Statehouse

Guns and transparancy
7:41 am
Mon June 17, 2013

Concealed Carry Permit Board Not Subject To FOIA, Open Meetings

Josh Sharp, Government Relations Director for the Illinois Press Association
Credit courtesy of the Illinois Press Association

Governor Pat Quinn says he's reviewing a measure that would lift Illinois' long-standing concealed carry ban. It took legislators months to reach a compromise, and still gun control and gun rights activists both say they're not happy.   Other critics say they're upset about a lack of government transparency.

The concealed carry legislation approved late last month creates a seven-member board to review applications from people who want to be able to carry a gun in public.

Under the measure, that board would be exempt from the state's Freedom of Information Act.

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Higher Education
5:30 pm
Thu June 13, 2013

Republicans Propose Tuition Tax Breaks

Rep. Adam Brown (R-Champaign)
Credit Amanda Vinicky

With college tuition on the rise, Illinois House Republicans say they want to give working class families a break, and an incentive to go to a school in state.

 

Rep. Adam Brown graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign in 2007, but in that short time, tuition's steadily gone up.

BROWN: "The average cost for tuition, fees and books right now -- $26,000 and ten years ago that was $19,000.”

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Statehouse
11:18 am
Thu June 13, 2013

Brauer Predicts Nothing Special In Special Session

State Rep. Rich Brauer
Credit ilga.gov

What will the special legislative session next week accomplish?

"Nothing," says Rep. Rich Brauer (R-Petersburg).  Brauer was a guest on WUIS' Illinois Edition Thursday.  He talks pensions, concealed carry, same sex marriage and the state budget:

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Guns
10:55 am
Mon June 10, 2013

Concealed Carry Permits And Gun Training

Frank Whitmore takes aim during a live fire exercise
Credit Peter Gray, WUIS

Illinois lawmakers have approved a measure to legalize and regulate the carrying of concealed handguns.

Governor Pat Quinn’s office says he’s now “carefully reviewing” the legislation.

Advocates on both sides of the gun debate say a provision requiring hands-on training is an important part of the bill now awaiting the Governor’s action.    

Peter Gray visited a central Illinois gun range to learn more about what will be required of people who want to carry a loaded weapon in public.

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Credit Downgrade
5:32 pm
Mon June 3, 2013

After No Pension Deal, Fitch Lowers Illinois' Credit Rating

Illinois' credit rating has suffered another downgrade.

It follows the General Assembly's adjournment Friday without any agreement on what to do about the state's pension systems.

 

A string of previous downgrades already left Illinois with the lowest bond rating in the nation.

None of those spurred legislators to reach a compromise - and there's no telling if this latest one will be any different.

Fitch lowered Illinois from an A to an A- rating, a status that means it may cost more when the state borrows money.

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Statehouse
12:00 pm
Mon June 3, 2013

Rutherford Vows He'd Live In Governor's Mansion

A campaign sign outside Springfield's American Legion Post 32. Inside, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford was speaking to supporters, formally launching his campaign for governor.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The first candidate to formally announce he’s running for governor of Illinois has vowed to live in the Executive Mansion in Springfield. The refusal of recent governors to move to Springfield has become a sore spot with permanent residents of Illinois’ capital city.

Republican state Treasurer Dan Rutherford is making his long-anticipated campaign for governor official on a three-day tour of Illinois that began Sunday in — wait for it — Chicago.

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Election 2014
11:13 am
Mon June 3, 2013

Rutherford: Permanent Tax Hike ‘On The Table’

Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford (left) greets supporters in Springfield at an event to launch his campaign for governor.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Monday is day two of state Treasurer Dan Rutherford's three-day tour of Illinois. He's meeting with supporters to say he's officially running for governor. Rutherford has been laying the groundwork to run for years, making the formal announcement one of the least surprising events in Illinois politics. So we asked reporter Brian Mackey to find something about Rutherford's announcement that was surprising.

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Same sex marriage
12:41 am
Mon June 3, 2013

Gay Rights Activists Protest Sponsor

The sponsor of same sex marriage legislation is facing a backlash for not calling it for a vote before the General Assembly adjourned on Friday.  

 

Gay rights activists praised Rep. Greg Harris in 2011 for helping pass Illinois' civil unions law.

Some of those same activists are now criticizing him for how he's handled a measure to legalize same sex marriage.

Harris was tearful when he announced just before the House adjourned its spring session that there would be no vote because he didn't believe it could pass.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat June 1, 2013

Wating in the Wings: Up-and-Coming Political Leaders Position Themselves to Move Into Starring Roles

Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

History shows the political winds can change dramatically in Illinois.

 

Just ask Sheila Simon.

Simon, the daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, had a well-known pedigree but little statewide exposure when she was drafted to run for lieutenant governor in the 2010 election. 

“It was not,” Simon says, “something I’d spent a lifetime planning on.” 

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Ilinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat June 1, 2013

Squeezed by Sequester: Programs for Women & Children Particularly Hard Hit by Federal Budget Cuts

A doctor examines a patient at the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Chicago’s Loop.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

After automatic federal spending cuts known as the sequester caused a week of delayed and canceled flights that annoyed travelers nationwide, Congress quickly passed legislation to fix that problem. 

