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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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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Retirement savings
3:18 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

House Advances Retirement Savings Legislation

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  The Illinois House is advancing legislation intended to get more people saving for retirement. Advocates say "nudging" workers into a savings program could help keep them out of poverty in retirement.

The so-called Secure Choice retirement savings program is an idea of the conservative Heritage Foundation. The plan would require all companies with more than 25 employees to automatically enroll workers in a state-supervised retirement program.

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Attorney General's Race
2:24 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

GOP Attorney General Candidate: Lisa Madigan Too Loyal To Democrats

GOP candidate for Attorney General Paul Schimpf (right) flanked by Illinois GOP top brass House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs). Schimpf says current Attorney General Lisa Madigan has too much Democratic party loyalty to pursue corruption in the state.
Credit Tony Arnold/WBEZ

  The Repubican Party’s longshot candidate for Illinois attorney general is throwing punches at the incumbent Democrat, Lisa Madigan. Paul Schimpf says Madigan is a political insider incapable of going after corruption.

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Illinois High School Association
4:15 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Lawmakers Call For Transparency From IHSA

  The organization that coordinates Illinois high school sports and activities was under scrutiny Tuesday in Springfield. Lawmakers want the Illinois High School Association to be more transparent, but the not-for-profit group is pushing back.

While Illinois high schools are not required to become IHSA members, the organization does run the major statewide competitions.

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Heroin use in Illinois
2:04 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

Heroin Task Force To Target Drug's Use Through Legislation

Credit Wikimedia commons

  Heroin use has surged in Illinois, especially in the collar counties around Chicago. State officials are considering whether new laws are needed to stop the spread of heroin and treat addiction more effectively.

The state's heroin task force met in Springfield to hear testimony from experts on addiction.

Dr. Daniel Angres, a psychiatrist with suburban-based Presence Health, says heroin use has become more prolific because the stigma has faded.

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Property tax rebates
7:58 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

Civic Federation: Property Tax Rebates Inefficient

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Taxes have been in the spotlight at the state Capitol this spring, most visibly the fate of the state's income tax rates. But another tax plan, floated by Governor Pat Quinn, is also attracting ire of Republicans and economists alike.

Governor Quinn's plan for the Illinois budget calls for extending the state's 5-percent income tax rate, instead of allowing it roll back.

It's coupled with a $500 property tax rebate for every homeowner in Illinois.

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Statehouse
10:51 am
Fri May 16, 2014

Speaker Wants Voters To Decide Minimum Wage

  Plans to raise the minimum wage in Illinois have struggled all spring. Instead of letting the proposal fail in the General Assembly, Democratic leaders want to put it to voters. The question on the November ballot would be non-binding.

House Speaker Michael Madigan says he wants to ask voters a simple question: "Shall the minimum wage in Illinois for adults, over age 18, be raised to $10 an hour by January first, 2015?"

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Budget fight
10:59 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Democrats Ask Republicans: "Where's Your Budget Plan?"

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Republicans are not happy with the budget pushed through the Illinois House Thursday by Democrats. But Democrats counter that Republicans aren't offering any proposals of their own.

House Republicans denounced Democrats for passing an out-of-balance budget that relies on a tax increase.

Democrats, however, say Republicans only want to criticize, and haven't put forth a plan of their own.

Representative Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea) says he searched for the Republican budget everywhere. He even asked his dog.

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Education funding
9:52 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

House Panel Approves $13 Billion For K-12 Education

Credit flickr/LizMarie_AK

  An Illinois House panel Wednesday signed off on a budget for the state's public school system.

The $13 billion dollar appropriation is almost a billion more than this year's budget, reversing the state's trend of cutting funding for K -12 education.

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Pensions
9:48 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Univ. Of Illinois Will Try To Retain Faculty Who Retired Under Wrong Pension Interpretation

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Officials at the University of Illinois say they are willing to work to retain faculty who opted to retire early as a result of mistakes in the state's pension overhaul.

It was a small typo, but it turned out to have big consequences for the state's public universities and community colleges.

