WBEZ | Illinois House http://www.wbez.org/tags/illinois-house Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Fantasy and reality: What do Illinois legislators know about prisons? http://www.wbez.org/news/fantasy-and-reality-what-do-illinois-legislators-know-about-prisons-109730 <p><p>Seventy-five percent of the lawmakers in the Illinois House have never stepped foot in a maximum security cell block, and 40 percent of the legislators have never toured or visited a prison even once. This despite the fact that they&rsquo;re the ones signing the checks for the $1.3 billion dollar per year agency. The findings are the result of a WBEZ survey of Iegislators in 2013. Ninety-five of the 118 House members responded to the survey.</p><blockquote><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/fantasy-and-reality-what-do-illinois-legislators-know-about-prisons-109730#map"><strong>Map: Has your state rep ever visited a prison?</strong></a></p></blockquote><p>We asked legislators if they&rsquo;d ever been in a prison, a cell block, a maximum security cell block, and how many prisons they&rsquo;d been in and when. It&rsquo;s perhaps a bit of a crude measure but gives some insight into how much legislators know about the costly agency.</p><p>A number of them refused to participate in the 9-question survey that takes, seriously, about 90 seconds to complete. My sense from some was that they didn&rsquo;t want to go on the record saying they hadn&rsquo;t been in a prison. If I&rsquo;m right then the numbers above regarding how many have been in a prison and how many have walked through a cell block--they&rsquo;re likely conservative.</p><p>The list of legislators who refused to participate is below and includes House Speaker Mike Madigan, whose spokesman said of the survey, &ldquo;It does not look like the type of activity the speaker or his staff participate in.&rdquo; Numerous follow-up calls and emails went unreturned.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Screen%20Shot%202014-02-19%20at%202.07.42%20AM.png" style="width: 400px; height: 274px; float: left;" title="(Responses to the WBEZ state prison survey by Illinois House district.*)" /><strong>Hosting tours</strong></p><p>When State Treasurer Dan Rutherford was elected to the statehouse in the early 1990s he started hosting tours of the Pontiac prison, which was in his district. &ldquo;It was pretty obvious to me that one of the major expenses for the state budget is Department of Corrections, and few people knew anything about it,&rdquo; Rutherford said in a recent interview.</p><p>&ldquo;Having grown up in a community where, you know, generations of families and friends have worked at the correctional center, I don&rsquo;t think the public, really, and particularly policy makers understood what it really was,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>He says every two years he&rsquo;d invite the newly elected freshman legislators to tour the prison, and then if there was enough room he&rsquo;d invite staff members too.</p><p>A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Corrections says the agency still wants as many legislators as possible to tour prisons as often as is feasible. Basically, if a legislator wants a tour, the agency will find a way to make it happen.</p><p>Rep. Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley) used to be on the public safety appropriations committee, which oversees funding for the Department of Corrections. Mautino says his committee used to sometimes meet in prisons. &ldquo;If it&rsquo;s an appropriation person and they&rsquo;re dealing with funding corrections then they should avail themselves of the ability to go into the facilities,&rdquo; Mautino said.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Screen%20Shot%202014-02-19%20at%202.10.17%20AM.png" style="height: 249px; width: 400px; float: right;" title="(Responses to the WBEZ state prison survey by Illinois House district.*)" />Mautino first saw a maximum security prison when he attended a committee meeting in Menard, a maximum security prison in southern Illinois. &rdquo;It gave me a respect for the work that is done by the men and women who work in corrections and I&rsquo;ve always been mindful of their needs,&rdquo; said Mautino.</p><p><strong>Everybody can&rsquo;t be an expert</strong></p><p>&ldquo;You can&rsquo;t expect every legislator to be super interested and engaged in corrections,&rdquo; said Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois Springfield and a former legislative analyst for House Democrats.</p><p>Redfield says legislators have different areas of expertise and there&rsquo;s a natural division of labor. &ldquo;If you don&rsquo;t have a facility in your district and you&rsquo;ve got a whole bunch of things that are much more important to your constituents, then I don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s surprising that you&rsquo;ve got legislators that haven&rsquo;t been to corrections facilities.&rdquo;</p><p>That said, Redfield says legislators shouldn&rsquo;t just be a rubber stamp. They need to know as much as possible, especially in the current climate of shrinking budgets. &ldquo;If all you know is what the Department of Corrections tells you, then that really narrows the kind of decision making options and may predetermine the outcome of budget and policy kinds of decisions,&rdquo; said Redfield.</p><p><strong>Fantasy and Reality</strong></p><p>&ldquo;No one goes in these places. That&rsquo;s why they are how they are,&rdquo; said John Maki, director of the John Howard Association, a nonpartisan prison watchdog group in Illinois.