Hannah Meisel

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. 

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Term limits
6:17 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

Top Republicans Propose Term Limits For Governor, Other Executive Officers

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Two of Illinois' top Republicans want to limit how long someone can stay on as governor of Illinois. But they only have about two weeks to get the proposed constitutional amendment through the General Assembly.

Illinois Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) are floating a two-term limit for the state's six top offices.

That means an eight-year tenure for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, treasurer and secretary of state.

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State developmental centers
6:19 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

Murray Center Advocates Win Appeals Decision

Credit wsiu

  Residents fighting to stay in Centralia's Murray Developmental Center can remain where they are ... for now. An appellate court decision blocks the state from moving people out without the permission of a court-appointed guardian.

The ruling gives Murray Center families reason to hope for a favorable outcome in another case — one trying to block Gov. Pat Quinn's efforts to close the institution.

Gov. Quinn has pushed to shutter large state-run institutions, like Murray, and transition residents into community-based care.

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Early childhood education
2:22 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

Study: Pre-K Education Provides For Economic Growth

Credit flickr/LizMarie_AK

  As Illinois navigated the economic downturn, lawmakers made lots of cuts -- including to early childhood education.

Advocates say over the years, that cut off 25,000 kids from access to preschool.

Business leaders say it's time to restore the funding, in the name of economic efficacy later on.

A new report from Cornell University claims that for every dollar invested in early childhood programs, the local economy recoups $1.94.

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Gas tax
10:49 am
Tue April 15, 2014

Gas Station Owners Warn Against Fuel Tax Increase

Credit Amanda Vinicky

  A coalition of Illinois gas station owners say they're wary of a plan to increase motor fuel taxes. Opponents say it would cause too much pain at the pump.

Engineers, the state Chamber of Commerce, and local mass transit agencies have a strategy to shore up the state's deteriorating highway network and other infrastructure needs: a strategy that includes raising Illinois' tax on gas, which hasn't seen an increase in 24 years.

For now, it's just a plan; no state lawmaker has committed to supporting that proposal.

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School funding
11:33 am
Fri April 11, 2014

Manar's School Funding Change Moving Forward

Credit Amanda Vinicky

  A proposal to overhaul the way Illinois schools get state funding is advancing in the state Senate. But Republicans are worried that under a new formula, Chicago schools will get an even bigger share of the money than they do now.

Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) has made it his mission to change the way schools are funded in Illinois. The freshman senator says it's long overdue; there's been no change in 17 years.

He's pushing a plan that'd weight poverty, so schools with more poor students get more state money, and wealthier schools get less.

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Charter schools
3:08 pm
Thu April 10, 2014

Chapa LaVia's Perceived Slight Overshadows Charter Debate

Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora)
Credit Courtesy of ILGA.gov

  An Illinois lawmaker is apologizing for a racially charged remark she made Wednesday during a debate on charter schools. 

Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora) was closing a long debate over charter schools. But just as she argued minority students sometimes get blocked from charters, she seemed to get frustrated with the noise in the chamber, and turned to address her fellow Democrats.

"There's starting to be a segregation of children between the haves and the have nots — listen to me, minorities! I'm over here because we're all over on this side, right?"

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Income tax
12:34 am
Tue April 8, 2014

Tax Watchdog Group: Income Tax Doesn't Hurt Businesses, Property Tax Does

Credit flickr/danxoneil

  Opponents of Governor Pat Quinn's proposed income tax increase say it will chase jobs out of Illinois. A new report that challenges that assumption.

What to do about Illinois' expiring income tax hike has been the star of the debate this spring. The governor threatens cuts unless its extended, while Republican leaders say keeping the higher tax rate is a bigger threat to the economy.

Ralph Martire, director of the Chicago-based Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, says that's a misunderstanding. He says property taxes are the true obstruction of economic growth.

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Graduated income tax
9:47 am
Fri April 4, 2014

Graduated Income Tax Moves Forward After Stumble

  An effort to change Illinois' income tax from a flat to a graduated structure is making headway in the General Assembly. The plan, where the more you earn the more you pay, has been revived after a setback last week.

When another proposal for a graduated income tax was up for debate last week, it was shot down before even getting to the floor. But Representative Christian Mitchell, a Democrat from Chicago, says his proposal is different: Its income-based tax brackets are lower than the previous version.

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Coal industry
12:57 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Environmental Groups Call For Enforcement Of Coal Regulations

  Environmentalists in central Illinois are calling for tougher regulations on the coal industry. They say coal companies are using land to profit, then leaving residents with a mess.

Director of the Sierra Club's Illinois Chapter Jack Darin acknowledges the regulations the state already has in place. He says the problem is Illinois' lax enforcement of those laws against coal companies.

"Unless they're held accountable for these actions, then what good are the strongest regulations that the state can write?" he said.

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Gas tax
12:48 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Business Leaders Propose Increased Gas Tax For Road Repairs

  Advocates for infrastructure investment want to raise the gas tax to fix Illinois roads. The new revenue would go toward maintenance which they say is long overdue.