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University of Illinois
2:46 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

UI Board Makes No Decision On Former 'Terrorist' Professor

University of Illinois adjunct professor James Kilgore speaks to the U of I's Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday in Springfield. Kilgore's contract was not renewed after his criminal history came to light.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  The teaching career of former radical James Kilgore remains in doubt. He says one of his contracts with the University of Illinois expires Thursday. But the Board of Trustees ended a meeting Wednesday without taking action on his case.

Kilgore was a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, a group best known for kidnapping Patty Hearst in 1974. He was convicted of murder for his role in a bank robbery the group carried out the next year.

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Housing
1:56 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Lawmakers Consider Tax Credit For Distressed, Vacant Communities

Credit Wikimedia Commons

  Lawmakers are exploring a way to stabilize Illinois communities hit hard by the Great Recession. Advocates say a statewide property tax credit would boost development in blighted areas.

When houses are left vacant, it drives down property values for the entire block. In Cook County alone, there are an estimated 55,000 such vacancies.

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School funding
5:17 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

Springfield Schools Would Get More Money With Funding Overhaul

Credit Wikimedia Commons

  Spring is budgeting time for schools in Illinois. Over the past few years, school officials in poorer districts have had to cut staff and programs in order to balance their checkbooks.

Declining state funding, coupled with decreased property values have resulted in a double-whammy shortfall, especially in districts that aren't property-wealthy to begin with.

Many local school districts would be 'winners' under a plan to overhaul how schools are funded in Illinois. That includes Springfield District 186.

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Education funding
11:05 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Analysis Shows School Funding Plan Would Benefit Downstate Districts

Credit flickr/LizMarie_AK

  Downstate schools would be the primary winners under a proposed school funding overhaul before the General Assembly. A report from Illinois' board of education could lead to a regional divide when it comes up for a vote.

Illinois' public school system relies heavily on property taxes, often meaning the quality of a student's education will depend on his or her zip code.

But a proposal in the General Assembly would completely change the state's complicated funding formula.

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Medical marijuana
12:42 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Medical Marijuana For Juvenile Epilepsy Moves Forward

Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) listens as Adam Frederick testifies on behalf of his daughter, Michaela (pictured in Frederick's hand), who uses cannabis oil to control her seizures. Lang was the original architect of the medical marijuana law passed last spring.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  As Illinois' medical marijuana pilot program is still getting up and running, lawmakers are already looking to add a new category of patient: children with epilepsy.

At just two months old, Michaela Frederick's tiny body suffered up to 100 seizures a day. A lack of oxygen to her brain at birth is thought to have caused her severe epilepsy.

Traditional FDA-approved drugs have been able to cut that number of seizures in half. But her father, Adam Frederick, says they put Michaela in a vegetative state.

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Income tax
5:05 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

Nursing Home Advocates Call For Income Tax Extension

Credit WUIS

  Advocates for nursing homes say if Illinois does not keep income tax rates where they are, thousands of seniors could lose access to care. But it's not yet clear whether the General Assembly will make the tax hike permanent.

Lawmakers have a little less than a month to pass a budget for the next fiscal year -- a budget that nursing homes rely on to subsidize their operations.

Advocates say if the state's income tax is allowed to roll back as scheduled at the end of the year, nursing homes are projected to take a 14 percent funding cut.

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Election 2014
4:35 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Diana Rauner Distances Herself From Budget Requests

Bruce Rauner stands with wife Diana on primary election night, March 18, 2014.

  Gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner is a Republican, but his wife says she is not. As Rauner's campaign continues to criticize Governor Quinn's stance on taxes, Rauner's wife has a stake in the cause.

Just after the March primary election, Illinois was introduced to Diana Rauner, Bruce Rauner's wife. She introduced herself as "a lifelong Democrat."

She's also the CEO of Ounce of Prevention, a Chicago-based non-profit that uses state grant money to help promote early childhood education.

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Police memorial 2014
10:28 am
Fri May 2, 2014

State Honors Police Killed In Line Of Duty

Pam Robtoy speaks about her late fiancee, U.S. Marshal John Perry, who was killed trying to arrest a fugitive in 2011.
Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Families of police officers who died on the job were in Springfield Thursday to honor their loved ones.

