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WCAZ Radio News Archives for 2024-02

The next meeting of Hancock County Retired Teachers will be Monday, March 11

The next meeting of Hancock County Retired Teachers will be Monday, March 11.
The meeting will he held at the United Methodist Church, 861 Walnut Street,
Hamilton at 11:30 am. Please enter through the parking lot door.
Shaun McGinn, Professional Swine Management, Carthage, will be our speaker
for the March meeting. He will share with the group the importance of the pork
industry, what PSM does for breeders, their global presence, etc. You will find him
to be very interesting.
Please text, call or email your reservation to Ruth Gayton (217-430-6487,
rgayton@rocketmail.com) by noon Thursday, March 7. The cost will be $10. HCRT
always welcomes new members—retired teachers and their spouses, active
teachers.
If you need a ride to the meeting, don’t hesitate to call.

For Corissa Wright, Carl Sandburg College the Path to a 'Brighter, Better Future'

For Corissa Wright, Carl Sandburg College the Path to a ‘Brighter, Better Future’

ALESBURG — When Corissa Wright graduates from Carl Sandburg College this spring, the moment will be life-changing not only for her but also her family.

 

“I beat five generations of teen pregnancy,” said Wright, 20, who’s on track to earn her associate in applied science in criminal justice this May. “I’m so proud of everything they went through. Now it's like I'm trying to break that generational buildup and hopefully provide for a brighter, better future for everyone.”

 

Wright graduated from Galesburg High School in 2021, becoming the first in her family to earn their high school diploma. But she had no intention of stopping there. Wright joined the Army National Guard and enrolled at Sandburg to study criminal justice after completing her training. Throughout the way, she couldn’t escape the idea of wanting to make her mom, Ellen Winkler, proud.

 

“We sort of grew up together,” Wright said of her mother, who completed her GED through Sandburg and came here to become a certified nursing assistant. “She had me at 16, so I saw her hard work, always providing and helping and still being that mother. That made me realize that in life you have to work for what you want. You have to have her persistence. And her caring heart also touched me to where law enforcement has the same qualities, and that's what pushed me into that.”

 

Wright already had some familiarity with Sandburg before starting here in the 2022 spring semester. She was selected to be in the Gale Scholars program in high school and also was part of TRIO Upward Bound, a federal grant program designed to assist low-income, first-generation students as they prepare to enter college.

 

“I loved it,” Wright said of her experience in Upward Bound. “It was very much like a family. They helped you with homework, career decisions, pretty much anything — even life issues. So, it was very rewarding, and it helped me with the decision to come here.”

 

Once she got to Sandburg, Wright joined TRIO Student Support Services, a sister program to Upward Bound that supports first-generation students enrolled in college. TRIO SSS offers numerous ways to assist students during their time at Sandburg, including tutoring, peer mentoring, career/major exploration and cultural activities.

 

“It was a little intimidating, but the (TRIO SSS) program sort of eased me into it,” Wright said. “They had opportunities beforehand to check out my classes and everything. It was a little scary at first, but there were tons of resources and people to help me.”

 

Wright came to Sandburg knowing she wanted to study criminal justice. In addition to her experience as a military police officer with the National Guard, she spent several years in the Galesburg Police Department’s Youth Explorers program and was in the law enforcement program at the Galesburg Area Vocational Center while in high school. Right away at Sandburg, Wright knew that she made the correct choice in sticking with that career track.

 

“I took one class with Chris Barber (coordinator of the criminal justice program), and I was in love with the law enforcement program,” Wright said, noting some of her favorite units in Barber’s classes involved casting footprints and examining blood spatter. “The way he teaches was hands-on and easy to understand. I could relate to it from my military police training, and I just loved the book work and everything.”

 

Now just a handful of weeks away from graduating, Wright is starting to plot her next steps. She wants to find work right away and hopes to one day land a job in law enforcement that’s connected to psychology.

 

“My plan was to make an impact on society, help people do good,” Wright said. “I grew up with a single teen mom. I just wanted to better myself and try to do good for not only my family, but also for the community of Galesburg.”

 

The opportunity to make that a reality was right there in her hometown.

 

“Sandburg drew me in because I felt comfortable,” Wright said. “I felt like I can expand my future at the same time. It was just the right decision.”

Cook County judge orders Trump removed from GOP ballot but holds decision pending appeal

Cook County judge orders Trump removed from GOP ballot but holds decision pending appeal

Ruling found election board’s previous decision ‘clearly erroneous

SPRINGFIELD – A Cook County judge on Wednesday ordered former President Donald Trump’s name to be removed from the March 19 Republican primary ballot but stayed her order until Friday to give time for an appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.

In a lengthy decision, Judge Tracie Porter said the Illinois State Board of Elections reached the wrong conclusion last month when it rejected a petition by five Illinois voters who objected to Trump’s candidacy. The objectors claimed Trump’s actions surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol amounted to an “insurrection” and, thus, disqualified him under the 14th Amendment.

“Judge Porter’s reasoned decision contributes to the growing consensus of courts recognizing and condemning Trump’s decisive role in the January 6th attack on the Capitol,” Caryn Lederer, lead attorney for the objectors, said in a statement Wednesday. “The decision recognizes the importance of rule of law and upholding the mandate of the U.S. Constitution.”

Read more: Lawyers hope for Illinois Supreme Court answer to Trump ballot question

Trump spokesman Steven Cheung issued a statement saying the campaign would appeal the decision, which he called “unconstitutional.”

“Today, an activist Democrat judge in Illinois summarily overruled the state's board of elections and contradicted earlier decisions from dozens of other state and federal jurisdictions,” he said, noting Trump’s name will remain on the ballot as the case progresses.  

The decision comes at the same time the U.S. Supreme Court is weighing a similar challenge to Trump’s candidacy in Colorado. The high court heard oral arguments in that case Feb. 8 but has not yet issued a decision.

The objection in Illinois was first heard by an administrative hearing officer who recommended the complaint be dismissed. Clark Erickson, a retired Republican judge, said Trump’s actions surrounding the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol likely constituted an insurrection, but that such questions were beyond the scope of the Board of Elections’ authority.

On Jan. 30, the Board of Elections agreed and voted unanimously to dismiss the objection. The board also said the objectors had failed to show that Trump knowingly lied on his statement of candidacy in Illinois when he declared he was legally qualified to hold the office of president.

Read more: Board of Elections allows Trump's name to stay on ballot

The objectors then requested a judicial review in Cook County Circuit Court.

In her order Wednesday, Porter reversed that decision, noting that Trump filed his statement of candidacy on Jan. 4, 2024, more than a week after the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Trump had engaged in an insurrection and was therefore disqualified from the Colorado ballot.

Porter pointed to the election board’s findings that Trump had likely engaged insurrection, concluding Trump “falsely swore” that he was “legally qualified” for the presidency. She called the board’s decision in finding Trump should stay on the ballot “clearly erroneous.” 

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

Sandburg President Dr. Seamus Reilly to Receive Award of Distinction From Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society

Sandburg President Dr. Seamus Reilly to Receive Award of Distinction From Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society

 

GALESBURG —Carl Sandburg College President Dr. Seamus Reilly will be recognized by Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society (PTK) with the Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction during the society’s annual convention April 4-6 in Orlando, Fla.

 

The Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction is Phi Theta Kappa’s most prestigious award for community college presidents and is named in honor of the late Dr. Shirley B. Gordon, PTK’s longest-serving Board of Directors Chair and a founder and longtime president of Highline Community College in Washington.

 

To be eligible, college presidents and CEOs must have served in their role for at least five years. Recipients are nominated by students on their campus and are only eligible to receive the award once over the course of their career.

 

“I’m remarkably humbled to have been nominated for this award and appreciative to Phi Theta Kappa for this honor,” Reilly said. “I’m particularly grateful to our PTK members at Sandburg for considering me in their nomination. Their dedication toward academic achievement and success serves as an inspiration to us all at Sandburg.”

 

Reilly will be honored alongside 18 other college administrators with the award for his support of student success initiatives leading to stronger pathways to completion, transfer and employment as well as for taking an active interest in supporting high-achieving students and developing student leaders on campus.

 

“Since coming to Sandburg, Dr. Reilly has provided continued support of our PTK chapter. He attends events, assists with chapter projects and ensures that students know he values their contributions to the college,” said Lara Roemer, Sandburg PTK advisor and associate dean of social and business sciences and honors programs. “His engagement directly with the students has demonstrated to them that everyone at Sandburg, all the way up to the president, is dedicated to their success, and that is invaluable. Phi Theta Kappa's largest goal is to create the next generation of servant leaders, and Dr. Reilly is a fine example for them to follow.”

