Federal Disaster Declaration Would Help People, Businessesin Kankakee, LaSalle, Livingston, Peoria and Putnam Counties

SPRINGFIELD - June 18, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today asked President Obama to declare Kankakee, LaSalle, Livingston, Peoria and Putnam counties major disasters areas. If approved, a federal disaster declaration would help people and businesses affected by the June 5 tornadoes recover from the storm's aftermath by allowing them to apply for grants and loans to assist with storm-related losses.

"Many people in these areas are struggling to recover from the tornadoes that ripped their lives apart," said Governor Quinn. "As I said when I toured a devastated neighborhood in Dwight shortly after the storms, we need to do everything possible to get help to these people. Today, I'm asking President Obama to quickly approve federal assistance for these five counties, so people can begin to piece their lives back together."

Earlier this week, damage assessment teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and local officials documented the extent of damage in all five counties. Governor Quinn's request for federal assistance is based on the results of those assessments, which determined that 62 homes were destroyed by the storm and 42 suffered major damage. Nearly 160 additional homes were damaged to a lesser extent. 

If granted, the federal disaster declaration would make assistance available, including grants to individuals and households to help with temporary housing, home repairs or replacement and other disaster-related expenses, as well as low-interest SBA loans to residents and businesses.

"The State of Illinois continues to do everything possible to help these communities recover from the tornadoes," said IEMA Interim Director Joe Klinger. "After conducting the damage assessments this week, it's apparent that federal assistance is needed to help many of the storm victims recover."

Governor Quinn previously declared all five counties state disaster areas to ensure affected communities received needed state assistance to recover from the storms. The State of Illinois has been assisting with debris removal in several of the affected communities for the past two weeks.

Several trucks and other pieces of heavy equipment from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) are helping with clean up efforts today in Streator and Dwight. In addition, inmate crews from the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) are assisting with the debris removal today in Streator.

Additional information about the state's storm response efforts is available at www.Ready.Illinois.gov.


Signs Legislation at the Burroughs-founded DuSable Museum to Designate March 25 as Day of Remembrance for Victims of Slavery

CHICAGO - June 18, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today commemorated Juneteenth at the DuSable Museum of African American History and proclaimed Dr. Margaret Burroughs Day in honor of the museum's founder. He also signed legislation to designate March 25 as the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade in the state of Illinois.

Juneteenth is the oldest and most widely-celebrated holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

"Juneteenth is a day to remember our past and honor those who have made significant contributions to our present," said Governor Quinn. "I salute Dr. Margaret Burroughs for her incredible work to advance the arts in Illinois and her dedication to ensuring that everyone can experience African American history and culture."

Dr. Margaret Burroughs made the first of her many contributions to African American arts and culture when, at the age of 22, she founded the South Side Community Arts Center as a gallery and studio for artists and students. The center is still active today and Dr. Margaret Burroughs continues to serve on its board.

Then, in 1961, Dr. Margaret Burroughs, her husband Charles and other leading Chicago residents founded the DuSable Museum of African American History. The museum has since grown to be an internationally-recognized museum of African American art. It was originally located on the ground floor of the Burroughs' home on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago and is named for Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable, the first non-Native-American permanent settler in Chicago.

"As the founder of numerous community institutions, a fighter for social justice and equality during the Civil Rights Movement, and a respected artist and pillar of the African American community, Dr. Margaret Burroughs has touched the lives of countless individuals and throughout her accomplished life has embodied the spirit of Juneteenth by brightening the futures of children and adults all across the Land of Lincoln," said Governor Quinn in the proclamation.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865 when Union soldiers led by General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas and announced the end of the Civil War, freeing all slaves. Though Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was effective two years prior on January 1, 1863, a lack of Union troops in Texas prevented enforcement.

Also at the event, Governor Quinn signed a bill into law to designate March 25 as a Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade in the state of Illinois. House Bill 4586, sponsored by Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-Chicago) and Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago), passed the Illinois General Assembly unanimously. The holiday will coincide with the annual United Nations' International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, which falls on March 25 annually.

A copy of the proclamation is attached.


