Statehouse

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.

Read more
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?"

Read more
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."

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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:

Read more
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.

Read more
IHSA
12:18 pm
Tue April 8, 2014

Lawmaker Wants Closer Oversight Of IHSA

  Illinois lawmakers want to take a closer look at the Illinois High School Association ... the organization that sanctions spots and extracurricular competitions statewide. Critics fear it will end in a takeover.

Football, chess and water polo matches — not to mention band, drama and scholastic bowl competitions — are all governed by the IHSA. It's a non-profit-group, based in Bloomington.

But while it's not government-run, Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, says it was created by the General Assembly.

Read more
Income tax
12:34 am
Tue April 8, 2014

Tax Watchdog Group: Income Tax Doesn't Hurt Businesses, Property Tax Does

Credit flickr/danxoneil

  Opponents of Governor Pat Quinn's proposed income tax increase say it will chase jobs out of Illinois. A new report that challenges that assumption.

What to do about Illinois' expiring income tax hike has been the star of the debate this spring. The governor threatens cuts unless its extended, while Republican leaders say keeping the higher tax rate is a bigger threat to the economy.

Ralph Martire, director of the Chicago-based Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, says that's a misunderstanding. He says property taxes are the true obstruction of economic growth.

Read more
State Government
8:41 am
Mon April 7, 2014

Is Cap And Trade A Financial And Environmental Solution For Illinois?

Prof. Don Fullerton
Credit University of Illinois

An Illinois professor says state government could improve it's financial predicament and lower greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.  

Don Fullerton is proposing what's known as a "cap and trade" program where a limit is placed on emissions. 

Going above the level would cost money for operations like coal fired power plants.  But even he admits it's unlikely to happen anytime soon. 

Read Fullerton's proposal in the article below:

Taxing Waste, not Work: Cap-and-Trade as a Revenue Source

By Don Fullerton

Read more
Constitutional Amendment
6:35 am
Mon April 7, 2014

Legislators Vote Against Capping Their Careers

Credit flickr/danxoneil

  Voters may still get the chance to decide if they want to limit how long legislators can serve ... but no thanks to legislators themselves.

Although elections have been compared to popularity contests, as a whole, "politicians" aren't all that popular.

Which may be way polls show voters find the idea of term limits so appealing.

Unless, of course, you're a legislator.

Senator Darin LaHood, a Republican from Peoria, nonetheless introduced a term limits plan.

Read more
State Week
3:03 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

Listen To State Week - April 4, 2014

This week, a proposal for a state constitutional amendment on voting rights, a proposal for a graduated tax rate, and suggestions for a pension change for the city of Chicago.

Read more
Statehouse
2:55 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

State Manager Fined; Had Employees Do His Homework

A former Illinois Department of Employment Security manager has been fined for directing his co-workers to do his college homework on taxpayer time.  

An April 3 report by Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza  says 63-year-old Clyde Redfield was fined $2,500. He resigned from his $71,000 job in 2012 after the allegations surfaced.  

Read more
Graduated income tax
9:47 am
Fri April 4, 2014

Graduated Income Tax Moves Forward After Stumble

  An effort to change Illinois' income tax from a flat to a graduated structure is making headway in the General Assembly. The plan, where the more you earn the more you pay, has been revived after a setback last week.

When another proposal for a graduated income tax was up for debate last week, it was shot down before even getting to the floor. But Representative Christian Mitchell, a Democrat from Chicago, says his proposal is different: Its income-based tax brackets are lower than the previous version.

Read more
Education
1:46 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Senator Suggests Switching School Funding Distribution

Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, says his kids' art classes are held in a former janitors' closet -- a sign of what happens as a result of Illinois' school funding formula.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

    

Critics of the way Illinois funds schools say it's wrong that the quality of a child's education is based largely on her zip code.

That's because schools are mostly funded by local property taxes. While Illinois takes that into account when determining how much state money to give each district, it's not the predominant factor.

A new proposal, backed by Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, would make local need the number one test.

Read more
Coal industry
12:57 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Environmental Groups Call For Enforcement Of Coal Regulations

  Environmentalists in central Illinois are calling for tougher regulations on the coal industry. They say coal companies are using land to profit, then leaving residents with a mess.

Director of the Sierra Club's Illinois Chapter Jack Darin acknowledges the regulations the state already has in place. He says the problem is Illinois' lax enforcement of those laws against coal companies.

"Unless they're held accountable for these actions, then what good are the strongest regulations that the state can write?" he said.

Read more
Election 2014
5:56 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Political Map Question Could Be On Fall Ballot

A group that wants to change the way Illinois draws its political districts says it has the signatures it needs to put a measure on the November ballot.
 
The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises reports (http://bit.ly/1pPeAGA) that
the group Yes! For Independent Maps announced Tuesday that it has nearly 350,000
signatures. The group needs nearly 300,000 signatures for voters to consider
their plan.
 
That plan would amend the Illinois constitution to require state legislative

Read more
Gas tax
12:48 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Business Leaders Propose Increased Gas Tax For Road Repairs

  Advocates for infrastructure investment want to raise the gas tax to fix Illinois roads. The new revenue would go toward maintenance which they say is long overdue.

Read more
Minimum wage debate
12:27 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Madigan Throws Support Behind Raising Minimum Wage

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  House Speaker Michael Madigan says there is "strong support" in the chamber for a hike in Illinois' minimum wage. That's one of the big issues in the governor's race.

