Budzinski Says Bipartisanship Has Been the Focus of First Month in Office

13th District Congresswoman Nikki Budzinski says her first month in office has been an effort to seek bipartisanship in the Republican-led new Congress.

The new 13th District includes Champaign-Urbana, Decatur, Springfield and a piece of the Metro East suburbs. The Springfield-based Democrat says she’s ready to get to work in her two major committee assignments: “I got appointed to the House Agriculture Committee, and I’m awaiting to find out my sub-committee assignments; but more exciting I’m going to be a part of negotiating the first farm bill in the last 5 years. I do think that even though we are a divided Congress very narrowly, the farm bill is the place where we really should be able to come together to get some things done for family farmers, for communities that are going to benefit from a strong farm bill throughout the 13th Congressional District. I’m really excited to get to find out what subcommittees I’m on. The second committee that I’m on is the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. I just got selected to be on the Health subcommittee. I’m very interested in working on things that support behavioral health for our veterans and making sure they have access to the healthcare that they deserve and that we owe them.”

Budzinski will be on the House Agriculture Committee with 15th District Illinois Republican Congresswoman Mary Miller. Budzinski says she spent much of her first week in Congress talking to Republican members in hopes of building bipartisan agreements on policy issues: “When I came out the first week for new member orientation, I made it a point to reach out to all of the Congressional delegation around me. I did sit down with Congresswoman Miller. I also sat down with Congressman Mike Bost. He is the chair of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee now. I also sat down with Congresswoman Cori Bush who represents St. Louis. Congresswoman Miller is on the House Agriculture Committee and we had a very nice conversation in my first week. We both agreed that maybe agriculture is the place where we can work together, and I look for those opportunities to work across the party aisle to get those things done on those issues where we can agree. I believe that things with issues surrounding agriculture and infrastructure are those sets of issues. Serving on the House Ag Committee with the Congresswoman, I hope we can find those issues where we can pull in the same direction for families in Central and Southern Illinois.”

Budzinski says she did speak with and hear concerns from outgoing members of Congress Rodney Davis and Cheri Bustos who had previously served lengthy tenures on the House Ag Committee. She says that she plans on helping craft the crop insurance and protection policies into the new farm bill. She says she also plans on joining the House Biofuels caucus to help promote Illinois’ biofuel production.

Budzinski says she’s still in the process of setting up her constituent offices throughout the district, but looks forward of being back home in the district on Thursday when the House adjourns so she can finish setting up constituent services and hear concerns from within the district to take them back to Washington.

More of Budzinski’s Interview with Ben Cox can be found here.

Person Shot, Police Pursuit in IL Rte 97 Incident

One person was shot in an alleged road rage incident involving a U-Haul truck on Illinois Route 97 yesterday afternoon.

According to a press release from the Menard County Sheriff’s Office, at approximately 4:26pm, the Menard County Sheriff’s Office received a call for assistance from the Mason County Sheriff’s Office. The Mason County Sheriff’s Office advised they had received a report of a motorist who had been shot, and was traveling southbound on IL-97 from the Kilbourne area. Mason County further advised that the victim was being pursued by the suspected shooter, who was reportedly driving a U-Haul box truck.

Menard County Sheriff’s Deputies, Petersburg Police Officers, and the Cass County Sheriff responded to the area to attempt to intercept the suspect and stop the pursuit of the victim. Information was then received that the victim had turned around and traveled back into Mason County, while the suspect reportedly continued south on IL-97. The suspect was intercepted by deputies on IL-97 at Atterberry, traveling southbound. The suspect refused to stop and a pursuit ensued. Deputies and officers made several attempts to box in the U-Haul to bring it to a stop. The suspect began driving erratically, nearly striking law enforcement vehicles. The deputies and officers continued their attempts to box-in the U-Haul and were able to successfully get the suspect to stop on IL-97 south of Schirding Avenue, approximately 2 miles northwest of Petersburg. Deputies then apprehended the suspect without further incident.

Deputies from the Mason County Sheriff’s Office arrived on scene and took custody of the suspect, who was transferred to the Mason County Jail in Havana . The victim was transported to a Springfield hospital.

This incident remains under investigation by the Mason and Menard County Sheriff’s Offices. The suspect remains in custody, pending charges after review by the Mason and Menard County State’s Attorneys. The Menard County Sheriff’s Office was assisted at the scene by the Petersburg Police, the Cass County Sheriff, and the IL Dept. of Natural Resources Conservation Police.

No further information about the incident has been released at this time.

Turner Introduces EMT Body Cam/Dash Cam Bill

48th District State Senator Doris Turner has introduced legislation that all EMS workers wear body cameras and all ambulances be outfitted with on-dash cameras.

Senate Bill 1306 would require “all EMS personnel to be equipped by their employers with body cameras that record the interactions of those personnel with patients, emergency responders, and members of the public during service calls.”

