Statehouse

FY14 Budget
6:40 am
Mon May 20, 2013

Legislators' Budget Plans Expected To Cut Deeper Than Quinn's

Rep. Greg Harris (D-13), courtesy ILGA.gov
Credit ILGA.gov

Despite years of cuts to the Illinois state budget ... even more are ahead.  Legislators are still deciding where else they can slash spending.

 

"Human services" is a legislative phrase Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) says covers:

HARRIS: "All the state departments  dealing with health care, senior services, children services, so the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Medicaid, human services, mental health, substance abuse, Department of Aging, DCFS, public health and veterans... "

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Prescription Pot
3:55 pm
Fri May 17, 2013

Illinois Senate Sends Medical Marijuana To Governor

Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, standing at right, debates medical marijuana in the Illinois Senate on Friday, May 17, 2013.
Credit Chris Slaby/WUIS

The Illinois Senate approved legislation Friday that would legalize the medical use of marijuana.

In the end, the vote was not that close — 35 senators voted yes, 21 no.

Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, sponsored the measure. He frequently reminds his colleagues he was once a prosecutor, and says the idea is to help people in pain find relief.

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Pension Cost Shift
5:47 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

Universities Agree To Pay Pension Tab

SIU President Glenn Poshard, left, and U of I President Robert Easter, center, testify at a House hearing Thursday on the pension cost shift.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois universities and community colleges have signed on to a deal that would have them pick up the cost of their employees' retirement benefits.  It's part of lawmakers' ongoing efforts to reduce how much the state is spending on pensions. 

Illinois has cut its spending on universities for years ... and even more reductions are expected next year.

School administrators say it's forced them to hike tuition, and to leave positions unfilled.

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Guns
5:44 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

Senate Weighing Tight Concealed Carry Proposal

Credit Mark Holloway via Flickr

An Illinois Senate committee has approved legislation that would pave the way for concealed-carry of firearms in Illinois. But gun-rights advocates say it's too restrictive, and the measure faces an uphill climb.

State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, was trying to negotiate a compromise with gun-rights supporters. But ultimately he went his own way. His proposal would not allow guns in schools, day cares, casinos, and stadiums.

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Leo Lunch
7:00 am
Thu May 16, 2013

Republicans Demand Vote On Lion-Meat Ban

Credit Flickr.com/thebuffafamily

Just over two weeks remain before the Illinois General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn for the summer, on May 31st. They still have a lot to deal with in that time — like pensions, concealed carry, same-sex marriage, and next year's budget. But an incident Wednesday in the Illinois House shows tempers are already starting to flare.

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Illinois Hires Tax Credit
5:58 pm
Wed May 15, 2013

Fracking Deal Back On Track

Environmentalists who oppose any form of high-volume hydraulic fracturing in Illinois protest at the Capitol in March.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

After several stumbles, an agreement  has been reached on how to regulate "fracking" in Illinois.  A House committee could vote on the package Thursday morning.  

  The oil and natural gas extraction technique known as hydraulic fracturing has been a boon for job creation in places like  North Dakota and Pennsylvania.

State legislators want the same in Illinois.

As do oil and gas drillers looking to make a handsome profit.

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Audit
6:30 am
Wed May 15, 2013

Road Fund Overpaid For Health Insurance

Credit Gary Brown via Flickr (gsbrown99)

Less than half of the money in Illinois' Road Fund actually pays for highway construction and maintenance. That's the finding in a new audit (pdf) that also says the Road Fund overpaid for employee health insurance.

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#attack
2:36 pm
Fri May 10, 2013

Illinois House Targets 'Flash Mob' Violence

The Illinois House approved legislation Friday intended to crack down on so-called "flash mobs." It allows a longer prison sentence for anyone who uses social media to organize an attack.

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Pensions
7:00 am
Thu May 9, 2013

Labor's Pension Deal: Best Bet Or Too Good To Be True?

The Illinois Senate is expected to vote Thursday on the latest proposal to fix the state's drastically underfunded pension systems. In what's become a multi-year pension debate, many aspects of the plan have been put forth before. But it has one element that makes it unique.

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Guns Blazing
11:01 am
Tue May 7, 2013

NRA Lobbyist: 50/50 Chance For A Concealed Carry Law By Deadline

When a federal court declared Illinois' ban on letting people carry guns in public unconstitutional ... it also gave legislators an assignment: pass a concealed carry law by June 9. Lawmakers are in continued negotiations, but so far gun rights' activists have been unable to reach an agreement with those who favor stricter gun control.  Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is doubtful they will ... at least in time.  He fears that could leave Illinois temporarily without ANY real limits on who can carry a gun, and where.

