Statehouse

Veto Session
7:08 am
Thu October 24, 2013

Legislators Skip Town Early

  Illinois legislators were supposed to meet this week for three days as part of the fall veto session; instead they left Springfield after only two.

Little was accomplished during that time. Despite competing rallies, the Illinois House did not vote on legalizing same-sex marriage, whether state agencies, including the state police, will receive additional money remains unsettled, and there was no action on Illinois' pensions, which are the worst-funded in the nation.

It can give the impression that legislators are not doing their jobs.

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Same-Sex Marriage
6:27 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

Rallying Cry For Marriage: One Man, One Woman

LInda Jernigan of Richton Park (a suburb of Chicago) says she used to be a lesbian, but God saved her; she says marriage for same-sex couples is not a civil right.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

A day after supporters of same-sex marriage rallied at the Illinois Capitol, opponents had their turn. Thousands gathered at the statehouse Wednesday, Oct. 23, urging the Illinois House to uphold traditional marriage.

The event started with a prayer led by Monsignor Carl Kemme, of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield.

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Pensions And Pay
6:13 am
Wed October 23, 2013

Turning The Tables: Legislator Files To Cut Quinn's Budget

Rep. David Harris, R-Arlington Heights, says "the chief executive has attacked the legislature, which shows how dysfunctional we are. If they haven't done their job, then they shouldn't get the full appropriation that we did, and I suggest that that appropriation be cut."
Credit ILGA.gov

  Several months after Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed legislators' salaries from the state budget -- one lawmaker wants to turn the tables on him.

Gov. Quinn says lawmakers shouldn't be paid until they overhaul the state's pensions. A judge rejected that move and the governor's appeal is still pending before the state Supreme Court, so lawmakers are getting their paychecks.

Nevertheless, legislators are still offended by Quinn's "attack," as Rep. David Harris, R - Arlington Heights, describes it.

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Statehouse
6:00 am
Wed October 23, 2013

Veto Session So Far: Nothing Happening

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois lawmakers returned to Springfield Tuesday for their fall veto session. Guns, gay marriage and corporate tax breaks are on the agenda. But nothing is moving yet.

Supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage are rallying in the Capitol this week, but the sponsor of marriage legislation won't say when or if he'll call it for a vote.

Meanwhile, OfficeMax and Archer Daniels Midland are among the companies seeking millions of dollars in tax breaks to keep their corporate headquarters in Illinois, but those proposals are still being negotiated.

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Same-Sex Marriage
5:40 am
Wed October 23, 2013

Politics, Romance, Practicality and Religion Mix in Marriage Debate

Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Back on Valentine's Day, the state Senate approved legislation that would allow gays and lesbians to get married in Illinois. The hope then was that Illinois would become the tenth state to legalize same-sex marriage.  Eight months later, it still hasn't happened.

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Statehouse
5:54 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

Springfield Bishop Bars Same Sex Marriage Supporters From Cathedral

Bishop Thomas Paprocki

Springfield Catholic Bishop Thomas Paprocki sent this memo out earlier in the day Tuesday, prior to the march and rally in support of same sex marriage at the statehouse:

The Rainbow Sash Movement has encouraged Roman Catholics to come to Springfield to “have a loud Catholic presence for marriage equality.” They have announced plans to gather at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at 4:30 p.m. just before the 5:15 p.m. Mass to stand in the Cathedral and indicate that they are there to pray the rosary for “marriage equality.”

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Same Sex Marriage
3:59 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

March For Marriage, But No Vote Certain

Supporters of same sex marriage huddled under umbrellas as they cheered on musicians and politicians at a rally in front of the capitol Tuesday.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Rain didn't stop advocates for same-sex marriage, who rallied under umbrellas by the hundreds in front of the Illinois Capitol Tuesday, Oct. 22. A measure to legalize same-sex marriage passed the state Senate earlier this year, but has stalled in the Illinois House.

