Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Full Text: Governor Rauner's 2018 State of the State Address

Good afternoon:

President Cullerton

Speaker Madigan

Leader Brady

Leader Durkin

Lieutenant Governor Sanguinetti

Attorney General Madigan

Secretary White

Comptroller Mendoza

Treasurer Frerichs

Members of the General Assembly, distinguished guests, members of the media.

To the members of our National Guard, our service men and women, and our veterans — thank you on behalf of a most grateful state. To the citizens, the taxpayers of Illinois, it is an honor to serve you.

My report on the State of the State this bicentennial year begins with a reflection on what has been born, built and grown in Illinois.

Our history is rich. We were the first state to ratify the Constitutional amendment to abolish slavery. Presidents Lincoln, Grant, Reagan and Obama called Illinois home.

We taught the world how to rebuild a city when we scraped the sky after the Chicago Fire. We invented the Twinkie and started the first nuclear chain reaction.

With 36 Fortune 500 companies, 1.2 million small businesses and 72,000 of the nation’s greatest farms, we are the world’s 17th largest economy. We are a top bioscience and medical center. Eighty-two foreign consulates help connect us to the global economy. Our institutions of higher learning are world-renowned, world-connected.

Most important, our people lead the world in hard work and innovation. You name the field and we’ll name the pioneers.

There’s poet Gwendolyn Brooks’ record of our most personal struggles. Nobel Laureate Robert Millikan’s work with electrons in orbit and James Lovell’s moon-orbiting Apollo 13.  There’s Benny Goodman’s big band and Walt Disney’s big-eared mouse. Jane Addams’ heroic social work. Butch O’Hare’s Congressional Medal of Honor.

There’s Marshall Field on that great street and John Deere’s steel plow. Media moguls Robert McCormick and William S. Paley. Athletes Michael Jordan and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Authors Ernest Hemingway and Edna Ferber.

Today, we produce 10 percent of the nation’s computer scientists. We graduate more engineers than MIT, Stanford and Caltech combined. Illinois grads have started YouTube, Oracle, CDW, PayPal, Tesla Motors … and many more.

This is where Illinois comes from. These are the people on whose shoulders we stand to envision our future. This is the lofty vantage point from which we now look ahead.

Throughout our history, Illinois has been a magnet. If you wanted to till the soil, lay a brick, build a building, make a deal, super-compute, you name it ... you could find work in Illinois, afford a home and rely on the public schools to educate your children.

Today, we have an opportunity to turn yesterday into tomorrow, and make Illinois the powerhouse job creator it should be.

We can do it. We united last fall to bid for Amazon’s second headquarters. Governor, mayor, General Assembly, city council, businesses and nonprofits, Republicans and Democrats collaborated to compete for 15 years of growth, with 168,000 potential jobs and $129 billion in cumulative new GDP.

The fact is there is another, much bigger Amazon-like opportunity to pursue. The request for proposal comes from an enterprise called … the State of Illinois.

We have the assets, and we certainly have the incentives: 12.8 million fellow citizens who want us to ignite our economy.

But this is not a prize one wins alone. It takes a collaborative effort, a forget-about-the-politics-and-roll-up-our-sleeves kind of approach. It requires a laser-like focus on economic development and job creation and a bipartisan dedication to restore public trust.

This legislative session is a chance to put in place the policies, the changes, the fiscal discipline to recruit many more Amazons. United, we can create thousands and thousands of jobs, attract billions of dollars in investment and set millions of Illinoisans free to make more, buy more, build more.

So today, this report on the State of our State will focus on the places where we agree, and where we can start to build to the future.

The state of our state today is one of readiness: readiness born of unprecedented frustration with our political culture, along with the firm belief that we have tremendous, but as-yet unrealized, economic potential.

The place to start is with a joint effort to restore public trust.

To tell truth to power, to stand up against the establishment without fear of recrimination, ... these notions of democracy and social progress too often seem lost in Illinois government. Where once we joined to address our problems, we now divide to conquer the other side ... or worse, we legislate for expediency rather than effect.

When the #MeToo movement struck Springfield last fall, the outcry for ethical reform turned into legislation in a Hollywood minute. Unfortunately, many believe that transparency and accountability were sacrificed for optics and speed.

So, today, I will sign an executive order to strengthen the policies that ensure all government employees under my office’s jurisdiction have reliable and responsive outlets for reporting acts of sexual misconduct. The order makes the Ethics Act supreme over all other laws and agreements in the state, even those in collective bargaining agreements.

The order creates a chief compliance office in the executive branch; stipulates reviews of allegations in 10 days or less; and requires training on best investigation practices by the end of this year, and every two years thereafter. These are powerful protections that the legislature should emulate.

