Statehouse

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Your state tax refund could take longer to come in than usual. Security measures designed to prevent tax fraud are causing Illinois taxpayers to wait longer for their refund.

Terry Horstman of the Illinois Department of Revenue says the agency is working to fix the problem.

"As various tax schemes have been detected, we have tried to counter those schemes with additional software upgrades to our systems that help detect the fraudulent activity," Horstman said.

The federal government estimates Illinois had about $30 million in fraudulent claims last year.

Gov. Bruce Rauner says he has big plans for the state's infrastructure. He addressed the Illinois Asphalt Pavement Association on Tuesday in Springfield.

Rauner told the group, whose members benefit when the state spends money on roads, that Illinois will invest more on infrastructure in the next four years than ever before. He gave no clear indication of where the money would come from.

 An Illinois lawmaker has announced he will receive treatment for recently diagnosed esophageal cancer.  

State Rep. Frank Mautino of Spring Valley says his doctor found a mass in his esophagus during a routine physical in late January. The 52-year-old Democratic lawmaker says he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer after a biopsy was conducted in February.  

Mautino told The (Ottawa) Daily Times  during a phone interview on Monday that doctors have told him the cancer is 97 percent treatable.  

Lisa Madigan at Inauguration 2015
Brian Mackey/WUIS

A legal battle over union fees is brewing, between Illinois Republican governor and Democratic Attorney General.

Illinois' Attorney General says Gov. Bruce Rauner had no authority to bring a fight over union dues to federal court. She's trying to dismiss the case.

Republican Gov. Rauner is trying to get rid of so-called "fair share" dues on two fronts: he's ordered state agencies to stop collecting them, and he's suing in federal court to toss out the underlying state law that requires them.

WUIS/Illinois Issues

A version of the story first ran in Illinois Issues magazine in April 2012. It has been updated with new information.

The state’s complicated budget mess is a source of headlines for the media and headaches for those who administer state-funded programs and the politicians whose job it is to solve the problem. But most people — politicians, reporters and Statehouse commentators alike — only focus on four out of hundreds of funds when it comes time to craft the state’s budget each year.

Governor Bruce Rauner has named an official with the U.S. State Department to lead the Illinois Department of Corrections.

A statement Monday from the Governor's office says Rauner selected 54 year old Donald Stolworthy to head Corrections.

According to the release from the Governor, Stolworthy has 15 years of corrections experience.  He currently works at the State Department in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs where he assesses foreign prison systems.

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U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin says a new report shows why the prison system needs to improve its use of solitary confinement.

Durbin, the Assistant Democratic Leader of the U.S. Senate, says he's visited prisons that rely heavily on solitary confinement, including the now-closed Tamms Correctional Center in southern Illinois.

He says sometimes segregating prisoners is warranted. But he worries about an over-reliance because he says it can cause psychological damage for prisoners.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin wants to expand benefits for injured veterans' caregivers. Currently, caregivers of those who served on or after September 11, 2001 can receive a stipend. Durbin wants to allow veterans who served before 9/11 to have the same eligibility.

The Family Caregivers Program costs about $36,000 a year per veteran, but Durbin says it's worth the price.

"It isn't just a matter of dollars and cents, it's a matter of doing the right thing," he said. "Our obligations to our vets don't end after they come home, our obligations continue."

State Week logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, continuing debate among lawmakers over how to fix the state's budget woes, a Senate plan to sweep special funds into the general revenue fund for FY2015, and Governor Rauner continues to push for "right to work zones".

wuis

Unions are taking Gov. Bruce Rauner to court over his attempt to get rid of so-called "fair-share" dues.

Illinois law requires workers who are not members of unions to nonetheless pay a fee, for the benefits unions secure on their behalf.

Rauner had issued an executive order eliminating that requirement.

But labor leaders says that's a violation of the separation of powers; in other words, a governor can't unilaterally toss out a state law.

Amanda Vinicky

Last month, Gov. Bruce Rauner unveiled his budget --- chock full of cuts to state programs. But now it's the legislature's turn to take a swipe at a state spending plan. Amanda Vinicky reports on a hearing, at which the governor's office had to testify before lawmakers about its own budget.

Given the widespread frustration by Democrats at the huge cuts Rauner, a Republican, has proposed, you may expect a hearing like this to get a bit tense. But House members were relatively easy on the governor's top aides, who say the governor's office is cutting its budget by ten percent.

ilga.gov

A lawmaker says children of public university employees should not receive a tuition break.

Currently, students can get half of their tuition paid for by the state if one of their parents works at a public university. Rep. Jack Franks, a Democrat from Marengo, says he wants to make college more affordable for everyone, but higher education budget cuts make the tuition waivers impossible to maintain.

Alton, Creative Commons

A lawmaker wants to help make students aware of the consequences of using their cell phones to send nude pictures, which can sometimes result in a felony offense.

Representative La Shawn Ford proposes adding the language of Illinois' law on "sexting" into local schools' guidelines. Ford, a Democrat from Chicago, says parents and students need to be more aware that sending naked pictures has serious consequences.

LinkedIn

A recently released audit of the Illinois Department of Health Care and Family Services showed repeated problems from the previous administration. The newly appointed secretary of the agency spoke before a panel of state lawmakers on Tuesday about the audit.

