Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Proft Calls For 'Merit-Based Opportunity' Admissions for University System

From the Campaign Office of Dan Proft for Governor

Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Proft today proposed a new admissions policy for the University of Illinois, calling the current system which favors applicants of the politically-connected another example of a government system that is fixed.

Click here to watch the video of Dan Proft deliver his remarks at today's news conference.

"Sadly, we must add our great state university to the long list of Illinois systems that aren't broken, but fixed," said Proft, speaking to reporters at the Chicago Hilton.

Proft criticized politicians who are calling for top administrators at the University to resign. "If anyone should have to resign, it should be those who applied the pressure, not those who succumbed to it," he said.

Arguing that such calls "miss the point," Proft said that "our focus should be on how to end this shameful practice and guarantee to future applicants to the University of Illinois that the bar for admissions is based on merit, achievement, and hard work - not on who you know."

Rather, Proft said, the goal should be to remove the incentive to influence the admissions process. Calling his new policy a "Merit-Based Opportunity" standard, Proft proposed that all applicants' names be replaced with identification numbers.

"All that an admissions official will be able to discern from an application is the student's academic and extracurricular achievements - as it should be," said Proft. "This proposal means that even if a politically-connected individual demands special consideration for a particular applicant, the admission officials would be unable to comply."

The policy in place now, said Proft, allows politicians to use the threat of reduced funding to force university administrators to accept unqualified applicants with political connections. "Simply getting rid of university officials who went along to get along will not do that. It is not fundamentally a personnel problem. It is a system problem," he said.

"Under my vision for admission policy, the phrase 'Straight from the G' no longer carries any influence at our great university," said Proft, referring to one released university law school e-mail that revealed the request to admit an unqualified student came from former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Proft compared his new policy to the way the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducts its auditions by having musicians perform from behind a curtain.

"This removes any incentive a judge might have in considering anything other than a musician's ability," said Proft. "There is no reason why we cannot apply this policy for university admissions."

Durbin Announces $37 Million in Recovery Act Funding for Community Health Centers 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 36 community health centers in Illinois will receive $ 37,435,380 in grant funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Capital Improvement Grants (CIP) grants, allocated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), will support the construction, repair and renovation of health centers nationwide as well as allow health centers to purchase new health information technology systems and adopt electronic health records. With these new funds, health centers will be to address immediate and pressing facility and equipment needs and create some much needed health center and construction-related jobs.

“Last year, over 1.1 million people in Illinois were treated at community health centers which administer health care to low-income families, many without health insurance,” said Durbin. “Today’s funding will support this critically important work and lead to economic growth in many underserved communities as health centers serve as a key source of local employment and economic activity.”

The CIP grants are part of $851 million in nationwide funding that was released today by HHS for more than 1,500 health centers. It is expected that with these new funds, health centers will be able to increase access to health care for millions of Americans and address immediate and pressing health center facility and equipment needs. More than 18 million Americans rely on health centers to keep them healthy, even if they can’t afford to pay for their care.

This is the third set of health center grants provided though the Recovery Act. On March 2, $155 million in funding was announced to establish 126 new health centers nationwide – four in Illinois. On March 27, $338 million in funding was announced to expand service and hours of operation at 1,126 health centers nationwide – 36 in Illinois.

The following Illinois health centers will receive funding under today’s announcement:

Health Centers around the State
  • Anna: $699,960 in funding for Rural Health, Inc.
  • Aurora: $1,147,645 in funding for Visiting Nurse Association of Fox Valley
  • Carbondale: $1,033,300 in funding for Community Health & Emergency Services, Inc.
  • Carterville: $1,032,460 in funding for Shawnee Health Service
  • Chicago Heights: $2,449,295 in funding for Aunt Martha’s Youth Service Center, Inc.
  • Christopher: $1,346,095 in funding for Christopher Rural Health Planning Corp.
  • Decatur: $832,120 in funding for Community Health Improvement
  • Elgin: $880,000 in funding for Greater Elgin Family Care Center
  • Harvey: $1,035,085 in funding for Family Christian Health Center
  • Joliet: $949,090 in funding for Will County Health Department / Will County Community Health Center
  • Oak Park: $1,380,640 in funding for PCC Community Wellness Center
  • Oquawka: $544,980 in funding for Henderson County Rural Health Center, Inc.
  • Peoria: $616,030 in funding for Heartland Community Health Clinic
  • Rock Falls: $616,240 in funding for Whiteside County Health Department and Whiteside County Community Health Clinic, Inc.
  • Rockford: $1,652,800 in funding for Crusaders Central Clinic Association
  • Sauget: $2,500,000 in funding for Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation
  • Springfield: $773,075 in funding for Central Counties Health Center, Inc.
  • Virginia: $347,790 in funding for Cass County Health Department
  • Waukegan: $1,715,660 in funding for Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center

