Statehouse

Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu November 1, 2012

The Preview: Important Issues Loom as Lawmakers Prepare for Veto Session

The Illinois Senate in session.
Credit Jamey Dunn / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Legislative sessions scheduled after a general election but before a new General Assembly is sworn in are historically a time when things get done. 

Recently in such sessions, Illinois lawmakers approved civil unions for same-sex couples, abolished the death penalty and passed the only income tax increase the state has seen in 20 years. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu November 1, 2012

Editor's Note: Scholars Weigh in on Whether Chicagoland Deserves its Reputation of Corruption

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

The Chicago area is the most corrupt region in the nation, according to a research paper presented at a recent statewide ethics conference, and Illinois is the third most corrupt state.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu November 1, 2012

State of the State: Major Issues Emerge from the Wings After the Election

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

Now that the election is over, several movements advocating for major changes in the state are gaining momentum. Same-sex marriage

After three states approved same-sex marriage in November’s general election, gay rights advocates in Illinois say it may be the right time to pass a bill legalizing same sex marriage in the state.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon October 1, 2012

Hidden Horror Stories: Newspaper Probe Sheds Light on the Deaths of 53 Disabled Adults

Margie Wade in an undated photograph
Credit Belleville News-Democrat

Since 2003, the deaths of 53 disabled adults were reported to, but not investigated by, the Illinois Department of Human Services - until a newspaper probe shed light on those stories.

 Margie Wade was trapped. She was too weak to move. Even to close her eyes.

The 59-year-old disabled woman, critically ill from severe diabetes, lay unconscious; face down on a plastic mattress cover that adhered to her body so tightly it would have to be cut away. She wore only a shirt.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon October 1, 2012

Does Welfare to Work, Work? Assistance to Needy Families Program was Slow to Respond to Recession

Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

When Illinois passed legislation in 1997 to help implement the federal overhaul of the welfare system, then-state Sen. Barack Obama voiced concerns about poor residents falling through the cracks.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon October 1, 2012

Editor's Note: Disturbing Photograph Tells an Important Story

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Elsewhere in this issue, you will find a graphic photograph of Margie Wade taken by sheriff’s deputy a few hours before the 59-year-old woman died in 2003 in a Hillsboro hospital. It is not our normal practice to publish shocking images, and we seriously weighed the pros and cons before I decided to use it because it tells the story of her last moments in a way that words alone cannot.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon October 1, 2012

State of the State: Paul Simon's Writing Offers Lessons in Leadership

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

Though I never met him, Paul Simon has had a profound effect on my life. Some years ago, a fateful visit to the Public Policy Institute he founded at my alma mater, Southern Illinois University, solidified my choice to shift my career path from public relations and take a gamble on journalism, regardless of my fears about finding a job in a struggling industry.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat September 1, 2012

Illinois' Watchdog: No Room for Partisan Politics in Auditor General William Holland's World

William Holland was first appointed as auditor general in 1992.
Credit Lane Christiansen

Illinois Auditor General William Holland, recently appointed to an unprecedented third 10-year term in that office, occasionally gets invited to speak to college accounting classes. When he does, the students are in for a surprise.

Holland typically opens by telling his audience that he isn’t a trained auditor and that he has no auditing experience. Next, he adds: “You’re thinking, then, I must be an accountant. I’m here to tell you I am NOT an accountant.”

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat September 1, 2012

Aftermath: Even in President's Home State, Backlash Still Exists from Ruling on Affordable Care Act

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

While many states are pushing back against President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform plan, Illinois is moving forward with the law since it was upheld by the U. S. Supreme Court. But even in the president’s adopted home state, the path to making the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act a reality is not without its pitfalls and political battles. 

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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
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
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
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
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
Thu March 1, 2012

Concealed Carry: llinois May No Longer be the Last State to Oppose Concealed Firearms in Public

A dozen people, including a 10-year-old girl, were wounded in 11 separate shootings that occurred in a single weekend in late January.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

 

Illinois is the last state in the nation that does not allow concealed firearms in public places, but gun rights advocates say concealed carry will come to the state, one way or another. 

Illinois lawmakers who support concealed carry have been working for years to rally support by offering multiple bills and tinkering with everything from the list of public places where gun owners would be barred from bringing weapons to where and how such a law would apply. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu March 1, 2012

Tough Guy: The Chicago-Based U.S. Attorney Hasn't Shied Away from a Storm

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

On the snowiest day of the year in February 2011 — when 60 mph winds hurled more than a foot of snow on Chicago, stranding drivers and paralyzing the city — U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald decided it would be a nice night for a run.

Intrigued by the extreme conditions, Fitzgerald wanted to feel the full force of the blizzard raging outside his home in Chicago. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu March 1, 2012

Unintended Consequences: Illinois Delegates May Still be a Prize Worth Having

Wherever you start the selection of an American president, it’s going to be a big story with lots of reporters blowing it out of proportion — coverage that then has an impact on subsequent contests in the race.

Nowhere does the law of unintended consequences work better than in politics. The coming Illinois presidential primary on March 20 provides an example. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu March 1, 2012

Editor's Note: We Want to Hear from Our Readers

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

 

If you subscribe to Illinois Issues, you may already have received — or soon will — a readership survey from us. And if you’re a reader but not a subscriber, we want to hear from you, too.

We do know that you’re busy, but we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d take a little bit of time to let us know what you think — good or bad — about the magazine. We hope your thoughts about what we offer now and some of the recent changes we’ve made will help us hone in on where you’d like to see us go in the future.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu March 1, 2012

State of the State: Backlog of Unpaid Bills Vexes Legislators Again This Fiscal Year

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

About this time two years ago, I was working on one of my first big assignments for this magazine after I had come aboard as Capitol bureau chief. The article was on the state’s backlog of unpaid bills. At the time, the total of overdue payments to schools, universities and the state’s vendors was $3.5 billion. The oldest bills had sat unpaid for six months. 

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