Statehouse

Statehouse
5:45 pm
Tue September 10, 2013

Quinn Halts Funding For Statehouse Renovation

A new exit sign hangs in the west wing of the statehouse.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov. Pat Quinn has suspended funding for future renovations at the Capitol, a pricey project that's already caused embarrassment for financially-shaky Illinois and raised questions about how it was allowed.  
The Chicago Democrat told reporters Tuesday that he's instructed his budget director to hold up appropriations for renovations that are yet to be done.  

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Gasoline Taxes
9:53 am
Tue September 10, 2013

Spending, Savings Fuel Gas Tax Proposals

Credit Amanda Vinicky

As gas prices rise and fall, there's one constant: however much you pay to fill your gas tank, it's taxed. Several proposals would change how.

In Illinois, gasoline is taxed twice.

"What we have in Illinois is a tax on a tax," Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) says. "Which is just wrong. Because right now we get charged with the motor fuel tax. But then on top of that, they charge a sales tax."

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Statehouse
6:30 am
Mon September 9, 2013

Moody's: Illinois Economy Finally In 'Recovery'

Credit Flickr user spDuchamp (Creative Commons)

Illinois has been one of the slowest states to recover from the Great Recession. But at least one analyst says things are getting better.

Illinois is no longer at immediate risk of recession, and is in fact beginning to recover. That, at least, is the assessment of economist Steve Cochrane, with Moody's Analytics.

"The housing market is picking up in Chicago," Cochrane says. "The large service- and finance-based economy in Chicago also seems to be picking a little bit, and hiring is improving."

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Election 2014
4:29 pm
Fri September 6, 2013

Two Former Governors Backing Dillard

Sen. Kirk Dillard
Credit DillardforGovernor

Two former GOP Illinois governors are asking party leaders to back state Sen. Kirk Dillard in the 2014 gubernatorial primary, saying he's the only Republican who can win the general election.
 
Former Govs. Jim Edgar and Jim Thompson have endorsed Dillard. They sent a letter earlier this week to all GOP county and township chairmen and ward
committeemen. They say the Hinsdale legislator is a seasoned campaigner and the only candidate who ``can take the fight to the entrenched Democrats that
dominate the state capitol.''
 

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Statehouse
2:48 pm
Fri September 6, 2013

Listen to State Week - September 6, 2013

This week's topics include the next Governors race and some questions about the cost of renovating the State Capitol Building.

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Economy
5:52 am
Fri September 6, 2013

Departing Chamber President: Politicians Not Doing Enough To Create Jobs

Doug Whitley, 63, will retire next year after a dozen years as president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. He submitted his resignation Thursday at the chamber's board meeting. " “It will be good for the Illinois Chamber to have a new leader with a fresh perspective when the next gubernatorial administration starts, whether Gov. Pat Quinn is re-elected or we have a new governor,” Whitley said in a statement.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

After twelve years as President of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, Doug Whitley's retiring next year.

Whitley says he's leaving disappointed, as the latest data showed Illinois with the second highest unemployment in the nation, behind Nevada.

And he says political leaders haven't done enough about it, except for one - Chicago's mayor: "With the exception of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, I don't hear any other political leaders in our state talking about jobs, trying to recruit jobs, trying to announce new jobs and showing a sincere concern with unemployment," Whitley says.

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High Court
11:46 am
Thu September 5, 2013

Illinois Supreme Court Expected To Name Rita Garman As Chief Justice

Justice Rita Garman of the Illinois Supreme Court.
Credit Illinois Supreme Court

The Illinois Supreme Court returns from its summer recess next week, and one of the items on the docket could be the announcement of its next chief justice. The court appears ready to name Rita Garman to the post.

Garman would be the second woman to head the Illinois Supreme Court — and in fact, only the second woman to lead one of Illinois' three branches of government.

Based in Danville, Garman has been a lawyer since 1968, a judge since 1974, and on the Supreme Court since 2002.

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Pensions
6:50 am
Thu September 5, 2013

Pension Plan Not Finalized, But The End May Be Near

Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), courtesy of ILGA.gov
Credit ILGA.gov

Legislators writing an overhaul of the state's pension systems could be nearing the end of their work.