There were two types of headliners:

-musicians, like Marcus Terrell, of "America's Got Talent" fame, who sang a "song about true love" ("and as we all know here today true love in any form is just natural," he said).

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Statehouse
3:20 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

ADM Incentives Vote On Hold

Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion)
Credit housedem.state.il.us

The sponsor of a bill to give Archer Daniels Midland Company up to $24 million in tax breaks to keep its headquarters in Illinois opted not to call it for a vote Tuesday.  

The House Revenue and Finance Committee had been scheduled to consider the bill. But Rep. John Bradley, a Democrat from Marion, took it off the agenda.  

Bradley says the incentives for ADM and several other companies ``are all under consideration.'' He declines to say when or if the bill will get a vote.  

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Statehouse
3:17 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

Gov. Quinn: Pension Problem Is "Extreme Emergency"

Gov. Pat Quinn is disputing a fellow top Democrat's statements that Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension shortfall isn't a crisis.  

Senate President John Cullerton has said that the pension shortfall is not an imminent crisis, but that finding a solution can keep the state's income taxes down.  

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Shutdown Fallout
5:46 pm
Mon October 21, 2013

Furloughed Workers Must Repay Unemployment

Credit WBEZ

Illinois is continuing to deal with the effects of the federal government shutdown. The state agency that handles unemployment says hundreds of laid-off federal workers have to pay back their benefits.

During the shutdown, the Illinois Department of Employment Security had a significant spike in calls from laid off federal workers. A few thousand applied for benefits, and 577 ultimately collected money.

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Statehouse
5:29 pm
Mon October 21, 2013

Both Sides In Same Sex Marriage Debate Gathering In Springfield

Credit flickr/geodesic

Opponents and supporters of same-sex marriage are gearing up for another push in the Illinois Legislature. 

Supporters are planning a march and rally in Springfield on Tuesday, the first day of the Legislature's fall session. Gov. Pat Quinn and other lawmakers who support legislation legalizing same-sex marriage are expected to participate.  

Opponents have scheduled a prayer rally at the Capitol on Wednesday. A group of African American clergy who oppose the measure also recorded radio ads in which they urge listeners to call lawmakers and tell them to vote no.  

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Veto Session 2013
7:50 am
Mon October 21, 2013

Preview: Fall Veto Session

Advocates pass out fliers promoting it during the Pride Parade in Chicago over the summer; despite an intense campaign to legalize same sex marriage in Illinois, the legislation's sponsor remains tight-lipped about whether he has the 60 votes needed for it to pass in the House.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

For the first time since a brief special session in July,legislators will begin making their way en masse to Springfield this week, for the fall veto session. The agenda before them is relatively light. The General Assembly will likely debate some budget matters. And there's a hearing on a new type of health care coverage for retired state employees. Amanda Vinicky previews what else is ahead.

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Statehouse
4:51 am
Mon October 21, 2013

Mike Lawrence Says '95 Pension Law Could Have Worked

Mike Lawrence
Credit news.siu.edu

Mike Lawrence spent years as a journalist covering state government and politics before eventually working as the Director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.
In between,  he served as press secretary and senior policy advisor to former Governor Jim Edgar.

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Statehouse
3:27 pm
Fri October 18, 2013

Illinois Supreme Court Strikes Down 'Amazon Tax'

Credit Illinois Supreme Court

The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday struck down the so-called "Amazon tax." The decision could pave the way for businesses to make more money online.

The law was intended to force Internet retailers to collect Illinois sales tax.

Even if such companies didn't have an office or physical store here, they might have had Illinois "affiliates." That would be a website that linked to a product on, say, Amazon.com, and got a small kickback for every sale.

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Statehouse
1:50 pm
Fri October 18, 2013

State Week In Review: October 18, 2013

On this edition of State Week in Review, our panel previews the upcoming fall session of the Illinois General Assembly.  From pensions to same sex marriage to gun crime sentencing, we discuss what may or may not occur. 

