WBEZ | Springfield http://www.wbez.org/tags/springfield Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en State government could take over a school district near you http://www.wbez.org/news/state-government-could-take-over-school-district-near-you-110943 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/artworks-000080958261-4swa0x-original.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Ask Illinois residents what&rsquo;s most important to them and their families, and education is likely to be right up there&mdash;often at the top of the list.</p><p>So it&rsquo;s no surprise that citizens expect high educational standards from government (and solid financing). But most prefer their state involvement at arms length.</p><p>But the fact is Illinois, has the power to take over local schools. They can fire elected school board members and put a new superintendent in place.</p><p>Two years ago, it did just that. The state took over two school districts, one in East Saint Louis and the other in North Chicago, a low income and racially mixed suburb wedged between more the tony North Shore and Waukegan.</p><p>Chris Koch is the superintendent of all Illinois schools, and he explains it this way:&nbsp; &ldquo;You have to take actions when kids aren&rsquo;t getting the basics. And that&rsquo;s certainly what&rsquo;s happening here.&rdquo;</p><p>The school district in North Chicago had problems that read like a Dickens novel: 80 percent of kids not meeting state learning standards, burdensome debt, and school board meetings that sometimes collapsed into chaotic screaming matches.</p><p>State intervention has helped North Chicago reduce its debt. But the district is still operating on a deficit. The district superintendent there says he expects to run out of cash in four years.</p><p>But overall, education policy watchers say the takeover has been a win so far, with some private money is coming in and state superintendent Koch taking a personal interest in the people there.</p><p>But even with those positives, there is no endgame in sight.</p><p>That&rsquo;s something that worries Kenneth Wong, a professor at Brown University who&rsquo;s been watching school takeovers across the country. He says North Chicago is typical of school takeovers by state government.</p><p>&ldquo;What I&rsquo;m seeing also is the absence of an exit strategy,&rdquo; Wong says. &ldquo;That is, they rush into direct intervention, but then oftentimes there is a lack of details.&rdquo;</p><p>For his part, Koch doesn&rsquo;t seem worried about an exit strategy in North Chicago just yet. The finances and academics are still too bad.</p><p>&ldquo;We really have to be there, I think, for the longer duration,&rdquo; Koch says. &ldquo;Because you don&rsquo;t want it to go back into its prior state and that could easily happen particularly with the precarious financial situation they&rsquo;re currently in.&rdquo;</p><p>Koch is also turning his attention to other failing districts around the state.</p><p>He&rsquo;s pushing legislation that would make similar state intervention easier in failing districts.</p><p>House Bill 5537 singles out 23 schools on state academic watch, which means they have to show better test scores, and higher attendance and graduation rates.</p><p>All of them are in Chicago&rsquo;s south suburbs. Nobody from those districts returned WBEZ&rsquo;s calls, but Ben Schwarm did. He lobbies in Springfield on behalf of school boards and he&rsquo;s going up against Koch when it comes to state takeovers.</p><p>&ldquo;The idea of anyone, especially an appointed body, having the authority to remove from office elected officials based on the decisions they made certainly isn&rsquo;t generally the way democracy works in Illinois or in our country,&rdquo; Schwarm says.</p><p>Koch&rsquo;s bill is moving in an election year in which the candidates for governor have been campaigning mostly about how best to finance education instead of education policy.<br /><br />Koch&rsquo;s actions in North Chicago provide a window into incumbent Democratic Gov. Quinn&rsquo;s strategy for failing schools.<br /><br />Republican candidate Bruce Rauner hasn&rsquo;t talked specifically about state takeovers. But he advocates for more charter schools statewide, especially for failing districts.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not fair for parents to be stuck in a school that is failing and not fitting their kids&rsquo; needs,&quot; Rauner says. &quot;We need to create options and choice, especially for lower income families that can&rsquo;t afford to move.&rdquo;</p></p> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 16:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/state-government-could-take-over-school-district-near-you-110943 Battle over state facility is personal, political http://www.wbez.org/news/battle-over-state-facility-personal-political-110925 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/mdc.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Kathryn Groner, 26, has lived at the <a href="https://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=58719">Murray Developmental Center </a>for eight years.</p><p>The Murray Center is a state-run institution for people with developmental disabilities - things like cerebral palsy and autism. It&rsquo;s a circle of single-story residential cottages on a grassy campus in Centralia, Illinois, about an hour east of St. Louis.