Feedback's been plentiful since late last month, when a draft of a pension plan drawn up by a bipartisan legislative committee was leaked. Unions hate it - saying it overreaches in cutting retirement benefits. Business groups say it doesn't go far enough to save the state money. Not to mention complaints, including from the governor, that the committee is taking too long.

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Election 2014
4:11 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

No Petitions Until Lt. Gov. Picks Made

Rep. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) will be the running mate of Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale); their names will both headline petitions as the candidates collect signatures to get on the primary ballot.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  This week officially kicks off campaign season. Tuesday was the first day candidates could begin collecting signatures to get on the primary ballot. Still some of the leading candidates can't start yet.

In order to get on the ballot, candidates have to prove voters want them there. In the case of Democrats and Republicans running for governor, that means getting signatures from no less than 5,000 and no more than 10,000 members of his party.

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Constitutional Amendment
4:10 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

Quinn Opposes Veto Change

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov. Pat Quinn says he does not support an opponent's proposal to amend the Illinois Constitution.

Republican venture capitalist Bruce Rauner is not only campaigning to take Quinn's job, he's also leading an effort to change the Illinois Constitution to make it harder for lawmakers to override a governor's veto.

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Election 2014
6:27 am
Wed September 4, 2013

Political Newcomer Rauner Seeks To Overhaul Statehouse

During Republican Day at the state fair over the summer, candidate for governor Bruce Rauner said Illinois is in a "death spiral." He repeated the phrase in an interview about his petition drive, seeking a 2014 ballot question to institute legislative term limits.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Venture capitalist Bruce Rauner is drumming up his campaign for governor with a second campaign. Rauner, a Republican, is trying to get a question on the 2014 ballot that could lead to major changes in state government.   He says he'll donate a sizable portion of his personal fortune into the effort.   Statehouse Bureau Chief Amanda Vinicky spoke about it with him at length in the following interview:

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Election 2014
4:40 pm
Tue September 3, 2013

Dillard Calls Rauner Plan 'Slap In The Face To Downstate'

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner speaks with reporters in this Aug. 15 file photo.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Of the four Republicans running for governor, venture capitalist Bruce Rauner is the only one who's never before served in government. But he's already looking to change it, and in significant ways.

Rauner is heading a petition drive to institute term limits, to make it harder for legislators to override a governor's veto, and to reduce the size of the General Assembly. His plan adds a handful of members to the Illinois House, but takes away 18 senators.

Rauner says that'll make elections more competitive.

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Election 2014
11:50 am
Tue September 3, 2013

Jil Tracy Chosen As Running Mate

Jil Tracy speaks at campaign rally Tuesday in Quincy.
Credit Jason Parrott/Tri States Public Radio

State Senator Kirk Dillard has selected a west-central Illinois lawmaker to join him on the ballot in his bid to be the state’s next Governor.  State Representative Jil Tracy stood before a crowd of about 150 in Quincy’s Washington Park and accepted Dillard’s request to run as lieutenant governor.

The Quincy Republican says she took a close look at all of the Republican candidates for Governor before making her decision.

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Gambling
5:18 am
Tue September 3, 2013

Wager: 24-Hour Casinos?

Credit Amanda Vinicky

The Illinois Gaming Board is set to consider lifting a restriction that forbids casinos from staying open 24 hours a day. 

Illinois' casinos have previously tried, and failed, to get the okay to keep their doors open 24-7. Now they're trying again. The Gaming Board will consider a proposal Sept. 14.

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Statehouse
5:21 am
Mon September 2, 2013

Quinn Again Pushes For Minimum Wage Hike

Gov. Pat Quinn is again making a push for raising Illinois' minimum wage.  
The Chicago Democrat has been visiting black churches in the Chicago area as he ramps up his 2014 re-election bid. On Sunday, he told congregants at Missionary Baptist Fellowship Church that helping those who live in poverty is a principle as old as the Bible.  
Illinois last raised the minimum wage in 2010.  

