Illinois

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A battle over power is shaping up in Illinois. It involves lawmakers, but unlike with the state budget crisis they are not playing a central role. This fight involves electricity plants, regulated and unregulated energy companies and the nonprofits that act as air traffic controllers for the electric grid.

St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson takes questions from Alderman Sam Moore (in hat), D., 4th Ward, at a meeting of the Ways and Means Committee on June 1, 2016.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

In our weekly "Behind the Headlines" segment, St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh discussed the top news stories that caught St. Louisans’ attention this week, with the people who produced them and contributed to them.

This week, we discussed public outcry about public safety in St. Louis, the NGA announcement and the Illinois budget situation after Illinois’ spring legislative session closed on Tuesday.

Here’s who joined us:

Inside Amazon fulfillment center
Amazon.com

Amazon has announced plans to open two distribution centers in Edwardsville.

The company says the facilities are expected to eventually employ more than 1,000 full-time workers.

Heidi Cruz takes a picture with a supporter at Eckert's Restaurant in Belleville. Heidi Cruz is campaigning across Illinois for GOP presidential contender Ted Cruz.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Inside a restaurant dining room that was packed to the gills, Heidi Cruz gave a promise to Republicans in the Metro East and around the country: Her husband, GOP presidential contender Ted Cruz, could unite a party that appears to be at war with itself.

And she added that the at-times contentious Texas senator can bridge divides without giving up his core beliefs.

Adrian Clark | Flickr

Sixteen million dollars. That’s how much the state owes four southern Illinois hospitals, including St. Elizabeth’s in Belleville, according to hospital executive James Dover. He estimates that figure represents 10 to 15 percent of his operating budget over a six month period.

“It’s huge,” said Dover, president and CEO of the Southern Illinois Division of Hospital Sisters Health System, which is headquartered in Springfield. “We’ll never turn away a patient, but what other business would continue to take care of people while the state says ‘Sorry, we’re not going to pay you because we failed to pass a budget?’”

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses nearly five thousand people on the campus of Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, Illinois on March 4, 2016.
Bill Greenblatt I UPI

Inside a packed basketball arena in southern Illinois, Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders’ made Weasel Forsythe’s day.

Forsythe was one of several thousand people who saw the Vermont senator speak Friday on the campus of Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville. When Sanders was through with a roughly 50-minute speech, he gave Forsythe a hug.

Ruby Allen-Ellis, a public health administrator with the East Side Health District in St. Clair County, Ill., will no longer have a job as of Friday, Jan. 29, 2016, due to the Illinois budget impasse.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

As of Friday, Ruby Allen-Ellis will no longer have a job.

Allen-Ellis serves as a public health administrator with East Side Health District. She is one of thousands in the state of Illinois that have been laid off from their jobs in social service because of the state’s budget impasse over the past eight months.

Deer visit the SIU-Edwardsville campus.
Pete Burzynski | Flickr | 2007

The interim chancellor of Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville insists that his campus is financially strong and will not close because of the state’s budget stalemate.

But Stephen Hansen wrote to his colleagues at SIUE that he expects the political rhetoric between Gov. Bruce Rauner and lawmakers to escalate as the spending standoff moves toward a critical point.

East St.  Louis Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

East St. Louis employees across all departments could be facing layoffs due to a budget deficit approaching $5.7 million by 2016.

“We will make every effort as an administration to review all legal options and only look at layoffs as a last resort. However at this point we really do not see how the city will avoid layoffs,” said Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks in a prepared statement to news outlets Sunday afternoon.

(Courtesy of the City of Belleville)

The board of Belleville Township could soon be voting to dissolve itself.

Currently an Illinois township can only be dissolved by a referendum of the people and approval from surrounding townships, but a bill awaiting consideration by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner would allow the Metro East township’s elected officials to vote for dissolution instead.

via Flickr\Orbspiders

What is art?

That is the question Alton, Ill. residents and council members debated after the owner of a tattoo parlor, Grand Piasa Body Art, proposed relocating his business to East Broadway Street, in the city’s historic downtown district.

