Janus vs. AFSCME to be heard today by the U.S. Supreme Court

AP file photo

WASHINGTON, DC – Nerves are on edge today for an Illinois state employee challenging a public sector union over forced fees that workers have to pay the union as a condition of employment.

The case Janus vs. AFSCME, which originated in Illinois, will be heard this morning in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mark Janus, the state government employee at the center of the case, said he’s nervous.

“But what I think is important to note is that there is just as much right to say ‘no’ to a union as there is to say ‘yes’ to a union,” Janus said. “And that is a right that I don’t have [under the status quo].”

Please click on the link for the full story from Greg Bishop of Illinois News Network


Illinois Proud: Brett Eldredge To Headline 2018 Illinois State Fair

Edgar County Native, Country Music Superstar’s First Performance on Grandstand Stage

SPRINGFIELD, IL -A native of Paris, Illinois, Brett Eldredge, will headline the Illinois State Fair Grandstand on Friday, August 17.  His Illinois roots run deep as his second album is titled Illinois and he has videos set in his hometown and Wrigley Field.  This powerhouse country star is sure to entertain concertgoers with his fun-loving, hilarious, yet sensitive personality.

“The Illinois State Fair is eager to host Brett Eldredge,” says Luke Sailer, Acting State Fair Manager. “We are proud to have an Illinois native on the grandstand stage, especially in 2018, Illinois’ bicentennial year.”

His current album, aptly self-titled, Brett Eldredge shows the different sides of Eldredge and reflects where he is in life right now.  The album includes upbeat songs such as “Somethin’ I’m Good At,” and “Superhero,” to meaningful ballads including, “The Long Way,” and “Brother,” all of which Eldredge is a co-writer.

This album is sure to follow the success of his first two albums, Bring You Back and Illinois, which combined to give him six #1 singles in row. Those include “Don’t Ya,” Lose My Mind,” and “Wanna Be That Song.” Building on the success of his 2014 win for CMA New Artist of the Year, Eldredge has been nominated for various other awards and co-hosted ABC’s CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock and was featured on “Forever Country,” a medley performed by a group of 30 different country artists.

An opening act for Brett Eldredge will be announced at a later date.  Tickets will go on sale later this spring.

Mark your calendars for the 2018 Illinois State Fair, August 9th – 19th, in Springfield, IL.

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Illinois Department of Revenue Launches Statewide Electronic Lien Registry

SPRINGFIELD – Individuals looking for tax liens filed by the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) now have a searchable database at their disposal.  A new online Statewide Tax Lien Registry (Lien Registry) provides a single-source to locate all active liens and releases filed by IDOR.

The Lien Registry is designed to improve efficiencies and incorporate technology into current work systems. It will lead to more timely information on lien filings, while reducing state filing costs.

“We filed more than 39,000 liens in all 102 counties across the state last year. That cost the Department $700,000 in fees and labor,” said IDOR Director Connie Beard. “Transitioning to an electronic registry will help drive those costs down and accelerate tax receipts going to state and local tax funds.”

The Lien Registry now serves as the only source for obtaining tax lien information. There is no cost and no sign-up required to search the registry, which can be accessed through the “Quick Links” tab on the IDOR webpage at tax.illinois.gov.

A tutorial video on the Registry may be found on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DITvksZs2JU. Questions regarding Lien Registry may be emailed to rev.lien@illinois.gov.

Legionnaires’ Disease Case In Illinois Resident

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is reporting one case of Legionnaire’s Disease in an Illinois resident. Additional information about the resident, including their medical condition, is not available.

IDPH is gathering information about the individual’s recent travels to identify potential sources of exposure to the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s Disease.  Several locations are being investigated, including the Capitol Complex and a hotel where the individual stayed during a January 2018 visit to Springfield.

Out of an abundance of caution, IDPH is providing this information to the public, given that water samples recently collected from the Capitol Complex tested positive for Legionella.

Legionella bacteria occur naturally in the environment.  Water containing Legionella bacteria can be aerosolized through cooling towers, showers, hot tubs, and decorative fountains, and can cause illness when inhaled.  Approximately 300 cases of Legionnaires’ disease are reported across Illinois each year.

Legionnaires’ disease usually begins with symptoms like high fever (102 degrees F – 105 degrees F), chills, muscle pain, and headache.  Other symptoms may include cough (which may be dry or productive), shortness of breath, chest pain, or even gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea.  The incubation period, the time between exposure and onset of illness, is up to 12 days.

More information about Legionnaires’ disease can be found on the IDPH website.

