News

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. 

School desks
Flickr user: dcJohn www.flickr.com/photos/dcjohn/

Illinois' leaders are divided over school funding as ever, even as superintendents continue to sound the alarm about fears education funding will get caught in the political stalemate.

Gov. Bruce Rauner wants to increase how much Illinois sends schools overall, by $120 million.

Even then, some districts -- including the financially beleaguered Chicago Public Schools -- would see their state funding drop. Senate President John Cullerton Monday nixed that as a viable option.

Amanda Vinicky

A rough outline of budget ideas for Illinois may already be on the way to a dead-end;  Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is giving a cool reception to a potential budget framework drafted by a group of state legislators.

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."

isbe.net // pixabay.com

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."

Pages