Statehouse

Leadership Blog
3:24 pm
Thu April 23, 2015

Legislative Force With Lucas, Obama Museums

An architectural rendering of the proposed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which may be built on Chicago's lakefront.
Credit LMNA Architecture Renderings / Lucas Museum of Narrative Art press kit

The force of the Illinois legislature is behind bringing George Lucas's museum and Barack Obama's presidential library to Chicago.

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Statehouse
2:49 pm
Thu April 23, 2015

Students Learn Kernel Of Truth About Government

Fourth graders at Chatham Elementary pose with Sen. Sam McCann (R-Carlinville).
Credit Chatham Elementary School

Chatham Elementary School students had a lesson Thursday in how government works. Their proposal to make sweet corn the official state vegetable passed the state Senate.

The sponsor of Senate Bill 800, Republican Sen. Sam McCann from Carlinville, says not all responses have been positive.

"I had a couple of emails from folks around the state saying that... while the city walls are seemingly crumbling, why are you focusing on something like this?" he said. "And of course the answer couldn't be more clear. We have to invest in the future leaders of our state and our nation."

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Statehouse
7:10 am
Thu April 23, 2015

House Committee Approves Privatizing Economic Agency & Putting Lincoln Library Under Its Own Board

 A House committee has approved a measure that would
privatize the state's economic development agency and turn the Abraham Lincoln
Library and Museum into a stand-alone institution.
 
 The House executive committee on Wednesday unanimously passed legislation
merging two ideas from House Speaker Michael Madigan and Gov. Bruce Rauner.
 
 Madigan has pushed for the Lincoln Library to be a stand-alone agency instead
of under the Historic Preservation Agency, which would be eliminated under the

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Statehouse
4:40 am
Thu April 23, 2015

Proposal Would Ban Red Light Cameras In Some Cities

A red light camera in Oregon.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Lawmakers are hoping to put an end to red light cameras in some places in Illinois.

A proposal in the Illinois legislature would ban red light cameras in non-home rule cities.

Opponents say red light cameras, which are designed to stop drivers from running red lights, actually cause more accidents from cars abruptly stopping.

Republican Rep. Steven Andersson is a local prosecutor. He says some people receive tickets even though they weren't the one driving the car.

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Budget FY15
8:25 pm
Wed April 22, 2015

Coins Under The Couch Cushions And False Hope

Daniel Gorog (right), a 23-year-old man with autism stands new to his father, Dan Gorog, who on Tuesday thanked a Senate committee for voting to restore money to autism programs that he credits with helping his son. But it may be false hope.

There's a hold-up over efforts to programs dealing with autism, drug prevention, and more from ending. It seems like advocates should be celebrating.

After Gov. Bruce Rauner says he was forced to earlier this month suddenly pull $26 million worth of state grants, the Illinois Senate used the legislative version of searching under the couch cushions for change.

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Statehouse
7:54 pm
Wed April 22, 2015

Proposal Would Put Limits On Campaigning

Sen. Darin LaHood talks about the amendment to Senate Bill 1058 with Sen. Jason Barickman.
Credit Lisa Ryan/WUIS

A measure in the Illinois Senate would prevent elected officials from promoting new programs and grants before an election.

The proposal is in response to an audit of the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative or NRI. Former Gov. Pat Quinn started the $50 million anti-violence program shortly before the 2010 election.

Republican Sen. Darin LaHood calls the program a "failure." He, along with the auditor general, say the program lacked proper oversight.

"How do we make government and this program more effective, efficient, accountable and ethically sound?" he asked.

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Fair Share Dues
3:43 pm
Wed April 22, 2015

Rauner Wants Teachers Exempt From Fair Share

Gov. Bruce Rauner addresses the Citizens Club of Springfield.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Public school teachers and their unions may be next, as Gov. Bruce Rauner seeks to loosen requirements on collective bargaining dues.

The vast majority of state employees are unionized. But even those who choose not to join still have to pay what are known as "fair share" dues. That's basically a fee to cover the work unions do to benefit all workers, members and non-members alike. Things like wage hikes, and health care coverage that unions secure in negotiations. But Gov. Rauner alleges the money's also used for political advocacy.

