Statehouse

Residents Fend For Themselves
10:40 am
Thu July 10, 2014

Tensions Rise With Waters Over Flood Expense

There's an irony to the arch on the entranceway of Clarksville's park, which reads "Touch the Mississippi." Normally, that requires stooping down; now the river laps up a main downtown drag, and comes to you.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Heavy rains have led to flooding all across the Midwest in recent days: in Iowa, Illinois, and in the small town of Clarksville, Missouri, which sits on the Mississippi River. That river is expected to reach its crest there Wednesday, and residents hope the walls they’ve built to keep out the water will hold. Especially because this time, they had to build those walls themselves.

Ask a Clarksville resident how long they’ve lived there, and the answer is usually given in the context of a flood.

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Corrections
11:12 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

Series Part 2: Prison Deaths In Illinois

Credit flickr/Fiona Dalwood

Between 80 and a hundred people die behind bars in Illinois every year.

The average age of the people who die is 54.

The Department of Corrections says it carefully reviews every death, but information on deaths provided to Chicago public station WBEZ was scattershot and incomplete.

Rob Wildeboer continues our series, “Of natural causes: Death in Illinois prisons.”

Keith Dean has a manila envelope that causes him a lot of grief and regret, but he can’t throw it out.

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Corrections
10:58 am
Wed July 9, 2014

Series: Death In Illinois Prisons

Credit flickr/meesh

Between 80 and a hundred people die each year inside Illinois prisons.

Chicago public station WBEZ has been seeking information about those deaths, but the Department of Corrections under Governor Pat Quinn is taking a “trust us, nothing to see here” attitude.

However, persistent and disturbing complaints from inmates and their families make it hard to just move along.

Robert Wildeboer will bring us some of their stories and the department’s response this week as part of our series “Of natural causes: Death in Illinois prisons.”

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Budget FY15
10:27 am
Wed July 9, 2014

Illinois Sees Growth In Tax Revenue, But It Won't Last Long

Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  2014 is only halfway over, but Illinois' new fiscal year just began last week. The state closed out its year with a billion-dollar growth in tax revenue.

The state took in $32 billion in revenue this past fiscal year, more than $7.6 billion of that in sales tax. That's up almost 4.5 percent from last year.

Jim Muschinske, who analyzes revenues for the state's forecasting commission, says that's not amazing, but it's a healthy increase.

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Election 2014
3:08 pm
Mon July 7, 2014

Voters In Bad Mood Shaping Gov's Race

Credit data.illinois.gov

The people of Illinois are feeling particularly gloomy about their state, with its high unemployment, billions of dollars in debt and decades-long battles against corruption.  

The bad mood surfaces in public-opinion polls that startle even the pollsters. And now it's shaping one of the nation's most competitive governor's races.  

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Election 2014
2:44 pm
Mon July 7, 2014

Democrats Hold Fundraising Edge

Credit flickr/Daniel Borman

Illinois Democrats are outpacing their Republican counterparts in fundraising so far in the 2014 election cycle.  

Crain's Chicago Business reports that Democrats have almost twice as much cash on hand as Illinois Republicans with $26.9 million. Democrats control the governor's mansion and the state Legislature. Crain's examined the finances of candidates for statewide office, state party organizations and county organizations.  
 Republican businessman Bruce Rauner trails Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn by about $1.5 million in cash on hand in the Illinois governor's race.

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State Week
2:11 pm
Fri July 4, 2014

Listen to State Week - July 4, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that state employee pension benefits are protected under the state constitution, countering lawmaker's efforts to overhaul the state's underfunded pension system.

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Statehouse
5:01 am
Fri July 4, 2014

AP: Quinn Halts Political Hiring

Credit flickr/tripp

Gov. Pat Quinn has ordered a moratorium on political hiring at the Illinois Department of Transportation and is requiring executive-level staff in every state agency to undergo training about proper hiring practices.  

