Statehouse

flickr/Daniel Borman

Illinois Democrats are outpacing their Republican counterparts in fundraising so far in the 2014 election cycle.  

Crain's Chicago Business reports that Democrats have almost twice as much cash on hand as Illinois Republicans with $26.9 million. Democrats control the governor's mansion and the state Legislature. Crain's examined the finances of candidates for statewide office, state party organizations and county organizations.  
 Republican businessman Bruce Rauner trails Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn by about $1.5 million in cash on hand in the Illinois governor's race.

State Week logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that state employee pension benefits are protected under the state constitution, countering lawmaker's efforts to overhaul the state's underfunded pension system.

flickr/tripp

Gov. Pat Quinn has ordered a moratorium on political hiring at the Illinois Department of Transportation and is requiring executive-level staff in every state agency to undergo training about proper hiring practices.  

The Chicago Democrat's actions come amid questions about whether state jobs were improperly filled based on clout rather than qualifications.  

The Associated Press obtained copies of memos sent Thursday by Quinn's attorney to IDOT leadership and the heads of all agencies, boards and commissions.  

Illinois Supreme Court Building
Illinois Supreme Court

The Illinois Supreme Court says free health care is a protected retirement benefit for certain government employees. It was cause for celebration among those who’ve opposed Illinois' attempts to save money by cutting retirement benefits. But Illinois' pension battles are far from over.

Many state retirees used to get premium-free health insurance. When the law was changed to make them pay, a group of them sued.

Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Illinois' state fire marshal is warning people to steer clear of personally handling fireworks this Independence Day. He says setting off fireworks without a permit could be grounds for arrest.

While buying fireworks is illegal in Illinois, many residents cross state lines to obtain them from Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri. Illinois State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis says that causes major problems, especially around the Fourth of July.

WBEZ

Former Gov. George Ryan has finished a year of supervision following his release from home confinement last summer after a prison sentence for corruption convictions.

Ryan was released from prison in January 2013 and was confined to his home until last July. At the time his lawyer and friend former Gov. Jim Thompson said that Ryan was subject to another year of supervision and some travel restrictions. That ends this week.

IWU.EDU

A former U.S. attorney and legal counsel to former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar has been named acting legislative inspector general.
 
The Legislative Ethics Commission announced in a statement received Tuesday
that J. William Roberts of Springfield took over in an acting capacity on
Tuesday.
 
In addition to his tenure as counsel to Edgar and U.S. attorney for the central
district of Illinois, he also was Sangamon County State's Attorney.
 
Roberts takes over for Tom Homer, a former Democratic lawmaker and appellate

The Capitol
Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Illinois' economy was slow to feel the effects of the Great Recession, and has been slow to recover from it. The state's Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is submitting a five-year plan to the General Assembly, with suggestions for business growth ... and more state spending.

DCEO's blueprint includes measures that stalled in the legislature this spring, including raising the minimum wage to $10-dollars an hour, doubling a tax credit for the poor and investing in major infrastructure.

flickr/meeshpants

Not long ago, it seemed every time a different type of crime started making the news, members of the Illinois General Assembly would rush to increase the penalty for that offense. But today — with prisons stuffed beyond capacity and state finances ailing — lawmakers have begun taking a more deliberate approach. Brian Mackey reports on a criminal sentencing culture change in the Illinois General Assembly.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

"The biggest winners here in this session were the taxpayers, who were spared the extension of the income tax."

—Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno

 

With all due respect to the good senator from Lemont, Illinoisans may have won a Pyrrhic victory when lawmakers adjourned their spring session without voting to keep income tax rates at their current levels past their scheduled January 1 sunset.

Wikimedia Commons

  Illinois' two state fairs did not comply with the law last year, according to a recent state audit -- and budget realities mean that'll happen again this summer.

The audit found that both the fairs in Springfield and DuQuoin overcharged entrance fees for horses.

But the Department of Agriculture says it's a consequence of the state contributing 200-thousand dollars $200,000 less toward the purse.