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Past Due
12:20 pm
Wed April 22, 2015

House Panel Wants More Details On Governor's Cuts

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

A budget oversight panel created by Illinois House Speaker  Michael Madigan grilled members of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration about cuts to the current budget and his plan for next year. 

  Democratic members of the committee demanded more information about how the governor is choosing which programs to cut and, in some cases, eliminate. They say the process the administration used to decide what to cut lacked transparency  and argued that some of the choices, like eliminating services to people with autism, were wrong.

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Past Due
11:51 am
Wed April 22, 2015

Cost Of Burying Poor Might Shift To Local Governments

Credit Jaegar Moore / flickr.com/97408355@N06

Bruce Rauner froze several state grants in order to balance the budget for the current fiscal year. Now lawmakers are asking what will happen to the people who relied on those programs even after their deaths. 

One of the grants provided money to cover burial of the poor. Under the program, funeral homes provide the services and bill the state to cover part of the costs.

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Neighborhood Recovery Initiative
10:39 pm
Tue April 21, 2015

Facing Audit, Group Denies NRI Ties

Rep. Frank Mautino reviews a document in this file photo.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

A Chicago community organization is questioning why a House resolution is calling for a probe of how it uses state money. Lawmakers have asserted that the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) got money from the embattled, state-funded Neighborhood Recovery Initiative. But KOCO leaders say the group wasn’t part of that violence prevention program and they are “baffled” at the audit request.

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Plan Restores Grant Cuts
8:59 pm
Tue April 21, 2015

Will Lawmakers Disappoint This Father?

Credit flickr/borman18

The Illinois Senate could begin voting Wednesday on a plan to reverse a smattering of state grants recently eliminated by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Democratic legislators say they were caught off guard earlier this month when Rauner suddenly took $26 million in funding away from programs, including ones that support autistic children and people with epilepsy.

Sen. Dan Kotowksi, a Park Ridge Democrat, says Illinois should restore at least a portion of the money. He proposes getting it by sweeping special state funds that have reserves.

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Statehouse
8:11 pm
Tue April 21, 2015

Time Running Out For Medical Marijuana

Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Patients with certain illnesses are on their way to being able to use medical marijuana in Illinois, but time is running out.

As it stands now, Illinois' medical marijuana program is only set to continue for another two and a half years, and sick people haven't even been able to legally buy cannabis yet.

Democratic Rep. Lou Lang says that wasn't his intent; he'd wanted the program to last twice that long. Lang blames a delay in Illinois awarding licenses to firms to grow and sell cannabis.

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Statehouse
6:26 pm
Tue April 21, 2015

Study: Illinois Lacks Qualified Workforce

Kevin Weinacht, a member of ReadyNation, talks about the skills gap in Illinois.
Credit Lisa Ryan/WUIS

Illinois has more jobs than qualified workers, a group of business leaders say.

To bridge that gap, Sean Noble of ReadyNation says Illinois needs to improve its education system, primarily by expanding early childhood education.

"Current education and labor market trends indicate the Illinois workforce faces an increasingly serious skills gap," Noble said. "That's the gap between two important numbers: job postings and the workers who are skilled enough to fill those positions."

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Statehouse
2:59 pm
Tue April 21, 2015

Public Radio Interview: Rauner At 100 Days

Amanda Vinicky interviews Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday in his Capitol office.
Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS

Today marks Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's 100th day in office. He sat down in the Capitol for a one-on-one interview with WUIS Statehouse Bureau Chief Amanda Vinicky.

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Statehouse
1:34 pm
Tue April 21, 2015

House Votes To Limit New Specialty License Plates

Illinois has 109 different specialty plates.
Credit Illinois Secretary of State

Illinois drivers may see their future options for specialty license plates become more limited.

A proposal moving in the legislature would prevent any new groups from creating specialty plates and instead allow them to sell a sticker. The causes would still get revenue.

Rep. John D'Amico, a Democrat from Chicago, says the change will also help identify vehicles and provide less confusion for law enforcement issuing tickets.

