Statehouse

Despite Democratic Supermajorities
1:34 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

House Holdup On Tax Hike, Minimum Wage

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago

 Two major Democratic initiatives are still short the votes needed to pass, at least in the House, as the General Assembly heads into the final stretch of its spring session.

    

How to deal with Illinois' income tax rate is arguably the biggest issue looming over Illinois politics.

The 5-percent rate is set to rollback in January, but Gov. Pat Quinn wants the higher rate extended permanently, an approach favored by the Democratic leaders of the legislature.

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Madigan: Vote Again
8:05 pm
Tue April 22, 2014

Initial Obama Library Vote A "Misunderstanding"

President Barack Obama
Credit BarackObama.com

Illinois legislators will vote a second time on a plan to spend $100 million to help lure Barack Obama's Presidential Library and Museum to Chicago, following a controversy.

A lesson in politics: Whichever party is in charge can often use the rules to its advantage. Like last week, when the Obama library proposal passed out of a Democratic-controlled House committee with nine votes ... even though only five representatives were there. Republicans had skipped the hearing, and many say they're opposed to spending the money given Illinois' financial situation.

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Illinois Democratic Party
5:39 pm
Tue April 22, 2014

Legislator Protests Madigan As Party Chair, Won't Say Why

House Speaker and Illinois Democratic Party chair Michael Madigan speaks at a meeting of the Democratic State Central Committee on Tuesday.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The man who has led the Democratic Party of Illinois for the past sixteen years will hold onto that title, but he did face a rare display of opposition.

Party leaders met in Springfield today to re-elect House Speaker Michael Madigan as their chair.

There are those who view Speaker Madigan as an icon of all that's wrong with Illinois politics.

And then there are those who seem to see him as a Democratic demigod.

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Statehouse
6:20 am
Tue April 22, 2014

Tax Returns Revealing ... But Not Revealing Enough

Lt. Gov Sheila Simon
Credit Illinois.gov

  Gov. Pat Quinn is the latest Illinois official to disclose his tax returns. They show he paid about $29,000 federal taxes, $7,700 in taxes to the state. Still, a lot of information about politicians' finances can remain hidden.

There's no law requiring politicians make their tax returns public, though they often do.

Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon says that's a positive thing.

"I think it shows that people are demanding more disclosure," she says.

But Simon says it doesn't go far enough.

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Election 2014
6:13 pm
Mon April 21, 2014

Quinn Releases Tax Returns; Rauner's Waiting

Credit Illinois Department of Revenue

 Gov. Pat Quinn has released his 2013 tax returns. They show basic information: like that his taxable income is $161,962.98.

That left him paying about $7,700 in state taxes, and about $29,000 to the federal government. Plus another $3,000 or so in property taxes.

But they also reveal some other insights.

As with last year, Quinn chose to put some of his refund to charity via Illinois' voluntary checkoff program: giving ten dollars to most causes, and $100 to the Military Family Relief Fund.

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Statehouse
5:32 pm
Mon April 21, 2014

Quinn Signs Law Intended To Lower Cost Of Auto Leasing

Credit Flickr user oldbrochures

Gov. Pat Quinn on Monday signed legislation intended to lower the cost of leasing a car in Illinois. Backers of the law say far fewer people lease in Illinois than in surrounding states.

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Statehouse
7:24 am
Mon April 21, 2014

Illinois Medicaid Paying For The Dead

Credit Ill. Atty General

Gov. Pat Quinn is promising tighter controls after a review found that the Illinois Medicaid program paid an estimated $12 million for medical services for people who were dead.  

Quinn told reporters Saturday he's not happy with the findings and the state is on track to recoup all of the money.  

The Associated Press learned of the mistakes from an internal state government memo it obtained Friday through the Freedom of Information Act.  

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Education
5:06 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

Illinois Finally Gets 'No Child Left Behind' Waiver

Credit flickr/LizMarie_AK

After more than two years of trying, Illinois has finally won a waiver from the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind. Brian Mackey reports on what this means for schools in Illinois.

