Statehouse

Statehouse
7:57 am
Wed May 7, 2014

Lawmakers With Subpoena Powers — Necessary, Or Just for Show?

Gov. Pat Quinn touted the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative as he was up for election in 2010.

  A group of lawmakers granted themselves subpoena power Tuesday, to further an investigation into an anti-violence program favored by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. Brian Mackey looks at whether it's necessary — or just for show.

The Neighborhood Recovery Initiative was rushed out in fall 2010, as Quinn was up for election.

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Income tax
5:05 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

Nursing Home Advocates Call For Income Tax Extension

Credit WUIS

  Advocates for nursing homes say if Illinois does not keep income tax rates where they are, thousands of seniors could lose access to care. But it's not yet clear whether the General Assembly will make the tax hike permanent.

Lawmakers have a little less than a month to pass a budget for the next fiscal year -- a budget that nursing homes rely on to subsidize their operations.

Advocates say if the state's income tax is allowed to roll back as scheduled at the end of the year, nursing homes are projected to take a 14 percent funding cut.

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Statehouse
9:00 am
Tue May 6, 2014

Former Lawmaker Says Change Is Needed In State Budgeting

Rick Winkel
Credit IGPA

Rick Winkel served in the legislature from 1995 to 2003.  Now he is Director of the Office of Public Leadership at the University of Illinois' Institute of Government and Public Affairs. 

He wrote a recent op-ed that criticizes how budgeting is done.  He said more transparency is needed, including data that is easier for people outside of government to understand.

"When that data is available and provided openly, understandably so it's concise and legible and put in a format that's consistent," he said.  "Opening up the process before decisions are made and afterward."

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Term limits/Redistricting
5:12 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Citizen Initiatives Begin Navigating Statutes, Lawsuits

Illinois State Board of Elections employees work to verify a sampling of petition signatures for two citizen-initiated constitutional amendments.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  Even as a lawsuit could nullify them, the state board of elections has begun a tedious — but necessary — task of preparing a pair of proposed constitutional amendments for the November ballot. The two citizen initiatives aim to strip lawmakers of the power to draw their own maps and to limit their terms in office.

A dozen-or-so workers sit at tables at the board of elections building in Springfield.

Sliding, one at a time, more than 105,000 pieces of paper through scanners," said Rupert Borgsmiller, director of the Illinois State Board of Elections.

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Election 2014
4:35 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Diana Rauner Distances Herself From Budget Requests

Bruce Rauner stands with wife Diana on primary election night, March 18, 2014.

  Gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner is a Republican, but his wife says she is not. As Rauner's campaign continues to criticize Governor Quinn's stance on taxes, Rauner's wife has a stake in the cause.

Just after the March primary election, Illinois was introduced to Diana Rauner, Bruce Rauner's wife. She introduced herself as "a lifelong Democrat."

She's also the CEO of Ounce of Prevention, a Chicago-based non-profit that uses state grant money to help promote early childhood education.

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Election 2014
6:01 am
Mon May 5, 2014

Still Waiting For Comprehensive Budget Plan From Rauner

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner speaks to Sangamon County Republicans in March.
Credit Hannah Meisel

The two men vying for governor disagree on a lot of issues, most notably what to do about Illinois' budget. Still, it's hard to compare the two, because one plan doesn't seem to exist.

It was nearly a month ago, at an event for Sangamon County Republicans that the party's nominee, Bruce Rauner, said "we'll be coming out with a comprehensive plan, that will be recommending about what we should change in our regulations and in our tax code and in our spending structure, in the, in … relatively near future."

So far, though, that hasn't happened.

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State Week
3:03 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Listen To State Week - May 2, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

  The panel discusses several investigations into Governor Pat Quinn's administration and allegations of corruption, also a couple ballot initiatives - one on term limits and another regarding redistricting.

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Breaking
2:31 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Motion Filed To Put Pension Law On Hold

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

A court is being asked to prevent any aspect of Illinois' pension overhaul from taking effect, until it's decided whether the law is constitutional. A motion was filed Friday in Sangamon County Court.

