Brian Mackey

Statehouse Reporter

Brian Mackey covers Illinois state government and politics from the WUIS Statehouse bureau. 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) 206-6020.

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Budget Fight
4:14 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Lincoln Home Would Be Closed By Federal Shutdown

The Lincoln Home in Springfield would be closed if the federal government shuts down Monday night. The majority of National Park Service employees have been deemed non-essential, meaning they’d be sent home without pay.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The historic home of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield would be among the victims of a federal shutdown Monday night.

During a shutdown, the federal government makes all kinds of decisions about what's considered an essential government function.

Air traffic control and National Weather Service forecasts are essential. National parks are not. Which is why the Lincoln Home National Historic Site is on the block.

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Salary Veto
1:34 am
Fri September 27, 2013

Quinn Continues Fight To Block Pay

Gov. Pat Quinn
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

A judge says Governor Pat Quinn went too far this summer when he blocked paychecks for Illinois lawmakers.

Members of the General Assembly have missed two paydays so far, and it's not clear when they'll get their money. The governor stands by his actions, saying it's his best option for cajoling the General Assembly into overhauling the state's pension systems. Quinn says he plans to appeal.

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Election 2014
9:31 pm
Sun September 22, 2013

With No Competition, Dems Endorse Quinn

Gov. Pat Quinn addresses Democratic Party leaders Sunday in Springfield. Although he’s running unopposed in next year’s primary, he sought and won the official Democratic endorsement for re-election.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Many of Illinois' top Democrats met in Springfield Sunday to pick a slate of statewide candidates. Although several politicians had considered challenging Gov. Pat Quinn in next year's primary, they all backed off by the time of Sunday's meeting.

From the tone at Sunday's meeting, you'd never know a week before, Quinn was facing a tough primary fight. But then Bill Daley dropped out.

You'd also never know Quinn has spent months berating state lawmakers over guns and pensions.

You'd never know it because Quinn was unanimously endorsed for re-election.

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Illinois Supreme Court
6:30 am
Thu September 19, 2013

Should State Retirees Pay For Health Insurance?

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Retired state workers who collect pensions in Illinois started paying health insurance premiums this summer. That's because of a change in the law last year — previously health insurance was free for anyone who retired with at least 20 years of service.

A number of retirees sued over the change. The case was argued Wednesday before the Illinois Supreme Court.

A few months ago, Illinois began collecting one percent of pension income from retirees who are eligible for Medicare, two percent from those who aren't.

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Election 2014
5:00 pm
Mon September 16, 2013

Marine To Challenge Lisa Madigan

Attorney Paul Schimpf retired from the Marine Corps this year.
Credit Schimpf campaign photo

Attorney General Lisa Madigan beat her last opponent by more than a million votes. Her decision to run for re-election next year scared away most of the people who'd been eyeing her job. But at least one Republican is throwing his hat in the ring.

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Brunch
6:35 am
Mon September 16, 2013

In Some Illinois Prisons, Two Meals A Day

Credit flickr/meeshpants

More and more prisoners in Illinois are being served brunch, eating two meals a day instead of three. Prison officials say it's actually better for many inmates.

Feeding prisoners is a lot of work — not only cooking and cleaning up, but moving inmates from cells or dorms over to the mess hall.

Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman Tom Shaer says at some prisons, breakfast is served at 4 a.m., which means moving inmates in the dark.

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Election 2014
12:47 am
Fri September 13, 2013

Quinn Seeks Party Endorsement; Daley Says It's Too Early

Gov. Pat Quinn says the state Democratic Party ought to support its incumbent governor.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Democratic Party of Illinois says it'll meet later this month to consider slating statewide candidates in next year's election. But at least one of those candidates thinks its a bad idea.

It's been rare for the state Democratic Party to get involved in recent primary elections. That makes the announcement of the meeting something of a surprise.

Democratic Party chairman Mike Madigan — you may also know him as speaker of the Illinois House — says the meeting will give the candidates an opportunity to "convey the strengths they bring to the ticket."

