Legislative Checklist April 2015

Apr 1, 2015

As the spring legislative session got into swing, lawmakers proposed several bills, including limits on need-based grants for college students and a plan to create digital driver’s licenses.


+ Drilling Ban On Public Land

In 2012, voters in Colorado and Washington elected to legalize marijuana for recreational consumption. In 2014 Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C., followed suit. In Illinois, one senator seeks to accomplish something similar legislatively.

Sen. Michael Noland, an Elgin Democrat, proposed Senate Bill 753, which would drastically alter the state’s Cannabis Control Act (CCA).

Undocumented Immigrants Face Long Wait For Licenses

Apr 1, 2015

This is the second full year in which Illinois has offered driving privileges to people who are in the country illegally. The Illinois secretary of state’s office and immigrant advocacy groups say the program is generally working well, with one major sticking point: application comes with a waiting time of six months.

“There is concern about the long wait for interview appointments,” says Fred Tsao, with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. “We’d all like to find a way to get more people served more quickly.”

More than half of surveyed mental health patients reported that no health care providers had told them to exercise or reduce their intake of dietary fat, a recent study out of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign reported.

Among those surveyed were patients with diabetes, and 30 percent of those reported the lack of health information, even though the American Diabetes Association advises doctors to “counsel all patients with diabetes or at high risk of diabetes about physical activity and healthy dietary choices,” a news release from UIUC states.

Terminally ill patients would be allowed to try experimental treatments under legislation proposed in the General Assembly. 

National television news may overrepresent terrorists as Muslims or immigrants accused of crimes as Latino. 

Using media archives from the University of California at Los Angeles from 2008 to 2012, University of Illinois professor Travis Dixon found that breaking news on cable and national network news often disproportionately broadcast stories that portrayed terrorists as Muslim and immigrants accused of crimes as Latino, but also underrepresented African-Americans as both victims and perpetrators of crime. 

Local human service agencies, school districts and municipalities report that child poverty has become a long-term problem for their communities, says a contributor to a new assessment of children’s quality of life in Illinois.

Disease Carried By Cats Puts Muskrats, Minks At Risk

Apr 1, 2015

A cat-borne parasite appears to be on the loose in central Illinois in a greater capacity than scientists anticipated. 

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found minks and muskrats carrying an antibody for the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, a disease commonly spread through cat feces. 

Women who are the poorest are five times more likely to have an unplanned birth as opposed to wealthy women, according to a recent study.

The Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institute prepared the report comparing sexual activity, contraception use and abortion rates between different economic levels. Women who were the poorest had the greatest number of unintended pregnancies, while abortion rates were highest for the most affluent, according to researchers. 

Pullman Site Designated As A National Monument

Apr 1, 2015
Pullman Tower
The White House

The Pullman Historic District, a Chicago site, is one of the nation’s three newest national monuments, and President Barack Obama made a visit to his hometown to make the announcement about the designation. The model factory town of Pullman, established by industrialist George Pullman, is considered the first planned industrial community in the United States. Now part of Chicago’s south side, it was also the site of major civil and workers’ rights achievements.

Study May Show What Keeps Minds Sharp

Apr 1, 2015

It’s another kind of fountain of youth: Northwestern University scientists say they may have discovered physical traits that could explain why some elderly people maintain sharp minds well into their golden years.

Around 30 study volunteers over 80 years old demonstrated superior memory retention during tests compared with those their same age — or even fellow participants 20 to 30 years younger. They are called SuperAgers. 

Mara Thacker holding comic books
L. Brian Stauffer / University of Illinois news bureau

In 2012, a librarian at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign approached Mara Thacker, South-Asian studies librarian, with a question. David Ward had been building the collection of comic books and graphic novels and asked for recommendations to expand the collection into foreign comics. Already a fan of Indian popular culture, Thacker suggested comics from India and its neighbors.

Close up of Uncle Sam's hand holding worker's and management's hands together
The Federal Government Via Northwestern University

In retrospect it seems obvious. Of course the fight to topple organized labor would eventually have to come to Illinois. It was only a matter of time. Labor’s perpetual weakness in the deep-red South would never be enough. And once the vanishing industrial base sufficiently enfeebled labor in the red states of the rust belt, the dwindling number of fat targets made a blue-state offensive inevitable.

Now A Necessity

Apr 1, 2015

School Districts Throughout Illinois Are Creating Foundations To Fill In Budget Gaps

Every spring, the students at Mount Carmel High School in Wabash County put on a musical. They’ve done The Music Man, Oklahoma!, The Wizard of Oz, Beauty and the Beast — and  every show has sold out. 

For Kim Mandrell, music director at MCHS, selling out was both good news and bad news. The school’s auditorium was built in 1963, and its wooden seats were crumbling. 