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Madigan v. Cullerton
7:18 am
Fri May 3, 2013

Public Pensions' Fate Rests Largely With Divided Democratic Leaders

A plan that will leave state employees and teachers with reduced retirement benefits made it out of the Illinois House Thursday, potentially paving the way for the pension overhaul that has thus far eluded lawmakers.  But it also ignites a face-off between two of the state's top Democrats — with the potential to keep a pension overhaul as elusive as it's ever been.

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Spring session predictions
9:27 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

Same Sex Marriage Stalls, But Fracking A Go

Illinois' legislators have less than a month before they're scheduled to adjourn.  The Speaker of the Illinois House made some predictions about what will — and what may not — happen before then.

A measure to legalize same sex marriage in Illinois already got state Senators' approval.

But the Speaker of the Illinois House says there's not enough support for it to pass in that chamber.

Mike Madigan said in March that gay marriage was a dozen votes shy in the House. 

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Passes 62-51
7:09 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

Illinois House Approves Pension Overhaul

The Illinois House of Representatives on Thursday approved a massive overhaul of state pensions. It's the first time the House has passed such a plan after more than a year of negotiating and many failed attempts.

Its also the first time Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, put his full support behind a specific proposal.

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In Memoriam
6:37 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

Police Honor Officers Killed On Duty

Police officers from across Illinois gathered in Springfield Thursday to honor colleagues killed in the line of duty — including one killed in 2012.

On the Monday after Thanksgiving, Illinois State Police Trooper Kyle Deatherage was patrolling on his motorcycle on Interstate 55, about 30 miles south of Springfield. He pulled over another vehicle when the driver of a semi-truck is alleged to have hit and killed Deatherage. The driver has been charged with reckless homicide.

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Statehouse Bureau
1:17 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

Lawmakers Weigh In On Olympic Wrestling

Illinois lawmakers are "weighing in" on Olympic organizers' decision to drop wrestling from the summer games. 

The Illinois House passed a resolution encouraging the International Olympic Committee to reinstate wrestling as an Olympic sport.   The state Senate is poised to do the same.

Former U-S House Speaker Denny Hastert made a special appearance in Springfield for it.  Hastert was a wrestling coach in Yorkville before he went on to Congress.  He says it's important to give young people the opportunity to reach for an Olympic dream. 

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Statehouse Bureau
6:55 am
Thu May 2, 2013

Return the Sick Puppy in the Window

Consumers who unwittingly buy a diseased animal from a pet store could get their money back under a measure approved by the Illinois Senate. 

 

It's similar to someone who buys a jalopy under false pretenses. But in this case, the "lemon" isn't a car.

It's a puppy. Or a kitten.

Someone who buys a dog or cat could get a refund, exchange their pet for a new one, or seek reimbursement for veterinarians' fees.

But only if the pet came from a pet shop.  That bothers Republican Senator Dale Righter of Mattoon, as those dogs can cost $1,000.

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Statehouse Bureau
6:27 am
Thu May 2, 2013

Democratic Leaders Backing Opposing Pension Plans

Union leaders testify against House Speaker Michael Madigan's pension plan in a House committee Wednesday, as Madigan looks on behind them.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

The Illinois House is poised to vote Thursday on an overhaul of the state's pension systems. The plan easily advanced out of a House committee Wednesday morning. But the Senate's working on different method. 

Wednesday began with a widespread feeling that after more than a year of failed attempts to reduce the state's pension debt, House Speaker Michael Madigan's proposal might be it. 

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Gambling again
5:51 pm
Wed May 1, 2013

Illinois Senate Approves Gambling Expansion

Sen. Terry Link
Credit Illinois Senate

The Illinois Senate has once again approved an expansion of gambling. But it remains to be seen whether Governor Pat Quinn will go along with the plan.

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Pensions
11:56 am
Wed May 1, 2013

Madigan Pension Overhaul Headed to House Floor

House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago)

The Illinois House is poised to vote Thursday on an overhaul of the state's pension systems. It would reduce state workers', teachers', and university employees' future retirement benefits. The plan easily advanced out of a House committee Wednesday morning. 

There's a feeling in the capitol that after countless attempts to reduce the state's pension debt, this may be it. Insiders say it's significant that the plan's sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan — who rarely takes action without having support locked up. 

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Statehouse Bureau
6:23 am
Wed May 1, 2013

AFSCME Taking Second Vote On State Contract

Credit afscme31.org

Illinois’ new deal with the state’s largest public employees union could be null and void.   The union is going to take a second vote on its contract agreement with Governor Pat Quinn’s administration.  Amanda Vinicky reports from the WUIS Statehouse Bureau.

