Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Irvin might run for Illinois Senate seat

Irvin might run for Illinois Senate seat

By Ed Fanselow

Congressman Henry Hyde's announcement earlier this week that he will not seek re-election has touched off a political domino effect that could open the door for failed Aurora mayoral candidate Richard Irvin to make a run for the Illinois Legislature.
Irvin said Thursday that he is "looking into the possibility" of running for the Illinois Senate seat that will be left open should sitting Sen. Peter Roskam enter the race to succeed Hyde in Washington.

"I'm definitely interested," Irvin said. "Above all, I'm interested in public service, but this could be a good opportunity for me to stay politically active."

He said his decision largely will be based on the two other men who Republican sources say are eyeing Roskam's seat — state Reps. Randy Hultgren, of Wheaton, and Joe Dunn, of Naperville.

Irvin indicated he likely would not run for Senate if Dunn enters the race and then would consider seeking to fill Dunn's seat in the Illinois House, which includes the DuPage County portion of Aurora and the western half of Naperville.

Roskam's Senate seat includes that area in addition to most of Wheaton, Warrenville, West Chicago and Winfield and parts of Batavia, Geneva and North Aurora.

Neither Dunn nor Hultgren could be reached for comment Thursday.

Irvin, a 34-year-old attorney, is less than three weeks removed from the Aurora mayoral race that saw him finish some 20 percentage points behind Democrat Tom Weisner in a highly partisan contest that attracted the attention of some of Illinois' most well-known political luminaries.

Both of the state's U.S. senators — Barack Obama and Dick Durbin — made campaign stops here on Weisner's behalf, while Irvin was buoyed by the endorsement and financial backing of House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego — in addition to both Dunn and Hultgren.

A Cross spokesman said Thursday that it is too early to tell which candidate — if any — Cross would back in a theoretical Republican primary for the state Senate seat.

Roskam, meanwhile, gave every indication Thursday that he is running for Congress, although he stopped short of declaring his candidacy.

Speaking during a conference call with about 20 reporters from his office in Springfield, he announced that he is embarking on an "exploratory" campaign to seek Hyde's 6th Congressional District seat less than one week after the conservative Capital Hill icon announced that he would step down after more than 30 years in office.

Roskam — a well-credentialed conservative in his own right and a one-time Hyde aide — long has been rumored to have designs on replacing the 81-year-old Hyde, whose district now encompasses a broad swath of northern DuPage County stretching from O'Hare International Airport to near the Kane County line.

Like Hyde, Roskam has focused his legislative career on advancing a deeply conservative social agenda which includes a strong opposition to abortion, embryonic stem cell research and — as evidenced recently — homosexual rights. He is also a staunch fiscal conservative who favors smaller government and lower taxes.

He said Thursday that he wouldn't shy away from charges that he would serve as a "Hyde clone" if he went to Washington.

"There's no higher praise than that," Roskam said. "If I could emulate him, that would be a goal of mine. My fondness for him has no end."

Roskam also dismissed the notion floated by one of his likely opponents — fellow Republican state Sen. Carole Pankau of Roselle — that voters in Hyde's district are looking for more socially moderate representation.

"I think she's a bit misguided in that characterization," Roskam said. "This is a district that has elected Henry Hyde for 31 years, and they're comfortable with who he is and the way he's handled himself in Washington."

Former DuPage County Recorder J.P. Rick Ricardi is the only Republican to announce a formal bid for the office, although Pankau and former State Rep. Tom Johnson of West Chicago both have said they are considering a run seriously.
Beacon News


DeLay could factor in race for Hyde seat

DeLay could factor in race for Hyde seat
April 22, 2005

BY SCOTT FORNEK Political Reporter

The ethical questions dogging House Majority Leader Tom DeLay boiled over into the west suburban 6th Congressional District race Thursday, as one Republican pledged support and another called on the Texas congressman to relinquish his leadership post.

"What I read in the paper, whether it's correct or not, just seems to be an embarrassment for the Republican Party," said former DuPage County Recorder of Deeds J.P. "Rick" Carney. "To stay in his leadership position seems arrogant to me."

But state Sen. Peter Roskam, who worked for DeLay 20 years ago, voiced support.

"Trotting out some of ... these old accusations that are two and three and four years old is a little bit tiresome," Roskam said. "I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt."

Roskam 'learned a lot' in 1998

The clash of opinions came as Roskam announced he is "formally exploring" jumping into the race to succeed Republican Rep. Henry Hyde. Carney is already a candidate. Other potential GOP hopefuls include state Sen. Carole Pankau of Roselle and former state Rep. Tom Johnson of West Chicago.

Hyde just announced his retirement Monday, but already the contest is producing sparks.

Carney portrayed himself as more moderate on issues such as abortion, gun control and gay rights than Roskam, who is positioning himself as the ideological heir of the 16-term conservative icon. Carney even took a poke at Roskam for running in the neighboring 13th Congressional District in 1998.

"If he loses this race, he'll run in the 14th [Congressional District], when [House Speaker J. Dennis] Hastert retires," Carney said, laughing.

In a conference call from Springfield, Roskam told reporters he did not expect his 1998 run to be a campaign issue because of his "long-standing ties" to the 6th Congressional District.

"It was a great race," Roskam said of the 1998 contest. "I learned a lot, and I think it actually places me at an advantage."

Roskam also dismissed questions about whether he was too conservative, opposing abortion and most gun control and gay rights measures.

"This is a district that has sent someone like Henry Hyde to the Congress for the past 31 years," Roskam said.

Roskam, 43, is a lawyer who lives in Wheaton. He worked as an aide to DeLay in 1985 and part of 1986, but said he has "not had any contact with him essentially for 20 years."

"I think everybody agrees that he's one of the most effective legislators in Washington, D.C.," Roskam said. "Knowing what I know now about what Tom DeLay's been accused of, my attitude would be to support him."

Carney: 'More moderate stance'

DeLay has been embarrassed by news reports raising questions about who finances his overseas travel and his ties to lobbyists, including Jack Abramoff, who is being investigated by a federal grand jury and a U.S. Senate committee.

Carney, 58, who also lives in Wheaton, quipped that Roskam might not want to advertise his past work for DeLay.

"He should keep that to himself," Carney joked.

But Carney said ideology will be a bigger campaign issue here than the Texan's troubles.