  The short answer is not much.

Illinois has already been moving beyond the No Child Left Behind law for some time, even as it waited for permission from the federal government.

Matt Vanover, a spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Education, says there were problems with No Child Left Behind.

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Pensions
3:38 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

U Of I: Illinois Pension Overhaul Had Costly Mistake

Avijit Ghosh
Credit Univ. of Ill.

University of Illinois officials have worried for months that state pension reforms will push employees to retire early. But they say language inadvertently placed in pension law may provide even stronger
incentive.
 
Avijit Ghosh is a senior adviser to university President Robert Easter. He said at a trustees' meeting Friday that the pension law passed last year would effectively take away a year of pension benefits from about 4,000 University of Illinois employees if they don't retire before July 1. Those pensions would be reduced by up to 35 percent.
 

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State Week
2:30 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

Listen To State Week - April 18, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, the legislature works to bring the proposed Barack Obama presidential library and museum to Chicago, more information on corruption charges leveled against lawmaker Derrick Smith, and the debate over charter schools currently taking place at the Statehouse.

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Jobs
6:00 am
Fri April 18, 2014

Employment Improves, But Illinois Still Lags U.S.

The Illinois State Capitol, in a fog.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The latest state job numbers are out and the news for Illinois is mixed. The unemployment rate is down. But fewer people were hired than expected, and Illinois still lags the nation.

Illinois' March unemployment rate is 8.4 percent. That's the best it's been in more than five years, but it's still among the worst rates in the country.

On top of that, officials blame the unseasonably cold weather for the fact that fewer jobs were added in March than in the previous month.

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State developmental centers
6:19 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

Murray Center Advocates Win Appeals Decision

Credit wsiu

  Residents fighting to stay in Centralia's Murray Developmental Center can remain where they are ... for now. An appellate court decision blocks the state from moving people out without the permission of a court-appointed guardian.

The ruling gives Murray Center families reason to hope for a favorable outcome in another case — one trying to block Gov. Pat Quinn's efforts to close the institution.

Gov. Quinn has pushed to shutter large state-run institutions, like Murray, and transition residents into community-based care.

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Statehouse
6:00 am
Thu April 17, 2014

State Legislation Hints At Marijuana Legalization

Credit en.wikipedia.org

Last year, Illinois approved medical use of marijuana after years of debating the issue.   But could Illinois be closer to following the lead of some other states that have given the o-k to recreational use?   

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Gambling
5:00 am
Thu April 17, 2014

Plan Threatens Proposed Downstate Casinos

In one of the latest gambling proposals, slot machines would be denied to Fairmount Park (though not other horse racetracks) over concerns it would hurt the nearby Casino Queen, in East St. Louis.
Credit Paul Sableman (pasa47) via Flickr

A group of Illinois lawmakers considered two different plans to expand gambling Wednesday. One tracks other recent proposals to add five casinos across Illinois; the other focuses on Chicago.

Every expansion of gambling in Illinois has required a delicate balance of competing geographic and businesses interests.

That's why plans in recent years have called for slot machines at horse racetracks, and five new casinos: in Chicago, the south suburbs, Lake County, Rockford, and Danville.

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Early childhood education
2:22 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

Study: Pre-K Education Provides For Economic Growth

Credit flickr/LizMarie_AK

  As Illinois navigated the economic downturn, lawmakers made lots of cuts -- including to early childhood education.

Advocates say over the years, that cut off 25,000 kids from access to preschool.

Business leaders say it's time to restore the funding, in the name of economic efficacy later on.

A new report from Cornell University claims that for every dollar invested in early childhood programs, the local economy recoups $1.94.

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Statehouse
9:04 am
Wed April 16, 2014

The Vanishing Millionaire Tax

Brian Gaines
Credit IGPA

House Speaker Michael Madigan pulled his plan for a so-called "millionaire tax" last week.   The plan would have raised taxes on those earning $1 million or more a year, with the proceeds going to schools.  It would have required a constitutional change. 

