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.

Pages

Education Funding
6:30 am
Thu May 30, 2013

On Schools Budget, Republicans Say Not Enough

Another key component of the Illinois state budget moved through the General Assembly on Wednesday. The Democrats' spending plan prevents what could have been steep cuts for schools, but Republicans say students outside Chicago are getting shortchanged.

  Democrats are approving mostly level funding for elementary and high schools in Illinois. That's significant because education spending, like most areas of the state budget, has been cut in recent years. And Gov. Pat Quinn's budget proposal said even deeper cuts would be necessary.

Read more
Frosty Free
7:01 am
Wed May 29, 2013

Cell Phone Ban Headed to Governor

A mix of tourists and lobbyists milled about the rotunda of the Illinois Statehouse on Tuesday.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Illinois House gave final approval on Tuesday to a ban the hand-held use of cell phones behind the wheel. The fate of the idea is now up to Gov. Pat Quinn. The issue had been debated before, but one opponent of the measure had a few new points to make.

Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, decided to recount a long story about a recent stop at a Wendy's. He ordered a Frosty.

Read more
Pensions
5:19 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

Rep: Pension Shift Would Cost Schools Nothing

Reps. Darlene Senger (left) and Elaine Nekritz discuss pensions in a Statehouse conference room.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Members of the Illinois House continued pushing for their version of a pension overhaul Tuesday. The latest twist could affect how public school teachers' pensions are funded. Brian Mackey has more.

One of the more contentious issues in the debate over government pensions in Springfield has been who should pay for teachers' retirement benefits.

Read more
Final Countdown
7:50 am
Tue May 28, 2013

With Days To Go, Crunch Time In Springfield

The Illinois House and Senate were in session on Memorial Day 2013.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

While many people across Illinois had Monday off from work for Memorial Day, the members of the Illinois General Assembly were meeting in Springfield. Just four days remain until lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn for the summer. The last week of session is a time for individual legislators to shine — or stumble — as months of hard work on legislation culminates in long-awaited votes. We took a look at some of this week's key players in Springfield.

Read more
Gambling
7:22 pm
Sun May 26, 2013

House Re-Authorizes Online Horse Betting

Horse racing at Arlington Park in 2009.
Credit Paul Kehrer via Flickr

Internet gambling on horse racing would once again be legal in Illinois under legislation approved Sunday by the Illinois House of Representatives.

Online and telephone horse betting has been illegal in Illinois all year — a law authorizing it expired on Dec. 31. The practice, known as "advanced deposit wagering," was a $122 million business in Illinois last year.

The legislation would also finally redistribute money from casino gambling that was supposed to shore up the struggling horse racing industry, but instead has been languishing in a state account.

Read more
Concealed Carry
5:28 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

Governor Vows To Stop House Gun Bill

Rep. Bradon Phelps, standing at left, listens to Rep. Jerry Costello, right, debating concealed-carry legislation in the Illinois House of Representatives.
Credit Chris Slaby/WUIS

The Illinois House on Friday approved legislation that would let Illinoisans carry concealed firearms. But Gov. Pat Quinn says he'll work to "stop it in its tracks."

The measure is being touted as a compromise by its sponsor, Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg.

"As we all know, after years of debating this issue, it is incredibly difficult, if not darn-near impossible, to come to a middle ground on this issue," Phelps said. "Every legislator on this floor has a different opinion when it comes to concealed-carry policy."

Read more
Psychiatry
7:00 am
Thu May 23, 2013

House Rejects Study With Ties To Scientology

The Illinois House on Wednesday rejected an attempt to take a closer look at the field of psychiatry and its role in shaping Illinois law. The sticking point for some lawmakers was a group backing the proposal.

As the field of psychiatry publishes its first new diagnostic manual in more than a decade, it's been attracting a lot of discussion.

Read more
Fast Lane
6:35 am
Thu May 23, 2013

House Sends 70mph Bill To Governor

Credit Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr

The Illinois House has voted to raise Illinois' top speed limit to 70 miles-per-hour. Currently, cars and trucks are limited to 65 miles-an-hour on most Illinois highways.

