The Regional Media Grand Winter Auction continues this week as we still have many items to sell! Make sure to tune in to your favorite Regional Media station weekdays from 11am until 12noon.
Below are a few items we still have availible for you to place bids or buy!
A year membership to Cassady Martial Arts Academy up for bidding! Retail Value of $1200
From M&B Furniture we have a LaZBoy Recliner in a cream tweed color. Retail Value: $529
A Symbol Queen size mattress, box spring, and bed frame set from Modern Home Furniture Outlet Center retailing at $499
A MedLift Lift Chair in a thistle color from More Medical valued at $1808
We have many items from A Boy and His Tiger
From Discount Furniture and Bedding we have a Brown leather reclining sofa valued at $999
Listen for many of your favorite certificates to your local resturants as well!
Remember to tune in weekdays from 11am until 12noon on all of your favorite Regional Media Stations to get great DEALS on many items!
Possible double taxation and concerns about privacy are among the biggest criticisms against implementing a vehicle miles traveled, or VMT, tax.
In 2016, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton floated the idea of a VMT, but after immense public opposition he abandoned the bid.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker brought the idea of tracking and taxing miles driven to the editorial board of the suburban Daily Herald last week as a way to pay for infrastructure projects in Illinois.
Such a pilot program that is voluntary and only available for 5,000 drivers is ongoing in Oregon. Beginning this year, the program charges 1.7 cents per mile.
Oregon-based Cascade Policy Institute President and CEO John Charles was part of a commission to bring about the program.
“Back in 2001, the Oregon legislature decided to see a future in which the motor fuel tax would eventually become minor or completely irrelevant due to the coming revolution of hybrid vehicles, and now all electric vehicles and people with such vehicles pay little or zero motor fuel tax and become free riders and the system wouldn't work,” Charles said.
Charles was part of a task force that eventually settled on the road user fee pilot program.
“In my mind, if you are paying for something and you’re getting a service in return, it’s not a tax it’s a user fee,” he said.
The volunteers in Oregon’s pilot program can deduct the fees they pay through the VMT pilot.
“It’s a test of the concept,” he said.
If a state like Illinois were ever to fully implement such a system, taxpayers need to hold politicians’ feet to the fire to get rid of other taxes, Charles said.
“[Legislators] can’t get themselves to do that,” Charles said. “They just want to double and triple tax people. OK, well that’s where it goes away then. You’re not going to get public support for double taxation.”
If such a program involves a transponder reporting to government where drivers travel, Charles said there will be privacy concerns.
“Privacy issues will definitely come forward and politicians would need to be aware of that,” he said.
Eventually, Charles said, this will be a conversation all states are likely to encounter.
“As electric cars penetrate the market at an increasing rate, I think every state is going to have to grapple with this issue, which is, 'What’s the future like if motorists aren’t buying motor fuel, how are you going to pay for roads infrastructure?' ” Charles said.
Taxpayers will have to be persistent that if a user fee is implemented in one area, a tax must be repealed from another, he insisted.
“People are not going to stand for it unless you’re going to give them some tax relief from some other second or third tax” Charles said. “Politicians have a very, very hard time getting that message.”
A fragile object tucked away in a room of unknown historical treasures has been found and it is tied to one of the most well-thought-of presidents in U.S. history, Abraham Lincoln.
Sandy Vasko, director of the Will County Historical Society, discovered a dried rose a few weeks ago that she said was on the funeral bier of Abraham Lincoln when his remains were at the capitol in Washington D.C. on April 20, 1865.
The flower is fairly rare, according to Vasko. She knows of only one other group of flowers and they are in the Library of Congress.
Vasko said the flower was given to General Isham Haynie of Illinois, who was a good friend of Lincoln’s and may have been by his bedside when he died.
General Haynie presented it to Mrs. James G. Elwood, who lived in suburban Joliet. Her husband, James Elwood, was the mayor of Joliet and a civil war veteran.
The Historical Society received some of Elwood’s possessions and the flower was inside one of his boxes.
In 1971, the Will County Historical Society moved into the building they occupy now. Many of their boxes were put in closets and attics, and were soon forgotten.
Vasko had been tasked with looking through those rooms and, a few weeks ago, she discovered the dried rose.
“For a museum director to find this kind of incredible artifact, it is so lucky,” Vasko said. “When I was touching it and handling it, it was like electricity. It was just so amazing.”
Vasko said a few lucky people will soon get the opportunity to see the flower.
"The first thing we’re going to do is have a sneak peek," Vasko said. "On Feb. 17, we’re going to allow 50 lucky people to come in this building and view it first-hand."
After the viewing, the flower will be put back in a safe and won’t be displayed again until about June, according to Vasko.
Vasko said she and the museum staff are working to make the flower available for Illinois’ Bicentennial.
“You have to be approved," Vasko said. "We started the process a week ago, but being incorporated, everyone has to look at it and see it and approve it."
She also wants people to be aware of what hidden treasures could possibly be in their homes.
“There are so many attics in the state of Illinois that have boxes full of things,” Vasko said. “Don’t let them sit there. Look through them. Give them to the next generation.”
Illinois’ governor supports work rules for able-bodied Medicaid recipients, but there needs to be more jobs, he said. The state’s leading manufacturers’ association says making Illinois more business friendly would help.
The Trump administration proposed to allow states to require able-bodied adults with no children to work in order to get Medicaid benefits. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services said it’s reviewing the federal proposal.
Gov. Bruce Rauner supports the idea, but said the first move is to make good jobs available for everyone.
“We don’t have jobs available for everyone,” Rauner said last week in Peoria, “and that’s got to be our priority, because you can force people to work but if there’s not a work opportunity, that’s not going to succeed.”
Rauner said the first priority is creating a business-friendly environment to grow more jobs.
“I need the legislature’s help to reform our regulatory burden,” Rauner said, “and also to agree with me to bring down the income tax hike and get local control of property taxes.”
Rauner said that will foster more businesses to come to Illinois.
Illinois Manufacturers’ Association Vice President Mark Denzler said one thing state lawmakers could do is reform the state’s high business costs.
“We need to reform Illinois’ workers’ compensation system,” Denzler said. “We need to reduce the tax burden on Illinois employers. We need to reduce the unnecessary and costly regulations on employers that make it more difficult to do business in Illinois.”
Denzler said the state also needs to get control of soaring property taxes, which are among the highest in the nation.
While manufacturing employees likely get employer-sponsored health care, Denzler said every manufacturing job created spurs on three additional jobs in other sectors.
“There’s jobs in the retail sector, or the restaurant sector,” Denzler said. “There are jobs that support manufacturers. It’s the biggest multiplier effect of any industry.”
The federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services put a letter out to states last week saying it would support state efforts to test incentives that make participation in work or other community engagement a requirement for continued Medicaid eligibility for able-bodied adults without dependents.
So far, only Kentucky has been given the green light to implement the new guidelines.
Illinois has lagged behind the rest of the country, as well as the rest of the Midwest, in the 10 years since the recession began, according to an Illinois commission’s report.
The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability weighed Illinois’ gross domestic product over the past 10 years against the rest of the country.
According to the report, the state’s “real GDP” expanded from $671 billion in 2007 to $696 billion in 2016. That growth of 3.8 percent pales behind the national rate of 10.7 percent, and 9.1 for the Midwest region.
“Illinois has lagged behind both the U.S. and the Midwest comparatively since December of 2007, which was the beginning of the Great Recession,” said COGFA Senior Analyst Ben Varner.
In the middle of the recovery, the state’s economy took a turn back for the worse that other states didn’t see before that, Varner said.
“We took a jag down in 2013 that you didn’t see quite as significantly in the Midwest or the U.S.,” he said.
Lawmakers approved a 67 percent personal income tax increase in 2011 and a 30 percent corporate tax increase.
“Illinois has a bunch of issues with their state government and their tax environment,” Varner said. “I don’t think businesses like that.”
The West Central Illinois Arts Center is holding a live art competition event called Battle of the Brushes. It will take place Saturday, January 27 from 7-10 p.m. at the WCI Arts Center (25 East Side Square, Macomb). Proceeds from the event go back to the WCI Arts Center and its effort to improve its facility and capabilities within it.
The event will feature twelve painters competing in a live competition that will be determined by an audience vote. Area artists will participate, along with celebrity guest artists. The celebrity artist group includes Macomb Mayor Mike Inman. The night also features music, food, a cash bar, raffle, and silent and live auctions.
Through January 22 tickets are $25 for non-students and $15 for students. After that day the admission prices rise to $35 and $20 respectively. Tickets are available at wciarts.org or by emailing email@example.com or calling (309) 836-2782.
To learn more about the event, listen to my interview with Nancy Crossman here.
The latest report on the flu in Illinois shows a dip in the number of people getting sick. But one doctor said Illinois' flu season is not slowing down, yet.
Dr. Brian Curtis, Director of Physician Practice for OSF HealthCare Medical Group, said that the latest report from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) shows a dip in flu cases for the first week of the year isn't a sign that flu season had peaked.
"Usually the flu season will last two to three weeks, then come down," Curtis explained. "And then, about two to three weeks later you get a second spike, a second wave of illnesses that come through."
The latest IDPH report says 218 people went to the emergency room in the first week of 2018, the season total is now over 600.
Curtis said that most of the people who've already gotten sick in Illinois are either very old or very young. He said the latest outbreak is among middle aged folks. Which can cause some of its own problems.
"The big thing is that if you are sick, you need to stay home," Curtis said. "Don't try and tough it out. Don't go to work. Don't send your kids to school."
So why is this flu season so early, and so strong? Curtis said blame the flu vaccine.
"Usually the flu vaccine is 50 percent to 60 percent effective. Now you're looking at 20 percent to 30 percent effective," Curtis said. "So you're going to have a worse flu season."
Curtis said even if the vaccine is only 20 percent to 30 percent effective, that's better than not getting a flu shot at shot at all.
The Center for Disease Control's latest flu report says every state but Hawaii is reporting widespread flu activity, and the number of flu cases across the country is starting to level off but not decline.
One Wisconsin community is giving Illinois at least partial credit for an economic boom.
The town of Beloit is located just over the state line, about 20 miles north of Rockford. Town administrator Ian Haas says he’s seen several development projects roll out in just the past year.
“In the past 12 months, we’ve seen a boon in all sectors,” Haas said. “In residential, we’ve seen the signing of three different development agreements that insure a little less than 400 housing units in the next 10 years. We’re looking at an increase of just over 20 percent of our population.”
Hass says many of those new residents will be making the short move from Illinois into Wisconsin.
“There’s an awful lot of people I’m talking to who are moving into these new residences or taking part in these commercial developments that are coming from Illinois,” Haas said. “[They] are cutting ties and moving themselves and their family or moving their business. I know there’s a lot of people who are worried, especially when it comes to the financials for the state of Illinois.”
Haas says he’s heard from people concerned about the possibility of taxes continuing to rise in Illinois. Last summer, Illinois lawmakers approved a $5 billion tax increase over the veto of Gov. Bruce Rauner. The Town of Beloit has seen an uptick in moves from the Illinois towns of Roscoe and Rockton.
“Those are very nice municipalities,” Haas said. “I think it has less to do with what’s going on at the local government level and more with what’s going on at the state or county level.”
One major difference between the two states can be found in property taxes. A recent study by CoreLogic found Illinois has the highest median property tax rate in the nation, at a combined 2.67 percent. Wisconsin had median property taxes of 1.95 percent.
“One of the things I was absolutely floored by were the property taxes for the average property owner in the city of Rockford,” Haas said. “When we were running our comparables, we found it was above and beyond anything we see in Wisconsin.”
The Town of Beloit also is seeing more activity on the business side of things. An undisclosed company is in talks about building a $50 million agriculture facility in the area. And Haas says he’s taken a handful of calls recently from Illinois businesses looking to relocate.
“Being in a rough spot is not easy, and I’m not trying to attack the state,’ Haas said. “But there are definite issues that need to be resolved, and until they are I think people will continue to look in Wisconsin and Indiana for options.”
With Illinois’ primary election less than two months away, the candidates for governor are being pressed on their views about gerrymandering.
The next Illinois governor will be in office for the redrawing of the state’s political maps. Jeff Raines, communications and outreach director with Change Illinois, said that’s why they’ve tasked all of the candidates to share their views on who should be drawing the state’s political boundaries.
“They draw their districts in such a way, both Republican and Democrat, so that they can have a safe ride to victory, not having to worry about any opposition,” Raines said.
The questionnaire asks the candidates about their opinion of the current method of drawing Illinois’ political maps, whether they would support a citizen-led push to change the process, and other aspects that Raines says voters should know about before the primary election in March.
Gerrymandering of districts has led to “safe seats” where Raines said the only competition an incumbent would face is from their own party.
“This only encourages the most extreme people from both parties to get elected by fighting over those most fervent supporters,” he said.
Removing politicians from the process has seen strong support from both sides of the aisle in Illinois. A recent poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll showed that 72 percent of Illinoisans support an independent commission to draw Illinois' district lines.
Multiple attempts to take politicians out of the map-drawing business have been shot down in court by organizations with ties to House Speaker Michael Madigan. Lawyer Michael Casper led the legal challenge to the last citizen-led initiative to institute a map-drawing process that was more free of political influence. Casper has represented Madigan and Illinois’ Democratic party in court in the past.