Chicago Health Centers

  • Access Community Health Network: $2,500,000
  • Alivio Medical Center: $1,011,845
  • Asian Human Services Family Health Center, Inc.: $393,010
  • Beloved Community Family Wellness Center: $292,560
  • Chicago Family Health Center, Inc.: $938,135
  • Christian Community Health Center: $768,770
  • Circle Family Health Care: $598,985
  • Community Health Partnership of Illinois: $545,680
  • Erie Family Health Center, Inc.: $1,294,085
  • Friend Family Health Center, Inc.: $1,097,840
  • Heartland Health Outreach, Inc.: $634,090
  • Heartland International Health Center: $717,915
  • Lawndale Christian Health Center: $1,649,370
  • Near North Health Service Corporation: $1,418,300
  • Primecare Community Health, Inc.: $724,075
  • TCA Health Inc.: $550,965
  • University of Illinois at Chicago: $747,490

Monday, June 29, 2009

Illinois Exports Top $53 Billion in 2008

From the Office of Governor Pat Quinn

CHICAGO – Officials with Governor Pat Quinn’s administration today highlighted the significant impact Illinois exports had on the state economy in 2008. Illinois’ export of goods and services in 2008 totaled $53.4 billion, an increase of 9.3 percent from 2007, according to the World Institute for Strategic Economic Research. This growth places Illinois as the sixth-largest exporting state in the nation. During the event, seven Illinois companies were awarded Governors’ Export Awards for their achievements in the exporting industry.

“Our trade numbers represent some much-needed good news during these difficult economic times,” said Gov Quinn. “Export of goods and services is a significant portion of Illinois’ diverse economy. We will continue our efforts to help keep this important economic engine running.”

With an increase of $4.6 billion over calendar year 2007, Illinois led the Midwest in exports in 2008. Illinois ranks sixth in the nation for exports behind Texas, California, New York, Washington and Florida.

“Trade continues to be a critical driver of the Illinois economy. The seven companies we’re recognizing today have found that recipe for success and are helping to create better jobs for more people here at home,” said Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Director Warren Ribley.

The Governor's Export Awards were established by the legislature in 1993 to highlight the contribution of exports in manufacturing, service, and agribusiness to Illinois' economic development. Winners were selected by criteria based on the export sales as a percentage of total sales, growth of export sales, the number of employees involved in exporting, and unique factors indicating progressive international marketing strategies.

President Names Callahan and Giamanco to USDA Positions 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 President Obama has officially named Colleen Callahan Burns of Kickapoo, Illinois for State Director of Rural Development and Scherrie V. Giamanco of Mt. Vernon, Illinois for State Executive Director of the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Neither appointment requires Senate confirmation and both are expected to assume their new duties in early July.

“Colleen Callahan Burns has been a respected voice for Illinois agriculture for more than 30 years,” said Durbin. “She is an award winning farm broadcaster who remains active in animal agriculture and in her community. I was proud to recommend her to the Secretary of Agriculture in February and I look forward to working with her in her new capacity.”

Rural Development provides financial assistance through guaranteed loans, direct loans and some grant funds to individuals, public bodies, nonprofits, Native American tribes, and cooperatives in rural areas. Rural Development State Directors provide mission area wide leadership at the state level to the network of nearly 500 field offices in USDA Service Centers. State Directors coordinate with many local, regional, state and other federal agencies and groups to help provide a starting point to address business, community or housing needs. State Directors are responsible for delivering Rural Housing Service programs; most of the Rural Business – Cooperative Service programs; the Water and Wastewater Disposal Program of the Rural Utilities Service; and outreach and assistance on programs delivered directly from national headquarters.

“Scherrie Giamanco has worked in the Farm Services Agency Illinois State office for more than 15 years,” said Durbin. Her lifelong experience – more than 35 years in agriculture and rural development related fields – in many facets of Illinois agriculture will allow her to be an effective leader within the Department of Agriculture.”

