Statehouse

Statehouse
7:32 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Illinois Republican: Cuba Agreement "Good First Step"

Illinois' Congressional delegation has mixed reviews on the United States moving to normalize relations with Cuba. Like many key Republicans, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk denounced President Barack Obama for setting what he called a "dangerous precedent" by conceding to a dictator. But another Republican --- Congressman Rodney Davis of Taylorville -- says lifting outdated trade restrictions will strengthen Cuba's middle class, and weaken Raoul Castro's regime. Davis also says it'll open the market for Illinois' agricultural commodities. U.S.

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Pensions
1:43 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Rauner Named Nation's Most Influential Pension Figure

Credit npr.org

The trade magazine "Institutional Investor" has ranked Illinois' incoming governor as its most influential player in U.S. pensions. An article says Bruce Rauner may regret ever having run for office, given the state's massive longterm pension debt, and the difficulty he is expected to have in addressing it.

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Statehouse
11:08 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Topinka Remembered As Tough, Honest

Late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has been remembered
as a tough, honest leader with a signature sense of humor.
 
 Crowds filled a union hall in suburban Chicago on Wednesday to pay respects.
Individuals included the state's top leaders, lawmakers, local leaders and
Illinoisans who knew her for more than 70 years.
 
 Gov. Pat Quinn says Topinka took on tough challenges in life. She was also a
former state treasurer, GOP head and lawmaker.
 
 Portraits of Topinka lined an entrance, along with photos of past campaigns,

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Statehouse
11:00 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Rauner Favors Merging Comptroller, Treasurer. Just Not Now.

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner took a handful of questions from reporters following his appearance Tuesday at a Better Government Association in Springfield; the audience was delighted to hear that he'll live in the capital city.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Many of Illinois' top politicians will pay their respects to the late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka at a memorial service today (Wed., Dec. 17). Topinka died last week at the age of 70, shortly after having a stroke. Even as she's being mourned, political jockeying is underway to determine who'll next take her job.

Topinka passed away a month before she was to be sworn into her next term as Comptroller -- the position in state government responsible for paying the bills.

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Budget FY15
6:46 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Agencies To Ask For More, Rauner Says ... Without Giving An Opinion On If They Deserve It Or Not

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner, right, speaks before a full crowd at the Sangamo Club on Tues., Dec. 16 as part of a Better Government Association event on Illinois' finances.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner has already tried to make the case that that Illinois' finances are worse than he thought. Now he's adding to his list of examples.

"What we've learned here in recent days, and I'm here to get more of the detail on ... there's $760 million of what they're calling - what I guess, I'm learning the lingo - supplemental appropriations, about to be requested," he said.

Basically, it means that state agencies are going to be asking for an additional $760 million to get them through this budget year -- or, as Rauner put it, they want to go "over budget."

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Prisons
5:13 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

Report Faults State For Closing Women's Prison

Logan Correctional Center, in Lincoln, houses the majority of Illinois' female inmates.
Credit Google Maps

Illinois’ main prison for women has nearly 2,000 inmates. An outside monitor says that’s the result of poor planning when Illinois closed the prison at Dwight nearly two years ago.

The majority of Illinois female inmates are incarcerated at Logan Correctional Center in central Illinois.

John Howard Association director John Maki says the state ought not be housing 1,985 women in a prison built to hold 1,106.

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Statehouse
5:10 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

Rauner Launches Inauguration Website

Credit wuis

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner's inaugural festivities will include a dinner at the Illinois Capitol, a concert and a free event at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
 
The Winnetka Republican launched a website Monday with a schedule for the 2015
inauguration.
 
Rauner takes the oath of office during a ceremony Jan. 12. Rather than the
traditional inaugural ball that evening, he's planning a concert with a
yet-to-be-named ``famous musical act.''
 

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Statehouse
12:00 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

Attorney General Issues Opinion On Comptroller Replacement

Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says the death of Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka leaves essentially two vacancies that should first be filled by outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn and then Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner. But she says voters should also get a chance to cast ballots for the office in 2016.
 
 Topinka died last week. The Republican had won a second term, which starts next
month.  
 
 In a legal analysis released Monday, Madigan says Quinn should appoint someone
until Jan. 12, when the current term ends and new elected officials are sworn

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State Week
1:49 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

Listen to State Week - December 12, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, a look back at the long political career of state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, who died this week following a stroke.

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Statehouse
7:13 am
Fri December 12, 2014

Gov-Elect Rauner Makes Two Appointments

Credit WUIS

Illinois Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner has named an attorney for Indiana's former governor and a former longtime aide to U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert to serve in his administration.  

In a Thursday statement announcing the hires, Rauner says attorney Jason Barclay and Kathy Lydon bring ``invaluable experience.''  

Barclay is a partner at Barnes and Thornburg in Indianapolis. He was legal counsel for former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. He will be Rauner's general counsel.  

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Statehouse
5:54 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Topinka Memorial To Be Held Next Week

Credit Comptroller website

A public memorial service for late Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka is scheduled for next week.
 
