News

Illinois Issues: The Next Pension Time Bomb

Mar 30, 2016

Illinois has more than $100 billion in pension debt. So far, attempts to fix it have been mostly illegal.

Amanda Vinicky

Some of the primary races in early March were the most expensive in state history, but it will remain a mystery where all of the money to fund them came from. That does not appear to concern Gov.Bruce Rauner.

The Scene: Vachel Lindsay & Contemporary Poetry

Mar 30, 2016
Wikimedia Commons

This week we talk about a "SlutWalk" planned for this weekend, and Nikki Overcash joins us to discuss one of Springfield's literary heroes and ways to celebrate National Poetry Month in town (click here for a list of those events.) Tune in!

Amanda Vinicky

It had been a long time coming, but Illinois' pilot program for medical marijuana has finally kicked off last November. It's been slow growing for the industry so far, and there are many restrictions.  The business HCI Alternatives has two medical marijuana dispensaries in the state now. 

Illinois Supreme Court
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Some see a recent Illinois Supreme Court ruling on public employee wages as a potential key to ending the state’s budget impasse.

Rachel Otwell sat down with Past Due host Jamey Dunn to talk about the case.

WBEZ

Prosecutors say they won't retry former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich on five counts tossed by a federal appeals court and have requested a resentencing date. 

Jeff Bossert

Unions landed a victory Tuesday: A tie at the U-S Supreme Court on a case perceived as do-or-die for public employee unions means current rules will remain in place. But Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner says he'll continue to try to ban so-called "fair share" fees.

Wednesday night a legislative commission will hear from supporters and critics of shutting down the Illinois Youth Center in Kewanee. The Department of Juvenile Justice announced in February it planned to close the prison.

The Illinois Youth Center in Kewanee is about 150 miles southwest of Chicago. For a juvenile prison, it's big: 11 buildings on 100 acres of land, with room for 350 kids.

Dept. of Juvenile Justice Director Candice Jones says the closure helps the agency move toward national best practices, which favor smaller, regional facilities.

Rod and Patti Blagojevich
WBEZ / Flickr

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has been pursuing an appeal of his corruption conviction and 14-year prison sentence. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would not take up the case.

Sean Crawford talks with the State Journal-Register's Tim Landis.

When Rivers Can't Be Controlled, Farmers Are Left In Limbo

Mar 29, 2016

Driving along rough and muddy gravel roads next to what was once a rich soybean field, farmer Adam Thomas gazes out on an upended mess of tubes, wheels and hoses from a nearby farmer’s irrigation system.

WUIS

The Illinois Supreme Court will be asked to re-visit an opinion it just issued March 24. State employees' salaries are at stake. 

Susan Koch, chancellor of the University of Illinois in Springfield, hosted a budget forum last week. And despite receiving no state funding for more than nine months, she had some good news to share with faculty and staff at the forum. 

The Supreme Court has rejected former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's appeal of his corruption convictions that included his attempt to sell the vacant Senate seat once occupied by President Barack Obama. 

Amanda Vinicky

 Gov. Bruce Rauner says he supports one of Illinois' top industries: Agriculture. But critics say a recent plan goes against his own assertion that he's a “strong advocate” for it.

A pair of Illinois Supreme Court rulings this week are a mixed bag for government employees. The justices struck down a law intended to reduce benefits for Chicago city employees, but also found that AFSCME members cannot be paid bargained-for raises unless the General Assembly specifically authorizes the spending.

Illinois Supreme Court
Brian Mackey / WUIS

The Illinois Supreme Court Thursday said the state does not have to pay unionized employees what it says in their contracts, unless legislators specifically appropriate the money.

The Black Sheep Cafe

It's a bit of a slow week as families gear up for spring break, but we still have plenty to talk about. We discuss an art show, a unique chance for women to make a vision board, a feminist spoken word duo and two books dealing with very different artists. Tune in!

