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Politics and Government

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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.

Rauner Dismisses Criticism From Past Peers

Oct 22, 2015

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is sloughing off critical comments made by his a pair of his predecessors. IPR's Amanda Vinicky reports, on Illinois' 113th day without a state budget.

 

The Bloominton Fire Department says it has yet to determine a cause for the fire that caused heavy damage to a home on Lakeshore Circle in North Bloomington Tuesday evening. But, Deputy Fire Chief Les Siron says damage estimates top $200,000. Flames at the residence also scorched the siding of the house next door causing $35,000 damage there.

The owner of the home tells firefighters he heard a lour noise and went outside to find a large fire on the east end of the house. Investigators have so far found flames began around the enclosure to the fireplace.
    

A minor point of philosophy turned into a change in how the McLean County Board supports the B-N Advantage economic development program. Instead of that specific program sponsored by the Economic Development Council, Board Member Paul Segobiano said it was important to change to support the "concept" of development.

The report contains items like an east side highway project and a downtown Bloomington Hotel. Kyle Ham of the EDC said the language change was unimportant.

The company building a pipeline through McLean County has done some damage by having equipment hauling the pipe travel on rural roads that were not meant to handle machinery that heavy. County Board Transportation Committee Chair Jim Soeldner says Enbridge Energy will make reimbursement to fix the problems.

Soeldner says Enbridge is about 90% complete with the pipeline in McLean County. The route runs from Canada to southern Illinois and will carry thick tar sands oil to refineries.

Northeast Normal will have a vacancy on the McLean County Board. Republican Sonny O'Connor is moving to be near grandchildren. She said in her final speech to the board that after a nephew showed her around the university in his southeast Texas town, O'Connor found a project to work on.

O'Connor told the Board she has spent 52 years in Bloomington-Normal.

O'Connor served seven years on the County Board in two different stretches. The seat will be filled by appointment until next year's election.
 

Sandi Jackson Reports To Prison

Oct 20, 2015

The wife of former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. has reported to prison on a conviction related to $750,000 in spending of his campaign money on everything from fur capes to vacations. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons says 52-year-old Sandi Jackson reported to the Federal Prison Camp at Alderson in West Virginia to begin serving her one-year sentence on a tax conviction related to the illegal spending.  

Mautino Voted Auditor General

Oct 20, 2015

The Illinois House and Senate both hurried to pass one measure during their one-day session. They voted to make Democratic State Representative Frank Mautino the state's next auditor general.
   

Republican Senate Leader Christine Radogno says it makes sense to have a seasoned legislator in the job.

Mautino will take over the new role in January as Bill Holland is retiring.  He'll be in charge of scrutinizing state funds and investigating government agencies' and programs' performance.

Mautino will be only the third person to hold that post in Illinois history.

Devyn Corp., Tarter Construction, Farnsworth Group

Bloomington Aldermen are directing city staff to study multiple Downtown proposals from two developers. Mayor Tari Renner says look no further than Uptown Normal for the success of public-private partnerships.

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."

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