IEPA Director Doug Scott to Lead Commerce Commission, Manny Flores to Lead IDFPR Division of Banking

CHICAGO - February 28, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today announced several top appointments to his executive cabinet. Today's actions are the next step in a series of appointments Governor Quinn will continue making throughout the first quarter of 2011 as he continues to fulfill his commitment to creating jobs, recovering our economy and making state government more efficient and accountable to the people of Illinois.

Today Governor Quinn named Doug Scott as chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) and Manuel "Manny" Flores as director of the Division of Banking of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Scott has served as director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) since 2005 and Flores has chaired the ICC since January 2010. Governor Quinn also named Andrew Ross as the state's chief operating officer and Lisa Bonnett as interim director of IEPA.

"Throughout their careers, Doug Scott and Manny Flores have proven themselves to be strong advocates for the interests of Illinois' working families," said Governor Quinn. "Today's appointments will allow them to keep fighting for Illinois' consumers by ensuring proper oversight and regulation of utility companies and banks throughout our state."

As director of the IEPA, Scott has protected Illinois' consumers by working to significantly reduce emissions from the state's power plants. He has also worked to support low-emission coal technology, wind power, and other alternative energy and fuel sources. Prior to leading the IEPA, Scott served as mayor of Rockford, and from 1995 to 2001 he served as state representative from Illinois' 67th District. Scott has a bachelor of arts from the University of Tulsa and a juris doctorate from Marquette University.

As chairman of the ICC, Flores worked to ensure consumers received efficient, reliable, safe and fairly-priced utility services. Before leading the ICC, Flores served on the Chicago City Council and as a prosecutor in the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. He received his undergraduate degree in political science from Dominican University and juris doctorate from George Washington University Law School.

Lisa Bonnett will serve as the interim director of the IEPA. Bonnett is currently serving as the agency's acting deputy director and previously served at its chief fiscal officer. Bonnett has worked in state government for more than 30 years and lives in Springfield. She has a bachelor's degree and master's degree from the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Today Governor Quinn also named Andrew Ross as the state's chief operating officer. Ross, who for the last two years has served as a deputy chief of staff in the governor's office, will lead efforts to promote continued job growth in Illinois. He will manage efforts in the governor's office and across state government to keep and attract new companies, encourage expansion of the green economy, and spur entrepreneurship and innovation across Illinois. In his previous position, Ross worked on an incentive package to keep Navistar and 3,000 jobs in Illinois, aided implementation of the state's $31 billion capital program and helped overhaul the regulation of the Illinois cemetery industry following the tragedy at Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip.


February 28, 2011

City Administrator Malin announced today that Director of Parks & Recreation Seve Ghose has accepted an offer of employment with the City of Longmont, Colorado, and will be resigning his position. Mr. Ghose will remain with Davenport until May 27, and will continue to lead the department's efforts to become accredited by the Commission for the Accreditation of Parks and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA) prior to his departure. A CAPRA site visit will be conducted in May, as a final review step in the accreditation process.

Mr. Ghose was hired by Davenport from the City of Portland, Oregon, in July of 2008. He has overseen significant expansion of park facilities and recreation programming during his tenure, including re-opening the Quad City Sports Center as the River's Edge, a City owned and operated multi-purpose recreation facility that has exceeded use and revenue expectations in its first year.

Mr. Ghose expressed regret in leaving Davenport, and underscored that the move to Colorado was guided by a desire to be closer to his extended family. Mr. Ghose said "Davenport is a great place to live, but we have some family needs out west. It has been a privilege to work in Davenport for the past few years."

City Administrator Malin expressed gratitude for Mr. Ghose's professional and enthusiastic efforts to advance parks and recreation in Davenport, noting "Seve has done a great job for Davenport, and I hate to lose him. He has set the bar high for his successor."

The City will conduct an open, national recruitment for its next Director of Parks and Recreation.

On Friday, February 18th, students from Orion High School and United Township participated in the Poetry Out Loud regional contest at Quad City Arts. The event was exciting and enriching and all in attendance were edified and entertained by the student recitations.