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Statehouse
1:42 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Capitol Renovation Contractor Pleads Guilty To Fraud

Credit WUIS

The Illinois attorney general says the former president of a Peoria-area construction firm involved with Illinois Capitol renovations has pleaded guilty to fraud.
 
 Stephen Roeschley is former president of Morton-based Core Construction
Services of Illinois. Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office says Roeschley pleaded guilty Friday to wire fraud in Sangamon County court.
 
Madigan's office says the company used a minority-owned business to obtain a
contract as part of the $50 million Illinois Capitol restoration project.

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Police memorial 2014
10:28 am
Fri May 2, 2014

State Honors Police Killed In Line Of Duty

Pam Robtoy speaks about her late fiancee, U.S. Marshal John Perry, who was killed trying to arrest a fugitive in 2011.
Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Families of police officers who died on the job were in Springfield Thursday to honor their loved ones.

Three years and fifty three days. That's how long Pam Robtoy says she's lived without her fiancee, U.S. Marshal John Perry. He was shot to death trying to arrest a fugitive in St. Louis, in 2011.

Robtoy says she still doesn't understand why John was killed, but she finds comfort knowing he died serving others.

"I was supposed to be planning a wedding. I wasn't supposed to be planning a funeral service. There had to be some great reason."

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Yom HaShoah
6:00 am
Fri May 2, 2014

Holocaust Survivor Tells Of Shanghai Ghetto

Doris Fogel, in foreground, recounts her childhood as a refugee from the Nazis, spent among 20,000 Jews in the Shanghai ghetto. Behind her is Gov. Pat Quinn. The annual Holocaust Memorial Ceremony took place in the House chamber of the Old State Capitol in Springfield.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois officials are remembering the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. An annual ceremony took place Thursday in Springfield's Old State Capitol.

Praying: "Y'hey sh'lama raba min sh'ma-ya ..."

The ceremony included the Kaddish — a Jewish prayer of mourning. Gov. Pat Quinn and other officials spoke. Then a survivor shared her story.

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Grit and Grin
10:46 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

12th Congressional District Opponents Unite Over Levee Bill

Republican state Rep. Mike Bost, left, listens to Democratic Congressman Bill Enyart testify about legislation to allow repairs to a levy in southern Illinois. The men are competing for the 12th Congressional District seat currently held by Enyart.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

An Illinois House committee on Thursday approved legislation that would allow repairs to a levee in Grand Tower, in southern Illinois. It would have been routine except for the featured witness — sitting U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart.

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Statehouse
7:06 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

Remap Campaign Celebrates, Even As It's Under Attack

Director of Yes! for Independent Maps, Michael Kolenc, checks the petition.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  State elections authorities are beginning to go through 37,535 sheets of paper, filled with voters' signatures. An organization trying to change how Illinois draws legislative districts dropped off the monster petition Thursday in Springfield.

The petition made its way from Chicago to Springfield in a custom-made metal box, strapped down in a semi; it took more than a dozen workers and volunteers to carefully unload it.

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Obama library
4:29 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

Republicans Propose Tax Check-Off To Fund Obama Library

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Republicans say they've found another way to fundraise for a future Barack Obama presidential library ... one that doesn't involve state funds. This comes a day after Democrats advanced a plan to use state funds to entice the president to put his library in Chicago.

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Election 2014
5:11 am
Thu May 1, 2014

Minority Groups Courted Before Redistricting Lawsuit

Attorney Mike Kasper stands at the podium, as House Speaker and Democratic Party of Illinois Chairman Michael Madigan looks on, at a recent Party meeting in Springfield. Kasper, a Madigan ally, has been hired by a group of taxpayers seeking to dismiss two citizen's initiatives.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  A lawsuit seeking to keep two citizen's initiatives from ever coming before voters has been filed. Although the case makes no mention of how it will affect minority voters' rights, sources say organizers took pains to reach out to ethnic groups.

Two potential constitutional changes are at issue: one limiting how long legislators can be in office, the other stripping them of the power to draw their own districts.

