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Illinois Issues
Archive2001-Present: Scroll Down or Use Search1975-2001: Click Here

Briefly

Lowery Handy and James Jones behind his home on the colony grounds
Handy Writer's Colony Collection, University of Illinois at Springfield

Legislative checklist

Lawmakers and Gov. George Ryan agreed on a $53 billion state spending plan for the 2002 budget year that begins July 1. They put $460 million of the state's expected $900 million in new revenue into education, gave a $3.5 billion bailout to the state's coal industry and gave home health care workers a $l-an-hour raise. They also approved $52.5 million in incentives for Boeing Co., which plans to move its headquarters to Chicago from Seattle, gave the Field Museum $20 million and bought the Mies van der Rohe-designed Farnsworth House for $7 million.

Lawmakers also sent the governor substantive measures to consider.

ii0106081.jpg Remap

Lawmakers and Gov. Ryan signed off on a congressional map, but took a pass on the legislative districts.

The new map trims this state's U.S House delegation from 20 to 19 - Illinois lost one seat after last year's census count - by dissolving the 19th District held by Rep. David Phelps, an Eldorado Democrat. Despite criticism that the delegation designed the map to protect incumbents, the legislature approved it with several awkward districts. The new 17th District, for instance, stretches south from Rock Island along the Mississippi River to Calhoun County, then northeast through part of Springfield and east to Decatur. That district, represented by Lane Evans, a Rock Island Democrat, was drawn to be more reliably Democratic. Phelps, a southern Illinoisan, wasn't so lucky. He'll have to run against Republican Rep. Timothy Johnson of the east central town of Sidney in a new district that is expected to favor the GOP. Partisan control of the delegation, now evenly divided, is expected to shift.

Lawmakers didn't attempt a legislative map. It's unlikely they could have agreed. Democrats control the House, while Republicans control the Senate. An eight-member bipartisan commission now will get first crack (see Illinois Issues, January, page 12).

ii0106082.jpg Boeing subsidy

The state plans a welcoming gift for Boeing. The aviation giant gets $52.5 million in tax breaks and other incentives in a package that passed the legislature after the House lowered by $11 million the original deal brokered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs. The state's share is nearly $30 million with the city of Chicago kicking in the rest.

ii0106082.jpg McCormick add-on

Lawmakers approved an $800 million project for Chicago's McCormick Place convention center. The 800,000-square-foot addition will be financed through bonds backed by existing taxes imposed on Chicago hotels, restaurants and car rentals.

ii0106082.jpg Death to gangs

Gov. Ryan must decide whether to expand the scope of the death penalty system he calls flawed. 

Lawmakers want more people sent to Death Row and propose adding gang activity to the eligibility list. There currently are 20 such "aggravating factors" to qualify a defendant for death, including killing an on-duty police officer.

A year and a half ago, the governor said he won't approve executions until a commission he formed to study the death penalty returns with recommendations (see Illinois Issues, March, page 6). However, the governor's declaration is not binding on state's attorneys, judges or the legislature. Prosecutors have sought the death penalty, judges have imposed it and, now, the legislature wants to expand the law.

ii0106082.jpg Drugs and alcohol

Ecstasy may officially join the ranks of serious drugs. Lawmakers want to increase penalties for dealing the drug, popular in dance clubs and "rave" parties, and give law enforcement officials more room to prosecute dealers when users overdose. The measure would require prison terms of six to 30 years for people who sell more than 15 grams of the drug. It also would expand the scope of the state's "drug-induced homicide" offense to include delivering any controlled substance that results in a user's death.

The city of Chicago approved an ordinance designed to quash rave parties. It permits the city to prosecute building owners who sponsor parties where drugs are distributed. Conviction means up to six months in jail.

State lawmakers are working on similar legislation, but they likely will focus on such civil remedies as fines, says Sen. Ira Silverstein, one of the measure's co-sponsors. The Chicago Democrat says work on the bill will continue this summer.

The governor also is considering legislation designed to get tough on drunk drivers. One measure, backed by the Illinois Department of Transportation, would require drivers convicted more than once of driving drunk to equip their vehicles with ignition interlock devices that determine whether the driver is sober before the car will start. It also would prevent the secretary of state from issuing restricted driving permits to repeat DUI offenders for at least a year after a second offense and would require repeat offenders to serve more time in jail and work more community service hours. The measure was designed to bring state law into compliance with a federal law that toughens penalties for repeat offenders. According to the transportation department, the feds penalized the state $8.5 million last year for noncompliance.

