IDOT

By William Warby (https://flic.kr/p/dtKZF2) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Illinois Department of Transportation is revising its mowing routes along state highways this spring and summer to only 15 feet beyond the edge of the roadway. 

The move is meant to encourage the growth of critical plant species like milkweed, a primary source of food for pollinators including monarch butterflies. 

The monarch butterfly is the Illinois state insect. Its population has declined by 80% in the past 10 years.  

Brian Mackey / Illinois Public Radio

A new report by a court-appointed watchdog charged with looking into patronage hiring at the Illinois transportation department details how friends and relatives of top Democrats were hired under former Gov. Pat Quinn, even as many had little or no experience.

  

The Chicago Tribune reports the findings released Monday are the result of an inquiry that began in 2014 after a federal judge assigned a lawyer to dig into hiring at the Illinois Department of Transportation.

"Seatbelt plug" by Flickr User Benjamin Goodger / (CC X 2.0)

The Illinois Department of Transportation says state traffic deaths have exceeded 1,000 this year, breaking records since 2008.

Officials say dozens have died during the New Year’s holiday period since 2011, including drivers who tested positive for alcohol. 

As the New Year’s holiday approaches, the agency says police are increasing efforts to keep road deaths down. Scott Kristiansen, with IDOT, says a change in driver’s habits may contribute to the numbers.  

IDOT

A federal judge has ruled that a court-appointed monitor investigating patronage hiring at the Illinois Department of Transportation can also review hiring at other state agencies.

The State Journal-Register reports Judge Sidney Schenkier ruled in favor of the IDOT case's plaintiffs, who wanted the authority of the special master expanded to include positions labeled as exempt at all state agencies, boards and commissions.

Anti-patronage activist Michael Shakman says the request stemmed from discoveries made by the special master as she investigated hiring at IDOT.

IDOT

There no longer is any such position as an Illinois Department of Transportation "staff assistant," Gov. Bruce Rauner announced Monday.

An inspector general's report in 2014 found that previous administrations hired people into that role, which allowed them to skirt state hiring rules.

Then the workers often were moved into other jobs that would have been subject to merit testing. It was a way get people with clout on the state payroll.

Rauner says the inspector general is still looking for patronage hires in other departments.

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