Wednesday, May 27, 2009

ILGOP: Not the Time for Taxes

From the Illinois Republican Party

CHICAGO – The Illinois Republican Party State Central Committee and Republican County Chairman’s Association have unanimously passed resolutions opposing tax increases to solve Illinois’ fiscal crisis created by Blagojevich Democrats.

“Blagojevich Democrats have put Illinois on the brink of bankruptcy and now expect hardworking families to bail out their six years of fiscal mismanagement,” said Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna.

The resolutions highlight Democrats’ attempts to increase the state’s income tax by 50% and raise the gas tax on hardworking Illinois families.

“It is unconscionable that Blagojevich Democrats want to foist even more taxes on the hardworking men and women of this state when they are already struggling to make ends meet,” said Republican County Chairman President Randy Pollard. “Democrats should focus on controlling some of their out of control spending before even considering jobs-killing tax increases.”

The resolutions passed by the State Central Committee and Chairman’s Association are linked.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Durbin Statement on Nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court

From the Office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) made the following statement regarding the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court.

“President Obama has made an outstanding and historic choice in his selection of New York Judge Sonia Sotomayor to serve on the Supreme Court.

Her compelling life story and three decade career in nearly every aspect of the law provide Judge Sotomayor with unique qualifications to be the next Supreme Court justice. She has been called “one of the ablest federal judges currently sitting” and would bring more federal judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any jurist in 100 years.

Barack Obama knows better than most: when you are the first, you have to be the best. And Judge Sotomayor’s life – from public housing in the Bronx to the highest courts in our land – is a story of excellence.

I look forward to hearing Judge Sotomayor’s testimony in the Judiciary Committee. I hope and expect she will receive quick confirmation in the United States Senate.”

Friday, May 22, 2009

Governor Quinn Calls on Illinois General Assembly to Move High-Speed Rail Forward

From the Office of Governor Pat Quinn

SPRINGFIELD – May 22, 2009. Governor Pat Quinn joined state legislators and transportation officials today to seek support from the Illinois General Assembly to match President Barack Obama’s historic commitment to high-speed passenger rail and make it a reality in Illinois.

“I’m asking the legislature to follow President Obama’s lead and invest in the growth and efficiency for transportation in Illinois by appropriating funds in the capital bill needed to make high-speed rail a reality,” said Governor Quinn.

The St. Louis-Chicago route is the signature high-speed rail route for Illinois. A state investment for high-speed rail will allow for reduced travel times and more round-trips scheduled each day.

“We will take full advantage of the federal resources President Obama’s leadership has made possible, but more must be done,” said Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig. “We hope to receive the support of the legislature to move this plan forward and get travelers to their destinations safely and faster than driving.”

Under The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), President Obama has made $8 billion available nationwide for high-speed passenger rail, the largest investment that the federal government has made in over a decade. In addition, President Obama has allocated $5 billion over the next five years toward a high-speed rail grant program.

To fully leverage the federal money, Illinois needs approximately $400 million in additional state funding for high-speed rail from the capital bill. A total investment of $2.7 billion for the St. Louis-Chicago corridor could create and retain approximately 24,000 jobs.

Earlier this month, representatives from the Quinn administration alongside U.S. Senator Dick Durbin announced an agreement between the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and Union Pacific Railroad to develop the plan for high-speed passenger rail between Chicago and St. Louis. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is the first of its kind in the country. Under the MOU, Union Pacific and IDOT will develop a rail infrastructure and safety plan to outline how passenger trains will operate safely at 110 mph and UP’s freight trains will operate safely and efficiently.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

National Recession Pushes Illinois Unemployment Higher

From the Illinois Department of Employment Security

CHICAGO – The Illinois seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate for April is 9.4 percent, an increase of +0.4 percent over March’s revised rate, according to figures released today by the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

Total non-farm payroll declined by -23,100 jobs in April. Compared to one year ago, employers reduced payroll by -255,400. In April, the number of unemployed people in the state increased +24,500 to reach 619,500, the highest level since August 1983. The unemployment rate three-month moving average is 9.0 percent, up +0.5 percent from the prior month, and at its highest since December 1985.

“In these uncertain economic times, it is important for Illinois workers to identify steps they can take to better prepare themselves for the future,” IDES Director Maureen O’Donnell said. “Skills assessment, job counseling, resume review and other services offered through IDES and its partners can assist workers in identifying and preparing for opportunities in the future.”

Nationally, total non-farm payroll employment fell in April for the 16th consecutive month (-539,000), bringing total national job losses to -5.7 million since the onset of the national recession in December 2007. The nation’s unemployment rate climbed to 8.9 percent in April and the total number of unemployed persons reached 13.7 million.

In Illinois, the Manufacturing sector lost -8,900 jobs in April. The Manufacturing sector has lost -77,400 jobs since the recession began in December 2007. The Professional and Business Services sector lost -4,700 jobs in April, and -78,400 jobs since the recession began. Employment fell in the Trade and Transportation industry by -5,400 in April and -50,400 since December 2007. The Construction sector lost -4,800 jobs and -39,600 since the recession began.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security administers federally funded employment services and unemployment insurance through its nearly 60 offices, including the Illinois workNet Centers. IDES also receives federal grants to provide and analyze labor market statistics and information.

Durbin, Halvorson Ask FEMA for Help in Relocating Ottawa School

From the Office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Halvorson today asked the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Craig Fugate, for help with the relocation of Central School in Ottawa, Illinois.

“For over a decade, the City of Ottawa has been a model for flood mitigation programs that both the state and FEMA recommend,” said Durbin. “Despite the city’s efforts, the Central School, located in a recognized flood plain, has been hit hard by three different floods over the past year. Building a new school away from the floodplain is the only permanent solution. Representative Halvorson and I have asked FEMA to work with Ottawa to establish a school that will give nearly 400 students the stability they need to excel in their studies.”

