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Erickson: How do you get to work? 


The Southern
May 19, 2013

When Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon announced she was again participating in Wednesday’s “Curb Your Car, Bike to Work” event, it got us wondering what mode of transport Gov. Pat Quinn would be using that day.

Turns out, the governor has a new car. Or, should we say, “cars.”

Like his predecessors, Quinn is assigned a security detail of Illinois State Police officers. The detail has been assigned six 2012 Chevrolet Caprices, designed and built for law enforcement use.

State police spokeswoman Monique Bond said the cars are valued at about $26,000 each.

Bond said replacing the old Ford Crown Victoria cruisers used by Quinn’s detail was part of a protocol that included safety evaluations, mileage and wear and tear.

“Police vehicles that travel statewide are typically taken out of service after 100,000 miles,” Bond noted.

According to a well-respected set of annual tests conducted on police vehicles by the Michigan State Police, the cop-built Caprice can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in a brief 6.03 seconds and can screech to a stop in 128.3 feet.

While we didn’t track her Wednesday trek to the Capitol with a radar gun, we’re guessing Simon’s two-wheeled transporter went from 0 to 15 mph in about 32.3 seconds, depending on how much of a headwind she was facing.

“From biking to work to accessing regular health screenings, there are simple things we can do to keep ourselves and our envi-ronment healthier,” Simon noted.

School study

State Sen. Andy Manar is just a freshman, but the Bunker Hill Democrat has a distinct advantage over other newcomer politicians in Springfield.

Manar, who represents a district stretching from Decatur to Springfield and south to Staunton, formerly served as a top staffer in the Senate Democratic caucus, helping to plot strategy on budget issues and other hot topics with the people he now joins on the Senate floor.

The fact that he’s in the majority party in the Senate also is helping him move some bills out of the chamber in recent weeks. That track record could come in handy when he’s up for reelection again in 2014 after winning an expensive 2012 battle against Decatur Mayor Mike McElroy.

Last week, the Senate unanimously approved Manar’s plan to initiate the first comprehensive review of school funding since 1998.

“The disparity between school districts that have resources and those that don’t is only getting worse, meaning too many children are being denied an equal opportunity for a quality public education,” Manar said.

The resolution, which now heads to the House for further approval, creates an advisory committee to make school funding rec-ommendations by Feb. 1, 2014.

Since 2009, school funding has been reduced by $861 million. In the current fiscal year, the state only allocated 89 percent of the funds needed to meet the minimum required foundation level.

It’s not the first Manar-backed piece of legislation that forms a task force.

He also is backing a proposal to create a task force to study an increase in heroin use by high school students.

“I think a lot of people don’t realize that this is a growing epidemic, not just in urban and suburban counties in the state, but also in rural counties,” Manar said.

So far, no Republican challengers have surfaced.

Road fund

Downstate lawmakers raised a ruckus on the House floor Wednesday, a day after the release of an audit showing that billions of dollars that should been spent on road construction had instead been diverted to other uses.

Auditor General William Holland said the state’s road construction fund has been tapped to pay for numerous other state costs, such as health insurance for employees in other state agencies.

Republican state Rep. Bill Mitchell of Forsyth said the money could have been used to put people to work in his district, parts of which have an unemployment rate of 14 percent.

“The money in the road fund should be going for roads, bridges and work for people who are hurting,” Mitchell said.

State Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, also chimed in: “By diverting those road funds … what we end up doing is we end up losing jobs, we endanger the lives of those people traveling up and down those highways.”

State Rep. David Reis, R-Willow Hill, warned that it could happen again this year.

“It’s the only pot of gold left in the town,” Reis said. “We have too many programs that we can’t pay for.”