Statehouse

Budget FY15
9:32 pm
Wed March 4, 2015

"Don't Get Used To This" Breezy Budget Hearing

A House appropriations committee was relatively easy on the governor's top staff; but expect bruising budget battles ahead.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Last month, Gov. Bruce Rauner unveiled his budget --- chock full of cuts to state programs. But now it's the legislature's turn to take a swipe at a state spending plan. Amanda Vinicky reports on a hearing, at which the governor's office had to testify before lawmakers about its own budget.

Given the widespread frustration by Democrats at the huge cuts Rauner, a Republican, has proposed, you may expect a hearing like this to get a bit tense. But House members were relatively easy on the governor's top aides, who say the governor's office is cutting its budget by ten percent.

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Statehouse
6:43 pm
Wed March 4, 2015

Lawmaker Suggests Eliminating Tuition Waivers For University Employees' Children

Opponents to Rep. Jack Franks' proposal say eliminating tuition wavers would hurt many university workers and their children.
Credit ilga.gov

A lawmaker says children of public university employees should not receive a tuition break.

Currently, students can get half of their tuition paid for by the state if one of their parents works at a public university. Rep. Jack Franks, a Democrat from Marengo, says he wants to make college more affordable for everyone, but higher education budget cuts make the tuition waivers impossible to maintain.

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Statehouse
6:24 pm
Wed March 4, 2015

Sexting Laws Could Be Added to School Handbooks

Credit Alton, Creative Commons

A lawmaker wants to help make students aware of the consequences of using their cell phones to send nude pictures, which can sometimes result in a felony offense.

Representative La Shawn Ford proposes adding the language of Illinois' law on "sexting" into local schools' guidelines. Ford, a Democrat from Chicago, says parents and students need to be more aware that sending naked pictures has serious consequences.

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Statehouse
3:06 pm
Tue March 3, 2015

New Administration Promises Change After Repeated Errors Found In Audit

Felicia Norwood spent 19 years working in the private sector, including working for Aetna, a health care company. Before that, she worked for former Gov. Jim Edgar.
Credit LinkedIn

A recently released audit of the Illinois Department of Health Care and Family Services showed repeated problems from the previous administration. The newly appointed secretary of the agency spoke before a panel of state lawmakers on Tuesday about the audit.

Felicia Norwood wasn't the secretary of HFS when recording mistakes were made that allowed dead people and duplicate enrollees to receive payments for medical assistance. She made that point clear during a legislative hearing designed to address the inaccuracies.

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Ecological Reprecussions
2:06 pm
Tue March 3, 2015

Bat-Killing White-Nose Syndrome Spreads In Illinois

A bat in New York with White-nose syndrome; 5.6 million bats in the eastern half of North American have died as a result of the disease.
Credit Little_brown_bat;_close-up_of_nose_with_fungus,_New_York,_Oct._2008._(5765048289).jpg

A disease responsible for the deaths of millions of bats has spread in Illinois.

The white-nose syndrome gets its name from a fungus that grows on affected bats' noses. Scientists say infected bats often show odd behavior - like taking daytime flights - when they're supposed to be hibernating. It's suspected that depletes their fat reserves, and causes the bats to become emaciated, and eventually die. 

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Statehouse
11:12 am
Tue March 3, 2015

Butler Sworn In As 87th District Representative

Tim Butler is sworn in Tuesday in the Illinois House chambers.
Credit Illinois House Republicans

Republican Tim Butler is being sworn in today as the new state representative in the 87th district.  That includes portions of Sangamon, Logan, Menard and Tazewell counties.  

Butler, who lives in Springfield, says he understands it will be a contentious session regarding the state's budget.  He admits he's still learning the issues.  But he says he'll listen to all sides.

"I have friends on both sides of the aisle.  I have conservative friends and liberal friends. I have friends in the governor's office.  I am going to have an open door and an open mind," he said.

