News

Brian Mackey headshot
mattpenning.com 2015 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

ILLINOIS ISSUES - In state government, there are issues, ideas and talking points that recur through history. Take, for example, this line from a State of the State address: “The sentencing and parole system that we now have in Illinois and throughout the nation is a dismal failure. It does not deter, it does not punish, it does not rehabilitate and it should be scrapped.”

Those comments would not have been out of place in this year’s State of the State, but that was actually the late Gov. Dan Walker, speaking in 1976. Thirty-nine years later — this winter — Gov. Bruce Rauner said something similar: “Our criminal justice system in Illinois needs comprehensive reform.”

The Capitol
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Legislators in the Illinois House and Senate approved hundreds of bills this spring. Product bans remain popular, as with powdered alcohol and caffeine, and bumper pads for use in baby cribs. But lawmakers also voted to allow several things that had previously been illegal, such as raw milk and using crossbows to shoot coyotes.

Barack Obama
WUIS/Illinois Issues

There is sure to be an economic benefit to the city of Chicago with the decision to locate the Barack Obama Presidential Center on the city’s south side, but not to the extent a University of Chicago impact study suggested.

Drawing of a Native American
History and Lincoln Collections / University of Illinois Library

Lazy Frenchmen and subjugated Indians: that’s the stereotype of the pre-American French towns along the Illinois side of the Mississippi River valley. Not so, says Robert Michael Morrissey, a history professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

The prevailing perception, developed by historian Francis Parkman, had two components: The French were lazy, anarchic fops dependent on French imperial authorities for direction and support. And they made the technologically inferior Indians dependent on European tools and weaponry.

photo showing statue's decay
Landmark Illinois

Two movie theaters, a 104-year-old statue and a number of mid-century houses are on this year’s list of Most Endangered Historic Places. Landmarks Illinois, a 44-year-old historic preservation group, has been publicizing endangered landmarks with the list for the past 20 years.

Hillard Family photo in field
Tonya Hilliard

Last year, Illinois was one of a handful of states that lost population. The out migration became a campaign issue in the governor’s race last year and has some throwing up caution flags. But the numbers don’t mean there is a crisis, or even a real clamor, to leave the state.

A food scientist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is researching methods of removing unnecessary salt from processed foods while leaving the flavor intact.

schoolbus and rural setting in disrepair
Rain Rannu

The status of the New Orleans school system post-Hurricane Katrina is a personal issue for University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign professor Adrienne Dixson.

Now an academic focusing on issues of urban education and school reform, Dixson taught in the New Orleans public schools from 1991 to 1995, and has family in the region.

In a paper co-written with scholars from Georgia State University in Atlanta, she says, “We talked about the ways that public education has changed in a way that we argue displaces and disenfranchises people of color in particular.’’

Reproductive Effects of Bisphenol A chart
UIUC

New research from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign found that two common components in plastics could have a negative effect on female fertility in mice.  

Cortlon and Chloe Cofield
Cortlon Cofield

ILLINOIS ISSUES/EDUCATION DESK - Thursday nights were always special, Cortlon Cofield says, during his freshman year at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. That’s because Thursdays were “Food for the Soul” night in the Florida Avenue Residence Hall (known as FAR).

flickr/meeshpants

ILLINOIS ISSUES - Idatyna Zarecky was sexually abused as a child, which she believes led to her developing mental health problems. Her mother didn’t have the time or resources to have her treated and would give her medication to calm her nerves.

courtesy of Emma Todd

ILLINOIS ISSUES - Emma Todd, then a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Tulsa, found herself seriously contemplating suicide, again. This time, the Springfield native had made her way to the top of a building.

Domestic violence cases accepted for prosecution chart
Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority

ILLINOIS ISSUES - In the predawn hours of December 17, 2014, the toxic relationship of Dean Norris and Vanessa Cross took the ultimate turn for the worse. Cross, 45, and her live-in boyfriend, Dean, had an argument. Then, police allege, Dean strangled Cross to death.

New State Superintendent Takes Over

Jun 1, 2015
Illinois State Board of Education

Tony Smith became the state superintend of education last month. Before coming to Illinois, Smith, who was hired by the State Board of Education, worked as a school administrator in his home state of California. He was superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District. He also served as deputy superintendent for the San Francisco Unified School District and superintendent of the Emery Unified School District. Most recently, he was executive director of the W. Clement & Jessie V. Stone Foundation, which annually awards more than $5 million in education and child development grants.

