Statehouse

One fix to this year's budget comes in the form of an across-the-board cut of 2.25 percent. It would affect Illinois schools, which already say they don’t get enough state funding.

To soften the blow, the deal includes $97 million the governor and State Board of Education can use to help schools that are desperately in need. House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie says a school would have to have serious financial problems to qualify for the assistance.

Brian Mackey / WUIS

The Illinois House on Tuesday voted to patch a 1.6-billion-dollar hole in the current state budget.

  The budget was supposed to get Illinois through June, but already the state's running out of money for things like court reporters and prison guards. That’s in part because Democrats passed an incomplete budget last year — not wanting to raise taxes or cut spending.

Now Democrats and Republicans — including Gov. Bruce Rauner — say they’ve found a solution. But it continues to mostly avoid that difficult choice.

Amanda Vinicky

There's a reason analysts say Illinois has the nation's lowest credit rating. It has the nation's largest unfunded pension liability. A 2013 law that’s facing a challenge before the Illinois Supreme Court is intended to help.

Illinois is facing a budget hole in the billions, thanks to a rollback of the income tax. If the high court tosses out the pension law, there'll be more fiscal pressure.

Analysts like Moody's Ted Hampton say the rating won't likely drop further, even if the justices toss the law because the rating already presumes the law cannot be implemented.

Lawmakers are scheduled to consider a new plan introduced by House Speaker Michael Madigan to end weeks of negotiations over plugging a $1.6 billion hole in this year's state budget.

Chicago Vs. Illinois

Mar 23, 2015
flickr/Daniel X. O'Neill

In politics, local government, like city wards, can be seen as the “minor leagues.” This is where candidates are scouted and get recruited to run for higher office.

But time and again, state legislators from Chicago do the opposite. They leave behind jobs in the Statehouse to serve on the City Council.

So that begs the question: What’s more important? Making sure potholes are filled, garbage is picked up on time and what the neighborhood watch group is up to?

Tennessee Department of Human Services

Gaps in the current year's budget mean that the state has stopped paying for its Child Care Assistance Program, and day care providers are worried about more issues in the future.

The program that provides assistance for parents to pay for child care could experience more financial problems if Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposals become next year's budget.

Sen. Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat, says cutting government assistance to day care has negative consequences in other areas.

bankruptcy court
flickr.com/andy_kiel

An Illinois Republican has proposed changing state law to let cities and towns declare bankruptcy.

As state government considers cutting back the money it shares with municipalities, Rep. Ron Sandack says it ought to give cities more tools to fix their own finances. Sandack says letting cities threaten bankruptcy would give them more leverage in dealing with unions.

Aaron Schock
Aaron Schock / Instagram

Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock resigned this week amid questions about his spending of taxpayer money. When the news broke, political reporter Chris Kaergard of the Peoria Journal Star was in the Republican's Downton Abbey-inspired office, waiting for a previously scheduled interview.

WUIS/Brian Mackey

Illinois' Democratic attorney general has delivered a blow to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's efforts to weaken labor unions.
 
 Lisa Madigan on Friday issued formal opinions saying two of Rauner's proposals would be illegal.
 
 One would allow local governments to create so-called ``right to work zones''
where union membership would be voluntary. The other would let local governments opt out of prevailing wage agreements, which require workers on government
projects to receive wages that reflect local compensation for similar jobs.
 

The Illinois Senate on Thursday confirmed the Rev. James Meeks as chairman of the State Board of Education. It comes over the objections of a gay-rights group.

flickr/meeshpants

Xavier McElrath-Bey was arrested when he was 13 years old. The Chicagoan went to prison for first degree murder for a gang-related crime. He left prison on good behavior at the age of 27 with a college degree in hand.

State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie wants to make sentencing for minors more lenient. House Bill 2471 would prohibit judges from sentencing minors to life without parole. House Bill 2470 would allow minors to have their sentence reviewed after serving 15 years.

wuis

Gov. Bruce Rauner's office has instructed state agencies to begin diverting ``fair share'' fees from nonunion members' paychecks away from unions.  

A memo obtained by The Associated Press directs departments to create two sets of books to do it.  

The Republican governor signed an order last month ending the practice of collecting union fees from non-union members. He labeled it a First Amendment violation and asked a federal court to overturn the state requirement.  

Unions collect the fees to defray the cost of work that also benefits nonmembers.  

For the first time in years, legislation to raise the minimum wage is advancing in the Illinois House.

Raising the wage has been a hot topic for years. Illinois voters overwhelmingly supported the idea at last November's election. The Senate voted for an increase last month. And even Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner says he can get behind it — if it comes after a long list of pro-business legislation.

Darin LaHood
Illinois General Assembly

The State of the State Blog looks at the effectiveness and culture of Illinois government.

The day after Congressman Aaron Schock announced his surprise resignation, politicians were moving quickly to replace him. State Sen. Darin LaHood, a Republican from Dunlap, says he’s already filed paperwork to open a federal campaign fundraising account.

Gun owners from around Illinois rallied in Springfield in support of their Second Amendment rights. Illinois Gun Owner Lobby Day, or IGOLD, consists of a march to the Capitol and a rally aimed at getting the attention of the governor and legislators.

