Lisa Ryan

2015 Public Affairs Reporting Program Graduate Intern - Statehouse

Lisa Ryan is a graduate student in the public affairs reporting program at the University of Illinois at Springfield. She previously worked at Indiana Public Radio and the college radio station founded by David Letterman. She is a 2014 broadcast journalism and political science graduate of Ball State University.

In addition to public radio, Lisa loves traveling. In 2014 she traveled to Budapest, Vienna and Bratislava as part of an international reporting class.

Ways to Connect

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

Gov. Bruce Rauner and state employees have yet to reach an agreement for contracts. Union members gathered in Springfield on Tuesday to protest what they say are unfair proposals from the governor.

After more than six months of negotiating, an agreement has yet to be reached for state union contacts, which are scheduled to end June 30.

Jennifer Desulis works for the Illinois Department of Revenue and has been a union member for 16 years.

State Week logo (capitol dome)
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

This week, Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic lawmakers continued to spar over the state budget and the governor's legislative agenda.  Rauner dismissed the legislature's proposed changes for workers' compensation as "phony reform" and Democrats criticized the governor paying his top education aide, Beth Purvis, a $250,000 salary from Department of Human Services funds.  John O'Connor of the Associated Press joins the panel discussion.

WUIS/Brian Mackey

Democrats in the Illinois House Thursday held a hearing over the salary for one of Gov. Bruce Rauner's top aides.

The issue is not that Education Secretary Beth Purvis is being paid $250,000 a year, but where the money is coming from. Rather than the relatively small budget for governor's staff, her salary comes out of the Department of Human Services.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner says he plans to raise eligibility levels for those senior citizens in Illinois’ Community Care program. Rauner says it’s necessary to help handle a budget Democrats’ passed without sufficient revenue.

The program helps keep seniors out of nursing homes by providing in-home health care, allowing them to remain independent. Gerardo Cardenas of AARP says the plan is short sighted as Medicaid will be forced to cover the cost of nursing homes.

Hunting for bobcats could soon be legal in Illinois, but the measure barely passed the legislature.

When the proposal was first introduced, its sponsor, Democratic Rep. Patrick Verschoore, had to postpone the vote because it didn't have enough support.

But the second time around, it passed with the minimum number of required votes.

Verschoore says it is an important bill to manage the bobcat population.

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An Illinois proposal would provide funding for police body cameras.

The measure creates procedures for arrests and traffic stops, including pedestrian searches. Incidents like officer-involved shootings and arrests would have a standard protocol across Illinois, and the proposal would require more police training.

Funding would come from an increase in fines for traffic tickets.

Democratic Rep. Elgie Sims says when police officers wear body cameras, both the community and police benefit.

House floor
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Democrats are moving forward with a new state budget. The House passed a huge chunk of it on Tuesday.

The Democrats' budget includes funding many programs the governor planned to cut, even though Illinois is short about $3 billion to pay for all of that spending.

Public Domain

Higher education will see a funding cut next year, but Democrats want to lessen the impact compared to what the Republican governor called for.

Gov. Bruce Rauner suggested a more than 30 percent reduction. Democrats are proposing a 6.5 percent cut to universities.

Republicans voted against the Democrats' measure in committee. GOP Rep. Mark Batinick from Plainfield says the cost of doing business in Illinois is too high. That includes the business of higher education.

Ferguson demonstrators
Chris McDaniel/St. Louis Public Radio

In the wake of officer-involved deaths in Ferguson, Baltimore and New York City, Springfield is looking at how to change Illinois laws regarding police officers.

In the final days of the General Assembly's session, Rep. Elgie Sims, Jr., a Democrat from Chicago, says he'll sponsor legislation that would require police wear body cameras. He says the package would also ban law enforcement from using chokeholds.

The Illinois Senate has voted to reduce the penalties for carrying small amounts of marijuana. The legislation would make possession a ticketable offense, rather than one requiring jail time.

The sponsor, Democratic Sen. Michael Noland, says it would save the state money.

"I'm really looking forward to taking the $29 million a year that we're going to save on prosecuting these cases and actually using it for drug treatment for harder drugs," Noland said.

