Statehouse

Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat September 1, 2012

Editor's Note: Thanks for Sharing Your Ideas About This Magazine

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

We’d like to thank those of you who took the time to complete our recent reader survey. We’ve been poring over the results for more than a month now, and as promised, we want to share some of them with you. (I apologize in advance that this column will be what we call “number heavy,” but that’s pretty much the nature of this beast.)

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat September 1, 2012

End and Means: Gov. Blagoj. - Oops - Quinn Hands Down Decisions

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Could it have been the scorching, record-setting heat besetting Illinois in July? Or maybe fevered anticipation of the chance to renew his downstate bona fides by cutting the ribbon to open the Illinois State Fair?

Perhaps it was, plain and simple, a paranormal phenomenon. Whatever the explanation, Gov. Pat Quinn sure looked like he was channeling his disgraced predecessor on a number of high-profile, mid-summer occasions.

Here’s a sampler of Quinn actions that smack of Rod Blagojevich:

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun July 1, 2012

The Southeast Side: Environmental Gains Pitted Against Potential of Industrial Development

Credit Rod Sellers

On the banks of the Calumet, in the neighborhood of 103rd Street, are large swamps capable of being developed into fine parks; the country is gently undulating with plenty of woodland, and the view across Calumet Lake is fine. 

— Plan of Chicago, 1909
by Daniel Burnham 
and Edward Bennett

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun July 1, 2012

Editor's Note: Desperate Times Take Democrats Two Steps to the Right

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

One political party in Illinois is bound and determined to slash health care for poor people and retirees while waging attacks on organized labor and teachers — at the same time giving tax breaks to huge corporations like Sears and CME Group, which operates interests, such as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade.

 

And then there’s the other political party, the Republicans …

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun July 1, 2012

End and Means: Beyond Pensions, This Session Produced Meaningful Change

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

“All newspaper editorial writers ever do,” the late Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Murray Kempton once observed, “is come down from the hills after the battle is over and shoot the wounded.”

Whether Illinois legislators are wounded may be a matter of debate, but they certainly were the targets of a heavy barrage of scorn and disdain from the state’s media mavens in the aftermath of the spring session’s turmoil.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri June 1, 2012

The Supermax Debate: Do Supermaximum-Security Prisons Violate Human Rights?

Gov. Pat Quinn has called for the closing of Tamms Correctional Center.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gray, bleak and desensitizing. Hope-draining and soul-crushing. That is how some who have entered the walls of the state’s super-maximum-security prison in Tamms describe it. 

“The doors are like a rust-red color with thousands of perforated holes. And you look outside, and you don’t see nothing but a gray wall,” says Brian Nelson, a former Tamms inmate. “My biggest fear is that this is all happening in my head, and I am going to wake up and I’m in that cell. And that scares the s--- out of me.” Nelson has been paroled and now works as a paralegal in Chicago. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri June 1, 2012

The Social Worker: Dept. of Children & Family Services Director Aims to Get More Front-Line Workers

Richard Calica, executive director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Richard Calica’s Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is beset with problems. One Chicago Tribune investigation this spring found that investigators into suspected cases of abuse are spread too thin, putting the agency in violation of a 1991 federal consent decree that resulted from a series of lawsuits. Later, another of the newspaper’s probes showed that more than half of the day-care operations in the state weren’t inspected within a three-year licensing period.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri June 1, 2012

Human Trafficking: Chicago is One of the Leading Cities in This Global Epidemic

The situation of helplessness and abuse in which traffickers keep their victims makes it difficult for them to break away and hard for them to adjust when and if they gain freedom.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

In July 2010, Corey Allen Lockett, 23, of Springfield was arrested on federal prostitution charges after he placed ads on Craigslist to solicit sex with minors and admitted to pimping other girls. In October 2009, Cook County sheriffs, officers broke up a sex trafficking ring that involved three women from Thailand. In the three weeks the women spent in America, they were shuffled between New York, Dallas, San Francisco and Chicago for prostitution. Passports were taken from the women, who did not speak English. Threats toward their families from an unknown woman kept them in Chicago.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri June 1, 2012

Land of Lincoln: Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area is One of the Largest Such Regions in Nation

Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

All Kathy Zimmerman wanted to do was look up the history of her own home. But one thing led to another. Today, 14 years later, the former religious educator and real estate agent is executive director of Pittsfield’s Abe Lincoln Project — and one of 22 members of a steering committee that is on the verge of defining the future of the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area, a 42-county swath of central Illinois stretching from the Indiana border to the Mississippi River. 

 

Surprisingly enough, that’s exactly how the process is supposed to work.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri June 1, 2012

State of the State: States Need a Federal Solution for Online Tax Collection

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

A year after Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill aimed at collecting sales tax from online retailers, the state is still struggling to get revenues from sellers such as Amazon.com, and it seems that Illinois and other states may be out of luck until a federal solution can be found. 

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that states could not make businesses outside of their borders collect tax on purchases made by state residents. But if a business has a brick and mortar presence in a state, such as a store, it must collect state taxes on catalog and Internet sales in the state, too. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri June 1, 2012

End and Means: At Least One Old Blagojevich Idea is Worth Saving

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Ever the showman, Rod Blagojevich sought the spotlight with a basketful of grandiose proposals, half-baked notions and — unfortunately for the former governor — ill-conceived criminal schemes. 

