Around Illinois – May 2

May 2, 2012
  • Will Quinn still close state facilities?
  • More synthetic drugs confiscated
  • Toni Keller murder case takes some twists
  • Illinois pauses ‘Obamacare’ planning
  • How well are crime victims protected?
  • Home seized under state gang law

Despite recommendations, facilities still may close

Gov. Pat Quinn's office is hinting that his administration may still close the Tamms supermax prison and five other state facilities despite a bipartisan panel's rejection of the closures.

Quinn's office says he respects the panel's role, but difficult decisions must be made to restore fiscal stability to Illinois.

He’s looking to save money by shutting down Tamms, as well as a prison in Dwight, a juvenile detention center in Joliet, and inmate transition centers in Peoria and Chicago.

Quinn also wants to close a center for the developmentally disabled in Centralia as part of a broader plan to transfer residents to community settings.

Rep. Raymond Poe (R-Springfield) says Quinn's plan would leave 1,100 state employees out of work.  He wants to explore alternatives to the closures. 

"We ought to have been looking at solutions how we keep these open,” he said. “We ought to be looking at solutions how we’re going to pay for it."

Poe says Illinois would have had enough money to keep the facilities open had Quinn backed a gambling expansion package the General Assembly approved last year.

The governor is free to ignore the commission's recommendations.

Synthetic drugs seized in DeKalb

Illegal synthetic drugs priced at more than $30,200 were confiscated this week from two DeKalb retailers, Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan announced Tuesday.

In all, 1,941 packages of synthetic drugs were handed over to law enforcement officials. State investigators joined DeKalb police and DeKalb County sheriff’s officers to check the inventory at several locations.

Madigan said three additional tobacco shops signed affidavits agreeing not to sell synthetic drug products.  The investigation was conducted under Madigan’s “Operation Smoked Out.”

Murder suspect tells varied tales

During a hearing Tuesday at the DeKalb County Courthouse, prosecutor Phil Montgomery told the court that William “Billy” Curl gave police three different statements about the October 2010 disappearance and death of Northern Illinois freshman Antinette “Toni” Keller.

He variously told them he knew nothing about the case, that he came upon her already dead, and that they had consensual sex but she died due to a seizure.

Curl, 35, was indicted in January 2011 on five counts of first-degree murder, one count of concealing a homicidal death, one count of arson and one count of criminal sexual assault in relation to Keller’s death. His trial is scheduled to start June 11.

The Daily Chronicle offers more details on the case and related issues.

Lawmakers will wait for “Obamacare” ruling

Illinois is waiting to set up an insurance exchange until the U.S. Supreme Court decides the fate of the national health care law. 

The exchange, a key component of the Affordable Care Act, is a marketplace where people who don't otherwise have insurance can choose a health care plan.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in March challenging the constitutionality of the Act.

"The feds have said we have to do this,” said Rep. Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley), who has been leading Illinois' talks to set up the exchange. “So I want to set up an exchange that works, has a funding mechanism that doesn't rely on the state because we don't have any money, and third of all will have both Democratic and Republican support.

"I've suspended the talks on the Illinois insurance exchange until the Supreme Court makes its decision, which we expect in June.”

Controversial aspects include who'll run the exchange, how much power insurance companies will get, and who'll pay for it.

About 50 organizations, including insurance companies, business groups, and health care advocates, had been meeting weekly.  

Mautino says a possibility does remain that, with the delay, Illinois could miss out on federal money that would pay for new computers.

Crime victim rights proposal blocked

An Illinois House committee Tuesday blocked a change to the state's Constitution that would expand the rights of crime victims.  An earlier version easily passed the full House, but prosecutors and the Illinois State Bar Association objected and convinced enough legislators to block the proposal.

Prosecutors and the Illinois State Bar Association said the measure would give victims too great a role in cases that should be focused on finding the truth.

"We view ourselves as the voice of victims. We brand ourselves as the voice of victims. We stand shoulder to shoulder with victims every committee hearing,” said Matt Jones, a lobbyist for prosecutors, “and yet this is the one time that we don't."

Six members of the House Judiciary Committee, clearly worried about the political risks of casting a vote against victims, reluctantly blocked the measure.

The sponsor says he's exploring options to keep the idea alive. Because it would amend the constitution, it has to pass the General Assembly this week and be approved by voters at this fall's election.

Seizure of Rockford home is first use of gang law

Police seizure of a southeast Rockford residence is the first time a home has been seized in Winnebago County under the Illinois gang nuisance abatement statute.

Beginning in early March, Rockford police identified continuing gang incidents that happened at that address and incidents involving its residents. Police did not reveal deatails of incidents occurred, and no charges were announced Tuesday.

A preliminary injunction under the gang nuisance abatement statute, instructing the residents to vacate the property within seven days, was granted by Judge Ed Prochaska. The injunction restrains anyone from occupying or using the residence for 30 days.

Police served the injunction at noon Tuesday, at which time Rockford Building Department officials inspected the home and condemned it for health and safety violations.