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By the end of this month, Illinois legislators are slated to be done with their work. That means passing a new budget. Amanda Vinicky checks in with how that's progressing -- including in the eyes of the state's new governor. 

Amanda Vinicky / WUIS / Illinois Issues

Gov. Bruce Rauner has stayed out of the public eye for the past couple of days. But he's making his feelings on the budget known in an op-ed that came out late Wednesday night.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Central Illinois and other places in the Midwest can sometimes be isolating to those in the LGBT community - that is those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. But for the past five years in Springfield, Pride Fest has been drawing them together with their friends, families, and allies. Politicians, drag queens, and many others in between have been involved. 

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois lawmakers are debating whether the wealthy should take on a bigger tax burden.

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan first surged the idea before last year's election, when .01-percenter Bruce Rauner was just a candidate.

Now, with Rauner as governor and calling for widespread cuts, Madigan has brought it back. He proposes adding a three-percent surcharge on all income over a million dollars, with the revenue going to schools.

Flickr/straightedge217

In addition to the Bel-Aire Sputnik getting re-furbished, Tim talks about fundraising for fixes at the Executive Mansion and a Realtor trade group expanding:

David Wilson / davidwilson1949 via Flickr.com

Governor Bruce Rauner's proposed 40 percent cut in Amtrak funding drew objections from 16 university and municipal officials on Tuesday morning. 

 Schools as small as Spoon River College and as large as the University of Illinois flagship in Urbana-Champaign rely on Amtrak trains to bring their students to campus. They say the cut would reduce services and negatively affect enrollment at all downstate schools.  

smoker
Victor Bezrukov / Flickr.com/s-t-r-a-n-g-e

The Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday once again heard arguments over the largest judgment in the state's history. For the second time, Philip Morris is fighting a $10-billion award to people who say they were tricked into thinking "light" cigarettes were healthy.

The class-action lawsuit has been before various courts in Illinois for a decade and a half.

The Illinois House chamber uses a ventilation system that circulates air from columns in the chamber to the attic, where the air is filtered and dispersed over the lawmakers’ desks.
Bethany Jaeger / WUIS/Illinois Issues

With just a dozen days until the General Assembly is set to adjourn, there is a crescendo of partisan accusations. Republican and Democratic legislators both continue to publicly say they hope to reach a bipartisan budget solution, even as both sides accuse the other of bargaining in bad faith.

Brian Mackey/WUIS

A federal judge has allowed Gov. Bruce Rauner's lawsuit over union fees paid by non-union workers to proceed -- without the governor.

flickr/lewismarien

Employees with a dredging contractor are working around the clock to remove sediment from the bottom of Lake Decatur as part of a $91 million project.  

The Decatur City Council approved the six-year project last February. It's being carried out by Great Lakes Dredge & Dock and is expected to increase the lake's capacity by 30 percent.  

The (Decatur) Herald & Review reports that a 220-foot dredge collects sediment and pushes it about eight miles through a submerged pipeline to a 523-acre sediment site in Oakley.  

More than a million people have Illinois drivers' licenses but aren't registered to vote. They would be registered automatically under a measure before the General Assembly.

Democratic Sen. Daniel Biss from Evanston says he thinks it is his responsibility as a public official to make the election process as open as possible.

"I think that we have a challenge in our society right now where participation in democracy feels first of all difficult and second of all, unfortunately sometimes pointless," Biss said.

Illinois Supreme Court Building
Illinois Supreme Court

A $10-billion lawsuit was back before the Illinois Supreme Court Tuesday. A group of smokers say Philip Morris defrauded them into thinking light cigarettes were safer than regular — but lost the case a decade ago. Now they’re hoping for another bite at the apple.

The case was decided way back in 2005, when a sharply divided Illinois Supreme Court overturned the record $10-billion judgment. The justices ruled that the Federal Trade Commission had approved marketing “light” cigarettes as safer.

Why Do Farmers Burn Their Fields?

May 18, 2015

Farmers burn their fields to remove plants that are already growing and to help the plants that are about to come up. These burns are often called “prescribed burns” because they are used to improve the health of the field.

What tools do farmers need for a burn?

To keep the fire contained, farmers need to clear away burnable matter around the edges of the field, which usually requires a lawn mower or larger machinery. The burn itself can be managed with some simple, specific tools.

Southtown Springfield at Walch Stained Glass Studio.
Rachel Otwell / WUIS / Illinois Issues

If you’re not sure what exactly “Southtown” is – imagine you’re driving down South Grand Avenue in Springfield toward Rochester.

A bill moving through the General Assembly would allow transgender people more rights post-mortem.

Watch Decatur City Limitless

Photo: Gary Price

This year marks the 40th anniversary since the fall of Saigon.  An event coming up tomorrow night will provide accounts of the war:

  • May 19, Vietnam: First Encounters

A panel discussion on the fall of Saigon in April 1975. Panel members include Tom Jones, a Navy Corpsman assigned to the Marines; Tom Bowman, an Army enlisted man; and two Vietnamese boat people, Patrick Lam and Pham Thien Khoc, an officer in the South Vietnamese Army. Moderated by Mark DePue, head of the presidential library’s Oral History Program.

