Around Illinois – May 17

May 17, 2012
  • Next Sheley trial postponed to September
  • Illinois gets $150,000 of Skechers settlement
  • Cities don’t want to fund teacher pensions
  • Library begins offering e-readers
  • Restoring child-care funds advances
  • Cites gain in electricity savings
  • Schilling makes good use of perk he slammed

Second Sheley trial is delayed until September

A judge in Whiteside County has delayed the second trial of a man accused of killing eight people in two states.

An attorney for Nicholas Sheley asked for a continuance during a hearing Wednesday in Whiteside County. The defense is awaiting DNA test results and that their expert won't be available for trial until at least August.

The judge agreed and delayed the trial for the death of 93-year-old Russell Reed of Sterling until Sept. 10. A pre-trial conference is scheduled June 1.

Sheley is accused of killing eight people in Illinois and Missouri over several days in June 2008. He was convicted last year of killing 65-year-old Ronald Randall of Galesburg.

Illinois gets a piece of Skechers settlement

Illinois will receive $150,000 from Skechers USA Inc. under a settlement over the shoe maker's claims that certain of its brands of athletic shoes would help people shed weight and strengthen their various muscles.

The Federal Trade Commission and 43 states, including Illinois, accused Skechers of deceptive marketing for its Shape-up, Tone-up and Skechers Resistance Runner shoes.

Skechers will pay $40 million in customer refunds to settle the charges. Consumers who bought the shoes will be eligible for refunds, the FTC said, and can visit the FTC's website to file claims.

The company will also give $5 million to the states for costs associated with the multistate investigation, including the Illinois share, according to Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office.

Skechers said in a statement  that it stands by the shoes.

Mayors oppose pension cost shift

Several Illinois mayors were at the Capitol Wednesday opposing a plan that would take tax revenue away from local governments to pay for teacher pensions. The mayors say the proposal would cripple their budgets.

House Speaker Michael Madigan has introduced legislation that would divert more than a billion dollars from cities, schools, fire departments and libraries to pay for local teachers’ pensions. It's money the state collects in business taxes and then distributes to local taxing bodies.

"Those types of cuts would be devastating,” said Springfield Mayor Mike Houston. “Ultimately, it would mean one of two things -- or a combination of raising taxes or further job eliminations."

He says the plan would cost his city $3 million. As many as 50 city jobs would be at risk. And the story is the same in towns and school districts across Illinois.

The money at issue comes from business taxes the state collects and then passes on to local taxing bodies such as cities, schools, fire departments and libraries.

It's not clear whether Madigan intends to push his proposal as is ... or is just using it as a bargaining chip on the way to a larger budget deal.

"As the state of Illinois has its problems, it really needs to deal with those problems without shifting it on to other units of local government across the state," said Springfield Mayor Houston.

Rockford library will start lending Kindles today

In the aftermath of a flap over the electronic future of the Rockford Public Library system, library cardholders can begin checking out e-readers at noon today.

Patrons can check out Kindle Touch readers for three weeks, with an option to renew for another three weeks, and download e-books from the library website.

Rockford Register Star reporter Corina Curry offers more details.

Child-care funding moves closer to resurrection

Illinois lawmakers are trying to shuffle money to keep child care services from shutting down across the state.
Illinois is on the verge of halting payments to government-subsidized child care programs that serve about 85,000 parents. Gov. Pat Quinn's administration says money for child care had to be diverted to pay welfare benefits.
Maria Whelan, of Illinois Action for Children, says child care providers risk having to close without the funds.
"Unfortunately there is still plenty of bad news for children and families in our state,” she said. “The proposals that are pending in the fiscal year '13 -- the year beginning July 1st -- budget are absolutely horrific for children and for families."
Legislators are rushing to prevent any immediate interruptions in child care.
Wednesday the House voted to take money from other parts of the state budget to avoid interruptions in child care. Hours later, a Senate committee gave its approval.
House Republican leader Tom Cross blames Quinn for the problem. He says the Democratic governor intentionally "used'' child care providers by spending their funds elsewhere, so they would come to Springfield and demand more money.

Cities taking a cut of aggregation savings

Crain’s Chicago Business reports that Peoria, Urbana and 49 other municipalities in the Ameren Corp. electric service area are receiving a “civic contribution” of 0.1 cent per kilowatt hour from the winning bidder – which just happens to be Homefield Energy, the marketing division of Ameren Corp.

That means, according to Crain’s, that Peoria will take in $300,000 to $400,000 this year. Savings to the residents affected by the deal will be about 34 percent – or between $225 and $250 in annual savings for the typical Peorian.

Peoria and Rockford are roughly the same size, which raises these questions:

  1. Will Rockford (and/or other northern Illinois municipalities) be able to land similar savings?
  2. Will Rockford et al take advantage of the revenue opportunity the “civic contribution” offers?

Crain’s notes that the consortia of Chicago suburbs with aggregation deals have not done so … and that such an arrangement could mean $12 million annually to the City of Chicago.

Schilling spent $300,000 in perk he opposed

U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, spent nearly $300,000 in taxpayer money on mailings in the last nine months of 2011, taking advantage of a benefit he criticized when he was a candidate in 2010.

In that campaign, Schilling criticized then-opponent Democrat Phil Hare for spending nearly $115,000 on similar mailings. This year, Schilling faces Democrat Cheri Bustos of East Moline in the general election.

Schilling's campaign manager, Terry Schilling, defended the mailings, saying they offer ``an unparalleled level of communication.'' Bustos campaign manager Allison Jaslow called the mailings a sign of Schilling's ``mixed up priorities.''