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bhetzler / Byron Hetzler, The Southern 

SIU head coach Barry Hinson encourages the crowd late in the second half against Drake at SIU Arena on Sunday in Carbondale. The Salukis went on to win 83-69.

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Illinois General Assembly
Illinois Democrats, GOP Gov. Rauner spar again over vetoes

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.


Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks during a news conference July 26 on the first day of a special session on education funding at the state Capitol in Springfield.

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Murphysboro city officials plan to seek prescriptive rights to railroad's staked claims

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.

SouthernEnviron / STEPHANIE ESTERS The Southern 

Train trestle bridge, near 23rd Street, over Illinois 149 in Murphysboro.

GOP senators blister Trump, reveal party at war with itself

WASHINGTON — A pair of senators from President Donald Trump's own Republican Party blistered him with criticism Tuesday in a dramatic day of denunciation that laid bare a GOP at war with itself. Jeff Flake of Arizona declared he would not be "complicit" with Trump and announced his surprise retirement, while Bob Corker of Tennessee declared the president "debases our nation" with constant untruths and name-calling.

Corker, too, is retiring at the end of his term, and the White House shed no tears at the prospect of the two GOP senators' departures. A former adviser to Steve Bannon, Trump's ex-strategic adviser, called it all "a monumental victory for the Trump movement," and Trump himself boasted to staff members that he'd played a role in forcing the senators out.

It was a stunning rebuke of a sitting president from prominent members of his own party — and added to a chorus of criticism of Trump that has been growing louder and more public. Flake challenged his fellow senators to follow his lead, but there were few immediate signs they would.

At midafternoon, as fellow lawmakers sat in attentive silence, Flake stood at his Senate desk and delivered an emotional speech in which he dissected what he considered his party's accommodations with Trump and said he could no longer play a role in them.

"We were not made great as a country by indulging in or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against ourselves, glorifying in the things that divide us and calling fake things true and true things fake," he said.

Hours earlier, Corker leveled his own searing criticism of Trump in a series of interviews.

"I think the debasement of our nation will be what he'll be remembered most for and that's regretful," Corker said.

A furious Trump didn't let that pass unremarked. On Twitter, he called Corker "incompetent," said he "doesn't have a clue" and claimed the two-term lawmaker "couldn't get elected dog catcher in Tennessee."

An overstatement to be sure, but White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in regard to the impending retirements, "The people both in Tennessee and Arizona supported this president, and I don't think that the numbers are in the favor of either of those two senators in their states and so I think this was probably the right decision."

Away from the cameras, Trump took credit for helping force the two departures, according to a White House official and an outside adviser, who insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Until Tuesday, Flake had insisted he had no plans to retire. He was raising money at a good rate and casting his re-election campaign as a test case of conservatism against Trumpism. But he made clear Tuesday he'd concluded that, for now at least, Trumpism had prevailed.

"It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican Party," he said.

Corker's retirement plans also underscore the question of what the Republican Party will look like in years to come. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has warned that some candidates running with the backing of Trump allies could not win general elections. And even if they make it to the Senate, certain conservatives could make McConnell's job even harder as he tries to maneuver legislation through a narrow majority that now stands at 52-48.

Steven Law, head of a McConnell-allied super PAC that supports GOP incumbents and establishment-aligned candidates, wasted no time issuing a statement declaring that Republican former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who was running against Flake with the encouragement of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, "will not be the Republican nominee for this Senate seat in 2018." Many fellow Republicans had expected Flake to lose the primary and hope they will now be able to recruit a stronger candidate.

There was celebration in the Bannon anti-establishment camp. Said Andy Surabian, former Bannon adviser and now senior adviser to the Great America Alliance: "Today's announcement from Sen. Flake that he would not run for re-election is a monumental win for the entire Trump movement and should serve as another warning shot to the failed Republican establishment that backed Flake and others like them that their time is up."

Talking principle rather than politics, Flake said on the Senate floor, "We must be unafraid to stand up and speak out as if our country depends on it, because it does. I plan to spend the remaining 14 months of my Senate term doing just that."

Earlier Corker had said of Trump, "His governing model is to divide and to attempt to bully and to use untruths." He said that he and others in the party had attempted to intervene with Trump over the months, sometimes at the behest of White House officials, but "he's obviously not going to rise to the occasion as president."

"Unfortunately I think world leaders are very aware that much of what he says is untrue," Corker said.

In between the broadsides from Corker and Flake, Trump himself made a rare visit to the Capitol to join GOP senators for their weekly policy lunch. Senators said Trump did not joust with Corker or anyone else — or spend much time talking about a tax overhaul, the expected topic for the lunch.

Instead, senators said, he mixed in a review of accomplishments so far on the regulatory front and others. At one point, he essentially polled senators on whom he should nominate as the next Federal Reserve chairman, asking for a show of hands on various candidates.

Both sides on track for January start in murder trial of Harrisburg man accused of killing his wife


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.

Provided by Saline County Sheriff's Office 


Victim in Saturday Carbondale shooting expected to survive; police still seeking info from public

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