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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Pensions
11:03 am
Wed June 25, 2014

Teacher Pension Fund Lowers Expected Investment Return; State's Obligation To Grow

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  The Illinois Teachers' Retirement System says it expects a lower return on its pension investments in the next year. That means the state will have to cover more of the cost of teacher pensions.

TRS says it's still a good assumed rate of investment return at 7.5 percent. That falls in line with similar pension systems nationwide. But it's not as profitable as 8-percent, which TRS had been using for the previous few years.

Dave Urbanek is with TRS. He says the unpredictable nature of the international economy spurred the decision to lower the rate.

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10th Street Rail Corridor
5:06 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Ombudsman To Act As Go-Between For 10th Street Rail Corridor

Retired Judge Theodis Lewis will serve as ombudsman for the 10th Street Rail Corridor project. Lewis addressed a press conference at the location of the first construction, at 10th and Carpenter, on Monday.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Negotiations between residents of the 10th Street Corridor and the Illinois Department of Transportation , now that there is a go-between for the high speed rail project. A new ombudsman says he will be independent of either side.

Retired Judge Theodis Lewis will mediate discussions and disputes as the city and state get going on construction of the 10th Street Rail Corridor. Lewis' position was announced in downtown Springfield, on the site of the first phase of construction, at 10th and Carpenter. An underpass is slated to begin in late summer.

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Illinois Medal of Honor
4:51 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

Sixteen Officers Receive Medal Of Honor

Illinois State Trooper Brad Williams, one of 16 recipients of the states's Medal of Honor this year.
Credit Screengrab via YouTube

  Sixteen police officers from across Illinois were awarded the state's Medal of Honor Friday in Springfield. One officer had previously been honored as state trooper of the year.

In April 2013, State Trooper Brad Williams responded to a five-victim homicide in the tiny village of Manchester, in Western Illinois. Traveling by motorcycle, he chased the suspect for miles, joined by dozens of other officers along the way.

In the end, the suspect stopped his car and shot at police. Williams pulled his weapon and fatally shot the man.

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Eavesdropping law
5:10 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

Lawmakers Work To Replace Illinois' Eavesdropping Law

Credit Wikimedia Commons

  Since the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the state's eavesdropping law in March, it's been legal to record audio of someone without asking permission. But legislators are working on a replacement.

The Supreme Court found the old law overly broad. It was a crime even to record in public, where people shouldn't really have an expectation of privacy. Because of that, Illinois' law was considered one of the strictest in the nation.

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Illinois Department of Public Health
4:50 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

Department Of Public Health To Test For New Genetic Disorder In Newborns

Credit Wikimedia Commons

  Babies born in Illinois are already tested for dozens of disorders. Now the state public health department is adding more to that list.

Newborns will be tested for SCID, a rare genetic disorder that makes babies especially susceptible to bacterial and viral infections.

Every baby born in the state of Illinois gets a tiny pinprick on the heel of their foot. The blood drawn is then sent to an Illinois Department of Public Health lab, where it's tested for dozens of genetic disorders.

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Smoking on college campuses
4:27 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

Illinois Could Prohibit Smoking On College Campuses

  Smoking could be banned at all of Illinois' public colleges under legislation passed by the General Assembly. Though several campuses have already gone smoke-free, this measure would make it illegal to smoke anywhere at the state's 12 public universities, plus its community colleges.

Though the final vote mostly fell upon party lines — Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed — some lawmakers crossed ideological boundaries.

Rep. Donald Moffitt (R-Gilson) says the mandate is about the health of young college students.

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Life after prison
12:06 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Ex-Offenders Get Job-Ready At DOC Opportunity Expo

Daniel Gordon poses for his new state I.D. photo at the expo on Tuesday. Gordon served 17 months in Jacksonville Correctional Center for a third DUI conviction and is trying to piece his life together, starting with a more stable job.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  In Illinois, 25,000 men and women are released from state prisons each year. Ideally, that means 25,000 people entering the job market. But Illinois already has higher-than-average unemployment, and a criminal record can make it even harder to find work. That's why the Illinois Department of Corrections is trying to lend a hand to ex-offenders through a series of specialized events.

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70 years since D-Day
2:24 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

Local WWII Vets Honored At D-Day Memorial

88-year-old Jim Hofstetter was 18 on D-Day, the day he enlisted. Hofstetter says he rejects the nostalgia of the "Greatest Generation" and says he sees huge potential for millennials.
Hannah Meisel/WUIS

It's been 70 years since allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy in one of the turning points of World War Two. A memorial service in Springfield Friday told stories of the young men on the front lines.

The young men of 1944 are old men now. But they still remember.

Springfield resident Jim Hofstetter was 18 on D-Day, the day he enlisted. He knew it was the height of the war, but he also knew he had a job to do for his country.

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Voting
11:04 am
Thu June 5, 2014

Legislation Aims To Preserve Schools As Polling Places

Credit wikimedia

  Illinois lawmakers are looking to keep schools available as polling places on election day. It comes as some election authorities move to what critics say are less accessible locations.