The FSA aims to stabilize farm income, help farmers conserve land and water resources, provide credit to new or disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, and help farm operations recover from the effects of disaster. The FSA uses a unique system under which federal farm programs are administered locally – a grassroots approach gives farmers a much-needed say in how Federal actions affect their communities and their individual operations. The State Executive Director serves as a top representative of the Administrator and is responsible for planning, implementing and operating FSA stabilization, conservation, farm loan, environmental, and emergency assistance programs within the assigned State. State Executive Directors provide and direct the overall administrative and management activities for the State and county offices in cooperation and participation with the FSA functional management divisions and offices.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Local Author Donates Free Curriculum to Schools

From Writers of the Round Table Press

AURORA, Ill. (June 23, 2009) - After completing a successful pilot program this spring in the Chicago Public Schools using Robert Renteria's memoir, "From the Barrio to the Board Room," (2008, Writers of the Round Table Press, with Corey Blake), this fall upwards of 3,000 Chicago city students will discover through the new curriculum that hard work, dedication and staying in school are the secrets to success, and that gang violence is not a lifestyle but a death style. The curriculum, developed by teachers, community leaders and advisors, is free to all schools, teachers, youth prisons, and organizations.

In addition, the From the Barrio Foundation will offer free support materials through the Barrio Book Drive, to assist those schools and organizations that would like to use the book with their kids but don't necessarily have the funds to do so.

In total, 200 students took part in the pilot programs at Roosevelt and Morton West High Schools in May. According to Guadalupe Perez, one of the teachers who used the book and curriculum in his class, his students related to Renteria's story simply because for most of them, it was their story, too.

"After having read Robert's book, a lot of them realized that at some point you do have to take responsibility for your actions and that there are choices that you have to make," said Perez. "I even got to see another side of my students through the curriculum that goes along with the book and the discussion questions we went through. You have these kids in your class for the entire school year and you think you know them but then you open up a whole different world that they are living through with something like this. I'm really grateful that we had the opportunity to read the book."

The curriculum includes chapter by chapter discussion questions that dig into the problems and dire situations that teenagers and at-risk youth face today. It provides teachers and leaders thought-provoking tools and exercises to engage kids in making the right choices and decisions in their volatile world. It is unique in that teachers and educators rarely receive free curriculum.

The curriculum took shape as a result of Clayton Muhammad, district spokesperson for East Aurora School District 131, figuratively suggesting that the donation of 1,000 copies of the From the Barrio book by a local charity last fall was like giving him a ready-made academic and life-skills curriculum. It was then that Renteria and Blake considered the potential life-changing tool the book and its message could become for so many kids if they created an actual curriculum.

Recent Roosevelt graduate Mirsad Ferizovic said being tempted by gangs and violence begins early and the book and curriculum can have a big impact if used with freshman and sophomore students.

"We need to have more books like this in school," said Ferizovic. "All these books we read in school, it's all picture perfect and little rainbows but when you get to realistic stuff like gangs and shootings, that's the real world. It's not all nice and shiny out there. Freshman and sophomore year I didn't really care about whether I got in trouble or suspended. Then I started getting older and wanted to be the first in my family to graduate, the first to finish."

"From the Barrio to the Board Room" is inspiring kids to do more around the house, try harder at school, question if they're hanging out with the right crowds, believe in themselves, and reach for higher goals. It is also inspiring adults to open their own businesses, go back to school, and give back to others.

"The biggest complement that an author can get is when a teenager says, 'Can I keep the book?'" said Roosevelt High School Principal Dr. Alejandra Alvarez.

From The Barrio Foundation also has created the Barrio Book Drive, a complete in-the-box fundraising program to help schools and organizations raise money so that educators can incorporate the book into their curriculum and programs.

"We supply them with everything they need to reach out to their community and raise funds for their organization," said Blake. "Such a large number of schools, youth prisons and community programs want the book, but mention funding as an obstacle. Robert wanted to create a mechanism that would eliminate that obstacle through community involvement and support."

Renteria added, "The curriculum is my gift, it's a labor of love in hopes of helping to change the landscape for our youth across America. I'm throwing down the gauntlet so to speak. Let's exchange the Barrio book for all the guns, knives, drugs, needles, booze, and even cigarettes that are out there touching and killing our youth. I believe we can make a difference, and I want us to do this together."