</p><p>Groner lives in a big room with one other woman. The area around her bed is filled with firefighter memorabilia and dolls. She&rsquo;s obsessed with firemen and calls people &ldquo;butthead&rdquo;--affectionately.</p><p>Groner is friendly and funny and completely there.</p><p>But she also has what her mom calls &ldquo;meltdowns,&rdquo; times when she tries to hurt herself, badly.</p><p>&ldquo;I hardly ever show these to people,&rdquo; her mom Judy Groner says as she presents a picture of Kathryn with a bruised and battered face. &ldquo;Broken nose, day after day.&rdquo;</p><p>When she has a &ldquo;meltdown&rdquo; Kathryn bashes her head against the wall as hard as she can, or slams her knees up into her face or bites her forearms.</p><p>&ldquo;And afterward she would say to me &lsquo;Mom, you better go and grab the frozen vegetables,&rsquo; because that&rsquo;s what I would put on her bruises afterward. And that was our life. She was going to kill herself by hitting her head so much if I didn&rsquo;t have a place like [Murray].&rdquo;</p><p>Judy Groner says the decision to place her daughter in Murray was the hardest - and best- &nbsp;decision she and her husband had ever made.</p><p>Before that they had struggled for years to keep Kathryn happy and safe at home, putting a helmet on her and lining her bedroom walls with corrugated cardboard. But eventually it became impossible.</p><p>She says Murray is a Godsend, and Kathryn is thriving. She&rsquo;s down from multiple &ldquo;meltdowns&rdquo; a day to about one a week.</p><p>That&rsquo;s why Groner was devastated when, two years ago, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced he would be closing Murray and moving its 250 residents out to group homes in the community.</p><p>&ldquo;We will provide individualized care, and achieve savings for the people of Illinois,&rdquo; Quinn said in his 2012 budget address.</p><p>The announcement was horrible news to Murray residents and their guardians, and they immediately mobilized to fight the closing. But other disability advocates were ecstatic.</p><p>The decision was part of the &ldquo;Rebalancing Initiative,&rdquo; which also included plans to close the Jacksonville Developmental Center --that center has already been shuttered--and two other unnamed developmental centers. The initiative earned Quinn the President&rsquo;s Award from an advocacy group called the ARC of Illinois.</p><p>Tony Paulauski, the executive director of the ARC of Illinois, says institutions like Murray are outdated and bad for residents. They warehouse people with developmental disabilities, while group homes in the community give people a chance for fuller, normal lives, he says.</p><p>In Paulauski&rsquo;s ideal world, every one of the state&rsquo;s institutions would close and all of the residents would settle into smaller homes.</p><p>&ldquo;Community living is much more individualized, and presents a much higher quality of life. A much healthier, safer life,&rdquo; Paulauski says.</p><p>And he says it helps the bottom line.</p><p>&ldquo;You can serve three people in the community for the cost of one person in the institution,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Depending on who you talk to, that would either mean a savings for the state or it would allow the state to help more people. More than 20,000 people are on the state&rsquo;s waiting list for some kind of developmental disability service. Advocates say moving people out of expensive institutions will allow people to come off that list.</p><p><span style="font-size:18px;"><strong>A room of his own</strong></span></p><p>Eddie Fleming lived in the Jacksonville Developmental Center until it was closed in 2012.</p><p>Now he lives in a gracious four-bedroom home in Springfield. He has two roommates, both former Jacksonville residents, but he has his own room.</p><p>He clearly loves his new home. He has control over the money he makes at a part time job picking up trash and has used that money to fill his bedroom with electronics - two stereos, a TV and a karaoke machine.</p><p>Fleming and his roommates get along famously, they smoke cigars on the porch and help cook delicious dinners.</p><p>Their services are provided by the Individual Advocacy Group, which manages the property and provides workers. But the lease is in Fleming and his roommates&rsquo; names. This is their home.</p><p>The people from IAG who work with Fleming say he has flourished since the move from Jacksonville, and they paint a grim picture of the services or lack of them he got from the state-run institution. Fleming, they say, is a testament to the benefits of community living.</p><p>One of the bedrooms in Fleming&rsquo;s house is an office. But when they first moved in, in 2012, there was a fourth roommate. Early on he and Fleming got in a fight over the TV. It got smashed and the cops were called. That fourth roommate was taken away by police and moved somewhere else.</p><p>That sort of volatility - and response - is what terrifies Murray parents like Judy Groner. They say that kind of police contact is traumatic, and what if, they fret, the police who come don&rsquo;t know how to deal with a person with developmental disabilities and hurt their loved ones?</p><p>The state only requires one worker in each four-person group home at one time, although IAG leaders say they usually have at least two workers.