Saturday, August 27, 2016

Koch Brothers spend big in Indiana races


Group spending nearly $4 million on anti-Bayh ads

WASHINGTON — A group with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is spending nearly $4 million on fall ads to try to prevent Evan Bayh from taking back his old Senate seat.

That’s on top of the $1 million the Senate Leadership Fund has already spent on the general election race, and the roughly $800,000 the group spent to help Rep. Todd Young win the GOP primary.

The Senate Leadership Fund is a super PAC created to help Republicans keep control of the Senate.

The group on Friday placed $960,000 in ads each week for the last three weeks of September and the first week of October.

The ads are running statewide — some on broadcast TV and some only on cable channels.

Indiana has already seen the fourth-highest amount of general election ads for a Senate race through mid-August, according to an independent report released Wednesday.

Bayh’s side paid for $3 million of those ads, and Young or his backers paid for $2.1 million.

That calculation from the Wesleyan Media Project report was based on data provided by Kantar Media/CMAG, which tracks broadcast television, national network and national cable television advertising.


Indiana's Senate, governor races among tops in nation for political ads

Independent expenditure reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show the campaign arm of Senate Republicans, the National Republican Senatorial Committee,  has spent $664,718 on ads against the former governor and senator.

Freedom Partners Action Fund, the super PAC associated with the political network overseen by brothers Charles and David Koch, has spent more than $1 million on television and digital ads against Bayh.

Americans for Prosperity, which also is backed by the Koch brothers, has spent more than $92,000 on phone banks and other canvassing expenses. The group also is holding events around the state to talk about Bayh’s voting record.

The campaign arm of Senate Democrats has spent more than $1 million on ads attacking Young.

National political handicappers rate Indiana’s Senate seat, which is being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Dan Coats, as one of the most likely to switch political parties.

The outcome will help determine which party controls the Senate.

Spending by outside groups in all Senate races is at an all-time high, according to the Wesleyan Media Project. Outside spending made up just less than half of all airings through mid-August, although the share in Indiana was just less than 20 percent.

Contact Maureen Groppe at Follow her on Twitter: @mgroppe.

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Mainstream request extension for Canadian Project

Mainstream Renewable Power has requested a two-year extension for construction of the 63MW Windy Point wind farm in Alberta.

The developer told regulators the project, which was initially approved in 2012 and has already received two extensions, could complete construction by 30 September 2018.

The Alberta Utilities Commission has granted an interim extension while it reviews the request.

“Historically low power pool prices over the past several years has prevented Windy Point, and many other proposed wind farm developments, from obtaining commercial project financing for the construction of the project,” said Mainstream.

Alberta is developing and implementing a plan to procure new renewable energy, which is expected to launch later this year.

“Windy Point is expecting to participate in the renewable energy program,” said the developer.

Mainstream also plans to submit an application to change the turbine model. The permit authorizes construction of 21 Siemens 3MW turbines at Windy Point, about 15 kilometers northeast of Pincher Creek.

If all changes are approved, Mainstream expects to start construction in late 2017.

The Alberta Electric System Operator has approved a revised in-service date of 1 September 2018.

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Governor Rauner signs life insurance bill

Rauner signs life insurance bill

Friday, Aug 26, 2016

* Press release…

Governor Bruce Rauner and Anne Melissa Dowling, Acting Director of the Illinois Dept. of Insurance, today announced two actions taken by the administration to help Illinoisans find lost life insurance money through the launch of the free Life Policy Locator Service and signing House Bill 4633 into law.

“I applaud Director Dowling and her staff for their efforts to make it easier for Illinoisans to access life insurance policy information, ensuring they can more quickly receive the benefits they are owed,” said Governor Rauner. “Updating our antiquated technology to increase employee efficiency and provide better customer service to the taxpayers that interact with state government has been one of my top priorities since coming into office, and our administration will continue to pursue efforts like the Life Policy Locator Service to bring state government into the 21st Century.”