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Leadership
8:08 pm
Mon April 20, 2015

Analysis: One Hundred Days Of Rauner

Credit The State Legislative Leaders Foundation

Tuesday marks a milestone for Gov. Bruce Rauner: his first 100 days as Illinois' governor. It's the first time the private equity investor has held elected office. He came in with big ideas, and big challenges.

There's no official significance behind a governor's first 100 days, but it's often used as the yard stick to gauge how well a new politician is doing.

Historians seem to trace it back to Franklin Roosevelt craftily using his first 100 days as president to usher in his New Deal. FDR was trying to bring the United States out of the Great Depression.

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Statehouse
7:35 pm
Mon April 20, 2015

Illinois Autism Centers Threatened By Cuts

The Autism Program's website shows this logo to urge people to sign a petition for Illinois' autism centers.
Credit The Autism Program

Many Illinois parents who have children with autism bring them to one of nineteen centers around the state, but that may change.

Illinois' autism centers will have to close if the state doesn't allocate funds, leaders of the programs say.

The Autism Program was supposed to receive $4.3 million dollars this year, but that money was cut off when Gov. Bruce Rauner suspended a total of $26 million of state grants.

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6:38 pm
Mon April 20, 2015

Capitol View 4/17/15

Amanda Vinicky hosts Capitol View on WSEC-TV/PBS Springfield with guests Bruce Rushton and Lisa Ryan.
Host Amanda Vinicky (WUIS) and guests Bruce Rushton (IL Times) and Lisa Ryan (WUIS) discuss the latest on Rauner's turnaround agenda.
Statehouse
4:51 am
Mon April 20, 2015

Rauner Addresses Business Owners' Concerns

Gov. Bruce Rauner was the keynote speaker during Employer Action Day, an event sponsored by the National Federation of Independent Businesses of Illinois, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and Associated Builders and Contractors.
Credit Lisa Ryan/WUIS

Private equity investor Gov. Bruce Rauner often says his goal is to make Illinois more competitive.

At a recent speech to business owners, he sang Illinois' praises. He says the state has the hardest working people, the best location and the most fertile farms.

The president of Wiley Office Furniture, Zach Hoffman, agrees with Rauner.

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Leadership Blog
5:45 pm
Fri April 17, 2015

Madigan Creates Special Budget Panel To Oversee Gov. Rauner

Democratic legislators in the spring approved a budget they recognized then as "incomplete," leaving new Gov. Bruce Rauner and this year's new incarnation of the General Assembly to deal with it.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois' budget, and Gov. Bruce Rauner's influence on it, will be examined by a special legislative committee. The powerful House Speaker announced its creation today.

It's either a sign of a contentious budget battle, or an early attempt at reaching a compromise.

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Statehouse
5:06 pm
Fri April 17, 2015

Amtrak: Illinois Budget Cuts Would Mean Fewer Trains

Amtrak says it would have to cut back on its Illinois service if the state follows through with Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed funding cuts.
Credit Bill Dickinson / Flickr.com/skynoir

Amtrak officials say they don’t yet know which services would be affected if Illinois cuts its funding. But the rail company says it’s sure there would be some service reductions if its grant is cut by a proposed $16 million.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has suggested the state’s Amtrak operations subsidy, administered through the Illinois Department of Transportation, drop to $26 million from the current $42 million. A spokesman for Amtrak, which operates four intrastate train lines with service between Chicago and dozens of downstate cities, says the company can’t absorb a cut that steep.

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Statehouse
3:15 pm
Fri April 17, 2015

Autism Cuts 'Left Us Hanging'

Gov. Bruce Rauner is being criticized for his budget-balancing moves, including zeroing out funding for an autism program. He's seen here in a November 2014 file photo.
Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

  Officials with The Autism Program said they felt shock April 3, when they were told their state funding was canceled — effective immediately. The Good Friday notice also came to the chagrin of some legislators who said they thought autism programs would be spared from budget cuts.

“I regularly come into contact with 18 senators and representatives across the state,” said TAP lobbyist Jim Runyon. “They had been assured that the autism program was going to be held harmless through the remainder of (fiscal) ’15.”