“Senator Durbin and I are committed to make sure that the children that are enrolled at Central School can get back into a safe, permanent campus as soon as possible. We’re going to make sure FEMA leadership understands exactly what the situation is here and how critical this is to our community,” said Halvorson.

[Text of letter below]

May 21, 2009

U.S. Department of Homeland Security - FEMA
500 C Street S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20472

Dear Administrator Fugate:

We write to ask for your help relocating Central School of Elementary School District No. 141 in Ottawa, Illinois.

At least three major flood events have impacted Central School in the past year, including historic levels of flooding in September 2008. The school district and the community have determined that re-building the school in the same location on the floodplain no longer makes sense.

FEMA recently approved temporary relocation funds to another facility based on extenuating circumstances. The community has taken the steps necessary to mitigate loss and has done a commendable job, working with your agency, of accommodating the 400 displaced students.

We appreciate FEMA's assistance to date and respectfully request that you make the necessary arrangements to work with Ottawa so the schoolchildren can return to a stable structure, outside of the floodplain. We thank you in advance for your timely consideration of this urgent request and stand ready to assist in any way appropriate.


Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator

Deborah L. Halvorson
United States Representative

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Manzullo: Cap and Trade will Devastate U.S. Manufacturing, Cost More Americans Their Jobs

From the Office of Congressman Don Manzullo

On Tuesday afternoon, U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo (R-IL) took to the floor of the House to deliver the message that the proposed “cap and trade” energy plan working its way through Congress will skyrocket energy costs for U.S. manufacturers, give their Chinese and Indian competitors a huge incentive to sell more into the United States, and put many more Americans on the unemployment lines.

Manzullo, who hosted forums in Rockford and Crystal Lake Monday to discuss the issue with local manufacturers, says cap and trade will be the final straw that puts many American manufacturers out of business in these difficult times. Click here to view the floor speech on YouTube.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"Doomsday Budget" Stirs National Reaction

From Jim Leach, Publisher of State School News Service

In presenting a no-tax-hike “doomsday budget” – 14,000 teachers would be laid off; 650,000 citizens would lose health services – Gov. Pat Quinn put the bloggers in a frenzy Monday.

Some say the people deserve to know the consequences of the legislators’ failure to raise the revenue they need to cover all their spending impulses. Others say the governor is just using “scare tactics” to force them to accept his proposed 1.5-percentage point income tax increase.

Our friend Jim Leach, a respected broadcast journalist in Springfield, tweeted the Huffington Post site with a poignant question: “Is it wrong of me to think that, just once, a governor ought to actually sign a doomsday budget so everyone can see what it’s like?”

Quinn’s “dear citizen” message addressed the issue as simple math. The budget hole is $1.6 billion deep. Of the federal “stimulus” money, $4.1 billion can be used in FY 2010, leaving a $7.5 billion gap that can be bridged only with spending cuts.

Quinn’s analysis spreads the fiscal pain fairly evenly. From K-12 education, representing about one-third of state GRF spending, the governor would slash $1.5 billion – 20% of the cuts – costing about 14,000 teachers their jobs and eliminating pre-school for 100,000 kids.

College students, about 400,000 of them, would lose scholarships and MAP grants to save $1.2 billion. Local governments would lose $1 billion. Hundreds of thousands of senior citizens, veterans, disabled and children would lose state support they have come to rely on.

There’s a public safety component. A doomsday budget would doom 1,000 state troopers to joblessness, and force the “early release” of 6,000 inmates. The cuts would include services thought of as frills. There would be no state fair. Parks that Quinn recently reopened would be closed.

So what is it, a scare tactic or just information citizens need to know about what the state would look like if the legislators continue to be bold about spending and weak-kneed about raising the revenue?

This is a problem that frequently confronts school districts. When they need to pass a referendum, they are hit with the demand to know “or else what?” When they respond with the lists of cuts they will have to make (band, art class, clubs or – Oh, no! Not sports!) they hear the same thing.

“You’re just trying to scare us.”

Legislators are just like the general public. That’s not a bad thing, but one aspect of that is that they need to be shown the alternative before they’ll make a sacrifice. You have to show them “death” before they will accept “pain.” Perhaps my friend Jim Leach has a point.

IL Senate Votes Down Effort to Allow Cameras to Ticket Speeders

The Illinois Senate today voted 13 - 36 today to defeat HB - 442, which would have allowed municipalities to install cameras using computerized technologies that would have determined that certain drivers were speeding. Tickets would have been sent to the drivers caught speeding by the cameras.

Senate Votes to Outlaw Texting While Driving

Legislation proposed by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White to strengthen the laws on distracted driving was approved today by the State Senate. The legislation now goes to the House for concurrence.

House Bills 71 and 72, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Martin Sandoval (D-Cicero) and Senator Pamela Althoff (R-Crystal Lake) respectively, will strengthen Illinois laws on distracted driving. HB 71 bans text messaging while driving. HB 72 bans cell phone use while driving in school or construction zones. Both measures passed the House on April 1st, where they were sponsored by State Representatives John D’Amico (D-Chicago) and Bill Black (R-Danville).

“With the increased use of technological devices, distracted driving has become a serious problem in our state and in the nation,” said Secretary of State Jesse White. “This legislation is important and will make our roads safer. No driver has any business text messaging while they are driving. Additionally, school zones and construction zones require drivers to slow down and pay special attention to their surroundings and, as a result, they should not be using a cell phone.”

The penalty for violating either of these measures results in a moving violation that will go on the motorist’s driving record as well as accompanying fines and court costs to be determined by the judge.

The legislation is based on recommendations made by the state’s Distracted Driving Task Force, which was chaired by White. The task force, created by Joint House Resolution 22, met three times last year to discuss and examine ways to reduce fatalities and injuries cause by distracted driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that at least 25 percent of police-reported crashes involve some form of driver inattention. Distraction occurs when a driver is delayed in the recognition of information needed to safely accomplish the driving task, because something within or outside the vehicle draws his attention away from driving.