A number of other states have had their political maps challenged in court for disenfranchising their voters. Most recently, a panel of judges struck down North Carolina’s congressional maps as unconstitutional and gave them until January 29th to fix them.
The gerrymandering survey response deadline is Tuesday, January 23.
A government accountability group says the state of Illinois is fudging employment data in order to allow more healthy Illinoisans to receive taxpayer-funded food stamps without having to work.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved an Illinois Department of Human Services waiver request in October for the entire 2018 calendar year. The move means able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD) can continue to get food stamps without having to seek work.
In a USDA letter to DHS obtained by Illinois News Network, the federal agency said the state “may waive the applicability of the 3-month ABAWD time limit for any group of individuals in the State if the Secretary makes a determination that the area in which the individuals reside has an unemployment rate of over 10 percent, or does not have a sufficient number of jobs to provide employment for the individuals.”
USDA based the waiver off numbers provided by Illinois officials that showed an unemployment rate of 5.9 percent. That number was generated by combining two years worth of data, 2015 to 2017, from all Illinois counties unemployment data except DuPage County, and fit USDA’s requirement of an aggregate average unemployment rate 20 percent above the national average.
“During this time period, the national average unemployment rate was 4.95 percent; 20 percent above that rate is 5.9 percent,” USDA’s letter said.
Jonathan Ingram, vice president of research at Foundation for Government Accountability, said Illinois fudged its numbers to get the waiver.
“What the state did is it combined all these counties together so that when you combine a higher unemployment county with a lower one, it brings the average up,” Ingram said. “So they used this gimmick and loophole to really exempt virtually the entire state from these common-sense work requirements.”
Ingram said the numbers game Illinois played should send a signal to the Trump administration to forbid such tactics to save taxpayers money.
DHS said the waiver means 174,000 Illinoisans will remain eligible for the benefit for 2018.
“The individuals who qualify for [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] under this waiver are called Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents. However, we’ve found this name can be misleading,” a statement from DHS said. “Research has shown that many of these individuals have significant barriers to gaining employment like mental illnesses, substance use disorders, justice involvement, and significant physical limitations.”
Ingram said even though food stamps are mostly federally funded, the net result of Illinois’ waiver will cost state taxpayers.
“Taxpayers continue to pay more and more money for able-bodied adults to be on welfare, crowding out resources for other critical priorities like education, public safety, infrastructure,” Ingram said, “every other priority that taxpayers have.”
Federal data show that fewer than 20 percent of healthy, childless adults on food stamps in Illinois are working, Ingram said.
“Work is critically important to achieving self-sufficiency ..." he said. "After work requirements were implemented in other states, those leaving welfare went back to work in more than 600 different industries. They found work, worked more hours, and their incomes more than doubled on average.”
Ingram also said the work requirement would provide budget relief to Illinois, which despite a $5 billion income tax increase last year is still operating on a deficit.
“Higher wages for those moving from welfare to work would mean increased income tax collections and fewer people relying on other state-funded programs, including Medicaid,” he said.
DHS said it will use the one-year waiver period for pilot programs to transition the able-bodied population to self-sufficiency and touted numbers from previous years.
“In FY17, 11,459 Illinois households transitioned off [SNAP] due to increased earnings, which is a 32 percent increase from the previous fiscal year,” a DHS statement said. “In the first quarter of FY18, 4,591 SNAP households transitioned off SNAP in Illinois due to increased earnings ... We intend to continue to support our SNAP customers to help them achieve self-sufficiency.”
The Macomb Park District has announced the opening of a new position. The Park District is taking applicants for the position of Superintendent of Grounds.
The position includes the following duties: responsibility for supervision of all Macomb Park District park properties; facility and maintenance operations; seasonal staff hiring and supervision; and overall planning of maintenance operations. Applicants must apply before January 29, 2018. To be eleigible for the job, applicants must provide a Cover Letter, Resume, List of References, and a Park District Application
For more information call 309-833-4562 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications can also be picked up at the Macomb Park District office at 1406 North Randolph Street.
A doctor and author says requiring able-bodied people to work in order to receive Medicaid benefits will help everyone involved.
While the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services says it’s reviewing the federal government's proposal for states to require able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work, Dr. Myles Schneider, who wrote the book “Restoring ‘Health’ To Healthcare,” said the move makes sense.
“The people who work, who are working, if they can, if they are physically and mentally involved, have a much better chance to be healthier and live longer and have a better quality of life,” Schneider said.
Schneider also said such a requirement would save taxpayers money and make Medicaid stronger.
“Maybe they can get an employer-sponsored plan, which I think they’d rather have than Medicaid,” Schneider said. “That would get them off of Medicaid and would leave more money in Medicaid for people on Medicaid who really need it.”
Around a quarter of Illinois’ budget every year is eaten up by Medicaid costs.
HFS spokesman John Hoffman said the proposed federal policy is under review.
Hoffman also said Illinois is making progress on its Section 1115 waiver to the federal government to invest billions of dollars in new Medicaid policies up front in order to save billions in the long run. That proposal was submitted in October 2016
When projecting out to the new decade, a new study shows Illinois’ loses two congressional seats.
A new report by the Virginia-based Election Data Services divvies up Congress by population using the latest Census Data. The number of U.S. representatives in a state depends on its population. Since Illinois once again shrank in population last year, many outlets have predicted that the state will lose one member of Congress at the end of the decade.
EDS President Kim Brace said one of their projections shows Illinois losing two.
“[Illinois is] within that magic five points of potentially being on the odd side of the line,” he said. “Illinois is between 100,000 to 192,000 people away from losing that second seat.”
That particular projection is based on an assumption that Illinois will continue to lose a similar amount of people to what it did in the Census data released last month. The data showed the state shrank by 33,700 in total population.
Brace cautions that these are projections that assume no changes. EDS predicted that Louisiana should have gained a representative in the 2010 Census but Hurricane Katrina changed that in 2005.
“Instead of gaining a seat, they not only didn’t go even, they actually lost a seat,” he said.
Population losses in other states will affect whether Illinois loses just one U.S. House seat or two.
By April 1 of the new decade, the decennial U.S. Census is completed. The Census Bureau will announce the official populations for all 50 states by the end of the year. Those numbers are then taken into account by the federal apportionment program. That will ultimately determine how many congressional seats each state receives. Illinois has lost six representatives in the last four apportionments. Illinois lost one representative in each of the last two Census counts.
The states will receive their local population data by April 1 of the following year. That kicks off the redistricting process, where the group entrusted with drawing the political boundaries in each state will use that data to produce a new district map.
In Illinois, politicians themselves draw the maps. This has garnered criticism and legal challenges in recent years from people saying their votes are diminished due to an unfair drawing of the map, commonly known as gerrymandering.
The Macomb Park District continues its Push 4 Parks initiative, in hopes of raising enough money to install lights at the Veterans Park ballfields. UM Autos is now helping in this pursuit, pledging to donate $50 for each new car purchased (by McDonough County residents) in the month of January.
The Macomb Hy-Vee is also assisting the Push 4 Parks campaign, with a special deal on family size pizzas. You can purchase $10 pizza coupons at the Macomb Park District (1406 North Randolph Street), and three dollars of that will be donated to Push 4 Parks.
To hear more about the Push 4 Parks campaign, listen to my interview with Macomb Park District Executive Director Rachel Lenz here.
McDonough County United Way has released its funding application for 2018-2019. The organization is looking for nonprofit programs that support three community-oriented impact goals: Health, Education and Financial Stability.
An informal meeting with interested applicants will be held January 31 9am at The Old Dairy small conference room in Macomb. If interested, RSVP to the event by January 26.
Applications are due February 28. Email email@example.com or call 309-837-9180 for an application or to RSVP for the informational meeting.
A pair of Republicans at the Illinois statehouse say the University of Illinois may be getting part of the message about the high cost of a college education at their flagship campus.
The university is looking to freeze tuition, once again, for Illinois students next fall. It'd be the fourth straight tuition freeze, according to university officials.
And it is perhaps a sign that the U of I is starting to get it, according to state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon. He's one of two statehouse Republicans who say the state's biggest university is finally acknowledging that it's too expensive for too many Illinois families.
"This state has lost thousands of students over the last several years to schools outside of Illinois," Righter said. "Because we have not taken more aggressive action and leaned on institutions of higher learning."
Righter said the pendulum is now swinging back on many campuses across the state as school leaders refocus on affordability.
State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Normal, said he too gets a sense that the mindset at the U of I is changing, though he said $35,000 a year for tuition, room, board, books, and fees is still expensive.
And Brady said he is still concerned that Illinois students might not always have a place at the University of Illinois.
"You look at that out-of0state and international freshman will increase 1.6 percent this fall," Brady said. "[The U of I] has to make that tuition freeze up somewhere. And then you have to look at fees."
University spokesman Tom Hardy said fees will go up, but added that it is too soon to tell how many more out-of-state or foreign students will arrive on campus.
Hardy did say that the tuition freeze is an acknowledgement of the high cost of a U of I degree.
"The four years of tuition freezes for in-state freshmen ... is a recognition that the affordability of a world-class college education is foremost on the minds of prospective students and their families," Hardy said in an email. "The state of Illinois is exporting too many high school graduates to out-of-state colleges, and we want to incentivize more of them to attend college here and build their futures in Illinois."
Righter said it is great that the U of I is looking to freeze tuition. But he said university spending on professors and administrators is still massive, and the school's pension costs are not being addressed.
"There is no doubt that pension issues and administrative bloat have to be dealt with. And they will be dealt with, one way or another," Righter said. "The leaders at the U of I have been able to boast and recruit ... in part because of the attractive salaries and pensions benefits that they offer."
Righter said he thinks Illinois can control costs at the U of I and still preserve the school as a world class university.
University trustees are scheduled to discuss the tuition freeze at their meeting on Jan. 18 at the Chicago campus.
One of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s chief budget negotiators is trying to put the kibosh to a rumor that there’s an effort to pass a six-month budget to get through the November elections.
While fingers continue to point across the aisle and at Gov. Bruce Rauner for the current budget being more than $1.5 billion out of balance, state Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said he’s heard some rumblings about a stopgap budget.
“I’ve heard some people mention that we might have a short-term budget to get us through the [November] election,” Butler said. “I certainly don’t think that’s the way to go.”
Butler said lawmakers aren’t supposed to pass temporary budgets. They’re supposed to pass full year balanced budgets, per the state constitution.
“There are a lot of rumors going around,” state Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, said. “I think that our idea would be to pass a full year’s budget. That’s what we’re supposed to do.”
Harris said upcoming budget talks are already in the hole because of unappropriated spending from fiscal 2017.
Harris said Rauner’s agencies revealed more than a billion dollars in unappropriated spending. Rauner has said it’s the budget lawmakers imposed on taxpayers over his veto that’s out of whack.
Regardless, ratings agency S&P analyst Gabe Petek said Illinois hasn’t had a conventional budget in three years. It also hasn't had a balanced budget since 2001.
“Now that you’re talking about passing a budget in an election year, I’m not a political analyst, but I have to think it doesn’t help smooth the process,” Petek said.
Lawmakers didn’t pass a full year’s budget for fiscal years 2016 or 2017 at all. They only passed stopgap and temporary budgets. Petek said the current fiscal 2018 budget wasn’t conventional because it was imposed on taxpayers by lawmakers overriding the governor’s veto.
The current budget also spends the entirety of a $5 billion income tax increase imposed on taxpayers over the governor’s veto, doing little to pay off the state's backlog of unpaid bills or chip away at the state's $130 billion in unfunded pension liability.
On Feb. 14, Rauner delivers his budget address for the coming fiscal year that begins July 1 to both the House and Senate.
The state's fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.
Members of a task force designed to tackle sexual harassment in Illinois government are hopeful that their recommended fixes will be put into place, but they seldom addressed their issues in a meeting.
Instead of talking about ways to correct years of alleged sexual misconduct in Springfield, the House Sexual Harassment Task force spoke Thursday to women suing Ford Motor Company for the harassment they saw there. The task force spent hours hearing from the women as well as Equal Employment Opportunity officers from some of the state's other constitutional officers.
After hearing the emotional testimonies of the harassment victims from Ford, state Rep. Litesa Wallace, D-Rockford, worried that they may not be able to pass anti-harassment laws because of resistance to change in Springfield from those in leadership positions.
“It’s going to take all of us having a strong coalition both inside the legislature and outside so that the things suggested do pass,” she told one of the harassment victims. “I’ve seen things that I know would have benefited people go nowhere.”
Rep. Sara Wojcicki Jimenez, R-Springfield and the task force’s minority spokesperson, acknowledged the issue but warned legislative leaders against ignoring the changes they’re going to propose.
“I’m going to be unwavering if that happens,” she said. “I would advise that we would have full hearings and a vote.”
Despite the meeting lasting hours, the task force never addressed solutions for the harassment going on under the dome in Springfield that was much publicized last October, when anti-violence advocate Denise Rotheimer told her story of alleged harassment and intimidation at the hands of state Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago. He’s since been stripped of his leadership position but remains in office.
Rotheimer was one of hundreds of women to sign a letter detailing alleged misconduct by Illinois lawmakers and others in power.
The task force was sold by lawmakers last year as the source of solutions to the sexual misconduct claims. Instead, the meetings seem to have expanded into the lofty goals of solving sexual harassment across the state.
