Statehouse

Election 2014
8:47 pm
Wed September 10, 2014

N.J. Gov. Christie Stumps For Rauner In Springfield

Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, center, and Illinois gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner attended two closed-door fundraisers in Springfield Wednesday.

Republicans across America have high hopes for Bruce Rauner's campaign to be the next governor of Illinois. Appearing with him Wednesday in Springfield was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  

Christie is head of the Republican Governors Association, which last week gave Rauner another $2 million. That brings its total support for the wealthy candidate to $6 million.

Christie headlined a pair of fundraisers with Rauner in Springfield, then stopped at Brickhouse, a downtown restaurant and bar, to pose for pictures with supporters.

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Election 2014
5:00 am
Wed September 10, 2014

Attacks Get Personal Between Quinn, Rauner

  They no longer had to do it through campaign commercials. Gov. Pat Quinn and his Republican opponent Bruce Rauner faced one another in a joint interview before the Chicago Tribune's Editorial Board Tuesday. So far, Quinn, a Democrat, and businessman Rauner, Republican's nominee, have contested one another from a distance. At this appearance, though, they were seated side-by-side.

At times, that led to heated discussions; often the candidates talked over one another.

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Statehouse
6:16 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Illinois AG Denies Conflict In Anti-Violence Probe

Lisa Madigan
Credit Illinois Attorney General

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Monday defended her right to give legal advice to state lawmakers conducting a probe into a troubled
Chicago anti-violence program that was overseen by Gov. Pat Quinn's administration.
 
Madigan's role has been questioned by Paul Schimpf, a Republican attorney running against the three-term Democrat in the November election. His campaign
has argued that she faces a conflict of interest because a member of her staff served as co-chair of the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority Board, which

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Transportation
10:34 am
Mon September 8, 2014

Illinois To Re-Open Some Highway Rest Areas

Credit flickr/NicholasEckhart

Eight of Illinois' 30 interstate rest areas that have been closed are set to reopen this fall.
 
Maintenance was required at the closed facilities, but it's not clear why most
of it happened around the same time period, Paris Ervin, a spokeswoman for the
state Department of Transportation, told the Springfield bureau of Lee
Enterprises newspapers (http://bit.ly/1pH3tfX ).
 
The Salt Kettle rest area, on Interstate 74 west of Danville, parts of the
Silver Lake rest area, along Interstate 70, and the Gateway rest area,

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Statehouse
8:15 am
Mon September 8, 2014

If You Want To Grow Or Sell Medical Pot, You Can Apply Now

Credit wbez

Entrepreneurs wanting to cultivate or dispense medical marijuana under a new Illinois law are getting their chance to be considered.  

The state on Monday was to begin accepting applications from aspiring cultivation centers and dispensaries vying for one of a limited number of permits.  

A state law enacted last year authorized a four-year pilot project that will expire in 2017, but so far, not a single marijuana seed has been planted. State officials have said the first products may be sold next year.  

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Pensions
11:31 pm
Sun September 7, 2014

Moody's: Illinois' "Daunting Pension Challenges" Faced By Its Local Governments Too

Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston
Credit ILGA.gov

A new report from Moody's investors service says Illinois still faces "daunting pension challenges" despite a 2013 law intended to curb the state's pension costs. So do its cities. 

The Moody's report lays it out starkly: Illinois' pension burden is significantly higher than other states. And yet Illinois' legal framework gives "very limited" flexibility for dealing with that.

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State Week
2:34 pm
Fri September 5, 2014

Listen to State Week - September 5, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, gubernatorial candidates Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner weighed in property taxes and the minimum wage.

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Statehouse
1:45 pm
Fri September 5, 2014

Governor Quinn Wants New IDOT Hiring Review

Gov. Pat Quinn says he'll ask the Illinois Department of Transportation's secretary for a new review of hiring connected to a position that's been the subject of an investigative report and federal lawsuit.
 
Last month the Office of the Executive Inspector General reported the agency
sidestepped clout-busting regulations and improperly hired 255 ``staff
assistant'' positions in the past decade. Also last month, IDOT announced it
laid off 58 people still holding that position and abolished the title.
 

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Election 2014
6:28 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

Property Tax Freeze Idea Gives Local Government The Chills

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Even though your property taxes pay for local services -- not state ones -- they've become an issue in Illinois' race for governor.

Gov. Pat Quinn and his Republican opponent Bruce Rauner don't agree on much, but both clearly see a winning strategy in promising lower property taxes.

Quinn earlier this year proposed offsetting a higher income tax rate by sending homeowners (not renters) a $500 property tax rebate (though his plan didn't materialize).

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Historic Preservation
5:46 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

Dana Thomas House Drying Out, But More Water Works Needed

An old photo of the Dana Thomas House, which Frank Lloyd Wright designed in 1902, courtesy of the Dana Thomas House Foundation website.
Credit Dana Thomas House Foundation / http://www.dana-thomas.org/About.aspx

The Dana Thomas House in Springfield is still drying out, after it was closed because of flooding last Thursday. It's a short-term problem that raises a longer-term concern.

