Illinois lawmakers are increasingly trying to make it easier for residents to be involved in politics -- there'll be a hearing Tuesday in Chicago on automatic voter registration. A separate proposal that goes in the opposite direction. But its sponsor says it's for good reason.

Illinois' next election isn't until March, but you can go ahead right now and register to vote in it. More the procrastinating type? A new state law says you can now also register right up until, and on, the day of the election, at any precinct.

Trade Mission: Cuba

Oct 12, 2015
Rich Berning

A steady stream of American elected officials have traveled to Cuba since the two countries restored diplomatic ties over the summer.

China’s rapid industrialization and economic expansion over the past few decades has been a boon for U.S. farmers — especially soybean farmers. But China’s economy is slowing down, leaving American farmers exposed to the downside of being tied to the world’s second largest economy.

Artists Document Farmland's Transition To Wetland

Oct 12, 2015
Rich Egger

The Emiquon Corps of Discovery describes itself as a group of volunteers trained to analyze with the mind of a scientist, see with the eyes of an artist, and speak with the words of a poet. And that's what they've done for 10 years on the 9,000 acre Emiquon Nature Preserve along the Illinois River near Lewistown.

As the budget gridlock continues, downstate Republicans are finding themselves having to balance support for the Governor with constituent concerns.

One of those lawmakers is C-D Davidsmeyer.

Amanda Vinicky

Another lawsuit over a pension law was filed this week in Illinois, this time seeking to strike a law that reduced Chicago Park District pensions. That could be significant for other local governments, and future negotiations.

When it first passed, the park district pension law was seen as a possible model for future ones, in part because it had been drafted in cooperation with SEIU, the union representing park district workers.

Rauner Names Major GOP Contributor, Others To Historic Preservation Board

Oct 9, 2015
flickr/Katherine Johnson

Gov. Bruce Rauner has appointed a long-time businessman and major Republican contributor to chair of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency Board of Trustees.

Credit Bill Dickinson /

Amtrak says it will stop train service on the route that runs through central Illinois starting October 17.

Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan is calling for legislation that would keep convicts from being labeled as felons for the remainder of their lives.

Illinois is now 100+ days without any agreement on or even negotiation towards a state spending plan.  One item on which there does seem to be agreement is a replacement for Illinois' retiring Auditor General.  Gatehouse Media's Doug Finke joins the panel.

The Scene: Magic + Art & Music (Lots Of It)

Oct 8, 2015

It's time for The Scene! We have lots to tell you about this week, so let's get to it:

Events discussed this week include:

Claudia Quigg headshot / WUIS / Illinois Issues

I recently visited with a young woman who sheepishly apologized that she was pulling her child out of one program in order to send him to another.  His cousins attend the other program, she explained, and his aunt and uncle can provide transportation. 

I assured her I thought that was a great choice, regretting her feeling the need to apologize.  She reminded me once again of something I already know:  Parents usually have good reasons for the choices they make

Courtesy of Ricca Louissaint

Illinois needs more college-educated workers and can't meet that goal with traditional students. Here's what some schools are doing to attract adult learners.

Bruce Rauner

It's the 100th day Illinois has been without a budget. The state has without a budget before -- but going this long is unprecedented.

Local health departments are responsible for everything from restaurant inspections, regulating private sewage systems and water wells and investigating disease outbreaks -- all services that are threatened, as they await for state money to come through.


  People in the transgender community deserve the same rights as anyone else. So said more than 80 percent of respondents in a national survey conducted by the

University of Illinois Springfield Survey Research Office.

Republican State Senator Kyle McCarter says Congressman John Shimkus has spent too much time in office appealing to special interests. And that’s why he’s challenging the incumbent in the 15th district’s March primary.

'SamJam: Unplugged on the Prairie' is inspired by its namesake, Sam Oswald. Sam was born with an illness that is not known by many - and can result in a host of issues including spine damage and tumors. The disease is called Neurofibromatosis, or N.F. At the age of 30, Sam, from Carlinville, has waged many battles against the illness, and maintains a positive attitude.

Amanda Vinicky

Low-income, working parents are fighting to once again get help from the state for childcare.

In order to grow massive amounts of corn and soybeans, two crops at the center of the U.S. food system, farmers in the Midwest typically apply hundreds of pounds of fertilizer on every acre they farm. This practice allows food companies to produce, and consumers to consume, a lot of relatively cheap food.

Matt Turner/Flickr

The Sangamon County Historical Society is bringing back the popular cemetery walking tour this fall. “Echoes of Yesteryear: A Walk through Oak Ridge Cemetery” will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, October 11 at Oak Ridge Cemetery, 1441 Monument Avenue in Springfield. (The last tour begins at 3:15 p.m.) The rain date is Sunday, October 18.

“The walk will provide visitors with a glimpse into the history and heritage of Springfield,” said Mary Alice Davis, president of the Sangamon County Historical Society.

The Legacy Project

Learning about the past to change the future: it's a goal of many academic institutions. But when it comes to the LGBT community - not enough has been done to memorialize and honor figures who've been overlooked due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. That's the opinion of Victor Salvo - founder and director of The Legacy Project.

Host Bernard Schoenburg (The State Journal-Register) and guests Brian Mackey (Illinois Public Radio) and Bruce Rushton (Illinois Times) discuss the consequences of the ongoing budget impasse and shutdown of state government.

Tim and Bill chat about a big Route 66 memorabilia auction this weekend & a car dealership next to White Oaks Mall.

Commonwealth Edison's CEO says the utility is continuing to push for changes that failed to win legislative approval in the spring.

Throughout the cropland of the Midwest, farmers use chemicals on their fields to nourish the plants and the soil. But excess nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients can wash off the fields and into streams, rivers and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.

New tools can help farmers monitor their soil and water so they can become part of the solution to this widespread problem.

Hundreds of artists and administrators met last week to discuss the state of the arts in Illinois.

Politics dominated the discussion, with a focus on ever-shrinking budgets for many arts groups, including the Illinois Arts Council Agency - the state department that oversees government spending on the arts.
Funding for the council has diminished from about $20 million dollars in 2007 to less than $9 million in 2012.

Ra Joy heads Arts Alliance Illinois - the state's largest such advocacy and membership group:

Illinois has surpassed the 90-day mark of going without a budget. The governor on Friday signaled that number will keep rising.

Illinois' budget impasse means public universities have gone three months without any state funding. The State Museum has closed. Therapists that worked with disabled infants quit, because they weren't getting paid. The Secretary of State's office isn't going to mail out reminders about expiring license plate registration, because it can't afford the postage.

Lisa Ryan

As Illinois enters a second quarter without a budget in place, Gov. Bruce Rauner put the blame on legislators.  He made the remark Friday after a manufacturing event in Effingham.

Rauner, a Republican, says his administration will keep essential services going as the impasse continues, and warned that it could last awhile longer.

Illinois government continues limping through its partial shutdown.  This week, the Illinois State Museum was shuttered, the secretary of state announced he won’t be reminding you when to renew your license plates, and at least one state facility has had the water shut off.  Could a revolt among rank-and-file legislators break the stalemate?  Brian Mackey talks about that and more with Amanda Vinicky, Jamey Dunn of Illinois Issues, and Natasha Korecki of the Politico Illinois Playbook.