Statehouse

Lloyd Karmeier
Brian Mackey / WUIS

The Illinois Supreme Court has struck down legislation that tried to cut retirement benefits for thousands of state workers.

In a unanimous decision, the high court says lawmakers overstepped their power when they sought to cut pension benefits for state employees, university workers and public school teachers.

Illinois pensions are protected by the state Constitution, but the state argued a financial emergency meant those protections could be disregarded.

(This story first appeared on the Illinois Issues blog last summer that appeared to set the stage for overturning the pension law.  Jamey Dunn looked at what other choices remain for state leaders)

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

After partisan debating over the budget, Democrats and Republicans came together in America's pastime.

Lawmakers put aside partisan differences to play softball. Forget Republicans versus Democrats; this match pits Senate against the House.

Rep. Anthony DeLuca, a Democrat from Chicago Heights, was named Most Valuable Player for the House. DeLuca says the annual game is a way for lawmakers to become teammates rather than opponents.

"There's a lot of camaraderie. It's good," he said. "People that don't normally talk to each other are talking, and it's good for that."

House floor
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposal to cut the state budget took a spectacular fall Wednesday in the Illinois House.

The new Republican governor's plan reduces Illinois' budget by $6 billion for the next fiscal year.

That means doing away with, or spending less, on everything from healthcare for the poor, autism services and support for older foster kids.

No GOP legislator has actually introduced a bill that would precipitate those cuts. So in a surprise move, the Democratic Speaker of the House, Michael Madigan, took it upon himself.

Exelon is amping up its threat to close three nuclear power plants, unless there's help from the legislature.

The company says it's not a bailout and instead argues its trying to level the playing field. Illinois already gives some incentives for renewable sources, like energy and wind.

Supporters of Exelon's measure, like Democratic Rep. Larry Walsh, Jr. of Joliet, say nuclear power deserves that push.

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

Olympic gold medal winner Jackie Joyner-Kersee says she never imagined as a girl growing up in East St. Louis that she would one day speak at an event hosted by the governor. Gov. Bruce Rauner introduced her, but didn't stay for her speech.

"To the head table, I am honored to be in your presence. To, you know, the governor, he left," she said.

Rauner was scheduled to be in Chicago three hours after he left. He was originally supposed to give a presentation, but that was taken out of the program.

Amanda Vinicky

Illinois just overhauled its workers' compensation system in 2011, but lawmakers are considering further changes at the behest of businesses and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. The full Illinois House spent much of Tuesday in a rare, full committee meeting focused on workers' compensation. But they didn't vote.

Businesses say workers' comp is one of their biggest competitive disadvantages compared with companies in neighboring states.

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

As Illinois faces major budget problems, everyone has a different answer for which services to cut and which taxes to raise.

Mike Nobis is worried. His commercial printing company has been in Quincy, Illinois for 108 years. He says he's struggling to compete with other companies, especially those across the border in Missouri.

Illinois' current sales tax does not cover most services. Nobis says if that tax is expanded to cover the printing industry, he might go out of business.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

*Update - according to the Illinois State Board of Elections, the hearing originally scheduled for May 7, has been delayed until the morning of June 10.

The State Board of Elections will hold a hearing to determine whether Governor Bruce Rauner's campaign violated state elections law.

Bruce Rauner's campaign spent at least $65 million to win the governor's office. Now, state election authorities are looking into whether he missed a deadline to report some of that success.

Govs. Dan Walker, left, and Bruce Rauner.
file / WUIS

If you follow state government long enough, you start to hear the same things over and over again. That holds even across four decades.

Last week, I produced an obituary for the late Gov. Dan Walker, who died at the age of 92. In listening to several of his speeches from 1975 and '76, I was struck by the similarities to the sorts of things we hear from politicians today — particularly Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Both of these men came in after unpopular tax hikes, and both downplayed their wealth with folksy images. So I'm asking the question: Are they essentially the same guy?

Amanda Vinicky

It was weeks after Abraham Lincoln's death in mid-April, that has body made it from Washington, D.C. back to Springfield, Illinois. The lifting of a replica coffin from a car designed to look like Lincoln's funeral train began a series events this weekend in Springfield, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the president's death and burial.

Pamela Nation

Friday was Girl Scout Day at the Capitol, and hundreds of Girl Scouts marched to the Statehouse to learn more about government and the history of Illinois.

About 2,000 Girl Scouts gathered in the Illinois capital to earn their Citizenship badge.

Kate Peters of Girl Scouts of Central Illinois says during part of the expo, the girls spoke to women in different careers.

“How impactful for them to see stuff like that and know, 'hey one day that can be me,'" Peters said. "One day, one of these girls will be governor of Illinois.”

potter
Jaegar Moore / flickr.com/97408355@N06

 Some social service agencies and funeral homes are set to resume business as they had before the now-infamous Good Friday elimination of several state grants.

Gov. Bruce Rauner aides announced Thursday that the state received an unexpected influx of tax revenue that will be used to restore the $26 million in grant suspensions. The money will fund programs such as support for those with autism and epilepsy, indigent burials and utility assistance.

President-elect Barack Obama
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Bruce Rauner this afternoon signed a law to help bring President Barack Obama's presidential library to Illinois. The General Assembly rushed to pass the measure just over a week ago.

At a private bill-signing in his office at the capitol, Rauner said he looks forward to having the President's library "come here, to the great state of Illinois."

"It'll be a wonderful institution for the people of our great state and to help drive economic development and tourism, and visitors from all over the United States," he said.

