Statehouse

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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Statehouse
7:14 am
Mon April 28, 2014

Public Hearings on Ill. Medical Marijuana Rules

Credit flickr/eggrole

Illinois health officials are planning two public hearings on proposed rules affecting patients who want to use medical marijuana.  

The state's medical marijuana program is a four-year pilot project. The rules under consideration affect how adult patients with specific health conditions will be able to buy marijuana.  

Hearings will be held in Chicago and Springfield. The Chicago hearing will be at the Thompson Center starting at 9:30 a.m. May 5. The Springfield hearing will be on the University of Illinois Springfield campus at 9 a.m. May 21.  

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Statehouse
6:23 am
Mon April 28, 2014

Rauner Supports Keeping Open Centralia Developmental Center

Rauner says Murray Developmental Center Should Stay Open
Credit wuis

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner is differing with his opponent on whether a state facility should stay open.  Rauner says he supports keeping open a center for people with developmental disabilities in Centralia that his opponent is trying to close.  
 The Winnetka businessman faces Gov. Pat Quinn in the November election. He met with relatives of residents at the Murray Developmental Center on Saturday and told them they should have a choice in their family members' care.  

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Revolving Door
5:42 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

Former HFS Director To Pay $100k Ethics Fine

Former HFS director Barry Maram says he agreed, after four years, to settle the ethics complaint "in order to finally put it to rest."
Credit shefskylaw.com

A former state official has agreed to pay a record $100,000 fine to settle charges he violated a state ethics law. Barry Maram is accused of going to work for a state contractor a week after he left his job as director of Healthcare and Family Services.

Maram was HFS director from the earliest days of the Blagojevich administration through April 2010.

Maram went on to take a job with the Chicago law firm Shefsky & Forelich (now part of Taft)

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Statehouse
5:37 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

Documents Show Increase In Patronage Hiring

Gov. Pat Quinn and IDOT Secretary Ann Schneider appear together in early April to announce plans for road construction.
Credit WUIS

Documents released by Gov. Pat Quinn's office show
that patronage positions at the Illinois Department of Transportation increased 57 percent from 2003 to 2011.
 
 Memos that the Quinn administration released Friday show that in 2011 there were 369 jobs at IDOT that could be given without restriction to those with
political connections. That was up from 234 in 2003.
 

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State Week
1:36 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

Listen To State Week - April 25, 2014

House Speaker Michael Madigan is elected to a 5th term as Chairman of the Illinois Democratic party and more allegations are being made that patronage plays a factor in hiring decisions at the Illinois Department of Transportation.

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Graduated income tax
11:58 am
Thu April 24, 2014

Madigan: Vote Count Low For Graduated Tax

House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago)

  Time is running out on a push for a graduated income tax income tax in Illinois and it remains to be seen whether a key legislative leader supports the plan.

Backers of the graduated tax say it's more fair than Illinois' current flat tax, because people who earn more can afford to pay more.

But enacting that requires changing the state constitution. Voters would have the final say at the ballot in November, but they won't even be asked if lawmakers don't approve it first.

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Redistricting / Constitutional Amendment
11:36 am
Thu April 24, 2014

Madigan Vs. The Maps

House Speaker Michael Madigan
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

House Speaker Michael Madigan is harshly criticizing of a plan that would strip him of control over how Illinois draws its legislative maps. The group backing the change has its own harsh words for Madigan.

How legislative districts are drawn sounds wonky. And it is. But it's also really important as boundaries of a district can help determine which party will win a seat.

Because they control the General Assembly and governor's office, Democrats have largely gotten to control the map-making process in Illinois, including the most recent map, drawn in 2011.

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