Alex Heuer

Representative John Shimkus, a Republican who represents Illinois' 15th Congressional District, joined “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh to discuss some of the issues he’s dealing with as a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and other matters in Washington. Shimkus represents a large portion of the Metro East as well as parts of eastern and southeastern Illinois.

"Get to Know M.E." http://www.get2knowthemetroeast.com

In March 2015, 23 businesses and organizations collaborated to create the “Get to Know M.E.” campaign (M.E. standing for “Metro East”) to counter the negative images some people may have about the Metro East.

Founded by Carol Bartle, the campaign’s goal is to help everyone in the Metro East get to know their communities better and to embrace each other as neighbors, all while working to improve the overall image outsiders may have about the region.

(WUIS Radio)

Illinois' new Republican governor is calling for deep spending cuts to address a state budget billions in the red without raising taxes.

Gov. Bruce Rauner said during his first budget address Wednesday that Illinois has been living beyond its means.

(WUIS Radio)

 Gov. Bruce Rauner has laid out a first-year agenda he says will make Illinois more competitive and "empower" people and local governments.  The Winnetka Republican delivered his first State of the State address Wednesday.    He says Illinois must make changes to become more welcoming to businesses.  

"Our workers compensation, unemployment insurance and liability costs all rank among the worst in America. Those costs add up to far more than just numbers on an accountant's balance sheet," Rauner said. "They impact real people with real jobs and real families."

The city of Quincy, Ill., is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year, which will include concerts at its riverfront park on the east bank of the Mississippi River.
Lpangelrob, via Wikipedia

After holding a kick-off event Tuesday evening, Quincy, Ill., is launching a yearlong series of events to celebrate its 175th anniversary.

Quincy's Mayor Kyle Moore said various community events and concerts will round out the festivities throughout the year. An anniversary bash in May during the city's dogwood celebration will feature a parade with a #Quincy175 theme and a Saturday night street concert. Four regional acts will perform. 

Proposition B asks to voters to allow their local city or county to continue collecting sales tax on cars bought out of state
File photo | St. Louis Public Radio

There’s a new effort underway to shut down the East St. Louis Election Board.

Illinois State Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) is sponsoring a bill to close it. Kay’s district includes portions of Madison and St. Clair County, but not East St. Louis.

If the bill passes, the St. Clair County Clerk will take over responsibility for elections in East St. Louis.

Illinois Gov.-Elect Bruce Rauner shakes the hand of a diner at Red Apple Family Restaurant in Maryville, Ill. on January 10, 2015.
Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio

With the countdown to inauguration day down to two, Illinois Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner stepped into Red Apple Family Restaurant in the Metro East Saturday with a Carhartt jacket on his back and a smile on his face.

The discerning eye could note a silver Illinois-shaped pin stuck to the lapel of the tan work coat.

The crowded red-roofed eatery in the village of Maryville was the Republican’s first stop Saturday—the second day of his pre-inauguration tour.

Adam, 37, Michaela, 3, and Kristy Frederick, 37, on a family hike in Colorado. The family moved to the state in 2013, in the hopes of treating Michaela's frequent seizures with an oil made from medical cannabis.
Frederick Family

 The state of Illinois has already missed a self-imposed deadline to license medical marijuana cultivators and dispensaries by the end of 2014.

The law allows people suffering from one of about 40 conditions to use medical marijuana with a doctor’s approval. It passed the Illinois legislature more than a year ago, but with a Republican governor soon to take office, it’s unclear exactly when state regulators will issue permits to the future suppliers.

In the meantime, patients continue to wait.

In Denver, One Family Delays a Homecoming

State comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, shown in this state photo, died December 10, 2014 from complications of a stroke at the age of 70.
via Illinois Comptroller website

(Updated 3:54 p.m., Wed., Dec. 10 with more reaction.)