 

“This college president has made it a priority to support student success both inside and outside the classroom,” PTK President and CEO Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner said. “This award is special because it comes directly from the students, and it is evidence of the gratitude they feel for the support for them and students like them.”

 

Phi Theta Kappa is the premier honor society recognizing the academic achievement of students at associate degree-granting colleges and helping them to grow as scholars and leaders. The society is made up of more than 3.8 million members and nearly 1,300 chapters in 11 countries, with approximately 240,000 active members in the nation’s colleges. Learn more at ptk.org.

 

Capitol Briefs: Pritzker touts manufacturing training funding, announces cultural districts

Capitol Briefs: Pritzker touts manufacturing training funding, announces cultural districts

Proposed budget includes another $24 million for manufacturing training academies

 

Gov. JB Pritzker was in Normal Tuesday to call attention to recent state funding for manufacturing training academies – including at Heartland Community College. 

The governor and college officials celebrated the new 45,000-square-foot facility that opened in January. It includes remodeled space to support programs such as robotics, HVAC, welding and digital media, as well as a newly constructed EV lab.

It was partially funded with a $7.5 state investment in a previous fiscal year from the Rebuild Illinois capital infrastructure program. The state at the time also allocated $7.5 million for a similar facility at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville. 

The training academy program was designed to develop advanced manufacturing training centers to house programs such as electric vehicle technology, renewable energy and robotics. State leaders said a goal was to help community colleges prepare the workforce for area industries – such as EV manufacturer Rivian in Bloomington – and create partnerships between community colleges, businesses and economic development organizations. 

Pritzker’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year 2025 would include another $24 million in infrastructure funding for similar projects at other community colleges.  

“Heartland now serves as a model,” Gov. Pritzker said at the ribbon cutting Tuesday. “That’s why in the budget that I proposed last week, I’ve proposed an investing another $24 million for manufacturing training academies so that other communities can benefit from the trail that you’re blazing right here in central Illinois.”

 

Cultural districts

At the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture on Monday, Gov. JB Pritzker and other government officials announced the creation of 10 “cultural districts” in Chicago, Champaign and Springfield. 

These cultural districts include ethnic enclaves in Chicago and historically Black neighborhoods in Champaign and Springfield.  

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The program, outlined in a 2021 state law that passed with bipartisan support, allows the state's Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to provide technical assistance and grants to neighborhoods that have been historically impacted by gentrification, displacement and economic disinvestment. 

Puerto Rican Cultural Center Executive Director Jose Lopez – who Pritzker described as the “godfather” of Puerto Rico town – said in addition to spurring economic growth, the designations send a political message. 

“Our very humanity is prefaced on the incredible differences that we have here, that we have in this room, in this city, in this state and in the United States,” Lopez said Monday “This designation is a counter narrative to the politics of hate and division.” 

Five more districts will be designated in 2025, with a focus on downstate and rural communities, according to the governor's office. Districts will be eligible to apply for $3 million in funding once the final districts are selected. 

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

 

 

It's been a century since Augusta got its first fire truck

 

It’s been a century since

Augusta got its first fire truck

 

Augusta has always taken fire safety seriously, but a big boost came 100 years ago.

   The Hancock County community got its first fire truck on February 29th, 1924. You could call it a "leap" ahead for Augusta. The engine was built by an Indiana company and cost what would today be about 44 thousand dollars.

   Augusta had adopted fire codes in 1906, but still relied upon residents forming bucket brigades to douse flames. The truck was capable of spraying water higher than any building in town.

   Just two weeks after the truck’s arrival, the Augusta Volunteer Fire Association was formed, with 10 men serving under Chief George Minier.

   The truck was pressed into service for the first time on January 27th, 1925. A furnace fire at a home on Augusta’s south side was extinguished quickly with little damage.

MEMORIAL HOSPITAL JOINS ACADEMIC CONSORTIUM'S GLOBAL INTEGRATIVE HEALTH NETWORK

 

MEMORIAL HOSPITAL JOINS ACADEMIC CONSORTIUM’S GLOBAL

INTEGRATIVE HEALTH NETWORK

 

Carthage, IL – Memorial Hospital is joining nearly 80 of the world’s most recognized
academic medical centers and health systems as a new member of the Academic
Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health. For integrative medicine professionals
and students, the Academic Consortium is the world’s most comprehensive community for advancing the practice of whole health care, with leading expertise in research, clinical care, education, and policy.
“Whole-person healthcare is at the center of the Academic Consortium for Integrative
Medicine & Health,” said Academic Consortium Chair Amy Locke, MD. She added,
“Memorial Hospital’s institutional knowledge and experience in establishing an integrative medicine program as a rural critical-access care hospital will be integral to understanding the myriad ways in which we can promote whole health for every person.”


Ada Bair, Memorial Hospital CEO, states, & Joining the Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health marks a significant milestone for Memorial Hospital on our journey towards whole-person healthcare. Our commitment to integrating evidence-based practices into patient care and fostering collaboration with academic institutions aligns seamlessly with the Consortiums mission”, adds Bair. As we embark on this transformative partnership, we look forward to contributing our institutional knowledge and experience to advance the practice of whole health care globally. Together, we can promote meaningful and impactful clinical, academic, research, and education programs that empower every person on their path to optimal health and healing.


With over 70 years dedicated to high-quality patient care, Memorial Hospital was founded
with the purpose of becoming a sustainable regional center of excellence for health and
healing while creating meaningful and impactful clinical, academic, research, and education programs. A rural critical-access hospital, Memorial Hospital has been working since 2015 to establish evidence-based integrative medicine services for their patients by partnering with over 38 academic institutions, participating in focused outreach for community health and wellness education, and identifying leadership to drive the future of their integrative medicine program.


Dr. Yoon Hang Kim, MD is at the forefront of the newly-founded Memorial Institute of
Health &amp; Healing, which seeks to provide robust care through five key areas of focus,
including integrative oncology, integrative pain management, integrative &amp; functional medicine consultation, lifestyle medicine aimed at reversing type II diabetes, and i tegrative primary care. Dr. Kim will participate in clinical care at the Memorial Institute of Health & Healing while driving the future development of research and education initiatives.


Preparatory initiatives in developing the Memorial Institute of Health &amp; Healing included creating a teaching kitchen, developing a team of highly engaged registered dietitians to participate in community education events, and hiring a chef to make specialized meals for all patients, staff, and providers at Memorial Hospital. Memorial Hospital has partnered with 38 academic institutions to provide clinical experience to students and is working to create integrative, functional, and lifestyle medicine rotations for medical students and residents.


Membership with the Academic Consortium will help Memorial Hospital expand its
integrative medicine program as it develops under the leadership of Dr. Kim. It will also
connect them with other institutions working toward the same goal and provide support
for their efforts in expanding their collaborative networks for clinical research.


What is Integrative Medicine and Health: Integrative medicine and health reaffirms the
important relationship between practitioner and patient, focuses on the whole person, is
informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic and lifestyle
approaches, healthcare professionals, and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing. 

Who is the Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine & Health: For integrative medicine professionals and students at academic health centers and health systems, the Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine &amp; Health is the world’s most comprehensive community for advancing the practice of whole health, with leading expertise in research, clinical care, and education. By consolidating the top institutions in the integrative medicine space, all working in unison towards a common goal, and as an established resource for world-class research, results, and expertise, ACIMH is a home for Champions of Whole Health from across the globe. Together with our prestigious network of members, we advocate for change, support important breakthroughs, and connect key stakeholders to help achieve health care that embraces and empowers every person. Member Listing 

Memorial Medical Clinic Colchester to Host a Grand Reopening Open House

Memorial Medical Clinic Colchester to Host a Grand Reopening Open House

 

Carthage, IL – Join us for an exciting event as Memorial Medical Clinic Colchester unveils its newly renovated and expanded facility with a grand reopening open house on Thursday, March 7th, from 4:00 to 7:00 pm. We invite the community to come and experience our state-of-the-art clinic firsthand, meet our dedicated healthcare providers, and participate in a special "leave your mark" artwork opportunity.

 

In addition to touring the facility, guests will have the opportunity to receive A1C and Blood Pressure screenings, as well as enjoy our teddy bear clinic. Light refreshments will be provided for all attendees.

