A bill has passed through the Illinois House and Senate that would reportedly give funding to MAP Grants, something that many people believe is long overdue. Democratic Senator Kimberly Lightford says that this measure is needed in order to provide eligible students a chance that they may not otherwise have.
"I think this gives us an awesome opportunity to tell people that we really care about them, that we want to help them..."
Kimberly Lightford, Illinois Senator
This issue is currently coming under a lot of fire, however, due to the lack of a clear funding source. Republican Senator Matt Murphy said that the measure is just an empty gesture to gain favor.
"...Because we don't have enough money. This isn't creating 721 Million new dollars."
Matt Murphy, Illinois Senator
Republican Senator Dale Righter agrees with Murphy, saying that the affected people will see right through the bill, and accuse Congress of toying with them. The bill, which currently sits on the Governor's desk, is expected to be vetoed by Rauner because without a clear funding source, the bill will only add to the state's $4.5 Billion defecit. Republican legislators do have a counter-proposal in the works that they say will fund higher educaiton and MAP Grants, but also a measure that would give the Governor more power over the budget in being able to reduce spending and reallocate funds in various ways. Macomb Representative Norine Hammond has put her support behind this new proposal, calling the Democrat's bill "disingenuous," and criticizing it for only tackling some of the problem.
While local Government is assessing the State of the State, many other organizations are also looking in to the current state of affairs in Illinois' economy. The nonprofit Corporation for Enterprise Development shows that the makeup of the state's economy is a very mixed bag. The group's Kasey Wiedrich says that Illinois' ranking is right around the middle of all U.S. states, coming in at 29th economically. Wiedrich puts the weight of this ranking on the fact that about one in four Illinois residents are stuck in low-wage jobs, and she says the state could do more to help.
"Raising the state minimum wage, implementing paid sick leave for workers - give a greater return from the hard work that people are doing, and more flexibility."
-Kasey Wiedrich, Corporation for Enterprise Development
According to data collected in the "Assets and Opportunity Scorecard," almost 40% of state households live in what it calls "liquid-asset poverty," meaning that they don't have a sufficient emergency savings fund. On the opposite side of the scorecard, Illinois did score high marks for expanding health care coverage, regulating home mortgages, foreclosures, and direct lending programs. The report does show some troubling numbers in that sector as well, though, showing that white-owned business are valued at almost 10 times that of businesses owned by African-Americans. Wiedrich says that this data mimics that of the country's as a whole, including the fact that the unemployment rate for black Americans is two points higher than all other workers.
"These disparate outcomes don't only speak to sort of the history of exclusion form the financial mainstream, and discrimination that households of color have faced, but also speaks to future opportunities."
-Kasey Wiedrich, Corporation for Enterprise Development
Yesterday, Governor Rauner gave his State of the State Address to the General Assembly. In his speech, he reiterated his "turnaround agenda" for the state, and also focused on the budget impasse that's nearly seven months in the making. Following the State of the State, many lawmakers in the General Assembly agreed that it's time to pass a budget, but whether that's indicative of actual plans to do so is unknown. Senate President John Cullerton said that he's encouraged by a number of things from Rauner's speech, like primary education and pension reform, but says that there are many fundamental disagreements on a myriad of issues, and that moving to action on an agreed budget will continue to prove difficult. Speaker Michael Madigan said that differences are inconsequential, and what really matters is that they be hashed out now so that a budget can follow.
"We are to get busy, sit down, (and say) What can we do to solve this budget problem?"
-Michael Madigan, Speaker of Illinois House of Representatives
Republican Representative Jim Durkin retorted to Madigan's statement, saying that progress can only be made once everyone is engaged on the issue, and willing to work together.
"When the Democrat President of the Senate is willing to go out and make public statement and say that 'I'm willing to work with this Governor'...I'd like to hear more of that from the Speaker."
-Jim Durkin, Illinois Representative - 82nd District
Come February, the state will be seven full months into the fiscal year without a balanced budget.
Governor Bruce Rauner will hold his second State of the State Address today, and ahead of this event, many community avtivists are calling attention to how the Illinois budget impasse is affecting their lives. Illinois is about to enter its eighth month without a budget, which has led to severe cutbacks for many state services. Teen Reach, a statewide after-school program, has seen more than a dozen sites shut down due to lack of state funding. Chicagoan Rosalina Chavez says she and her 12-year old son James relied on the Teen Reach program at their local elementary school until it was shut down last year.
"It is very hard for me to be at work and knowing that my son has to walk five blocks in not such a good neighborhood, and constantly calling him to see if he made it home OK."
Rosaline Chavez, Chicago Resident
Community groups, including the Grassroots Collaborative, are asking Governor Rauner and the General Assembly to take responsibility for ending the impasse and restoring funding for these programs. Also this week, the Pew Chartiable Trusts published its "State of the State" series, which focuses on local policy fixes. Scott Greenberger with Pew says in addition to social services cuts, one of Illinois' biggest issues is a lack of funding for higher education.
"Really, there's going to be a lot of pressure on Governor Rauner and legislators to figure something out. It's an issue that affects so many thousands of Illinois families who have children in the public colleges and universities."
