Friday, October 30, 2009
SPRINGFIELD—The Illinois Senate passed a tough new law limiting the influence of money in politics. It instituted campaign contribution limits for the first time in Illinois history and strengthened reporting, enforcement and transparency laws. "I have always been a strong advocate for government reform, and I believe this new law will help curb the influence of money in politics and make candidates more transparent and accountable to voters," said State Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge).
Senate Bill 1466 places limits on how much money individuals, businesses, labor organizations, and special interest groups can contribute to political campaigns. The law also caps how much caucus committees can contribute to primary campaigns, ensuring that legislative leaders cannot heavily finance primary opponents of incumbent officials.
"I think that previous governors clearly demonstrated why we need contribution limits," Kotowski said. "This legislation should help foster a better climate of accountability and responsibility from our elected officials."
The bill also requires candidates to report campaign contributions of over $1,000 within five days of depositing the money. The Illinois State Board of Elections will conduct random audits to make sure candidates and elected officials are following the rules and will also investigate allegations of misconduct.
"The new accountability regulations in this bill are impressive," Kotowski said. "With these new rules, all voters will easily be able to see where candidates get their money."
The bill also establishes a task force to recommend further improvements. It has passed both houses of the General Assembly and now goes to the governor.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Public Universities Charging More, But Delivering Less
Originally uploaded by IllinoisChannel
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
October 27, 2009
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) spoke on the floor of the United States Senate today about the need to help families that are still searching for work by extending unemployment insurance. Without an extension of unemployment insurance this week, 200,000 American families will be in a position of not being able to put food on the table – 20,000 of those families live in Illinois.
“We have tried – more than once – to bring to the Senate floor a bill to extend unemployment insurance benefits for Americans who are still out of work and who need a little help to pay their bills,” said Durbin. “This should not be a partisan issue. The unemployment rate is close to 10% nationally. In many areas of the country and sectors of employment, the rate is much higher. Each day that goes by, more people are exhausting their benefits. I hear from them every day.”
October 27, 2009
MACOMB, IL -- "Our grounds are ample for all experimental work and the Elements of Agriculture could be studied without large expense. That the teachers be qualified to present at least the rudiments and principles of the branch is being more and more demanded in rural schools." -- Excerpt from the Dec. 31, 1904, Biennial Report for the Trustees of the Western Illinois State Normal School, as cited in the October 1950 Western Illinois State College Bulletin, "A Functional Program in Agriculture for a State College"
In 1919, two years before the Illinois General Assembly approved a name change from "Western Illinois State Normal School" to "Western Illinois State Teachers College," what we know now as Western Illinois University began offering a full four-year curriculum for those who would teach high school agriculture.
Ninety years later, what is now the School of Agriculture at WIU not only prepares students for careers in agricultural education, but it also offers 12 other programs of study, including degree programs in agriculture and international agriculture, agricultural business, agricultural technology management, animal science, agronomy, horticulture, natural resources and urban forestry and pre-professional programs in agricultural engineering, forestry and veterinary medicine.
This Saturday, Oct. 31, WIU's School of Agriculture will celebrate this 90th anniversary milestone at its annual Ag Day event to be held at Hanson Field before and during the Leathernecks football game (game time is 1:05 p.m.) against North Dakota State University.
Beginning at 11 a.m., Ag Day will feature a variety of activities for both children and adults, including activities offered by some of the School of Agriculture's student organizations. The Forestry Club will offer tree climbing, while the Horticulture Club will be selling bulbs and "Rocky Popcorn," microwave-ready popcorn grown on the School's Allison Organic Research and Demonstration Farm. The Hoof-n-Horn Club will again be hosting its petting zoo; Sigma Alpha will offer face painting; Collegiate FFA will offer its duck pond activity; and the Ag Ed Club will feature its READY Bookmobile, through which kids will have a chance to pick out a book to take home with them. In addition, former agriculture chairpersons will be honored, including H. Edward Breece, who chaired the agriculture department from 1977-1989.
A Growing Need
From the time the Western Illinois State Normal School (WISNS) opened its doors to students in 1902, WISNS educators recognized a need "for Domestic Science and Agriculture courses for those preparing to teach in the agricultural section of our State." According to the October 1950 edition of the Western Illinois State College Bulletin (p. 9), "As a result of this recognition by the Faculty and Teachers College Board, plans were made, in 1904, to prepare the basement rooms and the grounds for the introduction of these courses."
Although the four-year agricultural curriculum was still more than a decade away at that point, the first course in agriculture at the Western Illinois State Normal School was called "Elementary Agriculture." Organized by John T. Johnson and offered through the geography department, the course was available to students beginning in the spring of 1907 "after the completion of the work on the building and grounds," stated the Oct. 1950 Bulletin.
The Bulletin also noted the 1919 establishment of the full four-year curriculum in agriculture resulted from a rapid increase of the number of ag courses from the years 1916-1918. In 1920, what was then the Department of Biology and Agriculture was divided into two separate departments, and W. A. Cleveland "was made head of the Department of Agriculture--a position which he held until 1927."
The Form of the Farm
Over the years, the department and its curriculum continued to change based on what was happening in the agriculture industry.
"From a fundamental standpoint, agriculture around the United States has changed," explained William Bailey, director of the School of Agriculture. "Farms that were diversified -- which had livestock, poultry and crops -- have become more specialized. You also very seldom see chickens anymore, and while there are very few dairy farms, very few people have dairy cattle, unless they operate larger farms. So, over time, agriculture has evolved from farms with complex production systems with a lot of different animals and plants to farms that are more mono-culture, marketing their products to a very specific part of the industry."
To reflect the changes in the agricultural industry, Bailey noted, also over time, WIU's agricultural curriculum and facilities have morphed in order to prepare ag students for the agriculture world they find outside of academia.
"When individual farms had more diversity, the University's facilities and curriculum reflected this diversity. For example, we had a dairy here at one time, and we had a poultry facility here. We also used to grow a lot of oats and rye," Bailey explained. "Today, we grow corn and soybeans. There are still more diversified farms operating in the industry, for example, organic farming operations, such as our Allison Organic Research and Demonstration Farm. But in the mainstream agricultural industry, much of the production is specialized in nature," he said.
To help prepare 21st-century ag students for this industry full of specialized niches, the School of Agriculture's facilities continue to provide hands-on and research-oriented opportunities at its Agriculture Field Laboratory (AFL), which is located on Tower Road, about a mile north of WIU's Macomb campus.
Before 1948, most of the agricultural "experimental" work performed on the "grounds" at Western was done where some of the campus buildings (Leslie F. Malpass Library, Morgan and Stipes halls) stand now. In March 1948, the University purchased "a ninety-acre college agricultural farm" approximately one mile north of campus. Known as the Braun farm before it was purchased, "Here, under the management of a general farmer who was added to the staff in 1949, are kept a herd of purebred Guernsey cattle and some registered Hampshire hogs.
Cropping, fertility and conservation demonstrations are also carried on here," stated the Oct. 1950 Western Bulletin. According to "First Century: A Pictorial History of Western Illinois University," by WIU Professor Emeritus John Hallwas, in 1957, an additional 183 acres was purchased and added to the AFL.
Less than 10 years later, in 1967, Bruce Engnell was hired to manage the swine operations on the AFL. Engnell, who now manages the University Farm, lives in the farmhouse just east of the Western Illinois University President's House, near the farm. Over Engnell's long career at WIU, he has had the opportunity to work with thousands of agriculture students and been a first-hand witness to the changes at the University Farm in the latter part of the 20th century and early part of the 21st century.