A partial accounting might include:

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue May 1, 2012

Generation X: The Financial Future for this Group Looks Even Shakier Than it Does for Baby Boomers

The space shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986, when members of Generation X were coming of age.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Jeff Rose is like many Gen X’ers in the way he thinks about retirement. 

He doesn’t expect Social Security to be around by the time he needs it. That would be “icing on the cake,” says Rose, 34.

And while he would like the option to retire early — he’d like that choice in his late 50s — he knows that will depend on how much he can sock away in a 401(k) or other investments, and not on payouts from a pension or cashing in on a housing boom.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue May 1, 2012

Same-Sex Marriage: The Issue Nationwide is at a Tipping Point

Elizabeth Anvick and Caroline Fox of Bloomington had a commitment ceremony in 2003.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Don’t call Caroline Fox and Elizabeth Anvick of Bloomington a “nontraditional” couple.

They don’t care for the label because they see themselves as being pretty traditional, aside from the fact that they are both women. “Elizabeth and I are a plain-old, boring married couple,” Fox says. “We both work, go to church, have families that love us, do charity work and argue about who will take out the garbage.”

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue May 1, 2012

Editor's Note: Family Values Means More Than Current Political Slogan

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

When the 1940 census documents were released to the public in April, I decided to see what I could find out about my father’s family. I thought I knew where my grandparents lived at the time — in a small Indiana town where my father later graduated from high school — but when I combed through list after list of names in the census form on the computer screen, theirs didn’t appear. Then I remembered my father mentioning another place, a rural township, and sure enough, there were the names of my grandfather and grandmother and my father and his brother.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue May 1, 2012

State of the State: Time Has Come for Quinn's 'Rendezvous With Reality'

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

Gov. Pat Quinn said in his February address to the General Assembly that the budgeting process this year would be a rendezvous with reality. In the coming weeks, Illinoisans will see if lawmakers plan to keep that date or take a rain check.

One of the largest goals Quinn set for legislators is the task of curbing growth in the state’s Medicaid budget by $2.7 billion for next fiscal year. Restrictions set by the Affordable Care Act and concerns over unintended consequences make the number an ambitious target, and one that no other state has met in a single year. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue May 1, 2012

End and Means: Ideas on Easing Rate of Extreme Poverty Likely to Go Nowhere

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Declaring a state goal “that all people be free from poverty,” Illinois four years ago created a special panel charged with developing a strategic plan to reduce extreme poverty in Illinois by 50 percent or more by 2015.

The timing could not have been worse.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun April 1, 2012

The Revolving Door: Moves from the Statehouse Floor to the Hallways of the Capitol Spark Questions

Former Democratic state Rep. Kevin McCarthy is now a lobbyist for such utilities as ComEd and AT&T through his firm, KMAC Consulting.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

For some Illinois lawmakers, casting votes on the issues of the day is just the beginning of a potentially lucrative climb up the financial ladder.

After mastering how the Capitol operates, they can trade in their state paychecks for a bigger windfall as registered lobbyists.

Take former state Rep. Kevin McCarthy as an example.

The Orland Park Democrat was the main negotiator and sponsor of legislation last year that gave the state’s largest utility company — Commonwealth Edison — the ability to raise its rates with less regulatory oversight.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun April 1, 2012

Fund Sweeps: Special Funds Blur the Budgetary Process

Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

In February, when Gov. Pat Quinn presented his spending plan for next fiscal year, all eyes were on his budget proposal. But most people — politicians, reporters and Statehouse commentators alike — only focus on four out of hundreds of funds when it comes time to craft the state’s budget each year.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun April 1, 2012

Editor's Note: Public Perception and Truth Are Sometimes Different Issues

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

It is often amazing — and sometimes amusing — how the public perception of an issue can be driven by exaggerations, simplifications or outright lies.

For instance, let’s take what Gov. Pat Quinn has said are the two primary issues facing the spring session of the Illinois General Assembly: Medicaid and state employee pensions.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun April 1, 2012

State of the State: State's Eavesdropping Laws Have Failed to Keep Up

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

Anytime something interesting happens in public these days, you can expect that a few bystanders might whip out their phones and take pictures. Some might even shoot a little video to later upload to YouTube or post on a Facebook page. 

In recent years, some Illinoisans have learned the hard way that recording a police officer on duty without permission carries a heavy penalty under the state’s eavesdropping law. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun April 1, 2012

End and Means: Report Supports Graduated Income Tax for Illinois

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Should Illinois have a graduated income tax?

The Illinois legislature certainly thought so, and so did the governor, a little more than eight decades ago. Facing decreased revenues as spending pressures mounted, a special session of the Depression-era 57th General Assembly approved a graduated tax on net incomes, and Gov. Louis L. Emmerson, a Republican, signed the measure into law February 22, 1932.

Within months, however, the Illinois Supreme Court killed the new income tax, ruling that its graduated rates violated the revenue provisions of the 1870 Constitution.

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