Statehouse

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

For many years, Elvis Presley was a Las Vegas mainstay, drawing admiring legions to casino showrooms. His No. 1 fan in Illinois — Gov. Rod Blagojevich — may be no match for The King vocally, but the governor’s proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 would do credit to another Strip headliner, magician David Copperfield.

“Illusion,” Copperfield says, “is the art of creating the impossible, making fantasy a reality.”

Health and retirement benefits once provided a lifetime link between employers and employees. But as responsibility for these assumed entitlements has shifted from boss to worker, that connection has changed, too. 

Illinois owes thousands of jobs to a decades-old federal tax break aimed at encouraging companies to export products. Those jobs will be in jeopardy this spring, though, if Congress repeals the break, as the European Union is pressuring it to do, without cushioning the financial blow. 

Two of Illinois’ largest exporters, Boeing Corp. and Caterpillar, would be particularly hard hit and have been lobbying Capitol Hill in the hope of influencing the final legislation.

Question & Answer: Richard Schuldt - A Primer on Polling

Feb 1, 2004

He has been director of the Survey Research Office in the Center for State Policy and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Springfield for almost 20 years. 

Was Abraham Lincoln, the “Great Emancipator,” a racist?

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The nation’s founders surely would be amazed.

That we have the ability in the 21st century to measure public opinion with some precision might intrigue those scientifically enlightened leaders of the 18th century. But our near-obsession with tracking and analyzing it might simply bewilder them. That we give it such weight might even alarm them. After all, the men who crafted our representative form of government were, for the most part, instinctively disposed to counterbalance, if not contain, popular passions.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Amazing. Unbelievable. Incredible. Take your pick — all aptly describe Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s second State of the State address, a performance unlike that of any other governor in recent memory.

Not just its 90-minute length, nor its single-minded focus on a single subject, but even more astounding was the sheer ferocity of his attack on the State Board of Education, a jeremiad against a constitutional entity by a chief executive unprecedented in its viciousness.

When Gov. Rod Blagojevich summoned reporters to his Statehouse office during the November veto session, he ridiculed lawmakers as a bunch of “drunken sailors” for threatening to restore more than $148 million of the spending cuts he had made over the summer.

A crowd of contenders for the U.S. Senate is rising from the smoking ruins of the Illinois Republican Party. And almost all are running to the right as they aim for the seat being vacated by Peter Fitzgerald, the anti-establishment Inverness Republican who is leaving Washington, D.C., after one term.

To grasp the lay of the land in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, it’s helpful to see how political support is lining up in Chicago’s gay and lesbian community.

Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes is supported by gay officeholders with establishment ties, such as state Rep. Larry McKeon and 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney. 

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Paul Simon was no blow-dried made-for-TV politician, no consultant-driven candidate, no finger-in-the-wind public servant.

He was the real deal. Not because he stood for this or that issue in particular, but because, over a lifetime, he was willing to stand for something. And he was willing to stand alone. 

Obituary: Paul Simon

Jan 1, 2004
Paul Simon
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon of Makanda died December 9 in Springfield following heart surgery. Simon, known for integrity and high ethical standards, was 75. A Democratic presidential candidate in 1988, Simon was director of the Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale at the time of his death. The former newspaperman was a founder ofIllinois Issues. He also was the first director of the Public Affairs Reporting Program at what is now the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As the new year dawns across Illinois, the state and its civic life are much the poorer for the untimely deaths late last year of two of the finest public servants ever to grace our prairies.

Within a month of each other in the waning days of 2003, veteran journalist and educator Bill Miller and former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon passed away.

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

We open this eighth annual arts issue with a question. Several, really. None easily answered. 

The essential one is this: Are we ceding our right to decide what we will read in the privacy of our homes, what we will hear on our car radios or what we will see in theaters and galleries to that so-called most-democratic of forces, the marketplace? 

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Rod Blagojevich comes off as a regular guy. He had trouble in school. He’s comfortable making fun of himself.

He’s also comfortable making fun of others. Blagojevich said in early October that Steve Bartman, the notorious Chicago Cubs fan who interfered with a foul ball bound for Cubs left fielder Moises Alou’s glove, wouldn’t get a pardon if he committed a crime. 

Perhaps, Blagojevich said, Bartman could get witness protection.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

In the Chicago area, two of the season’s most beloved traditions are the Apollo Chorus’ performance of Handel’s Messiah at Orchestra Hall and the Joffrey Ballet’s presentation of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker at the Auditorium Theatre. Both classics are performed by other artists elsewhere across the state, of course, including here in Springfield.