Businesses don't like it, but a plan to raise Illinois' minimum wage from $8.25, to $10.65 an hour, is before the General Assembly.

Advocates continue to try to drum up the necessary votes.

It appears they'll have help from the powerful Illinois House Speaker. Madigan says it's a matter of "fairness" and "equity."

Read more
Endangered historic sites
12:19 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

10 Ill. Historic Sites 'Endangered' Without Federal Tax Credit

The Uptown Theatre in Chicago is on Landmarks Illinois' 2014 list of endangered historic sites.
Credit wikipedia

  An Illinois preservation group has put out its annual list of most endangered historic places. State funding may be a long shot, but enthusiasts are working to save a federal tax credit.

Among the ten endangered sites is a camp in Senator Pam Althoff's (R-McHenry) district. Camp Algonquin, in unincorporated McHenry County, is a rare relic of the open-air camp movement at the turn of the last century.

Althoff, a Republican from McHenry, says the community can save the camp if local advocates campaign effectively.

Read more
Budget
10:40 am
Wed April 2, 2014

Expert Says State Of Illinois Needs Better Financial Planning

Nancy Hudspeth
Credit IGPA

Illinois is like most states when it comes to budget challenges.  Leaders must decide how to use tax dollars to pay for a variety of services. 

But Illinois ranks low when it comes to financial planning.  Nancy Hudspeth says some changes are needed.  She's the Associate Director of the Fiscal Futures Project at the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs. 

Hudspeth wrote an article on the subject that appears below:

 

Better fiscal planning tools could improve Illinois’ budget process

Read more
Budget address
12:08 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Nursing Home Advocates Relieved Over Gov. Quinn's Budget Address

  Nursing home advocates say they're relieved by Gov. Pat Quinn's budget address last week. The governor says state has already been cut enough.

Two years ago, Gov. Quinn announced drastic cuts to Medicaid, the state's healthcare program for the poor, disabled and elderly. Medicaid helps pay for nursing homes, so when the legislature followed through on these cuts, many facilities shut down or laid off workers.

Pat Comstock, with the Healthcare Council of Illinois, says these cuts persisted through last year. But this year, she says things are looking brighter.

Read more
Voting rights
12:00 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Madigan's Voting Rights Law Makes Strides

  As other states enact stricter voting restrictions, Illinois lawmakers are looking to protect against suppression. A House committee Tuesday advanced the constitutional change.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan was hard pressed when asked to give an example of a case in Illinois when an eligible voter was denied access to register or to take a ballot.

"I'm not in the position to cite examples ..."

But Madigan says it has happened in states that have attempted to enact voter ID laws that discriminate against minorities, or that cut early voting periods short.

Read more
Budget address
2:39 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Quinn's Proposed Bump In Education Funding Not Immediate

  Governor Pat Quinn is selling his budget plan — with its extension of Illinois' income tax increase — as a way to better fund schools. But that boost doesn't come right away.

During his budget address, Gov. Quinn introduced big plans for education: modernizing classrooms. A "birth to five" early learning intiative. And more money for elementary and high schools.

"Over the next five years, my plan calls for the biggest education investment in state history," he said. "Every child should have an excellent school."

Notice he said "over the next five years."

Read more
Tornado damage
1:19 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Lawmakers Propose Tax Break For Businesses Blighted By Tornadoes

On the edge of destruction in Washington, Ill. The community was ravaged by tornadoes on Nov. 17.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Four months ago, tornadoes whipped through Central Illinois, ravaging communities like Washington and Gifford. As the towns rebuild, some lawmakers want to give businesses a break when fixing up their properties.

Rebuilding after a natural disaster can be expensive; insurance money only covers so much. A proposal making its way through the General Assembly could help ease that burden on businesses, by providing a property tax break.

Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) says this would help stabilize local economies.

Read more
Statehouse
7:24 am
Mon March 31, 2014

Regulators: Illinois Sunday Car Sales Ban Bad For Competition

Credit autobizz.com

Federal regulators say Illinois' longstanding ban on Sunday automobile sales isn't good for competition and can be harmful to the marketplace.  

The Federal Trade Commission says the prohibition on Sunday automobile sales also makes it more difficult for drivers to shop around for the best deal.  

The agency issued the statement late last week in response to a measure introduced by state Sen. Jim

Oberweis, who wants to repeal the law that went into effect in 1983.  Oberweis asked the FTC to weigh in. Violators can face a $1,500 fine.  

Read more
Hunting regulations
4:49 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

Bobcat Hunting Measure Passes House

Credit flickr/stevendepolo

  Hunters and trappers could harvest bobcats, under a measure that got approval from the Illinois House.

Hunting bobcats has been illegal in Illinois for decades.

But now that Department of Natural Resources numbers show the population growing, especially in southern and western parts of the state, Rep. Wayne Rosenthal wants that ban lifted.

His plan passed the House 91 to 20. Rosenthal, a Republican from Morrisonville, says his critics ask:

"Why do you want to get rid of these pretty, little kitties?"

Read more
State Week
4:36 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

Listen To State Week - March 28, 2014

This week, Governor Quinn's proposed state budget.

Read more
Dental practice laws
1:13 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

Dental Hygienists Push For Independence; Dentists Push Back

Credit flickr/armymedicine

  Dental hygienists in Illinois could get a whole new job description under a proposal before the Illinois House. Hygienists say requiring less supervision would allow them to provide care in underserved communities.

Read more

Pages