PI Original Matthew Blake Friday May 11th, 2012, 6:01pm

The PI Week In Review

The week that was in Illinois politics and government (May 7-11).

Chicago and Cook County News

The NATO summit is coming to Chicago next weekend, and Occupy Chicago is gearing up with a week’s worth of actions prior to the event – the group outlined their planned NATO actions in a press conference Thursday.

One protest, though, is in limbo– the National Nurses United planned march toward Daley Plaza next Friday. The city took away their Daley Plaza permit Tuesday, telling the group to relocate at Grant Park.

National Nurses United indicated Wednesday that they might legally challenge the decision. The situation was at an impasse as of Friday afternoon.

Andy Thayer, a member of the Coalition against the NATO/G8 War and Poverty Agenda, which is holding a protest on the summit’s opening day, will debate NATO's merits next week with James Appathurai, a spokesman for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The U.S. Secret Service and city of Chicago announced that Lake Shore Drive and the part of Interstate Highway 55 near McCormick Place convention center will shut down for the summit.

Some downtown Chicago office workers got memos to dress so as to blend in with expected protesters when they go to work Monday, May 21, the second day of the two-day NATO summit.

The opening of a new Walmart Express store in Chicago’s River North neighborhood was met with protest Wednesday. A coalition of labor and community groups called for the resignation of  company CEO Michael Duke in light of recent reports alleging the company bribed officials to further its business interests in Mexico.

The Chicago City Council passed an ordinance Wednesday written by Mayor Rahm Emanuel that decreases the menu of city business licenses from 117 to 49. Emanuel hailed the measure as symbolizing his work during his one year as mayor.

The Council also approved the issuance of $2.1 billion in bonds, including a $1.5 billion bond to refinance Midway Airport.

We looked Monday at one ordinance that has not gotten off the ground despite majority support in the City Council – providing airport concession workers a living wage. The city Aviation Department opposes the bill and it lies dormant in committee.

The closing date for the Fisk and Crawford coal-fired power plants was pushed forward to this September, which we reported provides a sense of urgency for Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. The Crawford plant in Little Village was initially slated to close in December 2014

State News

Gov. Pat Quinn wants lawmakers to financially rescue Illinois child care providers, one week after the Department of Human Services told the 40,000 state-subsidized providers that Illinois ran out of money to pay them for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends June 30.

We looked at how Illinois ultimately faces the painful choice of spending a limited pool of money on either child care, or direct assistance to low income parents.

The Illinois Senate voted Thursday to end paying 100 percent of health insurance premiums for some state retirees that served in Illinois government for at least 20 years. The bill passed the House the day before and Quinn plans to sign it into law.

Unions opposed the measure, contending health premiums should be decided at the collective bargaining table, not in the General Assembly. Also, the measure sets up the larger issue of proposed changes to the state's public employee pension system.

Emanuel, in fact, paid a rare Chicago mayoral appearance to Springfield Tuesday, laying out his proposal for handling the state's underfunded pensions. Union leaders rebuked his suggestions: They say Emanuel is penalizing rank-and-file workers for past government failures to fund pension plans.

While organized labor is against Emanuel’s pension suggestions and also Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposed cuts, Quinn has a backer in organized business: The Illinois Chamber of Commerce lent its qualified support for the governor’s plan.

Illinois tabled setting up a state health care insurance exchange, a vital part of the national health care reform law, as state lawmakers wait until the U.S. Supreme Court decision, likely this June, on whether the 2010 Affordable Care Act is constitutional.

In light of Mother’s Day this Sunday, some women's rights advocates say recent cuts to state-run programs and too many anti-family policies are damaging the economic security for Illinois mothers and their children.

Also, we looked at a report critical of state and federal efforts to help new parents – the report points out the U.S. is one of a handful of modern countries that do not provide federally mandated maternity leave for new mothers.

Mike Reed of the South Suburban MoveOn Council penned an op-ed on residents who met in Matteson Wednesday to protest what they view as questionable practices by Bank of America resulting in more Illinois foreclosures.

State Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago) appeared before an Illinois House special investigative committee Thursday, pleading his innocence to federal bribery charges. But Smith mostly didn't take questions from his House colleagues – many who would like to see him resign.

Auditor General William Holland found major problems with the College Illinois tuition savings plan, in a scathing audit released Wednesday.

National News

President Barack Obama became the first U.S. President to formerly endorse gay marriage in an interview released Thursday with Robin Roberts on "Good Morning America." Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is under fire for attacking a gay student with a group of classmates during his senior year in high school.

U.S. Rep. Robert Dold (R-10) went against party lines Wednesday and introduced a bill that would prohibit lawmakers from barring Planned Parenthood -- and other clinics that perform abortions -- from receiving federal Title X dollars that go toward family planning and contraceptive services. The first-term Republican is in a tight election battle with Democratic challenger Brad Schneider, who says Dold's bill is nothing more than an attempt by the congressman to hide is anti-women voting record.

The rising costs of higher education could get a lot worse for students in Illinois and across the country if Congress fails to keep the current interest rate on federally-subsidized Stafford loans from doubling by July, according to the findings of local advocacy group released Thursday. Congress is still deadlocked on the issue.

U.S. House Republican’s outlined their budget priorities this week. The GOP wants to block the Department of Defense cuts by reducing social service programs like Medicaid and food stamps.

Tom Barrett won the Wisconsin primary election Tuesday and will face Scott Walker in the general election in June. A poll by Marquette University Law School has found that the Republican Wisconsin governor and Democratic challenger Barrett are in a dead heat.


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