The site's manager, Justin Blandford, says the Frank Lloyd Wright designed home is back open to visitors -- though the tours that resumed on Sunday did not go through the basement.

Blandford says the home is in a "drying out" period.

The situation raises broader concerns about what can be done to better protect and preserve the historic home. Blandford says improvements are needed.

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Illinois Issues
1:13 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

Big Predators In Illinois Inspire New Law

Nov. 21 photo of male mountain lion, euthanized by IDNR
Credit Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources (IDNR)

A little over a decade ago, cougars and wolves started showing up in Illinois for the first time since the late 1800s. In August, Governor Pat Quinn signed a measure that aims to protect and manage the animals. Maureen McKinney reported on the topic for Illinois Issues magazine. She spoke with us about it for this interview:

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Election 2014
8:13 am
Tue September 2, 2014

Opposition Research Key Part Of Political Dark Arts

Credit flickr/Sean MacEntee

Brace yourself, citizens.  September is the unofficial start of campaign season.  You are about to be spun by dueling poll numbers, attack ads and negative messages.   To help decipher it all, we're taking you behind the scenes this week to meet the practitioners of politics' dark arts.

We begin with Reporter Alex Keefe tracking down opposition researchers - the folks whose job it is to dig up dirt on politicians:

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Statehouse
5:46 am
Tue September 2, 2014

State Starts Accepting Medical Marijuana Requests

Credit cannabisnews.org

Thousands of patients in Illinois will be able to start requesting permission to use marijuana under a new state law.

Authorities begin accepting applications for medical marijuana Tuesday from patients whose last names start with letters A through L. Caregivers can also apply on their behalf.  

Lawmakers adopted the medical marijuana law in 2013. Under its provisions, patients must have a written certification from a doctor and get a background check. The state is required to respond to a completed application within 30 days.  

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Election 2014
2:55 am
Mon September 1, 2014

Libertarian Party Files Criminal Complaints Against GOP, Rauner Campaign

Credit wikimedia

  The Illinois Libertarian Party is settling into campaign mode after winning its battle to get on the November ballot. But the Libertarians have filed criminal complaints against the Republican Party for the trouble it took to get them there.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon September 1, 2014

State of the State: Can a Governor Really Create Jobs?

Brian Mackey
Credit mattpenning.com 2011 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

An outsider to Illinois politics could be forgiven for thinking Gov. Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner are running for the position of job creator in chief. Quinn can’t say enough about “jobs” and how his policies are creating more of them. Rauner, the GOP challenger, naturally contends that Quinn is Illinois’ greatest impediment to job creation — and that his platform is more likely to breathe new life into the state’s ailing economy.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon September 1, 2014

End and Means: Quinn, Rauner Should Read Between the Lines on Ruling

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

While the fat lady may not yet have sung for the new law slashing pension benefits for public workers, she certainly seems to be warming up in the wings, courtesy of the Illinois Supreme Court.

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Fracking
3:17 pm
Fri August 29, 2014

DNR Releases Fracking Rules

Credit wikimedia commons

  Drillers and environmentalists alike have been waiting for Illinois to come out with its guidelines for "fracking." The state's Department of Natural Resources finally published its draft Friday.

Hydraulic fracturing has been legal in Illinois for over a year; Governor Pat Quinn signed the law allowing it last June. Speculators began buying up properties in southern Illinois, where it's believed the land has deposits of oil and natural gas, deep under beds of shale. But without specific rules in place, they haven't been able to drill.

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State Week
2:54 pm
Fri August 29, 2014

Listen to State Week - August 29, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, more political sparring in the Illinois gubernatorial campaigns.

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Statehouse
6:47 am
Fri August 29, 2014

State Retirees To Stop Paying Health Premiums

A Sangamon County judge issued a preliminary injunction barring Illinois from collecting higher health care insurance premiums from retired state employees.

In a 6-to-1 ruling in July, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision allowing the state to require retirees to pay for a portion of their own health care. The court said state-subsidized health insurance is a protected pension benefit and the state cannot charge premiums for it.  

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Immigration
4:44 pm
Thu August 28, 2014

Undocumented Immigrants Call For Presidential Orders

Ralliers gather around a 10-foot-high puppet of President Barack Obama in Springfield Thursday. Immigrants say he has two choices, represented by his two signs: "continue separating families" or "take bold executive action." Activists rallied outside the Sangamon County Courthouse and Jail, where they say undocumented immigrants are tried and held.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Undocumented immigrants in Central Illinois rallied in the capital city Thursday, asking President Obama to use his power of executive order to stop deportations. The Springfield gathering was part of a nationwide day of action by immigrants and allies.

Ralliers propped up at 10-foot-high puppet of President Obama. In his cardboard hands, two signs read "continue separating families" and "take bold executive action," representing the two choices the group said Obama has.

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Election 2014
7:49 pm
Wed August 27, 2014

Vallas: Rauner's Budget Plan "Insulting To Voters"

Lt. Gov. candidate Paul Vallas at the Illinois Education Association on Wednesday. Vallas says Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner's budget plan is "insulting to voters."
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Governor Pat Quinn's candidate for lieutenant governor says Republican Bruce Rauner's budget plan would mean bad news for schools in Illinois. Democrat Paul Vallas says Rauner's promises to both put more money into schools while also cutting property taxes is unfeasible.

