Statehouse

Illinois continues to meander through a partial government shutdown. Even so, legislators are taking a break from Springfield.

A former Illinois state representative sentenced to five months in prison for pocketing a $7,000 bribe is asking for a delay in his surrender to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.  

Derrick Smith, a 51-year-old Chicago Democrat, was sentenced in April after jurors convicted him last year of bribery and attempted extortion for accepting a bribe for supporting a day care center's application for a $50,000 state grant. The facility was fictitious and part of an FBI sting.  

Credit Flickr/aka_kath

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has accepted the resignation of the state's Agriculture Department director and the director of the state fair.  

The resignations of Phil Nelson and Patrick Buchen were announced late Thursday. The reasons for their resignations were not given. 

Amanda Vinicky

A recent agreement means that despite the budget impasse, Illinois will fund services for disabled babies. But therapists and children who rallied at the Statehouse Thursday say their worries aren't over.

Gov. Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / N

There was a bit of commotion in the Illinois Capitol Thursday when an activist hijacked a committee hearing to call for the impeachment of Gov. Bruce Rauner.

IPR

There is a lot of repetition going on at the state capitol these days.  And it has a political purpose.

Brian Mackey/WUIS

By now, most people probably have a sense that things at the Illinois Statehouse have gotten downright nasty, even if it’s not completely clear what all the fighting is about—or, how it’s playing out behind the scenes.

To reveal the parts of the fighting that the public doesn’t get to see—the squabbling and cynical gamesmanship—we wanted to pull back the curtain.

Income tax space on a Monopoly game board
StockMonkeys.com

Commentary — Let’s be blunt: Illinois needs higher taxes.

That statement might come as a shock to citizens under the illusion that all would be well, if state leaders would just cut all the wasteful spending out of the state budget. 

Luis Arroyo
Brian Mackey/WUIS

For the first time in three weeks, state representatives will convene in Springfield Thursday.

Not much has changed in those three weeks. There's still no agreement between Democratic legislators and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on a state budget.

But representatives are back anyway, and they do have some budget measures on the table.

For one, they're set to discuss Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposal to exempt some middle-class homeowners from paying higher property taxes.

labor event
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Labor unions are going on the road to make their case against Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s pro-business agenda. The latest in a series of events took place Wednesday morning in Springfield.

As the third month Illinois has gone without a state budget nears its end, some programs have recently gotten funding. Many other are still waiting and starting to feel the pinch. 

State Museum Workers Get Reprieve, At Least For Now

Sep 22, 2015
WUIS

Unionized workers in several state agencies were set to lose their jobs in a week.  But they'll keep them, at least for awhile longer.

http://cropsci.illinois.edu

The University of Illinois plans to reduce off-campus crop research and may shut down several agricultural centers as part of a cost-cutting move tied to flagging state support.
 
The budget cuts will affect the Brownstown Agronomy Research Center near Vandalia; the Dixon Springs Agricultural Center in southern Illinois; the St. Charles Horticulture Research Center west of Chicago; and the Northern Illinois Agronomy Research Center near DeKalb.
 

igpa.gov

A sitting state legislator has died. Seventy-one-year old Rep. Esther Golar represented the southwest side of Chicago since 2006.

EliChristman/flickr

Data from the Illinois Secretary of State's office show that more than 5,000 Illinoisans who were convicted of drunken driving four times and had their licenses revoked could legally drive again under a new state law.
 
 Gov. Bruce Rauner last month signed the measure, which would provide restricted permits if drivers prove they are drug and alcohol free for at least three
years.
 
     More than half of the 5,085 eligible drivers live in the Chicago area.
 
 The Chicago Sun-Times reports (http://bit.ly/1FaDWuu ) the Illinois Secretary

Illinois Issues

A state board that's charged with protecting rare flora and fauna has fallen victim to the state's budget woes. Gov. Bruce Rauner 's administration says funding for staff has been eliminated.

Illinois' governor and legislative leaders haven't talked to each other in months, and the state continues to spend money without a budget.  Just how long can this continue?  Lee Enterprises' Springfield Bureau Chief Kurt Erickson joins the panel.

Three years ago, the first video gaming machines popped up in Illinois bars, restaurants, and truck stops. 

Crayons and children's books
Donnie Nunnley

Limits on who is eligible for this Welfare-to-Work program sparked intense debate in Springfield.  But the fight isn’t over. 

Wikimedia Commons

Families with babies, from birth until they're three years old, are eligible for state assistance to help their children learn and grow. It's called early intervention. But without a budget, Illinois stopped paying the therapists who provide these services. Now, the comptroller and the governor's administration says they've come up with a way to pay again, even though Illinois still has no budget in place.

When Tamiko Schaefer's baby Daniel was about six months old, she started noticing something.

Tom Davidson / Creative Commons via flickr.com/88100135@N02

The Donald's stance on immigration has kept him atop the polls, but it presents dangers for Republicans in a state with a growing Latino electorate.

Judge Orders State To Pay For Seniors' Home Care

Sep 16, 2015

A federal judge has ordered the State of Illinois to fund Medicaid services for seniors living at home rather than at a nursing facility during the budget impasse.

Cindy Cunningham is with two providers who asked the court to force payments.

She says Wednesday's order will help caretakers who have taken out personal loans to keep their companies afloat.

"We’ve been without payments since July. Our houses are on the line. Our businesses are on the line," she said.

  Suspended payments for early intervention services will resume, even though Illinois still has no budget. 

Early intervention is just that -- therapists intervening in disabled children's lives when they're infants or toddlers.

Chicagoan Naomi Shapiro's 8-month old has a genetic disorder.

"He received physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, hearing therapy and soon he'll start developmental therapy," she says.

Therapy she says has little Leor Braun smiling, and responding to his own name.

flickr

Public employee and retiree health care benefits may be the next casualty of the state budget impasse.

Amanda Vinicky

Illinois' junior, Republican Senator Mark Kirk -- opposes the nuclear deal with Iran. But the state's senior U.S. Senator Democrat Dick Durbin, has been key in sheparding it through Congress. That's provided grist for the D.C. rumor mill.

  A survey of homeless shelters shows 90 percent of them are denying services because they're getting no state funding during a political feud.  

Policy director for Housing Action Illinois Bob Palmer says most agencies are spending down reserves, borrowing money and using furloughs in hopes the gridlock will break soon; in other cases, such as a shelter in Olney, they've closed down completely.

Amanda Vinicky

It's been years since the last long-term federal transportation program. But with Congress back in session Tuesday, Illinois' senior U-S Senator is making a push for it to get done by the end of the month.

Federal transportation projects have been stuck in stop and go traffic.

Lawmakers pass a temporary authorization, allowing construction to move ahead until the red-light of a deadline; then another temporary measure, another stop … and go ... and stop ... and go.

Illinois repealed capital punishment in 2011. Four years and scores of horrific crimes later, a state legislator wants to bring it back. 

Sen. Bill Haine. D-Alton, was against Illinois' abolishing capital punishment a few years ago, in 2011; after all, he's a former Madison County prosecutor. Haine says since then, times have changed that have only buttressed his position. 

This week, House Speaker Michael Madigan chastised two of his Democratic members after a failed attempt to override Governor Bruce Rauner's veto of a union bill.  Mike Riopell of the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald joins the panel this week.

Chelsea Laliberte
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Illinois now has a law meant to address what's been called an epidemic of heroin abuse in the state. But it did not come easily.

Lawmakers spent more than a year holding hearings and negotiating over how best to address the state's heroin problem.

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