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.
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?"
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.