Statehouse

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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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu March 1, 2012

End and Means: Nearly 80 Legislative Candidates Have No Competition

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Might they be amenable to casting politically difficult votes on contentious issues such as budget cuts or Medicaid and pension reforms if legislative leaders and Gov. Pat Quinn can hammer out compromises?

Conventional wisdom would suggest that the first election following legislative redistricting would offer voters a wide array of choices, as veteran lawmakers retire and droves of ambitious wannabes scramble to capture voters’ allegiance in newly minted districts.

But conventional wisdom would be wrong, at least for the 2012 election season.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed February 1, 2012

Mendoza's Chicago: The City Has a New Clerk, and She's Not a 'Go-Along, Get-Along' Politician

Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Before they were sworn in to their respective offices last year, newly elected Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza showed up with gifts to a meeting with Rahm Emanuel, prompting the empty-handed mayor-elect to say, ‘I feel like such an a--hole I didn’t get you anything; I feel terrible.’”

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed February 1, 2012

Mendoza's Chicago: The City Has a New Clerk, and She's Not a 'Go-Along, Get-Along' Politician

Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Before they were sworn in to their respective offices last year, newly elected Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza showed up with gifts to a meeting with Rahm Emanuel, prompting the empty-handed mayor-elect to say, ‘I feel like such an a--hole I didn’t get you anything; I feel terrible.’”

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed February 1, 2012

Redistricted: Democrats Hope in This Election to Make the Most of Their Mapmaking Victory

Few Illinois campaign watchers — including Republicans — dispute the conventional political wisdom that the GOP could have a tough election year in 2012 because of new political maps. 

When GOP state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington lost his race for governor in 2010, Republicans knew they had tough years ahead. Brady’s loss meant Democrats — who already controlled the state House and Senate — won exclusive control of mapmaking powers for legislative districts. And despite their objections and lawsuits, the GOP didn’t expect to be shown much mercy. 

They weren’t.

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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. 

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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.

 

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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