Federal and State Agencies Partner to Save Sinking Illinois School

SWANSEA, IL – The U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) has approved a nearly $1.9 million Abandoned Mine Land (AML) project to protect more than 450 middle school children in Swansea.

The award comes five months after the ground beneath Wolf Branch Middle School dropped nearly 25 inches when the old underground mine workings collapsed, resulting in extensive structural damage to the school building.  The building is temporarily shut down and the 450 children have been moved to a nearby school until the situation can be mitigated.

Federal and state mining officials and the Wolf Branch School District have combined their resources and are working together to stabilize the hollow ground beneath the school and to restore it so the site can once again provide a safe environment for the community’s children to learn and grow. Work will be managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) AML Emergency Program.

Project Background
Built in 2002 at a cost of $16 million, the Wolf Branch Middle School has a current enrollment of 450 students.

While the Wolf Branch Middle School building has been closed for safety reasons, the IDNR AML Emergency Program, with assistance from OSMRE’s Alton Field Division, has been conducting a drilling program to determine subsurface mine conditions in order to develop stabilization plans. The AML Phase I Emergency drilling project was completed earlier this year at a cost of $288,374.  Structural engineers were also called upon to inspect the structure and identify additional safety concerns to the contorted building.

AML Backfill Project and School Rebuilding
Historical data and research on the area shows that the Wolf Branch Middle School property overlies the abandoned Summit Coal Mine, which operated from 1894 to 1940.  The depth to the coal seam is 185 feet, and the mined-out thickness is 6 feet. The AML Phase II Emergency backfilling project to be conducted on the school site will protect the undamaged portion of the building by preventing the mine beneath it from collapsing.  In addition, it will stop the active ground movements that are continuing to cause damage to the east half of the school.

It is anticipated that the pumping of grouting material into the abandoned mine will start in mid-April and be completed early this summer at a cost of $1.9 million. Once the IDNR AML Emergency Program can stop the subsidence through grouting, the site can be used safely.
The Wolf Branch School District plans to rebuild the damaged portions of the building using school district funds. The heavily damaged portion of the building will be removed in a cost sharing venture between the IDNR AML Program and school district and addressed as a mine land reclamation project.

“The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is proud to be working with our federal partners at the OSMRE and the Wolf Branch School District on this important public safety project,” said Tom Benner, director of the IDNR Office of Mines and Minerals.  “The effective coordination among state, federal and the local authorities is paramount to the success of this project. The efficient leveraging of available funds will allow the school building to reopen and, most importantly, to ensure a safe place for the children to learn.”

“The school district is extremely appreciative of the resources provided by the IDNR and the OSMRE,” said Wolf Branch School District superintendent Scott Harres.  “The onsite expertise and funding assistance made possible through the AML Program have been vital in allowing the district to take the necessary steps to safely house our grades 5 through 8 students at the Wolf Branch Middle School as soon as possible.”

The Impacts Caused by AML Subsidence in Illinois
The AML Program was created by the U.S. Congress in 1977 as part of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) in order to both protect the public and to restore environmentally damaged lands associated with legacy coal mining activities. Of particular importance in Illinois are the abandoned underground coal mines that cause subsidence. In the 53 coal-producing counties of Illinois, there are 252 public schools that are undermined and at risk of subsidence. To date, at least 16 Illinois schools have been damaged by unplanned coal mine subsidence events over abandoned room and pillar mines.

In addition to schools, the IDNR AML program has documented subsidence related damages to more than 2,000 homes, as well as numerous commercial buildings and bridges, since the creation of the AML Program under SMCRA.  Many of the subsidence cases have caused life-threatening damages requiring extensive structural shoring and adjustable bracing systems – projects which had to be implemented swiftly to keep portions of the structures safe for occupancy.

The AML Program is funded by fees levied on current coal mine operations that are used to keep the public and environment safe from past coal mining activities. OSMRE approves each AML Emergency Project and its funding. Funding for the AML program is scheduled to end in 2021, unless extended by the U.S. Congress.

State senator calls into question Madigan’s dual role as speaker and Democratic party chair

SPRINGFIELD – A couple of measures filed in the Illinois House are meant to address the lack of policies in place for allegations of harassment within political organizations to get heard. And a state senator is raising issue with the two hats the one man at the center of the most recent controversy wears.

In the wake of alleged wrongdoing by at least two political operatives in Speaker Michael Madigan’s political organization, state Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, is calling into question Madigan’s dual role as Democratic Party chairman and speaker of the Illinois House.