</p><p>Judy Groner says there is no way one or two workers could safely help Kathryn if she started having a meltdown. Especially if they were also responsible for three other people at the same time.</p><p>&ldquo;I always kid, I say she&rsquo;s like the incredible hulk and it takes five people to try and hold her, she&rsquo;s that strong and powerful,&rdquo; Groner says. &ldquo;The community just isn&rsquo;t set up for someone like her yet. And I just feel so bad because I want her to be able to leave Murray someday but it has to be on her terms, when she&rsquo;s ready.&rdquo;</p><p>But many researchers say the evidence doesn&rsquo;t support this fear. Instead, they say people with the highest needs, people like Kathryn, are the ones who benefit the most from a move to the community.</p><p><span style="font-size:18px;"><strong>&lsquo;Down here he just doesn&rsquo;t seem to care about that&rsquo;</strong></span></p><p>Beyond the struggle over care, the fight ito keep Murray open is political and geographical.</p><p>The fight over Murray pits those of us upstate against everyone down there - at least that&rsquo;s how the people in Southern Illinois see it.</p><p>And it has a lot of Democrats and Republicans reversing their typical battle lines.</p><p>The strongest political ally of the Murray center is State Rep. Charlie Meier, 108th.</p><p>He&rsquo;s a farmer by birth, and a small government Republican.</p><p>And yet he&rsquo;s dedicated his life to keeping this big, government run institution open.</p><p>Then there&rsquo;s the governor. A Democrat elected with the support of unions. And here he is pushing to eliminate 550 union jobs.</p><p>Paulauski of the ARC sees that as a sign of Quinn&rsquo;s political bravery.</p><p>&ldquo;Here you have a Democratic governor, strong support from these state unions. And then on the other side you have Republicans all of a sudden saying we need to keep these facilities open. This is where waste is in the Illinois disability system,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>But Meier says it&rsquo;s not about politics, it&rsquo;s about geography.</p><p>&ldquo;Centralia, most of it sits in Marion county and that is typically one of the five highest unemployment areas in the state. Those 541 jobs are the equivalent of 80- to 100,000 jobs in Chicago. Can you imagine if he tried to eliminate 80,000 jobs in the Chicago area? But down here he just doesn&rsquo;t seem to care about that,&rdquo; Meier says.</p><p>One thing people on both sides of the Murray fight agree on is that state government is there to help its most vulnerable citizens.</p><p>It may be the only thing they agree on.</p><p><em>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ producer/reporter. Follow him on twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/pksmid">@pksmid</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 13 Oct 2014 06:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/battle-over-state-facility-personal-political-110925 Morning Shift: Same sex marriage goes into effect Illinois http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-05-30/morning-shift-same-sex-marriage-goes-effect-illinois <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Cover pride flag Flickr nathanmac87.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We wrap up the Illinois legislative spring session. Dennis Rodkin brings us the latest in real estate news. We look at preparation for same sex marriages in Illinois. And, the music of jazz pianist Jason Moran.</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-same-sex-marriage-goes-into-effect-i/embed?header=false&border=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-same-sex-marriage-goes-into-effect-i.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-same-sex-marriage-goes-into-effect-i" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Same sex marriage goes into effect Illinois" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Fri, 30 May 2014 07:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-05-30/morning-shift-same-sex-marriage-goes-effect-illinois Charter supporters rally against bills in Illinois legislature http://www.wbez.org/news/charter-supporters-rally-against-bills-illinois-legislature-109990 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IMG_3555.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Hundreds of Chicago charter school parents, students and alums rallied in Springfield Tuesday to oppose legislation they say will hurt charter schools.</p><p>The group started its day with a rally outside U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, with more than 20 tour buses lined up to take them to the capitol. Supporters wore yellow scarves and carried printed signs that read &ldquo;I choose charter.&rdquo;</p><p>Illinois Network of Charter Schools President Andrew Broy addressed parents and others before they departed to join up with supporters from other Illinois communities.</p><p>&ldquo;This is a statewide movement,&rdquo; Broy told the group. &ldquo;We face threats in Springfield that we&rsquo;ve never faced before. There are no fewer than twelve different bills in Springfield designed to limit your right to choose the best school for your student. And we&rsquo;re not going to let that happen.&rdquo;</p><p>Charter advocates planned to pack the capitol rotunda. They said they want state lawmakers to see the faces of charter parents and students, students they say would be hurt if those dozen pending bills are passed into law.