 

Don't miss out on this opportunity to celebrate with us! Memorial Medical Clinic Colchester is conveniently located at 110 East Market Street, Colchester, Illinois. We look forward to welcoming you.

Gov. JB Pritzker delivered his budget address

Gov. JB Pritzker delivered his budget address


Gov. JB Pritzker delivered his sixth budget address to Illinois lawmakers Wednesday. The 51.7-billion-dollar spending plan includes increased funding for human services, healthcare, education, and more. Below are sound bites from the speech:


Pritzker highlighted his Smart Start early education initiative, saying in its first year, the state exceeded its goal of 5,000 new preschool seats by 15 percent. 

“As a result, right now we have over 82,000 publicly-funded preschool classroom seats—the highest number in our state’s history. Staying on the Smart Start plan, we will achieve universal preschool by 2027.”

 

Pritzker announced plans to push for a new “Healthcare Consumer Access and Protection Act,” which will impose stricter regulations on health insurance companies and the coverage they provide.

Pritzker says so-called “utilization management” is code for denying coverage and must be stopped.

 

Utilization management allows insurance companies to boost profits by requiring that consumers get permission before they receive care. It won’t surprise you to know that those requests are frequently denied.

 

Pritzker says doctors and patients should be in charge of making healthcare decisions – not insurance companies: 

 We should never, ever, ever, ever cede those decisions to the whims of insurance executives whose focus is always on the bottom line.

 

Pritzker again called on the Biden Administration and Congress to work together to respond to the wave of migrants. He says states and cities are not equipped to deal with the influx of people from the southern border:

 

“The White House and the federal government need to step up—to coordinate and manage these asylum seekers when they cross the border. (applause)”

 

Although Gov. Pritzker’s spending plan calls for spending $1.8 billion more than the current fiscal year, financial forecasters are predicting a deficit next year. Pritzker says his proposed budget makes – quote – hard choices. 

This year’s budget proposal is focused and disciplined, and because of the responsible actions we took in the last few years paying off state debt and treating federal pandemic relief as one time revenue, we are not facing the budgetary challenges that other big states are this year.

 

Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza calls Governor JB Pritzker’s budget proposal “spot on.” 

“It is hard to come in flat. People always want to spend more money, and he did a good job of setting the tone that we should not be spending more money - and every dollar that we spend should have a proven return on investment.”


Mendoza says the influx of migrants is a humanitarian issue – not a political issue.

 

“I am not happy that we’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars on this. But I’m sure as hell going to track every penny of it, and make sure that we can go back and make our case to Washington that this was their problem, they’ve got to help us fix it.”

 

 

Pritzker to call for health insurance reforms in State of the State address

Pritzker to call for health insurance reforms in State of the State address

Proposals target practices designed to curb utilization

 

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. JB Pritzker plans to take on the state’s health insurance industry this year by calling for legislation to curb many of the standard practices they use to hold down costs and boost profits.

He plans to outline those reforms in his State of the State and budget address Wednesday, according to an advance excerpt of his speech, kicking off a process that will eventually require approval from lawmakers.

Pritzker’s “Healthcare Consumer Access and Protection Act” will include a package of proposals aimed at controlling strategies that insurers use to reduce the amount of health care patients receive.

It also includes new requirements for insurers to offer enough in-network doctors to meet consumers’ needs, as well as state regulatory control over rate increases in the large group insurance plans similar to regulations lawmakers approved last year for small group policies.

In the speech scheduled for delivery at noon today, a portion of which was provided to Capitol News Illinois in advance, Pritzker says he expects stiff resistance from the insurance industry. But he says he is prepared “to spend serious political capital” to pass the legislation.

“It will save lives and lower healthcare costs for millions of Illinoisans,” Pritzker plans to say.

The first part of the package targets what are often called “utilization management” practices by insurance companies that are designed to control the amount of services a patient receives and steer them toward lower-cost options.

Those include “prior authorization” requirements in which consumers must get advance permission from the insurance company to receive treatment recommended by their doctor. Pritzker will propose banning the use of prior authorization requirements in one specific area of health care – in-patient mental health care for both children and adults – making Illinois the first state in the nation to do so.

Pritzker will also call for an end to another kind of utilization management, so-called “step therapy” for prescription drugs. Sometimes referred to as “fail first” therapy, that’s a requirement that patients first try one or more lower-cost, alternative medications before the insurance company will cover a higher-cost drug prescribed by a doctor.

Pritzker’s plan also calls for banning the sale of Short-Term Limited-Duration Insurance plans in Illinois. Those are plans people typically buy to fill gaps in coverage, such as when they’re transitioning from one job to another. 

But while they are often less expensive than regular insurance, they are exempt under federal law from many requirements of the Affordable Care Act such as prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of preexisting conditions or monetary caps on benefits.

Another part of Pritzker’s proposal would require insurance companies to regularly update their network directories to make sure the providers listed are actually part of the company’s network and are available to accept patients.

That provision is aimed at cracking down on so-called “ghost networks,” a reference to directories that list doctors and specialists who aren’t accepting new patients, who are no longer in the company’s network, or who don’t actually exist at all.

Finally, Pritzker’s plan will call for giving the Illinois Department of Insurance authority to review, approve, or reject proposed rate increases in the large group market, which includes plans that cover 51 or more employees of an organization. Last year, Pritzker signed legislation authorizing the department to conduct rate reviews for policies covering individuals and groups of 50 or fewer employees.

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

Ahead of Pritzker's budget address, pressures that mounted last year intensify

Ahead of Pritzker’s budget address, pressures that mounted last year intensify

Noncitizen health care costs derailed bipartisan budget hopes in Senate last year

Republicans in the Illinois Senate indicated Tuesday that their sticking point for budget negotiations this year will be the same as it was last year – state spending on programs for noncitizens and recent arrivals from the country’s southern border. 

In what’s been a rarity over the past five years, Senate Republicans were in on budget negotiations with their Democratic counterparts last year until the legislative session neared its end. But when the final budget bill materialized in the waning days of May, no Republican supported it. 

One of the main reasons given was that the budget contained hundreds of millions of dollars in spending for state-funded health care programs for noncitizens, while a $75 million tax credit program for private school scholarship donors was allowed to expire. 

“We need a budget that prioritizes Illinois citizens,” Senate Minority Leader John Curran, R-Downers Grove, said when asked what would have to change this year for the budget to receive Republican votes. 

Gov. JB Pritzker on Wednesday is set to lay out his vision for the upcoming fiscal year 2025, which begins July 1. Because Democrats hold supermajorities in both the House and Senate, Republican votes aren’t necessarily needed to pass a spending plan. 

Still, Curran said he’d like to engage with Democrats to the same extent his caucus did during his first year as its leader. 

“Ultimately, at the end of the day, we were not able to come to an agreement with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle but we came close and we're going to continue that process,” he added. 

But many of the realities that derailed a bipartisan budget last year remain in place and have become even more critical. 

Illinois’ current-year budget includes $550 million in state-funded health care to low-income noncitizens who are in Illinois without legal permission or who have green cards and are on a waiting period. That group is separate from many of the migrants being flown or bused to Illinois from Texas – if the individuals are seeking asylum in the U.S., they more likely qualify for other preexisting state or federal benefits.  

To date, more than 40,000 migrants have been relocated to the Chicago area from Texas, although some have moved on from Illinois. As of Tuesday, the city of Chicago counted 12,478 migrants in shelters and 16 awaiting placement.

Read more: Copays take effect for immigrant health programs as cost estimates continue to decline

Pritzker last week announced he’d propose spending another $182 million in state money to address the influx of migrants. That’s in addition to about $660 million the governor’s office has calculated it has already allocated to emergency services related to migrants. 

Read more: Pritzker commits another $182 million to migrant response, details to come next week| Patchwork aid system and uncertain funding leave thousands of migrants in limbo

In total, the noncitizen health care funding, combined with Pritzker’s estimates for migrant response spending, equates to about 3 percent of the state’s $50.4 billion current-year general revenue budget. 

S&P Global Ratings – one of the nation’s three major credit rating agencies – issued a report last week stating that “If this issue remains significant enough for long enough, the increase in costs and social service requirements could affect states' and local governments' credit quality.”

The state’s nine credit ratings upgrades during Pritzker’s tenure have been a frequent point of pride for the governor. He has also frequently touted increased funding for K-12 education, Illinois State Police operations, early childhood education, higher education, general human services funding and more. His budget proposals have grown from allocating about $39 billion in his first year in office to more than $50 billion for the current year. 