Judy Baar Topinka, a leading figure in Illinois politics for decades, died suddenly Wednesday morning. Topinka, the state comptroller, won re-election to a second term in that office in November. Her office says she suffered a stroke. She was 70 years old. 

Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

The motto of the Excel Bottling Company in Breese, Ill., is “Good Things Don’t Have To Change.”

And they really mean it.

Here, on the corner of Broadway and Clinton streets, four generations of the Meier family have been selling soda for nearly 80 years.

They make it the old-fashioned way -- with pure cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup -- using  vintage bottling equipment that was already “secondhand” when it was purchased in 1936.

Incumbent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican nominee Bruce Rauner met for the first formal debate of the general election season Thursday in Peoria. The panel included Illinois Public Radio/WUIS Statehouse Bureau Chief Amanda Vinicky and Illinois Issues Executive Editor Jamey Dunn.

Watch or listen to the full debate:


Illinois state Rep. Mike Bost's impassioned floor speech from 2012 is getting some attention. Democrats are using it to paint him as an ill-tempered extremist, while Republicans say it showcases his passion for his constituents.
Mike Bost's campaign

On the surface, Mike Bost and Moses don’t have that much in common. But some not-so-flattering political ads may create a different impression.

Bost – a Republican state representative from Murphysboro – is engaged in a highly competitive race against U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, for the 12th congressional district seat. It’s become vigorous enough to force the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to spend lots of money to paint Bost in a bad light.

sign for medical marijuana
Wikimedia Commons

The opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a new industry has a Metro East entrepreneur moving forward with plans for a medical marijuana operation, even though there is no guarantee of being granted a license by the state of Illinois.

Mitch Meyers is a partner with NCC LLC, which stands for Nature's Care Company. She says the company has already invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into a potential cultivation center and dispensary near Marissa in St. Clair County.

Flickr | alancleaver_2000

Illinois voters will consider this November whether to amend the state constitution over rights for crime victims.

Victims already have certain rights, including: to be told about court dates, to attend trials and to give impact statements.

But some advocates believe a constitutional amendment is needed to better protect these rights.

Alan J. Dixon
Wikipedia

Updated with tentative funeral arrangements.

Alan J. Dixon, a two-term Democratic senator from Illinois and long-time figure in Illinois politics, died today. According to a report in the Belleville News-Democrat, Mr. Dixon had had heart problems for the past two years and had recently been in Barnes-Jewish hospital. "He came home on Thursday and he was in good spirits," Jeff Dixon, the senator’s son, told the News-Democrat. "We had dinner with cold Budweiser followed by a glass of red wine."

Mr. Dixon was 86. He would have turned 87 on Monday.

(via Flickr/jglazer75)

No one says the $35.7 billion 2015 budget approved by the Illinois Legislature late last week is balanced. As the Belleville News Democrat reported, “Democratic Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Senate budget negotiator, described the plan as ‘incomplete’ but the best lawmakers could do this session.

Washington is just starting to rebuild.

Much of the central Illinois town was wiped away by a half-mile-wide tornado in November. In all, 1,108 homes were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable — a huge share of the housing stock in a city of 15,000.

"Early on, people were asking me how long it was going to take to rebuild the city, and I said we'll do it in a year," says Mayor Gary Manier. "That was wishful thinking."

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

Every week, St. Louis Public Radio's Chris McDaniel, Jo Mannies and Jason Rosenbaum talk about the week’s politics. 

We’ve broken another barrier on the show: U.S. Rep. John Shimkus is the first political figure from Illinois to be a guest on the podcast. The Collinsville Republican has represented large areas of southern Illinois since 1997 and plays a major role on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

A hike in the minimum wage, sending more children to preschool and more grants for low-income college students are all part of the agenda Governor Pat Quinn laid out Wednesday in his State of the State address.

Five years to the day after he first became governor, Pat Quinn tried to make the case that Illinois is "making a comeback." It's also the anniversary of when lawmakers removed his predecessor from office. Ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich is now serving a federal prison sentence for corruption.

Quinn says he's helped restore integrity to state government.

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