Statehouse

 An investigation found that four Illinois Department of Human Rights employees supposedly examining discrimination complaints forged signatures and falsified documents to cover for work they didn't do.  

The report Monday by the Office of the Executive Inspector General also found supervisors failed to monitor the four investigators, who resigned in 2011 and 2012.  

Illinois lawmakers are reconvening for the final scheduled week of their fall veto session. They are expected to make a push to advance a proposal increasing the state's minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2017.  

Republican governor-elect Bruce Rauner  is scheduled to make an appearance Tuesday morning at the state Capitol.  

Gov. Pat Quinn's office says the outgoing governor has been meeting with lawmakers and gathering support for the proposal.  

Amanda Vinicky

Advocates for government transparency still have a fight ahead over the state's Freedom of Information Act. That's despite a temporary reprieve yesterday.

Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, of Chicago, caught transparency advocates off guard last week, with just a handful of days remaining in the legislative session. She introduced a plan that would make it harder for members of the public to obtain government information. It would also make it harder for citizens to recover legal fees when governments illegally withhold documents.

Illinois Supreme Court

The sole Illinois Supreme Court justice who was on the ballot in last month's election was sworn in for a second term this morning. Official results released last night by the Illinois State Board of Elections show just how close Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier was to losing his seat, after an election that saw hefty spending on both sides.

flickr/Sean MacEntee

Illinois residents could have a harder time accessing government information under new legislation before the General Assembly. 

The plan, SB2799, makes it harder for people to get repaid legal costs when a government wrongfully denies access to public documents. 

At the same time, it makes it easier for governments to keep certain information off-limits.

This story first appeared in the March 2014 issue.

Taxes suck.

That, it seems, is the only truism. Nobody wants to render unto Caesar. But, at least in Illinois, Caesar needs to get re-elected, and so stuff can get complicated.

This story first appeared on the Illinois Issues Blog in July 2014.

After years of trying to find a solution to the tackle the state’s $100 billion unfunded pension liability, lawmakers approved pension changes in December of last year. Illinois was SAVED! Crank up the tunes, call up the bond rating agencies, put Squeezy the Pension Python out to pasture—happy days are here again!

Preventable Deaths

Dec 1, 2014

This story first appeared in the March 2014 issue.

For years, they’ve shuffled across Illinois’ front pages, a parade of tragedy.

There was Christopher Valdez, 4, of Chicago’s southwest side, whose mother’s boyfriend allegedly beat him to death in 2011. Earlier, Christopher’s mother had been convicted of abusing him, but the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the courts had nonetheless allowed him to remain in her home.

Doing Right By The Kids

Dec 1, 2014

This story first appeared in the June 2014 issue.

Special monitoring visits to the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice recently found youth detainees mowing lawns and building shelves rather than attending educational courses. Monitors discovered youth being given medication with inadequate consent and living in rooms that were improperly maintained. Facilities were found to lack the proper staff to treat juvenile offenders with mental illnesses.

This story first appeared in the April 2014 issue.

Gone are the days a candidate can make a campaign appearance before a friendly crowd of party faithful, nearly a year before an election, and think his remarks will fade from memory as fast as the mass-produced fried chicken or roast beef the audience was likely served during the event.

Jamey Dunn
mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Election season cast a long shadow on 2014. We saw the most expensive and one of the ugliest fights for the governor’s office in the state’s history. Now Illinois has a Republican governor for the first time in more than a decade. Meanwhile in the legislature, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton were both able to hang on to veto-proof majorities in their respective chambers, despite some aggressive challenges mounted by Republican candidates.

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Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, further discussion of the circuit court ruling on the unconstitutionality of Illinois' pension legislation, as well as more on the fall veto session.

Amanda Vinicky

Credit ratings agencies have taken notice of the court ruling on Friday that tossed out Illinois’ law reducing workers’ pensions. But they’re not worried enough to lower the state’s rating.

Illinois’ credit rating remains unaffected by last week’s court ruling, which found a landmark pension law to be unconstitutional. But agencies are watching.

Credit ratings are important as, the lower the rating, the more it costs the state to borrow.

It’s also an important indicator of a state’s relative fiscal health.

Lisa Madigan
Marsy's Law for Illinois

Attorney General Lisa  Madigan says if the state supreme court agrees to an expedited hearing...  a ruling on the state's pension law could come by January,.

WUIS

Republican Bruce Rauner campaigned on his ability to spur job creation in Illinois. He'll get a head start -- of sorts -- choosing hundreds of new state employees.

To the victor go the spoils, and in state government, that means jobs. 

