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Political Rewind: Betting on iGaming, Controversy over Nation of Islam, Cuts in Education Funding

It's always good to be caught up on state politics. Here's an easy guide to what happened this week.

Editor's Note: This article was created by aggregating news articles from Illinois Statehouse News that were written by various Illinois Statehouse News reporters.

Week in Review: Betting on iGaming, Controversy over Nation of Islam

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois lawmakers must craft next year’s budget and fix huge deficits by May 31, but the closest they came to addressing those problems was a proposal to tax online gambling. Other issues from a proposed minimum wage increases to the Nation of Islam were getting everyone’s attention, as well.

Betting on time, taxing iGaming 

Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, wants legislators to approve his plan to tax and regulateInternet gambling in Illinois before Congress keeps the state’s hands off the industry. 

Under Cullerton’s proposal, a new Division of Internet Gaming within the Illinois Lottery, would establish an Internet gaming platform, accept wages and pay out winnings, work with other states to offer intrastate gaming and verify that users are legally allowed to gamble. 

“We estimate that the potential new revenues to the state are in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” Cullerton said in a letter to the state’s top lawmakers this week, noting that Illinoisans already make Internet bets, some of them considered illegal. 

The proposal was tacked onto House Bill 4148, and Cullerton said approving it now is the only way the Illinois government can capture millions of dollars in revenue. Congress is considering an Internet gambling bill that would bar states from regulating iGaming unless they have those laws on the books.

“Time is of the essence,” Cullerton said.

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has yet to weigh in on iGaming. He said earlier this month that finding a solution to the state’s budget and pension problems is capturing most of his time and even cutting into his sleep.

Minimum wage increase bill heads to Senate

A Senate committee Wednesday approved a bill that would raise Illinois’ minimum wage to more than $10 an hour and make it one of the highest in the nation.

The mostly Democratic proponents of Senate Bill 1565, which heads to the Senate for a vote, say a minimum-wage hike would help low-income workers and percolate out into the larger economy.

Republicans opposed the measure, which passed the Senate Executive Committee by a vote of 9-5.

Business owners who testified said it could stifle any growth they’ve seen in this still somewhat stagnant economy, and it’d make it too risky to employ teenagers, who often earn minimum wage in part-time jobs.

Doug Knight, owner of Knight’s Action Park, a water and recreation park near here, hires about 200 teenagers and young adults to work at his business. He said he was forced to scale back his operating hours after the last minimum wage hike in 2010 because he could not stay profitable.

“If my expenses go up, I have to raise my prices,” Knight said.

Illinois’ minimum wage is $8.25. The measure would increase it by 50 cents a year until it matches the inflation-adjusted equivalent of minimum wage in 1968, $1.60 per hour, which would be $10.58 today.

IDOT paying for roads, plus a lot for health care and rent

Money meant for maintaining state highways soon could be paying for some of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s day-to-day expenses.

Quinn’s budget proposal would divert almost $250 million from the state’s road fund — fueled by the state's motor fuel tax and vehicle license fees — to pay IDOT’s health-care, workers’ compensation, and building rent and maintenance costs, according to the Transportation for Illinois Coalition, which advocates for transportation infrastructure upgrades.

That means less money would go to maintaining the state’s roads, David Kennedy, the coalition's statehouse committee chairman, said.

“Generally people pay gas taxes and license plate fees, because they know the money is going towards the roads,” Kennedy said.

Some 2,500 miles of roads in the state are deemed unacceptable according to IDOT standards. That’s about 15 percent of all state-maintained roads. That number could double by 2018 if nothing is done, bringing the total number of miles of unacceptable state roads to more than 5,000.

State statute says road fund money must pay for transportation-related expenses.

But the diversion of road fund money allows IDOT to make up for its shrinking operating budget. Quinn's proposed budget sets aside $19.2 million for IDOT's day-to-day operations, a decrease from its current operating budget of $21.8 million.

Cuts in ed funding

As lawmakers undertake balancing the state budget, a proposal in the Illinois House could cut education funding by at least $258 million.

