the free exchange of information, ideas, and talent between the designated countries and our States, causing long-term economic and reputational damage. In addition, the ban has made it more difficult for us to effectuate our own constitutional and statutory polices of religious tolerance and nondiscrimination.”
Attorney General Madigan has condemned the federal immigration executive orders and has filed 17 amicus briefs in five separate lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the travel ban executive orders.
In addition to Madigan, the brief was joined by the attorney generals of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.


State of Illinois Bicentennial Year

Come out and help McDonough County raise the flag to celebrate the State of Illinois Bicentennial Year. The raising of the flag will begin Monday, December 4th at 11:45 am on the lawn at the McDonough County Courthouse.  There will be a musical performance by the Macomb High Madrigal Singers and plenty of refreshments provided by Pepsi services. Admission is free to the public.


Free Diabetes Screening Event in Manito

Studies have shown that Diabetes impacts almost 30 million Americans. November is National Diabetes Awareness month and what better way to spread awareness than getting screened for this common disease. Thanks to the help of Assistant House Minority Leader, Norine Hammond, and other medical associates, there will be a free diabetes screening event this Wednesday, November 29th from 11am-1pm. The Lodge at Manito Assisted Living and Memory Care Community will host the event and Manito Medical Associates will conduct the screenings.  
The event is free to the public and community members are highly encouraged to go.  Out of the 30 million Americans affected by diabetes, about 7 million estimated cases are undiagnosed. For more information please contact Norine Hammond via her legislative website.


Plymouth Man Charged with Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse

According to McDonough County Sheriff Rick VanBrooker, a McDonough County man was charged with Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse for improper touching of two children at his mother's daycare. 
The sheriff's office announced Monday that, Nathan Henness, 30, of Plymouth, Illinois, was arrested November 21. VanBrooker said the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is still investigating. 
VanBrooker said the incidents happened at Country Care Daycare at 1880 N. 450th Road in rural Plymouth. The incidents allegedly took place between 2014 and 2017, and involved two children less than 10 years of age. Henness is charged with seven counts of Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse.


WIU Office of Public Safety Report 11/22-11/27/17

On Nov. 27 at 4:37 a.m. Ryan Toomey, 20, of 1114 Thompson Hall, was arrested in Thompson for burglary and illegal consumption of alcohol by a minor. He was lodged in the McDonough County Jail at 5:17 a.m. pending bond.


Driver in Fulton County Single-Car Fatal Crash Identified

Fulton County Sherriff Jeff Standard has announced that Jackie Wetterauer, 58, of Mapleton was killed in a single car crash, which occurred at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

Her car crashed and caught fire while traveling east on Illinois Route 9 between Cemetery Road and Monterey Road near Canton, according to authorities. The cause of death was determined to be smoke inhalation, resulting from a car fire at the scene. 
Her 2004 Chevrolet four-door car left the roadway and traveled down a ravine. Witnesses and rescue personnel made several attempts to get her out of the car but could not when it became engulfed in flames, according to the news release.
Fulton County Coroner Steve Hines conducted the autopsy and identified the deceased. 


CEO Survey: Illinois Third-Worst State for Business Since Great Recession

It’s been a decade since the financial crisis. Since then, Illinois has garnered a name for itself as one of the worst locations to do business in the country among American CEOs.
Development Counsellors International asks hundreds of corporate executives every three years what they think of each of the 50 states. The three surveys since 2008 have seen Illinois’ standing fall to nearly the bottom of their rankings in places they would choose to expand their business.
DCI President Andy Levine says the state was once much better regarded but no more. Illinois had only shown up once among the worst states before the recession. In the three reports since – 2011, 2014, and 2017 – the state placed firmly in third. 
At most, 34 percent of the executives asked said Illinois was worse than California and New York. The two coastal states have traded first and second place for two decades, largely due to their high costs of living and tax burdens. In 2011, nearly a quarter of those asked thought Illinois was the worst state in the country to do business. The next two surveys saw 34 and 20 percent of CEOs of the same opinion. 
DCI President Andy Levine said the last three surveys show executives’ opinions of Illinois have soured.
“Perceptions of Illinois have gone down rapidly in the last 10 years,” he said. “Twenty-nine percent rank Illinois the worst state, only better than California and New York.”
Levine said a unique problem that harmed Illinois’ standing with job creators was political dysfunction.
“Perceptions of Illinois’ public sector is completely in the toilet right now,” he said. “And the negative perceptions of the public sector are very strong.”
Illinois' politicians haven't helped to ingratiate themselves with these executives in recent years. Corporate and personal income tax hikes in 2011, billions of dollars of overspending in the years lawmakers failed to pass a budget, and the continuing pattern of unbalanced budgets that have been decades in the making all give credence to their opinions of the state's public sector dysfunction. In that time, little to no pro-growth reforms have become law, which was a central tenet of Gov. Bruce Rauner's campaign. 
Respondents to the most recent survey reacted positively to the creation of Intersect Illinois, a state-affiliated group helping to negotiate business incentives with the state. The state’s workforce, Levine said, is still highly regarded amongst the c-suite, just not enough to get past their opinions of the public sector.