We are happy to announce the winners of the contest: 1st place was Nathan Walter from Orion HS. Nathan recited "Memory As A Hearing Aid" by Tony Hoagland and "Alone" by Edgar Allan Poe. Runner-up was Amanda Wales from United Township HS. Amanda recited "Fairy-Tale Logic" by A. E. Stallings and "When You Are Old" by W. B. Yeats.  Lisa Amlong from Orion placed third and thus qualified as an alternate and will also attend the State Contest. Lisa recited "A dream Within A Dream" by Edgar Allan Poe and "Fairy-Tale Logic" by A. E. Stallings.

The winners of this competition will now advance to Illinois' State Poetry Out Loud Competition, being held Friday, March 11, 2011, at the Hoogland Center for the Arts in Springfield. The State champion will advance to the Poetry Out Loud National Finals on April 28-29, 2011 in Washington, DC, where $50,000 in awards and school stipends will be distributed with the grand prize being $20,000.

The competition, presented in partnership with the Illinois Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Poetry Foundation, is part of a national program that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation is honored to provide travel support for regional and state finals of Poetry Out Loud in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.


For further information, call Poetry Out Loud Regional Coordinator, Tracy White at 563-579-7630

Noodles & Company Introduces 'Grown Up' Mac & Cheese Flavors- Available for a Limited Time

BROOMFIELD, Colo. (February 28, 2011) ? Don't feel guilty. We all do it. We can't help but take just one delectable bite from our kid's Mac & Cheese. But you don't have to feel guilty anymore. Noodles & Company in Davenport has just introduced three special Mac & Cheese dishes for grownups...or kids destined to be food critics.

Noodles & Company has always dominated the 'Mac market' with its top-selling Wisconsin Mac & Cheese - a delectable blend of Wisconsin cheeses and fresh cream served over tender elbow macaroni. Now, the fast-casual restaurant is offering three new gourmet versions of the dish that allow adults to feel like a kid again:

Bacon, Mac & Cheeseburger: This hearty dish is a deconstructed version of another classic American comfort food ? the bacon cheeseburger. Think crumbled oven-roasted meatballs, crispy chopped bacon, diced Roma tomatoes and chopped green onions mixed into Noodles' famous Mac & Cheese and topped with house-made toasted breadcrumbs and cheddar-jack cheese.

Truffle Mac with Baby Portabellas: Fine-dining restaurants have recently been featuring upscale versions of Mac & Cheese dishes with a variety of high-end ingredients. Noodles & Company's Truffle Mac with Baby Portabellas rivals what you'd enjoy at any fine-dining restaurant at one-third the price tag. The dish is made with Noodles' signature Wisconsin cheese sauce spiked with white truffle oil, sautéed baby portabella mushrooms, and topped off with shredded parmesan cheese house-made toasted breadcrumbs and parsley.

Southwestern Chili Mac: Take a trip southwest and give your taste buds a little fiesta. It starts with Mac & Cheese smothered in spicy red chili, crumbled oven-roasted meatballs and topped with diced green onion and shredded cheddar-jack cheese. Olé!

"Wisconsin Mac & Cheese has been a menu favorite of kids and adults since the beginning. In fact, last year we sold more than 7 million bowls of Mac & Cheese," said Tessa Stamper, Noodles & Company's chef and Mac creator. "Our guests have already been adding veggies, meatballs and even hot sauce to their Mac dishes, so we figured it was time to give them some new flavors to enjoy."

These limited-time Mac & Cheese dishes are $7.95 for a regular or $6.95 for a small - a side salad or soup can be added for $1. They're now available at all Noodles & Company restaurants. To find a restaurant near you, please visit Noodles & Company is open seven days a week and offers convenient carry out, phone-in or fax-in orders.

As the President said during his annual State of the Union address, America is a nation built on big ideas.

There's no doubt our culture embraces the concept that bigger is better. From portion sizes served at U.S. restaurants to the homes we live in and the cars we drive, Americans like to live large.