The bill comes in the wake of the death of 35 year old Earl Moore, Jr. of Springfield allegedly at the hands of two LifeStar EMS workers in December who strapped him face down in a gurney where he suffocated. Both EMS workers have been charged with first-degree murder.

Turner’s bill has a provision that would not allow the footage to be requested via the Freedom of Information Act unless being requested by “the person who made the service call or that person’s attorney or personal representative or a law enforcement official.”

EMT companies would have one year to come into compliance if the bill is approved.

The bill has been referred to assignments.

Tracy Presented Outstanding Legislator of the Year Award By IL Association of Park Districts

50th District State Senator Jil Tracy was recently awarded for her work on behalf of the state’s park districts.

Tracy was recently presented the Illinois Association of Park District’s Outstanding Legislator of the Year Award in a ceremony earlier this month.

IAPD President and Chief Executive Officer Peter Murphy commended Tracy’s commitment to advancing park and recreational opportunities for Illinois citizens by being an advocate for local government in legislation in Springfield.

Murphy says Tracy has participated in the Legislative Panel at the IAPD Legislative Conference in years past and has been responsive to IAPD questions and concerns during her tenure in the General Assembly.

Clinton Denied Sexual Assault Case Expungement

A 2021 criminal sexual assault case at the heart of a judge’s current trial with the Illinois Courts Commission was heard on a different matter last week.

Now 19-year old Drew S. Clinton of Taylor, Michigan appeared before Adams County Judge Roger Thomson on February 1st seeking to have his criminal sexual assault case expunged from the public record.

An expungement order directs the court to treat the criminal conviction as if it had never occurred, essentially removing it from a defendant’s criminal record as well as the public record.

Judge Robert Adrian found Clinton guilty of one count of criminal sexual assault during a bench trial on October 15, 2021. However, Adrian changed his mind at Clinton’s sentencing hearing on January 3, 2022, and declared him not guilty. The changing of the conviction and the fallout of events afterward have landed Adrian under investigation by the Judicial Inquiry Board resulting in a possible trial later on this year with the Illinois Courts Commission.

Clinton served 148 days in the Adams County Jail prior to having his conviction overturned during sentencing. The statute under which Clinton was convicted required a minimum four-year sentence in the Department of Corrections, but Adrian refused to impose the sentence, calling the county jail imprisonment for Clinton “plenty of punishment.”

Muddy Rivers News reports that Adams County Assistant State’s Attorney Laura Keck argued last Wednesday that the expungement should be denied on the grounds that if a person is ever charged with a sex offense, the state’s attorney’s office can file a motion to use prior offenses.

According to the report, Judge Thomson agreed with Keck’s argument and denied Clinton’s request for expungement. Clinton, who represented himself in the expungement hearing and presented no arguments last Wednesday, does have a right to appeal. Keck told Muddy River News that appeals on expungement cases are rare and are hardly ever won.

Aetna & Memorial Health Currently Hung Up on In-Network Provider Contract

Illinois State retirees in Central Illinois may lose access to the largest hospital system in the region if negotiations break down before the end of the month.

State retirees began receiving notices at the beginning of this month of a potential provider network change between Aetna and Memorial Health System. Aetna and Memorial Health Systems are currently in ongoing negotiations for the provider contract that is set to expire on April 1st. This negotiation does impact both Memorial affiliate hospitals and their physician groups.

According to the letter sent out, if Aetna and and Memorial have not reached an agreement by March 1st and a retiree is currently utilizing one of Memorial’s hospitals or physicians, you will be notified of the process of changing or selecting a new hospital, physician, or any transition of care needs.

For West Central Illinois retirees, that may mean traveling to Quincy, Jerseyville, or St. Louis to find an in-network doctor, specialist, or clinic.

In a statement released by Memorial Health today, the system says they have been working over the last several months to negotiate a new contract with Aetna, including commercial and Medicare Advantage plans: “We continue to negotiate with Aetna in good faith with the goal to ensure access continues beyond April 1, 2023 to Memorial Health facilities, services, physicians, and providers.”

An attempt to reach Aetna for additional comments has not been returned.

Top officials from the Illinois Department of Central Management Services and Aetna were called into question in November during the start of the previous General Assembly’s lame duck session over cuts to a single plan for state retirees with the company back in November.

LifeStar EMTs’ Motions to Reduce Bond in First-Degree Murder Case Denied

Two LifeStar EMTs accused of first-degree murder appeared in Sangamon County Court yesterday on a motion to reduce bond.

Sangamon County Judge Robin Schmidt denied the motion to reduce the $1 million bond for 44 year old Peggy Finley and 50 year old Peter Cadigan of Springfield.