Further, we will introduce legislation this session to make the Ethics Act the prevailing law of the state in all matters involving misconduct. Every man and woman here today, and every man and woman in our state, is unified in the expectation that we will act on our complete intolerance of, and utter revulsion for, sexual harassment.

It is protection all must have … and we must give.

We will also ask you to come together for another important cause.

Two and a half years ago, our Departments of Public Health and Veterans Affairs responded to a tragic outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at our Quincy Veterans Home that claimed the lives of 13 veterans.

Our leadership team and our medical and caregiver staffs took all the right steps to deal with the crisis. We discovered the true cause of the outbreak through pro-actives tests. We partnered with the CDC, took each of their recommendations, installed a new $6 million water treatment system, and instituted best practices for water flushing and purification.

According to CDC, the effort has resulted in a substantial reduction in cases of Legionnaires’ disease and detectable Legionella in the water systems.

Even though research shows that Legionella is everywhere, including this very Capitol, our goal is to prevent Legionella infections at the Quincy Home.

The CDC says it is impossible to eliminate the bacteria. But we will fight against it as hard as our veterans fought for us. The latest CDC recommendations are being implemented. We are going beyond the recommendations of experts, and we are investigating the possibility of entire system replacements, and perhaps even a new facility.

Some of my friends from the Quincy home are here today. Residents Ivan Jackson and Carol Jardine and family members Marty and Vicky Fleer. Thank you for your service.

I know all of us share a passion to do everything we can to keep our veterans safe and healthy. And I know we can count on all of you to support the improvements that are needed. The men and women who reside there put it all on the line for us.

We must now do the same for them.

No one in Illinois is happy with our property tax assessment system. Ordinary people — the ones without clout or connections or money to pay high-powered lawyers — are victims of a system rigged against them. For too long, big businesses and the well-to-do have gotten huge tax breaks while little guys and little businesses take it in the pocketbook.

Home values in some parts of our state are half what they were 10 years ago, yet property taxes are twice as high. Small businesses often have to cut staff to pay their taxes. Elderly couples on fixed incomes are too often pushed out of their homes because they cannot afford their property taxes.

Christine Wilson, here today, is one of thousands of homeowners in Illinois who have property taxes that are unfair, unaffordable and crushing their quality of life.

It is a vicious form of oppression. The system traps people in their homes, vaporizes their equity, drives mortgages under water, and in some cases, pushes people out of our state. It is time to put a stop to the corruption.

Two weeks ago, we issued an executive order that prevents legislators from practicing before the state property tax appeal board. And today Sen. Oberweis and Rep. Wehrli will introduce legislation that asks you to apply this same reform to every legislator who might practice before an assessment appeal board anywhere in the state.

And once again, we will ask you to pass legislation that brings true property tax relief, giving people the ability to lower their property taxes through a simple voter referendum. These are reforms we must enact if we want common sense to win out over corruption.

There is one more step we need to take to regain public confidence.

Eighty percent of the state’s voters want term limits. The other 20 percent, it seems, are seated in this chamber and in elected Illinois courts. It is past time to make this good governance move. Put term limits on the ballot and let the people decide.

As quick and decisive as we need to be on ethics, we need to be as aggressive on jobs and the economy.

There is no question we need the economic spark. News of population declines and slow business growth have effects that go far beyond troublesome headlines. They cost us jobs, and rob us of tax revenues.

I don’t know anyone in this chamber, or in this state, who isn’t frustrated when we spend beyond our means, or borrow to cover deficits, or let pension issues go unresolved. Yet there is example after example of what can be done on a bipartisan basis to reverse the trend.

Rhode Island reformed its pensions. California enacted term limits. Massachusetts changed its group health plans and lowered workers’ comp rates. We have the power to take similar steps. The question is whether we have the will to take them.

What there is no question about is this: We have planted the seeds of growth in our economy.

We’ve put 120,000 people to work. We’ve brought and kept business here: Amazon, General Mills, Nucor Steel, Brandt Industries and many more.

We signed the Future Energy Jobs Act to preserve the state’s energy options and create thousands of jobs in our energy industry. Because we are a recognized leader in the energy sector, job holders in Clinton, in the Quad Cities and all over the state reap the benefit.

We helped launch the Illinois Innovation Network and the Discovery Partners Institute, a U of I-led effort to link the power of great research with entrepreneurship and new business formation. What Stanford and Berkeley and Harvard and MIT are to the coasts, partnerships of the U of I, U of C and Northwestern can even surpass for Illinois.

We’ve given our state tools to compete. We’ve cut red tape. Slashed fees for small business by 70 percent. Signed EDGE tax credits into law to help stanch the outflow of businesses to border states. Established Intersect Illinois to focus on business development. Traveled to Asia and Israel to bring more jobs to Illinois. And declared a harvest emergency to help farmers get crops to market.

The key to job creation is education and training… and we have started to transform education in our state. During our time in the executive branch, funding for K-12 schools has increased $1.2 billion, and that includes record levels of funding for early childhood education.

