Statehouse

Pensions
6:00 am
Tue December 17, 2013

Preparing To Implement Pension Overhaul — And Not To

Credit Arthur Public Library via IMLS DCC (creative commons)

Illinois’ biggest and most indebted pension system is beginning to implement changes tied to the pension overhaul passed this month. But officials are also making plans in case the new law is struck down.

The Teachers Retirement System is by far the biggest of Illinois’ five pension systems, with well over 360,000 members. TRS is also the biggest factor in the pension funding problem, accounting for more than half of the combined $100 billion shortfall.

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Statehouse
5:31 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Gov Candidate Brady Releases Income Information

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

State Senator Bill Brady will no longer have to defend himself against criticism he didn't pay enough in taxes.  The candidate for governor released his tax returns Monday.

When the mortgage crisis hit, Sen. Bill Brady's real estate development business took a hit.  So much so that in 2008 and 2009 he owed the federal government no income tax.

Brady defended that four years ago, when he was Republican's nominee for governor:

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State Week
6:15 pm
Fri December 13, 2013

Listen To State Week - December 13, 2013

This week, among the topics of discussion: corporate tax incentives, interest on state bonds, and more on state pensions.

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Statehouse
4:25 pm
Fri December 13, 2013

Patti Blagojevich Attends Husband's Appeal Hearing

The wife of imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has said she hopes her husband will win his freedom and that he could return home to rejoin her and their two school-aged daughters.  
Patti Blagojevich spoke Friday to reporters after attending a Chicago hearing to hear oral arguments in her husband's appeal of his corruption conviction. 

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Concealed Carry Law
6:38 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

NRA Protests Digital Only Concealed Carry Applications

Credit concealcarry.org

A new Illinois State Police website launched today (12/12/13) lays out what gun-owners need to do if they want to carry a gun in public. A prominent gun-rights group is not satisfied.

The state police will begin accepting applications for concealed carry permits on Jan. 5. Anyone looking to save time can get started now.  There’s an online checklist that explains where gun-owners who want to speed up processing can go for fingerprinting.

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Statehouse
5:44 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

As He Readies Appeal, Blagojevich Lawyer Says Fmr. Gov. Faces Unusual Problem

Attorneys for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich are scheduled to argue their appeal Friday morning.

Blagojevich’s attorney Leonard Goodman says Blagojevich engaged in political horse-trading, not bribery or extortion.

"All of his plans which he discussed openly with his advisors were for basically political appointments," Goodman stated.

It’s an argument Blagojevich has made since he was arrested in 2008 and it’s an argument that has repeatedly failed.

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Statehouse
10:20 am
Thu December 12, 2013

State Wards Won't Be Moved From So. Ill. Developmental Center

Credit wsiu

A judge's ruling means 23 wards of the state will not be moved for now from a facility for the developmentally disabled in southern Illinois.
 
A federal lawsuit is seeking to block the state's closure of the Murray Developmental Center in Centralia.
 
Gov. Pat Quinn ordered Murray and other facilities closed last year as part of an effort to save the state money. The suit has delayed the transfer of more
than 200 residents of Murray to smaller facilities. Plaintiffs argue they won't get the care they need elsewhere.
 

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Pans Tax Credits
6:19 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Madigan: Resist Temptation To Cave To Corporate Officials' Demands

House Speaker Michael Madigan readies to introduce a pension overhaul bill denounced by public employee unions, who say Illinois should instead close corporate tax loopholes. Madigan today (12/11) issued a statement saying Illinois lawmakers "must resist the temptation to cave to corporate officials' demands every time they impose a deadline for payment in exchange for remaining in Illinois."
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  

  A day after Office Depot announced it would stay in Florida rather than move to Illinois, the speaker of the House says Illinois needs to end its practice of offering tax incentives on a case-by-case basis.

    

The Illinois House is getting flak for adjourning earlier this month without voting on tax breaks approved by the Senate -- deals meant to lure the newly-merged Office Depot to Illinois, and to convince Archer Daniels Midland to keep its global headquarters in-state.

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Election 2014
4:42 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Brady, Hardiman Win Top Ballot Spots For Primary

Sen. Bill Brady will be the first Republican listed on next spring's primary ballot for governor.
Brady won a four-way lottery Wednesday to claim the coveted ballot position.
 
The Chicago Sun-Times reports (http://tinyurl.com/ko4qusg ) that Democratic
incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn will be listed second on the Democratic side behind Tio
 Hardiman.
 
Brady, of Bloomington, will be followed on the March 18 ballot by Treasurer Dan
Rutherford of Chenoa, Hinsdale Sen. Kirk Dillard and venture
capitalist Bruce Rauner of Winnetka.
 

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Statehouse
11:48 am
Wed December 11, 2013

How The Pension Lawsuits Could Play Out

UI Law professor John Colombo
Credit University of Illinois

Several state employee unions are expected to file a lawsuit contesting Illinois' new pension measure.

A University of Illinois law professor says that action will start a process that could last as long as two years. 

