News

Karen Roach/iStockphoto.com

  Illinois officials are dealing with a surge of new patients in the Medicaid program. It's part of last month's rush of people seeking coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

For the first time, low-income adults without children are eligible for government health coverage.

In Illinois, officials expect that'll mean 350,000 new people in Medicaid. And that's not all.

Julie Hamos, director of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, says the news reports and advertising and community outreach around the Obamacare deadline led to a separate spike.

ilga.gov

A state senator who's trying to change a mistake in Illinois' pension reform law says he's optimistic it can be corrected.  

But as lawmakers head back to Springfield Tuesday, state Sen. Daniel Biss says he isn't sure yet just when or how that will happen.  
The language in last year's pension law would sharply reduce the pension of thousands of university employees if they don't retire by June 30, and some worry that may push many public university employees to retire early.  

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

As FoodCorps service member Ashley Turk navigates her way through a brand-new greenhouse in the courtyard at Waukon High School in the northeast corner of Iowa, she points to a robust supply of red and green lettuce leaves growing neatly in rows.

“It’s huge,” she says. “We cut it off and it just keeps growing.”

The greenhouse lettuce is among the offerings in the school’s salad bar. And students will soon be growing carrots, tomatoes and other vegetables, Turks says.

agrgeorgia.gov

Two  luxury automakers are recalling vehicles.

Courtesy of Harvard University's Graduate School of Education

  Education is among the top issues being debated this spring, as lawmakers consider changing the way schools are funded in Illinois. Republicans and Democrats alike agree that something must be done as the state moves into the future.

WUIS/Illinois Public Radio recently caught up with Dr. Paul Reville, an education expert from Harvard University. Reville was an architect of Massachusetts' school reform in the 1990's, and was in Springfield to share his knowledge on overhauling education.

Capitol security checkpoint
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois lawmakers continue to hear dire scenarios for the state budget if they do not vote to extend the five-percent income tax rate. The latest threatened cuts include the entire state Capitol Police force.

The Capitol Police Department was established less than 10 years ago, after a deranged man shot and killed an unarmed security officer.

The shooting led to the installation of metal detectors and x-ray machines, and hiring sworn, armed law enforcement personnel.

ilga.gov

The Illinois House will take the lead on whether Illinois keeps its 5 percent income tax. It's scheduled to roll back at the end of this year unless legislators take action.

It's happened in the past. The Illinois Senate will pass a controversial measure -- like a tax hike -- only for it to languish in the House.

Not this time.

Senate President John Cullerton says the Senate will vote on the tax question if and only if it first passes the House.

WUIS

  Illinois officials are urging parents to vaccinate their school-aged children under new regulations from the Department of Public Health.

This comes as public health officers are monitoring two recent outbreaks of mumps in central Illinois. There's been an eruption of cases in Sangamon and Morgan counties.

There are usually only 35 reported cases of mumps a year in Illinois. But this year, we're already at twice that number.

That has local health officials scrambling to contain the highly contagious disease.

flickr/eggrole

Illinois health officials are planning two public hearings on proposed rules affecting patients who want to use medical marijuana.  

The state's medical marijuana program is a four-year pilot project. The rules under consideration affect how adult patients with specific health conditions will be able to buy marijuana.  

Hearings will be held in Chicago and Springfield. The Chicago hearing will be at the Thompson Center starting at 9:30 a.m. May 5. The Springfield hearing will be on the University of Illinois Springfield campus at 9 a.m. May 21.  

wuis

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner is differing with his opponent on whether a state facility should stay open.  Rauner says he supports keeping open a center for people with developmental disabilities in Centralia that his opponent is trying to close.  
 The Winnetka businessman faces Gov. Pat Quinn in the November election. He met with relatives of residents at the Murray Developmental Center on Saturday and told them they should have a choice in their family members' care.  

Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk says he doesn't agree with proposals in Illinois to impose term limits on elected officials.

Republican governor candidate Bruce Rauner is pushing a voter initiative to limit state lawmakers. This week, the Republican leaders of the
Illinois House and Senate backed an amendment to the state's constitution that'll limit statewide officers to two terms. The officers include the governor
and comptroller.

Host Amanda Vinicky and guests Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) and Nicole Wilson (24/7 News) discuss Gov. Pat Quinn's possible political hiring as well as Madigan's backing of the 5% income tax continuing, not enough votes for increase in minimum wage, possible death of the graduated income tax.

Barry Maram
shefskylaw.com

A former state official has agreed to pay a record $100,000 fine to settle charges he violated a state ethics law. Barry Maram is accused of going to work for a state contractor a week after he left his job as director of Healthcare and Family Services.

Maram was HFS director from the earliest days of the Blagojevich administration through April 2010.

Maram went on to take a job with the Chicago law firm Shefsky & Forelich (now part of Taft)

WUIS

Documents released by Gov. Pat Quinn's office show
that patronage positions at the Illinois Department of Transportation increased 57 percent from 2003 to 2011.
 
 Memos that the Quinn administration released Friday show that in 2011 there were 369 jobs at IDOT that could be given without restriction to those with
political connections. That was up from 234 in 2003.
 

House Speaker Michael Madigan is elected to a 5th term as Chairman of the Illinois Democratic party and more allegations are being made that patronage plays a factor in hiring decisions at the Illinois Department of Transportation.

WUIS/Lee Strubinger

Planning is underway for next year's 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s funeral.

