Statehouse

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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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:

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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. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri July 1, 2011

End and Means: Bipartisan Mood Captures the General Assembly

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Is legislative productivity becoming a trend in Illinois?

Building on the impressive record compiled by the 96th General Assembly during its two-year tenure that ended in January, current lawmakers fashioned a budget based on expected revenues, significantly changed teacher tenure and evaluation rules and revamped the state’s workers’ compensation system — all in the first five months of the 97th General Assembly.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed June 1, 2011

Welcome Visitors: Illinois' Tourism Industry Means Big Business

Navy Pier
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

On any given summer day, 46,000 people fan out over Navy Pier in Chicago to ride the 150-foot Ferris wheel, feel the wind rush off a 45-mph speedboat, play 18 holes of mini-golf, see a Shakespeare play, savor a sugary bag of cinnamon almonds and maybe even end the day with a fireworks show.

It’s all big fun for tourists at Illinois’ No. 1 attraction and at hundreds of attractions across the state.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed June 1, 2011

Set Up to Fail?: Sweeping Changes Are Proposed for No Child Left Behind

 

 “No one likes how NCLB labels schools as failures, even when they’re making real gains.”– U.S. Secretary of Education 
Arne Duncan

 Every student in America proficient in reading and math skills by 2014.

It’s a laudable goal, but educators, reformers and politicians alike say it has set the country’s schools up for failure and may be depriving children of a well- rounded education. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed June 1, 2011

Risky Borrowing: Local Governments Face Difficulties in Refinancing Bonds

Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

The Great Recession was caused in part by overextended homebuyers who took out loans to purchase homes that cost more than they could afford. They were enticed by banks offering low or no down payments, coupled with interest rates that were low at first but could rocket up later. The housing market collapsed when those interest rates were ratcheted up, and homeowners could no longer afford their mortgage payments. Some were able to refinance, but many others walked away.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed June 1, 2011

State of the State: Lacking A Workable Federal Guide, States Attempt to Address Immigration

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

Pushed back on the agenda by health care reform and attempts to address the lagging economy, national immigration reform — a campaign pledge of President Barack Obama — has yet to materialize. At best, the federal government does not have a workable comprehensive guide for states on the issue, and at worst, it is sending them contradictory messages. Meanwhile, states across the country have started to address immigration in their own ways. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed June 1, 2011

End and Means: Serious Belt-Tightening is Needed to Avoid a Fiscal Meltdown or a Tax Increase Vote

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

For the typical Illinois legislator, long-range planning usually means thinking about the next election. Struggling this spring to fashion a new budget, though, lawmakers found themselves worrying about the one after that, too.

The reason for the altered perspective? A dawning realization that serious belt-tightening would be needed now to avoid either a fiscal meltdown or a vote to raise taxes three budget years hence.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun May 1, 2011

Analysis - The City Under Daley: Much of the Official Story Line Might Not Stand Up to Scrutiny

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

He saved the city from ending up like Detroit.

He runs City Hall as if he were the CEO of a private corporation.
He is the “greenest” mayor in the country.
He turned around what were the worst schools in the nation.
He is not a machine boss like his father.
He is the greatest mayor the city has ever had.
He is the best mayor in America.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun May 1, 2011

Spreading Out: Illinois' Fastest Growing Areas Are the 'Ring Around the Collar'

Twenty years ago, almost no one would have thought to call the Fox River village of Oswego a “suburb.” Located 50 miles from Chicago’s Loop, Oswego was incorporated before the Civil War. By 1990, it still had fewer than 4,000 residents. But Oswego’s fortunes changed dramatically in the two decades that followed.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun May 1, 2011

Freedom of Information: Lawmakers Weigh Public's Right to Know vs. the Burden on Local Governments

The changes were lauded by many as a positive step toward increased transparency in a state that had earned a reputation for corruption and government secrecy.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno has her job today in part because of the roadblocks that citizens can sometimes face when using the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which allows access to public records to squeeze information out of a government entity. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun May 1, 2011

Editor's Note: Good Government Advocate Steps Down

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

The activist the Chicago Tribune once described as “the state’s most vocal advocate for good government” is stepping down after heading the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform since its founding in 1997.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun May 1, 2011

State of the State: Audit Report Cites Reason to Worry About College Illinois Investments

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

Illinois families who purchased prepaid tuition through the College Illinois program have some reasons to be worried. 