Nearly 100 Local Citizen Corps Council Members in Springfield for Statewide Conference

From the Illinois Terrorism Task Force in the Office of Homeland Security

SPRINGFIELD – A nationwide initiative that started shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to increase local disaster preparedness has proven popular in Illinois, where 115 jurisdictions have adopted the Citizen Corps program. This week, nearly 100 representatives from several local Citizen Corps councils throughout Illinois are in Springfield for a two-day conference to learn how they can strengthen their volunteer preparedness and response programs. The Illinois Citizen Corps Council Conference is sponsored by the Illinois Terrorism Task Force (ITTF).

“Last year in Illinois, we had numerous disasters, ranging from record or near-record flooding in dozens of counties, to ice storms, blizzards, and even an earthquake,” said Andrew Velasquez III, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA). “Citizen Corps members from several of the local councils played important roles in response efforts. We’re very fortunate in Illinois to have so many citizens who are ready, willing and able to help out when a crisis arises.”

The Citizen Corps program began in 2002 as a way to bring volunteers and first responder organizations together to help communities better prepare for, and respond to, all types of emergencies. Today there are more than 2,300 local Citizen Corps councils throughout the U.S. The Illinois Citizen Corps Council, an ITTF committee, provides support for local councils through training and education.

During the statewide conference Tuesday and Wednesday at the Hilton in Springfield, Citizen Corps members will hear from more than a dozen speakers on topics ranging from using Citizen Corps volunteers during disasters, to family emergency preparedness training, to programs at the state and federal levels that can support their efforts. One speaker, Mark Sloan from Harris County, Texas, will share his experiences dealing with sheltering nearly 200,000 evacuees following Hurricane Katrina.

For more information about the Illinois Citizen Corps program, visit the Ready Illinois website at

AFSCME Announces "Fair Budget Illinois" Campaign

From the Office of AFSCME Council 31

Illinois’ largest union of state and university employees today launched Fair Budget Illinois, an aggressive grassroots campaign to protect public services, prevent job loss and pay the state’s bills.

The campaign from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 includes:

*An initial TV ad, “No One Is Here To Take Your Call,” airing on broadcast and cable.

*A first radio ad, “Recession.”

*A new Web site,, where the public can get information about the budget crisis, access these and future ads, and contact state lawmakers with one click.

*Coordinated grassroots outreach to state legislators by AFSCME members across Illinois, including phone calls, e-mail, petitions and postcards.

“Every Illinoisan depends on public services, so everyone has a stake in this budget debate,” AFSCME Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer said. “A budget without new revenue will force devastating cuts to education, health care, law enforcement, transportation, human services and more. We urge legislators to support a tax increase to preserve these essential public services, prevent tens of thousands of layoffs and pay the state’s bills.”

AFSCME Council 31 represents 100,000 active and retired public-service workers across Illinois.

Durbin Statement on the Passage of the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act

From the Office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) released the following statement today after the Senate passed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act. This bill establishes strong consumer protections by preventing unfair interest rate increases and exorbitant fees; enhancing consumer disclosures; protecting young consumers; and strengthening oversight of credit industry practices.

“For too long, the credit card industry has taken advantage of their customers with hidden charges and misleading terms designed to do one thing – keep people from digging their way out of debt.”

“Now we give consumers a fighting chance. The bill the Senate passed today puts fairness, accountability and common sense back into credit cards.”

“This bill bans unfair rate increases, makes companies play by reasonable rules and magnifies the fine print so consumers aren’t blindsided by their monthly bills.”

“Americans have already lost too much in this recession; this bill helps ensure that they get a fair shake from credit card companies.”

Today’s legislation includes a Durbin initiative that will now require credit card statements to display the amount of time it would take to pay off the balance and the amount of interest a credit cardholder would pay if the cardholder only makes the minimum payment each month. Known as the “Durbin Box”, this information will warn cardholders of the true cost of allowing their card balances to grow over time.

The legislation is now being sent to the House of Representatives for approval before being sent to the President for signature. He is expected to sign the bill before Memorial Day.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Senate President Moves to Increase Budget Transparency

From the Office of Senate President John Cullerton

SPRINGFIELD, IL - In an effort to promote greater budget transparency, Senate President John J. Cullerton announced the Senate is ending the practice of issuing lump-sum dollar amounts for member projects that are not specified in the budget. From now on grants, also known as “earmarks,” must be identified as specific line items in the state budget.

“Our state’s fiscal and ethical crisis demands that we increase transparency and budget accountability. We simply can’t afford to continue old habits that veiled the process and use of public funds” said President Cullerton. “I intend to lead my caucus with the philosophy that the use of taxpayer dollars should be subject to taxpayer scrutiny.”

To that end the Senate President has recently settled a FOIA lawsuit that he inherited from former Senate President Emil Jones Jr. on the subject of lump-sum member initiatives. The lawsuit was filed by Judicial Watch and AFP-IL in an attempt to force former Governor Rod Blagojevich and President Jones to disclose how lump-sum member initiative funds were being spent.

Under Jones, Senate Democrats had $18.7 million member projects in the 2007-2008, but wouldn’t release information on those projects and their sponsors.

But last month, President Cullerton turned over a list of all of the lump-sum member initiatives sought by Senate Democrats for that budget cycle.

The move prompted Judicial Watch to drop its lawsuit and applaud the Senate President’s approach to budget transparency and the release of public information.

President Obama Seeks Comprehensive Reforms of Credit Card Industry

Urges Congress to Pass Comprehensive Legislation

Today, President Obama will hold a town hall meeting in Rio Rancho, New Mexico where he will discuss the need for immediate reform of the credit card industry and his commitment to signing the Credit Card Bill of Rights into law by Memorial Day.