"When I first started here, there was a boar station, but because the hog business has gotten so specialized, we no longer have that. These days, we have feed efficiency tests for bulls, rams and even for goats, as the demand for goat meat in the U.S. is increasing," Engnell said. "We also have a lamb sale every year, and Dr. Gordon Roskamp and Dr. Win Phippen utilize some of the acreage for their research investigating weed control and alternative crops."
Engnell said that working with the students and the everyday activity going on at the University Farm has made his work significantly more than just a way to take home a steady paycheck.
"I used to tell people I had the best job in the state, but Doc Baker [Andrew Baker, professor in WIU's School of Agriculture] might argue with me about that. He tells people that he has the best job in the state," Engnell noted with a smile. "I guess I have always felt that I am here because of the students. I like to think that we prepare them for their lives in agriculture as best as we possibly can, both in the classroom and on the farm."
During Engnell's time at Western, the AFL has not only changed in regard to the kinds of livestock and cropping activities that occur there on a daily basis, but it has also shifted a bit in terms of its geography. To accommodate the expansion of the Harry Mussatto Golf Course adjacent to the farm, the University Farm has shifted its operations northward, but there is still plenty of acreage for its livestock and cropping operations.
A View from the Top
Over the years, the agriculture curriculum at WIU has had 14 chairpersons, beginning with Harry D. Waggoner, who was the chair of the Department of Biology and Agriculture from 1917-1920. In 1920, a year after the full four-year agriculture education curriculum was established, W.A. Cleveland was appointed head of the department, a position that he held until 1927. Following Cleveland was C.H. Oathout, who chaired the department from 1927-1946.
Rodney Fink, who came to Western in 1968, was appointed chair in 1972. Fink noted that during his time as a faculty member and as the chairperson, the department underwent a great deal of change, which reflected some of the social changes that were taking place in the workforce and in society at large.
"At that time, we experienced a significant increase in enrollment in the department," Fink explained. "Part of that was due to the number of women who were starting to enroll in the agriculture programs of study. I don't know what the numbers were exactly, but I do remember that we basically started seeing a significant percentage of women coming into the department to study agriculture and horticulture."
Fink said that the enrollment increase was also likely attributable to the number of international students who were coming to Western to study agriculture.
"During Dr. Elsner's time as chair of the department [1965-1967], the department benefited from some federal grants through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dr. Elsner and Dr. Knoblauch both worked to get these grants, and these programs brought in mainly African students, although not exclusively African students. My feeling was that students from Illinois needed to know that there was a world outside of Illinois, and so we worked quite a bit to increase the number of foreign students, which, again, was part of that growth."
Fink chaired the agriculture department through 1974, after which he was appointed Dean of the College of Applied Sciences, which then included the agriculture department. Fink retired in 1990.
Another department chair, H. Edward Breece (chair from 1977-1989) started out his life at Western as a student.
"Dr. John McVickar [chair from 1946-1965] and Dr. Loren Robinson [chair from 1974-1977] came to the department in 1941. I was a student in the department from 1954 to 1956, and I had both of these men as professors. I, along with 18 others, transferred to the University of Illinois, as we wanted to be agriculture teachers at the secondary level. At that time, the only place you could get certification to teach 'vocational agriculture' was at the University of Illinois. I considered Dr. McVickar and Dr. Robinson the backbone of this department until they retired," Breece said.
According to Breece, he returned to Western and started as a faculty member in 1965. "I began work immediately on getting the department certified to train agriculture teachers, so they wouldn't have to transfer as I had done," he added.
Almost a Century Later
While from the beginning agriculture was deemed as a necessary curriculum for Western, in 2009 the University's School of Agriculture offers students significantly more than it did 90 years ago. There are 14 student organizations, ranging from Agricultural Education club to the Horticulture Club to the renowned Livestock Judging Team. These clubs and organizations provide ways for students to not only interact with their fellow agriculture peers, but also provide them with opportunities for hands-on and leadership work experience in the various facets that comprise the industry today. For example, the School of Agriculture continues to hold its annual Farm Expo, which is the largest student-run farm show in the United States. (In February 2010, the Annual Farm Expo will celebrate its 39th year.).
In addition to the many student organizations, the School of Ag also boasts some dynamic and innovative research projects, such as the organic farming techniques practiced at the Allison Organic Research and Demonstration Farm; the research into such alternative crops as milkweed; the investigation into the emerging market for goat meat (known as "chevon") in the U.S.; and the weed control research trials held at the University Farm.
In 2009, Western Illinois University's School of Agriculture has certainly come a long way from that first "Elementary Agriculture" offered in 1907 and even from that 1919 establishment of the full-four year agriculture program. With more than 300 students, 25 faculty and staff members, a new designation -- the department was renamed the "School of Agriculture" as of July 1 this year -- and a plethora of research and hands-on activities for students and faculty, the School of Agriculture is poised to continue to provide a quality agriculture education to students from across the state and from around the globe for the next 90 years and beyond.
For more information, contact WIU's School of Agriculture at (309) 298-1080. Visit the School of Ag online at wiu.edu/ag.
By Jim Broadway, Publisher of the State School News Service - October 27, 2009
The late Paul Simon submitted to more than 600 unstructured town meetings over his long career. He would invite the audience to ask their questions and then would stay at the microphone until he had answered them all, no matter how long it took. Questions about taxes came up at most meetings. His answers would relate to the specific context of the moment, but he also added a context-setting parable of his own.
He would tell of the letter he received from a constituent soon after he was first sworn in as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives in 1955. The citizen called upon him to support a long list of demands - better roads, better schools, safer workplaces, services for senior citizens and veterans, lower crime rates, a cleaner environment - the man had a dozen such demands for state action on all fronts.
His 13th demand was for lower taxes.
Simon would not be surprised at poll results reported last week by the Public Policy Institute that bears his name at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, results suggesting public attitudes haven't changed much in the last half-century. We pretty much want the state to continue, or even to increase, funding for most services generally considered the state's responsibility - but we also oppose raising taxes to pay for all those things.
He might have been disheartened by such an unrealistic set of public expectations, but he would not have been surprised because in the last couple of decades of his life he witnessed the primary cause of such citizen short-sightedness. In fact, he wrote a book about it. It is entitled, Our Culture of Pandering.
Rather than using town meetings or political campaigns as "teachable moments," as Paul did, today's "leaders" fill that space with pander, denigrating government generally and doing their best to say what they think people want to hear. People generally want to hear the truth. That's why Simon drew support even from those who disagreed with him. But when truth is not on the menu, people will vote for the guy who tells the most appealing lies.
Folks are lining up this week in Springfield for a chance to win that very trophy.
A contender might be Comptroller Dan Hynes, candidate for governor on the Democrat side. Hynes has built a reputation for honesty and dedicated public service. He and Simon were good friends. Simon would have endorsed him in the 2004 primary for the U.S. Senate if a dynamic young man named Barack Obama had not surfaced. But he surely would have seen Hynes' recent abandonment of his own upright political persona as disappointing.
Some consultant who has Hynes' ear must have reminded him that "politics ain't beanbag" and advised him that to achieve victory on February 2 he must step out of character and vilify his opponent, incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn, and in particular he must mislead the public about Quinn's approach to the key issue of the campaign - which is (taking us back to the top of this commentary) how to generate the revenue to pay for state programs and services.
Both Hynes and Quinn support higher taxes. Hynes' plan is to seek a constitutional amendment for a graduated tax to raise the rate only on folks with taxable incomes over $200,000 per year. The flaws in his plan include: (1) It focuses the burden narrowly on just the most affluent 3% of citizens; (2) it requires voter approval in 2010, which is by no means a certainty; (3) it could not take effect until FY 2012 at the earliest. There are many other flaws.
