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A new plan to fund public schools was filed yesterday. Its goal is to ensure that all school districts have 90 percent of the resources needed to provide a no-frills, meat-and-potatoes "adequate" education. It would also have the state pay teacher pensions in the Chicago Public School District (the state already pays pensions in all other districts).

SJ-R.com

Sean Crawford talks with Tim Landis, Business Editor of the State Journal-Register, for our weekly Business Report.

This week...

* Population: Reflecting statewide trends, Springfield-area population down slightly from 2010 to 2015; focus on keeping millennials here.

* Food-truck festivals: New one coming to Illinois fairgrounds in July; existing festival on MacArthur Boulevard adding a third date; it's apparently the hot new trend in Springfield.

Legislative Checklist

May 23, 2016
Chamber
Flickr user: Matt Turner

As the regular spring legislative session nears an end, lawmakers will be pushing to get their bills to the governor’s desk. You can keep track of proposals of note with the Legislative Checklist. 

capitol
Hannah Meisel/WUIS

Illinois' top political leaders remain divided. There are only eight days left for them to reach a budget deal.

It's crunch time for the General Assembly.

Amanda Vinicky

It's been a year since the state Supreme Court found Illinois' big pension law unconstitutional, and an attempt to get a new law passed is stalled.

Lawmakers' goal is to reduce the state's expenses for its vastly underfunded pensions.

The court says it's illegal to do it by reducing an employees' retirement benefits.

Senate President John Cullerton and Governor Bruce Rauner think they have a way around that.

Book Review: Graphic Novel The Shadow Hero

May 23, 2016
Benedictine University

In the 21st century comics come in every genre and from seemingly every country.  Growing up middle-class in Africa or searching for a vanished son in Iran, covering war zones in Bosnia or imagining the American civil rights movement through the eyes of a teenager, surviving cancer or domestic abuse – the writers and illustrators of the new graphic revolution cover the earth.  So when asked to recommend something new that’s worth reading, often I will suggest a trip to the Young Adult section of your local public library, where the Dewey decimal system has decreed that all comics and graphi

For more than a year, officials at the University of Illinois have been creating and polishing up a strategic plan meant to guide the institution for the next decade. And just as it was about to be approved last week, a student spoke up asking for a significant change.

“First, I really should say, I really don’t like the word diversity, and I don’t think we need to diversify.”


ilga.gov

A Springfield State Representative says he's not overly optimistic a full budget deal can be agreed to before the scheduled end of the legislature's spring session May 31.

Republican Tim Butler says 11 months into the budget impasse, some of the same obstacles remain.

The payoff for waiting at a driver's license facility?  Getting a new license.  Along with being legal to drive,  it allows you to use it for identification purposes, like boarding an airplane.   But changes are coming to the process here in Illinois.

flickr/dborman

There's no reason for the governor to further hold up partial funding for social services. That's the message from the Speaker of the Illinois House.

Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice / Kewanee

Even as Illinois loses a youth prison, it's gaining an adult correctional facility.

Illinois' Department of Juvenile Justice is going forward with plans to close the Illinois Youth Center at Kewanee.

Director Candice Jones said recruiting staff was difficult and national practices favor smaller regional facilities.  Plus, she'd said, most of the juvenile offenders sent there were from Cook County; it's better to house them nearer family.  

Kewanee's closer to Iowa than to Chicago.

Most adult prisoners come from Cook County and the surrounding area too.

npr.org

Illinois workers get an added bonus once they retire: They don't have to pay taxes on pension or Social Security checks. It's one possible change the state could look to as it hunts for more money.

Illinois is a rare state that taxes income on a regular paycheck, but not on retirement.

Fiscal experts like the non-partisan Civic Federation say as Illinois' population ages, and there are more seniors, the government will increasingly lose out on a source of revenue.

Thousands of union members rallied against Gov. Bruce Rauner's pro-business, anti-union agenda, and the legislative leaders met with the governor. But is Illinois any closer to ending the historic budget standoff? (Spoiler alert: No.)

The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority

A recent report calls attention to the need for more temporary housing for victims of domestic violence.

The report, produced by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, was an assessment of needs that could be used for determining the direction of federal funding for housing programs that deal with specifically with victims of intimate partner violence (IPV).