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Endangered historic sites
12:19 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

10 Ill. Historic Sites 'Endangered' Without Federal Tax Credit

The Uptown Theatre in Chicago is on Landmarks Illinois' 2014 list of endangered historic sites.
Credit wikipedia

  An Illinois preservation group has put out its annual list of most endangered historic places. State funding may be a long shot, but enthusiasts are working to save a federal tax credit.

Among the ten endangered sites is a camp in Senator Pam Althoff's (R-McHenry) district. Camp Algonquin, in unincorporated McHenry County, is a rare relic of the open-air camp movement at the turn of the last century.

Althoff, a Republican from McHenry, says the community can save the camp if local advocates campaign effectively.

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Budget address
12:08 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Nursing Home Advocates Relieved Over Gov. Quinn's Budget Address

  Nursing home advocates say they're relieved by Gov. Pat Quinn's budget address last week. The governor says state has already been cut enough.

Two years ago, Gov. Quinn announced drastic cuts to Medicaid, the state's healthcare program for the poor, disabled and elderly. Medicaid helps pay for nursing homes, so when the legislature followed through on these cuts, many facilities shut down or laid off workers.

Pat Comstock, with the Healthcare Council of Illinois, says these cuts persisted through last year. But this year, she says things are looking brighter.

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Tornado damage
1:19 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Lawmakers Propose Tax Break For Businesses Blighted By Tornadoes

On the edge of destruction in Washington, Ill. The community was ravaged by tornadoes on Nov. 17.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Four months ago, tornadoes whipped through Central Illinois, ravaging communities like Washington and Gifford. As the towns rebuild, some lawmakers want to give businesses a break when fixing up their properties.

Rebuilding after a natural disaster can be expensive; insurance money only covers so much. A proposal making its way through the General Assembly could help ease that burden on businesses, by providing a property tax break.

Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) says this would help stabilize local economies.

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Dental practice laws
1:13 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

Dental Hygienists Push For Independence; Dentists Push Back

Credit flickr/armymedicine

  Dental hygienists in Illinois could get a whole new job description under a proposal before the Illinois House. Hygienists say requiring less supervision would allow them to provide care in underserved communities.

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Election 2014
11:22 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Green Party Candidates Seek Place on November Ballot

Scott Summers, the Green Party's nominee for Illinois governor in 2014
Credit Illinois Green Party website

  Illinois Republicans and Democrats chose their party's nominees last week. Third-party candidates are working to join them on the November ballot.

Before they can even think about winning a statewide election, independent candidates and those from third parties have to make it on the ballot, which requires collecting at least 25,000 valid signatures, by mid-June.

Green Party candidates are beginning their petition drive.

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Millionaire's tax
4:43 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Madigan's 'Millionaire's Tax' Passes Legislative Hurdle

  A tax on millionaires is advancing through the General Assembly ... at the expense of a progressive income tax.

The so-called "Millionaire's Tax" would levy a three percent surcharge on income over a $1 million. House Speaker Michael Madigan says that should raise about a billion dollars, which Illinois would send exclusively to schools.

"My judgment was that it helps education and it calls upon those in the society that are better able to help fund education than others."

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Progressive income tax
5:38 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Progressive Income Tax Supporters: Most Taxpayers Would Get Break

  Advocates have been moving for months to give Illinois a progressive income tax. Instead of the same flat rate for everyone, those who make more would pay more. As Hannah Meisel reports, supporters are finally getting specific.

Backers of the plan argue most Illinoisans would get a tax cut.

Senator Don Harmon, a Democrat from Oak Park, says this provides the state a new choice, instead of extending the 2011 income tax hike or making deep cuts to services.

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Affordable Care Act
7:02 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Young People, Medicaid Concerns As Obamacare Deadline Looms

Credit opensource on Flickr

  With one week left to sign up for the Affordable Care Act, Illinois' enrollment numbers are on track to meet their goals. But, many newly covered Illinoisans aren't actually buying private insurance.

About 114,000 people in Illinois have bought insurance under Obamacare. But 200,000 more have been signed up for Medicaid, the state's healthcare program for the poor.

Although the number of Medicaid enrollees is larger than the pool of people who've bought insurance, officials say they're not worried.

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Budget fight
4:47 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

Senators Spar On Budget Estimates

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  The Illinois legislature's discussions over state spending are getting heated. On Friday, Lawmakers heard from agencies facing massive budget cuts.

Eight agency heads told Senators how painful it'd be to cut 20 percent from their operations. That figure is based on a projected billion-dollar shortfall next year, when the temporary income tax hike begins to sunset.

It could mean less funding to schools, fewer state police patrols, closure of prisons and mass layoffs.

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Minimum wage debate
4:40 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

Minimum Wage Proposal Clears First Hurdle

Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  A plan to raise the minimum wage in Illinois has cleared its first legislative hurdle. But as it moves through the General Assembly, it continues to draw criticism from business groups.

The plan would gradually increase the state's minimum wage to $10.65 an hour. Illinois' current rate is $8.25, already one of the highest in the nation.