The Life Policy Locator Service through the Dept. of Insurance (DOI) helps executors, legal representatives, or members of the deceased person’s immediate family find a life insurance policy or annuity contract left by a deceased loved one and serves to bridge the gap between insurance companies and Illinois citizens who think they may be listed as a beneficiary.

“Many times finding life insurance policies can be difficult and time consuming after a loved one’s death,” said Dowling. “But with this new free service, consumers can request help from the Illinois Department of Insurance to simplify the process of locating lost life insurance policies. This search service eliminates the confusion of trying to locate missing life insurance policies or annuity contracts and helps get those benefits to the intended beneficiary.”

After the necessary information is submitted, DOI will contact all state-licensed life insurance companies asking them to search their records for any life insurance policies or annuity contracts insuring the decedent. If a policy is found, that insurance company will contact the beneficiary to complete the claim.

In addition, today Governor Rauner signed House Bill 4633 into law. The legislation creates the Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits Act and requires insurers to run an initial, and then semi-annual, check against the Death Master File to determine if an insured has passed away. Insurers will be allowed to access the Life Policy Locator to help streamline the process and comply with the new law.

Finally, Governor Rauner and Director Dowling called on the General Assembly and the Treasurer to stop contingency arrangements with private finder companies. The Treasurer’s Office has paid these companies millions of dollars over the past several years, funds which would otherwise be put towards the pension systems, to locate unclaimed life insurance policies. With the launch of the free Life Policy Locator Service and the enactment of HB 4633, these arrangements should no longer be necessary. The savings will result in millions of dollars for the pension funds.

Illinoisans can learn more about the Lost Life Policy Locator Service, by visiting the DOI website at

HB4633 is effective January 1, 2017.

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Fiat Chrysler employees at Belvidere plant laid off for one week following parts shortage

  • By Adam Poulisse
    Staff writer

    Posted Aug. 27, 2016 at 12:01 AM

    BELVIDERE — About 3,800 workers at the Fiat Chrysler plant will be laid off for one week beginning Monday due to a shortage of parts because an Ontario-based supplier was damaged by a tornado.
    The supplier is unable to manufacture gas tanks for vehicles until the damage is cleaned up. As a result, assembly in Belvidere is temporarily put on pause, according to George Welitschinsky, president of United Auto Workers Local 1268.
    "They got hit hard and can't recoup for another week," he said. "It's mother nature, we can't control it. It creeped up on us."
    Those affected will retain their benefits for the week they are off, Welitschinsky said. About 2,000 parts suppliers near the Belvidere plant will also be laid off for the week, Welitschinsky said.
    Employees will receive unemployment plus a subpayment, which adds up to about 95 percent of a worker's pay. Employees are set to return to work on Sept. 6, the day after Labor Day, according to Welitschinsky.
    "It's only going to be a week," he said. "We can't afford a second week."
    A tornado ripped through parts of Windsor this week, ripping roofs off buildings and tearing down power lines. Tornadoes also caused significant damage in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan.
    Adam Poulisse: 815-987-1344;; @adampoulisse
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Status of Great Lakes Basin RR


Great Lakes Basin Transportation will not meet a Monday deadline for filing an alternate route for its proposed freight train line from Milton, Wis., into LaPorte County.

"We are going to file a request for an extension on Monday," said Frank Patton, founder and managing partner of GLBT, on Friday, declining to provide further details. "It should be public shortly thereafter."

In related news, a local lawmaker said he will spearhead updating the state's eminent domain laws related to railroads to make it more difficult for business interests to take privately owned land for their own profit.

The federal Surface Transportation Board, which held public meetings on the 278-mile proposal in the spring, set an Aug. 29 deadline for GLBT to offer an alternate route to the one that cuts through southern Lake and Porter counties.

