News

April is known in some circles as "earth month" - a time for conservationists to spread messages about reducing waste and becoming better stewards of our world. A group called Sustainable Springfield is working to make people in the city more focused on waste reduction and recycling, among other efforts. On Wednesday night, Earth Day, it will honor local sustainable businesses with an event, something the group plans to continue. Harv Koplo is the treasurer of the group.

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

A Chicago community organization is questioning why a House resolution is calling for a probe of how it uses state money. Lawmakers have asserted that the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) got money from the embattled, state-funded Neighborhood Recovery Initiative. But KOCO leaders say the group wasn’t part of that violence prevention program and they are “baffled” at the audit request.

flickr/borman18

The Illinois Senate could begin voting Wednesday on a plan to reverse a smattering of state grants recently eliminated by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Democratic legislators say they were caught off guard earlier this month when Rauner suddenly took $26 million in funding away from programs, including ones that support autistic children and people with epilepsy.

Sen. Dan Kotowksi, a Park Ridge Democrat, says Illinois should restore at least a portion of the money. He proposes getting it by sweeping special state funds that have reserves.

Medical Marijuana
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Patients with certain illnesses are on their way to being able to use medical marijuana in Illinois, but time is running out.

As it stands now, Illinois' medical marijuana program is only set to continue for another two and a half years, and sick people haven't even been able to legally buy cannabis yet.

Democratic Rep. Lou Lang says that wasn't his intent; he'd wanted the program to last twice that long. Lang blames a delay in Illinois awarding licenses to firms to grow and sell cannabis.

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

Illinois has more jobs than qualified workers, a group of business leaders say.

To bridge that gap, Sean Noble of ReadyNation says Illinois needs to improve its education system, primarily by expanding early childhood education.

"Current education and labor market trends indicate the Illinois workforce faces an increasingly serious skills gap," Noble said. "That's the gap between two important numbers: job postings and the workers who are skilled enough to fill those positions."

Amanda Vinicky interviewing Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Today marks Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's 100th day in office. He sat down in the Capitol for a one-on-one interview with WUIS Statehouse Bureau Chief Amanda Vinicky.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Even if you're not into history and couldn't care less about a funeral recreation, you still might want to know what roads will be closed for the event. But according to Katie Spindell, who heads The Lincoln Funeral Coalition, it's not yet known. She says a list of road closures will go online soon. As for parking for those who do wish to attend, Spindell says, "It will be very difficult.

Illinois Secretary of State

Illinois drivers may see their future options for specialty license plates become more limited.

A proposal moving in the legislature would prevent any new groups from creating specialty plates and instead allow them to sell a sticker. The causes would still get revenue.

Rep. John D'Amico, a Democrat from Chicago, says the change will also help identify vehicles and provide less confusion for law enforcement issuing tickets.

IL Heart Assoc.

The 2015 Springfield Heart & Stroke Walk is a family-friendly fundraiser for the American Heart Association. Participants build teams of walkers who raise funds on behalf of their workplace or a loved one who suffered from heart disease or the effects of a stroke. The Executive Leadership Team has a goal of raising $100,000 for the American Heart Association; walkers who raise at least $100 will receive a t-shirt and are eligible for other prizes.

seiunv.org

 The son of former White House cabinet member and longtime Congressman Ray LaHood remains the overwhelming favorite as the field takes shape for the race to replace ex-U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock.  

Monday is the final day to file nominating papers for the July 7 primary. Donald Rients of Benson and Mike Flynn of Quincy have filed paperwork to challenge Darin LaHood in the Republican primary. Adam Lopez of Springfield and Rob Mellon of Quincy have filed to run as Democrats.  

The State Legislative Leaders Foundation

Tuesday marks a milestone for Gov. Bruce Rauner: his first 100 days as Illinois' governor. It's the first time the private equity investor has held elected office. He came in with big ideas, and big challenges.

There's no official significance behind a governor's first 100 days, but it's often used as the yard stick to gauge how well a new politician is doing.

Historians seem to trace it back to Franklin Roosevelt craftily using his first 100 days as president to usher in his New Deal. FDR was trying to bring the United States out of the Great Depression.

