Statehouse

Statehouse
1:06 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Professor Says Publicly Funded Campaigns Are Better for Voters

UIS Political Scientist Michael Miller
Credit courtesy of Michael Miller

An expert on campaign finance says his studies show that government funding of state level races is better for voters and candidates.  Michael Miller of the University of Illinois Springfield makes the case in his new book "Subsidizing Democracy: How Public Funding Changes Elections And How It Can Work In The Future". He spoke with Bill Wheelhouse:

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Statehouse
7:42 am
Thu January 9, 2014

State Pension Shortfall At $100.5 Billion

A state report shows the amount of money taxpayers owe five state pension plans hit $100.5 billion on June 30.

But that's $3 billion less when not using a counting method adopted five years ago that made the pension picture brighter.  

Auditor General William Holland released a report Wednesday that estimates the total retirement-fund debt based on a process called ``smoothing'' _ considering gains and losses during the past five years.  

Without smoothing and instead considering current market value of assets, the total unfunded liability is $97 billion.  

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Statehouse
5:56 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

Quinn Backs Corrections Director

Director Godinez
Credit WBEZ

Gov. Pat Quinn is supporting his prisons director after a Republican challenger called for the director to be fired.  
 Sen. Kirk Dillard is a GOP candidate for governor. He said Wednesday that Democrat Quinn should fire S.A. ``Tony'' Godinez  for hiring a man with arrests and apparent one-time gang ties.  

Dillard says it's ``outrageous'' that ex-gang members are ``running the prisons.''  
Xadrian McCraven  was an $111,000-a-year senior policy adviser to the Department of Corrections' parole chief before he was fired Friday.  

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Statehouse
7:46 am
Wed January 8, 2014

Quinn's Running Mate Remains in Connecticut Until March 1

Paul Vallas
Credit pbs

Gov. Pat Quinn's running mate will continue working in Connecticut until March 1, just before Illinois' primary election.   The Chicago Sun-Times reports (http://bit.ly/19SJTfX ) Paul Vallas will keep working as superintendent of Bridgeport public schools.  

Vallas submitted his resignation to Bridgeport officials on Dec. 31 and is required to give a 60-day notice.  
Illinois' primary election will be held March 18.  

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Statehouse
7:23 am
Wed January 8, 2014

Quinn Signs Another Pension Measure

Gov. Pat Quinn
Credit wikimedia

Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a pension-reform measure for the Chicago Park District.  

The legislation Quinn signed Tuesday is designed to deal with a $971 million deficit in the district's pension program. When lawmakers approved it in November, experts hailed it as example of compromise for what was then an elusive solution to the five state pension systems' $100 billion hole.  

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Pensions
7:20 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Don't Bank On Pension Savings Just Yet

House Speaker Michael Madigan sponsored the pension overhaul, which state employees' and teachers' unions say unfairly cuts their benefits.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

With the new year comes the annual process of crafting a new state budget.  Money will be tight, despite a pension law that's supposed to save $160 billion dollars over the next 30 years.

Legislators who voted to cut state employees' and teachers' retirement benefits say they had no choice. Nearly a fifth of the state budget was going into Illinois' pension systems. Meaning there was less money to spend elsewhere. The pension law is supposed to ease that so-called "squeeze."

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Statehouse
3:37 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

11,000 Apply For Concealed Carry Permits So Far

The online application system to apply for permits was officially launched in Illinois on Sunday. On Monday, Illinois State Police said they had received 4,525 applications for concealed carry permits were received within 24 hours. The other 6,500 applications came from firearms instructors who the state let apply early for permits to help test the functionality of the online application system.  

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State Week
1:26 pm
Fri January 3, 2014

Listen To State Week - January 3, 2014

This week's topics include the state's system for accepting Concealed-Carry applications, the many lawsuits filed against the recent law changing the state's pension system, and a look back at some top stories from 2013.

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Statehouse
2:23 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

Law Limits Use Of Disabled Parking Placards

A state law taking effect yesterday limits the use of free on-street parking by the disabled.  
Now, only motorists whose impairments prevent them from being able to pay a meter can park for free in those spots.  

Before, anyone with a disability parking placard could do so.  
Now, motorists will have to get statements from doctors affirming they cannot feed parking meters, for example, because they use wheelchairs or cannot walk more than 20 feet.  

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Statehouse
2:10 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

State Retirees Sue Over Pension Law

A group of retired state employees has filed a lawsuit challenging a new Illinois plan to eliminate the state's $100 billion public pension shortfall.  

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Statehouse
10:55 am
Thu January 2, 2014

Justices Get Campaign Money From Groups Involved In Pension Battle

Credit flickr/RandyvonLiski

A published report says groups with ties to the pension-reform law adopted last month have contributed close to $3 million to Illinois Supreme Court justices who might decide its fate.  