Scott Greenberger, Pew Charitable Trust
According to the local wathcdog group Reboot Illinois, in Rauner's first year in office, the higher education budget was slashed by almost half a billion dollars; money that has sat unused since last July due to the budget impasse. People like Rosaline Chavez are not alone. There are many with similar situations, and even more being affected in different ways by this budget impasse. Chavez is urging Governor Rauner to reconsider his suspension of millions of dollars in grats to social services, after-school, and public health programs.
"He needs to realize that I'm not the only one; there's plenty of working parents that don't have a place for their kids to go to, after school. And child care is very expensive; we cannot afford it, either."
-Rosalina Chavez, Chicago Resident
Western Illinois University's 6th Annual Pay if Forward Blood Drive is coming up on February 3rd on the WIU Macomb campus. The Red Cross has recently issued an emergency need for blood due to the cancelation of more than 300 blood drives throughout the country on account of bad weather. If you're interested and able to donate blood, the Pay it Forward Blood Drive will open at 10am on Wednesday, February 3rd, in the Heritage Room of the University Union. Contact Gretchen Steil-Weiss (GE-Steil@wiu.edu) or Shannon Reed (SR-Reed@wiu.edu) to register. Walk in sessions will open up at 11am.
Yesterday, Governor Rauner signed an executive order that created a new agency in Springfield. To better serve Illinois residents, the state's information technology functions will be turned in to one agency called the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology, or DoIT. The Governor has hopes that this new agency will save taxpayers hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars over time. When revealing this new agency, Rauner said that the mainframes the state had been using were outdated and inefficient.
"And it's one of the reasons that our audits take many many months to complete, and are filled with hundreds of millions of dollars in accounting errors. It's wasteful for taxpayer money. It's ineffective inefficient government, and we've got to change it."
-Bruce Rauner, Governor of Illinois
The state currently spends about $800,000 a year for information technology, and in addition to making this number go down, Rauner says that DoIT will make interactions easier, both for citizens and for government case workers.
The Western Illinois University Board of Trustees met yesterday in a rescheduled session to look at whether or not to approve a staff reduction authorization. The Board voted to authorize the measure which will give the University clearance to follow layoff procedures. WIU has announced that employee notices will be sent as per the University Professionals of Illinois 4100 WIU Chapter Agreement, and the last date for employees may vary and is dependent on the dates outlined in that agreement. WIU President Jack Thomas has cited an extreme lack of state funding that has pushed the University to these drastic measures, and he's said that student's academic progress will remain unaffected by these changes. WIU Board Chair Roger Clawson said that this was an extremely difficult decision for the board to make, but he also said that the alternative, not having a Western Illinois University, would be unthinkable. You can find the full statement from President Jack Thomas at wiu.edu/president/letters.php
Tax season is upon us, as people could begin filing their individual taxes last week. However, if you're still getting things together, you do have some added time. The normal deadline to file your tax returns is April 15th, but due to Emancipation Day falling on the 15th, the IRS has extended the deadline through the weekend, landing on April 18th. To make sure that you're among the 70% of taxpayers to receive a refund, and to find all of the resources and information available to you about filing, go to IRS.gov.
To go along with the national recognition, this week has been declared "School Choice Week in Illinois" by the Governor. The purpose of recognizing this week is to provide families in the state with the opportunity to research and evaluate all of the K-12 school choices available for their children in time for the upcoming 2016-2017 school year. Additionally, the week is a good time to raise awareness for the importance of providing every child with effective education options. Throughout the week, there are currently more than 900 events planned in Illinois, and over 16,000 events going on in the nationwide recognition of School Choice Week. For more information on this event, go to www.schoolchoiceweek.com
For the first time in 7 years, Illinois ended the year with fewer jobs than it started out with. This creates an increased burden on existing tax payers to make up for the smaller tax base. The Illinois Department of Employment Security's most recent report shows that the state lost an astonishing 16,000 jobs in the month of December alone, bringing the unemployment rate up to 5.9%. With the ebb and flow of jobs throughout the year, Illinois finds itself 3,000 jobs shorter than it was at this time in 2015. Evelina Loescher, labor market information director for IDES, says that this means a smaller tax base.
"You know, you want to share that tax base among more people, so increasing jobs would definitely help that.
-Evelina Loescher, Illinois Department of Employment Security
Steve Rauschenberger, president of the Technology and Manufacturing Association, and a former state Senator, says the state doesn't only need business reforms, it needs patience.
"Even if there were quick reforms, it's going to take 3 to 5 years to start rebuilding the middle class producing jobs that we all want but don't have the public policy to support."
Steve Rauschenberger, Technology and Manufacturing Association
Rauschenberger also makes a point to touch on the fact that this new development for the state puts us behind many other states, and the country as a whole.
"I think the more troubling part is how we're underperforming the rest of the Midwest, and most of the nation."
-Steve Rauschenberger, Technology and Manufacturing Association
Rauschenberger and Loescher both agree that there are other factors in this decline, including a slowdown in the global economy.
Republican legislators in the Illinois General Assembly and Governor Rauner have said that their new pension reform proposal could save a billion dollars a year for the state. The Governor recently voiced his displeasure that nothing has been done with pensions since the state Supreme Court shot down a previous reform proposal in May of last year. As of right now, Illinois taxpayers owe nearly $113 Billion for the state's various pension funds, and Rauner says he's willing to compromise in order to make a change.
"...And use some of that savings to fund MAP Grants now, as an example of what we might do together. Rather than continue to dig a financial hole, let's solve the problem with compromise, free up resources, and put it where it belongs to go."