More than a million people have Illinois drivers' licenses but aren't registered to vote. They would be registered automatically under a measure before the General Assembly.

Democratic Sen. Daniel Biss from Evanston says he thinks it is his responsibility as a public official to make the election process as open as possible.

"I think that we have a challenge in our society right now where participation in democracy feels first of all difficult and second of all, unfortunately sometimes pointless," Biss said.

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

The Illinois State Museum, located next to the statehouse in Springfield, is being renamed for the late U.S. Sen. Alan Dixon.

Dixon passed away last year, but he left behind a legacy of service and the ability to work in a bipartisan manner.

Several Illinois leaders gathered for the dedication ceremony. House Speaker Michael Madigan started as a state representative in 1971, when Dixon was a state senator.

"He was always a joy to be with," Madigan said. "Always a laugh, old story, reminiscing about whatever it may be which concerned a bottle of beer."

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Illinois House Democrats continued to advance budget means that would restore funding to human services programs that the governor proposes cutting.

Republicans continue to question Democrats' motive. They say it's more of a partisan play than a real budget vote.

GOP Rep. Ron Sandack from Downers Grove complained that the measures did not go through typical budget procedures.

"We gotta get past this and actually engage in a budget process that's inclusive, bipartisan and actually moves the needle," Sandack said. "This does nothing but waste time."

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

Illinois voters passed a constitutional amendment last year to ensure crime victims' rights. Now lawmakers are working to make the criminal code match up.

Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins fights for victims' rights because her sister, brother-in-law and their child were murdered. She was denied the right to provide a victim impact statement. Even though Illinois law allowed impact statements at the time, it didn't allow victims any recourse if they were denied.

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

The Illinois Cancer Action Network is calling attention to breast and cervical cancer screenings, especially as some of those programs face cuts.

The governor's proposed budget would reduce funding for breast and cervical cancer screenings by 71 percent. Democratic Rep. Mike Smiddy of Hillsdale is opposed. He says his wife is a cancer survivor, and without early screening his children might not have a mother.

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

After partisan debating over the budget, Democrats and Republicans came together in America's pastime.

Lawmakers put aside partisan differences to play softball. Forget Republicans versus Democrats; this match pits Senate against the House.

Rep. Anthony DeLuca, a Democrat from Chicago Heights, was named Most Valuable Player for the House. DeLuca says the annual game is a way for lawmakers to become teammates rather than opponents.

"There's a lot of camaraderie. It's good," he said. "People that don't normally talk to each other are talking, and it's good for that."

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

Olympic gold medal winner Jackie Joyner-Kersee says she never imagined as a girl growing up in East St. Louis that she would one day speak at an event hosted by the governor. Gov. Bruce Rauner introduced her, but didn't stay for her speech.

"To the head table, I am honored to be in your presence. To, you know, the governor, he left," she said.

Rauner was scheduled to be in Chicago three hours after he left. He was originally supposed to give a presentation, but that was taken out of the program.

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

As Illinois faces major budget problems, everyone has a different answer for which services to cut and which taxes to raise.

Mike Nobis is worried. His commercial printing company has been in Quincy, Illinois for 108 years. He says he's struggling to compete with other companies, especially those across the border in Missouri.

Illinois' current sales tax does not cover most services. Nobis says if that tax is expanded to cover the printing industry, he might go out of business.

Pamela Nation

Friday was Girl Scout Day at the Capitol, and hundreds of Girl Scouts marched to the Statehouse to learn more about government and the history of Illinois.

About 2,000 Girl Scouts gathered in the Illinois capital to earn their Citizenship badge.

Kate Peters of Girl Scouts of Central Illinois says during part of the expo, the girls spoke to women in different careers.

“How impactful for them to see stuff like that and know, 'hey one day that can be me,'" Peters said. "One day, one of these girls will be governor of Illinois.”

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ALPLM

While other agencies are bracing for budget cuts, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum could get everything it's asking for in next year's budget.

ALPLM could receive a boost of $2 million more than it's expected to spend in the current budget year, according to Gov. Bruce Rauner's spending proposal.

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

Cuts the governor is proposing for next year's budget are a concern for transportation officials.

