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Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
7:05pm
Mon Feb 8

Travis Campaign Calls Mitchell A 'Rauner Democrat' In 26th District Race

Jhatayn "Jay" Travis, a community organizer who is challenging incumbent state Rep. Christian Mitchell in the 26th District Democratic primary, took jabs Monday at her opponent during a press conference with members of the Chicago Teachers Union and a few elected officials.

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (7th) joined Chicago Alds. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th) and Brendan Reilly (42nd) at the press conference, held at the Billy Goat Tavern on Michigan Avenue, to tout their support of Travis, who made an unsuccessful bid to unseat Mitchell in 2014.

Travis' campaign is calling Mitchell a "Rauner Democrat," because the incumbent allegedly shares "elite donors and a political agenda" with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

"He receives over $200,000 from the very same interests he claims to be fighting against, and these are also the very same interests that back a governor who has held the needs of families and the services that they need hostage in this indefensible budget impasse," said Travis, former executive director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO). "So I would say to you, it's time that we have representation in the 26th District that stands with the people and not with corporate interests."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
6:51pm
Mon Feb 8

Chicago State University Students Protest Against Illinois Budget Stalemate (VIDEO)

Chicago State University students and their supporters rallied at the Thompson Center Monday morning, demanding state action to avert a possible shutdown of the predominately black university due to the budget impasse.

Holding signs that read, "Black minds matter" and "Save CSU," students urged Gov. Bruce Rauner and state legislators to end the ongoing fiscal battle that has left Illinois without a budget since July 1. 

CSU serves over 4,000 students and depends on the state for 30 percent of its budget. The university and other Illinois higher education institutions have gone unfunded during the stalemate in Springfield. As a result, CSU declared itself in a financial state of emergency last week, increasing the possibility of layoffs and cuts to keep the university operating. CSU officials have previously stated that the university could go broke by March.

CSU senior Lakeisha Perry, a psychology major on track to graduate next December, said the budget uncertainty is "nerve-wracking."

"You work so hard and then this happens," she told Progress Illinois at the Thompson Center.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
3:08pm
Thu Feb 4

Advocates: U.S. Immigration Authorities Must Reverse Decision To Deport DACA Recipient

An undocumented 32-year-old mother of three living in Valparaiso, Indiana who was deported to Mexico earlier this week will soon return to the United States after immigration officials reversed their decision to deport her, immigrant advocates said Thursday.

Lesly Sophia Cortez-Martinez's case is far from settled, however, as she is expected to face deportation proceedings when she returns to the United States.

"Thankfully for Lesly she can reunite with her family, even though she could face a long court battle," Cortez-Martinez's attorney Mony Ruiz-Velasco said on a Thursday morning conference call with reporters.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
1:51pm
Wed Feb 3

CTU Closes Bank Of America Account Over 'Toxic' Interest Rate Swaps (VIDEO)

One day after Chicago Public Schools officials announced $100 million in proposed budget cuts, the Chicago Teachers Union closed its Bank of America account on Wednesday in protest over the controversial interest rate swap agreements held between the bank and school district.

CTU says cash-strapped CPS, which is facing a $480 million budget hole this fiscal year, has lost more than $502 million to "predatory" swap deals with financial institutions, including Bank of America. According to the union, Bank of America has collected $77 million in profits off of its interest rate swaps with CPS.

"What we hope is that our withdrawal of funds will spark people all over this city, all over this state and all over the country to start withdrawing funds from Bank of America until they give back some of the ill-gotten gains they've made off the backs of our students," CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said outside the Bank of America at 135 S. LaSalle St.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
2:44pm
Tue Feb 2

With State Owing Agency $1 Million, Chicago Home Care Service Struggles To Keep Doors Open (UPDATED)

A Chicago-based home care service agency is on the verge of having to cut payroll costs in half for its 250-member workforce as a direct result of the ongoing state budget impasse.

Family Home Service, Inc. provides in-home services to more than 500 seniors and people with disabilities in Chicago.

The state owes the agency, which has been operating on bank credit during the more than seven-monthlong budget impasse, approximately $1 million for services that have been performed since July 1, the start of the current fiscal year.

