Four years ago former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announced his plans to close the Warren G. Murray Developmental Center located in Centralia. The Governor scheduled its closure for the Spring of 2013. At that time, Murray Center served as the home to over 275 developmentally disabled residents and employed about 550 people.

The announcement caught many of us by surprise. We were disappointed that someone who has never stepped foot in the State Operated Developmental Center (SODC) would put politics ahead of the livelihoods of our most vulnerable citizens. Since the closure announcement was made in 2012, the Murray Parents Association, Rep. John Cavaletto, Senator John O. Jones, myself and hundreds of friends and family of Murray Center never gave up the fight to keep the state developmental center open.

We began our fight to keep Murray Center open by introducing legislation in the General Assembly. Next, the Murray Parents Association filed lawsuits in both state and federal court. In state court, the Murray Parents Association fought for the interests of the wards of the state and their argument was successful. In federal court, the Murray Parents Association fought to keep Murray Center open and received a favorable opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which affirmed “the state must also have a plan for allowing beneficiaries to choose either institutional services or home and community based services.” In essence, allowing legal guardians to choose whether or not to keep their loved ones at Murray Center or a group home. Since 2012, the friends and family of Murray Center never gave up and I am proud to say four years later that Murray Center remains open today.
Belleville News-Democrat Editorial
February 7, 2016

Illinois state Rep. Charlie Meier has the right idea about closing the loophole those three slippery St. Clair County judges are using to avoid a run for retention. The Republican from Okawville’s House Bill 4673 has little hope for success against the three Democratic judges when the bill is judged by the very Democratic state House and Senate, but sometimes jousting with windmills can be a worthy quest just because it spreads the tale.

“The loophole these three judges have chosen to take advantage of certainly questions the integrity of the bench. It reminds me of musical chairs, however the music stops when these three judges say so,” Meier said.

St. Clair County Chief Judge John Baricevic, one of the trio, claims there is no loophole. His assertion is that the Illinois Constitution’s framers intended to create a process that tells judges “either retention or election — you choose, your Honor.”

Illinois State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) filed legislation today to make it clear that when a judge is up for election, retention is the only option to remain on the bench. In order for a judge to be retained under current law, a judge must receive approval from 60% of the electorate.

The legislation introduced by Rep. Charlie Meier is in response to the decision made by three St. Clair County judges Baricevic, Haida and LeChien to avoid retention and the requirement to receive 60% voter approval to remain on the bench. Instead, the three judges chose to run for election which only requires approval from over 50% of the voters in the November 2016 election.

“I feel strongly that the Illinois Constitution intended for elected judges seeking re-election to only have the option of retention,” said Rep. Meier. The loophole these three judges have chosen to take advantage of certainly questions the integrity of the bench. It reminds me of musical chairs however the music stops when these three judges say so. I think our judges should be held to a higher standard which is why my bill seeks to codify Illinois law by permanently closing the musical chair loophole. If a judge wants to remain on the bench, then he or she will have to face the voters and receive approval from 60% of them.”
With Illinois’ public universities and community colleges approaching eight months without receiving state funding as result of the ongoing budget stalemate. State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) co-sponsored legislation to fund higher education, including funding for MAP grants.

In addition to legislation co-sponsored by Rep. Meier, on January 27th House and Senate Democrats approved legislation (SB 2043) to support Illinois community colleges and MAP grants, however the bill excluded public universities. Even worse the bill lacked any funding mechanism.

According to Rep. Charlie Meier, “the Democrats proposal for higher education is simply a farce, it was an I.O.U. with no check in the mail. The legislation I co-sponsored will provide funding for higher education, community colleges and grants in which our college students depend on to help make college more affordable.”