Three years and fifty three days. That's how long Pam Robtoy says she's lived without her fiancee, U.S. Marshal John Perry. He was shot to death trying to arrest a fugitive in St. Louis, in 2011.

Robtoy says she still doesn't understand why John was killed, but she finds comfort knowing he died serving others.

"I was supposed to be planning a wedding. I wasn't supposed to be planning a funeral service. There had to be some great reason."

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Obama library
4:29 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

Republicans Propose Tax Check-Off To Fund Obama Library

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Republicans say they've found another way to fundraise for a future Barack Obama presidential library ... one that doesn't involve state funds. This comes a day after Democrats advanced a plan to use state funds to entice the president to put his library in Chicago.

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Term limits
5:49 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Term Limit Petition Cost $1.75 Per Signature

Workers load up a semi truck with Bruce Rauner's 67,976-page term limit petition on Wednesday. Each of the nearly 600,000 signatures cost $1.75, a spokesman said.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner filed his term limit initiative with election officials today Wednesday. The massive petition drive came with a hefty price tag.

Rauner's term limit group spent eight months collecting more than twice the number of signatures needed to get the question on the November ballot. That means conversations like this one, from primary Election Day, happened nearly 600,000 times:

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Term limits
12:04 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Rauner Files Term Limit Petition

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner presents his term limit petition in Springfield on Wednesday.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner is in Springfield today, filing his term limit initiative after months of collecting signatures. But the plan still has to survive an expected court challenge.

Weighing 1,000 lbs, the nearly-70,000 pages of term limit petitions had to be wheeled onto a semi trailer to be driven to the State Board of Elections.

A custom-made box — as tall and wide as a piece of paper but 36 feet long — contained more than twice the number of signatures needed to get the proposal on the November ballot.

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Education funding
11:44 am
Wed April 30, 2014

Education Overhaul Altered For Republican Support

Credit flickr/LizMarie_AK

  Members of the General Assembly this spring are grappling with whether to change the way schools are funded in Illinois. With just a month of session left, the plan's sponsor is altering his strategy, in hopes Republican opposition will fade into bipartisan support.

Senator Andy Manar wants schools to receive state money based on the needs of their students ... not the wealth of local property taxpayers. So, the Democrat from Bunker Hill has proposed an overhaul of Illinois' complicated school funding formula.

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Education reform
5:58 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Harvard Professor: Investments In Teaching, Early Childhood Translate To Student Success

Dr. Paul Reville, Harvard professor and former Mass. Secretary of Education.
Credit Courtesy of Harvard University's Graduate School of Education

  Education is among the top issues being debated this spring, as lawmakers consider changing the way schools are funded in Illinois. Republicans and Democrats alike agree that something must be done as the state moves into the future.

WUIS/Illinois Public Radio recently caught up with Dr. Paul Reville, an education expert from Harvard University. Reville was an architect of Massachusetts' school reform in the 1990's, and was in Springfield to share his knowledge on overhauling education.

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Mumps outbreak
12:21 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Officials Warn Of Mumps, Measles Outbreak

Dr. Lamar Hasbrouck, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health
Credit WUIS

  Illinois officials are urging parents to vaccinate their school-aged children under new regulations from the Department of Public Health.

This comes as public health officers are monitoring two recent outbreaks of mumps in central Illinois. There's been an eruption of cases in Sangamon and Morgan counties.

There are usually only 35 reported cases of mumps a year in Illinois. But this year, we're already at twice that number.

That has local health officials scrambling to contain the highly contagious disease.

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Graduated income tax
11:58 am
Thu April 24, 2014

Madigan: Vote Count Low For Graduated Tax

House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago)

  Time is running out on a push for a graduated income tax income tax in Illinois and it remains to be seen whether a key legislative leader supports the plan.

Backers of the graduated tax say it's more fair than Illinois' current flat tax, because people who earn more can afford to pay more.

But enacting that requires changing the state constitution. Voters would have the final say at the ballot in November, but they won't even be asked if lawmakers don't approve it first.

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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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