Also, the impact of the federal shutdown on state government.   Our guest this week is Gatehouse Media's Doug Finke.

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Federal Budget
6:30 am
Fri October 18, 2013

Illinois Did Not Lose Money Under Default Threat: Rutherford

Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford is seen in this August 2013 file photo.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

With the federal shutdown over and a government default averted, investors are breathing a sigh of relief Thursday. That includes the people responsible for investing billions of dollars on behalf of Illinois state government.

The state of Illinois has about $10 billion in investments. That money is the responsibility of Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who says about $1.2 billion of Illinois' portfolio is in the form of U.S. Treasury Bills.

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Statehouse
5:16 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

Governor Urged To Act On Steidl Pardon

Randy Steidl
Credit uis

Attorneys for the Center for Wrongful Convictions have sent an open letter to Gov. Pat Quinn in an attempt to push the Democrat into acting on a pardon for Gordon ``Randy'' Steidl.  
The letter dated Wednesday seeks action on an 11-year-old petition.  
The letters says, ``This matter has lingered for far too long. Please do the right thing.''  
It says at the least, Quinn should meet with Steidl in person to explain why he has not acted on Steidl's request while deciding thousands of other clemency petitions since taking office in 2009.  

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Pensions
6:04 am
Thu October 17, 2013

AFSCME's Henry Bayer Talks Pensions

Henry Bayer
Credit Afscme31.org

Henry Bayer is the Executive Director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31.  The role puts the union leader in the middle of several battles over benefits and working conditions.  That includes the current dispute involving public pensions.

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Statehouse
5:41 pm
Wed October 16, 2013

Ill. Supreme Court Will Hear Lawmaker Pay Dispute

The Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to hear Gov. Pat Quinn's appeal of a ruling that his veto of money for lawmaker pay was unconstitutional.
The court issued its one-page order Wednesday without additional comment. A hearing date has not been set.  Quinn vetoed money for lawmakers' salaries in July because he said they didn't deserve to get paid until they address Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension crisis.  

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Statehouse
3:48 pm
Wed October 16, 2013

State Defends Hiring After Madigan Referral

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan

Gov. Pat Quinn's administration says there should be no doubt about the qualifications of a former Metra transit employee hired by the state after a referral by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.  
Central Management Services spokesman Mike Claffey  says Patrick Ward worked for 25 years in Chicago's personnel department and has a master's degree with an emphasis in labor relations.  

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Statehouse
7:58 am
Wed October 16, 2013

Quinn Outpacing GOP Counterparts In Fundraising

Gov. Pat Quinn has $2.9 million in his 2014 campaign fund - more than all four of his Republican rivals combined.

Reports filed with the state late Tuesday show the Chicago Democrat raised about $813,000 during the three-month period ending Sept. 30. He has no major challenger in the March primary since Bill Daley abandoned his bid.

Four Republicans are seeking the GOP nomination.

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Statehouse
7:17 am
Wed October 16, 2013

Treasurer's Office Monitoring Risk Of U.S. Debt Default

Dan Rutherford
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

State Treasurer Dan Rutherford says he's monitoring the debt ceiling showdown in Washington and the impact that it could have on the state's finances.

Congress is still searching for deal that would raise the country's cap to borrow more money in order to pay its bills.  The government has been partially shut down for weeks as Democrats and Republicans haggle over spending.

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Pension Overhaul
5:07 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

Quinn Responds To Pension Absence, Begins Reach Out

Gov. Pat Quinn speaks to leading Democrats in September as he seeks the state party's endorsement in his campaign for re-election; critics say the governor has been concerned about politics, rather than policy, when it comes to pensions -- for example by stripping legislators of their salaries as punishment for not passing a bill, even as he was absent from negotiations.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Governor Pat Quinn went months without meeting with members of the special legislative committee formed to draft a new pension plan, but this month he has begun to reach out.

It was Quinn's idea to form a conference committee, to bridge differences between the House and Senate over how to reduce Illinois' $100 billion pension debt.