The task force has been assigned to complete its report by December 2018, well after the upcoming November elections.
The following press release comes from Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center. Due to the extreme cold during the holiday season, the blood supply has lessened significantly. Area donor centers include Burlington, Galesburg, and Macomb (1520 W Jackson St). Donors may find a nearby Donor Center or mobile blood drive by calling (800) 747-5401 or by scheduling online at www.bloodcenterimpact.org
"The supply of blood components available for patient transfusions at local hospitals has dropped significantly due to the combination of holidays, extreme cold, and illness across the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center service region in late December and early January. With more moderate temperatures in the forecast and a spike in blood utilization to treat trauma patients, officials at MVRBC urge all eligible donors to help the blood supply recover by scheduling an appointment to donate in the coming days.
The demand for blood remains constant year-round, but the rate of blood donation has decreased over the last three weeks due to the holidays, extreme cold, and widespread illness. From the days leading up to Christmas until after New Year’s Day, MVRBC’s schedule of mobile blood drives is greatly reduced and many donors too busy to schedule an appointment until after the holidays. This year, extreme cold between Christmas and New Year’s Eve and during the first week of the year has led to blood drive cancellations and a decrease in the Blood Center’s appointment show-rate.
“Patient need at the hospitals we serve never stops,” said Amanda Hess, Director, Donor Relations. “We’re asking donors to help us have a strong recovery from the cold snap to help make sure we can provide a steady blood supply for our local hospitals.”
With Donor Centers in Galesburg, Burlington, and Macomb, MVRBC is the exclusive provider of blood products and services to 86 hospitals in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin, including OSF St. Mary Medical Center (Galesburg), OSF Holy Family Medical Center (Monmouth) and McDonough District Hospital (Macomb). Potential donors are asked to find a convenient time to donate by calling MVRBC’s Donor Scheduling team at (563) 359-5401 or (800) 747-5401.
To recognize donors who provide this lifesaving resource during the month of January, the blood center will provide all registered donors with a voucher that can be redeemed (online or by phone) for the donor’s choice of a knit beanie (cap) featuring the MVRBC logo or a $5 electronic gift card for Starbucks coffee (email delivery). Vouchers will be distributed at mobile blood drives through January 14 and at MVRBC Donor Centers through the end of the month.
Blood donation is a safe, simple procedure that takes about 45 minutes to one hour. A photo I.D. or MVRBC Donor Card is required to donate. All persons age 17 and up (or 16, with a signed parental permission form) who weigh at least 110 lbs. and are in general good health meet the basic eligibility requirements for blood donation."
A week of peculiar weather in West Central Illinois continues with a threat of Thursday afternoon freezing rain. The prospect of freezing rain on already wet roadways has resulted in schools throughout the area dismissing students early Thursday. Temperatures opened up in the mid 50's Thursday, only to drop to the low teens at night. Throughout the weekend temperatures are expected to fluctuate between the teens and single digits. Snow is expected Sunday evening.
Slick roadways and unpredictable driving conditions are expected. Please use caution when driving and be sure to stay updated with the latest weather conditions on MacombNewsNow.com.
An outdoors advocacy group is excited that shuttered outdoors retailer Gander Mountain is opening up under a different brand.
Gander Mountain filed for bankruptcy last year and stores in Illinois closed. The retailer was bought by Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis. He said in a Facebook Live video last week that a slew of stores are opening under the name Gander Outdoors.
“They’re going to be opening at a very rapid pace,” Lemonis said. “With all of them being open by the end of May, the middle of June.”
Gander Outdoors stores are expected to open in Springfield, Rockford, Peoria, and O’Fallon.
Lemonis said when the stores open, customers will notice a difference.
“Rather than just opening up a big box we decided to change it up a little bit,” Lemonis said. “What you’ll see is four distinct departments with four distinct specialities and brands.”
Michael Rasmussen, with Illinois outdoors advocacy group Capitol Outdoors, said it’s not just hunters and fishers who will find what they’re looking for; the new stores will also attract other outdoors enthusiasts as well.
“It’s going to be more for hikers, you know, a different demographic for the outdoors,” Rasmussen said. “So that’s what I think is most exciting.”
Rasmussen said there’s a ton of newfound interest outside of traditional groups of hunters and anglers.
“It’s a cool thing to be outside now,” Rasmussen said. “It’s cool to be out hiking and enjoying that stuff. And to me, that’s always been cool though.”
Rasmussen said he wasn’t surprised by Gander Mountain closing because of high pricing. He expects Gander Outdoors to be more competitive.
There’s bipartisan support among Illinois lawmakers for a plan to build a new veterans home in Quincy and for funds to finish a stalled Chicago veterans facility.
The Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs says it will move forward with a plan to update an aging facility of the Quincy Veterans Home following 13 deaths of legionnaires disease in the past two years.
State officials said there were 200 instances of legionnaires in the entire state in 2015 with 53 of the cases in the Quincy Veterans Home alone. Center for Disease Control Dr. Sam Posner said that would be considered an epidemic.
In 2015, 12 veterans died. In October 2016, an additional veteran died of an illness associated with the disease.
Legionnaires is a respiratory virus that is contracted by breathing in water vapor that may contain the bacteria. In water pipes, legionella bacteria can grow on what’s called biofilm that accumulates in all water pipes. State officials said there’s still no known source of the problem.
Testing for legionella isn’t required at public health facilities, public or private, but Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Nirav Shah said if there is a positive test the state requires a water management plan.
Department of Veterans Affairs Director Erica Jeffries said one reason there may be more cases of legionnaires is because of increased testing. She said there are multiple tests per day being done on the water system at Quincy in the aftermath of the outbreak.
During the nearly four hour joint House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, lawmakers pressed officials about the outbreak. They wanted a permanent solution.
State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, said he supports a capital bill to fund a new building on the Quincy campus and money to finish a stalled Chicago veterans home.
“I do believe that if you have a new state of the art facility, you do it with a combination of federal funds, a capital bill with minimal exposure to [General Revenue Funds] that would take a delay in some other capital plans,” McSweeney said. “I don’t believe there’s any other solution.”
State Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Smithton, agreed.
“In a very bipartisan fashion, I don’t believe you’ll run into any resistance as far as trying to get financial help,” Costello said.
State Sen. Tony Munoz, D-Chicago, also supported a capital bill for a new or renovated facility.
There are several buildings on the Quincy campus that are decades old, with some more than 100 years old. There’s also plenty of space for a new facility with 210 acres on site.
A 200-bed Chicago veterans home that broke ground in 2014 has been delayed, partly because of a lack of funding and, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, partly because of design flaws that need to be corrected.
McSweeney said both projects would cost about $125 million with most of the funds possibly coming from federal tax dollars. If all sides come together and Gov. Bruce Rauner meets with federal officials, McSweeney said a proposal could come together in the next couple of weeks.
Jeffries said she’s eager to cooperate.
However, there were concerns construction could kick up the legionella virus during construction. Posner said legionella is something that’s found everywhere and can be dusted up during construction.
Some of the panel criticized the state for delaying a public release of information for six days back in 2015. Shah said it was a matter of ensuring that all information was gathered before sending out a press release.
Gov. Bruce Rauner temporarily moved into the home in Quincy after the first of the year. He’s expected to provide a review of his stay sometime after his stay ends this week.
Gov. Bruce Rauner sent back part of the sweeping education reform plans that the General Assembly sent to him so it can be changed.
Rauner used his amendatory veto power on one of the bills Monday. In a release, he said the bill as written excludes at least 36 Catholic or independent schools from being eligible for the state’s new scholarship program for private schools.
“Making this adjustment to this bill will maximize the number of schools eligible to participate, and therefore the number of students who may benefit,” Rauner said. “Inclusivity was the spirit of this legislation to begin with, and we simply must ensure that we follow through with the appropriate language to get the job done.”
The specific changes Rauner made to Senate Bill 444 were to include schools not yet recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education but that are or will be registered before Feb. 15. This, Rauner said, would allow students attending those schools, many African-American, the chance to apply to the Invest in Kids program. If the changes don’t happen, those students will not be eligible to apply for those scholarships.
The program, which sunsets in 2024, offers a state tax rebate on donations to help students attend private schools.
Students are being told to apply for the private school scholarships on Jan. 24, before the Senate is scheduled to convene.
With the veto, questions now arise about what it means for the education funding formula as well as the Invest in Kids program.
And answers to those questions are all over the place. Chief sponsor of the original education funding reform bill, state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, said Rauner's amendatory veto "stands to derail implementation of the new [education funding] formula."
One of the chief Republican negotiators on the bill, state Rep. Robert Pritchard, R-Hinkley, said Rauner's move likely will delay payments of extra funds, but no schools will see any losses as result.
State Rep. Will Davis, D-Homewood, a sponsor of the education funding reform bill in the House, said he has yet to fully review Rauner's amendatory veto but didn’t think holding up Senate Bill 444 would stall the new education funding formula.
Another issue is House Speaker Michael Madigan’s history of not accepting amendatory vetoes, regardless of the governor's political stripes.
“[Madigan] has been more than willing to essentially kill legislation where he believed the governor has overstepped his constitutional authority,” University of Illinois at Springfield Professor Emeritus Kent Redfield told Illinois News Network in July. That was when Rauner’s amendatory veto of the original school funding bill led to it being derailed after an override in the House failed.
The schools affected, according to Rauner's office, are:
1. Most Blessed Trinity (Waukegan)
2. St. Joseph (Libertyville)
3. St. Clement (Chicago)
4. Ascension (Oak Park)
5. St. Bartholomew (Chicago)
6. St. George (Tinley Park)
7. Francis de Sales High School (Chicago)
8. Leo High School (Chicago)
9. Pope John XXIII (Evanston)
10. St. Catherine Laboure (Glenview)
11. St. Sylvester (Chicago)
12. Children of Peace (Chicago)
13. St. Frances of Rome (Cicero)
14. St. Daniel the Prophet (Chicago)
15. St. Barnabas (Chicago)
16. Incarnation (Palos Heights)
17. St. Bede the Venerable (Chicago)
18. Holy Angels (Chicago)
19. Academy of Scholastic Achievement
20. A Step Ahead Academy
21. Cambridge School of Chicago
22. Chicago Westside Christian School
23. Chicago S D A Academy
24. Christians Center Outreach
25. Faith Walk
26. Freedom Home Academy
27. Gospel Quartets Academy
28. Hales Franciscan
29. Loving Spirit Community Outreach
30. Muhammad University
31. Northwest Institute
32. Nkrumah International Academy
33. Peaceful New Beginnings Academy
35. United Educational Cultural Academy
36. Village Leadership Academy
Illinois lawmakers are scheduled for less than 20 days at the statehouse between now and April. Some legislators say that's a good thing.
Both the state House and Senate will spend just a couple of days a week, with breaks in between, in session in January, February, and March.
State Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Murphysboro, said that's not a lot of time to get things done. But he said it's also not a lot of time to screw things up.
"If we're not up in Springfield, we can't make the situation any worse," Schimpf said. "That certainly appears to me that all of the legislative ideas that are circulating at the Capitol would make the situation worse."
Schimpf says he doesn't think lawmakers will tackle the state's problem of bringing job creators to Illinois. With the highest workers' compensation costs in the Midwest, among the highest property taxes in the country and what employers say are overly burdensome business regulations, Illinois lags behind its neighbors when it comes to jobs growth.
State Rep. Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford, said he understands that people expect lawmakers to earn their starting $67,000-a-year paycheck, but he also agrees with Schimpf.
"Generally speaking, the less we meet the less damage can be caused," Sosnowski said. "I think the less that the state legislature does, the better."
Sosnowski said it would be one thing if Illinois lawmakers were going to solve the state's pension crisis, or tackle reforming Medicaid or property taxes, but he doesn't see that happening this year.
Schimpf added that half of the problem is that Democratic leaders control every piece of legislation because they control both chambers, so there's often nothing to do at the statehouse.
Illinois lawmakers are scheduled for less than 20 days between now and April 1, then they're in most weekdays until June.
The Macomb Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) has announced its endorsement of Nick Petitgout for McDonough County Sheriff. Petitgout, who currently serves as the Chief Deputy to Sheriff Rick VanBrooker, is one of three Republican candidates that appeared before the Macomb FOP prior to the decision being made. This comes with the primary set for March 20.
In a press release from Macomb FOP President Derek Wiley, four main reasons were given for the FOP's decision. The reasons were: the FOP's current working relationship with Chief Deputy Petitgout, his BA in Law Enforcement from Western Illinois University, his training and service as a Marine, and the fact that Sheriff VanBrooker selected Petitgout to be his Chief Deputy in the first place.
The Macomb Police Department and McDonough County Sherriff's Office work together in a variety of different areas, including drug cases and burglaries.
The Knox County 4-H Livestock Judging Team finished thirteenth at the national livestock judging contest in Denver. The team earned its way to nationals after finishing in second place at the state level in 2017. The team was in Denver competing from January 2 through January 8, and is now back home in Galesburg.
The team consists of Andy Bates, Katelyn Engel, Evan Link, Case Hennenfent, and Annika Spring. Twenty-six 4-H teams from various states participated in nationals. The Knox County group earned its highest scores in goats and beef, finishing fifth and seventh respectively in those areas. Individually, Hennenfent placed third overall, with Link finishing sixth.
The team now looks ahead to competitions throughout the state, running through May.