Americans need a durable and successful flow of credit in our economy, but we can’t tolerate profits that depend upon misleading working families. For too long, credit card contracts have been deceptively complicated, often leading consumers to pay more than they reasonably expect due to unfair practices. Every year, Americans pay around $15 billion in penalty fees. Nearly 80 percent of American families have a credit card, and 44 percent of families carry a balance on their credit cards.

“It’s time for strong and reliable protections for our consumers. It’s time for reform that is built on transparency, accountability, and mutual responsibility – values fundamental to the new foundation we seek to build for our economy,” President Obama will say, according to prepared remarks.

In the Senate and throughout the campaign, President Obama called for measures to strengthen consumer protection in the credit card market. And just last month he met with representatives from the credit card industry to discuss the impact of the current economic crisis on consumers. The Federal Reserve has taken a strong first step toward improving disclosures and ending unfair practices. This week the Senate, under the leadership of Chairman Dodd, Ranking Member Shelby and Senator Levin, brought a strong bill to the floor that would codify and strengthen these regulations. The House, building on the work of Chairman Frank and Representatives Maloney and Gutierrez, already passed such a bill in a strong bipartisan vote. Today, President Obama will call on Congress to take final action to pass a credit card reform bill that protects American consumers that can be signed into law by Memorial Day.

Principles for Long-term Credit Card Reform

• First, there have to be strong and reliable protections for consumers – protections that ban unfair rate increases and forbid abusive fees and penalties. The days of “any time, any reason” rate hikes and late fee traps have to end.
• Second, all the forms and statements that credit card companies send out have to have plain language that is in plain sight. No more fine print, no more confusing terms and conditions. We’re going to require clarity and transparency from now on.
• Third, we have to make sure that people can shop for a credit card that meets their needs without fear of being taken advantage of. That means requiring firms to make all their contract terms easily accessible and giving consumers the information they need to go online and do some comparison shopping. It also means requiring firms to offer at least one simple, straightforward credit card that offers the strongest protections along with the simplest terms and prices.
• Finally, we need more accountability in the system, so that we can hold those responsible who do engage in deceptive practices that hurt families and consumers. To do that, we’ll beef up monitoring and enforcement, and also penalties for any violations of the law.

The Administration supports the legislative efforts of both the House and the Senate. Below we are highlighting the critical elements of reform in both chambers of Congress.
· Ban Unfair Rate Increases
· Prevent Unfair Fee & Interest Rate Charges
· Plain Sight /Plain Language Disclosures
· Market Transparency
· Accountability
· Protections for Students and Young People

State Reps Considering Run for Lt. Governor

Republican State Representative Dave Winters (R) from Rockford is saying he's looking closing at seeking the Republican nomination for Lt. Governor. Winters says he'll explore what support he'll get as the Summer break comes in, and he has time to gauge the political and financial support.

And long-time Democratic State Representative, Art Turner (D) of Chicago's 9th District, is also saying he'll be looking to run for Lt. Governor. Turner, who's spent 34 years in the House, says he WILL NOT seek another term as a House member, as he does not want to be running a dual campaign for representative and the Lt. Gov position. So Art Turner's mind is made up -- and it's a GO for Lt. Gov.

It looks like the race for Lt Governor may be among the hottest races in 2010. And with the primary just nine months away, and the costs involved in running a statewide race, the list of those seeking this position may well grow to double digits in the near future.

Speaker Pelosi Says CIA Mislead Her on Interrogation Briefing

from the Washington Post May 14, 2009

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today accused the CIA of "misleading" her on the use of harsh interrogation techniques in the fall of 2002, acknowledging for the first time publicly she knew alleged terrorist detainees were subjected to waterboarding more than six years ago.
Pelosi called for the CIA to release detailed portions of her own September 2002 briefing about interrogation techniques, saying that at that time she was told the CIA was not waterboarding detainees. After weeks of sticking to prior statements that she then was never "briefed" about waterboarding's use, Pelosi today said her top security adviser was part of a briefing in February 2003 in which he learned interrogators were waterboarding terrorists.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Durbin, Bean Commend President for Commitment to Lovell Health Care Center

From the Office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Congresswoman Melissa Bean (D-IL) today praised President Obama’s decision to support legislative authority to the Navy and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to jointly operate the new “Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center”. Language included in the budget summary of the VA signals the intent of the Administration to offer specific language regarding the Lovell Health Care Center. It is expected that the Administration will offer specific language in the coming weeks. The VA has been drafting language based on legislation introduced last Congress by Senator Durbin and the Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Daniel Akaka (D-HI).

“I commend President Obama for understanding the importance of making this historic partnership possible,” said Durbin. “I have been working for nearly a decade on this health care center that combines the services of the North Chicago VA Medical Center and the Naval Health Clinic Great Lakes in order to better serve Illinois veterans. I will continue working with Senator Akaka and Congresswoman Bean in Washington to see that our shared goal is finally realized.”

“I appreciate President Obama’s commitment to our efforts to combine the VA Medical Center with the Naval Health Clinic, which will provide the necessary quality care to active duty personnel, veterans, and military retirees while saving the taxpayers $80 million in construction costs,” Bean said. “By using our resources efficiently and effectively, we’ll be able to continue these necessary services for all of our veterans in a manner that they can easily access.”

When complete the Lovell Federal Health Care Center will be the first health care facility in the nation to be operated jointly between the VA and the Navy saving taxpayers millions of dollars that would otherwise have been needed to rebuild or renovate the Navy’s nearby hospital. However, without this legislation, the Center will not be able to provide essential services to thousands of military beneficiaries in the region. Beneficiaries who had previously received care at the Naval Health Clinic Great Lakes would either be ineligible for care or would be required to make a co-pay or have a cost-share for certain care, including emergency, hospitalization, outpatient, and behavioral health services. The facility is scheduled to begin joint operations on October 1, 2010.

