Around Illinois – June 7

Jun 7, 2012
  • State high court rejects GOP redistricting complaint
  • Good news is bad news on unemployment benefits
  • Convicted powerbroker Cellini suffers heart attack
  • New party joins Crundwell case seeking payment

On party lines, Supreme Court rejects redistricting suit

The state Supreme Court tossed out Illinois Republicans' lawsuit challenging the new map of legislative districts. The order issued today was split down party lines.

Illinois Republicans wanted the high court to throw out the map. They say Democrats drew the borders so districts would benefit Democratic candidates, in effect diluting the Republican vote.

State Democrats charged the lawsuit was too little, too late.

The GOP waited until just six weeks before the March primary to file it.

The four Illinois Supreme Court justices elected as Democrats, who hold the majority on the bench, voted to dismiss the suit. The three justices elected as Republicans sided with the GOP.

In his dissent, Justice Robert Thomas wrote that Republicans deserve their day in court. He says the suit was timely. And even if not, he wrote, there are no time limits in the constitution. 

Thomas wrote that, if the lawsuit were to be unresolved in time for this fall's election, the maps could be changed before the next one.

Republicans still have one last hope: There's one outstanding case left before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lower unemployment cues end to additional aid

The improving unemployment picture in Illinois – at 8.7 percent in April – means that the federally funded unemployment insurance program that adds six weeks of jobless benefits will end as of June 23.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security said the extra aid ends because specific economic improvements identified by Congress have been achieved.

As a result, the extra six weeks will not be available to individuals who complete the previous phase after June 23. Those who qualified for the extra aid as of June 23 can continue to collect under the program.

All federal programs that extended unemployment benefits beyond the original 26 weeks will end Dec. 29, under current federal law.

 “Our economy is improving. Overall job growth should remain positive, as it has for more than two years, despite uneven monthly reports,” IDES Director Jay Rowell said.

He said there are more than 100,000 jobs available at the state’s no-cost job board for workers and businesses alike.

Illinois has added 142,100 jobs since January 2010, when job growth resumed after nearly two years of consecutive monthly declines. The unemployment rate peaked at 11.4 percent in January 2010. The April rate, the latest available, was 8.7 percent. The rate has fallen for eight consecutive months.

Cellini  treated for heart attack in Springfield

William Cellini, the long-time Illinois powerbroker convicted of conspiring to shake down a Hollywood producer, has suffered a heart attack.

A family spokesman says Cellini,77, suffered the heart attack Monday while a stent to correct blockage in an artery was being installed, dislodging a clot that caused the heart attack.

Last week, a federal judge refused to overturn Cellini’s conviction of conspiring to shake down the Oscar-winning producer of “Million Dollar Baby” for a contribution to imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s campaign.

No definite date has been set for sentencing. 

Percott Company seeks payment for horse care

A federal magistrate has approved allowing the a company that has cared for horses owned by indicted Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell to intervene in the case to recover more than $150,000 in costs.

Percott Co. wants to recoup more than $150,000 in costs and liens associated with the care of 60 of Crundwell’s prime quarter horses at the Meri-J Ranch in Beloit, Wis.

The ranch is managed by Crundwell’s longtime boyfriend, Jim McKillips.

At a brief hearing Wednesday, Magistrate Judge Michael Mahoney granted the company’s motion to intervene in a civil lawsuit that seeks to seize and eventually sell nearly 400 horses and other related items that belong to Crundwell.

Prosecutors say Crundwell, 59, misappropriated more than $53 million in city funds over two decades. They allege she used some of that money to fund her horse operations and to buy a number of big-ticket items, such as real estate and a $2.1 million luxury motor home.

She will be back in court June 15.