Western Illinois University's Office of Public Safety (OPS) will hold a benefit for Officer Krystal Scott Wednesday, January 10. Scott is undergoing treatment for stage four colon cancer. Proceeds from the benefit, which takes place from 4:30-8 p.m at the Macomb American Legion Post No. 6 (221 E. Washington St.), will go to Scott and her daughter.
"Krystal is a hard-working, dedicated and passionate individual, in and out of uniform, and she is a wonderful single mother to her daughter," said Det. Sarah Worthington, who is co-coordinating the benefit. "She is the last person to ever ask for help, but we want to provide her with as much support as we can."
The benefit features a spaghetti dinner catered by Italian Express, along with silent and live auctions. The dinner is $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. The meal includes spaghetti, garlic bread, salad and a beverage. Take-out is also available.
Tickets are available at the door, or in advance at the Office of Public Safety/Mowbray Hall, or by calling (309) 298-1949 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the aftermath of federal tax reform, a couple of state lawmakers are sounding off on what the state of Illinois needs to do when it comes to taxing and spending. One wants to take a wait-and-see approach. Another says the state must address its spending problem.
From proposing state tax cuts or even lawsuits against the feds, a number of high-tax states like California and New Jersey are looking at ways to lessen the impact of federal tax reform on their state’s bottom lines. What’s happening in high tax Illinois? Not much.
Illinois has some of the highest state and local taxes in the nation and is rivaled only by New Jersey for the highest property tax in the nation.
The federal tax reform puts a $10,000 cap on the amount of state and local taxes, or SALT, deductions taxpayers can write off on their federal taxes. That is expected to pinch tax filers with more than $10,000 in property taxes as they won’t be able to deduct above that.
State Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Chicago, said before moving forward with any ideas, lawmakers must fully digest the federal reforms.
“That being said, when we get to Springfield and when we talk to our colleagues and when we talk to stakeholders, [we need to] make sure we’re being responsive to the concerns people have and go from there,” Zalewski said.
State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said he pulled numbers from Sangamon County and a very small percentage of residents and businesses actually paid more than $10,000 in property taxes, so he didn’t see that being a big issue. However, he said spending drives taxation and there must be a focus on spending reform in Illinois.
“As time goes on, we’ve seen a real stranglehold on being able to use our tax dollars in other ways and more of it going to things like pensions and Medicaid,” Butler said. “We’re going to have to address those situations. We’re going to have to figure something out on that.”
Zalewski said high property taxes in Illinois are a concern and, given the recent income tax increase and the battle over the now repealed soda tax in Cook County, “we need to be mindful of tax fatigue in this state."
Regardless of what happened in D.C., we need to sort of keep in mind we need to be responsible to the taxpayers as well,” Zalewski said.
Butler said one way lawmakers can be responsible to taxpayers is to address the state’s pension crisis.
“This pension problem isn’t going away,” Butler said. “We have $130 billion-plus in unfunded pension liability. The public employees of this state need to be part of that solution.”
Despite various efforts and ideas to reform public sector pensions in Illinois, lawmakers finished out last year without substantive reforms.
Butler said he’d like to roll back the income tax increase Democrats and some Republicans imposed on taxpayers last summer over the governor’s veto. Butler didn’t support that measure. He also said the federal reform doubling the standard deduction will keep more money in taxpayers' pockets and help spur more economic activity.
Illinois state lawmakers aren’t back in Springfield until Jan. 23 in the House, a week and a day before Gov. Bruce Rauner delivers his State of the State address.
After publishing a study last week ranking the best cities in the Land of Lincoln to raise a family, Wallet Hub ranked Illinois twelve in its "Best and Worst State to Raise a Family," rankings.
The rankings were determined by factoring in the following categories.
Raising a Family in Illinois (1=Best; 25=Avg.):
12th – % of Families with Young Kids
27th – Child-Care Costs (Adjusted for Median Family Income)
27th – Infant-Mortality Rate
6th – Median Family Salary (Adjusted for Cost of Living)
35th – Violent-Crime Rate
26th – % of Families in Poverty
18th – Housing Affordability
45th – Unemployment Rate
10th – Separation & Divorce Rate
The midwest as a whole fared well in these rankings. Minnesota was ranked second with Wisconsin coming in at six, Iowa eight, Missouri twenty four and Indiana thirty.
A new searchable map of government bloat shows there are almost as many federal government employees in Illinois as there are state employees and their benefits are generous.
OpenTheBooks.com’s latest project, “Mapping The Swamp: A Study of the Administrative State,” allows visitors to search their ZIP code to find out how many federal employees are in their backyard.
Open The Books founder and CEO Adam Andrzejewski said Illinois’ findings are eye opening.
“There are 57,000 federal workers employed by different federal agencies including the post office,” Andrzejewski said. “That number rivals the number of state employees in Illinois.”
Illinois state government employs around 63,000 workers. The largest private employer in the state is Allstate Insurance with 13,000.
Andrzejewski said 9,000 of those federal employees in Illinois make more than $100,000 a year.
Across the country after three years on the job federal bureaucrats get 43 paid days off in sick time, vacation days and holidays.
“And just that little benefit costs taxpayers $23 billion a year,” Andrzejewski said.
The report says the federal government paid its employees more than $1 million per minute, overall.
Andrzejewski said there are a couple of ways to shore up costs like eliminating bonuses.
“With these high salaries, many people don’t feel a federal worker also needs a bonus but [in 2016] just that line item cost the American taxpayer $1.5 billion,” Andrzejewski said.
He also suggested cutting “the federal in-house spin machine, the [public relations] officers. There’s 3,600 PR officers employed in the federal agencies. That line item costs the American taxpayer a half a billion dollars a year.”
“So if you do both of those things, bonuses and trim back the PR corp, there’s $2 billion on the table,” Andrzejewski said.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., said he was successful in opening up the House’s books with online reports of expenses required every quarter.
“That doesn’t happen for the U.S. Senate,” Davis said. “That doesn’t happen in the executive branch, and it frankly doesn't happen in the judicial branch, which I think it should.”
Davis, a Taylorville Republican, said he does what he can to control costs within his own office and members of Congress are already limited by law how large their individual budgets can be and how many employees they can hire.
You can view the entire report here
The Legacy Theater in Carthage begins its third year of shows, with Amy Walen as the new theater operations manager.
Walen is at the theater box office from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday to Friday to sell tickets to upcoming performances, but her job goes far beyond ticket sales.
“Of course, we have to get tickets sold so we can continue to be a venue. We wouldn’t have the theater without people coming to the shows,” Walen said.
In this part time position, Walen works with the volunteer Legacy Theater Foundation board and its three committees.
With the performance recruitment committee, Walen helps secure performers, finalizing details of their contracts and taking care of their needs. This can mean a place to stay, meals, or even decorating a large Christmas tree for the Hughes Brothers’ Christmas show.
On the production side, she may need to provide special sound or lighting equipment for a show.
To promote marketing, Walen will work with travel services. Bus groups from outside the area are an important part of the growing Legacy Theater audiences.
“On the operational side, I need to be sure the facility is clean and at the right temperature. If I find a problem, I deal with it or report it to the board,” she said.
“I go to all board and committee meetings and represent the theater at community organizations.”
The theater works with local restaurants to create “dinner and a show” options, bringing more customers to other businesses in the area.
“It is hard to explain all I do because I’ve just barely begun. I will take things as they come. I don’t know what all I’ll do because it hasn’t come up yet,” she said. Walen volunteers on the marketing and fundraising committees, and in the ticket office before being named operations manager, the only paid position at Legacy Theater.
Walen grew up in North Dakota and graduated from West Fargo High School, but she stresses, “My home is here now.”
She attended Millikin University in Decatur for two years, majoring in theater administration, and graduated after two more years at BYU Idaho majoring in business management with an emphasis in finance.
After graduation in 2014, she moved back to Illinois with a job at the Carthage branch of First Community Bank.
“All during my high school years, I was heavily involved in theater. Every play they put on, I did something with the theater. In the last two years, I was more on the stage management side,” Walen said. She was involved as an officer in drama club and created a high school improve group.
This continued at Millikin where she was production manager of Pipe Dreams, a student run theater and worked with its faculty/community board. She had many theater classes in make-up, staging, and dance, as well as operations.
“Being in theater has always been a dream of mine. It is nice to be able to use my business degree in theater.”
Looking ahead, Walen hopes to see the theater’s audiences reaching out beyond the Quincy, Burlington and Macomb regions.
“I want the Legacy to be a location people want to come to. People are looking for unique places to go that are not too far away,” she said. “I like how the theater is reaching for broader audiences with different types of shows.”
This spring the theater features Highwaymen Live, a country tribute band; Dennis Watkins, a mentalist; and Midwest Dueling Pianos.
“I’d like to see more on the educational side. Drama classes, perhaps ask the performers who come if they would do a workshop."
“It all goes back to our mission, to enrich, educate, inspire and entertain. That’s the job of the manager, to make sure we are fulfilling that mission in each performance. I want our audiences have a good experience in the theater. And not just a good show, but interacting with people at the theater.”
Astoria Schools: Closed
Beardstown Schools: Closed, Evening activities canceled
Brown County Schools: Closed
Bushnell-Prairie City Schools: Closed
Carl Sandburg College: All campuses closed
Carthage Elementary: Closed
Dallas City Elementary: Closed, Evening activities canceled
Hamilton Schools: Closed
Illini West: Closed
LaHarpe Elementary: Closed, Evening activities canceled
Nauvoo-Colusa Schools: Closed, Evening activities canceled
Schuyler-Industry Unit #5: Closed, Evening activities canceled
Southeastern Dist. 337: Closed
Spoon River College: All campuses closed
West Prairie CUSD #103: Closed, Evening activities canceled
Western Illinois University (Macomb and Quad Cities): Open but under weather advisory until 10 a.m.
Culbertson Memorial Hospital:
Due to icy road conditions the following departments will be closed January 8th.
Community Medical Clinic - Astoria
Community Medical Clinic - Table Grove
Elmer Hugh Taylor Clinic - Beardstown
Rushville Family Practice
Senior Life Solutions
Therapy Services in Rushville and Beardstown will open at 10 a.m.
If you have any questions please call the hospital at (217) 322-4321
YMCA of McDonough County:
No Senior Meal Program today in Bushnell, Colchester and Macomb
The Macomb City Council Committee of the Whole will meet Monday, January 8 to hear public comments on several issues and hold its executive session. Topics to be discussed in the public comments section include renewal of the City of Macomb's health insurance plan, the Macomb Police pension fund statement of investment policy and an update on the Blight Reduction Program. Following that, information will be considered pertaining to the Open Meetings Act. You can read through the entire agenda here.
The Illinois Legislature ethics panel has been hit with a complaint for neglecting to do their job for years. The question now is “who will investigate them?”
Anti-violence advocate Denise Rotheimer filed a complaint with Legislative Inspector General Julie Porter Wednesday against the panel Porter answers to: the Legislative Ethics Commission. In her complaint Rotheimer says the eight-lawmaker panel broke state law when they failed to appoint an acting legislative inspector general for three years, leaving dozens of complaints to go unaddressed.
“To allow for that vacancy to remain for three years shows that they are not serious about having these complaints investigated,” she said Thursday.
State law dictates that “the Commission shall designate an Acting Legislative Inspector General who shall serve until the vacancy is filled.”
The lawmakers named in Rotheimer’s complaint are: state Sen. Terry Link, D-Vernon Hills, Chairman, state Rep. Norine Hammond R-Macomb, state Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, state Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin, state Sen. Michael Connelly, R-Lisle, state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, state Sen. Karen McConnaughay, R-St. Charles, and state Rep. Arthur Turner, D-Chicago.
In the three years of vacancy, dozens of complaints piled up. Porter recently told the Commission that only 10 were valid. One of the complaints she suggested be disregarded was because the accused lawmaker was no longer in office.
During a House floor debate about some of the new ethics laws passed, Hays heatedly chastised another member for saying that the commission members never made recommendations for an interim legislative inspector general. Hays claimed the commission did submit names for the vacant post, but legislative leaders from both parties took no action with them.
In addition to the new complaint, Rotheimer’s also asking that the commission members recuse themselves from her harassment complaint against state Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, since hers was one of the complaints they shelved.
“Why should I feel as though they would take my complaint seriously if they allowed that position to remain vacant for three years,” she said.
These cases are typically handled in anonymity to protect both sides of a complaint, but Rotheimer has decided to forgo that in hopes that it will shed more light on a process that’s been criticized as ineffective and riddled with conflicts of interest in favor of the accused.
Most notably is the fact that Porter must ask the commission before she can investigate Rotheimer’s case against Silverstein. A split vote means the case goes nowhere. This step has been criticized by not only victims and their representatives, but lawmakers on the ethics commission itself.
“There are a lot of people still stuck in the dark, silently suffering because there has been no real reform,” Rotheimer said.
Illinois' flu season is not getting any lighter. The latest report from the state shows a large number of outbreaks among senior citizens and in the Metro East.
The latest flu report from the Illinois Department of Public Health for the last week of 2017 shows a large jump in the number of flu cases across the state.
Illinois doesn't track flu cases, just hospitalization. The IDPH reports 130 new people went to the emergency room with the flu, and there were 37 new outbreaks in the last week of 2017.
So far this season, almost 350 people have gone to the ER in Illinois because of the flu.