Burpee Museum of Natural History

Freelance travel writer Mary Galligan's latest article in the Illinois Times focuses on Rockford and the museums based there. 

She visited the Rockford Discovery Center Museum, considered one of the top children's museums in the country. 

The Burpee Museum of Natural History has an impressive display of dinosaur exhibits. 

The Autism Program

Many Illinois parents who have children with autism bring them to one of nineteen centers around the state, but that may change.

Illinois' autism centers will have to close if the state doesn't allocate funds, leaders of the programs say.

The Autism Program was supposed to receive $4.3 million dollars this year, but that money was cut off when Gov. Bruce Rauner suspended a total of $26 million of state grants.

graph showing collective bargaining membership
Compiled by Barry Hirsch and David Macpherson at Unionstats.com. / Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau

The future of labor depends in large part on which view prevails: that of business, so neatly represented by Gov. Bruce Rauner, seeing unions as past their prime, and an impediment to the full potential of capitalism. Or that of the unions, who've seen the decline of labor precipitate a concentration in wealth at the top of the economic ladder, and ever-increasing income inequality.

University of Washington sociologist Jake Rosenfeld, author of What Unions No Longer Do, joins me to talk about the status of labor in America — and Illinois.

Illinois General Assembly

The Illinois Senate this week may vote on a plan to create a "one stop shop" for people wanting to set up businesses in Illinois

The measure would require the state to set up a web site that provides details on the costs and links to the forms and information for setting up a business in Illinois.  Deerfield Democrat Julie Morrison is the sponsor.               

"This will serve everybody from the person who's starting a cottage business in their home to a really large business coming forward with a lot of employees," said Morrison.

While the headline sounds like its from the 1980's, AP Business Writer Marcy Gordon wrote about a new report from a group led by Paul Volcker.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker is calling for a reshaping of the U.S. financial oversight regime, which he says is splintered and ineffective.

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

Private equity investor Gov. Bruce Rauner often says his goal is to make Illinois more competitive.

At a recent speech to business owners, he sang Illinois' praises. He says the state has the hardest working people, the best location and the most fertile farms.

The president of Wiley Office Furniture, Zach Hoffman, agrees with Rauner.

House floor
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois' budget, and Gov. Bruce Rauner's influence on it, will be examined by a special legislative committee. The powerful House Speaker announced its creation today.

It's either a sign of a contentious budget battle, or an early attempt at reaching a compromise.

Amtrak
Bill Dickinson / Flickr.com/skynoir

Amtrak officials say they don’t yet know which services would be affected if Illinois cuts its funding. But the rail company says it’s sure there would be some service reductions if its grant is cut by a proposed $16 million.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has suggested the state’s Amtrak operations subsidy, administered through the Illinois Department of Transportation, drop to $26 million from the current $42 million. A spokesman for Amtrak, which operates four intrastate train lines with service between Chicago and dozens of downstate cities, says the company can’t absorb a cut that steep.

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.

Verizon is giving its customers have more control over the channels they pay for as the cacophony of cord cutting reshapes cable TV.

Verizon's FiOS Custom TV, available Sunday, gives customers the option to buy a $55 base package with more than 35 channels plus two additional themed channel packs.

There's currently seven channel packs to choose from, including genres such as sports, children and lifestyle. Customers can add more channel packs _ which include about 10-17 channels on average _ for $10 each. They may also swap out channel packs after 30 days.

Stephenson County Animal Control officials say a northern Illinois woman charged with animal cruelty has turned 84 dogs over to officials.  

 Animal Control Warden Kristen Laue said 45-year-old Tina McKinnon of Freeport turned the dogs over Wednesday.  
 

According to the Journal Standard in Freeport,  McKinnon was charged with felony aggravated cruelty to animals after the animals were found in her home March 16.  
 

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.

http://theboxmasters.com/

Tune in to this week's version of The Scene:

Events discussed this week include:

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

When we think about “prenatal development,” we mostly refer to the amazing process whereby a fertilized egg becomes a newborn.  That journey is nothing short of miraculous when you consider the rapid progression of what resembles a tadpole turning into a fully functional person with a heart that beats, lungs that breathe, arms and legs that move, and a brain that processes an astounding amount of information.  

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.

Pages