Brian Mackey

Reporter/State of the State

Brian Mackey covers state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. He was previously A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.

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

Barack Obama
Pool photo by Justin L. Fowler / The State Journal-Register

President Barack Obama returned to the Illinois State Capitol Wednesday. In the building where his political career began, he spoke to lawmakers about reaching across the bitter divide in American politics.

Obama campaign announcement
courtesy Brian Mackey

President Barack Obama is set to address the Illinois General Assembly in Springfield Wednesday. Statehouse reporter Brian Mackey filed this preview of what the president is expected to say — and what he probably won’t say.

With the state budget impasse ongoing, lack of money continues to affect Illinois colleges and universities as well as Chicago Public Schools.  Chris Mooney, director of the University of Illinois' Institute of Government and Public Affairs, joins the panel.

  Governor Bruce Rauner has been in office one year this week and gave a series of short interviews in Springfield this week.  And with more than 100 people shot in Chicago in the just the first two weeks of 2016, the governor says the solution to the violence is passing his pro-business, anti-union agenda.
Gatehouse Media's Doug Finke joins the panel.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Gov. Bruce Rauner endorsed the work of his criminal justice commission Thursday. He also made an unusual statement on prisons.

Commissioners are still working to reach Rauner’s goal of reducing Illinois' inmate population by 12,000 men and women over the next decade. They have delivered their first set of recommendations, and Rauner told commissioners he was excited about the report, calling it "excellent."

"What I can guarantee you: I will work tirelessly to make sure this isn't just something that just gathers dust," he said. "I’m going to implement this."

Chicago's million-dollar blocks
chicagosmilliondollarblocks.com

State of the State Podcast:
A New Way To Think About 'High-Crime' Neighborhoods

Governor Bruce Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel escalated their war of words this week, with Rauner saying that before he'll help the Chicago public schools he expects Emanuel to agree to his pro-business agenda.  Mike Riopell, political editor for the Daily Herald, joins the panel.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Most experts say the governor’s target of a 25 percent reduction in the state's prison population can't be met by simply backing off the war on drugs. Instead, policymakers will have to look beyond the "nons” — nonviolent, nonserious and nonsexual offenders — and in so doing, challenge entrenched attitudes about crime and justice. 

This week, a look back at the past year in Illinois state government and politics.  WUIS News Director Sean Crawford and Illinois Issues Editor Jamey Dunn join the panel.

John Cullerton, Bruce Rauner and Michael Madigan
Brian Mackey / WUIS

As we get ready to welcome 2016, we thought we’d take a few minutes to listen back to what’s been a difficult year in Illinois government and politics. There was an epic fight between Democrats and Republicans in Springfield, disgrace for two Illinois Congressmen, and a reckoning over violence in Chicago. Here now are some of the voices that made news in 2015.

This week, the panel reflects back on some memorable people and events in Illinois state politics and government over the past few decades, how things have changed, and how things have stayed the same.

Illinois could finally reckon with its dramatically overcrowded prisons in 2016.

The entire system is at 146 percent of the capacity it was designed to hold, but that number doesn’t tell the whole story. Some individual prisons — such as East Moline, Illinois River and Lincoln — are above 200 percent of the rated capacity.

Illinois' budget crisis won't be resolved this year.  Governor Bruce Rauner and legislative leaders are sticking to their respective positions, and this week House Speaker Michael Madigan didn't attend a meeting that focused on discussion of term limits and other aspects of Rauner's demands.  WBEZ Public Radio's Tony Arnold joins the panel.

hot dogs neon sign
Jeremy Brooks / via Flickr.com/jeremybrooks

Even though much of Illinois government is operating without a budget, the state is still looking to spend money. Right now, on Illinois’ procurement website, there are dozens of notices. Reporter Kurt Erickson returns to State of the State for a procurement primer.

TRANSCRIPT: From NPR Illinois, it’s State of the State. I’m Brian Mackey, and the state of the state today is on a buying spree.

SOUNDBITE: "And they ran out of hot dog spice, or wiener spice, as I called it. And they had to go out and try to find some and emergency purchase."

