Statehouse

Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat January 1, 2011

Senate's No. 2 Man: Illinois Benefits from Dick Durbin's High-Profile Role

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Tucked into the transportation legislation coming from the U.S. House last spring was a formula change that would have reduced Illinois’ highway funding by $119 million. The bill’s author, who had lined up the support of both the House speaker and the Senate majority leader, wanted to tinker with the six-year-old formula for handing out road money. Once, the two relatively small pools of money at stake were doled out competitively. But now they had become, essentially, a way to deliver earmarked money to favored states. All told, 22 states got nothing from the two programs.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat January 1, 2011

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: Three Other States Can Offer Illinois Lessons on Redistricting

Legislative redistricting is the most important political process that most people know the least about. This insider’s game of political baseball provokes intense anxiety from politicians, high-pitched indignation from reformers and yawns from most voters. But as this year’s cycle of redistricting approaches, it is a good time to reflect on its profound effect on the fortunes of politicians and political parties, its potential impact on public policy and the possibility for reform.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat January 1, 2011

The Many Sides of Mark Kirk: Illinois' Newest Senator is a Multitasker and a Policy Wonk

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Mark Kirk was characterized in many different ways as he made the jump from U.S. representative to his new position as U.S. senator.

His opponent for the Senate seat, Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, painted Kirk as a man who spun tall tales about his past, who changed his mind about legislation when he returned to Washington, D.C., and who is a friend to Wall Street and big business.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat January 1, 2011

Editor's Note: A View from the Middle

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Confession is good for the soul, they say, so I’m going to reveal my darkest secret. The thought alone is more than a little scary, but if it will help me recover …

 

OK, here goes.

“My name is Dana, and … I’m … uh … a … political moderate.”

There. I finally said it out loud. I do feel better, but I can see the look of disgust on everyone’s faces. “White bread,” they’re thinking. “Middle-of-the-road Midwesterner. Not truly committed to any cause. Afraid to take a stand.”

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat January 1, 2011

State of the State: New Year Signals Time for Budget Action

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

A new legislative session and Gov. Pat Quinn’s first term as the elected governor of Illinois begin this month. While the legislature passed some historic measures during its veto session, little was done to address the state’s gaping budget deficit and crushing backlog of unpaid bills.

Both the lawmakers and the governor need to make some resolutions for the New Year, stick to them and put some solutions in place. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat January 1, 2011

End and Means: Lawmakers Had A Productive Two-Year Session

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

As the 96th Illinois General Assembly returns to Springfield early this month for its final days, an unusually crowded agenda could await lawmakers: gambling expansion, abolition of the death penalty, approval of medical marijuana, clean coal, maybe even a vote on higher taxes.

Even if none of these high-profile issues come to a vote before the new legislature takes over at noon on January 12, the outgoing General Assembly already ranks as one of the more productive in recent memory.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed December 1, 2010

Ends and Means: No GOP Landslide Here

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

The Republican tsunami that swept the nation last month was little more than a gentle comber when it reached Illinois. Indeed, one might argue the GOP wave did about as much damage to Illinois Democrats as the annual Nile flooding did to ancient Egyptians, who depended on the overflowing river to enrich their fields for the coming planting season.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon November 1, 2010

Who Cares?: Perhaps Illinoisans Can't Muster Passion Because They Can't See How It Would Matter

The ancient Greek philosopher Plato once said, “The price of apathy toward public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

An uncaring Rhett Butler boldly telling Scarlett O’Hara, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” carried so much weight in Gone With the Wind that it was voted the most memorable movie line of all time. 

Now we are surprised when someone actually gives a hoot in Illinois. Shoulders once immortalized as Big now seem content to shrug. The motto on our state seal reads “State Sovereignty — National Union,” but it just as easily could be “Yeah — Whatever.” 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon November 1, 2010

Partnerships: Illinois in Many Ways Leads the Pack on Public-Private Partnerships

Anyone who logged on to the Illinois Lottery website in September to read the bids from private firms vying to manage the lottery came across pages of blacked-out information. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon November 1, 2010

Federal Intervention: Is the Stimulus Program Invigorating Illinois' Economy?

