Kankakee to eliminate class ranks

KANKAKEE — Kankakee High School will not have a valedictorian or salutatorian in the spring of 2021 or every year after that.

The Kankakee school board on Monday unanimously agreed to transition to the college-style Latin laude system starting with this year’s freshmen class.

Superintendent Genevra Walters said the move enables students to schedule classes based on their interests and career paths rather than taking certain courses to achieve a higher student rank.

Please click on the link from John Dykstra of the Kankakee Daily Journal.


Gov. Rauner visits small manufacturers in Fairfield, Ridgway; notes reform goals

Oil spill equipment, baseball bat makers show Rauner their operations

FAIRFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner stopped by two southern Illinois manufacturing facilities yesterday, noting the singular achievements of an oil spill equipment maker in Fairfield and a group of Ridgway artisans crafting baseball bats swung by major-leaguers.

“Yours is a great story,” Rauner said before his tour of Elastec, which employs roughly 20 people at a 46,000-square-foot facility on Market Street in Fairfield, and 110 companywide. “Thank you for your products, your expertise and your help in keeping our waterways clean.”

Elastec has its main offices in Carmi, a second manufacturing site in Florida, and has been in business for more than 25 years. Its team of welders and fabricators build oil skimmers, dispersant application systems, portable incinerators, vacuum systems, pumps, power packs, specialized vehicles and work boats. They also produce floating booms and barriers, debris containment systems and aquatic weed control devices. The company has gained an international reputation for its aquatic environmental products, now sold in more than 155 countries.

“We owe it to companies like yours that are bringing manufacturing in Illinois into the modern era to step up the business-friendliness of Illinois,” Rauner said. “This state has so many desirable assets in transportation, distribution, technology — and a tremendous workforce. But we must roll back the Madigan tax, bring property taxes down and do more to reduce regulatory burdens on our manufacturing sector.”

“It’s obvious and apparent that the governor is doing his best to try to strengthen the state, especially in the jobs area,” said Jeff Bohleber, who is Elastec’s chief financial officer and a board member. “We’re local people who started a business in the community where we were raised. We obviously want to grow and stay in our area and allow our children and their children to have a future here.”

Governor Bruce Rauner touring Dinger Bats in Ridgway. The Gallatin County company produces bats for several MLB players (governor.illinois.gov photo)

At Dinger Bats in Ridgway this afternoon, the governor could not help but smile at the stacks of baseball bats lining walls, stacked in tubes and piled on pallets in various stages of production.

“This place is every boy’s dream,” he said. “How could you not love working here?”

An Illinois artisan stop on the Illinois Makers/Enjoy Illinois tourism promotion, Dinger Bats makes hand-crafted bats for sluggers ranging from college players to MLB World Series winners.

“You guys made the bat Kyle Schwarber used in the Chicago Cubs’ World Series-winning season,” Rauner said. “It doesn’t get much cooler than that.”

The company employs 16 and was founded by Kyle Drone and his father, Randy. Rauner was joined by state Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg, at the Ridgway stop.

“It’s an honor to have Governor Rauner and Senator Fowler visit the factory and really take the time to listen to the needs of small businesses in all parts of the state,” Kyle Drone said.

“Dinger Bats is an incredible small business success story from southern Illinois where a company took a passion for creating a quality product and worked hard to grow into a nationally recognized manufacturing company that produces bats used in the major leagues,” Fowler said. “I’m happy to see a southern-based manufacturer receive some well-deserved attention for their growth, contributions and success.”

Rauner said it’s his game plan to help the company hit even more home runs.

“You’ve managed to remain a family-owned business manufacturing high-quality, American-made maple baseball bats that are now sold in Mexico, Europe, Korea, Taiwan and Australia,” the governor said. “By cutting taxes and getting government out of the way, Dinger Bats and companies all over Illinois can grow faster and create more good, high-paying jobs.”

Governor’s Medicaid fraud prevention initiatives save the State more than $450 million

Data-driven, cross-agency approach yields win-win for patients, taxpayers

CHICAGO — Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Health Care Fraud Elimination Task Force reported that the State has saved, prevented or recovered approximately $450 million in fraudulent or wasteful Medicaid spending in fiscal years 2016 and 2017.