During a speech in Chicago this week, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan was asked about the prospects for new taxes, while Governor Bruce Rauner said that he expects the budget stalemate to continue into the spring.   Despite the budget impasse, an agreement was made to send some money owed to Illinois municipalities, as well as to the lottery and Secretary of State.  Matt Dietrich of RebootIllinois.com joins the panel.

Rodger Heaton
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

On episode 16 of the State of the State podcast, a commission working on an overhaul of Illinois’ criminal justice system has approved its first set of recommendations.

After more than six months, Illinois' governor met with the four top legislative leaders to discuss the state's budget impasse. No progress was made, but all agreed to meet again someday soon. Mark Brown of the Chicago Sun-Times joins the panel.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Gov. Bruce Rauner spoke in public Wednesday for the first time since Tuesday's big summit with legislative leaders.

Il House Republicans

Illinois' newest state legislator has been sworn in.

Michael Madigan
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

With Illinois in its sixth month without a budget, the state's top political leaders met Tuesday in Springfield. It was the first time they'd all gotten together in months. We asked Brian Mackey to tell us whether anything was accomplished.

The release of a police video documenting the fatal shooting of a black teen by a white Chicago police officer – more than a year after the incident – has led to murder charges, protests, accusations of a cover-up, and questions about political interference with the original investigation.  Also, Monday marks the candidate petition filing deadline for the March primary elections.  WBEZ's Tony Arnold joins the panel this week.

Rep. Lou Lang
Brian Mackey / WUIS

A federal lawsuit is seeking to overturn Illinois’ ban on campaign contributions from medical marijuana companies.

  The case was brought last week by two Libertarian Party political candidates: Claire Ball of Addison, who says she's running for comptroller, and Scott Schluter of Marion, who says he's running for state representative. They say they favor legalization of drugs, and that companies that agree with them should be able to support their campaigns.

Lloyd Karmeier
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Ideology has long been at the heart of high-profile judicial battles, whether the judges are elected or appointed. But is it different when the fight puts a specific case on the line?

Democrats in the Illinois legislature fell one vote short of being able to undo governor Bruce Rauner's cuts to state daycare subsidies, with democratic state representative Ken Dunkin of Chicago facing criticism for allying himself with the republican governor.

advocates confront Ken Dunkin
Amanda Vinicky / WUIS

Gov. Bruce Rauner is standing by his decision to backtrack on cuts to a low-income daycare program. That comes even as Democrats in the Illinois House failed to pass legislation that would have forced Rauner to undo his changes.

The program is meant to help parents out of poverty by subsidizing daycare, so they can work or go to school.

Rauner unilaterally slashed eligibility this summer. After months of outcry and a Democratic threat to pass legislation undoing his changes, Rauner on Monday announced he'd back off most of the cuts.

Host Amanda Vinicky (Illinois Public Radio) and guests Brian Mackey (Illinois Public Radio) and Dave Dahl (Illinois Radio Network) discuss the year since private equity investor Bruce Rauner won election as governor, how seriously to take rumblings that former Gov. Pat Quinn wants a rematch, and the ongoing slow-motion shutdown of state government.

Gov. Bruce Rauner continues downplaying the prospects for the upcoming meeting between he and state legislative leaders. Meanwhile, the partial government shutdown means some state universities might have a hard time making it through the spring semester. The Chicago Tribune's Monique Garcia joins the panel to talk about that and more on the latest episode of State Week.

The Illinois Supreme Court has once again ruled in favor of tobacco giant Philip Morris. The decision, announced Wednesday, saves the company from a $10.1 billion judgment. 

The case has been before the court off and on for more than a decade. A group of smokers say Philip Morris tricked them into thinking “light” cigarettes were safer than regular. 

Thomas Fitzgerald
Brian Mackey

Thomas Fitzgerald, a judge who had a leading role in the aftermath of some of Illinois’ most notorious political scandals, died on Sunday at his home in the Chicago suburbs.

Brian Mackey / WUIS

Senior citizens are among those feeling the pain of Illinois' partial government shutdown. AARP and other groups are calling on the state’s top politicians to set aside their differences and pass a state budget.

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