Statehouse

Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu March 1, 2007

Illinois GOP: Puzzles over ways to rebuild

A blank space presents the perfect opportunity and the ultimate uncertainty. With no blueprint, any structure is possible. On the other hand, no plan means no guarantee. The best design remains elusive.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu March 1, 2007

Holding Pattern: Illinois must comply with the national identification law in the next year

Citizens and immigrants should start gathering documents to prove their identities. A year from May, a 2005 federal law will require everyone to use standard, tamper-proof ID cards to board airplanes, to enter federal buildings and to conduct other activities that could affect homeland security.

The law, called the Real ID Act, requires states to satisfy minimum requirements for the security of driver's licenses and ID cards, raising opposition about the privacy risks of a national system for identification.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu March 1, 2007

Editor's Notebook: Lawmakers face some major challenges. Already the strains are apparent

Peggy Boyer Long
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

So it begins. Illinois lawmakers have returned to Springfield and are getting under way on what could become the most significant spring session in recent memory — and most likely the longest-running since 2004, when an overtime session threatened lawmakers' July 4th festivities. 

That year, the state budget was a shambles. Officials were sitting on overdue bills, delaying obligations to public pension systems and ignoring needed repairs on roads and schools. Lawmakers took a swing at providing adequate per pupil funding but dropped the ball on inequities in school spending.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu March 1, 2007

State of the State: The next generation of women leaders could build on existing rights

Bethany Carson
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Women in the 1960s wanted a voice, the freedom to stand up to men. In the mid-'70s, they crusaded for equity, the right to be treated the same as men.

Regardless of the candidate, I'm sick of the buzz about whether America is ready for a female president. Maybe voters don't think a woman can win, or maybe women voters in particular take special coercing to be won over by a female candidate.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu March 1, 2007

Ends and Means: Would an earlier primary give Illinois a greater say in the party nominees?

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Everybody knows that holding Illinois' presidential primary in mid-March virtually assures that a front-runner will have all but locked up both major parties' nominations by the time Illinoisans cast ballots.

The 2008 presidential campaign figures to be the most wide-open contest for the White House in decades. Not since 1928 has neither a sitting president nor a sitting vice president sought his party's nomination for the top spot.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu February 1, 2007

Obama: He puts ethics on the agenda

Barack Obama says the "extremely good fortune" that launched him, seemingly without effort, into the top tier of American politics has helped him steer clear of entanglements with special interests and donors.

"I'm not sure that's a typical experience. But it allows me even more independence now that I'm a sought-after politician because I get to talk to the voters directly," Obama said in an interview shortly after the November election.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu February 1, 2007

One for the History Books: Not since 1858 has one Senate election had such an impact

Barack Obama's election to the U.S. Senate from Illinois may prove to be one of the most significant in American history. Perhaps not since the Senate election of 1858, when Stephen Douglas defeated Abraham Lincoln, has one Senate election had such an impact on the national leadership cadre. Although Lincoln lost that election, his speeches and debates with Douglas over slavery and the future of the Union ensured his place as a national leader of the young Republican Party and then as a leading contender for the Republican nomination in 1860.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu February 1, 2007

New Order: The changeover in Congress isn't all bad for Illinois

One of your own as speaker of the U.S. House, the most powerful individual on Capitol Hill? It doesn't get any better than that.

Illinois enjoyed that designation for eight years when Republican Dennis Hastert, a former history teacher and wrestling coach from Yorkville, held the post. Now it's California's turn — Democrat Nancy Pelosi's turn — with the speaker's gavel.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu February 1, 2007

Small Panel, Major Players: Five decision-makers at IL Commerce Commission in crossfire

Over the past few months, the controversy pitted the huge utilities against the state's top legislative leaders. Regardless, the commission had to enact rules under existing law.

The Illinois Commerce Commission keeps a relatively low profile. That is, until it finds itself in the middle of a public firestorm.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu February 1, 2007

Editor's Notebook: Barack Obama's story became a prism for our collective psyche

Peggy Boyer Long
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Will he or won't he? By the time you read this, you're likely to know. But in mid-January, as we get the issue ready for the printer, we don't have that advantage — despite lots of telephone conversations with and e-mails from Dan Vock, who wrote our cover story out of D.C., Webgrams from any number of sources and early reports by Anderson Cooper. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu February 1, 2007

Call to Action

Statewide officials set out their agendas he new kid on the block is a 30-year-old Chicago banker and the first Democratic state treasurer in 12 years. After taking his oath of office, Alexander "Alexi" Giannoulias said he intends to be a consumer advocate while serving as the state's fiscal watchdog.