Considering America's expanding waistline and bulging budget deficits, bigger isn't always better. Washington can't seem to shake its cultural addiction to living high on the hog.

But more spending and more taxes are adding up to big problems. Consider the national debt. There's legitimate concern that by shouldering a $14 trillion-plus national debt, the federal government is on pace to overwhelm the credit market, squeezing access to affordable credit for the private sector and state/municipal borrowers. Servicing the national debt eats up scarce resources. Reckless federal spending is irresponsible and unsustainable. Washington cannot spend its way back to prosperity.

The voters sent a clear message to political leaders in November: Enough is enough.

But when the President in February unveiled his budget proposal, he squandered a big opportunity to lead. Ignoring a basic law of gravity that says "what goes up, must come down," the President sided with the gravitational pull of expediency.

Arguing his budget proposal uses a scalpel instead of a machete to address the federal deficit, the President disappointingly didn't embrace his own State of the Union message.

Instead of using the Presidential bully pulpit to build a national consensus regarding entitlement reform, the President's budget ignored the fundamental issue that will drive America year after year into ditch after ditch of deficits. If we don't change course, the whopping $14 trillion national debt will balloon to $26 trillion in the next decade.

Regrettably, the President effectively rejected months of collaboration produced by his own bipartisan deficit commission. It's little wonder why public cynicism grows when elected leaders punt issues to an appointed commission and then relegate its report to collect dust on the shelf.

In January the President called upon Congress and the American people to think big and make the 21st century America's best one yet. The American people can "out-innovate, out-educate and out-build" the best of the best, but the federal government needs to get out of the way.

Since the era of Manifest Destiny, when the promise of prosperity and the pursuit of happiness put fire in the bellies of pioneers, homesteaders, miners and missionaries, Americans have tested their mettle, employing brain and brawn, to create their fortunes and control their own destiny.

In the 21st century, technology and innovation have reshaped the economic landscape. Big thinkers in America have helped drive a digital revolution that has changed the way the world goes 'round, from commerce to communication to cultural and even political revolutions. Our entrepreneurs, inventors, engineers, scientists and investors are ready to seize their moment to achieve prosperity and live the American dream.

Washington needs to think big. Baby steps won't get us there in time. Washington can help "win the future" by taking giant steps that will address entitlements, curb federal spending, cut burdensome regulations and advance opportunity for the next generation.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Q.  Why is fighting fraud in Medicare and Medicaid important?

A.  The federal debt has ballooned to a record $14 trillion, and the deficit this year alone will be $1.3 trillion.  Congress is currently debating whether it will make budget cuts in a short-term funding bill needed to continue federal programs for the remainder of the fiscal year.  Tough decisions need to be made, and cuts will impact many Americans.  Medicare and Medicaid spending is one of the largest expenditures in the federal budget.  Every dollar lost to fraud shortchanges taxpayers and the beneficiaries who rely on the health care programs.

Q. What's the scope of Medicare and Medicaid fraud?

A.  The best estimates are that between five and eight percent of the money spent on Medicare and Medicaid is lost to fraud every year.  The federal government spent $502 billion on Medicare and $379 billion on Medicaid in fiscal 2009.  So, it is estimated between $40 billion and $70 billion was lost to fraud that year.

Q.  What has been done to curb this fraud?

A.  The federal False Claims Act is one of the most effective tools against health care fraud.  I authored a major update of this law, in 1986, with Rep. Howard Berman of California.  Since then, it has recovered more than $28 billion and deterred billions of dollars in additional fraud against the taxpayers.  The qui tam whistleblower provisions that were created by our 1986 update are among the most successful elements of the False Claims Act.  These provisions allow average citizens who learn about fraud to report it and file suit to recover tax dollars that have been lost to fraud.  This year, the False Claims Act brought in $3 billion in recoveries, with $2.5 billion from health care fraud cases, and nearly $2.4 billion of the recoveries thanks to the qui tam whistleblowers provisions.  I've worked repeatedly to fortify and protect this statute.  It's effective and, as a result, there are constant attempts to weaken or even gut the law.