People older than 65 are the most vulnerable, and the Metro East leads the state in the number of flu outbreaks.
Marsha Wild is the director of infectious diseases with the St. Clair County Health Department, she said they're seeing a lot of cases in nursing homes, care centers, and even the jail.
"Anytime that you get people close together, living together," Wild said. "You can see how the flu can spread quickly."
Wild said that's one reason why a number of local hospitals are limiting visitors.
"We're particularly concerned about people who are immune compromised," Wild said. "People who are ill already, or they may have other health issues that suppresses their immune system, that makes them more susceptible."
Both Wild and the state's Department of Public Health say a flu shot can still help you avoid the flu or just limit its severity.
Peak flu season doesn't usually hit until late January or early February.
State lawmakers are unclear what the U.S. Department of Justice’s threats Thursday to enforce federal marijuana prohibition on states with legal pot sales will mean for Illinois.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and reports from Washington suggest that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions intends to give district prosecutors more discretion to enforce cannabis prohibition at the state level.
That would mean the DOJ could end Obama-era guidelines that Illinois state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, said were meant to provide clarity to how legal marijuana businesses such as dispensaries and cultivation centers in Illinois should legally operate.
“Businesses want to know what to expect. They need to know what to do,” Cassidy said. “Ensuring they’re following financial tracking laws, ensuring they’re addressing concerns about leakage. This wasn’t revolutionary, this was common sense.”
But with most states, including Illinois, having a medical marijuana provision and the state's legislature debating whether to legalize pot for recreational use, Cassidy said the DOJ’s moves could cause a chaotic patchwork. That, she said, depends on how zealous federal prosecutors will be in enforcing federal marijuana laws.
“What we could see [are] businesses operating legally in some jurisdictions, relatively unbothered,” Cassidy said, “and ... other areas where raids are a regularity.”
State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, hears those concerns. He believes there's already a patchwork that exists, and it's "reflective of the standards and norms that arise from local decisions."
Barickman, who recently came out in support of the debate about making cannabis legal for adult use in Illinois, said he expects the U.S. Congress to act on the issue in order to help "remove some of the confusion that exists around the country because of the different approaches the states are taking.”
In a statement, Gov. Bruce Rauner's office downplayed the significance of Sessions potentially changing federal policy, saying, "The impact remains to be seen. How federal prosecutors select which cases to prosecute was and remains a matter solely within their discretion, regardless of any state laws or policies."
Gov. Rauner has opposed marijuana legalization during his tenure, and reiterated that stance as recently as December.
Cassidy has said she hopes to vote on her legalization legislation sometime this year.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has posted the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report addressing the Legionnaires’ disease cases at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy (IVHQ). CDC generated the report after a visit in December 2017 by environmental health and infectious disease specialists to IVHQ. IDPH requested on-site technical assistance from the CDC after confirming Legionnaires’ disease cases and this report addresses the complexities and persistence of Legionella and how the State of Illinois has taken appropriate action.
The full report can be viewed here. In the report, the CDC highlighted disease surveillance and the veterans home's water management program as areas that need improvement. Ideas including testing any residents who develop pneumonia for Legionnaires' as well as establishing control limits for hot water temperature range at fixures. The report indicates that the State of Illinois has taken the appropriate action to date.
Cases of Legionnaires’ disease have risen throughout the U.S. in recent years. In 2017 there were 300 reported cases in Illinois, involving both public and private facilities.
Illini West: Closed
LaHarpe Elementary: Closed and no evening activities
Illinois’ new program offering tax incentives for donations to private school scholarships is off to and running at a significant pace.
An eleventh-hour addition to the education reform bill signed into law last year, the Invest in Kids Scholarship Tax Credit Program gives 75 cents on the dollar in state tax credits for donations that are distributed to children hoping to attend private schools but aren’t able to afford the cost.
Donations from people and businesses are reserved with the state and then given to one of the five Scholarship Granting Organizations, or SGOs. They will then distribute the scholarship dollars to applying students whose parents wish to choose a private school over their local public school. Students may apply for the scholarships through the SGOs beginning Jan. 24th. The program will support scholarships for up to 15,000 students annually and sunsets in 2024.
In less than 48 hours, the Illinois Department of Revenue reported $36 million of the allotted $100 million had been pledged for donation.
More than one-third of all available contributions were allocated in the first hour Tuesday morning.
“This outpouring of generosity is truly a testament to the many Illinoisans who believe in offering students and their families a choice in their education,” said Gov. Bruce Rauner in a release.
Rauner has long advocated for school choice programs.
“We’re absolutely amazed at the generosity of donors throughout the state,” said Myles Mendoza, Executive Director at Empower Illinois, one of the qualifying SGOs and recipient of the vast majority of the pledges. “The fact that Empower Illinois received $29 million in tax credit reservations is really a sign of strength of the coalition that’s working underneath our umbrella.”
More than 1,000 donors have pledged to the program at a median of $4,000, Mendoza said. Donations are capped at $1.3 million.
With the window opening after a holiday weekend, Mendoza thinks there will be an uptick in giving since there is an up to ten-day lag between time registered and the time reserved.
The program has been criticized by public teachers unions, saying it will sap resources from districts when fewer students attend. A number of Democrats withdrew their support from the education funding bill once the program was added. Multiple Democratic candidates for Illinois governor have said they would end the program if they are elected this fall.
Taxpayers wishing to contribute to Invest in Kids may apply online through MyTax Illinois
The website WalletHub thought highly of Macomb in its annual "Best Places to Raise a Family in Illinois,"rankings. Macomb is 36 out of 220 cities in the Land of Lincoln according to the findings.
A main factor for Macomb earning such a favorable spot on the list is affordability. Macomb earned the top spot on overall affordability, which also factors in the fifth most affordable housing prices on cities included in this list.
In the area of family life and fun, Macomb slotted in at 15. The methodology there included playgrounds per capita, number of attractions, share of families with young children, weather and average commute time.
In Health, Education and Safety Macomb came in at 53. Quality of school system, high school graduation rate, air quality, pediatricians per capita, share of uninsured children, violent crimes per 1,000 residents and property crimes per 1,000 residents all played a role in that ranking.
In the final category, Socio-economics, Macomb is down at 191. The sub-categories there include seperation and divorce rate, share of two-parents families, share of families living below poverty level, share of households receiving food stamps, unemployment rate, wealth gap and forclosure rate.
Other area cities in the rankings include Canton at 72, Galesburg at 124, Jacksonville at 114 and Quincy at 99. A look at the entire state can be seen below.
An owl not typically seen in Illinois is being spotted in the state, as snowy owls are migrating here from the Arctic Circle.
Vernon Kleen, a retired avian ecologist, said the owls typically make their way south because of a shortage in their food supply. Kleen said he had not heard whether their food supply was reduced.
Kleen said scientists in the eastern United States are trying to attach transmitters to the birds to figure out their exact migration habits.
The owls do not appear in Illinois most years, but sightings in Central Illinois are high this year.
“This year, for some reason, there is an extremely large number,” Kleen said. “We’re in Central Illinois (where) ... one (sighting) every 10 years is kind of unusual. We have had seven or eight reports in just this past week.”
Snowy owls are used to hunting conditions in the Arctic Circle, which means they do not have to focus on staying out of the way of vehicles. When they fly south, the owls often are struck and killed by cars.
“When they come down here, they are focusing on the foods they are trying to catch, not paying attention to hazards that might befall them, which are cars,” Kleen said.
Kleen said those looking to catch a glimpse of the birds can check with local birders. He also said the owls sit on signposts, and are easy to spot in the sky or on the ground, unless snow is covering them.
Illinois has opt-in to a federal program that is pulling the state’s public safety phone traffic onto a separate broadband network.
FirstNet, an independent authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce, develops broadband networks across the U.S. for first responders.
Chrissie Coon, public safety liaison with FirstNet, said an example of a separate network’s importance came after the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.
“When the Chicago Cubs won the World Series and [had]] a parade in downtown Chicago, there was almost 5 million people in one concentrated area,” Coon said. “That can overwhelm commercial cellular networks.”
Coon said FirstNet can help first responders to keep receiving calls during high call-volume situations, such as victory parades or natural disasters.
“When those commercial networks are overwhelmed, and text messages and phone calls cannot get through, your police, fire and medical personnel will be able to communicate,” Coon said.
FirstNet’s networks will place no additional taxes on residents, Coon said. FirstNet and its private/public partner, AT&T, will bear the cost of developing the network throughout Illinois.
Coon said the program also can make it easier for first responders to communicate at longer distances and between different disciplines.
“This network will also give them the ability to communicate across geographical jurisdictions and different disciplines within those jurisdictions,” Coon said.
Although Coon said residents might not notice a difference, first responders and public safety officials should be able to operate more efficiently behind-the-scenes.
“Hopefully it becomes a seamless solution that residents do not even realize it is kind of happening behind the scenes, but their public safety will be able to operate more efficiently and safer,” Coon said.
The deadline for states to opt-in to FirstNet is Dec. 28.
On Friday, January 5, the Western Illinois Museum will hold an event called Celebrate Local. From 6:30-9:30 p.m., the venue will have live music, local food samples and new historical exhibits open to the public. The Western Illinois Museum is partnering with the Macomb Food Co-op for Celebrate Local.
Five musical acts will perform throughout the night, all playing music of different genres. The event also celebrates the growth of the Macomb Food Co-op and marks the closing of the museum's As Advertised: A History of Local Advertising exhibit.
A $5 donation is suggested at the door. A cash bar will be provided by Hy-Vee Catering. For more details on the event, listen to my interview with Western Illinois Museum Director Sue Scott here.
For additional information, contact the Western Illinois Museum at (309) 255-5572 and online. The Macomb Food Co-op can be reached at (309) 255-5572 and online.
U.S. law still mandates that people have health insurance in 2018, but in 2019 the fine on those who don’t have insurance goes away. An insurance broker has said it will be good when the dust settles and the effects of the change become clearer.
The federal tax reform law President Donald Trump signed in December strikes the fine imposed on taxpayers who don’t have insurance coverage, starting in 2019.
HealthMarkets Insurance Agency Individual Insurance Agent Dave Ferguson said there won’t be much of a change in insurance offerings once the mandate is essentially lifted in 2019, but he said premiums outside of government insurance exchanges could go up 10 percent every year.
“These insurance companies do have to make money,” Ferguson said. “They adjust their premiums to the point where they think they're going to make money. They never know for sure until they get through the whole year.”
With renewed efforts expected this year in Congress to reform the health insurance industry, Ferguson said there’s a lot of confusion among consumers.
“And it will be nice when things settle down and become stabilized in the marketplace, whatever that solution winds up being,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said the amount of money needed to fund Medicaid could go down as result of people who would have been forced into Medicaid deciding to forego insurance.
Goldwater Institute Director of Healthcare Policy Naomi Lopez Bauman agreed.
“Assuming that people choose not to enroll because there's no longer a penalty, you could potentially see some savings,” Bauman said.
Medicaid is among the largest costs for Illinois taxpayers.
Ferguson said Illinois’ biggest challenge for those forced into Medicaid because of the mandate is the time it takes to process individual applications.
Bauman said the solution ultimately should be to afford consumers more choices that fit their needs.
“Why not open up the market so there could be more innovation, more choices of products?” Bauman said.
People who don’t obtain insurance coverage for this year can still expect a fine, Ferguson said.
A number of states that have seen the most people leave in the last five years have some startling similarities.
Connecticut, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland have had the most net outmigration per taxpayer in the nation in the last half-decade based on IRS data. Bill Bergman from financial watchdog Truth in Accounting set out to find any common traits that the five have.
While much of what he found can’t prove to be more than coincidence, Bergman says there are parallels about people leaving their states and how much economic freedom they have or trust in state government they lacked, for instance.
“Taxpayers, and imminently future taxpayers, are sensitive to that probability and are increasingly leaving the state,” he said. “It appears that the citizens are neither that blind or that stupid. They don’t trust their government.”
States like Illinois that are losing population will have a harder time generating the tax money to fuel services as a result, Bergman said.
“States and local governments tax other things like sales and property taxes but if you’re running out of gas on income [tax collections], that’s not a good sign for those other sources,” he said.
The five states with the biggest outmigration problems were among the states that ranked worst in Cato Institute's Freedom Ranking, which evaluates states "according to the estimated costs that government restrictions on freedom impose on their victims," according to Cato's website; overall taxpayer burden; trust in state government; and real value of $100, which ranks states by their buying power.
Bergman also found that average temperature in January wasn’t as big of a factor as many have claimed but still seemed to matter to an extent.
A 17-year old boy, charged in connection with the shooting death of 19-year-old Madison Finch of LaHarpe, appeared in Hancock County court Tuesday. The boy, who's name has not been released, was charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated battery.
The charges stem from a shooting early Monday morning at a home on the corner of Conch Drive and Terre Haute Road in LaHarpe. The call came at 1:30 a.m. Finch was pronounced dead at 5:22 a.m. at the house by Hancock County Coroner Kendall Beals.
Per a WGEM report, the prosecution stated the incident happened at a party at the house. They stated the suspect brought a 22-caliber gun to the party and shot Finch once in the back of the head.
The prosecution then said the suspect ran away after the shooting. It was also revealed that the suspect was initially held in the Adams County Jail, but he will be placed in the Hancock County Jail, with no bond.