</p><p>Maki says much of what we know about prisons comes from movies and television and is simply not true. &ldquo;What&rsquo;s really unfortunate about our prison policy, not only in Illinois but across the country, is that it really depends upon, not the reality of prisons and what prisons can really do, but I think fantasies, things that are not grounded in reality.&rdquo;</p><p>Maki says it&rsquo;s hard to go into a prison and not start asking some serious questions about what we&rsquo;re doing.</p><p>&ldquo;Well when you go in our prison system and you see how crowded it is, and you see how under-resourced it is, I think it would be very hard to believe that our prison system can actually change people for the better. And that&rsquo;s not a judgement of the Illinois Department of Corrections. They are doing hard work with very limited resources. That&rsquo;s just a kind of fact about the reality of our system,&rdquo; said Maki.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Screen%20Shot%202014-02-19%20at%202.13.42%20AM.png" style="height: 441px; width: 620px;" title="(Responses to the WBEZ state prison survey by Illinois House district.*)" />Maki says if legislators saw that firsthand, they would have to start asking questions about what our prisons are accomplishing and what they cost. He thinks they&rsquo;d also be more thoughtful in the sentences they attach to certain crimes when they pass laws.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not a coincidence I think that the United States has the largest prison system in the world and that we know so little about how prisons actually work,&rdquo; said Maki. &ldquo;Because we don&rsquo;t see these places, we&rsquo;re allowed to believe what we want to believe.&rdquo;</p><p>But Maki says that&rsquo;s not entirely on legislators. They&rsquo;re not the only ones who don&rsquo;t visit prisons to see the reality firsthand. &ldquo;Typically judges don&rsquo;t do this, prosecutors don&rsquo;t do this, defenders don&rsquo;t do this, police don&rsquo;t do this. Again, outside of the people who live there, or who work there, almost no one goes in these places that are extremely expensive and where thousands and thousands of lives are kind of coursing through,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>But circling back to the legislators who fund the Department of Corrections and vote on the laws and sentences that put people in prison, Maki says he&rsquo;s not surprised that 40 percent of legislators have never stepped foot into a prison, and 75 percent have never seen a maximum security cell block, &ldquo;They don&rsquo;t go to these places because their constituents don&rsquo;t ask them to.&nbsp; If there was a demand for this, they would do it,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Maki says lawmakers are representatives of the people who vote them into office, and when it comes to prisons the voters aren&rsquo;t demanding anything different.</p><p>*For these visualizations, WBEZ surveyed all 118 of the Illinois state representatives about their familiarity with the state&#39;s prisons. The survey involved in-person interviews and a nine-question online survey. Of the 118 lawmakers, 95 answered the questions, and 23 refused to provide any information.</p><p>Map of responses to the WBEZ state prison survey by Illinois House district. Click on district areas to see complete responses from individual state representatives.<a name="#map"></a></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/map%20legend.jpg" style="height: 48px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div> <style type="text/css"> #map-canvas { width:620px; height:900px; } .layer-wizard-search-label { font-family: sans-serif };</style> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://maps.google.com/maps/api/js?sensor=false"> </script><script type="text/javascript"> var map; var layer_0; function initialize() { map = new google.maps.Map(document.getElementById('map-canvas'), { center: new google.maps.LatLng(39.77761093074509, -89.23360066992188), zoom: 7 }); var style = [ { featureType: 'all', elementType: 'all', stylers: [ { saturation: -99 } ] } ]; var styledMapType = new google.maps.StyledMapType(style, { map: map, name: 'Styled Map' }); map.mapTypes.set('map-style', styledMapType); map.setMapTypeId('map-style'); layer_0 = new google.maps.FusionTablesLayer({ query: { select: "col22>>0", from: "14y5bhd5vVGUWhCP33hdTbNR-eTG1J_QsBDDmgdE" }, map: map, styleId: 2, templateId: 2 }); } google.maps.event.addDomListener(window, 'load', initialize); </script><div id="map-canvas">&nbsp;</div><p>*Survey results do not include three Illinois state representatives who took office after August 2013. Results do include three lawmakers who stepped down after August 2013.</p><p class="p1">Complete responses to the WBEZ state prison survey. Sort the chart by name, party or district to find your lawmaker&#39;s responses.