Both Blake and Renteria feel a responsibility to craft a curriculum and program that will truly have an impact on kids' lives.

"Through Robert demonstrating that he could air his dirty laundry, these kids are being given permission to tell their own stories," said Blake. "I can actually see the healing process begin. We see that we have a real opportunity to make a difference."

"From the Barrio to the Board Room" and Renteria's personal story were featured on WGN (Adelante Chicago), Univision, Hoy, and Y-Talk Radio, and profiled in La Raza and Hispanic Executive Quarterly. U.S. Congressman Bill Foster, Aurora Mayor Thomas Weisner, Princeton University Professor Russ Nieli, and Chicago police officers are just a few of the many committed professionals who are supporting his dream to reach out, give back and pull people out. His mission is to put his story in the hands of at least one million teenagers and at-risk youth.

To learn more about From The Barrio Foundation, the book and its curriculum or to read more about Renteria's story, please contact Renteria at 312.933.5619 or visit www.fromthebarrio.com.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Governor Quinn, Microsoft CEO Launch Public-Private Partnership

Elevate America to provide free technology training for up to 51,000 Illinoisans

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today joined Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at the Chicagoland Chamber’s Annual Meeting to announce a major public-private partnership between Microsoft and the State of Illinois to provide free technology training for up to 51,000 Illinoisans, starting July 31.

“This is a great opportunity for Illinoisans looking to improve their skill set,” said Governor Quinn. “Whether you are out of a job or the technological revolution has simply passed you by, taking advantage of these free vouchers is one way to get back on board as our economy moves forward.”

The Microsoft Elevate America initiative will provide up to 1 million vouchers nationwide for Microsoft e-Learning courses and select certification exams. The program is part of Microsoft’s overall efforts to provide technology training for at least 2 million people during the next three years.
“Microsoft is committed to improving access to the education and workforce readiness skills required for 21st century jobs,” said Ballmer. “We believe these types of public-private partnerships are key to helping rebuild the nation’s economy and getting people back to work.”

In Illinois, Microsoft is working with the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and its partners to distribute 51,000 vouchers starting July 31. Online courses available using Elevate America vouchers include intermediate level Microsoft Office 2003 and Microsoft Office 2007 training, and advanced-level training for technical professionals.

From August through October, eligible Illinoisans can apply for a voucher through one of the following workforce networks:
· Illinois workNet Centers, including Mayor Daley’s WorkNet System
· Digital Inclusion Community Technology Centers, including the Illinois and City of Chicago Digital Excellence Network and affiliated non-profit agencies
· High School Career and Technical Education programs approved by the Illinois State Board of Education
· Illinois Community College Career and Technical Education Network
· Illinois Community College Board Adult Education Network

Voucher recipients will be required to register with Illinois workNet, an online one-stop-shop that provides access to worker resources at
www.illinoisworknet.com. To learn more about Elevate America, visit: www.microsoft.com/elevateamerica.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Durbin Statement on Plans for Financial Regulatory Reform

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 Obama Administration announced a plan for comprehensive financial regulatory reform:

“For the past two years, we have been dealing with the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The current crisis has many causes, but perhaps the most significant, was the breakdown of our financial regulatory system which left consumers and our markets unprotected.”

“It’s time we put the needs of American families above the interests of Wall Street. The newly proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency – based partly on legislation I introduced earlier this year – will put consumers first, and protect members of the public from predatory practices. This new agency will also ensure that companies are held accountable when they abuse, deceive or take advantage of the very consumers they claim to be helping.

“I look forward to working with President Obama, Treasury Secretary Geithner and my colleagues in the Senate to quickly enact these long overdue reforms.”

In March, Durbin introduced the Financial Product Safety Commission Act – a bill to create a single government agency in charge of ensuring that the offering of financial products to consumers is responsible, accountable, and transparent.

According to Durbin, today’s proposal for a Consumer Financial Protection agency may be the most important step we can take to prevent another economic crisis from developing, because this agency would keep dangerous products such as predatory subprime mortgages off the market before they could create broad systemic risks.

