Senator Syverson’s Week in Review: Sept. 15-19

Springfield, IL – The Governor’s bungled “anti-violence” program continues to draw scrutiny, said State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) as media reports revealed this week that a federal grand jury in Chicago has issued a subpoena requesting records related to Pat Quinn’s $54.5 million Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI).

In legislative news, the state’s legislative rulemaking body has unanimously deferred implementation of rules governing hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as “fracking,” in response to concerns raised by industry and environmental groups.

Federal grand jury seeking more information about controversial program

Allegations of corruption and scandal within Gov. Quinn’s NRI program once again made headlines this week, as it became public knowledge that a subpoena of records relating to the Governor’s NRI had been issued by a federal grand jury based out of Chicago. A federal grand jury in Springfield has already requested NRI-related records; however, this was the first subpoena to be issued from a federal grand jury in Chicago. At this time it is unknown whether the grand juries are working together or if federal authorities have undertaken different investigations.

The Neighborhood Recovery Initiative is also being reviewed by lawmakers on the state’s Legislative Audit Commission. Legislators undertook a review of the program following a scathing audit issued by Auditor General William Holland in February. However, public testimony from seven subpoenaed top Quinn aides involved in the program has been delayed at the request of federal authorities, who asked the Commission to give a federal grand jury time to investigate. Federal prosecutors have said the audit commission can resume its work in mid-October. 

Recently, Audit Commission co-chair Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) asked the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to help enforce a previously issued subpoena of emails from a former top Quinn Administration official. The governor’s office has claimed attorney-client privilege and refused to release a large bloc of emails belonging to former Quinn deputy chief of staff Toni Irving, who was one of the anti-violence program’s main gatekeepers in the governor’s office.

Republican lawmakers have also taken Quinn to task for evidence that his administration has simply rebranded the failed NRI program and continues to dish out taxpayer dollars in a manner that looks suspiciously similar to how NRI dollars were first distributed.

At issue is a $20 million lump sum Quinn hid in the current state budget, with only a vague description that the money would be used by the agency for purposes almost identical to those that described the original NRI program.  

Work continues on hydraulic fracturing rules

While other states move forward with Hydraulic Fracturing creating 1,000’s of jobs, the Governor’s administration in Illinois continues to create delays by trying to implement onerous rules that would basically handcuff any attempts to move fracking forward. 

Hydraulic fracturing was lawmakers’ focus at a Sept. 16 meeting of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR). In response to compelling concerns brought forward by industry and environmental groups, the members of the committee were united in their decision to hold off on implementation of hydraulic fracturing rules.

JCAR received proposed fracking rules from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on August 29. However, on September 16, JCAR representatives expressed concerns that those rules exceed the intended scope of the law. The members of the committee asked DNR representatives to revisit the rules, working with lawmakers and stakeholders to ensure the rules comply with the intent of the 2013 hydraulic fracturing legislation.

Dave Syverson

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