Politics and Government

The Director of the McLean County Health Department is trying to reassure County Board members that funding for drug court will not be jeopardized next budget year. Last week the department agreed to fund drug court at the same level as last year. Now the health board has approved spending less direct money than was talked about earlier. Health Department Director Walt Howe says the difference is that they want service provider Chestnut Health Systems to try billing Medicaid for the service first and then asking the county for payment.

Illinois Lawmakers / creative commons

Illinois reform groups are calling on Governor Bruce Rauner to release details about his upcoming meeting with the legislative leaders.

Connect Mobility To Needs Test Riders Next Year

Nov 11, 2015
Connect Transit

The LIFE Center for Independent Living is working with Connect Transit to determine who is eligible to use Connect Mobility buses. The service provides door-to-door rides for people with disabilities, and currently allows all applicants that can provide a doctor's note for a documented disability or anyone age 65 and over.

A month and a half after the Illinois State Museum shut its doors to visitors ... lawmakers have passed a measure that could lead to its reopening.  Advocates have mourned the loss of the Springfield-based museum, which also hosts researchers and preserves millions of artifacts.

Despite the closure, most of the museum's staff have so far held onto their jobs. Their union is fighting with Governor Bruce Rauner's administration in court. But State Museum Board Chairman Guerry Suggs says other employees have quit, taken new jobs, or retired. 


Illinois Republican Congressman Rodney Davis of Taylorville (13th District) says President Obama is missing out on making economic progress by rejecting the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. That's one of the topics covered during a Sound Ideas interview with WGLT's Willis Kern.

Jim Browne / WGLT

US Representative Rodney Davis spent part of his day Tuesday touring the new crisis and detox unit at Bloomington's Chestnut Health Systems. During the tour, Chestnut Chief Operating Officer Alan Sender told the Republican times are tough.

Davis held a round table at the center, focusing on mental healthcare, and discussed a bill from Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Tim Murphy. The measure promises more beds for patients, and a tele-psych system to make up for a shortage of psychologists and psychiatrists. Davis says the mental health system is 'broken.'

A McLean County Circuit Judge has sentenced a Bloomington man to 14 years in prison on a child pornography conviction. 31-year old David Mariani of Chatsford Court had earlier pleaded guilty to distributing images. Police say they found more than 2,000 images of young children on Mariani's computer as part of a statewide crackdown on child porn by law enforcement and the Attorney General's office. Numerous other charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement.

Demonstrator holds sign
Elvert Barnes / Flickr

The Immigration Project is marking 20 years of serving immigrants throughout central Illinois and parts of southern Illinois. To meet an increasing caseload, the group recently opened a satellite office in Champaign.

Proposal Would Lower Property Taxes Statewide

Nov 9, 2015

There are efforts at the State capitol to double a property tax break for Illinois homeowners. IPR's Bill Wheelhouse reports

Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger has issued a one word response to the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. That word is "crazy." The Obama Administration has formally rejected the pipeline to carry Canadian oil into the U.S. after seven years of delays and deliberations.

Kinzinger's fellow Illinois Republican, Rodney Davis was more voluble in reaction. Davis represents part of Bloomington Normal and says it puts politics over people. Davis says instead of encouraging energy independence and job growth in that industry, the President placates his political base.

Governor Bruce Rauner has cut back on institutional care available to seniors.  The Republican used an amendatory veto Friday to reduce the cost of the measure aimed at protecting people who get institutional or at-home care while officials develop a new way of measuring need. Chicago Democratic Rep. Greg Harris sponsored the plan. He says it ensures people getting assistance now won't get cut off by a new assessment process.  

News Analysis — On September 18, 2012, the year before Bruce Rauner declared his candidacy for governor, he shared his vision for a crisis that could help reshape state government.

A year ago Thursday, then-Governor Pat Quinn conceded his race for re-election to Republican Bruce Rauner. Voters once again sent Democratic legislators back to Springfield with super-majorities. As IPR's Amanda Vinicky reports, the divided government has led to unprecedented gridlock.

The Bloomington Election Commission is upgrading its voting equipment. Director Paul Shannon says several hundred thousand dollars will pay for 30 new voting machines, or one per precinct.

Shannon says instead of a laser scan, the reader will be a digital picture scan of the ballot.

The machines are smaller and better for Americans With Disabilities Act compliance as well.

The cost is several hundred thousand dollars.

