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   Traffic ticket quotas may soon be a thing of the past in Illinois.  

   A proposal to outlaw them has cleared the state Senate and will be considered in the House. The legislation says police officers can't be evaluated on the number of citations they write.

   The bill's sponsor says it will let officers use more discretion in deciding whether or not to give someone a ticket.

Published in Local News
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Legislation helping southern Illinois school districts fill teaching vacancies with recently retired teachers is advancing in the state Legislature.
The legislation sponsored by state Sen. John Rushville passed the Senate by a 51-0 vote Wednesday.
 
The bill would allow retired teachers, who are still certified, to teach while still maintaining their eligibility for retirement. Retirees would be exempt from making contributions or receiving any new pension benefits.
 
Schools must have advertised the position for three months prior to the beginning of the school term and offer vacancies to teachers' whose positions have been eliminated by the district.
 
The legislation now moves to the House.
Published in Local News
   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Michael Madigan's spokesman says the Illinois House speaker is withdrawing a plan to tax millionaires in the state.
   Steve Brown is the Chicago Democrat's spokesman. He said Wednesday that Madigan blames Republicans who wouldn't support the proposal. Brown says Republicans "prefer and protect millionaires over school children." Highwood Democratic state Rep. Scott Drury also expressed concerns about the plan.
   Madigan wanted to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would have added a 3 percent surcharge onto incomes over $1 million. He said it would raise an estimated $1 billion annually for schools. A House committee approved the plan Thursday.
   The proposal needed a three-fifths majority in both chambers to be placed on the general election ballot.
   Republicans said the tax would hurt small businesses and farmers.
Published in Local News
   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Another major credit-rating house says the next 50 days of Illinois state budget-making will be "pivotal" to the state's financial health.
   Standard & Poor's Ratings Services issued the statement Wednesday.
   Lawmakers must approve a budget for the coming year by the end of May. Gov. Pat Quinn proposed a budget last month that relies on making a temporary income tax increase permanent to avoid a $1.8 billion revenue hole.
   S&P says the plan could help the state's finances by preventing sharp spending reductions. But it noted the budget still leans on non-recurring revenue such as an inter-fund loan and reliance on Medicaid reform and other cost-containment.
   Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings issued similar outlooks last week.
   
 
Published in Local News
   CHICAGO (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn heads into a critical election-year State of the State address this week with his top priority of pension reform inked into the law.
   The speech on Wednesday is a chance for Quinn to lay out goals for the year and recap his accomplishments.
   But how much credit the Chicago Democrat can take for what he's called the signature achievement of his governorship is up for debate.
   Quinn has won praise for keeping pension reform in the public sphere with his populist tactics, like withholding legislator pay. Pension reform was once a topic more common among economists and business groups.
   However, he's also been criticized for those methods and not doing more to broker the deal himself. Some say he only took notice when there weren't other options.
 
Published in Local News

   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois lawmakers are set to consider a potentially historic plan to solve the state's worst-in-the-nation $100 billion pension crisis.

   Tuesday will begin with a morning hearing where a bipartisan committee of lawmakers will discuss the proposal. Opponents and supporters also will get a chance to weigh in.

   A clear majority of committee members signed off on the plan Monday, sending it to the floor of the House and Senate.

   Illinois has the nation's worst-funded state pension systems. The bill before the Legislature on Tuesday is estimated to save $160 billion over 30 years by trimming retirement benefits.

   Illinois' legislative leaders and the governor have spent recent days drumming up support for the proposal.

   Labor unions say it's unfair to retirees and believe that some elements are unconstitutional.

 
Published in Local News

   CHICAGO (AP) - The Illinois House will convene for a special session next week on the state's roughly $100 billion pension crisis.

   Both the House and Senate had tentatively set two days aside next week to meet. On Monday House Speaker Michael Madigan's chief of staff emailed representatives, telling them to expect a one-day session starting Tuesday, Dec. 3 at 11 a.m.

   Senate President John Cullerton's spokeswoman says senators still have the days on the books and there has been no change for now.

   The four legislative leaders met last week on a plan that could save around $150 billion over the next three decades. Madigan spokesman Steve Brown says the speaker continued discussions with leaders over the weekend and there was progress.

   The leaders are expected to talk again this week.

 

Published in Local News

   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A top aide to House Speaker Michael Madigan is telling Illinois lawmakers to be ready for a special session in Springfield in December.

   Madigan chief of staff Tim Mapes told Democrats in an email Wednesday that a "possible" session could begin Dec. 3. He told lawmakers to "keep other days that week available."

   The email was sent around the time Madigan and other legislative leaders were meeting in Chicago to discuss a deal to solve the state's $100 billion pension crisis.

   Dec. 3 is the day after the deadline for candidates to file paperwork in the 2014 campaign, including anyone challenging incumbents.

   House Republican Leader Jim Durkin says progress is being made on pensions but any agreement is on hold until the cost savings of proposed solutions can be calculated.

 
Published in Local News

   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois lawmakers are convening in Springfield for the final three days of their annual fall session.

   The action kicks off with Tuesday hearings on corporate tax incentives and stricter gun penalties in the Illinois House.

   Same-sex marriage legislation could also come up for a vote in the coming days. The measure was approved by the state Senate in February but stalled in the House in the spring. Advocates have since launched a more collaborative push and several undecided lawmakers announced their support for the measure. Opponents say they're prepared to mount primary challenges against members who vote for the legislation.

   Lawmakers are not confident there will be a vote on a deal to solve the state's $97 billion pension crisis, but they say they are making progress on a deal.

 
Published in Local News

   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois lawmakers have re-opened talks on a bill to expand gambling, but many of the concerns that doomed earlier proposals remain.

   The House Executive Committee held a hearing Wednesday on a measure to add five casinos and allow slot machines at Chicago's major airports. The bill passed the Senate in the spring but didn't get a House vote.

   Bill sponsor Rep. Robert Rita is a Blue Island Democrat. He says he'll work to address concerns. They include whether there's sufficient oversight of a Chicago casino and how new revenue would be shared.

   Both the House and Senate have adjourned for the week. Lawmakers are scheduled to return to Springfield for the second week of the fall session in early November.

 
Published in Local News
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