More New Agency Hires

Jun 1, 2015

  Gov. Bruce Rauner chose James Dimas to become the secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services. Dimas is a veteran of IDHS. He led development and marketing for consolidating the agency into its current organizational structure. IDHS became the state’s largest agency in the late 1990s after seven previously separate health and social services agencies merged. Most recently, Dimas was owner and chief executive officer of Dimas Consulting, Inc., which focuses on human services programing, policy and administration.

Obituary – Don Moss

Jun 1, 2015

Don Moss, a longtime advocate for disabled people, died April 29. He was 85.

Obituary – Dan Walker

Jun 1, 2015

Dan Walker, the Democratic governor whose short political career was made and broken on battles within his own party, died April 29 in California. He was 92.

Walker focused much of his campaigning and governing on opposing the established Democratic power structure. In the early 1970s, that meant fighting Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley.

Illinois Supreme Court
Brian Mackey / WUIS

ILLINOIS ISSUES - The fat lady has sung.

Now, the question is, how should Illinois lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner respond?

Hunting for bobcats could soon be legal in Illinois, but the measure barely passed the legislature.

When the proposal was first introduced, its sponsor, Democratic Rep. Patrick Verschoore, had to postpone the vote because it didn't have enough support.

But the second time around, it passed with the minimum number of required votes.

Verschoore says it is an important bill to manage the bobcat population.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

The Illinois General Assembly ended its regularly scheduled spring session Sunday, without passing a single piece of Governor Bruce Rauner's so-called Turnaround Agenda.

Back in February, in his State of the State address, Rauner gave little indication he was willing to compromise on his pro-business platform: "We should consider it as a whole, not as a list of individual initiatives."

Gov. Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Bruce Rauner says he and Democratic legislators have until midnight Sunday to reach a deal on both the state budget and his pro-business agenda. That's when the General Assembly is scheduled to leave town for the summer.

University of Illinois

The chancellor at the University of Illinois' flagship campus says she expects the campus to be censured by the American Association of University Professors over the decision not to hire a professor following his anti-Israel Twitter messages. 

The current situation at the Illinois Statehouse as lawmakers and the Governor enter the scheduled closing weekend of the legislative session.  Rick Pearson of The Chicago Tribune joins the panel this week.

Harvest Public Media

The U.S. EPA is proposing tweaks to ethanol policy.

The agency proposed a cut to the amount of corn ethanol oil companies are required to blend in to our gasoline, as well as ambitious targets for low-carbon cellulosic ethanol, which is produced from grasses and other inedible parts of plants.

Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

As the Illinois General Assembly’s spring legislative session comes to a close, Gov. Bruce Rauner has failed win passage of his "Turnaround Agenda." Brian Mackey has this assessment of three of the most common theories as to why.

Parts of Illinois Democrats' $36 billion budget have now been approved by the General Assembly. But that doesn't mean they're going to the governor - at least not yet.

Think back civics class. You know the drill: in order for a bill to become a law, it has to first pass the legislature, and then be signed by the executive branch.

The first part is getting done - by Democrats, who control Illinois' General Assembly.

U.S. House of Representatives

Federal prosecutors have indicted former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert on bank-related charges.

A new plan to expand gambling in Illinois is emerging, but it could get caught up in a larger battle. Details are expected to surface on Thursday.

Illinois would get five new casinos under Sen. Terry Link's latest proposal. They'd go to Chicago, Danville, Rockford, Lake County and the south suburbs. It could also add so-called "satellite" casinos in places like Decatur.

As with previous proposals, horse race tracks would be able to get slot machines.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

At birth, we humans learn to breathe air, to eat and digest food, to move our limbs in space.  Simply existing in this very different environment with its bright lights and loud noises is a gargantuan task for one so small.
This challenge demands of us a certain self-centeredness as we figure out who we are. But immediately we become aware of the people outside with us whose voices we heard from the inside.  And so for these first months of life we’re contented in our family’s cocoon.  Our world is very small.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

When it comes to shopping, I'm not a fan. Take me to a thrift store however, and I can dig around for hours in search of the perfect bargain. My house is decorated in odd old knick knacks and paintings from antique malls and second-hand stores. It's not unusual that most of what I am wearing is from Goodwill.

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