Cronus Fertilizer

Pushed by Rep. Adam Brown, fertilizer manufacturer chooses downstate Illinois as location of $1.4 billion plant

Operated by Cronus Chemicals LLC, the new plant will create over 2,000 construction job opportunities, provide for 175 full-time permanent jobs and have an economic impact to the community estimated to be in the hundreds of millions.  Operations are expected to begin in 2017.

Rep. Mike Tryon is chief sponsor of HB 1040
Illinois has put two new laws on the books that state officials hope will clarify the state’s purchasing process and emphasize a move to cloud technology and shared services.

House Bill 5491 better defines the authority of Illinois chief procurement officers and requires state officials to more clearly state the requirements and specifics of what they want to purchase. HB 1040 creates a mandate where agencies must consider cloud solutions before investing in new technology. Both measures have been signed by Gov. Pat Quinn.

HB 1040 went into effect in March, while HB 5491 is official as of Jan. 1, 2015. Read more by Brian Heaton in Government Technology.

Economic incentives potentially worth more than $14 million in taxpayer dollars played a key role in helping Illinois land a $1.4 billion fertilizer plant, said a state lawmaker who helped shepherd the package through the General Assembly.

State Rep. Adam Brown, R-Champaign, said the state aid was a critical factor in convincing Cronus Chemical to build the facility in Tuscola.

"I think we had to have some skin in the game," Brown said Tuesday. Read more.

Bills – Unpaid State Bills
Comptroller counts $5.82 billion in unpaid bills.  The October 2014 count of unpaid bills was submitted to her Twitter followers by Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka on Tuesday, October 21 under the Twitter hashtag #ILbillbacklog. The past-due bill count, which can also be seen on Topinka’s Facebook page, is $500 million greater than the comparable figure in mid-September.
Travis Platt is passionate in his efforts to help others, because he wants to give back.

Platt, owner of Platt's Printing in Farmington, says he likes to work with other small businesses and with anyone planning a benefit. His storefront has been open since December of 2013, but the entrepreneur has been in business since he was in junior high school.

"We are light years from where we started," says Platt, who emphasizes small businesses need to stick together. That is why he is proud to be located in Farmington with many small business owners who also want to grow.

He puts his self-taught graphic design efforts, and what he calls 'special prices,' to work for those needing his help. "I offer quality printing and design with good pricing."

Life has not always been easy for Platt, who is confined to a wheelchair due to Muscular Dystrophy.
Through a program offered by the state, he had the help of a personal assistant, who could help with travel and other necessities. That help was taken away suddenly when the state unexpectedly closed his case. His business was in danger of closing and Platt found himself in the battle of a lifetime.

In the midst of that battle, a friend introduced him to State Rep. Mike Unes. Unes learned of his plight and helped Platt get his case reopened and help was restored. "It took about a year and a lot of money," says Platt of the experience. Read more.

State Rep. Raymond Poe next week will begin undergoing a stem cell transplant designed to replace his bone marrow and cure a blood disease.

Poe, 70, will undergo the procedure at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where he said he will be “at least a month.”

“That’s what they’re telling me in Texas, you’re coming down here for a cure, not a treatment,” Poe said.

Poe, a Springfield Republican, was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic syndrome or MDS.

In an interview with The State Journal-Register in August, Dr. Leonard Giannone, a Springfield oncologist and hematologist who has treated Poe, described the disease as a low-level malignancy of the stem cells that produce blood. He said it is not a fast-growing cancer, and that patients can live with it for years. Read the story by Doug Finke in the Springfield Journal-Register.

Too bad the Legislature didn’t apply a little weather-stripping to keep its home energy-efficiency program from leaking money and promised jobs.

This boondoggle of a state program was done in by either politics or incompetence, not unlike the way Gov. Pat Quinn’s anti-crime Neighborhood Recovery Initiative was botched.

Can’t Springfield get anything right?

Five years ago, lawmakers enacted the Urban Weatherization Initiative. The idea was to train workers in predominantly African-American communities to refit old buildings, creating jobs and lowering utility bills.

The notion was laudable, but the program had some gaping holes.

As a result, only a fraction of the 1,900 people trained to be laborers and inspectors actually got jobs, according to a Better Government Association report in Monday’s Sun-Times. Only 183 homes have been upgraded. And more than $13 million of the $16-million-plus spent so far has gone for administrative costs and training. Read the rest of the SunTimes Editorial.

