Statehouse

State of the State
12:00 am
Wed April 1, 2015

Should Illinois End Its Retirement Tax Break?

Statehouse reporter Brian Mackey writes the State of the State column for Illinois Issues magazine.
Credit mattpenning.com / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois continues to be pummeled with bad budget news. The General Assembly’s nonpartisan budget analysts at the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability say income tax receipts will be down $1.9 billion in the next fiscal year. That’s thanks to the tax cut that took effect January 1, lowering the individual income tax rate from 5 percent to 3.75 percent.

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Legislative Checklist
12:00 am
Wed April 1, 2015

Legislative Checklist April 2015

As the spring legislative session got into swing, lawmakers proposed several bills, including limits on need-based grants for college students and a plan to create digital driver’s licenses.

 

+ Drilling Ban On Public Land

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Noteworthy
12:00 am
Wed April 1, 2015

Bill Aims For Illinois To Follow States With Right-to-try Experimental Drug Laws

Terminally ill patients would be allowed to try experimental treatments under legislation proposed in the General Assembly. 

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Election 2016
2:41 pm
Tue March 31, 2015

Duckworth Distances Herself From Blagojevich

Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth talks about her U.S. Senate campaign on Tuesday in Springfield.
Credit Lisa Ryan

Republicans are making an issue of Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth's ties to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, now that she's running for U.S. Senate.

In 2006, then-Gov. Blagojevich appointed Duckworth to head the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. Duckworth says she is proud of her time at the VA and says she is separate from the currently imprisoned Blagojevich.

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Statehouse
7:41 am
Tue March 31, 2015

Despite Budget Deal, Black Caucus At Odds With Governor

Gov. Bruce Rauner is seen in this 2014 file photo.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Editor's note appended.

Last week’s short-term budget fix underscores tensions between some Democratic lawmakers and the new Republican governor. House and Senate Democratic leaders urged their members to support the appropriations, but many didn’t. Some Hispanic legislators and members of the Legislative Black Caucus voted against the budget legislation, which funded programs several of them said were important to their respective constituents.

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Statehouse
3:13 pm
Mon March 30, 2015

Two Decades After Crash, Willis Family Gets TV Show

A promotional photo for Meet The Willis Family - Credit TLC

(Information in the following story is from: Chicago Sun-Times, http://chicago.suntimes.com/)  

A new TV show is set to focus on the grandchildren of a couple who lost six kids in a 1994 van crash linked to the investigation and conviction of former Illinois Gov. George Ryan.  

The Chicago Sun-Times reports the show about the Tennessee-based Willis family will premiere May 5 on TLC.  

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U.S. Senate
2:27 pm
Mon March 30, 2015

Duckworth Announces A Run For U.S. Senate

Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth used a YouTube video to announce her candidacy.
Credit Tammy Duckworth

U.S Sen. Mark Kirk will face a challenge from Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, who announced Monday she'll run for the seat. It's unknown who else will vie for the spot, but it's already expected to be a tight race.

Duckworth, who was elected to the U.S. House in 2012, took to YouTube to declare her candidacy.

"I'm running for the U.S. Senate in 2016 because it's time for Washington to be held accountable, and to put Illinois' families and communities first," she said in the video.

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Legislation
4:54 am
Mon March 30, 2015

Measles Vaccine Legislation Seeks Delicate Balance

Credit The Blen / Creative Commons, flickr

 Legislators are trying to protect kids from measles, without offending anti-vaccine parents.

The outbreak of measles at a Palatine learning center in February has lawmakers wanting to protect children, but it's a politically sensitive topic.

When Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno presented her proposal to a legislative committee, she was upfront about her desire to not step on the toes of with parents who choose to not vaccinate their kids, while at the same time wanting to protect children.

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Band-Aid Budget
5:26 pm
Fri March 27, 2015

Listen to State Week - March 27, 2015

Gov. Bruce Rauner, standing at right, address members of his Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform, which met for the first time this week.
Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

The Illinois General Assembly this week approved a fix for Illinois short-term budget problems, but deeper issues remain. Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock took his final vote in Congress and gave a farewell address. Daily Herald Political Editor Mike Riopell joins the panel to discuss that and other topics on this week's edition of State Week.

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Statehouse
8:26 am
Fri March 27, 2015

Sentencing Commission Sets Ambitious Goal

Gov. Bruce Rauner, standing at right, address members of his Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform.
Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

A task force meant to overhaul Illinois’ criminal justice system is meeting for the first time Thursday in Springfield.

Gov. Bruce Rauner briefly addressed the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform, which he created last month by executive order, setting out an ambitious goal for emptying Illinois prisons.

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Rauner Signs First Bills
8:19 pm
Thu March 26, 2015

Budget Fix Signed Into Law; Daycare Program Saved

For weeks, advocates like these childcare providers have called on legislators to remedy a budget shortfall.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Republican Bruce Rauner has signed a temporary budget fix -- his first law since becoming governor earlier this year. 

