Brian Mackey

Reporter / Anchor

Brian Mackey covers state government and politics for Illinois Issues magazine, 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.

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Statehouse
9:45 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Lacking 'Black And Brown Children,' IMSA To Lose $1.8m

State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia's Aurora district includes the Illinois Math and Science Academy.
Credit ILGA.gov

In the House Democratic budget plan, most state institutions would get level funding or a slight increase.

One of the few cuts is directed at the Illinois Math and Science Academy.

Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, a Democrat whose Aurora district includes IMSA, says the decrease is because the elite high school has failed to meet diversity goals.

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Statehouse
9:35 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

House Democrats Play Coy On Taxes

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois House Democrats are assembling a budget plan for state government. But a big piece of the puzzle is being left out.

The plan makes it seem obvious House Democrats have heeded Gov. Pat Quinn's call to keep the income tax rate at 5 percent. Except they won't actually say that out loud.

Rep. Greg Harris of Chicago typified the coyness.

"This always comes own to the last couple weeks," he says, "and we have to look at different sources of revenue. We have to look at: Do we add here? Do we cut there?"

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Blue Laws
6:02 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Buy A Car On Sunday? Dealers Say No

Car dealers could legally operate on Sundays in Illinois until the law was changed in 1982.
Credit Alden Jewell (Flickr/autohistorian)

An Illinois lawmakers is trying to change state law so car dealers can be open on Sundays. But he's facing long odds.

When Sen. Jim Oberweis, from Sugar Grove, learned it was against the law for a car dealer to be open on Sunday, his Republican instincts kicked in.

"Being a business guy, I thought that I would be the hero of the automobile industry by getting this over-reaching government off the backs of car sales," Oberweis said.

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Statehouse
3:52 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Jury Duty: ¿Se Habla Español?

Cook County is among the locations where jurors would be allowed to serve with translators.
Credit Wikimedia Commons/user: kmaschke

Jury duty could soon be open to people who are not fluent in the English language. The Illinois Senate today approved a pilot program to provide translators for jurors.

Illinois law currently says jurors must be able to "understand the English language." This proposal would allow jurors who speak other languages to have interpreters.

It's the idea of Dan Locallo, a retired Cook County judge.

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Statehouse
7:57 am
Wed May 7, 2014

Lawmakers With Subpoena Powers — Necessary, Or Just for Show?

Gov. Pat Quinn touted the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative as he was up for election in 2010.

  A group of lawmakers granted themselves subpoena power Tuesday, to further an investigation into an anti-violence program favored by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. Brian Mackey looks at whether it's necessary — or just for show.

The Neighborhood Recovery Initiative was rushed out in fall 2010, as Quinn was up for election.

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Yom HaShoah
6:00 am
Fri May 2, 2014

Holocaust Survivor Tells Of Shanghai Ghetto

Doris Fogel, in foreground, recounts her childhood as a refugee from the Nazis, spent among 20,000 Jews in the Shanghai ghetto. Behind her is Gov. Pat Quinn. The annual Holocaust Memorial Ceremony took place in the House chamber of the Old State Capitol in Springfield.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois officials are remembering the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. An annual ceremony took place Thursday in Springfield's Old State Capitol.

Praying: "Y'hey sh'lama raba min sh'ma-ya ..."

The ceremony included the Kaddish — a Jewish prayer of mourning. Gov. Pat Quinn and other officials spoke. Then a survivor shared her story.

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Grit and Grin
10:46 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

12th Congressional District Opponents Unite Over Levee Bill

Republican state Rep. Mike Bost, left, listens to Democratic Congressman Bill Enyart testify about legislation to allow repairs to a levy in southern Illinois. The men are competing for the 12th Congressional District seat currently held by Enyart.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

An Illinois House committee on Thursday approved legislation that would allow repairs to a levee in Grand Tower, in southern Illinois. It would have been routine except for the featured witness — sitting U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart.

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Election 2014
7:30 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Quinn's, Rauner's Springfield Visits Show True Colors

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  The governor of Illinois, as well as the man who wants to take his job, were both in Springfield Wednesday. What they were doing offers a clear picture of the different directions they want to take the state.

Republican Bruce Rauner was in town to file petitions for his term limits proposal. Then he addressed a meeting of business groups holding an "Employer Action Day."

"Let's make Illinois the most attractive state to do business, rather than one of the most hostile states to do business," he said. "Nothing else more important than that. Number one priority by far."

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Medicaid
3:36 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

Ill. Medicaid Recipients Surge As Adults Find They're Eligible

Credit Karen Roach/iStockphoto.com

  Illinois officials are dealing with a surge of new patients in the Medicaid program. It's part of last month's rush of people seeking coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

For the first time, low-income adults without children are eligible for government health coverage.

