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Dese’Rae L. Stage for Live Through This

Amid the news of high profile celebrity taking their own lives, the Centers for Disease Control reports suicide rates have gone up across the United States.  Since 1999, Illinois has seen a 23-percent increase. 

Chicago author Kelley Clink tried to kill herself when she was 16, and several years later her younger brother, Matt, died by his own hand.

Reporter Maureen McKinney talked with Clink about the ways suicide has touched her life. Clink’s memoir, published in 2015, is called A Different Kind of Same.

Statehouse exit sign
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Illinois is losing residents, according to recent census estimates, and common explanations include high taxes, unfriendly business policies or the state’s growing pension debt.

An article from the watchdog group Better Government Association examines those claims. The BGA’s senior editor, Bob Secter, says they distract from a deeper look at demographic trends.

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

Illinois has struggled for decades to persuade high school graduates to stay in-state for college. The recent two-year budget impasse only made things worse. Now, a group of lawmakers has a plan to reverse the trend, starting with the state’s Monetary Award Program.

Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs, via Twitter

Illinois will soon mint commemorative coins to mark the state’s 200th birthday. They're the latest in a string of products the state is offering to mark its bicentennial year.

Illinois Treasurer Mike Frerichs hosted a several months-long contest, challenging designers to capture Illinois’ history on a single coin face. Submissions poured in from far and wide, but they were eventually whittled down to five finalists, whose designs were then voted on by the public.

Kathryn Decker / Flickr- CC BY-SA 2.0

A measure aimed to bridge the gender wage gap was approved by the Illinois General Assembly last month. This is the second attempt by lawmakers to get a ‘no salary history’ initiative into law. Employers would no longer be able to ask someone what they previously earned during interviews.

State Week logo
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

AFSCME, Illinois biggest laobr union representing state government employees, was in the Fourth District Appellate Court this week. It's fighting a move by the Rauner administration to declare an impasse in contract negotiations, which are three years overdue.

Senator Dick Durbin via Twitter

Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is supporting President Donald Trump’s pick to be the next ambassador to Kenya: Illinois state Sen. Kyle McCarter. That’s despite the significant political differences between Durbin and McCarter.

Durbin says he met with McCarter this week in Washington, D.C. to discuss his Kenya nomination.

McCarter is quite conservative, and Durbin says his voting record poses “some issues.” But that isn’t stopping him from giving the Republican a thumbs up.

Charles E. Freeman
handout / Illinois Supreme Court

Thursday was the last day on the job for the first African American on the Illinois Supreme Court.

Marcus Butler of  Springfield has been unemployed since October of 2016.
Katie Buck / NPR IllINOIS

Experts blame the long-standing problem on discrimination, especially the "inadequate, inequitable'' education funding system.

AFSCME picket
Amanda Vinicky / NPR Illinois

The latest skirmish between Gov. Bruce Rauner and the AFSCME labor union took place in a Springfield courtroom Wednesday. This time it was before a panel of the Fourth District Appellate Court.

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The debate continues over whether Illinois’ law allowing for taxpayer-funded abortions violates the state constitution. A trial judge dismissed the case last year but anti-abortion advocates are fighting back.  

WIkipedia commons/taken by W. Wadas

The latest employment numbers show Illinois is adding jobs, and the rate of unemployment across the state is dipping below 4 percent.

However, Jim Clifton, CEO of the research firm Gallup, says those reports can be misleading because they count people who have part-time jobs, but who would prefer full-time hours and pay.

SAM DUNKLAU / NPR ILLINOIS 91.9 FM

Immigrants' rights advocates are close to celebrating what they consider a win in Illinois, especially for domestic abuse survivors. They are hoping Gov. Bruce Rauner will sign 'The Voices Act' soon, as it passed out of the state's General Assembly during the final days of the spring legislative session.

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Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Allegations of bullying and inappropriate comments prompted the resignation of the top aide to House Speaker Michael Madigan. Tim Mapes had been the speaker's chief of staff since the late 1990s, and was also executive director of the Democratic Party of Illinois.