This civil recovery of public dollars that otherwise would be lost to fraud is a great victory in the fight against fraud.  It ought to be buttressed by a robust criminal prosecution.  That effort is falling short.  At the end of last year, I asked the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services to account for the falling number of criminal prosecutions.  Administration leaders promote the value of a special fraud prevention and enforcement task force known as HEAT.  That stands for the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team.  The new health care law dedicates additional federal dollars to HEAT and related efforts.  In fiscal 2009, there were a record number of criminal health care fraud defendants, but the conviction rate for health care violations is flat, resulting in a falling conviction rate.  Of the 803 criminal defendants charged that year, only 583 were convicted or plea bargained.  That's a 72 percent conviction rate compared to past rates that topped 90 percent.  It looks like things are improving since fiscal 2009, but continued oversight of the Justice Department is needed.  To strengthen the ability of government watchdogs to see what's actually happening with tax dollars directed to anti-fraud efforts, more information should be included in publicly available Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Account reports each year.  For example, 75 percent of the discretionary dollars that Congress has directed to HEAT, goes to the Department of Health and Human Services for vague initiatives labeled oversight.  There should be accountability as to how exactly this money is used to achieve criminal prosecutions.

I also want to make certain that qui tam settlements do justice to taxpayers.  They never should be just a cost of doing business for corporations and contractors who were engaged in fraud.  The Justice Department is reluctant to share details of settlements reached under the False Claims Act, despite the taxpayer interest in making this information transparent.  So, I will introduce legislation this year to require the Attorney General to report each year details about the settlements to Congress.  Again, it's a matter of accountability.

Q.  What can be done to prevent fraud in the first place?

A.  I also plan to re-introduce my comprehensive bill to protect health care dollars.  The bill is a package of common sense initiatives to fight fraud, waste and abuse in taxpayer-sponsored health care programs.  As spending on these programs continues to grow, Congress should act quickly to pass these reforms.  A major component of this reform effort of mine would give the government more time to evaluate the legitimacy of Medicare providers before payment is required when there's suspicion of foul play.  Without this change, we're left with a pay-and-chase situation that only enables fraud against the taxpayers.  My legislation would help program officials better detect fraud with new disclosure requirements.  It would enhance coordination among federal agencies responsible for fighting fraud.  And it would make penalties tougher and apply them more broadly than they are today.

SPRINGFIELD, IL (02/25/2011)(readMedia)-- For decades the Army has trained its Soldiers in the art of combat; from weapons on the cutting edge of technology to the tried and true - their fists.

Approximately 18 Soldiers with the Illinois, Minnesota and Nevada National Guards completed the first ever National Guard-sponsored Modern Army Combat (MAC) Level III training outside of the MAC schoolhouse in Fort Benning, Ga., Feb. 25 at Camp Lincoln in Springfield.

The Illinois National Guard is the first reserve or guard component to host the MAC Level III combative training event, said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Grant of Caseyville, the MAC course manager with the 129th Regional Training Institute in Springfield.

"We're the first Guard unit to host a (MAC) Level III and nobody else has done it, but there's a lot of folks who have talked about it," said Grant.

The Illinois National Guard has worked toward the goal of having the facilities and equipment required to be able to train MAC Level III for the past three years, said Grant. Illinois has hosted level I and II training over the years, but with the buildup of trained students, MAC Level III was the next step.

"It's an excellent opportunity for these guys," said Grant. "As level three trained, you can certify level I. Once we build up the number of level IIIs in the state, it'll be in a short time till every single Soldier in the Illinois National Guard has the opportunity to be trained and certified in combatives."

Grant said Soldiers are encouraged to take what they learn and train the Soldiers in their unit aiding in the overall combatives training goal of the Illinois National Guard.

MAC Level III builds on the Levels I and II which takes the grapples and escapes and adds standing fighting tactics and strikes. Soldiers learn how to use hand-to-hand combat in close-quarters combat instead of relying solely on their weapons. Even conducting combatives in urban environment setting showed how the training can be applied in a mission setting.

