Politics and Government

Bloomington Council Hears From Developers

Oct 19, 2015
Michael Hill / WGLT

Developers are looking at investing in downtown Bloomington, with help from the public sector. Bloomington Aldermen heard from Jeff Giebelhausen and David Bentley during a committee meeting. Each developer had a different proposal for the area. 

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says he has pronounced doubts about U.S. attempts to bolster one side or another in the Syrian conflict. Durbin spoke to reporters recently after a trip to Greece. The Illinois Democrats says only the most minimal of military aid is being contemplated, and that is not likely to produce a difference in the struggle.

Illinois's newest congressman has not decided who he will support for House Speaker. Peoria Republican Darin LaHood says he wants to interview the candidates to find out how they want to move the country forward.

LaHood took office only a month ago. He says Congress needs to pass a budget, a federal highway reauthorization, and a trade agreement that promotes agriculture job creation.

The House Speaker's job became available after John Boehner said he would step down.
 

Municipal Residency Requirements Not A Priority

Oct 19, 2015
Ivo Shandor / Wikimedia Commons

Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner says he can see why Springfield's mayor is saying he wants people who get a city check to live in the city. Nearly a third of capitol city employees don't.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin appears reluctant to boost American military aid to Ukraine too much. Speaking to reporters after a trip to the eastern European nation, Durbin acknowledged that the Ukrainians are crying out for American Javelin anti-tank missiles to combat Russian armor. But, Durbin says the Obama administration does not believe those would make a difference. Durbin says the U.S. does not want to give Russian President Vladimir Putin a pretext to escalate.

Governor Bruce Rauner had $58.3 million dollars in income last year. The Republican has released tax returns for 2014, showing he paid more than $18 million in federal and state taxes.

His effective Federal tax rate was about 26%. His overall effective rate was 31%

The Rauner family foundation also gave more than $3.3 million to charity.
 

Congressman Rodney Davis says he approves of President Obama's decision to slow withdrawal of U.S. Troops from Afghanistan. Speaking to reporters on a conference call, the Republican Davis said keeping 9,800 troops there until late next year is in the country's interests.

"I think the disastrous results of what we saw from his drawdown in Iraq may have prompted this and I gotta give him kudos for making a decision that philosophically he never thought he would make when he was running for that office."

If former Congressman Aaron Schock keeps spending money on lawyers at this rate, his campaign fund will be out of money by the next quarterly filing period. The most recend Federal Election Commission report shows the Peoria Republican spent $900,000 in legal fees in the third quarter and still owes $747,000. He has less than $1.2 million cash on hand. Since Schock resigned under an ethics cloud and a grand jury investigation into his personal and campaign financial dealings, Schock has spent nearly $2.7 million on lawyers.

Munger Says State Can't Pay Pension Contribution

Oct 14, 2015

Illinois won't make its next pension payment. State Comptroller Leslie Munger says she can't, because the state doesn't have the cash. IPR's Amanda Vinicky reports.

Illinois' government pensions are already the worst-funded in the nation.  The massive liability grew thanks to the lawmakers shorting the funds.  They used the money to pay other expenses instead.

Now, Illinois is set do it again. This time, the payment will be delayed because Comptroller Munger says there isn't money in the bank to make it.

Illinois candidates for U.S. Senate in 2016 are reporting millions of dollars in campaign money raised in the third quarter. Democrat Tammy Duckworth's campaign said Wednesday it raised $1.46 million. Aides say the congresswoman has $2.8 million in the bank. Duckworth is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge first-term Republican Sen. Mark Kirk.  

Kirk reported contributions of $1.05 million since June.  His campaign says he has $3.62 million on hand.  

Both campaigns say the expansion of their donor bases suggested wide, grassroots support.  

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U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says the large amounts of humanitarian aid the U.S. is sending to help Syrian refugees is not enough. During a conference call with reporters, the Illinois Democrat said people he met during a trip to  the Greek island of Lesbos convinced him this country should take in 100,000 refugees from the conflict.

Durbin says in four years of the Syrian war the U.S. has so far taken about 2,000 refugees from that country even though the nation accepts 70,000 refugees a year in total.

Crowd Gathers, Dan Brady Not Present

Oct 14, 2015

Members of Illinois Public Action and others want politicians to know what they think about the Clean Power Plan, and other bills before the Illinois legislature.

Transportation Leader Weighs In On Highway Funding

Oct 13, 2015
Staff / Connect Transit

Speaking in Normal, the President and CEO of the American Public Transportation Association says he's confident Congress will agree on money for the Highway Trust Fund. Michael Melaniphy says it's an issue that Democrats and Republicans can support.

Authorization to spend money from the Highway Trust Fund will run out on October 29 if no action is taken. The deadline is a result of a three month extension passed last July.

On the topic of infrastructure, Melaniphy said about 15 other countries rate higher than the US.  

Staff / WGLT

East Peoria Developer Jeff Giebelhausen will meet with the Bloomington City Council next week to present another proposal for the Front and Center building in Downtown Bloomington. Downtown property owner David Bentley will also present to the Committee of the Whole meeting regarding a proposal to turn the Pantagraph building into a boutique hotel. During Sound Ideas, Mike McCurdy talked with Mayor Tari Renner about  downtown redevelopment plans, police body cams, an uptick in city revenue, and solid waste services.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner wants to hold a public auction to sell the James R. Thompson Center, which houses state government offices in downtown Chicago.

