Statehouse

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

  Officials with The Autism Program said they felt shock April 3, when they were told their state funding was canceled — effective immediately. The Good Friday notice also came to the chagrin of some legislators who said they thought autism programs would be spared from budget cuts.

“I regularly come into contact with 18 senators and representatives across the state,” said TAP lobbyist Jim Runyon. “They had been assured that the autism program was going to be held harmless through the remainder of (fiscal) ’15.”

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey/WUIS

This week's discussion includes the fallout over Governor Bruce Rauner's cuts to social services and House Speaker Michael Madigan's new budget oversight panel.  Paris Schutz, political reporter for WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" joins us for the program.

Illinois officials gathered in Springfield Thursday for the annual Holocaust memorial ceremony. As happens every year, a survivor shared her story.

Magda Brown grew up in Hungary. On her 17th birthday in 1944, she was sent to the the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Upon arrival, her mother was sent somewhere else, so after a few days she asked the more experienced prisoners when she might see her relatives again. Their hands went up, pointing to the chimneys over the crematorium.

United States Department of Agriculture

Lawmakers took a break from some of the more serious bills in the Illinois House to discuss a proposal that would designate an official state pie.

House Bill 208, which would make pumpkin pie the official state pie, passed on Thursday, but not without some lighthearted debate.

As legislators debated giving pumpkin pie the special designation, the dessert talk got so loud Rep. Al Riley had to ask them to quiet down.

The quiet didn't last long. Legislators like Republican Rep. David Harris of Arlington Heights tossed in spoonfuls of puns.

Twenty-seven people are out of a job at Illinois' Tobacco Quitline, which means there's no one left to answer the phone.

For the past 15 years, Illinois smokers could dial 1-866-QUIT-YES, and a tobacco treatment counselor or nurse would answer. Try calling now, and there's a message saying: "Your call is important to us. Unfortunately, Quitline funding has been suspended due to budget cuts and we will be closed until further notice."

It was an abrupt end. Supporters say they had little financial wiggle room.

Organization and business leaders say they were stunned by a Good Friday notice indicating state funding for some programs would be immediately terminated. Democrats say they were “blindsided” too.

ILGA.gov

It can take a decade or more for the FDA to approve a new medicine, but a measure in the Illinois House is meant to help people who can't wait that long.

Rep. Greg Harris, a Democrat from Chicago, says for people who have been told they have just a short time to live, it could be a ray of hope. "It's the last, best hope for some of our constituents," he said. "I'm very proud to carry it. I'm proud to give this hope to people who have no place else to turn."

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

A day of remembrance was held at the state capital Wednesday for President Abraham Lincoln, on the 150th anniversary of his death.

The ceremony included a 21-gun salute, music from a military band and a prayer from Chaplain Maurice Buford of the U.S. Navy.

"We honor him because his flame of leadership still kindles, his seat at the eternal table of prominence is permanent and because he continues to teach this great nation to always have the faith that might makes right,” Buford said.

Thousands of state employees are a step closer to receiving money they've been waiting on since 2011.

The Illinois House approved spending the approximately $63 million it'll take to pay workers raises they were guaranteed in their contracts, but which the state refused to hand over.

State Sen. Matt Murphy
WUIS/Illinois Issues

This is Past Due, a look at big picture budget issues facing Illinois. Lawmakers have returned from their spring break, and one topic is on everyone’s mind: the budget.

Democrats want more revenue, which would likely mean some version of a tax increase. Some Republicans say they would consider it, but they want business friendly reforms passed first. This week, you will hear Jamey Dunn chat with two senators who serve on budgeting committees, one a Democrat and one a Republican.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has been traveling the state to promote his so-called "Turnaround Agenda." But don't expect the General Assembly to act on it right away.

It calls for sweeping changes to unemployment insurance, workers' compensation, limits on where lawsuits can be filed and the creation of right-to-work zones. Plus, a local freeze on property taxes, and a repeal of the state's Prevailing Wage Law.

LinkedIn

Social service agencies are reeling from sudden budget cuts. More could be on the way.

Some Democrats say they were taken off guard when, two weeks after legislators and Gov. Bruce Rauner passed a law to handle the budget through June, Rauner's administration said certain programs would be cut-off: Grants for a quit-smoking hotline, support for autistic kids, and funding for a teen after-school program -- all eliminated. In cases, workers have been laid off, and services discontinued.

African American legislators say the impoverished parts of the state will be most affected by budget cuts.

Dangerous and Draconian. The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus uses those words to explain $26 million Governor Bruce Rauner recently suspended in state grants.  He's proposed more cuts for next year.
 

Senator Kim Lightford says Rauner's cuts will be devastating in four main areas public safety, education, health and the economy. 

Rep. Elaine Nekritz and Sen. Daniel Biss
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s ideas about how to change government-employee pensions are getting extra scrutiny in Springfield.

Rauner wants employees to be moved into less generous plans for future pension benefits.

So far, it’s just something he’s just talked about. Democrats who’ve long focused on pension issues say that needs to change.

Sen. Daniel Biss, of Evanston, is calling for an actuarial analysis. He also says the idea that legislation would be passed and make it through the inevitable court challenge anytime soon is a “fantasy."

 Some Lawmakers say that they believed certain programs had been protected under a budget deal recently struck with the governor to fund state services through the rest of the fiscal year. But Gov. Bruce Rauner froze several human services grants earlier this month — including support for people with autism.

Now a Senate budget committee is calling on members of the administration to explain the cuts. Democratic Sen. Dan Kotowski, who chairs the committee, says the money should be restored.

potter
Jaegar Moore / flickr.com/97408355@N06

Illinois has until recently paid for the cost of burial of its indigent dead. That changed on Good Friday, when the administration of Gov. Bruce Rauner terminated funding for the program.