June 2001 Illinois Issues


Lawmakers also approved a plan backed by Secretary of State Jesse White to increase penalties for drivers under the "extreme influence" of alcohol - when the driver's blood alcohol content registers .16 and above. The state's legal threshold for intoxication is .08. Repeat extreme offenders would have to buy ignition interlock devices, which cost about $1,000.

ii0106082.jpg Abandoned babies

New mothers could get immunity from prosecution if they abandon their infants in a safe place. Lawmakers voted to allow mothers 72 hours to leave their babies at hospitals and fire stations rather than dumping them in alleys and trash bins.

ii0106082.jpg Hemp studies

The state moved a step toward industrial hemp production. A measure authorizing the University of Illinois to study the issue went to Gov. Ryan. He vetoed similar legislation in February, arguing it should consider the potential effects on law enforcement. The new version aims to meet that concern.

Federal law doesn't distinguish between marijuana and hemp and doesn't permit the growth of industrial hemp, except for research purposes, according to Drug Enforcement Administration spokeswoman Rogene Waite. She says the university would need to register with the federal agency.

ii0106082.jpg MTBE

Lawmakers want to phase out over three years MTBE. Once the petroleum-based additive is no longer permitted in Illinois fuel, corn-based ethanol presumably will take 100 percent of the fuel additive market. Ethanol holds 90 percent of the market.

ii0106082.jpg Car talk

Motorists will legally be able to talk on cell phones with single-sided headsets if the governor signs on. The measure clarifies state law.

ii0106081.jpg Loans

The Department of Financial Institutions will implement on August 1 rules governing so-called payday loans. That's because lawmakers failed to block implementation of those rules. Similar to legislation that died this session, the rules allow a borrower to refinance only twice. They also require the borrower to wait 15 days after paying off a loan before getting a second loan, cap loans at $2,000 and require lenders to inform borrowers about debt management services.

ii0106082.jpg Prosecutor misconduct

Proposals designed to curb so-called prosecutorial misconduct died. The measures would have permitted defense attorneys to depose certain state witnesses before trial, required special hearings to test the reliability of statements made by jailhouse informants and codified a U.S. Supreme Court decision that prosecutors must disclose certain evidence favorable to the accused.

Another measure designed to reform the criminal justice system also died. Backed by prosecutors, it would have required police and other agencies investigating a crime to hand over to prosecutors information favorable to the accused. It also provided a means for defendants to raise claims of actual innocence based on new evidence.

ii0106082.jpg Gay rights

Legislation banning discrimination based on sexual orientation stalled after the Senate sponsor determined there weren't enough votes. Sen. John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, says he'll call it after the spring primary, when, he argues, it may be easier for conservative Republicans to vote for it. The measure was approved by the House.

ii0106082.jpg Open government

Measures designed to monitor closed government meetings and educate officials about public records died in the Senate. One proposal, pushed by the Illinois Press Association, would have required local governments to keep verbatim minutes of closed meetings. Courts could review the minutes if the public body is accused of violating the Open Meetings Act. The other measure would have created a division within the attorney general's office to issue advisory opinions about access to public records.

ii0106082.jpg Ethics

Lawmakers failed to translate rhetoric about ethics and good government into successful legislation. The House passed a revised version of the state's Gift Ban Act, which is under consideration by the Illinois Supreme Court after being declared unconstitutional in Will County circuit court, but the measure stalled. Senate President James "Pate" Philip, a Wood Dale Republican, wants to see what the Supreme Court does, according to spokeswoman Patty Schuh. The 1999 ethics package banned most gift-giving from lobbyists to state officials and restricted fundraising activities. 

ii0106082.jpg Election reform

Proposals to overhaul Illinois' election procedures went nowhere. One would have paid counties to modify voting machines to detect over-votes and under-votes. Another would have provided funds to counties that want to phase out punch card machines. Either of those ideas would have cost the state an estimated $50 million.

ii0106082.jpg Racial profiling

The Senate gutted legislation that would have required police officials to report the race, gender and age of anyone stopped for traffic violations. Law enforcement agencies would have compiled the data for the secretary of state for analysis. Proponents argue that minorities are targeted in traffic stops. Law enforcement agencies say the requirements would be burdensome.

ii0106082.jpg Abortion

Lawmakers failed to agree to make it more difficult for girls under 18 to get abortions. The measure would have required that a parent or guardian be notified 48 hours before the abortion is performed.