But in November, Pritzker’s budgeting office projected a revenue shortfall for fiscal year 2025 at $891 million unless the state controls spending or increases revenues. That’s accompanied by a current-year projected budget surplus of $1.4 billion, however, which could create leeway for the fiscal year that begins July 1 – although the budget office also identified another $969 million in “spending pressures.” 

Read more: Pritzker to mull tightening fiscal landscape in budget address this week

Pritzker’s set to balance those funding pressures with other spending asks from some Democratic lawmakers that include pushes for a new $300 child tax credit, as well as additional funding for existing programs addressing early childhood education, homelessness, food insecurity and more.  

In a Feb. 8 news conference at the Capitol, House Republican leader Tony McCombie, of Savanna, laid out her caucus’ priorities. They included fully funding education and pensions, opposing new taxes, reducing the estate tax and restoring an inflationary adjustment to the state’s standard exemption that was temporarily paused last year. 

Like the Senate GOP, one of McCombie’s priorities included “prioritizing services for Illinois citizens.” 

“Number one, President Biden, secure the border,” she said when asked about the state’s migrant response. “That's number one. And now we have to put a moratorium on asylum seekers coming to Illinois. We – okay, they're here. We have to take care of what is here today. But we do not have the services that can accommodate this influx of folks coming here.”

Pritzker can’t control the flow of migrants from Texas – that state’s governor, Republican Greg Abbott, has stated he would relocate individuals who cross the border to “welcoming” or “sanctuary” states. 

But Senate Republicans on Tuesday said Pritzker should change his tone.

“Stop the invitation,” Curran said. “Roll back the policies that have created the noncitizen welfare state, move away from your national stage presence trying to proclaim Illinois to be the most welcoming state in the nation.”

Pritzker, however, says he views the state’s response as a humanitarian issue. 

“With thousands of asylum seekers continuing to come to Chicago in desperate need of support and with Congress continuing to refuse to act — it is clear the state, county, and city will have to do more to keep people safe,” Pritzker said in a statement last week. 

 

New database

Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza’s office launched a new portal on Tuesday to track spending related to asylum seekers. 

While the portal tracked about $31 million in expenditures related to migrants, Mendoza’s office noted “state spending that helps homeless or other populations that could benefit migrants may not be included, so this should not be considered an exhaustive list of all the help the state provides asylum-seekers.” 

The database encompasses spending that occurred since November and “should include all spending directly aimed at these newcomers moving forward as reported by state agencies.”

Mendoza echoed Pritzker’s and others’ concerns about the federal government failing to adequately support states who are receiving migrants. 

 

White Sox stadium

Chicago White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was at the Capitol Tuesday to meet with the state’s four legislative leaders – including Curran. 

The Senate minority leader, however, wouldn’t comment on Reinsdorf’s supposed $1 billion request for state tax policy changes to help fund a new White Sox stadium in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood. The plan was first detailed by Crain’s Chicago Business. 

“I have not seen any plan … a proposal to put before me,” Curran said when asked about the stadium plan before meeting with Reinsdorf later in the day. “I got a meeting later today. I'll probably hear some details at that point. It’s hard to comment on something that I don't know what it is.” 

Other leaders – including Pritzker – had been waiting for a specific proposal before commenting as well. 

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

Capitol Brief: Lawyers hope for Illinois Supreme Court answer to Trump ballot question

Capitol Brief: Lawyers hope for Illinois Supreme Court answer to Trump ballot question 

Arguments hinge on election board authority while insurrection question hangs in the air

CHICAGO — Lawyers representing Donald Trump and five Illinois voters hoping to see the former president removed from next month’s primary ballot sparred in a downtown Chicago courtroom on Friday. 

The case, which began last month when the Illinois State Board of Elections declined to disqualify Trump from this spring’s primary, could be decided late next week, according to Cook County Circuit Court Judge Tracie Porter. 

But despite Porter’s hope to file an opinion soon, that might not be the end of the case. 

“We have been proceeding with the understanding that this case will probably require resolution by the Illinois Supreme Court,” Carolyn Lederer, the lawyer who argued on behalf of the objectors, told Porter Friday. 

The central claim of the voters who objected to Trump being on the ballot is that he is ineligible for office because, they say, he engaged in insurrection through his involvement in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. 

Read more: Trump’s Illinois ballot challenge to move forward

But that claim, which is under review by the U.S. Supreme Court right now in an unrelated case, took a backseat in Friday’s arguments. Instead, lawyers largely focused on the authority of state elections officials. 

Lawyers for the group of voters who objected to Trump’s statement of candidacy argued that the elections board erred by relying on untested legal standards. They specifically pointed to the board’s ruling that the objectors failed to show Trump “knowingly lied” on his statement of candidacy when he said he was qualified to hold the office of president. 

Lederer said the Board of Elections has never required a candidate to have “knowingly lied” to disqualify them. The board sometimes disqualifies candidates due to issues like residency, she pointed out. 

“In addition to a complete lack of legal support, this new standard would be impossible to enforce,” Lederer said. 

That, in addition the ISBE’s refusal to engage in “constitutional analysis,” represents “profoundly problematic interpretations of Illinois law” according to Lederer.

Adam Merrill, one of Trump’s lawyers, said that while the actions people took on Jan. 6, 2021, were “repugnant” and “deplorable,” this case should focus more narrowly on the actions of the board of elections. 

While the objectors claim the “knowingly lied” standard is new, Merrill argued that it stems from the fact that lying on a statement of candidacy – as Trump is alleged to have done – would be perjury, which has a clear burden of proof. 

“This is not new, this is not different, this is not going to jeopardize candidates in the future,” Merrill said. 

Trump's lawyers also laid out a separate set of arguments based on federal law that echoed last week’s oral arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court dealing with Colorado’s ballot objection. 

They argued federal law should end the case for any of several reasons: Trump’s candidacy is a political question that isn’t appropriate for the courts; the 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause doesn’t have the necessary legislation to implement it; it doesn’t apply to former presidents; it doesn’t bar someone from being president; and it doesn’t bar someone from running for office, among other arguments. 

“If the court or the board were to agree with the candidate on any one of these issues, it would end the case,” Trump lawyer Nicholas Nelson said. 

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.


 

Judge denies McCann's request for home confinement, orders him held in custody

Judge denies McCann’s request for home confinement, orders him held in custody
Former state senator, third-party governor candidate to be sentenced in June after guilty plea

SPRINGFIELD – After suddenly pleading guilty as his federal corruption trial was wrapping up this week, former state Sen. Sam McCann won’t be released to await sentencing, U.S. District Judge Colleen Lawless ruled Friday.

McCann has been held at Macon County Jail since last Friday, when Lawless ordered him detained for disobeying her direct orders after being discharged from a sudden hospitalization. He’s showed up to court every day since in a wheelchair, sporting a black and gray striped jail uniform and orange sandals.

Read more: Former lawmaker taken into custody amid delays to his corruption trial after sudden hospitalization

That hospital stay delayed McCann’s bench trial for more than a week before it finally kicked off Tuesday. It abruptly ended on Thursday when McCann’s attorney announced the former senator had a change of heart and wanted to plea. During the plea process, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Bass estimated McCann had stolen “in excess of $550,000” in campaign funds for personal use.

Read more: In last-minute reversal, former Sen. Sam McCann pleads guilty to corruption charges

In a brief hearing Friday morning, Bass opposed McCann’s motion to be released while awaiting his June sentencing date. Bass pointed out McCann’s active participation in trial, including taking notes and conferring with his attorney, was in stark contrast to his claims on Monday that he wasn’t coherent enough to go ahead with trial.

Additionally, Bass said, he’d been made aware of a video posted to McCann’s long-dormant social media pages on Tuesday night. In the 13-minute video, which Bass alleged was filmed as McCann drove to court last Friday morning before his arrest, McCann claims FBI agents squeezed him for incriminating information on others and said the government was coming after him with “an ungodly pack of lies.”

But McCann’s attorney, Jason Vincent, said McCann had no knowledge of the video.

“It certainly does appear to be him speaking into the camera, but my client does not recall making that particular video,” he said.

Lawless watched the video during the hearing, occasionally glancing at the defense table, chin rested on her hand as McCann made a series of accusations, including claiming the government garnished his wages to the point that he “literally could not feed my family.”

In one part of the video, McCann claims the FBI wanted him to testify that he’d joined “an unholy alliance” with former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan to “rig an election.” As punishment for not providing dirt on Madigan, McCann accused the feds of continuing to “dig and dig and dig” until they found something to charge him with.

