Statehouse

'Credit Negative'
8:46 am
Wed June 4, 2014

Moody's: Budget Could Undo 'Significant Progress'

"I don't know how you can blame us or the governor for a negative bond rating," Senate President John Cullerton says. "The Republicans are the ones saying, 'Don't raise the taxes, we don't need that. Make structural changes,' whatever that means."
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The credit rating agency Moody's says Illinois is at risk of undermining progress toward better finances. It says the failure to extend current income tax rates could lead to a worsening deficit.

Moody's says because lawmakers failed to stop an automatic tax cut scheduled for the end of the year, Illinois could have to increase its backlog of unpaid bills. The state already has the lowest credit rating in the nation.

Republicans say this shows Illinois needs to further reduce costs, but Democratic Senate President John Cullerton says there isn't that much left to cut.

Statehouse
5:22 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

Term Limits Push Has Enough Signatures, But Lawsuit Still Threatens

Movers load a box containing the nearly 600,000 signatures gathered in an effort to impose term limits on Illinois lawmakers.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois officials say a citizens' initiative to put term limits on state legislators has gathered enough signatures to appear on the ballot. But there are other roadblocks before that can happen.

  Collecting nearly twice the number of required signatures paid off for the Term Limits and Reform group.

Rupert Borgsmiller, director of the Illinois State Board of Elections, says a sample validated roughly 61 percent of those signatures. He says he expects to present those findings to the board for final approval on June 17.

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Election 2014
5:16 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

Rauner Says He Won't Push To Repeal Same Sex Marriage Law

Bruce Rauner
Credit WUIS

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner says Illinois voters should have decided whether same-sex marriage should be legal in the state. But now that it's the law he won't advocate changing it.  
Illinois' law allowing same-sex marriage took effect Sunday. Gay rights groups say Rauner has opposed efforts for the law and has previously vowed to work against them. 

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Statehouse
1:57 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

Unfinished Budget To Become Campaign Issue

Senate President John Cullerton speaks with reporters at the close of the Illinois General Assembly's spring session.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

With the Illinois General Assembly’s spring session over, lawmakers aren’t scheduled to return to the Capitol until November. Two months of fierce debate over state spending and taxes culminated in a stalemate, so they passed a placeholder budget that will likely have to be revisited at the end of the year.

What they did — and more importantly, what they didn't do — will shape the political conversation heading into this fall’s general election.

This year began with Democrats outlining an ambitious, progressive agenda for Illinois.

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Statehouse
6:56 am
Mon June 2, 2014

Legislative Recap: What Lawmakers Did & Didn't Do

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Illinois Legislature adjourned its spring session having passed a new state budget and other key measures, but leaving some business undone. Here's a look at what passed and what didn't:  
     BILLS SENT TO GOV. PAT QUINN:  
Budget: A roughly $35.7 billion budget for 2015 keeps funding flat for schools and most state agencies. Majority Democrats acknowledged the budget is ``incomplete'' because it postpones tough votes about whether to slash spending or find new revenue until after November's election.  

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Budget FY15
10:10 pm
Sun June 1, 2014

Interfund Borrowing No One's First Choice For Budgeting

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  The budget passed by the Illinois General Assembly does not rely on extending the 2011 income tax hike, as originally planned by Democratic leadership. Instead, it's based on state government borrowing from itself.

Instead of making the five percent income tax rate permanent or chopping away at government programs, lawmakers opted to fill a massive hole in state revenues by doing something called "interfund borrowing."

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun June 1, 2014

A Pronounced Divide: The Gap Between Rich and Poor is Wider in Illinois Than in Most Other States

Amid the debate about the nation’s widening gap between rich and poor — a reality amplified in the State of the Union address — the numbers in Illinois paint a particularly striking picture.

It’s not your imagination. Multiple studies and census figures point to the rich getting richer and the poor and middle class treading water or losing ground all across the nation, but Illinois is among the states with the most pronounced divide. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun June 1, 2014

Doing Right by the Kids: An Agreement Seeks to Improve Conditions, Care of Youth in Custody

Grafton Mayor Tom Thompson gives the keynote address at a graduation ceremony at the Pere Marquette Youth Center in October.
Credit Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice

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
Sun June 1, 2014

Internet Gaming: Supporters Would Make it the Wager of the Season

Poker, blackjack and roulette could soon join such games as Angry Birds, Candy Crush and Words With Friends on the laptops, tablets and smart phones of Illinois residents. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun June 1, 2014

Video Gaming: Illinoisians Get a Piece of the Action

Lucy’s Place is a video gaming parlor located in a strip mall in Springfield.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

With their bright lights and chirping electronic sounds, the row of five slot machines could be in any casino in the world.

The seats are comfortable. The attendant is a kindly elderly woman who offers to get you something to drink. Within minutes, you’ve just won $10 on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

But make no mistake, this isn’t Las Vegas. Or even one of Illinois’ 10 riverboat casinos. This is a strip mall in central Illinois, just a few storefronts away from a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, a nail salon and a dollar store.