Michael J. Madigan headshot
ilga.gov

This week, Illinois House Democrats defeated Governor Rauner's "Right to Work" agenda.  Also, with the Illinois Supreme Court's decision last week, the future of state pension funding is still in question.

Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren / Harvard

A recent study showed that children who grow up in poverty have a better shot at economic mobility depending on where they live.

The study, by economists Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren of Harvard University, was based on earning records for millions of families and is part of an ongoing effort called The Equality of Opportunity Project.

"We show that the area in which a child grow up has significant causal effects on her prospects for upward mobility," the report states.

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS-Illinois Issues


These days, it seems like every agency in Illinois is complaining about cutbacks. Public school officials, however, are seasoned veterans, having seen the state slash their funding repeatedly over the past few years. Now, they argue how the pain is distributed.

WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois Democrats have knocked one of the new Republican governor's top priorities down to an easy defeat. The Illinois House yesterday voted against Bruce Rauner's notion of local right-to-work zones. The issue is highly contentious on its own. But a broader division was also at play. Before we get to the right-to-work debate, it's important to rewind some.

WUIS

Tune in this week. Scott Faingold of the Illinois Times and Rachel are joined by Yona Stamatis, a professor of ethnomusicology at UIS and violinist for the Illinois Symphony Orchestra and her student, Christina Shao, who will play the song of the week:

Events & other items discussed this week include:

Zach Bernard

New ways to tackle Illinois' underfunded pension systems could be emerging, as the Republican governor appears to be backing away from his plan.

There's good reason many lawmakers are feeling flummoxed. Illinois' budget is already sagging. And with last week's state Supreme Court decision tossing a major pension law, the deficit is larger still.

The court decision was unequivocal - it's not constitutional to cut state employees' retirement benefits.

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

A recent study quantified the hours spent by moms and dads with their children aged 3-12 during the years 1965-2010.  In 1965, moms spent 10.5 hours each week engaged with their kids and dads spent 2.6 hours each week engaged with their kids.  In 2010, moms spent an average of 13.7 hours each week and dads spent 7.2 hours.  The study concluded that mothers spending more time with children is not necessarily linked to kids’ success.

Amanda Vinicky

The Illinois House held its first hearing on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposal to address the state’s unfunded pension liability. 

Under the governor's plan, employees would keep all the retirement benefits they have logged so far, but would see a cut to their benefits going forward. Democrats on the House's pension committee said last week’s Illinois Supreme Court opinion, overturning pension changes passed two years ago, rules out that idea.

Just over a year ago, Tracy Dethlefs learned she has stage 1 breast cancer. Since then, she estimates she’s charted some 10,000 miles travelling from her farm near Loup City in central Nebraska to area hospitals for treatment. Every surgery, round of chemotherapy and radiation treatment was a road trip.

“Radiation treatments usually (take) only about 5 minutes (on) a day that they have to see you,” Dethlefs said. “But for a week, for seven weeks in a row, you’re driving every single day to the cancer treatment center. We’re about an hour away from cancer centers.”

Amanda Vinicky

Gov. Bruce Rauner's right-to-work proposal will get a hearing today in the Illinois House. Unions are putting pressure on lawmakers to vote against the proposal.

Though the Illinois House is set to vote on the Republican governor's idea of local right-to-work zones, it's not because Rauner's pushing for a vote.

Gov. Rauner unveiled the concept in late January, during an appearance in Decatur, and has talked about it a lot since. But no actual legislation's been introduced. There are only weeks left in the legislative session.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The former chairman of Amtrak told Illinois lawmakers Wednesday that service cuts are inevitable should Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed 40 percent funding cut takes effect.

Fifty-six Amtrak trains run daily in Illinois. They run from Chicago to St. Louis, to Carbondale, to Quincy and up to Milwaukee, and more travelers are riding them.

Amtrak's former chairman Thomas Carper says he can't say how many, or which of those routes will be dropped.

But he says that will happen if Illinois doesn't come through with about $42 million.

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

The Illinois State Museum, located next to the statehouse in Springfield, is being renamed for the late U.S. Sen. Alan Dixon.

Dixon passed away last year, but he left behind a legacy of service and the ability to work in a bipartisan manner.

Several Illinois leaders gathered for the dedication ceremony. House Speaker Michael Madigan started as a state representative in 1971, when Dixon was a state senator.

"He was always a joy to be with," Madigan said. "Always a laugh, old story, reminiscing about whatever it may be which concerned a bottle of beer."

flickr/dborman

Illinois House Democrats continued to advance budget means that would restore funding to human services programs that the governor proposes cutting.

Republicans continue to question Democrats' motive. They say it's more of a partisan play than a real budget vote.

GOP Rep. Ron Sandack from Downers Grove complained that the measures did not go through typical budget procedures.

"We gotta get past this and actually engage in a budget process that's inclusive, bipartisan and actually moves the needle," Sandack said. "This does nothing but waste time."

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