Statehouse

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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Statehouse
6:46 am
Tue December 2, 2014

Lawmakers Begin Last Week of Veto Session - Rauner To Stop By Capitol Today.

Illinois lawmakers are reconvening for the final scheduled week of their fall veto session. They are expected to make a push to advance a proposal increasing the state's minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2017.  

Republican governor-elect Bruce Rauner  is scheduled to make an appearance Tuesday morning at the state Capitol.  

Gov. Pat Quinn's office says the outgoing governor has been meeting with lawmakers and gathering support for the proposal.  

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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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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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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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