The Chicago Sun-Times reports (http://bit.ly/1aqJQ5n ) that six of seven justices have taken money in the past 13 years from labor unions, business groups and a political committee controlled by Chicago Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.  
Retired teachers have sued to stop the pension-reform plan that cuts retiree benefits to reduce a $100 billion debt.  

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Judges' Qualifications Questionned
6:29 am
Thu January 2, 2014

New Tax Appeals Tribunal Open For Business

Credit Illinois Department of Revenue

An Illinois Independent Tax Tribunal years in the making is up-and-running today. It gives businesses and individuals who have problems with their tax bills a new avenue to get them overturned. Still there are early concerns over who Gov. Pat Quinn has nominated to serve as the tribunal's Chief Administrative Law Judge.

Say a business doesn't agree with how much the state Department of Revenue says it owes in sales taxes. Before, it had two options: fight the tax bill in court (though that costs time and money) or plead the case to the Department of Revenue.

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Statehouse
5:36 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

Pension Costs High, But Slowing

The amount Illinois must pay to keep pace with its pension systems should grow less than 2 percent next year but still total nearly $7 billion.  

A state actuary's report that Auditor General William Holland released Tuesday says taxpayers must pay $6.86 billion in the fiscal year that begins July 1. That's up about $100 million from this fiscal year.  
Lawmakers adopted a reform plan in early December for the five pension systems to cut a $100 billion debt. But it doesn't take effect until June 1 and has been challenged in court.  

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Year In Sound
2:43 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

Voices In The News 2013

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

As we get ready to welcome 2014, we thought we’d take a few minutes to reflect on some of the voices in the news this past year in Illinois state politics and government. People in the Capitol were busy with same-sex marriage, medical marijuana, and dozens of other issues. What follows are a few of the more memorable moments.

Gov. Pat Quinn: “This is no small issue. This is a choice about whether we will make the tough decisions necessary to balance our budget by reforming our public pension systems."

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Driving Conversation
11:53 am
Tue December 31, 2013

'Siri, Tell Me About The Hands-Free Law'

Bluetooth headsets are among the ways one will be permitted to talk and drive beginning in 2014. Holding a phone, however, will be banned under Illinois law.
Credit Flickr user DeclanTM (Creative Commons)

Jan. 1 brings a new Illinois law that limits talking on the phone while driving. It's often been referred to as "cell phone ban." But it's actually a bit more nuanced.

The law starts out by saying you cannot drive while using an electronic device such as a phone or laptop. But it's not that cut-and-dry. For example, you can place a call if it only requires pressing one button.

SIRI: *ding*
MACKEY: Siri, can you make a call for me?
SIRI: "With whom would you like to speak?"
MACKEY: How about Illinois State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond?

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Need for Speed
11:36 am
Tue December 31, 2013

70 mph New Year's Day? Not So Fast ...

This Illinois Department of Transportation map shows where the speed limit increases to 70 mph as of Jan. 1, 2014.
Credit IDOT

Beginning Jan. 1, the maximum speed limit in Illinois will increase to 70 miles an hour. But you might want to hold off on the throttle for at least a few weeks.

While the new 70 mph law technically goes into effect at midnight on New Year's Day, it's going to take the Illinois Department of Transportation a little while to get all the new speed limit signs put up. Until then, IDOT spokeswoman Paris Earvin says, "We really encourage motorists to obey the posted speed limits."

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Statehouse
2:09 pm
Mon December 30, 2013

State Spending To Be Part Of Tax Returns

Credit Illinois Department of Revenue

State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says Illinois residents will get a breakdown of state spending in income tax returns received in 2014. 

Topinka announced the initiative on Monday. She says her office will also make the information available online.   In a statement, Topinka says there shouldn't be a mystery when it comes to public dollars in the state.  

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State Week
12:37 pm
Fri December 27, 2013

Listen To State Week - December 27, 2013

This week, an overview of some of the top stories from the past year.

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Statehouse
6:16 am
Thu December 26, 2013

Quinn Won't Commit To Term Limits

Credit wikimedia

Gov. Pat Quinn is a longtime advocate for term limits, but has yet to commit to one himself.  
The Chicago Democrat tells The Associated Press in a year-end interview that he won't presume a win in his 2014 re-election bid and is taking it one term at a time.  

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Statehouse
6:03 am
Thu December 26, 2013

Governor Quinn Grants More Clemency Requests

Thirty-eight people have been granted clemency by Gov. Pat Quinn for crimes that date back decades.  
The Democratic governor announced yesterday that he also denied another 129 petitions for clemency.  
Crimes committed by those who were pardoned include theft, possession of a controlled substance, burglary and forgery, and solicitation of prostitutes.  