Illinois' budget has a $1.6 billion dollar gap --- the result of a spending plan Democrats passed in the spring; some had hoped then for a post-election tax increase that never came to fruition.

Democratic Senator Heather Steans of Chicago says this will fill that gap.

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FEMA Formula Update Request
8:10 pm
Thu March 26, 2015

Another Chance For Tornado-Ravaged Towns

A subdivision of Washington, Illinois after it was hit by a tornado; despite the extent of the damage, FEMA denied a public assistance grant.
Credit Lee Strubinger/WUIS

Illinois' Congressional delegation is trying to get the Federal Emergency Management Agency to revise how it distributes aid after natural disasters. As WUIS has previously reported, the lawmakers tried before to no avail.

When a tornado touched down in southern Illinois several years ago, devastating the small town of Harrisburg, FEMA turned down Illinois' request for disaster assistance.

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Budget FY15
7:12 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

Senate Vote On Budget Fix Expected

Senate President John Cullerton says it took a compromise to reach a deal on the Fiscal Year 15 budget; a Senate vote is expected Thursday.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

A temporary budget fix is in the hands of Illinois Senators, who are expected to vote on the plan tomorrow. County courts, daycare providers who care for low-income kids, and the department of corrections' payroll for guards -- are nearing the end of their budget ropes.

After weeks of deliberations, the House on Tuesday hurriedly passed a stopgap for the $1.6 billion hole in the current year's budget, which ends June 30.

The Senate appears poised to do the same; though leaders, like Senate Pres. John Cullerton, say they're still working to get the votes.

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Statehouse
5:24 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

Group Wants To Close Developmental Centers

Bridget Brown addresses the crowd in the Illinois Capitol on Wednesday.
Credit Lisa Ryan

Advocates for people with disabilities gathered at the Capitol on Wednesday to show support for community-based living.

Bridget Brown is a public speaker who has down syndrome. She helped lead a rally calling on lawmakers to get rid of state institutions that house people with disabilities.

"A champion is a person who fights for a defenseless person, a protector, advocate and a warrior," she said to the crowd. "You are a champion!"

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Statehouse
5:03 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

Legislation Targets Day-Labor Discrimination

Day laborers protest working conditions in Chicago in 2006.
Credit Carlos Fernandez / flickr.com/chicagojwj

An Illinois lawmakers wants to find out whether day labor and temp agencies are discriminating against certain workers. Legislation would require the companies to take daily attendance — including collecting racial information. The data would be used to track which workers get placed and which are turned away.

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Statehouse
12:35 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

Legislation Would Decriminalize Some Marijuana Use In Illinois

Credit Andrey Saprykin iStockphoto

While the medical marijuana pilot program kicks off in Illinois - legislators are already considering a measure that would decriminalize owning some amount of the drug, and even growing several plants. It's part of an effort to rethink our criminal justice system and who we incarcerate. So says Michael Noland, a Democratic senator from Elgin. He spoke with Illinois Issues' Chris Steeples about the measure he sponsors:

   

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Statehouse
9:57 am
Wed March 25, 2015

Unpacking The Short Term Budget Fix

Jamey Dunn & Bill Wheelhouse

Bill Wheelhouse talks with Illinois Issues's Jamey Dunn for an explanation of the short term budget fix advancing in the legislature.

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Statehouse
3:02 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

State Would Provide Support To Prevent School Closures

One fix to this year's budget comes in the form of an across-the-board cut of 2.25 percent. It would affect Illinois schools, which already say they don’t get enough state funding.

To soften the blow, the deal includes $97 million the governor and State Board of Education can use to help schools that are desperately in need. House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie says a school would have to have serious financial problems to qualify for the assistance.

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Statehouse
12:41 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

Illinois House Moves To Patch $1.6b Hole

Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS

The Illinois House on Tuesday voted to patch a 1.6-billion-dollar hole in the current state budget.

  The budget was supposed to get Illinois through June, but already the state's running out of money for things like court reporters and prison guards. That’s in part because Democrats passed an incomplete budget last year — not wanting to raise taxes or cut spending.

Now Democrats and Republicans — including Gov. Bruce Rauner — say they’ve found a solution. But it continues to mostly avoid that difficult choice.

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Statehouse
9:45 am
Tue March 24, 2015

Pension Case Could Change Illinois' Credit Rating

The fate of Illinois' pension system rests in the upcoming Supreme Court decision.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

There's a reason analysts say Illinois has the nation's lowest credit rating. It has the nation's largest unfunded pension liability. A 2013 law that’s facing a challenge before the Illinois Supreme Court is intended to help.

Illinois is facing a budget hole in the billions, thanks to a rollback of the income tax. If the high court tosses out the pension law, there'll be more fiscal pressure.