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Limit On Pain Killer Prescriptions
7:33 pm
Mon March 2, 2015

Comprehensive, Controversial Heroin Legislation Introduced

Rep. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park, former Elmhurt Republican Rep. Dennis Reboletti, and Rep. John Anthony, R-Plainfield stand behind Democratic Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, as the group introduces what they say is comprehensive, and sure to be controversial, legislation meant to curb heroin abuse.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Sweeping legislation intended to combat a heroin epidemic has been introduced by a bipartisan group of legislators.

Before he became a state legislator, Republican Rep. John Anthony was a cop in Champaign, and a sheriff's deputy in Kendall County.

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Other Former Governors Get Six-Figure Pensions Too
4:45 am
Mon March 2, 2015

Ex-Gov. Quinn Begins Collecting Six-Figure Pension

The base of former Gov. Pat Quinn's salary is protected under the pension overhaul he signed into law, but like other state employees, future hikes will be reduced should the court uphold its constitutionality. Quinn began collecting his annual, $137,000 pension a day after he left office in January.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Some of the main architects of the Illinois law that seeks to save the state money by reducing workers' pensions have begun collecting pensions of their own.

On March 11, the Illinois Supreme Court will hear arguments for and against the pension overhaul signed into law late in 2013 by then-Gov. Pat Quinn. If it succeeds, Quinn, like other retired state employees, will see his the size of his future retirement benefits shrink, as the law does away with compounded cost-of-living increases.

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Illinois Issues - Ends And Means
12:00 am
Sun March 1, 2015

Chronic Mismanagement Drove State Into Its Fiscal Mess

Charles N. Wheeler III

“Illinois’ business climate outshines its regional rivals.”

A peek into a crystal ball, revealing future newspaper headlines after Illinois lawmakers embrace Gov. Bruce Rauner’s 44-point, State of the State, “Turnaround” manifesto?

Guess again. A leftover claim from former Gov. Pat Quinn’s failed campaign? Nope.

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Illinois Issues - Leadership
12:00 am
Sun March 1, 2015

People

Felicia Norwood

Rauner selects agency, board heads

During his first months in office, Gov. Bruce Rauner named several key members of his administration.

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Illinois Issues - Essay
12:00 am
Sun March 1, 2015

Essay – Cashing In On Cutting Carbon

U.S. clean carbon plan gives Illinois a chance for significant state revenue

Nobody likes taxes, and certainly not new taxes. So a carbon tax can be a tough sell. Does it really excite anybody to point out that a carbon tax might be a lot less bad than other state taxes? Well, perhaps it should. No matter how large or small you want the Illinois state budget to be, the state still needs some revenue. And collecting part of that revenue by using a state carbon tax could be like “free money” compared to costly state income taxes or sales taxes. 

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Illinois Issues - Noteworthy
12:00 am
Sun March 1, 2015

Lawmakers Aim To Prohibit Sexual Orientation Conversion Therapy For Minors

Rep. Kelly Cassidy

Lawmakers in Springfield are renewing efforts to pass legislation that would ban the practice of sexual orientation conversion therapy for minors.

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Illinois Issues - Noteworthy
12:00 am
Sun March 1, 2015

Legislative Checklist March 2015

The start of a new session brings with it the introduction of thousands of new bills. Much of the early legislation sponsored by members of the 99th General Assembly reacts to stories in the news, including measures on police tactics, red-light cameras and athlete concussions.

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Illinois Issues - State Of The State
12:00 am
Sun March 1, 2015

Will Rauner Get Tough On Getting Tough On Crime?

Statehouse reporter Brian Mackey writes the State of the State column for Illinois Issues magazine.
Credit mattpenning.com / WUIS/Illinois Issues

News Analysis — Gov. Bruce Rauner made a stunning declaration last month in his State of the State address.

“The conditions in our prisons are unacceptable,” Rauner said. “Inmates and corrections officers alike find themselves in an unsafe environment. It’s wrong.”

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Illinois Issues - Leadership
7:30 pm
Fri February 27, 2015

2015 Budget - CapitolView

Host Amanda Vinicky and guests Andy Maloney (Chicago Daily Law Bulletin) and Patrick Yeagle (IL Times) discuss issues with the 2015 Budget, runoff in Chicago Mayoral race, and Exelon's nuclear prop-up plan.

