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Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has selected a Florida Democrat to lead Illinois' troubled Department of Children and Family Services.
 
George Sheldon ran Florida's Department of Children and Families from 2008 to 2011. He's credited with expanding adoption opportunities for gays and lesbians, reducing the number of children in state custody and making state records more
easily accessible.
 
Sheldon also served as an assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President Barack Obama.
 

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Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, Governor Rauner's efforts toward allowing government workers to stop paying union dues and toward revising the state's criminal justice policies.

Dusty Rhodes

Another effort for overhauling school funding is taking shape in the Illinois legislature. 

Jason Barickman, a Republican senator from Bloomington, says he’s going to introduce three pieces of legislation to tackle the state’s infamous education funding inequity. He describes the first piece as an “evidence-based model," which he believes will be supported by Governor Bruce Rauner.

Illinois Department of Transportation

Gov. Bruce Rauner's nominee to head the Illinois Department of Transportation was arrested for drunken driving in 2004.  

The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers  reports Randy Blankenhorn failed a blood alcohol content test during a traffic stop in Sangamon County.  

According to court records, Blankenhorn pleaded guilty to DUI and received a year of supervision and a $795 fine.  

Tune into this week's Art Beat with the Illinois Times' Scott Faingold:

Events discussed include:

Listen to the WUIS broadcast of the 12th Annual Lincoln Legacy Lectures, recorded at UIS Brookens Auditorium in October - a presentation of the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership.  Hosted by Barbara Ferrara.

The UIS Lincoln Legacy Lecture Series calls on scholars and policy experts to talk about issues that engaged Abraham Lincoln and the citizens of his era, and issues that are still timely today.

wnij

Next week, Gov. Bruce Rauner will unveil his spending proposal. The non-partisan Civic Federation has some suggestions.

The Civic Federation’s Director, Laurence Msall, says Illinois’ budget isn’t just in bad shape; its condition is terrible ... and climbing out of it won’t be easy.

“These are not politically attractive answers. There are financial, reality-based suggestions on how the state can stabilize its finances,” he says.

Today, on Lincoln's birthday, we look back at an important moment in Springfield history. 

The date was April 19, 2005.  The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum opened, six months after the Library began operation.  President George W. Bush spoke at the ceremony.  

This coming April will mark the 10th anniversary of museum, which has become one of Illinois' top tourist attractions as well as a place for people to learn more about the man whose name is on the building.  

flickr/RobertKuykendall

Criminal charges won't be filed involving the shredding of internal Springfield police documents.  But the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor called the conduct in the case "embarrassingly incompetent."

The special prosecutor took the case on in 2013. A news release issued Wednesday stated "The reality of this case is that once charges are filed, the prosecutor must be able to prove all elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt."

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov. Bruce Rauner visited a state prison Wednesday. It’s the first time a sitting governor has done that in years.

Rauner says an overhaul of Illinois’ criminal justice system a priority for his administration.

"The Department of Corrections is operating at more than 150 percent of its design capacity," Rauner says. "That is unsafe to both inmates and staff."

Michael Mayosky

A project meant to "art - ify" Springfield's city center may have hit a dead-end. The effort to add more murals kicked off a couple years ago. Now there's only a single incomplete one to show for it. The question remains if Springfield will join other cities in Illinois, and across the country, that can boast their downtowns as places where public art is highlighted. 

    

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner announced Wednesday he would convene a commission to look at criminal justice policy.

State prisons in Illinois are at 150 percent of the capacity they were built to house. They also cost taxpayers $1.3 billion a year. And many inmates, once released, go on to commit more crimes. Rauner says that’s unacceptable.

"It is a vicious and costly cycle," Rauner says. "We need to make sure we are rehabilitating inmates, so they don’t commit crimes over and over again."

grainbelexpress.cleanline.com

A company that wants to build power lines to carry wind energy from Kansas to Illinois will be seeking regulators' permission this Spring.    Mark Lawler... the Director of Development for the Grain Belt Express Clean Line project says it is one of two the company is working on in Illinois.   He tells WUIS' Bill Wheelhouse the plan is to carry the wind energy  via direct current rather than traditional way of transmitting electricity:

The Blen / Creative Commons, flickr

    

The recent surge in cases of measles across the United States has focused attention on the choices families make about immunizing their children. Like most parents, the young married couple I’m about to introduce you to has tried to do everything possible to ensure their baby is healthy. 

"We made our own food," the dad says.

Department of Homeland Security

Immigrants in the country illegally will soon be able to file requests to stay in the U.S. without fear of being deported.

President Barack Obama announced an executive order helping immigrants in the country illegally gain lawful employment and defer deportation. Opponents say this could hurt the economy and take jobs away from U.S. citizens.

Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, says the opposite is true.

Dusty Rhodes

 

Governor Bruce Rauner visited a handful of schools in central Illinois today to talk to students. 

At Lanphier High School in Springfield, the governor spent about 15 minutes talking to a library full of kids. His message: Education is the key to success, and he’s going to improve education in Illinois. 