With the exception of a few years in the 1990s, Madigan has been speaker since 1983. He’s been the chairman of the state Democratic party since 1998. Steans said it’s best practice to separate the two roles.

Please click on the link to read the full story from Greg Bishop of Illinois News Network.



Sen. Fowler sponsors legislation to spur economic development in the region

SPRINGFIELD – Working to pave the way for economic growth in the City of Marion, State Sen. Dale Fowler is sponsoring legislation that would implement an extension to an existing Tax Increment Financial (TIF) District for the area.

“TIFs were created for the purpose of boosting economic development in a region and bringing opportunities for growth, investment and expansion. These are key components needed to allow a community to thrive,” said Sen. Fowler. “I’m sponsoring this extension because the original TIF enabled companies to get a foot in the door, develop their operations and bring economic opportunities to the area.”

Senate Bill 2303 extends the life of the existing TIF for Williamson County for an additional 12 years, giving businesses such as Crisp Container the opportunity to expand and grow in the future. Crips Container is a manufacturing outfit based out of Marion, producing bottles for businesses like Pepsi MidAmerica.

“Crisp Container has grown and developed in our region in part because of the opportunity created by the original TIF for Williamson County. Now, after all these years, we have yet another chance to bring more growth to our community, giving Crisp Containers and other businesses the ability to further grow and develop,” said Sen. Fowler. “Through this TIF extension, Crisp Container plans to expand their operation further, increasing their manufacturing abilities to create, internally, the base materials needed to make their products.”

Currently, Crisp Container imports the performs needed to manufacture the finished bottle supplies. Through the TIF extension, Crisp Container will be able to create two new manufacturing lines and increase employment within the factory, including new opportunities in transportation and manufacturing.

“Seeing the direct impact that a TIF will have on one of our major Southern Illinois manufacturers is encouraging, but the great thing about economic development is that it doesn’t just impact that one industry,” said Fowler. “This extension will not only allow Crisp to expand, but by doing so, will create additional economic opportunities for rail expansion in Southern Illinois, including increased shipping, delivery and development with our local railroad.”

Senate Bill 2303 passed out of the Senate on Feb. 21 by a vote of 42 to 1, and will now be sent to the House of Representative for further consideration.

2018 Governor’s Export Awards Nominations Now Open

CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity’s Office of Trade and Investment announced today that nominations are open for the 2018 Governor’s Export Awards. The Governor’s Export Awards are Illinois’ highest recognition for export achievement, honoring Illinois companies that have grown their exporting operations, as well as organizations that provide export assistance.

Award nominations are being accepted for the following categories:

• Exporter of the Year: awarded to Illinois companies that have grown exports and made exporting a cornerstone of their business
• New Exporter: awarded to Illinois companies that have begun exporting products or services within the last three years
• Service Exporter: awarded to Illinois companies that are successfully exporting services
• Agricultural Exporter: awarded for outstanding export achievement in the field of agricultural products, services and technology
• Export Awareness and Development: awarded to Illinois-based not-for-profit organizations involved in promoting Illinois

Trade and investment play a vital role in the Illinois economy. In 2017, Illinois exports totaled $64.9 billion, an 8.6% increase from the previous year. Gains continue to be seen as Illinois companies look to diversify and spread their goods and services across the world. Illinois remains the largest exporting state in the Midwest, and the fifth largest exporting state in the country. Illinois’ top four export industries all increased between 11%-14% in 2017, outperforming the nation’s increase in exports by 30.5%. By recognizing export achievements by Illinois companies, the Department hopes to highlight the benefits of trade and help more companies find success in foreign markets.

The deadline for nominations is Friday, April 20th, 2018 at 4pm. Nomination forms can be found on the Department’s website. The awards ceremony will be held in the Spring.

For more information, please contact Godfrey Angara at Godfrey.Angara@illinois.gov.

Area high schools prepare for competitions at SIU Engineering Day

CARBONDALE, Ill. – High school students from throughout the area will descend on Southern Illinois University Carbondale this month to learn more about engineering and how it impacts daily life.

The College of Engineering’s annual Engineering Day is set for Thursday, Feb. 22. About a dozen high schools and an estimated 200 students are expected to take part in the event, which includes various engineering-related activities.

The event will start with registration at 8:30 a.m. in the breezeway at the Engineering Building on the SIU campus. Design competitions and hands-on activities and demonstrations will run 9 a.m. to noon at various locations throughout the building, culminating with an awards ceremony at noon at the Student Center.