We enacted historic reforms to end one of the most inequitable school funding formulas in the country. For most districts it will be a welcome and long overdue infusion of new money for their programs. Now, need dictates resources, not zip codes.

We achieved historic parity in per-pupil funding for charter schools, and we created Invest in Kids, the state’s first-ever tuition tax credit scholarship program. Now, with more than $45 million already contributed, good students in low-income families will have a way to attend schools that meet their needs.

Scholarship Granting Organizations have experienced unprecedented demand for the program. One in Chicago received more than 11,000 student applications the first day.

We created a task force to find ways to overcome the shortage of agriculture teachers, a critical need in a state with 27 million acres of farmland.

These steps are designed to achieve one goal: prepare our children to be prosperous participants in the 21st century workforce. When we create the jobs, Illinois’ young people will be ready to fill them.

In a truly bipartisan effort, we have made historic, nationally acclaimed criminal justice reforms. Fairness, responsiveness and jobs are center points of the effort. People’s lives should not be dictated by a mistake, or by the failure of bureaucracy to deliberate and process.

So, the backlog of 2,200 clemency requests left on my desk by my predecessors is now gone. Today we deal with requests in real time. The state’s prison population has been safely reduced by nearly 15 percent. We do everything we can to help non-violent and young offenders learn in prison, so they don’t go back to prison.

Offenders can now train and test for professional licenses while in prison. Say hello to Landus Jackson, our first licensee. Next time you are in Cairo, visit his barber shop, and he’ll show you the license he earned in prison, and tell you with pride about the business he’s built.

There is now a division in the Department of Corrections to help women, many of whom are moms, and 30 percent of whom end up back in prison within three years. We want to cut the recidivism rate so these mothers can be there to raise and love their children.

On the enforcement side, to keep families safe, we’ve successfully joined with local and federal authorities to combat gang violence as well as gun, drug and human trafficking. Illinois State Police will have graduated three new Trooper classes by the end of the summer.

We are fighting the opioid epidemic. Our 24/7 Helpline has steered hundreds of victims to the resources they need to begin recovery. Drug prescribers must register in our Prescription Monitoring Program so we check potential abuses at critical points in the distribution cycle. We made it possible for first responders to use medication to block overdoses.

We are determined to reduce projected opioid deaths by more than one-third in the years ahead.

We work every day to help our agencies provide better service at lower costs to the taxpayers of Illinois.

We now have 19 innovative new labor agreements in place to pay our state government employees based upon 40-hour work weeks, rather than 37 ½ hours, and pay on merit and productivity, not just seniority.

We have launched technology initiatives to streamline our interface with taxpayers. The objective is to get online so we can facilitate customer service and business growth. We want government to work for people, not against them.

Our Healthcare Fraud Elimination Task Force, in collaboration with Inspector General Maggie Hickey, has helped to root out Medicaid fraud to the tune of $450 million in taxpayer savings.

We are also careful stewards of taxpayer dollars. What we spend isn’t ours. It belongs to taxpayers, and we think they deserve better value for their money.

We have vetoed unbalanced budgets that would push us deeper into debt. We vetoed tax increases that Illinoisans couldn’t afford. And we vetoed the 32 percent income tax increase enacted last summer.

In FY2019, our pension costs will rise another $600 million. Ask anyone in this room if they think this trajectory of pension expense can be sustained. Most will say “no.” But most lack the courage to break with the status quo so we can change our path to the future.

So, on this point I think we can also agree: It is time we do what the people of Illinois want. Halt the advance of taxes. Stop spending money we don’t have. Get our pensions under control. And give power back to the people.

The surest road to economic vitality and job growth is a collaborative effort to regain our financial integrity. To that end, I will submit a balanced budget proposal next month. It will offer a path to reduced spending, and it will show the way to surpluses going forward so we can reduce taxes and start to push back against the assault on middle class bank accounts.

We have significant challenges ahead. But the opportunities we have are so extraordinary, so much like multiple Amazons, that we must rally around the cause of job growth for all Illinoisans. The simple truth of our shared experience is that we cannot tax and borrow our way into prosperity. We can and must grow our way into a more prosperous future.

We all know that the people of Illinois are taxed out. So, just as we reversed the flow of the Chicago river, it is time to change the flow of money. Let’s curb our spending and work together to give people the capital they need to build and grow. If that happens, we will produce jobs, personal income growth, and attract talented taxpayers to our economy.

Abraham Lincoln once said: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” It is within our power to produce an Illinois that lives up to its resources. The seeds are planted. The work has begun. Now it is time to finish the job.

Thank you. God bless our veterans. God bless the people of Illinois. And God bless the United States of America.