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Ilinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat June 1, 2013

Unemployed Veterans: Those Who Served in Post-9/11 Conflicts Discover Occupations Hard to Find

Brian Clauss, director of The John Marshall Law School Veterans Legal Support Center, trains pro bono attorneys.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

In a sluggish Illinois economy, one group is finding it surprisingly difficult to find work: veterans of post-9/11 conflicts.

Because the federal government invested millions of dollars into their training, one would think experienced combat veterans would be ideal candidates to fill jobs. But when they leave the military, many find themselves struggling to find work, taking lesser paying jobs or any menial work where they can find it.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat June 1, 2013

Editor's Note: State Workers Don't Fit Negative Stereotypes

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

I ran into a friend at a conference recently, a former journalist whom I greatly respect. “You know,” he said to me, “you guys need to do something on how the state treats its employees — what that does to morale, productivity, that sort of thing.”

He’s right, although we have dealt with that subject several times, among the most recent being an essay by Robert Bruno in the September 2012 Illinois Issues. But the idea bears further examination.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat June 1, 2013

End and Means: Program Aims to Produce Strong Public Affairs Reporting

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

A few weeks ago, the University of Illinois Springfield celebrated its 42nd commencement, a joyous occasion for the more than 750 graduates who participated in the ceremony at Springfield’s downtown convention center.

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End of session
4:22 am
Fri May 31, 2013

Unresolved Issues On Legislature's Final Day

The "rail" outside the General Assembly chambers is relatively empty the day before the 2013 spring session adjourns.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Illinois has the worst funded pension system in the nation, and lawmakers have until today to do something about it.  The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn by midnight.  After that, it requires extra votes to get legislation to the governor's desk. Pensions are not the only thing left.  Plenty of other big-ticket policy issues are also unresolved.

                                                                      

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Pension Reform
12:26 am
Fri May 31, 2013

Pension Standoff Remains Heading Into Last Day Of Session

The Illinois Senate overwhelmingly rejected legislation on Thursday that would curtail government employees' and teachers' retirement benefits.

It raises the question of whether lawmakers will do anything to address Illinois' indebted retirement systems before they adjourn Friday night.

The pension-cutting legislation passed the House at the start of month.

But when it got a vote in the Senate yesterday, it didn't just fail - it plunged.  The Senate vote was 16 to 42.

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Lite Gov
7:01 am
Thu May 30, 2013

Election Proposal Leaves Lt. Gov. Race Unchanged

Sheila Simon was tapped to be Gov. Pat Quinn's running mate in 2010 after the primary winner was nudged out of the race amid questions about his past.
Credit Illinois.gov

The Illinois Senate has approved a multi-faceted change to the state's election laws. The legislation is almost as notable for what it does not do, as for what it does.

The proposal would make dozens of changes to state law, including online voter registration. But until Wednesday, the legislation also would have changed how Illinois gets a lieutenant governor.

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Pensions
7:00 am
Thu May 30, 2013

Pension Solution Eludes Top Democrats ... Still

Credit Amanda Vinicky

Even as the legislative session winds down -- its last day is Friday -- there's no agreement on a solution to the state's pension problem.   

It's not like the problem came out of nowhere.  The $100 billion dollars of unfunded liability accumulated over decades.

And legislators have been talking about what to do about it for years.   Especially this session.

The House and Senate each passed legislation to cut Illinois' costs by reducing state employees and teachers' retirement benefits.  But both measures are stalled in the opposite chamber.

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Education Funding
6:30 am
Thu May 30, 2013

On Schools Budget, Republicans Say Not Enough

Another key component of the Illinois state budget moved through the General Assembly on Wednesday. The Democrats' spending plan prevents what could have been steep cuts for schools, but Republicans say students outside Chicago are getting shortchanged.

  Democrats are approving mostly level funding for elementary and high schools in Illinois. That's significant because education spending, like most areas of the state budget, has been cut in recent years. And Gov. Pat Quinn's budget proposal said even deeper cuts would be necessary.

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FY14 Budget
7:31 am
Wed May 29, 2013

Democrats Advance Kinder Budget

The bulk of a new state budget passed out of the Illinois House Tuesday, and now heads to the Senate. It's far less harsh than lawmakers had been predicting at the start of the legislative session. 

 

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Frosty Free
7:01 am
Wed May 29, 2013

Cell Phone Ban Headed to Governor

A mix of tourists and lobbyists milled about the rotunda of the Illinois Statehouse on Tuesday.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Illinois House gave final approval on Tuesday to a ban the hand-held use of cell phones behind the wheel. The fate of the idea is now up to Gov. Pat Quinn. The issue had been debated before, but one opponent of the measure had a few new points to make.

Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, decided to recount a long story about a recent stop at a Wendy's. He ordered a Frosty.