Carney said he is a fiscal conservative and proponent of smaller government and congressional term limits. But he said he supports some gun control measures and allowing gay couples to file joint income tax returns and share insurance coverage. He said abortion should remain legal.

"Do we want a congressman to serve the 6th District who is ultra-conservative, or are we going to go in the direction that all America is taking, a more moderate stance?" Carney asked. "I am for freedom. I'm for America being the home of the free."

Copyright © The Sun-Times Company

Insiders like Roskam's chances of grabbing seat

Insiders like Roskam's chances of grabbing seat

April 19, 2005

BY SCOTT FORNEK Political Reporter

Look for a stampede of Republicans to succeed Rep. Henry Hyde -- but when the dust clears, most political insiders expect state Sen. Peter Roskam to be in the lead. "I see Roskam walking into this," one DuPage Republican said.

Others were a bit more measured, but all see Roskam as the one to watch now that Hyde has announced he will not seek a 16th term in the west suburban 6th Congressional District.

"Now that state Sen. Dan Cronin has withdrawn his name as a possible successor to Congressman Hyde, state Sen. Peter Roskam would appear to be the front-runner," said DuPage County Chairman Kirk Dillard, a state senator from Hinsdale.

"He has name recognition. He's a legislator and has experience and knows how to campaign. . . . He has run for Congress before."

Roskam, 43, a lawyer from Wheaton, ran for the neighboring 13th Congressional District seat in 1998 after Rep. Harris Fawell announced his retirement.

No interest from Birkett

Other names include state Sen. Carole Pankau (R-Roselle), 57; former state Rep. Tom Johnson of West Chicago, 59; DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett, 50; and former DuPage County Recorder of Deeds J.P. Carney, 58.

Birkett spokesman Dan Curry said the prosecutor is focusing on a possible run for governor and has no interest in Congress, despite speculation.

"That's just somebody trying to cause mischief, wishful thinking by someone who wants him out of the governor's race," Curry said.

But Carney, 58, is ready to go, pledging to pump as much as $500,000 of his own money into the race if he needs to.

"I've hired consultants from Washington," Carney said. "I've got 10 fund-raisers planned. . . . The race is going to come down to money."

Dems: It's a 'swing district'

State Republican Chairman Andy McKenna Jr. showered praise on Roskam but stopped short of an endorsement. "As party chairman, I've certainly got to be open to the process, but I think he would be a very strong nominee."

Roskam declined to comment until Hyde's retirement is official.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, a Northwest Side Democrat and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Hyde's retirement makes the 6th "a swing district."

"People are voting for change," Emanuel said, pointing to all the suburban mayors ousted in the April 5 election.

Democrat Christine Cegelis, 52, won 44 percent against Hyde last year and is making another run. But the Rolling Meadows insurance agent has had lackluster success at fund-raising, taking in just $44,263 in the first three months of the year.

"It is very early days for raising money in a congressional race," Cegelis said, dismissing concerns that Democratic leaders will try to push her aside.

Contributing: Lynn Sweet

Copyright © The Sun-Times Company

U. of C. Hospitals sued for error that resulted in removal of breast

U. of C. Hospitals sued for error that resulted in removal of breast

May 11, 2005

BY BEN FISCHER Sun-Times Springfield bureau

SPRINGFIELD -- A Will County woman sued the University of Chicago Hospitals on Tuesday after a January lab mix-up mistakenly diagnosed her with breast cancer and caused a surgeon to needlessly remove her healthy right breast.

The lawsuit comes as the legislative debate over jury awards in medical malpractice cases crescendos, with the General Assembly poised today to consider limits on how much victims can collect.

New Lenox resident Molly Akers, 33, a housewife and former fitness instructor, is asking for more than $200,000 in damages because of her pain, suffering and possible lost wages.

She said the trauma has been particularly difficult for her 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son, who have endured a steady stream of disruptions in their life, not the least of which is a disabled mom.

"I couldn't pick her up," Akers said, referring to her daughter. "They don't understand that 'Mommy can't hold you.' "

Akers' lawyer, Bob Clifford, a former president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, brought her to a statehouse press conference in hopes of propping up the argument against caps on malpractice jury awards. Lawyers say caps would punish the poor, are unconstitutional and wouldn't solve the problem of doctors leaving Illinois to escape rapidly escalating malpractice insurance rates.

Akers already was being treated for a rare form of cancer that had developed deep in her neck and shoulder muscles when her doctor, who is not named in the suit, had reason to believe the cancer had spread. After a biopsy initially came back positive, surgeons performed a mastectomy Feb. 2.

A week later, a nurse called Akers, asking her to come in the next day. Then, doctors broke the devastating news: There had never been any cancer in her breast.

"I came in, the surgeon started crying, and at that point, time just stops," she said. "I'm thinking, 'I'm 33 years old. What else can happen?' "

Lawyer lauds cooperation

Akers estimated that the unnecessary surgery, along with disfiguring her torso, put her overall recovery time back six weeks. She said she and her doctors are cautiously optimistic about her long-term recovery chances.

A hospital spokesman declined to comment on the specifics of Akers' case, but emphasized that personnel have cooperated with Akers and that administrators "deeply regret" what happened. Clifford praised the hospital's cooperation in the suit, but noted the legal action taken Tuesday is necessary to publicize the dangers of medical mistakes.

"If we hadn't sued, you'd never know about it," he said.

For the first time last week, the Legislature's Democratic leaders signaled their willingness to allow votes on jury award caps, dismaying long-term political allies like lawyers and organized labor. A House committee is slated to consider one proposal this morning.

Pro-caps state Sen. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton) said stories like Akers' -- as heart-wrenching as they may be -- aren't likely to influence anyone who believes malpractice awards are forcing doctors out of practice. "[Those stories] are countered against huge numbers of people who are having really limited health care in Illinois," he said.

Copyright © The Sun-Times Company

Roskam: the right successor to Hyde

Roskam: the right successor to Hyde

May 7, 2005



'Just call me reasonable Roskam,'' he says. And several Democratic lawmakers agree that's exactly what state Sen. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton) is. Also, social conservatives have tabbed him as their go-to guy. He's a perfect 10 on their issues. He's pro-life and supports gun owners' rights, opposes special privileges for gays, supports home schooling, opposes tax increases. Yet with folksiness and deft humor, Roskam has been careful to sandpaper away any rough edges so he can succeed the retiring and beloved U.S. Rep. Henry J. Hyde. As a young man. Roskam worked for Hyde and was an intern for the combative Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) long before DeLay's ethics woes.