</p><p>Some of the key bills being considered:</p><p>-SB2627/HB3754 would get rid of a charter school appeals commission that can approve charter schools even if&nbsp; the local school board denies them.</p><p>-SB3303 would prohibit charters from opening in the same zip code as a&nbsp; closed traditional school.</p><p>-HB4655/SB3004 would force charters to follow&nbsp; the same discipline policies that traditional schools follow.</p><p>-SB3030/HB6005 would forbid charter schools from marketing, prohibit charters from subcontracting with Educational Management Organizations and Charter Management Organizations to operate schools and create a compensation cap for school CEOs.</p><p>A number of the bills were introduced by suburban lawmakers. Their interest in charters was piqued last year when a for-profit company, K12, Inc., proposed opening virtual charter schools in more than a dozen suburban school districts. All the districts&nbsp; rejected the plan. As state law is currently written, the Illinois State Charter Commission could overrule those local districts.</p><p>That happened last year when the charter provider that operates Chicago Math and Science Academy tried to open up two new schools in the city. The school district denied the provider&rsquo;s request to expand, but when the organization appealed, the commission gave the go ahead.<br /><br />Charter advocates say a neutral committee needs to examine the merits of charter proposals, because school boards often have a disincentive&mdash;even if district schools are weak&mdash;to approve charters.<br /><br />Many students and parents at the morning Chicago rally said they were there to support individual schools.&nbsp;</p><p>Nahum Alcantar said he supports charter schools because he thinks his charter school has given him a better education than a public school could have. Alcantar, a senior at Chicago Math and Science Academy, went to Kilmer Elementary, a CPS neighborhood school, before enrolling at the charter.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been to a charter school and I&rsquo;ve been to a public school and based on my experience &hellip; charter schools can ... provide the same amount of education that public schools can,&rdquo; Alcantar said. &ldquo;From the schools that I went (to) and compared to the charter school that I go (to)&nbsp; now I&rsquo;ve gotten a really better education.&rdquo;</p><p>Many also said they believe their charter schools are underfunded relative to traditional Chicago Public Schools.&nbsp; But the school district says charters and other schools get exactly equal funding.<br /><br />Although it has been a complaint from charter opponents, many rallying parents said they see no connection between charter schools opening and traditional schools closing</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re not making that school worse, we&rsquo;re not making it a bad school. If they can&rsquo;t get the grades or what they need then they should close,&rdquo; said charter parent Amber Mandley. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not our (fault) it&rsquo;s happening, just because we want to keep our schools running doesn&rsquo;t mean we&rsquo;re trying to close CPS schools.&rdquo;</p><p>Ebony Edwards-Carr, who like Mandley has children at the Chicago International Charter School in Bucktown, said the day &ldquo;is about uniting&rdquo; parents, charter school or otherwise.<br />&nbsp;<br />The Chicago Teachers Union supports many of the bills on the table.</p><p>Its membership is threatened by charter school expansion; as charters expand and traditional schools close, Chicago Teachers Union&rsquo;s membership is dwindling. Charter teachers are not allowed to be represented by the CTU.<br /><br />Stacy Davis Gates, CTU&rsquo;s political director, said suburban districts are looking at Chicago as&nbsp; a &ldquo;cautionary tale&rdquo; where &ldquo;neighborhood schools have been chased out by charters.&rdquo; Gates said the state needs to &ldquo;close some of these loopholes&rdquo;&nbsp; in state charter law.</p><p>She said the bills being considered will bring more transparency and accountability to charter schools.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/pksmid">@pksmid</a>. Linda Lutton is WBEZ&rsquo;s education reporter, follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 15:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/charter-supporters-rally-against-bills-illinois-legislature-109990 Quinn predicts radical budget cuts without revenue http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-predicts-radical-budget-cuts-without-revenue-109918 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/quinn_budget.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn wants to make the state&#39;s temporary income tax increase permanent to prevent &quot;extreme and &quot;radical&quot; budget cuts.</p><p>The Chicago Democrat also said during his annual budget speech Wednesday he wants to give homeowners a $500 annual property tax refund.</p><p>The speech comes as the state faces dire financial problems and Quinn embarks on what&#39;s anticipated to be a difficult re-election bid against Republican businessman Bruce Rauner.</p><p>Quinn proposed maintaining the state&#39;s income tax increase, saying that it&#39;ll be a &quot;real challenge.