Gov. Bruce Rauner's plan includes $20 million worth of cuts to Amtrak. Laura Calderon, the director of the Illinois Public Transportation Association, says that means about six million trips will be eliminated downstate.

"This impact is not just on transit. It has a much broader impact on the economy, on the schools, on the universities," she said. "It really does hit everyone."

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

A proposal in the Illinois Senate would make sure students are completely recovered before returning to athletics or the classroom.

Each year, there are 200,000 concussion-related emergency room visits for children and teenagers in the U.S. For one Chicago lawmaker, that’s not just a statistic.

Both of Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul's kids have sustained concussions. Raoul says his teenage daughter, Mizan, is still recovering from one she received one when she was playing basketball in January. At first, nobody realized it was a concussion.

Mike Frerichs at Inauguration 2015
Brian Mackey/WUIS

A scholarship program run by the state treasurer's office is on hold. For about a decade, the treasurer's office has given out scholarships. It's a program associated with the Bright Start college savings program.

Treasurer Michael Frerichs ordered an independent review upon taking over the office in January. The report found there aren't proper rules to determine how the treasurer should award the scholarship money.

On top of that, he says there was no follow up. Only about half of the scholarships have been used.

A proposal to continue government services for young adults in foster care passed the Illinois House on Thursday. Some believe it's a foreshadowing of future budget negotiations.

The state currently provides educational assistance, job training and counseling for wards of the state aged 18 to 21. But Gov. Bruce Rauner didn't include those services in next year's proposed budget.

Rather than allow the cuts, the House passed House Bill 3507, which would guarantee the programs stay. Advocates say the young adults need certainty.

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Cameras that collect information on license plates are thought by some to be an overreach of government. A proposal in the Illinois legislature would regulate the automatic license plate readers.

Some police officers use automated cameras that track vehicles' license plates. In Illinois, there are no regulations on them and the data collected. House Bill 3289 would impose limits, such as how long the data can be kept.

Democratic Rep. Scott Drury says the proposed regulation doesn't go far enough.

Chatham Elementary School

Chatham Elementary School students had a lesson Thursday in how government works. Their proposal to make sweet corn the official state vegetable passed the state Senate.

The sponsor of Senate Bill 800, Republican Sen. Sam McCann from Carlinville, says not all responses have been positive.

"I had a couple of emails from folks around the state saying that... while the city walls are seemingly crumbling, why are you focusing on something like this?" he said. "And of course the answer couldn't be more clear. We have to invest in the future leaders of our state and our nation."

Wikimedia Commons

Lawmakers are hoping to put an end to red light cameras in some places in Illinois.

A proposal in the Illinois legislature would ban red light cameras in non-home rule cities.

Opponents say red light cameras, which are designed to stop drivers from running red lights, actually cause more accidents from cars abruptly stopping.

Republican Rep. Steven Andersson is a local prosecutor. He says some people receive tickets even though they weren't the one driving the car.

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

A measure in the Illinois Senate would prevent elected officials from promoting new programs and grants before an election.

The proposal is in response to an audit of the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative or NRI. Former Gov. Pat Quinn started the $50 million anti-violence program shortly before the 2010 election.

Republican Sen. Darin LaHood calls the program a "failure." He, along with the auditor general, say the program lacked proper oversight.

"How do we make government and this program more effective, efficient, accountable and ethically sound?" he asked.

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

Illinois has more jobs than qualified workers, a group of business leaders say.

To bridge that gap, Sean Noble of ReadyNation says Illinois needs to improve its education system, primarily by expanding early childhood education.

"Current education and labor market trends indicate the Illinois workforce faces an increasingly serious skills gap," Noble said. "That's the gap between two important numbers: job postings and the workers who are skilled enough to fill those positions."

Illinois Secretary of State

Illinois drivers may see their future options for specialty license plates become more limited.

A proposal moving in the legislature would prevent any new groups from creating specialty plates and instead allow them to sell a sticker. The causes would still get revenue.

Rep. John D'Amico, a Democrat from Chicago, says the change will also help identify vehicles and provide less confusion for law enforcement issuing tickets.

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