Bruce Rauner, Governor of Illinois
The Governor says that this new plan is one that meshes with Senate President John Cullerton's recent proposal, but the leading Senate Democrat has issued a statement saying that there is a disagreement over the role of collective bargaining, and that this plan is certainly not his.
Many families are still struggling in the wake of the Great Recession. It's a problem all around the country, but we're seeing staggering instances of this right here at home, in Illinois. A new policy brief from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows wide gaps in savings between white families and families of color in the state. It says that even a small federal investment in universal children's savings accounts could lead to some big long-term benefits. Beadsie Woo of the Casey Foundation also suggests making the federal "My Retirement Account" program more accessible, to set more families up for future success.
"We see that those families are more self-sufficient because they have their own savings to draw on. Over time, the number of people enrolled in benefits decline."
Beadsie Woo, Annie E. Casey Foundation
The research shows that the racial wealth gap is growing, and that it puts children of color at a huge disadvantage. From 2010 to 2013, white families saw their net worth increase by an average of 2%, while black and Latino families saw drops of 34% and 15% respectively. Illinois has already taken some steps, such as getting rid of the savings limit for people in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. Woo says other areas to work on include curbing interest rates on payday loans. The Corporation for Enterprise Development says Illinois has some of the highest interest rates in the country for these short-term loans, and Woo says nationally, payday lenders cost low-income families more than $8 Billion a year.
"The typical amount borrowed from a payday lender is about $500. It is, in lots of ways, a very thin margin between what can keep a family from going into debt and being stable."
Beadsie Woo, Annie E. Casey Foundation
Other recommendations in the brief include increasing access to home ownership through HUD's Family Self-Sufficiency Program.
The Governor's Office is proposing a plan to redistribute MAP Grant funds, while many students are up in arms about the loss of their financial aid. During a press conference from the Invest in Higher Education Coalition, students form many public and private universities talked about their reliance on Monetary Award Program, or MAP grants, and said that lawmakers should release the funds.
"They've only got, really, one source in which they can change the revenue stream very rapidly, and that's tuition. Students eat the brunt of that."
Mitch Dickey, University of Illinois
That's Mitch Dickey, student body president at the University of Illinois, who talks about the lack of state funds having a direct effect on students for the past several years. The state is still in a financial hole, though, and Republican Representative Tom Demmer has said that each university is going to have to work to find savings in the absence of state money.
"Look through contracts, look through supplies, look through some of the bigger items in the budget."
Tom Demmer, Illinois Representative
The Governor's Office has released a memo saying that the path for funding these MAP Grants, and utilizing other tax money for higher education, would be to tie tax dollars to spending reductions or cost-saving reforms at universities.
Many Republican leaders in the Illinois General Assembly want an independent authority to take over Chicago Public Schools, saying taxpayers deserve better. Moving forward with this idea, a plan was proposed yesterday that would put this independent authority in power and give them the tools to force Chicago Public Schools into bankruptcy, if necessary. John Tillman of the Illinois Policy Institute commented on the proposal saying that CPS is not only failing financially, but it is failing as an educational medium, and has been for some time. Nearly 400,000 students are currently enrolled in CPS schools, and when looking at some statistics, it's hard to argue with opponents to the programs. 70% of black and Hispanic students in third grade don't read at grade level, and this number only goes up as the years do. 79% of Hispanic high schoolers and 90% of black high schoolers don't read at grade level. With so many students falling behind, it's little surprise that by graduation, 82% of CPS students are determined as not ready for college based on their ACT scores. There are state legislators opposing the idea, like Democratic Senate President John Cullerton, who says that the idea is mean-spirited and evidence of a lack of knowledge of the real problems facing Chicago Public Schools.
Governor Bruce Rauner is now in the second year of his term in office, and he hopes to find taxpayers savings in the coming year, but says the real fix to the state's current fiscal crisis is growing the economy. The Governor says that he's already implemented various efficiency measures to save $700 million in state agencies.
"And because we've assembled such a talented team as a driving transformation in our government operations, we've been able to streamline many unnecessary costs out."
-Bruce Rauner, Governor of Illinois
Rauner also said that taxpayers could save if the government rethought how it purchases things, although he didn't elaborate on how. As for making up the budget deficit, the Governor says lawmakers should be pushing for pro-growth policies.
"What we're going to try to do is negotiate with the General Assembly to get structural reform so we can cut more costs and also grow our revenue through economic growth. Rather than increase tax rates, get more revenue by growing the economy, that's the real push."
-Bruce Rauner, Governor of Illinois
Because lawmakers failed to pass a balanced budget, court order and consent decrees have the state on pace to spend $4 billion more than it expects to bring in this fiscal year.
Two pregnant Illinois women have tested positive for Zika virus, and physicians are currently monitoring their health. Zika virus, while not native to the United States, can be contracted while traveling abroad. Like West Nile, it's transmitted through mosquito bites. The disease is usually rather mild, and hospitalization is rarely necessary, although there is a possible link between Zika in pregnant women and subsequent birth defects. If you're staying in the country, there's no cause to be cautious, as the Zika virus cannot be spread person to person. However, if going abroad, and if in any stage of pregnancy or pregnancy planning, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a travel alert to areas where Zika transmission is ongoing: Brazil, Columbia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico. Common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. Symptoms can last for a few days, up to a few weeks, and there is currently no vaccine or medicine to treat the virus. More information can be found on the CDC's website.
