Illinois Budget 2.19.09

Here are the top Illinois stories coming today from GateHouse News Service. Stories are available at Please check in the evening for changes to story lineup, including breaking news.

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Casey Laughman: (217) 816-3343,


Story idea: Are snow plow tickets up this year? Are residents paying their tickets?


Workout turns exercisers into gym class heroes

ROCKFORD – Sarah Goff said she felt like she was back in seventh grade. It was tough to imagine what seventh-grader could have hurled a ball past the petite brunette as hard as 6-foot-plus Gary Thor just had in a game of team handball. But it didn’t matter to Goff because she was enjoying herself in the YMCA of Rock River Valley’s new Friday night adult gym class. By Mike DeDoncker of the Rockford Register Star.


State Briefs. News from around the state.

SPECIAL ELECTION: House and Senate Republicans try to build the public pressure on Democrats in the wake of problems surrounding U.S. Sen. Roland Burris by again pushing for a special election to fill Senate vacancies, rather than gubernatorial appointment. By Doug Finke of the State Capitol bureau.

REVAMPED ED BOARD: An Illinois House committee votes 20-0 for legislation that would change the way members are selected to the State Board of Education, the goal being to remove "politics" from the process, says the bill's sponsor, Rep. Lou Lang. Under his proposal, current board members would keep serving until their terms expire. Then, a nominating panel would screen applicants for each board vacancy, ultimately choosing three finalists. The governor's selection would be one of these three finalists. By Adriana Colindres of the State Capitol bureau.

LEGISLATIVE TECHIES: A new survey finds more and more state lawmakers are using technology and social media such as Facebook to connect with constituents, reaching people in ways they wouldn't otherwise. By Andrew Thomason of the State Capitol bureau.

Central Illinois short on stimulus transportation money

PEORIA –  Central Illinois wish lists don't seem to matter, just the state's definition of shovel-ready. The Illinois Department of Transportation has begun to funnel funds from the federal stimulus package. When it comes to the $677 million statewide pot of money, District 4 brings up the rear. District 4 covers 12 counties, including Fulton, Marshall, Peoria, Stark, Tazewell and Woodford. By Terry Bibo of the Peoria Journal Star.


ATM software aimed at reversing crime

PEORIA – It's a scene fairly common in Peoria and its suburbs. A person is taken to an ATM and forced to withdraw money. Or someone is robbed and forced to reveal their four-digit code or risk physical harm. Joseph Zingher of Gurnee thinks he has the answer and hopes the General Assembly will act this year to make his solution mandatory statewide. By Andy Kravetz of the Peoria Journal Star.

Fed chief: Economy to improve but it might not feel like it

ROCKFORD – Charles Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, told Rockford business leaders that he expects the national economy to begin growing again in the second half of the year — but cautioned it won’t feel like much of a recovery. By Alex Gary of the Rockford Register Star.


Volunteer program gives cancer patients a lift

PEORIA – It's not a typical car pool. Colleen Matarelli and Melody Harris are not co-workers. In fact, they had never even met before last week. Harris was diagnosed with breast cancer last summer. The disease forced her to give up her job as a nursing assistant and move in with her daughter. But the most crushing blow came when Harris' van was repossessed, leaving her no way to get to her doctor's appointments. That's where Matarelli comes in. By Tim Sampson of the Peoria Journal Star.

‘First Person’ takes viewers on a journey with words, photos and music

SPRINGFIELD – Ensemble Galilei, Neal Conan and the actress Lily Knight are coming to Springfield to present “First Person: Stories From the Edge of the World.” The show combines Ensemble Galilei’s early, traditional and Celtic music with images from the archives of the National Geographic Society and text by and about explorers throughout history. By Brian Mackey of the State Journal-Register.


BRITT: Toon on Illinois politicians and their lack of honesty.

Bernard Schoenburg: Burris should quit, says Rep. Hare -- ‘Enough’s enough’

You could call it scandal fatigue. U.S. Rep. Phil Hare, D-Rock Island, says he called Wednesday for U.S. Sen. Roland Burris to resign because of Burris’ admission that he had tried to raise money for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich at about the same time he was interested in the Senate appointment.

Chuck Sweeny: The Burris ‘tour’ appears to have taken a detour

U.S. Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., was scheduled to come to Rockford on Thursday on a “listening tour.” I guess he’s not coming now. So, listen to this: Burris, former comptroller and attorney general, wanted to end his career as a U.S. senator. And despite the sewage odor coming from then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s office, he not only sought an appointment from Blago, he wanted it so badly he agreed to “pay to play.”

Editorial: Enough embarrassment: Burris should resign

Now that Roland Burris has confessed to playing fund-raising footsie - and failing at even that - with a representative of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in advance of his getting the latter's nod for Illinois' U.S. Senate seat, we've had enough. An editorial from the Peoria Journal Star.

Editorial: Reinforce values, but prepare teens to face reality

At an age when most girls are fretting over what college they will get into or conspiring about prom dates, Bristol Palin is laboring under the heavy weight of parenting an infant. The young Palin, 18, daughter of last year’s Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, spoke to Fox News in interviews aired earlier this week. In contrast to her mother’s support of abstinence-only education, Bristol Palin said the abstinence message is “not realistic at all.” Her voice of experience echoes what this Editorial Board has said for years. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. An editorial from the Rockford Register Star.



PICKING UP THE PIECES: No. 18 Illinois took a day off Thursday, but the Illini must put things back together after their worst offensive performance in more than 60 years. Illinois coach Bruce Weber must find a way for Illinois to get to the free throw line, and he second-guessed himself about the bench in the loss to Penn State. By John Supinie. Will be posted this evening.