State Roundup: Plaintiffs join Rauner on fair share case

From Illinois News Network

It’s no longer just a battle between the state’s Attorney General siding with labor unions against the Governor.

Illinois_News_Network_logoNow three Illinois state employees have joined a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of forcing union dues from employee paychecks.

The three employees filed the suit Monday with help from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Mark Mix, president of the Foundation, says the three employees have something Governor Bruce Rauner doesn’t — standing and claims of damages.

“These state employees are non members, yet they are forced to pay a fee to the union in order to work in the state of Illinois and therefore it’s clear they have standing, it’s clear they’ve been damaged and it’s clear that they have an interest in seeing this case to it’s conclusion.”

The suit filed Monday in U.S. District Court says the three employees have damages ranging from $1,600 to over $7,000 in money paid via fair share.

The suit also contends the three are forced against their will to support policy positions through collective bargaining.

McSweeney calls for Cinespace investigation

A state representative is requesting the state’s Auditor General to investigate a $10 million grant Illinois’ former governor gave to a Chicago film studio days after he lost reelection.

The grant was awarded to Cinespace by Governor Pat Quinn. Speaking with WMAY Springfield Monday Republican State Representative David McSweeney says, outside of it being state money, media reports indicate it’s unclear where the money came from and that’s the main impetus of asking the state’s Auditor General to investigate.

“To find out exactly the source of the money, and why we’re giving out $10 million to companies, especially when they’re not buying land. We shouldn’t be giving out $10 million to companies anyway. The state is insolvent.”

McSweeney says the grant was intended to be used to purchase land, but some of the land holders have indicated they have no intention to sell. Regardless, the representative says with as strapped as the state of Illinois is the money should be returned.

“It should be returned immediately. This is outrageous. DCEO doesn’t have paperwork, there were no appraisals. The money should be returned immediately.”

Speaking with WMAY Springfield McSweeney says in the face of constant calls to raise more revenue for the financially strapped state, grant spending must be accountable and brought under control.

The Auditor General’s office was not immediately available for comment.

Appropriations hearings Tuesday

Lawmakers are back in Springfield this week to hash out some details for the coming fiscal year.

In the House Appropriations-Elementary and Secondary Education Committee state representatives will hear about bilingual, early childhood, expanded learning and homeless education, plus parent mentor line and performance evaluations.

Meanwhile the Senate Appropriations committee also has an afternoon meeting to hear about Fiscal Year 2016 budget requests for HealthCare and Family Services and the Illinois educational Labor Relations Board.

Both the House and Senate will also meet for possible floor actions Tuesday.

Federal grants soon available for Illinois specialty crops

More than $500,000 in federal grants will soon be available for Illinois farmers that produce fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and horticulture and nursery crops.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture says they are now accepting proposals for specialty crop grants that “enhance the competitiveness of Illinois-grown specialty crops in either domestic or foreign markets.”

A release from IDOA says recent census information indicates more than 100,000 acres of Illinois farmland is devoted to growing specialty crops on more than 3,000 farms, including pumpkins and horseradish.

The same release says that specialty crops totaled almost $470 million in sales in 2012. IDOA says grant proposals should be submitted to their offices by May first.

Unclaimed items auction brings in more than appraised value

The Illinois Treasurer beat appraisal values and brought in tens of thousands of dollars on items that haven’t been claimed after a ten-year search.

The items range from coins to jewelry, baseball cards, comic books and more. Altogether more more than 16,000 items were auctioned in just four days. The money collected will be used in the efforts to reunite owners with unclaimed cash and valuables.

In a release from Treasurer Mike Frerichs’ office, the Treasurer says the office received 53 percent more than the items’ initial appraisal.


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