Statehouse

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Political power is always relative. But at no time is this more apparent than in the period between the release of hard population numbers and the final draft of a new legislative map.

The trends documented by this latest decennial head count have been known for some time: Illinoisans, who constitute an increasingly diverse citizenry, continue a long-running migration from country to town, from city to suburb, while the locus of the state's populace and the political dominion persists in a northerly march to a mere six of 102 counties.

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Indian tribes that want land in Illinois may have a problem: Members of the state's congressional delegation intend to kill any ownership rights they assert and send them packing to the federal Court of Claims.

In fact, under federal law. Congress has broad authority to abrogate treaties made with Indian tribes, so long as lawmakers show their "plain and unambiguous" intent to do so.

Briefly

Apr 1, 2001
Olin Harris / Department of Natural Resources

Legislative checklist

The 92nd General Assembly kicked off the spring session with an ambitious load: 1,523 bills in the Senate and 3,618 bills in the House. By the end of March, committees had screened the bills and reported them back to their respective chambers, where lawmakers were deciding which ones to send across the rotunda this month. Only a portion of the proposed legislation - roughly 25 percent, by some estimates - will make it to the governor's desk. The legislature is scheduled to wrap up by the end of May.

 

Sentencing

People

Apr 1, 2001

 

SHIFTS AT THE TOP

Michael P. Madigan of Springfield has been promoted to director of legislative affairs for Gov. George Ryan. He had been a member of the governor's legislative liaison staff. He replaces Chip Woodward.

Chip Woodward of Springfield is now deputy auditor general. Woodward served as Gov. Ryan's director of legislative affairs. He worked for Ryan when he was secretary of state and for Gov. Jim Thompson.

Madeleine Doubek
WUIS/Illinois Issues

When it comes to O'Hare International Airport, there's noise, and then there's noise. There's the kind that comes from jets taking off and landing. And then there's the political rhetoric that pollutes the media to the point that the public pays it little attention.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

It's springtime in Illinois, and one can see signs of the season blossoming across the state: daffodils, tulips, forsythia, school referenda.

School referenda?

Yep. Local school officials pleading with local taxpayers for desperately needed dollars has become as much an annual springtime ritual as green beer for St. Paddy's Day and high hopes for the Chicago Cubs.

Senator Peter Fitzgerald
Lauren Shay

This first Thursday in February is a busy one for Peter Fitzgerald, the junior senator from Illinois. He's in Washington and in a few hours the U.S. Senate will hold John Ashcroft's confirmation vote for attorney general. It's Fitzgerald's turn to preside every Thursday afternoon, so, by chance, he will be wielding the gavel during the actual roll call on President George W. Bush's most controversial nomination. Fitzgerald's bit role in history will be noted in a press release his office will dispatch by nightfall. 

Politicians and their aides are rolling up their sleeves and huddling around computers. Remap gets underway in earnest this month as the U.S. Census Bureau releases, state by state, necessary population data.

Better put on the coffee, though. This could take awhile. And it won't be easy.

Ed Wojcicki
WUIS/Illinois Issues

One test of leaders' greatness, says presidential historian Michael Beschloss, is how much they live on in the minds and hearts of future generations. 

"Every American has a relationship with Lincoln," Beschloss says, and every child knows that Lincoln came from the wilderness and emerged an extraordinary leader. 

Editor's Notebook: Meet our new Statehouse reporter

Mar 1, 2001
Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

We managed to convince Aaron Chambers to slow down just long enough for a photographer to snap his picture in front of the state Capitol. He had a request, though. "Please choose one where I'm smiling."

Aaron doesn't take himself seriously, and we like that about him. He does, however, take his work seriously, and approaches it with awe-inspiring energy - or as he puts it, "blazing enthusiasm." We like that, too, of course.

These are only two of the reasons we're glad he joined the staff as our Statehouse bureau chief. 

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Appearances are everything. Gov. George Ryan's moratorium on executions appears to have stopped in its tracks a flawed capital punishment system. He ordered a committee to review administration of the death penalty and said he won't sign off on more executions until he's been assured the system is fixed.

Briefly

Mar 1, 2001
Skidd and his trainer Deb, a resident of the Dwight Correctional Center
Illinois Department of Corrections

HELPING PAWS

Prison program saves dogs, trains cons and serves the disabled

  Skidd is a child of the system, bouncing from one institution to the next. But this resilient black and white dog doesn't mind a bit.

Volunteers from the Darien-based Clarence Foundation plucked him out of a shelter and put him in a prison, where inmates in a pilot program designed to teach job skills are training him. After graduation, Skidd is bound for a nursing home where he'll find work as a service dog.

People

Mar 1, 2001

 

SHIFTS AT THE TOP

Jackie Garner of Springfield is Gov. George Ryan's choice to be the new director of the Illinois Department of Public Aid. Garner has been a senior policy adviser to the governor.

Ann Patia resigned as director of the Illinois Department of Public Aid, which came under fire in 1999 when a new system for distributing child-support checks ran into numerous snafus (see Illinois Issues, April 2000, page 14).

With presidential politics behind them, Illinois' top two politicians, Mayor Richard M. Daley and Gov. George Ryan, are back to doing what they do best. Making deals. With each other.

National elections force guys like Daley and Ryan to be more partisan than they really want to be. Daley, a Bill Clinton stalwart who benefited greatly from the Bubba years, didn't waste time criticizing the outgoing president for his endless farewell tour. Now he can't cozy up to George W. Bush fast enough.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. George Ryan's approval ratings may have nosedived with the public, but he's still a popular fellow with state lawmakers.