After Washington, Roskam entered a lucrative law practice with former state Rep. Al Salvi, and like Salvi, he went to the Legislature. In 1998, liberal Republican Rep. Harris Fawell retired in the 13th District stronghold comprising the southern part of DuPage County, including fashionable Hinsdale. Roskam, then living in Winfield, moved to Naperville to run for the seat. His primary opponent, multimillionaire social liberal state Rep. Judy Biggert (whose husband is even richer) called him a carpet-bagger. A poster child for bland country club Republicanism, lawyer Biggert gave more than $400,000 to her campaign and got hefty contributions from Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign (for her support of gay rights bills).

But more significant than Biggert's personal wealth was her newfound support of term limits. She stunned her liberal friends by vowing to quit after six years, which drew great support from the libertarian right. This the highly principled Roskam couldn't match, believing that only voters should decide how long one serves in Congress.

Term limits pulled Biggert through the primary, 45 percent to 40 percent, and she swept the general election with 61 percent of the vote. (Oh yes, after she went to Congress, she renounced her term-limit pledge as impractical). Roskam ruefully says he learned something about political gamesmanship from that campaign, but he still won't budge on core convictions, a prime reason conservatives cling to him.

Now Roskam, who moved to Wheaton to run, is the odds-on favorite in Hyde's 6th Congressional District, which includes the DuPage suburbs surrounding O'Hare Airport. It's a tougher district than the 13th for Republicans. Hyde won in 2004 with only 55.8 percent of the vote, somewhat weak for an icon -- probably because of some independent voter discontent with his role in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

Roskam has covered his bases well with issue interest groups on the right, winning approval of them all, including Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum. Still, he faces several opponents, including a former DuPage recorder of deeds, liberal J.P. Carney. Carney shouldn't be much of a threat, but the possible entry of pro-life moderate Sen. Carol Pankau of Bloomingdale could. Then there's conservative former state Rep. Tom Johnson of West Chicago, who has lots of personal money but doesn't spend it, often filing for races late and many dollars short. Democrats vying for the seat include arbitrator Peter O'Malley of Wheaton and Christine Cegelis of Rolling Meadows, a businesswoman who ran against Hyde in 2004.

Surprisingly, some Senate Democrats are willing to volunteer praise for Roskam's ability to work cooperatively, recognizing that he will use it in his campaign. Louis Viverito of Burbank says Roskam is ''a wonderful man who has grown in his job, is highly capable and an energetic debater''; Donald Harmon of Oak Park describes him as ''a noble adversary,'' and Jacqueline Collins of Chicago says he has ''good values'' and is an ''able debater who does his homework.''

If elected, Roskam would quickly become a key conservative leader and point man in the U.S. House. One primary opponent has snarled, ''Illinois doesn't need another Henry Hyde clone in the House.'' Big gaffe: Peter Roskam aims to be exactly that on social policy and foreign affairs -- besides taking on the old-fashioned issue of balanced budgeting that House Republicans sorely need. Sounds reasonable, doesn't it?

Copyright © The Sun-Times Company

Roskam Announces Bid To Replace Hyde

CBS 2 Chicago WBBM-TV | cbs2chicago.com
Roskam Announces Bid To Replace Hyde

May 16, 2005 12:40 pm US/Central

Conservative state Sen. Peter Roskam jumped into the race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde in Congress Monday, announcing that he will seek the Republican nomination.

As a lawmaker, Roskam has mingled conservative views with strong diplomatic skills to emerge as one of the Legislature's key voices on the right.

He has also been a frequent critic of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, questioning the Democrat's plan to mortgage the state's Chicago headquarters and demanding public information about a major pharmaceutical contract.

Roskam could face serious challenges for Hyde's seat in Chicago's northwest suburbs.

Sen. Carole Pankau, a moderate Republican from Roselle, is a potential rival. In the general election, Democrat Christine Cegelis, who got 44 percent of the vote against Hyde in 2004, is likely to run again.

Hyde has represented the area since 1974, pushing for restrictions on government funding of abortion and managing the impeachment case against President Clinton in 1998.

He announced on his 81st birthday last month that he would retire when his term ends in 2006, saying physical limitations from back surgery two years ago have made it difficult to keep up the pace of a congressman.

Roskam, 44, once worked in Hyde's congressional office. He was also an aide to U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, now the embattled House majority leader.

Roskam lives in Wheaton and is married with four children. He served in the Illinois House from 1993 to 1999 and has been in the state Senate since 2000.

© 2005 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Roskam to vie for Hyde seat

Roskam to vie for Hyde seat
GOP Senate whip has 3 opponents so far

By John Biemer
Tribune staff reporter

May 17, 2005

Peter Roskam, the state Senate's Republican whip, officially entered the race Monday to succeed longtime U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde in the 6th Congressional District and picked up the endorsement of an influential Republican leader: DuPage GOP Chairman Kirk Dillard.

Dillard, a state senator from Hinsdale, described Roskam of Wheaton as the best candidate to ensure that the seat remains in the hands of a Republican.

"He clearly has the greatest legislative experience, the largest volunteer base, he's a known fundraiser and, most importantly, he's the most qualified person to step into the gigantic shoes of Henry Hyde," said Dillard, who was not at the event.

"I'm well aware that ... there is no one who will fill [Hyde's] shoes. My goal is to walk in his shadow," Roskam, 43, said in launching his bid, surrounded by family in a Glen Ellyn recreational-center gym with more than 150 supporters.

"I'm a conservative, and I don't run from that label," Roskam said, listing priorities that include tax restraint, a strong national defense, local control over education and opposition to abortion, except when the mother's life is endangered.

Roskam, who spent the last four weeks exploring a bid, joins one other announced candidate in the Republican field: former DuPage County Recorder J.P. "Rick" Carney.

State Sen. Carole Pankau (R-Roselle) and former state Rep. Tom Johnson (R-West Chicago) have expressed interest in the office.

Two Democrats also are running: Christine Cegelis of Rolling Meadows, who heads an informational technology consulting firm, and attorney Peter O'Malley of Wheaton.

Cegelis took 44 percent of the vote last fall against Hyde, who is retiring at the end of this two-year term. That was the best showing for a Democrat against Hyde in more than three decades and it fueled Democrats' hopes that they could claim the seat in what they say is a changing district.