Madigan faces his own unrelated federal corruption charges in the Northern District of Illinois with a trial scheduled for later this year.

Read more: Madigan trial delayed until October for SCOTUS review of bribery statute

McCann said in the video his case is proof the U.S. has become a “deep state, Orwellian society, the darkness of which we will not come out of for thousands of years if we do not do something to take it back now.”

After the video played, Bass told Lawless that during case discovery a couple of years ago, McCann had received recordings of federal agents meeting with McCann beyond the three hours of tapes played during trial this week.

“I can tell you, your honor, the name ‘Madigan’ doesn’t appear anywhere in those recordings,” Bass said.

After being shown a Macon County Jail photo of the clothes McCann was wearing in court prior to his arrest last Friday – which matched the blue button-down and red tie McCann was wearing in the video – Lawless was convinced that McCann had made the video while driving to court that day.

And, she said, the fact that he was coherently talking while driving didn’t match with McCann’s later claim that he “didn’t even remember” making the roughly one-hour drive to Springfield last Friday.

“It appears as though he was sitting there telling me another story,” Lawless said.

Read more: McCann trial delayed another day as he cancels plan to represent himself

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

Transportation workers rally for new contract amid negotiations with state

Transportation workers rally for new contract amid negotiations with state

Teamsters seek pay raise, same insurance benefits under current plan

 

Groups of Illinois Department of Transportation workers represented by local Teamsters unions rallied at facilities in Collinsville and Springfield Wednesday after recently passing a strike authorization and filing complaints against the state. 

Teamsters Local 916 President JP Fyans said negotiations have been ongoing since before the contract expired in July 2023. The points of contention are health care and wages. Fyans told Capitol News Illinois the department is asking Teamsters members to switch from the union-run health insurance plan they’ve been on for eight years to a new plan that the union claims amounts to a 20 percent pay cut. 

“The difference for the state is our members don’t pay a monthly premium on it, similar to a lot of our private sector members, and the state wants to take away that benefit and have them go into one of their eight state plans,” Fyans said. 

Last week, eight local Teamsters unions representing about 3,800 transportation-related employees authorized strikes amid the ongoing negotiations. A strike can still be avoided despite the authorization votes, which are one part of what is usually a multi-step process leading up to a work stoppage.

Shannon Leesman, the union representative for Department of Transportation District 6 workers, also said changing insurance plans “would be a direct cost out of everybody in this union’s pocket.” But he also shared that morale and pay are low.

“We keep losing all our people to consultants and contractors so we’re losing all the experience because that’s who they’re trying to poach from us,” Leesman said. 

Teamsters Local 916 said the union filed an unfair labor practice charge this week with the Illinois Labor Relations Board against the Department of Transportation Central Bureau and Division 1 for what the union calls “intimidation tactics.”

Fyans said the charge alleges the department started monitoring and surveilling members amid stalled negotiations and rising union support. 

“You’ll see the red shirts out here, the red union shirts – supervisors asked subordinates and everybody to keep track of who wears union support signs,” Fyans said. 

The National Labor Review Board says employers may not “spy on employees’ union activities”, which it defines as “doing something out of the ordinary” to monitor union members.

In a statement, the department did not directly address the complaint but said they’ve ratified a new contract with at least one local union. 

“The state has been in active contract negotiations with the Teamsters since April 2023,” the department said in the statement. “Over the weekend, the first Teamster bargaining unit (Local 700 – Cook County) to reach a deal with the state voted to ratify a new contract that provides good compensation and healthcare benefits to Teamster employees while recognizing that the state must balance its budget. That fair deal, or one substantially similar, is available to the other Teamster bargaining units. The state looks forward to continuing a successful partnership with all of its collective bargaining units now and into the future.”

Fyans told Capitol News Illinois that Central Management Services, the unit responsible for negotiating contracts, brokered a deal with Local 700 that included extra money to offset the more expensive insurance plan. He said besides not having been offered a similar deal, comparing the needs of workers represented by Local 700 to the needs of workers represented by Local 916 is “very much like apples to oranges” as they cover different careers and pay brackets.

Fyans said the workers Local 916 represents are “fed up” and “pissed off” because these issues aren’t new; they “feel left behind by the governor’s office.”

At an event earlier this week, Gov. JB Pritzker was asked about the Teamsters strike authorization. 

Pritzker said government contracts had been signed by almost all other unions and that CMS put an offer on the table that offers “and increase in wages, that offers them good health care benefits.” He also said he is unsure what will happen next but that he doesn’t think “people will have their lives interrupted if there were a strike.”

Fyans shared that they have three more days of bargaining in which they will discuss insurance benefits and salary brackets that will be crucial to deciding the Teamsters’ next steps.

If there is a strike, Fyans said he believes it could impact Illinoisans because commutes and projects would be delayed and ultimately affect commerce and safety. The unions represent employees including drivers, highway maintainers, bridge tenders, scientists, engineers and payment processors. 

“The roads and the bridges, a lot of these people inspect and maintain bridges. And we know that there’s been unsafe bridges for a long time,” Fyans said. “Those things need to be fixed. It could be as minor as pothole patching not getting done in time, or it could be just major roads to be down to one lane.”

Leesman said operations can’t run without them.

“The people that are out here today are the people that process the payments for jobs, so they wouldn’t get payments,” Leesman said. “So the jobs would shut down. We represent the highway maintainers, so the roads wouldn’t get plowed. Just major things like that. You actually have to have an IDOT employee on every job to make sure that it’s done properly and you inspect their work.”

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

Hancock County Fights Cancer kicks off 2024

 

Hancock County Fights Cancer June 1st!

Hancock County Fights Cancer teams are planning now for their summer block party on June 1. While the event is several months away, the group works all year to raise money to fight cancer and to help those locally who are being treated for cancer. The group held their first event in June of 2014. “People of Hancock County have always been very generous to the cause of fighting cancer,” said HCFC chairman, Cynthia Stewart.
“We started this group so that more of the donations they give could stay right here in the county to help our own people, as well as continue to seek a cure.”
The annual HCFC Block Party will be on the courthouse square in Carthage on Saturday, June 1.

 Along with the celebration of cancer survivors, there will be food, entertainment, a men’s high heels race, a car show, silent auction, “Hearts of Hope”, and more.
Last year, teams raised $42,194 as of July 15, 2023. After expenses were paid, the group
presented a check for $15,600 to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for cancer research, and a second check for $23,400 to HUGS of Hancock County, the local cancer support group. “Our goal is to raise money for these two wonderful groups, to celebrate cancer survivors, and to honor those who are in treatment or have been lost to cancer,” said Kris Pilkington, event chairman for HCFC.
The HCFC board has voted that the funds raised in 2024 will again be given to HUGS (60
percent) and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (40 percent).

“While the summer event is the focal point of HCFC efforts, teams work on fundraising all
through the year,” Pilkington said.
Memorial Hospital, Marine Bank, Fortress Bank and Carthage Veterinary Service teams have been doing internal fundraising among employees during the year.
“Hearts of Hope” honoring those who have battled cancer are available for $5 each from any team member, at Fortress Bank, or from businesses around the county.
Watch for further team events to be held during the months leading up to the block party in June. More teams are urged to organize to support this cause. Teams can be formed by a few friends, a business or organization.
For information on how to form a team, call HCFC board president, Cynthia Stewart at   217-357- 8563, email at cstewart@mhtlc.org or call Kris Pilkington at 217-430-4724. The next meeting of the planning committee is Feb. 26, at 5 p.m. at Los Charros in Carthage, if anyone would like to join and learn more about HCFC.
Sponsors are welcomed and will be honored throughout the block party. To become a sponsor, contact Kim Taylor or Kari Davis at Fortress Bank.
Anyone can go to the HCFC website or Facebook page to learn more about this year’s event, as plans develop. Donations to a specific team can be made at the website. HCFC webpage is www.hancockcountyfightscancer.org.
Hancock County Fights Cancer is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization formed in 2014.

 Wayne and Rhonda Young of Warsaw who are both among the survivors honored last year

HCFC board members, on right, presenting a check for $23,400 to HUGS of Hancock County board members last fall

Carthage Public Library- Amy Gee

Carthage Public Library- Amy Gee

UPDATE ON THIS MONTHS ACTIVITIES CHECK OUT THE VIRTUAL TOUR ON THE LIBRARY WEB PAGE

 

Instructors Sought for Sandburg Kids on Campus Summer Program in Carthage

 

Instructors Sought for Sandburg Kids on Campus Summer Program in Carthage

 

CARTHAGE — Carl Sandburg College is seeking enthusiastic and creative instructors to teach classes for its Kids on Campus summer program June 10-14 at its Carthage campus. This event attracts several students each year from across the college’s district and offers classes in a variety of subjects to children in grades K-6.