In the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS), which manages the State’s $20 billion Medicaid program, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) saved or recouped an estimated $195 million in FY17. Last fiscal year, FY16, HFS-OIG reported $220.2 million in similar savings.

In addition, in FY16 the Illinois State Police Medicaid Fraud Control Unit reported 46 fraud convictions and $35.4 million in recoveries through criminal prosecutions, civil actions and administrative referrals.

“Medicaid fraud is a multibillion-dollar industry in the U.S.,” Rauner said. “Cheating through overpayments or improper billing may seem like a victimless crime to some, but every dollar that is diverted from our health programs is one that could have been spent on a needy beneficiary. That’s a crime our administration won’t tolerate.”

The governor’s Health Care Fraud Elimination Task Force was created in April of 2016. Under the leadership of Executive Inspector General Maggie Hickey, its purpose is to develop and coordinate a comprehensive plan to prevent and eliminate health care fraud, waste and abuse by deploying a cross-agency, data-driven approach.

“The collaboration among agencies for this effort has been outstanding,” Hickey said. “When agencies of the government come together to share resources and expertise, the outcomes can be extraordinary. We have more work to do, of course, but we have now set a standard for intergovernmental cooperation on fraud prevention in our health systems that will continue to produce results.”

The Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) now has agreements with 21 state agencies to use its system to review and analyze data across the board rather than viewing silos of information for individual programs or agencies.

The data sharing and resulting collaborations have led to outcomes like those released today by the Task Force in its October 2017 Interim Report.

“Identifying and eliminating fraud and abuse in the health care system is not just a matter of fiscal integrity and spending efficiency,” the governor said. “This is a matter of fairness and social justice for all Illinoisans.”

Rauner added that much remains to be done; the work of the task force is continuing.

“By using modern technology to collect data and improve operations, we can deliver better health care and help keep a lid on advancing costs,” he said. “It is a win-win for patients and taxpayers.”

Other members of the task force include:

From the Governor’s Office, Deputy Gov. Trey Childress; Deputy General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer Jill Hutchison; Special Counsel and Health Care Policy Advisor Christopher Kantas.

Acting Directors Jean Bohnhoff at the Department on Aging, Michael Hoffman at CMS, Felicia Norwood at DHFS, James Dimas at DHS and Kirk Lonbom at the Department of Innovation Technology.

Directors Jennifer Hammer at the Illinois Department of Insurance and Capt. Brian Ley at the Illinois State Police Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Chairman Joann Fratianni at the Workers’ Compensation Commission and Inspector General Bradley Hart at DHFS.

Iowa man faces charges in the Cave In Rock bank robbery

ELIZABETHTOWN – The Hardin County Sheriff’s office have released the names of the suspects from Tuesday’s robbery of Banterra Bank Cave In Rock branch.


Morris D. Thompson,33  of Davenport IA is being held in Williamson County Detention Center on a US Marshal Warrant with charges pending.

Angela J. Williams-Francis,39 of Eldorado,IL has been released pending investigation.


The alleged are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Gov. Rauner enacts legislation to combat fraudulent opioid prescriptions

SB 772 will decrease prevalence of “doctor-shopping”

EAST ST. LOUIS — Gov. Bruce Rauner today signed into law SB 772, legislation that will require prescribers with an Illinois Controlled Substance License to register with and use the Illinois Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP), a database that records patient prescription history.

The PMP allows physicians to check previous patient prescriptions and requests for controlled substances. Increasing the required checkpoints in advance of prescribing controlled substances will cut down on “doctor-shopping,” the practice of patients obtaining opioid prescriptions from multiple physicians.

“This legislation helps us combat opioid abuse by addressing fraud at a critical point of access,” Rauner said. “Too often, users obtain dangerous amounts of opioids by ‘doctor-shopping’ prescriptions for their drugs of choice from prescribers in our health care system. The new PMP registration requirements will help deter this practice by tracking prescriptions and making information available to physicians before they write them.”