The $9 million loss could push the cost of impoverished decedents’ final arrangements onto their families, funeral homes or even counties. Funeral directors say the cut could “cause many problems” for the state, which is struggling to fund operations through the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

U.S. Department of Education

Illinois received $20 million from the federal government for expanding access to early childhood education.

Illinois currently enrolls 27 percent of its 4-year-olds in state-funded preschool for low-income families. Reyna Hernandez of the Illinois State Board of Education says it's hoping to expand that number with Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed increase of 25 million dollars to early childhood education.

wikimedia commons

A proposal in the Illinois House that would require all state vehicles to be manufactured in North America sounds patriotic, but some groups say it would hurt Illinois businesses.

The Department of Transportation and the Illinois' Manufacturers Association are among those who oppose House Bill 3438. Randy Nehrt of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce says this could actually hurt Illinois businesses, especially those that supply parts to car manufacturers in Mexico.

Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

This week Rahm Emanuel was re-elected Mayor of Chicago, which (like the state itself) is facing a huge budget deficit.   Also, Governor Rauner declared the Illinois Supreme Court part of a "corrupt" political system.   WBEZ's Lauren Chooljian joins the panel for discussion of these and other topics on this edition of the program.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov. Bruce Rauner says he choose to award business tax credits to uphold Illinois' trustworthiness with companies, but the Republican's critics are calling it "beyond the pale."

Social service organizations are still reeling from the unexpected news they received a week ago that Gov. Rauner was immediately cutting off their state grants. No longer would there be money to bury the indigent. Funding for The Autism Program, eliminated. Funding stripped from addiction prevention. Cuts totaling $200 million.

Amanda Vinicky

Gas station owners are worried that lawmakers will pass an increase to the motor fuel tax to bring in more revenue.

David Smith owns gas stations along the Illinois border. He says Illinois' higher taxes cause most drivers to fill up outside of the state.

"At one of our Missouri stations near the border of Missouri and Illinois, we sell for example 170,000 gallons of gas per month," Smith said. "However at our Illinois-based border station just a few miles away on the Illinois side, we only sell about 70,000 gallons per month."

Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

Illinois has been "smoke free" since 2008, when a state law banned anyone from lighting up within 15 feet of public places and businesses. Now legislators are considering broadening where smoking is prohibited.

I recently saw a bumper sticker that read "At Least I Can Still Smoke In My Car." Not for long, if a measure that recently got the approval of a Senate committee continues to advance.

The proposal would forbid adults from smoking if anyone under the age of 18 is in the car; doing so would trigger a $100 fine.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois struggles with its prison population in part because of its political culture. For decade, policymakers enacted greater and greater penalties for lesser and lesser crimes.

Will Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has convened a new commission to reduce Illinois' prison population, have the political courage to follow through on recommendations that may well come back to bite him in future campaigns? Commission member and Loyola University criminologist David Olson joins me to talk about what it'll take.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

 Gov. Bruce Rauner has issued his first two pardons since becoming governor nearly three months ago.
 
 The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports over the weekend
that the pardons by the Republican went to Neil Hebert and Michael Sullivan.
Rauner rejected 57 other clemency petitions.
 
 The 43-year-old Hebert was convicted of theft in Champaign County when he was
20. He served two years of probation. The News-Gazette says Sullivan was
convicted of burglary in Cook County in 1979.
 

flickr/dnak

State Rep. Monique Davis wants to give prisoners access to condoms.

Incarceration leads to a greater risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV, so she proposed selling condoms for prisoners to buy with their own money.

"If we can decide we're going to cut the spread of AIDS in Illinois, and we're going to have all different kinds of programs to do this, then that reduces the health care costs that Illinois has to spend," Davis said.

Her proposal failed in committee.

Tammy Duckworth

Much of the focus of this week's political news centered on Washington D.C.  U.S. Representative Tammy Duckworth announced that she would seek the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Mark Kirk.   And with the upcoming retirement of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, there are questions whether Senator Dick Durbin will continue as Minority Whip after 2016.  Also, the latest on beleaguered former Congressman Aaron Schock.  John O'Connor of the Associated Press joins the panel to discuss those and other topics on this week's edition of State Week.

Save Abandoned Babies Foundation

Some adoption rights advocates have a problem with a proposal in the Illinois legislature. It would change the Safe Haven law, which allows parents to drop off newborns at certain locations anonymously.

A new plan by Sen. Heather Steans would help protect the parents' identity even more by creating a foundling birth certificate, which would leave off information about the parents.

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

Gov. Bruce Rauner has spent much of his first few months in office talking about labor unions. He’s shared not only policy proposals, but also his ideas about the history of the union movement. I wrote about the state of labor in the April edition of Illinois Issues magazine and decided to take a closer look at one the governor’s theories.

A new exhibit in Springfield brings together items related to the killing of President Lincoln, which happened 150 years ago this month.

The exhibit is called "A Fiendish Assassination." It includes artifacts from President Lincoln's assassination, which took place on April 14, 1865.

James Cornelius is the curator for the exhibit.

"The goal is to make people realize that it was a public event that was horrifying and yet magnetic in its power," he said.

ilga.gov

Illinois' powerful House speaker is staking an early claim in what's sure to be a contentious budget battle.

Billions of dollars in cuts proposed by Republican Governor Bruce Rauner already have spurred rallies at the capitol, and groups foretell of grave consequences.

House Speaker Michael Madigan says he acknowledges Illinois is in a difficult budget situation, but there's one area in particular he wants to spend more on: state crime labs.

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