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Concealed Carry
11:03 am
Thu September 12, 2013

Illinois Supreme Court Overturns Gun Conviction, Keeps Ban For Minors

Credit Illinois Supreme Court

Illinois' old law banning the concealed carry of firearms took another hit Thursday. A federal court already found it unconstitutional last year. Now the Illinois Supreme Court has taken the same position.

Alberto Aguilar was 17 when Chicago police arrested him for having a loaded handgun with the serial number scratched off.

He was convicted of unlawfully possessing a firearm and sentenced to 24 months probation.

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Illinois Supreme Court
7:00 am
Thu September 12, 2013

In Quest For Lower Taxes, How Far Is Too Far?

The Illinois Supreme Court bench is seen in this file photo.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in case that asks whether the Hartney Fuel Oil Company went too far in trying to secure a lower tax rate for its product.

Harney sells gas to big transportation companies — railroads, trucking firms, that sort of thing.

Until 2008, you could have been forgiven for thinking Hartney was based in Forest View, in Cook County. After all, the company had a building there where all of its employees worked.

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Statehouse
6:30 am
Mon September 9, 2013

Moody's: Illinois Economy Finally In 'Recovery'

Credit Flickr user spDuchamp (Creative Commons)

Illinois has been one of the slowest states to recover from the Great Recession. But at least one analyst says things are getting better.

Illinois is no longer at immediate risk of recession, and is in fact beginning to recover. That, at least, is the assessment of economist Steve Cochrane, with Moody's Analytics.

"The housing market is picking up in Chicago," Cochrane says. "The large service- and finance-based economy in Chicago also seems to be picking a little bit, and hiring is improving."

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High Court
11:46 am
Thu September 5, 2013

Illinois Supreme Court Expected To Name Rita Garman As Chief Justice

Justice Rita Garman of the Illinois Supreme Court.
Credit Illinois Supreme Court

The Illinois Supreme Court returns from its summer recess next week, and one of the items on the docket could be the announcement of its next chief justice. The court appears ready to name Rita Garman to the post.

Garman would be the second woman to head the Illinois Supreme Court — and in fact, only the second woman to lead one of Illinois' three branches of government.

Based in Danville, Garman has been a lawyer since 1968, a judge since 1974, and on the Supreme Court since 2002.

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Constitutional Amendment
4:10 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

Quinn Opposes Veto Change

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov. Pat Quinn says he does not support an opponent's proposal to amend the Illinois Constitution.

Republican venture capitalist Bruce Rauner is not only campaigning to take Quinn's job, he's also leading an effort to change the Illinois Constitution to make it harder for lawmakers to override a governor's veto.

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Road Show
4:50 pm
Thu August 29, 2013

Illinois Supreme Court Moving To Chicago

The Illinois Supreme Court building in Springfield is undergoing a yearlong rehabilitation project.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Illinois Supreme Court will meet in Chicago for at least the next year while the court's usual home in Springfield is undergoing a major renovation.

The $12.6 million project began this summer. Workers are completely redoing the century-old building's ventilation system, as well as restoring the historic murals that line the walls of the courtroom.

Spokesman Joe Tybor says the move to Chicago is a big change for the justices.

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Gilded Age
5:22 pm
Mon August 26, 2013

Capitol Renovations Aim For Historical Look

The renovated west wing of the Illinois Capitol building features exit signs with an old-fashioned font.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

In Springfield, the west wing of Illinois' Capitol building is nearing the end of a two-year, $50 million renovation.

Workers are putting on the finishing touches. Everywhere you look, you see a balance between modern building requirements and historical details.

The door handles are flipper style — that's easier to use for people with disabilities — but they're cast with the state seal. There are lighted emergency exit signs, of course, but they're in an old-timey font.

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Animal Welfare
8:01 am
Mon August 26, 2013

What Happens To 'Puppy Lemon Law' Dogs?

Credit Flickr user AScappatura (Creative Commons)

A new law in Illinois gives pet owners a remedy if they buy a sick dog from a pet store. But the so-called puppy lemon law got us thinking: what happens to those sick puppies after they're returned to the store?

We spoke to Vicki Deisner, Midwest legislative director for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. She also talked about several other new animal-welfare laws in Illinois this year.