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General Assembly
3:26 pm
Fri August 30, 2013

Cook County's Durkin Elected House GOP Leader

Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) bested Rep. Raymond Poe (R-Springfield) as Illinois House Republicans’ new leader. Despite a “scuffle” over the leadership post in past days, Durkin and Poe presented a united front after the closed-door caucus meeting at the Statehouse Inn in Springfield Thursday.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  In a rare turn of events, Illinois' General Assembly will have a leadership change mid-way through the two-year legislative session. It's set in motion by House Republican Leader Tom Cross's decision to step down, he's expected to soon announce a run for state treasurer. Republican members of the House met Thursday in Springfield to choose his replacement. Longtime Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) claimed the title.

It wasn't supposed to happen so fast.

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Statehouse
3:11 pm
Fri August 30, 2013

Listen to State Week - August 30, 2013

Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Topics this week: Leadership change for Illinois House Republicans and a state lawmaker forgoes a bid for governor in the next election.

This week's guest is Kurt Erickson of Lee Enterprises.

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Election 2014
5:48 pm
Thu August 29, 2013

Sen. Raoul Won't Run For Governor

Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago)
Credit Kwame Raoul/Facebook

State Sen. Kwame Raoul says he's not jumping into the 2014 race for Illinois governor.  

The Chicago Democrat has been weighing a run for months and had boosted his fundraising.  
But he said in a statement Thursday he must focus on his role as chairman of a legislative conference committee that's working on Illinois' pension crisis.  
He says he made his decision after talking with his family and evaluating his resources. He also says he didn't want to ``create unnecessary divisions.''  

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Road Show
4:50 pm
Thu August 29, 2013

Illinois Supreme Court Moving To Chicago

The Illinois Supreme Court building in Springfield is undergoing a yearlong rehabilitation project.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Illinois Supreme Court will meet in Chicago for at least the next year while the court's usual home in Springfield is undergoing a major renovation.

The $12.6 million project began this summer. Workers are completely redoing the century-old building's ventilation system, as well as restoring the historic murals that line the walls of the courtroom.

Spokesman Joe Tybor says the move to Chicago is a big change for the justices.

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Minority Report
3:51 pm
Thu August 29, 2013

House Republicans Choose Durkin For Leader

Rep. Jim Durkin, left, was chosen by his colleagues to be the new House Republican leader. Rep. Raymond Poe, right, had also sought the office, but in the end endorsed Durkin.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Republican members of the Illinois House have a new leader: longtime Rep. Jim Durkin of suburban Western Springs. Lawmakers met in Springfield today to choose a replacement for outgoing House Minority Leader Tom Cross. 

Republicans aren't just the minority party in the Illinois House. They're in the super-minority, with 47 members to Democrats' 71. Durkin says he'll work to slim those margins.

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Election 2014
8:31 am
Thu August 29, 2013

Running For Lieutenant Governor Is A Risky Business

Though he hasn't decided who to support in the Republican primary race for governor, Niles Township committeeman Joe Hendrick is happy to pose with one of the candidates, Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) at GOP Day at the state fair. Four years ago when he was Republicans' nominee for governor, Brady didn't have any say in who his running mate would be; for the first time this election gubernatorial candidates get to choose a lieutenant governor, before the primary.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

   For the first time, candidates for governor in Illinois will choose their second in command. They used to get stuck with whomever primary voters choose for lieutenant governor -- whether the two got along or not. It's an opportunity for candidates to find a running mate they work well with, or perhaps someone to balance out the ticket. Still, the new selection process might have unintended consequences.

 

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Eyes In The Skies
6:42 am
Wed August 28, 2013

Law Enforcement Drones Will Require A Warrant (With A Few Exceptions)

Credit http://www.infouas.com/la-policia-de-california-dispuesta-a-emplear-drones/

Illinois will regulate the use of drones by law enforcement under a bill signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn.

The Chicago Democrat signed the measure Tuesday. Quinn spokesman Grant Klinzman says the governor signed the law to protect people's right to privacy.
 
Drones are sophisticated, unmanned aircraft that authorities are considering for aerial surveillance. The law requires authorities to obtain a search warrant before using a drone to collect information.    
 

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Statehouse
2:56 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

ACLU Hires Former GOP Chair's Firm To Lobby For Same Sex Marriage

Bill Brady
Credit WBEZ

The American Civil Liberties Union has hired a consulting firm started by the Illinois Republican Party's former chairman to help with efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois. 