John Colombo said any decisions will ultimately come from the state’s Supreme Court, but the process has to start in circuit court.

He expects unions to seek an injunction that would keep the reform plan from taking effect while the legal process plays out.

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Quinn Mum
6:11 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

Illinois Loses Office Depot, Is ADM Next?

  A newly merged Office Depot chose to locate its headquarters in Florida, instead of Illinois. A Republican candidate for governor says Illinois needs to hurry if it doesn't want a similar fate with Archer Daniels Midland.

Archer Daniels Midland is based in Decatur now, and no matter what plans to keep many of its operations there. But it's searching for a new worldwide headquarters.

Chicago's in the running, but so are major cities.

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Statehouse
2:43 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

S & P Improves Financial Outlook For Illinois

Credit wikimedia

A major credit-rating house has taken a more positive
outlook on Illinois debt than it has in years after last week's pension-reform
vote.
 
Standard & Poor's affirmed its A- rating on state debt backed by general tax
revenue Tuesday but revised its outlook from ``negative'' to ``developing.''
 
The ratings agency says ``developing'' means the rating could be raised or
lowered in the next two years. Analyst Robin Prunty says the change is positive
but risk remains because workers unions will likely sue over the pension law

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Statehouse
8:42 am
Tue December 10, 2013

Same Sex Marriage Forums To Explain The New Law

Advocates who pressed for same-sex marriage to become legal in Illinois are now sponsoring forums to help gay and lesbian couples understand the law.

Equality Illinois'  Director of Public Policy, Randy Hannig, says he already has been "flooded" with questions from couples who want to marry.

'We're using it as an opportunity to educate," Hannig said.  "We did the same thing three years ago after the civil unions law was signed."

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Politics
3:21 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Former Diplomat And U.S. Senate Candidate Rich Williamson Dead At 64

Rich Williamson
Credit wikepedia

The Illinois Republican Party has confirmed Rich Williamson has died.  He passed away Sunday.

The Chicago resident was a long-time leader in the Illinois GOP. He lost a nationally watched campaign against Carol Moseley Braun in 1992. She went on to become the first black woman elected to the U.S. Senate.  

Williamson was chairman of the state Republican Party from 1999-2001 and has served as Republican National Committeeman for Illinois since 2010. He served in diplomatic roles under three presidents and authored numerous books and articles.  

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Stuart Levine
2:56 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Political Fix Theater: Apology Not Accepted

A playbill from "I Wish to Apologize to the People of Illinois," a show about consummate political insider turned e-cigarette salesman Stuart Levine, who was a key FBI informant in the "Operation Board Games" investigation."
Credit Amanda Vinicky

The curtains are closing on the Chicago play "I Wish to Apologize to the People of Illinois" -- a timely production, given that today, Dec. 9, marks five years since Rod Blagojevich's arrest. Two trials later, he was convicted on 18 counts of corruption. At Blagojevich's sentencing hearing, the former governor said he was sorry for his mistakes. But Blagojevich was not the one making apologies in this show. He's not even a character -- just someone who gets mentioned now and again.

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Ethics Anniversary
1:33 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

December Ninth: A Big Day On Illinois' Ethics Timeline

Then Gov. Rod Blagojevich's mug shot, taken on the morning of his arrest, on Dec. 9, 2008.
Credit wikipedia.org

 December Ninth is a significant day in Illinois' political history: for better, and for worse.

On Dec. 9, 2003 "the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act was signed into law," Illinois Campaign for Political Reform's David Morrison says.

That was Illinois lawmakers' response to the Hired Truck scandal that landed former Gov. George Ryan in prison. It created inspectors general with subpoena power, limited lobbyists' wining and dining of officials, and set conduct standards for state workers.

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Campaign Caps Lifted
7:15 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Blagojevich's Arrest Anniversary: Reason To Celebrate?

Credit WBEZ

  It's been five years to the day since FBI agents arrived at then Governor Rod Blagojevich's house to arrest him on charges of corruption. Blagojevich is serving a 14-year prison sentence, and for most Illinois politicians it's good riddance. Amanda Vinicky reports. 

Fresh off the General Assembly's passing a law to overhaul the state's pensions, I had the chance to catch up with House Speaker Michael Madigan:

VINICKY: "It's the five year anniversary of Blagojevich's arrest coming up ... any reaction, any ...

MADIGAN: "Yeah, we should … celebrate."

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State Week
2:32 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

Listen To State Week - December 6, 2013

This week, a discussion of the changes made to the state's pension system.

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Court Challenge Ahead
7:12 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

Pension Overhaul Signed Into Law

After the General Assembly passed the pension bill, Gov. Pat Quinn called a statehouse press conference, calling it a 'victory."
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  A major overhaul of Illinois' pensions is now law. Gov. Pat Quinn held a private bill-signing ceremony this afternoon in Chicago. A court challenge seeking to stop it from taking effect is certain.

The new law will cut state workers' and public school teachers' retirement benefits.

