Associated Press

The Associated Press is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering, supplying a steady stream of news to its members, international subscribers and commercial customers. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, it's a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members.

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.

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


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.

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

Credit flickr/eggrole

Illinois has now approved approximately 1,000 patients
for the state's medical marijuana program.
 Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said Wednesday that
about 14,000 people have started the patient registration process. Of those,
about 2,100 have submitted at least part of the application.
 Some newly licensed growers say they'll be ready to provide medical marijuana
this summer. Gov. Bruce Rauner awarded licenses Monday to marijuana growers and
retailers across the state.

Bill Wheelhouse/WUIS

The Department of Energy says it has suspended the long-planned FutureGen clean-coal project in western Illinois.  

DOE spokesman Bill Gibbons told The Associated Press  on Tuesday the department concluded the project couldn't meet a September deadline to use its $1 billion in federal stimulus funding.  


Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is defending paying his staff members significantly more than his predecessor, saying he'll pay what he has to for top
The Republican told reporters Friday that some of his administration hires from the private sector were taking pay cuts to work in state government.
 The Associated Press found annual salaries of ten top staffers in Rauner's administration outpace those of comparable aides to former Gov. Pat Quinn by
roughly $380,000 _ or 36 percent.


Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner continues to hammer away at the unions and government bureaucracies he believes are behind many of state's problems.
During a speech Thursday at the University of Illinois he said he'd like to put more money into the university. But he said first the university must make cuts in its own bureaucracy.
And Rauner said public-employee unions should be barred from making contributions to politicians they negotiate contracts with.

Trustees of the College of DuPage are expected to take another vote on a $762,000 buyout package for the school's president.  

The board of trustees last week voted 6-1 to accept the severance deal for President Robert Breuder. The deal will pay Breuder nearly three times his base salary when he retires in March 2016, three years before his current contract expires. He's been the college's president since January 2009.  

Illinoisans who have led
WUIS/Illinois Issues

A collection of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia that includes a lock of the slain president's hair has been sold for more than $800,000 at auction in Dallas. 

Dallas-based Heritage Auctions says the Donald P. Dow collection brought top bids totaling $803,889. Heritage spokesman Eric Bradley says that's double expectations.  

The lock of hair taken by Surgeon General Joseph K. Barnes shortly after Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth sold for $25,000.  

An 1861 letter written by Booth to a friend boasting about his career and value as an actor also brought $30,000.  

Severances and bonuses seem to be a way of life for Illinois colleges and universities.

College of DuPage officials have voted to approve a  $762,000 buyout package for the school's president when he retires next year.
 The board of trustees accepted the severance deal Thursday as part a four-page agreement regarding the early retirement of President Robert Breuder next March.

Logan Correctional Center
Google Maps

The union that represents Illinois prison guards says inmates at the Logan Correctional Center committed about 400 assaults since the lockup was converted to an all-women facility in 2013.  

However, Corrections Department officials are disputing the numbers.  

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees released documents Thursday showing assaults ranging from spitting to fighting, kicking and punching.  


House Speaker Michael Madigan is stressing the importance of bipartisanship as Illinois enters its first divided government in more than a decade.  

Madigan was again selected House speaker by the 99th General Assembly in a vote along party lines Wednesday. The Chicago Democrat is the country's longest serving House speaker. He's served all but two years in the role since 1983.  

Lisa Madigan at Inauguration 2015
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Attorney General Lisa Madigan is arguing that a landmark Illinois pension overhaul should be upheld because the state has ``police powers'' that allow it to change a contract in extraordinary circumstances.

Madigan is appealing a lower court ruling that found the 2013 law unconstitutional. She filed an opening brief to the Illinois Supreme Court Monday.  

Several groups filed briefs supporting the state's arguments. They include the city of Chicago, the Illinois Municipal League and Chicago Public Schools.

WUIS/Brian Mackey

Illinois' new Republican governor says he held a ``very productive'' Tuesday afternoon meeting with state legislative leaders.
Bruce Rauner met with Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate
President John Cullerton, and Republican House Leader Jim Durkin and Senate
Leader Christine Radogno in his office shortly before issuing an executive order
on ethical practices for state employees.
Rauner says the leaders discussed their various communication styles as
Illinois enters its first divided government in more than a decade.

Bruce Rauner at Inauguration 2015
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Bruce Rauner has been sworn in as Illinois' 42nd governor.
 The Republican businessman took the oath of office Monday during an inaugural
ceremony in Springfield. He is the first Republican to lead the state in more
than a decade.
 Rauner defeated Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in November with promises to ``shake
up'' state government. He faces an immediate challenge in working with a
Democratic-controlled Legislature to eliminate a multibillion-dollar budget


Gov. Pat Quinn has vetoed a bill that would have allowed bobcat
hunting in Illinois for the first time in more than 40 years.
 Quinn says allowing hunting would violate a responsibility to maintain Illinois
wildlife, noting that the population only recently rebounded enough to be
removed from the threatened species list.
 He says bobcats are ``a valuable part of Illinois' ecosystem and continue to
need protection.''

Gov. Pat Quinn has pardoned a man who spent more than a decade in prison before DNA evidence cleared him in the 1993 murder of his girlfriend.  

