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AFSCME Council 31

A dispute involving labor and a majority of lawmakers on one side, and Gov. Bruce Rauner on the other, is playing on repeat. On Monday, Rauner vetoed legislation backed by AFSCME for the second time in a year.

The legislation may sound innocuous to those not directly impacted.

It would send contract disputes (like one that's going on now) between the Illinois's largest public employees union and the state, to a binding arbitrator, who is supposed to be neutral.

But to Rauner it's "stunning, its atrocious legislation."

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Parents from our panel take on the issue of standardized tests in the state: lawmakers had debated a measure that would allow some students to opt-out of taking them, it failed to pass, but was it a good idea?

StoryCorps Animation: The Human Voice

May 16, 2016

The great oral historian Studs Terkel was an inspiration to StoryCorps, and he was also an early participant in the project. In this animated short, he speaks out on what has been lost in modern life and where he sees hope for our future.

House floor
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Ever since the Great Recession of 2008, Illinois state government has been going from one fiscal crisis to the next. While crisis can force action, it can also lead to decisions that may not be best in the long term.

ilga.gov

An outspoken Democratic state representative says he's running for McHenry County board chairman instead of seeking re-election.

State Rep. Jack Franks first took office in 1999 and has often clashed with his own party. McHenry County Democratic Party officials chose him Sunday to fill the ballot vacancy for board chairman. He'll have to collect 270 signatures to get his name on the November ballot.

In a statement, Franks says he won't seek re-election for the General Assembly. Party leaders have until late August to find a replacement.

flickr/b0r0da

A potential framework for a balanced state budget relies on both cuts, and bringing in more money to state coffers. That does include an income tax hike. But there are other revenue ideas too.

Legislators who've been unable to reach a budget deal since last July have about two weeks left to agree on a new plan, or risk taking the state into a new phase of uncertainty and political gamesmanship.

Video Poker
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Online betting on horse-races would continue to be legal in Illinois, under legislation advancing at the state capitol.

That's despite concerns of anti-gambling activities like Anita Bedell.

"This legalizes bookmaking on the internet, which is available 7 days a week non stop," she said at a recent Senate hearing.

Without legislative action, that authority expires early next year.

The measure is one of several up for debate that affects the gambling industry.

Rachel Otwell

This episode, Keil and Rachel head to Jubilee Farm, just outside of Springfield in New Berlin. They meet with the Catholic Dominican Sisters who operate the site which focuses on ecology and spirituality. It's over 100 acres and is home to llamas, alpacas and gardens.

John Hanlon, Illinois Innocence Project
Illinois Innocence Project

This year, the Illinois Innocence Project is making its 15th anniversary. In January, the program helped win freedom for Teshome Campbell. He had been convicted of murdering James Shepherd in Champaign back in 1997, and spent more than 18 years in prison.

Amanda Vinicky

A state senator's attempt to snuff-out youth smoking fell short when it came up for a vote Thursday.

Sen. John Mulroe, D-Chicago, wants to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21 "to prevent tobacco-related disease and death."

wnij

Human service agencies are hopeful legislation approved Thursday by state lawmakers will finally get them money, but they shouldn't start spending just yet.

Legislators and top Rauner administration officials are acknowledging what it’ll take to solve Illinois’ budget mess: billions of dollars in spending cuts and tax hikes. But they're also insisting it's just a possibility, not a bill, and certainly not a deal.

In other news, a familiar name is suing over the "Independent Maps" ballot initiative.

Allison Lacher in the UIS Visual Arts Gallery
Shannon O'Brien / UIS Campus Relations

This week we're joined by Allison Lacher who helps run the UIS Visual Arts Gallery and the Demo Project gallery - both highlight contemporary and alternative art from the state and around the nation.

WUIS

  Billions of dollars in cuts are part of a possible budget for next year.  So are higher taxes. 

Jenna Dooley/Ill Public Radio

Illinois lawmakers approved $700 million to partially finance various human service programs that haven't received funding since last summer because of the budget stalemate.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Illinois legislators today Thursday approved stopgap funding for human services.

After ten months without state funding … after-school programs, local health departments and substance abuse treatment centers are in critical condition.

Democratic Representative Greg Harris says Senate Bill 2038 would pay social service organizations just under half of what they're owed.