Wikimedia Commons/user: Bogdan

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner is open to decriminalizing marijuana.

Rauner has a goal of reforming the criminal justice system. One way to do that, advocates say: issuing civil penalties for low-level drug charges.

ILGA.gov

Auditor General Frank Mautino is under federal investigation, according to a statement from his spokesman.

The spokesman says Mautino is cooperating with the U.S. Attorney's office. He says because it's ongoing, he cannot comment further.

It comes in response to a report in the Illinois Times that Mautino's former campaign workers have been subpoenaed.

Subpoenas don't always lead to charges.

Shannon O'Brien / University of Illinois at Springfield

It’s not often that students get to shape university policy, but that’s just what happened today at a meeting of the University of Illinois' Board of Trustees. Thanks to a change in the university’s strategic plan proposed by a student member of the U-I Board of Trustees, University of Illinois officials are being encouraged to think about race in a new way.

Sarah Mueller WUIS

Illinois is banking more than $600 million in debt through a little known program that helps state vendors get paid faster. Most of that is health insurance costs, but some is for information technology upgrades. But, while some businesses are benefiting from this program, others are not.

Logan Correctional Center
Google Maps

  A federal judge has approved the settlement in a lawsuit over the treatment of Illinois’ mentally ill prisoners.

Without admitting wrongdoing, Department of Corrections Director John Baldwin says his agency is building four new mental health units, hiring more staff, and changing its policies on solitary confinement.

Rachel Otwell

Scott and Rachel talk about two big festivals taking place in Springfield this weekend: Pride Fest & the Old State Capitol Art Fair

Illinois State Police

The state’s heroin crisis has captured headlines and the attention of lawmakers. But in the past few years, the number of methamphetamine lab busts has crept back up, and law enforcement officials say the drug is also coming into the state from Mexico. 

Amanda Vinicky

Unions members flooded streets in front of the Illinois Statehouse to protest Governor Bruce Rauner's agenda, and what they say are his anti-labor policies.

Union workers marched to the capitol for a rally, where they were briefly joined by a pair of prominent Democrats: House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton.

There was a time (in recent memory) that the labor movement wasn't all too fond of Madigan. Though he's a Democrat, he helped pass bills cutting government worker pension benefits, and he's backed corporate tax breaks.

COURTESY KELLY MCEVERS / NPR

Kelly McEvers is an area native who has found much success in public radio. She's a co-host of All Things Considered, she's reported from war zones, and now she is reporting and hosting for a new podcast called Embedded. In this interview she tells us about all her endeavors, old and new:

 

You can check out an episode of Embedded below:

Rachel Otwell

Right outside of Springfield, in New Berlin, is a rolling landscape of over 100 acres of farmland. The llamas and alpacas are some of the first things you'll see to know you've arrived at Jubilee Farm

A lawsuit filed this month in federal court aims to reverse policies adopted in many Illinois school districts that allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their identity. Palatine School District 211 is a defendant in the case, along with the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Illinois Times

Illinois is racking up more debt than even its comptroller knows about. Hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of bills are awaiting payment. They're part of a little known program that has lawmakers asking questions.

Amanda Vinicky

Mixed messages came out of a meeting Tuesday between Illinois' governor and legislative leaders. It was their first meeting in months, even as Illinois is in the midst of an unprecedented budget standoff.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki
Diocese of Springfield, Illinois

Since the high middle ages, the Catholic Church has celebrated a “Red Mass” — attended by lawyers, judges and politicians. One of the best known such services happens every fall in Washington, D.C., the day before the U.S. Supreme Court opens its annual term.

Illinois' capital has a growing tradition in that area, with its own Red Mass set for Wednesday evening. 

Credit flickr/pasa47

NPR Illinois' Sean Crawford talks with Tim Landis, Business Editor for the State Journal-Register:

Amanda Vinicky

For only the second time this year, Gov. Bruce Rauner and the four legislative leaders are set to meet, Tuesday, in Springfield.  It comes as Illinois' historic budget stalemate yawns into May, with two weeks left in legislators' regular session schedule.

These "leaders' meetings" are private, but NPR Illinois Statehouse Bureau Chief Amanda Vinicky had the chance to get some perspective about where the leaders stood going into the confab. 

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