Barbara Flynn Currie

Aaron Schock
Aaron Schock / Instagram

Former Peoria Republican Congressman Aaron Schock's fall from political grace set in motion an unexpected special election, and that has unexpected consequences for county clerks.

On July 7, primary voters in the 18th Congressional district will get their first crack at choosing who'll represent them in D.C., following Aaron Schock's resignation.

ALPLM
ALPLM

The Illinois House has approved a proposal to revamp the management of the state-run Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois lawmakers are debating whether the wealthy should take on a bigger tax burden.

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan first surged the idea before last year's election, when .01-percenter Bruce Rauner was just a candidate.

Now, with Rauner as governor and calling for widespread cuts, Madigan has brought it back. He proposes adding a three-percent surcharge on all income over a million dollars, with the revenue going to schools.

The Illinois House chamber uses a ventilation system that circulates air from columns in the chamber to the attic, where the air is filtered and dispersed over the lawmakers’ desks.
Bethany Jaeger / WUIS/Illinois Issues

With just a dozen days until the General Assembly is set to adjourn, there is a crescendo of partisan accusations. Republican and Democratic legislators both continue to publicly say they hope to reach a bipartisan budget solution, even as both sides accuse the other of bargaining in bad faith.

There's a hold-up over efforts to programs dealing with autism, drug prevention, and more from ending. It seems like advocates should be celebrating.

After Gov. Bruce Rauner says he was forced to earlier this month suddenly pull $26 million worth of state grants, the Illinois Senate used the legislative version of searching under the couch cushions for change.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

  Officials with The Autism Program said they felt shock April 3, when they were told their state funding was canceled — effective immediately. The Good Friday notice also came to the chagrin of some legislators who said they thought autism programs would be spared from budget cuts.

“I regularly come into contact with 18 senators and representatives across the state,” said TAP lobbyist Jim Runyon. “They had been assured that the autism program was going to be held harmless through the remainder of (fiscal) ’15.”

Brian Mackey / WUIS

The Illinois House on Tuesday voted to patch a 1.6-billion-dollar hole in the current state budget.

  The budget was supposed to get Illinois through June, but already the state's running out of money for things like court reporters and prison guards. That’s in part because Democrats passed an incomplete budget last year — not wanting to raise taxes or cut spending.

Now Democrats and Republicans — including Gov. Bruce Rauner — say they’ve found a solution. But it continues to mostly avoid that difficult choice.

flickr/meeshpants

Xavier McElrath-Bey was arrested when he was 13 years old. The Chicagoan went to prison for first degree murder for a gang-related crime. He left prison on good behavior at the age of 27 with a college degree in hand.

State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie wants to make sentencing for minors more lenient. House Bill 2471 would prohibit judges from sentencing minors to life without parole. House Bill 2470 would allow minors to have their sentence reviewed after serving 15 years.

Courtesy of ILGA.gov

Even though lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have said they're going to work together this year, a simple vote on the rules the House has to follow when it conducts business was divided along party lines.

Republicans objected to the rules, saying they lack transparency and give too much power to lame-duck legislators. Representative Ed Sullivan, a Republican from Mundelein, wants to extend the time period that information is posted online before legislators can debate a bill. The rules require only a one-hour notice before a hearing.

Amanda Vinicky

  Legislators are back at the capitol, where they have begun debating the prospect of a special election for comptroller in 2016. The Illinois Senate passed the measure this afternoon, Thurs. Jan 8, on a partisan vote, and now it's on to the House.

It became an issue after Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka suddenly died, ahead of beginning a new four-year term.

House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie say voters should have the opportunity to choose someone, rather than letting an appointee hold the post for such a long time.

Amanda Vinicky

Advocates for government transparency still have a fight ahead over the state's Freedom of Information Act. That's despite a temporary reprieve yesterday.

Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, of Chicago, caught transparency advocates off guard last week, with just a handful of days remaining in the legislative session. She introduced a plan that would make it harder for members of the public to obtain government information. It would also make it harder for citizens to recover legal fees when governments illegally withhold documents.

flickr/Sean MacEntee

Illinois residents could have a harder time accessing government information under new legislation before the General Assembly. 

The plan, SB2799, makes it harder for people to get repaid legal costs when a government wrongfully denies access to public documents. 

At the same time, it makes it easier for governments to keep certain information off-limits.

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.

Courtesy of ILGA.gov

  Efforts to raise the minimum wage have been getting a lot of attention, but it's not the only proposal intended to improve the lives of the working poor. Following the call of Gov. Pat Quinn, some lawmakers want to double Illinois' tax credit for low income workers.

The earned income tax credit began as a federal program, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.

Illinois added its own state tax credit later. It's aimed at helping people work their way out of poverty by increasing their spending power.

In the waning days of its legislative session, Illinois took a major step toward implementing President Barack Obama's signature health care program.   That Democrats, who hold solid majorities in the General Assembly, waited until this late in the session is telling.