The ASPCA supported four such pieces of legislation that were signed into law this year:

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Statehouse
5:27 pm
Thu August 22, 2013

Decatur Job Troubles Spur Business Law

DCEO in Springfield.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Thursday's unemployment numbers show Decatur is once again lagging the rest of Illinois. That long-term trend is partly responsible for a new law aimed at changing the way Illinois handles economic development.

In Decatur, 13.2 percent of job-seekers can't find work. State Sen. Andy Manar — a Democrat whose district includes Decatur — says that's part of the reason he thought it was time to blow up the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and start over.

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Cross Out
5:04 pm
Wed August 21, 2013

Republicans Lined Up For Top House Job

Reps. Jim Durkin, Dwight Kay, and Raymond Poe are among the Republicans said to be seeking the position of House minority leader.
Credit Illinois House of Representatives

Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross on Wednesday told colleagues he would soon step down. There are a handful of lawmakers who've already set their sights on his job.

House Republicans say Cross told them he'd resign as leader in October. He reportedly didn't say what his plans are, although it's widely rumored he intends to run for state treasurer.

There are at least three men who want to lead the 47-members of the House GOP — including Reps. Jim Durkin of Western Springs and Raymond Poe of Springfield.

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Ranked 50th
7:24 am
Tue August 20, 2013

Illinois' Education Funding Under Review

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois ranks 50th among the states in the share of education funding that comes from state government. The formula used to distribute that money dates back to the '90s.

On Monday afternoon, a group of state senators began working on an update.

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Election 2014
11:09 am
Mon August 19, 2013

Ducky Democrats Dog Congressman Davis

Nafia Khan (in duck suit) and DCCC organizer Lauren North were on the Illinois State Fairgrounds for Republican Day. They accuse Congressman Rodney Davis of "ducking" constituents, something his spokesman dismisses as "political funny season."
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Political campaigns are gearing up for next year's elections. So, too, are political pranksters.

Congressman Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, has lately found himself being shadowed by a giant duck.

Technically it's a woman in a duck suit: "Uh, yes, it is very warm in the duck costume."

This is Nafia Khan. She and a handful of other activists are on the Illinois State Fairgrounds, holding signs that accuse Congressman Davis of "ducking" constituents. They say he's not holding any town hall meetings.

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Clash or Compromise
6:42 am
Fri August 16, 2013

Republican Voters Face Competing Visions For A GOP Governor

More than a hundred Republicans heard from their party leaders and top candidates at the State Central Committee and County Chairmen’s Association meeting on Thursday in Springfield.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois Republicans are at a crossroads. The party has a historically small number of people in the Illinois Senate, and a small minority in the House, too. But Republicans are also hopeful about 2014, when they have the chance to win back the Illinois governor's office, ending 12 years of Democratic rule.

Party leaders and candidates rallied in Springfield Thursday at the Illinois State Fair, where the men competing for the top of the ticket each said they're uniquely qualified to revive the Illinois Republican Party.

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Statehouse
6:00 am
Wed August 14, 2013

Two Years In, 'Budgeting For Results' Still Ramping Up

Members of the Budgeting for Results Commission at a hearing Tuesday in Springfield.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

An Illinois government panel trying to help the state set spending priorities is already at work on next year's budget. But after two years, the group is still waiting for the chance to make its mark on spending.

The idea behind Budgeting for Results is to focus state spending on agencies and programs that meet a list of seven priorities, like education or public safety.

But although the Budgeting for Results Commission has been meeting, taking testimony, and publishing reports for about two years, its work has yet to affect the budget.

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Concealed Carry Law
5:33 am
Mon August 12, 2013

Police Trainers Prepare For Concealed Carry

Credit www.ptb-edi.state.il.us

The arrival of concealed carry in Illinois will mean a big change not only for gun-owning citizens, but police officers as well.

As Brian Mackey reports, the state board that oversees police training is already preparing for the change.

Police in Illinois are already trained on how to approach someone with a gun. Since that person was likely breaking the law, safety and caution were the watchwords. But how does that calculus change when citizens are able to carry legally?

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On A Stick
4:53 pm
Fri August 9, 2013

Gov 'Eating My Way Across The State Fair'

A pair of Lincolns look on as Gov. Pat Quinn opens the 2013 Illinois State Fair.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Illinois State Fair officially got underway Friday morning.

