Statehouse

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A major organized labor coalition says it plans to ``do everything possible'' to oppose Republican Bruce Rauner's bid for Illinois governor.  
The Illinois AFL-CIO announced Thursday that its board approved a resolution to engage union members to defeat the Winnetka businessman.

flickr/jmorgan

Illinois revenue officials say residents won't be able to file their 2013 income taxes until the end of January _ a two-week delay.  

Lawmakers Say "No" To Further Video Gaming Restrictions

Jan 15, 2014
Peter Gray/WUIS

A state legislative committee has rejected rules aimed at tightening who sells contracts for video gambling terminals and who can do business with Illinois.

But Illinois Gaming Board chairman Aaron Jaffe  says he'll try again. He said Wednesday that he'll bring the issue back to the panel or to the General Assembly this year.

The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules voted unanimously Tuesday to deny rules that would also create a list of businesses and individuals Illinois won't work with. It's similar to what the state does with casinos.

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Illinois police departments say officers are using discretion about whether to cite drivers who are breaking the state's new ban on hand-held cellphone use while driving.  

The (Bloomington) Pantagraph reports law enforcement agencies appear to be giving drivers latitude if they're caught violating the new law.  
The measure took effect Jan. 1.  

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Hundreds of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally now have Illinois driver's licenses.
 
The Illinois Secretary of State's office says more than 1,200 immigrants have
received licenses since December under a new state law.
 
Immigrants can currently take license tests at 14 locations across the state.
Secretary of States spokesman Dave Druker says 36 locations will offer license
tests by the end of the month.
 
The licenses are valid for three years and may be used only for driving. They

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State election regulators say more than a dozen Illinois counties have purged their voter registration rolls to remove the names of people who've died or moved away.  

The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises Newspapers reports (http://bit.ly/19rHR6b ) 17 counties and the city of East St. Louis fixed problems on their lists of registered voters.  
County clerks are required to purge voter rolls every two years. But some counties say there isn't enough money in the budget to cover the sometimes costly review.

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Raising Illinois' minimum wage has emerged as the first significant campaign issue for candidates hoping to become Illinois' next governor. And it could take center stage throughout the year.  
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn says he wants to raise the $8.25 hourly rate to at least $10 by year's end. But a coalition of business groups that worry raising the rate would kill jobs say they'll try to stop the efforts.

Next month there'll be an Illinois Manufacturer's Association forum where organizers say minimum wage will be a main topic.  

This week's topics include how the debate over the state's minimum wage may affect the Republican candidates for Governor, and calls for a change of leadership at the state's Department of Corrections.

Amanda Vinicky

  Whether Governor Pat Quinn will have a primary opponent is still undecided. But there's one fewer candidate seeking the Republican nomination.

There's a way to win an election long before election day: get your opponent knocked off the ballot -- challenging their paperwork for not meeting the rules.

That helped clear the way for Barack Obama when he was trying to begin his political career in the Illinois Senate.

courtesy of Michael Miller

An expert on campaign finance says his studies show that government funding of state level races is better for voters and candidates.  Michael Miller of the University of Illinois Springfield makes the case in his new book "Subsidizing Democracy: How Public Funding Changes Elections And How It Can Work In The Future". He spoke with Bill Wheelhouse:

A state report shows the amount of money taxpayers owe five state pension plans hit $100.5 billion on June 30.

But that's $3 billion less when not using a counting method adopted five years ago that made the pension picture brighter.  

Auditor General William Holland released a report Wednesday that estimates the total retirement-fund debt based on a process called ``smoothing'' _ considering gains and losses during the past five years.  

Without smoothing and instead considering current market value of assets, the total unfunded liability is $97 billion.  

WBEZ

Gov. Pat Quinn is supporting his prisons director after a Republican challenger called for the director to be fired.  
 Sen. Kirk Dillard is a GOP candidate for governor. He said Wednesday that Democrat Quinn should fire S.A. ``Tony'' Godinez  for hiring a man with arrests and apparent one-time gang ties.  

Dillard says it's ``outrageous'' that ex-gang members are ``running the prisons.''  
Xadrian McCraven  was an $111,000-a-year senior policy adviser to the Department of Corrections' parole chief before he was fired Friday.  

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Gov. Pat Quinn's running mate will continue working in Connecticut until March 1, just before Illinois' primary election.   The Chicago Sun-Times reports (http://bit.ly/19SJTfX ) Paul Vallas will keep working as superintendent of Bridgeport public schools.  

Vallas submitted his resignation to Bridgeport officials on Dec. 31 and is required to give a 60-day notice.  
Illinois' primary election will be held March 18.  

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Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a pension-reform measure for the Chicago Park District.  

The legislation Quinn signed Tuesday is designed to deal with a $971 million deficit in the district's pension program. When lawmakers approved it in November, experts hailed it as example of compromise for what was then an elusive solution to the five state pension systems' $100 billion hole.  

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

With the new year comes the annual process of crafting a new state budget.  Money will be tight, despite a pension law that's supposed to save $160 billion dollars over the next 30 years.