The comptroller's office says the memorial service will be held at 9:30 a.m.
Wednesday at Operating Engineers' Local 150 headquarters in Countryside.
 
Topinka died unexpectedly Wednesday at the age of 70 after suffering
complications from a stroke. Her passing came just weeks after she was elected
to a second term.
 
A news release says fellow state leaders, colleagues and family will share

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Statehouse
9:57 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Topinka Remembered For Sharp Tongue, Common Touch

Judy Baar Topinka in her Statehouse office on May 22, 2013.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has died from complications following a stroke. She was 70.

Topinka’s career spanned more than three decades in Illinois government. It was not without controversy, but her distinctive personality won the support of voters time and time again.

Topinka worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter before first running for office in 1980. She served in the Illinois House and Senate until 1995, when she was sworn in as treasurer.

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Statehouse
6:18 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Ill. Supreme Court Sets Schedule For Pension Case

Credit Il. Supreme Court website - state.il.us/court

The Illinois Supreme Court is allowing a speedy review of a state pension overhaul that a lower court has declared unconstitutional.
 
The court issued an order Wednesday granting the government's request for an
expedited appeal.
 
The court says the government must file its initial argument by Jan. 12. The
other side _ a group of state employees, retired teachers and others _ must
respond by Feb. 27.
 
The case involves the pension fix lawmakers and Gov. Pat Quinn adopted last

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Illinois Issues - Leadership
1:01 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Archives: 1995 Judy Baar Topinka Profile

Judy Baar Topinka
Credit Comptroller website

The following article ran in the March 1995 Illinois Issues magazine:

In a convention center filled with thousands of blue-suited, straitlaced Republicans, leave it to Judy Baar Topinka to tell a fart joke.

The elite of Illinois' GOP were gathered in Springfield for the January inauguration of the six constitutional officers. Having swept the state's top posts, the partisan crowd was in a celebratory make that downright giddy mood for the day's pomp and circumstance.

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Statehouse
11:14 am
Wed December 10, 2014

Officials Unclear On Filling Topinka Vacancy

State Comptroller's Web Site Remembering Topinka

With the death of Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, it would seem that the next step is for the Governor to appoint a successor.  However, election officials are unsure about the process:

The constitution says the governor would choose someone to fill out the term until the next election. Except the term ends January 12  and an election has already been held.   State Board of Elections Director Rupert Borgsmiller says they are not sure how to handle it:

"Nobody knows at this point by looking at the  constitution and the election code itself"

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Statehouse
6:22 am
Wed December 10, 2014

Judy Baar Topinka Dead At 70

Credit Comptroller website

Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has died, less than 24 hours after having a stroke.  

A statement from her office says the 70-year-old Topinka died early Wednesday morning following complications from the stroke.  

She'd reported discomfort and was admitted to a hospital in Berwyn. After undergoing testing, she lost consciousness Wednesday and was pronounced dead shortly after 2 a.m.  

Topinka, a Republican, won a second term last month in a tough race with Democratic challenger Sheila Simon, the former lieutenant governor.  

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Statehouse
6:07 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

Public Employees Argue Against Fast Review Of Pension Law

Illinois Supreme Court justices
Credit state.il.us

State workers behind a challenge to an Illinois
pension law declared unconstitutional are opposing the government's attempt to
have it speedily heard by the Illinois Supreme Court.
 
 Attorney General Lisa Madigan asked the court last week to hasten its schedule
for considering the case. She argues that the government needs a decision
quickly because if it can't implement the law, it would have to find a way to
make up about $1 billion in savings in the first year.
 

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Statehouse
5:56 am
Tue December 9, 2014

Blagojevich Era Lawsuit Leads To Damage Awards for Casinos

A jury has found a racetrack owner liable in a civil racketeering case that involved actions during Rod Blagojevich's time as Illinois governor.  

The jury in federal district court in Chicago on Monday awarded $26.3 million in damages to four Illinois riverboat casinos. The damages are tripled because the case fell under the civil racketeering statute, making the recovery more than $78 million.  

The trial involved a pay-to-play deal allegedly involving the now-imprisoned Blagojevich and John Johnston, a member of the Illinois racetrack industry.  

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Hail A Cab, App An Uber
3:01 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Online Ads Hint At Rideshare Expansion Downstate

Credit Taxi by Ben Fredericson Ipad wallpaper

Hints are popping up that the controversial rideshare service called Uber may be expanding its reach in Illinois.

Uber is riding a wave of victory in Illinois. The company fended off regulations it said were too onerous, and helped the General Assembly craft a compromise measure instead. That's awaiting action from the governor.

But the rideshare service may already be making good on plan to grow outside the Chicago region.

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State Week
1:43 pm
Fri December 5, 2014

Listen to State Week - December 5, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

The two-year session of the 98th General Assembly comes to a close.

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Statehouse
11:30 am
Fri December 5, 2014

Former Lawmaker Pleads Guilty In Child Porn Case

Fmr. Rep. Keith Farnham
Credit ilga.gov

A former Illinois state representative has changed his plea to guilty in a child pornography case.  
 
