Statehouse

State Week logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, political hiring at IDOT and attempts to get a term limits initiative on the November ballot.

sangamon.co.il.us

A coalition of labor unions and state retirees is asking a judge for an expedited ruling in a case challenging the constitutionality of Illinois' pension law.  

Attorneys filed the motion in Sangamon Circuit Court Thursday. They want Judge John Belz to factor in a Supreme Court decision that found health insurance premiums were a protected retirement benefit for state workers.  

flickr/denniscarr

The state's top ethics investigator says the Illinois Department of Transportation improperly hired more than 250 employees in the past decade.  

Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza's  report says the practice began in 2003 but continued under Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. 

Courtesy of Danny Wicentowski for the Riverfront Times, @D_Towski on Twitter.

  Since law enforcement in Ferguson, Missouri, began using its federally supplied military-style equipment, the spotlight has been on police departments everywhere. Members of Congress have begun to question the program that distributes extra supplies to local law enforcement. 

The Pentagon has been supplying local law enforcement agencies with its surplus equipment for years, but most of the time, that equipment is out of sight.

Once police in Ferguson pulled out their armored vehicles and military-grade weapons, public debate was sparked.

Wikimedia Commons

  U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is condemning the murder of American journalist James Foley, who was beheaded by terrorist organization the Islamic State.

Durbin, a Democrat, says the group also known as ISIS must be stopped from advancing on more territory in Iraq and Syria. And he says the American military can help Iraqi forces do that.

"Ironically, many times ISIS is using American equipment we left behind," he said. "We know the capacity of that equipment, we know its limitations and we can help the Iraqi Army stop this advance."

IDOT

The Illinois Department of Transportation is eliminating 58
positions that are at the center of a lawsuit alleging questionable hiring
practices.
 
 Acting Secretary Erica Borggren said Thursday the move is designed to boost
``accountability and restore public trust.''
 
In addition to eliminating ``staff assistant'' positions, IDOT is creating a
board to evaluate hiring, and is continuing a freeze on hiring for positions
that can be filled based on political connections.
 

wikimedia

  Candidates from the Illinois Green Party will not appear on the November ballot.

A federal judge Thursday denied the party reprieve from the state's election requirements for third parties.

The Green Party had sued, claiming the barriers for third parties are too onerous ... threatening the right to free speech and equal protection.

Scott Summers, the party's candidate for governor, says he's disappointed with the judge's ruling.

majorenergy.com

 An Illinois watchdog group is celebrating a decision by regulators to launch an investigation of an Orangeburg, New York-based alternative electric supplier.  

The Citizens Utility Board said Wednesday it's pleased the Illinois Commerce Commission adopted a recommendation to investigate Major Energy.  

Consumers have complained about misleading marketing by Major Energy. CUB says the company's rates are the worst it's seen in the Illinois competitive power market.  

wikimedia

  For third parties in Illinois, it's down to the wire to get on the November ballot. Decisions Thursday and Friday will determine how many choices voters will have.

To get their candidates on the ballot in Illinois, the two established parties — Democrats and Republicans — have to collect the signatures of 5,000 registered voters. But to get its nominees on the ballot, a third party must collect five times as many.

Amanda Vinicky

  For the second time, a court has deemed unconstitutional a citizen's initiative to would limit how long Illinois lawmakers can serve.

First, it was a Cook County Circuit Court judge.

Now, the decision is from a state appellate court.

Both say the question of term limits for state legislators should not go before voters on the November ballot.

The state Constitution says citizen's initiatives, like this one, must be limited to "structural and procedural" changes to the legislature.

Instead of hitting the campaign trail alongside Governor Pat Quinn, Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon is running for state comptroller. The comptroller is the chief fiscal officer of Illinois. The office pays the state's bills and manages the hundreds of funds that make up the budget. Simon is challenging Republican incumbent Judy Baar Topinka. Simon recently sat down with us for this interview about the race:

Amanda Vinicky

  Backers of a plan to institute legislative term limits in Illinois are putting public pressure on the state Supreme Court to get involved, and soon.

Republican candidate for Governor Bruce Rauner calls it "tragic" that the Illinois Supreme Court, as he put it, "went into delaying mode" instead of immediately taking up a case over the term limits initiative.

But Rauner, who has spearheaded the effort, stopped short of calling the court's choice political.

Wikimedia Commons

  As students across Illinois begin the new school year their schools are using funds that rely heavily on property tax wealth. But supporters of a new plan say now is the time to change that.

Illinois' school funding formula works like this: school districts collect property taxes from their residents, then depending on how property-wealthy or property-poor an area is, the state pitches in its share. That frequently means poorer districts stay poor because the state can't give enough, and wealthier districts remain wealthy.

While Gov. Pat Quinn and his Republican opponent Bruce Rauner battle over the the job of governor, the races for some of the state's constitutional offices are heating up, too. The treasurer's office oversees Illinois' investments and provides several services, including college savings plans for residents and a loan program for farmers. State Sen. Michael Frerichs, the Democratic candidate for state treasurer, joined us to talk about the campaign. Frerichs is running against former House minority leader Tom Cross. 

http://franky242.net/shop/image/pile-of-black-coal/

State regulators are beginning to discuss how Illinois will meet new federal requirements for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

When energy experts say things are going to get complicated: well, that's saying something. That's pretty much how Jim Ross, an air pollution control manager with Illinois' Environmental Protection Agency, summed up his briefing on the new standards.