&quot; The increase rolls back next year, leaving a $1.6 billion revenue dip.</p><p>Quinn says extending the increase is a better long-term solution.</p><p>Illinois has billions in unpaid bills, a low credit rating and uncertainty with its pension debt.</p></p> Wed, 26 Mar 2014 12:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-predicts-radical-budget-cuts-without-revenue-109918 Morning Shift: Foreclosures and politics http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-06-19/morning-shift-foreclosures-and-politics-107770 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS4474_Springfield-scr_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Foreclosures have been an issue for some time now. But what are a your rights if you are living in a foreclosed apartment? And Springfield has gone into a special session. What are the implications of the decisions which could be reached?</p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-foreclosures-and-politics.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-foreclosures-and-politics" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Foreclosures and politics " on Storify</a>]</noscript></p> Wed, 19 Jun 2013 13:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-06-19/morning-shift-foreclosures-and-politics-107770 Afternoon Shift: Khaled Hosseini, independent film and Illinois Senate deadlines http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2013-05-28/afternoon-shift-khaled-hosseini-independent-film-and-illinois <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/khaled.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Khaled Hosseini talks about the themes of morality and human relationships in his new book. How difficult is it to make an independent film in Chicago? Filmmaker Aemilia Scott and director of the Midwest Film Festival, Mike McNamara answer. WBEZ reporter Tony Arnold gives an update on Springfield.</p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/afternoon-shift-khaled-hosseini-independent-films.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/afternoon-shift-khaled-hosseini-independent-films" target="_blank">View the story "Afternoon Shift: Khaled Hosseini, independent film and Illinois Senate deadlines" on Storify</a>]</noscript></p> Tue, 28 May 2013 10:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2013-05-28/afternoon-shift-khaled-hosseini-independent-film-and-illinois Afternoon Shift: Springfield tactics, Monsanto and 2 Chicago cops fired http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2013-05-14/afternoon-shift-springfield-tactics-monsanto-and-2-chicago-cops <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/aspic.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>On today&#39;s show, Niala is joined by reporters Tony Arnold and Kristen McQueary to talk legislative tactics in Illinois. Food expert Monica Eng weighs in on the Monsanto case. WBEZ&#39;s Chip Mitchell discusses the firing of two Chicago police officers for conduct captured on a 2011 gang video. <script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/afternoon-shift-tactics-in-springfield-monsanto-an.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/afternoon-shift-tactics-in-springfield-monsanto-an" target="_blank">View the story "Afternoon Shift: Tactics in Springfield, Monsanto and 2 Chicago cops" on Storify</a>]</noscript></p></p> Tue, 14 May 2013 11:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2013-05-14/afternoon-shift-springfield-tactics-monsanto-and-2-chicago-cops Frustrated Illinois lawmakers pitch pension fix http://www.wbez.org/news/frustrated-illinois-lawmakers-pitch-pension-fix-104197 <p><p>A group of Illinois legislators is introducing a new way to start fixing the state&rsquo;s massively under-funded pension system.</p><p>For the better part of 2012, Illinois politicians have been talking about the state&rsquo;s now $96 billion unfunded pension liabilities in drastic terms. It was no different at a Wednesday morning news conference.</p><p>&ldquo;Without some changes, Illinois will be sent into fiscal oblivion,&rdquo; Democratic State Rep. Elaine Nekritz said. Nekritz chairs the Personnel and Pensions Committee in the House.</p><p>Nekritz is proposing a new measure taking bits and pieces of other proposals that have already been talked about including the controversial shifting of pension costs from the state to local school districts to pay teachers&rsquo; retirements, something many Republicans oppose because they say it will cause local property taxes to go up.</p><p>&ldquo;There will be stakeholders that say that it doesn&rsquo;t go far enough. There will be stakeholders that say it&rsquo;s unconstitutional, it goes too far, in which case I would agree with Goldilocks that maybe this is the one that&rsquo;s just about right,&rdquo; Nekritz said.</p><p>Republican State Rep. David Harris from Chicago&rsquo;s Northwest suburbs joined them in support of the plan.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m reflecting my district. I&rsquo;m not reflecting my leadership in any way here,&rdquo; Harris said.</p><p>Harris is breaking from Republican leadership in supporting the cost shift proposal. Harris said schools in his district can afford to take on those costs.</p><p>House Republican Leader Tom Cross said he met with the governor&rsquo;s office a few times during the veto session to talk pensions, but expects the debate to continue until lawmakers return in January.