According to McDonough County Sheriff Rick VanBrooker -
On January 15th, the McDonough County Sheriff's Office received a report of a home care worker suspected of stealing and forging personal checks from a residence in rural Prairie City. Detectives began investigating the case and arrested Kelly Harn of Avon later that day. It was discovered that Harn have stolen and forged a total of 100 personal checks dating all the way back to September of 2014, and subsequent theft totaling over $25,000. Harn has been charged with Financial Exploitation of an Elderly Person, Theft over $500, and 100 counts of Forgery. All suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
If you've ever forgotten to renew your driver's license sticker on time, or have put it off past the due date, you're certainly not the only one. Recent data shows that an increasing number of Illinoisans are failing to renew their stickers on time. State Representative from Macomb, Nornine Hammond is giving motorists a reminder that they can sign up for online notifications from the Illinois Secretary of State's Office . To sign up for this free reminder, you will need your current registration card and a valid email address. To sign up, simply visit www.ilsos.gov/greenmail and request your sticker renewal notice be emailed to you. Renewing your sticker on time will help you avoid any late charges associated with it, and will mitigate any possible issues you may have if your were to be pulled over by police.
McDonough District Hospital will offer a Community CPR class on Tuesday, January 26th to any area residents who'd like to participate. CPR, or Cardio-pulmonary Resuscitation is a life-saving technique to be used when somebody is choking, stops breathing, or experiences cardiac arrest. MDH's class will offer adult, child, and infant techniques. The fee for this course is $32, and you must pre-register to secure a spot. Contact MDH Outreach Services with any questions or to register at 309-836-1584
Of the 10 states with the highest populations of Hispanic children, Illinois has one of the lowest rates of kids without health insurance. That's one finding in a new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. For uninsured Hispanic children, Illinois is at about half the national average, at 4.5%. Andrea Kovach, an attorney with the Chicago-based Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, credits Illinois for expanding Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. But she says there's work to do, because disparities still exist.
"The uninsured rate for Hispanic children is significantly greater than the uninsured rate for all children in our state."
-Andrea Kovach, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
Kovach says another reason for Illinois' success in dropping the uninsured rate for Hispanic children is the state's All Kids program, which ensures health care regardless of immigration status. Still, in 2014, Illinois was home to about 33,000 uninsured Hispanic children. And with the state budget crisis well into its 6th month, Kovach says improving that number any further could prove challenging - with funding for some state health services at risk of lapsing.
"We do believe that a fair and responsible budget will help more Illinoisans get access to these health coverage programs that they need, and that will keep our state strong."
-Andrea Kovach, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
Sonya Schwartz, with the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, says it's important to improve the health of the Hispanic population, because it holds a unique place in our country's future.
"We know that Latino children are the fastest-growing segment of our entire population. They're growing from one in four children today, to one in three children by 2050. And Hispanic children will be our nation's future doctors, teachers, and workers."
-Sonya Schwartz, Georgetown University
There will be a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration March today (Monday, January 18th). Attendees are encouraged to meet at the Macomb Courthouse between 9-9:15 this morning with the march commencing at 9:30. The march will arrived at the Mount Calvary Church of God & Christ with the program starting at 10:30 featuring speaker Dr. Earl Bracey. Refreshments will be available.
The Pella Rolscreen Foundation recently pledged $50,000 to the Dolores Kator Switzer Women's Center the the McDonough District Hospital. In response to this generous commitment, MDH is going to be naming the Ultrasound Room in the Women's Imaging Center after Pella, and the organization will also be recognized as "Partners" in the MDH Business Honor Roll giving club. MDH President and CEO Kenny Boyd has praised Pella for the donation, and said that the money will go towards modernizing facilities and creating state-of-the-art labor, delivery, and recovery rooms. Pella's pledge has brought MDH closer to their $5.5 Million goal, and they have currently raised about $3.2 Million.
Western Illinois University recently announced that they will be, for the time being, banning the use of hoverboards on the WIU campus. These hoverboards, essentially a small Segway without the handle, have been growing in popularity recently, first gaining major traction on social media sites like Vine, and have since caught the attention of many young adults around the country. These hoverboards allow you to roll around, at a pace no faster than a brisk walk, but have still been linked to some major issues. Despite the obvious injuries from falls or misuse, many models have reportedly had problems catching fire, due to a battery malfunction. WIU is not the first school to ban these devices, either. In the state, hoverboards have been banned at the University of Illinois and Eastern Illinois University. Nationwide, many schools including Louisiana State, the University of Iowa, and the University of Arkansas have banned hoverboard use in some way.
With taxpayers being on the hook for nearly $113 Billion, one idea to fix the pension crisis is to go directly to the source, and change the state's constitution to address the problem moving forawrd. Republican Representative Tom Morrison says that there could be an amendment to the state's constitution that would allow for already earned benefits to be kept in place, but to amend any future benefits moving forward.
"With the state Supreme Court striking down Senate Bill 1, it looks like amending the state's constitution is the way to go to just clarify that we're not trying to take away benefits that have been earned up to this point."