Police Body Cameras Coming To Bloomington

Oct 12, 2015
Michael Hill / WGLT

The Bloomington City Council approved a body camera pilot program for the Bloomington Police Department. The trial will begin in January, when the funds from a $29,000 grant become available. Police Chief Brendan Heffner said body and dash cameras will come together to help the police force accurately report events.

Illinois lawmakers are increasingly trying to make it easier for residents to be involved in politics -- there'll be a hearing Tuesday in Chicago on automatic voter registration. Another proposal goes in the opposite direction. You can currently register on the day of the election. Republican Rep. Mark Batinick of Plainfield says that's expensive; judging by how many took advantage of a trial run last year.

Batinick doesn't want to do away with same-day voter registration. He proposes scaling it back to set places on election day.

A federal judge has granted class-action status to a lawsuit brought by deaf inmates alleging the Illinois Department of Corrections violates their civil rights. The complaint, first filed in 2011, claims deaf and partially deaf prisoners have limited access to sign language interpreters, hearing aids and other accommodations. Attorneys say the result is exclusion because the prisoners can't communicate. That means effectively missing religious services, court-mandated classes, medical visits and in some cases, emergency evacuations.

182nd Airlift Wing / Wikimedia Commons

It's the 100th day Illinois has been without a budget. The state has without a budget before -- but going this long is unprecedented.

State Rep. Brady Considering Leadership Post

Oct 8, 2015

The announcement by Peoria Republican David Leitch that he won't run for reelection means Leitch's position in the Illinois House could pass to a Bloomington Republican, Dan Brady. Brady is assistant Republican leader, Leitch is the Deputy leader. Brady says he'd be interested in the job.

Peoria State Representative David Leitch is retiring at the end of his term in 2016. Leitch has served in the Illinois House since 1989 and previously in the Illinois State Senate from 1986 to 1987. The Peoria Republican says it's been the honor of his life to represent Central Illinois for nearly three decades. Leitch is currently the longest-serving member of the Illinois House Republican caucus, and is the fifth most senior member of the Illinois House.

The former CEO of Chicago Public Schools has been indicted on corruption charges following a federal investigation into a $20 million no-bid contract.

IDOT Cold Weather Plans On Hold

Oct 8, 2015
Teddy Wade

There'll be fewer orange signs on Illinois' roadways as construction season winds down and winter approaches. But the longer the state's budget impasse goes on, come spring, the Illinois Department of Transportation might not be able to fix all the damage the cold, snow and ice will do to the state's highway system this winter.

Linda Healy/WGLT

Ray LaHood spent more than two decades in Congress and served another 4 1/2 years as President Barack Obama's first Secretary of Transportation. Next month, his book, “Seeking Bipartisanship: My Life in Politics” is being released.

He spoke in Normal Wednesday to the Illinois chapter of the American Planning Association state conference. But before that, he stopped by the GLT studios to discuss transit funding, politics and life after governmental service with WGLT's Willis Kern.

Rauner Tells Dems 'Time's Up'

Oct 7, 2015

Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is picking up where he left off a few months ago: delivering a campaign-style stump speech as the state continues without a budget.

Mautino Recomended For AG Job

Oct 6, 2015

A bipartisan panel has selected longtime state Representative Frank Mautino to serve as Illinois' next auditor general. The Legislative Audit Commission voted Tuesday to recommend the Spring Valley Democrat to replace retiring Auditor General William Holland. Mautino's selection for the job of overseeing audits of state agencies must be approved by a three-fifth vote in the Illinois House and Senate. Mautino has represented parts or all of Bureau, LaSalle, Livingston and Putnam counties since 1991. He's served as deputy majority leader since 2011.

Normal Mulling Over Sales Tax Priorities

Oct 6, 2015
Michael Hill / WGLT

The Normal Town Council will take more time to decide how to spend additional revenues coming from a sales tax increase passed last month. They're discussing funding for Connect Transit, economic development, and infrastructure; but using sales tax dollars for a sports complex is no longer under consideration. 

Council Member Kathleen Lorenz said Normal could also decide to use the increase toward programs and services that would normally receive money from the General Fund.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner says the standoff over a state budget "could go on for a while" but his administration is prepared to continue managing state finances without one. The Republican spoke Friday following a manufacturing expo in Effingham.  

He says he remains committed to getting Democrats to approve some of his pro-business agenda. He repeated that if Democrats don't want to work with him they can balance the budget _ by passing a tax increase _ without his support.  

A newspaper analysis of Illinois' signature corporate tax-break program has found companies that receive the deals often don't add jobs or even lay off workers. An analysis by The Chicago Tribune of 783 tax deals the state has made through the Economic Development for a Growing Economy program found two-thirds of the companies that completed agreements didn't maintain agreed-upon job levels. And state officials can't say how many jobs have been created by the program known as EDGE.

The presidents of Illinois' nine public universities are urging Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and leaders in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly to end the ongoing state-budget stalemate. The presidents said in a letter to the governor and lawmakers on Thursday that uncertainty over how much state money the schools will get this fiscal year and when they'll get it is beginning to damage their ability to teach and do research.

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