Meanwhile, Gov. Bruce Rauner signing a full-year budget into law, a first for the incumbent Republican, who's in his fourth year as governor.

Last year NPR Illinois toured the state in partnership with NPR member stations to hear how the two-year state budget impasse impacted communities in Illinois. The adoption of a budget provided some clarity for those affected but many challenges remain. 

This year, we aim to seek solutions to many of the fiscal problems that persist and discuss the prominent issues in the 2018 elections. 

Panelists

Illinois officials have persuaded a federal judge to delay a trial over health care in state prisons.

The move drew a rebuke from the plaintiffs’ lawyers — who are representing a group that includes every inmate in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

The Pharmacy / Jeff Williams

Nearly a century ago, a book was published by Vachel Lindsay called The Golden Book of Springfield. In it, he imagines a utopian version of the city, where by 2018 - its citizens have had religious and social awakenings. The ultimate message is one of unity.

Courtesy of Kassie Jones

In the Farrington school district, near Mount Vernon, a new teacher makes less than $29,000 — even with a master’s degree. Farrington is one of the lowest-paying districts, but state officials say some 7,000 teachers statewide makes less than $40,000.

A new state law just approved by the legislature would change that.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Illinois will host what could be the most expensive race for governor in U.S. history. The huge increase in campaign spending raises a lot of questions about the rise of big money in politics. Between now and the election, Illinois Issues will examine the impact in a series we're calling Money Machines.

Photo illustration: sean hobson/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Simple, everyday tasks  – like ordering coffee, crossing the street, or getting gas – can be an obstacle, or an intimidating challenge for people recently released from prison. This is especially true for people who have spent many years behind bars.


Rachel Otwell

The Opening Minds Through Art program was started in Ohio in 2007 as a way to give people with Alzheimer’s and dementia a chance to be artists. The Springfield Art Association has now taught classes over a fall and spring session. A reception on Friday from 5:30 - 7 at the SAA Collective Gallery at the Hoogland Center for the Arts will display the latest work. 

Sam Dunklau / NPR Illinois 91.9 FM

As part of the new Illinois budget, thousands and thousands of state workers will get paid for salary increases they were supposed to get as far back as 2011.


Illinois Senate Democrats

In addition to an overhaul of how the Illinois General Assembly deals with sexual harassment among its ranks, lawmakers approved several other measures meant to address concerns from the #MeToo movement. 

Gov. Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner was asked Tuesday whether he would support a shorter prison sentence for Rod Blagojevich.

Illinois House Democrats

A measure awaiting  Gov. Bruce Rauner’s signature would expand protections in the Human Rights Act to cover workers at businesses with 15 or fewer employees. 

State Rep. Will Guzzardi, a Chicago Democrat, says it’s impossible to know how many times employees of small businesses in Illinois tried to file complaints under the Human Rights Act because they’ve had no coverage under the 38-year-old act. He said he’s talked to many lawyers who’ve turned would-be clients from small business away because they had no protections under Illinois or federal law.

Dick Durbin
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Illinois U.S. Sen, Dick Durbin says Rod Blagojevich should have gotten a shorter prison sentence.

Eric Rogers for NPR Illinois

A theatrical and punk rock venture in Champaign–Urbana has become an empowering part of the arts scene there.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signs the budget
handout / Illinois Information Service

Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed Illinois’ budget into law.

Sam Dunklau / via Wikimedia Commons, Flikr

Illinois lawmakers have approved a plan that would let schools, churches, and workplaces take out restraining orders against someone considered dangerous.

Under current Illinois law, only an individual can take out a restraining order against another person. But after recent shootings at schools and churches, state lawmakers have been pushing for legislation to protect those places from future attacks.

State Week logo
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

A busy week in Springfield as the Illinois General Assembly approves a budget, the House ratifies the ERA, and a leading Democrat is accused of inappropriate behavior.

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