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Budget FY15
10:10 pm
Sun June 1, 2014

Interfund Borrowing No One's First Choice For Budgeting

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  The budget passed by the Illinois General Assembly does not rely on extending the 2011 income tax hike, as originally planned by Democratic leadership. Instead, it's based on state government borrowing from itself.

Instead of making the five percent income tax rate permanent or chopping away at government programs, lawmakers opted to fill a massive hole in state revenues by doing something called "interfund borrowing."

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Budget FY15
12:01 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

Republicans Decry Democratic "Playbook," Call For End Of Lame Duck Tax Decisions

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  The budget being expected to be pushed through the General Assembly Friday does not count on extending the 2011 income tax hike. But Republicans say they can "see through" the Democrats' plan to revisit the income tax after the November election.

After Democratic leadership gave up on attempting to keep Illinois income tax at five percent, the House pushed through what Democrats call a "middle of the road" budget. It taps into other revenue sources and relies on delaying payments to vendors in order to keep spending relatively flat.

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Patent trolls
5:19 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

Lawmakers Push To Fight Patent, Copyright Trolls

Credit Wikimedia commons

  Lawmakers are considering proposals to stop so-called "patent trolls." They say people who fraudulently collect fines under the guise of protecting intellectual property are hurting small businesses.

"Patent trolls" and their lesser-known cousins, "copyright trolls," basically search for opportunities to make money by claiming someone has used a protected idea without permission.

Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) says many businesses would rather pay the "fine" a patent troll asks for, rather than fight back in court alone.

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Budget FY15
7:37 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

Cullerton, Madigan Come To Budget Agreement, Will Revisit Revenue After Election

Credit Illinois Senate

  Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) says he's come to an agreement on state spending with the speaker of the Illinois House. But Cullerton is leaving the door open for an income tax hike after the November election.

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Statehouse
1:56 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

Lawmakers Push To Speed Up Fracking Even After Proposal Dies

Anti-fracking activists rally in the Capitol against fracking last spring.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  Lawmakers are giving up on an attempt to override state regulators in order to jumpstart fracking in Illinois. But they still say Gov. Pat Quinn's administration is dragging its feet on a potential economic boom.

It's been a  year since hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, was approved in Illinois. The law was hard-fought, but in the end, industry and environmental interest groups signed off.

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Education funding
12:33 am
Wed May 28, 2014

Senate Approves School Funding Overhaul

Credit flickr/LizMarie_AK

  The Illinois Senate has passed a plan to overhaul the way schools are funded. But the proposal has a long way to go before becoming law.

After months of negotiations and with just four days left on the General Assembly's spring calendar, the measure was deemed "ready for primetime." The plan would direct state funding to more impoverished schools and divert funding from schools in wealthier areas.

Supporters of the plan, like Sen. Mike Noland (D-Elgin) say this would help remedy inequity in school funding.

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Budget FY15
1:21 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

Arrested Advocates: In-Home Health Services Essential For Independence

Mike Ervin, of Chicago, was arrested and forcibly removed from the Capitol Monday evening when he and other advocates wanted to stage an all-night sit in. Ervin says without an extension of the state's 5 percent income tax, in-home health care could be decimated.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  As the Illinois General Assembly considers a so-called "middle of the road" budget for next year, some programs could be cut or reduced to make up for the expiration of the 20-11 income-tax hike. Advocates for people with disabilities say a reduction could be catastrophic for that population.

One of the biggest parts of Illinois' budget is Medicaid, which not only provides health care to the poor, but also to those with disabilities. Those who can live independently usually elect to with the help of in-home health service.

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Earned income tax credit
4:54 pm
Mon May 26, 2014

Bipartisan Support For Earned Income Tax Credit, But Budget Stands In Way

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  With less than a week remaining in the Illinois General Assembly's spring session, advocates are still working to double the state's tax credit for the working poor.

Advocates say the Earned Income Tax Credit is more effective at lifting people out of poverty than welfare or raising the minimum wage.

More than 900,000 Illinois workers receive the state's version of the EITC, which is currently worth 10 percent of the federal version of the credit.

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Budget FY15
2:39 pm
Fri May 23, 2014

"Doomsday" Budget Fails In House

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  The Illinois House overwhelmingly rejected a so-called "doomsday budget" Friday — one that does not rely on extending 2011's income tax hike. It would have imposed deep cuts across Illinois government.

It was the budget that few legislators — Democrat or Republican — actually wanted to pass. It would have slashed education and other government services.

But the budget did not pass. In fact, only five lawmakers voted for the stripped-down budget, including Rep. Fred Crespo, from Hoffman Estates.

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Education funding
8:43 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

Republicans Push School Funding Legislation To Prevent Underfunding

Credit Wikimedia Commons

  While the state's budget for next year is still in flux, Republicans in the Illinois Senate say they have a new plan that would fully fund public schools. They say it's something that would help schools now, unlike a competing Democratic proposal that's still building support.

Illinois has been shortchanging schools for several years. Instead of funding them at the full amount required by law, they've been cutting — it's at 89 percent this year. That's because mandatory spending on things like health care and pensions has been choking out other priorities.

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