Groups call for bipartisan meeting agenda; Moody’s: Local governments in PA worse off than in IL; and more from INN radio

Groups call for bipartisan agenda for next month’s meeting
The groups that called on the Governor and legislative leaders to meet and find a solution to the ongoing budget impasse says the meeting agenda needs to be bipartisan. A new letter from The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, or ICPR, and other civic organizations to legislative leaders and the Governor says the direction of the November 18th meeting should be bipartisan to ensure a positive outcome for Illinois. The groups also said public and press access is encouraged to help the public understand the budget negotiation process. In response to the group’s initial letter calling for a meeting, the Governor said last week he would set the agenda and also work with media to provide coverage. Speaker Michael Madigan’s office said they are waiting to see the agenda before committing to attend. Illinois is now approaching Month No. 5 of the current fiscal year with no budget in place.

Moody’s: Local governments in PA worse off than in IL
Though Illinois’ ongoing budget impasse is a credit negative for local governments, things are far worse in a state with similar problems. Moody’s investors services says Pennsylvania is experiencing similar issues during their ongoing budget impasse as Illinois but with a greater impact on local governments and schools. A report from the investors service says school districts in Illinois are receiving most state aid but in Pennsylvania similar fund distributions are not being made which negatively affects local governments’ budgets. The report also says that community colleges and 4-year public universities are adversely affected in both states. In Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed the appropriations measure for K-12 school funding, but no appropriation for higher education has been passed and approved. Moody’s downgraded six public universities in Illinois Tuesday.

ACLU of IL: Task force should address important issues
The list of various interests named to the Governor’s task force on drones does not include anyone from the civil liberties community, but that’s not a problems for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois as long as their voice is heard. ACLU of Illinois Communications Director Ed Yohnka tells WMAY Springfield he’s not so much concerned about the membership of the task force but wants to ensure there’s an open process.

“In which people can come and testify and raise questions in the way we often see in these committees or in these commissions and they can raise concerns and have access to it. I don’t know that not being a sitting or a definitive member will at the end of the day be troubling or difficult.”

ACLU’s hopes concerns about drones are addressed
Yohnka notes a representative from the Attorney General’s office will be on the task force and says there should be an effort to evaluate how existing laws can already address various privacy concerns.

“For example trespassing or nuisance laws or Peeping Tom laws or the ability to bring a private tort for an invasion of privacy.”

Yohnka also says the task force should ensure any regulations don’t infringe on citizen’s First Amendment rights. Among the members of the task force are individuals from the law enforcement, transportation, aeronautics, agriculture, retail and energy sectors. Their report is due to the Governor July 1, 2016. The state has already passed a law that requires law enforcement agencies using drones to get a warrant if they plan to use the unmanned aircraft for surveillance. Illinois State Police currently have a drone program they say is specifically for crash and crime scene investigations.

Is wagering on fantasy sports gambling?
A measure proponents say will separate daily online fantasy sports from being considered gambling may go against what a state board recently stated. Representative Mike Zalewski and Senator Kwame Raoul, both Democrats, filed legislation this week they say protects both daily online fantasy sports players and the integrity of the games. The measure also defines what is is considered daily fantasy sports in Illinois and says it ensures fantasy sports is not gambling under the state’s criminal laws. However the Illinois Gaming Board recently said it considers fantasy sports a form of gambling and announced it would ask Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan for an opinion on whether the games are permissible under current Illinois law. Opponents of the measure want the games banned as has been done in Nevada and other states.

Shah: HIV deaths are down, STD cases are up
There’s some good news and some bad news in the realm of public health. The number of HIV related deaths in Illinois is down but the numbers for various other STD cases are up. Illinois Department of Public Health Director Nirav Shah says there are signs of hope in the number of deaths related to HIV, with 12 percent fewer deaths in 2014 than 2010. New HIV diagnosis saw a 4 percent decrease. However Cook County ranked second in the nation for gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis cases, which added to a 200 percent increase of STDs in 2014 for Illinois. Shah says the Department is working with healthcare providers across the state to provide targeted screenings in certain communities in places like Chicago and East St. Louis. There’s also a focus on screenings at schools.

“We focused on schools with respect to chlamydia because in the last four years the bulk of new chlamydia cases have been in individuals under the age of 24.”

Shah spoke at the 24th Annual Illinois HIV/STD Conference with the Illinois Public Health Association in Springfield Wednesday.

East St. Louis School District still closed
Schools are still closed for 6,000 students of the East St. Louis district as teachers rejected a tentative deal in their ongoing strike. An update to the school district’s website says after 10 hours of negotiations the union rejected the district’s last, best and final offer. The proposed deal from the district would have been a three year contract, offered one-time stipends for certified and non-certified bargaining unit members and also raises each year averaging 3.1 percent. The final offer also provided no change in insurance benefits which includes no deductible for medical, dental, vision and life. Overall the district says the deal was an increase of $940,000. A post to the teachers’ union website says the strike isn’t about money anymore saying the district’s proposals are quote “despicable.” Teachers have been on strike since the beginning of October.

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