Elaine Nekritz

coin flip
Ray Nelson / flickr.com/ray811

In episode 5 of the State of the State podcast, we look at moral luck. In the context of the law, moral luck is the notion that chance outcomes can play a significant role in how one is treated — think of the different punishments for attempted murder versus actual murder.

Amanda Vinicky

The Illinois House held its first hearing on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposal to address the state’s unfunded pension liability. 

Under the governor's plan, employees would keep all the retirement benefits they have logged so far, but would see a cut to their benefits going forward. Democrats on the House's pension committee said last week’s Illinois Supreme Court opinion, overturning pension changes passed two years ago, rules out that idea.

construction zone
dmitri_66 / flickr.com/dmitri66

News Analysis — Imagine two nurses, Jane and Dan, finishing long, overnight shifts at a hospital. Like many medical professionals, their shifts vary from week to week, so they’re not quite used to the nocturnal work pattern. And their jobs are demanding, with lots of walking and near-constant activity. Needless to say, both Jane and Dan are tired. On the way home, their cars approach highway construction sites. By this point, both drivers are drowsy, and have begun to nod off. Neither notices the two flashing arrow signs directing them into the left lane.

Rep. Elaine Nekritz and Sen. Daniel Biss
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s ideas about how to change government-employee pensions are getting extra scrutiny in Springfield.

Rauner wants employees to be moved into less generous plans for future pension benefits.

So far, it’s just something he’s just talked about. Democrats who’ve long focused on pension issues say that needs to change.

Sen. Daniel Biss, of Evanston, is calling for an actuarial analysis. He also says the idea that legislation would be passed and make it through the inevitable court challenge anytime soon is a “fantasy."

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Bruce Rauner is calling for big cuts in state spending. But some of his projected savings could be a long way off.

A huge chunk of Rauner’s budget savings comes from freezing state pensions and moving workers into more modest plans.

“We cannot continue to raise taxes on all Illinoisans in order to fund the retirement benefits of a small fraction of our residents," Rauner said.

What’s unusual about Rauner’s approach is that he’s booking the $2.2 billion in savings right away, even though it likely would be challenged in court.

Amanda Vinicky

For the past couple of weeks, Illinois' new governor, Bruce Rauner, traveled the state, giving speeches that mostly told audiences what's wrong with Illinois. Tuesday, he used his state of the state address to begin to describe what he wants to do about it.

Rauner didn't just deliver a big speech yesterday. He produced a full manifesto, complete with calls for an upheaval of Illinois' labor laws, changes to the constitution, a property tax freeze, and the hiring of more prison guards. The speech started off on a conciliatory note. Or maybe it was an invitation.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner laid out an ambitious, pro-business agenda Wednesday during his first State of the State address. The Republican was speaking to a legislature that’s still dominated by Democrats, and reaction was mixed.

Rauner's agenda reads like a businessman's dream: restricting lawsuits and workers' compensation, and reducing the power of labor unions. But he also called for changes to the criminal justice system, acknowledging conditions in state prisons are "unacceptable."

Ferguson demonstrators
Chris McDaniel/St. Louis Public Radio

The idea of requiring police to wear body cameras has been a hot topic after the protests in Ferguson, Missouri. On Friday, a group of Illinois lawmakers will take up the issue.

Advocates of body cameras say they can clear up the muddle of facts that often accompany police shootings, like the one in Ferguson. They also say police will be on better behavior if they know they're being watched.

ILGA.gov

Illinois' pension overhaul might be on hold, but credit ratings agencies say they're not concerned. A Sangamon County judge Wednesday ruled that reductions to public employees' retirement benefits will not go into effect next month, as planned.                                                  

Brian Mackey/WUIS

After a weekend break, Senators will return to Springfield this afternoon, as the calendar draws closer to the scheduled May 31 adjournment.

While the end of the month is a key date, it's another one, about a half a year away, that will largely guide much of what happens these next few weeks: the November election.

flickr/theeggplant

  Illinois law says after four DUI convictions, that person can never drive again, not even if his or her offenses are long in the past. But one lawmaker wants to give people who've gotten their lives together another chance drive.

Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) says her bill was inspired by a constituent who had several DUIs in the past, but has been sober for years.

Gov. Pat Quinn
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Governor Pat Quinn went months without meeting with members of the special legislative committee formed to draft a new pension plan, but this month he has begun to reach out.

It was Quinn's idea to form a conference committee, to bridge differences between the House and Senate over how to reduce Illinois' $100 billion pension debt.

But the ten members of that panel say other than phone calls welcoming them to the committee, he was absent from their talks from June on, leading to criticisms like this, from Rep. Jil Tracy, a Republican from Quincy.

Amanda Vinicky

As he runs for re-election, Gov. Pat Quinn is staking a lot on getting something done with pensions. He making a show of asking the state Supreme Court let him cancel legislators' salaries until it's done, and he says he won't deal with other major issues before the General Assembly -- like using tax credits to keep ADM headquartered in Illinois -- until there's what he calls a "comprehensive pension solution." But it's hard to tell just what that means. Most of the ten legislators he tasked with crafting that solution don't even seem to know. They say he's been largely absent ...

Reps. Darlene Senger (left) and Elaine Nekritz discuss pensions in a Statehouse conference room.
Brian Mackey/WUIS

It is approaching four months since the Illinois General Assembly adjourned its spring session. Lawmakers have missed two paychecks since the governor decided to punish them for not passing a pension overhaul. And a special committee has been negotiating over how to solve the pension problem for more than 12 weeks. Amanda Vinicky checks in with members of that committee for a progress report.
 

ILGA.gov

A panel of ten Illinois lawmakers has been working this summer to find a solution to Illinois' pension problem.  With an unfunded liability of about 100-billion dollars, payments to the public pension systems are taking up a larger chunk of overall state government spending. 

WUIS'  Sean Crawford spoke with Representative Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat and one of the leaders in the push to change how retirement systems are funded. 

Recent meetings of the committee have occurred in private, making it difficult to determine progress.  But Nekritz says she's hopeful:

Sen. Kwame Raoul
Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Gov. Pat Quinn's office says his July 9 deadline for a pension overhaul stands, even though the leader of a special legislative panel formed to come up with a solution says there's no way to meet it.

It was a similar story about this time last year. 

Reps. Darlene Senger (left) and Elaine Nekritz discuss pensions in a Statehouse conference room.
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Members of the Illinois House continued pushing for their version of a pension overhaul Tuesday. The latest twist could affect how public school teachers' pensions are funded. Brian Mackey has more.

One of the more contentious issues in the debate over government pensions in Springfield has been who should pay for teachers' retirement benefits.

Amanda Vinicky

A state pension overhaul backed by government employee unions may save only half of what advocates had promised.  That underscores an ongoing battle between the House and Senate over pensions, with only ten days left in the legislative session.  

 

There's general agreement on this much: that Illinois' public pension systems have $100 billion dollars in unfunded liabilities.  That's a fancy word that basically means "debt."

It's a big number that's getting Illinois in trouble with bond houses and eating into the state's budget.