“I have had countless conversations with Illinoisans battling opioid use disorder who told me they would fuel their addiction with prescriptions from multiple doctors,” said Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, who chairs the Governor’s Opioid Overdose Prevention Task Force. “This law is an important new layer of protection against opioid abuse in Illinois because it gives prescribers the tools they need to ensure patients aren’t manipulating the system to support their addiction.”

Sarah Pointer, clinical director of the PMP, said the new monitoring program requirements will be integral to combatting the crisis within Illinois.

“SB772 is another huge step forward to increasing prescriber awareness and building a more complete prescription history of their patients,” she said. “Prescribers will be able to make more informed decisions about care for high-risk patients who may benefit from early interventions, and ultimately help to save their lives.”

The Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) maintains the PMP database. Physicians not in compliance may be subject to disciplinary action by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR).

“As elected officials, we should be doing everything we can to prevent addiction and reduce opioid abuse,” said state Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, the primary sponsor of SB 772. “Requiring doctors to check a patient’s prescription history before prescribing opioids is a simple way to ensure doctors aren’t overprescribing and patients aren’t doctor-shopping. This common-sense change has the potential to prevent overdoses, save thousands of lives and advance the shared goal of ending the opioid epidemic.”

“The scourge of opioid addiction has touched too many families in Illinois for far too long,” said chief House sponsor Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside. “Senate Bill 772 is a meaningful step toward ensuring that the medical community and pharmacies work collaboratively toward protecting patient safety through use of the of the prescription monitoring program. I thank Senator Melinda Bush for bringing the legislation forward and Governor Rauner for enacting it into law.”

“This Prescription Monitoring Program is extremely important because it will help fight the rapidly growing opioid epidemic in Illinois,” said Rep. Patti Bellock, R-Hinsdale, who is the Republican spokeswoman for the House Human Services Committee. “The support of the medical community and pharmaceutical industry stakeholders was crucial in passing this bill, which will equip prescribers with more information and increase patient safety by reducing opioid prescription fraud.”
SB 772 takes effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

Severin: Solutions Needed for IDOC Staff Assault Issues

MARION – State Representative Dave Severin (R-Benton) attended a House Appropriations – Public Safety Committee hearing, on Tuesday, December 5, that focused on the recent spike in violence at Illinois Youth Centers and adult correctional facilities across the state.

While Rep. Severin is not a sitting member of the committee, he requested to take part in the hearing because the Illinois Youth Center sits just outside the boundaries of Severin’s 117th District.

“I have heard from Department of Corrections employees, and have read in multiple news reports, that the Illinois Youth Center in Harrisburg has seen an increase in violence between juveniles and staff,” Severin said. “Harrisburg IYC is not technically in my district but I do have constituents with ties to the IYC and adult facilities throughout Southern Illinois, so I felt it was important for me to attend the hearing.

The number of incidents resulting in serious injuries is increasing, so this hearing was an important step to determine what needs to be done to reduce the violence that the men and women serving as public safety officials in these facilities face. These assaults have not just been a problem for Harrisburg but for correctional facilities throughout the state.”

The rise in staff assaults is a major issue, and Rep. Severin felt like progress was made at the committee meeting.

“I am encouraged that communication between the state, the facilities, staff, and other groups is improving,” Severin said. “However, there is much work left to be done. I hope to be a part of further discussions in the weeks and months to come until we find a comprehensive solution that addresses these serious issues to reduce assaults on staff.”

One year in, Future Energy Jobs Act on pace to add jobs, draw investment

Gov. Rauner signed landmark legislation in December 2016

CORDOVA— Addressing gatherings at nuclear power plants in Cordova and Clinton, Gov. Bruce Rauner today celebrated the jobs saved and gains made one year in to the state’s tenure with the Future Energy Jobs Act.

“Today we are here to celebrate the bright future of energy jobs in Illinois,” Rauner said. “Thanks to the Future Energy Jobs Act, Illinois is poised to compete head-to-head with any state in the nation to attract energy investment and jobs, while still protecting ratepayers and taxpayers.”

