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Illinois Govt

House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang resigns from leadership roles amid harassment probe

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State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie.

A high-ranking Democrat resigned from several leadership positions Thursday after being publicly accused of harassment, inappropriate behavior and retaliation by a former medical cannabis advocate.

State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, resigned from his position as House Deputy Majority Leader and left his spot on the Legislative Ethics Commission, which investigates wrongdoing by lawmakers, less than 24 hours after successfully pushing for approval of the federal Equal Rights Amendment. Lang called the allegations “absurd” and said he would seek another term in November at a news conference where he was surrounded by women lawmakers and lobbyists who attested to his good character.

Former medical cannabis advocate Maryann Loncar told reporters earlier Thursday afternoon at her own news conference that Lang, a close ally of powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan, verbally abused her, made unwanted advances and then retaliated against her.

Loncar said Lang, among other things, once placed his hand on her lower back below her underwear line and asked, “Does your husband know how lucky he is to have a wife like you?” She also said the Skokie Democrat called her one evening, telling her, “I would have dinner with you if you weren’t with your husband.”

When Loncar rebuffed Lang’s advances, she said Lang told her “to be careful.” Loncar said there are many witnesses to Lang’s inappropriate behavior.

“I was harassed. I was intimidated,” Loncar said. “I was humiliated and blackballed.”

Lang said he requested special Legislative Inspector General Julie Porter to look into the claims. The legislative inspector general must get permission from the Legislative Ethics Commission, of which Lang was a member until his resignation Thursday, to investigate.

During her news conference, Loncar made reference to an alleged bribe offer to Lang from businessmen seeking medical marijuana licenses. She said having that knowledge of the alleged bribe made her fear for her life. When asked why she hadn’t gone to the authorities about the potential crime, she said she was waiting for the right time but had the details journaled. She said others were also privy to the bribe offer.

An associate of Loncar’s later told Capitol Fax that Loncar mischaracterized the situation.

There are, however, reports of associates of Lang’s getting their foot in the door to acquire a number of the few licenses that were to be released. CBS St. Louis reported in 2014 that Sam Borek, Lang’s college roommate, reserved at least three-dozen marijuana-related business names.

At his own news conference, Lang dismissed the the claims.

“This is nothing,” he said. “The allegations are absurd. I’m running in November.”

State Sen. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, told reporters about Lang’s good character, but said the process for handling such complaints needs to change.

“The allegations we’ve heard today are very serious,” she said. “Hopefully the process will begin now.”

Feigenholtz was one of several Democratic women to stand behind Lang at his news conference.

At least one lawmaker took exception with Democrat lawmakers coming to bat for Lang before any investigation.

“This is how a culture of sexual harassment is perpetuated: turning a blind eye or standing by men even when they’re wrong,” said Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Raymond. “These allegations came out hours ago – demand an investigation. If he’s right, we’ll know. If he’s wrong, call it out and work to change the culture.”

Alaina Hampton, a former Madigan campaign worker who accused the House speaker of covering up her own harassment allegations against one of his lieutenants, said Lang’s news conference “was a perfect example of why victims don’t come forward.”

“To see so many Democratic women standing with and singing the praises of a powerful man, just hours after he was accused of harassment, in an effort to undermine his accuser, was truly disheartening,” Hampton said in a statement. “To the women who stood with Rep. Lang today – think about what message you sent to all of us who have been victimized by men in power in Springfield.”

Lang blasted Loncar as a disgruntled “profiteer” who was retaliating against him after her business failed to get a marijuana dispensary license. Loncar, who was president of Mother Earth Holistic Health and CEO of Patient’s Health Center, planned marijuana dispensaries that never got state approval.

While Lang said he initiated an investigation by the Legislative Inspector General into Loncar’s accusations, Loncar said she would not cooperate because she felt Porter’s investigation would likely only serve to vindicate Lang.

This story has been edited since initial publication. A previous version indicated that Lou Lang was the chair of the Legislative Ethics Commission before he resigned from it. State Sen. Terry Link is the chair. Lang was a member when he resigned. He previously had chaired the commission.

 

Article by Cole Lauterbach with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org 

 

Illinois News Network, publisher of ILNews.org, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media company dedicated to the principles of transparency, accountability, and fiscal responsibility in the state of Illinois. INN is Illinois’ pioneering non-profit news brand, offering content from the statehouse and beyond to Illinoisans through their local media of choice and from their digital hub at ILNews.org. Springfield Daily was granted republishing permission by INN.

Education

School district leaders ask Rauner to veto $40,000 teacher pay mandate

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A group of school district leaders is urging Gov. Bruce Rauner to veto a bill that would require a $40,000 starting salary for teachers by 2022.

The Illinois School Management Alliance said the unfunded mandate would result in layoffs, dismissals and program cuts.

Senate Bill 2892 passed both chambers last month. State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, sponsored the bill.

“If we don’t guarantee a salary for a college graduate, we’re not going to get the right folks to go into the teaching profession in the first place,” he said.

Other supporters of the measure said the minimum salary will help attract teachers to Illinois, which some say has a shortage of qualified teachers. The bill would require schools to pay teachers an annual wage of at least $40,000 by the 2022-23 school year. Starting next year, the minimum salary would be $32,076. Once starting salaries hit $40,000 in the 2022-23 school year, the minimum salary rate would continue to increase yearly at the rate of inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, subject to review by the General Assembly.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers said on its website that the union “was a vocal advocate” of the bill’s passage.

