News

Mark Selvaggio at steel business.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

For fans of baseball, the midwinter tradition is underway — counting down the days until the pitchers and catchers report for spring training.

When evaluating Illinois’ recovery from the recession, James Glassman uses a baseball analogy. The head economist for commercial banking with JP Morgan Chase says Illinois has only reached the fifth inning in the recovery.

flickr/dnak

Illinois has a clear ambition for what it would like to do with members of its criminal class, and it’s right there in the name of the state agency set up to deal with them: the Department of Corrections. But there is a wide gap between ambition and practice. This is not to blame the department: politicians enacted the policies that have swelled the prison population, and politicians are largely responsible for the dire financial condition of the state that has squeezed agencies like the DOC.

Graying Illinois

Jan 1, 2015
Illinois Issues

Listen to Jamey Dunn talk about her piece with Rachel Otwell:

Three years ago, the first members of the Baby Boom generation turned 65. This generation, born between the mid-1940s and mid- 1960s, has had a large influence on American politics and policy, in part by virtue of its sheer size. As the Boomers reach retirement age, they may once again drastically reshape the country.

2014 General Election Total Votes
WUIS/Illinois Issues

News Analysis — We’ve all had this experience: you’re asked a question, give your opinion, then watch your interlocutor ignore the answer.

If you didn’t care what I thought, why’d you ask?

That would be a fair question among the 2,339,173 Illinois voters who cast a ballot in favor of a higher minimum wage in November.

Charlie Wheeler headshot
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Property taxes are excessively high and oppressive and the legislature should do something about it.

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner, explaining his call for a property tax freeze, whatever that means?

Lame duck Gov. Pat Quinn in his budget address last spring, urging lawmakers to send every homeowner a $500 refund check?

Good guess, but nope.

Brian Mackey headshot
mattpenning.com / WUIS

Editor's note: January marks a new phase in our journalism. Following the merger of WUIS and Illinois Issues, we now have enough journalists to enable reporting on a beat model. This allows a reporter to learn events and people more thoroughly than general assignment reporting. Each reporter is focusing on key issues in the state.  We're calling it the "Illinois Issues Initiative."

STATE OF THE STATE
CAN GOOD GOVERNMENT ABIDE GOOD POLITICS?

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner funneled record-setting amounts of his own money to win November's election. Paperwork filed with the state late in the afternoon on Wed., Dec. 31 shows he isn't stopping there.

Rauner is capping off 2014 with a massive infusion of cash into his campaign fund. He reports about $20 million in the final days of December, from just five contributors.

As with his campaign for governor, Rauner's biggest contribution to himself, comes from himself. The private equity investor gave another $10 million to his "Citizens for Rauner" fund.

Voices in the News 2014
WUIS

  As we get ready to welcome 2015, we thought we’d take a few minutes to reflect on the past year in Illinois state government and politics. Most of the action was in the campaign for governor, in which Bruce Rauner became the first Republican to win that office since the late 1990s. Here now are some of the voices that made news in 2014.

Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale: “If you’re a Democrat or an independent, there’s no action coming up on your side of the ballot on March 18. Come on over to ours and save your state.”

WUIS/Brian Mackey

The new year will see an increase in the amount Illinois pays into the state's five publicly-funded pension systems.  

The State Journal-Register in Springfield reports (http://bit.ly/13TU5CI) Illinois' auditor general on Wednesday released a report by the state actuary showing a more than $680 million increase in pension payments in 2015 to $7.5 billion.  

The report doesn't explain the increase. However, it noted three of the five pension systems lowered the estimated rate of return they expect from investments.  

ilga.gov

The brother of former state lawmaker Rosemary Mulligan says she has died after her health suffered in recent months.  

Stephen Granzyk says the 73-year-old Republican died Tuesday, months after moving into a retirement community in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines.  

Mulligan represented the Northwest suburbs in the Illinois House from 1993 to 2013. She was considered a social moderate with expertise in the state's human services budget and the disabled.  

The Friends of Dr. Richard Eells House

Illinois' Governor has posthumously pardoned three men for their work with the Underground Railroad. 

The men all lived in west central Illinois and were convicted more than 170 years ago based on laws that prohibited helping runaway slaves.  Those laws remained in place even after Illinois abolished slavery in 1824.  

northwestern.edu

Both of Springfield's major hospitals will be offering trauma care starting New Years Day.   

The State Journal Register reports that HSHS St. John's Hospital will compete with Memorial Medical Center in offering trauma care.  In the past the hospitals alternated annually providing care to those seriously injured. 

flickr/jmorgan

Illinois veterans with disabilities will be eligible for more property tax exemptions under a law signed by Gov. Pat Quinn.  

Quinn signed the measure Tuesday. It takes effect immediately.  

The new law allows veterans with disabilities and their spouses expanded property tax exemptions. Disabled veterans will also see an increased homestead exemption to $100,000 from $70,000.  
 In a statement, Quinn says the law will help ensure that veterans aren't ``burdened by overwhelming property taxes.''  

Secretary of State's Office

Motorists may drive without an up-to-date vehicle registration sticker under a law that takes effect Thursday.

ilga.gov

Taking a bad breakup to the Internet could result in a felony conviction. Gov. Pat Quinn Mon., Dec. 29 signed a law intended to protect against so-called "revenge porn."