The Army has pushed combatives training during the last almost seven years by teaching Soldiers in basic training how to fight hand-to-hand as a critical skill.

Illinois was able to get all the necessary equipment for a National Guard command to hold a MAC Level III training program, said Sgt. Atreyu Ross of Mayville, N.Y., a combatives instructor with Company D, 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment at of Fort Benning, Ga.

"Doesn't matter if you're active Army, Marine, Air Force," said Ross. "Everybody should be able to defend themselves, so why not start here."

Grant said training the Soldiers was a good experience. Their motivation and desire to learn is evident when they are out fighting on the mats, said Grant.

"Every one of the guys that show up have already been to (MAC) Level I. They've been to (MAC) Level II," said Grant. "They know what's expected. They know it's going be tough. But they volunteered to come. Nobody forced them to come. They want to be here. They want to train. They want to get beat up. They want to learn. And most of all they want to take this back to their units and train their fellow Soldiers."

With the Soldiers who traveled near and far to attend the training, the longest path was taken by Staff Sgt. Steve Owen of Rock Island, with the 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery Regiment currently deployed to Sinai, Egypt. Owen was allowed to travel back to Illinois to attend the training, so upon his return to Egypt he will lead the combative course for the task force in Sinai.

"I was one of select a few who were (MAC) Level II trained," said Owens. "My platoon sergeant was the one that referred me and I told them it was an offer I couldn't refuse."

With this training, Owen is set to offer a combatives program for the roughly 1,700 Soldiers in Task Force Sinai.

"It's kind of overwhelming," said Owen. "I've never been put in this kind of position. Yeah, I'm a squad leader; but being in charge of a whole task force and training them in (MAC) Level I, that's big shoes to fill. Coming here, learning this stuff, it gives me the motivation that drives me to do that."

Combatives training has developed in the branches of the military since the increase in urban combat in overseas military operations, said Ross. The possible need to fight close quarters has heightened the importance of servicemembers to be ready to defend themselves armed or unarmed. With the Army and Marine Corps having their own unarmed combat styles and the Air Force currently developing their own, combatives has been a step forward in the U.S. military's ability to be combat ready in any situation.

"If you can't defend yourself in any given situation and you're not prepared for it, it can mean life or death and we don't want that," said Ross. "We want to have somebody say 'I've been in this situation before.'"

Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, Illinois, has released the dean's list for the recently completed fall 2010 semester. To qualify for inclusion, a student must have been enrolled as a full-time undergraduate student and must have attained a semester grade point average of 3.50 or higher on a 4.00 grading scale. The following area residents were named to the dean's list:

Heidi Behal of Bettendorf

Keri Cannon of Moline

Jenna Crookshanks of Port Byron

Erica Engelbrecht of Moline

Katelyn Flynn of Davenport

Miranda Geever of Moline

Rebekah Harrison of East Moline

Michelle Imig of Moline

Lucas Mellinger of Moline

Nicholas Mizeur of Moline

John Quandt of East Moline

Sarah Quinlin of Milan

Jacob Ridenour of Bettendorf

Hannah Rowen of East Moline

Michael Tuttle of Orion

Kelsey Warp of Parnell

Olivet Nazarene University is an accredited Christian, liberal arts university offering over 120 areas of study. It is centrally located in the historic village of Bourbonnais, Illinois - just 50 miles south of Chicago's loop - with additional School of Graduate and Continuing Studies locations in Rolling Meadows, Ill. and throughout Chicagoland.


WASHINGTON - February 25, 2011 - Senator Chuck Grassley today said that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded three grants totaling $1,404,159 through the Health Center Program Service Area Competition grant program.

The money will be distributed as shown below.

  • Community Health Care, Inc. in Davenport will receive $722,187
  • Proteus Employment Opportunities, Inc. in Des Moines will receive $115,407
  • People's Community Health Clinic, Inc. in Waterloo will receive $566,565

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, this grant program provides financial assistance to support comprehensive primary health care services in underserved areas.  The grants support the availability and accessibility of essential primary and preventive health services, including oral health, mental health and substance abuse services.

