The Illinois State Police have announced that they will make available online today the Illinois Concealed Carry Firearms Instructor and Curriculum applications. This application is necessary for those who want to apply for firearms training licenses under the newly-enacted Illinois concealed carry law. Applicants for a concealed carry license are required to obtain 16 hours of training from one of these licensed trainers. The State Police were required to make this information available by September 7 under the law, which was enacted on July 9.

Application forms and additional information from the State Police will be available today at

Visitors to the second floor rotunda of the Illinois State Capitol are treated to a wealth of information about Illinois history. There stand the statues of great Illinois pioneers: Lincoln and Douglas, Gov. John Wood, Rep. Lottie Holman O’Neill, and Sen. Adelbert Roberts (R-Chicago), the state Senate’s first African-American member.
House Republicans are proud to announce the unanimous election today of State Rep. Jim Durkin (R-82nd District) as the new Leader of the House Republican Caucus.

Durkin served in the House from 1995-2003, and rejoined the chamber in 2006. Prior to his service in the General Assembly, Durkin was an Assistant State’s Attorney in Cook County, and an Assistant Attorney General. He served as the Republican spokesman on the special House committee which investigated and ultimately impeached former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Durkin is currently an Assistant Republican Leader in the House, and serves on five House committees: Accountability and Administrative Review, Financial Institutions, Housing, Judiciary and Transportation Regulation—Roads and Bridges.

Durkin, 52, and his wife Celeste live in Western Springs. He is a graduate of Illinois State University and John Marshall Law School.
Abraham Lincoln, whose Emancipation Proclamation freed more than four million slaves, was an effective politician, profound statesman, and a shrewd diplomat. He also had a keen sense of humor. His stories and anecdotes gave rise to his moniker as the "Great Story Telling President." For the next few weeks we will share some of those stories from the *Project Gutenberg's Lincoln's Yarns and Stories, by Alexander K. McClure. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Some of Mr. Lincoln's intimate friends once called his attention to a certain member of his Cabinet who was quietly working to secure a nomination for the Presidency, although knowing that Mr. Lincoln was to be a candidate for re-election. His friends insisted that the Cabinet officer ought to be made to give up his Presidential aspirations or be removed from office. The situation reminded Mr. Lincoln of a story:

"My brother and I," he said, "were once plowing corn, I driving the horse and he holding the plow. The horse was lazy, but on one occasion he rushed across the field so that I, with my long legs, could scarcely keep pace with him. On reaching the end of the furrow, I found an enormous chin-fly fastened upon him, and knocked him off. My brother asked me what I did that for. I told him I didn't want the old horse bitten in that way. 'Why,' said my brother, 'that's all that made him go.' Now," said Mr. Lincoln, "if Mr.—— has a Presidential chin-fly biting him, I'm not going to knock him off, if it will only make his department go."

*This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with the eBook or online at

Row 1:  John Cabello at Rockford Register Star for an online chat. David McSweeney presented a resolution honoring TOPSoccer of Cary, a community-based program for young athletes with disabilities.

Row 2:  Rep. Darlene Senger shares 'A Day in the Life' of a State Representative at Tabor Hills Assisted Living located in Naperville. Rep. Bill Mitchell meets seniors at the Livingston Center in Monticello.

I am all of 85 feet tall with a very steely nature. Surrounded by tiny points of lights, my sculptural curves transport the prayers in the form of binary code. Who am I?

The Millennium Spire at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows.

The National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows is one of the largest outdoor shrines in North America. It was founded in 1958 by Fr. Edwin J. Guild, OMI and is located in Belleville, Illinois, just fifteen minutes east of St. Louis.

The Millennium Spire is an 85 foot tall stainless steel sculpture rising out of a Candelarium built into a hillside above the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows' Amphitheater. It reflects the light of the sun during the day and is continually illuminated with light emitting diodes (LEDs) making it a beacon heralding the Third Millennium. Prayer and petition requests that are sent to the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate through their web site are converted into a binary (numerical) language before they are symbolically sent upwards toward God on the network of LED lights built into the curve of the Millennium Spire.