“We can’t shortchange our schools anymore” Gery Chico, chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education said.

During the past three years, school districts statewide have lost $650 million in funding.

Chico said the House’s plan could lead to cuts in school programs, staffing and the length of a school day. Raising taxes would be another possibility.   

“What you don’t do today with a teacher in a classroom to help a child succeed will pan out over time,” Chico said. “You’ll have people who are less prepared, have less of a skill level and will have a harder time getting a job, sustaining their families, paying taxes and keeping their communities strong.”

The proposal relies on how successful lawmakers are in achieving the need $2.7 billion in Medicaidcuts. This means the reduction in education could be even higher— as much as $500 million or $750 million.

Quinn’s budget proposal spared cuts to education and keeps funding the same as last year.

Chico said the House proposal caught local school officials off guard.

Strip club tax moves forward

A revamped plan that could tax Illinois strip clubs danced its way out of the Senate Public Health Committee on Wednesday.

Under the revised measure, strip clubs that sell or allow alcohol would have to charge a $3 admission fee or opt to pay a flat fee based on the club’s tax revenue.

The previous version gave club owners the single option of paying a $5 visitor’s fee.

The potential tax is estimated to bring in $1 million, which would help fund rape crisis centers and sexual assault assistance programs.

“Sexually orientated businesses contribute to objectifying and exploiting women,” said Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, who supports the tax.

“The research has shown that a combination of live nude dancing and alcohol is a particularly dangerous one for areas in which these clubs are." 

Senate Bill 3348 heads to the Senate floor.

Appointment rejected because of man's ties Muslim leader

Illinois senators rejected the appointment of a co-founder of an organization dedicated to a former Nation of Islam leader to the state’s Human Rights Commission.

Quinn recommended that Munir Muhammad, of Chicago, be reappointed to his commission seat — a position he’s held since 2003.

Lawmakers first questioned whether Muhammad was a good candidate for the commission due to his involvement with the Coalition for the Remembrance of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.

Elijah Muhammad was a leader of black Muslims, and the coalition runs a website about his beliefs and involvement with the Nation of Islam. Some of his beliefs include prohibiting interracial marriage and supporting separate education for men and women.

