Statehouse

Veto Session
12:13 am
Tue December 2, 2014

FOIA Firestorm Sparked

Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, declined to call a bill that makes controversial changes to the Freedom of Information Act during a House Executive committee meeting Monday.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Advocates for government transparency still have a fight ahead over the state's Freedom of Information Act. That's despite a temporary reprieve yesterday.

Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, of Chicago, caught transparency advocates off guard last week, with just a handful of days remaining in the legislative session. She introduced a plan that would make it harder for members of the public to obtain government information. It would also make it harder for citizens to recover legal fees when governments illegally withhold documents.

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Judicial System Threatened?
12:21 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Karmeier Keeps Seat ... Barely, After Big Money Race

Justice Lloyd Karmeier
Credit Illinois Supreme Court

The sole Illinois Supreme Court justice who was on the ballot in last month's election was sworn in for a second term this morning. Official results released last night by the Illinois State Board of Elections show just how close Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier was to losing his seat, after an election that saw hefty spending on both sides.

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FOIA
6:26 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Last Minute Rush To Change Freedom Of Information Act

Credit flickr/Sean MacEntee

Illinois residents could have a harder time accessing government information under new legislation before the General Assembly. 

The plan, SB2799, makes it harder for people to get repaid legal costs when a government wrongfully denies access to public documents. 

At the same time, it makes it easier for governments to keep certain information off-limits.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Broken System: Can Illinois’ Antiquated Means Of Generating Revenue Be Overhauled?

This story first appeared in the March 2014 issue.

Taxes suck.

That, it seems, is the only truism. Nobody wants to render unto Caesar. But, at least in Illinois, Caesar needs to get re-elected, and so stuff can get complicated.

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Illinois Issues - Past Due
12:00 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Options For Pension Reform Plan B May Be Limited

This story first appeared on the Illinois Issues Blog in July 2014.

After years of trying to find a solution to the tackle the state’s $100 billion unfunded pension liability, lawmakers approved pension changes in December of last year. Illinois was SAVED! Crank up the tunes, call up the bond rating agencies, put Squeezy the Pension Python out to pasture—happy days are here again!

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Preventable Deaths

This story first appeared in the March 2014 issue.

For years, they’ve shuffled across Illinois’ front pages, a parade of tragedy.

There was Christopher Valdez, 4, of Chicago’s southwest side, whose mother’s boyfriend allegedly beat him to death in 2011. Earlier, Christopher’s mother had been convicted of abusing him, but the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the courts had nonetheless allowed him to remain in her home.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Doing Right By The Kids

This story first appeared in the June 2014 issue.

Special monitoring visits to the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice recently found youth detainees mowing lawns and building shelves rather than attending educational courses. Monitors discovered youth being given medication with inadequate consent and living in rooms that were improperly maintained. Facilities were found to lack the proper staff to treat juvenile offenders with mental illnesses.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Minimum Wage: The Debate Is Churned Up At The State And Federal Levels

This story first appeared in the April 2014 issue.

Gone are the days a candidate can make a campaign appearance before a friendly crowd of party faithful, nearly a year before an election, and think his remarks will fade from memory as fast as the mass-produced fried chicken or roast beef the audience was likely served during the event.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Editor's Note: Election Stifles Policy Change In 2014

Credit mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Election season cast a long shadow on 2014. We saw the most expensive and one of the ugliest fights for the governor’s office in the state’s history. Now Illinois has a Republican governor for the first time in more than a decade. Meanwhile in the legislature, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton were both able to hang on to veto-proof majorities in their respective chambers, despite some aggressive challenges mounted by Republican candidates.

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Illinois Issues - Ends And Means
12:00 am
Mon December 1, 2014

National Pundits Overplay GOP Surge In Illinois

Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Is Illinois still a “blue” state?

Will Mike Madigan work with a Republican governor?

Those were among the “insightful” questions being posed by national pundits and talking heads after Bruce Rauner’s solid victory last month over Gov. Pat Quinn in one of the country’s most closely-watched, bitterly contested gubernatorial contests.

Folks here at home know the answers, of course: clearly yes, in both cases.

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State Week
1:52 pm
Fri November 28, 2014

Listen to State Week - November 28, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, further discussion of the circuit court ruling on the unconstitutionality of Illinois' pension legislation, as well as more on the fall veto session.

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Pensions
5:42 pm
Tue November 25, 2014

Pension Ruling "Credit Negative," But No Ratings Change

The final Illinois House vote on the 2014 pension overhaul.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Credit ratings agencies have taken notice of the court ruling on Friday that tossed out Illinois’ law reducing workers’ pensions. But they’re not worried enough to lower the state’s rating.

