Illinois

THE WORD | Illinois passes law requiring LGBT history curriculum be taught in schools

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed legislation ensuring state schools teach the role and contributions of LGBT people in American history.

Pritzker signed off on House Bill 346, which was recently passed by state House earlier this year, last Friday.

The law requires all schools in the state include "the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the history of this country and this State" in official textbooks.

The state’s Board of Education is also required to publish a list of the textbooks authorized to be purchased under the law annually. 

“Each public school district and state-recognized, non-public school shall, subject to appropriations for that purpose, receive a per pupil grant for the purchase of secular and non-discriminatory textbooks,” the bill text reads.

According to The Hill State Sen. Heather Steans (D) gave the following statement

“The bill also includes a section that allows the department to adopt rules "as necessary" for the implementation the law and “to ensure the religious neutrality of the textbook block grant program. One of the best ways to overcome intolerance is through education and exposure to different people and viewpoints.” An inclusive curriculum will not only teach an accurate version of history but also promote acceptance of the LGBTQ community,”

“It is my hope that teaching students about the valuable contributions LGBTQ individuals have made throughout history will create a safer environment with fewer incidents of harassment,” Steans also said. “LGBTQ children and teenagers will also be able to gain new role models who share life experiences with them.”


Gov. Pritzker's said, "The LGBTQ community won't just have a seat at the table, they will be equal partners in the fight to make equality a lived reality for all."

New Jersey, California, and Colorado have also embraced the new LGBT school curriculum.

Check out the reaction on Twitter:

THE WORD | ILLINOIS GOVERNOR HOPES TO LEGALIZE WEED, VERY SOON

It won’t be long before Illinois residents are able to smoke it legally, if governor J.B. Pritzker gets his way.

J.B. Pritzker hopes to get a recreational marijuana bill passed before the end of the spring legislative session as part of an ambitious first year plan.

“I think the bill that will get introduced and passed is going to be a very, very, strong good bill,” he said Thursday.

That leaves only about seven weeks for Pritzker to reach his benchmarks when it comes to legal pot and his No. 1 priority, a graduated income tax.

J.B. Pritzker campaigned on a promise to legalize adult use of cannabis in the state. And the Democrat, who said he wasn’t always on board with legalization, said he has tried marijuana.

“I have tried marijuana, you know, in the past,” the governor said. “It’s been a long time.”

He said some of his earliest concerns about legalization stemmed from worries about teen use of cannabis.

“I have teenagers, and I was very concerned, just not knowing. I asked a lot of questions about how does this affect teen use,” Gov. Pritzker said. “And in Washington state — where that was the governor’s big concern there too — they did a very good job of showing there was no increase in teen use.”

As for the concerns of police associations across the state over how law enforcement will be able to determine whether a driver is impaired, he acknowledged there’s no current technology to measure impairment when it comes to cannabis.

“Necessity is the mother of invention, and it’s now clear that with 11 states already with legalized adult use cannabis, there are entrepreneurs out there that recognize that every police department is going to want something,” Pritzker said. 

 “This happened in medical cannabis. You start out and then you figure out this isn’t working out quite as well and you make tweaks along the way,” Pritzker said. “With legislation, nothing is perfect and so yes, along the way, it’ll improve.”

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Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich Asks President Obama for Help to Appeal Prison Sentence

On Friday, the ex-governor petitioned President Obama to commute his 14-year sentence. This comes the same week he appealed his sentence once again. 

Over 100 of his fellow inmates wrote letters of recommendation to Blagojevich’s judge telling of his good behavior and leadership skills while behind bars. Blagojevich, 60, is spending his days as a history tutor while serving time on corruption charges. He was found guilty of selling Barack Obama’s Illinois Senate seat once it became vacated in 2008 among other charges, including lying to the FBI.

In August, during a re-sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge James Zagel refused to lower his sentence saying there was enough evidence of serious wrongdoing and the 14-year sentence does indeed match the crime. Especially since five of his 18 counts were already tossed out on a technicality. His attorneys were asking for nine years off the sentence, which began in 2012.