Earlier this year, Durbin and Bean joined the Secretary of the VA, Eric Shinseki, at the Lovell Center for a round table discussion on the need for legislative language to clear the remaining hurdles in merging the Navy and VA hospitals at North Chicago. Secretary Shinseki’s visit followed a January meeting with Durbin, who stressed the importance of the efforts in North Chicago on the eve of Shinseki’s confirmation.

Senator Durbin has played a major role over the last decade in the development of the new Lovell Federal Health Care Center. After the VA announced plans in 1999 to close the North Chicago VA Medical Center, he brought Illinois House and Senate members together to request an investigation into the possibility of having the Navy and the VA enter into a joint agreement for use of the facility. Senator Durbin later passed language requiring the Navy to expand the use of the hospital and to work with the VA to finalize site selection for the joint ambulatory care center and construction design.

Likewise, Congresswoman Bean has been dedicated to development of the joint center for years. In the 110th Congress and again in this Congress, she introduced legislation to designate the joint center as a military treatment facility. This will allow the transfer of property from a purely civilian use and will bring the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center into the TRICARE network for active duty personnel. Without this fix, active duty military families would be forced to pay a $150 co-pay each time they see a doctor at the facility.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Durbin Announces More Than $5.2 Million in Recovery Act Funding for Illinois Airports

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced today that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has awarded $5,281,580 in funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to the state of Illinois for airport improvements.

“Rehabilitation of airport infrastructure will put people to work immediately on projects that will help Illinois airports serve travelers safely and efficiently,” said Durbin.

The following airports will receive funding:
  • Litchfield Municipal Airport, Litchfield, Illinois: $789,474 in funding for Runway 9/27 rehabilitation that will extend the useful life of the pavement.
  • Dixon Municipal – Charles R Walgreen Field, Dixon, Illinois: $650,000 in funding for apron rehabilitation that will extend the useful life of the pavement.
  • Jacksonville Municipal Airport, Jacksonville, Illinois: $421,053 in funding for taxiway rehabilitation at that will extend the useful life of the pavement.
  • Whiteside County Airport, Sterling/Rock Falls, Illinois: $789,474 in funding for apron rehabilitation that will extend the useful life of the pavement.
  • Waukegan Regional Airport, Waukegan, Illinois: $2,631,579 in funding for Runway 14/32 rehabilitation that will repair numerous large cracks in the runway and will extend the useful life of the pavement.

Governor Quinn Tours Storm Damage in Marion, Declares Three More Counties State Disaster Areas

From the Office of Governor Pat Quinn

MARION – May 12, 2009. During a tour of storm-ravaged parts of southern Illinois today, Governor Pat Quinn thanked volunteers and Ameren utility workers who are helping the area recover from Friday’s damaging storm. The Governor also declared Gallatin, Randolph and Saline counties state disaster areas, an action that ensures state resources will be available to support local governments in their storm recovery efforts. On Saturday, the Governor declared Franklin, Jackson and Williamson counties state disaster areas.

“It’s heartbreaking to see the widespread damage this storm caused to homes and businesses throughout this area, and I want to assure you that the State of Illinois will do everything within our power to help these communities get back on their feet,” said Gov. Quinn. “I’m truly inspired by the spirit of the hundreds of volunteers and utility workers who are working dawn to dusk to speed the recovery process.”

Quinn said the state has been actively assisting local emergency management officials as they deal with the storm’s aftermath since shortly after the storm, and expects that assistance will continue for weeks, possibly months, to come as communities clean up downed branches, trees and other storm-related debris.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) is coordinating local requests for assistance with several state agencies that have personnel and assets that can be mobilized to help communities recover from disaster, including personnel and equipment to assist with security and other public safety issues, as well as trucks, heavy equipment and work crews to speed debris removal. IEMA staff members are also assisting affected communities with damage assessments and development of debris removal plans.

“IEMA has been working hand in hand with local emergency management officials to achieve a coordinated, effective response under these very difficult circumstances,” said Andrew Velasquez III, IEMA Director, who accompanied Gov. Quinn on the tour. “While this recovery won’t happen overnight, I’m confident everyone at the local and state level will continue working closely to help these communities.”

Other state assistance provided thus far includes:
  • ISP troopers from adjoining districts have been assisting with traffic direction and security in the affected area since Friday afternoon.
  • IDOT crews continue to clear branches and other debris from all state routes in the affected area.
  • IDOT crews and equipment began working with Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) inmate crews on Monday to assist with debris cleanup in Carbondale, Murphysboro, Herrin and Marion.
  • IDOT is preparing to deliver four truckloads of bottled water from the state stockpile in Springfield to Williamson and Jackson counties.
  • Several generators were located and delivered to Carterville, Cambria, Herrin, Jackson County and Williamson County.
  • IEMA helped coordinate with the Voluntary Organizations Assisting with Disasters (VOAD), a state partner during disasters, on the mobilization of chain saw teams and other volunteers to assist with cleanup efforts.

Governor Pat Quinn Names Top Staff Member

From the Office of Governor Pat Quinn

CHICAGO – May 12, 2009. Governor Pat Quinn announced Alderman Billy Ocasio would join his administration as a senior advisor. In his new position Ocasio will work closely with Governor Quinn on an array of important social justice issues that impact communities throughout the state.

“I look forward to working with Billy Ocasio,” said Governor Quinn. “All of Illinois will be well-served by his valuable experience in public policy and deep dedication to helping working families.”

Alderman Ocasio has served Chicago’s 26th Ward for over 15 years. Located on the city’s near-northwest side, his ward is home to a mix of neighborhoods including Humboldt Park, Logan Square, Smith Park and the industrial corridor of West Town. Alderman Ocasio also serves as the chairman of the Chicago City Council Committee on Human Relations.