On so many levels, voters can be indifferent. In presidential elections, barely half show up at the polls. As for state government, a recent survey released by the National Conference of State Legislatures finds that more young adults can name the hometown of the fictional Simpsons than the political parties of their governors. And in Illinois, school boards and city councils nearly always meet before seas of empty chairs.

Abraham Lincoln’s legacy has impact. Attorney General John Ashcroft, in a recent example, trotted it out to justify the Patriot Act. For this reason, it is necessary for us to understand what the legacy means, how it shows itself and why it has such power.

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Scott Turow suspects the death penalty will be abolished in this country, eventually. But the Chicago attorney and best-selling author concludes political consensus isn’t likely to lead us to abolition.

“I expect Americans — and their politicians — to remain in conflict, provoked by individual cases and reluctant to focus on the actual output of the system as a whole,” he writes in his recently released collection of essays on the subject. “Their hesitation to fix what is fixable in our capital schemes will force the ultimate judgments into the courts.”

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Rod Blagojevich has on his happy face. Since the General Assembly adjourned for the summer, the governor has been busy applauding his administration for plugging a $5 billion budget hole. After all, he won the Executive Mansion by running against “business as usual” cronyism, wasteful spending and budget talks behind closed doors.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

When Illinois voters approved the call for a Constitutional Convention 35 years ago this month, the main selling point was the need to revamp the state’s century-old, horse-and-buggy charter to meet space-age needs.

Proponents of constitutional revision touted such benefits as a revenue article flexible enough to allow targeted tax breaks, expanded authority for cities to handle their own affairs and restrictions on state borrowing more attuned to contemp-orary financial practices.

When Bryan Samuels became director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, he inherited an agency that looked to be on the upswing. The most hopeful sign: The number of state wards, which had reached 51,500 in 1997, has been sliced to some 20,000, thanks to a push for adoptions and subsidized guardianship.

That’s not to say that watching over the state’s most vulnerable children is getting easier. Or that it’s less difficult to run an agency that draws heavy media attention every time something goes awry. 

Roger Walker’s appointment as director of the Illinois Department of Corrections means a significant shift in leadership style for an agency that may be in need of a mediator at the top. 

Personable and practical, Walker is more comfortable looking for solutions than problems. He says he may not be an employee’s best friend, but he wants his workers to know he listens. And he arrives at this post with no predetermined agenda. 

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Governors may have reason to remember the old adage on being careful about wishes.

The move to shift responsibility for social welfare programs from the federal government to the states has definitely picked up steam under President George W. Bush. 

Proponents of devolution, so called, promote it as a way to give the states flexibility to reinvent social policy, to tailor it to local needs. And that’s something state officials have devoutly wished for. 

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

What’s in a name? A tax by any other name hits just as hard.

Taxes provide dollars for everyday government expenses. Fees, at least in the traditional sense, provide funds for specific purposes. Then, in Illinois’ current spending plan, there’s the hybrid: fees that resemble taxes.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The other shoe appears poised to drop on Illinois’ cash-strapped local governments.

Already reeling from new waste water permit fees imposed by the state, local officials now also face steep costs to comply with a federal mandate for election reform.

Under the Help America Vote Act, enacted last year in the wake of the Florida vote counting debacle in 2000, election authorities must:

The circumstances surrounding a meeting between U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and Chicago police detectives in late 2001, shortly after Fitzgerald assumed his post, were extraordinary in two respects. The crime that inspired the meeting was, as murders sometimes are, downright bizarre. But it’s not the nature of the crime that sticks in the mind of Terry Hillard, who retired last month as the Chicago Police Department’s super-intendent. It’s that the meeting took place at all.

Even as mortgage rates fell, Kerry Jantzen gave little thought to buying his own home. That was before he learned that his employer, Chicago-based Bank One, where he had worked for more than seven years, was offering $2,500 plus the cash to cover the taxes on that gift as a way to help its workers buy homes. 

As a single mother with two kids, Carma Kimber thought her life was tough. When she became pregnant a third time, it got a lot tougher. But with federal housing aid, the 28-year-old Peoria woman has been able to go to college, which gives her a shot at a better-paying job. 

“I’d rather struggle for a short period of time and come out with something really amazing than just continue to struggle with no ending,” says Kimber, who is studying full time to become a registered nurse while working 10 hours a week on the campus of Illinois Central College.

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The running joke at this summer’s annual conference of state government reporters was that the recession is over. Economists with the National Bureau of Economic Research, a nonprofit organization, say it ended in November 2001.

 

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