Southwest Illinois News has more about the Millennium Spire.
State Representative John Anthony (R-Plainfield) was sworn into office as the new representative of the 75th district on Monday. Below are some photos from the ceremony, held at the Grundy County Courthouse. Anthony is seen with Rep. Kay Hatcher (R-Yorkville) and Judge Sheldon Sobol, as well as colleagues, family and friends who joined him for the ceremony.

"I'm counting on all of you for your guidance and wisdom, and I know in time Illinois can get back on the right track as long as we work together."
-Rep. John Anthony
Budget – Unpaid bills

·         New wave of unpaid State bills.  Efforts by the State to keep up with mushrooming pension obligations mean that other State creditors must wait to be paid from inadequate State resources.  In the House Republicans’ daily “In the Know” resource, Rep. Tom Cross (R-Oswego) pointed out on Tuesday, August 20 that the House Republican Caucus has led efforts to chip away at this load of unpaid debt in fiscal year 2013.  As a result of this pressure for thriftiness and budget- cutting, the State’s revenues exceeded expenditures by $1.4 billion in FY13, enabling the available moneys to be used to pay down the debt.   Unfortunately, the load of unpaid bills had been $7.5 billion at the beginning of this period (July 1, 2012) and was reduced by less than one-fifth during the following 12 months, to $6.1 billion at the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2013.    

News stories indicate that fiscal pressures are scheduled to worsen in FY14. State spending is increasing as the current majority party gears up to seek reelection, and the current laws governing State-managed pension systems demand that increased sums be allocated from general revenues to meet actuarial full-funding commitments.  The $6.1 billion in unpaid debt is scheduled to increase in FY14.  Those interested in further information about State issues are invited to read “In the Know” every weekday at

Sen. Florence Fifer Bohrer (R-Bloomington)
First woman elected to the Illinois State Senate
Believing that as a mother she must, “push out the walls of her home to include the community,” Senator Florence Fifer Bohrer (R-Bloomington) dedicated more than 50 years of her life to helping her neighbors. Along the way, she formed a Mother’s Club which developed into the modern Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), helped establish a tuberculosis sanitarium in Bloomington, was the local director of the American Red Cross during World War I, put her name on the ballot in 1924 and became the first woman elected to the Illinois State Senate.

Abraham Lincoln, whose Emancipation Proclamation freed more than four million slaves, was an effective politician, profound statesman, and a shrewd diplomat. He also had a keen sense of humor. His stories and anecdotes gave rise to his moniker as the "Great Story Telling President." For the next few weeks we will share some of those stories from the *Project Gutenberg's Lincoln's Yarns and Stories, by Alexander K. McClure. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

President Lincoln once told the following story of Colonel W., who had been elected to the Legislature, and had also been judge of the County Court. His elevation, however, had made him somewhat pompous, and he became very fond of using big words. On his farm he had a very large and mischievous ox, called "Big Brindle," which very frequently broke down his neighbors' fences, and committed other depredations, much to the Colonel's annoyance.

One morning after breakfast, in the presence of Lincoln, who had stayed with him over night, and who was on his way to town, he called his overseer and said to him: "Mr. Allen, I desire you to impound 'Big Brindle,' in order that I may hear no animadversions on his eternal depredations." has compiled a great list of places to visit in Illinois. Here are our picks for the 12 sights you just gotta see:

1. Two Story Outhouse in Gays, IL

Row 1:  Rep. Bob Pritchard celebrated summer reading success with members of his Summer Reading Club.  House Republican Leader Tom Cross checks out the chickens at Kendall County Fair.

Row 2:  Rep. Charlie Meier discussing the status of  Murray Center. Rep. Sandy Pihos joins Lombard village trustees for ribbon cutting for the Great Western Bike Path Bridge over Grace Street.
The dismal news reported Monday by the U.S. Department of Labor: Illinois still has the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation. Only economically hobbled Nevada has a worse job picture.

