Statehouse

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Race can't be the primary consideration in redrawing political districts. Geographically compact minority communities large enough to elect representatives of their choosing may be entitled to their own districts. And only voting-age residents who are American citizens should be counted.

Briefly

May 1, 2001
Pathway on the Manske-Niemann farm
Jean A. Fullest

Legislative checklist

The General Assembly's focus narrowed last month as the House and Senate met self-imposed deadlines to exchange bills before lawmakers took their spring break. The Senate sent 407 hills to the House, while the House sent 732 to the Senate. Lawmakers have until midmonth to finish second-chamber committee and floor action.

Prosecutors

Criminal justice reform took two steps forward.

The House approved a package designed to prevent so-called prosecutorial misconduct, while the Senate passed its own reform measure.

People

May 1, 2001

SHIFTS AT THE TOP

Democratic Rep. Douglas Scott of Rockford was set to take the oath of office as mayor of that city late last month. Scott planned to resign his legislative seat after party leaders chose a successor.

Nancy Cantor will be the next chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She's an educator at the University of Michigan. She'll succeed Michael Aiken.

In Tony Cappasso's article in your Spotlight on Medicaid series ("Why costs have gone up," March, page 28), Ann Patia, the former director of the Illinois Department of Public Aid, makes an astounding assumption. She seems to imply that by cutting Medicaid payments to hospitals earlier this year, the department was able to "control Medicaid spending without hurting Medicaid patients." Does Ms. Patia really believe it is possible to neglect the institutions that provide essential medical and social services to Medicaid patients without hurting the patients themselves?

Patrick E. Gauen
WUIS/Illinois Issues

"What do I do now?" Rodney Woidtke's lawyer heard his client's first words as a free man and had to explain that "not guilty" meant he would not be going back to prison.

It was a triumph for Ron Jenkins, who took the murder retrial on a token retainer. It was a triumph for Woidtke, a paranoid schizophrenic who began denying the crime after first confessing three times. It may even be a triumph for the court system of St. Clair County, which at times seemed more determined to blame Woidtke than to make sure of his guilt. 

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The notion of democratic government rests on a very simple principle: Ordinary men and women have the capacity to govern themselves. They don't need kings or emperors or high priests to establish the rules by which they can live together amicably, settle their differences and provide for their common needs.

Dollars for Dialing
Daisy Langston Juarez

In early February, an organization calling itself Connect Illinois convened a news conference in the state Capitol pressroom to brief reporters on telecommunications issues. The event drew a large crowd of speakers. There were three state lawmakers, two chamber of commerce presidents and members of three community organizations. Oddly, there were no official representatives of telecommunications companies.

Landowners in east central Illinois aren't alone. Neither are the Indians who are suing for the ground they live on. Throughout the nation, Native American tribes have gone to court to recover ancestral lands they say were illegally taken from them. And in some cases they're winning.

With an eye toward drawing new General Assembly boundaries for the next decade, legislative mapmakers are set this month to begin poring over detailed information about who lives where in Illinois.

Even as they begin, though, there are ongoing complaints about the accuracy of the U.S. Census Bureau's numbers, in particular that the nose count missed large numbers of the urban poor, minorities, or both. This concern is more than academic. In fact, at heart it's political. The legislative power that follows population under the rule of one person, one vote is at stake.

Light Bulb
Daisy Langston Juarez

It happened the way lawmakers often resolve big issues: months of debate, a series of all-nighters and, finally, a deal to restructure the state's regulation of electric utilities. Gerald Keenan, a former top manager at the Illinois Commerce Commission, remembers it as public policy by negotiation, "and it was truly a camel when it came out."

Ed Wojcicki
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Once or twice a year I got together with former Gov. William Stratton, who had been on the Illinois Issues Board since 1978. He liked to joke that government spaces ordinarily bear the names of dead people, but he already had three named for him: a government office building in Springfield, a state park near his hometown of Morris and a lock and dam on the Fox River.

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.

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