(Click to Enlarge)
Credit State of Illinois

Although the federal stimulus package is increasingly unpopular among the American public, there’s little doubt that Illinois’ top Democrats support it. In mid-September, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Gov. Pat Quinn came to Alton to tout the fact that Illinois became the first state in the nation to start work on high-speed rail improvements paid for by the stimulus bill.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon November 1, 2010

Editor's Note: An Attitude of 'Me First' Extends to Nearly Every Sector of America

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

In a recent MSN Money article about what corporate executives saw as President Barack Obama’s assault on businesses, T.J. Rodgers, the CEO of Cypress Semiconductor, was quoted as saying: “Obama uses political rhetoric to demean me and my motives, but the fact is, I am completely happy with my motives and the morality of my decisions. My moral responsibility is to protect and grow the investment of shareholders.”

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon November 1, 2010

State of the State: Lame Ducks May be Less Cautious with Votes

Jamey Dunn
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Soon after the general election, lawmakers will return to Springfield to vote on bills vetoed by Gov. Pat Quinn and perhaps to take up unresolved issues from the spring legislative session. 

While legislators were cautious with their votes during the regular session — for fear of creating wedge issues or giving their opponents fodder for mailers in the upcoming campaign — the lame duck veto session may be another story. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon November 1, 2010

Ends and Means: What About the Deficit?

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Years ago, a group of legislative back-benchers dubbed themselves “The Mushroom Caucus.” The moniker was apt, they explained, because leadership “keeps us in the dark and feeds us horse [manure].”

If Illinois voters are feeling a strong sense of kinship with those old-time lawmakers just a few days after the November election, they certainly can’t be blamed.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri October 1, 2010

The Blagojevich Legacy: He Presided Over a Long Slide Into Fiscal Catastrophe

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich on The Bonnie Hunt Show.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Soon after Rod Blagojevich was led in handcuffs from his Chicago home in December 2008, comedian Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show noted that Illinois has seen four of its last seven governors arrested (Otto Kerner, Dan Walker, George Ryan and Blagojevich). 

Noting that half of all murders go unsolved, Stewart hit viewers with the inexorable math: “You are more likely to end up in jail if you become governor of Illinois than if you are a murderer.”

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri October 1, 2010

Citizen Soldiers: The National Guard Has Borne the High Costs of Deployments to Afghanistan & Iraq

Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment, Illinois National Guard are assigned to a provincial reconstruction team’s security forces platoon. Gardez, Afghanistan, April 13, 2009.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Americans often hear that deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq are overstressing the citizen-soldiers of the National Guard.

Typical of such critics is military historian Jerry Morelock of Fulton, Mo. He joined the Florida National Guard as a private in 1963 before going to West Point and then on to an Army career that took him to the rank of colonel. 

“The way we’re using the National Guard isn’t the way it was intended be used,” Morelock says, “and it’s putting an inordinate strain on Guard members. They’re not professional soldiers. They have day jobs.”

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri October 1, 2010

Guest Essay - Future Vision: Report Sets Out to be a Planning Guide for 21st Century Northeastern IL

Development of land in northeastern Illinois
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Metropolitan Chicago is one of the world’s great economic centers. We have abundant natural resources — including a magnificent system of parks, open spaces, trails and waterways — with access to Lake Michigan for drinking water and recreation. We have a transportation system that moves people and goods, acting as an engine of jobs and prosperity. And the residents of the region themselves are perhaps our greatest renewable resource, constituting a diverse workforce that fuels economic development.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri October 1, 2010

Editor's Note: Cracks Are Forming in the Foundation of Responsible Reporting

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

In recent years, the distinct lines that once marked the boundaries for impartial journalism have become blurred by television news commentators, radio hosts and Internet bloggers who practice advocacy under the guise of objectivity.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri October 1, 2010

State of the State: FutureGen 2.0's Bypass of Coles County Tells a Story of Problem Planning

Jamey Dunn
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Everywhere you looked when you drove up the main drag of my hometown, Mattoon, in the fall of 2007, you could see signs outside of businesses saying, “Welcome FutureGen.” 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri October 1, 2010

Ends and Means: Voters Will be Asked Whether the Constitution Should be Changed to Allow Recall

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

In the first 36 years after the Illinois Constitution took effect in 1971, state lawmakers introduced 829 resolutions proposing amendments to the new document. Exactly one of those would have given voters the power to recall elected officials, and that 1979 effort died in committee.

In contrast, in the four years following former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s second inauguration in 2007, legislators offered 161 proposed amendments, including 14 to add recall to the charter.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed September 1, 2010

An Astute Negotiator: Chicago Native Justice John Paul Stevens Steps Down

Justice John Paul Stevens
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Stevens’ friends say he doesn’t agree that he has become more liberal, believing instead that the philosophical makeup of the court has become more conservative. Many believe both shifts happened. 

When retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wanted to go swimming during a recent trip to Hawaii, many warned him against the idea because of the ocean’s strong undertow.

Stevens, now 90 years old, encountered resistance from locals, as well as Navy SEAL trainers on the beach. But the Chicago native, who is a strong swimmer, was determined.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed September 1, 2010

Being Green: Rich Whitney Leads His Third-Party Ticket

Green Party gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Green Party gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney says no single event or aha moment solidified his desire to get involved in politics. Rather, he says, it began with a series of questions he started asking himself about issues that are often seen as intractable problems in modern society.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed September 1, 2010

Dreaming of the Illiana: Two Governors Are Trying to Build Expressway from South Suburbs to Indiana

Proposed Illiana expressway routes
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois and Indiana lawmakers resurrected a century-old plan this year for a highway to connect Chicago’s south suburbs with the Hoosier State. Now Gov. Pat Quinn and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels say they are trying to put together a deal to finally build the Illiana Expressway, promising it would create thousands of new jobs and relief for other congested highways.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed September 1, 2010

Editor's Note: Freedom of Information Grapples with Privacy in Public Employee Job Evaluations

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

I have to confess that I’m conflicted. I’ve spent my career in journalism as an avid supporter — some might say rabid — of open government and freedom of information, but the proposed law regarding public employee performance reviews has me walking both sides of the fence.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed September 1, 2010

State of the State: Our Representation Should Mirror Our Population in its Diversity

Jamey Dunn
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

The idea that a judicial candidate whose background is counter to the white male majority would bring a different perspective to the bench became a prevalent topic of discussion during the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. But the concept that public servants with different backgrounds strengthen discourse is not new, or without merit. While the nation and the state of Illinois have made great strides in choosing female candidates for positions of power, the statistics are still dismal.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed September 1, 2010

Ends and Means: Public Opinion Appears to Have Shifted in the Capital Punishment Debate

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Ten years after former Gov. George Ryan declared a moratorium on executions in Illinois, death penalty opponents say efforts to repeal capital punishment here are gaining momentum.

The guarded optimism is fueled in part by recent polling data they believe shows public support for capital punishment eroding, as Illinoisans reflect on a decade without executions.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu July 1, 2010

Nuclear Renaissance: Illinois Lawmakers Consider Lifting a 23-Year-Old Moratorium on New Reactors

Dry casks containing radioactive waste
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

After the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island disasters, public support for nuclear power dropped precipitously. But in recent years, increased demand for electricity and concerns over carbon emissions that contribute to global warming have led to a so-called nuclear renaissance.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu July 1, 2010

State of the State: Quinn's Plastic Bag Tax Might Have Cut Down on Use

Jamey Dunn
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Facing an unprecedented deficit, Illinois politicians pulling together a state budget with little public or legislative support for an income tax increase had to get creative when looking for new revenue sources. 

One tax proposal could have helped Illinois make a dent in a waste problem that is getting attention across the country and overseas. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu July 1, 2010

Ends and Means: Unbalanced Budgets Come Despite Consitutional Mandate

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Does the Illinois Constitution mandate that the state budget be balanced each year?

One’s initial inclination is to respond, “Yes, of course, it says so in the Finance Article.” But a quick check of the actual record in the four decades since the charter was ratified suggests the answer is a bit less straightforward.

The question gained new interest a few weeks ago after House Speaker Michael Madigan acknowledged to reporters that the spending plan newly minted by legislative Democrats was not balanced.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue June 1, 2010

Question & Answer: The Governor's Race

Gov. Pat Quinn
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Pat Quinn and state Sen. Bill Brady stand in stark contrast. Quinn is backing a 1 percentage point increase in the state income tax, while Brady is calling for $1 billion in tax cuts. Quinn happily describes himself as “progressive” while Brady’s voting record paints a legislator who is about as conservative on social issues as one can get. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue June 1, 2010

Editor's Note: Fewer Voters Are Willing to Make Sacrifices for the Good of All

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

The other day, a Springfield radio talk show host related his recent visit to a new public high school in Waterloo. He told listeners that his other job, working in traffic safety for state government, had taken him to the former high school in the Metro East city several times over the years. 

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