This state's jobless rate ticked up 0.1 percent to 9.2 percent in July as the state added a modest 7,100 private-sector jobs last month. The national jobless rate is 7.4 percent, which looks pretty grim ... except when it's compared with Illinois'.

We are not creating many jobs here. We are not competing. We are being left behind.

So pardon us if we don't get too excited by the celebratory news release issued Monday by Gov. Pat Quinn, declaring great news on workers' compensation costs. Workers' comp is one of the most worrisome cost factors for employers, and Illinois for years has been one of the worst states in the union on workers' comp costs.

Read more at:,0,5362618.story
While endangered for a time, my species had made a comeback. I winter in Brazil but when I return to Illinois each summer I help control the mosquito population and bolster tourism for a little town called Griggsville. Who am I?

The Purple Martin.

The water tower of this small west-central Illinois town warns all foolish enough to leave the Interstate that they have ventured into the "Purple Martin Capital of the Nation." But even before the water tower type is visible, visitors will have passed an alarming number of tall poles supporting multiple-dwelling bird houses. They seem to be on almost every street corner. Near the town center, a 562-apartment bird high-rise pokes up into the blue, visible for miles by its intended inhabitant -- the Purple Martin.

The bluish-black bird -- once an endangered species -- has rebounded thanks to protection by a federal law, boosterism of towns like Griggsville, and a unique talent. A single Purple Martin can supposedly eat 2,000 mosquitoes a day. Read more from the Field Review team at Roadside America.

Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer (R-Jacksonville)
The Governor yesterday signed SB 2356, a bill to raise the speed limit on rural Illinois interstates to 70 miles per hour, effective January 1.

Starting next year, drivers on all Illinois interstates and tollways outside the Chicago and St. Louis metropolitan areas can drive at speeds up to 70 miles per hour. As a safety measure, the law lowers the threshold for charging a speeding driver with a misdemeanor from 31 miles over the limit down to 26.

Rep. Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) 

Illinois joins 36 other states in which all or parts of the interstate system have a speed limit of 70 mph or higher. Among Illinois' neighbors, only Wisconsin has a statewide 65 mph limit.

The House version of the bill, HB 2573, was introduced and sponsored by Reps. C.D. Davidsmeyer (R-Jacksonville) and Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake), who were co-sponsors of the bill Governor Quinn signed this week. The bill passed the House 85-30 and the Senate 41-6.

From the Geneva Weekly Bulletin:

State Rep. Schmitz named Legislator of the Year

The Metro West Council of Government has named State Rep. Tim Schmitz (left) its 2013 Legislator of the Year. The award was presented Aug. 15 by Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns, Geneva City Administrator Mary McKittrick (2nd from left) and Metro West Executive Director Mary Randle. The award was established to honor legislators whose record demonstrates their understanding of the municipal perspective on legislative issues and a commitment to supporting the well-being of local government. The Metro West Council of Government is a non-profit organization representing municipalities in Kane, Kendall and DeKalb counties that fosters regional cooperation managing growth, transportation, water conversation and economic development.
Illinois drivers will have to peel the cell phones away from their ears under legislation Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law Friday that bans the use of hand-held devices behind the wheel.

Motorists could still gab and drive if they use hands-free technology to conduct their conversations. Otherwise they’ll need to pull off the road to make a call or face fines starting at $75. The law takes effect Jan. 1.

“Too many Illinois families have suffered because of accidents that could have been prevented,” Quinn said in a statement. “Anyone driving a car should be careful, responsive and alert behind the wheel.”

Quinn’s signature means Illinois will join the ranks of about a dozen other states with similar restrictions and will allow drivers to operate under a uniform ban instead of a confusing patchwork of local laws that vary from town to town. Illinois already prohibits texting while driving.