Quinn's 232 granted clemency petitions announced Friday included one for Alan Beaman. It's Quinn's first innocence-based pardon.  

Beaman was convicted in the strangulation death of Illinois State University student Jennifer Lockmiller and spent 13 years in prison. He was serving a 50-year sentence when the Illinois Supreme Court reversed his conviction in 2008, and DNA testing pointed to two previously unknown suspects.  

New reports from several Illinois agencies propose ways lawmakers could help keep the state's nuclear plants open.  

The reports issued Wednesday suggest the state could favor Chicago-based Exelon Corp. because its six nuclear plants generate electricity without emitting greenhouse gases.  

The Chicago Tribune reports) such a policy would punish providers, such as coal-burning power plants, that emit carbon dioxide.  

Exelon has been lobbying for such policies, saying it otherwise might have to close at least three of its financially struggling Illinois plants.  

The Springfield School Board has approved the full-time staffing of police officers at the city's three public high schools.  

Board members voted unanimously Monday. It will cost more than $115,000 to provide policing at the schools throughout the rest of the school year.  

Superintendent Jennifer Gill tells The State Journal-Register that the city is helping the school district with the cost. She says the officers will likely start working full time next week.

Incoming freshmen from Illinois would see no increase in base tuition at the University of Illinois next fall under a proposal announced by the school's leadership.
It will go to the full board on Jan. 15 at a meeting in Chicago.
The proposal calls for in-state tuition that matches rates for the current
school year. That's $12,036 a year in Urbana-Champaign, $10,584 in Chicago and
$9,405 in Springfield.
University officials say holding the line on tuition will help middle-class

flickr/Chris Vreeland

A newspaper reports the owner of the St. Louis Rams plans to build an NFL stadium in Los Angeles County, boosting the chances that pro football could return to the region.  

The Los Angeles Times says Stan Kroenke has partnered with Stockbridge Capital Group, owners of the 238-acre Hollywood Park site in Inglewood.  

Kroenke and Stockbridge say they plan to add an 80,000-seat NFL stadium and 6,000-seat performance venue to a massive development of retail, office, hotel and residential space.  

Gov. Pat Quinn has called for the closing of Tamms Correctional Center.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Pat Quinn enters his final week in office with a speech and special session on the agenda, but it's unclear how hard lawmakers and leaders will work with the Democrat on a possible special election or other issues.  

Quinn has called legislators to Springfield Thursday. He wants legislation for a special election to replace late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. Senate President John Cullerton supports the idea, but House Speaker Michael Madigan says it's an executive branch issue.

The director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services says she'll resign Jan. 9 as Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner prepares to take office.  

Julie Hamos is a former Democratic state representative who oversees the state's $18 billion Medicaid program. She released a statement Friday about her resignation. She says leading the department has been ``one of the most fulfilling jobs'' she's ever had _ ``as well as the hardest.''  

Sangamon County has seen a slight increase in homicides in 2014.   The State Journal-Register ( ) reports seven homicides were investigated in the past year, compared to five in 2013. Police made arrests in five of the 2014 homicide cases.  

Chief Deputy Joe Roesch of the Sangamon County Sheriff's Office says investigators spent weeks working on the first homicide. Three people were eventually arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the Jan. 31 shooting death of 24-year-old Justin Sharp.  

WUIS/Brian Mackey

The new year will see an increase in the amount Illinois pays into the state's five publicly-funded pension systems.  

The State Journal-Register in Springfield reports ( Illinois' auditor general on Wednesday released a report by the state actuary showing a more than $680 million increase in pension payments in 2015 to $7.5 billion.  

The report doesn't explain the increase. However, it noted three of the five pension systems lowered the estimated rate of return they expect from investments.

The brother of former state lawmaker Rosemary Mulligan says she has died after her health suffered in recent months.  

Stephen Granzyk says the 73-year-old Republican died Tuesday, months after moving into a retirement community in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines.  

Mulligan represented the Northwest suburbs in the Illinois House from 1993 to 2013. She was considered a social moderate with expertise in the state's human services budget and the disabled.  


Illinois veterans with disabilities will be eligible for more property tax exemptions under a law signed by Gov. Pat Quinn.  

Quinn signed the measure Tuesday. It takes effect immediately.  

The new law allows veterans with disabilities and their spouses expanded property tax exemptions. Disabled veterans will also see an increased homestead exemption to $100,000 from $70,000.  
 In a statement, Quinn says the law will help ensure that veterans aren't ``burdened by overwhelming property taxes.''  

Secretary of State's Office

Motorists may drive without an up-to-date vehicle registration sticker under a law that takes effect Thursday.

Gov. Pat Quinn has called for the closing of Tamms Correctional Center.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a plan that lets people charged with some minor traffic offenses pay penalties without a court appearance.  

In a Sunday statement, Quinn says the legislation helps reduce the burden on drivers and the court system by cutting the number of ``unnecessary minor cases.''  

Under the plan motorists cited with petty traffic violations can plead guilty and pay fines without showing up to court.  

Earlier this year, Quinn signed a law that ends the practice of posting a driver's license in Illinois as security after certain traffic citations.