CapitolView is a production of WSEC-TV/PBS Springfield, Network Knowledge.

Illinois Issues - Past Due
4:16 pm
Fri February 27, 2015

Illinois Not Alone In Post-Recession Budget Woes

Illinois’ budget is in even worse shape than previously thought. Illinois has the biggest unfunded pension obligation in the nation. Illinois slapped with the lowest credit rating of any state. These are the grim headlines Illinois residents endure on a regular basis. You can’t live in this state and not have at least a vague idea that our budget is in the dumps. 

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Election 2015
2:42 pm
Fri February 27, 2015

Rauner’s Budget Poses Risk For Emanuel’s Re-election

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, second from left, awaits the inauguration of Gov. Bruce Rauner in this January 2015 file photo.

If Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is looking for a silver lining on his disappointing first round re-election bid, he ought not study Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget. The state’s largest city has some big problems that the governor’s fiscal plans could aggravate.

Chicago has issues of “looming pension crisis in the city and at the board of education, ongoing problems with guns and gangs and drugs, still a feeling that too many neighborhoods are being neglected and there aren’t enough jobs,” Andy Shaw, head of the non-partisan Better Government Association, said election night.

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State Week
1:44 pm
Fri February 27, 2015

Listen to State Week - February 27, 2015

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, continuing concerns over the state's budget, Governor Rauner holds his first cabinet meeting, and Rahm Emanuel faces a run-off election in his bid to remain Mayor of Chicago.

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Statehouse
3:52 pm
Thu February 26, 2015

Parents, Day Care Providers Worry About Child Care Funding

Day care centers may have to shut down if Illinois does not find a way to fund the Child Care Assistance Program.
Credit childcarecenter.us

Parents and child care providers continue to worry about when-- or if-- the state is going to come through with money to keep a subsidized daycare program running.

The state and federal government provide assistance for working parents who can't afford the cost of child care, but Illinois hasn't put aside enough money to pay.

Jacqueline Cervantes owns Pica Boo Day Care in Cicero. She watches eight children, and all of their families receive financial help from the state.

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Energy Battle Begins
2:28 pm
Thu February 26, 2015

Profitable Exelon Seeks Legislation To Save Unprofitable Nuclear Plants

Exelon Senior Vice President Joe Dominguez says "nuclear power has thus far been excluded from the programs that actually provide compensation for zero carbon electricity." His corporation proposes Illinois institute a low carbon portfolio standard.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

After issuing warnings it may have to close down half its nuclear fleet, Exelon today introduced a proposal it says would keep them open. It signals the start of what's expected to be a long debate over Illinois' energy policy. 

Exelon is one of Illinois' biggest, and most powerful corporations.

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Education
8:42 pm
Wed February 25, 2015

PARCC Standardized Test Causes Problems

Raise Your Hand is a group of parents and Illinois residents who advocate for public education issues.
Credit Raise Your Hand

Different states have incorporated Common Core standards in different ways. Illinois students will begin taking the related test, called PARCC, next week.

A discussion about student testing raised voices and emotions among those for and against the controversial test, which stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. It consists of math and reading exams given to students starting in third grade.

John Barker from Chicago Public Schools says CPS is a strong proponent of the common core standards.

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Statehouse
10:24 am
Wed February 25, 2015

Senator Starts Petition To Try To Stop Budget Cuts

Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, wants to stop budget cuts to the University of Illinois.
Credit Illinois General Assembly

Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed a large budget cut for higher education, including the University of Illinois.

Illinois Sen. Scott Bennett is trying to stop the governor from slashing the U of I's budget, and he's beginning to fight that battle with a stack of paper and a list of names. Bennett, who is from Champaign, where the University of Illinois' main campus is located, has started a petition in opposition to Rauner's plan.

Bennett says the names he collects signify more than a line on a budget.

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Budget FY16
6:07 pm
Tue February 24, 2015

Credit Rating Agency Says Rauner's Budget Will Be Difficult To Enact

Credit flickr/dborman

A major credit rating agency has come out with a blunt assessment of Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed budget for Illinois.

The budget Rauner presented last week calls for massive cuts in state spending -- without any increase in taxes.

