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Illinois Rep. Edward J. Acevedo, D-Chicago, argues legislation while on the House floor at the Illinois State Capitol during a session on Nov. 9, 2011 in Springfield. | Seth Perlman~AP

SPRINGFIELD-A bill granting undocumented immigrants temporary state driver's licenses cleared its first Illinois House hurdle Monday despite homeland security questions.

The House Transportation Vehicles & Safety Committee voted 6-3 to position the legislation favored by immigrant rights organizations for a full House vote later today, though its lead legislative advocate wouldn't commit to a roll call this afternoon.

The legislation "seeks to improve safety of our roads and make sure our motorists are trained, tested and insured," said Rep. Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago), the bill's chief House sponsor who estimates that 250,000 undocumented immigrants now drive on Illinois roads.

"Our entire state would benefit from Senate Bill 957. If only half the 250,000 get [temporary licenses] and get insured, Illinois insurance policy holders would save $46 million per year," Acevedo said. "Police officers would be able to know who they're stopping."

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights has spearheaded passage of the new licensing system for immigrants.

Under the plan, which has already passed the Senate, undocumented immigrants who have lived in Illinois for one year would be eligible to receive a temporary visitors drivers license that would last for three years.

In exchange, those motorists would have to undergo rules-of-the-road training, take a vision test and show proof of auto insurance. The licenses couldn't be used to purchase firearms, to board aircraft or register to vote nor could applicants be licensed to drive semi-trailer trucks or school buses.

But in committee Monday, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police protested the legislation, saying it lacked the proper homeland security safeguards of requiring applicants to undergo fingerprinting and provide federal tax identification numbers.

"Modern Family" star and gay-marriage advocate explains to Chicago Sun-Times Springfield bureau chief Dave McKinney why he came to Springfield Thursday with his fiance, Justin Mikita, to lobby the Senate to pass the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.


UPDATE

Cullerton's office: no senate floor votes today on gun ban or gay marriage

Here are ongoing updates from McKinney (@davemckinney123) via Twitter.


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An AR-15 with an extended capacity ammunition magazine. | File

SPRINGFIELD - Driven by the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, gun-control legislation designed to ban assault weapons and the ammunition that feeds them passed a Senate panel late Wednesday, setting the stage for likely floor votes on Thursday.

The Democratic measures advanced out of the Senate Public Health Committee, which historically has been dominated by gun-control advocates, on party-line votes.

"The goal is to reduce the amount of incidents that occur where there are a significant amount of people shot in a short period of time," said Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge), the chief Senate sponsor of legislation banning the sale and possession of high-capacity ammunition magazines that allow shooters to fire at high speeds without reloading.

His proposal, which passed by a 6-3 vote, accompanied a measure sponsored by Sen. Antonio Munoz (D-Chicago) that would impose similar restrictions on military-style weapons, like the ones used in last month's murders of 26 people in Connecticut, 20 of whom were children.

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Lt. Governor Sheila Simon adjusts the bow tie on Jesse Tyler Ferguson at a press conference with marriage equality advocates who urged supporters across the state today to make their voices heard on Illinois' marriage equality bill. Ferguson is in ABC's hit comedy "Modern Family". The press conference was at the Thompson Center on Wednesday, January 2, 2013. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

SPRINGFIELD - A bid to legalize gay marriage in Illinois suffered an unexpected setback Wednesday when supporters fell two votes shy of getting the legislative hearing they wanted, meaning no Senate vote on the measure until Thursday at the earliest.

The 28-24 procedural vote showed the razor-thin margins surrounding the contentious issue and clearly caught backers off-guard, thwarting their plan to advance the measure to the Senate floor Wednesday night.

"It's a little bit too soon to conclude it was a fatal blow," said Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago).

Late Wednesday, Phelon said the measure would be voted on by the Senate Executive Committee early Thursday.

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SPRINGFIELD - In a huge win for gun-rights groups, a divided federal appeals court in Chicago Tuesday tossed the state's ban on carrying concealed weapons and gave Illinois' Legislature 180 days to craft a law legalizing concealed carry.

"The debate is over. We won. And there will be a statewide carry law in 2013," said Todd Vandermyde, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association.

In a split opinion (see below), the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling in two cases downstate that upheld the state's longstanding prohibition against carrying concealed weapons.