-Tom Morrison, State Representative
Democratic Representative Elaine Nekritz discusses an even more drastic step in making an amendment to remove the pension protection clause altogether, but that may not solve to overarching problem.
"Because other states have no constitutional protection in their state constitution. I've tried to do the kind of things we tried to do in Senate Bill 1, and they've been struck down under the federal contract's clause."
-Elaine Nekritz, State Representative
Any proposed amendment to address the growing unfunded liability for public sector pensions requires three-fifths approval from voters.
On January 11th, 2016 the West Central Illinois Task Force arrested David L. Speer, age 67 of 1518 N. 5th Street in Quincy, Illinois on a charge of Insurance Fraud, greater than $100,000.00. The arrest stems from an investigation into the fire of a combine and a tractor that occurred on October 1st, 2015. The location of the fire was 6914 Ellington Road, Quincy, Illinois. Speer was lodged in the Adams County Jail with a $100,000.00 bond.
At the time of the arrest Speer was out on bond in Adams County for 2014 cases of theft, $500.00-$10,000.00 and Removal/Alter a Manufacture ID, Unlawful Possession of Methamphetamine, Receive/Possession/Sell Stolen Vehicle, and a 2015 case of Unlawful Possession of Methamphetamine and Aggravated Driving Under the Influence.
The West Central Illinois Task Force was assisted in these investigations by the Quincy Police Department, Adams and Hancock County Sheriffs Offices, Tri-Township Fire Department, and the Illinois Secretary of State Police. The investigation continues and additional charges are possible. All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Governor Rauner has proclaimed January 18, 2016 as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service in the State of Illinois. The Serve Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service encourages people across Illinois to take part in the day of service by volunteering in their community.
Dr. King said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’”
Serve Illinois calls on you to make Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a “day on instead of a day off.” Martin Luther King Jr. Day was designated a National Day of Service by Congress in 1994. Illinoisans have a rich history of service, including being the number one volunteering state out of the largest states in the country.Anyone interested in volunteering on Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service can visit Serve.Illinois.gov to find more than 20,000 volunteer opportunities throughout Illinois and in bordering states. Volunteers can search based on location or area of interest, as well as by web-based, ongoing, or one-time volunteer opportunities.
During a news conference Wednesday several Democratic State Senators pushed for a measure to release $168 million for Monetary Award Program grants schools credited for the fall semester. But the governor’s office says appropriating hundreds of millions of dollars for MAP or general higher education without finding offsets could trigger a cash flow crisis. Democratic Senator Pat McGuire says his proposal does not include any offsets to cover the costs. The memo from the governor highlights increased tuition over the span of several years, the use of private jets, golden parachutes for faculty forced to resign, and more areas he thinks could be reformed.
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and the American Lung Association in Illinois announced the statewide launch of an initiative to encourage home builders to install activated radon mitigation systems in new homes. The systems reduce levels of radon, a radioactive gas that is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and the second-leading cause of lung cancer overall.
Today’s announcement of the Radon Excellence Program coincides with national Radon Action Month in January.
Elevated levels of the radioactive gas have been found in all 102 Illinois counties. IEMA estimates nearly 1,200 Illinois citizens die from radon-related lung cancer each year.
For more information about the Radon Excellence Program, visit the website at www.healthhouse.org.
A quick note to pass along, the Macomb Park District's Finance Committee meeting for today, January 15th at noon has been cancelled.
A measure to immediately release $168 million to benefit thousands of college students in Illinois has been filed in the Illinois State Senate.
State Senator Pat McGuire, Democrat of Joliet, is chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee and the sponsor of Senate Bill 2226, which would cover the costs that colleges and universities around the state absorbed last fall fronting Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants that their students depend on.
SB 2226 will be in committee for debate soon and goes into effect immediately on passage.
The Illinois State Police has released enforcement figures from the Occupant Restraint Enforcement Patrols (OREP) conducted in McDonough County on Friday, January 8th, 2016. Of the violations, there were 16 safety belt citations. OREP patrols strive to remind drivers and passengers of the fact that lives can be saved if people simply buckle up.
OREP patrols are funded through the Illinois Department of Transportation, Division of Transportation Safety.
Macomb residents will be freezin' for a reason on February 27th, a very good reason in fact; raising money for the McDonough County YMCA with the Nearly Naked Mile. The key word is "nearly" as participants of this untimed one-mile charity run/ walk are encouraged to bare as much as their comfortable with while still covering "anything you would not want your grandmother to see." This fun race will be held February 27th, but coordinators Nick Knowles from the WIU Student Rec and Cody Duffy with the YMCA visited Regional Media of Macomb's morning shows recently to get the word out early.
Pre-registration is $10 and includes a shirt. Registration will also be accepted the day of. To learn more, contact the WIU Campus Rec at 309-298-1228.
With the winter months upon us, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is reminding homeowners about the fire dangers associated with heating equipment. Improper use of such equipment like portable or stationary space heaters, wood burning stoves and fireplaces can be incredibly dangerous, and their misuse is a leading cause of U.S. home fire deaths.
According to NFPA, half of home heating equipment fires are reported during the months of December, January, and February. More than half of the home heating fire deaths resulted from fires that started when something that could burn, like upholstered furniture, clothing, blankets and bedding, was too close to heating equipment.
During the colder months there is also an increased risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Fuel-burning equipment, including vehicles and generators running in an attached garage, can produce dangerous levels of CO and should be vented to the outside to avoid it from building up in your home.