The audit also found that the DuQuoin fair only held three out of the five prescribed days of horse racing.

flickr/LizMarie_AK

  Children in military families should have an easier time changing schools when their parents transfer in and of out of Illinois, according to a law Governor Pat Quinn signed over the weekend.

Last summer, Tom White retired from the U.S. Army and accepted a post teaching military law at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago. But instead of moving his family near his work in Illinois, White opted to live in Valparaiso, Indiana, and commute at least an hour each day.

Gov. Pat Quinn
Brian Mackey/WUIS

  It's the last day of the fiscal year for the State of Illinois, which means the pressure is on for Gov. Pat Quinn to sign a new budget into law.

There's nothing on the governor's public schedule for today, but that doesn't mean he won't be busy making official the spending plan passed by his fellow Democrats in the General Assembly.

It makes sense that Quinn wouldn't want to hold a big ceremony drawing attention to it. He had wanted lawmakers to extend Illinois' 5-percent income tax rate, beyond its scheduled rollback halfway through the new fiscal year.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

An effort to change how legislative districts are drawn has suspended its efforts. It follows a judge Friday ruling that the proposal is unconstitutional.

"Yes! For Independent Maps," as the redistricting coalition calls itself, is not done for good.

Spokesman Jim Bray says the group will stay together in hopes of maybe trying again in the future. But he says it's done this year's efforts.

Courtesy of Quinn For Illinois

Governor Pat Quinn and his Republican challenger, Bruce Rauner, disagree about plenty -- everything from gun rights and restrictions, to what Illinois' income tax should be. But with Friday's ruling by a Cook County judge knocking a term limits initiative off the ballot, the candidates have something in common.

Though there has been a lot of turnover in the General Assembly in recent years, some politicians have been serving in Springfield for decades.

Chief among them House Speaker Michael Madigan, who has been a state representative since 1971.

State Week logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

Topics this week include gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner's latest statements on how to balance the state budget and the latest questions about why his daughter was accepted as a student at an elite Chicago high school.  Also, Governor Pat Quinn facing criticism after a disastrous audit of his Chicago anti-violence program.

flickr/Brian Turner

A Cook County judge has ruled that signature-driven ballot measures calling for legislative term limits and a new political redistricting process can't appear on the November ballot.
 
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Mary Mikva says in a Friday ruling the measures don't meet constitutional requirements to make the ballot.
 
The ruling is a setback for groups advocating the measures, including one led by Republican governor candidate Bruce Rauner.  He's made term limits
a cornerstone of his campaign to unseat Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.
 

BruceRauner.com

The issue of how Republican Bruce Rauner's daughter got into an elite Chicago public high school has resurfaced in the Illinois governor's race.

Rauner has maintained that he didn't use his money or influence to get a daughter into Walter Payton College Prep in 2008. Initially, she was rejected despite having top grades. Rauner has said his family appealed through a principals' discretionary process.  

  It could be December before a judge decides on the legality of Illinois' pension overhaul law for at least another five months. Attorneys met Thursday in Sangamon County Court and agreed on a timeline for the case.

Current and retired state employees, teachers and university workers are suing Gov. Pat Quinn over the pension overhaul passed by the General Assembly late last year.

Though it was to have already begun taking effect, a judge has put it on hold until its legality is sorted out in court.

Gov. Pat Quinn says he has no intentions of testifying before a legislative commission about the scandal-laden anti-violence program he started
in 2010.
 
The Chicago Democrat hasn't been subpoenaed or invited less informally. But seven former officials with his administration have been compelled to appear
before the Legislative Audit Commission next month. They're expected to address problems with management and spending under Quinn's $55 million Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.
 

ilga.gov

A Republican lawmaker wants Gov. Pat Quinn to testify before a legislative commission over a scandal-plagued anti-violence program.  

State Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine is a frequent critic of Quinn. He claimed Wednesday that Quinn is ``hiding'' as an audit commission probes the Chicago Democrat's approximately $55 million Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.  