</p><script type="text/javascript" src="//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/static/modules/gviz/1.0/chart.js"> {"dataSourceUrl":"//docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/spreadsheet/tq?key=0AmzGTEnmVgYydGtnZjF0THR1Mi1tSW1DM1FqTkhYTlE&transpose=0&headers=1&range=A1%3AH119&gid=0&pub=1","options":{"vAxes":[{"useFormatFromData":true,"title":"Left vertical axis title","minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},{"useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null}],"titleTextStyle":{"fontSize":16},"series":{"0":{"hasAnnotations":true},"1":{"hasAnnotations":true}},"booleanRole":"certainty","title":"Chart title","height":900,"animation":{"duration":500},"legend":"right","width":620,"focusTarget":"series","hAxis":{"useFormatFromData":true,"title":"Horizontal axis title","minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},"tooltip":{"trigger":"none"}},"state":{},"view":{"columns":[0,1,{"label":"Party","properties":{"role":"annotation"},"sourceColumn":2},{"label":"Have you ever visited an Illinois state prison?","properties":{"role":"annotationText"},"sourceColumn":3},4,{"label":"Have you walked through a cell block?","properties":{"role":"annotation"},"sourceColumn":5},{"label":"Have you walked through a cell block in a maximum security prison?","properties":{"role":"annotationText"},"sourceColumn":6},7]},"isDefaultVisualization":false,"chartType":"Table","chartName":"Chart 1"} </script></p> Tue, 18 Feb 2014 15:57:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/fantasy-and-reality-what-do-illinois-legislators-know-about-prisons-109730 Quinn says he will sign marriage equality bill this month http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-says-he-will-sign-marriage-equality-bill-month-109084 <p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn says he will sign legislation allowing same sex couples in&nbsp;Illinois&nbsp;to marry this month.&nbsp;</p><p>The Chicago Democrat said Wednesday the timing will depend on an event involving activists and advocates in support the measure, saying he hopes to include everyone who fought to pass it.&nbsp;</p><p>&quot;I think it&#39;s important to have an opportunity for the people who worked so hard in the community to pass marriage equality to have an opportunity to be there at the bill signing,&quot; he said.</p><p>When Quinn signed&nbsp;Illinois&#39; civil union bill in January 2011, about 1,000 people attended the event at the Chicago Cultural Center.</p><p><strong>State Rep. Yingling&nbsp;proposes&nbsp;</strong></p><p>Just hours after the state Legislature approved the bill Tuesday, State Rep. Sam Yingling of Round Lake Beach proposed to his partner at a celebration at the Governor&#39;s Mansion.&nbsp;</p><p>The Democrat says he&#39;s been carrying a ring back and forth to Springfield for about a year, waiting for the chance to propose. The couple, who have been together three years and have three children,&nbsp;plan to get a marriage license as soon as the law goes into effect in June.</p><p>Illinois will be the 15th state along with the District of Columbia to allow same-sex couples to wed. It is also the third state in the Midwest to do so, following Minnesota and Iowa.</p><p><strong>&#39;America is a Journey&#39;</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The state House of Representatives approved the bill Tuesday by a vote of 61-54 with two voting present. The state Senate approved the measure in February, but for procedural reasons it was voted on and passed there again.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;At the end of the day, this bill is about the vision that the founders of our country had and wrote into our constitution,&rdquo; said the bill&#39;s sponsor,&nbsp;Chicago Democratic Rep. Greg Harris. &ldquo;They said America is not a destination. America is a journey.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The nearly three hours-long debate on the House floor Tuesday proved how divisive same-sex marriage remains &mdash; even though Democrats maintain a supermajority.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You already have civil unions,&rdquo; Rep. David Reis (R-Olney) said on the floor Tuesday. &ldquo;You admitted two years ago that&rsquo;s all you wanted. Let&rsquo;s just leave it at that and honor the most basic tenet of our state and federal constitution: religious freedom.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP793565798873%281%29.jpg" style="float: left; width: 300px; height: 238px;" title="AP (Illinois Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, left, is congratulated by lawmakers as gay marriage legislation passes on the House floor during veto session Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, in Springfield Ill. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, top center, looks on.)" /></p><p dir="ltr"><b>Both sides lobby hard</b></p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, lobbyists in favor of gay marriage pushed hard for a vote before lawmakers adjourned from the spring session, which ended in May.</p><p dir="ltr">Instead, Harris gave a tearful speech from the House floor, saying he simply didn&rsquo;t have the required support to call for a vote.</p><p dir="ltr">With the bill stalled, leaders of several black mega-churches organized aggressive robocalls in the districts of black House members for months, placing the mostly Democratic black caucus in the spotlight. Many of those caucus members remained undecided until the last minute.</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, supporters of the bill <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/advocates-work-all-angles-woo-gop-gay-marriage-108750">tried to woo Republicans</a> with fundraisers for those who would vote in favor of it.</p><p dir="ltr">Advocates credit final passage to House Speaker Michael Madigan, who called for on-the-fence lawmakers to vote in favor of the bill.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;For those that just happen to be gay living in a very harmonious productive relationship ... who am I to judge that they should be illegal?&rdquo; Madigan said. &ldquo;Who is the government to judge?