State Announces October 1 Start for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program Enrollment

LIHEAP, PIPP applications available for seniors, people with disabilities beginning October 1

Press release from the department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity’s Office of Community Assistance announced today that the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) will begin accepting applications for winter heating assistance for seniors and people with disabilities beginning October 1, 2017.

LIHEAP is a state and federally funded energy assistance program for low-income families, in which heating bill payments are made on behalf of households. Applications are processed through a network of 35 local administering agencies around the state. These agencies will begin accepting applications on a first-come, first-served basis from the elderly and people with disabilities starting on October 1, 2017.

Customers must bring all required documentation when applying for assistance including:

Proof of gross income from all household members for the 30-day income period beginning with the date of the application.
A copy of their current heat and electric bills issued within the last 30 days (if they pay for their energy directly).
A copy of their rental agreement (if they are renting) showing that utilities are included, the monthly rental amount and landlord contact information.
Proof of Social Security numbers for all household members.
Proof that their household received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); Aid to the Aged, Blind, or Disabled (AABD); or other benefits, such as Medical Eligibility or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), if receiving assistance from the Illinois Department of Human Services.

A single-person household can qualify with a monthly income of up to $1,508; a two-person household up to $2,030; a family of three can earn up to $2,553; and a family of four can earn up to $3,075. Benefits are paid directly to energy vendors on behalf of eligible households. The exception is households whose heating costs are included in their rent. These households must provide proof that their rent is more than 30% of their income in order to qualify for LIHEAP benefits.

Disconnected households and families with children ages 5 or under (includes all children who are not yet 6 years old, that is, up to 5 years and 364 days old) can begin applying for LIHEAP assistance beginning November 1, 2017. Individuals not eligible for priority enrollment can apply beginning December 1, 2017.   LIHEAP applicants will be served on a first-come, first-served basis until May 31, 2018 or until funding is exhausted.

The Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) program is a similar bill-payment assistance program and applications will be accepted starting October 1, 2017 for LIHEAP eligible households who are customers of one of the following utilities: Ameren Illinois, ComEd, Nicor Gas, and Peoples Gas/North Shore Gas utilities. Under PIPP, eligible households pay a percentage of their income towards their utility bill, supplemented by a monthly state benefit. Participating households are eligible for a reduction in outstanding bills for every on-time payment they make.  PIPP applicants will be served on a first-come, first-served basis until December 31, 2017 or until funding is exhausted.

For a complete listing of LIHEAP’s local administering agencies and additional information about the program, go to  


Road deaths up in Illinois, down across U.S.

(Scott Bertman – Illinois News Network.  Please click on the link above for the full story.  Here is an excerpt below.)

Illinois is bucking a national trend by logging an increase in traffic fatalities.

According to the National Safety Council, preliminary estimates show road deaths in the state are up 4 percent in the first six months of the year, despite falling nationwide by about 1 percent.

Ken Kolosh, manager of statistics with the National Safety Council, says Illinois is seeing a large increase in what are called “vulnerable road user” deaths. The group includes pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists.

Twenty years after Illinois’ 0.08 DUI law enacted, alcohol-impaired crash fatalities down significantly

IDOT, ISP remind motorists to ‘Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over’

Press release from the Illinois Department of Transportation

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Transportation and Illinois State Police joined members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists at the Illinois State Fair today to remind motorists of the importance of driving sober, 20 years after Illinois’ implementation of its 0.08 DUI legislation.

“Illinois’ 0.08 law is a vital part of the effort to end drunk driving on Illinois roads,” said Priscilla Tobias, IDOT’s director of program development. “Alcohol-impaired motor vehicle crash fatalities have declined significantly over the last two decades, but we are nowhere near making drunk driving a thing of the past. It continues to shatter hundreds of lives each year in Illinois, and that is simply unacceptable.”

The law lowering Illinois’ DUI threshold to a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 took effect July 2, 1997, when Illinois became the 15th state to enact such a law. Today, all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have a legal limit of 0.08 or lower.

Since the 0.08 law was enacted, alcohol-impaired motor vehicle crash fatalities in Illinois have dropped by about 43 percent. In 1996, the year before the law took effect, 534 people died in crashes involving at least one driver who was at or above the 0.08 level. In 2015, just more than 300 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes in Illinois.