Today’s announcement also:
  • Promotes stronger supervision of all financial firms, through the creation of a Financial Services Oversight Council to review systemic risks, additional authority for the Federal Reserve to supervise all institutions that pose systemic risks, stronger capital standards, a new National Bank Supervisor, the elimination of the Office of Thrift Supervision, and the registration of all hedge funds with the SEC.
  • Establishes comprehensive supervision of financial markets, through more transparency of securitization markets, stronger regulation of credit rating agencies, and a requirement that credit issuers retain a financial interest (“skin in the game”) in securitized loans.
  • Improves tools for managing crises, through a new regime to unwind nonbank institutions and greater accountability of Fed emergency powers.
  • Raises international regulatory standards through the coordination of stronger global oversight efforts.

In addition to being the Assistant Majority Leader, Durbin is the Chairman of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee which has funding jurisdiction over financial regulatory agencies such as the one proposed today.

Doomsday Budget Effects Make Headlines

From Jim Broadway, Publisher, State School News Service

Unless Illinois legislators pass a true, full-year FY 2010 budget - and the income tax increased required to fund it - state agencies will have to lay off 10,000 employees and non-profit social service organizations serving the poor, the ill, the elderly, veterans and children in a variety of settings will lose state grants that employ another 100,000 Illinoisans, Gov. Pat Quinn's Chief of Staff Jerome Stermer announced this week.

Among other consequences: Nearly 200,000 senior citizens would lose help with the costs of their medications; more than 140,000 poor families would lose subsidized child care services; foster care oversight caseloads would jump from 15 to 50 per DCFS agent; 145,000 low-income college students would lose 75% of their already meager MAP grants they need to continue to pursue higher education.

Infants and children, struggling young families, senior citizens - the pain of a doomsday budget reaches from the cradle to the grave. Speaking of graves, without a true budget for FY 2010, the state will have to stop paying about $1,500 each for paupers' funerals.

That's another 10,000 doomsday budget victims, assuming the number doesn't go even higher when funding for homeless shelters and food pantries is also curtailed.

The Illinois State Board of Education will surely add hundreds of thousands of young people to the list this afternoon when it begins slashing at least $400 million from its already reduced budget for discretionary (not including General State Aid and Mandated Categorical) programs.

Apparently the Board committee overseeing the cuts expects some push-back. The "public participation" segment of its meeting, which usually takes about five minutes, is scheduled to last two hours. Advocates for early childhood, career and technical, and gifted education, school technology, at-risk students, safe schools and other long-standing priorities will want to have their say before the axe falls.

Will the legislators respond to the apparent damage that will result from their insistence on keeping for Illinois the honor of having the lowest income tax in the nation, of ranking 45th among the state in per-capita support for public services at all levels? Quinn is counting on it. He is meeting with legislative leaders today to insist that the General Assembly return to Springfield next Tuesday to pass a tax increase and fix the budget.

While we admire his optimism, we doubt Quinn's goal will be reached next week. Political dynamics are now in control. Republican legislators, who have not given a single vote to any tax-hike bill, claim the governor is just trying to scare the citizens into supporting higher taxes. Democrats, who passed a tax hike in the Senate and put 42 votes on a bill for one in the House, now require GOP participation for such a politically volatile measure.

That will probably happen, but not next week. The issue now seems truly up to "the people," and they will need proof - not just projections - of the pain before they will prevail on the GOP to "do the right thing." Proof means the meals on wheels have to stop coming, facilities have to shut down, workers have to be laid off, programs they like to see in their schools have to stop. We are two months away, perhaps three, from the moment of proof.

Scandals are a distraction. Recent revelations that legislators have added getting children of their supporters admitted to the University of Illinois to the long list of hidden political perks they enjoy are starting to stink up the Capitol pretty much. Quinn has appointed a credible commission to investigate the matter. A report is due in 60 days. The Chicago Tribune, which broke the story, has had to sue the university to get more documentation on the case.

Using the university as a political asset is a bipartisan abuse of power, as are most abuses. But this one will play out in the coming weeks. Names will be named. Situations will be scrutinized. Coming as it does with the MAP grants for less affluent students being slashed just adds to the justifiable outrage spreading around the state.

Speaking of outrage, there's the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency's misuse of about $100,000 in Amistad Commission funding. The Amistad Commission was established in 2005 legislation to fund education on slavery in the United States and "vestiges of slavery" that remain in this country. Instead of putting the program with the Illinois State Board of Education where it belonged, the measure put it with Histor ic Preservation where it would be more hidden from view.

