Hannah Meisel

2014 Public Affairs Reporting Program Intern - Statehouse

Hannah covers state government and politics for WUIS and Illinois Public Radio while working toward a master's degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield.

She graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she was managing editor for online at The Daily Illini. Hannah has also worked for NPR in Washington, D.C. 

Pages

Education funding
4:54 pm
Tue August 19, 2014

Push Continues For School Funding Overhaul

Credit Wikimedia Commons

  As students across Illinois begin the new school year their schools are using funds that rely heavily on property tax wealth. But supporters of a new plan say now is the time to change that.

Illinois' school funding formula works like this: school districts collect property taxes from their residents, then depending on how property-wealthy or property-poor an area is, the state pitches in its share. That frequently means poorer districts stay poor because the state can't give enough, and wealthier districts remain wealthy.

Read more
Election 2014
6:07 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

Rauner Blasts Quinn On "Failed" Policies, Governor's Mansion

GOP candidate for governor Bruce Rauner rides into the Republican Day party at the Illinois State Fair on Thursday. Rauner's warm reception included cheers of "We want Bruce!"
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner hammered on Democrats at the Illinois State Fair Thursday. The Democrat facing the most criticism is Governor Pat Quinn.

Rauner was greeted almost like a rock star as he rolled into the Republican Day party on his Harley. Every time he mentioned voting Quinn out of office, the crowd erupted in cheers.

Read more
Election 2014
4:31 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

Former Gov. Jim Edgar: Republicans Must Be United

Former Gov. Jim Edgar speaks at Republican Day at the Illinois State Fair on Thursday. Though he supported his former chief of staff Kirk Dillard in the primary, he now says the party must be united to elect Bruce Rauner.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar says he's all in for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner.

Edgar says the Democratic agenda offers more of the same policies voters have seen for the past decade. He even equated Gov. Pat Quinn's tenure to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is now serving a 14-year term in federal prison.

"The Blagojevich-Quinn governorship has been a disaster for Illinois," he said. "We have an opportunity this November to end one-party rule by electing Bruce Rauner the governor of Illinois."

Read more
Fracking
8:53 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

Anti-Fracking Activists Crash Democrat Breakfast

100 or so environmental activists rallied outside a Democratic party breakfast, calling for the end of fracking in Illinois, even before it begins.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Environmental activists hoping to curb hydraulic fracturing in Illinois crashed a breakfast held for Democratic party organizers in Springfield Wednesday. They want to stop natural gas extraction in the state before it starts.

"Drought! Pollution! Earthquake! Fracking is a big mistake!"

Read more
Election 2014
4:31 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

Downstate Democrats In GOP Districts: Re-electing Quinn Uphill Battle

Gov. Pat Quinn leads a chant of "raise that wage!" at his reception at the Illinois State Fair on Wednesday.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Governor's Day at the Illinois State Fair brought out Democratic leaders from across the state — including those counties where Democrats seem few and far between.

In these heavily Republican counties, momentum for Democratic candidates can be hard to come by. Compound that with lower Democratic voter turnout in non-presidential election years, and the fight to "keep Illinois blue" gets even more difficult.

Read more
Election 2014
5:35 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

Republicans Blast Treasurer Candidate Frerichs On Champaign County Record

Credit ilga.gov

  The Democratic candidate for state treasurer is catching flak from Republicans, who are critical of his time as a local official. But Mike Frerichs' (D-Champaign) campaign says Republican opponent Tom Cross (R-Oswego) is playing "revisionist history."

Frerichs, currently a state senator, was elected to the Champaign County board in 2000, then became the county's auditor in 2002. Republicans point out that during Frerichs' time as auditor, the County Board implemented an early retirement program to save money.

Read more
Election 2014
3:14 am
Tue August 12, 2014

AARP Poll: Rauner Has Edge Over Quinn Among Senior Voters

Statistics from AARP Illinois' survey.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  The debate over state retiree pensions has been a consistent backdrop for the Illinois gubernatorial election, bringing older voters to the forefront of many debates. It's this senior voting bloc that could make all the difference this election.