It also raises the retirement age; employees younger than 46 will have to work up to five years longer before they can retire. The savings from those changes are intended to rid Illinois of a long-festering budget issue: an unfunded pension liability that's grown to about $100 billion.

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Statehouse
11:59 am
Thu December 5, 2013

CapitolView: Pension Reform Analysis

WUIS State Week host, Bill Wheelhouse, guests on the latest CapitolView regarding the pension reform passed in Illinois.

Statehouse
8:38 am
Thu December 5, 2013

After Pension Vote, Gov. Quinn Will Get His Back Pay

Gov. Pat Quinn is set to get about $74,000 in back pay now that Illinois lawmakers have finally approved a pension deal.  

The governor used his line-item veto power this summer when he halted legislators' salaries, saying they shouldn't get paid until they addressed the nearly $100 billion pensions crisis. He also stopped accepting his own paychecks.  
A judge disagreed with Quinn in September and the comptroller began issuing checks to lawmakers. But

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Statehouse
8:56 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

A Day After Passage, Pension Legislation Sent To Governor's Desk

A bill aimed at fixing Illinois' hundred billion pension crisis is before Gov. Pat Quinn.  
A spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton said Wednesday that the bill had been sent to Quinn.  
The move came a day after the Illinois General Assembly approved the bill that is estimated to save the state $160 billion over the next 30 years.  

The plan reduces benefits for current and retired public employees. Among other things, it also raises the retirement age on a sliding scale for some employees.  

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Pensions
7:22 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

Pension Changes More Common Among Governments

Republican Leaders Sen. Christine Radogno (left) and Rep. Jim Durkin
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois is just the latest state to vote on legislation to overhaul public pension plans.   

Heather Kerrigan is a contributor with Governing Magazine.  She says this year alone, state and local governments around the country have proposed more than 1,000 pieces of legislation to shore up pensions.  And she says almost all of them face the same challenge. 

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Corrections
4:54 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

State Prison Locked Down Because of Illness

The state's Department of Corrections has locked down the Big Muddy River Correctional Center in Ina after dozens of inmates started to show flu-like symptoms.  

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan reports that the department says the Level 1 lockdown means that no visitors are allowed at the facility and no inmates will be transferred.  

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Pensions
4:52 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

Madigan: Courts Could Pick And Choose On Pension Plan

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan presents the conference committee report on Senate Bill 1, the legislation overhauling Illinois pensions. Madigan says "hopefully the Court will rule in favor of the constitutionality of the bill."
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Illinois legislators may have passed a pension overhaul, but unions representing teachers and public employees have vowed to sue to stop it from taking effect. If they're successful, that could force lawmakers to go back to the drawing board.

Lawmakers made preemptive efforts to fend off a legal challenge. The measure contains a statement that details the terrible condition of Illinois' finances and what lawmakers have tried to do about it -- a clear attempt to justify cutting pension benefits.

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Statehouse
1:16 am
Wed December 4, 2013

How They Finally Passed A Pension Overhaul

House Speaker Michael Madigan, right, forcefully argued for legislation to overhaul the state's pension systems.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The Illinois General Assembly approved sweeping cuts to state employee pensions Tuesday. The move comes after years of stalemate over how to address a hundred-billion dollar liability — the worst-funded pension plans of any state.

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Tax Credits
11:32 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

ADM Unlikely To Get Tax Credit Before End Of Year

Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, is the sponsor of a Senate bill to give ADM a tax credit in exchange for creating new jobs in Chicago and Decatur, if the company moves its global headquarters from Decatur to Chicago.
Credit ilga.gov

While much of the attention was focused on pensions, state legislators yesterday also dealt with measures intended to get a trio of companies to call Illinois home. But they only got halfway there.

Decatur-based Archer Daniels Midland is shopping for a new world headquarters. The agribusiness giant may well choose Chicago; but it wants a tax break from Illinois, like in a measure approved by the Senate.

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Statehouse
5:56 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

Blagojevich To Have Another Day In Court

Rod Blagojevich's lawyers laid out a final set of arguments in writing before they step before appellate judges next week to argue that the imprisoned ex-governor deserves a new trial.
 
The 33-page filing with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals repeats arguments made before, including that trial Judge James Zagel displayed bias against
Blagojevich. The brief was posted late Monday.
 
The defense and prosecution will get 30 minutes each to deliver oral arguments before a three-judge panel Dec. 13.
 

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Statehouse
5:52 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

Sweeping Pension Changes Approved

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Illinois General Assembly has approved sweeping changes to pensions for state employees. Governor Pat Quinn says he will sign the legislation. It's intended to fix the worst-funded state retirement system in the country.

Illinois is roughly $100 billion short of the money it promised to pay state employees, university workers, and public school teachers.

After years of debate, lawmakers finally agreed on a solution to the problem: cutting benefits, mainly by reducing the three-percent annual increase retirees have gotten on their pensions.

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Statehouse
5:00 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

Recap Of Pension Vote With Brian Mackey

WUIS' Sean Crawford talks with Statehouse reporter Brian Mackey moments after state lawmakers voted to approve pension legislation. 

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