Read the full story at:,0,2492050.story

Budget/Old Bills

·         Despite the influx of higher than anticipated revenues in fiscal year 2013, the Comptroller’s office reported on the week of August 12 that the backlog of unpaid State bills remains a problem for state vendors, with efforts to solve the problem facing stagnation.  At the end of June 2013, the increase in FY13 revenues had allowed the backlog to be paid down to $6.1 billion, compared to $7.5 billion a year earlier.  However, the increased spending levels contained in the final FY13 and FY14 budgets have consumed all available revenue and remaining spending pressures, such as pensions, have not been addressed.  As a result, the Comptroller has stated that the backlog at the end of July 2013 stood at $6.8 billion, and this backlog is expected to increase to $7.5 billion at the end of August 2013.  By December 31, 2013, the backlog of old bills is expected to reach $9 billion.


Joseph Gurney Cannon
Oil Painting on Canvas by William T. Smedley,
1912, Collection of U.S. House of Representatives
At the south end of the U.S. Capitol complex, next to the Library of Congress, sits a marble and limestone office building. Opened in 1908, this first House office building was constructed due to a critical need for space for the growing House of Representatives. When it came time to choose a name for this structure, the House voted to give the honor to an Illinoisan, and possibly the most powerful Speaker of the House in American history, U.S. Rep. Joseph Gurney Cannon (R-Danville).

Speaker Cannon was already a well-traveled man when he entered politics in 1861. Born in North Carolina, raised in Indiana and educated in Ohio, he moved to Tuscola, Illinois, and was named State’s Attorney for the 27th Judicial District. In 1868, he ran for Congress, beginning a 46 year Congressional career which featured two defeats and comebacks, an eight-year reign as Speaker, and such diverse emotions that he was known either as “Uncle Joe,” or “Czar Cannon.”

Cannon’s first leadership post was the chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee. In 1898, the USS Maine exploded in Havana harbor and Americans began clamoring for war with Spain. Cannon, who opposed the war, recognized which direction the wind was blowing. He saw that war was inevitable and sought to prepare the armed forces. “Common sense demanded that preparation be furthered before the jingoes got completely out of control,” he told an incredulous Speaker Thomas Reed after the House approved a $50 million appropriation for defense.
An editorial in Thursday's Chicago Tribune:

The health care exchanges that will sell insurance to millions of Americans under Obamacare open Oct. 1, less than seven weeks away.

In California, state officials have released premium rates so residents can figure what they'll pay for coverage if they buy insurance through the exchange there. Same in Indiana. And Ohio, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont and Washington.

People will see huge price spikes in some of those states. People will save money in others.
And what will happen in Illinois? Big hike? Big cut? That's a mystery.

Click here to read the full story.
Abraham Lincoln, whose Emancipation Proclamation freed more than four million slaves, was an effective politician, profound statesman, and a shrewd diplomat. He also had a keen sense of humor. His stories and anecdotes gave rise to his moniker as the "Great Story Telling President." For the next few weeks we will share some of those stories from the *Project Gutenberg's Lincoln's Yarns and Stories, by Alexander K. McClure. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Once, when Lincoln was pleading a case, the opposing lawyer had all the advantage of the law; the weather was warm, and his opponent, as was admissible in frontier courts, pulled off his coat and vest as he grew warm in the argument.

At that time, shirts with buttons behind were unusual. Lincoln took in the situation at once. Knowing the prejudices of the primitive people against pretension of all sorts, or any affectation of superior social rank, arising, he said: "Gentlemen of the jury, having justice on my side, I don't think you will be at all influenced by the gentleman's pretended knowledge of the law, when you see he does not even know which side of his shirt should be in front." There was a general laugh, and Lincoln's case was won.

*This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with the eBook or online at

Row 1:  Rep. Rich Brauer on farm tour and at "Kiss a Pig" Diabetes Fundraisers.

Row 2:  Reps Rich Brauer & Raymond Poe at Oak Ridge Cemetery Gate Dedication and with Menard County Fair Queen.
Potawatomi Fashion at the Field Museum in Chicago
photo by Victorgrigas
I was the first roadside attraction in Illnois and now a park in Belvidere.  Passengers on the Chicago-Galena stagecoach line and other travelers were very curious to visit me. They had never seen anything like it and wanted to take a piece of me with them. Who am I?

Gravesite of Chief Big Thunder.