On Dec. 7, 2016, legislators, industry stakeholders and members of the Rauner Administration came together for the signing of FEJA. The landmark piece of legislation prevented the Quad Cities and Clinton power plants from closing, saving 800 jobs in the Quad Cities and 700 in Clinton while ushering in the addition of 100 more permanent Exelon jobs plus 400 construction jobs while capital improvements are under way.

“The passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act reaffirmed Illinois as an environmental leader and, when fully implemented, should preserve thousands of good-paying jobs for Illinois families,” said Dave Rhoades, Exelon Nuclear chief operating officer. “As a result of this landmark legislation that values nuclear’s environmental benefits, Clinton and Quad Cities stations are prepared for long-term operations.”

Through careful negotiations, not only were thousands of direct and indirect jobs saved at the Quad Cities and Clinton facilities, but a big win also was ensured for consumers who are set to enjoy $4 billion or more in lower energy bills over the 10-year lifetime of the act.

“This groundbreaking legislation kept more than 800 people in the Quad Cities area working,” said state Sen. Neil Anderson, R-Andalusia, chief co-sponsor of the legislation. “Equally important, this shows that positive things can happen when local communities come together and leaders listen and follow through.”

State Sen. Chapin Rose, another of the legislation’s key proponents, thanked the governor for signing the bill. “This is a huge deal for our area,” the Mahomet Republican said. “Keeping these jobs while also keeping the price of power low is of major importance to downstate Illinois.”

The provisions of FEJA place Illinois in the running for billions of dollars in private investment to grow tens of thousands of jobs. Overall, FEJA is expected to lead to $12 to $15 billion in additional energy investment, according to an Environmental Defense Fund analysis.

Also weighing in were state Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, and state Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Decatur.

“The Quad Cities Nuclear Generating Station provides power to over a million people in the region,” McCombie said. “The Future Energy Jobs Act has spurred new local investment that solidifies Exelon’s commitment to our communities and directly employ hundreds of people from the Quad Cities area.”

“The Future Energy Jobs Act preserved our nuclear plants and protected thousands of jobs for Illinois working families,” said Mitchell, noting that Rauner and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin worked tirelessly on its passage. “This was not an easy bill to pass and they moved mountains to help get it done.”

FBI investigating robbery at bank at Cave In Rock


CAVE IN ROCK – The FBI is investigating a robbery that happened at a bank in Cave-in-Rock late Tuesday.

A man walked into the Banterra Bank off Canal Road and took off with an undetermined amount of cash, according to the FBI.

Please click on the link for the full story and video from Hannah  Gebresilassie of WSIL-TV



Open Enrollment Ends Friday, December 15th

DOI encourages Illinois consumers to shop now before it is too late


SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI) is reminding consumers that the 2018 Open Enrollment Period ends Friday, December 15, 2017. All Illinoisans needing health insurance coverage for 2018 must enroll by 11pm on Friday, December 15, 2017.

In past years, consumers had time to change plans in January after receiving their first premium bill. With a shortened Enrollment Period ending December 15th, this is no longer an option, making it important to select the right plan the first time.

“We do not recommend passively re-enrolling because prices and plans change every year. Cost should not be the only factor in choosing a plan. For example, consumers should be sure to look at a plan’s provider network and coverage,” Hammer said.

This year, DOI partnered with GoHealth to improve the shopping experience for Illinoisans looking to purchase a 2018 health insurance coverage. Consumers who visit GetCovered.Illinois.Gov are now able to view individual plans offered both on and off the Exchange. Using the Connector tool on the website, consumers can arrange appointments with navigators and certified application counselors.

Consumers who have questions, or who are looking to sign up for a plan over the phone, may request to speak to a licensed insurance agent by calling 866-311-1119 Monday through Friday, from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Director Hammer implemented a statewide consumer outreach initiative, with at least one event in each of Illinois’ 102 counties, where consumers can meet one-on-one with a member of the Get Covered staff to ask questions and receive assistance.