Aaron Chambers

 Illinois Issues June 2001


BRIEFLY

Education

Despite a tight budget, Gov. George Ryan and the General Assembly steered $460 million in new state revenue to schools. Ryan's $6.2 billion education budget provides for a $135 increase in the minimum amount the state spends on each student. The new "foundation" level will rise to $4,560, which is the amount recommended by an advisory task force. The General Assembly also agreed to restructure access to poverty grants. For the first time, schools will qualify if they have even a single low-income student. The old standard required that at least 20 percent of students be from poor families.

Charter schools didn't fare as well. A proposal stalled that would have provided a $l,000-per-student funding boost to cover building needs and would have authorized Chicago to expand its charter schools from 15 to 30.

Dave McKinney
Statehouse bureau,
 Chicago Sun-Times

 

MedicaidPharmacies that provide prescriptions to the poor emerged from the session in better shape than when lawmakers began their work last January. As part of their budget accord, Gov. George Ryan and the legislative leaders agreed to restore $22 million in cuts the Ryan Administration imposed last December on pharmacies with a big Medicaid clientele. The cuts had been made to close a hole in the budget devoted to providing health care to the poor. The decision to restore prescription-dispensing fees nearly to previous levels prompted the Walgreens pharmacy chain to change its mind on curtailing hours at some of its inner-city stores. Overall, budgeteers closed a $270 million shortfall projected in the 2002 budget with plans to boost claims for federal reimbursements and delay payments to health care vendors by 30 days. In his original budget proposal, Ryan had sought a 26-day payment cycle. The administration also intends to fill the gap by making broader use of cheaper generic drugs. A byproduct of negotiations was a $70 million increase in Medicaid reimbursements for nursing homes. That boost takes effect July 1 when the new budget kicks in.

Dave McKinney Statehouse bureau, Chicago Sun-Times,

Phones

Lawmakers approved a sweeping rewrite of the state's telecommunication law that contains groundbreaking pro-consumer provisions and strengthens regulators' abilities to push for easier access to the state's $3.6 billion local phone market.

In doing so, they dealt a blow to Ameritech, the dominant local company, which had supported lessening state oversight. Unfortunately for Ameritech, the timing couldn't have been been worse for the rewrite effort. The company has been under fire for failing to provide access to its network and was fined $34 million for delays in repairs and new installations. "A lot of the legislators themselves have experienced service quality problems," says Jonathan Goldman, director of public policy for the Citizens Utility Board, who believes some of the provisions to protect customers are the strongest in the country.

As approved by lawmakers, the plan will:

  • Require local phone companies to give a $50 credit when they miss an appointment. 
  • Establish three new flat-rate local phone packages. 
  • Raise possible fines for anti-competitive behavior to as much as $250,000. 
  • Codify the obligation of local carriers to make networks available to competitors. 
  • Declare Ameritech's business service competitive, paving the way for the company to gain federal approval to offer long-distance service.

Ameritech acknowledges the company is pleased that service quality provisions level the playing field somewhat by requiring all local companies to meet the same service standards. However, it maintains provisions to give competitors freer access to the phone network Ameritech built could cost the company as much as $1 billion and lead to possible bankruptcy. The measure goes beyond federal law, says Michael King, Ameritech's spokesman, by allowing rivals to lease any part of Ameritech's system. The company fears this will discourage those rivals from investing in their own networks and make it easier for them to cherry-pick more profitable business customers while leaving incumbents to shoulder less profitable residential services. 
Maura Webber


Coal

Illinois' ailing coal industry got a last-minute $3.5 billion jump-start. At least that's the hope. The plan, brokered by Gov. George Ryan, authorizes $3 billion in state revenue bonds and $500 million in general obligation bonds. The dollars would be lent to developers to build generating plants at coal mines, help pay for scrubbers to clean pollutants emitted from existing coal-fired plants and subsidize transmission lines to get the new power from southern Illinois to Chicagoland.

Alternative fuel pilot projects, including wind and solar energy, also would get help. But the objective is to put people back to work in the mines. This could happen if the subsidies are used to build generating plants near the mines. So-called mine-mouth plants presumably would use nearby Illinois coal rather than low-sulfur western coal.

The financing plan was touted by supporters as the next best thing to a free lunch. The revenue bonds would be paid off by the borrowers. Debt service on the general obligation bonds is supposed to be covered by the sales tax money generated by new sales of Illinois coal.