Hancock County Public Defender Kam Miller was appointed to represent the boy. The first preliminary hearing is set for January 23. According to the Herald-Whig, Hancock State's Attorney Jason Pohren asked the court to try the boy as an adult.
Illinois is starting 2018 with record cold.
The first day of the year was also the coldest day in years for a handful of places in Illinois.
The National Weather Service says the extreme cold that started 2018 set at least two records for cold, in Peoria and Lincoln.
Pretty much the entire state is looking at single digit temperatures and below zero wind chills for a little while longer, according to Scott Baker, a meteorologist at the Weather Service office in Lincoln.
"We're getting the southerly flow of cold air," Baker said. "And we're seeing several rounds of cold air. Once you get so cold, you just can't get out of it."
Baker said it's not just cold air. It's dangerously cold air.
"Frostbite and hypothermia and that stuff can set in very quickly," Baker said. "It can take as little as 10 to 15 minutes outside in these dangerously cold wind chills that frostbite can set in."
Baker says it will be cold for most of the state through the beginning of the weekend, but Sunday and early next week will see warmer temperatures.
Baker said that means temperatures in the teens and 20s for the northern parts of the state and up into the 30s in southern Illinois.
With the beginning of 2018 comes the official implementation of new laws across the Land of Lincoln. A total of 215 laws officially took effect January 1. You can view the complete list of these new laws, along with a description of each law here.
Businesses in Illinois dodged a Yuletide bullet after a state board narrowly voted against a change to worker compensation laws.
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission voted 5-4 Wednesday morning to reject a recommendation from the Medical Fee Advisory Board that would have increased the costs of most physician interactions by 30 percent for all workers’ compensation claims in Illinois.
The medical industry in Illinois has said they’re struggling to make money based on the current state rates, and it’s forcing patients in some areas to travel far and wide to get treatment. Business advocates say that’s no cause for an across-the-board hike of that magnitude.
“This was an end-run around the legislative process and the General Assembly’s ability to craft a medical fee schedule,” said Mark Denzler, vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers Association. “There was absolutely zero data presented at the Medical Fee Board or at the Workers’ Compensation Commission showing an access-to-care issue.”
The fee increases, Denzler said, would have hit Illinois businesses already suffering the burden of some of the highest workers’ compensation costs in the nation.
Gov. Bruce Rauner has long called for reform to the state’s laws regarding workers’ compensation but has so far not been able to find common ground with the Democratic majority in the General Assembly.
Democrats have, in turn, pushed for their own workers' compensation reforms that are more aimed at placing cost supervision on the insurance providers that offer the plans. Democrats largely claim that reforms made in 2011 have worked to reduce costs but the insurance plan providers have been keeping the cost savings for themselves.
Critics say this claim is ludicrous since the hundreds of plan providers in Illinois would have to collude to keep all rates high.
Automatically registering voters anytime they register with certain state government agencies was considered a major legislative priority by some at the statehouse, but lawmakers haven’t put the necessary tax dollars behind it to get it started.
As it is right now, Illinois residents can opt in to registering to vote when they get or update information for a state ID card or driver’s license. Lawmakers pushed to make that automatic and to include more state agencies.
Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the original automatic voter registration bill in 2016 with suggested changes he said made the bill better. Lawmakers followed his lead in 2017 and passed automatic voter registration.
Illinois State Board of Elections General Counsel Ken Menzel said that directed the elections board to start implementing the program.
“We haven’t gotten any money appropriated for it quite yet,” Menzel said. “There’s a supplemental appropriation request pending with the legislature but we do have staff working on it as best we can. The staff that’s working on it has been updating the board on a monthly basis.”
Menzel said the elections office would need more than half a million dollars to get technology and programming in place.
“For the thing to work, we’re going to need, for example, servers,” Menzel said. “And, of course, we’re going to need programming time to do that, and I think some of the money was going to adding staff to do the programming.”
There’s already been coordination between the elections board and the Secretary of State’s office, Menzel said, but other state agencies involved in the process are also going to have to be updated for AVR to work.
“We’ve got to get their systems collecting that data,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out how to get our systems to talk to their systems to transmit it.”
“It’s a fairly big undertaking,” Menzel said. “Without the money, it would be difficult to hit our benchmarks.”
The law says AVR should be fully implemented no later than July 2019.
Supporters of the law said they want to increase voter turnout and that the bill will help keep voter rolls accurate. Opponents said the measure wasn’t necessary and could lead to lower voter turnout percentages by adding scores of more voters to the rolls who might not actually go to the polls.
Eligible voters who don’t want to register to vote automatically when getting a service through the DMV or other state government agencies like the Illinois departments of Human Services, Employment Security, Financial and Professional Regulation, and Natural Resources have to opt out of the system.
The measure explicitly disallows any illegal immigrants to be registered to vote automatically when they apply for a Temporary Visitor Driver's License.
A growing number of Illinois counties are suing the makers of opioid pain pills to recoup the cost of treating addicts, but one researcher in Illinois says the drug companies alone are not the only ones with a role in the state's opioid crisis.
Champaign County is the latest county to join the lawsuit against the makers of opioid pain medications.
The thought is to hold the drug makers accountable for the rapid spread of addiction. But Jesse Hathaway, a research fellow at the Heartland Institute, said the drug companies aren't the only ones with a role to play.
"The seven states with the highest rates of drug overdoses were West Virginia, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Ohio, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts," Hathaway said. "There's something else those states have in common. Those states had just expanded Medicaid coverage, which also includes more access to prescription drugs."
Hathaway says both the CDC and the Government Accountability Office note the link between Medicaid and Medicare and the opioid crisis.
"According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are a number of peer-reviewed, academic studies that suggest Medicaid enrollees are twice as likely to be prescribed opioids as people in private insurance," Hathaway said.
Hathaway is not suggesting that counties who are suing drug makers also sue the state and federal government, although he is saying that there are more people to blame for the explosion of opioid addiction than just the companies that made the pills.
In response to the epidemic of gun violence in Chicago, Illinois lawmakers passed a new law coming into effect next week that some say will help crack down on repeat gun offenders. Reform advocates argue that they’re missing the point.
Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law new mandatory minimum sentences for people arrested more than once for gun crimes. The bill is seen as Springfield’s answer to rampant gun violence plaguing Chicago’s south and west sides. The new law requires at least seven years in prison for repeat gun offenders instead of three.
Republican Minority Leader Jim Durkin sponsored the bill. He admitted that it would not solve the problem, but it was a start.
“This is the start of something to stop this plague of violence which we pick up and read in the newspaper on a daily basis,” he said in June.
But Clark Neily, CATO Institute vice president of criminal justice, said putting more people behind bars for a longer period of time is not a move in the right direction.
“All you’re doing is locking people up for much longer periods of time,” he said. “It’s very costly and has a terrible effect on their lives as well as their families and the people who depend on them.”
The best cure for crime, Neily said, is gainful employment.
“When people have work that they find meaningful, then they truly feel that they’re part of something,” he said.
Illinois has the highest unemployment rate in the Midwest and the highest black unemployment rate in the nation.
More than 3,500 people were shot in Chicago this year with over 600 dying.
Hy-Vee customers joined the company’s annual Hy-Vee Round Up for the Homefront initiative during the month of November and raised $290,068.85 to support our country’s active-duty military members and veterans.
Last month, customers joined Hy-Vee in supporting veterans and military members at the company’s 246 grocery stores across eight Midwestern states. Starting Nov. 1 and running through Nov. 30, the Round Up program provided customers the opportunity to round up their total purchase to the next dollar — or a desired dollar amount — at the checkout. Hy-Vee matched customer donations up to $100,000, bringing the total donation to $290,068.85.
“Hy-Vee customers continue to be grateful for the service our veterans and active military members provide this country, and they showed it through their generosity at the checkout,” said Brad Waller, assistant vice president of community relations at Hy-Vee. “By partnering with our customers, we’ve raised more than $1.4 million over the past five years through the Round Up for the Homefront program.”
All proceeds from Hy-Vee’s Round Up program benefit four organizations that support veterans and their families: Hope for the Warriors, Operation First Response, the American Red Cross and the Puppy Jake Foundation.
Hope for the Warriors is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for post-9/11 service members, their families and the families of the fallen who have sustained physical and psychological wounds in the line of duty. Operation First Response helps meet the immediate personal and financial needs of wounded military members and their families. The American Red Cross helps military members, their families and veterans respond to the challenges of military service, and the Puppy Jake Foundation raises, trains and provides service dogs to veterans.
In addition to the Round Up effort, the Hy-Vee Homefront initiative comprises several company efforts, including complimentary Veterans Day breakfasts at all Hy-Vee stores, Honor Flights and veteran and military member employee recruitment.
Hy-Vee commemorated Veterans Day on Nov. 11 by offering a free breakfast to veterans and active-duty military members. Hy-Vee served approximately 93,500 veterans and service members at its 246 stores.
Every year, Hy-Vee also increases its efforts to recruit and provide employment to veterans and active-duty military members. Currently, Hy-Vee has nearly 2,300 employees who are veterans; more than 225 of those employees were hired over the past year.
“Veterans and military service members continue to help Hy-Vee align our work with our core values of loyalty, honor and commitment. Our efforts to actively recruit employees with military experience benefit our veterans, our customers and our company,” said Sheila Laing, executive vice president, chief administrative officer.
For more information about the Hy-Vee Homefront initiative, the organizations that benefit, and how you can get involved, visit www.hy-vee.com/homefront
Bald eagles are flocking to Illinois this winter season, making the state a favorite for bird watchers while also providing an economic boost to local small border towns.
According to Ed Cross, director of communications at the Department of Natural Resources, Illinois sees a large influx of bald during the season because the state is prime habitat for the birds.
“We have thousands of bald eagles that are in the state: they migrate from northern states and Canada,” he said. “Illinois’ location, habitat and topography is attractive to bald eagles.”
The bald eagle, the very symbol of this nation, was once declared an endangered species in the U.S. According to Cross, there could be as many as 3,000 bald eagles across the state this winter -- a threefold population increase from recent decades.
Consequently, the state is now second only to Alaska in the U.S. for winter bald eagle population.
The combination of frigid temperatures and a larger population of eagles throughout North America makes Illinois a favorite gathering place for eagle watchers
“We have hundreds of thousands of wildlife watchers that enjoy watching these animals in their natural habitat,” Cross said. “Seeing them up close is a pretty majestic thing.”
The influx of tourists and local bird watchers also brings an added economic benefit.
“In some of these small border towns, like Shelbyville, these events actually become fairly important to the economy with the large influx people,” Cross said. “They shop, they buy food, and they spend money on lodging.”
According to Cross, although Illinois’ budget woes have impacted conservation effects, they have not diminished the department's mission.
“The department continues to work well with the resources we have,” he said. “We have seen a reduction of staff compared to prior administrations. When it comes to protecting and maintaining things, we are certainly working at a level that is still sustainable and we are still getting the job done.”
Eagle-watching season in Illinois generally starts in December and lasts until the birds migrate back north in March.
The Illinois Audubon Society near Starved Rock is hosting an eagle watch weekend Jan. 27-28.
One of Illinois' new laws for the new year reaffirms that people can tell the truth on the internet, even if that means talking about a bad sandwich or an unclean hotel room.
Think of it as the right to Yelp.
Rockford Democrat Steve Stadelman said a lot of people look to websites like TripAdvisor or Yelp for advice on where to eat, where to stay, what to do on vacation, or just a night on the town. The honesty of those peer review sites are what makes them valuable.
But Stadelman said some hotels and restaurants try to punish or even fine people who leave bad reviews. His new law for 2018 makes that kind of retaliation illegal.
"It's important for e-commerce and it's important for business that these reviews continue," Stadelman said. "People shouldn't be threatened, or told that they can't write certain reviews for certain businesses. I think it's a central tenet of our society."
The law acctually prohibits companies from inserting "gag" clauses into the fine print of contracts or payment agreements.
Stadelman said the law still allows businesses to sue for defamation if a review is untrue.
Besides, Stadelman added, good business owners should want honest reviews, even if they are bad.
"I think this is a pro-small business law," Stadelman said. "It protects the good businesses against unfair competition, those who want to suppress the truth about themselves. It protects good businesses against those that are not doing things right."
Stadelman points to the recent case in Indiana where an inn charged a couple $350 for a review that said their room was dirty. The Indiana Attorney General is now handling that case.
Taxpayer funded abortions will be the law of the land in Illinois beginning Monday, but there are several options opponents of taxpayer funded abortions are exploring after a circuit court judge dismissed a taxpayer lawsuit to block state funding of elective abortions.
Pro-life groups wanted to block the Jan. 1 implementation of taxpayer funded abortions for those on Medicaid or state employee health insurance. But Sangamon County Associate Judge Jennifer Ascher sided with the Illinois Attorney General’s office to dismiss the case Thursday in Springfield.
Ascher ruled the budget issue "is a political question for which I lack jurisdiction," and said if she granted an emergency injunction it "would result in a violation of the separation of powers. ... Legislative disputes must be resolved in the legislative arena. It is inherently a political question and I cannot mandate the process on the estimate of revenues or the appropriation of those revenues."
She also dismissed the the argument that plaintiffs, represented by pro-life groups and some Republican state lawmakers, made that the legislative process was abused by Democrats holding the bill from the governor for four months.
Representing the plaintiffs, state Rep. Peter Breen said he’s disappointed and he will appeal.
