Statehouse

Safer Lock

Nick Gore was 20 years old when he started taking pain pills recreationally. His substance abuse turned into a dependency that lasted seven years and eventually led to heroin use and jail time.

Representative Rob Martwick wants to require locking caps for all opioid pill bottles. The caps would have a combination lock that only the person prescribed the medication would know. Gore says this could have stopped his access to the drugs.

Bruce Rauner at Illinois Chamber forum.
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois politicians continue to be focused on the massive money shortfall for the current budget year.

Illinois is running out of money, and it’s beginning to hurt. A day-care program that helps low-income parents hold jobs has run dry, and soon Illinois might not be able to make payroll at state prisons.

BrettLevinPhotography / Flickr

Critics of Rep. Kelly Cassidy’s proposal to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a ticketable offense consider the bill a first step toward the state making possession of the drug legal.

House Bill 218, introduced by the Chicago Democrat, calls for possession of 30 grams of cannabis to be reduced to a civil — instead of criminal — offense, punishable by issuance of a ticket and a fine of up to $125.

Darin LaHood
Illinois General Assembly

Illinois state Sen. Darin LaHood has announced his candidacy for U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock's soon-to-be-vacant congressional seat.

The Republican from Dunlap made the announcement Wednesday on WMBD radio in Peoria.

LaHood says he has received "a lot encouragement" to run and that he'll campaign on his state Senate record, which includes being a strong advocate for ethics reform.

LaHood has served in the Senate since 2011. His father is former U.S. Transportation Secretary and Congressman Ray LaHood, who preceded Schock in Congress.

Republican state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington
WUIS/Illinois Issues

State Senator Bill Brady says he will not be among the Republicans seeking Schock's Congressional seat. In a statement Wednesday he said he has decided to remain in the State Senate because of his business interests and desire to help Governor Rauner make changes.

He mentioned the names of four potential candidates for the job including his brother Ed Brady, Representative Dan Brady (no relation) & Senators Darin LaHood and Jason Barickman.

The Governor will set a date for the special election.

WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois law allows doctors to refuse to provide services and medications, like abortion and birth control, if it goes against their religious beliefs, but an effort backed by the ACLU and Planned Parenthood would make sure a doctor still provides patients with information about those options.

Sen. Daniel Biss proposes changing what's called the Right to Conscience Act to ensure patients receive information about all of their options, even if their doctor's religious beliefs mean the physician won't provide those services.

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Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

Arguments before the Illinois Supreme Court on the state's pension reform law.

Bruce Rauner
brucerauner.com

Union members and state employees can expect another pension battle ahead, regardless of what the state Supreme Court says about Illinois' landmark 2013 law. 

BrettLevinPhotography / Flickr

Rep. Kelly Cassidy wants to change the criminal code for people caught with marijuana. Her proposal would reduce the punishment for having less than 30 grams of the drug from a Class C misdemeanor to a 100 dollar ticket.

Anyone caught with larger amounts would be charged with a misdemeanor, rather than a felony.

"This will allow for certainty and uniformity in the state. It will also allow us to save significant money at the state and the local level, and put our criminal justice resources to much better use," Cassidy said.

American Cancer Society

Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed budget includes cuts to a program that allows uninsured women to receive access to cancer screenings.

Pamela Luechtefeld says if it weren't for the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, she wouldn't have detected her breast cancer.

"I would probably be ate up with cancer because they caught it in its second stage, so I wouldn't have been--I hadn't been to the doctor," she said. "The last time I had a mammogram was eight years ago."

Amanda Vinicky

The many years legislators spent crafting a measure to rein in the state's pension costs came to a head yesterday in 52-and-a-half minute hearing before the Illinois Supreme Court. It's now up to the seven justices whether a law that reduces employees' and retirees' benefits is constitutional.

Even before then-Gov. Pat Quinn signed the pension overhaul into law just over a year ago, everyone knew it would come to this.

Scores of Chicago-based activists trekked to Springfield Wednesday, descending on the governor’s office, House and Senate galleries and even the Executive Mansion. They wore T-shirts with “We Rise” emblazoned on the front. On the back was a question they want the governor to consider as he makes fiscal plans for the cash-strapped state: “Who will you choose?”

Illinois Supreme Court
Brian Mackey / WUIS

There's a simple rule of thumb for determining when the Illinois Supreme Court will rule on a given case, and it's that there is no rule of thumb for determining when the Illinois Supreme Court will rule on a given case.

Auburn Ambulance Service

Assaulting emergency personnel would bring tougher punishment under legislation approved Tuesday in an Illinois House committee.

Chicago Democratic Rep. Frances Hurley’s House Bill 3184 would make it a Class 4 felony to assault a paramedic, police officer, fire fighter or other first responder while he or she was on a scene performing official duties. Currently, the offense is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.

flickr/dborman

Your state tax refund could take longer to come in than usual. Security measures designed to prevent tax fraud are causing Illinois taxpayers to wait longer for their refund.

Terry Horstman of the Illinois Department of Revenue says the agency is working to fix the problem.

"As various tax schemes have been detected, we have tried to counter those schemes with additional software upgrades to our systems that help detect the fraudulent activity," Horstman said.

The federal government estimates Illinois had about $30 million in fraudulent claims last year.

Gov. Bruce Rauner says he has big plans for the state's infrastructure. He addressed the Illinois Asphalt Pavement Association on Tuesday in Springfield.