Chief Big Thunder, a legendary Potawatomi statesman, died before Euro-American settlers began arriving in the Belvidere area in the 1830s. After his death and following an ancient custom, Potawatomi tribespeople gave their chief an above-ground burial, clothing him in his best ceremonial garb and sitting him upright inside a six-foot-high stockade. They equipped him with pipes, tobacco, and food for his afterlife journey, and left his remains to decompose in the open air.

Scavengers in the form of tourists later vandalized Big Thunder's burial site. Residents compensated by erecting a memorial near the county courthouse. Read more here.

It costs $21 for a lawmaker to take the train between Chicago and Springfield, or about $65 for them to drive.

But it costs taxpayers $4,060 when lawmakers choose to fly a six-seat executive airplane between the two cities.

Despite the enormous cost difference, the presiding officers of both the Illinois House and Senate are choosing to fly in the taxpayer-funded executive planes.

The practice has been going on for decades, but as the state struggles to pay its bills some are wondering if it is something Illinois can afford.

“Would getting rid of these planes solve the state’s budget problems? No. But it is of enormous symbolic value. The leaders seem unwilling to sacrifice,” said state Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, who has introduced legislation to eliminate most of the state’s fleet of executive aircraft.  Scott Reeder tells the story at the Illinois News Network. 

House Republicans take stand against “progressive” income tax proposal.  At the end of the 2013 spring session, the Democrat majority introduced a new State constitutional amendment, HJRCA 33, for discussion.  This amendment, if it were approved by both houses and ratified by the voters, would abolish the current flat-rate income tax (the current rate is 5.0 percent on individuals) and replace it with a graduated or “progressive” income tax rate that would rise with the income of the taxpayer.  Enactment of a progressive income tax law could open the door to income tax rates much higher than 5.0 percent for many Illinoisans, and with inflation more and more households (including middle-class households) would be subjected to the higher rates.  Graduated income tax rates are higher in neighboring states which constitutions allow these rates to be charged.  For example, higher-income Iowa individuals must pay a rate of 8.98 percent.

Lynn Martin
Only one member of the Illinois House of Representatives has gone on to serve as President of the United States. Others have been Members of Congress; including one Speaker of the U.S. House; a famed general, Governors of Illinois, leaders in business and industry, professors and, in the case of former State Rep. Lynn Martin (R-Rockford), U.S. Secretary of Labor.
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It's been a discouraging few weeks for those of us who'd hoped that the prosecution of Dan Rostenkowski, George Ryan, Rod Blagojevich any number of aldermen might have made a change in Chicago's and Illinois' continuing culture of corruption.

It hasn't made a difference. At least, not enough of a difference.

The mess at Metra and a few other related matters have lifted a grand curtain on how Chicago works, providing a peek at the wheels of government and what oils them. And that peek suggests that, in many, many ways, we're still living somewhere around, say, 1957. Still allowing local and state government to be not a place where the public is served, but a place to set up a family business and profit as much as possible for me and mine. Greg Hinz at Crain's has the rest of the story.
Abraham Lincoln, whose Emancipation Proclamation freed more than four million slaves, was an effective politician, profound statesman, and a shrewd diplomat. He also had a keen sense of humor. His stories and anecdotes gave rise to his moniker as the "Great Story Telling President." For the next few weeks we will share some of those stories from the *Project Gutenberg's Lincoln's Yarns and Stories, by Alexander K. McClure. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Lincoln never told a better story than this:

A country meeting-house, that was used once a month, was quite a distance from any other house.

The preacher, an old-line Baptist, was dressed in coarse linen pantaloons, and shirt of the same material. The pants, manufactured after the old fashion, with baggy legs, and a flap in the front, were made to attach to his frame without the aid of suspenders.

A single button held his shirt in position, and that was at the collar. He rose up in the pulpit, and with a loud voice announced his text thus: "I am the Christ whom I shall represent to-day."
In 2004 Illinoisans agreed and I made the list. I live in forests, pastures, orchards and prairies as well as parking lots and even housing developments as long as water is nearby.  I have a big cat name but a cat I am not.  Who am I?  