But the ten members of that panel say other than phone calls welcoming them to the committee, he was absent from their talks from June on, leading to criticisms like this, from Rep. Jil Tracy, a Republican from Quincy.

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Statehouse
1:30 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

Cullerton Says Pension Issue Could Bypass Committee

Sen. John Cullerton
Credit Illinois Senate

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton says the state's pension problem could be addressed in the fall legislative session even if a committee working on it remains split.  
The Chicago Democrat tells The Associated Press in an interview that lawmakers could bypass the committee and call a vote through another legislative route.  
An AP survey found that five of the pension committee's 10 members still had concerns with a proposed $138 billion savings plan. The Legislature cannot consider a committee proposal unless it is signed by six members.  

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Pension Overhaul - Updated
7:23 am
Tue October 15, 2013

Gov. Quinn "AWOL" From Pension Committee's Talks

The ten members of the bipartisan, bicameral conference committee formed to come up with a pension package gather in Chicago in July, for one of the panel's few public meetings. Gov. Pat Quinn did not attend.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

As he runs for re-election, Gov. Pat Quinn is staking a lot on getting something done with pensions. He making a show of asking the state Supreme Court let him cancel legislators' salaries until it's done, and he says he won't deal with other major issues before the General Assembly -- like using tax credits to keep ADM headquartered in Illinois -- until there's what he calls a "comprehensive pension solution." But it's hard to tell just what that means. Most of the ten legislators he tasked with crafting that solution don't even seem to know. They say he's been largely absent ...

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Pensions
3:33 pm
Mon October 14, 2013

Pension Committee Divided On A Fix

Credit wuis

The Illinois Legislature's fall veto session is just a week away, but a committee tasked with the solving the state's enormous pension problem is divided.  
An Associated Press survey of the 10-member committee found five Democrats support a plan that would save the state $138 billion over 30 years. The other half consists of four Republicans and one Democrat. They say they have major concerns about the proposal.  
The Legislature cannot consider the proposal unless it's signed by six committee members.  

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Statehouse
11:50 am
Mon October 14, 2013

LINK Card Outage Resolved

Credit dhs

Shoppers in Illinois and 16 other states should be able to use their debit-style food stamp cards after vendor Xerox Corp. restored service following a system outage.  
Januari Smith is spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Human Services. She says people in Illinois began reporting problems using their LINK cards Saturday morning.  

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Statehouse
11:44 am
Mon October 14, 2013

Member Of State Panel Resigns After Hosting Political Fundraiser

Sen. Martin Sandoval

A member of a board that helps choose engineers to
design Illinois roads has resigned after he co-hosted a political fundraiser for the chairman of the state Senate's Transportation Committee. 

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Statehouse
5:55 am
Mon October 14, 2013

Mandatory Prison For Gun Crimes? NRA Says No

Credit Steve Lipofsky/Basketballphoto.com via Wikimedia Commons

Next week, Illinois lawmakers could consider mandatory prison sentences for people charged with illegal gun possession. Supporters say it would help reduce violent crime in places like Chicago and East St. Louis. But a prominent gun-rights group is opposed to the change.

In places where shootings are a big problem, some politicians and prosecutors want a three-year minimum sentence for gun crimes.

But the National Rifle Association worries lawful gun owners could be caught up under the proposal.

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Pension Overhaul
5:24 pm
Fri October 11, 2013

Pension Committee Considering Adding 401(k) Option

Rep. Mike Zalewski, a Democrat from Riverside, sits on the pension conference committee. "There's some concern over ... frankly whether pension systems should get in the business of the market... and philosophically do we really want to go down this road when there's members of these systems that believe all we need to do is make our payment, rightfully so," he says of defined contribution plans.
Credit MikeZalewski.com

With an eye toward reaching an agreement in time for the upcoming veto session, legislators on a special pension committee met Friday in Chicago. The conversations focused on giving state employees and teachers a new style of retirement plan.

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