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Rauner launches autonomous vehicle testing in Illinois




Rex | Flickr via Creative Commons

Gov. Bruce Rauner opened Illinois for autonomous vehicle testing, which could get underway this winter.

Rauner signed an executive order Thursday ushering in Autonomous Illinois, a multi-agency public-private partnership to allow for local testing of autonomous vehicles.

“This technology is here and Illinois is ready to embrace it,” Rauner said in a statement. “Working with our public and private partners, we can make our roads safer, save lives, attract investment and create new high-tech jobs throughout the state.”

Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn Thursday said the executive order will make the state a leader in helping develop future technologies.

“We are the transportation hub of North America, the freight capital of the country and home to millions of commuters in urban, suburban and rural environments,” Blankenhorn said. “We experience all four seasons, providing challenges for all modes of transportation.”

Blankenhorn said autonomous vehicles can help reduce the number of fatal crashes. He said 94 percent of fatal crashed are caused by human error. There have been more than 1,000 deaths in Illinois over the past two years, he said.

Some of the guidelines laid out in the executive order includes IDOT creating a registration system for entities wishing to test autonomous vehicles. Such registrants would be required to have a licensed driver in the driver’s seat able to take control of the vehicle during tests.

The Autonomous Illinois effort will connect communities interested in automated vehicle testing with industry, universities, research institutions and other technology partners.

Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis said his city will be one of the first areas that will begin testing.

“These are the kind of jobs, these are the kind of high paying [research and development] jobs that this state needs and we’re excited to see that happening,” Ardis said.

Blankenhorn said Chicago officials have also shown interest, as have some southern Illinois communities hoping to do closed-track testing for freight vehicles like semi trucks. Blankenhorn said testing could begin as early as this winter.

State Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, has been working on legislation to allow autonomous vehicle testing on Illinois roadways. He said he’s still reviewing Rauner’s order, but said it was exciting. Zalewski said lawmakers will still need to craft legislation to address issues related to autonomous vehicles.

“We’re going to have to reconcile the additional levels of autonomy in future permutations of these vehicles,” Zalewski said.

Zalewski also said the question of liability in collisions must still be addressed by lawmakers. The executive order says each vehicle should be covered by motor vehicle insurance or other types of financial responsibility as required by law, but Zalewski has previously said that doesn’t spell out if the person behind the wheel of a driverless car, or the driverless car’s software developer is liable.

Josh Witkowski, the state legislative coordinator with motorcycle lobby ABATE of Illinois, said he has concerns about the executive order. He said it opens Illinois motorcyclists to the “wild, wild west” of autonomous vehicle testing.

“There should be a true collaborative effort to come up with a set of defined rules for the testing program before launching the testing program and that doesn’t appear to be happening here,” Witkowski said.

He said his group, which endorsed Rauner for another term, is disappointed.

The executive order requires Autonomous Illinois to work with advocacy groups and other stakeholders to identify areas of interest.

Information about Autonomous Illinois is available online at

Article by Greg Bishop with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit

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Illinois News Network, publisher of, 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 Springfield Daily was granted republishing permission by INN.


Illinois launches veteran-owned small business logo program




Finding veteran-owned local businesses will soon be easier.

The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs is offering a sticker to qualifying veteran-owned businesses. Veteran-owned businesses that are registered with the state, and in good standing, can display the logo in their place of business.

The stickers will be released as part of their annual program that sets aside $300 million in state contracts that only veteran-owned businesses can bid on, Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs spokesman Dave MacDonna said.

“We want to raise public awareness about small businesses that are veteran-owned or large businesses that are veteran-owned,” he said.

MacDonna said that there are many small business owners across the state and this is a way for consumers to have confidence that they’re spending their money with one.

“We want the consumer to realize that they are a trusted and valuable part of the community,” he said.

The program will run in concurrence to the state’s annual Veterans’ Business program, which gives qualified veteran-owned businesses in the state access to more than $300 million in contracts.