The Illinois Building on the State Fairgrounds in Springfield is buzzing with activity. But it's not prized cattle or blue-ribbon pies fair attendees are taking in. Along one wall, it's an array of motor scooters. Along another, it's rows of booths offering different kinds of home care.

Read more
Infrastructure
9:37 pm
Sun August 10, 2014

Civil Engineers Advise Infrastructure Investment In Illinois

Credit Wikimedia Commons

  Infrastructure in Illinois is getting dangerously close to disrepair, according to a report from the American Society of Civil Engineers. The state received a "C-" for its maintenance of roads, bridges and waterways.

The group says Illinois' grade is cause for concern, especially given recent infrastructure failures. Those headlines include last weekend's water crisis in Toledo, Ohio and chemical pollutants in West Virginia water earlier this year.

Read more
Involvement in Iraq
5:31 pm
Fri August 8, 2014

Durbin, Kirk Weigh In On Air Strikes In Iraq

U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL)

  U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk each say they support limited air strikes over Iraq to try to deter the Islamic State terrorist organization. But Durbin's expressing reservations.

President Barack Obama Thursday night authorized air strikes on the terrorist group which has been gaining territory in Iraq.

While Durbin (D-IL) says he is glad the action involves no boots on the ground, he's still cautious about getting involved in the conflict.

Read more
Patronage at IDOT
12:52 pm
Fri August 8, 2014

Quinn Won't Say Why Administration Contradicted Itself On Patronage

Gov. Pat Quinn takes questions from reporters Friday morning after cutting the ribbon at the 2014 Illinois State Fair.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Governor Pat Quinn won't say why his administration contradicted itself when it came to cleaning up hiring at the Illinois Department of Transportation. The administration had previously said the fix was done, but now says it isn't complete.

In facing a lawsuit over political patronage hiring at IDOT, Gov. Quinn characterized it as a non-issue.

His administration said it had already taken care of the problem; that IDOT had reduced the number of jobs in which politics would be taken into consideration.

Read more
Illinois State Fair
7:08 pm
Wed August 6, 2014

Officials Urge Caution At State Fair

An inspector from the Illinois Department of Labor checks a carnival ride on the Illinois State Fairgrounds Wednesday.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  With the Illinois State Fair set to begin later this week, officials say they have safety in the forefront of their minds. The event, which attracts nearly 1 million visitors yearly, is set to open Friday morning ... though anyone can get an early preview Thursday evening after the annual opening parade.

Read more
Legal
6:48 am
Mon August 4, 2014

Miranda Rights In Schools To Be Revamped

  Summer is a time lawmakers can work on legislation that didn't move anywhere during the General Assembly's spring session. One of those proposals would require schoolchildren be read their Miranda Rights.

It happens in schools across Illinois: one student pushes another in a hallway, or there's a full-fledged fight.

Often, police, based on- or off-campus will come break up the altercation. That means an official police report will be filed.

Read more
Health
5:51 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

New Law Lets School Staff Administer EpiPen Dosage...Not Just Nurses

Credit flickr/LizMarie_AK

  About 1 in every 13 children has a food allergy, but many of them are unaware ... until they have a reaction. Governor Pat Quinn signed a new law Wednesday that makes it legal for a school official who isn't a nurse to administer drugs to quell an allergic episode.

Schools across Illinois increasingly don't have the funds to employ a full-time nurse. But under a 20-11 law that allowed the use of epinephrine in schools for kids with food allergies, the drug, frequently administered via EpiPen, could only be used by a nurse.

Read more
Election 2014
5:31 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

Two Teachers Unions Back Quinn Despite Pension Strife

  Governor Pat Quinn now has the support of the two statewide teachers unions. The Illinois Federation of Teachers endorsed Quinn Wednesday despite the union's opposition to Quinn's ideas for pension changes.

The IFT is one of the groups suing Quinn for the pension overhaul law passed late last year that would reduce public employee benefits, including those for teachers.

But the union's president, Dan Montgomery, says the election is bigger than the ongoing lawsuit.

