Brian Mackey

Statehouse reporter

Brian Mackey covers state government and politics for WUIS and a dozen other public radio stations across Illinois. He was previously A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. He can be reached at (217) 206-6412.

Subscribe to Brian Mackey's State of the State podcast on WUIS' podcast page, or by copying this URL into iTunes or any other podcast app.

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Gov. Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

A government labor union says it's “positive” the Illinois House will side with it over Gov. Bruce Rauner. A key vote on on whether to override Rauner's veto of a union-backed bill is expected Wednesday.

This week, debate over whether Illinois municipalities should have the option to declare bankruptcy, mandatory state spending continues despite no agreement on a budget, and some odd numbers from this year's state fair.  The Chicago Tribune's Monique Garcia joins the panel.

William Brandt and Brad Erens
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Illinois legislators are considering whether local governments should be allowed to declare bankruptcy. Members of the Illinois House heard from dueling experts Tuesday.

It’s rare for cities and towns to declare what’s known as a Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

William Brandt, a bankruptcy consultant, says when it does happen, it's really just an “abrogation of political will” by elected officials.

Democrat Day 2015
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Illinois Democrats say they're in an "epic" struggle with the state's new Republican governor. The party met in Springfield Thursday for its annual fundraising breakfast and State Fair rally.

The afternoon rally began with a tongue-in-cheek thank-you to Gov. Bruce Rauner.

"Why am I here to thank Bruce Rauner?" asked state Rep. Lou Lang, from Skokie. "Look around you — the Democratic Party has never been as energized or as organized as it is right now."

Gov. Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

The Illinois Senate on Wednesday rebuked Governor Bruce Rauner in his labor negotiations with the state's biggest government-employee union.

After months of negotiations have failed to reach an agreement, unions want legislation that would let an arbitrator resolve intractable disputes.

Rauner vetoed it, saying it would tie his hands. He also promised not to lock workers out.

But Sen. Don Harmon, a Democrat from Oak Park, says the real fear is that Rauner will demand workers accept "completely unreasonable" terms.

Randy Dunn
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Among the casualties of the Illinois budget impasse are grants that help low-income students pay for college. On Wednesday, Democrats in the state Senate voted to address that.

Thousands of students take advantage of the so-called MAP grants to attend everything from community colleges to the U. of I.

Randy Dunn, the president of Southern Illinois University, says two-thirds of students at the Carbondale campus get help from the program.

"The average award for our students is significant," Dunn told a Senate committee. "This is not something that's chicken feed."

State of the Union 2015
Bill Ingalls / NASA (flickr.com/nasahqphotos)

A pair of economists have put one of the central claims of Obamacare opponents to the test: Is Obamacare a job-killer? We hear the answer in the latest episode of the State of the State podcast.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Governor Bruce Rauner officially opened the Illinois State Fair Friday morning. But there is still no state budget in place, and Rauner would not say how Illinois is paying for the fair.

There were all the trappings of the usual fair grand opening: politicians, a Lincoln impersonator, a ribbon cutting.

But an impasse between Rauner, a Republican, and Democratic majorities in the legislature means Illinois has no legal authority to pay for the fair. Rauner, however, refused to answer questions about that — or anything else.

Rocky Wirtz and the Stanley Cup at the Illinois State Fair
Brian Mackey / WUIS

The owner of the Chicago Blackhawks was in Springfield Friday for the ribbon cutting that opens the Illinois State Fair. But he's refusing to talk about the investigation into one of the team’s star players.

Hawks owner Rocky Wirtz was the at fairgrounds’ main gate to present the Stanley Cup.

He spoke briefly at the podium, thanking officials for inviting him, but later would not say much about the ongoing rape investigation into star player Patrick Kane.

Despite having no budget or actual spending authority in place, most state spending is going ahead anyway.  John O'Connor of the Associated Press joins the panel this week.

Hall of Governors
Brian Mackey / WUIS

This summer, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been back in the news. Years after he was convicted on corruption charges and began serving a 14-year sentence in prison, a panel of federal appellate judges threw out some of the convictions against him. Blagojevich has asked the full appellate court to hear his case in the hopes they'll vacate his entire conviction.

Five weeks into the new fiscal year, and Illinois still has no spending plan in place.  While many state functions continue to shuffle along, many services and businesses are folding.   And there seems to be no end in sight.  Chris Mooney, Director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, joins the panel.

Food-a-rama at the Illinois State Fairgrounds
Brian Mackey / WUIS

The Illinois State Fair will go on next week. That’s even though the budget stalemate has left officials without the means to fully pay for it.

