Statehouse

Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun September 1, 2013

Editor's Note: A Group of Children Tries to Solve a Grown-Up Problem

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

OK, children, today’s class is a lesson in problem solving. We all know the state of Illinois owes a big pot of money to its workers for their retirement savings — as much as $100 billion — but it doesn’t have enough to pay them. That’s our problem. So, let’s make it fun and discuss it.

Does anyone know how much $100 billion is? Ty?

“It’s as much as all of the members of the Civic Committee have in all their piggy banks.”

That’s a good guess, Ty, but it may be even more than that. Patrick?

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun September 1, 2013

State of the State: Policy Change Could Bring Needed Reform to Corrections

Jamey Dunn
Credit mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

The Illinois Department of Corrections is in the early stages of rolling out a new systemwide policy that advocates say could be one of the biggest reforms in the agency in recent history.

 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun September 1, 2013

End and Means: Never is it Safe to Say 'I've Seen it All' in Illinois

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

After watching Illinois government and politics for more than 40 years, one might reasonably assume that he or she has seen it all.

One — or at least this one — would be wrong.

On returning home from the Wisconsin Northwoods, I discovered not one but two new cases that stretch the limits of belief — one an unprecedented abuse of gubernatorial power, the other an amazing display of legal treachery.

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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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Economy
8:30 pm
Thu August 22, 2013

Illinois Unemployment Second Highest In Nation

Credit IDES

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.

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Statehouse
5:27 pm
Thu August 22, 2013

Decatur Job Troubles Spur Business Law

DCEO in Springfield.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

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.

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Statehouse
3:29 pm
Thu August 22, 2013

George Ryan Adjusting To Life After Prison

Fmr. Gov. George Ryan
Credit WBEZ

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.  

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Cross Out
5:04 pm
Wed August 21, 2013

Republicans Lined Up For Top House Job

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

Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross on Wednesday told colleagues he would soon step down. There are a handful of lawmakers who've already set their sights on his job.

House Republicans say Cross told them he'd resign as leader in October. He reportedly didn't say what his plans are, although it's widely rumored he intends to run for state treasurer.

There are at least three men who want to lead the 47-members of the House GOP — including Reps. Jim Durkin of Western Springs and Raymond Poe of Springfield.

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Pensions
5:03 pm
Tue August 20, 2013

Pension Returns Up; Problems Remain

Credit Amanda Vinicky

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.   

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Pensions
8:34 am
Tue August 20, 2013

Few Details On Pension Progress

Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook)
Credit ILGA.gov

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:

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Ranked 50th
7:24 am
Tue August 20, 2013

Illinois' Education Funding Under Review

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois ranks 50th among the states in the share of education funding that comes from state government. The formula used to distribute that money dates back to the '90s.

On Monday afternoon, a group of state senators began working on an update.

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Statehouse
5:51 pm
Mon August 19, 2013

Illinois Speed Limit Going To 70 MPH

Credit flickr/theeggplant

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.

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Election 2014
11:09 am
Mon August 19, 2013

Ducky Democrats Dog Congressman Davis

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."
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

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.

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New Law
5:44 am
Mon August 19, 2013

Statewide Fine For Littering, Tossing Cigarettes

Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton)
Credit ILGA.gov

Tossing trash anywhere besides a garbage will soon cost you no matter where you are in Illinois.  A new law imposes a statewide fine for littering.

State Senator Bill Haine hates litter, saying "it's irresponsible, it pollutes beautiful environments, God's creation, it creates ugliness."

He hates it so much, he says he goes around his neighborhood in Alton, picking it up himself.

"We don't have a dog anymore, but I use a Pooper Scooper, which is a remarkably efficient way to pick up litter," he says.

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Statehouse
4:44 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

New Law To Ban Hand Held Phone Use While Driving

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.''  

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Clash or Compromise
6:42 am
Fri August 16, 2013

Republican Voters Face Competing Visions For A GOP Governor

More than a hundred Republicans heard from their party leaders and top candidates at the State Central Committee and County Chairmen’s Association meeting on Thursday in Springfield.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

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.

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