Hynes' approach, rather than justifying his own proposal, is to denigrate Quinn and mislead the public about the governor's proposal. Quinn's proposal is to raise the personal income tax rate to 4.5% and to triple the value of dependent deductions from the current $2,000 to $6,000. Hynes ignores the exemption increase Quinn proposes and simply describes Quinn's tax plan as a "50% across-the-board" income tax increase on everyone.
Hynes has a "calculator" on his web site to further this misleading statement. For example, if your family of four has an income of $60,000, Hynes' calculator tells you that your tax bill under his plan would remain at $1,560 but would increase under Quinn's proposal to $2,340 (a 50% increase). But if Quinn's proposed increase in dependent deductions is included in the calculation, that family's tax bill would be $1,620 (a mere $60 hike).
Hynes further departs from his own established political character by persistently engaging in personal attacks on Quinn, suggesting he is running for "governor of 'Fantasy Island'" and other such nonsense.
Quinn has not yet responded in kind. He is vulnerable to legitimate criticism. He has, for example, been nudged by legislative leaders into a position of accepting a more regressive tax structure than he has proposed. In this and in other respects he may be seen as too willing to compromise, not strong enough in his populist principles. And he's been guilty of true political malpractice in the past.
Sometime back, we observed that either of these candidates would represent a vast improvement over Quinn's predecessor (current reality TV personality Rod Blagojevich), but also that neither seemed particularly inspiring. We still believe those things. We also predicted however that we would see a campaign relatively free of outright falsehoods and focused instead on issues of honest disagreement. This shows you not to have too much faith in our opinions.
Fortunately, Hynes and Quinn will not be our only choices for governor in 2010.
One of the two is certain to become the Democrat nominee on February 2. Rich Whitney of Carbondale will be the Green Party nominee for the second time. There will also be a Republican - the Institute's survey on candidates suggests that nomination is up for grabs - and a few throw-aways representing parties not officially established in Illinois. The nominees will not face off until November 2 of 2010. There will be plenty of time for you to decide.
Getting back to the Institute's survey on taxes and services, it is worth noting that respondents were strongest in their opposition to state reductions in funding for public schools. (Review response calculations starting on Page 4.) They opposed all suggested revenue ideas, but their opposition to expanding the base of the sales tax to include commonly taxed services dramatically declined from last year. Their relatively mild opposition to expanded gambling increased since 2008. They definitely do not want state to put its assets (the Lottery, toll roads, public facilities) up for sale to balance the budget.
Here's a somewhat stunning response: Nearly 58% of respondents believe they receive a "fair" to "excellent" value "in terms of services for taxes you pay to the federal government," but barely half would say the same about their return on "tax dollars paid to the state." They like Washington better than they like Springfield. Obama effect?
Candidates have until November 2 to file petitions. At that time, we will know pretty well who is running for what next year. As is said every even-numbered year - but still always has a ring of truth about it - the elections of 2010 may decide the most profound political questions in the history of our democracy. We'll be paying attention to them, particularly with regard to their impact on public education, and we will encourage you to do so as well.
Remembering Sen. Paul Wellstone: Sunday was the seventh anniversary of the death of Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) in a tragic airplane crash. We remember Sen. Wellstone for his compassion, intelligence and willingness to stand alone on principle. He was in many ways a public service twin of Illinois' own last great statesman, Sen. Simon. Wellstone's warnings against an education system driven by high stakes testing predated the No Child Left Behind Act. His warnings were ignored in the enactment of NCLB, of course, and are being ignored by federal policymakers today. Ignored, however, does not have to mean forgotten. Advocates of education as a public service whose clients are the children should remember Wellstone by reviewing his wisdom.
October 27, 2009
CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Insurance announced today that Illinois’ largest private health insurers and HMOs have voluntarily agreed to cover administration costs associated with the H1N1 flu vaccine. The Department encouraged first-dollar coverage for the vaccine.
Aetna, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, CIGNA, Health Alliance, Humana, PersonalCare, Unicare, and UnitedHealthcare will cover the cost of administration for the H1N1 vaccine for all of their policyholders. The cost of the vaccine itself, now available at local health departments and hospitals in Illinois, is being paid for by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“As parents of young children, pregnant women, and other vulnerable Illinoisans take steps to protect against the spread of the H1N1 virus, it is important for consumers to know whether the H1N1 vaccine is a covered health insurance benefit,” said Michael T. McRaith, Director of the Illinois Department of Insurance. “We applaud these Illinois insurers for taking voluntary, proactive measures to reduce financial barriers to accessing the H1N1 vaccine.”
Many smaller insurance companies will also cover the administration costs of the H1N1 vaccine for all or most of their policyholders. The Department advises all consumers to contact their insurance company, insurance agent, or employer to inquire about the details and limits of coverage for the H1N1 vaccine. Consumers in need of information or assistance can also call the Department’s Office of Consumer Health Insurance toll-free at (877) 527-9431.
The Department offers additional advice for consumers to keep in mind as they prepare for the flu season:
Review Your Insurance Policy
It is always important to understand your health insurance policy, but with the potential for an increased demand for health care services, you need to be even more aware of your specific plan details. Take a few minutes to read your policy carefully in order to answer the following questions:
- Do you have a cost-sharing responsibility for the vaccinations?
- Many health insurance policies have co-payments for yearly flu vaccinations. Ask your insurance company if you will have a co-pay for the seasonal flu and H1N1 vaccine and what the cost will be.
- Will your policy cover administration of the H1N1 vaccine regardless of where you receive the vaccine?
- Some health insurance companies may cover the administration cost of the vaccine only if it is delivered by a network provider.
- If an office visit is required to obtain the vaccinations, does it require a separate co-payment?
- Does your policy require a pre-authorization for hospital admission or other services?
- What is your co-payment for the most common H1N1 treatments?
- The two drugs doctors can prescribe to treat H1N1 flu are Tamiflu and Relenza. In addition, you should know of any limitations on the number of doses covered by your policy – per prescription or per year.
- Does your policy cover over-the-counter medications?
- Is your coverage accepted at walk-in care facilities?
- If your area is heavily affected by the spread of the H1N1 flu outbreak, your regular physician might not be able to see you in a timely manner.
- What is your out-of-network co-payment?
- If you must go to an out-of-network provider, be aware you will likely pay a higher co-payment for your office visit and any tests run during the visit.
Be prepared for any eventuality with the following checklist:
- Have your health insurance ID card readily available.
- Review your health insurance policy provisions. Know which doctors and hospitals are in your network.
- Make note of your co-payments. Know how much a doctor’s office visit will cost. Check to see if your co-payments go up if you go out-of-network.
- Keep handy a list of pharmacies and medications covered by your health insurance policy.
- If you have plans to travel, make sure you check to see if there are any doctors or medical facilities in-network where you will be visiting.
- Make sure you have contact details for your health insurance company available in case you have questions.
Take Appropriate Preventive Measures
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) lists public H1N1 vaccination sites, clinic times, and additional information on the 2009 H1N1 flu at www.ready.illinois.gov. For non-medical questions about the H1N1 virus, call the Illinois Flu Hotline at (866) 848-2094 or (866) 241-2138 (Spanish).
The Department’s mission is to protect consumers by providing assistance and information, by efficiently regulating the insurance industry’s market behavior and financial solvency, and by fostering a competitive insurance marketplace. The Department assists consumers with all insurance complaints, including life, health, auto and homeowners. Consumers in need of information or assistance should visit the Department’s Web site at www.insurance.illinois.gov or call our Office of Consumer Health Insurance at (877) 527-9431.