Illinois already makes it illegal to distribute explicit sexual images or videos taken without permission, but Sen. Michael Hastings, a Democrat from Tinley Park, says there was a loophole for photos or videos that were taken with consent -- say by romantic partner -- then later publicly distributed without permission.

news.illinois.edu

Here is Chancellor Phyllis Wise's full statement in response to the report of the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure's analysis of the university's handling of Steven Salaita's dismissal:

Gov. Pat Quinn has called for the closing of Tamms Correctional Center.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a plan that lets people charged with some minor traffic offenses pay penalties without a court appearance.  

In a Sunday statement, Quinn says the legislation helps reduce the burden on drivers and the court system by cutting the number of ``unnecessary minor cases.''  

Under the plan motorists cited with petty traffic violations can plead guilty and pay fines without showing up to court.  

Earlier this year, Quinn signed a law that ends the practice of posting a driver's license in Illinois as security after certain traffic citations.  

State Week logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, we take a historical look back at the 1964 "Bedsheet Ballot".  That year, due to a disagreement over Illinois redistricting, every candidate ran state-wide on a ballot that was over three feet long.  The effects of that election and the way it was conducted strongly influenced the future course of state politics, the state constitution, and more.

    

  Bruce Rosenstock, president of the Campus Faculty Association at the University of Illinois, said the report released today by the school’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure is a “bombshell and a game changer” that will force university officials to revisit their decision to not hire controversial professor Steven Salaita.

Jim Meadows, WILL

A committee investigating the University of Illinois’ handling of Steven Salaita -- a professor whose job offer with the university was withdrawn due to his social media posts -- issued a report today criticizing school officials.  Phyllis Wise, chancellor of the University of Illinois’ main campus, violated procedures when she failed to consult key academic officers before telling a controversial professor that he would not get the job he had been promised.

Flickr/Images_of_money

A new report predicts an uptick in home sales in Illinois in the coming year. Although a number of potential homebuyers are still sitting on sidelines. The forecast for housing prices in the coming year shows some increases, but not the kind of gains experienced in the last couple of years. 

Geoffrey Hewings, Director of the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory at the University of Illinois says while the housing market continues to recovery, he says millennials would rather rent than buy.

consumer product safety commission

Keurig is recalling some 7 million of single-serve coffee brewing machines because of reported burns.
 
 Keurig says its Mini Plus Brewing Systems, with model number K10, can overheat and spray water during brewing. Keurig says it had received about 200 reports of hot liquid escaping from the brewer, including 90 reports of burn-related injuries.
 

TobyKeith.com

Country singer Toby Keith will headline a concert celebrating Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner's inauguration. 

Peapod Labs/flickr

Illinois is reporting widespread flu activity earlier than most years.  Widespread means the flu is showing up statewide.  Illinois tracks people hospitalized for the flu. That number is above 200 with nearly half the cases in the week that ended December 13th. 

Of course, that fails to count those who have the symptoms but are recuperating at home.  

Illinois Issues

It was long a practice of Illinois politicians: Give a buddy a short-term job at the end of his career in order to boost his pension. Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law that's supposed to put an end to that practice. But what about the friend who Quinn just gave a promotion?

The elevation of Jerry Stermer from the governor's budget director to Illinois' comptroller will bring with it a raise of ten thousand dollars for a full year's work.

Gov. Quinn on Friday (12/19) appointed Stermer to temporarily serve as comptroller following Judy Baar Topinka's death.

State Week logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

A note that this week's State Week in Review was recorded before Governor Pat Quinn's announcement that he is appointing his budget chief, Jerry Stermer, to fill the office of state Comptroller.  Stermer will serve until Governor-elect Bruce Rauner takes office on Jan. 12, at which time the new governor will announce a full four-year replacement.

Illinois Issues

Democratic Governor Pat Quinn has chosen longtime friend Jerry Stermer -- his former chief of staff and current budget director -- to take over as Illinois' Comptroller.

Quinn had to choose someone for the position, following the unexpected death last week of Republican Judy Baar Topinka.

Stermer will only hold the job for 24 days; he says he'll step down January 12th, Quinn's last day as governor. That will allow Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner to appoint someone else as comptroller, for what would have been Topinka's next term.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Area artist and musician Matthew Schultz has seen and been in his fair share of art and music scenes. In this interview, he looks back on the past couple decades of music that he’s been a part of. From the industrial rock super-group Pigface, to the ambient stylings of his latest musical project, Schultz recently spoke with WUIS about taking his music from dark, to light:

Audio Player

WUIS first aired this interview in Feb. 2013.

An audit has found that Illinois does a poor job monitoring and tracking children who run away from foster homes.  

Auditor General William Holland reported Thursday the Department of Children and Family Services does not keep reports on the total number of missing children in a year or their previous locations.  

In 2011 and 2012, DCFS estimated as many as 3,100 children went missing in up to 29,200 separate incidents. But they were not all runaways. They included wards of the state whose caregivers did not know their whereabouts.  

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Judy Baar Topinka, who died of a stroke last week, was no stranger to the dizzying world of Illinois politics. The state comptroller had also been state treasurer, served in the legislature and lost a race for governor to Rod Blagojevich. So it's easy to imagine that Topinka would not be surprised at the ongoing furor and partisan divide over how to replace her.

It was just Wednesday that Gov. Pat Quinn praised Topinka at her memorial service, saying "she's done so much for all the people of Illinois. And I think there's a hole in the hearts of the people of our state."

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