Energy – Fracking
Negotiations continue on new rules. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources continues work to finalize the rules it will use to regulate future horizontal shale drilling in Illinois. New engineering technologies, known as “fracking,” have multiplied the power of drilling activity to get oil and natural gas out of rock characterized by tightly-packed grains of clay and sediment – the kind of rock known as “shale.” Until recently, engineering challenges prevented these deposits from being drilled and pumped.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director (IDPH) Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck today announced the activation of an Ebola hotline to answer residents’ questions about Ebola 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The hotline number is 800-889-3931.

Managed by staff from the Illinois Poison Center, hotline operators are able to provide timely information on Ebola and the state’s response. Residents can call any time with questions such as how Ebola is spread, who is at risk of being infected, when should someone go to a doctor, what hospitals and local health departments are doing to identify and control possible Ebola infections and other frequently asked questions.

Dr. Hasbrouck, joined by local health department, hospital, health care and emergency response officials, will hold a media briefing on Friday, October 17, 2014 at 2:30 p.m. to provide the latest information on Ebola preparedness efforts in Illinois.

Read more about Illinois' Ebola Preparedness
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

There's no disputing the substance of the hiring scandal that's racked the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The only real question is, What to do about it? And that's an issue on which Gov. Pat Quinn and his critics are at odds. So it's going to be up to a federal judge to decide whether to install a hiring monitor to assure merit-based hiring at IDOT.

In our view, the federal court has no choice but to put a monitor in place at Transportation. Indeed, one could credibly argue that a monitor ought to oversee all hiring in state government, not just at the Transportation Department.

Why? The recent report issued by Executive Inspector General Richardo Meza revealed that illegal — repeat illegal — patronage hiring is alive and well in the Land of Lincoln. What a shock. Read the editorial in its entirety The News-Gazette.

Ebola Hotline:  800-889-3931

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) worked together to review and confirm  protocols and plans already in place to ensure the Illinois public health system is able to quickly identify a potential case of Ebola.

At this time, there have been no reports or questions in Illinois that have led to Ebola testing for suspected cases. IDPH will continue to monitor for cases. According to IDPH, at this time, Ebola does not pose a great health risk to the people of Illinois.

The director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources testified Tuesday that if state legislators do not act to set rules governing horizontal hydraulic fracturing the agency will not issue fracking permits “absent a court order to the contrary.”

The rules were on the agenda Tuesday of the 12-member Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, but the committee defered action until Nov. 6. The committee has until Nov. 15 to adopt the rules or the process of formulating fracking regulations would start over again.

Oil and gas drillers for the most part have held off on fracking in anticipation that regulations would pass. Meanwhile, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has not issued permits. Read the rest of the story by Julie Wernau in the Chicago Tribune.
Chicago – NRI
“…we are trying to get the base out…” Newly-released emails confirm politics part of troubled Quinn program. On Tuesday, Oct. 7, former Quinn chief of staff Jack Lavin turned over personal emails subpoenaed by the Legislative Audit Commission that tie the 2010 election and Quinn’s campaign to the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.

In a Sept. 5, 2010 email to Ben Nuckels, then Quinn’s campaign manager, Lavin outlined strategies to appeal to African-American voters. “If we are trying to get the base out and that’s the key to our victory, we better prioritize correctly,” Lavin wrote. “The African-American community tends to break late so we have some time. The Gov’s Neighborhood Recovery Initiative will also help on the jobs and anti-violence messages.”
House GOP members of Legislative Audit Commission
Rep. Ron Sandack, Dennis Reboletti & David Reis
After 12 full hours of testimony on Wednesday into Governor Pat Quinn’s disgraced Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI), House Republicans on the Legislative Audit Commission were left with more questions than answers and continue to demand accountability for the failings of the program.
In day one of two days of testimony, members of the bipartisan and bicameral commission heard from four of seven witnesses who were subpoenaed to appear before them. While issues brought up in the Auditor General’s report into the program, such as hasty implementation, lax oversight and poor record keeping, were largely confirmed as accurate, members did not receive testimony into how the failings occurred and who was responsible.
For the first time, proof emerged that Gov. Pat Quinn’s 2010 Neighborhood Recovery Initiative factored into his election strategy that year in personal emails from the governor’s former top aide that were released Wednesday by a legislative panel investigating the program.