The Chicago Democrat's actions come amid questions about whether state jobs were improperly filled based on clout rather than qualifications.  

The Associated Press obtained copies of memos sent Thursday by Quinn's attorney to IDOT leadership and the heads of all agencies, boards and commissions.  

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Pensions
11:26 am
Thu July 3, 2014

Ruling Puts Pension Overhaul In Doubt

Credit Illinois Supreme Court

The Illinois Supreme Court says free health care is a protected retirement benefit for certain government employees. It was cause for celebration among those who’ve opposed Illinois' attempts to save money by cutting retirement benefits. But Illinois' pension battles are far from over.

Many state retirees used to get premium-free health insurance. When the law was changed to make them pay, a group of them sued.

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Fireworks safety
10:08 am
Thu July 3, 2014

State Fire Marshal: No Illegal Fireworks This Fourth

Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Illinois' state fire marshal is warning people to steer clear of personally handling fireworks this Independence Day. He says setting off fireworks without a permit could be grounds for arrest.

While buying fireworks is illegal in Illinois, many residents cross state lines to obtain them from Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri. Illinois State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis says that causes major problems, especially around the Fourth of July.

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Statehouse
8:42 am
Wed July 2, 2014

Off Supervision, George Ryan Talks About Time In Prison

Former Illinois governor George Ryan.
Credit WBEZ

Former Gov. George Ryan has finished a year of supervision following his release from home confinement last summer after a prison sentence for corruption convictions.

Ryan was released from prison in January 2013 and was confined to his home until last July. At the time his lawyer and friend former Gov. Jim Thompson said that Ryan was subject to another year of supervision and some travel restrictions. That ends this week.

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Statehouse
5:44 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

Fmr. U.S. Attorney Named Acting Legislative Inspector General

J. William Roberts
Credit IWU.EDU

A former U.S. attorney and legal counsel to former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar has been named acting legislative inspector general.
 
The Legislative Ethics Commission announced in a statement received Tuesday
that J. William Roberts of Springfield took over in an acting capacity on
Tuesday.
 
In addition to his tenure as counsel to Edgar and U.S. attorney for the central
district of Illinois, he also was Sangamon County State's Attorney.
 
Roberts takes over for Tom Homer, a former Democratic lawmaker and appellate

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Business climate
3:21 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

DCEO Suggests Better Marketing, Tax Credit Reform To Grow Illinois' Economy

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Illinois' economy was slow to feel the effects of the Great Recession, and has been slow to recover from it. The state's Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is submitting a five-year plan to the General Assembly, with suggestions for business growth ... and more state spending.

DCEO's blueprint includes measures that stalled in the legislature this spring, including raising the minimum wage to $10-dollars an hour, doubling a tax credit for the poor and investing in major infrastructure.

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Statehouse
1:00 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

In Illinois Legislature, A Culture Change On Criminal Sentencing

Credit flickr/meeshpants

Not long ago, it seemed every time a different type of crime started making the news, members of the Illinois General Assembly would rush to increase the penalty for that offense. But today — with prisons stuffed beyond capacity and state finances ailing — lawmakers have begun taking a more deliberate approach. Brian Mackey reports on a criminal sentencing culture change in the Illinois General Assembly.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue July 1, 2014

End and Means: Budget is Constitutionally Balanced but Full of Flaws

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

"The biggest winners here in this session were the taxpayers, who were spared the extension of the income tax."

—Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno

 

With all due respect to the good senator from Lemont, Illinoisans may have won a Pyrrhic victory when lawmakers adjourned their spring session without voting to keep income tax rates at their current levels past their scheduled January 1 sunset.

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Budget FY15
11:52 am
Mon June 30, 2014

State Fair Officials: Can't Follow State Law Due To Budget Cuts

Credit Wikimedia Commons

  Illinois' two state fairs did not comply with the law last year, according to a recent state audit -- and budget realities mean that'll happen again this summer.

The audit found that both the fairs in Springfield and DuQuoin overcharged entrance fees for horses.