The educational materials that were to have been developed and delivered to the schools of Illinois never materialized. The potential of the Amistad Commission was never realized. Instead, a nice dinner was held for 250 people. Four "experts" were given $10,000 each, plus $1,000 for travel and lodging, to make speeches. Catering costs exceeded $18,000.

The Agency spent about $400 per invitee to this dinner.

According to a report from Illinois General William Holland [see Page 14], the Agency didn't provide receipts for its Amistad dinner expenses. About $10,000 wasn't accounted for in any way. It was just part of a scathing report of fiscal mismanagement by the agency, now headed by a woman recommended for the job by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. She was equally incompetent as Blagojevich's appointed director of the Capital Development Board.

There will be more on this. The ISBE is fortunate to have been shut out of the Amistad program. It is a situation, on a smaller scale, consistent with the types of abuse of office that, after being revealed by Holland, led to Blagojevich's impeachment. This time, meddling legislators' careers are on the line.

We care what you think. Click here to comment to SSNS. Your policymakers may also care what you think. You may want to call, write or email them on the issues described above or other matters. Click here for their contact information, including email addresses.

Jesse White Announces New Way For Public To Report Disability Parking Abuse

From the Office of Secretary of State Jesse White

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced that the public will now be able to report disability parking abuse through the Secretary of State’s Web site.

The public can go to www.cyberdriveillinois.com when they see people violating the Persons With Disabilities Parking Program.

“We’re pleased to use technology to make it easier for the public to alert us to people that wrongfully abuse this meaningful program,” White said. “We want to catch those individuals who take these vital spaces from those who are truly in need.”

People can now report able-bodied people parking in disability parking spaces or using disability placards without the disabled individual in the vehicle. People can make the report anonymously, but they must be able to report the license plate, disability placard, or disability plate number.

White also warns people never to confront the abuser.

To report abuse, go to www.cyberdriveillinois.com and on the home page click on the icon that says “Complaint Form Parking for Persons With Disabilities.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Glenn Nye and Aaron Schock Lead 49 Representatives in Bipartisan Effort to Protect Small Businesses in Health Care Debate

From the Office of Congressman Aaron Schock

Washington, DC – Congressman Glenn Nye (D-VA-02) and Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL-18) are leading a bipartisan effort to make sure that the interests of small businesses take center stage in the debate over health care reform.

In a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader John Boehner signed by 23 Democrats and 26 Republicans, Nye and Schock write that “regardless of party affiliation, we all agree we must take action to reform health care” and to reduce costs for small businesses.

However, Nye and Schock conclude: “Any proposal that simply replaces one crippling expense with another is not reform at all, and is something we cannot support.”

Glenn Nye and Aaron Schock are respectively the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Technology.

Congressman Glenn Nye said: “Small businesses are the engine of our economy, but they’re being held back by health care costs that make it harder to compete. The small business owners that I talk to in Virginia know that we need health care reform now so that they can start creating jobs. I support health care reform that provides real relief for small businesses, and that guarantees that all Americans have access to quality, affordable medical care, and the freedom to choose their own plan and their own doctor.”

Congressman Aaron Schock said: “Small businesses employ over 50 percent of our workforce. Unfortunately, the increasing cost of health care has placed a heavy burden on these employers. As we work to reform our broken health care system, it is of the upmost importance to ensure these reforms not only are bipartisan, but also allow small businesses to flourish.”

In addition to attracting strong bipartisan support from 49 Representatives on both sides of the aisle, the effort has also secured the endorsement of the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB).

Brad Close, NFIB vice president of federal public policy, said: “Small business owners need Congress to consider real reforms that address unsustainable health care costs and the lack of choices and competition among insurance providers in the small group market. NFIB appreciates Rep. Nye’s leadership in calling to attention how important it is for health care reform to help and not harm small business owners. We hope members of Congress will follow the advice of Rep. Nye and his colleagues and demand that health care reform provides meaningful relief for small business owners.”

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Gov Quinn Names Six New Members to Teachers Retirement Board, & Five to State Board of Investment

CHICAGO – June 3, 2009. Governor Pat Quinn is fulfilling his pledge to reform top state pension boards by naming six new trustees to the Teachers’ Retirement System Board and five new members to the State Board of Investment. Recently, the Governor signed legislation to reform the boards by implementing needed structural changes and ensuring the boards are more open and accountable to the people.

