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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Tammy Duckworth

Much of the focus of this week's political news centered on Washington D.C.  U.S. Representative Tammy Duckworth announced that she would seek the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Mark Kirk.   And with the upcoming retirement of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, there are questions whether Senator Dick Durbin will continue as Minority Whip after 2016.  Also, the latest on beleaguered former Congressman Aaron Schock.  John O'Connor of the Associated Press joins the panel to discuss those and other topics on this week's edition of State Week.

Bruce Rauner at Illinois Chamber forum.
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Bruce Rauner has spent much of his first few months in office talking about labor unions. He’s shared not only policy proposals, but also his ideas about the history of the union movement. I wrote about the state of labor in the April edition of Illinois Issues magazine and decided to take a closer look at one the governor’s theories.

Brian Mackey
mattpenning.com / WUIS/Illinois Issues

News Analysis — Illinois continues to be pummeled with bad budget news. The General Assembly’s nonpartisan budget analysts at the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability say income tax receipts will be down $1.9 billion in the next fiscal year. That’s thanks to the tax cut that took effect January 1, lowering the individual income tax rate from 5 percent to 3.75 percent.

Close up of Uncle Sam's hand holding worker's and management's hands together
The Federal Government Via Northwestern University

In retrospect it seems obvious. Of course the fight to topple organized labor would eventually have to come to Illinois. It was only a matter of time. Labor’s perpetual weakness in the deep-red South would never be enough. And once the vanishing industrial base sufficiently enfeebled labor in the red states of the rust belt, the dwindling number of fat targets made a blue-state offensive inevitable.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

The Illinois General Assembly this week approved a fix for Illinois short-term budget problems, but deeper issues remain. Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock took his final vote in Congress and gave a farewell address. Daily Herald Political Editor Mike Riopell joins the panel to discuss that and other topics on this week's edition of State Week.

Rodger Heaton
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Two Chicago-area cousins accused of trying to help the so-called Islamic State made their first appearance in court Thursday. A top Illinois law enforcement official says the state's National Guard worked with federal authorities to prevent an attack.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

A task force meant to overhaul Illinois’ criminal justice system is meeting for the first time Thursday in Springfield.

Gov. Bruce Rauner briefly addressed the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform, which he created last month by executive order, setting out an ambitious goal for emptying Illinois prisons.

Brian Mackey / WUIS

The Illinois House on Tuesday voted to patch a 1.6-billion-dollar hole in the current state budget.

  The budget was supposed to get Illinois through June, but already the state's running out of money for things like court reporters and prison guards. That’s in part because Democrats passed an incomplete budget last year — not wanting to raise taxes or cut spending.

Now Democrats and Republicans — including Gov. Bruce Rauner — say they’ve found a solution. But it continues to mostly avoid that difficult choice.

bankruptcy court
flickr.com/andy_kiel

An Illinois Republican has proposed changing state law to let cities and towns declare bankruptcy.

As state government considers cutting back the money it shares with municipalities, Rep. Ron Sandack says it ought to give cities more tools to fix their own finances. Sandack says letting cities threaten bankruptcy would give them more leverage in dealing with unions.

Aaron Schock
Aaron Schock / Instagram

Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock resigned this week amid questions about his spending of taxpayer money. When the news broke, political reporter Chris Kaergard of the Peoria Journal Star was in the Republican's Downton Abbey-inspired office, waiting for a previously scheduled interview.

The Illinois Senate on Thursday confirmed the Rev. James Meeks as chairman of the State Board of Education. It comes over the objections of a gay-rights group.

Brian Mackey speaks with Illinois Issues reporter Rhonda Gillespie about her trip to Selma, Alabama, for the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

For the first time in years, legislation to raise the minimum wage is advancing in the Illinois House.

Raising the wage has been a hot topic for years. Illinois voters overwhelmingly supported the idea at last November's election. The Senate voted for an increase last month. And even Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner says he can get behind it — if it comes after a long list of pro-business legislation.

Darin LaHood
Illinois General Assembly

The State of the State Blog looks at the effectiveness and culture of Illinois government.

The day after Congressman Aaron Schock announced his surprise resignation, politicians were moving quickly to replace him. State Sen. Darin LaHood, a Republican from Dunlap, says he’s already filed paperwork to open a federal campaign fundraising account.

Bruce Rauner at Illinois Chamber forum.
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois politicians continue to be focused on the massive money shortfall for the current budget year.

Illinois is running out of money, and it’s beginning to hurt. A day-care program that helps low-income parents hold jobs has run dry, and soon Illinois might not be able to make payroll at state prisons.