“It’s the number one priority,” Rauner said. “To me, for my wife and me, there’s nothing more important than education.  And we’re dedicated to your education, to make sure it’s as best as it can possibly be.” 

waymarking.com

Tim Landis shares with us the planned expansion of the downtown historical district.   The expansion from the footprint of the Old State Capitol to more of the surrounding landscape will allow for tax breaks for developers.    Also discussed... repairs at the Executive Mansion and Third Street rail work could begin this year.

www.ilga.gov

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton says his legal staff is reviewing an executive order issued by Gov. Bruce Rauner that eliminates dues paid by workers who aren't public union members.  
 
 Rauner says 6,500 state employees are forced to pay ``fair share'' fees at an
average of $577 a year for each worker.
 
 Cullerton is a Chicago Democrat. He and others are skeptical about whether the
Winnetka Republican has the legal ability to challenge the fee. Unions have
fired back at the governor, saying they intend to work to have the order

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is taking another shot at government employee unions. The Republican has signed an executive order prohibiting so-called "fair share" dues paid by workers who would rather not join a union. He says the alliance between unions and politicians has been a “corrupt bargain."

“There’s also a fundamental American principle of freedom of choice," Rauner says. "America is about freedom of choice and empowering individuals to control their own lives and their own future. This is allowing the employees of state government the right to decide."

Lisa Ryan

Gov. Bruce Rauner is ratcheting up his battle with organized labor. In a surprise move, today he issued an executive order that allows government workers to stop paying union dues.

Since taking office, Rauner talked a lot about his belief that unions’ contributions to political campaigns are a “corrupt bargain.”

The Republican governor says forcing state employees to pay union dues is a “critical cog” in that bargain, and it’s crushing taxpayers.

Wikimedia/Teemu08

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) Documents show that about $3 million in repairs were made to the Illinois Governor's Mansion last summer.  The State Journal-Register reports that documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show the repairs included patching roof leaks that damaged walls and contributed to black mold. An emergency generator was replaced and a valve was installed to prevent recurring flooding. About another $2.8 million of repairs are pending at the Capital Development Board.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Nearly three-dozen non-profit organizations — mostly in the Chicago area — were told Jan. 29 that money they were expected to get as part of an $8 million Youth Development grant had been blocked by Gov. Bruce Rauner. The new Republican governor has made a point of undoing as many of former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn’s lame-duck actions as possible, withdrawing promised funding, blocking contracts and rescinding executive orders.

UIS Campus Relations

Thursday will mark the 206th year since Abraham Lincoln was born.  Ken Bradbury, a prolific Illinois playwright, wrote a one-man, one-act play called 'The Last Full Measure' about what Lincoln may have been thinking in the moments after he was assassinated.

Alex Wroblewki

One of the major sources for our November Illinois Issues story on young black males is the author of a recently released study that points to a way things are tougher for that demographic group in poor inner-city environments. 

As victims of crime, they are less likely to get their murder cases resolved, particularly if a gun is involved. 

Police officers have used pepper spray at least 110 times in Alabama public schools, often for infractions of school rules (disrespectful comments, minor skirmishes) rather than actual criminal behavior. The decision on a class-action lawsuit that would allow police to continue this practice is expected today.

Read the story here:

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/02/birmingham-school-police-trial-splc

Photo by Darrell Hoemann/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

To counter a “super weed” epidemic plaguing farmers, agribusiness giant Monsanto is steadily moving forward on the introduction of its next major wave of genetically engineered crops.

But – citing environmental and sustainability concerns – critics argue that step forward is actually a substantial leap back.

Reboot Illinois

Funding for everything from state-subsidized daycare to court reporters' salaries is running out in Illinois. At the same time, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has signed on a top aide for a contract worth $30,000 a month.

Donna Arduin may not be a household name in Illinois yet, but as Rauner's Chief Financial Officer, she may become on.

Arduin has been contracted to "provide advice to the governor" on how to deal with Illinois' pending fiscal challenges.

healthcaregov.net

The deadline is approaching to sign up for health care under the Affordable Care Act. In-person counselors help walk people through the process.

Loren Greer is a 63-year-old truck driver who was taken off his company's health coverage when he was forced into early retirement. He sought help from an in-person counselor so he can avoid paying a fee after the February 15 deadline. If it weren't for the threat of a 325 dollar fee, Greer might not enroll.

Host Bernie Schoenburg (SJ-R) and guests Brian Mackey, Hannah Meisel (WILL/Illinois Public Media) and Charlie Wheeler (UIS) discuss Bruce Rauner's State of the State address.

CapitolView is a production of WSEC-TV/PBS Springfield, Network Knowledge.

Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock says he hopes
constituents see him as ``still the same person'' after a week dogged by
controversies in Washington.
 
 The Peoria Republican returned to his central Illinois district Friday. It was
his first visit since a watchdog group called for an ethics probe into how he
paid for extravagant decorations of his Washington office, and after a staffer
resigned because of racist remarks on Facebook.
 
 Schock got a warm reception at one of his first stops. Several locals at a

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