 

Instructors are needed in many subject areas and are encouraged to submit proposals for classes they have an interest in teaching. Teaching credentials are not required, but expertise and enthusiasm in a subject are essential.
 

Instructor compensation is $20 per student per class, with $3 per student per class budgeted for supplies. Instructors are asked to consider supply costs in advance and submit their supply list one week before classes to have supplies on hand for the start of the program. The target class size will be 5-12 students (unless otherwise noted), with three classes taught in the morning and two in the afternoon.
 

Proposals may be submitted until 4 p.m. Feb. 26 and will be considered on a first-come basis. Instructors who submit proposals will receive a response on or before Feb. 29. Background checks are required for first-time KOC instructors if your course is selected. Forms are available at Sandburg’s Carthage campus, located at 305 Sandburg Dr.

 

To send proposal forms or for more information, contact Linda Thomas, coordinator of the Branch Campus, at 217.357.3129 ext. 7243 or lthomas@sandburg.edu.

Ex-Madigan aide sentenced to 30 months in prison for obstruction of justice attempt, perjury

 

Ex-Madigan aide sentenced to 30 months in prison for obstruction of justice attempt, perjury

 

CHICAGO – For most of his adult working life, Tim Mapes only had one boss: former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

And for the more than 25 years he served as Madigan’s chief of staff, Mapes was known for his extreme loyalty to the powerful speaker. His office décor in the state Capitol in Springfield featured a sign inspired by the 1939 classic film “The Wizard of Oz” that read: “Nobody gets in to see the wizard. Not nobody, not no how.”

But federal prosecutors say that instinct toward loyalty in his longtime role as gatekeeper to the speaker led Mapes to lie to a grand jury in 2021, a few months after Madigan left office amid a growing criminal probe into his inner circle.

And on Monday, U.S. District Judge John Kness agreed, telling Mapes he didn’t understand the longtime political operative’s actions before sentencing him to 30 months in prison for his August conviction on one count each of perjury and attempted obstruction of justice.

Read more: Jury convicts Madigan’s longtime chief of staff on perjury, obstruction of justice charges

“Perhaps this was out of some sense of loyalty, but if that was the case, your loyalty was greatly misguided,” Kness said.

Mapes, who didn't testify in his own defense during trial, chose to make a statement before the judge handed down his sentence, saying he was proud of the decades he put into public service in Illinois government.

But Mapes was also self-aware, having seen two governors and many other politicians indicted, convicted and sentenced to prison during his time in Springfield.

“I also recognize that many people in the state of Illinois have lost faith in their government,” Mapes said. “And that breaks my heart.”

 

'Protect the boss’

Flanked by his attorneys, Mapes stood stoically receiving the news of his sentence, which was preceded by more than 30 minutes of near-monologue from the judge. 

Kness wondered aloud if Mapes was operating under the old mafia logic of “omertà,” an Italian term for the mob honor code wherein members of organized crime outfits were pressured to solve disputes among themselves and to never cooperate with law enforcement. During trial, a retired FBI special agent testified that Madigan ran his political organization almost like “the head of a mafia family.”

Read more: ‘The feds are still after me and our Friend:’ jury sees email exchanges between Madigan confidants | ‘No cell phone, no email’: Ex-FBI agent testifies Madigan relied on ‘tight inner circle’

“I have to say the law of omertà had no place in that grand jury room,” Kness said. “And now you will pay a price for it.”

Prosecutors have frequently claimed that Mapes could have been a star witness in the government’s probe but chose to tank his own grand jury interview instead.

“(Mapes) was evasive, he was non-responsive and he flat-out lied,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia Schwartz said in closing arguments last year. “He did it to protect the boss and stay in the foxhole.”

Both “protect the boss” and “stay in the foxhole” were nods to phrases heard throughout trial. Many witnesses who worked alongside Madigan testified “protect the boss” was a common refrain for those who worked under the speaker, and it was also heard on wiretapped calls played for the jury.

Kness said he took Mapes’ age – 69 – into account in sentencing him but said the other factors in the case played a larger role, including the message a multi-year sentence would send to elected officials and the general public. 

“The people of this state cry out for accountability,” Kness said. “A wise person I once knew said, ‘accountability is liberating.’ That may not mean much to you right now, but I think it might down the road.”

Mapes began working for the Illinois House in 1977, a couple years after his graduation from Western Illinois University. Madigan wouldn’t become speaker until 1983, but Mapes continued to climb the ranks within House staff until Madigan tapped him as chief of staff in 1992.

Mapes built upon his position as chief of staff, taking over as director of the Democratic Party of Illinois under Madigan’s chairmanship later that decade, and serving as clerk of the Illinois House for the last seven years of his career.

But all three roles ended abruptly in 2018 when, at the height of the #MeToo movement, a House staffer accused Mapes of sexual harassment and bullying. It was the third accusation made against a member of Madigan’s top deputies that year, and the speaker responded by demanding Mapes’ resignation.

In the summer of 2020, the prosecutors announced electric utility Commonwealth Edison had entered into a $200 million deferred prosecution agreement and agreed to cooperate with the feds’ investigation into an alleged bribery scheme aimed at currying favor with Madigan.

Several months later, Madigan’s close confidant and ComEd’s longtime top contract lobbyist Mike McClain was indicted for orchestrating the alleged bribes, along with the utility’s former CEO and two other ex-lobbyists. Emails and wiretapped phone calls shown at trial also established Mapes’ close relationship with McClain, though attorneys for Mapes attempted to minimize their friendship to the jury.

Against this backdrop, Mapes sat for the grand jury in March 2021 after having been put under an immunity order, meaning he wouldn’t be charged with any wrongdoing related to the criminal probe into Madigan’s inner circle. However, Mapes was warned multiple times that if he lied under oath, he’d be charged. 

Two months later, he was.

On Monday, Kness said Mapes’ case was “very sad,” and especially “aggravating” because Mapes was placed under immunity.

“Whatever compulsion you felt to protect Michael McClain and the former speaker of the House, Mr. Madigan, as far as I can tell was not reciprocated…and was not necessary,” the judge said. “You were immunized. You had no personal risk in going to the grand jury other than you didn’t tell the truth. And that’s what you did.”

McClain was convicted along with his three co-defendants in the ComEd bribery case in May, and also awaits trial alongside Madigan in October on related racketeering and bribery charges.

Read more: ‘ComEd Four’ found guilty on all counts in bribery trial tied to ex-Speaker Madigan | Madigan trial delayed until October for SCOTUS review of bribery statute

Mapes will report to prison on June 11, though a facility assignment was not immediate. Before Kness gaveled out Monday’s hearing, Mapes’ attorney asked that he be sent to a federal prison in Pensacola, Florida, as his family would be able to visit him on trips nearby.

Asked for comment as he emerged from the conference room he’d retreated to after the sentencing hearing, Mapes shook his head and gave a thumbs-down signal to reporters as he walked across the hall to a men’s bathroom. He later left the building with his wife, exiting quickly past cameras waiting in the courthouse lobby.

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

Gun rights groups ask SCOTUS to review Illinois' assault weapons ban

Gun rights groups ask SCOTUS to review Illinois’ assault weapons ban

Two Illinois cases say law violates 2nd Amendment

SPRINGFIELD – In a long-expected move, national gun rights organizations are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Illinois’ ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines.

In separate petitions filed Monday, the Colorado-based National Association for Gun Rights and the Nevada-based Firearms Policy Coalition asked the nation’s high court to reverse a decision of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. That court ruled 2-1 in November not to issue a temporary injunction against the law, finding that rights guaranteed under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution are not absolute.

Read more: What to know about Illinois’ assault weapons ban

The gun rights groups were among the lead plaintiffs in two of the many federal lawsuits that have been filed beginning almost immediately after state lawmakers passed the ban in January 2023.

The ban came in reaction to numerous mass shootings around the country in which gunmen used high-power, rapid-fire rifles with large capacity magazines. Among those was a 2022 mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park that left seven people dead and dozens more injured and traumatized.

The National Association for Gun Rights backed a suit originally filed in the Northern District of Illinois challenging both the statewide ban and a local assault weapons ban enacted by the city of Naperville. In February 2023, a federal judge in that case refused to grant a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the law pending the outcome of a trial in the case.