Brian Mackey / WUIS

The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday struck down another attempt to control the cost of government pension benefits.

This time it was Chicago city employees and retirees whose pensions were being targeted. The retirement system for one set of workers is projected to be insolvent in about a decade.

In 2014, the Illinois General Assembly changed the rules, but in Thursday's 5-0 ruling, the Supreme Court found that unconstitutional.

Illinois Public Radio’s Brian Mackey spoke with his colleague Amanda Vinicky about the decision.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com / NPR | Illinois Public Radio

More than whatever is happening in the headlines, our days are made (or destroyed) by the kindness (or lack of it) displayed by the people whose orbits we cross personally.

A quick errand provides an example.  On a good day, you pull into a parking lot where another driver waves you into the spot nearest the door and takes a farther spot himself.  As you enter the store, the lady ahead of you holds the door and greets you with a smile.  When you bump into someone in a crowded aisle, you hear a quick apology and a gentle laugh about the narrow passage.

WUIS

The Illinois Supreme Court has declared that former Gov. Pat Quinn was correct in 2011 when he denied state workers a promised 2 percent pay raise because lawmakers had not appropriated the money.

Creative Commons via Flickr.com/rustypenny

In the March 17 issue of Illinois Times, Springfield’s alt-weekly newspaper, Bruce Rushton looks at how some state lawmakers are spending money they'd collected to fund their political campaigns.

Searching through public documents, he found thousands of dollars spent at the Ritz-Carlton in the Cayman Islands, maintenance on luxury automobiles, and a purchase at a men’s clothing store — that last one was classified as “work attire.”

Frank de Kleine/Flickr

 A new state law aims to end the days of women having to choose between a healthy pregnancy and work, but has it been effective?

Rich Berning

Long before President Barack Obama's trip this week, the U-S has had a physical foothold in Cuba, via its naval base and prison at Guantanamo Bay. Obama's seeking to close down the detention center there. Illinois' U.S. Senators are split on its future.


Group Says Illinois Is Losing Renewable Energy Jobs

Mar 23, 2016
U.S Department of Energy

Overall employment in Illinois' clean energy sector grew by 9 percent last year. But opportunities in wind and solar energy are falling. An advocacy group, Clean Energy Trust, blames the state's laws and budget woes.

Spirituality is a topic not often discussed on the radio, or in the mainstream media as a whole. Yet it's something that's a major part of many people's lives. Even those who are agnostic or atheist may be interested in hearing about various religions - the ways they differ, and also what they have in common. Some may choose to buck religion, but still want to hold onto some aspects of spirituality.

The State Legislative Leaders Foundation

By the end of next week, Illinois will have gone a full nine months without a budget. And yet, the state's top politicians still aren't talking. The governor and the four legislative leaders went all of June through November without meeting, before finally getting together a couple of times just before the end of 2015. They didn't continue into the new year.


Illinois State Labor Relations Board logo
Illinois State Labor Relations Board

Illinois’ Labor Relations Board will hold a hearing to decide if Governor Bruce Rauner and the state’s largest public employees union have reached an impasse.


Hill Correctional Center
Google Maps

In January, the Illinois prison population was down by more than 2,500 inmates over a year earlier. But that’s still a long way off from Gov. Bruce Rauner’s goal of cutting the population by 12,000 prisoners over the next decade.

The commission he appointed to make that happen is still figuring out how to meet his goal, and met Monday in Chicago to continue deliberations.

Amanda Vinicky

Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin -- each collects private donations to help run their state fairs. But despite faulty infrastructure that will cost an estimated 180 million dollars to repair, Illinois does not.

It’s a windy day on the state fairgrounds in Springfield. Illinois' Director of Agriculture, Raymond Poe, laments a nearby building's crumbling roof.

"Agriculture represents about 25 percent of the economic value of the state of Illinois, all the way from farmers to exports. We need a place - and a high class place - to showcase our agriculture," he said.

Pages