October 27, 2009
CHICAGO – Family businessman and community leader Andy McKenna launched his bid for Illinois Governor today, calling for a drastic change in the way Springfield does business.
“It is time to put our house back in order,” said McKenna. “We need to hold the line on taxes, reign in out of control spending and put a stop to the corrupt practices which have plagued our government for far too long.”
McKenna kicked off a three-day statewide tour in Chicago at City Escape, the first business created with the help of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, an organization in which McKenna is a founding co-chair.
In conjunction with today’s public announcement, the McKenna for Illinois campaign unveiled “Hair Today,” a short film highlighting the culture of corruption and fiscal irresponsibility that has prevailed in Springfield for decades and McKenna’s ability to bring real change to Illinois.
“The politicians in charge of our state continue making commitments they simply cannot keep,” added McKenna. “It will take someone from outside Springfield to hold our government accountable and bring the fiscal responsibility and tools for job creation that Illinois needs.”
McKenna was joined by his running mate, State Senator Matt Murphy, who has spent the last three years in Springfield fighting to lower taxes.
“Springfield is a tax and spend budgetary mess,” said Murphy. “I’ve been down there three years offering alternatives, but with Andy McKenna and me in charge, we will get it done.”
Andy McKenna is a family businessman and community leader who resides in Chicago with his wife, Mary. They have four children.
From the Illinois Department of Public Health - October 27, 2009
SPRINGFIELD – Dr. Damon T. Arnold, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, is urging Illinoisans to be patient in getting the H1N1 vaccine. Due to slower than anticipated production, there is currently a limited supply of the H1N1 vaccine nationwide. However, manufacturers continue to produce the vaccine as quickly as possible and supplies are expected to increase throughout November and December.
“Illinois will continue to receive additional shipments of the H1N1 vaccine so there will be enough vaccine for everyone,” Dr. Arnold said. “Certain people are at higher risk of complications due to the 2009 H1N1 flu and others work with populations at risk of complications, so we ask you to consider allowing these people to receive their H1N1 flu vaccination first. Again, additional doses of the H1N1 vaccine will be delivered to providers over the coming weeks and months so there will be enough vaccine to go around. In the meantime, we ask that you be patient and take everyday preventive actions to stay healthy – follow the 3 Cs: Clean, Cover and Contain.”
The H1N1 vaccine is being delivered directly to local health departments and hospitals across Illinois, outside Chicago (Chicago receives its own supply), to begin vaccinating the following U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) designated priority populations:
- Pregnant women
- Household contacts and caregivers for children younger than six-months of age
- Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel
- All people from six-months through 24-years of age
- Persons aged 25-64 years who have health conditions associated with higher risk of medical complications from influenza
Children younger than 10-years should receive two doses of 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine. This is slightly different from CDC’s recommendations for seasonal influenza vaccination, which state that children younger than nine who are being vaccinated against influenza for the first time need to receive two doses. Infants younger than six months of age are too young to get the 2009 H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines.
“We encourage people to get the H1N1 vaccine for themselves and their families when it becomes available, even if that means waiting until later in the season,” said Dr. Arnold. “Since we expect to see the H1N1 virus continue to circulate throughout the winter and into next spring, it won’t be too late to get the H1N1 vaccine in the coming months.”
Both the nasal spray and injectable form of the vaccine are available. For a list of public H1N1 vaccination sites and clinic times, as well as additional information on the 2009 H1N1 flu, log onto www.ready.illinois.gov.
For non-medical questions about the H1N1 virus, call the Illinois Flu Hotline at (866) 848-2094 or (866) 241-2138 (Spanish).
To stay healthy and limit the spread of flu, follow the 3 Cs:
CLEAN – wash your hands frequently to prevent the spread of germs.
COVER – your cough and sneeze with a tissue or sleeve, not your hand.
CONTAIN – contain your germs. Stay home if you are sick.
October 27, 2009
CHICAGO - We are delighted to announce award-winning broadcaster and notable communications expert Chris Robling as the moderator for the upcoming Illinois Republican Party Gubernatorial Debate to be held Thursday, November 5, 2009 at the Chicago Hilton and Towers. Mr. Robling’s career includes experience in media, government, agency public relations and politics. He is currently with Jayne Thompson & Associates., Ltd. having joined in April 2002 as first Principal.
Another distinctive aspect to the debate will be the ability for the general public to submit questions to the candidates. The Illinois Republican Party encourages public involvement and we invite people to send questions to email@example.com. Please include the question, your name and hometown within the message.
"This is a great opportunity for the citizens of Illinois to ask the Republican candidates what is on their mind. This effort is being conducted to increase public participation in the Republican primary process." stated Pat Brady, Chairman.
To view an on-line invitation for the November 5th debate visit http://tinyurl.com/ilgopdebate or for more information please call 312.201.9000.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Sun-Times Sale to Tyree Group Complete :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Metro & Tri-State
CHICAGO – October 26, 2009. Governor Pat Quinn today announced the appointment of John Colgan to the Illinois Commerce Commission. Colgan had been Vice President for Public Policy for the Illinois Association of Community Action Agencies (IACAA).
“John is a lifelong public servant, dedicated to fighting for the citizens of our state,” said Governor Quinn. “I know he will serve on the Commerce Commission with integrity and provide a strong voice for Illinois’ consumers.”
Colgan has more than thirty years experience in community organizing and administration, serving for 12 years as founding executive director of the Illinois Hunger Coalition, prior to accepting a position with IACAA in 2001. At IACAA, he worked tirelessly for affordable energy for Illinois’ low-income families. (background information)
In 2004, Colgan co-authored the Affordable Energy Plan, which was used as the basis for the creation and passage of the Illinois Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP), which Governor Quinn signed into law on July 10 (Public Act 096-0033). The PIPP helps low-income families, seniors and other fixed-income households pay their utility bills by modernizing of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
“I am honored to serve on the Illinois Commerce Commission on behalf of the people of Illinois,” said Colgan.
Colgan also helped negotiate rate relief contracts with Ameren and ComEd and implement them for the statewide Community Action network. The adjusted contracts to aid low-income families took effect in June 2007 and saved them more than $50 million over four years. Colgan will fill the vacancy left by Robert F. Lieberman.
The Illinois Commerce Commission’s acts as a bridge between consumers and Illinois’ utility companies, seeking an appropriate balance between the interests of consumers and service providers in order to ensure adequate, efficient, reliable, safe and least-cost public utility services for all citizens of Illinois.
CHICAGO – State Rep. John Fritchey today filed petitions to become the next Cook County Commissioner for the 12th District. Last month, Fritchey stated that he would not be seeking re-election to the General Assembly seat that he has held since 1996, opting to run to fill the vacancy created by Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool, who has announced he will not be running for another term.
Congressman Mike Quigley and Commissioner Claypool joined Rep. Fritchey at his announcement of candidacy for the post on September 1, 2009. Both pledged their full support of Fritchey’s bid, citing the need for the County Board to have a proven reformer who can hit the ground running.
Rep. Fritchey was first elected to the Illinois House in 1996, representing a district including the neighborhoods of Bucktown, DePaul, Roscoe Village, Lakeview, and Ravenswood. The former Illinois Assistant Attorney General has been the Chairman of the House Civil Judiciary Committee for the past seven years and previously chaired the House Consumer Protection Committee.
During his legislative tenure, Fritchey has been an unwavering reform leader in Springfield, having authored and sponsored numerous ethics and campaign finance reform laws. Milestone accomplishments include his work with then-State Senator Barack Obama to pass the Ethics Act of 2003 and more recently, the enactment of a law to finally ban ‘pay-to-play’ politics in Illinois.