Pat Brady left his GOP post earlier this year after he said he supported gay marriage. He later started what he describes as a government affairs firm with Matt Strawn, the former chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa.  

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Help Wanted
11:16 pm
Mon August 26, 2013

House Republicans Rushing To Fill Leader Post

Reps. Jim Durkin, Dwight Kay, and Raymond Poe are seeking the position of House Republican leader.
Credit Illinois House of Representatives

Republicans in the Illinois House will meet Thursday afternoon in Springfield to select a new leader. A letter obtained by WUIS says finding a replacement for outgoing Minority Leader Tom Cross is "of the utmost urgency."

It was less than a week ago that Minority Leader Tom Cross announced he was stepping down — he's expected to instead run for state treasurer.

Seventeen House Republicans signed a letter officially scheduling the meeting Thursday. They say there's no time to waste in electing Cross' successor.

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Gilded Age
5:22 pm
Mon August 26, 2013

Capitol Renovations Aim For Historical Look

The renovated west wing of the Illinois Capitol building features exit signs with an old-fashioned font.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

In Springfield, the west wing of Illinois' Capitol building is nearing the end of a two-year, $50 million renovation.

Workers are putting on the finishing touches. Everywhere you look, you see a balance between modern building requirements and historical details.

The door handles are flipper style — that's easier to use for people with disabilities — but they're cast with the state seal. There are lighted emergency exit signs, of course, but they're in an old-timey font.

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Concealed Carry Law
12:36 pm
Mon August 26, 2013

Court Sets Arguments In Ill. Concealed Carry Case

Credit Source: http://www.adamsguns.com

  A federal appeals court will hear arguments Oct. 3 over a push by gun rights advocates to let Illinois residents immediately tote firearms in public under the state's fledgling concealed-carry law. Mary Shepard and the Illinois State Rifle Association want the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to intervene after failing to sway a federal judge in East St. Louis to allow immediate concealed carry.  The Illinois Legislature passed the last-in-the-nation concealed-carry law July 9 against Gov.

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Animal Welfare
8:01 am
Mon August 26, 2013

What Happens To 'Puppy Lemon Law' Dogs?

Credit Flickr user AScappatura (Creative Commons)

A new law in Illinois gives pet owners a remedy if they buy a sick dog from a pet store. But the so-called puppy lemon law got us thinking: what happens to those sick puppies after they're returned to the store?

We spoke to Vicki Deisner, Midwest legislative director for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. She also talked about several other new animal-welfare laws in Illinois this year.

The ASPCA supported four such pieces of legislation that were signed into law this year:

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Statehouse
5:11 pm
Fri August 23, 2013

Pension Framework Could Save $145 Billion

Sen. Kwame Raoul
Credit ilga.gov

A bipartisan panel tasked with solving Illinois' multibillion-dollar pension crisis is considering a framework that could save the state about $145 billion over 30 years.  

The Associated Press on Friday obtained an outline of ideas the 10-person committee is considering.  


It calls for ending automatic 3 percent cost-of-living increases for retirees. Increases would instead be linked to the rate of inflation.  


Employees would have to pay 1 percent less to their own retirement. And the pension systems would be fully funded within 30 years.  

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Statehouse
1:37 pm
Fri August 23, 2013

Listen to State Week - August 23, 2013

Reps. Jim Durkin, Dwight Kay, and Raymond Poe are among the Republicans said to be seeking the position of House minority leader.
Credit Illinois House of Representatives

The topics on this edition of State Week in Review include Republican Tom Cross' announcement that he is stepping down from the position of House Minority Leader and raising the speed limit for Illinois interstate highways.

This week's panel consists of Sean Crawford, Charlie Wheeler, Amanda Vinicky, and Brian Mackey.

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Statehouse
7:55 am
Fri August 23, 2013

State Rep. Sacia: Resignation Next Month "Right Thing To Do"

Rep. Jim Sacia (R-Freeport)
Credit www.ilga.gov

A northern Illinois Republican state legislator says he's stepping down at the end of September.
 
Jim Sacia is in his sixth term in the Illinois House of Representatives. He tells the Freeport Journal-Standard he vowed not to hold the 89th House District seat more than 12 years.

Sacia calls his early departure from the House the “right thing to do” so the GOP can pick someone to fill out his term and run for the next one.

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