With national unemployment at its lowest level since the start of the Great Recession, the numbers keep going the wrong way in several parts of Illinois.
Peoria, Danville, and Decatur all saw unemployment increase by more than a percentage point.
Still, Gov. Pat Quinn defends his administration's efforts at building the economy. Thursday, he announced that a German manufacturer will move its U-S headquarters to Schaumburg, a Chicago suburb, a move Quinn says could create 40 jobs.
Thursday's unemployment numbers show Decatur is once again lagging the rest of Illinois. That long-term trend is partly responsible for a new law aimed at changing the way Illinois handles economic development.
In Decatur, 13.2 percent of job-seekers can't find work. State Sen. Andy Manar — a Democrat whose district includes Decatur — says that's part of the reason he thought it was time to blow up the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and start over.
Former Gov. George Ryan says he's still adjusting to private life in the weeks since his release from home confinement. Ryan spoke briefly to The Associated Press Thursday from his home in Kankakee. He says he traveled to Springfield over the weekend to celebrate the birthday of his triplet daughters, one of whom lives in that city. He also visited the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Museum on Saturday with family.
Illinois' largest public pension fund hit a major low in 2012, its rate of return was less than one percent. But an early analysis shows the last fiscal year was better than expected. The success isn’t expected to make much of a dent in Illinois’ nearly $100 billion dollar pension liability, however, which lawmakers thus far have failed to tackle.
A panel of ten Illinois lawmakers has been working this summer to find a solution to Illinois' pension problem. With an unfunded liability of about 100-billion dollars, payments to the public pension systems are taking up a larger chunk of overall state government spending.
WUIS' Sean Crawford spoke with Representative Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat and one of the leaders in the push to change how retirement systems are funded.
Recent meetings of the committee have occurred in private, making it difficult to determine progress. But Nekritz says she's hopeful:
Illinois' top speed limit will go up on many highways beginning in January. Governor Pat Quinn has signed a new law increasing the speed limit from 65 to 70 m.p.h. Quinn bucked the advice of his Department of Transportation, which opposed the legislation. IDOT says a higher speed limit will raise average speeds leading to more crashes and fatalities. But the measure's sponsor, Rep. Jerry Costello (D_Smithton) says more accidents happen because of vehicles traveling at different speeds ... not because of higher speeds.
Nafia Khan (in duck suit) and DCCC organizer Lauren North were on the Illinois State Fairgrounds for Republican Day. They accuse Congressman Rodney Davis of "ducking" constituents, something his spokesman dismisses as "political funny season."
Political campaigns are gearing up for next year's elections. So, too, are political pranksters.
Congressman Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, has lately found himself being shadowed by a giant duck.
Technically it's a woman in a duck suit: "Uh, yes, it is very warm in the duck costume."
This is Nafia Khan. She and a handful of other activists are on the Illinois State Fairgrounds, holding signs that accuse Congressman Davis of "ducking" constituents. They say he's not holding any town hall meetings.
Using a hand-held cell phone while driving in Illinois will be illegal on Jan. 1. Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation Friday aimed at reducing distracted driving. It requires motorists to use speaker phones or headsets that allow for one-digit or audio dialing. Illinois joins 11 other states and Washington, D.C. in banning hand-held phone use on the road. Texting while driving is already illegal in Illinois. Sen. John Mulroe -- a Chicago Democrat and sponsor -- says he wants motorists to ``keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.''
Illinois Republicans are at a crossroads. The party has a historically small number of people in the Illinois Senate, and a small minority in the House, too. But Republicans are also hopeful about 2014, when they have the chance to win back the Illinois governor's office, ending 12 years of Democratic rule.
Party leaders and candidates rallied in Springfield Thursday at the Illinois State Fair, where the men competing for the top of the ticket each said they're uniquely qualified to revive the Illinois Republican Party.
A year-and-a-half after his stroke, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk returned to central Illinois for the first time this week. Members of his party gave him a warm welcome at a Republican rally Thursday at the Illinois State Fair.
Senator Kirk made his way slowly across the stage, aided by a cane. It has been a long, slow, partial recovery since his stroke last January.
Gov. Pat Quinn has appointed a 15-member independent panel including former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to investigate fraud and overhaul Chicago-area public transportation. The move follows allegations of political hiring at Metra and calls for change at its overseeing board, the Regional Transportation Authority. The Chicago Democrat issued an executive order Thursday creating the Northeastern Illinois Public Transit Task Force. Quinn previewed the idea last week.
