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   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

   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois lawmakers are returning to the state capitol for a second day of their annual fall veto session.

   After getting off to a sputtering start Tuesday, the schedule on Wednesday is shaping up to include a hearing on gambling and more requests by state agencies for additional funds.

   Horsemen and officials from the Illinois racetracks want lawmakers to authorize a law that allows for online betting. And lawmakers are reviving talks on a larger gambling bill that stalled this spring.

   Tuesday also saw a gay marriage rally as part of an effort to make such unions legal in Illinois.

   Lawmakers have yet to address the state's $97 billion pension shortfall and tax incentives aimed at keeping Archer Daniels Midland Company's global headquarters in Illinois.

 
Published in Local News
Monday, 21 October 2013 02:52

Illinois veto session begins Tuesday

   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois lawmakers are set to reconvene Tuesday to address pressing issues such as pension reform and same-sex marriage. But a looming deadline for opponents to challenge sitting lawmakers in 2014 is one reason those issues could be pushed off once again.

   The filing date for anyone considering challenging a legislator in the March primaries in Dec. 9. That could make some lawmakers especially careful about casting controversial votes.

   On the session agenda is proposed tax incentives aimed at keeping the new global headquarters of Decatur-based Archer Daniels Midland Company in Illinois. Lawmakers will consider supplementing the $35 billion budget approved in May and hold a hearing to resuscitate talks over expanding gambling in the state.

   Legislation to enforce mandatory minimum prison sentences for felony gun convictions may also be considered.

 

Published in Local News

   The Illinois horse racing industry could find itself in a bind if lawmakers don't renew a law allowing online betting that expires in January.

   Race dates at Illinois racetracks, including Fairmont Park, would be severely cut if lawmakers don't take action to renew the betting law and give Illinois' racing board access to money online wagering generates.  

   The issue could come up when the General Assembly convenes Tuesday.

   But even if lawmakers get it done, there's no guarantee Governor Quinn will sign it.  Quinn has said he won't consider other legislation until lawmakers fix the state's pension crisis.

Published in Local News

   CHICAGO (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn says he's pleased the Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to hear his appeal of a ruling that found his veto of lawmakers' pay unconstitutional.

   The court issued its one-page order Wednesday. A hearing date has not been set.

   Quinn halted lawmakers' salaries in July.  He said they shouldn't get paid until they addressed Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension crisis.

   House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton then sued, arguing Quinn didn't have the authority to halt lawmaker paychecks.

   A Cook County judge in September ordered that legislators be paid immediately.

   Quinn appealed directly to the state's high court, saying his move was allowed through the state constitution.

   Quinn's spokeswoman says the governor will continue to not accept his own paycheck until pension reform is achieved.

 
Published in Local News

   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A proposed solution to Illinois' historic $100 million pension crisis is hanging in the balance as the state Legislature's October veto session approaches.

   Key Democrats on a pension panel are pushing a plan to save the state $138 billion over the next 30 years, but Republican lawmakers want a number of changes. House Speaker Michael Madigan hasn't yet committed to calling the proposal for a vote, either.

   Senate President John Cullerton supports the deal and calls it "less unconstitutional" than a previous plan that would have saved $163 billion.

   Illinois' five public-employee retirement funds have an unfunded liability of about $100 billion. The annual contribution to the fund, plus payments on past pension bonds, is about $7.65 billion this year. That number will increase in years to come without action.

 
Published in Local News
Monday, 09 September 2013 08:27

Ilinois Capitol renovations costly

Illinois lawmakers are criticizing the cost of renovations at the state capitol. The price tag for the upgrades in Springfield are approaching $50-million. The Chicago Sun Times reports the cost includes $80-thousand sculptures and chandeliers and $670-thousand copper-plated wooden doors. Democrats and Republicans alike are now questioning the bidding process and Republican Representative Jim Durkin says, "I'm embarrassed to say that this went on without anyone's knowledge that I'm aware of. And we have some egg on our face." The renovation is being funded by construction bonds that were part of a $31-billion capital construction plan approved by the Legislature.

 

Published in Local News

   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - An expert in term limits says a Republican governor candidate's proposal to overhaul the Illinois Legislature is better structured than past failed bids.

   University of Illinois Professor Chris Mooney says Bruce Rauner's petition drive to limit lawmakers to eight years in office is savvy in its three-pronged approach. The Winnetka venture capitalist's proposal would not only limit the length of terms but also cut the size of the Senate and make it harder to override a governor's veto.

   Those elements could help the proposal overcome a state Supreme Court ruling that struck down a 1994 initiative because it didn't make "structural and procedural" changes to the Legislature.

   But the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform says it is concerned that Rauner's petition drive could unfairly boost his separate governor's campaign.

 
Published in Local News

   CHICAGO (AP) - Gay marriage supporters are launching a $2 million statewide campaign to approve same-sex marriage in Illinois.

   Illinois Unites for Marriage is a coalition representing gay rights, civil rights and political groups.

   In a statement Tuesday, the group says it will place 15 field organizers throughout the state to engage supporters. They plan to target legislators who oppose a measure to lift Illinois' ban on same-sex marriage.

   The Illinois Senate passed the bill in February. It wasn't called for a vote in the House because the bill's sponsor said it didn't have the votes to pass.

   Jim Bennett is chairman of the coalition. He says the next few months are critical because lawmakers could take up the bill in the fall.

   Opponents say marriage should be between a man and woman.

 

 
Published in Local News

   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Lawmakers are set to meet in Springfield to consider a bill allowing the concealed carry of weapons in public on the day of a court-mandated deadline to pass such legislation.

   Gov. Pat Quinn has asked for sweeping changes to a concealed carry bill, but lawmakers have been less than enthusiastic, so far, and are expected to override his changes.

   Quinn wants an ammunition limit and to prohibit guns in any place that serves alcohol, among other provisions. He has backed his changes by focusing on violence in Chicago.

   But several lawmakers say Quinn proposed changes come too late in the process.

   Illinois is the only state without a law to allowed concealed carry. A federal appeals court ruled the state's ban unconstitutional and set a Tuesday deadline to allow it.

   

 
Published in Local News
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