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Statehouse
7:26 am
Thu December 4, 2014

Statehouse Summary- Same Day Voter Registration & Pension Appeal

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Illinois Senate has passed legislation that would raise the state's minimum wage. The legislation would by 2019 increase Illinois' minimum wage to $11 an hour for workers 18 and older. The bill won't impact Chicago's decision to raise its wage to $13 by 2019.  The House adjourned without voting on it.

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Illinois Issues - Leadership
4:07 pm
Wed December 3, 2014

House Adjourns For Good ... ?

Speaker Michael Madigan on the House's final day of the 98th General Assembly ... unless he and Senate Pres. John Cullerton agree to return for a special session, or the General Assembly is called into one by Gov. Pat Quinn, whose last full day in office is Jan. 13.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

The Illinois House has adjourned its two-year legislative session for good, without a vote on a minimum wage hike - meaning that Representatives will not be back in Springfield before Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner takes over.  But backers of an increase are raising the possibility that the proposal isn't quite dead yet.

In Latin, "Sine Die" means “without a date," so when House Speaker Michael Madigan said "I move that we adjourn Sine Die," he meant that current makeup of the Illinois House was adjourning for good - with no intent to meet again.

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Illinois Issues - Education Desk
6:21 am
Wed December 3, 2014

Illinois Set To Test Common Core Standards

Christopher A. Koch, superintendent of the Illinois State Board of Education, says opting out of PARCC is not an option.
Credit isbe.state.il.us

Illinois students are scheduled to take the new Common Core test this spring, despite a growing chorus of parents and educators opposing it. 

To get some idea of how controversial the test is, consider this: The number of states that have legalized marijuana use -- 23 -- is double the number of states that have agreed to use this test -- just 11. Of those 11, only eight have agreed to use both the elementary and high school portions of the test. Illinois is one of these states.

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10:00 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Unequal Skylines For An Unequal Nation

What would our cities look like if wealth was represented by the height of buildings? Here's Chicago...
Over the summer, designer and blogger Nickolay Lamm re-envisioned New York's skyline such that the height of buildings represented the wealth of the people who inhabited them. The art was striking, and exposed the city's vast inequalities. "I feel a lot of people look at New York's skyline and think, 'that's where dreams happen, that's where dreams are made," he says.
Veto Session
5:57 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Businesses Get Tax Break With New Minimum Wage Plan

Sen. Kim Lightford, D-Maywood, holds a press conference in November; she has campaigned for years fon a minimum wage increase.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

A revamped statewide minimum wage hike is in the works, following Chicago's passage of one for the city. As the legislative session nears its end, specifics are developing.

Backers of a higher minimum wage are doing what they can to get it through the General Assembly.

That means phasing it in over a longer period of time --- so it'd go up to $9 in July, instead of $10, then notch up each summer by 50 cents, until it reaches $11 in 2019. They're also adding on a tax credit for small businesses, to ease the cost of paying workers more.

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Shocked, Shocked
4:56 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Rauner: Voters 'Misled' On Sorry State Finances

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner spoke with reporters Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014 in the Illinois Statehouse.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner was back in Springfield Tuesday. He spoke with reporters and — not surprisingly — says Illinois’ finances are in terrible shape.

Last spring, Democrats acknowledged they passed a budget that’s badly out of balance. It spends way more money than the state will collect from taxes — a multi-billion-dollar shortfall. Now Rauner says the problem is even worse than it seemed.

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Statehouse
4:38 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Rauner Warns Chicago On Minimum Wage

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner speaks with reporters in the Illinois Capitol Building on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Even as Chicago aldermen were voting Tuesday to raise the city's minimum wage, Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner issued a warning on the subject.

Rauner had a simple message for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

"My recommendation to the mayor is he keeps in mind competitiveness for the city of Chicago," Rauner says.

Rauner says he would support a statewide increase — if lawmakers also pass restrictions on lawsuits and other legislation favored by the business community.

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Live At The Suggs
4:18 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Monday Dec. 8th - Ken Bradbury's Play "Last Full Measure" At WUIS Suggs Studio

Photo of Fritz Klein in THE LAST FULL MEASURE, Union Theater, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, November, 2014
Credit Donna Lounsberry

WUIS is partnering with actor and renowned Abraham Lincoln impersonator Fritz Klein, the enduring and creative local director Phil Funkenbusch, and treasured Illinois playwright and author Ken Bradbury for a unique and engaging evening celebrating the arts. And you're invited!

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Illinois Issues - Code Switch Illinois
3:25 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Springfield NAACP President On What Ferguson Has Taught Us

Teresa Haley
Credit springfieldnaacp.org

It's been about a week since the decision was made not to indict police officer Darren Wilson after the shooting death of Michael Brown. Reactions to that decision are still resulting in protests, prayer vigils, and round-table discussions across the nation.

