Cheers to Gov. Pat Quinn who, with his signature Wednesday, plunged the fatal dagger into the much maligned legislative scholarship program.|
The governor long has advocated killing the more than 100-year-old legislative perk. He even used his amendatory veto pen last year to strike out the program that lets Illinois lawmakers give tuition waivers to state universities but offers few restrictions for doing so. Legislative leaders, however, kept it alive until public unrest led lawmakers to approve a bill killing it once and for all this spring.
It seems fitting that the governor's signature comes as federal prosecutors probe awards given by Sen. Anazette Collins. A June 1 subpoena by former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald requests information regarding recipients of the waivers handed out by the Chicago Democrat.
She's just the latest lawmaker to be accused of misuse of the program, but lawmakers long resisted dropping it because they say it helps them provide educational opportunities for students who otherwise might not get them.
We do not doubt that is the case for most lawmakers, but too many others used the waivers to reward political friends and relatives. Of course, the governor's action didn't kill the program immediately. Legislators can hand out the waivers for which universities are not reimbursed until September.
Elected officials facing credible opponents come November would be wise not to.
Jeers to a system that lets criminals in Illinois prisons and jails collect unemployment benefits. According to the Chicago Tribune, at the urging of state lawmakers, the Illinois Department of Employment Security has begun checking the list of unemployment beneficiaries against records of the 70,000 inmates in state and county lockups.
In just two weeks, department spokesman Greg Rivara told the Tribune, 420 prisoners have been identified as receiving unemployment compensation while behind bars. The average beneficiary gets about $320 per week. That's not bad a bad haul for not a single moment's work. They also could not personally have met the top criteria necessary for getting unemployment in Illinois: verifying eligibility by phone or email every two weeks.
How much is this abuse costing taxpayers? If you just use the 420 inmates uncovered thus far, it could add up to nearly $7 million in a year, Mr. Rivara said. The figure may be lower, officials caution, because some of those incarcerated may qualify for benefits — those, for example, who are serving only weekends or nights in jail, or those who are incarcerated for just a day or two. Still the problem is much more widespread than we had hoped. So ...
Cheers to State Rep. John Cavaletto and the Centralia Morning Sentinel reporter whose questions sparked the Salem Republican lawmaker to begin looking into the matter.
Rep. Cavaletto introduced a resolution calling on several agencies to cooperate in cross-checking records to uncover bogus benefits.
That led to the current anti-fraud effort to end abuse that not only hits taxpayers, it hurts businesses which pay for out-of-work employees.
"These small businesses that have to pay this unemployment insurance, their insurance should be lesser now," Rep. Cavaletto told the Tribune. "Can you imagine how many dollars we've lost through the years? It's in the millions."
Cheers to all responsible for persuading Saudi Arabia to send women to the Olympic Games for the first time. That Muslim nation was one of three that refused to let women participate in the 2008 games in Beijing. Now a nation that still bars women from legally driving cars will join Qatar and Brunei in sending female athletes to the London Games.
Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani will compete in judo and Sarah Attar will run the 800 meters at the London Games. Cheers to the International Olympic Committee for inviting the two women and for pressuring Saudi leaders to add them to the all-male team and especially to groups such as Human Rights Watch, which kept the heat on.
It is an important victory for Saudi women desperately in need of one. Though they were granted the right to vote and to run for office, they still cannot hold a job or go to school without permission and, of course, a ride from a man. And they must remain covered in public. Indeed, these Olympic women must follow Saudi strictures for women's clothing and they must be accompanied by male escorts while in London.
Alas, as activists warn, women in that nation still have a very long way to go. But for now it's worth celebrating that young women and girls soon will have the opportunity to watch and to imagine the possibilities as someone who looks like them competes on the world's biggest stage.
Silvis, IL Details
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