Installing and maintaining CO alarms can also help reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. If you smell gas in your gas heater or other appliance, do not light it. Leave the home immediately and call your local fire department or gas company
To ensure a safe and cozy winter this year, NFPA offers some easy tips to follow:
Use your oven to cook food only. Never use it to heat your home.
Hire a qualified professional to clean and inspect heating equipment and chimneys every year.
Turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
Place a sturdy screen in front of your fireplace to prevent sparks from flying into the room, and burn only dry, seasoned wood. Allow ashes to cool before disposing them in a metal container, and ensure that they are kept a safe distance from the home.
If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.
During and after a snowstorm make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
Test smoke alarms and CO alarms monthly. Properly maintained alarms can save lives in the event of a fire.
Find additional resources including tips sheets, videos, reports and more about heating safety and carbon monoxide by visiting NFPA’s website.
In the wake of several weather related accidents in the area over the last few days, The Illinois Department of Transportation reminds motorists to bookmark gettingaroundillinois.com on their computers and smartphones for quick access to the latest winter road conditions. The Getting Around Illinois map is updated 24/7 during winter weather, providing motorists with the latest information on what to expect before heading out on the roads.
Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn said “Illinois winters are legendary for their rapidly changing conditions,” he added “The winter road conditions map gives you a quick, simple-to-understand view of road conditions throughout Illinois. It’s a great tool for knowing what to expect if you are traveling during snow-and-ice season.” The Getting Around Illinois website averages one to two million visits during winter. Users of gettingaroundillinois.com also can find other useful information for their travels, including points of interest, gas stations, restaurants, and hotels.
According to the Hancock County Sheriff's Office, a one vehicle accident sent two people to the hospital Monday night. 55-year-old Keith Graham of Warsaw lost control of his vehicle on Old Warsaw Road in Warsaw. The vehicle then left the road and rolled. Warsaw Police Department, Warsaw Fire Department and Hancock County EMS had to extricate Graham from the vehicle. He was then air-lifted to Blessing Hospital in Quincy. Graham's passenger was taken to Keokuk Hospital. Graham has been charged with DUI and failure to reduce speed to avoid a crash. The accident is still under investigation.
Due to the extreme cold, school has been cancelled for the West Prairie School District today. All after school activities have been cancelled as well.
Due to the cold weather, there will be no schools open in Bushnell today. All after school activities have been cancaelled as well.
According to the American Red Cross, there is an urgent need for blood and platelet donations to prevent a shortage this winter. Busy holiday schedules in November and December contributed to about 1,700 fewer blood drives held across the country compared to the two previous months, which has resulted in about 50,000 fewer donations and reduced the blood supply.
Megan McCantz with the American Red Cross said that people in McDonough County can help by attending a blood drive sponsored by Lameda Alpha Epsilon on Thursday, January 28th, from 10am to 3pm, in the Heritage Room on the second floor of the Western Illinois University Union. McCantz says the public is invited, and she urges everyone to come out noting that every donation can save up to 3 lives.
January is National Blood Donor Month, which has been observed since 1970 with the goal of increasing blood donations during winter- one of the most difficult times of the year to collect enough blood and platelet donations to meet patient needs.
The Illinois State Police has announced that a free Physical Fitness Inventory Test or PFIT seminar will be held in Springfield on February 20. The primary purpose of the seminar is to provide hands-on instruction on how to successfully pass the ISP PFIT.
The PFIT is tool that is designed to measure fitness activities that are related to law enforcement tasks. It assesses the fitness level of individuals based on four dimensions: flexibility, dynamic strength, absolute strength, and cardio respiratory fitness. Passing the PFIT is one of the requirements to becoming an Illinois State Police Trooper. The ISP will proved hands-on instruction and demonstrations, presented by certified Physical Fitness Monitors of the Illinois State Police, on how to successfully complete the test. This is an opportunity for individuals interested in applying for future employment with the ISP to become educated and proficient in the PFIT. Those attending the seminar should wear proper workout attire and bring a bottle of water. The seminar is not affiliated with the Illinois State Police Merit Board or the hiring process.
According to Illinois Secretary of State, Jesse White, the Department of Homeland Security provided an update today on the REAL ID Act, announcing that there will be no security changes at airports for at least two years, with any changes beginning no sooner than January 22, 2018. As a result, Illinois driver's licenses and ID cards will continue to be accepted as primary forms of identification to board commercial airplanes for domestic travel.
The Illinois Secretary of State's office will continue to work with DHS and the Illinois General Assembly on the REAL ID Act.
In partnership between the Outlet Teen Center and the YMCA in Macomb, teens of the area are invited to a free teens only night at the Y.
The January session of the monthly teen event will be held January 16th from 7-10pm at the YMCA on Dudley/Carroll Street in Macomb.
Teens are invited to swim (7-9pm), play in a dodgeball tournament, 3 on 3 tourneys, and to enjoy music, snacks and to enter to win a Kindle Fire.
For more information, call Lauren at 309-252-0404.
According to the Illinois State Police, a personal injury crash occurred early this morning in Rushville. Driver, Jesus Toto, lost control of his vehicle at 2:36am traveling north on us 67 at West Lafayette Street in Rushville. The vehicle left the roadway, struck an embankment and overturned. Both Toto and his passenger were transported to Memorial Hospital in Springfield. Toto sustained serious injuries and his passenger sustained moderate injuries.
