Pat Quinn

Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr

The Illinois House has voted to raise Illinois' top speed limit to 70 miles-per-hour. Currently, cars and trucks are limited to 65 miles-an-hour on most Illinois highways.

Opponents warned that raising the speed limit would result in more accidents. But the bill's sponsor, Democratic Representative Jerry Costello, from Smithton, says more accidents happen because of vehicles traveling at different speeds — not because of higher speeds.

Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, standing at right, debates medical marijuana in the Illinois Senate.
Chris Slaby/WUIS

The Illinois Senate approved legislation Friday that would legalize the medical use of marijuana.

In the end, the vote was not that close — 35 senators voted yes, 21 no.

Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, sponsored the measure. He frequently reminds his colleagues he was once a prosecutor, and says the idea is to help people in pain find relief.

The Illinois House of Representatives on Thursday approved a massive overhaul of state pensions. It's the first time the House has passed such a plan after more than a year of negotiating and many failed attempts.

Its also the first time Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, put his full support behind a specific proposal.

Police officers from across Illinois gathered in Springfield Thursday to honor colleagues killed in the line of duty — including one killed in 2012.

On the Monday after Thanksgiving, Illinois State Police Trooper Kyle Deatherage was patrolling on his motorcycle on Interstate 55, about 30 miles south of Springfield. He pulled over another vehicle when the driver of a semi-truck is alleged to have hit and killed Deatherage. The driver has been charged with reckless homicide.

Illinois lawmakers are "weighing in" on Olympic organizers' decision to drop wrestling from the summer games. 

The Illinois House passed a resolution encouraging the International Olympic Committee to reinstate wrestling as an Olympic sport.   The state Senate is poised to do the same.

Former U-S House Speaker Denny Hastert made a special appearance in Springfield for it.  Hastert was a wrestling coach in Yorkville before he went on to Congress.  He says it's important to give young people the opportunity to reach for an Olympic dream. 

Sen. Terry Link (D-Waukegan)
Illinois Senate

The Illinois Senate has once again approved an expansion of gambling. But it remains to be seen whether Governor Pat Quinn will go along with the plan.

The Illinois House is poised to vote Thursday on an overhaul of the state's pension systems. It would reduce state workers', teachers', and university employees' future retirement benefits. The plan easily advanced out of a House committee Wednesday morning. 

There's a feeling in the capitol that after countless attempts to reduce the state's pension debt, this may be it. Insiders say it's significant that the plan's sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan — who rarely takes action without having support locked up. 

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

For someone with a penchant for stream-of-consciousness speechmaking, Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget address last month was notable for its laser-like focus on the need to address the state’s mounting pension debt, now approaching $100 billion.

The oft-repeated theme: Ever-mounting pension obligations are crowding out funding for education and other core services.

Mark Heyrman, a University of Chicago law professor, says the state is not using all the money from the facility closures on community care, as required by law, and he is heading up a lawsuit against Illinois.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Recent high-profile tragedies, including a school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut that took the lives of 20 children and six adults, have prompted states to reassess their mental health care systems. After almost $2 billion in cuts nationwide, many of them, including Illinois, are finding their support systems for the mentally ill in tatters. 

Advocates and providers say cuts to mental health funding in the state have left the system decimated, but they say the implementation of federal health care reform offers hope for those who are unable to access services now. 

End and Means: Gov. Quinn's Speech Didn't Avoid Pension Subject

Mar 1, 2013
Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Listening to lawmakers’ reaction and reading the pundits’ commentary after Gov. Pat Quinn delivered his State of the State speech a few weeks ago was even more entertaining than the governor’s 38-minute performance.

A random sampling, with sources not identified to spare any potential embarrassment:

Quinn “made a campaign speech,” complained various lawmakers, most but not all of them Republicans.

Dana Heupel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Pat Quinn and the Illinois General Assembly continue to search for a way to reduce the state’s nearly $97 billion public pension liability by changing the benefits of current state employees, teachers, university workers, legislators and, perhaps, judges.

End and Means: General Assembly Ends its Term Quietly

Feb 1, 2013
Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

This is the way the 97th General Assembly ended — not with a bang but a whimper. (With apologies to T.S. Eliot.)

When the outgoing legislature quit for good on January 8, its list of unfinished business was considerable, topped by its inability to agree on anything to help restore fiscal stability to the state’s retirement systems.

Jamey Dunn 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

In late November, Gov. Pat Quinn was dubbed with the infamous title of the least popular governor in America.

Charlie Wheeler headshot
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Could it have been the scorching, record-setting heat besetting Illinois in July? Or maybe fevered anticipation of the chance to renew his downstate bona fides by cutting the ribbon to open the Illinois State Fair?

Perhaps it was, plain and simple, a paranormal phenomenon. Whatever the explanation, Gov. Pat Quinn sure looked like he was channeling his disgraced predecessor on a number of high-profile, mid-summer occasions.

Here’s a sampler of Quinn actions that smack of Rod Blagojevich:

Jamey Dunn headshot 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Pat Quinn said in his February address to the General Assembly that the budgeting process this year would be a rendezvous with reality. In the coming weeks, Illinoisans will see if lawmakers plan to keep that date or take a rain check.

One of the largest goals Quinn set for legislators is the task of curbing growth in the state’s Medicaid budget by $2.7 billion for next fiscal year. Restrictions set by the Affordable Care Act and concerns over unintended consequences make the number an ambitious target, and one that no other state has met in a single year. 

Dana Heupel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

It is often amazing — and sometimes amusing — how the public perception of an issue can be driven by exaggerations, simplifications or outright lies.