  Time is running out on a push for a graduated income tax income tax in Illinois and it remains to be seen whether a key legislative leader supports the plan.

Backers of the graduated tax say it's more fair than Illinois' current flat tax, because people who earn more can afford to pay more.

But enacting that requires changing the state constitution. Voters would have the final say at the ballot in November, but they won't even be asked if lawmakers don't approve it first.

flickr/Denny Armstrong

The tradition of Earth Day Springfield continues Saturday April 26 with a festival designed to showcase what the city has done to become more "green."

"The biggest initiatives that Public Works is pushing for right now is cleaning up the city," said Abby Walden with the office.  "Whether that's making sure people are getting rid of their trash correctly, recycling...  as well as being responsible for how we use our material.  For instance, instead of just throwing it away maybe finding a consignment shop or an organization that can use it."  

Madigan Vs. The Maps

Apr 24, 2014
Speaker Michael Madigan
Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

House Speaker Michael Madigan is harshly criticizing of a plan that would strip him of control over how Illinois draws its legislative maps. The group backing the change has its own harsh words for Madigan.

How legislative districts are drawn sounds wonky. And it is. But it's also really important as boundaries of a district can help determine which party will win a seat.

Because they control the General Assembly and governor's office, Democrats have largely gotten to control the map-making process in Illinois, including the most recent map, drawn in 2011.

Chris Farrell headshot
APM

Marketplace Economics Editor and Business Week columnist Chris Farrell says the aging of the population is the biggest economic and personal finance challenge ahead.  Speaking with WUIS Executive Editor Bill Wheelhouse, Farrell says people can expect to work longer in the years ahead.  

Carl Van Vechten

 75 years ago an African-American singer named Marian Anderson stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C and performed for tens of thousands of people. It's been called “The Concert that Shook the Establishment." During her lifetime - Anderson's unique voice was heard and praised around the world. She remains an important figure for music as well as civil rights.  Ollie Watts Davis, a professor of voice at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is paying tribute to Anderson this weekend.

old-shoe.com

It's been twenty years since the roots-rock group called The Band was inducted into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame. And Illinois-based band will be paying tribute to them at Donnie's venue in Springfield on Saturday. Called Old Shoe -- the group's original music is heavily influenced by The Band and The Grateful Dead. Old Shoe's Matt Robinson tells us more in this piece produced by Rachel Otwell:

The Capitol
Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Two of Illinois' top Republicans want to limit how long someone can stay on as governor of Illinois. But they only have about two weeks to get the proposed constitutional amendment through the General Assembly.

Illinois Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) are floating a two-term limit for the state's six top offices.

That means an eight-year tenure for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, treasurer and secretary of state.

maps.google.com

State police say they're investigating multiple police officers involved with the shooting death of an armed man at a tavern in Lincoln.

Lincoln officers responded to a 911 call around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday night at the Glass House Tavern.  Officials say 62-year-old Donald Letterle was fighting with a woman at the bar.
Police say he had a firearm, so they "engaged" Letterle -- apparently shooting and killing him.
Illinois State Police Master Sergeant Eric Hall says he can't say how many Lincoln officers were involved.

 Two major Democratic initiatives are still short the votes needed to pass, at least in the House, as the General Assembly heads into the final stretch of its spring session.

    

How to deal with Illinois' income tax rate is arguably the biggest issue looming over Illinois politics.

The 5-percent rate is set to rollback in January, but Gov. Pat Quinn wants the higher rate extended permanently, an approach favored by the Democratic leaders of the legislature.

BarackObama.com

Illinois legislators will vote a second time on a plan to spend $100 million to help lure Barack Obama's Presidential Library and Museum to Chicago, following a controversy.

A lesson in politics: Whichever party is in charge can often use the rules to its advantage. Like last week, when the Obama library proposal passed out of a Democratic-controlled House committee with nine votes ... even though only five representatives were there. Republicans had skipped the hearing, and many say they're opposed to spending the money given Illinois' financial situation.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The man who has led the Democratic Party of Illinois for the past sixteen years will hold onto that title, but he did face a rare display of opposition.

Party leaders met in Springfield today to re-elect House Speaker Michael Madigan as their chair.

There are those who view Speaker Madigan as an icon of all that's wrong with Illinois politics.

And then there are those who seem to see him as a Democratic demigod.

sps186.org

The board president of the Springfield School District says there's no chance a tax referendum will get on the November ballot. 

A community group is pushing an idea to raise property taxes,  and the board's vice president is pushing for a county-wide sales tax hike. Both would benefit district 186, though the county sales-tax hike would help all schools in the county and most the money would have to go to facility costs.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Springfield public schools may start classes later once per week, beginning next school year. But the district is going to garner more public feedback before making a final decision. After district officials spoke with a group of parents, it was clear some are against the original plan of pushing back the start of the school day. Now another option is on the table: early dismissal. Either way - it'd be a redistribution of hours slated for professional development.

Sheila Simon
Illinois.gov

  Gov. Pat Quinn is the latest Illinois official to disclose his tax returns. They show he paid about $29,000 federal taxes, $7,700 in taxes to the state. Still, a lot of information about politicians' finances can remain hidden.

There's no law requiring politicians make their tax returns public, though they often do.

Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon says that's a positive thing.

"I think it shows that people are demanding more disclosure," she says.

But Simon says it doesn't go far enough.

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