&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Newly-named House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) also worked the bill behind the scenes, according to two sources familiar with the lobbying efforts.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;This is a deeply personal and emotional issue for individuals on both sides,&quot; Durkin said in a statement to WBEZ Thursday. &quot;I&rsquo;ve said all along that the individual members of my caucus must each vote for their own district, and conscious, and be prepared to go home and answer their constituents.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>State lawsuits to be withdrawn&nbsp;</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Advocates&nbsp;have also been pushing for gay marriage through the legal system. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Last year 25 same-sex couples from around the state filed <a href="http://www.wbez.org/years-groundwork%E2%80%94and-waiting%E2%80%94behind-illinois-gay-marriage-suits-99965">lawsuits</a> in Cook County challenging the state&rsquo;s ban on gay marriage. In a rare move, Democratic Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez refused to defend the state law, and Democratic Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed court papers saying she, too, thought the gay marriage ban was unconstitutional.</p><p dir="ltr">If and when Gov. Quinn signs the bill, those lawsuits will likely be withdrawn, said Camilla Taylor, a lawyer for Lambda Legal, one of the groups that challenged the state law.</p><p dir="ltr">But with an effective date of June 2014, the issue is still expected to be a factor in the race for Illinois governor &mdash; especially in the competitive Republican primary.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><a name="playlist"></a>Listen back: Stories and conversations leading up to SCOTUS&#39; gay marriage decision&nbsp;</strong></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/7148059" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Note: This story has been updated to include a statement from House Republican Leader Jim Durkin.</em></p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold. WBEZ&rsquo;s Alex Keefe contributed to this report. Follow him @akeefe.</em></p></p> Wed, 06 Nov 2013 12:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-says-he-will-sign-marriage-equality-bill-month-109084 Illinois House committee OKs fracking regulatory bill http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-house-committee-oks-fracking-regulatory-bill-107288 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/springfield_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; A proposal that aims to create thousands of jobs in southern Illinois by kick-starting high-volume oil and gas drilling cleared a top committee Tuesday, sending it on to the House floor.</p><p>The House Executive Committee voted 11-0 to send the full House a bill meant to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or &quot;fracking,&quot; though it was unclear when the chamber would vote on it.</p><p>The measure has been touted by proponents as creating the nation&#39;s strictest fracking regulations, although opponents worry the practice could lead to water pollution.</p><p>Rep. John Bradley, the Marion Democrat who negotiated the bill with the industry, environmental groups and regulators, labeled the agreement among stakeholders as historic. He said the safety and environmental protections in the bill are unprecedented.</p><p>&quot;I live in southern Illinois. I drink the water in southern Illinois. My children drink the water in southern Illinois. My neighbors drink the water in southern Illinois,&quot; Bradley told the members of the committee. &quot;Our first and foremost ... effort, intent in everything we did and every negotiation we had, was first and foremost that we are going to protect the ground water in southern Illinois.&quot;</p><p>Fracking uses high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals to crack rock formations deep underground and release oil and natural gas.</p><p>Among the bill&#39;s requirements is that companies disclose fracking chemicals and test water before and after drilling. It also holds them liable for contamination.</p><p>But critics, who have called for a fracking moratorium, say there is no scientific proof the practice can be done safely. They say it could cause air and water pollution and deplete water resources.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s a model for anti-scientific decision making,&quot; said Sandra Steingraber, an Illinois native and founder of New Yorkers Against Fracking.</p><p>Steingraber, who testified on behalf of the Illinois Coalition for a Moratorium on Fracking, added that the practice &quot;turns communities into industrial zones&quot; and that the state is in such dire economic straits that it will be unable to enforce the regulations spelled out in the proposal.</p><p>Among the opponents of the bill who testified Tuesday was Josh Fox, director of the anti-fracking, Oscar-nominated documentary &quot;Gasland.&quot;</p><p>After lawmakers voted on the regulatory proposal, several of the opponents in the audience yelled &quot;shame, shame.&quot;</p><p>Energy companies, which already have leased hundreds of thousands of acres in southern Illinois, have been waiting for regulatory certainty before starting to drill. But there also is nothing on the books in Illinois to stop them. Bills to establish a two-year moratorium on the practice have languished in House and Senate committees.