Illinois Supreme Court
Brian Mackey / WUIS

There's a simple rule of thumb for determining when the Illinois Supreme Court will rule on a given case, and it's that there is no rule of thumb for determining when the Illinois Supreme Court will rule on a given case.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday named the men and women he's asked to assess crime and punishment in Illinois. The Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform comprises 28 men and women, a significant number of whom are well known as advocates for a more rational approach to criminal justice — that is, basing sentencing decisions on what's most likely to rehabilitate an offender while also protecting the public.

flickr/dnak

In 2009, Illinois enacted a law requiring the Department of Corrections and the Prisoner Review Board to use a risk-assessment tool to evaluate inmates. The agencies did not meet a 2013 deadline to get it up and running, and that failure is now the subject of a class-action lawsuit. The idea behind the risk-assessment tool is to make an objective analysis about whether an inmate poses a danger to the public.  

Brian Mackey
mattpenning.com / WUIS/Illinois Issues

News Analysis — Gov. Bruce Rauner made a stunning declaration last month in his State of the State address.

“The conditions in our prisons are unacceptable,” Rauner said. “Inmates and corrections officers alike find themselves in an unsafe environment. It’s wrong.”

City of Springfield

Incumbent Springfield Mayor Mike Houston lost his bid for re-election in Tuesday's primary election. Houston had just 19 percent of the vote in the five-way race.

  With all 102 precincts reporting, Springfield Treasurer Jim Langfelder and Sangamon County Auditor Paul Palazzolo won the primary and will advance to the general election on April 7.

Ward 2 Ald. Gail Simpson and community activist Samuel Johnson trailed the field.

Here are the complete returns:

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Bruce Rauner is calling for big cuts in state spending. But some of his projected savings could be a long way off.

A huge chunk of Rauner’s budget savings comes from freezing state pensions and moving workers into more modest plans.

“We cannot continue to raise taxes on all Illinoisans in order to fund the retirement benefits of a small fraction of our residents," Rauner said.

What’s unusual about Rauner’s approach is that he’s booking the $2.2 billion in savings right away, even though it likely would be challenged in court.

Bruce Rauner at Inauguration 2015
Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Gov. Bruce Rauner is proposing deep spending cuts across state government. The Republican presented his first budget proposal to lawmakers Wednesday.

  Illinois’ finances are ailing. That’s been a story for years, but the situation got a lot worse at the beginning of the year when a tax cut took effect.

Rauner is proposing significant cuts to everything from healthcare for the poor to universities.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov. Bruce Rauner visited a state prison Wednesday. It’s the first time a sitting governor has done that in years.

Rauner says an overhaul of Illinois’ criminal justice system a priority for his administration.

"The Department of Corrections is operating at more than 150 percent of its design capacity," Rauner says. "That is unsafe to both inmates and staff."

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner announced Wednesday he would convene a commission to look at criminal justice policy.

State prisons in Illinois are at 150 percent of the capacity they were built to house. They also cost taxpayers $1.3 billion a year. And many inmates, once released, go on to commit more crimes. Rauner says that’s unacceptable.

"It is a vicious and costly cycle," Rauner says. "We need to make sure we are rehabilitating inmates, so they don’t commit crimes over and over again."

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is taking another shot at government employee unions. The Republican has signed an executive order prohibiting so-called "fair share" dues paid by workers who would rather not join a union. He says the alliance between unions and politicians has been a “corrupt bargain."

“There’s also a fundamental American principle of freedom of choice," Rauner says. "America is about freedom of choice and empowering individuals to control their own lives and their own future. This is allowing the employees of state government the right to decide."

Host Bernie Schoenburg (SJ-R) and guests Brian Mackey, Hannah Meisel (WILL/Illinois Public Media) and Charlie Wheeler (UIS) discuss Bruce Rauner's State of the State address.

CapitolView is a production of WSEC-TV/PBS Springfield, Network Knowledge.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner laid out an ambitious, pro-business agenda Wednesday during his first State of the State address. The Republican was speaking to a legislature that’s still dominated by Democrats, and reaction was mixed.

Rauner's agenda reads like a businessman's dream: restricting lawsuits and workers' compensation, and reducing the power of labor unions. But he also called for changes to the criminal justice system, acknowledging conditions in state prisons are "unacceptable."

Bruce Rauner at Inauguration 2015
Brian Mackey/WUIS

News Analysis — Modern American audiences read George Orwell’s 1984 with a sense of relief. The fascist and communist mind control Orwell knew and feared is all but dead, clinging to life in a dwindling number of totalitarian tide pools around the globe. But the production of political propaganda, on the other hand, remains a growth sector.

Lloyd Karmeier
Brian Mackey / WUIS

A version of this story appears in the February 2015 edition of Illinois Issues magazine.

Mike Frerichs at Inauguration 2015
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois Treasurer Mike Frerichs is keeping secret the results of an investigation into his predecessor.

Former Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford saw his political career collapse last year when an employee accused him of harassment and requiring political work.

Rutherford commissioned an investigation and pledged to release the results, but then backtracked.

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