Vallas says Rauner's plan to roll back the state's income tax to three percent would create a $4 billion hole in Illinois' education budget. Vallas says that translates to nearly 28,000 in teacher layoffs.

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Statehouse
5:48 pm
Wed August 27, 2014

Teamsters Vow To Fight IDOT Layoffs

Credit wuis

Lawyers representing 55 Illinois Department of Transportation workers laid off last week say the employees should be able to continue working for the agency in their staff assistant positions.  
The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reports the employees are members of the Teamsters union. Their positions were criticized by a state inspector general's report and are at the crux of a federal lawsuit alleging illegal hiring at the agency.

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Illinois Supreme Court
5:45 pm
Wed August 27, 2014

Illinois Supreme Court Building Reveals $16 Million Improvement Project

The doorway that separates the courtroom from the Justices' meeting room.
Hannah Meisel/WUIS

The Illinois Supreme Court will start conducting its business in Springfield once again next month. The justices had been displaced for the past year while their building was renovated, restoring the building to many of its original design features.

For most of the last year, the court building, across from the State Capitol in Springfield, was separated from the public by orange plastic fencing and lots of construction dust.

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Women in the workplace
5:30 pm
Tue August 26, 2014

Pregnant Workers To Be Protected Under New Law

  Despite current employment protections, pregnant women in the workplace are still sometimes forced out of jobs in Illinois. The governor Tuesday signed legislation aimed at ending that practice.

The law is meant to protect women from losing a job just because they become pregnant.

It also requires employers to provide "reasonable accommodations" to pregnant women, such as giving more leeway when it comes to taking bathroom breaks or sitting down at work.

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Statehouse
11:28 am
Tue August 26, 2014

Buy American Sections Required at State Parks & Historic Sites

Credit wolfsonian.org

State parks and historic sites now have to set up an "American Made" section in their gift shops.  

Governor Pat Quinn signed  into law this week a measure that is supposed to increase the number of American and Illinois-made goods state facilities sell.    Illinois has, in recent years, put special emphasis on promoting domestic products, especially those from in-state.

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Statehouse
7:11 am
Tue August 26, 2014

Here's Your Chance To Serve On Medical Marijuana Board

Credit flickr/eggrole

 The new medical marijuana program in Illinois is looking for health professionals and patients to serve on an advisory board.   There is an opportunity for you to get your name on the list of nominees.

The 15-member board will make recommendations about which medical conditions can be added to the list of those approved for medical marijuana use in the state.  

Board members will be appointed by the governor. There is no compensation other than expenses.  

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Election 2014
7:30 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

How Politics Steered The Uber Bill

Credit Taxi by Ben Fredericson Ipad wallpaper

Gone are the days of standing outside, in the rain, hoping a taxi will pass by. Ridesharing services allow anyone with a smart-phone to download an app and get setup with a ride ... at least in the Chicago where it's available. It hasn't taken off yet elsewhere in Illinois. Even so, the General Assembly this spring passed a controversial measure that would regulate ridesharing statewide. Monday morning, Governor Pat Quinn vetoed it.  Amanda Vinicky has more on why.

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Election 2014
1:07 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

The Real Driver Behind Quinn's Rideshare Regulation Veto

Credit Mike/anotherpintplease via Flickr Creative Commons

Rideshare services have scored a win against Chicago's taxi industry in a battle that began in the legislature and moved on to the race for Illinois governor. Gov. Pat Quinn this morning vetoed a plan that would have established statewide regulations for the on-demand driving service, that let passengers call for rides via smart phone apps.

The minimum wage and what to do about Illinois' income tax are big campaign issues in the race between Gov. Pat Quinn and his Republican rival Bruce Rauner.

No surprise: these sorts of policy issues will have a big impact statewide.

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Rutan Flouted
8:21 am
Mon August 25, 2014

Inspector's Report Reveals Clout Hiring At IDOT

The Office of Executive Inspector General released a lengthy report detailing hiring practices at the Illinois Department of Transportation that defy the spirit of rules set up to separate political allegiances from employment decisions.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Illinois' Executive Inspector General says he has not spoken with federal prosecutors about a 245 page report released Friday. It details a swath of hiring mismanagement at the state's transportation department.

Inspector General Ricardo Meza took the unusual step of holding a press conference to explain the report, which focuses on a practice for which Illinois government has become infamous: patronage.

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Election 2014
1:28 am
Mon August 25, 2014

Libertarians Survive Illinois GOP's Ballot Challenge

Credit Courtesy of lpillinois.org

  On Nov. 4, Illinois voters will choose from the Republican and Democratic statewide candidates they've been hearing about for months. But there will also be a third choice in those races: candidates representing the Libertarian party. But getting on the ballot wasn't easy for the Libertarians.

To get their candidates on the November ballot, third parties in Illinois have to turn in the signatures of at least 25,000 registered voters — five times more than the 'established' parties: Democrats and Republicans.

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