Toto was arrested for DUI, reckless driving, failure to wear a seat belt, improper lane usage, failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and operating an uninsured motor vehicle.
All subjects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
According to the Macomb Area Chamber of Commerce, Chamber Ambassadors recently held a ribbon cutting to celebrate the new location of TJR Designs in the Masonic Building, 133 South Randolph, Suite 204 in Macomb. Owner, Tim Rice, emphasizes quick and affordable graphic and web design services. TJR Designs offers personal and corporate clients a full range of graphic design options including business cards, posters, post cards, envelopes, stamps, promotional products, screen printing, and more, all with a rock star look and rock bottom prices. To learn more visit www.tjrdesigns.net or find them on facebook.
According to the City of Bushnell, the boil order that was in effect for the 800 block of Harrison, 700-800 blocks of East Twyman and Osborn and the new section of the trailer park has been lifted as of today.
The Board of Trustees at Western Illinois University recently made a decision that could make WIU a very viable choice for students across the country. The school's Graduate Studies program will now be offering their in-state tuition rates to any domestic student in the country. This means that as long as you have a residence in the United States, you are eligible to pay rates previously given only to students in Illinois and neighboring states. This new in-state policy will still be affected by the Cost Guarantee program, meaning that your tuition, fees, room and meal plan will all remain fixed at the same cost rate for four years. Graduate students wishing to take advantage of the new in-state rate can be studying toward any of WIU's 38 graduate degrees, 2 doctoral programs, or 22 post-baccalaureate certification programs. You can find all of the information on this updated policy at wiu.edu/graduate_studies
The Illinois Department of Public Health has set aside this month to observe Cervical Health Awareness Month. The department will work throughout January to spread awareness and highlight issues related to cervical cancer, HPV disease, and the important of early detection. Dr. Nirav D. Shah, the Department's director, says that cervical cancer is extremely preventable when implementing routine screening, but around 4,000 women still lost their lives to the disease last year. Shah says that this is why proper knowledge and awareness is key, and he encourages women, adolescent girls, boys, and parents to discuss HPV vaccines with their health care providers. Each year, roughly 500 Illinoisans are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and the CDC reports that half of these cases occur in women who are very rarely or never screened for the disease. Although this type of cancer typically grows slowly, it can be detected early with regular Pap tests. You can find out more information at the Illinois Department of Public Health's website, or by calling the health line at 1-888-522-1282.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan is warning Illinois citizens of potential scams and cons looking to exploit flood-impacted residents and businesses. Madigan says that these new scams are pressuring people into making quick and expensive decisions about cleanup and construction work. Keep in mind that general contractors do not have to be liscened by state law, but many municipalities do require permits. Check with your local government agencies for other requirements. Madigan also gives some tips to help avoid these scams:
- Be wary of contractors who go door to door to offer repair services. Ask for recommendations from people you know and trust and, whenever possible, use established local contractors.
- Call the Attorney General’s Consumer Fraud Hotline (1-800-386-5438) to check out a contractor and to learn if any complaints have been filed against a particular business.
- Visit the Better Business Bureau’s central Illinois, Chicago or Metro East websites to see if a business is a member and whether any complaints have been lodged against it.
- Even if there is a need to act quickly, shop around for the best deal. Get written estimates from multiple contractors, and don’t be rushed into a deal.
- Get all of the terms of a contract in writing, and obtain a copy of the signed contract.
- Never make full payment until all the work has been completed to your satisfaction.
- Never pay in cash.
- Be aware that you have the right to cancel a contract within three business days if you signed it based on the contractor’s visit to your home.
- In the case of disaster repair, you have an additional right to cancel. If your insurance carrier denies coverage, you have the right to cancel the contract within five days of when your insurance carrier denies your coverage.
- Ask to see required state and local permits and licenses. Insurance adjusters and roofers must be licensed by state agencies. If the contractor does not have a required license, or if the name on the license doesn’t match the name on the contractor’s business card or truck, that should raise a red flag. Please visit the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s website to search licenses.
Additionally, according to state law, all contracting work exceeding $1,000 must come with a contract to be signed by both the contractor and the customer. For more tips, contact the Consumer Fraud Hotlines at one of the numbers below -
Chicago - 1-800-386-5438
Springfield - 1-800-243-0618
Carbondale - 1-800-243-0607
Eleven more counties in Illinois have been added to the disaster declaration following the recent flooding. Governor Bruce Rauner, who added these new counties, says that the total is currently up to 23 counties. These areas have, under the declaration, use of state resources such as sandbags, pumps, trucks, cleanup crews and other tools to help mitigate damage and rebuild. Rauner says that these declarations are just the beginning of the rebuilding effort.
"There's a public assistance, where the federal government can reimburse government costs for the flood damage and flood recovery expenses. There's also individual assistance."
Bruce Rauner, Illinois Governor
One of these so-called 'disaster counties' is Sangamon County, and their Administrator Brian McFadden says that federal assistance could be available to buy out flood-prone properties, as has been done in the past.
"The logical, sensible, and more cost-efficient solution is (to) get those, move those structures off the property, and in the case of the counties' purchases those properties are now considered natural areas and (in) some cases have been converted to park use."