George and Marilyn Murphy of Jacksonville lost their 24-year-old daughter, Kellie Murphy Wheatley, to a drunk driver on July 4, 1984. The couple worked vigorously for the passage of Illinois’ 0.08 law and continue to partner with MADD to help others avoid the tragedy their family experienced.

“Illinois’ 0.08 law is one of the greatest lifesaving pieces of legislation to become law,” George Murphy said. “Today, more people decide against getting behind the wheel after drinking, which has prevented countless tragedies.”

As Labor Day approaches, state and local law enforcement will be reminding motorists of the importance to drive sober and ramping up enforcement efforts through a “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign. Beginning Aug. 21 through Sept. 5, the traveling public can expect to see roadside safety checks throughout the state and increased patrols for impaired drivers and seat belt law offenders, all in an effort to reduce motor vehicle fatalities and injuries.

“This Labor Day is especially noteworthy because of the recent 20th anniversary of the 0.08 law. This law was enacted to reduce DUI-related traffic crashes and has saved many lives, but there is still more work to do,” said Illinois State Police Director Leo P. Schmitz. “Driving under the influence continues to be a significant cause of serious injury and fatal traffic crashes. During the upcoming holiday weekend, IDOT, ISP and other law enforcement agencies will work together to remove impaired drivers from Illinois roadways. If you drink and drive, you will be arrested. Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.”

Some steps to avoid a tragic crash or an impaired driving arrest:

• Plan ahead. Designate a sober driver before going out and give that person your keys.
• If you are impaired, call a taxi, use a ride-sharing service or mass transit, or call a sober friend or family member to get you home safely.
• If you notice a friend or family member is impaired, take their keys and help arrange a safe ride home.
• Promptly report impaired drivers you see on the roadways to law enforcement by pulling over and dialing 911.
• Make sure everyone in your vehicle wears their seat belt. It is your best defense in the event of a crash.

“Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” is supported with federal highway safety dollars, administered by IDOT and supported by the Illinois State Police and local law enforcement agencies throughout Illinois.

Visit for more information.


Former Miss America wants to unseat Lisa Madigan as attorney general

(Illinois News Network.  Please click on the link for the full article and campaign commercial.  Here is an excerpt below.)


From Erika Harold’s twitter page.

Former Miss America Erika Harold announced Tuesday that she plans to seek the GOP nomination for Illinois attorney general with hopes of taking on Lisa Madigan next fall.

An attorney from Urbana, Harold in 2012 and 2014 unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for U.S. Congress in Illinois’ 13th District

Harold is a graduate of the University of Illinois. She says she entered the Miss America pageant to help fund her graduate education at Harvard Law School. She won the Miss Illinois pageant in 2002 and was crowned Miss America in 2003.

“Today in Illinois, it’s nearly impossible to find opportunity and live out your dreams,” Harold says in an online campaign announcement launched Tuesday. “Instead, career politicians have made it a nightmare for too many families in our state.”

Gov. Rauner signs series of agriculture bills during State Fair’s Ag Day

Press release from the office of Governor Bruce Rauner

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Gov. Bruce Rauner today signed a series of agriculture bills, including House Bill 470, which designates corn as the official state grain of Illinois and is supported by the Illinois Farm Bureau.

Primary bill sponsor state Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer (R-Jacksonville) said HB 470 is inspired by the Pittsfield High School agriculture development class, which did extensive research on the impact corn has on the state.

“Today, we designated corn as the official state grain to show the great impact it and all of agriculture has on Illinois’ economy,” Rep. Davidsmeyer said. “More importantly, we helped Pittsfield ag students work to see their bill become law, from start to finish. What a great way to learn how the process is supposed to work!”

Gov. Rauner also signed several other bills that were initiatives of the Department of Agriculture. These bills, many of which seek to cut red tape, will reduce regulations and agency costs within the department.

“Agriculture is the backbone of Illinois’ economy, and it’s critical to future prosperity in the state,” Gov. Rauner said. “We need to continue to support our state’s farmers and the Department of Agriculture in every way we can.”