If you go by the book, state government executives aren’t supposed to spend money unless the legislature specifically authorizes it. But the standoff between the Republican governor and Democratic legislative leaders has meant there is no budget.

Nevertheless, state fair leaders say they’ll find a way to make sure the show goes on.

Philip Nelson
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Illinois officials say the threat of bird flu required limits on poultry at this year’s Illinois State Fair.

This strain of avian influenza entered the U.S. last December. So far it’s infected flocks in all the states surrounding Illinois.

State Department of Agriculture Director Philip Nelson says it’s resulted in 48 million birds either dying or being killed. Because of that, he says bird exhibitions at the state fair will be limited to Illinois birds.

“We’re doing it as a precaution, for the most part just to protect our poultry industry in this state," he says.

Should criminals bear the cost of their own rehabilitation?

Al Riddley
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Non-profit groups say the ongoing fight over the state budget could lead to tragic consequences for thousands of Illinoisans.

The agencies have state contracts for everything from taking care of people with disabilities to placing children in foster care. But the partisan fight over state spending means they're not being paid.

Al Riddley, on the board of the Illinois Partners for Human Service, says the groups are being led on a "death march."

"Perhaps it's time to change our state motto from 'Land of Lincoln' to 'We Don't Care,'" Riddley says.

The month of July has come and gone and there is still no agreement between the Legislature and Governor Rauner on a state budget for the current fiscal year.  Kent Redfield, emeritus professor of Political Science at UIS, joins the panel this week.

Gov. Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Governor Bruce Rauner and Illinois’ biggest state-employee union have agreed to a two-month contract extension.

The union, known as AFSCME, represents 38,000 men and women — a significant share of the state workforce.

Its contract expired on June 30, but the latest "tolling agreement" will keep workers on the job through at least the end of September.

House Speaker Michael Madigan
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Amid Illinois' ongoing budget battle, there was a rare moment of bipartisanship on Tuesday. Members of the Illinois House have voted to block a pay raise for themselves.

Lawmakers are scheduled to get an automatic pay hike this year, and Gov. Bruce Rauner has been relentlessly criticizing Democrats for not voting to block it.

House Speaker Michael Madigan — after recently refusing to talk about it — sponsored the legislation to prevent the pay raise. But he says it's still just another of Rauner's "diversionary" issue.

More political posturing this week, but there seems to be little or no progress on resolving the state budget impasse as Illinois still has no legal spending plan in place.

Gov. Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

News Analysis — Six months into the new administration, we finally have a sense of what Gov. Bruce Rauner’s top priority really is.

ALPR
Garrett Brnger / Illinois Issues

Sometimes, police don't put up much of a fight when it comes to limiting their use of technology. That's what happened when Illinois regulated drones. But if they've already invested in the tools, passing legislation to rein it in becomes a lot harder.

Fiscal year 2016 is upon us and Illinois still doesn’t have a budget.  Will Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner ever reach an agreement with legislative Democrats?  How quickly will state government grind to a halt?  And who will take the blame?  

SEIU TV ad
SEIU Healthcare Illinois

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s political ads have had the airwaves to themselves for two weeks. But as of Monday they’re getting some competition.

State Week: Countdown To (Fiscal) New Year

Jun 26, 2015

The week began with a complete budget proposal — albeit billions out of balance — awaiting action by the governor. It ended with a near-total veto. Only money for pre-school, elementary and secondary education was spared the knife. But could that actually worsen the state bidget standoff?

Prisoner Review Board
Brian Mackey / WUIS

One of the longest-serving inmates in an Illinois prison was granted parole Thursday. Joseph Bigsby was a teenager in 1973 when he shot and killed a Chicago police officer.

Rod Blagojevich mug shot
U.S. Government

Here we are, rapidly approaching the Fourth of July, and we are still talking about legislative battles, a governor picking a fight with the speaker, and Illinois heading toward a new fiscal year without a budget in place. Sound familiar?

Sen. Dick Durbin
Hannah Meisel / WUIS

With Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic legislative leaders unable to agree on a spending plan for Illinois, the odds of a government shutdown are increasing. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says that sort of crisis would be bad for business.

Governor Bruce Rauner launches a long-anticipated fusillade of TV ads targeting House Speaker Michael Madigan.  Mike Riopell of the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald joins the panel this week.

Illinois Supreme Court
Brian Mackey / WUIS

The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that Comcast must disclose a customer's identity — that of an anonymous online commenter — so the individual can be sued for defamation.

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