Discussions to be Held Statewide on Issues Impacting Latinos

CHICAGO - June 18, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today announced the start of "Diálogos" with Illinois' Latino community. Beginning today in Aurora, Latino residents throughout Illinois will have the opportunity to meet with members of the Illinois Latino Family Commission and state officials to discuss issues relevant to the Latino community.

"It is important that Latino residents in Illinois are able to express ideas about topics impacting the Latino community, and these 'Diálogos' will give them the opportunity to do that," said Governor Quinn. "This forum will help build a bridge between organizations and coalitions in the community and state agencies."

The first of the "Diálogos" will take place today in the Aurora area, which is home to over 65,500 Latinos who make up 39.9 percent of the city's population. Various state agency representatives, members of the Illinois Latino Family Commission, Compañeros en Salud and other community organizations will be present to discuss topics affecting Aurora Latinos, such as health, education, jobs, housing, youth and family services.

"I look forward to hearing first-hand the issues affecting the Latino communities throughout Illinois and how that opportunity for interaction will translate into more effective services and resources," said Henry Martinez, Illinois Latino Family Commission chairman.

The Illinois Latino Family Commission advises the Governor and the state Legislature on how best to improve and expand existing policies, services, programs and opportunities to better serve Latino residents across the state.

For more information on the Illinois Latino Family Commission, please contact Dr. Layla Suleiman-Gonzalez at (312) 793-3970 or laylasuleiman@illinois.gov.


New Law Will Help Create Jobs, Encourage Investment in New Technologies and Protect Consumers

CHICAGO - June 15, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today signed a bill into law that overhauls and modernizes Illinois' outdated telecommunications law. The new law will continue protecting consumers, while creating jobs and encouraging private investment in new broadband and wireless technologies.

"Investment in broadband and wireless technology is a key to creating better jobs and providing unique educational opportunities across Illinois," said Governor Quinn. "I am proud to sign this law to encourage private investment in these critical technologies, which will put more people to work and protect consumers."

The Illinois Telecommunications Act was written in 1985 - well before the widespread use of cell phones and broadband Internet. Today, approximately 25 percent of Illinois households rely only on cell phones.

The new law eliminates obsolete regulatory standards, which will enable telecom companies to shift more investment to wireless and broadband technologies. In Illinois, a 1 to 3 percent increase in broadband penetration would create 13,000 to 39,000 non-farm jobs, according to the Brookings Institution.

Senate Bill 107, sponsored by Sen. Michael Bond (D-Grayslake) and Rep. Kevin A. McCarthy (D-Orland Park), allows telecommunications companies to opt-in to a new form of regulation that will promote more competition and encourage more investment in modern broadband and wireless technologies.

The new law also contains important consumer protections to ensure Illinois residents still have a variety of affordable phone service options. The law extends low-cost packages that are designed to protect consumers who still rely on landline service, but have varying communication needs. The low-cost package rates will be frozen for the next three years.

"One of the most important aspects of this legislation was that we have safeguards in place to protect consumers in Illinois," said Sen. Bond. "We wanted to ensure that residents who still rely heavily on land-line telephone service will have affordable options to choose from. As we make strides to boost investment in cutting-edge technology, we want to make sure we are providing security for those individuals who rely on land-line phone service."

"The signing of Senate Bill 107 considerably increases the possibility of greater private sector broadband investment in Illinois. The Legislature and the Governor's Office worked diligently to make sure this legislation is a winner for consumer, providers and employers across Illinois. The unanimous support of the General Assembly confirms the positive changes this legislation promises for our state," said Rep. McCarthy.

The Illinois Commerce Commission will retain the authority to impose penalties on providers who do not comply with general service quality requirements, which could amount to more than $200,000 per offense for a provider. This legislation takes effect immediately.                  


Part of Comprehensive Plan to Aid Riders during Tough Economic Time


CHICAGO - June 5, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today signed a bill into law to help protect mass transit service riders and transit jobs in the Chicago-area.


The new law enables the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), which oversees the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra and Pace, to better manage its cash flow and funding requirements despite revenue fluctuations or payments delays. This new law also continues Governor Quinn's efforts to stabilize and improve Chicago's mass transit system.

"Access to affordable and reliable public transportation is imperative for Chicago-area transit riders," said Governor Quinn. "This new law is part of our comprehensive plan to stabilize public transit by keeping fares flat, services running and employees on the job."

