Statehouse

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.

flickr/borman18

  Illinois' second-richest man is backing Gov. Bruce Rauner's agenda, according to a campaign contribution filed on Monday.

Rauner is amassing enough money to dwarf that of his political foes.

Sam Zell sat out of Rauner's race for governor. State records show no listing of Zell giving any money leading up to the election last November.

But now Zell, a Chicago real estate and investment mogul, has come through with a record-setting $4 million contribution. Not to the governor himself, but to his new "Turnaround Illinois" Political Action Committee.

Bruce Rauner at Inauguration 2015
Brian Mackey/WUIS

This week, the Illinois legislature worked to restore some of Governor Rauner's social service cuts and convened a oversight committee to examine the reasoning behind them.  Meanwhile, Governor Rauner continued his efforts to eliminate public sector "fair share" union dues.  Also, a bill decriminalizing possession of certain amounts of marijuana moves from the House to the Senate.  Jamey Dunn of Illinois Issues magazine joins the panel discussion.

A proposal to continue government services for young adults in foster care passed the Illinois House on Thursday. Some believe it's a foreshadowing of future budget negotiations.

The state currently provides educational assistance, job training and counseling for wards of the state aged 18 to 21. But Gov. Bruce Rauner didn't include those services in next year's proposed budget.

Rather than allow the cuts, the House passed House Bill 3507, which would guarantee the programs stay. Advocates say the young adults need certainty.

wikimedia commons

Cameras that collect information on license plates are thought by some to be an overreach of government. A proposal in the Illinois legislature would regulate the automatic license plate readers.

Some police officers use automated cameras that track vehicles' license plates. In Illinois, there are no regulations on them and the data collected. House Bill 3289 would impose limits, such as how long the data can be kept.

Democratic Rep. Scott Drury says the proposed regulation doesn't go far enough.

BrettLevinPhotography / Flickr

Low level marijuana users may soon catch a break in Illinois. Rather than going to jail, it'd be more like getting a speeding ticket.

The repercussions for having pot vary; Rep. Kelly Cassidy says there's a patchwork of more than 100 different local ordinances all over the state.

"And the outcome from this patchwork system puts in place an unjust and confusing system wherein where you live and what you look like dictates whether or not you'll be arrested for extremely low-level marijuana possession," she says.

John Morris / Landmark Illinois

 A statewide preservation group says that Illinois’ historic landmarks could be threatened by the potential closure of the State Historic Preservation Office.

The budget cuts in the current fiscal year have cut the staff at the office, which falls under the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA), from 33 to 14, causing a backlog of paperwork necessary to officially recognize historic sites and authorize local citizen organizations to begin the work of restoring sites in their communities.

LMNA Architecture Renderings / Lucas Museum of Narrative Art press kit

The force of the Illinois legislature is behind bringing George Lucas's museum and Barack Obama's presidential library to Chicago.

Chatham Elementary School

Chatham Elementary School students had a lesson Thursday in how government works. Their proposal to make sweet corn the official state vegetable passed the state Senate.

The sponsor of Senate Bill 800, Republican Sen. Sam McCann from Carlinville, says not all responses have been positive.

"I had a couple of emails from folks around the state saying that... while the city walls are seemingly crumbling, why are you focusing on something like this?" he said. "And of course the answer couldn't be more clear. We have to invest in the future leaders of our state and our nation."

 A House committee has approved a measure that would
privatize the state's economic development agency and turn the Abraham Lincoln
Library and Museum into a stand-alone institution.
 
 The House executive committee on Wednesday unanimously passed legislation
merging two ideas from House Speaker Michael Madigan and Gov. Bruce Rauner.
 
 Madigan has pushed for the Lincoln Library to be a stand-alone agency instead
of under the Historic Preservation Agency, which would be eliminated under the

Wikimedia Commons

Lawmakers are hoping to put an end to red light cameras in some places in Illinois.

A proposal in the Illinois legislature would ban red light cameras in non-home rule cities.

Opponents say red light cameras, which are designed to stop drivers from running red lights, actually cause more accidents from cars abruptly stopping.

Republican Rep. Steven Andersson is a local prosecutor. He says some people receive tickets even though they weren't the one driving the car.

There's a hold-up over efforts to programs dealing with autism, drug prevention, and more from ending. It seems like advocates should be celebrating.

After Gov. Bruce Rauner says he was forced to earlier this month suddenly pull $26 million worth of state grants, the Illinois Senate used the legislative version of searching under the couch cushions for change.

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

A measure in the Illinois Senate would prevent elected officials from promoting new programs and grants before an election.

The proposal is in response to an audit of the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative or NRI. Former Gov. Pat Quinn started the $50 million anti-violence program shortly before the 2010 election.

Republican Sen. Darin LaHood calls the program a "failure." He, along with the auditor general, say the program lacked proper oversight.

"How do we make government and this program more effective, efficient, accountable and ethically sound?" he asked.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Public school teachers and their unions may be next, as Gov. Bruce Rauner seeks to loosen requirements on collective bargaining dues.

The vast majority of state employees are unionized. But even those who choose not to join still have to pay what are known as "fair share" dues. That's basically a fee to cover the work unions do to benefit all workers, members and non-members alike. Things like wage hikes, and health care coverage that unions secure in negotiations. But Gov. Rauner alleges the money's also used for political advocacy.

Luis Arroyo
Brian Mackey/WUIS

A budget oversight panel created by Illinois House Speaker  Michael Madigan grilled members of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration about cuts to the current budget and his plan for next year. 