Seeing how his previous appeals were a no-go, if this request is denied again, it will leave Blagojevich and his team with only one last option: petitioning the United States Supreme Court. It’ll be a Hail Mary move considering this past March, the Supreme Court already agreed with the lower courts’ initial ruling. They said he crossed the line once he considered accepting money in exchange for naming a person to fill the position.

At this rate, Blagojevich will not be released from the low-security, federal Colorado prison until May 2024. In the letters to the judge, the inmates portray the former governor as humble, a natural leader and self-effacing. He’s apparently helping those close to getting out land a job and study for their GED.

Another fun fact about Blago’s life behind bars, according to the Associated Press, he’s also performing in an Elvis-inspired rock band.

Side note: Pres. Obama made history this week when he issued 78 pardons and commuted sentences of 153 prisoners. This was the most in a single day. During the last 8 years, over 1,320 people have received reduced sentences or pardons.

If a person is having their sentence commuted, it means their time is shorten but does not change the conviction. A pardon is the president’s forgiving the person’s crime if the prisoner can prove they will lead a productive, law-abiding once they get out. With Obama’s term ending, any remaining petitions will be decided by Donald Trump once he takes office.

No Money for Illinois Lawmakers This Holiday

2017 is a year of many promises for people looking to achieve a new year’s resolution. Or some who are ready for the “New Year, New Me” mantra.

However for those who run the state of Illinois, 2017 is already not looking to begin well since they are ending 2016 with no money in their pockets.

To catch you up: In 2015, Governor Rauner took office, he issued a Turnaround Agenda, which is a pro-business fixer-up plan to overcome a few problems corporations face in Illinois. Gov. Rauner being a business-man himself gave demands to lawmakers, but dropped a few for the sake of compromising.

We’re talking a permanent freeze on property taxes, giving term limits to politicians and changing the way employees are able to sue their companies if they are injured or hurt on the job. Since the lawmakers won’t agree to pass his reforms, he doesn’t want to pass the budget.

Those against passing these reforms say they can focus on what he wants but his changes have nothing to do with the actual budget and everyone needs to focus on that first before moving on to other business.

Sidenote: Gov. Rauner also wants the budget to be completely balanced before gives his seal of approval. The budget has not be balanced since the 1990’s and the only way to break even at this point is to cut back, drastically. Illinois was operating close to $4 Billion in the hole and borrowing money to make ends meet. (Think, the money given to schools to operate, money for after school programs, some salaries; anywhere, any person or any organization which receives some type of funding from the state).

In an effort to cut back on spending, Comptroller Leslie Munger (a.k.a. the person who actually signs the checks) halted lawmakers’ paychecks over the summer.

Munger, like Rauner, is a Republican. The Democrats control both the Illinois House & Senate so there’s plenty of back of forth is Springfield.

In one last peace out to Munger; on Friday (her last day in office) Democrat lawmakers filed a lawsuit in Cook County demanding their paychecks back, saying ‘oh by the way keeping our checks is against the Illinois Constitution’.

Susan Mendoza, a Democrat, beat Munger during the election and was just sworn in to take control of the Comptroller’s office this past Monday. However, Mendoza agrees with Munger on holding the checks until a budget is formulated.

Lawmakers get paid once a month at the end of the month. The decision is now in at the hands of a judge to decide.

Illinois Governor signed stopgap budget to ensure schools open in the fall and fund state services for six months

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a series of stopgap budget bills to ensure schools open in the fall and fund state services for the next six months.

Two CPS-related bills were also signed into law: a $215 million pension pickup for the Chicago teachers' pension fund, and a bill that allows Chicago to raise property taxes earmarked for teacher pension.

 "In fact the money will go directly to the pension fund. It will not stop on its way to the Chicago Board of Education," said House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie.

Addressing the media for the first time Thursday, Rauner called the stopgap a "grand bargain, grand compromise" that is "just a small step in the process of making Illinois strong and healthy and vibrant. This is a small step in the right direction." He praised Republicans and Democrats alike for working together to negotiate the deal, extending special thanks to Senate President John Cullerton and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for their "flexibility and creativity" during the negotiating process.

The governor said the turning point in negotiations was when Democrats made it clear that while they may be willing to negotiate on reforms for the state, they would not hold a vote until after the November election. The governor said they indicated that they would consider voting on those reforms after the election.

