Statehouse

This week, an overview of some of the top stories from the past year.

wikimedia

Gov. Pat Quinn is a longtime advocate for term limits, but has yet to commit to one himself.  
The Chicago Democrat tells The Associated Press in a year-end interview that he won't presume a win in his 2014 re-election bid and is taking it one term at a time.  

Thirty-eight people have been granted clemency by Gov. Pat Quinn for crimes that date back decades.  
The Democratic governor announced yesterday that he also denied another 129 petitions for clemency.  
Crimes committed by those who were pardoned include theft, possession of a controlled substance, burglary and forgery, and solicitation of prostitutes.  

state.il.us

The former head of Illinois’ child welfare department died overnight.

Richard Calica resigned his position with the state Department of Children and Family Services last month.

He’d been diagnosed with cancer and had undergone surgery.  When he resigned - Governor Pat Quinn praised Calica for adding more than 100 child welfare investigators to the department.

Calica’s chief of staff took over the department on an interim basis when he resigned.

Calica was 67.

Illinois Supreme Court
Brian Mackey / WUIS

The Illinois Supreme Court has put a limit on just who can be excluded from a car insurance policy.

Ana Reyes is being sued for allegedly hitting two people with her car — injuring a mother and killing the woman's four-year-old.

In the lawsuit that followed, Reyes’ insurance company argued it had no duty to defend Reyes or pay the victims.

Insurance company American Access listed Reyes as the policyholder, but it also excluded her from her own policy, and made another man the primary driver.

This week's topics include Governor Quinn's agreement with AFSCME on how to cull Medicaid rolls, a change to how the state will accept concealed carry applications, and Archer Daniel Midland's decision to keep its corporate HQ in Illinois.

Amanda Vinicky

  Gov. Pat Quinn is leaving the door open to running for governor three times, but even that would not put him on pace to set a record as the state's longest-serving chief executive.

It may seem a bit premature to think about. Though it's expected Quinn will be Democrats' nominee in 2014, he could well be unseated and never clinch a full, second term as governor.

But when a reporter asked about it, Quinn refused to say if this will be his last time running.

"I think you have to pass a term limit amendment, then that starts the clock," he said.

SRS

Officials say sufficient state funding the last two years means key state-employee pension funds didn't have to sell assets to meet payments.  
 The State Retirement Systems covers pensions for ex-state employees, judges and lawmakers. A report Thursday by Auditor General William Holland says SRS withdrew $30 million in the 2013 fiscal year _ down from nearly $250 million the year before.  
 William Atwood heads the Illinois State Board of Investment, which manages the SRS portfolios.  
 He says the large withdrawal in 2012 was because of state underfunding in 2011.  

Amanda Vinicky

  As he campaigns for re-election, Governor Pat Quinn is renewing a push for a hike in the minimum wage.

Illinois' $8.25 minimum wage bests the federal rate by a dollar.Gov. Quinn and other Democrats want to raise it higher; the governor's calling it to go up to $10.

"When we put more purchasing power in the hands of hard-working people, they're not going to admire the money in the bank vault," he says. "They're going to go out and spend that money at stores in their neighborhood, to help that consumer demand, that creates more jobs."

teacher
Arthur Public Library via IMLS DCC (creative commons)

Illinois’ biggest and most indebted pension system is beginning to implement changes tied to the pension overhaul passed this month. But officials are also making plans in case the new law is struck down.

The Teachers Retirement System is by far the biggest of Illinois’ five pension systems, with well over 360,000 members. TRS is also the biggest factor in the pension funding problem, accounting for more than half of the combined $100 billion shortfall.

Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington
Brian Mackey/WUIS

State Senator Bill Brady will no longer have to defend himself against criticism he didn't pay enough in taxes.  The candidate for governor released his tax returns Monday.

When the mortgage crisis hit, Sen. Bill Brady's real estate development business took a hit.  So much so that in 2008 and 2009 he owed the federal government no income tax.

Brady defended that four years ago, when he was Republican's nominee for governor:

This week, among the topics of discussion: corporate tax incentives, interest on state bonds, and more on state pensions.

The wife of imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has said she hopes her husband will win his freedom and that he could return home to rejoin her and their two school-aged daughters.  
Patti Blagojevich spoke Friday to reporters after attending a Chicago hearing to hear oral arguments in her husband's appeal of his corruption conviction. 

concealcarry.org

A new Illinois State Police website launched today (12/12/13) lays out what gun-owners need to do if they want to carry a gun in public. A prominent gun-rights group is not satisfied.

The state police will begin accepting applications for concealed carry permits on Jan. 5. Anyone looking to save time can get started now.  There’s an online checklist that explains where gun-owners who want to speed up processing can go for fingerprinting.

Rod Blagojevich
U.S. Government

Attorneys for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich are scheduled to argue their appeal Friday morning.

Blagojevich’s attorney Leonard Goodman says Blagojevich engaged in political horse-trading, not bribery or extortion.

"All of his plans which he discussed openly with his advisors were for basically political appointments," Goodman stated.

It’s an argument Blagojevich has made since he was arrested in 2008 and it’s an argument that has repeatedly failed.

wsiu

A judge's ruling means 23 wards of the state will not be moved for now from a facility for the developmentally disabled in southern Illinois.
 
A federal lawsuit is seeking to block the state's closure of the Murray Developmental Center in Centralia.
 
Gov. Pat Quinn ordered Murray and other facilities closed last year as part of an effort to save the state money. The suit has delayed the transfer of more
than 200 residents of Murray to smaller facilities. Plaintiffs argue they won't get the care they need elsewhere.
 

