Statehouse

John Hanlon, Illinois Innocence Project
Illinois Innocence Project

This year, the Illinois Innocence Project is making its 15th anniversary. In January, the program helped win freedom for Teshome Campbell. He had been convicted of murdering James Shepherd in Champaign back in 1997, and spent more than 18 years in prison.

Amanda Vinicky

A state senator's attempt to snuff-out youth smoking fell short when it came up for a vote Thursday.

Sen. John Mulroe, D-Chicago, wants to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21 "to prevent tobacco-related disease and death."

wnij

Human service agencies are hopeful legislation approved Thursday by state lawmakers will finally get them money, but they shouldn't start spending just yet.

Legislators and top Rauner administration officials are acknowledging what it’ll take to solve Illinois’ budget mess: billions of dollars in spending cuts and tax hikes. But they're also insisting it's just a possibility, not a bill, and certainly not a deal.

In other news, a familiar name is suing over the "Independent Maps" ballot initiative.

WUIS

  Billions of dollars in cuts are part of a possible budget for next year.  So are higher taxes. 

Jenna Dooley/Ill Public Radio

Illinois lawmakers approved $700 million to partially finance various human service programs that haven't received funding since last summer because of the budget stalemate.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Illinois legislators today Thursday approved stopgap funding for human services.

After ten months without state funding … after-school programs, local health departments and substance abuse treatment centers are in critical condition.

Democratic Representative Greg Harris says Senate Bill 2038 would pay social service organizations just under half of what they're owed.

Amanda Vinicky / WUIS / Illinois Issues

Billions of dollars in cuts are part of a possible budget for next year. So are higher taxes.

Illinois built up a deficit over the years; the current impasse has only exacerbated it. A bipartisan group of legislators chosen to craft a solution has a potential path for fiscal year 2017.

Members are cagey about sharing details. It's politically sensitive; members say they're hesitant to share details out of respect for their private negotiations.

flickr/ Bill Brooks

Bipartisan working groups are currently trying to find a way out of the budget impasse. But the crisis could have been prevented long before the battle between Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic leaders began.

Amanda Vinicky

Lawmakers' latest bid to mitigate the damage of the budget impasse centers on helping social services.

Court orders have kept money flowing to certain social services, but many others have had to scale back or close after waiting more than ten months for the state to pay their bills. These autism, drug-treatment, and housing programs would get about $700 million under a measure advanced on a bipartisan basis by an Illinois House committee.

The use of solitary confinement has drawn increasing scrutiny nationwide. And last week, the John Howard Association issued a statement (PDF) on the practice in Illinois prisons.

The John Howard Association is an independent watchdog, monitoring conditions and advocating for more humane treatment in Illinois prisons. We spoke to the group's director, Jennifer Vollen-Katz.

Trump by Michael Vadon/Flickr / Rauner by Brian Mackey/WUIS

Now that it seems Donald Trump will be his party’s nominee for president, Republicans have a decision to make.

Rep. Frank Mautino reviews a COGFA report.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino told lawmakers Tuesday he doesn't want people to question his integrity. But he declined to respond to questions about alleged misuse of campaign funds.

Illinois Republican lawmakers used a legislative audit hearing to continue pressuring Mautino on what his critics call excessive, and possibly unethical, spending listed in his campaign finance reports.

Mautino, who took office in January after years as a Democratic state representative, said he'll answer those questions on May 16 at a hearing with the State Board of Elections.

Amanda Vinicky moderated a City Club of Chicago conversation on the current state budget impasse featuring a panel with  Republican State Rep. Patti Bellock, Democratic State Sen. Daniel Biss,  Democratic State Sen. Andy Manar, and Republican State Rep. David McSweeny.   

flickr/picturesofmoney

Because of the lack of a budget, social services providers have not been getting paid for some of their work, even though they have contracts with state to continue providing these services. Some are now suing Illinois.

These organizations help the state's most vulnerable populations. But they are also businesses that have to make payroll, keep the lights on and balance their books for yearly audits. 

Illinois Municipal League

Illinois cities want legislation that would give broad legal protections to government employees like first responders. It's a response to an Illinois Supreme Court decision in January.