In recent audits of the prepaid tuition program and the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, state Auditor General William Holland found some serious problems with the way the commission has made investment choices for the savings plan. He said the program, which had a $338 million deficit as of last June, failed to use “sound business practices” and did not follow the state’s procurement law when seeking an outside firm to provide advice. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun May 1, 2011

End and Means: Democrats Have a Few Tricks Up Their Sleeves When Drawing New Legislative Maps

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois voters gave state Democrats an unprecedented opportunity in last November’s election: the chance to draw new congressional and legislative districts as party mapmakers saw fit, presumably to guarantee party majorities for the next decade.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri April 1, 2011

A Tale of Three States: Neighboring States Weigh in on Illinois' Corporate Tax Increase

Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

  When Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law this winter boosting Illinois’ corporate income tax rate, he was hardly its only fan. The governors of Indiana and Wisconsin could barely contain their glee. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri April 1, 2011

The New South: Whatever Happened to the Downstate Democrats?

On the morning of Wednesday, November 3, it was still unclear whether Democrat Pat Quinn had held on to the governor’s office in the previous day’s election. What was already apparent, though, was that his party had utterly lost its once-encompassing grip on downstate Illinois. 

Democrats that day lost one U.S. Senate seat, two state-level constitutional offices and saw their commanding state House and Senate majorities pared back. Most of the bloodletting came in the southern half of the state. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri April 1, 2011

A Taxing Question: A Controversial New Law Attempts to Force Collection of Taxes on Internet Sales

One Illinois business intends to leave the state before a new plan to collect taxes on Internet sales takes effect in July. “I don’t have a choice,” says Tim Storm, chief executive officer of FatWallet, an Internet marketing company. “It’s a situation where I can’t take a hit on 40 percent of our revenue and continue to operate in the state of Illinois.”

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri April 1, 2011

Editor's Note: Outcome of Pension Struggle Will Hinge on a Constitutional Clause

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Democratic lawmakers from Wisconsin and Indiana who saw Illinois as a safe haven in their battles to protect public employee rights might be surprised to learn that top Democrats here may accede to a Republican effort to force pension reductions on current public employees.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri April 1, 2011

State of the State: Illinois' Financial Tracking Systems Are Out of Date and Incompatible

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

Some shocking numbers associated with the state’s finances came out recently. They didn’t represent the deficit, the unfunded pension liability — which continued to grow over the last fiscal year — or new revenues from the recent income tax increase. Instead, the numbers are associated with the way the state tracks its finances, and they represent a system that Auditor General William Holland describes as “highly fragmented.” 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri April 1, 2011

End and Means: School District Consolidation Plan Isn't as Simple as it May Seem

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Mention hot-button issues in Illinois politics, and what comes to mind? Abortion? Gun control? Tax hikes? All contentious issues, to be sure, but the most explosive fireworks this spring could come from Gov. Pat Quinn’s push to cut by almost two-thirds the number of school districts in the state.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue March 1, 2011

High Court, High Cost: It's Time Illinois Changes the Way Justices Take the Bench, Critics Say

Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride could breathe a sigh of relief last November when he earned a 66 percent retention vote in his Third Judicial District, after detractors had tried to remove him during an unusual and expensive election in which he faced no opponent. It was a different story for three of Kilbride’s high court colleagues in neighboring Iowa: Voters dumped them after being inundated with provocative anti-retention messages.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue March 1, 2011

Review Essay - Rockford's Rosies: World War II Put Illinois Women to Work

Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

For women of the Greatest Generation — newsman Tom Brokaw’s term for those who served in World War II — the war brought empowerment. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the federal government called America’s men to serve abroad and its women to keep the war machine humming on the home front. Those women — whose life choices mostly were limited to a few “feminine” occupations such as teacher, nurse, homemaker, and perhaps secretary or retail clerk — began working in factories, assembling everything from airplanes to bombs.

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