Flickr user tvnewsbadge

Attorney, author and justice advocate Sister Simone Campbell is best know for leading Nuns on the Bus tours across America to draw attention to the concerns of low income workers, immigrants and people with disabilities. She's known to many in McLean County too, having given the 2013 Jim and Gwen Pruyne Lecture at New Covenant Community Church in Normal.

No Christmas Lights For Capitol

Nov 4, 2015

Illinois' budget impasse will replace the Grinch when it comes to decorating the state Capitol dome this year. The Illinois Secretary of State's office, which maintains the Capitol building, announced Tuesday they will skip the annual tradition of stringing Christmas lights on the dome. Officials say the ongoing impasse that has left Illinois without a budget since July 1 is the reason for taking the lights out of the holiday season.

Thomas Fitzgerald, a judge who had a leading role in the aftermath of some of Illinois’ most notorious political scandals, died on Sunday at his home in the Chicago suburbs.

Charlie Schlenker / WGLT

The McLean County Health Department is revising its proposed budget for next fiscal year, after some members of the county board health committee questioned the recommended removal of nearly 50% of drug court funding. County Administrator Bill Wasson says most of the drug court funds are being restored.

Brad Basham Photography/www.bbasham.com

The Town of Normal is continuing to pursue an underpass under railroad tracks that bisect the Uptown area. In this excerpt of a Sound Ideas interview, Mayor Chris Koos told WGLT's Mike McCurdy that state and federal dollars remain in place to help pay for the project and federal officials have communicated that the project could be ideal for a future Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant application.

Associate Judge Seeks Election In 11th Circuit

Nov 3, 2015
Mark Fellheimer

11th Circuit Associate judge Mark Fellheimer is seeking the Republican nomination for Circuit Judge in March. The 11th judicial circuit includes McLean, Livingston, Ford, Logan, and Woodford Counties. The vacancy was created by the retirement of Judge Charles Reynard. Fellheimer has served as an Associate Judge since 2008, and lives in Pontiac with his wife and three children.

Michael Hill / WGLT

The Town of Normal is preparing a property tax levy, which will be brought before council members next month.

Governor Pitches Vision During Bloomington Stop

Nov 2, 2015
Jim Browne / WGLT

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner made a pitch for his budget vision at a McLean County Chamber of Commerce event at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts. That vision does not apparently include members of unions, who were stopped by city police before they could enter the theater. Rauner, who came into office preaching an anti-union message, now says he's no longer pushing for state "Right to Work" legislation.

The Illinois Innocence Project will receive federal help to conduct more DNA testing. John Hanlon is the executive director for the project based at the University of Illinois Springfield. He says the 750 thousand dollars announced will especially help in cases where an individual pled guilty.

Connect Transit Loses Out On Grant

Nov 2, 2015
Jim Browne / WGLT

Connect Transit is looking at other options after being turned down for a federal TIGER Grant for a Downtown Bloomington transfer station. The grant would have replaced small shelters now on Front Street. Connect Transit General Manager Andrew Johnson says he's not discouraged.

After a legal career of more than four decades, McLean County Circuit Judge Charles Reynard says he's retiring at the end of the year. Reynard has spent 13 years as a judge, nearly 16 before that as McLean County State's Attorney, and another 14 years in private practice and as an assistant prosecutor.

He says he's not sure exactly what the next chapter will bring in his life.

Reynard says the highlight has been the last five years in family law cases serving huge needs.

Former Mayor Bittner Dies

Oct 29, 2015

Former Bloomington Mayor Walt Bittner has died, just shy of his 98th birthday. He was mayor in the 1970's, a time during which Bloomington experienced a major growth spurt, and much of it was on the east side. Mark Butzow, a BHS Grad who is now a newspaper reporter in Indiana married Walt Bittner's youngest child, Lisa. He says while Walt was all business when he needed to be, he was also serious about play, and recreation. Butzow says it was Bittner that kept the Miller Park Zoo from closing.

Charlie Schlenker / WGLT

The McLean County Health Department wants to shift money away from drug court treatment and to other programs. Next year's proposed budget reduces county funding for drug court by $100,000 at a time when the county just asked for and received mental health funding from increased sales taxes in Bloomington and Normal. Health Department Director Walt Howe says changes in federal programs can replace the money because single men are now eligible for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act expansion of Medicaid.

Bloomington Sick Leave Buyback Remains Unchanged

Oct 26, 2015
Michael Hill / WGLT

The Bloomington City Council remains reluctant to change city policies for sick leave buyback. Aldermen voted in favor of a resolution to have staff look into the issue further, but have not made any adjustments to the rules that are currently in place for grandfathered employees.