Based on the evidence Friday morning on the Illinois State Fairgrounds, it's never too early for fried mini-doughnuts.

Vendors were selling all manner of-deep fried delights, patrons were crowding parking lots, and dignitaries were cutting a red, white, and blue ribbon to mark the official opening of the 2013 fair.

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Pensions
10:02 pm
Wed July 31, 2013

After Long Silence, Quinn Aide Meets With Key Pension Lawmaker

Sen. Kwame Raoul, standing at right, presided over a hearing on pension legislation in this July 3, 2013 file photo.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

A day after Illinois legislative leaders sued Governor Pat Quinn for vetoing lawmakers' salaries, the governor continued lashing out at the General Assembly for not passing a pension overhaul.

Quinn has consistently tried to portray himself as being engaged in the negotiations over pensions. But members of the legislative committee trying to come up with a compromise say that's not true.

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To Boldly Go
2:07 am
Wed July 31, 2013

What's The Deal With 'Exploring' Candidates?

Bill Daley spent more than a month "exploring" a run for governor of Illinois, though he also said he was "totally committed, 100 percent in" to the race.
Credit The White House

Tuesday's declaration by Bill Daley that he was "officially" running for governor was one of the least surprising announcements of this political season. You could be forgiven for thinking he was already running in the Democratic primary. But Daley insists that until this week, he was just "exploring" a bid for governor.

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Salary Veto
6:30 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

Legislative Leaders Sue Governor Over Pay

Gov. Pat Quinn is seen at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in this July 29, 2013 file photo.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The leaders of the Illinois General Assembly have sued Governor Pat Quinn over his veto of lawmakers' salaries. They say they're trying to protect the independence of the legislature.

Quinn vetoed lawmakers salaries out of the budget as a sort-of punishment for not passing legislation to overhaul Illinois' government-employee pension systems.

In a joint lawsuit filed in Cook County, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton say the governor overstepped his bounds.

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Conference Committee
6:00 am
Tue July 30, 2013

Lawmakers Said To Be Compromising On Pensions

State Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, announces his candidacy for governor in this June 26, 2013 file photo.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

A member of the Illinois legislature's special committee on pensions says the group is closing in on a compromise. But it remains to be seen whether the measure will have enough support in the full General Assembly.

The 10-members of the bipartisan conference committee have been meeting for more than a month. A good chunk of that time has been waiting for actuaries to analyze the various proposals — seeing how much of Illinois' nearly $100 billion in unfunded pension liabilities might be eliminated.

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Hockey
11:15 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

Stanley Cup Comes To Springfield

The Stanley Cup was at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum Monday morning.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Stanley Cup made an appearance at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Monday morning,  just weeks after the Blackhawks won it for the second time in four seasons. There was an event for invited guests, including politicians and military personnel. Team chairman Rocky Wirtz was also on hand.

"The fans have been terrific," Wirtz says. "You realize that there is hockey south of I-80, and that's what's nice. It's nice to come down to the state capital. ... First time I've been to the museum, and I really enjoyed it."

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Illinois Supreme Court
10:46 am
Thu July 11, 2013

Abortion Notice Law Finally Going Into Effect

The bench of the Illinois Supreme Court in Springfield.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a law that requires young women to notify their parents before getting an abortion. The decision ends a legal fight that goes all the way back to the 1990s.

For the first time since the law passed nearly two decades ago, women 17 and younger who want to have an abortion will have to get their parents' permission.

Illinois' parental-notification law was passed in 1995, during a brief period when Republicans won control of the Illinois House.

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Playing Hardball
6:47 am
Wed July 10, 2013

Governor Halts Lawmakers' Pay

Gov. Pat Quinn speaks to reporters after his concealed carry veto was overridden by the legislature.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov. Pat Quinn used his veto power Wednesday to eliminate salaries for Illinois legislators. Quinn says until lawmakers fix the state's pension problem, they shouldn't get paid.

On Illinois' $100-billion unfunded pension liability, Quinn has been setting deadlines for more than a year. Until now, there haven't been any direct consequences for lawmakers when they've blown each of those deadlines.

Quinn changed that in a big way.

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