Illinois

A judge says a Chicago police officer charged in the shooting death of black teenager Laquan McDonald can't skip any court hearings.

Jason Van Dyke's lawyer has been arguing that Van Dyke shouldn't be forced to attend hearings because he's been verbally abused and physically jostled by protesters when he comes to court. Van Dyke's father said the same thing at a hearing Thursday.

However, Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan ruled that Van Dyke must keep attending the hearings. The judge promised to beef up courthouse security.   

A suburban Chicago judge has delayed deciding whether to dismiss charges against a police officer's widow accused of helping her late husband steal thousands from a youth program.

Lake County Judge James Booras said Thursday that he will take up the issue again on June 13 in the case, the Daily Herald reports. Melodie Gliniewicz has pleaded not guilty to being involved in her late husband's scheme to steal money from the Fox Lake police program.

Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

The University of Illinois System has launched a three-year, $60 million initiative to recruit top faculty to its universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield.

University President Tim Killeen announced the effort Thursday, the News-Gazette reports. Killeen says the objective is to bring in tenured, high-achieving faculty in a broad range of academic disciplines.

The plan is dubbed the President's Distinguished Faculty Recruitment Program.

CREDIT "COURTROOM ONE GAVEL" BY FLICKR USER BETH CORTEZ-NEAVEL / (CC BY 2.0)

An Illinois appellate court has ruled that the College of DuPage Foundation is subject to the state's open records law and ordered it to turn over a federal subpoena requested by the Chicago Tribune.

The Tribune reports that the unanimous decision marks the first time an Illinois higher court has ruled in favor of releasing records in possession of a public college's fundraising organization.

The ruling upholds an earlier ruling by a DuPage County Circuit Court judge.

Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

A controversial measure approved Wednesday in the Illinois Senate would expand government funding of abortion to include state employees and lower-income women on government health plans.

It also would repeal a so-called “trigger” in state law which Democrats argue could automatically outlaw abortion should the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision ever be overturned.

Many Republicans found the expanded funding particularly objectionable.

Goodwill Is On The Move To NIU Residence Halls

May 9, 2017

Goodwill is stationing containers in NIU’s residence halls this week as students move out for the summer.

It’s part of a bi-annual campaign to collect unwanted items that may otherwise go in the trash.

Mary Ann Stratus, with Goodwill, said that's because residence halls often don’t have the time or manpower to bring items to donation centers.

“It only made sense for Goodwill to come in, bring the bins to the students, and just make it easy for them to donate,” she said.

Stratus said they’re in particular need for items like shoes and jeans.

Jenna Dooley / WNIJ News

New bylaws from the University of Illinois fraternities' governing board will require all chapters to train their members on how to intervene to prevent sexual assault.

The change from the university's student-run Interfraternity Council requires all 42 campus fraternities to teach every second-year member about “bystander intervention" in addition to the two sexual-assault-prevention programs already mandated for all students on campus, the News-Gazette reports.

Brian Mackey/Illinois Public Radio

Illinois will face $19 billion in overdue bills by next summer if nothing is done to balance the state’s budget, according to a nonpartisan tax policy and research group.

The Civic Federation said Tuesday that, to close an estimated $4.6 billion deficit, Illinois needs spending restraints coupled with higher income tax rates — raising from the current 3.75 percent up to 5.25 percent.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan is pushing legislation aimed at protecting Illinois students who take out college loans.

The plan would establish a “student loan bill of rights” outlining information that companies have to provide to borrowers, including all repayment options. It also would require student-loan servicers to get a state license and create a student-loan ombudsman in the attorney general's office.

United States Congress

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday that allows churches to become more active politically. Critics say it could lead to LGBTQ discrimination, but U.S. lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday that would prevent that discrimination – with several from Illinois as co-sponsors.

Flickr user / kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop) "Vote!" (CC BY 2.0)

Illinois senators have overwhelmingly endorsed an automatic-voter registration plan two years in the making.

SB1933 would register qualified voters automatically when they visit Secretary of State offices and a handful of other state agencies unless they decide to opt out. It moves to the House after a 48-0 vote Friday in the Senate.

State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, is sponsoring the measure. He says it would streamline voter registration and bolster participation.

cityofjoliet.info

The house where a toddler was found dead was visited by Will County sheriff's deputies nearly 60 times in a little more than a year.

Records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times in a Freedom of Information Act request show two of the 59 visits to 1-year-old Semaj Crosby's Joliet Township house were welfare checks. Forty of those calls were for probation checks.

"Courtroom One Gavel" by Flickr User Beth Cortez-Neavel / (CC BY 2.0)

Social-service providers suing Illinois over lack of payment during the state's budget impasse have presented oral arguments before an appeals court and are waiting for a decision on where the case should be heard.

The Pay Now Illinois coalition sued last year in Cook County to force the state to honor contracts during the budget stalemate, which is nearing two full years. However, a Cook County judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying it belonged in a higher court.

"Wheelchair" by Flickr User zeevveez / (CC X 2.0)

A tentative contract agreement has averted a possible strike that was planned by thousands of Illinois nursing home workers.

Representatives of more than 5,000 workers at nursing homes around Chicago and Rockford had planned to strike starting on Thursday, but a statement on behalf of Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois says an agreement was reached on a three-year deal.

The statement early Thursday says the tentative agreement includes wage increases and staffing provisions to help reduce turnover and increase the quality of care for residents.

Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

Illinois Senate Democrats are hoping to win bipartisan support for a partial government spending plan.

 

The proposal would release more than $800 million that’s been collected in special state accounts for higher education and human services — neither of which has been fully funded since summer 2015.

 

Those areas have been particularly squeezed during the 22-month budget stalemate.

 

Billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzker is launching the first television ads of the Democratic primary campaign for Illinois governor.