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Illinois Issues Initiative
12:00 am
Sun June 1, 2014

Editor's Note: New Developments Expected at Illinois Issues

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

When I started working at the state Capitol as a Public Affairs Reporting intern, I never would have imagined that I would be writing this column.

A key point in the PAR program comes in the fall when the interns are matched with their bureaus. It is exciting and nerve-wracking. Classmates and friends become competitors. Who will end up at the Chicago metro papers? Who will the Associated Press pick? While many of my classmates dreamed of the fast-paced atmosphere of a daily paper’s Statehouse bureau, I had a clear top choice in my sights: Illinois Issues

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun June 1, 2014

State of the State: Voters May Get a Big Say on Big Policy in November

Christopher Z. Mooney
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

In the November 2014 general election, Illinois voters will have a fairly rare opportunity: to weigh in directly on very significant changes in policy. In California and many other states, voting on initiatives and referenda is a routine sideshow in the electoral circus. But in Illinois, statewide voting on policy questions is rare. In the past 20 years, this has only happened four times. But this year alone, Illinois voters could face up to four ballot measures to amend the state’s Constitution.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun June 1, 2014

Ends and Means: Plan Could Trim Illinois' Glut of Local Government Units

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois has some 6,500 units of local government — a great many more than any other state in the nation. A pattern of overlapping jurisdictions, pyramided taxing powers, fragmented public services and divided responsibility has pervaded Illinois and caused a complex and complicated tangle of governments at the local level.

Is this a recent observation from some academic think tank, offered as Illinoisans this month face paying the first installment of the property taxes that sustain most of the 6,500-plus governing bodies?

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Statehouse
2:45 am
Sat May 31, 2014

General Assembly Adjourns With Much Undone

House Speaker Michael Madigan addresses his colleagues at the close of the Illinois General Assembly's spring session.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The General Assembly finished its legislative session shortly after midnight Saturday, approving a billion-dollar road construction program.

Democrats started the session with an ambitious agenda: raise the minimum wage, boost college assistance for low-income students, maybe even change Illinois' flat tax into a graduated one. In the end, none of that happened.

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Statehouse
6:37 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

Quinn: Lawmakers "Didn't Get The Job Done" On Budget

Gov. Pat Quinn
Credit WUIS/Brian Mackey

Gov. Pat Quinn says the budget that lawmakers approved ``didn't get the job done.''  

The Chicago Democrat wanted to extend the state's income tax increase to avoid budget cuts, including layoffs. However, lawmakers sent him a spending plan on Friday that Democrats acknowledge puts off tough decisions about whether to slash spending or find new sources of revenue.  

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Statehouse
3:22 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

ALPLM Legislation Won't Be Called For Senate Vote This Spring

Credit ALPLM

Any change in oversight for the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum will have to wait.   Legislation that would have taken the facility away from the authority of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency has stalled in the Illinois Senate.  

Rikeesha Phelon, a spokesperson for the Senate President, says the measure won't be called this spring.  This decision comes after calls for more study.  The plan could be revived in the fall session, following the election later this year.

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State Week
2:27 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

Listen To State Week - May 30, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

As the Spring Session nears its end, the House and Senate agree on a state spending plan, but a decision on keeping the state income tax at its current level will probably be held off until after November.   Also, House Speaker Madigan suggests divorcing the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum from the Illinois State Historic Preservation Agency.

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Budget FY15
12:01 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

Republicans Decry Democratic "Playbook," Call For End Of Lame Duck Tax Decisions

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  The budget being expected to be pushed through the General Assembly Friday does not count on extending the 2011 income tax hike. But Republicans say they can "see through" the Democrats' plan to revisit the income tax after the November election.

After Democratic leadership gave up on attempting to keep Illinois income tax at five percent, the House pushed through what Democrats call a "middle of the road" budget. It taps into other revenue sources and relies on delaying payments to vendors in order to keep spending relatively flat.

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Statehouse
6:17 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

Audit: $12.3M Illinois Medicaid Benefits Paid For Dead

Credit wuis

An Illinois audit is providing details about the $12.3 million that the state's Medicaid program paid for medical care for people who were dead.  
Auditor General William Holland released the report Thursday. The Associated Press first reported on the overpayments last month.  

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Patent trolls
5:19 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

Lawmakers Push To Fight Patent, Copyright Trolls

Credit Wikimedia commons

  Lawmakers are considering proposals to stop so-called "patent trolls." They say people who fraudulently collect fines under the guise of protecting intellectual property are hurting small businesses.

"Patent trolls" and their lesser-known cousins, "copyright trolls," basically search for opportunities to make money by claiming someone has used a protected idea without permission.

Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) says many businesses would rather pay the "fine" a patent troll asks for, rather than fight back in court alone.