Washington Woman Sentenced to 40 Years for Mom's Murder

Christine Roush of Washington was sentenced Wednesday to 40 years in prison for the July 2017 stabbing death of her biological mother. According to the McLean County Circuit Clerk's Office, Roush was sentenced for killing Teresa Poehlman of East Peoria. Poehlman's body was found in a wooded area of the Funks Grove Nature Preserve with multiple stab wounds.
Roush pleaded guilty to the murder charges last December. Co-defendant Matthew Isbell, 22, of Marquette Heights, will stand trial in May in connection with Poehlman's death.

Marshals Arrest Fugitive Piano Teacher On Sex Charges

A central Illinois piano teacher wanted on sex charges is behind bars.  The U.S. Marshals yesterday arrested 36-year-old Aaron Parlier in Normal on charges of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child and criminal sexual assault.  Investigators say Parlier abused a preteen girl who he gave piano lessons to, and they also fear there may be more victims.

New Wind Farm in McLean County a Step Closer to Approval

A proposed wind farm in McLean County is one step closer to becoming a reality.
Tuesday night, the McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals approved the farm 7-0.
Invenergys plan is to bring about 100 wind turbines to the county. The turbines would span across 5 townships. People have voiced concerns over the turbine noise, and property values. Local laborers have supported the project because it will bring hundreds of construction jobs.The proposal now moves on to the full board. The Zoning Board of Appeals is recommending some alterations to the plan.

Illinois Congressmen React To State Of The Union On Party Lines

The reaction to President Trump's first State of the Union is what you'd expect from Illinois' congressmen. The state's representatives in Washington D.C. came down along party lines on the speech.  Illinois' senior Democratic U.S. Senator, Dick Durbin, spent the day before the speech meeting with DREAMers and other people looking for immigration reform.  Republican Congressman Darin LaHood said he's happy to hear the president talk about jobs, tax reform and building infrastructure.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Risque's Robbed Again

Robbed again...Risque’s adult book store at 1506 N. Main St. in Bloomington has been robbed again--the second time in three weeks. Officers were called to the store just before 11 p.m. Monday. Witnesses say a man with his face covered entered the store with a weapon and demanded money and left in a white car. No one was hurt and no other details have been released.

Rauner, Ives Spar in Contentious Debate

In what might be their only joint appearance before the GOP primary, Governor Rauner and challenger Jeanne Ives faced off yesterday before the "Chicago Tribune" editorial board with Ives on the attack.  The two interrupted each other repeatedly.  Governor Rauner said only if he's elected will Democrats be blocked from controlling the legislative map for the next ten years.  Ives said Rauner's gotten nothing done in four years, and nothing would be different in another four.  Ives also had Rauner on the defensive on abortion, taxes, school funding and immigration.  Rauner said he's set the stage for reform in his second term.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Former Pontiac Superintendent Charged with Criminal Sexual Assault

Former superintendent of Pontiac schools, 46-year old Kevin Lipke, faces criminal charges in South Carolina involving the alleged molestation of a child. Lipke was charged in November with criminal sexual conduct with a minor at the suspect's home in Conway, S.C.  Lipke resigned as superintendent of Pontiac District 429 in 2014 after two years. He had been placed on leave of absence three months earlier for unspecified reasons. His teaching license was later suspended by the Illinois State Board of Education. Conditions of the suspension required him to get mental health counseling and professional development training on proper workplace boundaries and impulse control before he could be reinstated.

LeRoy Man Pleads Guilty to Theft Charges

Joe Rodts,the former director of the LeRoy Replex, pleaded guilty Monday to stealing funds from the park district facility and agreed to pay almost $79,000 in restitution. Rodts could get three to seven years in prison or probation when he is sentenced April 6.

ISU Signs Partnership To Boost Foreign Enrollment

Illinois State University is the latest school in the state to look overseas for new students. ISU Trustees on Saturday approved a new agreement with INTO University Partnerships to bring-in more international students. ISU says 95 percent of its students come from the state of Illinois, but they want to get more students from around the globe. But it's not just about new students, international students pay more in tuition that students from Illinois.

Missing Spring Valley Teen Found Dead

It's a sad end to the search for a missing central Illinois teen. The Putnam County Sheriff's Office yesterday said that deputies found 16-year-old Diamond Bradley's body in a ditch on a county road, about two miles off Illinois Route 71. Bradley had been missing since Wednesday. Putnam County investigators say they are treating the case as a homicide.

