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It’s been just over a year since Illinois launched a new way for citizens to report instances of fraud and abuse in state government.

And, according to the folks who run the hotline dedicated to unearthing corruption in state government, the program has yielded 65 reports since it went online in January 2012.

A spokesman for Illinois Auditor General William Holland’s office said the fraud hotline has received 36 tips over the phone, while the remaining reports came in via online forms or through other means such as the U.S. Postal Service.

It remains unclear whether any of the allegations were true, but auditor spokesman Jim Dahlquist said the program appears to be working.

“Since the service is offered at a minimal administrative cost and offers another avenue to report fraud, we believe this process is efficient and effective,” Dahlquist noted in an email to me last week. “Additionally, from the anecdotal feedback we have received, callers are appreciative of being directed to the right agency which more appropriately addresses their problem.”

The hotline went live last year after lawmakers pushed to offer citizens another way to uncover problems in state government in the wake of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s conviction for being a greedy punk.

State Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat, sponsored the legislation, saying it would “shine a bright light” on corruption.

Under the program, the auditor general uses existing staff members to answer the phones and screen any incoming mail or email.

Office staffers then research the complaint to determine if this is within the auditor general’s jurisdiction.

If it’s not, the caller is referred to the correct governmental office, which could include a state’s attorneys office or an inspector general of a state agency.

The hotline number is 855-217-1895.

Disappearing act

Gov. Pat Quinn all but disappeared from the press corps’ watchful eye after he delivered his budget address on March 6. Over the course of a week, his public schedule said he would not be holding any public events.

On Wednesday, the Chicago Democrat emerged from his self-imposed media blackout with an appearance in Springfield.

He argued that he hadn’t been holed up in his house or office.

“Well, I was at other places in Illinois,” he told reporters. “I was at the state basketball tournament in Peoria and I spoke at a church on the west side of Chicago.”

In fact, his visit to the state basketball championship was not under the radar. He attended the state championship basketball game won by Harrisburg High School and then presented the team with the state championship trophy.

While at the game, he visited with embattled Southern Illinois University trustee Roger Herrin, a Harrisburg resident currently involved in a power struggle with SIU President Glenn Poshard.

Mane event

Just so you know that pension reform, budget cuts and gun control aren’t the only thing being discussed these days in Springfield, we bring you House Bill 2991.

State Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago, has introduced legislation that would ban the sale of lion meat and the slaughter of lions in Illinois.

Pro-lion groups roared with approval.

“We applaud Rep. Arroyo for introducing this bill. The lion meat industry is fraught with regulatory pitfalls and shortcomings that place people and lions at risk. People who are interested in lions should focus on ways to protect them in the wild where they belong, not ‘farm’ them for their cubs and meat for cheap thrills, and restaurant gimmicks,” noted Adam Roberts, executive vice president, Born Free USA.

The legislation is currently awaiting debate in the House Agriculture Committee.

In the meantime, we’re anxiously awaiting a proposal that would regulate the sale of unicorn horns.

School woes

With the state facing another dire budget year, state education officials last week called on state lawmakers to boost, not cut, funding for schools.

They laid out a number of potential scenarios that could occur if schools continue to receive less aid from the state.

“I mean, how about this one: How about a four-day school week? There are people calling, suggesting that they want to go to a four-day school week to make the budget balance,” said Gery Chico, chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education. “I mean, we are going to get weird here.”

Weird? A four-day school week is every school kid’s dream.

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