  Democratic members of the committee demanded more information about how the governor is choosing which programs to cut and, in some cases, eliminate. They say the process the administration used to decide what to cut lacked transparency  and argued that some of the choices, like eliminating services to people with autism, were wrong.

potter
Jaegar Moore / flickr.com/97408355@N06

Bruce Rauner froze several state grants in order to balance the budget for the current fiscal year. Now lawmakers are asking what will happen to the people who relied on those programs even after their deaths. 

One of the grants provided money to cover burial of the poor. Under the program, funeral homes provide the services and bill the state to cover part of the costs.

Rep. Frank Mautino reviews a COGFA report.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

A Chicago community organization is questioning why a House resolution is calling for a probe of how it uses state money. Lawmakers have asserted that the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) got money from the embattled, state-funded Neighborhood Recovery Initiative. But KOCO leaders say the group wasn’t part of that violence prevention program and they are “baffled” at the audit request.

flickr/borman18

The Illinois Senate could begin voting Wednesday on a plan to reverse a smattering of state grants recently eliminated by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Democratic legislators say they were caught off guard earlier this month when Rauner suddenly took $26 million in funding away from programs, including ones that support autistic children and people with epilepsy.

Sen. Dan Kotowksi, a Park Ridge Democrat, says Illinois should restore at least a portion of the money. He proposes getting it by sweeping special state funds that have reserves.

Medical Marijuana
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Patients with certain illnesses are on their way to being able to use medical marijuana in Illinois, but time is running out.

As it stands now, Illinois' medical marijuana program is only set to continue for another two and a half years, and sick people haven't even been able to legally buy cannabis yet.

Democratic Rep. Lou Lang says that wasn't his intent; he'd wanted the program to last twice that long. Lang blames a delay in Illinois awarding licenses to firms to grow and sell cannabis.

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

Illinois has more jobs than qualified workers, a group of business leaders say.

To bridge that gap, Sean Noble of ReadyNation says Illinois needs to improve its education system, primarily by expanding early childhood education.

"Current education and labor market trends indicate the Illinois workforce faces an increasingly serious skills gap," Noble said. "That's the gap between two important numbers: job postings and the workers who are skilled enough to fill those positions."

Amanda Vinicky interviewing Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Today marks Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's 100th day in office. He sat down in the Capitol for a one-on-one interview with WUIS Statehouse Bureau Chief Amanda Vinicky.

Illinois Secretary of State

Illinois drivers may see their future options for specialty license plates become more limited.

A proposal moving in the legislature would prevent any new groups from creating specialty plates and instead allow them to sell a sticker. The causes would still get revenue.

Rep. John D'Amico, a Democrat from Chicago, says the change will also help identify vehicles and provide less confusion for law enforcement issuing tickets.

The State Legislative Leaders Foundation

Tuesday marks a milestone for Gov. Bruce Rauner: his first 100 days as Illinois' governor. It's the first time the private equity investor has held elected office. He came in with big ideas, and big challenges.

There's no official significance behind a governor's first 100 days, but it's often used as the yard stick to gauge how well a new politician is doing.

Historians seem to trace it back to Franklin Roosevelt craftily using his first 100 days as president to usher in his New Deal. FDR was trying to bring the United States out of the Great Depression.

The Autism Program

Many Illinois parents who have children with autism bring them to one of nineteen centers around the state, but that may change.

Illinois' autism centers will have to close if the state doesn't allocate funds, leaders of the programs say.

The Autism Program was supposed to receive $4.3 million dollars this year, but that money was cut off when Gov. Bruce Rauner suspended a total of $26 million of state grants.

Capitol View 4/17/15

Apr 20, 2015

Amanda Vinicky hosts Capitol View on WSEC-TV/PBS Springfield with guests Bruce Rushton and Lisa Ryan.

graph showing collective bargaining membership
Compiled by Barry Hirsch and David Macpherson at Unionstats.com. / Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau

The future of labor depends in large part on which view prevails: that of business, so neatly represented by Gov. Bruce Rauner, seeing unions as past their prime, and an impediment to the full potential of capitalism. Or that of the unions, who've seen the decline of labor precipitate a concentration in wealth at the top of the economic ladder, and ever-increasing income inequality.

University of Washington sociologist Jake Rosenfeld, author of What Unions No Longer Do, joins me to talk about the status of labor in America — and Illinois.

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

Private equity investor Gov. Bruce Rauner often says his goal is to make Illinois more competitive.

At a recent speech to business owners, he sang Illinois' praises. He says the state has the hardest working people, the best location and the most fertile farms.

The president of Wiley Office Furniture, Zach Hoffman, agrees with Rauner.

House floor
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois' budget, and Gov. Bruce Rauner's influence on it, will be examined by a special legislative committee. The powerful House Speaker announced its creation today.

It's either a sign of a contentious budget battle, or an early attempt at reaching a compromise.

Amtrak
Bill Dickinson / Flickr.com/skynoir

Amtrak officials say they don’t yet know which services would be affected if Illinois cuts its funding. But the rail company says it’s sure there would be some service reductions if its grant is cut by a proposed $16 million.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has suggested the state’s Amtrak operations subsidy, administered through the Illinois Department of Transportation, drop to $26 million from the current $42 million. A spokesman for Amtrak, which operates four intrastate train lines with service between Chicago and dozens of downstate cities, says the company can’t absorb a cut that steep.

Pages