In Springfield, Teresa Haley who heads the local chapter of the NAACP has been at the center of much of the events concerning issues like racism and police brutality -- issues that Ferguson has brought to the forefront of many peoples' minds.

Listen to our interview with Haley, here: 

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Sports
2:53 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

UIS To Add New Sports Starting Next Fall

Credit UIS Athletics

The University of Illinois Springfield released the following news release on Tuesday, announcing the addition of men's and women's cross country and track and field programs:

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – University of Illinois Springfield Director of Athletics Kim Pate has announced the addition of men’s & women’s cross country and men’s and women’s track & field as new intercollegiate sponsored sports for the Prairie Star athletic programs.

The teams are slated to begin competition in the fall of 2015.

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Illinois Issues - Code Switch Illinois
12:05 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Report Looks At LGBT Equality In Cities

Graphic of cities considered for the MEI
Credit http://www.hrc.org/campaigns/municipal-equality-index

Same sex marriage took effect in Illinois earlier this year, and while our state has joined the ranks of others that offer an increased amount of rights and protections to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, cities differ in laws and policies that promote equality. A report that was released a few weeks ago looked at cities from around the country - seven of which are in Illinois.

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Statehouse
7:13 am
Tue December 2, 2014

Report: Illinois Human Rights Employees Falsified Documents

 An investigation found that four Illinois Department of Human Rights employees supposedly examining discrimination complaints forged signatures and falsified documents to cover for work they didn't do.  

The report Monday by the Office of the Executive Inspector General also found supervisors failed to monitor the four investigators, who resigned in 2011 and 2012.  

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Statehouse
6:46 am
Tue December 2, 2014

Lawmakers Begin Last Week of Veto Session - Rauner To Stop By Capitol Today.

Illinois lawmakers are reconvening for the final scheduled week of their fall veto session. They are expected to make a push to advance a proposal increasing the state's minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2017.  

Republican governor-elect Bruce Rauner  is scheduled to make an appearance Tuesday morning at the state Capitol.  

Gov. Pat Quinn's office says the outgoing governor has been meeting with lawmakers and gathering support for the proposal.  

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Veto Session
12:13 am
Tue December 2, 2014

FOIA Firestorm Sparked

Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, declined to call a bill that makes controversial changes to the Freedom of Information Act during a House Executive committee meeting Monday.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Advocates for government transparency still have a fight ahead over the state's Freedom of Information Act. That's despite a temporary reprieve yesterday.

Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, of Chicago, caught transparency advocates off guard last week, with just a handful of days remaining in the legislative session. She introduced a plan that would make it harder for members of the public to obtain government information. It would also make it harder for citizens to recover legal fees when governments illegally withhold documents.

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Business
9:00 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Hearings This Week On Grain Belt Express Transmission Line

Credit grainbeltexpresscleanline.com

A series of public meetings is underway in the area regarding a high voltage transmission line project.

The Grain Belt Express Clean Line is the name of a project that will transport electricity generated by wind power in Kansas to Illinois and other states.  It would run through west central Illinois, starting in Pike County and east into Macoupin, Christian and Shelby counties among others....then on to Indiana.

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Judicial System Threatened?
12:21 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Karmeier Keeps Seat ... Barely, After Big Money Race

Justice Lloyd Karmeier
Credit Illinois Supreme Court

The sole Illinois Supreme Court justice who was on the ballot in last month's election was sworn in for a second term this morning. Official results released last night by the Illinois State Board of Elections show just how close Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier was to losing his seat, after an election that saw hefty spending on both sides.

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Higher Ed
7:15 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Next U Of I President Could Start Job Earlier

Timothy Killeen speaks at the UIS campus after being announced as the next President of the U of I.
Credit uis.edu

Incoming University of Illinois system president Timothy Killeen says he's negotiating to begin his new job earlier than his official July 1 start date.  

Killeen tells the Chicago Sun-Times (http://bit.ly/1B5chr4) he'll be a regular presence on the University of Illinois campuses ``and the start date might move forward.'' Killeen is replacing the retiring university President Robert Easter. He didn't give an exact date but says he hopes to start work in late spring.  

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FOIA
6:26 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Last Minute Rush To Change Freedom Of Information Act

Credit flickr/Sean MacEntee

Illinois residents could have a harder time accessing government information under new legislation before the General Assembly. 

The plan, SB2799, makes it harder for people to get repaid legal costs when a government wrongfully denies access to public documents. 

At the same time, it makes it easier for governments to keep certain information off-limits.

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Election 2014
5:43 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Illinois Treasurer's Race 3rd Closest Since 1900

Frerichs (left) and Cross

Illinois' next state treasurer won the Nov. 4 election
by 9,225 votes _ the third-closest statewide race since at least 1900.
 