Illinois Department of Natural Resources Urging Hunters to Keep Safe

The second portion of Illinois’ seven-day firearm deer-hunting season starts Nov. 30 and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources are urging hunters to keep safe.
Ed Cross, director of communications for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said tree-stand safety is important and hunters should check their stand’s condition before using it.
Cross also said hunters should always make sure their gun is unloaded at the end of the day.
Hunters will be back out in the fields across Illinois next weekend to close out shotgun deer season. 


Illinois' Stagnant Sales Tax Revenues Indicator of Flat Economic Activity

The state of Illinois is collecting more from you and your businesses’ income, but the indication from other revenue sources is the state’s economy is flat.
Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability Revenue Manager Jim Muschinski said individual income tax revenues are up from the year before, as are corporate tax receipts. The increased revenue is mainly from state lawmakers increasing income taxes over the governor’s veto. Muschinski said those aren’t the numbers to look at for an indication of economic health.
Tax expert Michael Leonard said Illinois lawmakers know the state’s economy is stagnant but real solutions aren’t advancing.
Muschinski said expect to see continued low growth in Illinois in the near term.


WIU to Screen 'He Named Me Malala' Tuesday, November 28

The Western Illinois University Center for International Studies and the WIU Women’s Center will screen the documentary "He Named Me Malala" at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 28 in the University Union's Sandburg Theatre.
Following the screening, a discussion will be held.
Malala was raised in Pakistan, and was shot by the Taliban after becoming an advocate for education for women. She survived the attack and continues her fight around the world for education.
This event is open free to the public.
For more information about Malala, visit malala.org.


Fraternal Order of Eagles to Provide Annual Thanksgiving Dinner in McDonough County

The Fraternal Order of Eagles have been providing Thanksgiving Dinner to McDonough County residents for over three decades. This Thanksgiving marks the 32nd annual Thanksgiving Dinner sponsored by the Eagles Club. 


Dinner will be served in the Eagles Club Banquet Room at 590-2 Deer Road in Macomb from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. They will also deliver meals within the community. If you'd like to make a reservation for a certain time to eat with your family or group. To make a reservation or place an order for delivery, please call Aerie at (309)-833-5111. 


The dinner is made possible by donations from the community. Suggested donation items are: turkeys, bacon, butter, ready to serve pumpkin pies, milk, onions, green beans (#10 cans), cool whip, corn (#10 cans) and monetary donations.


If you would like to donate your time to help with the meal, serve or deliver contact the Eagles Club at (309) 833-5151. 


Vicious Cycle: Large Pension Debts Making it More Expensive to Borrow Funds

Post-recession America’s states and cities are paying for their negligence in funding their pensions. That’s according to a new study.
The study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College has estimated a cost to states and local governments when they borrow money and also have a high amount of pension debt. In cities, they estimate the interest paid on a bond is around eight points higher than it would be otherwise. States paid seven points more. Center assistant director J.P. Aubry says these seemingly small percentage points are actually significant.
He also says bond agencies have begun using the poor pension management as an indicator of poor governance. Illinois has an estimated $130 billion in unfunded pensions liabilities.


Food Safety is Not the Only Health Concern During Thanksgiving

It’s not just food safety you need to be worried about for the holidays. You should also be mindful of the common cold.
Illinois public health officials are out reminding people to be careful when preparing holiday meals. Some of the reminders the Illinois Department of Public Health put out include; cleaning hands and cooking surfaces, separate raw meats from other items, cook foods to the proper temperature and chill foods promptly.
Dr. Angela Golden from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners said protecting yourself from influenza is also important
Golden said it’s also important to know your dose when it comes to over-the-counter cold remedies and medicines.


Macomb Chamber Welcomes Top Shelf Barber Shop

The Macomb Area Chamber of Commerce welcomed a new member today, Wednesday, November 21st. Top Shelf Barber Shop is now open at 133 South Randolph Street Suite 211. The owner of Top Shelf, Joe Gilson welcomed representatives of the Macomb Chamber for a ribbon cutting today to make the opening official. Gilson, a stylist as well as the owner of the shop, is former Macomb resident who has returned home after spending several years in Chicago. Top Shelf Barber Shop specializes in on-trend haircuts, razor design work, hot lathers, straight razor shaves and more.