In January 1993, Alderman Ocasio was appointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley to complete the unexpired term of Luis V. Gutierrez, who was elected to Congress that previous fall. Prior to that appointment, Alderman Ocasio worked at various non-profit, community-based agencies in the fields of education, affordable housing, youth programs, and economic development. (See attached fact sheet for additional background information.)

“I welcome the opportunity to join Governor Quinn’s Administration,” said Alderman Ocasio. “He is dedicated to opening up Illinois government to all the people and I am happy to join him in that reform effort.”

Alderman Ocasio is expected to join the Governor’s staff in June.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Durbin Announces $3.55 Million in Recovery Act and General EPA Funding for Environmental Cleanup in Illinois

From the Office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that Illinois will receive a total of $3.55 million in funding through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant program and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the assessment and cleanup of properties where hazardous chemical or pollutants may be present. The funding will go toward the renewal and revitalization of distressed industrial and commercial sites, with a goal of turning problem properties into productive business and community institutions.

“This funding will be the catalyst for revitalization that will create jobs and spur business development,” said Durbin. Not only is this good news for the environment, the health and well-being of Illinois citizens – this is good news for local economies.”

Of the estimated $111.9 million in total EPA funding announced nationwide, $74.6 million of the funding will be allocated through the general EPA grant program and $37.3 million will be made possible through the Recovery Act.

The following Illinois applicants will receive funding:
  • Blue Island: $200,000 for the cleanup of an uncontrolled landfill.
  • Dixmoor: $200,000 for the cleanup of the 13-acre Dixmoor Parcels site.
  • Freeport: $600,000 for the cleanup of three now-vacant manufacturing sites.
  • Rockford: $200,000 for the cleanup of the former Ingersoll site.
  • South Suburban Mayors & Managers Association: $1,000,000 for assessment and plans.
  • Southwestern Illinois Development Authority: $400,000 for assessment and plans.
  • Stephenson County: $400,000 for assessment and community outreach activities.
  • Chicago Heights: $400,000 for assessment and community outreach activities.
  • Rock Island: $150,000 for assessment and community involvement activities.

Illinois Dept. on Aging Hosts a Conference on Improving the Lives of Older Adults

From the Illinois Department on Aging

SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA), in collaboration with the National Governors Association (NGA), hosted A Day of Celebration and Conversation about the Civic Engagement of Older Adults today at the State Capitol. The event, which included breakout sessions on education and training, employment and service, highlighted experts who then worked with participants to develop the beginning of a blueprint for engaging older adults in Illinois.

This initiative began in June 2008, when Illinois was selected to participate in the NGA Policy Academy on the Civic Engagement of Older Adults. For the past year, IDoA Director Charles D. Johnson has led this statewide effort, working with a 12 member core team and a 36 member advisory team, to develop strategies to get older adults in Illinois engaged in civic activity in their communities. The group had a particular interest to increase the proportion of seniors who are employed or participate in volunteer activities.

“This initiative will expand our state’s progressive record to support older adults and their families,” said Director Johnson, who serves as the Illinois team leader. “The goal for today’s meeting is to set in place new momentum for promoting civic engagement through individuals, organizations and networks. Today’s event included sessions with speaker presentations and then a group discussion on topics that will lead back to the question “How can we promote civic engagement for older adults?”

In addition to the experts who lead the breakout sessions, participants also heard from The Honorable Deanna Demuzio, State Senator, on behalf of Senate President John Cullerton, Linda

Hoffman of the National Governors Association, Center for Best Practices, Bob Gallo, state director of AARP, and a keynote address by Merri Dee, former WGN TV anchor from Chicago and state president of AARP.

Efforts for next steps were also announced with a proclamation from Governor Pat Quinn. The proclamation Launch of 2010: The Year of the Engaged Older Illinoisan, states that The Year 2010 will mark a celebration of engaged citizens in communities and neighborhoods across the state with events that encourage participation in learning, service and work. Planning for those events will begin in January 2010.

A list of members of the Illinois Core Team follows.

Members of the Illinois Core Team:
  • Team Leader: Charles D. Johnson, director, Illinois Department on Aging
  • Project Director: Jane Angelis, director, Intergenerational Initiative, Southern Illinois University Carbondale
  • Representative from the Governor’s Office: Cory Foster, director, Community Affairs
  • Bob Gallo, state director, AARP
  • Marilyn Hennessy, president, Retirement Research Foundation
  • John Hosteny, Illinois director, Corporation for National and Community Service
  • Peggy Luce, vice president, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce
  • Edward Maloney, chair, Senate Higher Education Committee
  • Robert Mees, president, IL Community College Council of Presidents, & president, John A. Logan College
  • Michael O’Donnell, executive director, East Central IL Area Agency on Aging & chair, IL Assoc. of AAA
  • John Sirek, director, Citizenship, McCormick Foundation
  • Bernarda Wong, president, Chinese American Service League

Friday, May 8, 2009

US Reps Schock & Hare Advocate for Higher Ethanol Blends in Gasoline

From Rep. Schock's office, May 7, 2009
Letter to Treasury Secretary Geithner requests he makes financial assistance to automakers contingent upon their support of higher ethanol blends in gasoline

Washington, D.C. – Congressmen Aaron Schock (R-IL) and Phil Hare (D-IL) today authored a letter to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to request he consider making financial assistance to troubled automakers contingent upon their support of higher ethanol blends in gasoline.

“By increasing the ethanol blends in gas we will simultaneously help our nation address climate change, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and increase green economic opportunities, all of which complement President Obama’s stated goals,” said Schock.

“More ethanol means more jobs in Illinois,” Hare said. “Increasing the ethanol blend is an important and overdue step that will help free us from our dependence on foreign oil, reduce global warming pollution, and protect consumers from spikes in gas prices.”