Sarah Mueller WUIS

An Illinois citizens group on Friday moved a step forward in its aim to change the way the state draws legislative boundaries. The constitutional amendment its pushing would take the task of creating new maps from the state legislature and give it to an independent commission. But the proposal still faces hurdles to get on November's ballot.

woman at Capitol with "People Not Politics" sign
Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault

Sixty four agencies are suing the state for $100 million. They've got contracts that say they're owed that money, but Illinois hasn't paid up: The funding is caught in the prolonged stalemate between lawmakers and the governor.

One of those agencies is the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

NPR Illinois' Amanda Vinicky spoke with its director -- Polly Poskin -- about the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed last week in Cook County.

Rep. Frank Mautino reviews a COGFA report.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

  Republican lawmakers are piling the pressure on Illinois' Auditor General. They're pressing him to respond to allegations of improper campaign spending.

Legislators chose one of their own, former Democratic State Rep. Frank Mautino, to take over as the state's financial watchdog. He started in January.

Almost immediately, some came to regret that choice. Published reports detail what critics say appear to be excessive, unethical -- some say possibly illegal -- campaign finance reports.

wikimedia

Legislators have ratified an amendment to the Illinois constitution but it's up to voters whether the provision will be enshrined in state law.

Over the years, when lawmakers have been short on cash for state needs, they've dipped into funds that are supposed to pay for infrastructure.

The idea is to put an end to that practice.

The proposed constitutional amendment would put transportation funding in a figurative "lock box."

A push to change Illinois' flat income tax into a graduated tax died on the vine this week. And Illinois Republicans have some difficult decisions to make now that Donald Trump appears to have won the party's presidential nomination.

Income tax space on a Monopoly game board
StockMonkeys.com

Despite recent hype over the possibility of legislators putting questions on the November ballot to change the constitution, the Illinois House adjourned Wednesday without even voting on proposed amendments. Their lack of action means voters won't be asked whether they want to change how they're taxed.

flickr/jmorgan

A plan to move Illinois to a graduated income tax is dead. Wednesday was the final scheduled session day for lawmakers to advance it. Instead, the Illinois House adjourned without taking a vote.

Illinois' constitution only allows income to be taxed at a flat rate.

Rep. Christian Mitchell and other Democrats wanted to amend the constitution, so the state could charge the wealthy more. He says a package was carefully crafted, so that for most Illinois residents -- it'd lead to a tax cut.

foggy playground
Allen / Flickr.com/roadsidepictures

On Monday, an organization called Illinois Voices sued the Illinois State Police and attorney general’s office. It’s targeting what it says are unconstitutionally vague and burdensome restrictions on people who have to register under the state’s sex offender laws.

The case is Does 1-4 v. Madigan, No. 16 CV 4847 (N.D. Ill.). Download the complaint here (PDF).

At East Alton-Wood River High School, as well in schools across the state, the measurement of academic improvement is based on a single test given over two days once a year. “It’s silly to measure a school’s performance by that,” says the Superintendent.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Yet again, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Governor Bruce Rauner are at odds. This time, over a constitutional amendment introduced by the Speaker. It may not matter -- the plan is dead if it doesn't advance Wednesday.

Above all else, Gov. Rauner, a Republican, says education comes first.

But apparently, he doesn't want to secure that with a constitutional guarantee.

His political foe, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan wants the constitution to say adequate education funding is a fundamental right.

Rauner isn't on board.

ilga.gov

The sponsor of a proposal to move Illinois to a graduated income tax says he is going forward with it Wednesday after working to shore up support.

The State Legislative Leaders Foundation

A deadline is approaching for the legislature to act on proposed amendments to the Illinois constitution. They only have until the end of this week. Here's a rundown of where various proposals stand. 

WUIS

A group of Illinois legislators failed to endorse Gov. Bruce Rauner’s plan to close the youth prison in Kewanee. But Tuesday's vote will not necessarily keep the facility open.

csu.edu

Thanks to a law signed last week, Illinois' public universities and community colleges are finally getting state money for the first time since last summer. Now, more could be on the way.

The bipartisan deal is sending $600 million to higher education.

But it wasn't spread out evenly.

Most schools got 30-percent of last year's funding.

Chicago State University got 60-percent.

Senator Donne Trotter, a Chicago Democrat, says that's because CSU was on the precipice of a shutdown.

flickr/eggrole

An advisory board voted Monday to make a number of additional health conditions eligible for Illinois' medical cannabis pilot program. But Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration has previously rejected the board's recommendations.

Pages