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Statehouse
4:55 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

Audit Questions How Closing Of Jacksonville Developmental Center, Others Were Handled

Jacksonville Developmental Center employees, residents, and their guardians protest the facility's closure at a Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability held in 2012.
Credit WUIS

A state audit has found that Gov. Pat Quinn's administration left behind tractors, a forklift, computers, and confidential patient and employee records when it closed three Department of Human Services facilities.  

The report by Auditor General William Holland says officials failed to follow proper inventory and shut-down procedures when it closed centers in Jacksonville, Rockford and Tinley Park in 2012.  

The audit even found that another department delivered $1,000 worth of bread and juice to the Rockford site 30 days after it closed.  

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Budget FY15
7:37 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

Cullerton, Madigan Come To Budget Agreement, Will Revisit Revenue After Election

Credit Illinois Senate

  Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) says he's come to an agreement on state spending with the speaker of the Illinois House. But Cullerton is leaving the door open for an income tax hike after the November election.

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Statehouse
4:02 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

Quinn Supports Minimum Wage Referendum

Credit wikimedia

Gov. Pat Quinn says he supports asking voters whether Illinois' minimum wage ought to be raised to $10 an hour.

The state Senate approved that question today for the November ballot.

Senator Kimberly Lightford, a Democrat from Maywood, says polling shows support for the hike across the state. She says a ballot question could give lawmakers the push they need.

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Statehouse
2:34 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

House Votes To Undo Medicaid Cuts On Adult Dental, Podiatry

Credit Karen Roach/iStockphoto.com

The Illinois House has voted to undo a series of cuts in the state's program of health care for the poor. Backers of the change say the cuts have come with a significant cost.

 Two years ago, Democrats and Republicans agreed to massive reductions in the Medicaid program, with savings estimated at greater than $2 billion. Now Democrats say some of those cuts are costing more than they're worth.

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Illinois Capitol
2:20 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

Reagan Statue Requested At Statehouse

Bronze statue of former President Ronald Reagan in the Capitol Rotunda by Chas Fagan. The statue was given by the state of California to the National Statuary Hall Collection.
Credit Public doman

A state senator is spearheading an effort to get a statue of Ronald Reagan built at the Illinois Capitol. Darin LaHood of Dunlap, a Republican, is among those who have sent a letter to the Architect of the Capitol requesting a Reagan memorial.

LaHood says it coincides with the 10th Anniversary of President Reagan’s death on June 5.

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Statehouse
1:56 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

Lawmakers Push To Speed Up Fracking Even After Proposal Dies

Anti-fracking activists rally in the Capitol against fracking last spring.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  Lawmakers are giving up on an attempt to override state regulators in order to jumpstart fracking in Illinois. But they still say Gov. Pat Quinn's administration is dragging its feet on a potential economic boom.

It's been a  year since hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, was approved in Illinois. The law was hard-fought, but in the end, industry and environmental interest groups signed off.

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Statehouse
11:37 am
Wed May 28, 2014

IMSA Spared Funding Cut Over Diversity ... For Now

State Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, is concerned about ethnic and economic diversity at the Illinois Math and Science Academy.
Credit ILGA.gov

The Illinois Math and Science Academy has been spared a significant cut under the budget approved Tuesday in the Illinois House.

Lawmakers had previously voted to slash $1.8 million from the elite public school's state funding.

Representative Ken Dunkin is a Democrat from Chicago and chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus. He says in prior years, IMSA has gotten increased state funding in order to improve diversity. Dunkin says he has not been satisfied with the results.

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Education funding
12:33 am
Wed May 28, 2014

Senate Approves School Funding Overhaul

Credit flickr/LizMarie_AK

  The Illinois Senate has passed a plan to overhaul the way schools are funded. But the proposal has a long way to go before becoming law.

After months of negotiations and with just four days left on the General Assembly's spring calendar, the measure was deemed "ready for primetime." The plan would direct state funding to more impoverished schools and divert funding from schools in wealthier areas.

Supporters of the plan, like Sen. Mike Noland (D-Elgin) say this would help remedy inequity in school funding.

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Statehouse
11:16 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

House Democrats Reject Gov's Budget Ultimatum

The floor of the Illinois House during Tuesday's debate over the FY15 budget.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Two months after Governor Pat Quinn laid out his vision for Illinois' budget, the House of Representatives has approved a state spending plan. Quinn presented two options: make 2011's temporary tax hike permanent, or make steep cuts across government. Lawmakers considered those options and chose ... neither.

Quinn has been clear about the potential consequences of letting Illinois' income tax rate drop, as it's scheduled to do at the end of the year.

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Statehouse
5:57 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

Budget Plan Said To Lead To Layoffs, Payment Delays

Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago, presents budget legislation Tuesday in the Illinois House of Representatives.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Illinois House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a spending plan for state government.

This is not an extension of Illinois' 5 percent income tax rate. It's also not the doomsday budget Gov. Pat Quinn and other Democrats warned would result without that permanently higher tax rate. Rather, it holds spending essentially flat across state government. But that doesn't mean Illinois' financial problems are solved.

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