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Edited by Donald Sevener

With clock running out. Republican legislators push
through measures to give the GOP an electoral edge

As their grip on legislative power was ending, Republicans moved to bolster their prospects for increased judicial power and future electoral success. In a burst of 11th-hour partisanship. Republican lawmakers voted to reshape the state's judicial map in their favor and to end straight-party voting, a procedure some say helped Democrats recapture a majority in the Illinois House last November 5.

The two measures were approved in the waning days of the fall veto session before the GOP ceded some of its power to Democrats in the new 90th General Assembly.

In mid-January, Gov. Jim Edgar signed off on his party's proposal to end straight-party voting, a practice already prohibited in 31 states.

Legislative Democrats were critical of the plan. "You and all your cronies should be ashamed of yourselves," said Skokie Democratic Rep. Louis Lang as Republicans cut off committee debate and sent the measure to the House floor. "This bill is simply a bill introduced for political purposes."

The Democrats' straight-party strategy is credited with helping that party win five south suburban state House districts, returning Chicago Democrat Michael Madigan to the speaker's podium. In addition, Democrats were able to narrow the margin in the state Senate by defeating Republican Aldo DeAngelis of Olympia Fields, an 18- year incumbent.

But, political scientist Jack Van Der Slik of the University of Illinois at Springfield believes the Republicans' move to eliminate straight-party voting may backfire. He argues Republicans are hurt more by split-ticket voting and that eliminating the straight-ticket option could encourage more Republicans to stray. Van Der Slik, who would like to see the political parties strengthened, says the measure is less anti-Democrat than anti-party.

The Republicans appear to have secured
another district for themselves in the area
designated 1C, a district that incorporates
suburban Republican territory.

However, supporters of the measure believe it will encourage voters to scrutinize their choices. "I don't believe who you vote for for president should influence who the county clerk is," says Edgar.

As Illinois Issues went to press, the governor had yet to act on a Republican plan to redraw Illinois Supreme Court and appellate court districts.

By splitting mostly Democratic Cook County into three subdistricts, Republicans hope to pick up another seat, shifting the 4-3 Democratic majority on the state's high court in their favor for the first time in decades.

The plan also calls for moving the boundaries of the districts outside Cook County to the north to account for population changes.

The state Constitution calls for three justices from Cook County. The other four come from districts outside Cook. Each high court district includes one appellate district.

Senate Minority Leader Emil Jones, a Chicago Democrat, called the bill a political payback.

8 / February 1997 Illinois Issues

Downstate districts shift northward under the Republican-drawn map; the new District 3 sheds some counties to the south while gaining Republican DuPage County.

"If this had been drawn in complete darkness, it would have been more fair," he says.

Meanwhile, representatives of the Chicago and Illinois bar associations testified the bill might not pass muster under the state Constitution. They also cited a 1990 state high court decision that determined appellate districts may not be subdivided.

Republican Senate President James "Pate" Philip countered that the proposed map meets the constitutional requirement that districts be "compact, contiguous and substantially equal in population."

Republicans are covering their bets, though. They've filed suit in federal court arguing the current system of electing justices at-large from Cook County violates the one-person, one-vote provision in the federal Constitution. And they added a "severability" clause to the legislation, meaning if the courts rule the Cook County subdistricts invalid, the new downstate districts would remain in effect.
Jennifer Davis


Edgar, Daley settle tussle over
Meigs — now taxpayers get to ante up

Top politicians split the difference over the future of Chicago's tiny air field, but we'll have to pay the tab for their three-month tiff.

In early January, Gov. Jim Edgar and Mayor Richard M. Daley struck a deal that will leave Meigs Field open for another five years. But, according to The Associated Press, taxpayers will shell out at least $2.7 million for the attorneys, consultants and public relations experts that apparently were critical to the high-voltage city-state negotiations.

You may want to review the particulars. Daley wants to close Meigs so he can build a lakefront park. Edgar wants to leave it open so state officials and representatives of commerce can land close to the city's business district. The mayor, who shut down the airfield in September, was winning in court. But the governor countered with legislation during the fall legislative session to authorize a state takeover. Then, perhaps struck by the spirit of the holiday season, Edgar offered to turn the airport over to the city after seven years. Daley said three. They settled on five.

The accountants are still settling. The city estimates its legal bills alone will total about $1 million, according to AP, while the state's legal expenses will total about half a million.

And we'll spend more before we're done. The state has promised to cover the $400,000 cost of updating the airport's equipment, and the city has threatened to charge state planes to land.

The airport is expected to reopen soon. And Daley has promised after five years to put in that snorkeling lagoon. So, maybe we'll get our money's worth.

When hogs fly.

Jennifer Davis

Illinois Issues February 1997 / 9

Search for nuke dump moves to testing stage
as panel approves safety rules for site

The state barely began its new search for a low-level radioactive waste site when a welcome sign went up in Wayne County.

But it may be a decade before Illinoisans start shipping waste to that spot in southeastern Illinois. In fact, it might not even make the final cut.

The Low-Level Radioactive Waste Task Group has finalized rules for choosing the high-tech dump, and Illinois now is performing statewide water and geological surveys to ensure the eventual site is safe. A list of 10 potential sites will come out of the survey. It will be cut to three by Chem-Nuclear Systems Inc., the contractor hired to build and operate the dump. Eventually, the potential sites will be whittled to one. But before construction starts, state officials must grant a license, and the site also must clear local zoning laws.

Already, the cost of finding a site has hit $106 million and could top $130 million — costs mostly borne by power plants.