A vocal critic of both former Governors George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich, Fritchey was a member of the Special Investigative Committee that ultimately drafted the impeachment resolution against Blagojevich.
“The recent departure of former Commissioner Quigley and Commissioner Claypool’s decision not to seek reelection have created an urgent need for reform leadership on the Cook County Board. Talks between Congressman Quigley, Commissioner Claypool, and myself convinced me to relinquish my seniority in the House in order to run for the Board and be that voice.”
“Now more than ever, we need a proven reformer with the common-sense, experience, and willingness to take on the big issues,” said Congressman Quigley. “The times demand and the voters deserve elected officials like John Fritchey who will challenge the status quo and fight for taxpayers. Reforming government saves us money, and amidst the greatest economic downturn in a generation, we can’t afford not to keep working for change. John will be a terrific addition to the Board and a fitting successor to our friend Forrest Claypool.”
Working together to fix county government is nothing new for the three officials. Over the years, Fritchey, Quigley, and Claypool have joined forces to take on initiatives including the elimination of pension abuses by county officials, as well as trying to lower the number of votes needed to override a veto by the Board President – an issue passed by the Illinois House during veto session this month.
“Even when the odds were against us, I’m proud to have been able to accomplish a great deal at the County,” said Commissioner Claypool. “John has had a similar experience at the State, and so he is ideally-suited to not just carry on, but build upon, the work Mike and I have done on the County Board. When it comes to fighting for taxpayers and cleaning up Cook County, John Fritchey is the clear choice to become the next Commissioner for the 12th District.”
“Just like nature, reform abhors a vacuum,” said Fritchey. “Mike and Forrest have been ground-breaking reformers at the County level, and with the loss of their two key board votes, we need to make sure that taxpayers are getting responsible and effective government for their dollars. Serving on the County Board will provide an opportunity to continue my past work and bring it closer to home. Whether it is property tax reform, increased transparency and accountability, or environmental initiatives, there will be no shortage of important issues to take on.”
“I am as proud of my record and my ideas as I am to receive the support of these two County reform pioneers,” said Fritchey. “I’m looking forward to making a very compelling case to the voters and starting this next chapter of public service.”
The Primary Election will take place on February 2, 2010.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
On Tuesday, Congressman Don Manzullo unveiled the latest version of his working action plan to create economic opportunities in the United States to help companies put Americans back to work in northern Illinois and throughout our nation.
Manzullo’s American Jobs Agenda is a compilation of years of legislative and administrative actions focused on making American companies more competitive so they can expand and create jobs. Former Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Small Business, Manzullo continues to champion American jobs as founder and co-chair of the House Manufacturing Caucus as well as his positions on the House Committees on Foreign Affairs and Financial Services.
“Our great country is experiencing its most significant economic downturn since the Great Depression, and Americans need jobs more than anything else right now,” Manzullo said. “My American Jobs Agenda gives our entrepreneurs the economic jolt they need to survive these difficult times so they can thrive again and put Americans back to work. It stands in stark contrast to many of the policies Congressional Democrat leaders are pursuing that will penalize employers and put even more Americans on the unemployment lines.”
Congressman Manzullo’s American Jobs Agenda includes legislative and regulatory proposals to:
1. Reform the tax code to help U.S. companies create jobs, put Americans back to work.
2. Make health care more affordable and accessible to Americans without a government takeover that would cost millions of jobs, reduce quality and choice, and increase our debt for generations to come.
3. Enact an “all you can create” energy plan that promotes innovation, conservation, and responsible production of energy to achieve America’s energy independence and a cleaner, healthier planet.
4. Review and eliminate burdensome and unnecessary government regulations that stifle economic growth and cost American jobs.
5. Reform our government procurement policies and require federal agencies to follow “Buy American” laws” to ensure our government is doing business with American companies.
6. Level the playing field for American companies doing business in the global marketplace while reforming our export control policies to help U.S. companies sell more goods overseas.
7. Secure America’s borders, create mandatory work authorization verification and reduce illegal immigration through interior enforcement.
The Republican National Committee Coalitions Department hosted a Say It Loud: Surrogate 101 Training in Oak Brook, Illinois on Saturday.
Organized by Illinois Republican National Committeewoman Demetra DeMonte, the purpose of the day long workshop was to equip Republican Party surrogates with practical and effective communication tools. Representatives from women's and business groups, ethnic coalitions as well as College Republicans and Young Republicans were briefed on the basics of new media, traditional media and as well as outreach to various ethnic communities.
"We were thrilled to have almost 70 different individuals join us today, making Illinois' workshop one of the largest thus far that the RNC Coalitions has held," DeMonte said. "This new project is one that will help us get out the Republican message, and highligh how different our message is from President Obama and the Democrats."
DeMonte said she hopes to add more over the next few months to the spectrum of Republican messengers in Illinois and plans for more advanced training in the months ahead.
"Illinois voter dissatisfaction with the Democrats is loud and clear," Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady said. "I am proud of the work that our various coalitions are doing to spread the word that Republican values are their values."
Say It Loud workshops are offered on a rotating basis and provide basic training for individuals who are committed to helping the RNC consistently communicate its message. Say It Loud encourages grassroots supporters to use their voices and sphere of influence to communicate how the policies of the Republican Party have improved their lives while creating balanced view points in local debates and discussions. New media and traditional media trainings are offered, as well as resources and tools that assist participants effectively communicate the message as a speaker, panelist, or forum participant. These training sessions will be led by guest speakers who have a vast amount of experience.
For more information on Republican Coalitions, contact Demetra DeMonte at 309-648-7556 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today introduced legislation to protect the oceans and marine life by extending the Clean Water Act to appropriately regulate the millions of gallons of wastewater discharged in U.S. waters every day by cruise ships. Durbin’s bill, known as the Clean Cruise Ship Act would ban the release of raw, untreated sewage in U.S. waters, including the Great Lakes. Nearly identical legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives today by Representative Sam Farr (D-CA).
“The average cruise ship produces over 1.2 million gallons of wastewater every week,” Durbin said. “Today, there are more than 230 cruise ships operating around the world, generating millions of gallons of wastewater daily. Under the current system, these ships can directly dump their waste into our oceans and the Great Lakes with minimal oversight. Vacation cruises can be a wonderful way to see the world, but we cannot afford to leave the destruction of the oceans in the wake of these ships.”
Durbin’s Clean Cruise Ship Act would change the way cruise ships manage the removal of this harmful waste. The number of cruise ship passengers has been growing nearly twice as fast as any other mode of travel. In the U.S. alone, the numbers are approaching ten million passengers a year with some ships carrying 3,000 or more passengers. Each week, these ships produce massive amounts of waste: a single ship can produce over 200,000 gallons of human sewage; one million gallons of graywater from kitchens, laundry and showers; more than 10,000 gallons of sewage sludge; more than 130 gallons of hazardous waste and over 25,000 gallons of oily bilge water that collects in ship bottoms.
Currently, waste and other harmful pollutants are minimally regulated near the east and west coasts of the U.S. and can be dumped untreated three miles beyond the coast. These pollutants contaminate our waters resulting in beach closures, consumption of polluted fish and shellfish, risk to public health for people swimming in our oceans and damage to coral reefs (areas around Florida and Jamaica have lost nearly 90% of their living coral reefs). While some cruise ships industries are trying to reduce their environmental footprint, their efforts are not uniform. The federal standards proposed in Durbin’s Clean Cruise Ship Act would apply one set of requirements to all companies.
“The protection of U.S. waters is vital to our nation’s health and economy,” said Durbin. “The oceans not only support nearly 50% of all species of life on Earth, but food from the oceans also provides 20% of the animal protein and five percent of the total protein in the human diet. It is time to update the laws that protect our oceans, and urge adoption of the best available wastewater treatment technology at sea.”
