Statehouse

Tornado Relief
4:50 pm
Mon November 18, 2013

Want FEMA Aid? Even If "Home Is Totally Destroyed" Governor Tells Victims To Document

An estimated 200 homes were destroyed in the village of Gifford, in Champaign County.
Credit Sean Powers/WILL

  State officials say victims of yesterday's (Nov. 17) storms should take extra care in documenting their material losses. Illinois learned the hard way why that can be important.

About two years ago, seven people died in the tornadoes that rocked Harrisburg, in deep southern Illinois. And yet the state was denied a request for federal assistance. That meant home and business owners could not get federal loans, grants and other aide.

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Statehouse
5:07 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

Thoughts On Fracking? Illinois Wants To Hear From You

Horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves pumping massive amounts of water and chemicals underground, shattering rock, in order to release oil and natural gas.
Credit WSIU

Illinois took another step Friday toward allowing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The state has published draft rules on the controversial oil and gas extraction process, and it's looking for comments from the public.

Back in the spring, lawmakers touted Illinois' fracking law as the toughest in the country. It was the product of long negotiations between environmentalists and business groups.

But a big part of any law is what's left to regulation. Enter the Department of Natural Resources, which has published 150 pages of proposed rules on fracking.

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Statehouse
3:04 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

DCFS Director Resigns Due To Illness

Richard Calica
Credit DCFS

The director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is to resign after a cancer diagnosis.  
Gov. Pat Quinn announced Friday afternoon that Richard Calica would leave the post. Calica's chief of staff

Denise Gonzales is to serve as the agency's acting director. 

Calica has held the post since December 2011. He said in a statement that working for the agency has been ``the most exciting and rewarding time of my career in child welfare.''

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Church and State
10:32 am
Thu November 14, 2013

Bishop To Hold 'Prayers of Exorcism' On Same-Sex Marriage

Bishop Thomas Paprocki
Credit Springfield Diocese

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield plans a special prayer service the day same-sex marriage is to be signed into law. He says it's "scandalous" that so many Catholic politicians supported the legislation.

Gov. Pat Quinn is planning a big public ceremony to sign the same-sex marriage bill next Wednesday (Nov. 20) in Chicago.

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Election 2014
9:48 am
Thu November 14, 2013

Candidates Still Staking Out Positions On Same-Sex Marriage

Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford spoke with reporters Nov. 13, 2013, in the Press Room of the Illinois Capitol.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Although same-sex marriage will soon be law in Illinois, the issue could remain a factor in the 2014 elections.

For most Democrats — especially those in and around Chicago — same-sex marriage is a winning political issue with core voters.

It's a lot tricker for Republicans. A majority of conservatives are opposed to legal same-sex marriage, but in a Democratic-leaning state like Illinois, Republicans need to win votes from independents, too.

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Juvenile Justice
9:18 am
Thu November 14, 2013

Illinois Considering Independent Monitor For Youth Prisons

The Illinois General Assembly is weighing the creation of a "juvenile ombudsman," an independent official who can keep an eye on the state's juvenile prisons.

The push for an ombudsman comes in the wake of a report that ranks Illinois' juvenile prisons among the worst in the country for sexual abuse.

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Prison Closures
9:10 am
Thu November 14, 2013

Illinois Needs Comprehensive Plan For Facilities: Rutherford

Credit flickr/katerha

A Republican candidate for governor is once again calling for Illinois to change the way it manages major facilities, like prisons and developmental centers. That includes how the state closes such facilities.

State Treasurer Dan Rutherford says past attempts to close prisons and other big state institutions have been haphazard. He says this has been going on for years, back at least to the administrations of former governors Ryan and Blagojevich. But it's still happening, as with this year's closure of the women's prison in Dwight.

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Statehouse
4:45 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Lawmakers Told To Save The Date For Return To Capitol

A top aide to House Speaker Michael Madigan is telling Illinois lawmakers to be ready for a special session in Springfield in December.
 
Madigan chief of staff Tim Mapes told Democrats in an email Wednesday that a ``possible'' session could begin Dec. 3. He told lawmakers to ``keep other days that week available.''  