Illinois Man Killed In Western Indiana Plane Crash

Federal investigators are expected to take a look at the small plane crash in western Indiana that's left an Illinois man dead. The Warren County, Indiana sheriff's department yesterday identified George Irick from Congerville, Illinois as the only victim of the crash. Investigators say Irick was flying from Columbus, Ohio to Peoria, Illinois when his plane disappeared Saturday night. Deputies found the wreckage of the plane yesterday morning in a field south of West Lebanon, Indiana.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Bill Would Limit Youth Tackle Football

 A new bill in Springfield would ban tackle football for kids under 12 in Illinois.  Chris Nowinski of the Concussion Legacy Foundation supports the ban because, he says, young people are at a greater risk for neurological damage, including CTE, a debilitating brain disease linked to blows to the head.  He says the bill would stop young people from suffering hundreds of hits to the head each football season.  The legislation is dubbed the Dave Duerson Act after the former Bears football player who killed himself in 2011 and was found to have CTE.  The bill doesn't ban touch or flag football.

Congressman LaHood: Expect Tax Reform Bump On February Paychecks

Congressman Darin LaHood says you can expect a little extra on your February paycheck thanks to the recent federal tax reform package. LaHood told a crowd in Quincy yesterday that the changes should help most middle class families in downstate Illinois. LaHood said the changes should also help workers, some of whom have already seen bonuses because of the corporate tax changes included in the plan.

Woman Charged in Death of Boyfriend

She's being charged with murder in connection to her boyfriend's death. Bond is set at $2 million for 22-year-old Brittney Mikesell of Bloomington. A grand jury indicted her on charges of murder, mob action, and aggravated battery. One of the aggravated battery charges includes the wearing of a hood or mask during the execution of the alleged crime. 21-year-old Cullen Hedrick of Bloomington, died as the result of a fight in early December between the couple and another man.The unidentified man stabbed Hedrick in self defense.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Fire Truck Catches Fire On I-74

You usually find fire trucks at the scene of a fire, but Knoxville, Illinois firefighters found a fire truck on fire yesterday.  The truck belonged to the Normal Fire Department and was heading back from the shop when it burst into flames on I-74.  The firefighter inside tried to put out the flames, but couldn't and had to call 911.  Normal Fire Chief Doug Barnett says the truck was 14 years old and had just had its firefighting equipment reinstalled after undergoing some frame work.  It's likely a total loss.

Peoria Native Jim Thome Voted Into Baseball Hall of Fame

One of Peoria's best baseball players is now, officially, enshrined in baseball history.  Baseball writers yesterday voted Jim Thome [[ tow-me ]] into the Hall of Fame.  Thome grew up in Peoria, went to Illinois Central College, then played 22 seasons in Major League Baseball.  Most notably, Thome was a slugger for the Cleveland Indians, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Chicago White Sox.  Thome ended his career with 612 home runs, that's the eighth-most all time.

Chicago Mayor Says Justice Department Making Threats Over Sanctuary Policies

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is calling the latest letter from the Trump Administration a 'legal threat.' The Justice Department yesterday sent letters to 23 cities, including Chicago, that said they may use federal subpoena powers to see if local leaders are hiding any information about the immigration status of people in their jails. Emanuel says Chicago isn't going to abandon its values just to cooperate with federal officials.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Bloomington Library Board Intends to Stay Put

The Bloomington library board held a straw poll Tuesday night and voted 8-1 Tuesday night to expand the facility at its current location, 205 E. Olive St. In September, the Downtown Task Force proposed a project to remove the Market Street parking deck and put in a new library, a Connect Transit bus transfer station and public parking.  A joint meeting on Jan. 16, with the library, City Council and the Connect Transit board was held to explain
the plan. That forum apparently helped library trustees galvanize thier resolve not to move.

Latest Invenergy Wind Farm Hearing

Nearly 100 people attended a McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals hearing Tuesday to share their thoughts, pro and con, on a special-use permit being sought by Invenergy out of Chicago for a 100-turbine, 250-megawatt Invenergy wind farm in the northern part of the county. The project could start operating before 2021 if the permit is granted. The board meets again Wednesday at 6pm.  Recently, another wind farm company, Houston-based EDP Renewables North America, filed a similar application for its own 58-turbine wind farm in Chenoa, Lawndale and Yates townships.

Democrats Square Off In First TV Debate

The first televised Democratic debate for the governor's race in Illinois saw as many jabs at each other as at the state's Republican governor.  J.B. Pritzker, Chris Kennedy, Daniel Biss, Bob Daiber, Tio Hardiman and Robert Marshall all debated on NBC 5 in Chicago last night.  The host of candidates talked jobs, taxes and the stalemate in Springfield.  All six are vying to unseat Republican Governor Bruce Rauner.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Reece Named Normal's New City Mgr

Normal's number 2 is now the town's number 1. At a news conference Tuesday morning in the council chambers at Uptown Station, town officials announced Pam Reece has been hired as city manager. Pam Reece was retiring Normal City Manager Mark Peterson's second-in-command. The town spent $20,000 with a professional recruiter before making the decision. She was chosen from among 49 applicants. 