“I’m very much hopeful that we will get some relief from the appellate court,” Breen, R-Lombard, said following the hearing. “And if we don’t get relief from the appellate court, we’ll go to the [state] Supreme Court.”
But there’s also the legislature.
“The No Taxpayer Funding For Abortions Act has been filed,” Breen said. “That is something I think is going to be re-filed every year until House Bill 40 is repealed.”
The Thomas More Society and other opponents of taxpayer-funded abortions filed two claims in their lawsuit. First, the plaintiffs said the state does not having the funds to pay for what they estimate is $15 million to $30 million of additional costs annually. They said the legislature never passed an official revenue estimate.
“The constitution does not say what form this revenue estimate must take,” Harpreet K. Khera, deputy chief of special litigation at the Illinois Attorney General’s office, countered in court Thursday. “The constitution does not say that this estimate needs to be formally adopted by resolution or adopted in any other way.”
Breen said the Senate passed a joint revenue estimate resolution for Fiscal Year 2018 but the House never adopted it.
“It’s in the title, joint,” Breen said. “That was never enacted by the House. It’s a resolution that’s still pending. It’s an incomplete action.”
The state constitution mandates that, “Proposed expenditures shall not exceed funds estimated to be available for the fiscal year as shown in the budget.”
Breen also cited the COGFA Act “by which the General Assembly enacted, referencing the specific provision of the constitution, saying, ‘Here’s how you know, here’s how you’re going to adopt the revenue estimate’.”
Illinois has gone without a revenue estimate approved by both chambers the past couple of budget cycles.
The second count alleges the legislative process was abused when the bill was held using a procedural maneuver called a motion to reconsider.
The AG’s office argued the legislation cleared both chambers before the May 31 deadline for simple majorities.
Breen said a procedural hold withheld the bill from the governor. The hold was placed on the bill by Senate Pro Tempore Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, in May. Harmon lifted the hold in September, sending it to the governor, who signed it into law. The constitution requires legislation that passes both chambers to be sent to the governor within 30 days.
Regardless, Breen said Thursday’s circuit court ruling means taxpayer-funded elected abortions can begin after the first of the year, but may not be paid until April, if at all.
“[Healthcare and Family Services] will start to receive reimbursement requests,” Breen said. “It takes them a month to turn those around it will then take the comptroller a couple of months to actually issue checks. So you’re looking at April before money flows for abortions, but you’re going to have abortion procedures starting Jan. 1 where folks will be expecting to get reimbursements and they may not actually be getting state reimbursement.”
Breen also said the added cost will be entirely paid for by the state’s taxpayers. No federal funds are available for elective abortions.
“It’s full state dollars,” Breen said. “There is no federal reimbursement for elective abortions coverage, which we’ve identified as everything but the rape, incest, life of the mother abortions, everything besides that gets covered, so any abortion, anytime for any reason.”
Breen expects to file an appeal by Jan 2.
Illinoisans scrambling to prepay their property tax bills this week may be doing it for nothing, according to the IRS.
In an opinion released Wednesday, the Internal Revenue Service is warning property taxpayers that they may not be able to get the full deduction of their local tax on their federal returns by prepaying before the new year.
The biggest caveat to whether the new $10,000 cap will be applied to an early property tax payment is whether the local assessor has given their valuation of the property in question. If the assessment doesn’t happen until 2018, the IRS says they’re going to cap the deduction at $10,000.
In a release, the IRS says “a prepayment of anticipated real property taxes that have not been assessed prior to 2018 are not deductible in 2017.”
Some township assessors will not send out assessments for months, which would make the prepaid property tax bills over $10,000 only partially deductible.
This could cost Illinoisans, as they have some of the highest property taxes in the nation. It’s not uncommon for suburban Chicago homeowners’ property tax to be the largest portion of their monthly mortgage payment.
In Will and DuPage counties, people have crowded into their respective treasurer’s offices in an effort to skirt the new law. Counties differ on how much they allow in prepayment. Cook County allows only 55 percent of next year's bill to be paid early. Will County allows for up to two years of prepayment. DuPage allows 105 percent of the previous year’s assessment.
For more information, go to irs.gov or contact a tax professional.
School leaders across Illinois are going to get very serious about their spending in 2018 due to a a pair of new requirements.
First, the state's new evidence based school funding formula will have schools figure out their adequacy target and their extra needs, and then ask the state to fill in the gap.
Secondly, the new Every Student Succeeds Act for the first time requires individual schools, not just school districts a whole, let parents know how much they are spending on kids, administrators, and teacher salaries.
LeRoy Superintendent Gary Tipsord said there are unanswered questions about both, and about how they work hand in hand.
"Starting in 2018 you're going to see a conversation about what the evidence-based funding model is, and what it informs us about our schools," Tipsord explained. "And then you're going to see a conversation about ESSA. What does that look like? How are we going to measure? How are we going to report?"
Tipsord said ESSA and the new evidence-based model go hand-in-hand, and are worth - potentially - a lot of money to local schools.
"If we're going to get resources, if the state of Illinois is going to invest in public education, are we going to spend that on research-based best practices that will actually move the needle in the interest of student achievement?" Tipsord said. "Because that's where the dollars should be spent. They should be spent in the interest of kids."
There are 27 different things that schools have to track just to get their adequacy target under the evidence-based funding formula. Schools will measure everything from what they spend on after school activities, to computers, to school nurses and administrators.
ESSA will require reports for more than a dozen other expenses, and for the first time in 2018, schools will have to report how much each school building is spending. That information will end up on the Illinois school report card.
The Illinois State Board of Education said earlier this month ESSA and the Illinois' new funding formula are two different things. But they both work toward the same goals of adequacy and equity in Illinois schools.
Opioid overdoses in Illinois killed nearly twice as many people as car crashes last year, but public health officials and addiction specialists say most people either don't know or don't care.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Nirav Shah said that families of addicts and law enforcement are starting to wake up to the crisis. But they say there are still too many people in Illinois who think drug addictions is only the users' problem.
"Fully 80 percent of individuals who find themselves dealing with a heroin addiction got their start on a legitimate prescription from a doctor," Shah said. "So we have to think about the stigma attached to this crisis. And we have to wonder if that's part of the reason why, up until very recently, people wanted to sweep it under the rug."
The Illinois Department of Transportation's data show that 1,078 people died in car wrecks in Illinois in 2016. Shah said IDPH's numbers show that 1,946 died from opioid overdoses.
Natalie Thukkaram with the Soft Landings treatment center in Naperville said that people perceive the two causes of death differently.
"There is a stigma that surrounds addiction," Thukkaram said. "Many people don't understand addiction. They see it as a moral choice, as a poor choice that someone is making. So there is a stigma around substance abuse and substance dependence in general."
In other words, people feel bad for accident victims. They don't feel bad for drug users.
Shah said education is the key, and not just educating people about the danger of opioids, but also teaching people to see addiction as a disease that's no different than diabetes or cancer.
"Addiction is not about weakness or moral failure, or any of those things," Shah said. "Addiction is really about someone grappling with a brain disease."
The health department said it should have the opioid death numbers for 2017 sometime after the New Year.
The following is a press release from McDonough County United Way, emphasizing its Weekend Summer Lunch and Learning Program. For more information on both of these programs, visit www.mcdonoughcountyunitedway.com or the McDonough County United Way Facebook page.
McDonough County United Way is working to aid child literacy within the county, especially for low-income students who may not have access to books in their homes. United Way will provide books to McDonough County children enrolled in United Way’s Weekend Summer Lunch and Learning Program throughout Summer 2018. New and gently-loved books will be collected at various locations throughout the county from January 16, 2018, through February 16, 2018. Financial donations will also be accepted to purchase new books. All books will be distributed this summer.
To help kick off the effort, McDonough County United Way will host its first ever “Reading Day for United Way” event on Saturday, February 24, from 1-3pm at both the Macomb Public Library and Prairieview Community Center in Macomb. This free, family-friendly afternoon is focused entirely on reading. Both locations will feature celebrity readers, snacks, and fun reading activities. Can’t make it to the library or community center? Read from home as a family, snap a picture, and post it with the hashtag #readingdayforunitedway to join Reading Day “virtually”. Reading Day is sponsored by Pella Macomb. Many thanks to Pella Macomb and The Pella Rolscreen Foundation which have long been focused on education and community betterment.
Illinois lawmakers will start 2018 by asking questions about the Legionnaires disease outbreak from three years ago.
Legislators are set to meet in the second week of January to talk about the Quincy veterans home, specifically about a Legionnaires outbreak that killed 12 people and sickened 50 others back in in 2015, and another outbreak in October of this year that killed one and sickened two.
State Rep. LaShawn Ford, who is on the House veterans committee, says he wants answers from the state’s VA and the Department of Public Health.
“We have to find out [how] we can connect the Department of Public Health to find out what type of services should have been provided,” Ford, D-Chicago, said.
Ford says he wants to know if there are problems with Legionnaires disease in Illinois, if there are problems at the Quincy home, or if there are problems with both.
“We really have to find out how our veterans can be better taken care of,” Ford said. “It’s really disappointing that veterans in Illinois would be subject to these kind of recurring outbreaks.”
The hearing is set for Jan. 9 in Chicago.
Illinois will have taxpayer-funded elective abortions after the first of the year, but an expedited lawsuit in Sangamon County circuit court Thursday seeks to block implementation.
Federal Medicaid dollars can cover abortions for rape, incest or if the mother’s life is in jeopardy, but Gov. Bruce Rauner signed House Bill 40 this summer ,which allows state tax dollars for elective abortions, and shocked his Republican base in the process.
State Sen. Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, said Rauner promised Republicans he would veto or amend the measure.
“That’s something that he obviously didn’t do,” McConchie said. “He went ahead and signed the bill as is. ... He is the first governor and this is the first state to legislatively take action to make taxpayer funding of abortion, puts the taxpayers on the hook for that. That’s something that pro-life and pro-choice groups ... alike oppose in poll after poll and across the state.”
Following Rauner’s signing of the bill this summer, state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, said she was glad the governor kept his promise to pro-choice groups.
“And the women of Illinois should be [happy],” Cassidy said.
Cassidy was also appreciative of “the words [Rauner] used when he talked about [having] great respect for those and support for those who are on the opposite side of the issue,” she said. “[Rauner] has always said he believes that this is a decision that should be made by a woman and her family and their faith leaders and their doctors and all of the people that people chose to engage in hard decisions with.”
McConchie is one of 12 state lawmakers and a dozen pro-life groups suing the state to block the law, arguing that the state doesn’t have the money and claiming the legislative process was abused.
Pro-life group The Thomas More Society estimates the law could mean 20,000 to 30,000 taxpayer-funded abortions next year if the law goes into effect, costing taxpayers up to $30 million. Rauner’s office has already said the state’s budget imposed by lawmakers is about $1.7 billion out of balance.
A hearing Thursday afternoon in Sangamon County Circuit Court will take up an emergency injunction and temporary restraining order sought by The Thomas More Society and other pro-life groups. The Illinois Attorney General’s office is seeking the lawsuit to be dismissed.
One of Illinois' new laws for the new year requires schools across the state to teach cursive once again.
It'll be August before Illinois schools have to start teaching it, but the mandate is much to the chagrin of a number of lawmakers and local school officials.
Cursive supporters cited a combination of nostalgia – "It was good enough for us" – and patriotism – "How else will young people read the Constitution" – to pass the mandate.
LeRoy schools superintendent Gary Tipsord said he would rather see lawmakers look forward when they want to change the curriculum, not back.
"Contemplate the idea of what if we considered coding a foreign language," Tipsord said about helpful changes he'd like to see from Springfield. "Coding is truly the modern language. The modern language isn't the spoken word. It's the code that we write."
The new law requires schools in Illinois to teach cursive before the fifth grade.
State Sen. Dave Syverson said the new cursive requirement is laughable, particularly since two-thirds of kids in Illinois currently can't read or write at grade level.
"It's just unbelievable that the same legislators who stand up and say, 'We don't want to push all of these mandates on local government,' then they turn around and do something like this," Syverson said. "It's just ridiculous."
The new cursive law requires that schools teach cursive, but doesn't provide any money or flexibility to help teachers actually teach the lessons.
Tipsord said his schools will find a way to work cursive lessons into their day, somehow.
Illinois roads are some the most travelled in the nation and now the state is looking to employ the latest technology to monitor and maintain the roads for drivers during the winter season.
Kelsea Gurski, bureau chief of communication services at the Illinois Department of Transportation, says that the state is looking to utilize GPS tech to provide real-time monitoring of road conditions.
“IDOT is exploring the use of VDL GPS technology in our fleet to better monitor road conditions and manage our response,” Gurski said. “Right now during weather events we update and manage a website called Getting AroundIllinois.com and that includes information on road conditions throughout the state that is based on information provided by from our crews on the road.”
The city of Springfield has already looked at something similar: implementing automatic vehicle location (AVL) on all its snow plows and trucks, in an effort to push information from the city’s snow trucks to dispatch and then onto citizens.
The system tracks where the trucks are and then indicates if and when an area has been plowed.
GPS is used by the vehicle locators to determine the location of trucks and track past locations. AVLs can be used to transmit all sorts of data back to municipalities including road salt usage, road conditions and specifics about use of plows.