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Statehouse
11:00 am
Mon December 23, 2013

Former DCFS Director Calica Dies

Richard Calica
Credit state.il.us

The former head of Illinois’ child welfare department died overnight.

Richard Calica resigned his position with the state Department of Children and Family Services last month.

He’d been diagnosed with cancer and had undergone surgery.  When he resigned - Governor Pat Quinn praised Calica for adding more than 100 child welfare investigators to the department.

Calica’s chief of staff took over the department on an interim basis when he resigned.

Calica was 67.

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Illinois Supreme Court
6:30 am
Mon December 23, 2013

Insurance Company Must Defend Policyholder

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Illinois Supreme Court has put a limit on just who can be excluded from a car insurance policy.

Ana Reyes is being sued for allegedly hitting two people with her car — injuring a mother and killing the woman's four-year-old.

In the lawsuit that followed, Reyes’ insurance company argued it had no duty to defend Reyes or pay the victims.

Insurance company American Access listed Reyes as the policyholder, but it also excluded her from her own policy, and made another man the primary driver.

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State Week
2:33 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

Listen To State Week - December 20, 2013

This week's topics include Governor Quinn's agreement with AFSCME on how to cull Medicaid rolls, a change to how the state will accept concealed carry applications, and Archer Daniel Midland's decision to keep its corporate HQ in Illinois.

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Term Limits
12:52 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

It Would Take Four Wins For Quinn To Grab Longest-Serving Governor Title

Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Gov. Pat Quinn is leaving the door open to running for governor three times, but even that would not put him on pace to set a record as the state's longest-serving chief executive.

It may seem a bit premature to think about. Though it's expected Quinn will be Democrats' nominee in 2014, he could well be unseated and never clinch a full, second term as governor.

But when a reporter asked about it, Quinn refused to say if this will be his last time running.

"I think you have to pass a term limit amendment, then that starts the clock," he said.

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pension
6:39 am
Fri December 20, 2013

Illinois Pensions Don't Sell Assets In 2013

Credit SRS

Officials say sufficient state funding the last two years means key state-employee pension funds didn't have to sell assets to meet payments.  
 The State Retirement Systems covers pensions for ex-state employees, judges and lawmakers. A report Thursday by Auditor General William Holland says SRS withdrew $30 million in the 2013 fiscal year _ down from nearly $250 million the year before.  
 William Atwood heads the Illinois State Board of Investment, which manages the SRS portfolios.  
 He says the large withdrawal in 2012 was because of state underfunding in 2011.  

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Economy
5:48 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

State Miniumum Wage Either Job Booster Or Job Killer

Credit Amanda Vinicky

  As he campaigns for re-election, Governor Pat Quinn is renewing a push for a hike in the minimum wage.

Illinois' $8.25 minimum wage bests the federal rate by a dollar.Gov. Quinn and other Democrats want to raise it higher; the governor's calling it to go up to $10.

"When we put more purchasing power in the hands of hard-working people, they're not going to admire the money in the bank vault," he says. "They're going to go out and spend that money at stores in their neighborhood, to help that consumer demand, that creates more jobs."

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Pensions
6:00 am
Tue December 17, 2013

Preparing To Implement Pension Overhaul — And Not To

Credit Arthur Public Library via IMLS DCC (creative commons)

Illinois’ biggest and most indebted pension system is beginning to implement changes tied to the pension overhaul passed this month. But officials are also making plans in case the new law is struck down.

The Teachers Retirement System is by far the biggest of Illinois’ five pension systems, with well over 360,000 members. TRS is also the biggest factor in the pension funding problem, accounting for more than half of the combined $100 billion shortfall.

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Statehouse
5:31 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Gov Candidate Brady Releases Income Information

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

State Senator Bill Brady will no longer have to defend himself against criticism he didn't pay enough in taxes.  The candidate for governor released his tax returns Monday.

When the mortgage crisis hit, Sen. Bill Brady's real estate development business took a hit.  So much so that in 2008 and 2009 he owed the federal government no income tax.

Brady defended that four years ago, when he was Republican's nominee for governor:

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State Week
6:15 pm
Fri December 13, 2013

Listen To State Week - December 13, 2013

This week, among the topics of discussion: corporate tax incentives, interest on state bonds, and more on state pensions.

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Statehouse
4:25 pm
Fri December 13, 2013

Patti Blagojevich Attends Husband's Appeal Hearing

The wife of imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has said she hopes her husband will win his freedom and that he could return home to rejoin her and their two school-aged daughters.  
Patti Blagojevich spoke Friday to reporters after attending a Chicago hearing to hear oral arguments in her husband's appeal of his corruption conviction. 

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