</p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn has been supportive of the bill throughout the negotiations. After the committee&#39;s vote, he said he hopes the bill &quot;swiftly&quot; passes through the General Assembly to &quot;unlock the potential of thousands of jobs.&quot;</p></p> Tue, 21 May 2013 11:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-house-committee-oks-fracking-regulatory-bill-107288 Illinois House committee approves gay marriage bill http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-house-committee-approves-gay-marriage-bill-105781 <p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; An Illinois House committee narrowly endorsed legislation to legalize gay marriage Tuesday, setting up a showdown on the House floor that could come in a matter of weeks.</p><p>The House Executive Committee&#39;s 6-5 approval moves the measure to the floor. Approval there would likely mean Illinois would become the 10th state to OK same-sex marriage, because Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn says he will sign the legislation.</p><p>Chicago Democratic Rep. Greg Harris says his bill is a matter of treating gay couples and heterosexual couples equally under the law.</p><p>&quot;What same-sex couples in Illinois want for their families is just what you want for your families,&quot; Harris told the committee late Tuesday night.</p><p>Tuesday&#39;s vote was split along party lines. GOP lawmakers opposed the measure despite its endorsement by state Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady. Some party faithful want Brady ousted because of his support of the issue.</p><p>Yet the vote coincided with news that prominent Republicans and retired military leaders are among those who will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to support marriage equality in two cases up for argument next month.</p><p>Harris said existing state law, which he shepherded through the General Assembly two years ago and allows gay couples to enter into civil unions, has created a &quot;separate but unequal&quot; system.</p><p>Supporters and opponents filling a Capitol committee room waited six hours before testimony. A fiery discussion over legalizing the carrying of concealed weapons consumed lawmakers all afternoon and evening.</p><p>Advocates who testified before the committee included Chicago religious leaders, a lesbian couple and a psychologist.</p><p>The Rev. Otis Moss III, senior pastor at Chicago&#39;s Trinity United Church of Christ, said the bill would enhance America&#39;s ideals as a nation and guarantee that all Illinoisans are treated equally.</p><p>&quot;We are called to live our faith, not legislate our faith ...,&quot; Moss said. &quot;It&#39;s the charge of civil leaders to ensure that everyone is treated equally.&quot;</p><p>Advocates also argued that the bill would help eliminate discrimination against children of same-sex couples.</p><p>But opponents say the plan steps on people&#39;s religious freedoms. They argue lawmakers don&#39;t have the right to redefine marriage.</p><p>Committee members, noting their fatigue after a day of intense debate over guns, cast their votes on the marriage matter after an unusually brief debate on a polarizing issue.</p><p>The Senate approved the measure on Valentine&#39;s Day with Democratic support and a lone Republican tally by Champaign Sen. Jason Barickman.</p></p> Wed, 27 Feb 2013 09:36:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-house-committee-approves-gay-marriage-bill-105781 House didn't take up budget override for prisons http://www.wbez.org/news/house-didnt-take-budget-override-prisons-104213 <p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill.&nbsp; &mdash; Gov. Pat Quinn&#39;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-suggest-closings-consolidations-96621">budget cuts</a> that will force the closure of some prisons and other state facilities will stand.</p><p>The Illinois House didn&#39;t consider an override vote Wednesday before adjourning on the last day of veto session.</p><p>A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan says the speaker didn&#39;t think it was necessary action to take.</p><p>Last week, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-senate-overrides-quinns-prison-cuts-104072">the Senate voted</a> to reject cuts of $56 million to funds for the Tamms high-security prison and other sites.</p><p>Quinn opposed the override.</p><p>He called Wednesday&#39;s decision by House members not to call for a vote a victory for taxpayers.</p><p>He wants to improve child-protection program funding.</p><p>His administration argues that Tamms and some juvenile detention centers are underutilized and that developmentally disabled residents in state institutions would fare better in community settings.</p></p> Wed, 05 Dec 2012 13:37:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/house-didnt-take-budget-override-prisons-104213 Accused lawmaker’s former patron pushes for Illinois House punishment http://www.wbez.org/news/accused-lawmaker%E2%80%99s-former-patron-pushes-illinois-house-punishment-99881 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/JesseWhite.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: left; width: 248px; height: 309px;" title="Secretary of State Jesse White says lawmakers aren’t moving fast enough against Rep. Derrick Smith, D-Chicago. (AP file/Seth Perlman)" /></div><p>The former political patron of state Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago) says Illinois lawmakers have not moved fast enough to punish him for allegedly taking a bribe.