The suit challenging them was filed by Mike Kasper, an attorney closely aligned with House Speaker Mike Madigan; the powerful Democrat is against both plans.

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Statehouse
10:56 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

A Conversation With Sen. President John Cullerton

Credit Illinois Senate

  Illinois'  General Assembly is heading into its final stretch.  They've got a lot to resolve before their scheduled adjournment at the end of this month, including what to do about Illinois' income tax rate.  It's scheduled to drop midway through the next fiscal year, but Democrats,  including Senate President John Cullerton, want to make the current, higher rate permanent.  WUIS Statehouse Bureau Chief Amanda Vinicky spoke with Cullerton about it earlier this week, and about why, despite the financial fights ahead, he's proud of the state. 

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Election 2014
7:30 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Quinn's, Rauner's Springfield Visits Show True Colors

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  The governor of Illinois, as well as the man who wants to take his job, were both in Springfield Wednesday. What they were doing offers a clear picture of the different directions they want to take the state.

Republican Bruce Rauner was in town to file petitions for his term limits proposal. Then he addressed a meeting of business groups holding an "Employer Action Day."

"Let's make Illinois the most attractive state to do business, rather than one of the most hostile states to do business," he said. "Nothing else more important than that. Number one priority by far."

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Statehouse
7:12 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Downstate Mayors Want Pension Overhaul

Mayors from around the state addressing media in the Capitol
Credit WUIS/Lee Strubinger

A couple dozen mayors from throughout Illinois came to Springfield Wednesday, calling on legislators to help fix downstate pension systems that they say are unsustainable.

Municipalities are on the hook for paying local police and firefighters’ retirement benefits.

But the pension rates are set by the state.

Mayors say lawmakers have increasingly “sweetened” benefits – without giving their cities any funding to cover the extra cost.

It’s left many pension systems severely underfunded.

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Obama library
7:11 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Committee Votes For $100 Million Toward Obama Library...Again

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  A legislative committee Wednesday voted to authorize spending $100 million to lure Barack Obama's presidential library to Chicago ... for the second time.

Before he became President, Barack Obama served as an Illinois state senator and a U.S. senator. He worked as a community organizer in Chicago, and taught at the University of Chicago law school.

All reasons he might locate his presidential library and museum in Illinois.

But New York and Hawaii are also in the running.

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Term limits
5:49 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Term Limit Petition Cost $1.75 Per Signature

Workers load up a semi truck with Bruce Rauner's 67,976-page term limit petition on Wednesday. Each of the nearly 600,000 signatures cost $1.75, a spokesman said.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner filed his term limit initiative with election officials today Wednesday. The massive petition drive came with a hefty price tag.

Rauner's term limit group spent eight months collecting more than twice the number of signatures needed to get the question on the November ballot. That means conversations like this one, from primary Election Day, happened nearly 600,000 times:

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Term limits
12:04 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Rauner Files Term Limit Petition

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner presents his term limit petition in Springfield on Wednesday.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner is in Springfield today, filing his term limit initiative after months of collecting signatures. But the plan still has to survive an expected court challenge.

Weighing 1,000 lbs, the nearly-70,000 pages of term limit petitions had to be wheeled onto a semi trailer to be driven to the State Board of Elections.

A custom-made box — as tall and wide as a piece of paper but 36 feet long — contained more than twice the number of signatures needed to get the proposal on the November ballot.

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Education funding
11:44 am
Wed April 30, 2014

Education Overhaul Altered For Republican Support

Credit flickr/LizMarie_AK

  Members of the General Assembly this spring are grappling with whether to change the way schools are funded in Illinois. With just a month of session left, the plan's sponsor is altering his strategy, in hopes Republican opposition will fade into bipartisan support.

Senator Andy Manar wants schools to receive state money based on the needs of their students ... not the wealth of local property taxpayers. So, the Democrat from Bunker Hill has proposed an overhaul of Illinois' complicated school funding formula.