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Statehouse
10:00 am
Wed November 13, 2013

Hawaii Jumps Ahead Of Illinois On Same Sex Marriage

Credit flickr/merfam

When lawmakers voted this month to approve gay marriage in Illinois, the state was set to become the 15th in the nation to legalize same-sex weddings.
 
Now Illinois may become the 16th state.
 
That's because Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie is expected to sign legislation
Wednesday legalizing gay marriage in that state. Same-sex marriages are set to
begin in the island state on Dec. 2.
 
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has said he'll sign his state's measure during a
special ceremony in Chicago on Nov. 20.  Gay marriages will begin in Illinois in

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Election 2014
7:10 am
Wed November 13, 2013

Interview: Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon

Credit illinois.gov

Sheila Simon will wrap up her term as Lieutenant Governor in just over a year.   The Democrat and daughter of late U.S. Senator Paul Simon is taking on another challenge.  She's running for Illinois Comptroller. That means Simon faces incumbent Republican Judy Baar Topinka.  The attacks are already underway. 

Topinka questions Simon's interest in the job, saying she only chose to run for this office after earlier plans to try for Attorney General were scuttled when Lisa Madigan chose to stay put.

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Statehouse
6:37 am
Wed November 13, 2013

Prosecutors respond to Blagojevich Appeal

Former Governor Rod Blagojevich mug shot.
Credit wikipedia.org

Prosecutors have filed a response to Rod Blagojevich's corruption conviction appeal.  

The 169-page government filing submitted late Tuesday urges the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reject the imprisoned former governor's request for a new trial.  

Defense lawyers filed the appeal on the Illinois Democrat's behalf in July. It asks the Chicago-based appellate court to toss his convictions or at least reduce his 14-year prison sentence.  

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Election 2014
5:45 pm
Tue November 12, 2013

Paul Vallas Says He's Fine With Lt. Gov. Role

Credit pbs

Former Chicago schools CEO Paul Vallas says he'll have no trouble playing ``second fiddle'' to Gov. Pat Quinn as his 2014 running mate.  

Vallas and Quinn appeared together Tuesday for the first time since the governor announced last week that Vallas was his pick for lieutenant governor.  
Vallas sought the 2002 Democratic nomination for Illinois governor but lost to now-imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.  

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Statehouse
7:54 am
Tue November 12, 2013

Kirk Won't Endorse In GOP Governor Primary

Mark Kirk at Ill. State Fair
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

(AP)-Republican Sen. Mark Kirk says he won't endorse any candidate in Illinois' GOP gubernatorial primary.  
However, Kirk gave some advice. He contends the only way Republicans will take control of the governor's mansion is to be moderate on social issues.  

Kirk said that includes accepting same-sex marriage is legal in Illinois. Kirk said he backs same-sex marriage and applauds the General Assembly for making it legal last week.  
Kirk made the assertion Monday, following a Veterans Day ceremony at Buffalo Grove High School outside Chicago.  

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Pension Plan Awaits Gov. Action
6:26 am
Tue November 12, 2013

A Possible Pension Legal Test

House Speaker Michael Madigan talks with reporters about pension prospects in May, at the end of the spring legislative session -- as the year nears an end, the General Assembly has yet to pass an overhaul of the state's retirement systems. A recent measure approved to cut a local pension system's costs could be a legal test case, though. It could also be a framework for Chicago's other underfunded retirement funds.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Another legislative session has gone by without a solution in place to bring down the amount Illinois owes the state's retirement systems. Given the clamoring from the governor, business leaders and credit rating agencies for lawmakers to do something about it, legislators mentioned relatively little about pensions before adjourning from their fall veto session last week ... which may well be a sign that something is afoot; there's talk of legislators returning before the year's end to deal with pensions.

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Local Government
5:54 pm
Mon November 11, 2013

Sheriffs Win Round In Court Over Salaries

Credit wikimedia commons

An Illinois appellate court has ruled for county sheriffs who seek to restore salary cuts imposed by state lawmakers.  

The Quad City Times reports (http://bit.ly/1eFaJcq) the 5th District Appellate Court overturned a Franklin County judge's dismissal of a complaint that Gov. Pat Quinn and the General Assembly failed to budget the full amount of a state stipend.  