But Roskam dismissed concerns Monday that he is too conservative for the district and expressed confidence that voters will respond to him because he has been consistent in his 12 years in the General Assembly.

"You don't beat Democrats by assimilating their views and becoming Democrats," he said. Roskam, an attorney, described last year's election cycle as "a little bit of an aberration, with the U.S. Senate campaign the way it was and President Bush's decision not to spend any money in Illinois."

But Carney said GOP margins of victory have consistently narrowed over the two decades he served in countywide office. "That's a fact and there's no anomaly about it," he said.

"I don't think an ultra-conservative will represent the 6th District," said Carney, who said key issues in his campaign include guaranteeing Social Security and improving access to medical insurance. "I think my views are more closely associated with the people of this district."

The district encompasses much of northeastern DuPage County, west to Wheaton and north into parts of Cook County.



Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune

Schwarzenegger flexes for top GOP donors here

Schwarzenegger flexes for top GOP donors here

May 24, 2005

BY SCOTT FORNEK Political Reporter

The Terminator came to Chicago Monday, but he acted more like the Invisible Man.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was here to raise money for an organization he formed to push a package of ballot initiatives in his home state -- and Republican donors were the only ones that got more than a glimpse of him.

The movie star-turned politician went to great lengths to avoid a group of protesters, a handful of reporters and a few fans looking for autographs outside his fund-raiser at the Chicago Hilton and Towers.

"Dude, a little over-aggressive!" one fan griped after Schwarzenegger's handlers hustled the Republican governor out a side door, past onlookers and into a Ford Explorer after the event.

Reporters were not allowed to listen to the speech Schwarzenegger delivered or stand in any of the hotel hallways nearby to wait for him to come out.

Inside the event, the California Republican was no shrinking violet, according to those in attendance.

"He was very direct and very forthright," said Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica, who is running for Cook County Board president. "He didn't mince words about the problems and the solutions that are necessary."

Funds for California issues

The luncheon was held to help fund the California Recovery Team, which is supporting efforts to give the California governor more power over state budget cuts, revamp state pensions, change how the Golden State draws its legislative districts and other measures.

"He essentially said, 'Look, if we accomplish this task in California, there are 49 other states that are looking at our success," said state Sen. Peter Roskam, a Wheaton Republican running for Congress.

"He's a national guy. He's larger than life politically. And you know, California is the big state in the union politically. So the elements are there to have a . . . a very significant ripple effect."

Those ripples have Schwarzenegger's detractors worried.

Outside, about a dozen Illinois nurses protested to show solidarity with their California counterparts, who are upset that Schwarzenegger is trying to make it easier for hospitals to use fewer nurses for more patients. They say he is also trying to privatize nurses' pensions and is beholden to drug companies, hospitals and insurance companies.

"Arnold, Arnold! You can't hide! We can see your corporate side!" they chanted.

Illinois Republicans like him

At one point a Cessna airplane flew overhead trailing a banner reading, "Arnold. Don't Sell CA to Big Business."

"We call it 'Air Arnold' because, of course, we're taking on a very popular figure, and we need all means to do so -- including an Air Force," said Michael Lighty, director of public policy for the California Nurses Association and the National Nurses Organizing Committee.

Republican bigwigs at the event shrugged off the dissent outside.

"Gov. Schwarzenegger has a lot of admirers around the country for what he's done with his victory in California, what he's done with the administration so far in California," said former Gov. Jim Thompson.

Former Gov. Jim Edgar said: "You don't undo the financial mess they had overnight. It takes time, and I think he's working on some long-term solutions. So I applaud him for that."

Some of the potential Republican gubernatorial hopefuls attended, trying to get some of Schwarzenegger's star power to rub off on them.

"He's brought a breath of fresh air," said dairy owner Jim Oberweis, who announced his candidacy last month. "It's clear that nobody's going to be able to influence him with dollars, and I don't think anyone's going to influence me with dollars."

DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett, who is exploring a run for governor, said "we want to follow the lead of Gov. Schwarzenegger here in the state of Illinois.

"He works," Birkett said. "He puts the people's business first. And that's certainly a style that I would, not only emulate, but that's a style I live by."

Copyright © The Sun-Times Company

Contender for Hyde seat brags he's raised $150K

Contender for Hyde seat brags he's raised $150K

May 24, 2005

BY SCOTT FORNEK Political Reporter

Saying he is "trying to send a message," state Sen. Peter Roskam announced Monday he raised more than $150,000 for his bid for Congress in just 30 days.

"I'm very encouraged," the Wheaton Republican said. "I'm trying to send a message that there's a great deal of support out there for this campaign."

Roskam, 43, is vying to succeed retiring Republican Rep. Henry Hyde in the west suburban 6th Congressional District. Former DuPage County Recorder of Deeds J.P. "Rick" Carney, 58, is the only other Republican in the race, but state Sen. Carole Pankau of Roselle, 57, is considering jumping in.

'It's going to take a lot more'

Carney was not impressed by Roskam's fund-raising, saying he has received $400,000 in pledges from potential donors and has offers for 11 fund-raisers in Illinois and four other states.

"I've been around a long time, and I've got a lot of friends," Carney said. "So 150,000 bucks is really nice. I'm happy for him, but it's going to take a lot more than that. And this race is about money."

Roskam entered the race a week ago, but has been raising money since he formed an exploratory committee in April. Federal law does not require him to file a financial disclosure report until July.

Federal law bars corporate contributions and limits donations from individuals to $2,000 and from political action committees to $5,000.

"The fact that we have raised $150,000 in his first month reinforces his position as the front-runner," said Ryan McLaughlin, Roskam's campaign manager.

Copyright © The Sun-Times Company


Raise cash, leave in a flash

Hal Dardick

May 24, 2005

As California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger regaled the state's top Republicans at the Chicago Hilton & Towers Monday, three Ford Broncos waited near a side door.

When he finished speaking--to raise money for his pet California ballot initiatives--bodyguards rushed to the Broncos, peeled rubber leaving the driveway, sped around the building and screeched to a halt.

Without so much as an "I'll be back," Schwarzenegger dashed from a side door into a Bronco, and all three sped off.

On his way in, the Terminator-turned-governor managed to evade nurses marching in protest of his policies, fans hoping for a glimpse of a celebrity, and reporters seeking a quote.