Bruce Rauner
Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner has unveiled what he says is phase three of his plans to "Restore Illinois." It's focused on how the state taxes businesses.

In a statement — he released the plan via social media, rather than at a live event — Rauner says he wants to close "special interest loopholes."

Like a tax break for buying a racehorse.

And, in a risky move as he seeks to win newspaper editorial boards' endorsements, he wants Illinois to begin taxing newsprint.

Brian Mackey/WUIS

  The Illinois Teachers' Retirement System says it expects a lower return on its pension investments in the next year. That means the state will have to cover more of the cost of teacher pensions.

TRS says it's still a good assumed rate of investment return at 7.5 percent. That falls in line with similar pension systems nationwide. But it's not as profitable as 8-percent, which TRS had been using for the previous few years.

Dave Urbanek is with TRS. He says the unpredictable nature of the international economy spurred the decision to lower the rate.

ILGA.gov

Subpoenas are going out to five former members of Gov. Pat Quinn's administration who were involved with his plagued anti-violence program, but two other insiders will not be served. As Quinn seeks reelection, he continues to be dogged by a program rolled out just before his last, close race for governor.

Republicans contend the timing wasn't a coincidence; they allege Quinn rushed to introduce the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative to curry favor with Chicago area leaders before the 2010 election. A state audit and media reports reveal it was botched.

Amanda Vinicky

The Libertarian Party of Illinois is running a candidate for Governor, and all of the other statewide races. But the race could be over before it begins.

Chad Grimm, a 33-year-old health club manager from Peoria, and the Libertarian party's nominee for Illinois governor, has some unconventional political views; he believes Illinois should completely do away with a state income tax, and that there should be no -- as in zero - regulations on guns: Not the type, not where they're allowed, not who can have one.

WUIS/Brian Mackey

Illinois legislators have voted to subpoena seven former state officials to answer questions about a troubled 2010 anti-violence program started by Gov. Pat Quinn.  

A subcommittee of the Legislative Audit Commission voted Monday. They were initially considering just one person for subpoena, but Democrats on the committee said they'd decided to hear from everyone at once. The matter requires a signature from a co-chairman, state Rep. Frank Mautino, a Democrat who wasn't at the meeting.  

U of I

University of Illinois officials say they plan to announce the next president for the state's flagship institution by December.  But the process is only just getting started.

President Bob Easter will retire next year.

The search committee in charge of recommending a replacement to the U of I's board of trustees must sift through around 120 candidates.    Some candidates are nominees, and others are those who are qualified to fill the position but already hold a significant post elsewhere.

Illinois Lottery

Illinois' lottery contractor will likely be $200 million short of the money it promised the state this year when the fiscal year ends next week.
 
Northstar Lottery Group has never reached the profits it signed onto when it
took over in 2011.
 
The contract says falling short of goals by 10 percent two years in a row is
reason to end the partnership, and this year would be the second consecutive
year it hasn't made its goal.
 
Northstar CEO Tim Simonson says that his company has achieved higher profits

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Voters will get to weigh in on whether Illinois should raise its minimum wage for adults to $10 an hour. Gov. Pat Quinn approved the ballot question Sunday, and wasted no time campaigning on the issue.

The question is just advisory — lawmakers don’t have to heed the people’s advice — but supporters of the increase say they hope it’ll pressure reluctant legislators to go along.

Critics say this is a ploy to get more Democrats to the polls — since turnout tends to be lower in non-presidential election years.

Screengrab via YouTube

  Sixteen police officers from across Illinois were awarded the state's Medal of Honor Friday in Springfield. One officer had previously been honored as state trooper of the year.

In April 2013, State Trooper Brad Williams responded to a five-victim homicide in the tiny village of Manchester, in Western Illinois. Traveling by motorcycle, he chased the suspect for miles, joined by dozens of other officers along the way.

In the end, the suspect stopped his car and shot at police. Williams pulled his weapon and fatally shot the man.

Pages