Around Illinois – May 31

May 31, 2012
  • Strip club tax for anti-violence funds sent to governor
  • Senate is considering union status of state employees
  • Federal judge approves sale of some Crundwell assets
  • Synthetic drugs legislation goes to governor’s desk
  • Legislature approves phone bill “cramming” ban
  • Senate weighs satellite TV fee

House passes new strip club tax to aid rape and violence victims

The legislature sent the governor a tax on strip clubs today. It's meant to bring in new funding for rape and sexual assault victims.

Lawmakers say that's a laudable goal, but some Republicans balked at creating a new tax. "My colleagues, I ask you consider ... not trying to find every dollar," said Rep. Richard Morthland, R-Moline,  "because these are very, very dirty dollars."

He says the measure wouldn't prevent the sexual violence that takes place AT strip-clubs.

Budget cuts have whittled away state funding for rape crisis centers over the last several years. The measure would place an annual surcharge on strip clubs that permit alcohol and have live nude dancing.

Bill would take state employees out of unions

Hundreds of state employees could be removed from labor unions under a measure advancing in the Illinois Senate. Backers say so many high-ranking state officials are unionized, it's preventing the smooth operation of state government.

There are budget officers, human resource specialists, and high-level attorneys -- close to 96 percent of the workforce and rising, said Robb Craddock, who works in the administration of Gov. Pat Quinn

Craddock says Illinois leads the nation in the number of unionized state employees. "For example, the Jacksonville Developmental Center has one non-union employee in its entire facility."

Craddock blamed the previous governor for driving people to seek the protection of a union. "The Blagojevich administration didn’t compensate appropriately, scared people out of their jobs in many cases, and didn't listen very well,” he said.

But labor unions say that's precisely why the employees should be allowed to stay put.

"I think that's it's a good thing that people are properly paid, not mistreated, and that they're listened to," said Henry Bayer of AFSCME, Illinois' largest government-employee union.

The measure narrowly passed the House one year ago. It was finally approved last night by a Senate committee, and now goes before the full Senate.

Rita Crundwell’s real estate and motor home can be sold

A request by U.S. Marshals to sell some of the assets of former Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell was approved Wednesday in two separate rulings by federal Judge Philip G. Reinhard.

Crundwell and her attorneys have agreed, without admitting any guilt, to the sale of properties at  1679 U.S. Route 52, Dixon; 1556 Red Brick Road, Dixon; 1403 Dutch Road, Dixon; 80 acres of land in Lee County; and 821 E. Fifth St., in Englewood, Fla.

Crundwell’s $2.1 million 2009 Liberty Coach motor home also will be sold.

Reinhard directed the U.S. Marshals Service to sell the items and place the proceeds into an escrow fund until the criminal case is resolved.

Reinhard’s order will allow marshals to secure the property to prepare them for sale, as well as “assume any leases pertaining to the crops and farmland” at the Dutch Road and Lee County properties. Marshals can deduct costs from the proceeds that are related to the sale and maintenance of the properties, Reinhard ordered.

Crundwell, 59, is free on a $4,500 recognizance bond and charged with one count of wire fraud, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Prosecutors say Crundwell misappropriated more than $53 million in taxpayer money over two decades to pay for her horse operations and her “lavish lifestyle.

Lawmakers send synthetic drugs bill to governor

A bill making the sale of any form of synthetic drugs in Illinois has been sent to Gov. Pat Quinn for his signature.

The bill also defines a “synthetic drug product” as containing a controlled substance not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and addresses how such drugs are packaged and sold, which often includes misleading claims that the products are legal and “not intended for human consumption.”

“With drug makers continually reformulating these toxic substances, our state laws can quickly become outmoded when new variations arrive in stores,” Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan said. “This bill seeks to end the game of ‘catch up’ by classifying as illegal any chemical that’s sold to be taken as a drug, regardless of what it’s called or how it’s labeled.”
The bill also significantly increases the penalty for selling synthetic drug products or misbranded drugs under the Illinois Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act.

Ban on phone bill “cramming” awaits Quinn’s signature

The practice of phone bill “cramming,” a scam that has hit hundreds of thousands of Illinois consumers and businesses with bogus charges on their phone bills, will be banned under a bill now awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature.

Cramming is defined as when third-party vendors add charges to consumers’ phone bills for bogus products or services -- such as identity theft protection, website design or email service -- that were never requested and never used.
The law would ban all billing by a third-party company -- with some limited, commonsense exceptions for legitimate services. Estimates indicate that telephone companies place at least 300 million third-party charges on their customers’ bills each year.

 “The people of Illinois lose hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to these telephone bill scams,” said Sen. David Koehler, D-Pekin, sponsor of the bill in the Senate. “Banning third-party billing is a simple, common-sense solution to a problem that affects thousands of Illinois families and businesses.”

According to a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee report, third-party billing generates at least $2 billion annually. 

Senate weighing 5 percent fee on TV satellite service

If you have cable TV, you're already paying a five-percent fee that goes to state government. Last night, an Illinois Senate panel voted to add that same fee to satellite TV service.

Cable companies say this levels the playing field between the two types of TV providers.

Damon Stewart, a lobbyist for satellite companies, says cable has tried and failed to get similar laws across the country.

"Why? Because those state legislatures viewed this attempt for what it is: simply a way to get an unfair advantage over their main competitor, the satellite industry," he said.

But the Senate committee decided the fee would create "parity" in the TV industry.

They plan to use the new revenue to bolster state funding for education.