Missouri's governor has brought in the National Guard to help to help deal with rioting in Ferguson, outside of St. Louis. Protests that erupted there over the Aug. 9 police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed, African American teenager, have frequently turned violent.

When there's an extreme emergency, Illinois National Guard units have gone to other states to help. Thousands of troops were sent to New Orleans, following Hurricane Katrina, for example.

Federal auditors have found that Illinois used faulty methods
for withdrawing federal Medicaid money, resulting in overdraws the state later
had trouble repaying.
 
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General
released the report Monday.
 
The report says Illinois created ``a perpetual `treadmill effect''' as it
continued to overdraw and repay later.
 
The state's withdrawals exceeded its spending by an average of $60 million per

methproject.org

Illinois has increased the penalties for some drug offenses.  

Gov. Pat Quinn signed three drug-related pieces of legislation Saturday. They take effect Jan. 1.  

Manufacturing methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of any school property will now be a Class X felony, punishable by a minimum of six years in prison. It was previously considered a Class 1 felony.  

Bruce Rauner
brucerauner.com

Even though Illinois' general election is months away, a controversial ballot question could be answered by the end of this week. Friday is the deadline for a term limits initiative to make it on the ballot.

Republican's nominee for governor, Bruce Rauner, has made instituting term limits for legislators a central plank of his campaign.

That would require a constitutional amendment. Rauner funded an effort to collected a half million signatures, so that the question could go before voters this fall.

State Week logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, taffy and politics at the Illinois State Fair.

Hannah Meisel

Politicians are supposed to apologize when they mess up, but typically that doesn't involve saying "I'm sorry" to cows. That's what Governor Pat Quinn says his opponent's running mate needs to do.

Before Republican Bruce Rauner asked her to be his running mate, attorney Evelyn Sanguinetti had made inquiries about getting a job with the state.

Lee Enterprises newspaper reporter Kurt Erickson uncovered that inquiry; which was made via email, to state employee whom Sanguinetti supposedly went to law school with.

Hannah Meisel

  With summer coming to an end, and the November election getting ever closer, Gov. Pat Quinn and other Illinois Democrats gathered Wednesday in Springfield, for an annual party meeting and rally. But Thursday, Republicans had their day. The GOP hopes it'll be their year.

There's no "normal" way to get to the area on the Illinois State Fairgrounds where Republicans had their gathering.

Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner hammered on Democrats at the Illinois State Fair Thursday. The Democrat facing the most criticism is Governor Pat Quinn.

Rauner was greeted almost like a rock star as he rolled into the Republican Day party on his Harley. Every time he mentioned voting Quinn out of office, the crowd erupted in cheers.

Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar says he's all in for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner.

Edgar says the Democratic agenda offers more of the same policies voters have seen for the past decade. He even equated Gov. Pat Quinn's tenure to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is now serving a 14-year term in federal prison.

"The Blagojevich-Quinn governorship has been a disaster for Illinois," he said. "We have an opportunity this November to end one-party rule by electing Bruce Rauner the governor of Illinois."

Amanda Vinicky

Even as states like Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin are known as political battlegrounds and bellwethers, Illinois has the reputation for being a solid "blue" state. Illinois sends double as many Democrats to Washington as it does Congressional Republicans. The state legislature tips heavily in favor of Democrats, who hold veto-proof majorities. And it has been more than a decade since a Republican last sat in Illinois' governor's seat.

Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Environmental activists hoping to curb hydraulic fracturing in Illinois crashed a breakfast held for Democratic party organizers in Springfield Wednesday. They want to stop natural gas extraction in the state before it starts.

"Drought! Pollution! Earthquake! Fracking is a big mistake!"

Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Governor's Day at the Illinois State Fair brought out Democratic leaders from across the state — including those counties where Democrats seem few and far between.

In these heavily Republican counties, momentum for Democratic candidates can be hard to come by. Compound that with lower Democratic voter turnout in non-presidential election years, and the fight to "keep Illinois blue" gets even more difficult.

One of Illinois' most popular Democrats is expressing doubts about Governor Pat Quinn's chances.  It's an annual event; hundreds of Democrats get together at a Springfield hotel for breakfast and speeches, before heading out to the state fairgrounds.  It's part reunion, part rally.

But as he headed into the event, Secretary of State Jesse White was candid about his fears that November's election may not go well for Democrats ... or at least for the Democrat near the top of the ticket, Gov. Pat Quinn.

Amanda Vinicky

For most of the thousands of people who go to the Illinois State Fair each summer, it's about fun -- the carnival rides, and corn dogs. But for others it's about competition. There are awards given for everything from longest ponytail to -- feminists, beware! --husband-calling. Not to mention the livestock events, which crown the best of the breeds. But what grabbed my attention was the "hobbies," where bakers, crafters and collectors have their chance at glory. First, they have to win over the judges.

ilga.gov

  The Democratic candidate for state treasurer is catching flak from Republicans, who are critical of his time as a local official. But Mike Frerichs' (D-Champaign) campaign says Republican opponent Tom Cross (R-Oswego) is playing "revisionist history."

Frerichs, currently a state senator, was elected to the Champaign County board in 2000, then became the county's auditor in 2002. Republicans point out that during Frerichs' time as auditor, the County Board implemented an early retirement program to save money.

Pages