One of the bills is specifically designed to advance agriculture in Illinois. Senate Bill 1991, which passed unanimously out of the General Assembly, creates an Agriculture Education Shortage Task Force to examine the status of agriculture education in the state. The task force also will make recommendations for how to expand recruitment and retention of agriculture educators. The task force will disband once the final report is completed.

A full list of the bills signed by the governor is below.

Bill No.: HB 470
An Act Concerning Government
Action: Signed
Effective: Jan. 1, 2018
Bill No.: HB 2995
An Act Concerning State Government
Action: Signed
Effective: Immediately
Bill No.: HB 2998
An Act Concerning Animals
Action: Signed
Effective: Immediately
Bill No.: HB 3058
An Act Concerning Agriculture
Action: Signed
Effective: Immediately
Bill No.: HB 3081
An Act Concerning Regulation
Action: Signed
Effective: Immediately
Bill No.: HB 3090
An Act Concerning Animals
Action: Signed
Effective: Immediately
Bill No.: HB 3130
An Act Concerning Safety
Action: Signed
Effective: Immediately
Bill No.: HB 3188
An Act Concerning State Government
Action: Signed
Effective: Immediately
Bill No.: HB 3189
An Act Concerning Regulation
Action: Signed
Effective: Immediately
Bill No.: SB 1991
An Act Concerning Education
Action: Signed
Effective: Immediately

Gov. Rauner signs two consolidation bills, stresses more action is needed

Two bills will help reduce the number of local units of government, but more resident empowerment needed

Press Release from Governor Bruce Rauner

OAK BROOK, IL – Yesterday, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 3 and House Bill 607, two bills that enable local officials to consolidate units of local government.
The bills, which reflect five of the 27 recommendations made by Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti’s Task Force on Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates, were sponsored by Democrats and had bipartisan support. They empower local officials to begin reducing the nearly 7,000 local units of government in Illinois – 1,800 more than any other state. The exorbitantly high number of local governmental agencies puts an enormous burden on taxpayers, who primarily pay for these local governments via property taxes.

“People are fleeing our state in droves. Our property taxes are crushing the people of Illinois, and we’ve got to start making reforms so people can afford to stay here,” Gov. Rauner said. “Part of reforming and turning around Illinois includes empowering local communities. By signing these bills, local governments will be able to control their futures and tax dollars more efficiently. However, a key component to empowering local communities is missing from these bills. Neither one includes real taxpayer empowerment. While today is a step in the right direction, we must continue to fight to give every resident the right to choose how their local government operates.”

Since 2015, Lt. Gov. Sanguinetti has spearheaded a task force charged with identifying opportunities to streamline government in Illinois and, ultimately, reduce costs to taxpayers. In the report detailing the task force’s findings, Lt. Gov. Sanguinetti recommended giving local officials and residents the power to consolidate local government agencies.

“These bills provide a starting point for minimizing the massive amount of unnecessary government in the local communities of our state, but these bills don’t do enough to bring real change to the people of Illinois,” Lt. Gov. Sanguinetti said. “Where I live in Wheaton, I am represented by 16 units of local government. That’s a lot of hands in the pockets of our taxpayers. In Illinois, we are forced to pay the highest property taxes in the nation. We need to put the power to consolidate back at the local level and in the hands of the people.”

Specifically, SB 3 expands DuPage County’s consolidation pilot program to all 102 counties of Illinois, giving each the authority to dissolve or consolidate some government units whose boards are appointed by the county. It also will allow townships in the state to consolidate with coterminous municipalities via referendum.

HB 607 amends the Illinois Highway Code and allows the board of trustees of any township located in a county with less than 3 million inhabitants to submit a proposition during a general or consolidated election to abolish the road district in their county, a power already extended to townships in Cook County.

Bill No.: SB 3, An Act Concerning Local Government
Action: Signed
Effective: Jan. 1, 2018
Bill No.: HB 607, An Act Concerning Transportation
Action: Signed
Effective: Jan. 1, 2018


Two people found dead in rural Murphysboro home

by Steve Dunford

Marsha Heller – KFVS-TV photo

MURPHYSBORO, IL –  All three television media outlets in this market, are reporting that an investigation is underway, when two people were found dead in a rural Murphysboro home on Mays Road.  Jackson County 9-11 dispatchers received a call just shortly after midnight there could be two people possibly found dead in the home.