The only "no" vote in either chamber came from Sen. Steven Rauschenberger, an Elgin Republican. He argued the plan didn't guarantee increased long-term use of Illinois coal. Environmental interests also mounted a late effort to delay or alter the plan, but they couldn't stop the momentum. With more coal-fired electricity generation likely under President George W. Bush, Illinois advocates want those power plants in this state rather than in Kentucky or Indiana.

The push to help southern Illinois' coal country intensified after the federal Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 made this state's high-sulfur coal less attractive. Two decades ago, mining was responsible for 18,000 Illinois jobs; today there are fewer than 4,500.

Anthony Man
Statehouse bureau, Lee Enterprises

June 2001 Illinois Issues


BOOKSHELF

James Jones and the Handy Writers' Colony

Five Illinois colleges and universities offer master of fine arts degrees where budding authors work on their stories and novels with the help of teachers and peers. But according to a new book by George Hendrick, Helen Howe and Don Sackrider, this rarified atmosphere is a far cry from the atmosphere in 1950, when Illinois author James Jones produced From Here to Eternity.

Photograph courtesy of the Handy Writer's Colony Collection, University of Illinois at Springfield 

 
Lowery Handy and James Jones behind his home on the colony grounds

Jones' work is the most famous product of the Handy Writer's Colony in the small town of Marshall on Illinois' eastern border. These chroniclers of the colony's history describe it as an outgrowth of the philosophy and forceful personality of Lowney Handy, distinguished not only by its setting outside academia but also by its unusual teaching practices. While the new book carries Jones' name in its title, it is primarily the story of those who attended the colony and the fiery relationship between Jones and Lowney Handy, the colony's two central figures.

Harry and Lowney Handy, with the down-and-out Jones already in tow, founded the colony in 1943, and it was chartered by the state in 1951. Initial funding came from Lowney's husband, Harry, an engineer for the Ohio Oil Co. Lowney was the teacher, and Jones became the star pupil. After his success, Jones gave the colony a good deal of the Eternity proceeds, donating between $25,000 and $28,000 in 1951 alone.

The generous backing made the colony a historical rarity in this state and abroad. "The colony is one of the few, if not the only, places where young writers came and didn't have to pay," says Judy Everson, a professor of English and co-curator of the Handy Writers' Colony Collection at the University of Illinois at Springfield. "The writers there were free of all externals," says George Hendrick. "You had nothing to do there but write."

But the colony's distinctness, as emphasized by the authors' accounts of daily life there, did not stop with the free room and board and the "freedom" to write. Lowney, the colony's sole instructor, instituted an unheard of curriculum, complete with a list of things students were and were not allowed to do. First, Lowney insisted each student copy, word for word, entire books by such writers as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner. Second, students were not allowed to read any texts other than those Lowney approved. Third, students were forbidden to discuss their work with anyone but Lowney.

Using this odd and strict method, Jones produced not only From Here to Eternity, but also the 1957 novel Some Came Running. Others at the colony also published. By the time of its closing, following Lowney's death in 1964, approximately 70 people had stayed at the colony. Ten of those students published novels or short stories.

Jones left the colony in 1957 after Lowney physically attacked his wife. Jones took his fame and prestige with him, and the number of students decreased in the years following his departure. However, Lowney persevered, at times with only one student by mail. "What she did was impart discipline to the writers," says Tom Wood, a curator of the colony collection. "One of the biggest parts of being a writer is just getting yourself to write."

The lasting importance of James Jones and the Handy Writers' Colony, according to Wood, is that readers are provided an eyewitness view into "a colorful chapter of Illinois literary history."

Hendrick, Howe and Sackrider are currently compiling an anthology of work by colony authors, including many pieces previously unpublished.

Ryan Reeves

 Illinois Issues June 2001 


BRIEFLY

 

UpdatesRail guards, remap, open meetings, and fundraising

  • The Illinois Department of Transportation stopped testing "dragnet" rail crossing guards that were supposed to make tracks safer for high speed trains after the gates kept dropping at inopportune times (see Illinois Issues, March 1999, page 16). 
  • In a decision that could give lawmakers more leeway to draw so-called majority-minority districts, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled white voters in North Carolina failed to show that "race, rather than politics," was the predominant consideration in drawing a congressional district encompassing a majority of black voters (see Illinois Issues, May, page 6).
  • Northern Illinois University agreed in a settlement with The Northern Star, the school's student newspaper, that search committees for future university presidents would work in accordance with the state's Open Meetings Act (see Illinois Issues, May 2000, page 38).
  • Citing differences, U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald resigned as chief of the Republican Senatorial Trust, the National Republican Senatorial Committee's $10,000-a-year premier donor group (see Illinois Issues, March, page 6).