Bloomington's Budget Gap

The City of Bloomington is taking aim at ways to balance its budget next year. There is a nearly $3 million deficit. A $1.1 million funding gap comes from the solid waste pickup throughout the city. City staff offered some options, including limiting bulk waste pickups, reducing the size of the truck fleet, and eliminated vacant positions. Interim City Manager Steve Rasmussen told the council that they are welcome to  consider privatizing solid waste. Furthermore, the city is looking into capital projects, parking fees, selling facilities, a business registration fee, and video gaming fees as other ways to raise revenue and cut costs.

Brady, Rose Concerned About a Less Than a Full Year's State Budget

State Sen. Chapin Rose and state Rep. Dan Brady are worried that it will be hard to pass a 12-month budget in an election year. They expressed their feelings on the issue Monday at the monthly McLean County Republican Party breakfast at the DoubleTree by Hilton.  Rose said he thinks the Democrats will only pass a six-month budget, hoping to elect a Democratic governor in November. Rose and Brady also discussed their plans to bring major changes to higher education.

Governor Rauner Promises To 'Step Down' Illinois Income Tax

It may take several years, but Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is promising to 'step down' the state's new income tax. Rauner yesterday said that he wants to get rid of the income tax increase along with the 'wasteful' spending that he says Democrats added to the state budget. The governor is due to deliver his budget address to lawmakers next week.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Senate Leaders Agree on Plan to Reopen Gov't

Senate leaders have reached an agreement to reopen the government. Democrats have yielded and ended their delaying tactics against a bill financing federal agencies through Feb. 8. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says in exchange, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to begin debating immigration by that date. McConnell says the end to the standoff shows "the American people didn't understand" why Democrats shut down the government because they wanted to help "illegal immigrants."
The Senate has started a vote to advance the bill reopening government. It is expected to pass easily, and House approval is expected later.

Lawmakers Return to Springfield to Fix School Funding Bill

The Illinois House convenes Tuesday and will have to resolve the Senate bill on school funding. The funding overhaul approved this summer allocates money to districts across the state. With big funding bills, often comes a trailer bill, which should be used to make minor fixes. Lawmakers in Central Illinois promise the issue will be handled. For now, schools will be paid based on the formula created under the school funding overhaul.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Rauner's Executive Order Bars Lawmakers From Property-Tax Appeals

Gov. Bruce Rauner has issued a ban on legislators financially benefiting from state property-tax appeals. It is effective immediately. Rauner has often accused Chicago Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan of benefiting from high Illinois property taxes because his law firm deals in tax-assessment appeals. Madigan has maintained he operates by a strict code of ethics and within the law. The executive order also bans lawmakers from seeking outside employment activities which “conflict with their official state duties and responsibilities.”

Friday, January 19, 2018

Illinois Unemployment Rate Dips in December

The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced today that the unemployment rate decreased by 0.1 percentage point to 4.8 percent in December and non-farm payrolls increased by +1,500 jobs over-the-month, based on preliminary data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and released by IDES. November jobs were revised up to show a slight gain (+3,100 jobs) rather than a slight loss as initially reported (-1,100 jobs).

December’s monthly payroll gain kept over-the-year job growth well below the national average. While Illinois job growth has had its ups and downs since the beginning of the year, the 3-month trend shows average gains of +4,700 jobs per month from October to December. This reflects an improvement over the 3-month average gain of +1,500 from September to November.

“The unemployment rate dropped in December, even as the labor force increased in the final quarter of the year.” said IDES Director Jeff Mays. “Payrolls overall have now increased by about a half-percent over the year to date, which is an additional 29,600 jobs.”

“The fourth quarter trend is certainly promising,” said Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Director Sean McCarthy. “Illinois is beginning to see results from investments made in securing businesses by this administration.

 In December, the three industry sectors with the largest gains in employment were: Government (+4,100); Other Services (+2,600); and Construction (+2,200). The three industry sectors with the largest payroll declines were: Professional and Business Services (-3,100); Financial Activities (-2,600) and Education and Health Services (-2,300).

Over-the-year, nonfarm payroll employment increased by +29,600 jobs with the largest gains in these industry sectors in December: Financial Activities (+8,700); Manufacturing (+7,700); and Education and Health Services (+6,600). The industry sectors with the largest over-the-year declines include: Government (-4,100); Trade, Transportation and Utilities (-2,900); Leisure and Hospitality (-1,400). Illinois nonfarm payrolls were up +0.5 percent over-the-year in sharp contrast to the nation’s +1.4 percent over-the-year gain in December.

The state’s unemployment rate is +0.7 percentage points higher than the national unemployment rate reported for December 2017, which held at 4.1 percent. The Illinois unemployment rate is down -0.9 percentage points from a year ago when it was 5.7 percent. The Illinois jobless rate last stood at 4.8 percent in July.