“Illinois is a large state and our goal was to reach all parts of it. We wanted to sit down with people faceto-face in a place that is convenient for them,” Director Hammer said.
DOI has also been promoting the importance of the shortened Enrollment Period through social media, radio, and a campaign on Chicago’s transit system.

“It is our job at the Department of Insurance to protect consumers. Accidents and illnesses can happen at any time, and we are helping consumers protect themselves with health insurance before it’s too late,” said Director Hammer.

Business alumnus Lynn McPheeters donates to help future business Salukis succeed

CARBONDALE – Growing up on a farm near Canton, F. Lynn McPheeters never imagined he would become the chief financial officer and vice president of Caterpillar Inc. Now, he’s donating $1 million to Southern Illinois University Carbondale, his alma mater, to help future Salukis succeed.

The endowment gift establishes the McPheeters Family Scholarship to benefit undergraduate College of Business students, Chancellor Carlo Montemagno announced this week.

“Without SIU, I would never have been in a position to have the opportunity to do something like this,” McPheeters said. “I’m a first-generation college student, and being able to attend SIU – a national, state-supported college – enabled me to have the career and life I’ve had. My hope is that this scholarship will allow others who are in similar situations the opportunity to attend SIU and succeed in their chosen field as I was able to.”

Benefitting business students

McPheeters’ gift will enable the university to award about $40,000 in scholarship assistance annually to deserving first-generation business students.

“Mr. McPheeters has been a longtime supporter of SIU, and we are very appreciative of his ongoing involvement and this generous contribution,” Montemagno said.

“Countless students will realize their dreams of attending college because of this gift, and its impact on the world of business will reach far into the future.”

The scholarship funds are earmarked for first-generation students in the College of Business who are from Illinois counties located south of I-80; preference will be given to those who major in finance or accounting. Recipients must maintain a GPA of at least 3.0 to retain their eligibility and the scholarship is renewable for up to four years.

The McPheeters story

McPheeters is a 1964 accounting graduate from SIU’s College of Business. He joined the Fortune 500 company soon thereafter and held a number of finance-related positions in the United States and abroad during a 40-year career capped off by a term as CFO. He fostered a working partnership between SIU and Caterpillar during his career. Since he retired, he remains active professionally on behalf of SIU and as a proponent for public education and charitable causes.

McPheeters was the first to enroll at and graduate from Spoon River Community College, then known as Canton College, and he established the Francis G. and Dorothea B. McPheeters Scholarship there in honor of his parents. He continues to serve as a board member for several companies, including RLI Inc. and WPC Technologies.
A member of the SIU Foundation board since 2002, McPheeters has served as chair of the audit committee and later as board president; he is currently an emeritus board member. He was one of the first members of the College of Business external advisory board, holding a seat since 1988. He was inducted into the college’s Hall of Fame in 1988 and has earned a number of other honors, including the College of Business Alumni Achievement Award in 2004.

In 2006, McPheeters and his wife, Susan, supported SIU with a $585,000 gift of appreciated Caterpillar stock, which was invested to create the Susan F. and F. Lynn McPheeters College of Business Leadership Endowed Chair, the college’s first endowed chair. The McPheeters’ philanthropy has also extended to various other charitable organizations and efforts in the health, education and abuse-prevention areas, earning them the title of Outstanding Philanthropists for Central Illinois in 2006.

“Lynn McPheeters has been associated with SIU and the College of Business for a long time. He has also been a loyal and generous friend,” said Terry Clark, dean of the College of Business. “Over the years, his love for our institution has been shown in many ways, from serving on the college’s External Advisory Board to serving on the SIU Foundation Board. Lynn’s institutional spiritedness is legendary. We are deeply grateful for his most recent gift. Through his generosity, another generation of Salukis will be helped onto the ladder that Lynn climbed so notably upon graduation from the college in 1964.”

Forever SIU

The McPheeters Family Scholarship endowment was made in conjunction with the Forever SIU fundraising campaign, to advance the university’s goal of providing the best education possible to students of all disciplines. More information about the campaign is available at foreversiu.org.