"There is no explanation in the information GLBT has provided to date to explain whether GLBT considered other potential alignments and variations and why they might have been rejected," Victoria Rutson, director of the Office of Environmental Analysis, wrote in a July 5 letter to one of GLBT's attorneys.

The Office of Environmental Analysis will compile the more than 3,900 comments submitted online, as well as those made during the spring meetings, for an environmental impact statement on the proposal. That is expected to take a few years.

Earlier in the week, Patton indicated via email that GLBT planned to meet the Monday deadline. It was not immediately clear Friday what might have changed.

A proposal to build the Great Lakes Basin Transportation's freight rail line through south Lake and Porter counties is creating uncertainty for government, schools and real estate professionals.

"For us it's kind of a really large guessing game as far as forward planning," Lowell Town Council president...

A proposal to build the Great Lakes Basin Transportation's freight rail line through south Lake and Porter counties is creating uncertainty for government, schools and real estate professionals.

"For us it's kind of a really large guessing game as far as forward planning," Lowell Town Council president...

(Amy Lavalley and Carrie Napoleon)

GLBT's $8 billion privately funded proposal, would be the largest new rail line in recent times and is meant to provide a bypass for Chicago's congested rail yard and take trucks off the road. The route will have the capacity for up to 110 trains a day.

Two of the six Class I railroads expected to be served by the freight line have publicly stated they will not participate; the remaining four appear uncommitted to the project.

Several people, including a representative with the opposition group Residents Against the Invasion of Land by Eminent Domain, or RAILED, have submitted alternate routes for consideration to the STB.

"There have already been some good alternative routes submitted," said Kathleen Honl, one of RAILED's organizers, adding she wasn't surprised Patton would not meet the deadline. "Though I would doubt he would kill the project altogether, maybe he is realizing that his original route isn't the best choice. Of course, this is speculation."

Federal agency begins look at proposed freight line

Federal agency begins look at proposed freight line

Amy Lavalley

The fate of a proposed freight train line with a route that would cut through southern Lake and Porter counties is in the hands of the three-person Surface Transportation Board.

The federal agency will determine whether Great Lakes Basin Transportation's proposal for a 278-mile rail line from Milton,...

The fate of a proposed freight train line with a route that would cut through southern Lake and Porter counties is in the hands of the three-person Surface Transportation Board.

The federal agency will determine whether Great Lakes Basin Transportation's proposal for a 278-mile rail line from Milton,...

(Amy Lavalley)

A document on the STB website outlines what was discussed in an Aug. 5 teleconference between GLBT representatives, their attorneys, and representatives from the Office of Environmental Analysis.

"GLBT indicated that the general location of their proposed route was designed as a balance between the closer and more distant routes (from Chicago)… (and) included design objectives to avoid population centers, connect with other railroads, and avoid wetlands."

The document notes that the group discussed submissions on the STB website that identify alternate route, and "GLBT indicated that it is reviewing scoping comments and considering them."

GLBT indicated during the teleconference "that it will prepare a robust narrative" on how it screened route alternatives and variations. According to the document, the OEA will independently review the information GLBT submits.

Meanwhile, State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, chairman of the House of Representative's Roads and Transportation Committee, said he will work to update the statutes on railroad eminent domain, some of which date back to the late 1800s and early 1900s.

"It's the days when railroads were just beginning to have an impact on the nation. It appears to be quite liberal by modern standards," he said.

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling several years ago on an eminent domain case on the East Coast led many states to update their related statutes, he said, but not those regarding railroads.

"We should not take people's land or property unless there's a compelling public interest, and a compelling public interest is not that someone makes a profit," he said.

The move was prompted by media reports about GLBT's plans to take land through eminent domain if its proposal were to move forward, he said, as well as requests by the Porter County Board of Commissioners to take a look at the statutes.

"This is an issue whether (the GLBT plan) exists or not. It needs to be done. I've been talking to the big railroads and they see the need," he said.

Amy Lavalley is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.

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