Officials from the Jackson County Sheriff and Corner’s office, as well as Crime Scene Investigators from the Illinois State Police are on the scene.

Links will be posted below of further updates from media outlets from the region as this story unfolds.

Information provided for this story from WSIL, KFVS, and WPSD-TV

Illinois enjoys successful peach crop this year

(Illinois News Network.   Please click on the link above for the full story.  Here is an excerpt below.)

Illinois peach growers have experienced a fruitful harvest this year, and their good fortune is being passed down to consumers.

Elizabeth Wahle, extension educator in commercial agriculture at the University of Illinois, said this year’s mild winter and spring caused peach plants to break bud early.

The cold snap in March really didn’t affect the peach crop in Illinois, but southeast states like Georgia took a hit, according to Wahle.

“You hate to benefit off of someone else’s losses, but that’s the reality of marketing the crop,” Wahle said. “I would say for peach growers that have wholesale markets, they’ve had the benefit of being able to step in and fill some of the markets that maybe they wouldn’t have otherwise had.”

ISBE: Nearly all Illinois school districts would receive more state funding under Rauner reform plan

SPRINGFIELD, IL  – (Dan McCaleb – Illinois News Network.  Please click on the link above for the full story.  Here is an excerpt below.)

More than 97.5 percent of Illinois schools receive more state dollars under Gov. Bruce Rauner’s amended funding reform plan than they would under Democrats’ plan in Senate Bill 1, according to an analysis by the independent State Board of Education.

Forty-four school districts receive more than $1 million more under Rauner’s plan, and the 3 percent of school districts that receive less money under Rauner’s plan still receive more than they did last year, ISBE’s review found.

Released Saturday to the governor’s office and majority Democrats in the General Assembly, the ISBE analysis was conducted after Rauner vetoed SB1 to remove more than $120 million in additional annual funding for Chicago Public Schools to bail out its failing pension system and to more accurately reflect how the funding reform formula calculates district wealth.

University of Chicago Graduate Workers Head to Union Election

National Labor Relations Board Rules Against Administration, Sets
October Election Date

Press Release from the American Federation of Teachers

CHICAGO, IL —Graduate employees at the University of Chicago will vote in a historic union election in October to win union representation, after the National Labor Relations Board rejected university attempts to deny them a say at the ballot box.

The union election will be held on campus October 17 and 18 and will include all graduate students, including master’s degree students, who received compensation for work performed in a unit position across six divisions or schools in autumn 2016, winter 2017, spring 2017, summer 2017 or autumn 2017.

The NLRB ruling represents a win for graduate employees in their push for union recognition. Instead of acknowledging the workers’ right to hold a union election under federal labor law, the University of Chicago administration decided to expend resources re-litigating the issue of whether graduate students are also employees, stretching hearings on the matter over 10 full business days.

The NLRB regional director refuted the university’s position, finding instead that graduate students serving in teaching positions and research assistant positions “perform services for the benefit of the Employer, under its direction and control, for which they are compensated,” and therefore are employees under Section 2(3) of the National Labor Relations Act.

Graduate Students United member Daniela Palmer, a sixth-year grad student working and studying in the Committee on Evolutionary Biology, said: “We are thrilled that the NLRB has recognized the essential work that we do as graduate student employees at the University of Chicago. We will continue to rally together and build momentum toward our election this fall, when we will exercise our right to a vote for a voice in our working conditions.” GSU is affiliated with the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said: “I am immensely proud of the University of Chicago graduate employees, who have fought for the freedom to have a union. That right was affirmed by the NLRB, and the graduate workers who are the backbone of the academic work of the university will now vote for a real say over the work they do. The board confirmed what we already know—that graduate students are also workers who teach the classes and undertake the research central to the university’s mission. The Chicago administration decided to cynically re-litigate established precedent to delay democracy, but in the fall, the graduate employees will have their say loud and clear.”