Statehouse

Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed February 1, 2012

Baseball and Ballots: The Nation's Pastime and Politics Intermingled in 1860

On July 25, 1860, members of the Excelsior Base Ball Club met on their baseball grounds in Chicago to settle a political argument. The purpose of the meeting was a baseball game between players who supported the presidential candidacy of Abraham Lincoln and those who supported Stephen A. Douglas. Mostly in their 20s, the club’s players represented an upwardly mobile group of young Chicago residents who hoped to channel their energy and enthusiasm for the coming presidential election through their athletic prowess on the baseball field. 

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed February 1, 2012

Editor's Note: Reports Provide A Glimpse of Richest and Poorest Illinoisans

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Much has been written — and chanted and shouted — about the growing disparity between those whose incomes rise to the top 1 percent and the rest of us. Also often-chronicled during this economic downturn is the increasing number whose incomes fall below the federal poverty level. Two recent studies provide some striking insights into those opposite ends of the economic ladder.

 

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed February 1, 2012

State of the State: Settlement Points to Minorities as Targets for Subprime Loans

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

A recent federal settlement on discriminatory lending practices was the biggest of its kind to date and speaks to a larger issue within the foreclosure crisis: the targeting of minority communities for risky subprime loans. 

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed February 1, 2012

End and Means: Illinois is Not as Bad Off as it Might Seem

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

As Gov. Pat Quinn readies the FY 2013 state budget he is to unveil in a few weeks, the conventional wisdom seems to be that Illinois is in really bad shape, a financial basket case about ready to go belly up.

The lamentations are led by the usual suspects, Republicans trying to gain partisan advantage for this year's elections and hyperventilating editorial writers who need to stop, take a deep breath and get a grip on reality.

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun January 1, 2012

A Year of Quinn: The Governor Still Struggles to Artfully Wield the Power of His Office

Governor Pat Quinn
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Known throughout his career as a populist outsider, Pat Quinn, the political bomb thrower turned governor, has worked with the legislature since his ascension in 2009 to keep the state’s fiscal house from going up in flames. With one year under his belt as elected governor, Quinn is still struggling to craft a coherent message and artfully wield the power of the office. 

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun January 1, 2012

Three in One: The University of Illinois Takes A United Front in its Approach for the Future

University of Illinois President Michael Hogan served in the same capacity at the University of Connecticut.
Credit University of Illinois

One of its three campuses is just four decades old and aspires to be no less than a premier small, public university. The 5,000-student school in the state’s capital excels at online education and public affairs offerings, among other programs. 

Another is among the top-funded research institutions in the country, but also educates one of the most diverse student bodies in the nation just outside the heart of downtown Chicago. It boasts the country’s largest medical school.

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun January 1, 2012

Editor's Note: Gridlock Stops Progress at State and Federal Levels

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Now is the time when many publications proclaim their choices for “___ of the Year.” My pick for the 2011 word of the year is “gridlock.”

 

Gridlock is no longer just what motorists experience at rush hour; it’s also the inability of the federal and state governments to initiate potential solutions to the most critical problems of the day.

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun January 1, 2012

State of the State: Gov. Quinn Takes a Pass on Early Prison Release Plan

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

Instead of using what arguably was the biggest scandal during his time in office as a chance to reform a broken system, Gov. Pat Quinn stuck his head in the sand as Illinois’ prison population reached an all-time high. 

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun January 1, 2012

End and Means: The Question of Whether Illinois Should Elect Judges is Timely

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Has the time come for Illinois to reconsider the manner in which it selects its judges?

The question seems timely: A campaign finance reform task force is weighing public financing for judicial elections, in part to counter a generally held public view that campaign contributions affect courtroom decisions. Meanwhile, dozens of candidates for judicial posts — from the Illinois Supreme Court to circuit court — are scurrying to raise money for next year’s primary and general elections. 

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu December 1, 2011

Editor's Note: Group Seeks to Map Out a Plan to 'Restore' Illinois

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

“We’ve got to get money out of politics! This is intolerable!” insists a government reform advocate seated with about 30 others around a square configuration of tables in a 37th floor conference room in a Chicago high-rise. Another man exhorts, “We need to be a strong countervailing force to the status quo!” A woman across the room later declares, “People in the system trying to help the public can’t get the information they need!”