But the Department of Agriculture says it's a consequence of the state contributing 200-thousand dollars $200,000 less toward the purse.

The audit also found that the DuQuoin fair only held three out of the five prescribed days of horse racing.

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Military children
11:48 am
Mon June 30, 2014

Laws For Military Children Strengthened

Credit flickr/LizMarie_AK

  Children in military families should have an easier time changing schools when their parents transfer in and of out of Illinois, according to a law Governor Pat Quinn signed over the weekend.

Last summer, Tom White retired from the U.S. Army and accepted a post teaching military law at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago. But instead of moving his family near his work in Illinois, White opted to live in Valparaiso, Indiana, and commute at least an hour each day.

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Budget
6:50 am
Mon June 30, 2014

Deadline For Quinn To Take Budget Action

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  It's the last day of the fiscal year for the State of Illinois, which means the pressure is on for Gov. Pat Quinn to sign a new budget into law.

There's nothing on the governor's public schedule for today, but that doesn't mean he won't be busy making official the spending plan passed by his fellow Democrats in the General Assembly.

It makes sense that Quinn wouldn't want to hold a big ceremony drawing attention to it. He had wanted lawmakers to extend Illinois' 5-percent income tax rate, beyond its scheduled rollback halfway through the new fiscal year.

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Redistricting
5:30 pm
Fri June 27, 2014

Redistricting Effort Gives Up

Yes! For Independent Maps collected 27 feet's worth of signatures to have its redistricting question appear on the November ballot, but that effort is stalled this year now that a judge declared it unconstitutional.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

An effort to change how legislative districts are drawn has suspended its efforts. It follows a judge Friday ruling that the proposal is unconstitutional.

"Yes! For Independent Maps," as the redistricting coalition calls itself, is not done for good.

Spokesman Jim Bray says the group will stay together in hopes of maybe trying again in the future. But he says it's done this year's efforts.

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Term Limits
5:27 pm
Fri June 27, 2014

Rauner's Discarded Term Limit Initiative Mirrors Quinn's 1994 Effort

Then-Treasurer Pat Quinn had a term limit petition of his own in the early 1990s. But in summer 1994, much like Rauner's term limit petition, it was found unconstitutional.
Credit Courtesy of Quinn For Illinois

Governor Pat Quinn and his Republican challenger, Bruce Rauner, disagree about plenty -- everything from gun rights and restrictions, to what Illinois' income tax should be. But with Friday's ruling by a Cook County judge knocking a term limits initiative off the ballot, the candidates have something in common.

Though there has been a lot of turnover in the General Assembly in recent years, some politicians have been serving in Springfield for decades.

Chief among them House Speaker Michael Madigan, who has been a state representative since 1971.

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State Week
2:13 pm
Fri June 27, 2014

Listen To State Week - June 27, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

Topics this week include gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner's latest statements on how to balance the state budget and the latest questions about why his daughter was accepted as a student at an elite Chicago high school.  Also, Governor Pat Quinn facing criticism after a disastrous audit of his Chicago anti-violence program.

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Statehouse
12:32 pm
Fri June 27, 2014

Judge Nixes Term Limit, Remap Initiatives

Credit flickr/Brian Turner

A Cook County judge has ruled that signature-driven ballot measures calling for legislative term limits and a new political redistricting process can't appear on the November ballot.
 
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Mary Mikva says in a Friday ruling the measures don't meet constitutional requirements to make the ballot.
 
The ruling is a setback for groups advocating the measures, including one led by Republican governor candidate Bruce Rauner.  He's made term limits
a cornerstone of his campaign to unseat Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.
 

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Election 2014
8:16 am
Fri June 27, 2014

Rauner's Daughter School Admission Under Scrutiny

Credit BruceRauner.com

The issue of how Republican Bruce Rauner's daughter got into an elite Chicago public high school has resurfaced in the Illinois governor's race.