Illinois’ credit rating remains unaffected by last week’s court ruling, which found a landmark pension law to be unconstitutional. But agencies are watching.

Credit ratings are important as, the lower the rating, the more it costs the state to borrow.

It’s also an important indicator of a state’s relative fiscal health.

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Statehouse
7:12 am
Tue November 25, 2014

Madigan Says Court Could Rule On Pensions In January

Credit Marsy's Law for Illinois

Attorney General Lisa  Madigan says if the state supreme court agrees to an expedited hearing...  a ruling on the state's pension law could come by January,.

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Illinois Issues - Leadership
4:53 pm
Mon November 24, 2014

Who Will Work In A Rauner Administration?

Credit WUIS

Republican Bruce Rauner campaigned on his ability to spur job creation in Illinois. He'll get a head start -- of sorts -- choosing hundreds of new state employees.

To the victor go the spoils, and in state government, that means jobs. 

While a governor is boss of all state employees, he doesn't get to choose most of them (the majority of workers stay on no matter who is in charge; politics are supposed to stay out of hiring). 

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Illinois Issues - Economy
6:40 am
Mon November 24, 2014

Part Timers & Manufacturing In Illinois Feeling A Slow Economic Recovery

Mark Selvaggio, President of Selvaggio Steel in Springfield says workers compensation cost and unpredictable tax environment are slowing manufacturing.

For fans of baseball,  teams have already announced the late winter dates for pitchers and catchers to report for spring training.

When evaluating Illinois’ recovery from the recession, economist James Glassman uses a baseball analogy.  The head economist for commercial banking with JP Morgan Chase says Illinois has only reached the fifth inning in the recovery. 

“We are only half way out of the hole we are in.  It has taken five years to get where we are.  Most recoveries take seven years,” says Glassman.

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Pensions
1:17 am
Mon November 24, 2014

Ears Turn To Supreme Court For Next Pensions Cue

Gov. Pat Quinn is surrounded by legislative leaders and lawmakers who helped write the pension plan, as he signs it into law.
Credit Harvey Tillis / Illinois Information Service

Although one court has tossed out Illinois’ mega pension overhaul, state leaders are likely to wait on another legal opinion before deciding what to do next.

There’s no question -- the Sangamon County Circuit Court judge’s ruling is meaningful. But Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office is appealing to the state Supreme Court.

Madigan has said it makes sense for lawmakers to wait to hear from those justices.

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State Week
6:27 pm
Fri November 21, 2014

Listen to State Week - November 21, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

The Sangamon County Circuit Court rules last year’s pension legislation unconstitutional.  Bruce Rauner is busy making preparations to move into the Governor’s Mansion.  And Frerichs beats Cross in a very close Treasurer’s race.

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Statehouse
5:39 pm
Fri November 21, 2014

State To Refund Retiree Health Care Money

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The state will refund money to about 75,000 state retirees who've been paying a portion of their pensions for health insurance over the last year and a half after a court hearing in Sangamon County.
 
Judge Steven Nardulli on Friday scheduled a Dec. 18 hearing to establish how to
distribute more than $60 million to the retirees. Attorneys estimate the money
will be returned by spring.                                                     
 
Retirees began paying a percentage of their annuity under a 2012 law.
 

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This Old House
8:56 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

To Restore Executive Mansion, Rauner Plans Private Funds

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner took questions from reporters Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014, in his first Statehouse news conference.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner visited the Executive Mansion during his trip to Springfield Thursday.

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Statehouse
5:42 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

Cullerton: State Income Tax Hike Won't Be Extended Before New Governor Takes Over

Sen. President John Cullerton
Credit Illinois Senate

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton says lawmakers are heeding Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner's  advice and won't extend the state's temporary income tax increase.
 
Rauner advised lawmakers not to take up any substantive issues before he's
sworn in.
 
Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, says the Republican Rauner has ``a little honeymoon period'' during his first weeks in office and the Legislature is ``giving him his first victory.''
 

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Breaking
5:24 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

Judge Finds Reductions In Pension Benefits Unconstitutional

Several legal challenges to the pension law were consolidated in Sangamon County. The county's courthouse is in downtown Springfield.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

An Illinois judge has ruled that a law intended to fix the nation's worst-funded state employee pensions violates the state Constitution. Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Belz ruled Friday in favor of state employees and retirees who sued to block the state's landmark pension overhaul.