Pritzker's campaign released a 60-second ad statewide Tuesday aimed at helping voters get to know the candidate, an heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune who doesn't have the name recognition of some of his rivals, especially outside Chicago.

The ad explains Pritzker's role in starting the Chicago tech incubator called 1871 and his work to support early childhood education.

"Metra" By Flickr User Chris Phan / (CC BY 2.0)

Downstate mass transit services have been hit hard by the Illinois budget stalemate. Lawmakers are now looking to remove them from the fight.

Downstate transit is funded in part through city and county sales taxes. Before that money can be spent, it passes through state government. That means transit agencies have to wait in a long line to get paid.

Illinois is more than $11 billion dollars behind.

State Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, is sponsoring legislation that essentially would pull downstate transit out of line, sending them tax money directly.

Flickr user jen light / "airplane" (CC v. 2.0)

The head of security at Chicago's airports has been fired, just two weeks after a passenger was dragged from a United Airlines plane by security officers at O'Hare International Airport.

The Department of Aviation said in a statement Thursday that Jeffrey Redding, the department’s deputy commissioner of security, “has been terminated from his duties” at O'Hare and Midway airports. No reason was given.

cps.edu

Despite a judge's decision Friday to toss Chicago Public Schools' civil rights lawsuit against the state, Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared late Friday that classes will not end early as CPS officials had threatened.

"The children of the city of Chicago will be in school until the end of the school year," Emanuel said at news conference late Friday afternoon.

The mayor did not say where the city will get the money to keep schools open.

"Electronic Stethescope" By Flickr User Ted Eytan / (CC BY 2.0)

Gov. Bruce Rauner has rescinded his notice to lay off 124 unionized nurses at the Illinois Department of Corrections and move the jobs to a private contractor.

State Rep. Tim Butler of Springfield says it was he and six other Republicans who got the governor to return to the bargaining table.

“I think it’s best for those nurses in that situation that they continue to be state employees,” Butler said. "I mean that’s what we’re advocating for."

Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

Suburban Chicago mayors are stepping into the statewide debate over freezing local property taxes.

The proposal is a key element of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's agenda. He has insisted on the freeze before agreeing to a state budget.

Leaders representing more than 150 cities and villages surrounding Chicago say a freeze would handicap local government and do nothing to address the Illinois budget problems.

Increased revenues coming in to state coffers during tax season have allowed the Illinois Comptroller to release more than $800 million in payments for health care services.

Comptroller Susana Mendoza said Wednesday that the money will go to nearly a dozen managed-care operations in Illinois serving Medicaid patients, according to the State Journal-Register.  Those organizations can use the money to pay doctors, hospitals and mental-health counselors.

Carl Nelson/WNIJ

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner hosts a statewide school visit Thursday … but maybe not in the way you think.

Gov. Rauner invited school classrooms across Illinois to join him during his visit. This time around, though, his visit will be through a Facebook Live stream.

Jessie Schlacks / WNIJ

Ten Northern Illinois University fraternities are in the trenches for a week-long tournament called “Tugs.”

It's been an NIU tradition for more than half a century.

Money raised will go toward a selected charity or non-profit. Devin Joseph, an organizer of the event, says the tradition separates NIU from other campuses.

Brian Mackey / Illinois Public Radio

A new report by a court-appointed watchdog charged with looking into patronage hiring at the Illinois transportation department details how friends and relatives of top Democrats were hired under former Gov. Pat Quinn, even as many had little or no experience.

  

The Chicago Tribune reports the findings released Monday are the result of an inquiry that began in 2014 after a federal judge assigned a lawyer to dig into hiring at the Illinois Department of Transportation.

"Money" By Flickr User Pictures of Money / (CC BY 2.0)

A Democratic lawmaker pushing legislation to remove prohibitions on publicly funded abortions in Illinois hopes to call it for a vote as thousands of women converge on the capital to lobby for a "progressive agenda."

Chicago Rep. Sara Feigenholtz's measure would lift restrictions on abortions funded by Medicaid or state employee health insurance.

She says the legislation also is important because it ensures abortion remains on the books in Illinois if the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion is overturned.

"170 - Typing" by Flickr User Hillary / (CC X 2.0)

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's information technology chief has contracted to spend $208,000 in tax dollars for two professional memberships despite the budget crisis, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Hardik Bhatt is Republican Rauner's $145,000-a-year secretary of the Department of Innovation and Technology. He has a $50,000 membership and $29,000 subscription to councils within the Virginia-based executive-assistance firm CEB Inc.

Democratic Comptroller Susana Mendoza has held up some payments, but the state is obligated to pay.

State of Illinois

Illinois lawmakers are returning to the Capitol this week to resume work on trying to end the budget stalemate that has eluded them for almost two years.

The State Journal-Register reports that, just before lawmakers' two-week spring break, the House approved another stopgap spending bill that would give more than $800 million to human-services programs and higher education.

Flickr user Steven Damron / "woman driving and talking on cell phone" (CC V 2.0)

Illinois is observing its first-ever Distracted Driving Awareness Week, starting today.

More than 300 law-enforcement agencies in the state will focus on violations for distracted driving, along with providing general education about the problem. That includes departments like Sycamore and Carol Stream, which announced on their Facebook pages that they will focus on ticketing drivers for illegal cell phone use this week.

NIU Scientists Push To Forefront In 'March For Science'

Apr 22, 2017
Susan Stephens

Scientists across the country will step out of the lab today and into the streets, including locations like Chicago, for the “March for Science.” The event coincides with Earth Day.

Scientists think it's time to raise awareness for their respective fields. As a result, many faculty members have found themselves pushed into more active roles.

Reed Scherer is a professor of Geology at NIU.

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