The emails from ex-Quinn chief of staff Jack Lavin represented a key highlight from the opening of two more days of hearings on the $54.5 million anti-violence grant program that is now under federal investigation. The former head of the now abolished agency that Quinn put in charge of implementing the program, Barbara Shaw, was at the witness table all morning. Dave McKinney has the story in the Chicago SunTimes.
A church closely connected to former top gubernatorial aide Billy Ocasio was awarded a contract for up to $100,000 from Gov. Pat Quinn's embattled Neighborhood Recovery Initiative — even though Mr. Ocasio had helped supervise NRI grant-making as Mr. Quinn's senior adviser.

New Life Covenant Church, where Mr. Ocasio's wife, Veronica Ocasio, works as chief of staff, received the contract and ultimately was paid just under $43,000 for developing a youth employment program, according to records compiled by the Illinois Auditor General's office and information obtained from state records by Crain's.
Chicago – NRI 
General Assembly panel to resume hearings on Quinn NRI scandal. The Legislative Audit Commission (LAC) will be holding hearings on Wednesday, October 8 and Thursday, October 9 in Chicago. The panel will continue its inquiries into the scandal-ridden “Neighborhood Recovery Initiative” (NRI), a $54.5 million taxpayer-funded program. Revelations since the program’s operation in 2010 indicate that money officially allocated to violence-reduction initiatives in challenged neighborhoods may actually have been expended as political walking-around money. The physical focus of the NRI program was on urban neighborhoods in the city of Chicago. The NRI program peaked during the weeks just before and after the November 2010 gubernatorial election, in which Pat Quinn won election to a full term by a margin of less than 1 percent of the statewide electorate.
"I am ready to get to work with all stakeholders to guarantee
Chicagoland is chosen to host the event in the future.”
~ Rep. Michael McAuliffe last Spring
Last Spring Rep. Michael McAuliffe carried HR 1096 inviting the NFL to select Chicagoland as a site and headquarters for the NFL Draft. McAuliffe stated at the time that "The NFL Draft would be a major win to our area by creating jobs, benefiting tourism, and encouraging economic development."

Today Illinois received the news that the NFL draft will indeed be moving to Chicago in 2015.

From today's Chicago Tribune: Nothing sells hope to fans of all 32 NFL teams like the draft, and next year the league will bring that hope -- and all the accompanying hoopla -- to Chicago.

The Los Angeles Times and Yahoo Sports reported Thursday that the draft, which for the last nine years has been conducted in New York's Radio City Music Hall, will move to Chicago next spring and be held from April 30 through May 2. Read the rest of the story by Brad Biggs.

More about Rep. McAuliffe's efforts to bring the NFL to Chicagoland.

More breaches are likely. The Department of Homeland Security Department warned last month that more than 1,000 retailers could have malware in their cash-register computers.

USA posted 5 ways to protect yourself from data breaches

  1. Consider another way to pay
  2. Sign it, don't pin it
  3. Beware of Email scammers
  4. Keep up with statements
  5. Go old school. Pay with Cash

Read the details on USA Today.

Rep.  Brown and others urge officials to reopen Eagle Creek
Republican legislators are putting the heat on state officials to get moving on the redevelopment of the long-vacant Eagle Creek Resort on Lake Shelbyville.

The 138-room resort and conference center has been closed since the summer of 2009 when mold was found inside its guest rooms.

Later the state awarded the resort lease to another vendor, the Ballinger family of Decatur, operating as BMDD Resorts, But BMDD abandoned the redevelopment project in March, and state officials pledged a month later to renew their work toward reopening the resort.

"The bottom line is they've done nothing since the Ballingers left," state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said Tuesday of the state Department of Natural Resources, which lease the lakefront property from the Army Corps of Engineers. "I think the director himself needs to come to the community and clear the air. But frankly I'm done dealing with DNR. I'm a member of the appropriations committee that has their budget and today I'm directing my staff to review their budget with a fine tooth comb." Read more by Tom Kacich in the News-Gazette.

Like previous retailers hurt by data breaches, Home Depot started offering free credit monitoring once it discovered that its security had been compromised. We wanted to know whether affected customers would welcome the move, so we took to Facebook and asked our followers.

Adrianne Clark, from Reedsburg, Wis., had been through data breaches before. “I signed up for Target's, last year, and seeing as that will be up soon, it would be beneficial to sign up for Home Depot's,” she wrote.

Other commenters were relying on their own vigilance to keep them safe—and, for the record, they weren’t impressed by Home Depot’s efforts. Joseph Gillis, Jr., who lives in Bridgewater, Mass., wrote: “No, have not signed up for specific credit monitoring. But, I do actively watch all transactions on my cards. By the way, offering credit monitoring is rather lame; shouldn't the penalty be much more severe for Home Depot and Target?” Read more at Consumer Reports.