Durbin’s Clean Cruise Ship Act would amend the Clean Water Act and protect U.S. waterways by:
- Regulating cruise ships under the EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System for sewage, graywater and bilge water;
- Prohibiting the discharge of sewage, graywater, and bilge water within twelve miles of shore;
- Requiring that, outside of 12 miles, sewage, graywater, and bilge water be treated to reduce pollution to the levels currently achievable by advanced wastewater treatment systems;
- Prohibiting the dumping of sewage sludge, incinerator ash and hazardous waste in U.S. waters;
- Creating inspection and sampling programs and an onboard observer program.
Durbin said his interest in this legislation was sparked by a report on ocean pollution that was published in 2003 by the Pew Oceans Commission. Since then, reports on the US Commission on Ocean Policy and the Environmental Protection Agency have confirmed the significant threat of cruise ship pollution to human health and aquatic environments. In December 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency released a report which concluded that the “marine sanitation devices” ships are required to use in order to dump human body wastes and other toilet waste within three miles of shore were not working.
In addition to ocean-going vessels, Durbin’s bill would also strengthen discharge requirements for cruise ships operating in the Great Lakes. The bill would require that cruise ships operating on the Great Lakes abide by the same 12 miles prohibition on dumping waste. It also would require these ships to update their technology to treat sewage and graywater before it is discharged into the Great Lakes.
Durbin’s legislation is supported by a wide range of environmental groups including:
Friends of the Earth; Earthjustice; Oceana; Surfrider; Campaign to Save America’s Waters; and Northwest Environmental Advocates.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
SPRINGFIELD – Radon gas is the second-leading cause of lung cancer and the leading cause of the deadly disease for non-smokers. Yet many people in Illinois have no idea if their homes have high levels of this health hazard. That’s why the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) is encouraging people throughout Illinois to test their homes for radon during Radon Action Week October 18-24.
“It’s estimated that nearly 1,200 radon-related lung cancer deaths occur each year in Illinois,” said IEMA Director Andrew Velasquez III. “Our studies have found homes with excessive radon levels in every county in Illinois. The only way to know if your home has too much radon is to test. I urge everyone to protect their loved ones’ health by testing for radon.”
Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas that comes from the radioactive decay of naturally occurring uranium in the soil. It can enter homes and buildings through small cracks in the foundation, sump pumps or soil in crawlspaces. The National Academy of Sciences and the Surgeon General estimate that 21,000 radon-related lung cancer deaths occur annually in the United States, as many as 1,160 of those in Illinois.
Homeowners can either test the home themselves, using test kits available at most home improvement and department stores, or hire a radon measurement contractor. IEMA licenses more than 266 measurement and 88 mitigation contractors statewide.
IEMA collects and analyzes radon home test results throughout the state to determine the potential radon risk by county. To date, the agency’s radon staff has analyzed results from more than 100,000 home radon tests conducted by professional contractors and homeowners between 2003 and 2008. Those results showed that nearly 40 percent of Illinois homes tested have radon levels above the USEPA-recommended 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L).
For more information about radon, radon testing results from your county or to find an IEMA-licensed radon measurement or mitigation contractor in your area, visit www.radon.illinois.gov.
Friday, October 16, 2009
"After further review of the legislation and the possibility of litigation, the Senate President has reconsidered the need for the fumigation bill. To date, Governor Quinn has made 67 appointments that are subject to Senate confirmation. The Senate President recognizes the progress and pace of change made by the Governor. He does not intend to call the bill for a vote."
Thursday, October 15, 2009
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois has been awarded more than $435,000 through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program – Farm Bill.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture today announced 28 projects will receive a share of the funds, which are intended to expand the availability of fresh, locally-grown produce and strengthen the state’s specialty crop industry.
“Illinois’ fertile soil and favorable climate are good for growing a wide variety of crops,” Agriculture Director Tom Jennings said. “The purpose of these grants is to encourage additional local food production by creating markets for fresh fruits and vegetables. This, in turn, will help ensure a viable industry for our specialty growers.”
While best known for growing corn and soybeans, Illinois is the largest producer of pumpkins in the nation and ranks among the top ten states in the production of other specialty crops such as asparagus, cauliflower, green peas and lima beans. The state devotes more than 117,000 acres of farmland to growing specialty crops, which produces nearly $137 million in sales for Illinois farmers.
Americorps Program Celebrates its 16th Anniversary by Highlighting Volunteer Opportunities in Illinois
Thursday, October 15, 2009
SPRINGFIELD – Nearly 1000 Illinoisans are dedicating themselves to a year of aiding their communities through national service. The volunteers were sworn in at a ceremony held at the Illinois State Capitol building in Springfield, marking the 16th anniversary of the AmeriCorps program.
Governor Pat Quinn proclaimed October 15, 2009, as National Service Recognition Day in the State of Illinois, and congratulated Illinois’ AmeriCorps and the National Service family of programs, both past and present, on their service in strengthening communities through volunteerism in the State of Illinois.
“AmeriCorps is an excellent opportunity for people to volunteer their time and talents and give something back to their communities,” said Ted Gibbs, Executive Director of the Serve Illinois Commission. “Illinois has a strong tradition of volunteerism and compassion for those in need. AmeriCorps volunteers make a real difference in the communities in which they serve.”
More than 72,000 people of all ages and backgrounds are serving in 144 national service projects across Illinois. This includes 2,000 AmeriCorps volunteers, 18,000 Senior Corps volunteers and over 52,000 Learn and Serve America students.
National Service Members serve their communities by improving education, protecting public safety, improving health care, safeguarding the environment, providing disaster relief and promoting civic engagement.
The Serve Illinois Commission, part of the Illinois Department of Human Services, administers the AmeriCorps* State programs in Illinois Commission and is charged with enhancing and supporting community volunteerism in all its forms.
Serve Illinois is funded by the federal Corporation for National and Community Service. The Serve Illinois Commission currently supports 30 AmeriCorps programs throughout the state.
AmeriCorps members dedicate a year to helping communities meet their unmet human service, education, public safety or environmental needs. They receive a modest living allowance, student loan deferment and training. Full-time members are also eligible to receive health insurance. Members who successfully complete their service receive an educational award of up to $4,725 to help pay for college, graduate school, vocational training or to pay off student loans.
Last year, the commission unveiled the Serve Illinois website – www.Serve.Illinois.gov – a valuable resource for volunteer opportunities statewide. The website serves as a primary resource for Illinoisans who are seeking information about volunteer agencies, trainings, nonprofit resources and national service programs including AmeriCorps. The website includes a user-friendly volunteer matching portal that acts as a central hub for volunteer opportunities from 17 different state and/or national volunteer opportunity databases.
For more information on AmeriCorps or Serve Illinois, visit the website at www.serve.illinois.gov or call 800-592-9896.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Friday, October 9, 2009
Saturday, October 3, 2009
URBANA, Ill. — Former University of Illinois President Stanley O. Ikenberry was appointed Saturday as interim president at a special meeting of the Board of Trustees.
Ikenberry, 74, who previously served as U of I president for 16 years, will become interim president effective January 1, 2010. President B. Joseph White last week announced his resignation effective December 31. In the intervening three months, Ikenberry will act as interim president-designate, enabling him to work with White and other senior administrators to better facilitate an orderly transition. As interim president, Ikenberry will serve until a permanent president is named.