The Eastern Tiger Salamander 
 Illinois state amphibian: Eastern Tiger Salamander 

Then Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and Rep. Bob Biggins (R-Elmhurst) teamed up in 2004 with Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Herpatological Society to sponsor this first-ever virtual election for an official state symbol.  Six students from Jackson Middle School in Villa Park served as “campaign managers” for the amphibian and reptile candidates.
House Republican Leader Tom Cross
Over my lifetime I have had the opportunity to go to many events in our area and across the state.

There have been very few that have touched me quite like the naturalization ceremony in Aurora recently. If you haven’t had the opportunity to attend one — you should.

From the moment I walked into the auditorium at West Aurora High School on that hot summer day, you could feel the patriotism and excitement in the room.

The only decoration behind the stage was an enormous American flag, the size of one that you see at parades or sporting events that require dozens of people to hold because it is so large.

Hundreds of people filed into their seats waiting for the ceremony to begin. This is a ceremony that many of them have been waiting years and years to attend.

One of the most touching moments of the ceremony is when the Senior Immigration Services Officer did the “Roll Call of Nationalities.” According to officials there, approximately 350 were candidates for citizenship that day from 61 countries.  Read the rest of Tom Cross' guest commentary in the Beacon News.

City of Chicago deficit will balloon to $1 billion without pension reform.  The Chicago Tribune reported this week that Mayor Rahm Emanuel will not raise sales or property taxes to close a $338.7 million budget deficit for next year. By 2015, the shortfall will balloon to $1 billion without pension reform.

In 2015, Chicago is required by state law to make a $600 million contribution to its police and fire pension funds that currently only have assets to cover just 30.5 and 25 percent of their liabilities. Chicago leaders have suggested that the Illinois General Assembly should relieve Chicago of the pension payment “ramp up” requirement and allow the City to extend payments over a longer period of time.

Chicago’s deficit will rise to $994.7 million in 2015 and $1.15 billion in 2016 without strong pension reforms and possibly new revenues.
U.S. Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen (R-Pekin)
When Illinois legislators passed a state budget with $2 billion of extra spending this spring, some Illinoisans might have remembered words popularly attributed to one of the great Illinois political leaders of the 20th century, U.S. Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen (R-Pekin), “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money!”

Everett Dirksen spent nearly 50 years in public service, starting in the Army during World War I, and finishing as Republican leader of the U.S. Senate. He worked as the general manager of a local dredging company after the war, was active in the American Legion, and served as a finance commissioner in Pekin before being elected to Congress in 1932.

In Congress, Dirksen supported some New Deal programs, including the National Labor Relations Act and the Agricultural Adjustment Act. Over time, however, he began to believe that the New Deal was not proving very effective, and he became concerned by the growing size of government and its insatiable appetite for spending. Dirksen wrote that, “the New Deal was long on reform, much longer on relief, yet very short on actual recovery and restoration of normal conditions."

Abraham Lincoln, whose Emancipation Proclamation freed more than four million slaves, was an effective politician, profound statesman, and a shrewd diplomat. He also had a keen sense of humor. His stories and anecdotes gave rise to his moniker as the "Great Story Telling President." For the next few weeks we will share some of those stories from the *Project Gutenberg's Lincoln's Yarns and Stories, by Alexander K. McClure. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Miss Todd (afterwards Mrs. Lincoln) had a keen sense of the ridiculous, and wrote several articles in the Springfield (Ill.) "Journal" reflecting severely upon General James Shields (who won fame in the Mexican and Civil Wars, and was United States Senator from three states), then Auditor of State.

Lincoln assumed the authorship, and was challenged by Shields to meet him on the "field of honor." Meanwhile Miss Todd increased Shields' ire by writing another letter to the paper, in which she said: "I hear the way of these fire-eaters is to give the challenged party the choice of weapons, which being the case, I'll tell you in confidence that I never fight with anything but broom-sticks, or hot water, or a shovelful of coals, the former of which, being somewhat like a shillalah, may not be objectionable to him."