Illinois is the only state with an outright prohibition on concealed carry.

MAP: See what the concealed carry laws are state-by-state.


"We are disinclined to engage in another round of historical analysis to determine whether eighteenth-century America understood the Second Amendment to include a right to bear guns outside the home," Judge Richard Posner wrote in the court's majority opinion.

"The Supreme Court has decided that the amendment confers a right to bear arms for self-defense, which is as important outside the home as inside. The theoretical and empirical evidence (which overall is inconclusive) is consistent with concluding that a right to carry firearms in public may promote self-defense," he continued.

"Illinois had to provide us with more than merely a rational basis for believing that its uniquely sweeping ban is justified by an increase in public safety. It has failed to meet this burden," Posner wrote.

Christine_Radogno.jpegIL Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

A downstate Republican who got into a physical tussle last year with a Democratic senator over utility legislation touted himself Friday as a potential replacement for Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno following Tuesday's big GOP losses in the Legislature.

State Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) confirmed his interest in ousting Radogno from her leadership post after she failed to stave off a whopping five-seat loss for Republicans in the state Senate.

"If we were a competitive college sports team with a record like this, somebody would have been fired already," McCarter told the Chicago Sun-Times.

McCarter's criticism came the same day that a conservative political action committee, Family PAC, circulated a letter to each Republican state senator, urging Radogno's ouster.

m-mccarter.jpeg"Frankly, I think nearly anyone in that caucus could do a far better job than Christine Radogno," said Paul Caprio, director of Family PAC, who praised both McCarter (pictured right) and state Sen. Dan Duffy (R-Lake Barrington).

Caprio faulted Radogno for not appropriating proper financial "support" to anti-abortion candidates who lost and said her support of civil unions and abortion rights is "out of the mainstream of the Senate caucus."

Radogno, whose caucus will drop in size from 24 to 19 members in January, defended her backing of all Republican Senate campaigns and dismissed Caprio as an "outlier" in a party that she said must be recalibrated after Tuesday's outcome. She also took direct aim at McCarter.

"I'm not sure what we need now is an in-your-face, confrontational, white, downstate male. I love our downstate guys. I have a great relationship with them, and I'm not playing a gender card," she told the Chicago Sun-Times.

"What I'm saying, as a practical matter, is that we need to change our image. Fairly or not, we're perceived -- and these aren't my words, I've read it reported this way -- as being the party of angry white men, and that's not true by the way. The fact of the matter is perception is reality, and we need to deal with it," she said.

Caprio took issue with Radogno's implication that the party needs to rebrand itself so it again can carry appeal with moderate suburban women like herself.

"That's an insult to every woman voter who votes in this state. I'd like to find a woman who said the reason I voted for a Republican candidate is Christine Radogno," he said. "I wonder how many voters even know who the minority leadership is in Springfield, to tell you the truth. Playing this gender game is an excuse when you've lost every targeted Senate seat the Republicans had."

Radogno said it is unfair to hold her singularly accountable for what one top GOP strategist called a "bloodbath" that enabled Democrats to claim veto-proof majorities in the Legislature and win all of the contested congressional races in the suburbs.

"If everyone had done phenomenally well and this was just our result, that would be one thing. But our result was consistent with what happened across the state," she said.

McCarter, who took issue with Radogno's comments against "confrontational" downstate men, got into a shoving match on the Senate floor in 2011 with state Sen. Mike Jacobs (D-East Moline), who came at McCarter after he questioned Jacobs' sponsorship of Commonwealth Edison-backed smart-grid legislation. Jacobs' father, former state Sen. Denny Jacobs (D-East Moline), is a utility industry lobbyist.

"Did I stand up when I saw something that wasn't ethical with regards to the smart-grid bill with Mike Jacobs? Of course, I did. But I wasn't the one who came across the aisle to take a swing at a legislator. I sat in my seat where I was supposed to be," McCarter said.

He also took issue with Radogno's implication that the GOP would be best suited with a suburban woman, since Republicans across the board didn't badly with women voters, particularly in the suburbs.

"If it's all about doing better with women, having a woman in charge didn't fix things Tuesday," he said.

Radogno, who has been legislative leader since 2009, said she is confident she has lined up the 10 votes necessary to hold onto her job.

McCarter, a small business owner who has been in the Senate for four years, said he doesn't know yet how many votes he might have.