But Schwarzenegger wowed GOP pols, including former Gov. Jim Edgar, who snagged an autograph for his 10-year-old grandson.

Edgar and others, including state Sen. Peter Roskam of Wheaton, praised Schwarzenegger's personal story and political career. Roskam even conceded the Governator's drawing power is greater because of his acting career.

"I think they are looking at him first as the Terminator and second as governor," Roskam said.

Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune

Senate sends gun-show bill giving gun lobby another win

Senate sends gun-show bill giving gun lobby another win

Thursday, May 26, 2005

SPRINGFIELD — State lawmakers gave the gun lobby another victory Wednesday, approving legislation that would close a loophole in background checks of gun buyers but also bar police from keeping records of gun purchases.

The bill passed the Senate 34-25 and now goes to Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who said he will use his amendatory veto to rewrite it.

The legislation puts gun-control advocates in an awkward position.

It would require people buying weapons at gun shows to go through the same background checks as in stores, a change long sought by gun control supporters. But it also would require law enforcement to destroy records of firearm purchases 90 days after the sale, which critics fear will hamper police efforts to track down criminals.

The National Rifle Association and its allies consider the police databases an invasion of law-abiding citizens' privacy rights.

Supporters of the legislation said linking the two was the only way to break through the gridlock on gun issues. Lawmakers have repeatedly blocked gun-control proposals by Blagojevich and Mayor Richard Daley this session, while supporting part of the NRA's agenda.

Sen. Peter Roskam (R-Glen Ellyn), said lawmakers should do more than complain and send out press releases condemning the other side.

"I'm choosing to do something," he said. "This is an attempt to bring a wide range of parties together for some sort of compromise."

Critics said the proposal was too heavily weighted toward gun-rights advocates.

"This bill is not a compromise, this is an outright surrender," said Sen. Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston).

Blagojevich said records of gun purchases help police track down who bought a weapon used in a crime and can be used to tell whether a home being raided is likely to contain guns.

"Why would we take a valuable public safety tool like that away?" he said in a statement. "We can — and should — keep gun transaction records and close the gun show loophole."

Blagojevich said he would use his veto powers to change the section on keeping records and send the bill back to lawmakers. Accepting his changes would require a simple majority vote by lawmakers; overriding them would take a three-fifths majority.

On Tuesday, the House narrowly rejected legislation to ban assault weapons and .50-caliber rifles. The sponsor, Rep. Edward Acevedo, D-Chicago, says he is working on a new version to address some opponents' concerns and hoped to present the amendment today.


The bill is SB57.

On the Net: www.legis.state.il.us

Hearing aimed at stripping casino of license resumes

Three years after it began, a hearing aimed at stripping the bankrupt Emerald Casino Inc. of its gambling license resumed Wednesday with a former gaming board administrator testifying that the casino had no riverboat or gambling devices of its own when it sought license renewal eight years ago.

The three-year time lag since witness Michael Belletire, a former Illinois Gaming Board administrator, was last on the stand prompted several jokes. Belletire, who is balding, even quipped that he had hair when he originally took an oath to testify.

The license revocation hearing began May 29, 2002, but was put on hold June 13, 2002, after Emerald was forced into bankruptcy and while the state worked out a settlement with Emerald. The gaming board has been trying to revoke Emerald's license since 2001, over concerns about the company and possible mob ties in Rosemont, where Emerald had planned to relocate and build a casino.

If the license is revoked, the state could hold an auction to reissue the license to another casino company, regulators said.

Last year, Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced plans to resume the revocation hearing after the gaming board selected Isle of Capri's $518 million bid for the license held by Emerald even though it also planned to build in Rosemont. However, the gaming board did not have enough members to appoint a judge for the hearing. Gov. Rod Blagojevich let the Gaming Board languish for seven months without a quorum before naming new members in March.

Last month, new board chairman Aaron Jaffe appointed Abner Mikva, a former U.S. Court of Appeals chief judge and congressman, as judge for the revocation hearing. Jaffe said he wanted the hearing to resume because he claimed the state has lost about $500 million in revenue since 1997 when Emerald's owners closed its casino in East Dubuque and later decided to reopen in Rosemont.

On Wednesday, Belletire testified he and the gaming board staff had recommended to the gaming board that Emerald's license not be renewed when it applied for renewal in March 1997.

"Our basis for that was that they didn't have a riverboat and didn't have gambling devices," he said.

He later acknowledged Emerald was leasing a riverboat and gambling machines until June 1997, but said Emerald gave no indication the lease would extend beyond that date.

When Emerald attorney Robert Clifford asked Belletire if he had once said he could have Emerald's license revoked in 60 days, Belletire said he could not force that to happen.

"If I did, it was certainly a level of hyperbole that this proceeding today underscores," Belletire said.

According to a preliminary list the Gaming Board provided, other expected witnesses it intends to call include Emerald owners Donald and Kevin Flynn; Rosemont Mayor Donald Stephens; Nicholas Boscarino, a former business partner of Stephens who was sentenced last week to three years in prison for swindling an insurance agency out of more than $144,000; and Sherri Boscarino, who is Nicholas Boscarino's wife. A trust named for Sherri Boscarino was an investor in Emerald and has been accused by the Gaming Board of associating with organized crime.

The list of potential witnesses also included Emerald investor Joseph Salamone, who has been accused by the Gaming Board of associating with organized crime; and Peter DiFronzo, brother of reputed organized crime member John DiFronzo.

However, Mikva warned attorneys for Emerald and the Gaming Board to call only essential witnesses. The Gaming Board listed 34 witnesses it could call, but Emerald's list has not been submitted.

"We have been too long in this task and we must get it completed for everybody's sake," Mikva said.

Attorneys for Rosemont have argued that a new casino would be located in Rosemont, regardless of whether Emerald's license is revoked, based on a decision by the Illinois Supreme Court last year. That ruling said state law required gambling regulators to renew Emerald's license and allow it to relocate to Rosemont, they said.

Madigan's office disagrees with Rosemont's interpretation of that ruling and has said the casino would not have to be located in Rosemont.

Lawmakers vote to bar minors from driving with cell phones

SPRINGFIELD — For teenagers like 17-year-old Adam Bonefeste, part of driving is talking on his cell phone with friends.

"It's the only time I talk on the phone," the Springfield High School senior said. "I talk so much on the phone while I'm in the car, it's just like second nature."