 The Chicago Sun-Times reports (http://bit.ly/12HVLiu ) that Elgin Democrat
Keith Farnham pleaded guilty Friday in federal court in Chicago as part of a plea deal. He faces five to 20 years in prison.
 
 Earlier this year, the 66-year-old had pleaded not guilty to possessing, receiving and transporting child pornography.
 

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Statehouse
5:54 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

Attorney General Seeks Fast Review Of Illinois Pension Law

Lisa Madigan

Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office has asked the Illinois
Supreme Court for an expedited hearing of her appeal of a lower court's
declaration the state's pension overhaul is unconstitutional.  
 
 Madigan announced the motion Thursday. It says issues raised are of
``widespread public importance'' to state government and seeks a ruling in
advance of lawmakers' May 31 budget approval deadline.
 
Madigan's office had already filed the appeal concerning the 2013 law designed
to reduce roughly $100 billion in unfunded liability.  
 

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Statehouse
5:38 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

Quinn's Options On Minimum Wage

Credit WUIS

A final piece of Gov. Pat Quinn's legacy is up in the air as lawmakers leave Springfield without sending him legislation increasing Illinois' minimum wage.
 
Quinn championed the issue during his tough re-election bid. But there are few
options to tackle it before Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner takes office.
 
Quinn can call a special session, but there's the embarrassing risk of
lawmakers refusing to act. He also can attempt to persuade House Speaker Michael
Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton to agree to a special session.
 

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Statehouse
4:56 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

Illinois Lawmakers Approve Eavesdropping Legislation

Credit flickr/John Liu

Illinois lawmakers have approved eavesdropping restrictions to replace those the state Supreme Court declared unconstitutional last spring.

The Senate voted 46-4 Thursday to prohibit recording private conversations without the consent of everyone involved.  

It goes to Gov. Pat Quinn. A spokesman says Quinn has not made a decision on whether to sign it.  

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Statehouse
7:26 am
Thu December 4, 2014

Statehouse Summary- Same Day Voter Registration & Pension Appeal

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Illinois Senate has passed legislation that would raise the state's minimum wage. The legislation would by 2019 increase Illinois' minimum wage to $11 an hour for workers 18 and older. The bill won't impact Chicago's decision to raise its wage to $13 by 2019.  The House adjourned without voting on it.

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Illinois Issues - Leadership
4:07 pm
Wed December 3, 2014

House Adjourns For Good ... ?

Speaker Michael Madigan on the House's final day of the 98th General Assembly ... unless he and Senate Pres. John Cullerton agree to return for a special session, or the General Assembly is called into one by Gov. Pat Quinn, whose last full day in office is Jan. 13.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

The Illinois House has adjourned its two-year legislative session for good, without a vote on a minimum wage hike - meaning that Representatives will not be back in Springfield before Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner takes over.  But backers of an increase are raising the possibility that the proposal isn't quite dead yet.

In Latin, "Sine Die" means “without a date," so when House Speaker Michael Madigan said "I move that we adjourn Sine Die," he meant that current makeup of the Illinois House was adjourning for good - with no intent to meet again.

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Veto Session
5:57 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Businesses Get Tax Break With New Minimum Wage Plan

Sen. Kim Lightford, D-Maywood, holds a press conference in November; she has campaigned for years fon a minimum wage increase.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

A revamped statewide minimum wage hike is in the works, following Chicago's passage of one for the city. As the legislative session nears its end, specifics are developing.

Backers of a higher minimum wage are doing what they can to get it through the General Assembly.

That means phasing it in over a longer period of time --- so it'd go up to $9 in July, instead of $10, then notch up each summer by 50 cents, until it reaches $11 in 2019. They're also adding on a tax credit for small businesses, to ease the cost of paying workers more.

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Shocked, Shocked
4:56 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Rauner: Voters 'Misled' On Sorry State Finances

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner spoke with reporters Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014 in the Illinois Statehouse.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner was back in Springfield Tuesday. He spoke with reporters and — not surprisingly — says Illinois’ finances are in terrible shape.

Last spring, Democrats acknowledged they passed a budget that’s badly out of balance. It spends way more money than the state will collect from taxes — a multi-billion-dollar shortfall. Now Rauner says the problem is even worse than it seemed.

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Statehouse
4:38 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Rauner Warns Chicago On Minimum Wage

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner speaks with reporters in the Illinois Capitol Building on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Even as Chicago aldermen were voting Tuesday to raise the city's minimum wage, Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner issued a warning on the subject.

Rauner had a simple message for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

"My recommendation to the mayor is he keeps in mind competitiveness for the city of Chicago," Rauner says.

Rauner says he would support a statewide increase — if lawmakers also pass restrictions on lawsuits and other legislation favored by the business community.

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Statehouse
7:13 am
Tue December 2, 2014

Report: Illinois Human Rights Employees Falsified Documents

 An investigation found that four Illinois Department of Human Rights employees supposedly examining discrimination complaints forged signatures and falsified documents to cover for work they didn't do.  

The report Monday by the Office of the Executive Inspector General also found supervisors failed to monitor the four investigators, who resigned in 2011 and 2012.  

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