Family Home Service's Director Marsha Holmes told reporters Tuesday morning that the agency has exhausted its line of credit and cannot obtain another loan. If the current budget situation continues much longer, Family Home Service could be forced to shut down, Holmes said.

"Our elderly and disabled population rely on our workers. They don't want to face uncertainty," Holmes said at Family Home Service's offices, 1040 W. Huron St. "What happens if they have to face uncertainty if our doors happen to close? They have built relationships with their home care workers. That is why a stable workforce is so important in this home care industry."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
3:02pm
Mon Feb 1

Supporters Of Cook County 'Responsible Business Act' Protest At Walmart (VIDEO)

Activists pushing for the "Cook County Responsible Business Act" stepped up their campaign Monday morning by protesting in support of the proposal at a Walmart in Bedford Park.

About 50 members of IIRON, National People's Action and other grassroots groups briefly demonstrated inside the Walmart, at 7050 S. Cicero Ave. They held signs that read, "Poverty pay? No way! We need the RBA," and chanted call-and-response style, "What do we want? Fair wages! When do we want them? Now!"

Protesters carried a large poster of a fake $33 million invoice, symbolizing the cost of Walmart's "poverty wages" to Cook County taxpayers. Organizers claim local taxpayers are left with a $33 million tab each year to cover public benefits for employees at Walmart's 25 Cook County stores. The group's calculation is based on a May 2013 congressional report prepared by the Democratic staff of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which found that one 300-person Walmart Supercenter store in Wisconsin likely costs taxpayers more than $900,000 annually in government assistance for its workers.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
5:26pm
Mon Jan 25

Cullerton Says School Funding Overhaul Should Be Tied To Budget

Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) said he wants school funding reform tied to the state budgeting process. 

"The governor has linked things together. We don't have a budget because he's got his 'turnaround agenda.' So I can link things together too," Cullerton said during remarks Monday at the City Club of Chicago. "This is a turnaround agenda. We gotta change the school funding formula."

During his City Club speech, Cullerton said a school funding overhaul is needed because the current system is the "most inequitable system of school finance in the country." The state's public education funding system has remained unchanged since 1997. 

"Before we appropriate money for education for next year, (which) starts July 1, we have to fix this formula," Cullerton said. "And it's not a special deal for Chicago. In fact, we're eliminating the special deals for Chicago," including the special block grant it receives. 

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
3:24pm
Wed Jan 20

Advocates Push For State Legislation To Protect Home Services Eligibility

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL,9), state Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) and other advocates for seniors and people with disabilities sought to rally support Wednesday for proposed state legislation aimed at preventing the governor from making eligibility requirements tougher for home services programs.

Harris is spearheading the bill, HB 4351, in the state legislature.

The measure involves the Determination of Need (DON) score, which sets eligibility for the Home Services Program for people with disabilities and the Community Care Program for low-income seniors. Through the programs, seniors and people with disabilities are connected to personal attendants who can assist them at their homes.

Under Harris' proposal, the minimum eligibility DON score could not be raised above the current figure of 29. Rauner in the past has proposed raising the DON score from 29 to 37 as a means to cut costs. 

"Nearly 40,000 seniors and people with disabilities are estimated to lose their essential home care if the governor were to have his way," Schakowsky said during a press conference at the Thompson Center. "And countless more would be denied (services) in the future. Shame on Governor Rauner."

Quick Hit
by Aricka Flowers
7:46pm
Tue Jan 19

Palin's Trump Endorsement In Presidential Primary Elicits Wide Range Of Reactions

Former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin threw her support behind Donald Trump in his race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, making the two eclectic and polarizing GOP figures official political bedfellows some two weeks before the primary elections begin.

"Are you ready for the leader to make America great again?" Palin said Tuesday at a Trump rally at Iowa State University. "Are you ready to stump for Trump? I'm here to support the next president of the United States - Donald Trump."

"He is beholden to no one but we the people. How refreshing? He is perfectly positioned to let you make America great again. Are you ready for that Iowa? No more pussyfootin' around. Our troops deserve the best, you deserve the best. ... Are you ready for a commander-in-chief who will let our warriors do their job and kick ISIS' ass," she asked the crowd to thunderous applause. 

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