It's a habit he and his friends will have to change if Gov. Rod Blagojevich signs a piece of legislation approved by Illinois lawmakers Wednesday.

The proposal would ban 16- and 17-year-olds from talking on cell phones while driving — even if they use hands-free devices. Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch did not immediately know Wednesday if the governor would sign it.

Lawmakers hope such a ban will help reduce auto accidents in Illinois by removing a distraction for rookie drivers.

But Bonefeste and Leslie Cornell, also a senior at the school, are convinced their driving isn't affected by talking on the phone.

"I suppose it's probably true that teens have more accidents or something like that ... but I don't think there's any connection with cell phones," Cornell said.

Besides, she said, adults are probably just as distracted by cell phones, so if the state wants to ban drivers from talking on cell phones, the ban should cover everyone.

The Chicago City Council took that step earlier this month.

Starting in July, anyone caught using a hand-held cell phone while driving in the city can be fined $50 or more; hands-free devices will still be allowed.

Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago, a supporter of the bill to keep cell phones out of the hands of young drivers on the road, said he didn't think there was enough support for applying a similar ban on hand-held phones for all drivers statewide.

For drivers who just got their licenses, cell phone can be a big distraction, Cullerton said. "It's clear that young people who are driving have such a high crash rate because of distractions," he said.

He noted that lawmakers have passed other measures in recent years to limit distractions for young drivers, such as the number of passengers under the age of 18 they can have in a car.

The Senate voted 41-16 Wednesday in favor of the bill to ban cell phone use by drivers under age 18; the House passed the same legislation 108-6 last week.


The bill is SB210.

On the Net: http://www.ilga.gov

Obama voices 'Dreams,' hobnobs with legends

Obama voices 'Dreams,' hobnobs with legends

May 26, 2005


On five weekend days spread through February, March and April, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) headed to Bosco Productions on East Grand in Chicago, a recording studio.

The result, just released, is the audiobook, in Obama's own voice, of his best-selling autobiography, Dreams from My Father. The complete book took Obama 20 hours to record in five sessions of four hours each. The compact disc set listening time is 7.5 hours.

Random House is offering several ways to hear Obama tell his story; the abridged compact disc set is $25.95 and an abridged audio download was selling online for $13. Maybe this will lead to an Emmy for Obama.

Earlier in May, Obama and wife, Michelle, headed to California to attend part of Oprah Winfrey's Legends Ball weekend, which ran May 13-15 at her spread in Santa Barbara. The current edition of People magazine, which puts the Oprah festivities on the cover, features a great picture of Obama, grinning from here to there as he stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Barbra Streisand.

Obama paid for the trip himself, not out of political funds, one of his spokesmen told me.

Why no Illinois filibuster

There is a reason why Illinois federal judicial picks never figure in controversial Senate confirmation fights. That's because for years there has been a bipartisan deal between the Illinois powers in Congress to only send consensus nominations to the White House.

Here's how it works under the Illinois Pact, where the advise part of advise and consent is taken seriously. It is a model the rest of the nation may want to pay some attention to as the Senate gets back to work after averting a showdown over President Bush's most contentious nominees.

The deal ensures the party in the minority still has a voice in picking federal judges. It worked like this Wednesday. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Obama, with the agreement of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), sent Bush two proposed nominees -- Gary Feinerman, the solicitor general for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and Virginia Kendall, a federal prosecutor, for one vacancy on the federal District Court sitting in Chicago.

Illinois Democrats get one out of every four slots, since the GOP holds the White House. Hastert, as the top Republican -- and with Bush in the White House -- has three out of every four slots. If a Democrat were to be president, the ratio would be reversed.

What makes this work is that no name goes forward unless all three -- Hastert, Durbin, Obama -- can live with the choice. The names sent to Bush on Wednesday came from the Democrats, and two were provided to give Bush a choice.

Dems aim at Roskam

State Sen. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton), who is running for Congress (for the retiring Rep. Henry Hyde [R-Ill.] seat), skipped a vote in Springfield on Friday on a Democratic resolution against Bush's plan to create private investment accounts from Social Security payroll taxes which passed. He was one of seven state senators who did not vote, but the only one to get in the cross hairs of Citizen Action, a Democratic-allied group working against the Bush plan. Not voting calls into question, said Citizen Action, his "readiness for Congress."

Cloutless in Chicago

So Mayor Daley has discovered that clout plays a role in city hiring and now, with yet another expose in the headlines, finally wants to do something about it. He is looking to invent some antiseptic process that may restore some credibility to his administration.

Let me tell you a story.

In the late 1960s, even at the height of wide-open patronage under the first Mayor Daley, the city had a system that let in the naive applicants who did not know they were supposed to get a political sponsor for a job. I was a junior in high school, at Von Steuben, on the North Side and clueless about clout. My mother, of blessed memory, had said there is this thing called civil service, where people with the top grades on tests were first in line for jobs.

I cold-called City Hall sometime in 1968 and asked what exams were being given for people without a high school diploma. I was told the Chicago Public Library hired junior library clerks without a degree.

I took the test, scored, I think second place and just like that got a job that I worked at for three summers. My point is, there are systems for Mayor Daley to do it right. There are ways. Always have been. There just has to be the political will.

Copyright © The Sun-Times Company

Senate approves 2-sided gun bill

Senate approves 2-sided gun bill
Governor promises to veto part of plan

By Ray Long and Christi Parsons, Tribune staff reporters. Tribune staff reporter Erika Slife contributed to this report

May 26, 2005

SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich vowed Wednesday to veto legislation requiring the destruction of state records on gun sales just hours after the Senate approved it, raising the stakes on a divisive regional issue that will resonate through next year's political campaigns.

The Democratic governor also pledged to endorse a section of the legislation that would close a legal loophole that lets people buy weapons at private gun shows without background checks.

The National Rifle Association and other gun rights advocates welded the two disparate issues together in one compromise bill, hoping to make the governor pick a side after two years of walking a fine line on gun-control.

Blagojevich wasted no time making a choice, saying he would use his amendatory veto power to reject the part of the bill that would destroy the database of records while preserving the part that closes the gun show loophole.

"The NRA might have thought they could force us to eliminate the database by attaching it to legislation that closes the problematic gun show loophole, but they were dead wrong," Blagojevich said in a statement. "We can and should keep gun transaction records and close the gun show loophole."