Brian McFadden, Sangamon County Administrator
The Governor's office says that if the state meets certain criteria, we could receive a federal disaster declaration from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which would further aid in the relief efforts. The other counties that were added yesterday are Cass, Cumberland, Lawrence, Marion, Menard, Moultrie, Pike, Richland, and Vermilion.
According to Illinois State Police (ISP), District 14 Commander, Glen Schwartz, District 14 Troopers will conduct Occupant Restraint Enforcement Patrols (OREP) in McDonough County during the month of January.
OREP patrols focus on traffic violations and related compliance with safety belt and child safety seat laws. Safety belt enforcement zones will also be set-up to ensure drivers and passengers are buckled up. Illinois law requires all vehicle passengers, front and back, to use their safety belt.
According to the ISP, safety belts are estimated to save over 12,000 lives per year. Over half of vehicle occupants killed in a traffic crash were not properly buckled up.
This project is funded through the Illinois Department of Transportation and , Division of Transportation Safety.
The City of Bushnell has announced a boil order for the following areas in Bushnell, until further notice:
800 Block of Harrison
700-800 Blocks of E. Twyman/ Osborn
New Section of the Trailer Park
Illinois now has several new laws in effect that are aimed at keeping teens out of the state's prison system. One group is praising one change in particular, which could affect some of Illinois' youngest residents. The amendment to Illinois' Juvenile Court Act now says that children under the age of 13 should not be sent to county detention facilities. Instead, law enforcement agents will first have to contact a local youth service provider to find temporary housing for the child. Elizabeth Clarke, president of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Initiative, says the state is taking another step in the right direction.
"We want to do no harm. We know that detention, even for one night with such a young child, could do a great deal of harm."
Elizabeth Clarke, Illinois Juvenile Justice Initiative
The change went into effect of January 1st. It says if a provider is not able to enroll a young child in a program, only then can the child be placed in detention. Clarke points to a Northwestern University study which shows youth detention can have negative, long-term mental health effects on children and teens. Ultimately, the goal is to help reduce the state's youth prison population. Raising the age for child detention earned bipartisan support last summer. The move is in line with lawmakers working for restorative justice programs, and also conservatives who want to cut state spending on the prison system, but Clarke says that progress has been slow.
"We have been, bit by bit over the years, decreasing the number of children under the age of 13 that we lock up."
Elizabeth Clarke, Illinois Juvenile Justice Initiative
According to the state Department of Juvenile Justice, 10 years ago, Illinois had more than 1,600 children in detention. That number is now down to about 600 statewide.
The Illinois Department of Revenue recently announced that they do not anticipate releasing individual income tax refunds for the 2016 season until March 1st of this year. The Department cites fraud prevention as the main factor for this delay, and say that increased scrutiny and additional delays have had a positive impact in combating tax fraud and identity theft. The Department of Revenue says that filing your taxes electronically, and directing the funds through a direct deposit is the fastest way to get your refund. Electronic returns filed before March 1st are anticipated to be issued within two to three weeks after March 1st. For error-free submissions after that date, anticipated refund dates should be two to three weeks from the date of submission.
About 20 soldiers from the Illinois National Guard have been placed in southern parts of the state in order to respond and aid to areas that were hit hard by flooding, but Governor Rauner has hopes that they won't be needed. The Governor ordered the soldiers to the Marion Readiness Center on New Year's Day in order to help local officials, conduct health and welfare checks, and mitigate damage from the flooding. This past weekend, the Governor himself also went around to several affected areas and warned many people who are close to the Mississippi River to evacuate to limit potential damage, but some people just don't want to leave their homes.
"We have had the National Guard on standby,I hope we won't need them, at this point it doesn't look like we will, in case we have to extract people and do some rescues. Right now it doesn't look like we're going to have to do that, but again we're asking people to honor the request for evacuation, that's critically important."
Bruce Rauner, Governor of Illinois
For evacuation purposes, Rauner said that a Blackhawk helicopter has been made available if necessary. While touring flooded areas around Alton, Pontoon Beach, and Evansville, the Governor also took time to praise the state's prison system for their assistance in the flood control.
"Officers, as well as inmates, in the Department of Corrections have done a fantastic job creating sandbags and helping to load them and stack them."
Bruce Rauner, Governor of Illinois
Touring alongside Governor Rauner this weekend was Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director James Joseph. Joseph was out to tour the damage and assess available resources, however he says that with the cold setting, one of the big dangers of cleanup could be rapid hypothermia, and both the state and local volunteer groups are spreading awareness.
"We do have some non-governmental volunteer organizations that are providing cleanup assistance in some communities as well. So we're going to continue to work with them to make sure that we get the safety message out as well."
James Joseph, Illinois Emergency Management
At present, Governor Rauner has declared a dozen counties disaster areas that are eligible for assistance. In addition to the military help and state cleanup, this means sandbags, pumps, and heavy equipment can all be utilized by these communities to help them recover from this flooding. Rauner also made it a point to mention that emergency response efforts have not been affected by the six-month-running budget impasse, as recent agreements at the statehouse allowed funds to be directed toward local first responders.
"We do have some pockets of available money, potentially in the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to help small businesses recover, and some farmers recover. We'll see what we can do in that regard, we don't know at this point we're trying to assess the damage and get some financial measurements."
Bruce Rauner, Governor of Illinois