An Illinois Independent Tax Tribunal years in the making is up-and-running today. It gives businesses and individuals who have problems with their tax bills a new avenue to get them overturned. Still there are early concerns over who Gov. Pat Quinn has nominated to serve as the tribunal's Chief Administrative Law Judge.
Say a business doesn't agree with how much the state Department of Revenue says it owes in sales taxes. Before, it had two options: fight the tax bill in court (though that costs time and money) or plead the case to the Department of Revenue.
Illinois officials say more than 2,000 people in counties declared federal disaster areas after tornadoes struck in November applied for federal assistance. Gov. Pat Quinn visited the central Illinois community of Washington on Tuesday.
His office says more than $1.6 million in federal grants and more than $5.6 million in low-interest loans have been approved. Washington was hit hard by one of the roughly two dozen tornadoes that struck on Nov. 17. Seven people died and thousands of buildings were damaged or destroyed.
The amount Illinois must pay to keep pace with its pension systems should grow less than 2 percent next year but still total nearly $7 billion.
A state actuary's report that Auditor General William Holland released Tuesday says taxpayers must pay $6.86 billion in the fiscal year that begins July 1. That's up about $100 million from this fiscal year. Lawmakers adopted a reform plan in early December for the five pension systems to cut a $100 billion debt. But it doesn't take effect until June 1 and has been challenged in court.
As we get ready to welcome 2014, we thought we’d take a few minutes to reflect on some of the voices in the news this past year in Illinois state politics and government. People in the Capitol were busy with same-sex marriage, medical marijuana, and dozens of other issues. What follows are a few of the more memorable moments.
Gov. Pat Quinn: “This is no small issue. This is a choice about whether we will make the tough decisions necessary to balance our budget by reforming our public pension systems."
Two Illinois colleges will share in a $29 million federal grant to retrain unemployed workers for high-skill jobs in transportation, distribution and logistics. Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey will lead a consortium of nine colleges in eight Mississippi River states with the goal of placing people in jobs and boosting economic development.
Jan. 1 brings a new Illinois law that limits talking on the phone while driving. It's often been referred to as "cell phone ban." But it's actually a bit more nuanced.
The law starts out by saying you cannot drive while using an electronic device such as a phone or laptop. But it's not that cut-and-dry. For example, you can place a call if it only requires pressing one button.
SIRI: *ding* MACKEY: Siri, can you make a call for me? SIRI: "With whom would you like to speak?" MACKEY: How about Illinois State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond?
Beginning Jan. 1, the maximum speed limit in Illinois will increase to 70 miles an hour. But you might want to hold off on the throttle for at least a few weeks.
While the new 70 mph law technically goes into effect at midnight on New Year's Day, it's going to take the Illinois Department of Transportation a little while to get all the new speed limit signs put up. Until then, IDOT spokeswoman Paris Earvin says, "We really encourage motorists to obey the posted speed limits."
Illinoisans can start applying for permits to carry concealed guns later this week. And some cops are already worried about the new law.
"They don’t know how this will all roll out, and they’re worried about every one of their normal encounters - whether it be a domestic disturbance call, a traffic stop - uh, now potentially having additional weapons," said Colonel Marc Maton of the Illinois State Police.
State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says Illinois residents will get a breakdown of state spending in income tax returns received in 2014.
Topinka announced the initiative on Monday. She says her office will also make the information available online. In a statement, Topinka says there shouldn't be a mystery when it comes to public dollars in the state.
A map of 70 MPH speed limits. Drivers in the Springfield area will still have a speed limit of 65 mph around the city. The lower speed limit affects motorists from the south side of the city to the northwest side of Springfield.
The sometimes contentious and surprising audio from the appeal hearing of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is now online.
Attorneys spent an hour arguing Blagojevich’s appeal on December 13th. Leonard Goodman told judges that Blagojevich never intended to commit fraud, he thought he was engaging in political horse trading.
That led Judge Frank Easterbrook to repeatedly ask Blagojevich’s attorney about a case called Cheek.
Kevin Stein has a daunting task: following two Pulitzer Prize winners as the poet laureate of Illinois.
Ten years into the job, the Bradley University professor is putting his own signature on the unpaid position that's considered crucial to widening appreciation for the art form. He's created a state poetry website and donates his own money to buy poetry books for libraries across the state. He also offers advice to young poets.
Northwestern Illinois officials want to team up with their Iowa counterparts to woo a Boeing plant that could bring more than 8,500 jobs to the Quad Cities.
The (Moline) Dispatch reports (http://bit.ly/1c7choJ ) the Bi-State Regional Commission sent a letter to the two states' governors asking them to promote a regional bid for the multibillion dollar assembly plant. The letter was signed by community leaders in Moline, Rock Island, East Moline and Rock Island County in Illinois along with Iowa officials from Davenport, Bettendorf and Scott County.
Gov. Pat Quinn is a longtime advocate for term limits, but has yet to commit to one himself. The Chicago Democrat tells The Associated Press in a year-end interview that he won't presume a win in his 2014 re-election bid and is taking it one term at a time.
Thirty-eight people have been granted clemency by Gov. Pat Quinn for crimes that date back decades. The Democratic governor announced yesterday that he also denied another 129 petitions for clemency. Crimes committed by those who were pardoned include theft, possession of a controlled substance, burglary and forgery, and solicitation of prostitutes.
Seven people were treated and released from a northern Illinois hospital after receiving minor injuries when an indoor amusement park ride malfunctioned. Joseph Hook is acting general manager at Grizzly Jack's Grand Bear Resort in Utica.
He says the people _ a mix of children and adults _ reported aches and pains on Christmas Eve after an unspecified malfunction of a tea cup ride in the hotel's indoor amusement park. The amusement park that's about 80 miles southwest of Chicago has about 10 rides.
With a seemingly intractable war in Vietnam, riots in American cities, and the assassination of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy — things were not looking up at Christmas 1968. It was against this backdrop that we heard from the three men aboard the first manned flight to the moon.
A central Illinois sheriff is offering to help residents apply online for concealed-carry firearms permits. The Sangamon County sheriff's office said Monday that, beginning Jan. 6, residents can use a computer in the department's records lobby. The department also will provide technical assistance.
This week's topics include Governor Quinn's agreement with AFSCME on how to cull Medicaid rolls, a change to how the state will accept concealed carry applications, and Archer Daniel Midland's decision to keep its corporate HQ in Illinois.
Officials say sufficient state funding the last two years means key state-employee pension funds didn't have to sell assets to meet payments. The State Retirement Systems covers pensions for ex-state employees, judges and lawmakers. A report Thursday by Auditor General William Holland says SRS withdrew $30 million in the 2013 fiscal year _ down from nearly $250 million the year before. William Atwood heads the Illinois State Board of Investment, which manages the SRS portfolios. He says the large withdrawal in 2012 was because of state underfunding in 2011.
As he campaigns for re-election, Governor Pat Quinn is renewing a push for a hike in the minimum wage.
Illinois' $8.25 minimum wage bests the federal rate by a dollar.Gov. Quinn and other Democrats want to raise it higher; the governor's calling it to go up to $10.
"When we put more purchasing power in the hands of hard-working people, they're not going to admire the money in the bank vault," he says. "They're going to go out and spend that money at stores in their neighborhood, to help that consumer demand, that creates more jobs."