It was the second straight day in which Blagojevich and Mayor Richard Daley suffered a defeat on gun legislation. On Tuesday, the House narrowly rejected a measure to ban the sale of assault weapons.

The governor's pledge to rewrite the gun records bill was an immediate counterstrike at the NRA's top legislative initiative, and a move that poses new challenges for him if he runs for a second term as expected.

In Illinois, partisan lines don't count on gun issues. Chicago lawmakers and some suburban legislators worried about urban gun violence strongly favor gun control. But a number of suburban lawmakers and virtually all legislators from Downstate counties, where hunters' rights are sacred, consistently vote in favor of gun owners.

Blagojevich, who had made gun control a hallmark of his career in Congress, had to allay the concerns of Downstate voters to win their crucial support in the 2002 primary and general election campaigns. As governor, he has tried to maintain that tricky balancing act, reassuring urban gun-control advocates while trying to hold on to Downstate supporters who have increasingly complained he is too focused on Chicago.

As gun rights activists turn up the heat, action by the governor and lawmakers is sure to show up in political brochures next year.

The NRA and the Illinois State Rifle Association worked with Sen. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton) to craft legislation with provisions long backed by different sides of the gun issue.

"This is a balance of interests in a state where there is not unanimity or even consensus very often on firearms legislation, and I think that this is a good compromise," Roskam said during the floor debate.

Roskam later said he must decide whether to accept the governor's proposed changes or seek an override when Blagojevich returns the legislation to lawmakers.

The bill calls for records to be destroyed within 90 days of when a gun is bought. Roskam said the records would be preserved in cases where gun purchases were rejected or when there is an investigation of forcible felonies, gunrunning or terrorism.

Sen. Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston) said the bill was more than a compromise.

"This is an outright surrender," he said.

The vote angered police, who lobbied furiously against the bill. They say they use the records to investigate "straw" purchasers who buy guns for criminals.

At the federal level, the Bush administration destroys records of background checks that go through their database within 24 hours of the research. But 21 states have the capability to conduct their own background checks. Authorities in some, including Illinois, say they actively maintain the databases to use in police work.

The NRA and other gun rights groups have tried for years to get rid of their records, which they claim are used mainly to target and intimidate law-abiding gun owners.

NRA lobbyist Todd Vandermyde said he will rally gun rights activists to pressure legislators to stand up to Blagojevich.

"He went to Southern Illinois and campaigned as if he was Charlton Heston," Vandermyde said, invoking the name of the past-NRA leader and actor. "There were some people that bought into that, evidently. Obviously, he's broken every campaign promise or pledge to the Downstaters on this issue."

The legislation passed 34-25 in the Senate, two votes short of the number needed to override a veto. The measure previously passed the House two votes short of the 71 needed for an override in that chamber. Lawmakers also would have the option of voting to accept the veto, which would take only a simple majority in both houses.

If lawmakers take no action on the governor's amendatory veto, the bill will die and the current law will remain in place.

While police and advocates for gun control opposed the two-pronged bill, many of their traditional allies in the Legislature said they were hard-pressed to vote against a closing of the gun show loophole. Such a vote would come back to haunt them in future campaigns, they feared.

Blagojevich said the database is a valuable public safety tool that should be kept in place while the gun show loophole should be closed.

"In the end," Blagojevich said, "our streets and communities will be safer."


Senate rejects $1.5B road plan

Senate rejects $1.5B road plan

By AARON CHAMBERS, Register Star Springfield Bureau

SPRINGFIELD -- Democrats failed Saturday to muscle through a $1.5 billion road program, one with projects slated for the Rock River Valley, amid partisan rancor underscoring the final days of the Legislature's regular session.

Senate Republicans voted against the plan backed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, denying Democrats the extraordinary support necessary to increase borrowing authority for the state.

As Blagojevich mingled with fellow Democrats during a rare visit to the Senate floor, senators of both parties hurled rhetorical barbs at each other -- even directly at Blagojevich in the case of Republicans who argue that he can't be trusted.

After the vote, Blagojevich blamed the GOP for blocking what he called "a downstate jobs program."

"It's unfortunate that the Republicans are choosing to play partisan politics and are not willing to join us in constructive consensus to create jobs in downstate Illinois," Blagojevich said. "This is one of the more frustrating parts about government."

While Democrats argued that the plan would prompt economic development, Republicans complained that they had no assurance the Blagojevich administration would follow through on projects in their districts.

The Republicans ridiculed a memo purportedly delineating the administration's road priorities. It listed work on Illinois 173 from Illinois 251 to the Boone County line, on North and South Main streets through Rockford and on the U.S. 20 bypass around Freeport.

The memo offered no additional details, such as how much the road projects would cost or when they would be completed.

"This and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee downstairs from Starbucks," said Sen. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton. "This means nothing."

All three of the Rock River Valley's senators -- Dave Syverson, R-Rockford; Brad Burzynski, R-Clare; and Todd Sieben, R-Geneseo -- voted against the governor's plan.

It was the administration's latest attempt to establish a capital construction program of its own. Since Blagojevich took office in January 2003, the Legislature has refused to give him authority to borrow the cash necessary to finance such a program.

All along, a central question has been foremost in the minds of critics: Where will the governor get the money to pay back borrowed funds?

On Tuesday, Republicans argued that the administration intended to use borrowed cash to cover initial payments on a loan, a practice akin to paying a mortgage with mortgaged funds. They noted that Blagojevich asked to borrow $2.1 billion for a $1.5 billion road program.

But Blagojevich said the extra $600 million was necessary "to be sure we don't undercount the needs." His aides say the administration would cover any loan with cash from a reserve used to finance road construction.

"If you're going to do it, it's awfully hard to ask once; you hate to be in a position to ask twice," Blagojevich said. "So you make sure you got more than you need so you don't have to come back and try to ask these guys to do it again. And we're having a hard enough time to try to get them to do it the first time."

Contact: achambers@rockford.gannett.com; 217-782-2959

Teen motorists mock plan to ban cell phone use



Teen motorists mock plan to ban cell phone use

By Courtney Flynn, Meg McSherry Breslin and Erika Slife, Tribune staff reporters. Tribune staff reporters Ray Long, Susan Kuczka and M. Daniel Gibbard contributed to this report

May 27, 2005

Chris Karacic often talks on his cell phone while driving--whether chatting it up with friends about girls or letting his parents know what time he'll be home.