 

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu December 1, 2011

End and Means: It's Time for Illinois to Borrow Money From Willing Lenders

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Since the outgoing General Assembly increased personal and corporate income tax rates in January, lawmakers have been at great pains to show how business-friendly they really are.

In the spring session, for example, the legislature approved a compromise workers’ compensation measure that sponsors said would save business up to $700 million, mostly by reducing payments to doctors and hospitals that treat injured workers.

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue November 1, 2011

The Movement: The Tea Party, Which Began in Chicago, Wants to Stir Up Springfield

St. Louis Tea Party co-founder Dana Loesch and commentators Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart appeared at the Midwest Tea Party Convention — TeaCon — in Schaumburg this fall.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

To many Tea Party leaders in Illinois, state government needs more people like Arie Friedman. 

A pediatrician from Highland Park, Friedman first entered politics just two years ago to protest the passage of President Barack Obama’s federal health care law. Friedman is a business owner, a Navy veteran, a conservative and a candidate for the Illinois Senate. He says he does not need a job as a career politician — joining the state Senate likely would mean a pay cut — and he has no plans to do it forever. Most of all, though, Friedman is fed up with how the state is being run.

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue November 1, 2011

Editor's Note: Despite Restrictions, Cell Phones Are Still A Danger on Highways

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

I’ll admit to a bit of a libertarian streak. I want the government to protect me from some things, such as terrorists, robbers and greedy investment bankers, but I’m not so sure when it wants to protect me from myself, such as requiring the use of seatbelts. So, as cell phones increased in popularity over the past two decades, I’ve been skeptical of attempts to limit or prohibit their use.

 

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue November 1, 2011

State of the State: Closing Hundreds of Pools in Illinois May Save Lives

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

Hundreds of public swimming pools across the state were closed this fall when the Illinois Department of Public Health cracked down on pools that didn’t comply with state and federal regulations. 

According to the department about 85 percent of public pools comply with the 2007 Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. However, about 500 pools were shut down October 1 for noncompliance. 

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue November 1, 2011

End and Means: Overcrowded and Understaffed, Illinois Prisons Are in Crisis

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

The litany was depressingly familiar: overcrowded, understaffed, with limited access to medical and psychiatric treatment, rehabilitative services, education and jobs for inmates.

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat October 1, 2011

Point/Counterpoint - Two Sides of the Pension Debate: llinois Policy Institute

Marc Levine
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

In February, Illinois borrowed $3.8 billion and paid a higher interest rate spread than any of the other 49 states. This means the financial markets believe that Illinois is the state most likely to default on its obligations.

In light of the state’s diverse economy and general obligation debt levels, this default risk is entirely explained by Illinois’ insolvent state pension system. 

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat October 1, 2011

Point/Counterpoint - Two Sides of the Pension Debate: Illinois Education Association

Cinda Klickna
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

With Illinois facing financial trouble and staring at a pension bill that has gone unpaid for decades, public employee pensions are under a microscope.

There have been calls for pension benefit reductions for active participants in the five state retirement systems. Members of the Illinois Education Association belong to the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS), the State Universities Retirement System (SURS) and the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF). (Unlike TRS and SURS, IMRF is not a state-funded plan.)

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat October 1, 2011

Unions vs. Government: Situation Complicates Already Strained Relationship Between Unions & States

  When Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s Hardball needed a guest early this year to express progressive outrage at the treatment of Wisconsin’s public-sector union workers, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn was a natural choice.

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat October 1, 2011

Up Next: How Will Lawmakers Handle Gov. Pat Quinn's Objections to Major Pieces of Legislation?

Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

When lawmakers return to the Statehouse later this month for their fall veto session, they will have to decide — among other things — if they want to try to find ways to appease Gov. Pat Quinn, agree with his objections to several major pieces of legislation or override his vetoes and move ahead with plans that would change the landscape of two major industries in Illinois. Lawmakers also have to decide if they are willing to make budget changes Quinn says are needed to avoid the closure of seven state facilities and more than 1,900 layoffs. 