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Legislative Monitoring
8:18 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

The Tale Of A Startup - One That "Traks" Legislation

TrakBill Founder and President Steve Marciniak
Credit Profile courtesy of LinkedIn

More than six thousand bills are before the Illinois General Assembly this spring session.  Legislators have until Friday to get through them.

And with some of the biggest policy issues facing the state still outstanding, measures will move, change and die rapidly.   Amanda Vinicky spoke with a recent University of Illinois Urbana Champaign graduate has founded a company that aims to make it easier to follow what's happening at the capitol.   

Like so many endeavors, this one started small.

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Pensions
5:19 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

Rep: Pension Shift Would Cost Schools Nothing

Reps. Darlene Senger (left) and Elaine Nekritz discuss pensions in a Statehouse conference room.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Members of the Illinois House continued pushing for their version of a pension overhaul Tuesday. The latest twist could affect how public school teachers' pensions are funded. Brian Mackey has more.

One of the more contentious issues in the debate over government pensions in Springfield has been who should pay for teachers' retirement benefits.

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Final Countdown
7:50 am
Tue May 28, 2013

With Days To Go, Crunch Time In Springfield

The Illinois House and Senate were in session on Memorial Day 2013.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

While many people across Illinois had Monday off from work for Memorial Day, the members of the Illinois General Assembly were meeting in Springfield. Just four days remain until lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn for the summer. The last week of session is a time for individual legislators to shine — or stumble — as months of hard work on legislation culminates in long-awaited votes. We took a look at some of this week's key players in Springfield.

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End of session
7:33 am
Tue May 28, 2013

Four Days Left And Pensions, Guns, Gambling Unresolved

A downpour descends on the Illinois Capitol dome on Memorial Day, where legislators convened for the final week of the 2013 spring session.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The legislative countdown continues, as Illinois' General Assembly is set to adjourn Friday.   Lawmakers spent their Memorial Day at the capitol, where little apparent progress was made on many of the outstanding issues.    The Senate met only briefly yesterday - the bulk of Senators' time was spent in private, partisan meetings.That's where they often make decisions on how to proceed on controversial issues. Like the budget. 

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Affordable Care Act
10:27 pm
Mon May 27, 2013

Crucial Plank Of Obamacare Passes Illinois House

In the waning days of its legislative session, Illinois took a major step toward implementing President Barack Obama's signature health care program.   That Democrats, who hold solid majorities in the General Assembly, waited until this late in the session is telling.

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Session Countdown
8:13 pm
Sun May 26, 2013

A Full Legislative Agenda With Only Five Days Left

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

There are five days left in the Illinois General Assembly's spring session. Legislators have a lot of work ahead of them.  The House adjourns on Memorial Day at noon; the Senate convenes at 4 p.m.

                   

  

                                       

Typically, fighting over the budget carries into the waning hours of a legislative session.

But Democrats - who have enough seats to pass a spending plan without any Republican votes - say they've already reached a deal.

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Gambling
7:22 pm
Sun May 26, 2013

House Re-Authorizes Online Horse Betting

Horse racing at Arlington Park in 2009.
Credit Paul Kehrer via Flickr

Internet gambling on horse racing would once again be legal in Illinois under legislation approved Sunday by the Illinois House of Representatives.

Online and telephone horse betting has been illegal in Illinois all year — a law authorizing it expired on Dec. 31. The practice, known as "advanced deposit wagering," was a $122 million business in Illinois last year.

The legislation would also finally redistribute money from casino gambling that was supposed to shore up the struggling horse racing industry, but instead has been languishing in a state account.

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Pensions
8:27 am
Sat May 25, 2013

Is There Justice In Leaving Judges' Pensions Unscathed?

Credit Illinois Supreme Court

Illinois lawmakers remain at odds over how to handle the state's $100 billion of pension debt.  But there's a chance that this spring the General Assembly may finally do something about it.  After years of no major action, there are not one, but two major packages designed to reign in Illinois' retirement costs.  The House and Senate passed competing plans.  Both of them seek to save Illinois money by cutting current and retired government workers' benefits.  But one important group of government workers are being left out of both deals - judges.

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Concealed Carry
5:28 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

Governor Vows To Stop House Gun Bill

Rep. Bradon Phelps, standing at left, listens to Rep. Jerry Costello, right, debating concealed-carry legislation in the Illinois House of Representatives.
Credit Chris Slaby/WUIS

The Illinois House on Friday approved legislation that would let Illinoisans carry concealed firearms. But Gov. Pat Quinn says he'll work to "stop it in its tracks."

The measure is being touted as a compromise by its sponsor, Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg.

"As we all know, after years of debating this issue, it is incredibly difficult, if not darn-near impossible, to come to a middle ground on this issue," Phelps said. "Every legislator on this floor has a different opinion when it comes to concealed-carry policy."

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Psychiatry
7:00 am
Thu May 23, 2013

House Rejects Study With Ties To Scientology

The Illinois House on Wednesday rejected an attempt to take a closer look at the field of psychiatry and its role in shaping Illinois law. The sticking point for some lawmakers was a group backing the proposal.

As the field of psychiatry publishes its first new diagnostic manual in more than a decade, it's been attracting a lot of discussion.

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