The Teachers’ Retirement System Board provides retirement pensions and other benefits for teachers and beneficiaries. The State Board of Investment manages the investments of the State Employees’ Retirement System, General Assembly Retirement System, Judges Retirement System, and the Public Employees Deferred Compensation Plan.

The new members of the Teachers’ Retirement System Board include:

Matthew Berns, Trustee – Berns, a graduate of University of Michigan Law School, has worked at Hu-Friedy Manufacturing for the past three years and serves on their 401 (k) Committee. He is a former employer of Culligan Manufacturing and Focal Communications Corporation.

Michael D. Busby, Trustee – Busby served for 18 years as the Vice President of Watson Wyatt Worldwide, a global human resource pension consulting firm. He has more than 35 years experience with the pension industry, including plan design, funding, investment and administration. He has a degree in accounting from the University of Notre Dame.

Livia Kiser, Trustee – Kiser, a trial attorney at Latham Watkins, LLP, has represented companies in administrative and regulatory proceedings, while also providing pro bono work in the areas of education and prisoner’s rights. Kiser has also served on her local school board. She is a graduate of Northwestern University School of Law.

Sidney Marder, Trustee – Marder, of Springfield, has been an active member in his local community and a longtime environmental advocate. He previously served as the State of Illinois, Director of the Division of Energy, a member of the Illinois Pollution Control Board and owner and partner in Marder & Associates, an environmental consulting firm.

Janice Reedus, Trustee – Reedus is the Vice President of Administration and Finance at Fenwick High School and previously served as the Senior Vice President of Bank of America. A graduate of the Northwestern University Kellogg Graduate School of Management, she has managed budgets over $20 million and, in partnership with investment advisors, an $18 million investment portfolio.

Sonia Walwyn, Trustee – Walwyn is the Vice President of the Midwest Region for Keane Organization, Inc. She previously served as Senior Manager, State & Local Tax Practice Leader at KPMG, LLP., Director of Tax and Legal Services at Pricewaterhousecoopers, LLP. and Deputy General Counsel for the Treasury Department of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. She is a graduate of the Villanova School of Law.

The new members of the Board of Investment include:

John Casey, Trustee – Casey is the former Secretary General of the World Alliance of YMCAs, an organization that represents over 14,000 local YMCAs in 124 countries with 45 million members. He previously served as the President of the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago for 10 years. He received a Masters in Industrial Relations from Loyola University Chicago.

Fred Montgomery, Trustee – Montgomery is the Director of State and Local Tax for the Sara Lee Corporation. Previously, he served as an Assistant Attorney General in Illinois and attorney at the Illinois Department of Revenue. Montgomery is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce, the Taxpayer's Federation of Illinois and the Civic Federation of Chicago. He received a Masters in Social Sciences from Stanford University and a Juris Doctorate from DePaul University School of Law.

Michele Bush, Trustee – Bush has served on a number of organizations and boards including Advocate Health Care and the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of the United Methodist Church, which administers one of the largest pension funds in Illinois. She has received a Juris Doctorate from Northwestern University Law School and a Master of Laws in Health Law from Loyola University Chicago School of Law.

Heather Parish, Trustee – Parish is a community development consultant in Chicago. Previously she served as a public finance investment banker and fiscal/policy analyst for the State of California, specializing in personal income and bank and corporate tax legislation. Parish is a member of the Wieboldt Foundation board and received a Master’s in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Ronald Powell, Trustee – Powell is a current trustee of the Illinois State Board of Investment. Powell is the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 881 President and International Vice President. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Amalgamated Bank of Chicago and a trustee of the UFCW Midwest Pension Fund.
For more information on Illinois Boards and Commissions, please visit Appointments.Illinois.gov.

Gov Quinn, Sen Durbin, & Mayor Daley Seek Midwest Gov's Summit on High-Speed Rail

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Illinois Governor
Pat Quinn joined Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley in calling on seven Midwestern Governors to increase their efforts and regional coordination on high speed rail through a regional Rail Summit held in Chicago – the Midwest rail system’s hub – this summer. Today’s announcement followed a meeting between Durbin and Quinn where they also discussed moving forward with Illinois’s bid for the $8 billion available in funding for high speed rail through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

IL Dept of Public Health Says H1N1 (Swine Flu) Still a Threat

June 3, 2009

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Public Health is reporting 1,268 cases of H1N1 influenza in Illinois and four people diagnosed with the virus, all with underlying medical conditions, have died.