In Illinois, officials expect that'll mean 350,000 new people in Medicaid. And that's not all.

Julie Hamos, director of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, says the news reports and advertising and community outreach around the Obamacare deadline led to a separate spike.

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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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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
5:32 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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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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Jobs
6:00 am
Fri April 18, 2014

Employment Improves, But Illinois Still Lags U.S.

The Illinois State Capitol, in a fog.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The latest state job numbers are out and the news for Illinois is mixed. The unemployment rate is down. But fewer people were hired than expected, and Illinois still lags the nation.

Illinois' March unemployment rate is 8.4 percent. That's the best it's been in more than five years, but it's still among the worst rates in the country.

On top of that, officials blame the unseasonably cold weather for the fact that fewer jobs were added in March than in the previous month.

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Gambling
5:00 am
Thu April 17, 2014

Plan Threatens Proposed Downstate Casinos

In one of the latest gambling proposals, slot machines would be denied to Fairmount Park (though not other horse racetracks) over concerns it would hurt the nearby Casino Queen, in East St. Louis.
Credit Paul Sableman (pasa47) via Flickr

A group of Illinois lawmakers considered two different plans to expand gambling Wednesday. One tracks other recent proposals to add five casinos across Illinois; the other focuses on Chicago.

Every expansion of gambling in Illinois has required a delicate balance of competing geographic and businesses interests.

That's why plans in recent years have called for slot machines at horse racetracks, and five new casinos: in Chicago, the south suburbs, Lake County, Rockford, and Danville.

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Federal Spending
1:43 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

Durbin Calls For A Return of 'Earmarks'

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin speaks with reporters in this file photo.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

It's been a few years since Congressional "earmarks" were eliminated from federal transportation spending. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin says it's time to bring them back.

Earmarks have a bad name — remember the "bridge to nowhere," a plan to spend nearly $400 million on a bridge to an island in Alaska with 50 residents?

Durbin says earmarks should have been reformed, not eliminated. He says legislators are in touch with the transportation needs of their districts and states.

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Campaign Finance
6:00 am
Mon April 14, 2014

Illinois Senate Joins Push For U.S. Constitutional Convention

America has had only one national constitutional convention — so far.
Credit Howard Chandler Christy via Wikimedia Commons

The Illinois Senate has joined a push for a national constitutional convention. Organizers want to change the way political campaigns are financed.

The last time there was a Constitutional Convention, it was presided over by George Washington.

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Statehouse
4:37 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

S&P: Next Two Months 'Critical' For Illinois Finances

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

A major credit rating agency says the next two months will be "critical" for the future of Illinois' finances. The key question is whether to make a temporary tax hike permanent.

Like most of the big credit rating agencies, Standard & Poor's has been bearish on Illinois finances — lowering the state's credit rating four times in recent years.

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Illinois Constitution
9:10 am
Wed April 9, 2014

Madigan on Voting Rights: 'We Don't Know What The Future Holds'

House Speaker Michael Madigan, right, acknowledges voter suppression has not been a big problem in Illinois.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The Illinois House has approved a proposal to add protections for voting rights to the Illinois Constitution.

The measure is sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan himself.

In explaining why he thinks it's necessary, he recalled the federal Voting Rights Act, and the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision to "modify" parts of that law.

"That modification by the Supreme Court has apparently brought on efforts in other states to enact legislation that some of us would consider to be voter suppression," Madigan says, pointing to voter ID laws.

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Statehouse
5:00 am
Thu March 27, 2014

Pension Savings Estimate Lowered — But Is It A Big Deal?

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

A new report (PDF) says Illinois' pension overhaul will save less money than advertised. Some politicians are trying to make hay out of that. But it might not be such a big deal.

The pension vote came with promises of big savings — $160 billion. Then, after it was already law, a new analysis of the bill said, well, maybe we'll save $145 billion.

This latest report puts savings even lower, at $137 billion.

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Election 2014
4:04 am
Wed March 19, 2014

Rauner, Quinn Chart Course For Conflict

Republican Bruce Rauner will take on Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in this fall's election.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The election returns in yesterday’s Illinois primary were not even in before the candidates for governor started attacking each other. Republicans chose wealthy investor Bruce Rauner to take on Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn. Brian Mackey looks at the surprisingly close election results, and what’s ahead for the campaign.

Rauner spent millions more dollars than all his rivals combined, and had huge leads in the polls. But in the end, he only won by three percentage points. Of course, a victory is still a victory.

RAUNER: “Let’s get ‘em! Let’s get ‘em!”

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Election 2014
8:07 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Rutherford: 'I'm Looking Forward To Vindicating Myself'

Credit danrutherford.org

  Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford basically conceded his campaign for governor earlier tonight.

His standing in the polls plummeted after a former employee filed a lawsuit accusing the treasurer of sexual harassment and coercing him to do political work.