The new law amends the Regional Transportation Authority Act to allow the RTA to issue, sell, and deliver additional Working Cash Notes that do not exceed $300 million before July 1, 2012. This authorization is in addition to the $100 million authorization currently allowed.


Prior to this new law, delays in funding payments and fluctuations in the receipt of tax revenues were jeopardizing the stability of the RTA system's finances. As a result, RTA's ability to provide stable funding to the CTA, Metra and Pace to provide adequate transit service and pay transit workers was severely limited.


Giving the RTA the authority to issue $300 million in additional Working Cash Notes will help the RTA respond to short-term payment needs without increasing spending. The increased authority will allow CTA, Metra and Pace to continue paying their workers, buying fuel, and running buses and trains. The RTA will pay off the notes once taxes or other revenues are collected.


Last November, the Governor announced an agreement that prevented fare increases for the CTA and Pace paratransit services in 2010 and 2011. Together, these actions are keeping rider fares flat, ensuring services are running as scheduled and that transit employees are being paid.


The current Working Cash Note authority of $100 million was established 30 years ago when the system was significantly smaller.  In January 2008, the RTA's authority to issue Working Cash Notes was temporarily increased to $400 million but returned to $100 million when the law expired on July 1, 2009.


Senate Bill 941, sponsored by Sen. Antonio Muñoz (D-Chicago) and Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Des Plaines), goes into effect immediately. Together, the CTA, Metra and Pace employ over 15,000 people and operate services for 2 million daily riders.



Law Follows Superintendent's Indictment on Public Corruption Charges

CHICAGO - May 16, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation into law that eliminates the Suburban Cook Country Regional Office of Education in the aftermath of its superintendent being arrested and indicted on 16 counts of official misconduct, theft and misapplication of funds.

"When it comes to the vital task of educating our children, we can never tolerate any doubts about the ethics and practices of public servants," said Governor Quinn. "In this situation, the new law will put to rest any concerns taxpayers have about the operations of the Suburban Cook Country Regional Office of Education, while enabling the system to move forward."

The legislation (House Bill 16) closes the Suburban Cook Country Regional Office of Education and transfers its responsibilities to three intermediate service centers throughout suburban Cook County. Those responsibilities include : processing teacher certifications; providing bus driver training; and performing background checks on employees. The office was the largest of its type in Illinois and served more than 140 school districts and approximately 25,000 teachers.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) and Sen. Maggie Crotty (D-Oak Forest). It goes into effect on July 1.

The legislation was spurred by the January 16 arrest and indictment of Suburban Cook Country Regional Office of Education Superintendent Charles Flowers on 16 counts of official misconduct, theft and misapplication of funds. The indictment alleges that, in the span of two years, Flowers skimmed nearly $400,000 from the office. In March, Flowers pleaded not guilty to the charges.

On May 7, Flowers resigned as superintendent and agreed to be relieved of his administrative certificates for the next four years, preventing him from holding any administrative positions in Illinois public schools. The agreement was approved by the Illinois State Teacher Certification Board. If convicted of a felony, Flowers will permanently lose his teaching and administrative licenses in Illinois.


Presents Medals at Annual Hines Wheelchair Games

MAYWOOD, IL - May 15, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today honored local veterans for their service and sacrifice at the 30th annual Hines Wheelchair Games at the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital. Governor Quinn's visit was part of the 60th Armed Forces Day, a day set aside to recognize the men and women fighting to preserve democracy.

"On this day, and every day, we proudly salute the brave men and women of the armed forces who served our county," said Governor Quinn. "And during this sixtieth observance of Armed Forces Day, I am especially honored to present awards to our wounded heroes, who served on the frontlines and deserve our unwavering and grateful support."

Governor Quinn joined more than 50 wheelchair veteran-athletes who participated in the day's activities, which included wheelchair tennis, basketball, horseshoes, bowling and air rifles, among other events. During the surprise visit, Governor Quinn presented medals to winners of individual races.

"These veteran-athletes, wounded while serving their country, show us the strength of the human spirit and the will to succeed and serve," said Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs Director Dan Grant. "As a fellow veteran, I'm proud to be here on Armed Forces Day to honor the service of today's participants and all veterans."