The Firearms Policy Coalition backed a separate suit in the Southern District of Illinois that also had support from the Illinois State Rifle Association and the Second Amendment Foundation. A judge there granted a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of the law, saying the ban likely violated the Second Amendment.

Both of those cases, along with others, were part of a consolidated appeal before a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit, which ruled 2-1 in November not to block enforcement of the law. 

Read more: Federal appeals court upholds Illinois’ assault weapons ban | U.S. Supreme Court refuses to block assault weapons ban as full legal challenges progress | SCOTUS denies one appeal of assault weapons ban while another waits in the wings

Another petition seeking to overturn an assault weapons ban in Maryland was filed Feb, 9. The court has not yet announced whether it will hear any of the appeals.

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

Capitol Briefs: Tax credits for children, manufacturers among new legislative proposals

Capitol Briefs: Tax credits for children, manufacturers among new legislative proposals

After failing to pass a child tax credit last year, advocates returned to Springfield Wednesday to propose a scaled back version of the policy which they say would still reduce child poverty and spur economic growth. 

The proposal, contained in House Bill 4917 and Senate Bill 3329, would create a $300 per-child refundable tax credit for families who earn less than the state’s median income – about $75,000 per year for couples and $50,000 for single parents. 

The policy would cost the state about $300 million, according to Erion Malasi, Illinois policy director for the Economic Security Project, an advocacy group backing the proposal. 

A January report from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, a union-backed think tank, found that a $300 tax credit would cost the state about $471 million, although that estimate doesn’t account for cost reductions in other state programs, like the earned income tax credit or the supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children, known as WIC – and it assumes that 100 percent of eligible families will claim the credit. 

Frank Manzo, an economist with ILEPI and co-author of that report, said a $300 per-child credit would be lower than in the other 15 states that have similar policies. Utah, Minnesota and Oregon – which enacted a similar credit last year – all offer $1,000 or more in credits. 

“But it does comport with some budgetary realities in the state of Illinois,” he told Capitol News Illinois on Wednesday. 

In December, Gov. JB Pritzker urged a “careful” approach to next year’s budget after his budget office projected a $891 million deficit.

Omar Aquino, the chief Senate sponsor of the proposal, said Wednesday he hopes the program, if passed, can be scaled up in the future. 

The bills, which were introduced Wednesday, await substantive committee assignments, a necessary step before they can be voted on by the full legislature. 

 

Manufacturers’ agenda 

Tax credits were also included in a wide-ranging legislative agenda put forth by the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association. 

House Bill 4670 creates a pilot program to allow manufacturers to create onsite child care programs and provide tax credits to those who do. 

“We know that the lack of available child care is a hindrance to getting and keeping people, especially women, in the workforce,” sponsor Rep. Amy Elik, R-Godfrey, said.  

The IMA reaffirmed support for three bills filed last spring, including two tax credits – one sponsored by Democrats, the other by Republicans. The IMA did not provide cost estimates for the tax credits. 

Sen. Meg Loughran Cappel, D-Shorewood, filed Senate Bill 1313 to create a tax credit for businesses that assist their employees in repaying student loans.   

“Student debt is a huge issue. This proposal would allow an employer to help offset about five thousand dollars per year,” IMA President and CEO Mark Denzler said. “It's a great opportunity to help those individuals struggling with college debt while also making sure we have a great workforce.” 

Sen. Donald DeWitte, R-St. Charles, filed Senate Bill 163 would make a temporary research and development tax credit permanent, rather than expiring every five years. The current credit will expire in 2027.  

House Bill 3307 would amend graduation requirements for students entering high school in 2028, allowing them to fill the requirement of two foreign language courses with career-focused courses.  

 

Fertility treatments

Members of the state Senate Democratic Caucus introduced three bills Wednesday aimed at increasing access to infertility treatments and fertility preservation.

If passed, the bills would require insurance companies to cover the diagnosis and treatment of infertility, certain prescription medications, and preservation of reproductive cells by amending the Illinois Insurance Code.

Senate Bill 2572 would require insurance coverage of procedures used to diagnose and treat infertility, as well as injectable medications used to treat prediabetes, gestational diabetes and obesity – all of which can make it harder to conceive and carry a baby to term.

Senate Bill 2623 would require insurers to cover the freezing of an individual’s reproductive cells without restriction or exclusion. 

Another measure, Senate Bill 2639, would prevent insurance companies from denying infertility treatment coverage when recommended by a physician.

 

Safe screens initiative

Another pair of bills introduced this week aim to create a safer online environment for children. 

Sen. Sue Rezin’s, R-Morris, proposals mostly affect children’s data and privacy and how content is moderated.

The amended Age-Appropriate Design Code Act is a privacy law based on a similar one in California that Rezin said will help parents set stronger privacy settings and change how companies use children’s data, which she said can facilitate the development of addicting content.

Senate Bill 3355 would require social media companies to have a customer service line where concerned users can report inappropriate content that would need to be removed within 3 days.

Rezin said a third bill, which is still in development, would “require social media platforms to create an identity verification process.”

The senator compared social media to the tobacco and opiate industries, saying people cannot trust them to regulate themselves. She also said Illinoisans cannot wait for the federal government to take action.

“Parents are mad,” Rezin said. “They want us to act and pass legislation to protect their children. They don’t care if it’s a federal issue or a state issue.”

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

Trump's Illinois ballot challenge to move forward

Trump’s Illinois ballot challenge to move forward

 

SPRINGFIELD – A Cook County judge ruled Wednesday that a case seeking to bar former President Donald Trump from the March 19 Republican primary ballot in Illinois will move forward independently of a similar case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Following a brief hearing conducted by videoconference, Judge Tracie Porter denied a motion by the Trump campaign to delay the proceedings until after the Supreme Court rules in a similar case from Colorado. She said she would hear oral arguments in the Illinois case on Friday, Feb. 16.

At the same time, she also denied a motion by the Illinois voters objecting to Trump’s candidacy to put the case on an even speedier track.

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the Colorado case Thursday, Feb. 8.

Both cases are based on claims that Trump’s actions surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the U.S. Capitol amounted to an insurrection, and thus he should be disqualified from holding public office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

The case in Cook County Circuit Court is an appeal of a Jan. 30 decision of the Illinois State Board of Elections, which denied an objection to Trump’s candidacy on the grounds that the board is not authorized to decide cases involving complex constitutional issues. 

The board also ruled the objectors failed to show that Trump knowingly lied on his statement of candidacy when he said he was qualified to hold the office of president.

The case is being organized by the national voting rights group Free Speech for People. The named objectors are Steven Anderson, of Lindenhurst; Darryl Baker, of Colfax; Ralph Cintron, of Chicago; Jack Hickman, of Fairview Heights; and Charles Holley, of Chicago.

Caryn Lederer, an attorney for the objectors, argued in Wednesday’s hearing that their case needs to move forward regardless of how the Supreme Court rules in the Colorado case because there are issues of Illinois law at stake that need to be resolved by Illinois courts.

Specifically, she argued that the State Board of Elections erred when it said it doesn’t have the authority to decide cases based on constitutional arguments. She also said it would be “incredibly problematic” if candidates who do not meet the qualifications for office are allowed to remain on the ballot as long as they don’t knowingly lie about their lack of qualifications.

But Adam Merrill, an attorney for the Trump campaign, argued that the U.S. Supreme Court had put the Colorado case on a fast track and that its decision will likely be issued in late February or early March, well before Illinois’ March 19 primary.

He also noted that the Illinois State Board of Elections is a bipartisan panel, made up of four Democrats and four Republicans, and that it voted unanimously to deny the objection to Trump’s candidacy.

Lederer responded by saying it was important to resolve the case as quickly as possible to avoid confusing voters. She noted that Thursday, Feb. 8, is the day when local election authorities can begin sending out vote-by-mail ballots.

Matt Dietrich, a spokesman for the Board of Elections, said after the Jan. 30 hearing that Republican primary ballots that are sent to voters starting Feb. 8 will list Trump’s name. But if he is ultimately removed from the ballot, any votes he receives will not be counted.

He also said that whenever a candidate is removed from the ballot after ballots have already been printed, local election authorities can either reprint the ballots or, if there is not enough time, simply inform voters at the polling place that the candidate has been removed.