COURT DOCKET 
Eminent domain and foster care

The Illinois Supreme Court issued two rulings, one that broadens the state's powers to acquire and dispose of private land and another that strengthens judges' authority to remove children from temporary foster care.

  • The justices ruled an authority created to encourage economic development in the Metro East area properly used its eminent domain powers to take property from one private landowner and convey it to another. Just because the property was conveyed to a private entity doesn't mean that taking it didn't serve a public purpose, ruled the divided court. The Madison-based Gateway International Raceway wanted the land owned by a neighboring salvage yard for a parking lot. The track, which wants to host Winston Cup races, argued it needed additional parking to alleviate traffic jams on adjacent highways. The Southwestern Illinois Development Authority seized the land and sold it to Gateway. Three justices dissented in Southwestern Illinois Development Authority v. National City Environmental, LLC, et al., saying the state has no authority under the Illinois Constitution to take "productive, nonblighted real estate from one private landowner in order to provide pecuniary benefits to another." Jerold Solovy, an attorney for the salvage yard, says he will ask the court to re-hear the case (see Illinois Issues, February, page 14).
  • The high court ruled a Cook County circuit court judge had the statutory power to remove a 9-year-old boy from temporary foster care. The seven justices ruled unanimously in In re A.H. that the judge was not required to use the stricter procedures required when removing a child from biological parents. "The decision lets the judges know they have authority and should exercise it," says Patrick Murphy, Cook County public guardian. The state Department of Children and Family Services, which placed the boy in the temporary home, opposed the removal. In separate action, the court agreed to hear two cases that could affect how much leeway police have to search vehicles at traffic stops and whether school districts can be held liable when students are injured at school. 

The justices will decide:

  • Whether the Fairfield Police Department's use of a drug-sniffing dog to check the exterior of a vehicle during a traffic stop was constitutional. The 5th District Appellate Court ruled in People v. Cox that the search, which turned up cannabis, violated the state Constitution. It said the "government must have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity based upon articulable facts" to conduct such a search.
  • Whether a school district can be held liable under ordinary negligence principles for its alleged failure to provide appropriate safety equipment to students. The 4th District Appellate Court ruled in Arteman v. Clinton Community Unit School District #115 that the district, sued by a student injured while roller blading in physical education class, was not shielded by local governments' immunity from legal action. 

Aaron Chambers

THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY 
A selected glossary for remapsters

Cracking Diluting the electoral strength of a particular group by spreading its voters over more than one representational district. 

Gerrymandering Drawing districts intentionally to advantage one group or party over another. Further defined as partisan gerrymandering, which the courts have determined is OK, and racial gerrymandering, which is not OK. 

Packing Consolidating a group into a small number of districts, thus reducing its electoral influence in surrounding districts.

With apologies to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which distributed the full glossary of redistricting terms without the elaborations.

June 2001 Illinois Issues


 

WEBSOURCE 
Illinois Supreme Courtii0106084.jpg

Six years after the executive and two years after the legislative branches unveiled their Web sites, the Illinois judiciary has opened a site giving public access to the state's court system. Go to www.state.il.us/court for general information about the Supreme, appellate and circuit courts, including the latest docket information and opinions of the high court and the state appellate courts from 1996 to the present.

The site is packed with detailed information on the inner workings of the courts, from a complete listing of Supreme Court rules to the schedules for oral arguments. For a map of the judicial districts, go to the Supreme Court's page, then go to "Illinois Supreme Court Information" and click on "Map of Illinois Judicial Districts for the Election of Supreme Court Justices and Appellate Court Justices." 

There also are pages for those not in the law professions. For a historical overview of the state justice system, click onto the Supreme Court's page, then "Illinois Judicial Branch Information," to get to "A Short History of the Illinois Judicial Systems." There's also a historical narrative on the Supreme Court building, as well as photos, under the heading "Illinois Supreme Court Information." Biographies of all seven justices, along with photos of individual justices and a group photo, are listed under "Meet the Illinois Supreme Court Justices." 

Beverley Scobell

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