In a letter sent to Rauner on Friday, the Illinois School Management Alliance asked the governor to veto the bill because it would be a costly mandate.

“Though the increase is phased in, it will be a substantial unfunded mandate on local school districts that will consume much or all of any new funding benefit school districts receive from the commitment to the new evidence-based funding formula,” Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance’s Deanna Sullivan said in the letter provided to Illinois News Network.

The Illinois School Management Alliance represents the state’s associations of School Administrators, School Business Officials, School Boards and Principals Association.

The statewide average salary for teachers in Illinois in 2017 was $64,516, according to the Illinois Report Card. Nationally, the average salary for public school teachers in 2015–16 was $58,064, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

While the bill wouldn’t affect many Chicago and suburban-area school districts, many in southern Illinois would have to increase pay for teachers. According to the Illinois State Board of Education, more than 500 schools would have to increase their beginning pay for teachers with a bachelor’s degree, some by more than $10,000 over the next four years.

Before voting against the bill last month, state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, said the minimum salary requirement would force districts to cut other school offerings, like sports.

“Those are the choices that your school officials back home are going to have to deal with if we say, ‘By the way, you’re going to have to pay everyone at least $40,000,’” Righter said.

Sullivan’s letter to the governor echoed that sentiment.

“A top-down approach to mandate a minimum salary for one group of employees within the school setting, without fully funding the increases, will cause layoffs, dismissals, and program cuts across the board in Illinois schools,” the letter said. “Additionally, programs required to meet state and federal education standards will suffer as there will not be enough qualified staff or programming to meet student needs.”

Asked about the issue at two different events last week, Rauner said he wants to see teachers earn more but “get the mandates off from Springfield.”

“We have too many regulations, too many unfunded mandates, too many restrictions on how our teachers teach,” Rauner said in Belleville last week. “Get the mandates off. Get more local control and we’ll have the money to be able to pay our teachers more.”

At a stop in Urbana, Rauner said locally elected school boards should determine how much teachers are paid.

“Let schools run their districts as they see fit,” he said. “Get the mandates off and that will free up resources as well. That’s the way we’ll get more money.”

The bill could be sent to the governor’s desk by the end of this month. Once he has it, Rauner will have 60 days to either change the bill, veto it outright or sign it into law.

The measure passed the Senate with enough votes for a possible override, but didn’t pass the House with the required super majority needed for an override if Rauner were to veto the bill.

Article by Greg Bishop, Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org 

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Illinois Govt

Kelly leaves race, endorses McCann for Governor

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William Kelly has withdrawn from the race for governor. He announced on his radio program this afternoon that he was endorsing State Senator Sam McCann (R 50). McCann announced his independent bid for governor in April.

Kelly has been a very vocal critic of current Governor Bruce Rauner since Rauner ran for office in 2014. In addition to calling for Rauner’s defeat, Kelly also spoke out against other Republicans including Jeanne Ives who challenges Rauner in the Republican primary. He blamed Ives for keeping him out of that race, despite having previously taken money from Rauner. McCann has also had very public conflicts with the governor during his time as a state senator.

The filing window for independent candidates to get on the ballot opens June 18th. McCann is one of several independents currently petitioning for ballot access. To learn more about McCann and the other candidates for governor, check out our Campaign Headquarters page.

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Illinois Govt

Illinois governor details $11 billion infrastructure plan

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Gov. Bruce Rauner detailed plans Tuesday to spend $11 billion on Illinois’ roads and bridges over six years, including $2.2 billion in state and federal funding for fiscal 2019.

The proposed 2019-2024 highway improvement program would improve 1,945 miles of road and 525 bridges maintained by the state, based on existing funding levels. It also includes money for upgrades to more than 750 miles of local roads and 922,933 square feet of local bridges. More than 80 percent of that money is expected to come from the federal government. The six-year program calls for $1.34 billion in state funding, primarily from Illinois’ gas tax and vehicle registration fees.

“Investing in transportation creates jobs and economic opportunity, improves safety and makes Illinois a better place to raise a family,” Rauner said in a statement. “This plan will make Illinois more competitive while protecting the interests of the taxpayers.”

Rauner announced the plans at Peoria’s McClugage Bridge at eastbound U.S. 150. The McClugage Bridge replacement project is expected to cost $205 million. Other projects in the plan released Tuesday:

  • $26 million for reconstruction of U.S. 20/Rockford Bypass in Rockford
  • $36 million to replace and repair the Third Street exit and ramps to Martin Luther King Drive in East St. Louis
  • $12.7 million for additional lanes on 4.5 miles of Interstate 57 from Johnson City to West Frankfort
  • $148.4 million for bridge work and other improvements on Interstate 80 through Will County
  • The program prioritizes smaller repairs to avoid the expenses of deferred maintenance, according to a news release.

“At the governor’s direction, IDOT continues to innovate in how it chooses which projects to build,” Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn said in a statement. “This is a plan that gets the state on the right track toward truly meeting the needs of our communities and building a 21st century system of transportation.”

The state’s roads have been an issue for years, but finding a way to pay for them has been contentious. Earlier this year, the Illinois Economic Policy Institute proposed more than doubling the state’s motor fuel tax – from 34 cents to 85 cents – in addition to hiking the vehicle registration fee from $101 yearly to $578 a year. The same group reported the state would need to spend $21 billion a year to pay for repairs to its infrastructure. On average, Illinois spends $3.3 billion on infrastructure improvements a year, according to the Civic Federation.

 

Article by Brett Rowland, Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org 

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