Analysts like Moody's Ted Hampton say the rating won't likely drop further, even if the justices toss the law because the rating already presumes the law cannot be implemented.

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Statehouse
7:37 am
Tue March 24, 2015

Lawmakers To Discuss House Plan To Fill Budget Hole

Lawmakers are scheduled to consider a new plan introduced by House Speaker Michael Madigan to end weeks of negotiations over plugging a $1.6 billion hole in this year's state budget.

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Where Does Power Rest?
5:45 pm
Mon March 23, 2015

Chicago Vs. Illinois

Chicago City Hall
Credit flickr/Daniel X. O'Neill

In politics, local government, like city wards, can be seen as the “minor leagues.” This is where candidates are scouted and get recruited to run for higher office.

But time and again, state legislators from Chicago do the opposite. They leave behind jobs in the Statehouse to serve on the City Council.

So that begs the question: What’s more important? Making sure potholes are filled, garbage is picked up on time and what the neighborhood watch group is up to?

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Statehouse
5:58 am
Mon March 23, 2015

Older Children May Lose Day Care Funding

Credit Tennessee Department of Human Services

Gaps in the current year's budget mean that the state has stopped paying for its Child Care Assistance Program, and day care providers are worried about more issues in the future.

The program that provides assistance for parents to pay for child care could experience more financial problems if Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposals become next year's budget.

Sen. Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat, says cutting government assistance to day care has negative consequences in other areas.

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Statehouse
5:00 am
Mon March 23, 2015

Lawmaker: Give Bankruptcy A Chance

Credit flickr.com/andy_kiel

An Illinois Republican has proposed changing state law to let cities and towns declare bankruptcy.

As state government considers cutting back the money it shares with municipalities, Rep. Ron Sandack says it ought to give cities more tools to fix their own finances. Sandack says letting cities threaten bankruptcy would give them more leverage in dealing with unions.

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Instagram Edition
5:59 pm
Fri March 20, 2015

Listen to State Week - March 20, 2015

Soon-to-be-former Congressman Aaron Schock, surfing off the coast of Hawaii.
Credit Aaron Schock / Instagram

Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock resigned this week amid questions about his spending of taxpayer money. When the news broke, political reporter Chris Kaergard of the Peoria Journal Star was in the Republican's Downton Abbey-inspired office, waiting for a previously scheduled interview.

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Statehouse
5:44 pm
Fri March 20, 2015

Attorney General Says Rauner's Anti-Union Proposals Illegal

Lisa Madigan at the 2015 inauguration
Credit WUIS/Brian Mackey

Illinois' Democratic attorney general has delivered a blow to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's efforts to weaken labor unions.
 
 Lisa Madigan on Friday issued formal opinions saying two of Rauner's proposals would be illegal.
 
 One would allow local governments to create so-called ``right to work zones''
where union membership would be voluntary. The other would let local governments opt out of prevailing wage agreements, which require workers on government
projects to receive wages that reflect local compensation for similar jobs.
 

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Statehouse
8:00 pm
Thu March 19, 2015

Pastor Confirmed To Head State School Board, Despite Gay-Rights Objections

The Rev. James Meeks, seen in an undated file photo, has been confirmed as chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education.

The Illinois Senate on Thursday confirmed the Rev. James Meeks as chairman of the State Board of Education. It comes over the objections of a gay-rights group.

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Statehouse
5:21 pm
Thu March 19, 2015

Criminal Justice Advocates Want Shorter Sentences For Minors

Credit flickr/meeshpants

Xavier McElrath-Bey was arrested when he was 13 years old. The Chicagoan went to prison for first degree murder for a gang-related crime. He left prison on good behavior at the age of 27 with a college degree in hand.

State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie wants to make sentencing for minors more lenient. House Bill 2471 would prohibit judges from sentencing minors to life without parole. House Bill 2470 would allow minors to have their sentence reviewed after serving 15 years.

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Statehouse
2:18 pm
Thu March 19, 2015

State to divert 'fair share' fees from unions

Credit wuis

Gov. Bruce Rauner's office has instructed state agencies to begin diverting ``fair share'' fees from nonunion members' paychecks away from unions.  

A memo obtained by The Associated Press directs departments to create two sets of books to do it.  

The Republican governor signed an order last month ending the practice of collecting union fees from non-union members. He labeled it a First Amendment violation and asked a federal court to overturn the state requirement.  

Unions collect the fees to defray the cost of work that also benefits nonmembers.  

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Statehouse
12:34 am
Thu March 19, 2015

After Long Silence, House Moving On Minimum Wage

For the first time in years, legislation to raise the minimum wage is advancing in the Illinois House.

Raising the wage has been a hot topic for years. Illinois voters overwhelmingly supported the idea at last November's election. The Senate voted for an increase last month. And even Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner says he can get behind it — if it comes after a long list of pro-business legislation.

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