Felicia Norwood wasn't the secretary of HFS when recording mistakes were made that allowed dead people and duplicate enrollees to receive payments for medical assistance. She made that point clear during a legislative hearing designed to address the inaccuracies.

Little_brown_bat;_close-up_of_nose_with_fungus,_New_York,_Oct._2008._(5765048289).jpg

A disease responsible for the deaths of millions of bats has spread in Illinois.

The white-nose syndrome gets its name from a fungus that grows on affected bats' noses. Scientists say infected bats often show odd behavior - like taking daytime flights - when they're supposed to be hibernating. It's suspected that depletes their fat reserves, and causes the bats to become emaciated, and eventually die. 

Illinois House Republicans

Republican Tim Butler is being sworn in today as the new state representative in the 87th district.  That includes portions of Sangamon, Logan, Menard and Tazewell counties.  

Butler, who lives in Springfield, says he understands it will be a contentious session regarding the state's budget.  He admits he's still learning the issues.  But he says he'll listen to all sides.

"I have friends on both sides of the aisle.  I have conservative friends and liberal friends. I have friends in the governor's office.  I am going to have an open door and an open mind," he said.

Amanda Vinicky

Sweeping legislation intended to combat a heroin epidemic has been introduced by a bipartisan group of legislators.

Before he became a state legislator, Republican Rep. John Anthony was a cop in Champaign, and a sheriff's deputy in Kendall County.

Gov. Pat Quinn has called for the closing of Tamms Correctional Center.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Some of the main architects of the Illinois law that seeks to save the state money by reducing workers' pensions have begun collecting pensions of their own.

On March 11, the Illinois Supreme Court will hear arguments for and against the pension overhaul signed into law late in 2013 by then-Gov. Pat Quinn. If it succeeds, Quinn, like other retired state employees, will see his the size of his future retirement benefits shrink, as the law does away with compounded cost-of-living increases.

“Illinois’ business climate outshines its regional rivals.”

A peek into a crystal ball, revealing future newspaper headlines after Illinois lawmakers embrace Gov. Bruce Rauner’s 44-point, State of the State, “Turnaround” manifesto?

Guess again. A leftover claim from former Gov. Pat Quinn’s failed campaign? Nope.

People

Mar 1, 2015

Rauner selects agency, board heads

During his first months in office, Gov. Bruce Rauner named several key members of his administration.

Essay – Cashing In On Cutting Carbon

Mar 1, 2015

U.S. clean carbon plan gives Illinois a chance for significant state revenue

Nobody likes taxes, and certainly not new taxes. So a carbon tax can be a tough sell. Does it really excite anybody to point out that a carbon tax might be a lot less bad than other state taxes? Well, perhaps it should. No matter how large or small you want the Illinois state budget to be, the state still needs some revenue. And collecting part of that revenue by using a state carbon tax could be like “free money” compared to costly state income taxes or sales taxes. 

Lawmakers in Springfield are renewing efforts to pass legislation that would ban the practice of sexual orientation conversion therapy for minors.

The start of a new session brings with it the introduction of thousands of new bills. Much of the early legislation sponsored by members of the 99th General Assembly reacts to stories in the news, including measures on police tactics, red-light cameras and athlete concussions.

Brian Mackey
mattpenning.com / WUIS/Illinois Issues

News Analysis — Gov. Bruce Rauner made a stunning declaration last month in his State of the State address.

“The conditions in our prisons are unacceptable,” Rauner said. “Inmates and corrections officers alike find themselves in an unsafe environment. It’s wrong.”

Host Amanda Vinicky and guests Andy Maloney (Chicago Daily Law Bulletin) and Patrick Yeagle (IL Times) discuss issues with the 2015 Budget, runoff in Chicago Mayoral race, and Exelon's nuclear prop-up plan.

CapitolView is a production of WSEC-TV/PBS Springfield, Network Knowledge.

Illinois’ budget is in even worse shape than previously thought. Illinois has the biggest unfunded pension obligation in the nation. Illinois slapped with the lowest credit rating of any state. These are the grim headlines Illinois residents endure on a regular basis. You can’t live in this state and not have at least a vague idea that our budget is in the dumps. 

If Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is looking for a silver lining on his disappointing first round re-election bid, he ought not study Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget. The state’s largest city has some big problems that the governor’s fiscal plans could aggravate.

Chicago has issues of “looming pension crisis in the city and at the board of education, ongoing problems with guns and gangs and drugs, still a feeling that too many neighborhoods are being neglected and there aren’t enough jobs,” Andy Shaw, head of the non-partisan Better Government Association, said election night.

State Week logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, continuing concerns over the state's budget, Governor Rauner holds his first cabinet meeting, and Rahm Emanuel faces a run-off election in his bid to remain Mayor of Chicago.

childcarecenter.us

Parents and child care providers continue to worry about when-- or if-- the state is going to come through with money to keep a subsidized daycare program running.

The state and federal government provide assistance for working parents who can't afford the cost of child care, but Illinois hasn't put aside enough money to pay.

Jacqueline Cervantes owns Pica Boo Day Care in Cicero. She watches eight children, and all of their families receive financial help from the state.

Amanda Vinicky

After issuing warnings it may have to close down half its nuclear fleet, Exelon today introduced a proposal it says would keep them open. It signals the start of what's expected to be a long debate over Illinois' energy policy. 

Exelon is one of Illinois' biggest, and most powerful corporations.

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