For shop hours and appointments, please call (309) 333-5174 or find them on Facebook and Instagram.


Illinois High Speed Rail Delayed

It's going take a little longer to get the Amtrak trains in Illinois to go a little faster. But one rail expert says people shouldn't get too excited for when high speed rail does, eventually, launch in Illinois.

It's now going to be sometime in 2018 before Illinois says Amtrak will be ready to unleash high speed rail along the corridor between Chicago and St. Louis.

The Illinois Department of Transportation last week said a delay is pushing back the launch date til after the first of the year.

But Randall O'Toole, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, said people shouldn't get their hopes up for 110 mile-per-hour service – not in 2018, and not ever.

"Currently, the trains between Chicago and St. Louis go an average of 52 miles per hour," O'Toole said. "They're promising to get them up to 63 miles per hour. Maybe."

O'Toole said much of the problem lies in the nostalgic feelings for passenger trains.

O'Toole added that is silly for two reasons. One, the government didn't spend about $2 billion in Illinois to prop-up the vinyl record or typewriter industry. And two, there are already quick, easy, and cheap ways for people to get from Chicago to St. Louis.

"I-DOT admits that 99 percent of the traffic between Chicago and St. Louis is by either automobile or air," O'Toole said. "So when they say, 'We're going to give people more options.' Yeah, but they're not going to give people good options. They're going to give them expensive options."

Illinois started work on the high speed rail corridor in 2010. 


State Rep Norine Hammond Honored with Township Award

State Representative Norine Hammond of Macomb has been honored by Township officials with their President's Award. Township Officials of Illinois made the announcement officially on November 13th that Representative Hammond would be honored for her dedication to local government. “Representative Hammond is a true champion of local government. As a former Township official herself, she truly understands and appreciates the importance of Township government. I could think of no one more deserving of the TOI Presidents Award,” said TOI Executive Director Bryan Smith. Representative Hammond served as Emmet Township Trustee from 2002 to 2006 and was Emmet Township Supervisor from 2006 to 2014. 



A Closer Look at Illinois 10 Year Manufacturing Statistics

In the decade since the beginning of the Great Recession, Illinois’ manufacturing industry has yet to recover. Advocates say the state’s policies are to blame. In December 2007, Illinois was home to 669,000 manufacturing workers. Today, there’s 97,000 fewer manufacturing jobs, according to October Bureau of Labor Statistics figures. States around Illinois have all regained most of the durable goods-producing jobs lost since the financial crisis sent the economy into a tailspin. Todd Maisch, president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, said other states have enacted policies that attract businesses.

“Our surrounding states are moving forward aggressively while we fight rearguard actions from getting even worse,” he said. “It’s really that gap between Illinois and our competing states that is the saddest state of affairs.” Both Maisch and Illinois Manufacturers Association Vice President Mark Denzler say that failure to pass right-to-work laws that ban forced unionization have put Illinois at a competitive disadvantage. “A number of other states have enacted right-to-work policies or they’ve cut regulations while Illinois has increased taxes and increased regulations,” Denzler said. In turn, “all of the states around us are growing tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs while we’re losing jobs.”

The job losses have likely accelerated the population losses in the state as well, Denzler said. Illinois’ population shrank by 37,000 in 2015, according to IRS figures. From July 2014 to July 2015, 114,000 people left Illinois for other states. This is the first installment in a series of stories highlighting how Illinois has changed since the beginning of the financial crisis in the winter of 2007.