Amanda Vinicky

  

  A day after Office Depot announced it would stay in Florida rather than move to Illinois, the speaker of the House says Illinois needs to end its practice of offering tax incentives on a case-by-case basis.

    

The Illinois House is getting flak for adjourning earlier this month without voting on tax breaks approved by the Senate -- deals meant to lure the newly-merged Office Depot to Illinois, and to convince Archer Daniels Midland to keep its global headquarters in-state.

Sen. Bill Brady will be the first Republican listed on next spring's primary ballot for governor.
Brady won a four-way lottery Wednesday to claim the coveted ballot position.
 
The Chicago Sun-Times reports (http://tinyurl.com/ko4qusg ) that Democratic
incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn will be listed second on the Democratic side behind Tio
 Hardiman.
 
Brady, of Bloomington, will be followed on the March 18 ballot by Treasurer Dan
Rutherford of Chenoa, Hinsdale Sen. Kirk Dillard and venture
capitalist Bruce Rauner of Winnetka.
 

How The Pension Lawsuits Could Play Out

Dec 11, 2013
University of Illinois

Several state employee unions are expected to file a lawsuit contesting Illinois' new pension measure.

A University of Illinois law professor says that action will start a process that could last as long as two years. 

John Colombo said any decisions will ultimately come from the state’s Supreme Court, but the process has to start in circuit court.

He expects unions to seek an injunction that would keep the reform plan from taking effect while the legal process plays out.

  A newly merged Office Depot chose to locate its headquarters in Florida, instead of Illinois. A Republican candidate for governor says Illinois needs to hurry if it doesn't want a similar fate with Archer Daniels Midland.

Archer Daniels Midland is based in Decatur now, and no matter what plans to keep many of its operations there. But it's searching for a new worldwide headquarters.

Chicago's in the running, but so are major cities.

wikimedia

A major credit-rating house has taken a more positive
outlook on Illinois debt than it has in years after last week's pension-reform
vote.
 
Standard & Poor's affirmed its A- rating on state debt backed by general tax
revenue Tuesday but revised its outlook from ``negative'' to ``developing.''
 
The ratings agency says ``developing'' means the rating could be raised or
lowered in the next two years. Analyst Robin Prunty says the change is positive
but risk remains because workers unions will likely sue over the pension law

Advocates who pressed for same-sex marriage to become legal in Illinois are now sponsoring forums to help gay and lesbian couples understand the law.

Equality Illinois'  Director of Public Policy, Randy Hannig, says he already has been "flooded" with questions from couples who want to marry.

'We're using it as an opportunity to educate," Hannig said.  "We did the same thing three years ago after the civil unions law was signed."

wikepedia

The Illinois Republican Party has confirmed Rich Williamson has died.  He passed away Sunday.

The Chicago resident was a long-time leader in the Illinois GOP. He lost a nationally watched campaign against Carol Moseley Braun in 1992. She went on to become the first black woman elected to the U.S. Senate.  

Williamson was chairman of the state Republican Party from 1999-2001 and has served as Republican National Committeeman for Illinois since 2010. He served in diplomatic roles under three presidents and authored numerous books and articles.  

Amanda Vinicky

The curtains are closing on the Chicago play "I Wish to Apologize to the People of Illinois" -- a timely production, given that today, Dec. 9, marks five years since Rod Blagojevich's arrest. Two trials later, he was convicted on 18 counts of corruption. At Blagojevich's sentencing hearing, the former governor said he was sorry for his mistakes. But Blagojevich was not the one making apologies in this show. He's not even a character -- just someone who gets mentioned now and again.

wikipedia.org

 December Ninth is a significant day in Illinois' political history: for better, and for worse.

On Dec. 9, 2003 "the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act was signed into law," Illinois Campaign for Political Reform's David Morrison says.

That was Illinois lawmakers' response to the Hired Truck scandal that landed former Gov. George Ryan in prison. It created inspectors general with subpoena power, limited lobbyists' wining and dining of officials, and set conduct standards for state workers.

WBEZ

  It's been five years to the day since FBI agents arrived at then Governor Rod Blagojevich's house to arrest him on charges of corruption. Blagojevich is serving a 14-year prison sentence, and for most Illinois politicians it's good riddance. Amanda Vinicky reports. 

Fresh off the General Assembly's passing a law to overhaul the state's pensions, I had the chance to catch up with House Speaker Michael Madigan:

VINICKY: "It's the five year anniversary of Blagojevich's arrest coming up ... any reaction, any ...

MADIGAN: "Yeah, we should … celebrate."

This week, a discussion of the changes made to the state's pension system.

  A major overhaul of Illinois' pensions is now law. Gov. Pat Quinn held a private bill-signing ceremony this afternoon in Chicago. A court challenge seeking to stop it from taking effect is certain.

The new law will cut state workers' and public school teachers' retirement benefits.

It also raises the retirement age; employees younger than 46 will have to work up to five years longer before they can retire. The savings from those changes are intended to rid Illinois of a long-festering budget issue: an unfunded pension liability that's grown to about $100 billion.

WUIS State Week host, Bill Wheelhouse, guests on the latest CapitolView regarding the pension reform passed in Illinois.

Gov. Pat Quinn is set to get about $74,000 in back pay now that Illinois lawmakers have finally approved a pension deal.  

The governor used his line-item veto power this summer when he halted legislators' salaries, saying they shouldn't get paid until they addressed the nearly $100 billion pensions crisis. He also stopped accepting his own paychecks.  
A judge disagreed with Quinn in September and the comptroller began issuing checks to lawmakers. But

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