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UIS Illinois Innocence Project honors International Wrongful Conviction Day

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Wrongful Conviction Day is a day to remember the fallibility of our legal system.  America has one of the best criminal justice systems in the world.  But despite our numerous constitutional protections and our legal commitment to due process, mistakes still happen.  The Illinois Innocence Project was founded to correct those mistakes.

The 2,271 flags represent individuals who have been exonerated since 1989. The 237 blue flags are for those wrongful convictions in Illinois. All told, these people lost more than 20,000 years of their lives in prison.

You can learn more about Wrongful Conviction Day on their website. UIS has a strong relationship with the Innocence Project. You can see more of their work, including current cases and volunteer opportunities, here.

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Golf revenue continues to fall in Jacksonville

Thomas Clatterbuck

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2018 was another bad year for the Jacksonville’s Links golf courses. Like most municipal golf courses, the Links loses money every year. It was clear as early as August that 2018 was going to be a particularly bad year for the courses. The recently released 2018 audit shows just how dire the situation is becoming for the courses.

Total operating losses totaled $198,000. This is nearly triple the losses suffered in 2012. Expenses were up eight percent since ’12. The real driver is that revenue is down 24 percent, from $377,000 in ’12 to just $288,000 last year. This is why the cash infusion from the city came much earlier in the year; the Links was struggling to cover payroll expenses due to low revenue. And unlike in years past when the bailout is needed in the winter months, last year the Links needed help during the fall.

Fixing the root problems at the course will not be easy. Golf participation is declining nationally, and Jacksonville has not been spared from these trends. But the first step is admitting there is a problem. A golf advisory committee was created in February 2018 and they did provide some good recommendations for improvements. But their last meeting was more than a year ago. In full council meetings, council members are reluctant to even acknowledge that revenue is down substantially from years past.

Six-figure losses are the new normal for the Links. It is up to the council to decide if they want to continue to write these losses off, or come up with a more sustainable plan for the courses.

You can read the full audit here.

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Illinois pot legalization splits both parties in House, but is poised for governor’s signature after passage

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Illinois lawmakers celebrate after Illinois House approved a bill to legalize recreational marijuana at the State Capitol

A bill to legalize cannabis for adult recreational use in Illinois is on to the governor despite there being bipartisan opposition.

Sponsors of the measure say allowing adults to legally buy from state licensed sellers and possess up to 30 grams of marijuana is not just about revenue for the state, it’s about reversing the impacts of the War on Drugs.

“I have said repeatedly, however, this is not about the money,” said state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago. “It can’t be about the money. States that have passed legalization and have gone about it as if it’s a magic ATM machine have failed doubly. They have not cut into their illicit marketplace and they’ve gotten less revenue.”

Cassidy said the tax rates have been set at the lower end of what other states tax. With all the taxes for cannabis in House Bill 1438, from the state excise tax, cultivation privilege tax and even local tax on top of the state sales tax, the most THC potent form of the product will have a 41 percent tax.

The measure found support from state Rep. David Welter, R-Morris. He said the provisions for local control over sales and the ability for businesses to do random drug testing were good provisions.

“I’m a father of three from a rural district and I’m standing before you supporting this bill because I do not believe the current policy that we have out there right now is working,” Welter said. “Prohibition doesn’t work and we see that. Putting safeguards in place, taxing, regulating it I believe provides a better market and a safer market for our state.”

Many other Republicans, however, stood in opposition to the bill, citing various statistics of increased psychosis, traffic fatalities and youth access in states that have legalized it. Supporters of the bill said correlation doesn’t mean causation, but opponents said it’s an area that should be investigated further.

House Democrats were also split on the measure.

State Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights, talked about the negative health effects of the drug. He brought out props to the House floor: An egg and a pan.

“This is your brain,” DeLuca said as he cracked an egg into a frying pan. “There it is folks. This is your brain on drugs. So today for my family, for my children, for your family, of your children, and especially for African American and Hispanic communities, vote no.”

State Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Deerfield, immediately stood in support of the measure and to “refute some of the what I call nonsense that we heard including wasting eggs that should have been used to make a souffle or something instead of making a ridiculous point that has been outdated for over 30 years.”

The House Black Caucus was split on the issue with some speaking in favor, others in oppositions.

State Rep. Marcus Evans, D-Chicago, said he at first didn’t trust the process, but now he does.

“This is so important to me,” Evans said. “I’ve seen what happens when an individual is restricted. I’ve seen the men cry when they lose their jobs because they didn’t want to put on there they had a felony conviction. I’ve seen the young folks who were rejected for financial aid because they have a background because they had possession of marijuana and I’ve seen the destruction that’s caused to a generation.”

He said he’s happy to join others in rolling back the War on Drugs.

State Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, opposed the bill.

“Our community is still being used for people to make a profit and to get rich and give nothing back to the community,” Flowers said.

The measure passed 66 to 47. It passed the Senate previously and will now be sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Pritzker called the bill a historic step for the state.

“The state of Illinois just made history, legalizing adult-use cannabis with the most equity-centric approach in the nation,” the governor said in a statement Friday afternoon. “This will have a transformational impact on our state, creating opportunity in the communities that need it most and giving so many a second chance. In the interest of equity and criminal justice reform, I look forward to signing this monumental legislation.”

The governor also praised the sponsors of the bill and others who worked to get the legislation passed.

 

Article by Greg Bishop with The Center Square. For more TCS visit https://www.thecentersquare.com/illinois

 

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Pritzker guarantees Illinois lawmakers pay increase with biggest budget in state history

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While Illinoisans will be paying higher taxes, Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he’s going to give state lawmakers at least a $1,600 pay increase because they’re hard workers.

Pritzker said he’ll sign the budget bills being sent his way, despite the ire from taxpayers that lawmakers gave themselves a raise while doubling the state’s gas tax.

Pritzker was asked multiple times in Chicago Tuesday if he’d line-item veto more than $280,000 in lawmaker pay increases when he gets the budget that was passed in overtime session.

“Look, this was a highly negotiated budget,” Pritzker said. “We had the Republicans and Democrats coming to the table back and forth on this and so I’m going to sign the budget that we put forward.”

State Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee, said if the budget was highly negotiated, why was the Senate unanimous in wanting to keep their pay flat? He said in the House there were Republicans and Democrats ready to vote to freeze their pay.

“Effectively the will of the people and the legislators want to forego raises,” Skillicorn said.

Illinois lawmakers are the highest paid state legislators in the region, making a base pay of $67,836 with a $111 a day per diem. That’s going to go up.

The measure to keep lawmaker pay flat passed the Senate late Friday but when the bill got to the House, state Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, put a non-concur motion on it, holding the measure from a floor vote. He hasn’t responded to messages seeking comment.

Multiple lawmakers have called on the governor to line-item veto the pay raises. Pritzker was insistent he’s going to sign the budget as is. He even defended lawmakers.

“They’re working night and day, Republicans and Democrats, I credit them all,” Pritzker said. “Many of them are taking on much more than people expect. They’re also away from their families for days, sometimes a week at a time.”

Skillicorn said said taxpayers shouldn’t have sympathy for lawmakers.

“We haven’t had a balanced budget in over a decade,” Skillicorn said. “We have over $6 billion in backed bills. Clearly the legislators haven’t done a good job.”

Illinois’ backlog of bills isn’t the only debt. Illinois also has $136 billion of unfunded pension liability, among the worst credit rating in the country, the second-highest property taxes and more problems.

Before leaving town, lawmakers approved the biggest spending budget in Illinois state history without addressing some of the main cost drivers like the increased pension debt.

 

Article by Greg Bishop with The Center Square. For more TCS visit https://www.thecentersquare.com/illinois

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