On his first official day, Giannoulias issued an executive order banning so-called pay-to-play politics by prohibiting contributors and family members from receiving state contracts with his office. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu February 1, 2007

Ends and Means: The governor outlines a second term in the Magic Kingdom

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

His Inaugural Address featured fairy tales such as the budget he supposedly balanced (he's yet to do so) and his election "mandate" (most voters marked someone else for governor).

Since the late 1980s, "I'm going to Disney World!" has been the happy proclamation of Super Bowl winners, becoming one of the most recognizable advertising slogans in marketing history.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon January 1, 2007

Women in Prison: Mothers can learn to parent from behind bars but they'll still have to go home

Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

"It's not enough to train somebody to be a good  inmate,'' she says. "You must translate those skills into them becoming a model citizen."

More than 2,200 women in Illinois' prison system left children at home last year while they served time. That's about 80 percent of the female prison population, most of which comes from the Chicago area. While relatives care for the kids, many of those moms are learning to parent by phone, by letter or by teleconference.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon January 1, 2007

Elect, Indict, Repeat: Will democracy, Illinois style, ever change?

In 1987, Yale political scientist Joseph LaPalombara published Democracy, Italian Style, the book containing his theory that Italians took perverse pride in their nation's widespread reputation for corrupt government. Italians liked the messy-looking postwar system, he claimed, because it functioned far better than outsiders realized, was less corrupt than they pretended and delivered sound economic outcomes as their governments rose and fell with astonishing speed. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon January 1, 2007

Editor's Notebook: Is Illinois ready for reform yet? If so, here are a few thoughts

Peggy Boyer Long
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Psssst. Staying informed might be the best way to get even.

In this issue, political scientist Brian Gaines suggests Illinoisans could get — maybe, perhaps — fed up enough with political corruption they would be willing to push for big changes. 

He says it happened in Italy, so hey. Not that Gaines, a savvy guy on electoral behavior, thinks this is a given by any stretch. But we assigned him to consider it and he was game.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon January 1, 2007

State of the State: Push-and-pull politics could carry over into the new General Assembly

Bethany Carson
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

The tug-of-war could resume next month when the 95th General Assembly considers Gov. Rod Blagojevich's budget proposal.

Illinois voters elected 15 new lawmakers who will be sworn in when the 95th General Assembly convenes this month. They will be part of a Democrat-controlled House, Senate and executive branch, something that hasn't happened since 1941, according to the Legislative Research Unit.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon January 1, 2007

Spotlight

Illinois' 95th General Assembly convenes this month with eight new faces in the House and seven in the Senate. 

Suburban Chicago districts proved key in the 2006 general elections, which granted Democrats a 66-52 majority over Republicans in the House and a politically significant 37-22 majority in the Senate. Sen. President Emil Jones Jr. gained enough Democratic seats to overturn the governor's vetoes and approve major spending without Republican support.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon January 1, 2007

Ends and Means: The 95th General Assembly will get a chance to expand health insurance coverage

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Health care is an essential safeguard of human life and dignity, and there is an obligation for society to ensure that every person be able to realize this right. ... Universal coverage is not a vague promise or a rhetorical preamble to legislation, but requires practical means and sufficient investment to permit everyone to obtain decent health care on a regular basis.

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin
October 1995 pastoral letter

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri December 1, 2006

Ends and Means: The GOP proved a bigger loser than the hapless Cubs

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Making a campaign stop in Bloom-ington the Sunday before last month's general election, Republican Judy Baar Topinka suggested her Democratic opponent, Gov. Rod Blagojevich, should switch jobs and run for manager of the Chicago Cubs.

"They're a bunch of losers, too, and need some help," she explained.

 Ouch. The gratuitous slap at Wrigley's Lovable Losers left even hard-core Cardinal fans in central Illinois scratching their heads.

"What was she thinking?" as the governor's spinmeisters would put it.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed November 1, 2006

Who would want to run? Is elected office so onerous that it threatens quality of American governance

WANTED — Hard-working professional for job in public eye. Requirements: public relations skills, wide knowledge of public policy issues, thick skin. 

Work conditions: long hours, low pay, short-term contract, thousands of bosses, loss of privacy. 

Duties: make hundreds of public decisions involving millions of dollars with little information and intense public scrutiny. Good chance of career ending in public defeat or disgrace. 