The hunt is under way because the previous siting efforts took a drubbing and eventually failed. About four years ago, attempts to put the dump near Martinsville collapsed when a commission headed by former Illinois Supreme Court Justice Seymour Simon deemed a proposed site near the dark County town unsuitable.

Under new rules, the dump cannot be near heavily populated areas and drinking water supplies. It also cannot be in an earthquake zone where the dump could get rattled and break open. In all, there are more than two dozen restrictions. Thomas Ortciger, director of the Illinois nuclear safety department, says the criteria virtually rule out metropolitan areas like Cook and its five collar counties, the Quad Cities, Metro East and Peoria.

Illinois sites roughly south of Interstate 70, which runs between Terre Haute, Ind., and St. Louis, are likely to fall into that unwanted earthquake zone. That could knock out the Wayne County site near Jeffersonville, a tiny town that also goes by the name of Geff. Landowners or local governments can offer land to be considered for the dump until February 19.

Ray Long


Hail to the chief

This month we celebrate President's Day — not to mention the birthday of Abe Lincoln, the most notable of our chief executives — and in honor of the occasion, we offer this brief quiz of presidential peculiarities. Ready?

Who was the shortest president? Who gave the longest inaugural address? Who was the only president to earn a Ph.D? Who was the youngest person elected president? Was he the youngest person inaugurated as president? Who was the only president to be divorced? (Hint: He's from Illinois.) Who was the tallest president? (Hint: He's from Illinois.)

If your presidential knowledge is limited — or even if it's not — chug over to POTUS (http://www.ipl.org/ref/POTUS/) for some fascinating romps through presidential history. POTUS (which stands for president of the United States) is sponsored by the Internet Public Library, and contains an archive full of useful or entertaining information. You can click on individual presidents to obtain background information, election results, cabinet appointments, milestones of their presidencies, inaugural addresses and presidential oddities for each of our 42 chief executives.

The Fast Facts alone will make you the hit of any President's Day parties you attend. Take, for example, James Madison, whom you know as the father of the Bill of Rights. But did you also know: He was the first president to wear trousers rather than knee britches, the first to face enemy fire (the War of 1812), and his widow sent the first personal message via Morse telegraph.

In addition, POTUS offers a subject index and links to presidential biographies, historical documents, audio and video files and other presidential sites.

Two other President's Day sites worth checking out are:

The American Presidency (http://www.grolier.com/presidents/preshome.html), presented by Grolier Online Encyclopedia, where you can download sound bytes from presidential speeches and the music of the presidency plus collect "presidential flip cards."

The Presidents page of Yahoo, with its government-sized address (http://www.yahoo.com/Arts/ Humanities/History/U_S_History/People/Presidents/), offers visits to presidential libraries, presidential autographs, presidents on stamps and links to the powers behind the power—first ladies.

Answers to the quiz: Madison (5 feet, four inches); William Henry Harrison, a stem-winder lasting one hour, 45 minutes; President Woodrow Wilson, Ph.D: John F. Kennedy, 43 when he was elected president in 1960, was also the youngest president to die in office, but not the youngest to serve as president — Teddy Roosevelt was 42 when he took the presidential oath following the assassination of President William McKinley; Ronald Reagan (the other lllinoisan); Abraham Lincoln, a full foot taller than James Madison. Happy President's Day.

Donald Sevener

10 / February 1997 Illinois Issues

Deal set with state

An unprecedented three-year deal between the state and Amtrak will keep trains running in Carbondale, Chicago, Springfield and Quincy.

"Amtrak's continued presence over the long term also appears to be the best way to ensure a regional operating system that could support future high-speed rail service in Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan," said Gov. Jim Edgar in announcing the agreement, which takes effect July 1.

Under the plan the state will pay a flat fee — between $7 million and $8 million each of the three years. Amtrak would then have to eat any additional costs. The plan also provides for $2,700 in penalties each time a train is more than half an hour late departing from its origin city.

Jennifer Davis

Chicago tops Illinois list of average annual pay



Average annual pay



Metropolitan area




in pay
















Quad Cities






























All metro areas




Great Lakes metro areas




Want the big bucks?

Head for Chicago, which led Illinois in average pay in 1995 with annual compensation of $32,524. That figure placed Chicago 18th out of 311 metropolitan areas nationwide, according to the annual survey by the U.S. Department of Labor. Bloomington-Normal, home to insurance giant State Farm and the Diamond-Star auto manufacturing plant, was second in annual pay level in Illinois, and also enjoyed a healthy rate of growth over 1994. Champaign-Urbana and Kankakee brought up the rear of the pack, but both communities ranked high in percent change over 1994 pay levels, a small consolation perhaps.
Donald Sevener

State offers Internet
guides for Illinois

So, you thought remembering a nine digit zip code would be tough? Now, practically everyone with a keyboard and a modem has to keep track of a whole new and confusing set of addresses: http://www.something.or.other.

Thankfully, a variety of directories have sprung up to help us keep track of the burgeoning number of Internet sites and their often arcane addresses.

Of special interest to teachers in grades three through 12 — as well as families with home computers — is an interactive online resource provided by the Illinois State Museum (with a grant from Ameritech). "At Home in the Heartland Online" (http: //www.museum.- state.ils.us/exhibits/athome/index.html) offers a wealth of historical information about Illinois designed for classroom use. It is organized by different ways to approach history: "Timeline" traces milestones in the history of the Prairie State; Side by Side" explores the cultures of those who have lived in Illinois since 1700; and "Clues" explains how photographs and other source materials can offer useful insights.

Anna Merritt

Illinois Issues February 1997 / 11

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