Valinda Rowe, a gun rights activist and organizer of the event, says this is the first time a governor has met with them since IGOLD started in 2007. They gave Gov. Bruce Rauner informational packets and told him about their concerns.

Safer Lock

Nick Gore was 20 years old when he started taking pain pills recreationally. His substance abuse turned into a dependency that lasted seven years and eventually led to heroin use and jail time.

Representative Rob Martwick wants to require locking caps for all opioid pill bottles. The caps would have a combination lock that only the person prescribed the medication would know. Gore says this could have stopped his access to the drugs.

Bruce Rauner at Illinois Chamber forum.
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois politicians continue to be focused on the massive money shortfall for the current budget year.

Illinois is running out of money, and it’s beginning to hurt. A day-care program that helps low-income parents hold jobs has run dry, and soon Illinois might not be able to make payroll at state prisons.

BrettLevinPhotography / Flickr

Critics of Rep. Kelly Cassidy’s proposal to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a ticketable offense consider the bill a first step toward the state making possession of the drug legal.

House Bill 218, introduced by the Chicago Democrat, calls for possession of 30 grams of cannabis to be reduced to a civil — instead of criminal — offense, punishable by issuance of a ticket and a fine of up to $125.

Darin LaHood
Illinois General Assembly

Illinois state Sen. Darin LaHood has announced his candidacy for U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock's soon-to-be-vacant congressional seat.

The Republican from Dunlap made the announcement Wednesday on WMBD radio in Peoria.

LaHood says he has received "a lot encouragement" to run and that he'll campaign on his state Senate record, which includes being a strong advocate for ethics reform.

LaHood has served in the Senate since 2011. His father is former U.S. Transportation Secretary and Congressman Ray LaHood, who preceded Schock in Congress.

Republican state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington
WUIS/Illinois Issues

State Senator Bill Brady says he will not be among the Republicans seeking Schock's Congressional seat. In a statement Wednesday he said he has decided to remain in the State Senate because of his business interests and desire to help Governor Rauner make changes.

He mentioned the names of four potential candidates for the job including his brother Ed Brady, Representative Dan Brady (no relation) & Senators Darin LaHood and Jason Barickman.

The Governor will set a date for the special election.

WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois law allows doctors to refuse to provide services and medications, like abortion and birth control, if it goes against their religious beliefs, but an effort backed by the ACLU and Planned Parenthood would make sure a doctor still provides patients with information about those options.

Sen. Daniel Biss proposes changing what's called the Right to Conscience Act to ensure patients receive information about all of their options, even if their doctor's religious beliefs mean the physician won't provide those services.

State Week logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

Arguments before the Illinois Supreme Court on the state's pension reform law.

Bruce Rauner
brucerauner.com

Union members and state employees can expect another pension battle ahead, regardless of what the state Supreme Court says about Illinois' landmark 2013 law. 

BrettLevinPhotography / Flickr

Rep. Kelly Cassidy wants to change the criminal code for people caught with marijuana. Her proposal would reduce the punishment for having less than 30 grams of the drug from a Class C misdemeanor to a 100 dollar ticket.

Anyone caught with larger amounts would be charged with a misdemeanor, rather than a felony.

"This will allow for certainty and uniformity in the state. It will also allow us to save significant money at the state and the local level, and put our criminal justice resources to much better use," Cassidy said.

American Cancer Society

Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed budget includes cuts to a program that allows uninsured women to receive access to cancer screenings.

Pamela Luechtefeld says if it weren't for the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, she wouldn't have detected her breast cancer.

"I would probably be ate up with cancer because they caught it in its second stage, so I wouldn't have been--I hadn't been to the doctor," she said. "The last time I had a mammogram was eight years ago."

Amanda Vinicky

The many years legislators spent crafting a measure to rein in the state's pension costs came to a head yesterday in 52-and-a-half minute hearing before the Illinois Supreme Court. It's now up to the seven justices whether a law that reduces employees' and retirees' benefits is constitutional.

Even before then-Gov. Pat Quinn signed the pension overhaul into law just over a year ago, everyone knew it would come to this.

Scores of Chicago-based activists trekked to Springfield Wednesday, descending on the governor’s office, House and Senate galleries and even the Executive Mansion. They wore T-shirts with “We Rise” emblazoned on the front. On the back was a question they want the governor to consider as he makes fiscal plans for the cash-strapped state: “Who will you choose?”

Illinois Supreme Court
Brian Mackey / WUIS

There's a simple rule of thumb for determining when the Illinois Supreme Court will rule on a given case, and it's that there is no rule of thumb for determining when the Illinois Supreme Court will rule on a given case.

Auburn Ambulance Service

Assaulting emergency personnel would bring tougher punishment under legislation approved Tuesday in an Illinois House committee.

Chicago Democratic Rep. Frances Hurley’s House Bill 3184 would make it a Class 4 felony to assault a paramedic, police officer, fire fighter or other first responder while he or she was on a scene performing official duties. Currently, the offense is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.

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