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

 

Memorial Hospital Receives 27 Awards at International Conference

Memorial Hospital Receives 27 Awards at International Conference

Carthage, IL – Memorial Hospital is proud to announce that they were the recipients of twenty- seven breakthrough awards at the 2023 annual Custom Learning Systems (CLS) HealthCare Service Excellence Conference held at Rosen Centre in Orlando, Florida.
These awards are based on patient experience survey scores for HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems), ED CAHPS (Emergency Department Consumer Assessment of Providers and Systems), and CG CAHPS (Clinician and Group Consumer Assessment of Providers and Systems). These surveys are sent to Memorial patients after receiving care.
For the HCAHPS section, Memorial Hospital received fourteen awards of excellence for
achieving survey scores higher than the national averages in the areas of Communication with Doctors, Discharge Information, Transition of Care, Communication with Nurses and
Communication about Medicines, Response of Hospital Staff, Hospital Environment – Clean, Hospital Environment – Quiet, Rate Hospital, Recommend the Hospital, Response of Hospital Staff, Transition of Care.
For the ED CAHPS section, Memorial Hospital received seven awards of excellence for higher than national average survey scores in the areas of Doctors and Nurses Communication, Communication about Medication, Additional Rating Quest, Rate ER Care 0-10, Recommend the ER, Communication about Follow-Up, and Getting Timely Care.
For the CG CAHPS section, Memorial Medical Clinics received six awards of excellence for
higher than national average survey scores in the areas of Recommend this Office, Rate
Provider, Physician Communication Quality, Office Staff Quality, Care Coordination, and
Access to Care.
Memorial Hospital is proud to have been recognized for its achievements and hard work in
several categories and looks forward to continuing to serve you, your friends, and your family for many years to come.


Pictured: Left to right –
Front Row: Raigin Brown, Chief Nursing Officer; Chaka Batley, Director of Behavioral Health
Services; Ada Bair, CEO; Michael Bayer, Implementation Specialist with Custom Learning
Systems; Jackie Orr, RN; Greta Wetzel, Executive Director of Memorial Hospital Foundation;
Jill Schlatter, Director of Diagnostic Imaging; and Mary Lou Sadler, Occupational Therapy
Assistant

LaHood Hails Passage of Tax Relief for Families and Workers

Congressman Darin LaHood (IL-16), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, applauded the passage of the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act. The bipartisan legislation, which will strengthen financial security for families, support small businesses, and increase U.S. competitiveness, passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 357-70.

The legislation also includes bipartisan provisions introduced by Rep. LaHood to enhance the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. Specifically, the provisions from LaHood's Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act would increase the supply of low-income housing by bolstering the Housing Credit with increased state allocations and reducing the credit’s bond financing requirement.

Congressman Darin LaHood (IL-16), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, applauded the passage of the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act. The bipartisan legislation, which will strengthen financial security for families, support small businesses, and increase U.S. competitiveness, passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 357-70.

The legislation also includes bipartisan provisions introduced by Rep. LaHood to enhance the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. Specifically, the provisions from LaHood's Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act would increase the supply of low-income housing by bolstering the Housing Credit with increased state allocations and reducing the credit’s bond financing requirement.

Rep. Norine Hammond - House Republicans Back Estate Tax Legislation

Today, the Illinois Farm Bureau unveiled new legislation aimed at improving the Illinois Estate Tax

In a press conference today in Bloomington, at the home office of the IFB, House Republican leaders stood with bipartisan lawmakers supporting the new measure. House Bill 4600, named the Family Farms Preservation Act, is designed to protect the heritage of family farmers by updating the Illinois Estate Tax code.

 

Deputy House Republican Leader Norine Hammond (R-Macomb) recognized the progress this bill makes to protect family farms in the state, but also noted the need for greater bipartisanship to continue doing more.

“Illinois’ estate tax hurts our farm families. House Republicans have consistently fought to increase the exclusion amount to account for rising farmland values. House Bill 4600 is a bipartisan agreement that will help family farmers pass their farmland on to the next generation, protecting our family farms from being sold off to large corporate or foreign interests. I’m proud to stand with the Illinois Farm Bureau and my colleagues in support of this critically needed change to our tax laws,” said Hammond.

103RD GENERAL ASSEMBLY
State of Illinois
2023 and 2024
HB4600

 

Introduced 1/31/2024, by Rep. Sharon Chung

 

SYNOPSIS AS INTRODUCED:
 
 
35 ILCS 405/2   from Ch. 120, par. 405A-2
35 ILCS 405/5   from Ch. 120, par. 405A-5

 

    Amends the Illinois Estate and Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax Act. Makes certain changes concerning estates that contain qualified farm property. Provides that, for the purposes of calculating the State Death Tax Credit, those estates are subject to an exemption of $6,000,000 (rather than an exclusion amount of $4,000,000), which shall be deducted from the net estate value after the net estate value is computed in accordance with the Act. Provides that the exemption shall be adjusted each year according to the increase in the Consumer Price Index. Makes changes concerning the calculation of the deceased spousal unused exclusion amount for those estates. Provides for a special use valuation to provide that the value of the qualified farm property shall be calculated without regard to certain limitations under the Internal Revenue Code. Makes changes concerning the definition of "qualified heir" to provide that a decedent's brother, sister, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, or first cousin is also included.

 

Capitol Briefs: State announces parks funding; comptroller warns of tax scams; State Police unveil building plan

The state announced 111 parks and recreation projects throughout Illinois will receive a portion of $55 million in state funding this year. 

The Open Space Land Acquisition and Development grant program administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is a cost-sharing program between state and local governments to help further outdoor recreation projects.

Gov. JB Pritzker’s office noted $18.7 million of the funding will go toward projects in 32 economically or physically distressed communities. Those categories are calculated based on land value, poverty rates and whether the area has experienced a natural disaster or catastrophic event. 

The awards included a $600,000 grant for the Carbondale Park District in Jackson County, which will oversee a renovation of Crispus Attucks Park that includes the replacement of playground equipment that will make it disabled-accessible.

Harristown, in Macon County, will receive $150,000 to build a park and playground with a pavilion, sitting areas, walking path, disabled-accessible playground, and a basketball and pickleball court. 

The city of Toulon in Stark County will receive $600,000 to renovate a city park to include a splash pad, resurfacing a half-basketball court, and making a full basketball court a multi-use space. Playground equipment will also be made disabled-accessible. 

Projects in 45 counties will receive funding from the OSLAD program this year.  

A full list of local entities receiving OSLAD grants can be found here. 

 

Comptroller urges awareness of tax scams

State Comptroller Susana Mendoza is warning Illinoisans of email, telephone and mail tax scams as the 2024 filing season begins.

One scam, for example, may contain a letter in a cardboard envelope with an IRS letterhead that contains the text “about your unclaimed refund.” That letter may request personal information such as a photo of a driver’s license or Social Security number. The contact information on the letter, however, does not belong to the IRS. 

Telephone scammers often target recent immigrants and threaten arrest or deportation if the person doesn’t send payment, often in the form of a gift card or wire transfer. 

“Remember, neither the state nor the federal government will call taxpayers, threatening them and demanding payment via a wire transfer, or credit or debit card,” Mendoza said in a statement. 

Mendoza’s office noted some Illinoisans have been targeted for false unemployment claims. The state sends 1099-G forms to people who have claimed unemployment. If you receive such a form but did not collect such benefits, you can contact the Illinois Department of Employment Security to report fraud

Email and text message scams use the IRS logo seeking personal or financial information. Anyone receiving such an email can report it to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov. 

Individuals should also avoid tax preparers who are unwilling to sign the forms they have prepared. 

Once tax returns are filed, Illinoisans can track their state tax refund at myrefund.illinoiscomptroller.gov

 

New State Police facility designs

The Illinois State Police released designs for a new headquarters and forensic laboratory in Joliet this week. The structures are expected to cost a combined $76.5 million, funded through the $45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital infrastructure program that originally passed in 2019. 

The two buildings are approximately 75,000 square feet combined on 12 acres of land adjacent to an existing ISP building and firing range in Will County. 

The new forensics lab will replace the current Joliet facility that was built in 1964 and will include space for testing DNA, firearms, latent prints, controlled substances, footwear, tire tracks and toxicology, along with areas for processing crime scene evidence.

The new facility will house an ISP investigation zone and serve as headquarters for ISP’s Troop 3, which serves from Will and Grundy counties to the state’s northern border, excluding DuPage County. The building will contain several offices, training rooms, interview rooms, an evidence area, and a large garage for vehicle storage and inspection work, according to ISP.

The project is scheduled to go out for bids in the spring. 

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association. 

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