Rutherford says the past few weeks have been the most challenging in his life.

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Election 2014
6:00 am
Tue March 18, 2014

Early Voting Declines From Previous Elections

Illinois polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 18.
Credit wikimedia

After months of campaigning, Illinois voters go to the polls Tuesday. But turnout for recent primary elections has been quite low.

Jim Tenuto, with the State Board of Elections, says fewer than one in four registered voters has pulled a primary ballot in recent years. And leading up to the primary, things have been calm this year, too.

"This election seems very quiet as far as phone calls and inquiries," he says. Tenuto says there's no way to predict turnout, but he says early voting is down 14 percent from the last election in 2012.

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Election 2014
6:00 am
Mon March 10, 2014

Why Are Republicans Avoiding Social Issues?

The four candidates for governor seem to be downplaying social issues in this year's Republican primary.
Credit WUIS

Illinois' economy has been topic A among the men seeking the Republican nomination for governor. Getting far less attention are social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. For a party whose rough primaries have often been compared to “circular firing squads,” the lack of focus on the topic is unusual. Brian Mackey looks at what’s behind the social silence.

State Sen. Kirk Dillard, from Hinsdale, can tell you exactly how close he came to winning the Republican gubernatorial primary four years ago.

MACKEY: “Was it 193 votes?”

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Election 2014
11:56 am
Thu March 6, 2014

Dillard's AFSCME Endorsement: Too Little, Too Late?

AFSCME is the third government-employee union to endorse state Sen. Kirk Dillard for governor, coming after the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Republican candidate for governor Kirk Dillard has picked up the endorsement of the the state's largest government-employee union. But with less than two weeks until the election, Brian Mackey asks if it's too little, too late.

Dillard's endorsement from AFSCME comes after front runner Bruce Rauner has been blanketing the state with television ads for months.

Rauner has been pounding a message that he'll fight so-called "government union bosses." He says state employees bargaining for salaries and benefits is "corrupt" and "immoral," and one of Illinois' biggest problems.

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Election 2014
8:25 am
Wed March 5, 2014

Candidates Disagree On Government Unions

The men seeking the Republican nomination for governor of Illinois: state Sens. Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady, investor Bruce Rauner, and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois' primary election is less than two weeks away. The four men seeking the Republican nomination for governor agree on a lot of topics. But there is an issue in which one of the candidates has distinguished himself: government-employee unions. Brian Mackey takes us inside the debate over whether government workers ought to be able to negotiate over their jobs.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time listening to investor Bruce Rauner to know where he stands on public-sector unions. The disdain drips from a three word phrase he uses again and again and again:

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Fourth Amendment
6:00 am
Mon March 3, 2014

Legislation Targets Conservation Police

Conservation police officers check the license of a trapper in this Department of Natural Resources photo.
Credit DNR/D.J. Case and Associates

A group of lawmakers is challenging the broad powers enjoyed by Illinois' conservation police officers. At issue is whether the officers can operate on private land without a warrant.

Illinois law lets conservation police enter "all lands and waters" to enforce the Wildlife Code. The idea is, even if you have a huge private forest, you’re not allowed to, say, shoot a deer out of season.

State Rep. Dennis Reboletti, a Republican from Elmhurst, says just about every other type of police officer operates under stricter limits.

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Election 2014
1:50 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Dillard Picks Up Teachers' Endorsement; Rauner Still Pouring Own Money Into Race

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kirk Dillard, a state senator from Hinsdale, accepts the endorsement of the Illinois Retired Teachers Association Wednesday in the Illinois Capitol.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kirk Dillard got the endorsement of a retired group of teachers Wednesday. But he’s still lagging front-runner Bruce Rauner, who continues to tap his significant personal fortune for his campaign.

The Illinois Retired Teachers Association has nearly 36,000 members. President Bob Pinkerton says this is the first time the group has endorsed a candidate for governor.

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'Hastily Implemented'
11:50 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Audit Slams Anti-Violence Program Pushed By Quinn

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

An audit Tuesday criticized an anti-violence program Governor Pat Quinn pushed during his 2010 election campaign.Republicans wasted no time in calling for an investigation.

The non-partisan audit (PDF) says the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative was "hastily implemented" and did not use standard financial safeguards.

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Statehouse
4:07 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

House Sets Spending Cap — Down $1b From Last Year

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Illinois House took a key first step in the state budgeting process Tuesday.

It adopted what's called a "revenue estimate" — how much money Illinois is expected to be able to spend in the next fiscal year.

The cap, of $34.495 billion, is significant in several ways: It's about a billion less than last year's number, which means lawmakers are going to have extend the tax increase or find other sources of money, or they'll have to make a lot of cuts. On the other hand, it's not as bad as some people had feared.

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