</p><p>Secretary of State Jesse White said Wednesday he was &ldquo;happy&rdquo; a panel of Smith&rsquo;s colleagues had decided to advance a case that could eventually oust him from the House.</p><p>&ldquo;I think there is a price to pay,&rdquo; said White, a longtime 27th Ward committeeman who is backing a third-party candidate in an attempt to unseat Smith in November&rsquo;s election.</p><p>A federal indictment accuses Smith, 48, of accepting $7,000 for supporting a childcare center&rsquo;s application for a $50,000 state grant. The deal turned out to be an FBI sting.</p><p>A seven-page report from a special House committee, a bipartisan panel chaired by Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook), says Smith &ldquo;abused the power of his office by participating in a scheme to obtain a personal benefit in exchange for his official acts.&rdquo;</p><p>The disciplinary case now moves to another committee that will decide whether to recommend punishment to the full House. The lawmakers could exonerate, censure, reprimand or expel Smith.</p><p>&ldquo;Personally it saddens me,&rdquo; Nekritz said, &ldquo;to go through this process with one of our members.&rdquo;</p><p>An expulsion would make Smith the first member ousted from the House since 1905, when Frank Comerford (D-Chicago) lost his seat on charges he damaged his colleagues&rsquo; reputations by complaining about corruption among lawmakers.</p><p>Smith&rsquo;s attorney, Victor Henderson, said Wednesday the House should not take evidence from the feds at face value. &ldquo;This is J. Edgar Hoover&rsquo;s FBI,&rdquo; Henderson said. &ldquo;This is the same FBI that wiretapped Martin Luther King.&rdquo;</p><p>Henderson labeled a federal informant at the case&rsquo;s center a &ldquo;con man&rdquo; and said the House disciplinary process was moving forward without enough information. Henderson said the lawmakers should wait for the criminal case to play out.</p><p>Despite the bribery charge, Smith won his March primary in a landslide vote. Ousting him from the House would not remove him from the November ballot or block voters from returning him to the seat.</p><p>In that event, the state constitution would protect Smith from a second expulsion &ldquo;for the same offense&rdquo; but he could apparently face another disciplinary process.</p><p>Nekritz said she and other committee members were pushing for discipline now because they did not know how long the federal prosecution would take. &ldquo;Our duty,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;is to respect and protect the integrity of the House and the members that serve there.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;The committee felt unanimously that it was . . . important to proceed on the basis of the information we had,&rdquo; Nekritz said.</p></p> Thu, 07 Jun 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/accused-lawmaker%E2%80%99s-former-patron-pushes-illinois-house-punishment-99881 Proposal to ban private detention centers stumbles http://www.wbez.org/news/proposal-ban-private-detention-centers-stumbles-99719 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Dennis_RebolettiCROPPEDSCALED.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: left; width: 211px; height: 323px;" title="Illinois Rep. Dennis Reboletti, R- Elmhurst, argues against the bill on the House floor Thursday. (AP/Seth Perlman)" /></div><p><em>Updated Friday, June 1, at 12:30 a.m.</em></p><p>A bill that would have blocked an immigrant detention center near Chicago failed Thursday in a series of close Illinois House floor votes as lawmakers raced to adjourn for the summer.</p><p>Parliamentary moves by the bill&rsquo;s chief sponsor, Rep. Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago), kept the bill alive late into the evening. In one roll call, the measure came within one vote of the 60 needed for passage. A 57-58 roll call, with two members voting present, defeated the bill.</p><p>The legislation would have banned government agencies at the local and state levels from contracting with private firms to build or run civil detention centers. It would have thwarted a proposal for Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America to construct and operate a 788-bed facility in the village of Crete, a suburb 30 miles south of Chicago. The facility would hold detainees for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.</p><p>Sen. Antonio Munoz (D-Chicago) pushed the bill, <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=1064&amp;GAID=11&amp;DocTypeID=SB&amp;SessionID=84&amp;GA=97">SB1064</a>, through the Senate in March. Gov. Pat Quinn&rsquo;s office said he would sign the measure if it reached his desk.&nbsp;</p><p>As the House took it up, however, Springfield-based Dorgan-McPike &amp; Associates lobbied hard for CCA. Other opposition to the measure came from immigration enforcement proponents and building-trades unions eager for the Crete project&rsquo;s construction jobs.</p><p>The bill&rsquo;s supporters countered with an amendment aimed at winning votes from downstate representatives. The amendment would have allowed Tri-County Justice and Detention Center to keep its private operator, Paladin Eastside Psychological Services. That facility, located in Ullin, holds ICE detainees.</p><p>During a 25-minute House floor debate on the bill Thursday afternoon, Acevedo pointed out that the Crete construction jobs would be temporary and that the project&rsquo;s permanent jobs could come at the expense of facilities that hold ICE detainees in other parts of Illinois.