Professor Brian Gaines has studied the idea.  He's with the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois.  He called Madigan's change of heart a bit surprising:

Brian Gaines' essay on the "millionaire tax" -

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Statehouse
4:37 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

Rutherford: Dismiss Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Lawyers for Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford are asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit by an ex-employee alleging sexual harassment and forced political work on state time.  

The motion in U.S. District Court in Chicago seeks to end the lawsuit by Edmund Michalowski.
Michalowski worked for the former Republican candidate for governor for three years before leaving in January and filing the lawsuit.  

The document contends Michalowski's claims that he was disciplined for not doing campaign work on state time are not plausible.  

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Gas tax
10:49 am
Tue April 15, 2014

Gas Station Owners Warn Against Fuel Tax Increase

Credit Amanda Vinicky

  A coalition of Illinois gas station owners say they're wary of a plan to increase motor fuel taxes. Opponents say it would cause too much pain at the pump.

Engineers, the state Chamber of Commerce, and local mass transit agencies have a strategy to shore up the state's deteriorating highway network and other infrastructure needs: a strategy that includes raising Illinois' tax on gas, which hasn't seen an increase in 24 years.

For now, it's just a plan; no state lawmaker has committed to supporting that proposal.

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Statehouse
8:08 am
Tue April 15, 2014

Quinn, Rauner At IEA Conference - Full Audio

Credit WUIS

Republican Bruce Rauner and Democratic Governor Pat Quinn made their first joint appearance of the campaign when they took the stage Friday at an Illinois Education Association meeting in Chicago. More than 1,000 people were in attendance. 

The two answered questions and also took political jabs at one another. IEA President Cinda Klickna moderated the question and answer session.  

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Campaign Finance
6:00 am
Mon April 14, 2014

Illinois Senate Joins Push For U.S. Constitutional Convention

America has had only one national constitutional convention — so far.
Credit Howard Chandler Christy via Wikimedia Commons

The Illinois Senate has joined a push for a national constitutional convention. Organizers want to change the way political campaigns are financed.

The last time there was a Constitutional Convention, it was presided over by George Washington.

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Election 2014
4:16 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

Quinn, Rauner Make First Joint Appearance

Credit WUIS

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican Bruce Rauner have attacked one another for their record and positions on education.   Quinn and Rauner met for the first time Friday in the 2014 campaign for
Illinois governor. They discussing education policy before members of the
Illinois Education Association in Chicago.
 
Quinn is a Chicago Democrat seeking his second full term as governor. He says
Rauner is ``the biggest threat to public education in the state of Illinois.''
 
Rauner supports non-union charter schools, vouchers and moving public employees

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State Week
2:47 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

Listen To State Week - April 11, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, a discussion of a pair of constitutional amendments on the ballot this fall, the city of Chicago gets a pension overhaul, and Gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner deals with an unwelcome endorsement.

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School funding
11:33 am
Fri April 11, 2014

Manar's School Funding Change Moving Forward

Credit Amanda Vinicky

  A proposal to overhaul the way Illinois schools get state funding is advancing in the state Senate. But Republicans are worried that under a new formula, Chicago schools will get an even bigger share of the money than they do now.

Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) has made it his mission to change the way schools are funded in Illinois. The freshman senator says it's long overdue; there's been no change in 17 years.

He's pushing a plan that'd weight poverty, so schools with more poor students get more state money, and wealthier schools get less.

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Charter schools
3:08 pm
Thu April 10, 2014

Chapa LaVia's Perceived Slight Overshadows Charter Debate

Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora)
Credit ILGA.gov

  An Illinois lawmaker is apologizing for a racially charged remark she made Wednesday during a debate on charter schools. 

Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora) was closing a long debate over charter schools. But just as she argued minority students sometimes get blocked from charters, she seemed to get frustrated with the noise in the chamber, and turned to address her fellow Democrats.