The number of unemployed workers dipped -1.4 percent from the prior month to 309,200, down -17.1 percent over the same month for the prior year. The labor force increased 0.3 percent over-the-month and declined by -0.6 percent in December over the prior year. The unemployment rate identifies those individuals who are out of work and are seeking employment. An individual who exhausts or is ineligible for benefits is still reflected in the unemployment rate if they actively seek work. Resumes = 62,451 Jobs = 160,623

To help connect jobseekers to employers who are hiring, IDES’ maintains the state’s largest job search engine, (IJL), which recently showed 62,451 posted resumes with 160,023 jobs available.

Democrat Chris Kennedy Unveils Single-Payer Healthcare Plan

Chris Kennedy wants the state of Illinois to pick up the cost for more healthcare in the state.  Kennedy, who's running for governor as a Democrat, yesterday unveiled his plan for a single-payer healthcare program in Illinois.  He also wants to allow companies and local governments to join together and try to negotiate for lower health insurance premiums.

Normal Solid Waste Fees to Increase

The Normal Town Council plans to raise your $18 monthly solid waste collection fee to $24 on April 1st. It is the first of a series of annual hikes to help curb a budget deficit. Some council members also want the town staff to immediately begin work on an ordinance forcing multifamily residential landowners to offer recycling services on-site to help those who rely on the drop-box service--a program which may be discontinued due to budget cuts.

Town of Normal Announces Budget Cuts

Town of Normal officials plan to save about $2.3 million by cutting the equivalent of 20 full-time positions effective April 1. It is a part of some budget cuts discussed at the city council's annual budget work session Thursday.  The town is looking at a $4.25 million annual gap in is $102.5 million

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Rauner to Air Ad with Wiretap Recordings of Rival Pritzker and Now-Imprisoned Blago

Gov. Bruce Rauner will air campaign ads featuring 11 minutes of conversations between a top Democratic rival and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich captured on FBI wiretaps. Rauner’s campaign said Thursday the ads featuring billionaire businessman J.B. Prizker and the now-imprisoned Blagojevich will air statewide this weekend. Rauner’s campaign says the move is a response to Pritzker’s statements that an ad released last week was selectively edited. That ad included a portion of audio in which Blagojevich and Pritzker discuss the possibility of Blagojevich appointing Pritzker attorney general.

Chicago Among Amazon Top 20 Finalists for HQ2

Amazon announced Thursday it has narrowed down its list of 238 proposals from across to the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to 20 candidates, who all hope they will get a chance to become the e-commerce giant’s second headquarters--and Chicago is on the list! Amazon’s new HQ2 will be a complete headquarters, with plans to invest over $5 billion and create as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs.

Bloomington Hires New BCPA Manager

James Mack will manage the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts. He comes to Bloomington from Mesquite, Texas, where he has been directing that city's arts council. Mack has also held other arts-related positions, including one in San Diego. Mack starts his new job on February 12.

Former Governor Thompson Files To Help Beaman Sue Police

Former Illinois Governor Jim Thompson is joining the effort to help an exonerated man sue the police officers who he says set him up. The governor last week was one of several high profile leaders and lawyers to file a letter of support for Allan Beaman, who was convicted of the 1993 murder of his former girlfriend. A court later vacated his conviction. Beaman is trying to sue three  Normal Police detectives who he says fabricated evidence. The Illinois Supreme Court is reconsidering Beaman's request.

Another New Wind Farm Proposal

A Houston-based company filed an application for a seperate farm in Chenoa, Lawndale and Yates townships. This comes a few weeks after Invenergy out of Chicago filed for a special-use permit for a wind farm in Chenoa, Gridley, Lawndale, Lexington and Money Creek townships. According to its application, EDP Renewables North America's "Bright Stalk Wind Farm" would generate about 200 megawatts from 58 turbines on almost 5,000 acres of land. It's anticipated to generate nearly $2.5 million in tax revenue in its first full year of operation and about $42.7 million in its first 20 years. It could be ready to go as soon as next year. The county's Zoning Board of Appeals will begin discussing the application at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Bloomington Downtown Task Force Meeting Did Little to Change Minds

Perhaps an exercise in futility as a two-hour special meeting did nothing to change the minds of a majority of Bloomington aldermen who oppose a controversial proposal to build a new public library downtown on the site of the city's Market Street parking deck. Some aldermen chose not to even attend last night seeing the meeting as unproductive since the library board and most aldermen favor expanding the library at its current location on E. Olive St.

Town of Normal Approves Resolution for New High Rise at Uptown Circle

The Town of Normal is moving forward with a new building development in Uptown Normal. The council approved a measure Monday, giving Bush Construction exclusive rights to develop the site on the northeast side of Uptown Circle into a five-story building that includes parking, retail areas, office space, and apartments. Several residents asked the council not to approve any plan that would tear down three historic buildings. Council members told the crowd that they heard their concerns and would take them under consideration.