 "This is not a budget, this is not a balanced budget, this is not a solution for our long-term challenges," Rauner said. "This is a bridge to reform. A bipartisan bridge to reform."

House Speaker Mike Madigan noted Rauner set aside his agenda for changes to the business climate that Democrats oppose but acknowledged Democrats didn't get everything they wanted either.

 

"This measure is a compromise. Republicans did not get everything that they wanted, Democrats did not get everything that they wanted. While important progress was made today, I want to reiterate that our work is not done," Madigan said on the chamber's floor after the budget was passed.

Senate President John Cullerton - a Chicago Democrat - says it's an indication of what can be done when all sides work together. Other representatives on both sides of the aisle agreed.

 "There's a better way of going about this process," said State Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Westchester). "The finger pointing needs to start coming to a close."

 "I think we have a very reasonable approach to many of the problems that have been grappling with all session long and I think this is a good start," said Flynn Currie.

Besides education, the stopgap budget also provides funding for road construction projects, higher education and human services. And there's even more good news for Chicago residents - money for CTA projects is also included in the deal.

 "It will allow money that is in this appropriation bill to be used for past due bills for all of the senior agencies, autism funding, immigrant/refugee, after school programs that have not been paid this year," said State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago).

While the budget was a bipartisan effort, not all lawmakers voted for it and some are furious the temporary spending plan just kicks the can down the road.

 "We will continue to spend $33 million a day more than we bring in. It's just math. Understand that we will continue to deficit spend," said State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock).

The deal follows an 18-month stalemate between Gov. Rauner and Democratic leaders.

 

Story from ABC 7 Chicago

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

WIU Cuts Four degree programs

Four degree programs at Western Illinois University were eliminated last week during a board of trustees meeting in the Quad Cities.
The board of trustees voted to cut African-American studies, philosophy, religious studies and women's studies. Students already in the programs would be able to complete their degrees

WIU officials blame poor enrollment and low graduation rates and say the lack of a state budget didn't directly lead them to the decision.

Also during the meeting, the board approved a contract for President Jack Thomas. WIU says Thomas requested the board defer a raise for him because of the state budget crisis. The board defered his raise; Thomas's salary is currently $270,528.

 

Source: WGEM

Illinois Gov. Rauner vetoes $3.9B in spending for colleges, human services

Story from  WGN TV and the Associated Press 

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has vetoed a bill to provide about $3.9 billion for higher education, mental health treatment and other programs during Illinois’ nearly yearlong budget stalemate.

In a letter to lawmakers Friday, the Republican says Illinois needs “real solutions” to its financial problems. He says without a balanced budget the legislation is “just an unfunded, empty promise” or “a check written from an over-drawn bank account.”

Rauner’s veto was expected. But Democrats who approved the measure said the money is needed to keep colleges and universities and social service agencies operating.

They could now try to override the veto.

Rauner and Democrats who control the Legislature have been deadlocked on a budget for the fiscal year that ends this month, and for next year.

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Illinois one step closer to legalizing Marijuana

its victory in the Senate last month, SB 2228 passed the House of Representatives on another strong vote of 64-50 and is now on its way to the governor’s desk. This bill would remove criminal penalties for the possession of a small amount of marijuana and replace them with a fine.

Sen. Heather Steans’ bill, sponsored by Rep. Kelly Cassidy in the House, would remove the possibility of arrest, jail, and a harmful criminal record for people in possession of a small amount of marijuana. While not ideal, these changes would vastly improve current law by replacing criminal penalties with a fine of between $100 and $200 for possession of up to 10 grams.

The bill also makes improvements to current DUI laws, which today can lead to unimpaired drivers being considered under the influence weeks after consuming cannabis. SB 2228 mirrors another bill presented earlier this year by Rep. Kelly Cassidy.

The bill reflects changes made by Gov. Bruce Rauner to a similar bill last year, so we expect he will sign this year’s legislation.

If you were arrested for possessing a small amount of marijuana and suffered consequences, or if you are a supportive law enforcement official, clergy member, or medical professional, please let us know at state@mpp.org. Please include your address or nine-digit zip code so we can find out who your lawmakers are.