Legislators who voted to cut state employees' and teachers' retirement benefits say they had no choice. Nearly a fifth of the state budget was going into Illinois' pension systems. Meaning there was less money to spend elsewhere. The pension law is supposed to ease that so-called "squeeze."

The online application system to apply for permits was officially launched in Illinois on Sunday. On Monday, Illinois State Police said they had received 4,525 applications for concealed carry permits were received within 24 hours. The other 6,500 applications came from firearms instructors who the state let apply early for permits to help test the functionality of the online application system.  

This week's topics include the state's system for accepting Concealed-Carry applications, the many lawsuits filed against the recent law changing the state's pension system, and a look back at some top stories from 2013.

A state law taking effect yesterday limits the use of free on-street parking by the disabled.  
Now, only motorists whose impairments prevent them from being able to pay a meter can park for free in those spots.  

Before, anyone with a disability parking placard could do so.  
Now, motorists will have to get statements from doctors affirming they cannot feed parking meters, for example, because they use wheelchairs or cannot walk more than 20 feet.  

A group of retired state employees has filed a lawsuit challenging a new Illinois plan to eliminate the state's $100 billion public pension shortfall.  

flickr/RandyvonLiski

A published report says groups with ties to the pension-reform law adopted last month have contributed close to $3 million to Illinois Supreme Court justices who might decide its fate.  

The Chicago Sun-Times reports (http://bit.ly/1aqJQ5n ) that six of seven justices have taken money in the past 13 years from labor unions, business groups and a political committee controlled by Chicago Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.  
Retired teachers have sued to stop the pension-reform plan that cuts retiree benefits to reduce a $100 billion debt.  

Illinois Department of Revenue

An Illinois Independent Tax Tribunal years in the making is up-and-running today. It gives businesses and individuals who have problems with their tax bills a new avenue to get them overturned. Still there are early concerns over who Gov. Pat Quinn has nominated to serve as the tribunal's Chief Administrative Law Judge.

Say a business doesn't agree with how much the state Department of Revenue says it owes in sales taxes. Before, it had two options: fight the tax bill in court (though that costs time and money) or plead the case to the Department of Revenue.

Classie Poe says East St. Louis even has few fast-food jobs
Robert Loerzel / WUIS/Illinois Issues

In some pockets of Illinois, where one in every three people live in poverty or close to it, the need is visible in the landscape: empty lots where buildings once stood in Cairo; abandoned houses marked with X’s in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood; families living in ramshackle trailers in Kankakee County’s Pembroke Township.

WUIS/Illinois Issues

When a September meeting of one of Illinois’ many obscure government oversight commissions turned into a discussion about the proper seasoning blend for making hot dogs, it served as yet another reminder that there are problems with the state’s revamped rules for purchasing goods and services.

WUIS/Illinois Issues

When the framers of Illinois’ Constitution, which was adopted in 1970, were considering the revenue article, the state’s income tax was practically brand new.  

Dana Heupel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Two of the laws that take effect this month affect motorists in Illinois. One is apparently designed to make driving safer; the other would seem to make it more dangerous. According to research, however, the predicted results might surprise you.

Jamey Dunn
mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois will soon join the other 49 states in allowing some citizens to carry firearms in public. 

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As 2014 dawns, the new year brings with it a personal milestone for yours truly — the start of my 31st year as an Illinois Issues columnist. Since January 1984, I’ve had the privilege of sharing my observations about Illinois government and politics with you, the magazine’s loyal readers, in more than 300 columns, by my reckoning.

So I thought some reflection might be in order, if you’ll bear with me, along the lines of the more things change, the more they stay the same, to quote the old French proverb.

The amount Illinois must pay to keep pace with its pension systems should grow less than 2 percent next year but still total nearly $7 billion.  

A state actuary's report that Auditor General William Holland released Tuesday says taxpayers must pay $6.86 billion in the fiscal year that begins July 1. That's up about $100 million from this fiscal year.  
Lawmakers adopted a reform plan in early December for the five pension systems to cut a $100 billion debt. But it doesn't take effect until June 1 and has been challenged in court.  

Brian Mackey / WUIS

As we get ready to welcome 2014, we thought we’d take a few minutes to reflect on some of the voices in the news this past year in Illinois state politics and government. People in the Capitol were busy with same-sex marriage, medical marijuana, and dozens of other issues. What follows are a few of the more memorable moments.

Gov. Pat Quinn: “This is no small issue. This is a choice about whether we will make the tough decisions necessary to balance our budget by reforming our public pension systems."

Bluetooth headset
Flickr user DeclanTM (Creative Commons)

Jan. 1 brings a new Illinois law that limits talking on the phone while driving. It's often been referred to as "cell phone ban." But it's actually a bit more nuanced.

The law starts out by saying you cannot drive while using an electronic device such as a phone or laptop. But it's not that cut-and-dry. For example, you can place a call if it only requires pressing one button.

SIRI: *ding*
MACKEY: Siri, can you make a call for me?
SIRI: "With whom would you like to speak?"
MACKEY: How about Illinois State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond?

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