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Pensions
3:22 pm
Mon November 11, 2013

Legislative Leaders Take The Reins On Pensions

Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno, of Lemont, says the General Assembly's two top Democrats and Republicans are meeting on pensions; she says it's easier to reach a consensus with fewer people at the table.
Credit ILGA.gov

 Overhauling Illinois' pension systems is no longer in the hands of the special committee of legislators that met all summer. How to reduce the state’s $100 billion of long-term pension debt is now in the hands of the General Assembly's four leaders.

All summer long, state employees and retirees concerned about their retirement benefits had their eyes on a bipartisan conference committee, but insiders say even the key panel members are no longer part of discussions.

The General Assembly's four leaders (who are really always in charge) are taking the reins.

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State Week
8:45 am
Sat November 9, 2013

Listen To State Week - November 8, 2013

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week’s House debate on same-sex marriage & Governor Quinn selects Paul Vallas as his running mate. 

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Election 2014
6:19 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

Paul Vallas: A Democrat ... Who Was A Republican?

Paul Vallas
Credit Bridgeport Public Schools (bridgeportedu.com)

Governor Pat Quinn has finally named his running mate. It's a once-notable Illinois politician who's been out-of-state for the past decade.

It was widely assumed that Quinn, like his Republican opponents, would choose a woman, a minority, or someone from downstate - to be his candidate for lieutenant governor. Conventional, political wisdom says that would have been his ticket to winning over a new voting bloc.

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Election 2014
3:26 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

Paul Vallas To Join Quinn On Dem Ticket

Paul Vallas
Credit Bridgeportedu.com

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has selected former head of Chicago Public Schools Paul Vallas as his running mate.

It was widely assumed that Quinn, like his Republican opponents, would choose a woman, a minority, or someone from downstate - to be his candidate for lieutenant governor.

Conventional political wisdom says that would have been his ticket to winning over a new voting bloc.

Instead, the governor surprised observers and picked Paul Vallas.  

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What's a 'Fiscal Note'?
6:00 am
Fri November 8, 2013

Black Lawmakers Block Chicago Gun Bill

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, seen in this file photo, had legislation blocked by members of the Black Caucus.
Credit cityofchicago.org

The city of Chicago had a setback in Springfield Thursday.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been pushing to increase prison sentences for people convicted of gun crimes. But on the last day of the Illinois legislature's fall veto session, a group of African-American legislators used a parliamentary maneuver to block him.

Such tactics are not uncommon in politics — but this was a rare example of Illinois Democrats pulling a fast one on members of their own party.

The problem of violence that plagues parts of Chicago is national news.

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No Father/Son Prison Visit Yet
5:44 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

Rev. Jesse Jackson On Junior

Though he was originally in Springfield to give the General Assembly's customary daily prayer, Rev. Jesse Jackson became part of an effort by African American legislators to denounce legislation that would require a mandatory minimum prison sentence for certain gun crimes.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

The Rev. Jesse Jackson says he has not visited since his son reported to federal prison late last month.

Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is serving two-and-a-half years in a North Carolina penitentiary. He was convicted of corruption for spending $750,000 of his campaign fund on personal spoils.

"Well his health has been recovering and that has been, as father, the most important thing to me. He has been diligent in doing his work. And I have nothing further to say about that," Rev. Jackson said at the Capitol Thursday (11/7).

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Statehouse
5:43 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

Governor To Sign Same Sex Marriage Measure Nov. 20

Credit flickr/fibonacci blue

Gov. Pat Quinn says he's planning to sign same-sex marriage legislation on Nov. 20 in Chicago.  
The governor announced Thursday that he will sign the bill at the University of Illinois at Chicago in a 3:30 p.m. ceremony. The Legislature passed the measure Tuesday.  

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Veto Session Wrap-Up
3:26 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

Legislators Leave Capital, But They May Be Back

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois legislators wrapped up their two-week veto session this afternoon (Nov. 7), though they may be back in Springfield before the year's end.

The General Assembly knocked one, big item off its to-do list: same-sex marriage. After intense lobbying on both sides, lawmakers on Tuesday sent the governor a measure that will allow gays and lesbians to marry.