Each year, local Iowa organizations, colleges and universities, individuals and state agencies apply for competitive grants from the federal government.  The funding is then awarded based on each local organization or individual's ability to meet criteria set by the federal entity administering the funds.


Budget Would Damage Food, Agriculture, and Farm Conservation Initiatives Critical to Iowa

Date:     February 25, 2011

Late last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed budget legislation covering the remainder of fiscal year 2011 and making severe cuts in funding to address a broad range of our nation's critically important priorities and needs in the areas of food, agriculture, and farm conservation.  If enacted, this budgetary onslaught would seriously impair efforts to improve the quality of life in rural communities; to ensure safe food for American consumers; to conserve soil, enhance water quality, restore wildlife habitat; and to spur economic growth and create jobs.  The budget proposal passed by the House is thus especially detrimental to Iowa.

"Without a doubt, the time has come for making and enacting tough budget decisions through a balanced, careful, and thoughtful approach encompassing both spending and revenue levels while not shortchanging the essential needs of Americans or our nation's future," said Harkin.  "But those decisions must not at the expense of Iowa's farmers and rural communities."

Some of the more significant and damaging consequences facing Iowa if the House-passed budget bill were to become law include :

Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Councils:  The House bill would eliminate funding for the RC&D program, which assists rural communities in boosting economic opportunity and creating and retaining jobs while protecting and conserving natural resources and improving the quality of life in rural communities.  Zeroing out $50.3 million in RC&D funding, as the House proposes, would withdraw support for 375 local RC&D councils across the nation.  In Iowa, the 17 RC&D councils spanning the state would lose their entire $1.9 million in federal assistance, as compared to fiscal 2010.  For a map of those locations, please click here.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP):  EQIP provides assistance, in the form of cost-share and incentive payments, to help producers of crops, livestock, dairy, and poultry meet their environmental challenges and requirements.  The House bill would reduce fiscal 2011 funding for EQIP by $350 million (22 percent) below the amount dedicated to EQIP in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (2008 farm bill).  Based on Iowa's share of national EQIP funding in fiscal 2010, the cut proposed by the House would deprive Iowa farmers some $7.3 million in EQIP funding that had been committed in the 2008 farm bill.

Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP):  This voluntary program compensates landowners for protecting, restoring, and enhancing wetlands.  Under the House budget bill, WRP funding would be cut by $119 million in fiscal 2011, a reduction of 22 percent from the funds dedicated to WRP in the 2008 farm bill and otherwise available this year.  According to Iowa's typical share of total WRP funds, the House action would deny $3.1 million to Iowa landowners for wetlands conservation.

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP):  The House bill, by reducing CSP funds by some $39 million below the farm bill's level for fiscal 2011, would cut CSP assistance to Iowa farmers by $2.7 million.

Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations:  Funding through this program for preventing flooding, conserving soil, and managing natural resources in watersheds would be eliminated in the House budget bill.  In fiscal 2010, Iowa received over $2 million in such watershed and flood prevention funding, but would receive none if the House bill were enacted.

Food and Agriculture Research:  Such research carried out at federal facilities of USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) would be cut in the House bill by nearly 10 percent ($114 million) compared to fiscal 2010, thereby reducing by some $5.0 million the amount of ARS funding in Iowa for research covering topics such as crop and animal production, food safety, and natural resources and sustainable agriculture systems.  The legislation would also cut by about 16 percent ($217 million), as compared to fiscal 2010, the funding for grants by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supporting food and agriculture research, education, and extension at land grant institutions, such as Iowa State University, and similar entities.  Iowa would thus receive some $5.3 million less through NIFA this year as compared to fiscal 2010 if the House budget proposal were enacted.

Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Inspection:  Despite repeated incidents showing the need to strengthen federal food safety protections, the House bill would carve some 10 percent off the level of funding Congress adopted for last year and had tentatively approved for fiscal 2011.  Reducing food safety funding would risk the safety of American consumers as well as the ability of Iowa's meat processing plants to operate at full capacity.

Harkin's full statement on the budget proposals before Congress can be found here.