Dan Walker
file / WUIS/Illinois Issues

This week, Governor Bruce Rauner restored $26 million in funding for some of the social service programs that were cut in April.  Also, former Illinois Governor Dan Walker died at the age of 92.  Kurt Erickson of Lee Enterprises' Springfield Bureau joins the panel discussion.

http://franky242.net/shop/image/pile-of-black-coal/

There's a new player in a battle over energy policy that's playing out at the Illinois Capitol. Exelon wants support for its nuclear plants, a renewable energy coalition wants to require more wind and solar, and now a coal company and its supporters want in on the action.

The latest push would give the state's coal industry a boost.

Although talk of Illinois’ budget has dominated the spring session of the General Assembly, legislators have continued advancing bills on a broad array of topics. They include measures dealing with beverages, drunken driving, the mining of sand and the death penalty.

Brass rail outside the Governor's office
Amanda Vinicky / WUIS/Illinois Issues

The pink slips started coming in January.

Employees hired at Democrats’ discretion over the past dozen years were losing their state jobs — an early rattle in Gov. Bruce Rauner’s promised “shakeup” of state government, accompanied by other corresponding rattles, including waves of appointments naming Republicans to take the ousted workers’ places.

Car mounted license plate reader
Garrett Brnger / WUIS / Illinois Issues

It doesn’t take much time at all, fractions of a second, to be marked and mapped, recorded and reported.

The automatic license plate reader cameras don’t look like much — just a pair of strobe lights on the back of a squad car, or maybe a cartoon character, depending on whom you ask.

flickr/dborman

A top official with Gov. Bruce Rauner's office confirms, Illinois will restore $26 million in funding for a tobacco quitline, programs for autistic children and other social service grants. Projections show the state is taking in more money than expected.  While some cuts will remain, the windfall frees up money to reverse the cuts Rauner made with little warning on Good Friday, in early April.
 

The news has Joanne Guthrie-Gard beaming -- one of those "couldn't wipe it off her face" smiles. "I'm ecstatic. I'm so excited," she says.

ALPLM
ALPLM

While other agencies are bracing for budget cuts, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum could get everything it's asking for in next year's budget.

ALPLM could receive a boost of $2 million more than it's expected to spend in the current budget year, according to Gov. Bruce Rauner's spending proposal.

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

Cuts the governor is proposing for next year's budget are a concern for transportation officials.

Gov. Bruce Rauner's plan includes $20 million worth of cuts to Amtrak. Laura Calderon, the director of the Illinois Public Transportation Association, says that means about six million trips will be eliminated downstate.

"This impact is not just on transit. It has a much broader impact on the economy, on the schools, on the universities," she said. "It really does hit everyone."

Dan Walker sign
file / WUIS/Illinois Issues

A former governor of Illinois has died. Dan Walker ran the state for one term in the 1970s. A Democrat, he focused much of his brief political career on fighting members of his own party.

At a time when most Democratic politicians in Illinois were cogs in a massive political machine, Dan Walker was a nobody.

Several mayors from around the state say the millions of dollars the governor thinks they have stored up doesn’t exist. Gov. Bruce Rauner has called for halving the portion of the state income tax shared with local governments, called the Local Government Distributive Fund, and said those governments can tap millions in cash reserves. But the mayors warn that if the governor moves ahead with his plan, vital services — like police and fire — would be cut, and municipal workers would be laid off.

The mayors were at the state capitol Wednesday to lobby against Rauner’s proposal.

The mayor of the East Central Illinois town Danville is still hoping to cash in on bringing a casino to the city.

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer says he's talked about gaming expansion with Gov. Bruce Rauner.

"We're very hopeful as we go through this legislative session that as they start talking about alternatives to reductions, and look at revenue opportunities, the gaming expansion bill including Danville will be one of those," Eisenhauer said.

Dan Walker at the 1973 Bud Billiken Day Parade
John H. White / National Archives

Former Illinois Gov. Dan Walker has died. The Democrat led the state from 1973 to 1977.

Walker came to fame in 1971 by literally walking the length of Illinois.

He spent much of his time fighting the Democratic machine. In Illinois in the 1970s, that meant fighting Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley.

Illinois Issues

Former Illinois Governor Dan Walker died early Wednesday at his home in Calfiornia.   He was 92.  His son confirmed the news to the Associated Press.

Walker served only one term as governor, from 1973-1977.  But he left his mark on Illinois politics.  His decision to walk the state in 1971 lifted him to the Democratic nomination.  But he battled with his own party, including the Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley. The infighting led to his defeat in the next primary and set the stage for Republicans to control the Governor's Mansion for a quarter century. 

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

A proposal in the Illinois Senate would make sure students are completely recovered before returning to athletics or the classroom.

Each year, there are 200,000 concussion-related emergency room visits for children and teenagers in the U.S. For one Chicago lawmaker, that’s not just a statistic.

Both of Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul's kids have sustained concussions. Raoul says his teenage daughter, Mizan, is still recovering from one she received one when she was playing basketball in January. At first, nobody realized it was a concussion.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Gov. Bruce Rauner made an appearance Tuesday at an Illinois Department of Transportation hearing on infrastructure needs.

IDOT is traveling all over the state to build support for a new construction program, and Rauner used his own travel experiences as an example.

As is often good practice when giving a speech, the governor started his remarks with a joke.

Mike Frerichs at Inauguration 2015
Brian Mackey/WUIS

A scholarship program run by the state treasurer's office is on hold. For about a decade, the treasurer's office has given out scholarships. It's a program associated with the Bright Start college savings program.

Treasurer Michael Frerichs ordered an independent review upon taking over the office in January. The report found there aren't proper rules to determine how the treasurer should award the scholarship money.

On top of that, he says there was no follow up. Only about half of the scholarships have been used.

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