ACLU, Tea Party Patriots Form Alliance In Debate Over Patriot Act Provisions

As Congress wrangles over what to do with Section 215 of the Patriot Act slated to expire June 1, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Tea Party Patriots are joining forces in urging lawmakers to let the surveillance provisions sunset.

On a conference call with reporters Friday, leaders of the organizations said Congress should use the scheduled expiration of the Patriot Act Section 215 -- which allowed for the National Security Agency's bulk collection and storage of domestic phone metadata, a practice revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden -- as an opportunity to have a "fuller debate" over comprehensive government surveillance reforms.

"We used Section 215 of the Patriot Act for the last 13 plus years. We're no longer in the post-9/11 moment," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero. "Let's let those powers lapse."

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Chicago High Schoolers Rally For Climate Action, Illinois Clean Jobs Bill (VIDEO)

Chicago high schoolers held a climate action rally at the Thompson Center late Thursday afternoon to show their support for the Illinois Clean Jobs bill. The pending legislation is designed to strengthen statewide standards around energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Maria Sanchez, a Northside College Prep junior, was one of about a dozen students from various Chicago high schools at the rally.

"We think the clean energy jobs bill is something that will benefit our communities," she said. "In general, clean energy is the future, and if Illinois is able to become a leader in that, it's a step in the right direction."

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Community Activists, Elected Officials Decry Cuts In Rauner's Budget Proposal (VIDEO)

Carrying sings that read, "Rauner's Cuts Hurt Women" a group of community activists and Chicago-area elected officials staged a demonstration in the Loop on Thursday, pushing back against budget cuts outlined in Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's 2016 budget proposal.

"If all we do is cut, cut, cut, all we get is blood, blood, blood. We will have the blood of innocent people running down the streets," said Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st).

Boykin was one of roughly 50 participants in the press conference and demonstration "Rauner Says"--mimicked after the game "Simon Says"--outside the Thompson Center. The game attempted to demonstrate how Rauner's proposed budget cuts would negatively impact women and low-income Illinoisans.

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Report Details 'Lavish Perks' Enjoyed By Illinois Public College, University Executives

Top administrators at Illinois public colleges and universities "are enjoying extensive perks and a lack of accountability."

That's according to a report released Friday by the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus detailing the cost of executive benefits and compensation at the state's higher education institutions.

Examples highlighted in the report include an annual housing stipend of $35,000 for the president of Governors State University in south suburban Chicago, memberships at the Sangamo Club and Illini Country Club for the president of Springfield's Lincoln Land Community College and $887,000 in total compensation provided in one year to a former University of Illinois at Chicago chancellor.

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Experts: Higher Education Reinvestments Needed In Illinois & Nationwide

Illinois, and nearly every other U.S. state, is spending less today on higher education than when the Great Recession started, according to new research from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

CBPP's report, issued last week, details how state-level cuts to higher education funding over recent years have been a key cause of "steep tuition increases that threaten to put college out of reach for more students." The center's research comes at a time when Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed deep cuts to higher education as part of his 2016 budget plan. 

"College-educated workers are essential to our nation's economic success," CBPP policy analyst and report co-author Michael Mitchell said in a statement. "States must reinvest in their colleges and universities now to build the workforce they need to compete in decades to come."

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