According to Springfield Public Works Director Mark Mahoney, the city is moving to an inspection system that allows snow inspectors to assess needs and conditions of roadway in a weather event.
The system will allow the city to better allocate resources based on the road conditions -- as opposed to just monitoring if a road been plowed or not.
According to Gurski, her department is moving aggressively to implement technology as part of its overall plan to provide the best service possible.
“IDOT has made a tremendous pledge to introduce and embrace new technologies that have improved efficiencies on our roads and provide overall better value for taxpayers,” she said. “We want to be one of the most innovative departments of transportation in the nation and were looking at every available opportunity to reach that goal by leveraging the available technology.”
Drew M. Pearman, of Monmouth, was charged with first degree murder on Tuesday, December 26. The charges stem from the December 24 shooting that resulted in the death of Zackery D. Talley.
On Decemver 24, Pearman was arrested following an investigation conducted by the Monmouth Police Department. Bail was denied at the ensuing detention hearing. First appearance with counsel is scheduled in Warren County Court on January 2, 2018 at 10:00 a.m.
The charge of first degree murder is a class X felony, with sentencing ranging from twenty to ssixty years, with a firearm enhancement of twenty-five years to life in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
With a fourth consecutive year of population decline, Illinoisans are left to wonder how many congressional voices they will lose in the 2020 Census.
In 2002, Illinois lost one U.S. representative. Reapportionment cost another in 2012. The accelerating population decline over the last four years has some Illinoisans worried that the state will be down to 16 members of the U.S. House from the current 18.
“The chances are increasing that the bar will be set at such a place that we will now lose two,” Southern Illinois University at Carbondale professor emeritus John Jackson said. “Especially if these trends continue.”
Jackson said the state’s population losses have been more pronounced in rural areas and small towns, whereas suburban Chicago has seen growth.
In losing population, Illinois also will likely lose a number of electoral votes, lessening the state’s presidential pull.
Northern Illinois University professor Scot Schraufnagel worries about Illinois’ youth leaving, leading to an economic tailspin.
“Illinois has passed up New Jersey for the nation’s top exporter of college students,” he said. “A decline in population leads to poorer economic conditions which, in turn, feeds the exodus.”
Site selection experts often state that population loss is a key economic indicator in choosing to locate or expand a business.
Illinois has lost nine congressmen since 1910. Only New York and Pennsylvania lost more over that time. Pennsylvania overtook Illinois as the nation’s fifth most-populous state in the Census data released Wednesday.
Real Clear Politics predicted in 2016 that Illinois was close to losing two seats in the 2022 reapportionment.
Illinois' high speed rail project is almost done.
Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn said that high speed rail is 95 percent complete. The five percent remaining is mostly work in Springfield.
Lincoln is one of the stops along the railroad between Chicago and St. Louis that got a new station to go along with Illinois' high speed rail project. Those waiting for the train in Lincoln say they didn't notice that high speed rail made much of a difference because a few miles per hour faster doesn't fix what's wrong with train service in Illinois.
"We're two and a half hours behind right now," one rider told Illinois News Network on Thursday. "We were supposed to leave at 10:25 this morning. Now they're telling us 12:43. With this being high speed rail, we're two hours behind already."
Amtrak was late about 30 percent of the time in Illinois last year. Blankenhorn says high speed rail should cut that to being late just 15 percent of the time.
The main reason passenger trains are often delayed is because they share the rail lines with freight trains, which are given top priority.
Blankenhorn has said high speed rail will cut down on the wait for freight.
Illinois has spent about $300 million on high speed rail between Chicago and St. Louis. The federal government has spent nearly $2 billion.
More than 200 new laws will go into effect in Illinois in the new year, but do any of them deal with the major fiscal problems the state’s been struggling with for years?
For most of 2017, state Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, didn’t vote for legislation that wasn’t going to solve some of the major issues facing the state.
“We passed bills that talk about things like how we label fish on a menu,” Batinick said. “I think we named two expressways after former President [Barack] Obama. We debated whether or not you need to paint a school bus after you sell it on the used market. But we didn’t address pensions. We didn’t do anything good for work comp. We didn’t do anything good for property taxes.”
Illinois has more than $200 billion in unfunded pension and retiree healthcare liability. The state also has some of the highest property taxes in the country and he highest workers’ compensation rates in the Midwest.
Batinick also noted Illinois’ regulatory climate is horrible and used hydraulic fracturing permitting as an example.
“We finally gave away our first permit, and the regulatory climate was still so bad that the company just walked away from it,” Batinick said.
Batinick doesn’t expect the legislature to tackle any of this until after the November elections.
“We already blew three years of [the Rauner] administration,” Batinick said. “And you can say we blew years before that, so every day that passes makes it harder for us to dig out of a deeper pile of debt.”
The suburban lawmaker hopes that, after the election, both sides can come together to tackle the state’s major issues.
The General Assembly is back in session in late January.
With winter officially upon us, Macomb Public Works has provided useful information on how the snow removal program works in the city. Useful links include this snow removal program explanation, and this snow removal program Q and A.
One of the pieces of the new federal tax reform plan is going to put pressure on state and local leaders to deal with high taxes in Illinois.
The new federal tax reform package caps the amount of state and local taxes that people can deduct from their IRS bill at $10,000.
That's not really a problem for most people downstate, central Illinois Congressman Darin LaHood said.
But the change could mean a much heavier tax burden for many in and around Chicago because they won't be able to deduct the full weight of their tax bills, including sky-high property taxes.
"It's going to effect a lot of people," LaHood said. "Particularly if you live in or around Chicago, where Rahm Emanuel continues to raise taxes at the city level. And in [Cook] County where taxes continue to go up and up and up."
LaHood said leaders in Chicago and the collar counties have for years used the federal deduction as a crutch to lessen the impact of their tax increases.
Downstate, LaHood said the impact of the deduction change won't be as large.
"Most middle class folks who live in central and west central Illinois don't pay more than $10,000, so they'll still get the deduction," LaHood said. "But it should be a shot across the bow and a warning to state legislators and leaders at the county and local level that you can't keep raising taxes. There are going to be consequences."
LaHood said he expects state lawmakers and local leaders to feel the pressure to hold the line on taxes because taxpayers will feel more of the weight of what they're paying.
Welcome to Illinois, the newly-titled sixth-largest U.S. state.
With Pennsylvania gaining more than 18,000 people and Illinois shedding record numbers, the Keystone State has officially overcome Illinois as the fifth-largest state in terms of population.
According to Census data released Wednesday, Illinois lost 33,703 in total population. That’s a greater population decline than any other state in America.
Domestically, Illinois saw more people head for the door than any time in the last decade. More than 114,000 net people left for other states.
“The population loss that Illinois is experiencing is accelerating,” said Pete Borsella, demographer at U.S. Census. “In the period between 2016 and 2017, they have seen the largest net out-migration of the decade.”
This is the fourth consecutive year of population losses for Illinois. Only West Virginia has seen a longer trend of population decline.
In the argument of why Illinois is bleeding people, many point to the weather pushing people south. While that is consistent with part of the migration data provided by the IRS, Illinois is also pouring residents into its neighboring states as well. Indiana welcomed more than 8,000 Illinois residents between 2015 and 2016, for example.
In the Census data released Wednesday, all of Illinois’ neighboring states gained population.
A recent poll of Illinoisans by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University found that high taxes are the biggest reason for leaving the state.
North Carolina-based realtor Angela Kirsch has used this sentiment to create a niche. The former suburban Chicago resident markets her services at getoutofillinois.com. She and her husband lure Illinoisans to more tax-friendly climates using social media. According to her, business is booming.
“I’ve had a lot of people contacting me about how to get out of Illinois,” she said. “The calls have picked up since the tax hike this summer.”
She’s referring to Illinois lawmakers overriding Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a state budget that raises an additional $5 billion in personal and corporate income taxes.
This morning on the K100 Morning Show, Major Allen Otto of the McDonough County Salvation Army stopped by to discuss the organization's work in the area.
While he is pleased that the local chapter has received $76,000 during the holiday season, he encourages community members to keep giving. You can find kettles ringing throughout the area through Saturday, December 23 (the Salvation Army does not ring kettles on Sundays). You can also stop by the organization's location at 505 N Randolph St, Macomb.
He mentioned that the organization has seen a decline in checks this year, which may be attributed to people already donating to the numerous natural disasters that took place nationwide. He also discussed the importance of just volunteering time to ring a kettle, even if only for a half hour.
My full interview with Major Otto can be heard here.
Illinois State Police has released information about a three vehicle crash in Warren County that left one with non-life threatening injuries. The crash took place Tuesday, December 19 at 6:45 a.m.
Katie Torrance, age 26, from Burlington, IA, was traveling westbound on US 34 approximately 0.5 miles east of 20th street in Warren County. She was driving a 2006 Red Jeep Grand Cherokee. She passed/overtook a westbound truck tractor semi trailer, driven by Craig Zoellner, age 48, from VanBuren IN. Torrance failed to return to the westbound lane before striking Christopher Wetzel, age 46, from Alexis, IL, who was operating an oncoming eastbound truck tractor-semi trailer. After striking Wetzel's vehicle, Torrance's Jeep overturned and came to rest in the north side ditch of US 34. Zoellner's vehicle sustained damage from flying debris.
Torrance was transported to OSF hospital in Monmouth for non-life threatening injuries. She was charged with Improper Lane Usage. Central Warren Fire Department, Kirkwood Fire Department, Galesburg Hospital Ambulance Service, IDOT and Warren County Sheriff’s Department were the assisting agencies.
Railroad companies are assuring Illinois lawmakers they’re investing their own capital in rail upgrades to make the system the safest it can be.
With Monday’s commuter train derailment in Washington state that killed three and injured dozens more, many are wondering how such a tragedy could be averted.
Transportation officials investigating the derailment said the train was going 80 mph in a 30 mph zone. The stretch of freight track the commuter train was on reportedly did not have in place positive train control systems that use technology to control the speed of trains.
Congress mandated such systems be installed by 2015 but delayed the deadline because of the multibillion dollar price tag.
Joseph Ciaccio with the Illinois Railroad Association told an Illinois House committee in Chicago Tuesday that railroads are investing billions of dollars across the country and in Illinois on positive train control systems.
“That’s the next generation of safety,” Ciaccio said. “These are the kinds of things with signals and satellites we’ll be able to control the speeds of trains in the event of operator error.”
Union Pacific Railroad’s Adrian Guerrero said the industry also is using other technology, such as drones, to inspect tracks regularly.
“We cannot operate our business without it being 100 percent safe,” Guerrero said.
Almost all commuter trains run on freight lines maintained by private railroad companies.
Other special interest groups told the House committee that Illinois’ transportation infrastructure – roads, bridges and waterways – needs billions of new tax dollars.
“IDOT’s identified need of an additional billion per year is a good start, but it falls short of what we should be doing to hopefully grow Illinois as an economic leader in the nation,” Transportation for Illinois Coalition’s John Lowder said.
IDOT Secretary Randy Blankenhorn said the state’s recent capital plans based on bonds haven’t been helpful because the state didn’t have funds to pay down the debt service.
“It’s not about raising revenue,” Blankenhorn said. “It’s about what that revenue provides and what we do with the revenue that the public gives us. How do we talk about the needs that we have in this state and make sure that the public gets [that] this is money well spent?”
Blankenhorn said IDOT is investigating more public-private partnerships and hopes to streamline the state’s procurement process, but that would require further reforming the state’s procurement code.
The House will vote again today after the approved tax reform bill in DC tripped on a procedure and Illinois’ congressional delegation is split on whether the nation’s tax code should be reformed.
The measure initially passed the House Tuesday afternoon mostly along party lines, 227-203. As the Senate began debating the measure, the Senate parliamentarian reported to the House to remove two provisions, the K-12 education savings benefit and a small college endowment credit, that didn’t comply with Senate rules. The House is in again Wednesday to vote on the corrected measure.
U.S. Rep Cheri Bustos, D-Moline, said during Tuesday debate that the GOP-crafted measure is a scam.
“Sure, this bill will create jobs,” Bustos said. “It will create them over in China and in Mexico and Malaysia.”
U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, said the opposite is true.
“It offers tax relief that my constituents are longing for, and it offers a business environment in the milieu that makes things happen and happen for the good,” he said.
The measure would reduce the federal corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent and reduce rates for individuals across seven brackets.
The individual tax reductions expire after eight years. U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, said he’s filing legislation to make the cuts permanent.
The plan would also double the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000 and double the standard deduction to $24,000 for a couple filing jointly.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the tax cuts theft. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said tax cuts mean people keep more of their own money.
Both of Illinois’ Democratic senators voted against the measure late Tuesday.
What does it mean to you in Illinois?
Oakbrook, Illinois, tax professional Michael Leonard of Leonard and Associates said there are some good things for Illinoisans, especially for businesses, big and small.
“It should make the small businesses be able to hire more and just keep more money in their pocket,” Leonard said. “It’s a very, very good thing because small business is what keeps the economy going.”
But he said the $10,000 cap on deductions for state and local taxes will hurt many Illinois taxpayers who pay some of the highest property taxes in the country. Leonard expects that to put pressure on state lawmakers to address the issue.
“They’ll have to do something,” Leonard said. “You can’t have all these high taxes and not have a break somewhere.”
Leonard said he worries doubling the standard deduction could mean fewer people give to charitable causes as a way to lower their tax liability.