While a governor is boss of all state employees, he doesn't get to choose most of them (the majority of workers stay on no matter who is in charge; politics are supposed to stay out of hiring). 

Harvey Tillis / Illinois Information Service

Although one court has tossed out Illinois’ mega pension overhaul, state leaders are likely to wait on another legal opinion before deciding what to do next.

There’s no question -- the Sangamon County Circuit Court judge’s ruling is meaningful. But Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office is appealing to the state Supreme Court.

Madigan has said it makes sense for lawmakers to wait to hear from those justices.

Host Jamey Dunn and guests Kent Redfield (UIS) and Mike Lawrence (Statehouse Observer) discuss the issues surrounding the first week of veto session.

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

State Week logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

The Sangamon County Circuit Court rules last year’s pension legislation unconstitutional.  Bruce Rauner is busy making preparations to move into the Governor’s Mansion.  And Frerichs beats Cross in a very close Treasurer’s race.

Brian Mackey/WUIS

The state will refund money to about 75,000 state retirees who've been paying a portion of their pensions for health insurance over the last year and a half after a court hearing in Sangamon County.
 
Judge Steven Nardulli on Friday scheduled a Dec. 18 hearing to establish how to
distribute more than $60 million to the retirees. Attorneys estimate the money
will be returned by spring.                                                     
 
Retirees began paying a percentage of their annuity under a 2012 law.
 

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner visited the Executive Mansion during his trip to Springfield Thursday.

Illinois Senate

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton says lawmakers are heeding Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner's  advice and won't extend the state's temporary income tax increase.
 
Rauner advised lawmakers not to take up any substantive issues before he's
sworn in.
 
Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, says the Republican Rauner has ``a little honeymoon period'' during his first weeks in office and the Legislature is ``giving him his first victory.''
 

Amanda Vinicky

An Illinois judge has ruled that a law intended to fix the nation's worst-funded state employee pensions violates the state Constitution. Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Belz ruled Friday in favor of state employees and retirees who sued to block the state's landmark pension overhaul.

At issue was whether lawmakers defied the Illinois Constitution by passing a law that reduces state workers', public school teachers' and university employees' retirement benefits.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner visited Springfield on Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014. He met with legislative leaders and other elected officials, and held his first Statehouse news conference. Listen to the full audio:

Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois' incoming governor has asked the outgoing one to put state hiring on hold for the remainder of his term.

Even as he was being impeached, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich kept making key appointments. A new Dept. of Natural Resources chief; Barack Obama's open U.S. Senate seat.

Gov. Pat Quinn is by no means under that sort of dark cloud.

And Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner says he has no reason to believe Quinn's doing anything inappropriate.

Amanda Vinicky

The sponsor of a minimum wage hike says she'll push to get it passed during the legislature's veto session, which began today, Tues. Nov. 19.

Sen. Kim Lightford, a Democrat from Maywood, pointed to the results of a non-binding referendum. Sixty-seven percent of Illinois voters said “yes," Illinois should raise its minimum wage to $10 an hour by Jan. 1, 2015. The current rate is $8.25.

Results showed support for an increase in much of the state, including traditionally Republican areas, like the Chicago suburbs and downstate.

UIS.edu

The University of Illinois system has hired State University of New York Vice Chancellor for Research Timothy L. Killeen as its next president.  

The university announced Wednesday that the 62-year-old Killeen will become president when current President Robert Easter retires in June.  

The 67-year-old Easter became president in 2012 during a period of turmoil.  
 Both of his predecessors, Michael Hogan and B. Joseph White, resigned under pressure. Easter is credited by many with overseeing a relatively calm period.  

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

Listen to Dunn's interview about her column with Rachel Otwell: 

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Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

A look ahead at the upcoming Veto Session, the aftermath of the results in the Governor's race, and the race for Treasurer is still too close to call.

Alan Light/Flickr

CHICAGO (AP) -  Jane Byrne, Chicago's first and only female mayor, has died at the age of 80. Byrne's daughter, Kathy, says her mother died Thursday at a hospice in Chicago. With Byrne's election in 1979, she became part of Chicago history. And she was part of the city's lore because of a big reason why she was elected: Voters blamed the sitting mayor, Michael Bilandic, for what they saw as the city's slow reaction to a blizzard.   

flickr/Matty Ring

A newly released survey shows a majority of Illinois residents are satisfied with the performance of their local police department.  But the numbers also show differences of opinion along racial lines. 

The statewide survey shows overall, 7 of 10 people in Illinois give police good marks.  But African Americans are more split, with only about half giving a commendable rating.

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