SPRINGFIELD — Democrats who control the Illinois General Assembly began another showdown Tuesday with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner over vetoes, less than four months after overriding him to end the longest state budget stalemate in modern U.S. history.
On the first day of a special session called to address Rauner's vetoes of several bills, the Senate voted 42-13 to override him on union-friendly legislation he had staunchly opposed. The House still must pass the override on a three-fifths vote.
Other expected override votes involve issues that have defined Rauner's nearly three years in office and come just a day after the conservative businessman announced his intention to seek a second term in November 2018.
The bill the Senate passed again Tuesday, over Rauner's opposition, would prohibit local governments from establishing areas in which an employee can work in a union job with union benefits without paying labor dues. The village of Lincolnshire established such so-called "right-to-work" jurisdictions in 2015 after Rauner failed to enact the system statewide.
A federal judge ruled against Lincolnshire in January, saying only the Legislature can establish a statewide right-to-work area, as 28 states have.
"Today's vote could create a damaging loss for the economic competitiveness of Illinois," Rauner said Tuesday in a statement.
Another potential override, pushed by Democratic Comptroller Susana Mendoza, would require state agencies to report monthly on the bills they've incurred but not yet sent to the comptroller for processing. Mendoza said it would help her budget for paying down a $16.3 billion pile of past-due bills.
A plan Rauner rejected that would increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2022 awaits further action, as does a proposal to require companies writing workers' compensation insurance to get state approval for the premiums they charge.
Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan's legislation to create a "bill of rights" for student-loan recipients is up for override, as is a measure from Democratic Treasurer Michael Frerichs to make it easier to collect life insurance benefits when a beneficiary dies.
The contentious budget Democrats approved in July after a historic stalemate is likely to be a major issue in Rauner's re-election campaign, although he contends it's still $1.7 billion out of balance.
He proposed as much as $370 million in budget cuts, according to a legislative analysis, largely to programs popular with Democrats. And there's still as much as $1.2 billion from the year that ended June 30 that the administration already spent, even without authorization from lawmakers.
Rep. Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat and House budget negotiator, said the Democratic budget would allow the state to settle those old bills while tightening the financial outlook going forward.
"It's a huge problem," Harris said.
MURPHYSBORO — Claiming city employees maintained and otherwise took care of a street and property adjoining a stretch of train track, Murphysboro city officials are planning to claim prescriptive easement to the property.
Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens made the announcement at the city council meeting on Tuesday night, indicating that is how city officials plan to respond to Union Pacific railroad, which is claiming ownership to that section of North 23rd Street — a two-block stretch of street that some residents apparently, for years, never realized the railroad company was laying claim to.
He said the records indicate the city had maintained the street through its oil and chip program and mowed the right of way for at least the past 11 years, four to six times years.
"I think they (city attorneys) feel that we have the ability to pursue a prescriptive easement," the mayor said.
The city also has it own set of problems with what to do about a request from Union Pacific railroad to remove water main piping from the southern end of the 23rd Street train trestle bridge overpass; the railroad company is planning some construction at the trestle, part of a multi-million dollar, multistate project.
The mayor said he had been discussing cutting off the water main instead of removing it.
Mayor Stephens said the city's engineering department had found records dating back to 1991 indicating city employees had maintained the area off North 23rd Street, with grass cutting and snow removal, as well as other work.
The city attorney's suggested taking that information to the railroad company officials and talking with them about how to resolve the issue. He spoke against entering a lease with the company, which he said could terminate the agreement with 30 days notice.
The discussions come a few weeks after the city council and city administrators were made aware of the railroad's request to remove the water main pipe and its claims to the 23rd Street property, telling property owners they they could be charged with trespassing for using the street to access their properties.
The mayor said the city was not necessarily defending the rights of property owners, home owners and business owners, off North 23rd Street.
He said city officials were mainly concerned about protecting city streets.
"The city (is concerned with) city streets and as a side effect, it is our hope that our residents see a benefit of that," and be able to get to and from their homes.
HARRISBURG — In his first public appearance representing Brian Burns, Duane Verity said he anticipates having no problems being ready for trial this January, in which Burns stands accused of murdering his wife, Carla Burns.
Verity has taken the place of Bryan Drew as Burns’ attorney after Drew’s motion to withdraw was granted on Sept. 28. Drew also withdrew from representing Burns in his kidnapping case, citing irreconcilable differences between himself and Burns. This came after Burns was found guilty in May of attempting to kidnap late Saline County State’s Attorney Mike Henshaw.
Addressing Judge Walden Morris, Verity said after taking the case from Drew, he received 80 pounds of documents relating to the case, including about 20 DVDs. However, he said he needs new copies of some discs, as some of his were damaged.
Verity said beyond some procedural motions that could need a hearing, he sees no reason to need to appear in court before the Jan. 5 final pretrial hearing in the case.
Saline County State’s Attorney Jayson Olson also said he was ready for the Jan. 17 trial date.
After Tuesday’s hearing, Verity said he is doing his best to comply with his client’s wishes.
“Dr. Burns wants to go forward,” Verity said, adding that while it may seem like a lot to prepare for a murder trial in just three months, the workload isn’t too bad.
“When you are doing a trial with no evidence, I don’t think it’s that hard,” he said.
Both of Burns’ cases have been full of starts and stops. After heavy media coverage, Drew attempted in January to secure a change in venue for Burns' murder trial, claiming there was a strong possibility of a tainted jury pool. Morris denied that request.
After being convicted in May of attempted kidnapping, Burns’ sentencing was postponed twice, both times for a change in counsel — Drew left the case in July and during the rescheduled sentencing hearing in August, Burns informed the court he still had not secured another attorney because of insufficient funds. He was then granted public defender Nathan Rowland in September. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 11.
Burns, a former Saline County physician, will stand trial in January on two murder charges and a charge of concealment in the 2016 death of Carla Burns. It is alleged that Burns shot his wife and later attempted to conceal the crime by burning her body and spreading the ashes. As previously reported in The Southern, the two were estranged and had filed divorce papers in 2014.
An individual who suffered a life-threatening gunshot wound Saturday on South Ash Street in Carbondale is expected to survive.
The Carbondale Police Department said in a news release that the victim, who is being identified only as a 32-year-old male, remains hospitalized in a St. Louis-area hospital, but his condition is improving. He is cooperating with the investigation, police said.
Detectives are still working to identify a suspect. As a crowd of people was present when the shooting occurred, police are calling on anyone who witnessed the incident to contact them.
Officers with the Carbondale Police Department responded to a report of a gunshot victim at about 3:18 a.m. Saturday on the 500 block of South Ash Street.
Anyone with information about this shooting is encouraged to contact the Carbondale Police Department at 618-457-3200 or the Crime Stoppers anonymous tip line at 618-549-2677.
— The Southern