The Director's lawn on the fairgrounds is usually full on Governor's Day, when Democrats traditionally rally; instead it was largely empty on Gov. Pat Quinn's revised version, which featured multiple bands.
Illinois Democrats put on happy faces Wednesday in Springfield for one of the party's biggest annual gatherings. But even as they brushed off suggestions of turmoil and division within their ranks, a prominent member of the party was being sentenced to prison, another didn't show up and there's a battle for the top of the state Democratic ticket.
A state fair is a place for tradition: carnival rides, corn dogs, barnyard animals. And politicians.
An Illinois government panel trying to help the state set spending priorities is already at work on next year's budget. But after two years, the group is still waiting for the chance to make its mark on spending.
The idea behind Budgeting for Results is to focus state spending on agencies and programs that meet a list of seven priorities, like education or public safety.
But although the Budgeting for Results Commission has been meeting, taking testimony, and publishing reports for about two years, its work has yet to affect the budget.
The arrival of concealed carry in Illinois will mean a big change not only for gun-owning citizens, but police officers as well.
As Brian Mackey reports, the state board that oversees police training is already preparing for the change.
Police in Illinois are already trained on how to approach someone with a gun. Since that person was likely breaking the law, safety and caution were the watchwords. But how does that calculus change when citizens are able to carry legally?
The former head of Illinois' Department of Public Health says he ``was not involved in any way'' with alleged illegal activities of his longtime chief of staff. In an indictment released this week, authorities accuse Quinshaunta Golden. They say she accepted $433,000 in kickbacks for steering grant and contract money to various groups around the time she worked for Eric E. Whitaker at the agency. Prosecutors have never accused Whitaker of wrongdoing.
Illinois state parks are starting to see money from a $2 surcharge on Illinois license plate renewals. The State Journal-Register in Springfield reports (http://bit.ly/1czFIoL) that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is using the money to reduce a $750 million maintenance backlog. Motorists had to start paying the surcharge this year after last year's DNR Sustainability Bill was approved.
The state fair got its start Thursday night with the Twilight parade through the north end of the capital city. It's an annual tradition. But indications are that another tradition -- a Democratic party rally -- will not continue this year.
There were cheerleaders, bands, children scrambling for candy, and of course, a parade of politicians.
The Attorney General, Treasurer, Comptroller, Lieutenant Governor were all there.
First in that line: Governor Pat Quinn and an army of supporters and staffers, wearing his trademark kelly green campaign t-shirts.
Medical marijuana may be legal in his home state, but the number two Democrat in the U.S. Senate says that shouldn't be a national policy.
It'll be awhile before patients with certain diseases will actually be able to use pot to ease their symptoms - the Illinois law doesn't take effect until January, and state regulators have to put rules in place.
Even so, clinics - including one in Chicago - are already beginning to open.
Of course, it defies federal law.
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says he's not ready for the feds to change course.
House Speaker Michael Madigan says he's disappointed a judge has delayed ruling on the legislator salary lawsuit. Gov. Pat Quinn used veto powers last month to suspend pay because of inaction on pensions. Then Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton sued, claiming a misuse of power. A Cook County judge will hear arguments Sept. 18, meaning lawmakers could miss another paycheck. Madigan told reporters Wednesday before a closed-door speech that voting to override Quinn is still a possibility. That's according to Chicago's WLS-TV.
A Cook County judge won't decide until late September on whether to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the state's same sex marriage ban.
Circuit Judge Sophia Hall listened to nearly two hours of arguments on Tuesday. She then said she'll rule on Sept. 27. The lawsuit involves 25 couples who filed for marriage licenses in Cook County and were denied.
However, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez has refused to defend the state's ban, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. She says it violates the state constitution.
Gov. Pat Quinn predicts that a lawsuit over his decision to suspend lawmaker pay for failing to act on the state pension crisis will be a ``landmark'' case. Quinn attended a court hearing Tuesday involving a lawsuit filed by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton force Quinn and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka to issue paychecks. A Cook County Circuit Court judge set oral arguments for Sept. 18.
Attorneys for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton will be in Cook County Circuit Court Tuesday to try and force Gov. Pat Quinn and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka to issue legislators' paychecks.
Last month, Quinn cut $13.8 million for legislators' paychecks in the state budget. He'd threatened consequences if lawmakers failed to act on addressing the pension problem. When a bipartisan pension failed to meet a deadline, Quinn cut their salaries.