Responding to high schools

Dean John Warwick said this year’s activities are a response to area high school teachers, who asked to include several projects that students would design, build, report on and then enter into the competition.

The college’s Registered Student Organizations came up with the projects and sent out the rules and construction guidelines to the high schools before Thanksgiving to get the students thinking about and working on their projects.

“All high school project teams will bring their machines and structures to Engineering Day, where they will be evaluated,” Warwick said.

Other events, such as a robotics demonstration, also will interspersed throughout the day, keeping the students occupied and engaged for the duration.

Challenging projects

The machines and structures the students are building include:

A counterbalance trebuchet: A scaled-down version of a war machine from the Middle Ages, the apparatus uses a counter weight drop to swing an arm and launch a projectile. It differs notably from a catapult, which uses tension to store the mechanical energy needed to launch.

Truss design: Trusses are used to support spans, such as roofs and bridges. In this competition, the students will design and build the strongest, most efficient truss to span a distance of 12 inches. The truss design will then be destructively tested.

Bottle rocket design: In this challenge, students will compete for the longest flight time for rockets built using a 2-liter soda bottle. Each bottle rocket will be filled with 1 liter of water and air-pressurized to 40 pounds per square inch.

Speed boat race: Students will design and build their own 6- to 12-inch speedboats using only foam, popsicle sticks, tape, a battery, wires and a propeller. The boats will then square off against each other in races, with the fastest boats winning the competition.

To RSVP or for more information, contact Jennifer Langin, office administrator, at 618/453-4321 or jlangin@siu.edu.

SIU’s online MBA program earns national recognition

By Chirsti Mathis – SIU News Sercice 

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Once again, Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s online MBA program has earned national recognition, claiming the No. 24 spot on the inaugural Poets & Quants Online MBA Ranking list.

Just 25 programs across the U.S. were ranked. According to the list, which was released today, SIU has the top program in Illinois.

Significant ranking

“This is a wonderful external endorsement proving the quality of our program,” Terry Clark, dean of the College of Business, said. “It is a validation of our product from someone who sets the standards.”

SIU News Service photo

Clark noted that Poets & Quants founder/editor John Byrne is the former editor of “Business Week” and the originator of the concept of ranking business schools. He said Byrne, who recently chaired a session on rankings at a major conference, is highly regarded in the world of business schools and rankings. So, earning this ranking from Byrne’s publication is a significant honor for SIU.

“This is a very impressive ranking to get,” Clark said. “Just look at the field of schools we are in. We have great company there. We benchmark to see what other schools are doing and work hard to differentiate ourselves and our program and this proves we are doing that well.”

Repeat recognition

This is the second time in as many months that SIU’s online MBA program has garnered national attention.

The university tied for the No. 54 spot in the country on the U.S. News and World Report Best Online MBA Programs rankings released in January. On that list, SIU was also given the top spot in the state and was the only Illinois program in the top 60.

What sets SIU apart

Poets and Quants used three factors in determining its rankings: the quality of the incoming students, an assessment by graduates of the academic and extra-curricular MBA experience, and the career outcomes for graduates.

Clark said one of the ways SIU sets itself apart from other schools is when choosing students to admit to the online MBA program.

At Carbondale, the professional and personal experience of prospective students as well as grades and other factors are taken into account. Doing so affects the university’s admission selectivity data; SIU would have ranked even higher otherwise. But, the career success of program graduates has been proof that admissions decisions have been wise, Clark said.

The U.S. News and World Report’s Best Online Programs rankings are based on program student engagement, faculty credentials and training, student services and technology, peer reputation and admissions selectivity.

New MBA concentration in analytics for managers

SIU’s online program is just a few years old, but has continued to grow and evolve, all the while racking up numerous national rankings.

Recently, the university added a new option to the online MBA program – a concentration in analytics for managers. This new concentration, offered for the first time in summer 2018, prepares graduates for careers involving the analyzation of data. It’s a growing and exciting field, Clark said.

In addition, in partnership with the College of Agricultural Sciences, the College of Business launched an optional agribusiness economics concentration online MBA in 2016 for professionals who are interested in career advancement in the growing field of agribusiness.

Few institutions of higher learning in the country offer either concentration. But, at

SIU students can choose three paths for their online MBA: a traditional MBA, an MBA with concentration in analytics for managers, or an MBA with concentration in agribusiness economics.

Completely online

The online MBA program at SIU is exactly that – completely and totally online. The program takes 23 months to complete and students participate in courses together via an interactive format.

A new online MBA cohort begins each summer and applications are now being accepted for the summer 2018 class.

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