“The University of Illinois is precious to our faculty and students and the people of Illinois,” said Ikenberry. “The Board of Trustees has asked me to help at this time of transition and I am delighted to be able to do so. My top priorities will be to support the Board in its search for an outstanding president and to work with faculty and academic leaders on all three campuses as we move forward to address a very challenging agenda. We have abundant energy and many friends and we’ll need both.”
“Stanley Ikenberry is ideally suited for this important transitional role at this time,” said Board Chairman Christopher G. Kennedy. “His experience and strong reputation in Illinois and among higher education leaders nationally means the University of Illinois will have a familiar and steady hand at the helm to guide a great university and its search for the next president in an interim period.”
The Board also approved the structure of a 19-member search committee to select the next president. The committee will have faculty, staff and student representatives from each of the campuses as well as members of university administration and the Board. The composition of the committee will be as follows: three trustees; eight faculty members; three students; one member each from the academic professional and civil service staffs; one administrative officer; and one representative each from the University of Illinois Alumni Association and the U of I Foundation.
The executive search firm of Isaacson, Miller was selected to serve as consultants to the search committee.
The Board’s objective is to have a new president in office by the start of the 2010-11 academic year. The Board at Saturday’s meeting formally accepted White’s resignation and approved his position as professor of business administration in the Urbana’s campus’ College of Business.
Stanley Ikenberry served as the 14th president of the University of Illinois system from 1979 through 1995. After retiring from the University in 1995, he served for five years as the 10th president of the American Council of Education (ACE). He returned to the University in 2001 and is currently U of I Regent Professor and President Emeritus and holds an appointment in the University-wide Institute of Government and Public Affairs. In 2008, the Board of Trustees honored Ikenberry’s contributions by naming a new dining hall and residence halls complex on the Urbana campus after him and his wife, Judy.
Ikenberry earned a bachelor’s degree from Shepherd College in 1956 and master’s and doctoral degrees from Michigan State University in 1957 and 1960 respectively. Before he came to the University of Illinois in 1979, he was a senior vice president for administration at The Pennsylvania State University and a professor in the Center for the Study of Higher Education.
From the Office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin - Thursday, October 8, 2009
[WASHINGTON, DC] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Congresswoman Melissa Bean (D-IL) today announced that the language necessary to complete the James A Lovell Federal Health Care Center has cleared a major legislative hurdle. Earlier today the House of Representatives passed by a vote of 281-146 the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act giving authority to the Navy and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to jointly operate the new Federal Health Care Center. The legislation must now be passed by the Senate and sent to President Obama for his signature.
“Today the House of Representatives approved legislation to create the Lovell Health Center in North Chicago,” said Durbin. “This innovative partnership between the VA Medical Center and the Naval Health Clinic could be replicated across the country as we continue to look for new ways to increase quality care while reducing cost to taxpayers. I thank Representatives Bean and Kirk for their commitment to this legislation and I look forward to working toward its approval in the Senate before sending it to the President for his signature.”
“I was proud to join my House colleagues in passing this provision, and commend Senator Durbin in working to include it in the Senate authorization bill. By combing the VA Medical Center with the Naval Health Clinic, we will provide quality care to active duty personnel, veterans, and military retirees while saving the taxpayers $80 million in construction costs, using our resources efficiently and effectively.”
Durbin first introduced Lovell legislation in November 2008 and Congresswoman Melissa Bean (D-IL) introduced similar legislation – co-sponsored by Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL) – in the House of Representatives earlier this year. The approval of today’s language, as part of the Defense Authorization Act, represents a collective effort by Congress, the VA, Navy, and labor to address the complex issue of combining two federal hospitals. When complete, the Lovell Federal Health Care Center will be the first health care facility in the nation to be operated jointly between the VA and the Navy, saving taxpayers millions of dollars that would otherwise have been needed to rebuild or renovate the Navy’s nearby hospital.
After the VA announced plans in 1999 to close the North Chicago VA Medical Center, Durbin brought Illinois House and Senate members together to request an investigation into the possibility of having the Navy and the VA enter into a joint agreement for use of the facility. Senator Durbin later passed language requiring the Navy to expand the use of the hospital and to work with the VA to finalize site selection for the joint ambulatory care center and construction design. Today’s legislation is the final legislative piece that will allow beneficiaries who had previously received care at the Naval Health Clinic Great Lakes to be eligible for care and not required to make a co-pay.
Earlier this year, Durbin and Bean joined the Secretary of the VA, Eric Shinseki, at the Lovell Center for a round table discussion on the need for legislative language to clear the remaining hurdles in merging the Navy and VA hospitals at North Chicago. Secretary Shinseki’s visit followed a January meeting with Durbin, who stressed the importance of the efforts in North Chicago on the eve of Shinseki’s confirmation.
For the last year, Durbin and Bean have worked tirelessly with stakeholders to fine-tune language that will allow the North Chicago facility to operate as has been envisioned for years--as an integrated facility of the armed services and the VA. Additionally, Durbin worked with the Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee Daniel Akaka (D-HI) to encourage the VA to address this issue in the agency’s 2010 budget. In May, it was announced that the VA did exactly that, making it easier for Congress to work with the Administration to complete the North Chicago project.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
SPRINGFIELD – Dr. Damon T. Arnold, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, announced today the first shipments of the new H1N1 flu vaccine are anticipated to arrive in Illinois today and tomorrow. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) allotted 57,000 doses of the new H1N1 flu vaccine, in nasal spray form only, to the State of Illinois, excluding the City of Chicago. Chicago receives its own allotment of the new H1N1 vaccine.
The new H1N1 vaccine will be delivered directly from vaccine manufacturers to local health departments and hospitals across Illinois, outside Chicago, to begin vaccinating the following CDC designated priority populations:
- Pregnant women
- Household contacts and caregivers for children younger than six-months of age
- Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel
- All people from six-months through 24-years of age
- Persons aged 25-64 years who have health conditions associated with higher risk of medical complications from influenza
“Illinois will continue to receive additional shipments of the new H1N1 vaccine so there will be enough vaccine for everyone,” Dr. Arnold said. “Certain people are at higher risk of complications due to the new H1N1 flu and others work with populations at risk of complications, so we ask you to allow these people to receive their new H1N1 flu vaccine first. Again, additional doses of the new H1N1 vaccine will be delivered to providers in Illinois almost daily so there will be enough vaccine to go around. In the meantime, get a seasonal flu shot and take everyday preventive actions – 3 Cs: Clean, Cover and Contain - to stay healthy.”
The initial shipment of new H1N1 vaccine is in nasal spray form and is only licensed for people age two through 49-years without underlying medical conditions, including pregnancy. The CDC has said injectable vaccines, approved for all populations except those with contraindications, will begin being shipped next week.
It is anticipated that these first shipments of the new H1N1 vaccine will be offered to health care workers, a CDC priority population, and subsequent shipments of the vaccine will be delivered in the next weeks and months to local health departments, hospitals and designated providers across Illinois. The Illinois Department of Public Health is currently receiving provider agreements to compile a complete list of locations where the public can receive a new H1N1 vaccination.
To stay healthy and limit the spread of flu, remember the 3 Cs:
CLEAN – wash your hands frequently to prevent the spread of germs.
COVER – your cough and sneeze with a tissue or sleeve, not your hand.
CONTAIN – contain your germs. Stay home if you are sick.
For more information log onto http://www.ready.illinois.gov/
Tuesday, October 6
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) chaired a second hearing today on the U.S. government’s efforts to identify, investigate and prosecute suspected human rights abusers found to be living in America. Durbin’s first hearing on the subject was in late 2007.
“Two years ago, this Subcommittee held the first-ever Congressional hearing on the enforcement of human rights laws in the United States. While progress has been made, there is still much more to be done,” Durbin said. “The world is watching us closely. When we bring human rights violators to justice, foreign governments are spurred into action, victims take heart, and future perpetrators think twice.”