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Election 2014
4:26 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Voting Check-In: Primary Election Going Smoothly, Slowly

Campaign signs litter the lawn of Springfield's busiest polling place, Knights of Columbus Hall, on Tuesday.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  The polls in Illinois are open until 7 o'clock on Tuesday. Just a fraction of registered voters have bothered showing up at recent primary elections.

Terry Shryrock is directing traffic inside the Knights of Columbus hall on the west side of Springfield. He's spent the past 10 years as an election judge.

"It's fun to watch all the people come in and vote, especially when they bring in their little kids," he said. "It's very interesting."

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Election 2014
12:35 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

Where Do GOP Governor Candidates Stand On Education?

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  All four of the Republican candidates for governor have said they will make education funding a priority if elected, but they face an uphill battle finding the money to send to schools. Each of the contenders has an unique solution for fixing education funding in Illinois.

First, some background: Illinois is ranked last in the nation when it comes to how much the state kicks in to public education.

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Treasurer's race
5:22 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

Republican Opponents For Treasurer Differ On Budget Strategy

DuPage County Auditor Bob Grogan and Rep. Tom Cross (R-Oswego) face off in the Republican primary for State Treasurer.

  When state treasurer Dan Rutherford announced a run for governor, the Republican left his seat wide open. Two GOP candidates are vying for that party’s nomination on Tuesday.

Former House minority leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) left his position in the fall to run for treasurer. He's promising to use a new tool to force a balanced budget: The threat of suing the General Assembly and the governor.

Cross says having that card in his back pocket will make sure the state doesn’t spend more than it takes in, like the state's constitution mandates.

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Statehouse
9:47 am
Thu March 13, 2014

Ballot Measure Calls To Ban Fracking In Southern Illinois

Opponents of fracking rally in the Capitol last spring.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  A ballot measure before voters in far-southern Johnson County seeks to ban hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. But some advocates worry the proposal’s wording has the potential to confuse voters.

As it’s stated on the ballot, voters can vote yes or no in response to the following question:

“Shall the people’s right to local self-government be asserted by Johnson County to ban corporate fracking as a violation of their rights to health, safety, and a clean environment?”

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Student loans
9:41 am
Tue March 11, 2014

Lawmaker Wants European Model Of Student Loans

Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo)
Credit ilga.gov

  A plan that could lead to Illinois changing its student loan repayment programs is moving through the General Assembly. The new method would let students pay back loans based on their income, instead of a set schedule.

The model is a European one, often used in the U.K. and Australia, says sponsor Jack Franks (D-Marengo). Franks says he wants to prevent college grads from being shackled to large debt payments.

Currently, students have to begin making steady payment shortly after they graduate, whether or not they've found a job, and regardless of how much that job pays.

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Term limits
9:34 am
Mon March 10, 2014

Rep. Rodney Davis Supports Term Limits; Won't Self-Impose

  Calls to institute term limits in Illinois have gained traction in the race for governor, helped along by a well-funded campaign that seeks to limit how long politicians can serve in the state legislature. A freshman Congressman says he supports the effort ... but only to a degree.

Congressman Rodney Davis (IL-13) says he has not yet signed the petition that calls for limiting members of the Illinois General Assembly to eight year terms. But he says that he would.

Davis, a Republican from Taylorville, says he also backs term limits for Congress, at least in concept.

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Children's health
8:29 am
Thu March 6, 2014

Children's Advocacy Group Calls For Increased State Funding

 Low-income children in Illinois are getting better healthcare coverage. But a new study says racial and socioeconomic disparities still exist. Voices for Illinois Children, the advocacy group behind the research, says its number one obstacle is state funding.

The group cites the expansion of Medicaid — the state's health program for low-income individuals — as having the single biggest impact on the well-being of kids in poverty.

Republicans (and some Democrats) in the General Assembly say Medicaid spending is unsustainable, and needs to be rolled back.

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Concealed Carry
9:57 am
Wed March 5, 2014

Gun Rights Activists Rally For Fewer Gun-Free Zones

Pro-gun ralliers march toward the Statehouse on Wednesday. Signs like the one in the foreground express the rationale that women are better protected from would-be attackers with the right to carry.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Gun rights activists from across Illinois were in Springfield Wednesday, asking lawmakers to ease restrictions on where they're allowed to carry concealed weapons.

"Gun-free zones are killing zones," the crowd chanted in the Capitol rotunda. Hundreds of advocates marched to the Statehouse to rally for their Second Amendment rights. Among them was Sharon Mausey of Crab Orchard, in far southern Illinois. She says receiving her concealed carry license on Tuesday was a long-awaited dream come true.

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Education
7:35 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Military Children Hampered By Illinois Laws, Advocates Say

Credit flickr/LizMarie_AK

  Moving to a new state is never easy, especially when you’re a school-aged kid. But for military families who move more frequently than most, laws in Illinois create a unique challenge — and, in some cases, a barrier to entry.

Think back to the last time you were ‘the new kid.’ Maybe it was freshman year of college, or when you started a new job or even joined a book club.

Now multiply that ‘new kid’ experience by three and factor in how awkward grade school is … and you might be a little closer to knowing what it’s like to be a military kid.

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