Illinois to Remain Part of Interstate Voter Crosscheck Program

Despite a motion to withdraw, Illinois will remain in the interstate Crosscheck voter registration database. Illinois is a member of both the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program (Crosscheck) and the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC). Both databases are used by various states, but not all, to compare voter registration information. The data is used to find if a voter is potentially registered in multiple jurisdictions. All of Illinois’ neighbors are members of Crosscheck with the exception of Wisconsin, which is a member of ERIC. But Crosscheck has come under fire for not being secure. The company has said it is in the process of updating its database protocols with enhanced security. Illinois State Board of Elections board member Charles Scholz motioned to withdraw from Crosscheck Monday during the board’s monthly meeting “because of my concern about the security of our voter file as used by other jurisdictions and the concerns about false positives being misused in other jurisdictions.” The vote failed on a 4 to 4 tie, meaning Illinois remains in Crosscheck. Sangamon County Clerk Don Gray said the Crosscheck system has been useful for his election authority. As to concerns Crosscheck is removing voters from the rolls, Gray said that’s not the case in Illinois. “We take the additional measure in Sangamon to default down to our voter verification program, more commonly known as Show Cause or purge process, that we’re required to by Illinois statute,” Gray said. That requires elections officials to send multiple correspondence to suspected double registrants before the voter file is purged, Gray said. Crosscheck does not have the ability to purge Illinois voters in the state’s decentralized election system. Before supporting a move to have Illinois end its membership in Crosscheck, board member William McGuffage shared his concerns about Kris Kobach’s involvement with the interstate voter database used to find invalid voters. “Mr. Kobach is running Crosscheck and he’s also the director of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity,” McGuffage said, “what I call the bogus Trump commission.” President Donald Trump announced the commission as a way to bring about better policies for election integrity. Critics contend it’s a political stunt and meant to disenfranchise voters. Logan County Clerk Sally Turner regrets the politicization of the debate. “What I don’t care for is hearing partisanship,” Turner said. “All of the county clerks and the elections authorities have one job to do and that is to make sure a voter is registered accurately and correctly.” Turner said Crosscheck is useful for border counties whose residents are more likely to move in between states.


McDonough County United Way Joins the Global #GivingTuesday Movement

 McDonough County United Way has joined #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity worldwide. United Way fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community.  Support of McDonough County United Way means donations stay local, assisting 19 Partner Agencies in their fight to help more than 11,000 residents served each year. 
Occurring this year on November 28, #GivingTuesday is held annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (in the US) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday to kick off the holiday giving season and inspire people to collaborate in improving their local communities and to give back in impactful ways to the charities and causes they support. 
Those who are interested in donating through McDonough County United Way’s #GivingTuesday initiative can visit their website.
For more details about the #GivingTuesday movement, visit the #GivingTuesday website, Facebook page or follow @GivingTues and use the #GivingTuesday hashtag on social media. 


MacombNewsNow Celebrity Interview Dr Henry Louis Gates Finding Your Roots

Dr. Henry Louis Gates is the host of the PBS series Finding Your Roots which is about helping people discover their heritage. Dr. Gates, a professor at Harvard, became fascinated by Geneology at an early age and carried that fascination into a show that has become incredibly popular for PBS, a show that has proven controversial for its Ben Afflect episode and heartwarming in other episodes including tonight's season 2 debut which helps to reunite Madam Secretary star Tea Leoni with the family she never knew she had. Dr. Henry Louis Gates spoke with Sean Patrick on the K100 Morning Show today. 

Click here for the interview. 


Durbin and Duckworth want Rauner to weigh in on GOP tax plans

U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth are calling on Govenor Rauner to publically weigh-in on the Republican tax plans in the House and Senate and how these plans would impact Illinois families. The House passed its version last week while the Senate is working out its own version. Speaking Thursday, prior to the House vote in favor of the GOP tax plan, Rauner was staying mostly mum on the subject...
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Durbin and Duckworth say the House and Senate bills would finance massive tax cuts for the largest corporations and wealthiest Americans by raising taxes on millions of middle-income families and eliminating vital tax breaks for people in Illinois.


Deep Southern Illinois Takes Another Jobs Hit

A major employer in deep southern Illinois is going to lay off 170 employees. Honeywell is idling a plant that converts uranium ore into uranium hexafluoride or UF6, a key ingredient in the enrichment of uranium that is used in nuclear power plants. The facility in Massac County is the only place in the United States where that work is done. Honeywell says a declining worldwide need for UF6 is causing the layoffs. According to a press release the plant will move to an idling phase and will be ready to restart if the UF6 market improves.


Illinois corn touting more uses than just ethanol

Corn can produce anything crude oil can. That's what the Illinois corn industry is touting. And Rodney Weinzierl with the Illinois Corn Growers Association says it's more than just ethanol. He says starch from corn is the key driver and can be used in the production of tennis shoes.
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Weinzierl says a similar method is used for the production of degradable sutures used in the medical industry. 


Enrollment Still Open for Medicare

There is still time left to sign up or enroll for Medicare. The process can be a bit daunting at times for seniors so the Department on Aging has more than 300 sites around Illinois offering free trained counselors to help in the process. Aging’s Sandy Leith says to start online at Medicare dot Gov and then sit down with a counselor if you still have questions on what plan is best for you.

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Seniors looking for a list of the sites where they can meet with someone should start at Illinois dot Gov slash Aging. The sign up period closes on December seventh.


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