The EMTs are being held at the Sangamon County Jail charged with the first-degree murder of 35-year old Earl Moore, Jr.

The EMTs are alleged to have strapped Moore face down to a stretcher causing him to suffocate to death back on December 18th after emergency services were requested to Moore’s home.

Cadigan and Finley have both pleaded not guilty to the charges. The State Journal-Register reports that Judge Schmidt, making her first appearance in the case which has gained national media attention, said there was “inherent risk” that neither of the defendants would appear at future court dates.

The next hearing in the criminal case is set for March 20th. Both Finley and Cadigan face 20 to 60 years behind bars for the offense, if convicted.

Moore’s family has filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit in the case against both EMTs and LifeStar Ambulance Service.

Adams Has Minute Order Entered in Jan. 6 Conviction After Comments to SJ-R

A Springfield man who recently pleaded guilty to his role in the January 6th Capitol Riot had a minute order issued by a federal judge in his case after the man’s comments in a recent State Journal Register interview.

U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta issued an order Friday instructing defendant 41 year old Thomas Adams Jr. and prosecutors to explain why the guilty findings the judge entered on Tuesday last week in a stipulated bench trial should not be overturned in light of Adams’ comments to reporter Steven Spearie of the SJ-R for an interview the following day.

Adams was found guilty of obstructing an official proceeding and aiding and abetting others in committing obstruction of an official proceeding, both felonies, and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, a misdemeanor.

Adams told the SJ-R he wouldn’t change anything he did that day, and claims he didn’t do anything: “I still to this day, even though I had to admit guilt [in the stipulation], don’t feel like I did what the charge is.”

In a brief order Friday morning, Mehta gave both sides one week to provide reasons “why the court should not vacate Defendant’s convictions of guilt in light of his post-stipulated trial statements” included in the article. The judge also attached a copy of the news report. Politico reports its unclear how Mehta obtained the SJ-R report. Politico says a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington declined to comment Friday on Mehta’s order and Adams’ public defenders also have not responded to a request for comment.

Adams’ sentencing hearing has been set for June 16th . Adams faces a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison on the obstruction charge, plus financial penalties of up to $250,000.

Adams Co. Judge’s Trial Date Before IL Courts Commission Likely Being Set in March

The trial date for for Eighth Judicial Circuit Judge Robert Adrian before the Illinois Courts Commission is going to be set next month.

Muddy Rivers News reports that on Thursday last week, attorneys on both sides of Adrian’s case pushed for a November trial date because of ongoing conflicts of scheduling. The Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board filed a complaint on June 17th last year against Adrian after he vacated the conviction of then-18 year old Drew Clinton in a felony criminal sexual assault case in October 2021. Chief Judge of the 8th Circuit, Pike County Judge J. Frank McCartney later removed Adrian from presiding over criminal cases on January 13th last year in the fallout of that decision.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Lewis Nixon who coordinated the hearing for the Illinois Courts Commission on Thursday was concerned about waiting almost a full year to hear Adrian’s case. Nixon set a March 9th pretrial hearing date so that the parties in the case can come to an agreement for the trial’s start.

Adrian testified under oath before the Judicial Inquiry Board in April last year about the Clinton case. The JIB’s complaint said Adrian explained his decision to reverse his finding of guilt in the sexual assault case was based upon the evidence and his conclusion that the prosecution had not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the victim could not give consent. Adrian also allegedly testified that his reversal was not an effort to “thwart the law.” The JIB alleged in its complaint that Adrian’s testimony was false, and Adrian knew it was false when he made the statements violating several rules of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

If found guilty by the Illinois Courts Commission of violating the code, Adrian could be reprimanded, censured, suspended, or permanently removed from the bench.

Adrian won retention to the bench at the November General Election. Adrian claimed during his retention campaign that public protests and national criticism he’s drawn for his decision in the Clinton case was a national smear campaign meant to get him to leave the judiciary.

McCartney recently reinstated Adrian to his former duties with the felony criminal court in the 8th Judicial Circuit on January 1st.

Jacksonville Youth Engagement Program Seeking Grant Applicants

The Jacksonville Youth Engagement Program (JYEP) is seeking to partner with organizations to bring activities to Jacksonville youth with an emphasis on those at risk. The program aims to build access to life and job skills, mental health, spiritual, emotional, social and educational development through after school and summer sports, arts, cultural and leisure activities. Geographic boundaries include students within Jacksonville School District 117.

Applicants are being sought from organizations that will provide programming for after school activities during the school year and/or during the summer. Grants will be awarded in April and are expected to range up to $5,000 annually and may be renewable.

Organizations that are interested applying should submit a proposal to the Jacksonville Youth Engagement Program by March 15th at 5PM to Lori Hartz via email at to receive application materials.

Priority will be given to organizations who partner financially in the project through cash and/or in- kind contributions.