</p><p>&ldquo;The people of Crete, who you would think would be the most eager for these jobs, overwhelmingly do not want this facility,&rdquo; Acevedo said. &ldquo;They see the facility will place huge burdens on the community &mdash; traffic, police and other costs &mdash; as well as abuse that a private prison company could bring.&rdquo;</p><p>Acevedo pointed to a deadly riot this month at CCA-operated Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez, Mississippi.</p><p>But Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst) brought up Indiana, an Illinois neighbor that allows CCA to operate a county jail in Indianapolis. &ldquo;Isn&rsquo;t it possible that if we do pass this law that this company could simply go into Indiana &mdash; locate the same facility and house the same detainees we would in Crete &mdash; just across the border?&rdquo;</p><p>A written statement from CCA spokesman Mike Machak called the bill&rsquo;s failure &ldquo;an important step in realizing the Obama administration&rsquo;s vision for detention, which provides detainees awaiting civil proceedings with a humane and appropriate environment.&rdquo;</p><p>The bill&rsquo;s supporters offered a different interpretation. &ldquo;This was a David and Goliath fight,&rdquo; Lawrence Benito, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said in a statement. &ldquo;Though we were able to add new Republican votes, many Democrats showed deep disrespect for the immigrant families in their own districts.&rdquo;</p><p>Crete officials have yet to approve the detention center but have touted the jobs potential. They have also talked up expected taxes and per-detainee payments for the village.</p></p> Thu, 31 May 2012 17:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/proposal-ban-private-detention-centers-stumbles-99719 Bill would push breastfeeding in Illinois hospitals http://www.wbez.org/news/bill-would-push-breastfeeding-illinois-hospitals-98730 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Gabel.JPG" style="margin: 6px 0px 0px 15px; float: right; width: 265px; height: 372px;" title="The measure’s author, Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, predicts an impact on mothers who envisioned using formula. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)"></div><p>A bill heading toward a final vote in Springfield would make Illinois one of the first states to require hospitals to adopt an infant feeding policy that promotes breast milk.</p><p>Under the measure, which passed a state Senate committee Tuesday, any hospital in Illinois that provides birthing services would develop its policy with guidance from the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, a pro-breastfeeding effort of the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund, better known as UNICEF. Hospitals would post the policy “in a conspicuous place” and “routinely communicate” it to all obstetric and neonatal staffers, beginning with their orientation, according to the bill.</p><p>The legislation, HB4968, would allow hospitals to help mothers use formula if medically necessary or if the women preferred it. But the bill’s author, Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, predicts her measure would have an impact on mothers who had never envisioned breastfeeding.</p><p>“Once the nurses talk to them and explain the benefits to the children — how it prevents obesity, many acute chronic diseases, [sudden infant death syndrome], asthma and allergies — mothers may be much more likely to breastfeed than they were before,” said Gabel, who modeled the legislation on a California law that will take effect in 2014.</p><p>The Illinois Hospital Association helped craft the bill and supports its passage, according to Nichole Magalis, the group’s senior director of government relations.</p><p>The House approved the measure in a 107-0 vote March 21. Sponsored in the Senate by Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, the bill passed the Senate Public Health Committee in a 9-0 vote Tuesday. The timing of a Senate floor vote is unclear.</p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn has not taken a position on the bill, according to a spokeswoman. It would take effect January 1, 2013.</p></p> Tue, 01 May 2012 15:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/bill-would-push-breastfeeding-illinois-hospitals-98730 Crete leader slams Chicago immigrant activists http://www.wbez.org/eight-forty-eight/2012-04-12/crete-leader-slams-chicago-immigrant-activists-97809 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.wbez.org/" alt="" /><p><div class="image-insert-image "><img class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/march_1.jpg" style="margin: 6px 0px 0px 1px; float: left; width: 228px; height: 343px;" title="Marchers arrive Sunday afternoon in Crete after a three-day trek from Chicago. (WBEZ/Charlie Billups)"></div><p><span style="font-size:11px;"><em>Listen to Chip Mitchell discuss this story on </em>Eight Forty-Eight</span></p><div class="mediaelement-audio"><audio class="mediaelement-formatter-identified-1333389318-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/120402%20a%20-%20chip.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The leader of a Chicago suburb where a private company wants to build an immigrant detention center says he and other town officials are having a hard time gauging public support for the plan because Chicago-based protesters have come in and whipped people “into a frenzy.”