Illinois' stack of overdue bills is smaller, thanks to stronger-than expected tax revenues. But as lawmakers begin finalizing a new state budget, one of the state's chief fiscal officers is cautioning lawmakers to get thrifty.
Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka's wearing a purple, long-sleeved knit dress. It's by St. John's, a designer label whose dresses retail for about $800. Topinka brags she got it for $7 at Goodwill.
Schools that have sexual education classes would have to go beyond "abstinence-only" under a measure Illinois legislators sent the governor. The plan seeks to ensure students are getting medically accurate and age appropriate information.
The measure does not require schools to offer sex ed courses.
But if they do ... the legislation mandates that middle and high schools include information about birth control.
A state pension overhaul backed by government employee unions may save only half of what advocates had promised. That underscores an ongoing battle between the House and Senate over pensions, with only ten days left in the legislative session.
There's general agreement on this much: that Illinois' public pension systems have $100 billion dollars in unfunded liabilities. That's a fancy word that basically means "debt."
It's a big number that's getting Illinois in trouble with bond houses and eating into the state's budget.
Despite years of cuts to the Illinois state budget ... even more are ahead. Legislators are still deciding where else they can slash spending.
"Human services" is a legislative phrase Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) says covers:
HARRIS: "All the state departments dealing with health care, senior services, children services, so the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Medicaid, human services, mental health, substance abuse, Department of Aging, DCFS, public health and veterans... "
Illinois universities and community colleges have signed on to a deal that would have them pick up the cost of their employees' retirement benefits. It's part of lawmakers' ongoing efforts to reduce how much the state is spending on pensions.
Illinois has cut its spending on universities for years ... and even more reductions are expected next year.
School administrators say it's forced them to hike tuition, and to leave positions unfilled.
An Illinois Senate committee has approved legislation that would pave the way for concealed-carry of firearms in Illinois. But gun-rights advocates say it's too restrictive, and the measure faces an uphill climb.
State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, was trying to negotiate a compromise with gun-rights supporters. But ultimately he went his own way. His proposal would not allow guns in schools, day cares, casinos, and stadiums.
Just over two weeks remain before the Illinois General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn for the summer, on May 31st. They still have a lot to deal with in that time — like pensions, concealed carry, same-sex marriage, and next year's budget. But an incident Wednesday in the Illinois House shows tempers are already starting to flare.
Less than half of the money in Illinois' Road Fund actually pays for highway construction and maintenance. That's the finding in a new audit (pdf) that also says the Road Fund overpaid for employee health insurance.
The Illinois Senate is expected to vote Thursday on the latest proposal to fix the state's drastically underfunded pension systems. In what's become a multi-year pension debate, many aspects of the plan have been put forth before. But it has one element that makes it unique.
When a federal court declared Illinois' ban on letting people carry guns in public unconstitutional ... it also gave legislators an assignment: pass a concealed carry law by June 9. Lawmakers are in continued negotiations, but so far gun rights' activists have been unable to reach an agreement with those who favor stricter gun control. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is doubtful they will ... at least in time. He fears that could leave Illinois temporarily without ANY real limits on who can carry a gun, and where.
A plan that will leave state employees and teachers with reduced retirement benefits made it out of the Illinois House Thursday, potentially paving the way for the pension overhaul that has thus far eluded lawmakers. But it also ignites a face-off between two of the state's top Democrats — with the potential to keep a pension overhaul as elusive as it's ever been.
The Illinois House of Representatives on Thursday approved a massive overhaul of state pensions. It's the first time the House has passed such a plan after more than a year of negotiating and many failed attempts.
Its also the first time Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, put his full support behind a specific proposal.
Police officers from across Illinois gathered in Springfield Thursday to honor colleagues killed in the line of duty — including one killed in 2012.
On the Monday after Thanksgiving, Illinois State Police Trooper Kyle Deatherage was patrolling on his motorcycle on Interstate 55, about 30 miles south of Springfield. He pulled over another vehicle when the driver of a semi-truck is alleged to have hit and killed Deatherage. The driver has been charged with reckless homicide.
Illinois lawmakers are "weighing in" on Olympic organizers' decision to drop wrestling from the summer games.
The Illinois House passed a resolution encouraging the International Olympic Committee to reinstate wrestling as an Olympic sport. The state Senate is poised to do the same.
Former U-S House Speaker Denny Hastert made a special appearance in Springfield for it. Hastert was a wrestling coach in Yorkville before he went on to Congress. He says it's important to give young people the opportunity to reach for an Olympic dream.
The Illinois House is poised to vote Thursday on an overhaul of the state's pension systems. The plan easily advanced out of a House committee Wednesday morning. But the Senate's working on different method.
Wednesday began with a widespread feeling that after more than a year of failed attempts to reduce the state's pension debt, House Speaker Michael Madigan's proposal might be it.
The Illinois House is poised to vote Thursday on an overhaul of the state's pension systems. It would reduce state workers', teachers', and university employees' future retirement benefits. The plan easily advanced out of a House committee Wednesday morning.
There's a feeling in the capitol that after countless attempts to reduce the state's pension debt, this may be it. Insiders say it's significant that the plan's sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan — who rarely takes action without having support locked up.
Illinois’ new deal with the state’s largest public employees union could be null and void. The union is going to take a second vote on its contract agreement with Governor Pat Quinn’s administration. Amanda Vinicky reports from the WUIS Statehouse Bureau.
It took 15 months for AFSCME to reach an agreement. They finally got a deal in late February.
But AFSCME says because a key condition of the settlement has not been met, it will ask members if they still want to proceed with the new contract.
Illinois Senate legislation allowing the carrying of concealed weapons appears less permissive than touted but it's scheduled for a rewrite before it's even filed. The Associated Press on Monday obtained a copy of Chicago Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul's bill. He called it a compromise between Chicago lawmakers fighting street violence and downstate moderates who want easier access to guns.
The Illinois Supreme Court has announced the death at age 81 of former Chief Justice Moses Harrison. Harrison died Thursday at a St. Louis hospital. The cause of death wasn't immediately revealed. Harrison began his career on the bench in 1973 as a circuit court judge. He was serving on the 5th District Appellate Court when he was elected to the Supreme Court in 1992. He served as chief justice from 2000 to 2002.