Read more
Bomb threat
6:28 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

Authorities Investigating Downtown Bomb

The Illinois Secretary of State Police Bomb Squad water cannon neutralizes bombs.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Authorities say they're investigating a pipe bomb that was found and destroyed Monday night in downtown Springfield. The Illinois Secretary of State Bomb Squad neutralized the bomb after it was found on the sidewalk outside of Brewhaus pub, on Sixth and Washington Streets.

Once local police were on the scene, the bomb squad responded by identifying the object, then disabling it in a water cannon.

Read more
Millionaire's tax
5:27 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

Governor Approves 'Millionaire's Tax' As Advisory Referendum

Credit Wikimedia Commons

  This November, Illinois voters will be asked whether millionaires ought to pay more in taxes. The plan is being sold as a way to raise money for education. But opponents see more political motives.

Governor Pat Quinn signed the measure at a suburban elementary school on Tuesday.

The so-called "millionaire's tax" would rake an additional three percent off personal income greater than a million dollars ... with that money going exclusively to schools.

Read more
Metra
7:34 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

Inspector General Finds Old Metra Practice Could Lead To Fatigued Conductors

Credit commons.wikimedia.org

  Officials at Chicago area rail transit agency Metra are being reprimanded for allowing workers to switch shifts without properly filling out paperwork. Illinois' inspector general says this practice could have led to fatigued conductors operating trains.

The so-called shift "swapping" created confusion at Metra, according to the office of the executive inspector general. In its three-year investigation, it concluded employees who were swapping shifts — usually to allow some to get a Saturday off — wouldn't fill out paperwork indicating they weren't working.

Read more
Illinois State Fair
7:13 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

State Fair Officials Fined For Violating Gift Ban...For Beer Tickets

Illinois State Fair 2007
Credit Flickr/aka_kath

  Two individuals are being fined for violating ethics rules in their capacities of running Illinois' two State Fairs. Both incidents involved free beer tickets.

The state's Executive Inspector General found John Rednour Jr., the former manager of the DuQuoin State Fair, guilty of soliciting free beer tickets from a vendor in 2012. According to a report, Rednour asked for "a roll or two" of beer tickets. The tickets were valued at $4 each, which would total $4,000 to $8,000, but the vendor did not comply.

Read more
Budget FY15
4:35 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

State Police Cancels New Trooper Training, Citing Budget

Credit Flickr/connor395

  The Illinois State Police graduated 37 state troopers today Friday, the last class the academy will graduate for a while. State police officials say they can't train more due to the state's budget.

The 37 cadets took their oath in the auditorium of the Illinois State Police Academy in Springfield — in the last graduation ceremony it'll see in a while. This class was the fifth to graduate in a year.

A new group had been scheduled to begin the 27-week training on June 15; instead the session never started.

Read more
Hydraulic fracturing
5:18 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

Business, Labor Leaders Urge Quinn Administration To Finish Fracking Rules

Credit wikimedia commons

  Business and labor leaders are urging Illinois' Department of Natural Resources to finish the rules for hydraulic fracturing. The coalition says it's left wondering if the governor's administration might be dragging the process for political reasons.

It's been over 400 days since the General Assembly passed a law to allow hydraulic fracturing in Illinois. Proponents say the technique of drilling for natural gas deep in the ground will lead to job and revenue growth.

Read more
Affordable Care Act
4:09 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Durbin Files Legislation Reacting To Hobby Lobby Decision

Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  U.S. Senator Dick Durbin wants companies exempt from offering birth control in their healthcare plans to make that known to potential employees.

It's a response to the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court last month, which determined certain business owners don't have to pay for contraceptives that violate their religious beliefs. These so-called "closely held" companies — typically small, family owned businesses — are exempt from the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate.

Read more
Election 2014
4:29 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Republican Attorney General Candidate: Pension Changes Unconstitutional

Republican candidate for attorney general Paul Schimpf
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  The Republican candidate for Illinois Attorney General is criticizing incumbent Lisa Madigan for defending the state's pension overhaul law, which he thinks is unconstitutional.

A clause in the state's constitution says that once earned, pension benefits shall not be diminished.

The pension law, passed last year, law reduces cost of living benefits paid out to state employees and public school teachers. That, and other changes, haven't actually taken effect yet; a lawsuit challenging the law is ongoing.