A joint session of the General Assembly welcomed him warmly a few weeks ago when he presented his third State of the State message, and no doubt he'll get a similarly cordial reception over the next few weeks as he pushes his proposed budget for fiscal year 2002.

Illustration by Mike Cramer using photographs fo the newly elected justices taken by Terry Farmer, Todd Mizener and Paul McGrath
Mike Cramer

It's bound to be interesting. With four new justices and a high-profile docket, that's about as definitive a prediction as can be made about a politically reconfigured Illinois Supreme Court.

Active juvenile caseloads, Illinois 1990-1998
"The Status of Juvenile Detention in Illinois, Annual Report 1998"

There's not much Kevin Lyons can say about spending on juvenile cases that pass through his office. Except this: "Somebody's got to stop the bleeding."

Mike Cramer

Few politicians have standards for corruption named after them.

Former Chicago Treasurer Miriam Santos not only bears the dubious distinction, she conjured the catch phrase herself: "The Santos standard."

There she was, moments after pleading guilty in federal court, in front of reporters, pontificating.

The woman snared by her own recorded words - barking at a potential contributor to "belly up"- still had plenty to say. She warned other politicians to study her case. They would have trouble living with "the Santos standard," she suggested.

Mike Cramer

Richard Hess could have faced the death penalty for the 1995 rape and murder of a Naperville woman.

His attack on Nicole Kornelie was brutal enough, the evidence clear enough, that pushing for capital punishment would have been an easy choice for the prosecution.

Mike Cramer

John Hills paid little attention to the taunts as he coached first base for the Lemont Little League all-stars. But the words suddenly got physical when three coaches for the opposing team jumped Hills and beat him brutally. That was 10 summers ago. "It shattered me," Hills says of the incident that led to the loss of his plumbing business.

The Auburn Rotary Club disbanded last summer. The few remaining members were getting older and having trouble recruiting younger people. The club folded, a Springfield newspaper reported, "due to lack of interest." The collapse of Auburn's Rotary would not surprise Harvard scholar Robert D. Putnam. He would see it as part of a larger, alarming trend. His extensive research shows that membership in traditional organizations is on the decline everywhere and that Americans are less engaged in their communities, attending church less frequently and voting less often.

Ed Wojcicki
WUIS/Illinois Issues

It's because of legislative sessions like the one just starting that our founders and the university knew how much our state needs Illinois Issues.

The focus on legislative redistricting will drip with partisanship, and some people might consider that dreadful. I don't. What's so wrong about partisanship affecting what we philosophically revere as a political process? On the other hand, legislators will consider important issues besides new maps this spring. And our staff will be on top of all of them.

The end-of-session newsletters dropped in mailboxes will brag about new money for local schools. Press conferences at the Statehouse will feature rhetoric about election reform. Guest columns sent to hometown weeklies will decry high energy prices, at least while the weather remains cold.

None of that matters to politicians as much as redistricting.

Briefly

Feb 1, 2001

Honoring Lincoln

A library grows in Springfield

 

Construction of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum will begin with groundbreaking ceremonies in downtown Springfield on Lincoln's Birthday, February 12. When the project is complete in 2003, visitors will be treated to all things Lincoln, including a virtual experience of the 16th president's story through a $2 million 3-D projection system underwritten by Ameritech.

 

WEBSOURCE

People

Feb 1, 2001
Editor, author and Illinois native William Maxwell
Dorothy Alexander

SHIFTS AT THE TOP

Ray Serati of Springfield is the new deputy press secretary for Gov. George Ryan. After retiring from 33 years of service covering the Capitol for Copley News Service, Serati was media spokesman for Springfield's City Water, Light and Power. He replaces Nick Palazzolo of Springfield who left the governor's office for a position at IBM. 

Patrick E. Gauen
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Mark Von Nida knew what he wanted to do, but building a consensus was something else. Who, after all, gives a hoot about boring election machinery?

Until 30 years ago, the voters of Madison County did fine with pens, scratching an "X" beside each of their favorite candidates' names. Voting machines nearly the size of refrigerators sped up the counting in 1970. But after just eight years, officials got tired of the hauling costs and hernia risks and switched to punch cards. Those were easily portable and reasonably fast to count.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Is it, as Yogi Berra might put it, deja vu all over again for state finances in Illinois? Look at what's been happening lately. 

- State revenues, especially sales tax receipts, have been less than what lawmakers expected when they put the current budget together last April.

- Medicaid spending has been higher than anticipated, causing state officials to cut costs by reducing reimbursement rates to some providers.

Wm. S. Collins

Picture Republican Senate President James "Pate" Philip and Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan setting aside their partisan rivalry in the Statehouse just long enough to settle what promises to be the spring session's most divisive issue: drawing new legislative districts.

As a matter of fact, they did chat recently about the upcoming remap. They even agreed on how awful the process is. But that's where the goodwill seemed to end - along with any chances for a peaceful spring.

Mike Cramer

Republicans screamed bloody murder last election night when the TV networks prematurely called Florida for Al Gore - still more proof, supporters of George W. Bush fumed, of liberal bias in the news media.

Robert W. McChesney would not buy that premise. Probably he would argue that even if it were true - if all newsrooms were populated by liberal zealots - it would hardly matter.

Miriam Santos
Mike Cramer

When former City Treasurer Miriam Santos plea-bargained her way to a single mail fraud count last November and was sentenced to the three months and 17 days she had already served in a downstate Illinois prison camp, it was noted somewhere in most news reports that she was the first Hispanic ever elected to a city-wide office in Chicago. What they didn't say was that she's likely to be the last, at least for the time being.

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