Lester: Suburban lawmakers get $1,506 checks for two days of work

 
 
Updated 1/9/2017 10:32 AM
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  • State Rep. Peter Breen of Lombard

      State Rep. Peter Breen of Lombard Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • State Rep. Keith Wheeler of Oswego

      State Rep. Keith Wheeler of Oswego Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

  • Robert Breuder

      Robert Breuder Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Longtime Chicago radio director Barry Keefe, left, inspired his son, Alex, to pursue a career in radio. Barry Keefe died a year ago after battling pancreatic cancer. Alex is headed back to WBEZ this month after two years in Vermont.

    Longtime Chicago radio director Barry Keefe, left, inspired his son, Alex, to pursue a career in radio. Barry Keefe died a year ago after battling pancreatic cancer. Alex is headed back to WBEZ this month after two years in Vermont.

The state's bill backlog has surpassed $11 billion and there's no budget in place, but two suburban Republican lawmakers each will get extra $1,506 checks for two days of work this week.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin tells me the move is the only way to get around Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan's seniority rules.

Durkin late last week named Rep. Peter Breen, of Lombard, and Rep. Keith Wheeler, of Oswego, to leadership posts. But instead of making it effective when a new session begins Wednesday, Durkin named Breen and Wheeler to the posts for Monday and Tuesday, the final two days of the 99th General Assembly.

The $1,506 stipends are for one month of work in those roles. Members of the General Assembly make a base salary of $67,836. Breen and Wheeler's stipends would be $18,066 apiece if they're kept in leadership a full year.

'Stretched thin'

Durkin, of Western Springs, says he appointed the two because he wants them to serve as committee spokesmen. House rules say those positions can be held only by lawmakers with three terms of seniority, which Breen and Wheeler lack, or with leadership appointments.

Breen was named assistant House Republican leader to replace retiring state Rep. Ed Sullivan of Mundelein. Wheeler was named Republican conference chairman to replace retiring state Rep. Adam Brown of Decatur.

"The rules that have been in place for many years are not practical or efficient for the administration of committees," Durkin said. "The appointments that I've made are for the purpose of allowing members who I believe are qualified to serve as spokesmen for committees this year."

He says other members are "stretched thin" as committee spokesmen. Records show 16 House Republicans are spokesmen on more than one committee, with state Rep. Mike Fortner of West Chicago shouldering the heaviest load as spokesman for four committees.

Ruling soon on COD case

U.S. Northern District Court Judge Andrea Wood said during a status hearing this week in Chicago that she expects to rule in the next few weeks on the College of DuPage's motion to dismiss a suit against it by former President Robert Breuder. Breuder last October filed the federal lawsuit against the college's board of trustees and four of the board members one day after he was fired. The suit, which seeks more than $2 million in damages, claims he was wrongfully terminated. The next hearing is Feb. 9.

Vistro makes cut

A Hinsdale restaurant is one of a handful of suburban spots participating in Chicago Restaurant week, which begins Jan. 27. Vistro, founded by James Beard Award-nominated Chef Paul Virant, focuses on local and seasonal food and drinks and includes seared rainbow trout, crispy kale and slow-cooked pork shoulder with milk gravy as part of its $33/plate prix fixe menu.

Bistro Bordeaux in Evanston and Seasons 52 in Schaumburg also are participating. See www.choosechicago.com.

Keefe's back in town

Wheaton native Alex Keefe tells me he's headed back to WBEZ this month to work as a political editor after a two-year Public Radio stint in Vermont. Alex is the son of the late Barry Keefe, the longtime director of news and public affairs at WTMX-FM 101.9. Barry died a year ago after battling pancreatic cancer.

ECC prof starts theater group

Retired Elgin Community College Professor John Slawson of Elgin tells me he's started a new theater company, Encore Theatre Productions, which will be producing at the Elgin Academy. The company's first show, Slawson says, will be "Forever Plaid" -- something he considers "popular and gets things up and running." In the future, he hopes to involve the academy's students in productions as interns. Forever Plaid will run from Jan. 20-29. For tickets, visit www.encoretheatreproductions.org.

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