Read more
Tourism
4:57 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

Tourism In Illinois Sets New Record

Credit wikimedia commons

  Illinois' tourism numbers set another record in 2013, bringing in over 100 million visitors to the state. State agencies say they aim to grow those numbers more in the face of budget cuts.

For the third year in a row, Illinois broke its own record for visitors to the state. In 2013, travelers spent $34.5 billion dollars in Illinois, according to the state's office of tourism.

Read more
Executive Mansion
12:58 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

Seven Months And Two Storms Later, Executive Mansion Gets Mini-Fix

One of eight leaks in the mansion's roof allowed water to pool above the ceiling in one of the guest bedrooms, causing this water damage in one corner of the room.
Hannah Meisel/WUIS

The governor's executive mansion in Springfield is receiving much-needed repair after rainwater caused damage twice in the last two months. But the repairs are only a stopgap measure; it's all the state can afford right now.

Walk into the executive mansion in Springfield, and nothing looks awry. But climb the stairs to the third floor, where the governor's apartment lies, off-limits to tours and most events, and the damage is apparent in two historical bedrooms.

Read more
Budget FY15
10:27 am
Wed July 9, 2014

Illinois Sees Growth In Tax Revenue, But It Won't Last Long

Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  2014 is only halfway over, but Illinois' new fiscal year just began last week. The state closed out its year with a billion-dollar growth in tax revenue.

The state took in $32 billion in revenue this past fiscal year, more than $7.6 billion of that in sales tax. That's up almost 4.5 percent from last year.

Jim Muschinske, who analyzes revenues for the state's forecasting commission, says that's not amazing, but it's a healthy increase.

Read more
Fireworks safety
10:08 am
Thu July 3, 2014

State Fire Marshal: No Illegal Fireworks This Fourth

Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Illinois' state fire marshal is warning people to steer clear of personally handling fireworks this Independence Day. He says setting off fireworks without a permit could be grounds for arrest.

While buying fireworks is illegal in Illinois, many residents cross state lines to obtain them from Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri. Illinois State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis says that causes major problems, especially around the Fourth of July.

Read more
Business climate
3:21 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

DCEO Suggests Better Marketing, Tax Credit Reform To Grow Illinois' Economy

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Illinois' economy was slow to feel the effects of the Great Recession, and has been slow to recover from it. The state's Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is submitting a five-year plan to the General Assembly, with suggestions for business growth ... and more state spending.

DCEO's blueprint includes measures that stalled in the legislature this spring, including raising the minimum wage to $10-dollars an hour, doubling a tax credit for the poor and investing in major infrastructure.

Read more
Budget FY15
11:52 am
Mon June 30, 2014

State Fair Officials: Can't Follow State Law Due To Budget Cuts

Credit Wikimedia Commons

  Illinois' two state fairs did not comply with the law last year, according to a recent state audit -- and budget realities mean that'll happen again this summer.

The audit found that both the fairs in Springfield and DuQuoin overcharged entrance fees for horses.

But the Department of Agriculture says it's a consequence of the state contributing 200-thousand dollars $200,000 less toward the purse.

The audit also found that the DuQuoin fair only held three out of the five prescribed days of horse racing.

Read more
Military children
11:48 am
Mon June 30, 2014

Laws For Military Children Strengthened

Credit flickr/LizMarie_AK

  Children in military families should have an easier time changing schools when their parents transfer in and of out of Illinois, according to a law Governor Pat Quinn signed over the weekend.

Last summer, Tom White retired from the U.S. Army and accepted a post teaching military law at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago. But instead of moving his family near his work in Illinois, White opted to live in Valparaiso, Indiana, and commute at least an hour each day.

Read more
Statehouse
6:48 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

Pension Decision Will Wait Until At Least December

  It could be December before a judge decides on the legality of Illinois' pension overhaul law for at least another five months. Attorneys met Thursday in Sangamon County Court and agreed on a timeline for the case.

Current and retired state employees, teachers and university workers are suing Gov. Pat Quinn over the pension overhaul passed by the General Assembly late last year.

Though it was to have already begun taking effect, a judge has put it on hold until its legality is sorted out in court.

Read more

Pages