For information about the program, visit

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

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Duckworth, Durbin Introduce Legislation to Improve Water Quality & End Sewage Dumping into Great Lakes

Staff Contributor



PRESS RELEASE | U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced legislation today to end the dumping of untreated sewage waste into the Great Lakes Basin. The Senators’ Great Lakes Water Protection Act would improve water quality in the Great Lakes, which contain 95% of America’s fresh surface water and supply drinking water to more than 30 million people in North America. The bill would also create a dedicated fund to help clean up sewage in the Great Lakes and require the public be immediately notified when sewage is discharged. Representative Dan Lipinski (D-3) has introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“The Great Lakes is the source of drinking water for tens of millions of Americans and supports 1.5 million jobs,” said Senator Duckworth. “Yet, under the current rules, roughly 22 billion gallons of untreated sewage and storm water are discharged into the Great Lakes each year, threatening the health and livelihoods of millions.  Our legislation will help fix this problem by banning discharges of untreated sewage into the Great Lakes to protect local economies and ensure our water is clean for families in Illinois and throughout the Great Lakes region.” 

“The Great Lakes are precious natural resources and it’s our duty to protect them. In Illinois, we depend on Lake Michigan as a critical source of drinking water for millions of people. Lake Michigan also provides a huge economic benefit to the state, and is a place of recreation for countless residents and tourists,” Senator Durbin said. “This bill will end sewage dumping and ensure we have clean and healthy Great Lakes for future generations of Americans to enjoy.”

“My bill and the legislation Senators Duckworth and Durbin introduced in the Senate will improve water quality in the Great Lakes by ending the practice of blending and making sure that wastewater discharged into the lakes is fully-treated,” added Representative Lipinski. “We are also creating a Great Lakes Cleanup Fund that will provide federal dollars to offset the cost of infrastructure improvements needed to end wastewater blending, and make sure that an undue burden is not placed on local residents.”

An estimated 22 billion gallons of untreated sewage and storm water are discharged into the Great Lakes each year. That’s because inconsistent rules allow sewage treatment facilities in some states to divert wastewater around secondary treatment and discharge the untreated water directly into the Great Lakes when the treatment facilities are overloaded due to heavy storms, wet weather events or power failures, creating a public health hazard. The Senators’ legislation would create a uniform policy across the entire Great Lakes Basin that ends this practice. It would also authorize The Great Lakes Cleanup Fund to provide up to $250 million each year from 2020 to 2024 to support projects that lead to reductions in wastewater blending. 

The Great Lakes Water Protection Act has been endorsed by the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the National Wildlife Federation Great Lakes Regional Center, American Rivers, Environment Illinois, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

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Illinois educators wary of bill to require metal detectors in every school




image from the Sentinel-Echo

A group of Illinois lawmakers are promoting legislation that would use a combination of state, local and federal funds to put metal detectors in every school in the state, but some school leaders say it’s simply not feasible.

State Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, said students in schools should feel safe from gun violence when they’re learning. For that reason, the former teacher filed a bill that would require all public schools, K-12, have students walk through metal detectors everyday to get to class.

“Why is it that no one gets shot inside of Terminal 1 or Terminal 2 at O’Hare Airport?” he asked.

The bill would tap into federal funds made available this summer to partially pay for the walk-through detectors, which can cost thousands of dollars.

Regional Superintendent Mark Jontry, who oversees schools in DeWitt, Livingston, Logan and McLean Counties, said the idea is well-intentioned, but would result in a unfunded expenses for school districts and create logistical problems.

“Who’s going to be responsible for doing those screenings? Are districts going to be responsible for the cost of hiring additional personnel?” he said. “The concept, on the surface may seem like a good idea, but it presents a number of challenges once you dig into it.”

The detectors would have to be run by a trained professional and need regular servicing and calibration to ensure they work properly. Jontry said such costs would likely fall to local taxpayers.

Ben Schwarm, deputy director with the Illinois Association of School Boards, served on a working group with the Illinois Terrorism Task Force. The law enforcement contingent of the group had a hierarchy of actions that could be taken to “harden” schools from unwanted entry. Schwarm said metal detectors were last on that list.

“It’s just not that effective,” he said. “There’s a thousand things school districts should be doing before they get to that point.”

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

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