Ken Dunkin

ICPR website

The state of Illinois may be running a deficit, but many of its leaders' campaign accounts are flush.

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform tracks their spending, and has ideas on how to improve the system.

For this episode of The Players, your look into who's who in Illinois government and politics and waht they're up to, Statehouse Bureau Chief Amanda Vinicky talked about campaign finance and spending on the 2016 primary with ICPR's Director, Sarah Brune.

Amanda Vinicky

Some of the primary races in early March were the most expensive in state history, but it will remain a mystery where all of the money to fund them came from. That does not appear to concern Gov.Bruce Rauner.

Macon County

Illinois' primary contest is rapidly approaching, which is why NPR Illinois is bringing you this Illinois Edition pre-primary special (which aired Wed., March 9). 

This election cycle is wild, and not just at the top of the ticket --- though Illinois has already seen presidential candidates including Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and Republicans Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Donald Trump stop by.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has already, presumably, cast his vote for one of the remaining Republicans --- he early voted in Arlington Heights a weekend in early March.

Barack Obama
Pool photo by Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune

A candidate for the Illinois House has gotten help from an unlikely, high-level political figure.

With the race for the White House and control of the U.S. Senate on the line (not to mention leading the free world) President Barack Obama surely has plenty on his mind this election cycle. Evidently, that includes a contentious, and expensive, primary race for the Illinois House.

He's voiced an ad, asking voters to support Juliana Stratton.

flickr/ Zoe Hoornaert

A couple of legislative primary races are serving as stand-ins for the political struggle between the governor and Democratic leaders. 

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Days after vetoing a measure to help low-income college students, Gov. Bruce Rauner signaled he's open to another way of making it happen.

Rauner's reason for rejecting the Democrats' funding plan was that it would have sent Illinois deeper into debt.

But Rauner -- a Republican -- has said he'd be OK with an alternate GOP approach -- because it's paired with money to back it up. The governor's doubling down on that notion.

T-shirts are sold on the first day of the September 2012 teachers’ strike.
Chicago Teachers Union

Despite unions winning a small victory Tuesday in the Illinois House, state workers' future salaries, benefits and even a potential strike remain in limbo.

Barack Obama outside the Old State Capitol
Pool photo by Justin L. Fowler / The State Journal-Register

On a freezing February day in 2007, President Barack Obama announced his bid for the nation's highest office in front of the Old State Capitol in downtown Springfield -- the place where Abraham Lincoln gave his historic "House Divided" speech. At the time, Obama called for hope and change.

Nine years later -- to the very day -- Obama came back to Springfield. In his last year as president, he says he believes in the "politics of hope."

The themes of Obama's speech yesterday echoed what he'd said nine years ago, back when his hair hadn't yet gone gray.

Amanda Vinicky

Roughly one year ago, Gov. Bruce Rauner stood before lawmakers and unveiled his so-called "turnaround agenda." He didn't use that phrase this time around. But Wednesday, the governor used his state-of-the-state address to continue fighting for his stalled vision. Rauner has spent months berating Democrats for failing to get on board. Not this time. He gave a more conciliatory message, and talked about "mutual respect." That wasn't enough for some of his critics, who don't trust the governor, or his change in tone.


Democrats in the Illinois legislature fell one vote short of being able to undo governor Bruce Rauner's cuts to state daycare subsidies, with democratic state representative Ken Dunkin of Chicago facing criticism for allying himself with the republican governor.

Amanda Vinicky

Illinois state Rep. Ken Dunkin, a Democrat from Chicago, made headlines in September when he skipped votes on two controversial measures Democrats wanted to pass.

This week, House Speaker Michael Madigan chastised two of his Democratic members after a failed attempt to override Governor Bruce Rauner's veto of a union bill.  Mike Riopell of the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald joins the panel this week.

Despite House Speaker Michael Madigan's confidence that Democrats had enough votes to override Governor Bruce Rauner's veto of union contract arbitration legislation, he was one vote short.  The Governor and legislative leaders apparently haven't met in weeks and Illinois is no closer to any kind of agreement on a budget.  Meanwhile, in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is talking about raising property taxes.  Crain's Chicago Business' Greg Hinz joins the panel.

WUIS

By the end of this month, Illinois legislators are slated to be done with their work. That means passing a new budget. Amanda Vinicky checks in with how that's progressing -- including in the eyes of the state's new governor. 

BrettLevinPhotography / Flickr

Low level marijuana users may soon catch a break in Illinois. Rather than going to jail, it'd be more like getting a speeding ticket.

The repercussions for having pot vary; Rep. Kelly Cassidy says there's a patchwork of more than 100 different local ordinances all over the state.

"And the outcome from this patchwork system puts in place an unjust and confusing system wherein where you live and what you look like dictates whether or not you'll be arrested for extremely low-level marijuana possession," she says.

BrettLevinPhotography / Flickr

Critics of Rep. Kelly Cassidy’s proposal to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a ticketable offense consider the bill a first step toward the state making possession of the drug legal.

House Bill 218, introduced by the Chicago Democrat, calls for possession of 30 grams of cannabis to be reduced to a civil — instead of criminal — offense, punishable by issuance of a ticket and a fine of up to $125.

  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.

  The president of Southern Illinois University came out against raising the state's minimum wage on Thursday. President Glenn Poshard says it'd be too big a hit on the school's bottom line.

While the battle for a higher minimum wage brews in Springfield, Poshard warns of casualties in Carbondale and Edwardsville. Programs at those two campuses, he says, would be hurt in the long run.

"Maintaining the current level of student employment would likely require spending decreases in other areas," he said.

Rahm Emanuel
cityofchicago.org

The city of Chicago had a setback in Springfield Thursday.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been pushing to increase prison sentences for people convicted of gun crimes. But on the last day of the Illinois legislature's fall veto session, a group of African-American legislators used a parliamentary maneuver to block him.

Such tactics are not uncommon in politics — but this was a rare example of Illinois Democrats pulling a fast one on members of their own party.

The problem of violence that plagues parts of Chicago is national news.