The rest of the major issues on the General Assembly's agenda remain:

-a tax package crafted to ensure Archer Daniels Midland keeps its headquarters in Illinois is on hold

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Statehouse
2:44 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

Lawmaker Says Son Would Be Proud Of Same Sex Marriage Vote

Rep. Naomi Jakobsson
Credit housedem.state.il.us

An Urbana lawmaker says her late son would be proud that she returned to the Capitol to vote for same-sex marriage in his last hours.   Garret Jakobsson, the 46-year-old son of Democratic state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, died Tuesday evening after suffering from Pick's Disease. He had been in hospice care.  
 

Jakobsson rushed back to Springfield Tuesday afternoon to vote for the same-sex marriage bill, which she had co-sponsored. It ultimately passed the House with one vote to spare.  
 

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Statehouse
8:52 am
Thu November 7, 2013

Tax Breaks For ADM, Office Depot Advancing in Senate

A Senate panel has approved legislation that would give tax incentives to two of Illinois biggest corporations — Office Depot and Archer Daniels Midland.

ADM says it's moving its head office from Decatur to a larger city.

Chicago is thought to top the list of alternatives, but the company has also checked out Minneapolis and Atlanta. That said, ADM executive Gregory Webb told senators the company would prefer to stay in Illinois.

"We have 17,000 North American employees, and 4,500 of them are in Decatur. So Illinois is a preference," Webb said.

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Veto Session
4:52 am
Thu November 7, 2013

Plan To Hasten Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage

Sponsors of the same-sex marriage bill - Rep. Sam Yingling (D-Grayslake), Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) and Rep. Kelly Cassidy ( (D-Chicago) - approved by the General Assembly on Tuesday hand-deliver it to Gov. Pat Quinn (far left) in his ceremonial office at the Capitol Wednesday afternoon.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Gay and lesbian couples may not have to wait until June to marry in Illinois. A lawmaker is moving to accelerate when same-sex marriage becomes legal.

Already, same-sex couples are hurrying to take advantage of the marriage legislation approved on Tuesday. That very night, Rep. Sam Yingling, a Lake County Democrat who's openly gay, got engaged. "Well, we don't have a date yet, but I will certainly let you know when we do," he said.

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Statehouse
2:14 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

Madigan: Pensions Could Bring Lawmakers Back To Town

Michael Madigan

House Speaker Michael Madigan says he's prepared to pass a ``meaningful'' pension reform bill, and he hopes it will happen before the end of the year.  

The Chicago Democrat says legislative leaders are waiting for actuaries to crunch numbers on some proposals they're considering. Once they have the information he hopes lawmakers can return to Springfield and approve a bill.  

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Statehouse
1:32 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

Springfield's William Cellini Out of Prison

William Cellini
Credit WBEZ

Politically connected Illinois businessman William Cellini  has been released from federal prison.  
A spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons says the Republican insider snagged in the corruption scandal involving former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was released from the federal lockup in Terre Haute, Ind., on Oct. 31. 

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Gay Legislator Proposes
12:06 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

Governor: Will Sign Same-Sex Marriage "Pretty Soon"

The same-sex marriage legislation approved yesterday, Nov. 5, by the Illinois General Assembly will become law by the end of the month.

Gov. Pat Quinn hosted a party last night at the executive mansion in Springfield to celebrate. The festivities morphed into an engagement party when one of a handful of openly gay legislators, Rep. Sam Yingling, D - Grayslake, proposed to his partner.

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Tax Credits
6:46 am
Wed November 6, 2013

Legislators Set To Give Tax Breaks ... But Not Yet, ADM

Director of Illinois' Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity testifies at the House revenue committee about tax incentive options offered to companies looking to locate to Illinois, or threatening to leave the state.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  State legislators are advancing a measure that attempts to lure chemical plant jobs to Illinois, but broader plans to offer companies like ADM incentives are not ready just yet. 

Archer Daniels Midland is the highest-profile case of a company looking for a tax break from the state, in exchange for creating jobs. In ADM's case, the company is looking to move its global headquarters from Decatur to ... maybe Chicago, maybe a city in another state.

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