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Statehouse
6:30 am
Wed April 30, 2014

Term Limits: One Step Back, One Step Forward

The General Assembly's Republican leaders, Rep. Jim Durkin and Sen. Christine Radogno, present their constitutional amendment to hold executive officers to two terms.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Even as Democrats killed off one proposal to institute term limits in Illinois, another is moving ahead.

First, the one that for all practical purposes is dead: it was a last minute push by Republican legislative leaders to limit the governor and other executive officers to two terms.

Getting rid of well-known incumbents could be a way for Republicans, who've had a hard time winning statewide office in recent years, to make inroads.

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Deadline Missed
9:17 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

Illinois Keeps Its Flat Tax, As Graduated Tax Plan Dies

Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park
Credit ILGA.gov

Illinois will keep its flat income tax, despite an effort to move to a graduated one.

Based on the General Assembly's schedule, the Senate would have had to pass the proposal Tuesday in order to meet a constitutional deadline.

Instead, senators adjourned without a vote.

The measure's sponsor, Senator Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, sticks by the plan.

He says would allow Illinois to be nimble with tax policy.

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Statehouse
6:11 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

Treasurer Candidates Spar Over Eliminating The Job They Want

Credit ilga.gov

Illinois lawmakers have long debated whether to combine the offices of comptroller and treasurer. Both candidates for treasurer are competing to one-up each other over whether the office should even exist.

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Medicaid
3:36 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

Ill. Medicaid Recipients Surge As Adults Find They're Eligible

Credit Karen Roach/iStockphoto.com

  Illinois officials are dealing with a surge of new patients in the Medicaid program. It's part of last month's rush of people seeking coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

For the first time, low-income adults without children are eligible for government health coverage.

In Illinois, officials expect that'll mean 350,000 new people in Medicaid. And that's not all.

Julie Hamos, director of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, says the news reports and advertising and community outreach around the Obamacare deadline led to a separate spike.

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Statehouse
11:25 am
Tue April 29, 2014

Senator Optimistic Pension Glitch Will Be Fixed

Sen. Daniel Biss
Credit ilga.gov

A state senator who's trying to change a mistake in Illinois' pension reform law says he's optimistic it can be corrected.  

But as lawmakers head back to Springfield Tuesday, state Sen. Daniel Biss says he isn't sure yet just when or how that will happen.  
The language in last year's pension law would sharply reduce the pension of thousands of university employees if they don't retire by June 30, and some worry that may push many public university employees to retire early.  

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Budget Cuts
5:24 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Illinois Capitol Police Face Elimination

Metal detectors and X-ray machines were installed in the Illinois Capitol after a gunman killed an unarmed security guard in 2004.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois lawmakers continue to hear dire scenarios for the state budget if they do not vote to extend the five-percent income tax rate. The latest threatened cuts include the entire state Capitol Police force.

The Capitol Police Department was established less than 10 years ago, after a deranged man shot and killed an unarmed security officer.

The shooting led to the installation of metal detectors and x-ray machines, and hiring sworn, armed law enforcement personnel.

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Budget FY15
3:03 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

You First ... No, You First: Tax Hike Timing

Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago
Credit ilga.gov

The Illinois House will take the lead on whether Illinois keeps its 5 percent income tax. It's scheduled to roll back at the end of this year unless legislators take action.

It's happened in the past. The Illinois Senate will pass a controversial measure -- like a tax hike -- only for it to languish in the House.

Not this time.

Senate President John Cullerton says the Senate will vote on the tax question if and only if it first passes the House.

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Mumps outbreak
12:21 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Officials Warn Of Mumps, Measles Outbreak

Dr. Lamar Hasbrouck, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health
Credit WUIS

  Illinois officials are urging parents to vaccinate their school-aged children under new regulations from the Department of Public Health.

This comes as public health officers are monitoring two recent outbreaks of mumps in central Illinois. There's been an eruption of cases in Sangamon and Morgan counties.

There are usually only 35 reported cases of mumps a year in Illinois. But this year, we're already at twice that number.

That has local health officials scrambling to contain the highly contagious disease.

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