 Democrat Michael Frerichs  beat Republican Tom Cross 48 percent to
47.8 percent out of 3.5 million votes cast. Records collected and analyzed by
The Associated Press show that the 0.261 percentage-point difference ranks it
behind only the 198-2 race for governor and 1952 campaign for secretary of
state.
 
 The Illinois State Board of Elections formally declared Frerichs the winner at

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Broken System: Can Illinois’ Antiquated Means Of Generating Revenue Be Overhauled?

This story first appeared in the March 2014 issue.

Taxes suck.

That, it seems, is the only truism. Nobody wants to render unto Caesar. But, at least in Illinois, Caesar needs to get re-elected, and so stuff can get complicated.

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Illinois Issues - Past Due
12:00 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Options For Pension Reform Plan B May Be Limited

This story first appeared on the Illinois Issues Blog in July 2014.

After years of trying to find a solution to the tackle the state’s $100 billion unfunded pension liability, lawmakers approved pension changes in December of last year. Illinois was SAVED! Crank up the tunes, call up the bond rating agencies, put Squeezy the Pension Python out to pasture—happy days are here again!

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Preventable Deaths

This story first appeared in the March 2014 issue.

For years, they’ve shuffled across Illinois’ front pages, a parade of tragedy.

There was Christopher Valdez, 4, of Chicago’s southwest side, whose mother’s boyfriend allegedly beat him to death in 2011. Earlier, Christopher’s mother had been convicted of abusing him, but the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the courts had nonetheless allowed him to remain in her home.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Doing Right By The Kids

This story first appeared in the June 2014 issue.

Special monitoring visits to the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice recently found youth detainees mowing lawns and building shelves rather than attending educational courses. Monitors discovered youth being given medication with inadequate consent and living in rooms that were improperly maintained. Facilities were found to lack the proper staff to treat juvenile offenders with mental illnesses.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Impoverished in Illinois

In some areas of Englewood, one of six homes is vacant, according to a recent Crain's Chicago Business investigation.
Robert Loerzel WUIS/Illinois Issues

This story first appeared in the January 2014 issue. Statistics have been updated where new numbers were available.

In some pockets of Illinois, where one in every three people live in poverty or close to it, the need is visible in the landscape: empty lots where buildings once stood in Cairo; abandoned houses marked with X’s in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood; families living in ramshackle trailers in Kankakee County’s Pembroke Township.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Minimum Wage: The Debate Is Churned Up At The State And Federal Levels

This story first appeared in the April 2014 issue.

Gone are the days a candidate can make a campaign appearance before a friendly crowd of party faithful, nearly a year before an election, and think his remarks will fade from memory as fast as the mass-produced fried chicken or roast beef the audience was likely served during the event.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Editor's Note: Election Stifles Policy Change In 2014

Credit mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Election season cast a long shadow on 2014. We saw the most expensive and one of the ugliest fights for the governor’s office in the state’s history. Now Illinois has a Republican governor for the first time in more than a decade. Meanwhile in the legislature, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton were both able to hang on to veto-proof majorities in their respective chambers, despite some aggressive challenges mounted by Republican candidates.

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Illinois Issues - Ends And Means
12:00 am
Mon December 1, 2014

National Pundits Overplay GOP Surge In Illinois

Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Is Illinois still a “blue” state?

Will Mike Madigan work with a Republican governor?

Those were among the “insightful” questions being posed by national pundits and talking heads after Bruce Rauner’s solid victory last month over Gov. Pat Quinn in one of the country’s most closely-watched, bitterly contested gubernatorial contests.

Folks here at home know the answers, of course: clearly yes, in both cases.

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Taxes
3:17 pm
Sat November 29, 2014

Gas Tax Fails To Keep Pace With Infrastructure Needs

Credit flickr/MikeMozart

Don Fullerton is associate director of IGPA for Urbana-Champaign and a member of the IGPA faculty. He is an expert on tax policy, energy and environmental policy issues. Julian Reif is an expert in health economics and policy.

They wrote the following op-ed.

Last year, the Panzier Lane bridge in Jefferson County collapsed while a truck was driving over it. The driver was unharmed, but as reconstruction began last month, officials estimated it will cost more than half a million dollars to repair.

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State Week
1:52 pm
Fri November 28, 2014

Listen to State Week - November 28, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, further discussion of the circuit court ruling on the unconstitutionality of Illinois' pension legislation, as well as more on the fall veto session.

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Education Desk
1:10 pm
Wed November 26, 2014

LLCC Offers Variety Of Community Education Classes

Jamie Stout
Credit WUIS

Community Colleges do more than simply of for-credit classes.  They are a place where personal enrichment can be discovered. 

Jamie Stout is the Community Education Director for Lincoln Land Community College. She joined WUIS' Sean Crawford to talk more about some of the offerings, ranging from culinary classes to ghost hunting. 

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