Story from MPP.org

llinois New Design and Process for Obtaining Licenses,State ID Cards

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White's office said Tuesday that beginning in July 2016, applicants will no longer be issued a license or identification card.

Instead they will receive a temporary paper driver's license or ID that's good for 45 days. They'll also receive their old ID with a hole punch. Those will serve as identification and are good for air travel.

The office then will send the applicant's information to a secure facility in Illinois for a fraud check. The state will then send the applicant via mail a more secure license or ID within 15 days. These changes will help the state comply with federal Official ID standards.

SIU announces 180 potential layoffs, and more due to lack of funds

SIU announces 180 potential layoffs, and more due to lack of funds

Southern Illinois University will lose 180 faculty members and staffers and reduce or eliminate support for a bevy of programs and services if Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed 20 percent cut to public higher education holds muster in fiscal year 2017.

What’s Next for Chicago State University By Tikia Travis | @___tkia

For the past few months, Chicago State University has been facing drastic changes within their financial and administrative system. Since Governor Bruce Rauner has been in office, he stalled on the state budget, causing students’ education to be jeopardized. The budget crisis has effected Chicago State and leaves the school in a limbo of if they will remain open, or shut down this coming March. Rauner proposed to make a 31 percent cut to higher education, to “cut waste”. He even indicated the financial issues Chicago State had in previous years as a supplemental reason to make cuts to the budget.

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Students and faculty members have staged many call to action protests in hopes of getting the state’s attention. On Thursday, January 28, 2016, protestors shut down all lanes on the Dan Ryan Expressway from the 95th street to 87th street exit, causing traffic jams. Their blocking the lanes on the expressway was symbolic to how the state’s legislators are blocking their chances at pursuing and achieving an education. A little after a week on Monday, February 8, 2016 more protestors rallied in Downtowns Loop to protest the eight month delayed budget in Springfield that is forcing Chicago State to shut down before the end of the school year. Chicago State is known as the Southside’s university that gives opportunity to students from low-income homes to pursue an education.

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Recently, the Democratic Presidential Candidate, Bernie Sanders had announced that he will hold his campaign rally at Chicago State this past Thursday, February 25, 2016. Sanders’ campaign themes were based on providing income inequality and free education for college students. Hopefully his campaign will help with keeping Chicago States doors open, as they have just been forced to cancel their Spring Break in order to end the school year earlier and ensure their students graduate before the are forced to shut down. Chicago State does not have a monetary reserve to keep the school running, therefore meaning the school may close in March.

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Last week, Governor Rauner vetoed the MAP Grant proposal that would've helped students pay for college. Rauner answer for vetoing the bill was that the state doesn’t have the money. Chicago State is left in a stage of limbo. Not just the University, but the students, faculty, and staff. What are your thoughts on the current situation. Let us know.

Gov. Rauner vetoes bill to free up $721M in college funding

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday followed through on his vow to veto a measure that would free up $721 million for community colleges and scholarships for low-income students, saying again that the state can't afford to pay for it.

The Republican governor presented his veto as a matter of priorities, saying the bill would take away money from social service providers who care for the state's most vulnerable residents. Rauner repeatedly has criticized what he says are large administrative costs of higher education, and he wants to tie funding for colleges and universities to performance goals such as graduation rates.

The Violence Must Go, Chicago By: @parisxraymond

The Violence Must Go, Chicago By: @parisxraymond

Chicago, Illinois is the third largest city in the United States. It’s one of the most adventurous cities, where you can find great food, plays, and restaurants. There’s so much to do and so many places to go in Chicago but sadly the beautiful city is not as pretty on the inside. The Chicago land area is one of the most dangerous places in the country where a murder from violence continues on a daily basis.

SIUC Kappa Probate Fall 2015

Photo by Shakeia Smith

Photo by Shakeia Smith

The men of the Gamma Upsilon Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi (Southern Illinois University Carbondale) celebrates their new members with a long waited Probate show. The Chapter hasn't had any new members since the spring of 2012. From the looks of it SIUC is very excited to have their beloved Nupes back on the yard.  

Follow @GammaUp1950 on Twitter

Follow @GammaUpNupes1950 on Instagram