Application process: takes 12 months. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed November 1, 2006

Who are the talking heads? Political scientists say what journalists can't or won't

A handful of Illinois political scientists have landed in the Rolodexes of journalists, which gives them, at most, a soapbox for what they call public service. That is, they don't get raises or professional accolades for returning a reporter's phone call at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed November 1, 2006

Toxic Terrorism: Federal scrutiny will pick up at the nation's chemical plants

Illinois' landscape is dotted with plants that produce chemicals for car manufacturers, plastics for medical devices and fertilizers for farmers. These sites often contain volatile or toxic substances terrorists could use to poison neighborhoods or set off explosions. Further, the state is a top producer of pharmaceuticals and foodstuffs, making it a potential prime target. Still, five years after the 9/11 attacks, managers of these industries are largely policing themselves.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed November 1, 2006

Editor's Notebook: If this election got you down, there's always the next one

Peggy Boyer Long
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Let's admit it. This has been one dreary election. Even here at the magazine, where we take the long view, we're feeling out of sorts, a bit off-kilter. 

The fiscal machinery of state is in disrepair, and most likely dated, yet candidates aren't disposed to offer much beyond tinkering with a few of the gears. Indictments fall like a hard rain, yet politicians suggest little more than a short dash for ethical cover.

Who, we wonder, has enough moxie to get us back on track, or enough vision to point the way.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed November 1, 2006

State of the State: Veto session could be the calm before the storm in the 2007 legislative forecast

Bethany Carson
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

When lawmakers adjourned for the summer after approving most of Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich's wish list, they left at least three major items blowing in the wind: a looming rate hike for consumers' electric bills, an expiring telecommunications law and a growing waiting list of school and road construction projects.

Those and other big agenda items got pushed off as lawmakers shifted focus to their campaigns. All 118 Illinois House seats, two-thirds of the 59 Senate seats and the six constitutional officers appeared on the November 7 ballot.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed November 1, 2006

Ends and Means: Perhaps there's perverse pride in topping accounts of corruption elsewhere

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Reporters are a talkative lot, so when a bunch of them get together, they swap a lot of war stories. For those covering state government, a favored venue is the national conference of Capitolbeat, the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors. And when Illinois scribes recount the misdeeds of our elected leaders to their colleagues from elsewhere around the nation, the reaction is pretty standard — eyes open wide, jaws drop and expressions of incredulity abound.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun October 1, 2006

Between the Lines: Candidates for governor face the challenge of getting their messages across

Campaigns for November elections traditionally began after Labor Day, but this summer's State Fair set the tone in a long race for governor. 

Democrat Day — called Governor's Day in honor of the party in power — was loud, star-studded and packed with folks wearing bright blue T-shirts to show support for incumbent Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Many wore the names of unions as they stepped off 60 charter buses. The $20,000 to $25,000 cost of their transportation from hometowns to fairgrounds was paid by the Blagojevich political fund, according to campaign spokeswoman Sheila Nix. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun October 1, 2006

Partisan Playbook: Political parties playing offense & defense in three IL congressional districts

Someone with a decent arm could stand in Springfield and throw a ball from one of the city's congressional districts over another district and into a third. That's because the 17th District, flanked by the 18th on the north and the 19th on the south, gets as narrow as the width of a road when it snakes through the more affluent neighborhoods on Springfield's west side. Once on the city's east side, with its poor and working-class neighborhoods, the district flares back out. This is a shape designed to bypass likely Republicans and capture likely Democrats.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun October 1, 2006

Editor's Notebook: Believe it or not, some Illinois governors showed leadership & political courage

Peggy Boyer Long
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

"[T]he more I see and know of the politicians in this state, the less respect and confidence I have in them." 

Edward Coles 
Illinois ' second governor 
from Mostly Good and Competent Men
by Robert P. Howard

A former governor has been sentenced. The current governor is under investigation. And, as we see in this month's issue, a recent poll shows voters aren't inspired by this year 's contenders.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun October 1, 2006

Ends and Means: Here's the truth behind the political advertising in the governor's campaign

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

As Campaign 2006 heads into the homestretch, a refresher course in Civics 101 might help Illinois voters separate fact from fiction amid the campaign blather flooding the airwaves and clogging their mailboxes.

Let's begin by turning a critical eye to one of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's favorite themes: Just about everything that's currently wrong in Illinois is the fault of 26 years of Republican governors, in particular the last four under George Ryan.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri September 1, 2006

Campaign Lifelines: Downstate Democrats swim in increasingly conservative waters

State Rep. Kurt Granberg spells out one theme in this election season: "I feel like the island is sinking and there are sharks in the water."

Granberg is a 19-year incumbent Democrat representing a House district bound by three Republican-controlled districts. The state GOP hopes to take his seat on November 7, and it smells blood.

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