On August 31, 1949, U.S. Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of Armed Forces Day to honor Americans serving in five military branches: the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force.

President Harry S. Truman then proclaimed that Armed Forces Day would be observed every third Saturday in May. The first Armed Services Day was observed on May 20, 1950 "to praise the work of the military services at home and across the seas," said President Truman.


UIC's Environmental Event Highlights Campus' Green Initiatives

CHICAGO - April 22, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today marked the 40th annual celebration of Earth Day by taking part in "Ecojamapalooza" at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). The student-organized event features entertainment and educational displays and highlights the university's sustainability initiatives.

"Today is Earth Day, which reminds us of the importance of getting young people excited about helping the environment and instilling a green way of thinking and acting," said Governor Quinn. "An emphasis on environmental education in college can inspire young people to enter into green careers protecting our natural resources and developing new clean energy technologies, which will make Illinois a better place for us all to live."

UIC has taken a number of steps to improve energy efficiency and reduce the school's carbon footprint. Grant Hall and Lincoln Hall were both renovated to utilize geothermal wells and a geothermal heat pump that have significantly reduced energy use. Lincoln Hall also features solar panels to power the building with renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas. This summer, Douglas Hall will be renovated to utilize a geothermal system and solar panels.

The university has also expanded its recycling program, and the program now saves over 36,000 trees and more than $90,000 each year. UIC has installed green roofs, soy-based white roofs, native landscaping, and low-flow toilets and fixtures in an effort to reduce energy and water consumption.

"Ecojamapalooza" is organized by the Green Youth Movement, a student organization that works toward increasing environmental awareness and responsibility. The daylong event features speakers, music and a historical bike tour of the UIC campus.

Earlier this month, Governor Quinn declared the month of April "Earth Month" in Illinois. Governor Quinn serves as the chairman of the Great Lakes Commission, the Illinois River Coordinating Council and the Illinois Green Governments Coordinating Council. Governor Quinn has also signed numerous Executive Orders and statutes into law to ensure greater energy efficiency, use of renewable energy, and protection of Illinois' land, air and water resources.

For more information about Governor Quinn's sustainability initiatives, please visit www.Green.Illinois.gov.


Protections Under the Cemetery Oversight Act Take Effect March 1

CHICAGO - February 28, 2010 - Governor Pat Quinn announced that a series of protections for consumers provided by the Cemetery Oversight Act take effect March 1, including a new toll free consumer Helpline that will offer assistance to anyone who wants to file a complaint against a cemetery. The Act, which was signed into law January 17 by Governor Quinn in response to the Burr Oak Cemetery scandal, also provides a Consumer Bill of Rights for cemetery customers.

"The safeguards that we are putting into effect as a result of the Cemetery Oversight Act will ensure that we will never have to suffer through another ordeal like the Burr Oak Cemetery tragedy," Governor Quinn said. "Now when families are struggling with the loss of a loved one, they will know where to turn to find out what protections they have under the law, and who is responsible for protecting those rights."

The Cemetery Oversight Act created a rigorous and unified regulatory structure for the cemetery and funeral industries under the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation (IDFPR). The toll-free Helpline for complaints about cemeteries is 1-888-RLOVED1 (756-8331).

Among the safeguards provided under the Consumer Bill of Rights, a consumer is entitled to:

· Protection from deceptive or unfair practices by the cemetery.

· A standardized price list disclosing prices for all cemetery related products.

· A burial contract that describes the exact location of the burial.

A brochure that details all of the protections provided under the Consumer Bill of Rights is available at: http://www.idfpr.com/cemetery/cemeteryconsumerrights.pdf

The Act, which was the result of recommendations of the Cemetery Oversight Task Force created by Governor Quinn in response to the Burr Oak tragedy last summer, also called for the appointment of the state's first Cemetery Oversight board by IDFPR Secretary Brent E. Adams. For information about the appointees go to: http://www.idfpr.com/cemetery/cemeteryoversight.asp

"The launch of the Consumer Bill of Rights and the appointment of an Oversight Board represents a major step toward fulfilling Governor Quinn's commitment to making Illinois cemeteries more accountable to consumers and to the State," said Secretary Adams, who by law will serve as the board's chairperson.