But under a measure recently passed by Illinois lawmakers, the 17-year-old Lake Forest High School senior would be banned from an activity that has become a virtual habit--not that he worries about it all that much.

"I don't think the cops are going to do anything about it," said Karacic, who vowed Thursday to keep using his cell phone while driving, law or no law. "I think it's dumb."

The proposal that would bar teens under the age of 18 from using a cell phone while driving rang up some strong objections from young drivers in the Chicago area such as Karacic, who admit they live to talk.

The bill, which passed the Senate 41-16 on Wednesday and the House last week, awaits Gov. Rod Blagojevich's signature.

"The governor will enthusiastically sign this bill," said Rebecca Rausch, a spokeswoman. "It's definitely a matter of public safety, and removing any distractions from our young and inexperienced drivers will result in safer roads."

Under the proposal, 16- and 17-year-old drivers would not be allowed to use cell phones--even with hands-free devices--while driving. Offenders would face fines of $25 to $50. The law would permit cell phone use in emergencies, and teen drivers could pull over to use their phones.

The Chicago City Council last month outlawed the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. Beginning in July, offenders of all ages can be fined $50. Hands-free devices will still be allowed.

Although the state bill's sponsor, Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago), admitted there is still controversy about whether cell phones--with or without hands-free equipment--dangerously distract drivers, he said teens don't need diversions while driving.

"We definitely know that young drivers, until they get experience, are the more dangerous drivers," Cullerton said. "They have a higher crash rate and a higher fatality rate. They don't need any distractions."

But Sen. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton), who voted against the bill, said he wasn't persuaded by that argument. Any time a particular group such as teens is singled out, officials can come up with statistics to back up an argument, he said.

"Under current law, we trust teens to get behind the wheel of a potentially dangerous vehicle," he said. "I think we can trust them to make a good decision about whether a phone call is appropriate."

Drawing out negative opinions from teens regarding the measure was about as easy Thursday as finding high school students who look forward to summer vacation.

"I think that's kind of silly. I don't see the difference in talking on the phone if you're over 18 or under," said Julie Phillips, 16, a junior at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, who has been driving almost a year.

"You'd have to ban eating and playing with the radio" for such a law to be effective, she said. "That's probably just as distracting as talking on the cell phone."

Many suburban teenagers questioned how the police would enforce such a ban.

"I don't think most cops will really pay attention," said Dave Scwiak, 17, a junior at Vernon Hills High School. He added that he probably will continue talking on his cell phone while driving even if the measure becomes law.

His friend, Matt Raupp, agreed.

"I'll definitely talk on my cell phone," said Raupp, 17, a junior at Vernon Hills High School.

Difficult to enforce

Although some law enforcement officials said they support any measure intended to reduce the accident rate, especially among young drivers, they concede enforcing the ban would be difficult.

"We don't know just by looking at someone if they're 16 or 17, so it's more likely that it would be enforced in conjunction with another law-enforcement issue," said Libertyville Police Chief Patrick Carey.

Elmhurst Police Chief Steve Neubauer said even though it would be tough for police to tell the age of a talking driver, the law would act as a deterrent, prompting parents to talk with their kids about cell phone use in cars. "This is a step in the right direction," he said.

Lenny Goldman, 16, a sophomore at Stevenson, has been driving one month and said he often uses his cell phone while behind the wheel. The phone has a speaker feature, so he usually drives with it in his lap--often while looking for music on his iPod, which plays over the car stereo, he said.

The ban is probably a good idea, Goldman says, "but I wouldn't want it to pass."

Parents like the idea

Parents contacted Thursday generally said they loved the proposal.

Naperville's Marie O'Hara already worries about her 16-year-old daughter, who just got her driver's license. Recently, O'Hara said she stopped her from jumping in a Mustang convertible with other friends who were trying to perch themselves on the back top of the car with their feet on the seat.

A cell phone ban, she says, is just one more step toward forcing risk-taking teenagers to drive smarter and safer.

"I think this is a great thing. There's so many distractions in cars that they don't need one more. To talk on the cell phone is potentially very dangerous," O'Hara said.

Kim Gallagher of Clarendon Hills, whose daughter plans to get her license next year, said, "... the only downside to this is they're never going to be able to enforce it."

Barb Karacic of Lake Forest said she hopes her son, Chris, would not defy the ban. She said she strongly supported the proposed law and hoped it would go even further.

"I just think all people should use hand-free if they're going to use it at all," Karacic said. "It's just too distracting, it's too dangerous, and it's just really hazardous out there."


Lawmakers approve deal to fight malpractice woes

Lawmakers approve deal to fight malpractice woes


May 31, 2005


Ending two years of political gridlock, Illinois lawmakers moved to help lower doctors' medical malpractice insurance rates Tuesday by approving legislation to limit lawsuit awards and strengthen oversight of insurers and doctors.

After long debates filled with accusations of political pandering, the Illinois House and Senate sent the proposal to Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who has pledged to sign it.

"We need to do all we can to keep doctors in our state caring for our families instead of watching them flee to escape the high cost of medical malpractice premiums," the Democratic governor said in a statement, though he says he personally opposes limiting lawsuit awards.

The legislation was crafted last week by Democratic leaders working with the doctors and hospitals who have been pushing for legislative action for the last two years. The House approved it 68-46 Monday afternoon, and the Senate passed it 36-22 early Tuesday, the day lawmakers are scheduled to end their legislative session.

Sen. James Meeks, an independent from Chicago, fought the measure, arguing that it would discriminate against stay-at-home mothers, the poor, the elderly and others with limited incomes. He accused Democratic leaders of backing the bill just to avoid losing downstate Senate seats.

"We're forced to call a bad bill to stay in the majority," he said. "People will walk around crippled, people will walk around maimed because we're taking a political vote."

But Sen. Peter Roskam, R-Glen Ellyn, said something must be done to keep doctors from closing their doors.

"This is no longer doctors versus lawyers arguing about who gets to drive the Mercedes," Roskam said. "This is about ... the physicians saying 'You win. We're out of here. We can't afford this anymore."'

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Copyright © The Sun-Times Company

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"Austin Mayor" is not a real name. "Austin Mayor" is not a title. "Austin Mayor" is a pseudonym. "Austin Mayor" is a simulacrum. "Austin Mayor" is performance art. "Austin Mayor" is a brand without a product. "Austin Mayor" is your imaginary friend.