</p><p>“I’m not responsible to the people of Little Village,” said Crete President Michael Einhorn, referring to a heavily immigrant Chicago neighborhood where a three-day march against the proposal began Friday. “I’m not responsible for anybody else except the people who live inside the boundaries of this town.</p><p>“But the outside interference and the outside noise has made it extremely difficult for any municipal official to develop a clear and concise feeling for how the people we are responsible for are feeling because the people who are in favor of it are not beating my door down and putting signs in their yard,” Einhorn said.</p><p>The proposal is for Crete, a village 30 miles from downtown Chicago, to contract with Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America to build and run the detention center. The 788-bed facility would hold U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees awaiting deportation.</p><p>Einhorn and other village officials have talked up the project’s expected jobs and tax benefits as well as an opportunity for Crete to receive per-detainee payments. But the village has yet to negotiate a contract with the company or approve the facility.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/march_2_0.jpg" style="margin: 9px 0px 6px 1px; float: left; width: 228px; height: 293px;" title="Crete President Michael Einhorn talks up the proposal’s expected jobs and the payments the village would receive for each detainee. (WBEZ/Charlie Billups)"></div><p>The 40 marchers increased their numbers over the three days. By Sunday afternoon, when they reached a rural Crete parcel proposed for the project, their ranks had swelled to about 250. They ranged from seasoned immigrant advocates to youths donning handkerchief masks, self-described anarchists, Mexican-born mothers pushing strollers and longtime Crete residents fretting about their property values and whether the village would share liability for the facility’s operations.</p><p>Some Crete residents voiced concerns beyond their own interests. Warehouse company owner Thomas Tynan, 63, said the detention center proposal should call attention to a federal policy of deporting hundreds of thousands of immigrants a year. “There needs to be a way that people who come to this country and want to work and want to become citizens can do that,” he said.</p><p>Tynan even likened immigrant detention centers to concentration camps during World War II. “If I was living then, what would I do?” he asked. “This is an opportunity for people to show what they would do.”</p><p>The Crete proposal is part of an ICE push to improve conditions in immigrant detention centers. That push follows a series of alleged human rights abuses in ICE facilities, including some run by CCA, the Nashville company.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/march_3.jpg" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 1px; float: left; width: 341px; height: 310px;" title="On the site of the proposed detention center, Crete resident Dan Taylor says the facility would hurt the village’s finances. (WBEZ/Charlie Billups)"></div><p>Illinois state senators last Wednesday approved a bill sponsored by Sen. Antonio Muñoz (D-Chicago) that aims to block the Crete plan. The measure, <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=1064&amp;GAID=11&amp;DocTypeID=SB&amp;SessionID=84&amp;GA=97">Senate Bill 1064</a>, would make Illinois one of the nation’s first states to ban local governments and state agencies from contracting with private companies to build or run civil detention centers. The bill would broaden an Illinois statute banning privately built or operated state prisons and county jails.</p><p>The bill’s supporters acknowledge that Illinois cannot stop the federal government from contracting directly with private entities to build or run a detention center in the state.</p><p>After the measure’s Senate approval, Reps. Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago) and Elizabeth Hernandez (D-Cicero) introduced the House version. Its supporters say they will push for quick passage when the legislature returns from a recess April 17.</p><p>Some House Republicans are vowing to oppose the measure. Neither House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) nor Gov. Pat Quinn has taken a stand on it.</p><p><em><strong>See many more images of the march to Crete and village President Michael Einhorn at photographer <a href="http://charliebillups.photoshelter.com/gallery/Crete-Illinois-detention-center-opposition-march/G0000t9QgeeLrqGA">Charlie Billups</a>’ site.</strong></em></p></p> Mon, 02 Apr 2012 07:57:55 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/eight-forty-eight/2012-04-12/crete-leader-slams-chicago-immigrant-activists-97809 Ill. House OKs ban on password snooping by bosses http://www.wbez.org/story/ill-house-oks-ban-password-snooping-bosses-97753 <p><p>The Illinois House wants to bar employers from asking workers and job applicants for access to social media like Facebook.</p><p>The legislation passed 78-30 Thursday and now goes to the Senate.</p><p>Some employers, particularly law enforcement, have begun asking for passwords so they can review the online activities of job applicants.</p><p>Under the legislation sponsored by Democratic Rep. La Shawn Ford, workers could file lawsuits if pressured to open up private accounts or they're denied a job for refusing. Bosses could still ask for usernames to view public information online, and they can monitor work-owned computers.</p></p> Fri, 30 Mar 2012 14:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/ill-house-oks-ban-password-snooping-bosses-97753