Opponents warned that raising the speed limit would result in more accidents. But the bill's sponsor, Democratic Representative Jerry Costello, from Smithton, says more accidents happen because of vehicles traveling at different speeds — not because of higher speeds.

Read more
Illinois Supreme Court
6:30 am
Thu May 23, 2013

'Amazon Tax' Under Supreme Court Review

The Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in case challenging the state's so-called "Amazon tax." The decision could change the way Illinois websites make money online. Brian Mackey reports.

When you click a product link on a website — like if a blogger links to a book she's reviewing — the blogger can make a deal with the retailer to get a cut of the sale.

Read more
Prescription Pot
3:55 pm
Fri May 17, 2013

Illinois Senate Sends Medical Marijuana To Governor

Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, standing at right, debates medical marijuana in the Illinois Senate on Friday, May 17, 2013.
Credit Chris Slaby/WUIS

The Illinois Senate approved legislation Friday that would legalize the medical use of marijuana.

In the end, the vote was not that close — 35 senators voted yes, 21 no.

Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, sponsored the measure. He frequently reminds his colleagues he was once a prosecutor, and says the idea is to help people in pain find relief.

Read more
Guns
5:44 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

Senate Weighing Tight Concealed Carry Proposal

Credit Mark Holloway via Flickr

An Illinois Senate committee has approved legislation that would pave the way for concealed-carry of firearms in Illinois. But gun-rights advocates say it's too restrictive, and the measure faces an uphill climb.

State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, was trying to negotiate a compromise with gun-rights supporters. But ultimately he went his own way. His proposal would not allow guns in schools, day cares, casinos, and stadiums.

Read more
Leo Lunch
7:00 am
Thu May 16, 2013

Republicans Demand Vote On Lion-Meat Ban

Credit Flickr.com/thebuffafamily

Just over two weeks remain before the Illinois General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn for the summer, on May 31st. They still have a lot to deal with in that time — like pensions, concealed carry, same-sex marriage, and next year's budget. But an incident Wednesday in the Illinois House shows tempers are already starting to flare.

Read more
Audit
6:30 am
Wed May 15, 2013

Road Fund Overpaid For Health Insurance

Credit Gary Brown via Flickr (gsbrown99)

Less than half of the money in Illinois' Road Fund actually pays for highway construction and maintenance. That's the finding in a new audit (pdf) that also says the Road Fund overpaid for employee health insurance.

Read more
#attack
2:36 pm
Fri May 10, 2013

Illinois House Targets 'Flash Mob' Violence

The Illinois House approved legislation Friday intended to crack down on so-called "flash mobs." It allows a longer prison sentence for anyone who uses social media to organize an attack.

Read more
Pensions
7:00 am
Thu May 9, 2013

Labor's Pension Deal: Best Bet Or Too Good To Be True?

The Illinois Senate is expected to vote Thursday on the latest proposal to fix the state's drastically underfunded pension systems. In what's become a multi-year pension debate, many aspects of the plan have been put forth before. But it has one element that makes it unique.

Read more
Passes 62-51
7:09 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

Illinois House Approves Pension Overhaul

The Illinois House of Representatives on Thursday approved a massive overhaul of state pensions. It's the first time the House has passed such a plan after more than a year of negotiating and many failed attempts.

Its also the first time Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, put his full support behind a specific proposal.

Read more
In Memoriam
6:37 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

Police Honor Officers Killed On Duty

Police officers from across Illinois gathered in Springfield Thursday to honor colleagues killed in the line of duty — including one killed in 2012.

On the Monday after Thanksgiving, Illinois State Police Trooper Kyle Deatherage was patrolling on his motorcycle on Interstate 55, about 30 miles south of Springfield. He pulled over another vehicle when the driver of a semi-truck is alleged to have hit and killed Deatherage. The driver has been charged with reckless homicide.

Read more
Gambling again
5:51 pm
Wed May 1, 2013

Illinois Senate Approves Gambling Expansion

Sen. Terry Link
Credit Illinois Senate

The Illinois Senate has once again approved an expansion of gambling. But it remains to be seen whether Governor Pat Quinn will go along with the plan.

Read more

Pages