The week that was in Illinois politics and government (June 25-29).
Chicago and Cook County News
On Thursday, the Chicago City Council easily passed an ordinance pushed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to let the Chicago Police Department issue $250 to $500 tickets to people caught with 15 grams or less of pot, instead of arresting them.
The ordinance passed despite initial concerns from aldermen that the fines are too steep a price for the city’s black residents, who are currently arrested for marijuana possession at a disproportionate rate.
We reported on two city hearings on the future of the Fisk and Crawford coal-fired power plant sites on Chicago’s Southwest Sides. The sites are scheduled to close down in September, and it is unclear what will become of them. Midwest Generation, the site’s owner, is not required to clean up the sites before turning them over to a new owner.
As 50 Chicago union janitors prepared to lose their jobs Friday, a group of SEIU* Local 1 members showed up at City Hall Wednesday to decry the layoffs and push city council members to sponsor a new labor contract ordinance.
The janitors protested again Thursday outside City Hall, in the hopes that the city will intervene with the new labor law.
The Chicago Infrastructure Trust, where private investors fund public infrastructure, has yet to get off the ground. So the Chicago advocacy group Action Now unveiled their own detailed proposal at City Hall Wednesday, calling for the Trust and developers to turn vacant city properties into affordable rental homes.
On Wednesday morning, members of the Chicago Teachers Union along with dozens of public school parents and students rallied outside CPS headquarters, calling on the Board of Education to negotiate non-salary issues.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s recent decision to chip in about $30 million for a subway tunnel and a 1.5-acre public park to be built alongside a new West Loop office building prompted about 70 community activists to march to the Mayor’s Office from the proposed site Tuesday morning.
PI reported Tuesday that efforts are underway in Chicago and across the state to inform citizens on the importance of being prepared for emergencies and the potential future effects of climate change, among other crises.
Up to half of Chicago's 12,000 cab drivers plan to strike between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. Monday morning to protest the city's failure to green light a fare increase.
Federal agents arrested yesterday Joseph Mario Moreno, who lost a run for re-election to the Cook County Board in 2010, and Ambrosio Medrano, a former alderman and a convicted felon, on bribery charges.
The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act Thursday means about 100,000 people in Cook County may now receive Medicaid, saving the county's Health and Hospitals system millions of dollars.
The major news this week, of course, was the high court deciding on a 5-4 vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act. Normally conservative Chief Justice John Robert cast the tie-breaking vote.
We looked at how the ruling might impact Illinois. The state’s largely Democratic political leadership cheered the decision, along with health care advocates and labor unions. But Illinois is not yet ready to implement the landmark law, particularly the creation of a state health care exchange.
PI reported that Gov. Pat Quinn’s decision to close the Tamm Correctional Center, a supermax prison, by August 31, was celebrated by prison reform advocates, but jeered by AFSCME Council 31, the states’ principal public employees union.
We explained why Quinn may close these facilities, even though the General Assembly appropriated money to keep them open. Quinn can veto budget line items, but the governor cannot then use the money for other purposes, such as the education budget.
PI also examined that the state budget is a pretty lean document, bereft of obvious examples of wasteful spending.
An Illinois House committee met in Chicago Wednesday to discuss whether State Rep. Derrick Smith should be expelled. Smith was arrested in March on federal bribery charges.
We reported Friday that Freeport residents are fighting against the planned layoffs of 170 jobs at Sensata Technologies, a Bain Capital-owned plant. The fight includes community leaders sending a letter to Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president and a co-founder of Bain.
In addition to the health care ruling, the Supreme Court also this week struck down major parts of Arizona’s controversial law that cracks down on undocumented immigrants.
Nonetheless, Chicago-based immigrant groups are upset that Arizona police can still ask for immigration papers. They say this amounts to racial profiling.
After months of stop-gap measures, Congress approved a $120 billion transportation bill Friday to fund highway and public transit projects over the next 27 months. The package will slightly increase funding for Illinois highways and local transit agencies.
Congress also approved Friday afternoon a bill that will keep student loan interest rates from doubling. We reported Wednesday that keeping the rate at 3.4 percent was critical to helping the nation’s economy.
The office of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Chicago) revealed Monday that the congressman has been on medical leave since June 10 and no date is set for his return. As of Friday, there is still only loose speculation as to the lawmaker’s whereabouts.
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