It took 15 months for AFSCME to reach an agreement.   They finally got a deal in late February.

But AFSCME says because a key condition of the settlement has not been met,  it will ask members if they still want to proceed with the new contract.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed May 1, 2013

Old, but Still Grand? At the Moment, Things Can Only Look Up for Illinois Republicans

Abraham Lincoln is surely the most famous Republican from Illinois.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

There’s a sure-fire way to bug Republicans in Illinois: Call them up every two years and ask them why they can’t win elections. You almost can hear them wince as they explain what’s gone wrong and what they need to do to win over voters in the future. 

Add to their anxiety the ticking clock that is the 2014 Illinois gubernatorial race.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed May 1, 2013

Juvenile Justice: IL Program Leaves Some Wondering Whether the Concept of Fairness is Being Served

If a 17-year-old were caught stealing an iPod in Illinois, he or she would likely end up in the juvenile justice system. However, if the same teenager were caught stealing the newest iPhone, he or she would land in adult court, be held with adult inmates and end up with a record that would follow him or her into adult life. Advocates argue that it is time to change that disparity in the system.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed May 1, 2013

Editor's Note: Former U.S. Rep Writes About 'Playing with the Big Boys'

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

“Moderates are on their way to becoming extinct on both sides of the aisle, and if you happen to be one, you better not tell anyone because you will be gone in your next primary.”

So writes former Illinois Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson in her recent book titled Playing Ball with the Big Boys: And Why the Big Girls Better Get in the Game.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed May 1, 2013

State of the State: Illinois Has Too Many Inmates Who Get Health Care Too Late

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

Illinois should provide mental health care and addiction treatment to those who truly need it instead of incarcerating thousands of the addicted and the mentally ill, making taxpayers shell out for care in the much costlier settings of prison and jails. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed May 1, 2013

End and Means: Same-Sex Parents Should be the Least of Concerns over Kids

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

During this spring’s debate over same-sex marriage, a recurring theme among opponents has been the dire societal consequences they said would result from its legalization.

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2:20 pm
Mon April 29, 2013

SJ-R: Gun Bill To Get Overhaul

A plan to have a form of concealed carry in Illinois is in for changes in the state Senate
Illinois Senate legislation allowing the carrying of concealed weapons appears less permissive than touted but it's scheduled for a rewrite before it's even filed. The Associated Press on Monday obtained a copy of Chicago Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul's bill. He called it a compromise between Chicago lawmakers fighting street violence and downstate moderates who want easier access to guns.
Statehouse Bureau
6:04 pm
Fri April 26, 2013

Former Justice Harrison Dead At 81

Moses Harrison
Credit Deathpenaltyinfo.org

The Illinois Supreme Court has announced the death at age 81 of former Chief Justice Moses Harrison.  
Harrison died Thursday at a St. Louis hospital. The cause of death wasn't immediately revealed.  
Harrison began his career on the bench in 1973 as a circuit court judge. He was serving on the 5th District Appellate Court when he was elected to the Supreme Court in 1992. He served as chief justice from 2000 to 2002.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon April 1, 2013

Jr.'s Fall: Much Was Expected From Him. In the End, He Was the One Who Expected Too Much

Jesse Jackson Jr.’s star was still rising when he spoke at the 2008 Democratic Convention.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

When Jesse Jackson Jr. walked into a Washington, D.C., federal courthouse in February to plead guilty to federal charges of looting his campaign fund of $750,000, Capitol Hill insiders held a similar reaction.

What could have been?

From the time the Chicago ex-congressman took office, bets were wagered on how high his star would rise: Mayor of Chicago? U.S. Senate?

“I have no other office in mind besides where I’m at now,” Jackson insisted in 1996. “This is my magnificent obsession.”

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon April 1, 2013

Trouble on the Horizon: Tax Increases Set to Expire in 2015 Raise the Sepctre of Even Greater Cuts

 

“We have an impossible situation. If we solved pensions, then we would be looking at only $6 billion worth of debt with a dramatic drop of revenue taking place in 2015. That’s the best-case scenario.”

Kent Redfield,
emeritus political science professor 
at UIS

As lawmakers spend countless hours debating gun control measures and changes to the public employee pension systems, the next potential budget disaster in the state is on its way. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon April 1, 2013

Editor's Note: The Economic Future is Bleaker for Post-Boom Generations

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

As I grow older, I reflect more on the past and worry more about the future, not just for myself but for my grandchildren, whose ages range from 2 months to 10 years. 

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