The ethanol industry produced 9.2 billion gallons of ethanol last year, reducing oil imports by 321.4 million barrels. The use of this biofuel also reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 48-59 percent when compared to traditional gasoline, according to a recent report from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Additionally, the ethanol industry supported more than 494,000 jobs, putting an estimated $19.9 billion into circulation last year.

While impressive, the ethanol industry can contribute more if the automakers support the use of higher blends without negating the warranties of vehicles on the roads today. This further benefit would include the reduction of an additional 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gases per year, the equivalent of removing 10.5 million vehicles from our roads. Furthermore, North Dakota State University estimates that increasing the amount of ethanol used in the U.S. will produce 136,000 new, good-paying jobs.

Currently, automakers provide warranties for their vehicles allowing ethanol blends of 10 percent. These levels were set 30 years ago in response to the levels allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. At that time, little was known about the effects of ethanol in gasoline. Research currently underway has shown that the traditional, unmodified internal combustion engine can handle higher blends of ethanol. In fact, testing of intermediate blends of ethanol, by the U.S. Department of Energy found there to be “no adverse effects” associated with using higher blends of ethanol.

Ameren Customers to Get Lower Electric Rates Due to Drop in Energy Usage

from Ameren

Peoria (May 8, 2009) – Ameren Illinois Utilities customers will pay less for electricity beginning June 1 as a result of a sharp decline in the wholesale price of electricity due to the reduced demand for all forms of energy.

It is estimated the new rates for electricity – shown as the “Electric Supply” charge on bills – will mean a typical residential customer who uses 10,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity a year will save approximately $100.00, or about 8 percent on the total annual bill. Electricity usage is measured in kilowatt-hours.

“This welcome news of relief comes as we enter the cooling season, a time when most customers are using more electricity than at other times of the year,” said Stan Ogden, Ameren Illinois Utilities vice president of Customer Service and Public Relations.

Ogden noted individual customer electric usage determines the actual amount of individual residential bills. You are encouraged to learn more about using less energy to spend less at and to adopt proven energy conservation practices that will help reduce bills without sacrificing personal comfort.

A 2007 state law created the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) to procure electricity through a competitive process on behalf of all Illinois investor-owned utilities, including the Ameren Illinois Utilities. This new process operates under the oversight of the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC). The law which created the IPA was created through negotiations led by the Illinois Attorney General’s office and included the state legislature and the investor-owned utilities.

Through the IPA procurement process, the Ameren Illinois Utilities have contracted for an amount of electricity that represents approximately one-third of its total needs for the next 12 months. Electricity supply contracts run for three years and about one-third of the total supply is procured annually to minimize the impact of possible wholesale price volatility.

The wholesale price of electricity is not regulated, but is based on market conditions caused by supply and demand. The Ameren Illinois Utilities pass the cost of electricity on to customers without any markup in price through the Electric Supply charge. About two-thirds of a typical residential customer’s bill is the actual cost of electricity.

“Though the cost of electricity has fallen, the need for greater energy efficiency is as strong as ever. Through our Act On Energy initiative (, you will learn how to spend less by using less electricity and natural gas,” Ogden said.

At, you can access the Energy Toolkit that allows you to view personalized billing information for the current period and even for the past 24 months. You can see how your energy usage stacks up against that of others and whether your energy usage is above or below the average of all customers; learn where your energy dollars go (heating, cooling, cooking, water heating, etc.), and receive advice on how to reduce your energy spending without sacrificing comfort.

Also, residential electricity customers can visit the Act On Energy Web site to purchase high-efficiency compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) online or at participating Home Depot and Sam’s Club stores at sharply discounted prices, discover how to receive $35 for retiring an old refrigerator or freezer and learn about other programs. There also are special energy efficiency incentive programs for business customers.

Customers who are not Internet active still may take advantage of the Act On Energy programs by calling the Ameren Illinois Utilities (AmerenCIPS – 1-800-789-2477; AmerenCILCO – 1-888-672-5252; AmerenIP – 1-800-755-5000).

Electricity customers may still benefit from two special programs. The first is the Bill Payment Assistance Program now provides energy assistance grants of up to $300 to low-income electric customers with household incomes of 150 percent to 200 percent of the energy assistance federal poverty level. These grants are provided through the local community action agencies that administer the Low income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

The second program is the Hardship Assistance for Residential Customers. The local community action agencies distribute these program funds based on the hardship experienced by customers with household incomes of up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. The agencies may award grants of up to $600 per household.

Customers may call 1-877-411-9276 to obtain the name and address of their local community action agency.

Some customers also may be eligible for assistance through LIHEAP, which is administered by the local community action agencies. LIHEAP provides energy services payment assistance to eligible low-income households, elderly persons and people with disabilities. Grants are based on the number of people in a household, total income and the type of energy used.
In addition, the Ameren Illinois Utilities offer payment plans for customers who find it difficult to pay a bill.

To establish a payment plan or obtain other information, call your Ameren Illinois Utility – AmerenCIPS: 1-888-789-2477; AmerenCILCO: 1- 888-672-5252, and AmerenIP: 1-800-755-5000.

The Ameren Illinois Utilities (AmerenCIPS, AmerenCILCO, AmerenIP) have been providing safe, reliable energy delivery service for more than a century. The Ameren Illinois Utilities deliver energy to 1.2 million electric and 840,000 natural gas customers in more than 1,200 communities within a 43,700-square-mile service territory, while helping you spend less by using less through our initiative.
# # #

Monday, May 4, 2009

Governor Quinn Names Expert to Examine Howe Center

From the Office of Governor Pat Quinn

CHICAGO – May 4, 2009. Governor Pat Quinn announced that Anne M. Shannon will be assisting the Quinn Administration’s probe of the conditions at the Howe Developmental Center in Tinley Park. Shannon will work with families of current and former Howe residents, advocacy groups, legislators and employees to gain a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of residential care at the facility.