Moody's Investor Service dismisses the chance that parts, let alone all, of the plan will ever become a reality.

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Smart Grid Rate Extension Bill
4:03 am
Tue February 24, 2015

First Bill To Land On Rauner's Desk Presents Potential Political, Legal Issues

Illinois' new governor has his first opportunity to determine the fate of legislation. Gov. Bruce Rauner's decision could affect how much you're paying for electricity.

The measure at hand, House Bill 3975, took a strange and winding path to get to Governor Bruce Rauner's desk, beginning with one governor and one General Assembly, and carrying over into another administration and new legislative session. The plan allows Ameren and Commonwealth Edison to continue asking customers to pay for upgrades to the electric grid; in many cases that means a higher electric bill.

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Statehouse
6:24 pm
Mon February 23, 2015

Medical Society Wants To Prevent Misuse Of Opiates

Illinois is in good standing for the per capita prescription of pain killers. According to ISMS, Illinois had a per capita oxycodon use of .05, ranking 50th in the United States.
Credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/emagineart/4742089272/

Prescription pain pills can lead to addiction — that’s why they’re not supposed to be easy to get. The Illinois State Medical Society, or ISMS, is proposing legislation it says will fight addiction to prescription pain medication.

Dr. William McDade, the president of ISMS, says expanding the state's prescription monitoring database would help prevent "doctor shopping," where a patient gathers multiple prescriptions from different doctors.

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Illinois Issues - Past Due
4:51 pm
Mon February 23, 2015

School Shootings Spur Attention But Not Funding For Mental Health Care

Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

During his inaugural speech in January, House Speaker Michael Madigan called for the creation of a task force to look into ways to prevent mass shootings, such as the 2013 Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut that took the lives of 20 children and six adults.

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Politics
10:04 am
Mon February 23, 2015

Applications Being Accepted To Succeed Rep. Rich Brauer

Rich Brauer
Credit ilga.gov

A process has been announced to find a replacement to serve in the 87th Illinois House District.  Longtime Republican Representative Rich Brauer left the job last week to take a position with Governor Bruce Rauner's administration.

That move leaves a vacancy and GOP leaders in the district are seeking applications for those interested in the role. They've set up a website.

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Statehouse
8:24 am
Mon February 23, 2015

Plan Would Make More Fireworks Legal In Illinois

Credit flickr/MarkHarkin

An Illinois lawmaker wants to make it legal to sell fireworks such as Roman candles and rockets in the state.  The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/1vTNJLd ) Sen. Chapin Rose introduced legislation Friday to allow the sale of so-called ``consumer'' fireworks.  

The Mahomet Republican says taxing fireworks sales could generate at least $10 million each year.  

A Consumer Products Safety Commission report found Illinois is one of 10 states that don't allow the sale of consumer fireworks. Illinois does allow sparklers and other novelties.  

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FY16 Budget
4:45 am
Mon February 23, 2015

Days After Rauner Proposes Mental Health Cuts, Madigan's Violence Prevention Task Force Begins

House Speaker Michael Madigan chose Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, (pictured) to chair the new violence prevention task force.
Credit ILGA.gov

During his inauguration speech, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan announced a new mission -- figuring out what Illinois can do to prevent violence, like mass shootings at schools. A bipartisan task force formed to study the issue will meet for the first time today in Chicago.

Look back at the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Columbine, Northern Illinois University, and Rep. Greg Harris says you'll see commonalities. Like missed opportunities to help the killers with mental health issues that had been detected, but weren't properly treated.

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Statehouse
3:47 pm
Fri February 20, 2015

Congressman Davis Supports Youngest Illinois Lawmaker

Avery Bourne, a Republican from Pawnee, is the youngest legislator at 22 years old.
Credit Illinois General Assembly

Republicans' choice of a 22 year old to take over a vacated seat in the Illinois House of Representatives has some wondering how she'll handle the responsibility.

Representative Avery Bourne is the youngest lawmaker to serve in the legislature. Bourne was going to law school at Washington University in St. Louis before the GOP county chairmen in central Illinois chose her to fill an empty seat in the House. She will take a leave of absence from school.

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