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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Governor Pat Quinn took his anti-gun message to the streets Friday. He spoke with reporters outside Wrigley Field in Chicago.
People come to Wrigleyville to watch the Chicago Cubs. Many of them also come to drink.
The neighborhood is home to many bars, and Quinn used that to highlight a change he's demanding in concealed-carry legislation.
As originally passed by the House and Senate, guns would only be banned at businesses that get more than half their revenue from selling alcohol -- basically, that means bars.

This week, a new Illinois Supreme Court rule took effect that's intended to make it easier for spouses of military personnel to get a law license.

Angela Allen practices law in Chicago and, with a husband in the Illinois National Guard, she's one of about 800 members of the Military Spouse J.D. Network.

Allen says the job market for lawyers is tough enough as it is, but with the frequent transfers that are a part of military life, she says the time and expense of getting a new state law license made it even harder on the lawyer-spouses.

DeLoyce McMurray
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin was in Springfield Tuesday, presiding over a ceremony to honor a World War II veteran.

Four days after DeLoyce McMurray graduated from high school, he joined the Marines. But instead of training at Parris Island, McMurray was sent to Montford Point. That's where the segregated Marine Corps trained its African-American recruits.

After years of state budget cuts, Illinois schools will get roughly level funding under legislation signed into law Thursday. But Governor Pat Quinn says it's still not enough.

Earlier this year, Quinn said Illinois' budget problems meant the state had to reduce school spending. But lawmakers decided not to cut the education budget, in part because Illinois collected more taxes in April than it anticipated.

The extra money will go to elementary and high schools, community colleges, and public universities. It also funds MAP grants for needy college students.

  Governor Pat Quinn says Illinois' failure to solve its pension problem means the state will have to pay $130 million more in interest on bonds it sold Wednesday. But a new study is questioning Illinois' low debt rating.

Illinois got an average interest rate of five percent on the $1.3 billion bond sale — and had to turn away many potential buyers.

Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington
Brian Mackey/WUIS

State Sen. Bill Brady on Wednesday formally announced a third bid to be the governor of Illinois.

The Bloomington Republican says he isn't giving up on Illinois despite the state's serious fiscal challenges. He also says he'll veto any attempt the extend the 2011 tax increase, which is scheduled to begin rolling back in 2015.

Brady says he learned a lot about appealing statewide since 2010, when he narrowly emerged as the Republican primary victor. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn defeated him by less than one percent of 3.6 million votes.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The presidents of Illinois' public universities are rallying behind a plan intended to bolster the pension system for their employees. The proposal was the subject of a state Senate hearing Tuesday in Springfield. But its future is far from certain.

One by one, university presidents told senators why they believe something must be done about pensions. University of Illinois president Robert Easter says his schools are at a competitive disadvantage for recruiting top faculty.

Dan Rutherford campaign sign
Brian Mackey/WUIS

The first candidate to formally announce he’s running for governor of Illinois has vowed to live in the Executive Mansion in Springfield. The refusal of recent governors to move to Springfield has become a sore spot with permanent residents of Illinois’ capital city.

Republican state Treasurer Dan Rutherford is making his long-anticipated campaign for governor official on a three-day tour of Illinois that began Sunday in — wait for it — Chicago.

Dan Rutherford greets supporters.
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Monday is day two of state Treasurer Dan Rutherford's three-day tour of Illinois. He's meeting with supporters to say he's officially running for governor. Rutherford has been laying the groundwork to run for years, making the formal announcement one of the least surprising events in Illinois politics. So we asked reporter Brian Mackey to find something about Rutherford's announcement that was surprising.

Sheila Simon
Illinois.gov

The Illinois Senate has approved a multi-faceted change to the state's election laws. The legislation is almost as notable for what it does not do, as for what it does.

The proposal would make dozens of changes to state law, including online voter registration. But until Wednesday, the legislation also would have changed how Illinois gets a lieutenant governor.

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.

A mix of tourists and lobbyists milled about the rotunda of the Illinois Statehouse on Tuesday.
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.

Reps. Darlene Senger (left) and Elaine Nekritz discuss pensions in a Statehouse conference room.
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.

The Capitol
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.

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.

Concealed carry debate
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."

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.

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.

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.

Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, standing at right, debates medical marijuana in the Illinois Senate.
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.

A concealed firearm.
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.

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.

road construction
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Sen. Terry Link (D-Waukegan)
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.

Venkat Srinivasan is a researcher for the U.S. Battery and Energy Storage Hub based at Argonne National Lab.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Venkat Srinivasan has a relatively short list of requirements when shopping for a car. With a young baby at home, safety is important. “My wife is very clear,” he says. “We want to have a car where I can put my baby in the center seat in the back.” He also needs a fair amount of trunk space for all the baby gear. But what Srinivasan really wants is an environmentally friendly, plug-in hybrid. And that has been a problem.

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