</p><p>Legislators also have to consider whether an agreed-upon solution would survive a legal challenge from labor groups. Lawmakers could address the matter as early as January.</p></p> Wed, 05 Dec 2012 08:22:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/frustrated-illinois-lawmakers-pitch-pension-fix-104197 Speaker Madigan drops cost shift for pension plan http://www.wbez.org/news/criminal-justice/speaker-madigan-drops-cost-shift-pension-plan-99675 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/madigan speaker - AP.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>After a long, frustrating day Wednesday, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan could be making way for public pension reform in Illinois.</p><p>Earlier this week, Madigan sponsored a pension reform bill in the House (SB 1673) that would have suburban and downstate school districts pick up the pension costs for their teachers.&nbsp;That could have shifted billions onto local tax rolls. That worried school districts statewide as to how they were going to pay for such an item.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that there ought to be a shift in the responsibility for the normal cost so that going forward the people making the spending decisions will be called upon to pay the bills,&rdquo; Madigan said on the House floor after a long day of debate and heated discussions on pension reforms with Gov.Pat Quinn and House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego.</p><p>Madigan knew Cross would be opposed to putting teacher pension payments on suburban and downstate districts.</p><p>And he was: Cross threatened to block passage of the state&rsquo;s 2013 budget if Madigan didn&rsquo;t move away from his cost-shift provision.</p><p>&quot;Let&#39;s pass a pension reform bill without a cost shift, tonight or tomorrow morning and be done with it,&quot; Cross said on the House floor late Wednesday. &quot;We&#39;ll get the budget done, we&#39;d have done Medicaid, we&#39;ve done pensions, we&#39;ve done retiree healthcare, a successful session with bipartisian collaborative effort and be done with it. My question to you (Madigan) is why not? Why not do it?&quot;</p><p>Cross added, &quot;We know what it takes to have a pension bill. We know what will pass the House, what will pass the Senate, what the governor will sign and we can do it without the cost shift, without the $20 billion property tax increase on downstate, suburban schools.&quot;</p><p>But &nbsp;Madigan seemed shocked to learn that his Democratic teammate Gov. Pat Quinn opposed his cost-shift move as well.</p><p>&ldquo;I was surprised that the governor disagreed with me on the issue. He agrees with the Republicans,&rdquo; Madigan said.</p><p>With that, Madigan said he intends to remove his name as the House sponsor for the bill.&nbsp;&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve arranged with the clerk that the sponsorship of Senate Bill 1673 will be changed from me to Mr. Cross,&rdquo; Madigan said.</p><p>A House executive committee will take up the issue this morning, the last official day of the Spring legislative session. &nbsp;Bills remain to be considered and passed to stabilize the state&rsquo;s collapsing pension and Medicaid programs.</p><p>Madigan&rsquo;s shift was hardly the only thing that happened on a marathon Wednesday.</p><p>&bull; The House adopted a bill to keep the state&rsquo;s only super-max prison open. Tamms, in far southern Illinois, will be reorganized to become a medium-security prison to allow more inmates to be housed at the facility. Gov. Quinn is proposing closing several correctional facilities to save money. The House is trying to save unionized correctional jobs.</p><p>&bull; The Illinois House approved a plan to drop campaign-donation limits in races where super PACs jump in with big money.&nbsp;The legislation would apply in races where an independent super PAC spends more than $100,000 supporting a legislative candidate or $250,000 supporting a statewide candidate. If that happens, then the opposing candidate would not have to follow the state&#39;s new&nbsp;limits on donations. The bill passed 63-55 Wednesday in the Illinois House and now goes to the Senate.</p><p>Government watchdog groups fear this will create a loophole for&nbsp;big money to pour into political races. But House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie says it would let candidates &quot;fight fire with fire&quot; if they&#39;re targeted by super PACs with deep pockets.</p><p>The Illinois House also approved a measure by state Rep. Marcus Evans (D-Chicago) to ban landfills in Cook County. The bill moves to Gov. Quinn for his signature.</p><p>The state Senate approved a bill to allow the sale of Powerball lottery tickets to be sold over the internet. The measure heads to the governor.<br /><br />House Democrats also moved forward their own version of a new budget set at $33.7 billion that features deep cuts to schools, public universities and health care services for the poor. In the end, the state will still end up spending $300 million more than in the current budget, but is still $4.4 million under the cap agreed up in a spending resolution, according to Madigan.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 31 May 2012 03:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/criminal-justice/speaker-madigan-drops-cost-shift-pension-plan-99675