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Budget Cuts
5:24 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Illinois Capitol Police Face Elimination

Metal detectors and X-ray machines were installed in the Illinois Capitol after a gunman killed an unarmed security guard in 2004.
Credit 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.

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Budget FY15
3:03 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

You First ... No, You First: Tax Hike Timing

Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago
Credit 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.

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Mumps outbreak
12:21 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Officials Warn Of Mumps, Measles Outbreak

Dr. Lamar Hasbrouck, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health
Credit 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.

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Statehouse
7:14 am
Mon April 28, 2014

Public Hearings on Ill. Medical Marijuana Rules

Credit 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.  

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Statehouse
6:23 am
Mon April 28, 2014

Rauner Supports Keeping Open Centralia Developmental Center

Rauner says Murray Developmental Center Should Stay Open
Credit 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.  

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Politics
9:55 am
Sat April 26, 2014

Senator Kirk Opposes Term Limits

Sen. Mark Kirk

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.

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Revolving Door
5:42 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

Former HFS Director To Pay $100k Ethics Fine

Former HFS director Barry Maram says he agreed, after four years, to settle the ethics complaint "in order to finally put it to rest."
Credit 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)

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Statehouse
5:37 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

Documents Show Increase In Patronage Hiring

Gov. Pat Quinn and IDOT Secretary Ann Schneider appear together in early April to announce plans for road construction.
Credit 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.
 

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State Week
1:36 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

Listen To State Week - April 25, 2014

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.

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Lincoln
4:43 pm
Thu April 24, 2014

Springfield Ordinances for Lincoln's Funeral Unearthed

Members of the Lincoln Funeral Coalition look through the 150 year old ordinances.
Credit WUIS/Lee Strubinger

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

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Graduated income tax
11:58 am
Thu April 24, 2014

Madigan: Vote Count Low For Graduated Tax

House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago)

  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.

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Environment
11:41 am
Thu April 24, 2014

Earth Friendly Event In Springfield This Weekend

Lake Springfield
Credit 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."  

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Redistricting / Constitutional Amendment
11:36 am
Thu April 24, 2014

Madigan Vs. The Maps

House Speaker Michael Madigan
Credit 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.

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Education Desk
11:17 am
Thu April 24, 2014

Aging Population Biggest Economic and Financial Challenge Ahead

Chris Farrell appearing in Springfield May 2.
Credit 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.  

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Arts & Culture
11:00 am
Thu April 24, 2014

Marian Anderson Tribute - 'The Concert That Shook The Establishment'

Marian Anderson
Credit 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.

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Arts & Culture
8:00 am
Thu April 24, 2014

A Band Called Old Shoe Pays Tribute To 'The Band'

Matt Robinson of band, Old Shoe
Credit 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:

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Term limits
6:17 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

Top Republicans Propose Term Limits For Governor, Other Executive Officers

Credit 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.

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Regional
3:54 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

State Police Investigating Lincoln Officers Involved In Shooting

Credit 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.

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Despite Democratic Supermajorities
1:34 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

House Holdup On Tax Hike, Minimum Wage

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago

 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.

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Madigan: Vote Again
8:05 pm
Tue April 22, 2014

Initial Obama Library Vote A "Misunderstanding"

President Barack Obama
Credit 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.

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Illinois Democratic Party
5:39 pm
Tue April 22, 2014

Legislator Protests Madigan As Party Chair, Won't Say Why

House Speaker and Illinois Democratic Party chair Michael Madigan speaks at a meeting of the Democratic State Central Committee on Tuesday.
Credit 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.

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Education Desk
3:13 pm
Tue April 22, 2014

Referendum Won't Be On Next Ballot Says School Board Pres.

Chuck Flamini
Credit 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.

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Education Desk
9:27 am
Tue April 22, 2014

Springfield Schools Consider Weekly Late Start Or Early Dismissal

District 186 Headquarters
Credit 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.

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Statehouse
6:20 am
Tue April 22, 2014

Tax Returns Revealing ... But Not Revealing Enough

Lt. Gov Sheila Simon
Credit 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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Election 2014
6:13 pm
Mon April 21, 2014

Quinn Releases Tax Returns; Rauner's Waiting

Credit Illinois Department of Revenue

 Gov. Pat Quinn has released his 2013 tax returns. They show basic information: like that his taxable income is $161,962.98.

That left him paying about $7,700 in state taxes, and about $29,000 to the federal government. Plus another $3,000 or so in property taxes.

But they also reveal some other insights.

As with last year, Quinn chose to put some of his refund to charity via Illinois' voluntary checkoff program: giving ten dollars to most causes, and $100 to the Military Family Relief Fund.

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Statehouse
5:32 pm
Mon April 21, 2014

Quinn Signs Law Intended To Lower Cost Of Auto Leasing

Credit Flickr user oldbrochures

Gov. Pat Quinn on Monday signed legislation intended to lower the cost of leasing a car in Illinois. Backers of the law say far fewer people lease in Illinois than in surrounding states.

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Statehouse
7:24 am
Mon April 21, 2014

Illinois Medicaid Paying For The Dead

Credit Ill. Atty General

Gov. Pat Quinn is promising tighter controls after a review found that the Illinois Medicaid program paid an estimated $12 million for medical services for people who were dead.  

Quinn told reporters Saturday he's not happy with the findings and the state is on track to recoup all of the money.  

The Associated Press learned of the mistakes from an internal state government memo it obtained Friday through the Freedom of Information Act.  

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Education
7:09 am
Mon April 21, 2014

Wait Continues For Schools' Fate Under Proposed New Formula

Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, introduces his Senate Bill 16, which would overhaul how Illinois determines state funding of schools.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Illinois lawmakers are considering a major change to the way local schools get money from the state. But information about how individual school districts would fare in the new system won't be ready until just before the end of the spring legislative session.

Illinois' schools are primarily funded by local property taxes, which means that there's a big disparity in how much money is spent on a student depending on her zip code.

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Education
5:06 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

Illinois Finally Gets 'No Child Left Behind' Waiver

Credit flickr/LizMarie_AK

After more than two years of trying, Illinois has finally won a waiver from the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind. Brian Mackey reports on what this means for schools in Illinois.

  The short answer is not much.

Illinois has already been moving beyond the No Child Left Behind law for some time, even as it waited for permission from the federal government.

Matt Vanover, a spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Education, says there were problems with No Child Left Behind.

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Pensions
3:38 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

U Of I: Illinois Pension Overhaul Had Costly Mistake

Avijit Ghosh
Credit Univ. of Ill.

University of Illinois officials have worried for months that state pension reforms will push employees to retire early. But they say language inadvertently placed in pension law may provide even stronger
incentive.
 
Avijit Ghosh is a senior adviser to university President Robert Easter. He said at a trustees' meeting Friday that the pension law passed last year would effectively take away a year of pension benefits from about 4,000 University of Illinois employees if they don't retire before July 1. Those pensions would be reduced by up to 35 percent.
 

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