"There's starting to be a segregation of children between the haves and the have nots — listen to me, minorities! I'm over here because we're all over on this side, right?"

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Election 2014
5:48 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

The Stain Of Corruption: Candidate Endorsements

William Cellini
Credit WBEZ

  Gov. Pat Quinn's campaign is blasting his Republican opponent, Bruce Rauner for getting endorsed by Springfield insider William Cellini. But Quinn has his own checkered endorsement history.

Cellini, a lifelong Republican, went to prison for his role in a campaign contribution shakedown scheme tied to the administration of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The Quinn campaign is criticizing Rauner for not doing enough to denounce Cellini, but when reporters asked him about it in the Capitol, Quinn said: "Well I don't want to get into politics here."

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Illinois Jobs Now!
4:38 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Raising Gax Tax "Unwise," Says Quinn, But Offers No Other Ideas

Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider announces an $8.6 billion, six-year transportation construction program, with Gov. Pat Quinn at her side.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Illinois will invest another eight point six billion dollars into roads, bridges and other projects. It's the latest installment of a major infrastructure plan lawmakers passed in 2010. Now, Governor Pat Quinn is calling for a new one. But he's not saying where the money should come from.

The 2010 infrastructure program - known as Illinois Jobs Now! - has funded thousands of miles of road repairs so far -- paid for by higher taxes on alcohol, candy and soft drinks; a higher license plate fee; and revenue from video poker.

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Statehouse
4:37 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

S&P: Next Two Months 'Critical' For Illinois Finances

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

A major credit rating agency says the next two months will be "critical" for the future of Illinois' finances. The key question is whether to make a temporary tax hike permanent.

Like most of the big credit rating agencies, Standard & Poor's has been bearish on Illinois finances — lowering the state's credit rating four times in recent years.

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Illinois Constitution
9:10 am
Wed April 9, 2014

Madigan on Voting Rights: 'We Don't Know What The Future Holds'

House Speaker Michael Madigan, right, acknowledges voter suppression has not been a big problem in Illinois.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The Illinois House has approved a proposal to add protections for voting rights to the Illinois Constitution.

The measure is sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan himself.

In explaining why he thinks it's necessary, he recalled the federal Voting Rights Act, and the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision to "modify" parts of that law.

"That modification by the Supreme Court has apparently brought on efforts in other states to enact legislation that some of us would consider to be voter suppression," Madigan says, pointing to voter ID laws.

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Election 2014
6:31 am
Wed April 9, 2014

Rauner: "I'm Not Anti Union At All"

Republican nominee for governor Bruce Rauner gives a speech at the Sangamo Club in Springfield, blocks from the statehouse.
Credit Hannah Meisel

  Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner says common perceptions about him have it all wrong: he's not against unions and he doesn't want to take away public workers' pensions. Rauner was in Springfield Tuesday for a Sangamon County Republican Foundation fundraiser.

Unions worked hard to prevent Rauner from getting the GOP nomination --- and why not. He constantly talked during the primary about how "government union bosses" were to blame for much of Illinois' ills.

But since he became the nominee, I've yet to hear him publicly use the phrase. I asked him:

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Election 2014
12:14 am
Wed April 9, 2014

Cellini Back On The Political Scene, Backs Rauner

Bruce Rauner, the GOP nominee for governor, speaks with individuals at a Sangamon County Republican Foundation reception.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Springfield powerbroker William Cellini is back on the political scene, following his release from prison late last year. He was found guilty of participating in an extortion scheme when Rod Blagojevich was governor.

Cellini attended a Sangamon County Republican Foundation event Tuesday night, which featured Bruce Rauner, the party's nominee for governor.

Cellini says he backed State Senator Kirk Dillard in the Republican primary race. But now he's behind Rauner.

"Well I've been a Republican all my life and he's the Republican candidate," Cellini said.

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