There are currently over 1,000 cases of suspected human rights abusers living in the United States. The perpetrators in question come from approximately 95 countries and are suspected of crimes including rape, extrajudicial killings, torture and genocide. It is thought that those under investigation are only a small percentage of the actual number of human rights abusers currently in our country, but two announcements at today’s hearing may begin to change the status quo.
New Human Rights Section at DOJ
Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer announced today that the Department of Justice plans to consolidate the two offices within the Criminal Division which have jurisdiction over human rights violations to create a new, consolidated and streamlined human rights section.
Durbin and Ranking Member Tom Coburn (R-OK) called for such a move in the Human Rights Enforcement Act – a bill they introduced earlier this year. Durbin also appropriated more than $3 million for the hiring of FBI agents and DOJ attorneys dedicated to human rights investigations and prosecutions.
“Our plan is to combine the resources, skills and expertise of all of our attorneys working on human rights cases to make us even more effective in pursuing violators and denying them safe haven in the United States,” Assistant Attorney General Breuer said in his testimony today.
Increased Human Rights Prosecutions
John Morton, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), testified today about the government’s recent success in prosecuting and removing suspected human rights violators from the United States.
ICE currently has more than 180 active human rights investigations underway which could ultimately support criminal charges or removal proceedings. Since 2005, ICE has removed more than 300 suspected or known human rights violators from the United States.
In Durbin’s first hearing on this issue, Dr. Juan Romagoza Arce, a Salvadoran doctor who was detained and tortured during El Salvador’s civil war, testified about his experience and learning that the two generals responsible for his torture were living freely in Florida. In 2002, Dr. Romagoza won a lawsuit against the two generals responsible for his treatment, yet the generals were allowed to remain in the United States.
Assistant Secretary Morton announced today that the two generals, Carlos Eugenio Vides-Casanova and Jose Guillermo Garcia have been charged with torture and are currently facing removal by ICE officials.
Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer and Assistant Secretary Morton also highlighted the case of Chuckie Taylor, son of Liberian dictator Charles Taylor. In January, the Justice Department, ICE, and the FBI Taylor successfully prosecuted for torture and sentenced to 97 years in federal prison. This was the first ever federal conviction for a human rights violation.
“While these are all dramatic improvements from our past policy of inaction, far more needs to be done,” Durbin said. “In a country with our dedication to human rights, we must do all we can to hold human rights abusers accountable.”
The hearing, “No Safe Haven: Accountability for Human Rights Violators II,” is the second hearing Durbin has held on the topic since becoming chairman of the Human Rights and the Law Judiciary Subcommittee in 2007. Witnesses at today’s hearing also included David Donahue, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services, Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State; and Arthur Cummings II, Executive Assistant Director, National Security Branch, Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Springfield--The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is hosting two public meetings to seek input concerning the Environmental Assessment (EA) to implement high-speed rail passenger services from Chicago to St. Louis, including intermediate cities. This project will include infrastructure investments and upgrades, as well as new service, on the existing route operated by Amtrak. IDOT is currently preparing an application to qualify for funding for this project under the Federal Railroad Administration’s passenger rail program included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).
The Public Meetings will be held:
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
4:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Crowne Plaza Hotel
3000 South Dirksen Parkway
Springfield, IL 62703
The meetings will be an open house format and allow the public the opportunity to watch a PowerPoint presentation, review exhibits and provide comments. Representatives from IDOT will also be available to discuss the EA study and answer questions. Written comments related to the project will be accepted until the close of the comment period ending October 19, 2009.
This meeting will be accessible to persons with disabilities. Anyone needing special assistance should contact Mary Rose Donahue of Images, Inc. at 630-510-3944. Individuals planning to attend who need a sign language interpreter or other similar accommodations should notify the Department’s TTY/TTD number 800-526-0844 or 711; TTY users (Spanish) 800-501-0864 or 711; and for Telebraille dial 877-526-6670 at least five days prior to the meeting.
For additional information, please visit our project website at www.idothsr.org
Monday, October 5, 2009
CHICAGO – October 5, 2009. Governor Pat Quinn today named his Senior Advisor David Vaught as Director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB). Vaught will succeed Ginger Ostro, who was named Senior Policy Advisor at the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC). These appointments are effective immediately.
“The people of Illinois will be well-served by these two experienced and hard-working public servants,” said Governor Pat Quinn. “David Vaught brings a wealth of accomplishments to his new position as Budget Chief. Also, I look forward to benefiting from Ginger Ostro’s expertise at ISAC and want to express my thanks for her fine work at GOMB.”
Vaught, an attorney and financial analyst, is Senior Advisor to Governor Quinn and Chairman of Illinois’ Procurement Policy Board. As Senior Advisor he has focused on advancing Governor’s Quinn’s legislative, fiscal and economic development efforts. Previously, Vaught worked for then-Illinois Treasurer Pat Quinn from 1991 to 1995 and served as an ISAC commissioner from 2005 to 2008. He has also been elected to two school boards and is a trustee of the Great Lakes Protection Fund.
Prior to his current state service, Vaught was Managing Director for Mitchell Vaught & Taylor, Inc. Investment Advisors. He is a graduate of the Southern Illinois University School of Law and the United States Military Academy at West Point. He also served in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division as a field artillery officer.
“I look forward serving as Governor Quinn’s Budget Director,” said Vaught. “I am eager to take on Illinois’ unprecedented budgetary challenge and am confident that we can emerge a stronger and more resilient state.”
Ostro, who has held numerous positions in state government for nearly 20 years, was with GOMB for six years and in 2007 was named the agency’s director. She received a Bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a Master's degree in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
As Senior Policy Advisor at ISAC, Ostro will focus on the agency’s strategic direction while also developing innovative ways to make college more affordable for students and their families.
"It has been an extraordinary and exhilarating six years with the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, and a distinct honor to help Governor Quinn through the most challenging budget in state history,” said Ostro. “I look forward to continuing my service to the people of Illinois as Senior Policy Advisor at the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.”
Thursday, October 1, 2009
CHICAGO – Illinois borrowers using the title to their car or truck to secure a loan will now have additional protections against predatory lenders who offer to roll over old loans, or urge customers to take a second loan to help make payments. Starting today, Illinois Consumer Installment Loan Act (CILA) licensees will be required to enter data about each loan secured by a vehicle title into a statewide database. Once the information is entered, the secure, online system will issue an authorization code if the loan meets the consumer protection standards adopted last April.
“We recognize that many working families rely on these non-traditional loans, especially as credit card and other lending options have become more restricted during the current economic recession,” said Brent Adams, Acting Secretary of Financial and Professional Regulation. “But without the enforcement mechanism of the statewide database, title loan borrowers have, in the past, found themselves trapped in a cycle of debt, forced to either continually refinance the loan or to default and have their vehicles repossessed.”
The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) began implementing its new rules on April 1. A compliance sweep by the Department resulted in over $38,000 in fines against non-compliant lenders. Now that the database is active, lenders will be required to lookup the applicant’s title loan record and enter information about the pending loan. If a new loan violates the rules, the CILA lender will not receive authorization to issue it. Some of the most significant rules include:
- The principal amount of a title loan shall not exceed $4,000 and the loan payments shall not exceed 50 percent of the borrower’s gross monthly income.
- Balloon payments are prohibited; the title loan must be repayable in substantially equal installments.
- A title lender cannot issue multiple loans to a consumer. The only type of loan that may be offered to a title loan borrower is a refinancing of an existing title loan. And, the principal balance on the refinancing must be at least 20% less than the principal of the prior loan.