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State Week
2:21 pm
Fri April 17, 2015

Listen to State Week - April 17, 2015

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

This week's discussion includes the fallout over Governor Bruce Rauner's cuts to social services and House Speaker Michael Madigan's new budget oversight panel.  Paris Schutz, political reporter for WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" joins us for the program.

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Statehouse
12:53 am
Fri April 17, 2015

At Annual Ceremony, Holocaust Survivor Shares Story

Holocaust survivor Magda Brown shares her story at Illinois' annual memorial ceremony.

Illinois officials gathered in Springfield Thursday for the annual Holocaust memorial ceremony. As happens every year, a survivor shared her story.

Magda Brown grew up in Hungary. On her 17th birthday in 1944, she was sent to the the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Upon arrival, her mother was sent somewhere else, so after a few days she asked the more experienced prisoners when she might see her relatives again. Their hands went up, pointing to the chimneys over the crematorium.

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Statehouse
10:37 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

Commotion In The Capitol Over State Pie

Credit United States Department of Agriculture

Lawmakers took a break from some of the more serious bills in the Illinois House to discuss a proposal that would designate an official state pie.

House Bill 208, which would make pumpkin pie the official state pie, passed on Thursday, but not without some lighthearted debate.

As legislators debated giving pumpkin pie the special designation, the dessert talk got so loud Rep. Al Riley had to ask them to quiet down.

The quiet didn't last long. Legislators like Republican Rep. David Harris of Arlington Heights tossed in spoonfuls of puns.

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(For Three Months Anyway)
2:36 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

Tobacco Quitline Calls It Quits

Twenty-seven people are out of a job at Illinois' Tobacco Quitline, which means there's no one left to answer the phone.

For the past 15 years, Illinois smokers could dial 1-866-QUIT-YES, and a tobacco treatment counselor or nurse would answer. Try calling now, and there's a message saying: "Your call is important to us. Unfortunately, Quitline funding has been suspended due to budget cuts and we will be closed until further notice."

It was an abrupt end. Supporters say they had little financial wiggle room.

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Statehouse
1:49 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

Democrats, Organizations Lash Out At Governor Over Cuts

Organization and business leaders say they were stunned by a Good Friday notice indicating state funding for some programs would be immediately terminated. Democrats say they were “blindsided” too.

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Statehouse
7:28 pm
Wed April 15, 2015

Right To Try Act Would Allow Access To Investigational Drugs

Rep. Greg Harris is the sponsor of House Bill 1335, or the Right to Try Act.
Credit ILGA.gov

It can take a decade or more for the FDA to approve a new medicine, but a measure in the Illinois House is meant to help people who can't wait that long.

Rep. Greg Harris, a Democrat from Chicago, says for people who have been told they have just a short time to live, it could be a ray of hope. "It's the last, best hope for some of our constituents," he said. "I'm very proud to carry it. I'm proud to give this hope to people who have no place else to turn."

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Statehouse
7:06 pm
Wed April 15, 2015

Lincoln Remembered On 150th Anniversary of Death

Spectators stand for the presentation of the colors during the memorial services.
Credit Lisa Ryan/WUIS

A day of remembrance was held at the state capital Wednesday for President Abraham Lincoln, on the 150th anniversary of his death.

The ceremony included a 21-gun salute, music from a military band and a prayer from Chaplain Maurice Buford of the U.S. Navy.

"We honor him because his flame of leadership still kindles, his seat at the eternal table of prominence is permanent and because he continues to teach this great nation to always have the faith that might makes right,” Buford said.

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Budget FY16
4:02 pm
Wed April 15, 2015

State's Paying Interest On 2011 Past Due Wages; May Finally Pay Up

Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, is sponsor of legislation that would have Illinois pay past-due wage increases to state workers.

Thousands of state employees are a step closer to receiving money they've been waiting on since 2011.

The Illinois House approved spending the approximately $63 million it'll take to pay workers raises they were guaranteed in their contracts, but which the state refused to hand over.

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