Rauner told the group, whose members benefit when the state spends money on roads, that Illinois will invest more on infrastructure in the next four years than ever before. He gave no clear indication of where the money would come from.

 An Illinois lawmaker has announced he will receive treatment for recently diagnosed esophageal cancer.  

State Rep. Frank Mautino of Spring Valley says his doctor found a mass in his esophagus during a routine physical in late January. The 52-year-old Democratic lawmaker says he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer after a biopsy was conducted in February.  

Mautino told The (Ottawa) Daily Times  during a phone interview on Monday that doctors have told him the cancer is 97 percent treatable.  

Lisa Madigan at Inauguration 2015
Brian Mackey/WUIS

A legal battle over union fees is brewing, between Illinois Republican governor and Democratic Attorney General.

Illinois' Attorney General says Gov. Bruce Rauner had no authority to bring a fight over union dues to federal court. She's trying to dismiss the case.

Republican Gov. Rauner is trying to get rid of so-called "fair share" dues on two fronts: he's ordered state agencies to stop collecting them, and he's suing in federal court to toss out the underlying state law that requires them.

WUIS/Illinois Issues

A version of the story first ran in Illinois Issues magazine in April 2012. It has been updated with new information.

The state’s complicated budget mess is a source of headlines for the media and headaches for those who administer state-funded programs and the politicians whose job it is to solve the problem. But most people — politicians, reporters and Statehouse commentators alike — only focus on four out of hundreds of funds when it comes time to craft the state’s budget each year.

Governor Bruce Rauner has named an official with the U.S. State Department to lead the Illinois Department of Corrections.

A statement Monday from the Governor's office says Rauner selected 54 year old Donald Stolworthy to head Corrections.

According to the release from the Governor, Stolworthy has 15 years of corrections experience.  He currently works at the State Department in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs where he assesses foreign prison systems.

flickr/meeshpants

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin says a new report shows why the prison system needs to improve its use of solitary confinement.

Durbin, the Assistant Democratic Leader of the U.S. Senate, says he's visited prisons that rely heavily on solitary confinement, including the now-closed Tamms Correctional Center in southern Illinois.

He says sometimes segregating prisoners is warranted. But he worries about an over-reliance because he says it can cause psychological damage for prisoners.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin wants to expand benefits for injured veterans' caregivers. Currently, caregivers of those who served on or after September 11, 2001 can receive a stipend. Durbin wants to allow veterans who served before 9/11 to have the same eligibility.

The Family Caregivers Program costs about $36,000 a year per veteran, but Durbin says it's worth the price.

"It isn't just a matter of dollars and cents, it's a matter of doing the right thing," he said. "Our obligations to our vets don't end after they come home, our obligations continue."

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Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, continuing debate among lawmakers over how to fix the state's budget woes, a Senate plan to sweep special funds into the general revenue fund for FY2015, and Governor Rauner continues to push for "right to work zones".

wuis

Unions are taking Gov. Bruce Rauner to court over his attempt to get rid of so-called "fair-share" dues.

Illinois law requires workers who are not members of unions to nonetheless pay a fee, for the benefits unions secure on their behalf.

Rauner had issued an executive order eliminating that requirement.

But labor leaders says that's a violation of the separation of powers; in other words, a governor can't unilaterally toss out a state law.

Amanda Vinicky

Last month, Gov. Bruce Rauner unveiled his budget --- chock full of cuts to state programs. But now it's the legislature's turn to take a swipe at a state spending plan. Amanda Vinicky reports on a hearing, at which the governor's office had to testify before lawmakers about its own budget.

Given the widespread frustration by Democrats at the huge cuts Rauner, a Republican, has proposed, you may expect a hearing like this to get a bit tense. But House members were relatively easy on the governor's top aides, who say the governor's office is cutting its budget by ten percent.

ilga.gov

A lawmaker says children of public university employees should not receive a tuition break.

Currently, students can get half of their tuition paid for by the state if one of their parents works at a public university. Rep. Jack Franks, a Democrat from Marengo, says he wants to make college more affordable for everyone, but higher education budget cuts make the tuition waivers impossible to maintain.

Alton, Creative Commons

A lawmaker wants to help make students aware of the consequences of using their cell phones to send nude pictures, which can sometimes result in a felony offense.

Representative La Shawn Ford proposes adding the language of Illinois' law on "sexting" into local schools' guidelines. Ford, a Democrat from Chicago, says parents and students need to be more aware that sending naked pictures has serious consequences.

LinkedIn

A recently released audit of the Illinois Department of Health Care and Family Services showed repeated problems from the previous administration. The newly appointed secretary of the agency spoke before a panel of state lawmakers on Tuesday about the audit.

Felicia Norwood wasn't the secretary of HFS when recording mistakes were made that allowed dead people and duplicate enrollees to receive payments for medical assistance. She made that point clear during a legislative hearing designed to address the inaccuracies.

Little_brown_bat;_close-up_of_nose_with_fungus,_New_York,_Oct._2008._(5765048289).jpg

A disease responsible for the deaths of millions of bats has spread in Illinois.

The white-nose syndrome gets its name from a fungus that grows on affected bats' noses. Scientists say infected bats often show odd behavior - like taking daytime flights - when they're supposed to be hibernating. It's suspected that depletes their fat reserves, and causes the bats to become emaciated, and eventually die. 

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