—Stephanie Fryer and Anthony Brino

Edward Andrysiak May 21, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Raising the minimum wage would make Illinois one of the highest. Simply said, this is a stupid decision that will reduce job opportunities. Young people need experience and they get that in starting level jobs. Less jobs will be offered at that wage. Starting level jobs are very important to the growth and development of those entering our work force. I know of an individual who took a job and worked for six months for *FREE*...no wages, no benifits to learn the workings of the business which he later bought and, happily, became a 1%'er. We all gotta start somewhere...why reduce those opportunities.
Jello May 22, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Quinn needs to get a clue. The Nation of Islam is part of an e-v-i-l trinity. For example: "The Nation of Islam, the New Black Panthers, a rouge Iranian regime with nuclear capabilities and fifty radical Imams collude atop a Manhattan hotel..." Well, here, you read it for yourself and then you decide if former Nation of Islam LEADER should have been reappointed. Go ahead. See for yourself if we should allow this kind of infiltration into government? Ahmadinejad, Farrakhan & The Black Panthers: Shocking New Details on Their Meeting & the ‘Beast’ Axis That Was Forged http://www.theblaze.com/stories/ahmadinejad-farrakhan-new-black-panthers-shocking-new-details-on-their-meeting-the-beast-alliance-that-was-forged/
Tim May 22, 2012 at 03:46 PM
We allow Catholics with their misogynistic views on women to hold office. Some of whom are attempting a lawsuit to prevent women from having equal access to birth control. How is this any different? Then again, you just called something a 'trinity' and proceeded to list FOUR components.
Anonymous May 22, 2012 at 04:32 PM
We should allow zero infiltration of any religion in our government. Every religion has their crazies. It is fallacious to form an opinion on a whole group based on a few.
Tim May 22, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Every religion is full of crazies. It is a requirement "It is fallacious to form an opinion on a whole group based on a few." You would have defended the nazi party with that attitude.
Jello May 22, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Hello? Tim, it really is an evil trinity. You have A-Jad, NBPP and Nation of Islam. Okay? That's three. Read the link. Really. I'm not shocked at all that you'd compare it to Catholics. Oh well, once you realize what's happening...oh,nevermind. By the way, last time I checked, it was A-Jad and not the Pope, who was saying how he'd like to wipe America off the face of the earth (after Isreal-duh)....unless, of course, the Pope is the anti-Christ or the 12th Imam (or maybe it's actually some other world leader like POTUS or Hollande, Geithner, Bernanke??? Personally, I think it's the later.) And, wasn't the Nazi's in bed with radical Islam? hmmm. Why, YES!
Jello May 22, 2012 at 06:08 PM
It's the latter. Yup. alrighty then. At least I knew what I meant.
Jello May 22, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Minimum wage increase? Good thing for all of us low-income workers, seeing as we'll need the increase to buy the Subway $5, $7, I mean $10 Footlong. "Apparently, the city's new minimum wage, raised to $10.24 as of Jan. 1, make $5 footlongs an impossible business model. Unless you want tuna fish, which is the sub of the month. Yum" No Subway $5 Footlongs In SF, 'Cost of Doing Business' Too High http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/No-Subway-5-Footlongs-In-SF-Cost-of-Doing-Business-Too-High-144709445.html
Tim May 22, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Once I realize what is happening? That religion has caused more deaths, and continues to cause more hardship, than anything else combined? I do realize it, and so do millions of other people. It is why the membership of the catholic church is plummeting to record low numbers, with no end in sight. The only reason you do not equate the two sides equally, is that you are on one of them. By default, you have to root for your 'team' to keep your ego satisfied that you made the 'right choice'. However, everyone else not on either team, sees them both for what they are, a regressive institution of the past that we must shed in order to make progress as a species.
Jello May 23, 2012 at 05:32 PM
There is no equal. It's simple. It's good vs. evil and there is evil EVERYWHERE, you name it, there it is. On that note, I know what side I'm on, and my ego, as you so kindly put it, is 100% satisfied with the side I have chosen. I've made the right choice. In the meantime, Tim, you enjoy your "progress as a species"...whatever species that is ;)
Tim May 23, 2012 at 06:01 PM
I'm glad you are happy to be on the side of death and ignorance. Then again, according to your bible, you shouldn't be talking to a man about these things. And he shouldn't have to listen to you without putting you back in your place of being silent. 1 Timothy 2:12 Wonderful 'side' you are on there. It makes dismissing you so much more enjoyable when I can do it using your own 'rules'. And, here's your 'side' at a nazi picnic. Yes, it is a real picture. And yes, the catholic church was side by side with the nazi party in Germany. http://imgur.com/r/atheism/CxBg0
Jello May 23, 2012 at 07:22 PM
I'm glad you are happy to be on the side of death and ignorance.... Wonderful 'side' you are on there. It makes dismissing you so much more enjoyable when I can do it using your own 'rules'. So sorry. Didn't know there was rules. What's the name of this game? Do we just make it up as we go along? I bet you make it an art of dismissing people, don't you?
Jello May 23, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Are you an American? They hate American's. They want American's dead. That's all.
Jordan G. May 24, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Bring in a middle east country, and BOOM, five seconds there's some atheist bashing God.
John Moreli May 24, 2012 at 03:26 AM
The actual fault of pension short comings are the fault of State and local government! For year after year after year they failed to put the matching funds into the pension plans while the workers put their share into the plans! Also the State and local government borrow money from the pension plans and never pay it back! Thus causing pension failures and not the unions fault at all! As for downstate Police and Fire pension plans the State does not contribute to it all and have no say so or interest in the plans!
Tim May 24, 2012 at 03:29 AM
You didn't know the bible has rules? 1 Timothy 2:12 "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." These are the rules set down by your 'side'. Do you not want to follow them all of the sudden?

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