Rauner has maintained that he didn't use his money or influence to get a daughter into Walter Payton College Prep in 2008. Initially, she was rejected despite having top grades. Rauner has said his family appealed through a principals' discretionary process.  

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Statehouse
6:48 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

Pension Decision Will Wait Until At Least December

  It could be December before a judge decides on the legality of Illinois' pension overhaul law for at least another five months. Attorneys met Thursday in Sangamon County Court and agreed on a timeline for the case.

Current and retired state employees, teachers and university workers are suing Gov. Pat Quinn over the pension overhaul passed by the General Assembly late last year.

Though it was to have already begun taking effect, a judge has put it on hold until its legality is sorted out in court.

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Statehouse
12:43 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

Gov. Quinn Won't Testify On Neighborhood Recovery Initiative

Gov. Pat Quinn says he has no intentions of testifying before a legislative commission about the scandal-laden anti-violence program he started
in 2010.
 
The Chicago Democrat hasn't been subpoenaed or invited less informally. But seven former officials with his administration have been compelled to appear
before the Legislative Audit Commission next month. They're expected to address problems with management and spending under Quinn's $55 million Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.
 

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Statehouse
4:46 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

GOP Lawmaker Wants Quinn To Testify

Sen. Matt Murphy
Credit ilga.gov

A Republican lawmaker wants Gov. Pat Quinn to testify before a legislative commission over a scandal-plagued anti-violence program.  

State Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine is a frequent critic of Quinn. He claimed Wednesday that Quinn is ``hiding'' as an audit commission probes the Chicago Democrat's approximately $55 million Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.  

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Election 2014
4:12 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

Rauner Plans To Close Tax "Loopholes," Change EDGE Credits

Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner has unveiled what he says is phase three of his plans to "Restore Illinois." It's focused on how the state taxes businesses.

In a statement — he released the plan via social media, rather than at a live event — Rauner says he wants to close "special interest loopholes."

Like a tax break for buying a racehorse.

And, in a risky move as he seeks to win newspaper editorial boards' endorsements, he wants Illinois to begin taxing newsprint.

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Pensions
11:03 am
Wed June 25, 2014

Teacher Pension Fund Lowers Expected Investment Return; State's Obligation To Grow

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  The Illinois Teachers' Retirement System says it expects a lower return on its pension investments in the next year. That means the state will have to cover more of the cost of teacher pensions.

TRS says it's still a good assumed rate of investment return at 7.5 percent. That falls in line with similar pension systems nationwide. But it's not as profitable as 8-percent, which TRS had been using for the previous few years.

Dave Urbanek is with TRS. He says the unpredictable nature of the international economy spurred the decision to lower the rate.

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Neighborhood Recovery Initiative
3:57 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

Two Insiders Dropped From Subpoena List

Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley
Credit ILGA.gov

Subpoenas are going out to five former members of Gov. Pat Quinn's administration who were involved with his plagued anti-violence program, but two other insiders will not be served. As Quinn seeks reelection, he continues to be dogged by a program rolled out just before his last, close race for governor.

Republicans contend the timing wasn't a coincidence; they allege Quinn rushed to introduce the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative to curry favor with Chicago area leaders before the 2010 election. A state audit and media reports reveal it was botched.

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Election 2014
4:12 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Libertarians: Strive To Beat "Ballot-Blocking" To Get On Ballot

The Libertarian's slate of statewide candidates for the 2014 election; Chad Grimm, the candidate for governor, is to the immediate left of the podium, while Political Director Lex Green is speaking.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

The Libertarian Party of Illinois is running a candidate for Governor, and all of the other statewide races. But the race could be over before it begins.

Chad Grimm, a 33-year-old health club manager from Peoria, and the Libertarian party's nominee for Illinois governor, has some unconventional political views; he believes Illinois should completely do away with a state income tax, and that there should be no -- as in zero - regulations on guns: Not the type, not where they're allowed, not who can have one.

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