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat October 1, 2011

Two Sides of the Pension Debate

Illinois Education Association by Cinda Klickna

Illinois Policy Institute by Marc Levine

Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat October 1, 2011

After Abolition: Work Remains for Those Who Help the Wrongfully Convicted

Keith Harris, who was imprisoned for two decades for a crime he didn’t commit, was exonerated after the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project got involved with his case.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Pat Quinn said his decision to abolish the death penalty in Illinois was driven by the need to eliminate any chance that an innocent person could be put to death.

The move was hailed by opponents of capital punishment as a watershed moment in reforming Illinois’ criminal justice laws, while panned by death penalty supporters as a mistake that takes an important deterrent to crime off the books.

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat October 1, 2011

Question & Answer: Julie Hamos

Julie Hamos
Credit Illinois.gov

Julie Hamos spent almost 12 years in the Illinois General Assembly representing a diverse House district in Cook County, championing laws to fight domestic violence and dealing with difficult urban issues involving mass transit, housing, the environment and human services.

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat October 1, 2011

Editor's Note: Everyone with a Social Media Account Can be a Reporter

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

An old friend of mine died recently. His last days were chronicled in real time on Facebook.

First came a post that he was seriously ill and was in a nursing home awaiting test results. Then a post that he had been taken back to the hospital. Then that he and doctors had decided there was nothing else they could do. Then the hospice, and finally, his death.

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat October 1, 2011

State of the State: Illinois Aims to Balance Free Speech and Sensitivity

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

After a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court allowing a hate group to continue protesting at funerals, Illinois and other states seek a balance between constitutionally protected speech and sensitivity for grieving families. 

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat October 1, 2011

End and Means: Inspector Wants Lawmakers to Focus on Their Own Shop

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

In the last couple of years, Illinois has adopted an impressive — by historical standards, anyway — array of ethics reforms.

Campaign contribution limits, a ban on pay-to-play contracting, new conflict-of-interest and economic disclosure requirements for members of state boards and commissions, independent procurement officers and purchasing monitors, stronger whistle-blower protection, tighter revolving door prohibitions and more. It’s a lengthy list, tailored closely to the kind of questionable behavior that has one former governor in federal prison and another on his way.

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu September 1, 2011

Localized Disease: When the State Budget Suffers, Municipalities Feel the Pain, Too

Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

“I told them, ‘It’s going to get worse before it’s going to get better,’” Sen. John Sullivan, a Democrat from Rushville said of a recent string of a dozen town hall meetings where he explained state budget cuts to voters in his district. 

After lawmakers trimmed the state budget this spring, local governments — many of which have seen their own budget shortfalls during the recent economic crisis — will feel an even greater pinch as the reductions trickle down. 

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu September 1, 2011

'Keep Calm and Carry On': Preckwinkle Tackles First Term with History in Mind

Toni Preckwinkle
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Just before 4 p.m. on a midsummer afternoon, the entrance to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s office is dark and silent, without a receptionist on hand.

Yet, unbeknownst to many who pass through the County Building’s marble halls at that hour, behind a door to the left, the Chicago Democrat is working, inside a personal space sparsely decorated with pieces of African-American art.

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu September 1, 2011

State of the State: Sex Offender Legislation is Often More About Politics Than Justice

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

Unless you spend time in the state Capitol, you would likely never imagine that lawmakers spend a good portion of their time debating a single issue: sex offenders. 

A cursory search of the General Assembly’s website shows two dozen bills that deal with sex offenders were introduced since the current legislative session began in January. They include bills requiring sex offenders to register with a university if they are students or workers there, and legislation that pushes the areas where they are allowed to live farther and farther away from places such as schools and parks. 

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu September 1, 2011

End and Means: Illinois' Fiscal Situation Shows Signs of Recovery

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Slowly but steadily, Illinois’ fiscal fortunes appear to be on the road to recovery after two years of falling revenues and unprecedented budget deficits.

The prognosis — one of guarded optimism — emerges from a review of recent reports from the legislature’s fiscal agency and from state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. The encouraging signs include:

Read more
Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri July 1, 2011

State of the State: To Get the Most Out of the Green Jobs Market, Politicans Need Do More Than Spend

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

As Illinois and the nation struggle to recover after the recent recession, leaders are looking to the “green” industry — not only for environmental benefits but for its potential for job creation and economic growth. 

President Barack Obama has pointed to sustainable energy as an important area for economic recovery, as well as a necessity for America to secure its place on the global stage. 

Read more

Pages