“I am committed to ensuring the well-being of the residents at the Howe facility,” said Governor Quinn. “I have full confidence in Anne’s ability to evaluate this serious situation from all sides and provide sound recommendations.”

Shannon is the former President and CEO of Aspire Illinois, a non-profit organization that provides support for individuals with developmental disabilities. Under her leadership, Aspire employed more than 400 individuals who served approximately 1,000 Illinois residents with disabilities. (See attached document for additional biographical information.)

Last week, the Illinois Commission on Governmental Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA) issued their report in favor of the closure of Howe. Shannon will review documents that impacted the commission’s decision and evaluate its recommendation.

“My primary goal is that each and every resident be served in a way that meets his or her unique individual needs and those of the family as well,” said Shannon.

In April 2007, Howe was decertified by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), meaning that Howe cannot bill for Medicaid reimbursement. The decertification reduces the funds by $27 million that the state has available on an annual basis.

In September 2008, Howe was ordered closed under the previous administration pending the CGFA report. The Center is currently home to 282 residents and employs 734 individuals. The hiring of Shannon reflects the Quinn Administration’s commitment to thoroughly investigating the situation before a final decision is made.

Shannon is a life-long educator and public servant, bringing more than 20 years of academic experience and two degrees in Education to the position. She will submit her recommendations on Howe to Governor Quinn by June 30.

Nine Confirmed H1N1 Flu Cases in Illinois

From the Illinois Department of Public Health

SPRINGFIELD – Officials with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) are reporting nine confirmed cases of H1N1 flu (swine flu) in Illinois and 90 probable cases.

“We continue to see cases of H1N1 flu here in Illinois, but most have been mild. However, we should not become complacent. People need to continue to take precautions to stay healthy by following the three C’s – Clean – properly wash your hands frequently, Cover – cover your cough and sneeze, Contain – contain your germs by staying home if you are sick,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Damon T. Arnold.

For a breakdown of counties, and the city of Chicago, as well as additional information, log onto for more information. There is also a hotline number for Illinois residents for easy access to information about the H1N1 flu (swine flu). The hotline (866-848-2094 for English, 866-241-2138 for Spanish) will operate daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily for as long as needed. Hotline operators will be equipped to answer basic, non-medical questions related to the outbreak and will be able to refer callers to additional information sources.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Gov Quinn Takes Action on Clemency Petitions

CHICAGO – May 1, 2009. Governor Pat Quinn today approved 18 clemency petitions. This is second time Governor Quinn has taken clemency action since taking office in January. It is another step in his effort to eliminate a massive backlog of nearly 2,500 cases that built up during the previous administration.

The 18 clemency petitions, including 1 commutation of sentence, approved by Governor Quinn are part of the 32 petitions reviewed by the Governor. The petitions represent a portion of the cases in the April 2003 docket. Each person granted clemency has recently undergone a criminal background check.

Governor Quinn has made erasing the backlog of clemency cases a top priority. The Office of the General Counsel is systematically reviewing every case and working to drastically reduce the build-up by year’s end.

Sen. Brady Calls for Removal of Health Facilities Planning Board Members

SPRINGFIELD – State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) is calling for the removal of Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board officials and Board members, as the first steps toward restoring integrity to the process used to site hospitals and other healthcare facilities throughout Illinois.

The Bloomington Republican has drafted legislation removing the Deputy Director of the Office of Policy, Planning and Statistics of the Illinois Department of Public Health; and the Executive Secretary of the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board (IHFPB), effective July 1, 2009. The legislation also calls for the immediate termination of the Board members, but allows them to serve until they are replaced by the Governor, up to an additional 60 days.

Sen. Brady says that while neither the officials nor the current board members have been accused of wrongdoing, they are associated with the scandals connected to ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

“In the months since Rod Blagojevich has been impeached and removed from office, state leaders have thrown open the doors and windows, and are taking a hard look at the way government works. A lot of housecleaning has been done already and more is needed,” Sen. Brady said. “For that reason – and for the same reason that the Executive Director resigned from the Teachers Retirement System last month – we think it is necessary to remove the leaders and the members of the Health Facilities Planning Board. We need to distance ourselves from that era of corruption and controversy.”

Four years ago, the General Assembly purged every board member from the Health Facilities Planning Board, regardless of their ties to the corrupting influences of convicted insider Tony Rezko and others, but the Board’s executive leadership remained in place.

“There is still too much status quo at the Board for us to say we have finished our job. This Board has been at the center of corrupt influence peddling by those convicted of seeking to enrich themselves at the public expense,” said Sen. Brady, a member of a Task Force that recently recommended changes in the Board’s structure and operations.

“I am not suggesting any wrongdoing by the Board’s staff or current members, but we must be ever vigilant and continue to look at measures to restore the public’s confidence in the Board’s actions and activities. The citizens of Illinois need and deserve reasonable access to quality healthcare facilities in their communities.”

Although Sen. Brady agreed with many of the recommendations of the Task Force, he submitted a minority report to the findings, in part because he believed the panel’s proposed changes did not adequately address issues such as a need for greater independence of the Board, which regulates medical services and construction of medical facilities throughout Illinois.

The Task Force majority recommended replacing the current Board with a new Health Facilities and Services Review Board to oversee the certificate-of-need (CON) process for approving construction of new and replacement medical facilities, purchase of medical equipment and long-term care facilities.

“Placing the CON Board under the umbrella of the Executive Branch lends itself to a continued pattern of corruption that has plagued the Health Facilities Planning Board in recent years,” Brady wrote in the minority report. “If the CON Board is dependent on an executive agency for its survival, then the threat of ‘pay-to-play’ scandals is always present. To neutralize that threat, an independent CON Board should be created.”