Amanda Vinicky / WUIS / Illinois Issues

Billions of dollars in cuts are part of a possible budget for next year. So are higher taxes.

Illinois built up a deficit over the years; the current impasse has only exacerbated it. A bipartisan group of legislators chosen to craft a solution has a potential path for fiscal year 2017.

Members are cagey about sharing details. It's politically sensitive; members say they're hesitant to share details out of respect for their private negotiations.

Princess Etch A Sketch on Facebook

George Seurat's painting at the Art Institute of Chicago called "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" is made up of millions of tiny dots, or points. Combined they paint a picture of several people - many donning umbrellas enjoying a leisurely sunny day.

flickr/ Bill Brooks

Bipartisan working groups are currently trying to find a way out of the budget impasse. But the crisis could have been prevented long before the battle between Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic leaders began.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com / NPR | Illinois Public Radio

This essay lands somewhere between a tribute and a love letter to my mentor and dear friend, Dr. T. Berry Brazelton.  Berry turned 98 this week, reveling with the same brilliance he has celebrated 97 birthdays before.

Berry is world-renowned for his astonishing career achievements.  Professor Emeritus of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, he founded the Child Development Unit at Boston Children’s Hospital. His decades of clinical research resulted in the publication of more than 200 scholarly papers and more than 30 books on child development.

BRAD PALMER, WSIU RADIO

Since earlier this year - students at Southern Illinois University Carbondale have been urging administrators to address the racism they say they've run into on campus. In April, one black student in particular alleged that white students used racial slurs when addressing her during an open forum in a dorm.

Illinois’ school funding formula relies heavily on property taxes.

 

That leaves districts with low land values to make do with about six thousand dollars per student each year, while districts with thriving businesses can spend up to five times that amount.

 

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree that Illinois needs to change the formula, but they get caught on the question of how.

Amanda Vinicky

Lawmakers' latest bid to mitigate the damage of the budget impasse centers on helping social services.

Court orders have kept money flowing to certain social services, but many others have had to scale back or close after waiting more than ten months for the state to pay their bills. These autism, drug-treatment, and housing programs would get about $700 million under a measure advanced on a bipartisan basis by an Illinois House committee.

The use of solitary confinement has drawn increasing scrutiny nationwide. And last week, the John Howard Association issued a statement (PDF) on the practice in Illinois prisons.

The John Howard Association is an independent watchdog, monitoring conditions and advocating for more humane treatment in Illinois prisons. We spoke to the group's director, Jennifer Vollen-Katz.

Amanda Vinicky

The Illinois Senate approved a big change to the way Illinois funds schools yesterday, but that doesn't ensure anything will change.

Trump by Michael Vadon/Flickr / Rauner by Brian Mackey/WUIS

Now that it seems Donald Trump will be his party’s nominee for president, Republicans have a decision to make.

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

Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino told lawmakers Tuesday he doesn't want people to question his integrity. But he declined to respond to questions about alleged misuse of campaign funds.

Illinois Republican lawmakers used a legislative audit hearing to continue pressuring Mautino on what his critics call excessive, and possibly unethical, spending listed in his campaign finance reports.

Mautino, who took office in January after years as a Democratic state representative, said he'll answer those questions on May 16 at a hearing with the State Board of Elections.

Amanda Vinicky moderated a City Club of Chicago conversation on the current state budget impasse featuring a panel with  Republican State Rep. Patti Bellock, Democratic State Sen. Daniel Biss,  Democratic State Sen. Andy Manar, and Republican State Rep. David McSweeny.   

flickr/picturesofmoney

Because of the lack of a budget, social services providers have not been getting paid for some of their work, even though they have contracts with state to continue providing these services. Some are now suing Illinois.

These organizations help the state's most vulnerable populations. But they are also businesses that have to make payroll, keep the lights on and balance their books for yearly audits. 

Senators Kimberly Lightford and William Delgado debate in the corridor of the statehouse
Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

Should kids be allowed to skip standardized tests? In Illinois, children already have the right to refuse to take, for example, the PARCC test, associated with Common Core. Last year, the number of children who exercised that right amounted to 4.4 percent of eligible students statewide.

 

That may sound like an insignificant number, but consider this: The previous year, just one half of one percent of eligible students in Illinois opted out.

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