For instance, let’s take what Gov. Pat Quinn has said are the two primary issues facing the spring session of the Illinois General Assembly: Medicaid and state employee pensions.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As Gov. Pat Quinn readies the FY 2013 state budget he is to unveil in a few weeks, the conventional wisdom seems to be that Illinois is in really bad shape, a financial basket case about ready to go belly up.

The lamentations are led by the usual suspects, Republicans trying to gain partisan advantage for this year's elections and hyperventilating editorial writers who need to stop, take a deep breath and get a grip on reality.

Governor Pat Quinn
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Known throughout his career as a populist outsider, Pat Quinn, the political bomb thrower turned governor, has worked with the legislature since his ascension in 2009 to keep the state’s fiscal house from going up in flames. With one year under his belt as elected governor, Quinn is still struggling to craft a coherent message and artfully wield the power of the office. 

Jamey Dunn headshot 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Instead of using what arguably was the biggest scandal during his time in office as a chance to reform a broken system, Gov. Pat Quinn stuck his head in the sand as Illinois’ prison population reached an all-time high. 

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Since the outgoing General Assembly increased personal and corporate income tax rates in January, lawmakers have been at great pains to show how business-friendly they really are.

In the spring session, for example, the legislature approved a compromise workers’ compensation measure that sponsors said would save business up to $700 million, mostly by reducing payments to doctors and hospitals that treat injured workers.

WUIS/Illinois Issues

When lawmakers return to the Statehouse later this month for their fall veto session, they will have to decide — among other things — if they want to try to find ways to appease Gov. Pat Quinn, agree with his objections to several major pieces of legislation or override his vetoes and move ahead with plans that would change the landscape of two major industries in Illinois. Lawmakers also have to decide if they are willing to make budget changes Quinn says are needed to avoid the closure of seven state facilities and more than 1,900 layoffs. 

Proposed Illiana expressway routes
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois and Indiana lawmakers resurrected a century-old plan this year for a highway to connect Chicago’s south suburbs with the Hoosier State. Now Gov. Pat Quinn and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels say they are trying to put together a deal to finally build the Illiana Expressway, promising it would create thousands of new jobs and relief for other congested highways.

Jamey Dunn
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Facing an unprecedented deficit, Illinois politicians pulling together a state budget with little public or legislative support for an income tax increase had to get creative when looking for new revenue sources. 

One tax proposal could have helped Illinois make a dent in a waste problem that is getting attention across the country and overseas. 

Gov. Pat Quinn
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Pat Quinn and state Sen. Bill Brady stand in stark contrast. Quinn is backing a 1 percentage point increase in the state income tax, while Brady is calling for $1 billion in tax cuts. Quinn happily describes himself as “progressive” while Brady’s voting record paints a legislator who is about as conservative on social issues as one can get. 

Jamey Dunn
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Just a few months ago, it looked as if the scandal surrounding the “Meritorious Good Time Push” prisoner-release program could cost Gov. Pat Quinn a win in the primary election. Under the program, exposed by the Associated Press in December, the Illinois Department of Corrections was awarding prisoners months of early release time for good behavior in the first few days of their sentences, thus returning some violent offenders to the streets after they spent just a few weeks behind bars.

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Pat Quinn is a breath of fresh air after the impeachment and removal of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. While Quinn has revived at least some of the cooperative spirit in the Capitol, GOP Sen. Dave Luechtefeld of Okawville said last month that the expectation was for Quinn to purge agencies of “bad appointments” after a decade of alleged corruption under Blagojevich and former Gov. George Ryan, a convicted felon.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Pat Quinn is no Rod Blagojevich. Most obviously, he’s not just days away from being indicted by federal prosecutors on political corruption charges.

More importantly for the state’s fiscal well-being, Quinn has the courage to remind Illinoisans of a basic truth his disgraced predecessor preferred to ignore: If you want government services, you have to be willing to pay for them.

His critics and supporters alike say Quinn is clean when it comes to funding his campaigns and prioritizing ethics. But some worry more about whether he, as Illinois governor, would work with the legislature and how he would navigate the ship of state
Bethany Jaeger / WUIS/Illinois Issues

The new governor of Illinois once was booed on the House floor. When this magazine last profiled Quinn in 1980, Statehouse insiders described him as a gadfly who persistently challenged the government establishment and grabbed headlines by holding Sunday news conferences (see Illinois Issues, February, 1980, page 4).

Gov. Pat Quinn takes issue with the gadfly stereotype. He cites a number of reforms that he spurred by organizing grassroots movements, all in the name of democracy in the Land of Lincoln.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Pat Quinn, governor of Illinois.

Thirty years ago, the notion that the gadfly populist someday would be the state’s chief executive was laughable.

Traipsing around the state back then on a quixotic mission to change Illinois politics, Quinn was viewed widely as a burr under the saddle of the powers-that-be, but certainly not a serious prospect for high office.

Even after his 1990 election as state treasurer, political insiders still saw Quinn as the quintessential outsider, disliked by many for his role in cutting the size of the Illinois House by one-third.

Question & Answer: Constitutional Convention

Oct 1, 2008
Illinois Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn
WUIS/Illinois Issues

In Illinois, the very first question on the ballot November 4 — even before the question of who shall be president — will ask voters whether Illinois should open up the state Constitution for a potential rewrite.

It’s a choice voters might not get for another 20 years.

The last time they saw that question on the ballot was in 1988, when they rejected the idea by a 3-to-1 margin, with 900,109 voting in favor of a convention and 2,727,144 voting against it. But 1 million other voters skipped the question entirely.