Rural Food Deserts

Apr 1, 2015

Increasingly, Small-town Grocery Stores Are Shutting Down

Tom Hunt couldn’t justify continuing seven-day work weeks in the central Illinois community of Pawnee without a return on his investment.

Judges’ Attitudes

Apr 1, 2015


Survey Contrasts Illinois Judges’ Opinions Against Those Of Three Decades Ago


How Can Illinois Stop The Prison Revolving Door?

Marquis Harmon is devoted to helping ex-prisoners find jobs as they transition back into the community. Harmon believes in second chances — because he’s been there. With two felony convictions, he is still struggling to get back on his feet. But with family support, education and a desire to succeed, he’s on the path to regaining some of the ground he’d lost in the correctional system.

Rauner Selects More Agency, Board Heads

Apr 1, 2015

Gov. Bruce Rauner picked a Democrat from Florida to head the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. 

George Sheldon was secretary of Florida’s Department of Children and Families from 2008 to 2011. He was credited with bringing reforms and transparency to the agency. Sheldon went on to serve as an assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President Barack Obama.


Apr 1, 2015

Janet Otwell

  A former director of the Illinois Department on Aging and former president of the Illinois League of Women Voters died February 23. She was 83. Otwell, who was a Democrat, was appointed to head the Department on Aging in 1984 by then-Gov. Jim Thompson, a Republican. She served in the job for seven years. Otwell went on to serve as Midwest director of AARP. During her time with the League of Women Voters, she coordinated political debates and lobbied unsuccessfully for approval of the Equal Rights Amendment by the Illinois legislature.

Schock Resigns Amid Controversies

Apr 1, 2015

After weeks of bad press and a looming ethics investigation, Republican Congressman Aaron Schock resigned from office at the end of last month. 

News Analysis - “In the Spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,” wrote Alfred Lord Tennyson in 1835.

Today, though, chances are a lot of young men and women and folks of all ages are caught up in more than romance, as April brings with it municipal elections across Illinois and a cornucopia of sports highlights, including NBA and NHL playoffs and the start of the 2015 baseball season.

University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch says if a proposed 31% state budget cut to higher education occurs, it would hamper the school's ability to carry out its mission. 

"It would be severely damaging," Koch said.  She added she is hopeful the eventual budget won't hit UIS so hard.  But she also expects less state support in the coming year.

"The reality is at this point we don't know where things will end up."

Lisa Ryan

Republicans are making an issue of Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth's ties to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, now that she's running for U.S. Senate.

In 2006, then-Gov. Blagojevich appointed Duckworth to head the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. Duckworth says she is proud of her time at the VA and says she is separate from the currently imprisoned Blagojevich.

Every year, students at UIS get together to give presentations and performances related to technology, the arts, and research. It's called the Stars Symposium. This year, the event is on Thursday and Friday on the Springfield campus. We were joined by students Irina Mason, Kylie Gilmore & Michael Lotspeich to talk about it: 

Tim Landis talks with Bill Wheelhouse about 10 national conventions coming to Springfield this year:

Today, we have the story of a man who spent 20 years in prison for a rape that DNA evidence later would prove he didn’t commit.

We also hear from a woman in a different case – she was raped and accidentally helped put the wrong man behind bars.

Those born at the tail end of the baby boom (1957-1964) have held an average of 11.7 jobs between the ages 18 to 48.    The Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that almost half of the jobs come before the person was 24.     I fall into the category and between the ages of 18 to 48  I held 10 jobs.   At least six of them came between the ages of 18-24.

Take a look at some of the stats.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Editor's note appended.

Last week’s short-term budget fix underscores tensions between some Democratic lawmakers and the new Republican governor. House and Senate Democratic leaders urged their members to support the appropriations, but many didn’t. Some Hispanic legislators and members of the Legislative Black Caucus voted against the budget legislation, which funded programs several of them said were important to their respective constituents.

A former State Representative and Lieutenant Governor candidate from Quincy says she won't seek an open congressional seat. 

Jil Tracy issued a statement today that says she won't try for the Republican nomination in the 18th congressional district.   

Tracy left her position in the Illinois House to team up with Kirk Dillard as he ran unsuccessfully for Governor last year.    

Tracy indicated she talked with her family about a political bid to replace Aaron Schock and decided against it.  

(Information in the following story is from: Chicago Sun-Times,  

A new TV show is set to focus on the grandchildren of a couple who lost six kids in a 1994 van crash linked to the investigation and conviction of former Illinois Gov. George Ryan.  

The Chicago Sun-Times reports the show about the Tennessee-based Willis family will premiere May 5 on TLC.