“We must continue to take precautions to avoid getting sick – such as washing your hands, covering your cough and staying home if you’re sick,” said Dr. Damon T. Arnold, Illinois Department of Public Health Director. “The H1N1 influenza virus continues to circulate in Illinois, in the U.S. and throughout the world, and everyone, but especially those with underlying medical conditions, needs to take steps to avoid getting the flu.”

Like seasonal influenza, some people may be at greater risk of serious complications related to novel H1N1 infection and illness. People who are at high risk of serious seasonal flu-related complications include pregnant women, children younger than 5-year- old, people with chronic medical conditions and people 65-years and older. Examples of chronic medical conditions include diabetes, asthma, heart disease and lung disease.

Two of the Illinois H1N1 influenza related deaths were Chicago residents, one a suburban Cook County resident and the fourth a Kane County resident. For confidentiality reasons and out of respect for the families, the Illinois Department of Public Health is not releasing any additional information about the four deaths.

Dr. Arnold said the Department will continue to monitor the state for signs of increased virulence of H1N1 flu.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Durbin to Discuss Illinois High Speed Rail with Governor Quinn in Washington

From the Office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) will meet with Illinois Governor Pat Quinn TOMORROW, June 3 at 9:45 AM ET to discuss efforts to bring high speed rail to Illinois. Durbin and Quinn have been working together with other lawmakers to help Illinois compete for the $8 billion available in funding for high speed rail through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Later tomorrow, Quinn will meet with Vice President Joe Biden and a handful of other governors to discuss nationwide high speed rail efforts.

In April, Durbin met with Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, the Chairman of the Amtrak Board of Directors, Tom Carper, and state leaders to discuss Illinois’ commitment to fighting for and winning the federal dollars needed to make high-speed rail in Illinois a reality. They pointed to the Chicago to St. Louis line as the state’s premier route and top priority. Durbin, Quinn and the others also discussed efforts to extend new passenger rail service from Chicago to Rockford and the Quad Cities.

Manzullo's Vehicle Voucher Bill Would Strengthen U.S. Auto Industry, End Need for Taxpayer Funding

From the Office of Congressman Don Manzullo

As President Obama announced yet another $30 billion in taxpayer funds for GM on Monday, U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo (R-IL) reiterated the best way to re-start manufacturing and end government intervention in the auto industry is to give Americans incentives to buy cars and trucks again.

Manzullo introduced legislation earlier this year to give Americans a $5,000 voucher to purchase a new vehicle, stimulating auto sales and manufacturing, re-starting the supply chains, and putting millions of Americans back to work. The New Automobile Voucher Act of 2009 (HR 1606) would provide a one-time, $5,000 electronic voucher from the U.S. Treasury at the point of sale of a new vehicle through the end of 2009. It would provide vouchers for 15 million new vehicles.

Every one million in new vehicle sales has the following impact on the economy:
  • Creates 60,000 jobs (10,000 at vehicle assembly plants; 50,000 at suppliers, auto dealers, and other businesses).
  • Provides $750 million in tax revenue to the federal government.
  • Provides $1.4 billion in sales tax revenue to states.
  • Saves federal government $1.4 billion in unemployment payments and food stamps.

“My bill will give Americans the incentives and the confidence they need to start buying vehicles again, which will bolster automobile manufacturing and sales, put millions of Americans back to work, and restore the tax revenues our state and local governments need to continue providing services to the people,” Manzullo said. “Unfortunately, Congress and the Administration have ignored my job-creating approach in favor of further government intrusion into the auto industry that has placed tens of billions of taxpayer dollars at risk. That intrusion included the forced closure of Chrysler and GM dealerships that will put 150,000 more Americans on the unemployment lines. And today, GM has become Government Motors as the federal government now owns 60 percent of the company thanks to the latest taxpayer contribution.

“Enough is enough. It’s time for the government to get out of the auto manufacturing business and instead support incentives that will help the U.S. auto industry right itself.”

The automobile industry and its suppliers account for 13 million American jobs, 20 percent of all U.S. retail sales, and billions of dollars in state and local sales taxes. The drop in U.S. vehicle sales from 16 million in 2007 to 13 million in 2008 to a projected 9 million in 2009 has been one of the leading causes of America’s economic downturn and huge job losses.