At issue was whether lawmakers defied the Illinois Constitution by passing a law that reduces state workers', public school teachers' and university employees' retirement benefits.

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In With The New
12:48 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

RAW TAPE: Bruce Rauner's First Statehouse News Conference

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner speaks with reporters in the Statehouse on Nov. 20, 2014.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner visited Springfield on Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014. He met with legislative leaders and other elected officials, and held his first Statehouse news conference. Listen to the full audio:

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Illinois Issues - Leadership
12:38 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

Rauner To Quinn: Freeze Hiring. Now.

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner holds his first press conference at the state capitol; it was right outside the Comptroller's office ... and the offices of Gov. Pat Quinn's senior staff.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois' incoming governor has asked the outgoing one to put state hiring on hold for the remainder of his term.

Even as he was being impeached, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich kept making key appointments. A new Dept. of Natural Resources chief; Barack Obama's open U.S. Senate seat.

Gov. Pat Quinn is by no means under that sort of dark cloud.

And Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner says he has no reason to believe Quinn's doing anything inappropriate.

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Minimum Wage
2:43 pm
Wed November 19, 2014

Latest Minimum Wage Hike Goes To Eleven

Gloria Davis says she won't give the temp agency she works for the satisfaction of publicly stating its name. She says her $8.25 wage isn't enough for her to afford housing in Chicago. She's calling for legislators to raise Illinois' minimum wage.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

The sponsor of a minimum wage hike says she'll push to get it passed during the legislature's veto session, which began today, Tues. Nov. 19.

Sen. Kim Lightford, a Democrat from Maywood, pointed to the results of a non-binding referendum. Sixty-seven percent of Illinois voters said “yes," Illinois should raise its minimum wage to $10 an hour by Jan. 1, 2015. The current rate is $8.25.

Results showed support for an increase in much of the state, including traditionally Republican areas, like the Chicago suburbs and downstate.

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Statehouse
8:14 am
Wed November 19, 2014

U of I Selects New President

UIS Chancellor Susan J. Koch welcomed new University of Illinois President-designate Timothy L. Killeen to campus this afternoon by presenting him with a UIS tie.
Credit UIS.edu

The University of Illinois system has hired State University of New York Vice Chancellor for Research Timothy L. Killeen as its next president.  

The university announced Wednesday that the 62-year-old Killeen will become president when current President Robert Easter retires in June.  

The 67-year-old Easter became president in 2012 during a period of turmoil.  
 Both of his predecessors, Michael Hogan and B. Joseph White, resigned under pressure. Easter is credited by many with overseeing a relatively calm period.  

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Illinois Issues - Past Due
6:00 am
Wed November 19, 2014

Editor's Note: Tax And Pension Fix Won’t End Illinois’ Budget Crisis

Jamey Dunn
Credit mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Listen to Dunn's interview about her column with Rachel Otwell: 

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State Week
5:24 pm
Fri November 14, 2014

Listen to State Week - November 14, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

A look ahead at the upcoming Veto Session, the aftermath of the results in the Governor's race, and the race for Treasurer is still too close to call.

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Statehouse
1:23 pm
Fri November 14, 2014

Former Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne Dies

Credit Alan Light/Flickr

CHICAGO (AP) -  Jane Byrne, Chicago's first and only female mayor, has died at the age of 80. Byrne's daughter, Kathy, says her mother died Thursday at a hospice in Chicago. With Byrne's election in 1979, she became part of Chicago history. And she was part of the city's lore because of a big reason why she was elected: Voters blamed the sitting mayor, Michael Bilandic, for what they saw as the city's slow reaction to a blizzard.   

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Statehouse
9:16 pm
Thu November 13, 2014

Race Affects Opinion Of Police In Illinois

Credit flickr/Matty Ring

A newly released survey shows a majority of Illinois residents are satisfied with the performance of their local police department.  But the numbers also show differences of opinion along racial lines. 

The statewide survey shows overall, 7 of 10 people in Illinois give police good marks.  But African Americans are more split, with only about half giving a commendable rating.

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Illinois
2:40 pm
Thu November 13, 2014

How Illinois Might Have Looked

Credit Graphic courtesy of Kenneth Olson, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Illinois became a state in 1818, but figuring out its shape was not a simple process. While most people hear Illinois and think Chicago - it could have been without the city, if not for advocacy and politics. An article in the current edition of Illinois Issues magazine (and below) explores the issue. Rachel Otwell sat down to talk with the author, Eliot Clay, about it:

 

'How Illinois might have looked' by Eliot Clay

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