Normal Demands Transparency from EDC

The Normal Town Council is calling for greater transparency in how its money is being spent for economic development initiatives. The council recently approved about $67,000 in funding for the BN Advantage group. The Economic Development Council is receiving $32,000 of that money for marketing and communication, on top of its usual $100,000 in annual funding. However, the council denied an additional $50,000 that was requested by the EDC. Council members expressed disappointment at the lack of the progress they've seen over the last two years.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Nestle to Sell Plants Including Bloomington for $2.8 B

Nestle announced it is selling its plants in Illinois including Bloomington for $2.8 billion to Ferrero.  All 415 employees locally are expected to keep their jobs.

McLean County Approves Recycling Plan That Could Lead to Mandatory Recycling

McLean County board members voted today on a plan that could lead to mandatory recycling down the road.   The county's solid waste committee approved a plan by a 10-8 vote that includes a provision to allow towns and cities to turn to mandatory recycling if not enough people volunteer.  Republicans on the county board said people should not be forced and Democrats said sometimes people need "a little encouragement."

Bloomington's Downtown Task Force Gets Its Say Tonight

A special session of the Bloomington City Council will meet tonight at the request of mayor Renner with the Bloomington Downtown Task Force, the Bloomington Library and Connect Transit to hear the Task Force's catalyst plan to reinvigorate the downtown area. The plan includes tearing down the Market Street parking ramp to build a new library and public bus transfer station and leaving a little parking area left over. The library board and most aldermen favor have already stated they favor leaving the library at it current Olive Street location and expanding it.

Normal Town Council Tonight

The Normal Town Council will vote whether to begin negotiations with a developer, Bush Construction, on an agreement that could result in a proposed $29.2 million mixed-use building on the northeast part of Uptown Circle.  The proposal is for a five-story high-rise with first-floor retail space, second-floor offices and third-, fourth- and fifth-floor apartments on the northeast section of the circle, to replace what's now a parking lot at 104 E. Beaufort St., and possibly adjoining retail space.Construction could begin as soon as this fall.

Monday, January 15, 2018

ISBE: Private School Changes Could Hurt All Illinois Schools

Illinois' public school managers say they're worried that changes Governor Rauner made to help private schools could end up hurting all schools in the state. The Illinois State Board of Education on Friday said that the governor's amendatory veto of the plan to authorize new money for Illinois schools will cause 'disruption and confusion' for all 852 school districts in the state. The governor changed the law to add more private schools to Illinois' new scholarship tax credit program.

Candidate Ives Says Rauner Betrayed Republicans With Abortion Law

The conservative running for Illinois governor says Republican voters should feel betrayed. State Rep Jeanne Ives yesterday said that Governor Rauner betrayed the party base when he signed a law last summer that will have taxpayers pay for abortions for state employees and women on Medicaid. Ives told the crowd at yesterday's March for Life in Chicago that with the right leaders in Springfield, Illinois could outlaw abortion.

Durbin Spokesman Stands By Senator's Version Of Trump Meeting

Dick Durbin's office is doubling down on his version of a meeting with President Trump where Durbin says the president used some vulgar language. The latest came yesterday after Georgia Senator David Perdue told ABC's "This Week" that the way Trump's comments are being portrayed is a 'gross misrepresentation.' Durbin spokesman Ben Marter Tweeted yesterday that Perdue doesn't have the credibility on Capitol Hill to back up his comments.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Illinois Reviewing Medicaid Work Requirement Rule

Illinois' Medicaid managers say they're reviewing a new rule that may allow states to ask people on the government's healthcare rolls to work.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services yesterday approved what it's calling community engagement, which opens the door for work or volunteering requirements.  The Department of Healthcare and Family Services, which runs Medicaid in Illinois, says it is looking at the rule change implications in the state.

State Farm Importing 250 Workers from Tacoma, Washington

State Farm in Bloomington is bringing in about 250 workers. The company will be taking in some of the employees being displaced by the closure of their operations center in Tacoma, Wash. to come at the end of the year. While not all of the positions are being replaced, about 250 of the jobs will be moved from Tacoma to State Farm's Bloomington headquarters.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

State Farm to Leave Downtown Bloomington

State Farm employees are leaving the insurer's downtown building by the end of the month.

The Pantagraph reports State Farm informed local officials about the decision during phone calls Thursday afternoon.

Despite this move, the company plans to continue to call Bloomington home with its 15,000 local employees.

This comes as the company redefines itself into a modern workplace, a move that includes condensing its IT departments, realigning management, offering buyouts and redesigning space at its corporate and south headquarters.

Cold Blast Targeting Illinois

Illinois' warm week is coming to a quick end. The National Weather Service says most of the state will see temperatures drop from the 50s today to the 20s tomorrow.  There's also a chance for rain or snow for most of the state