Mary Hansen

Reporter

Mary reports for NPR Illinois and Illinois Issues. She graduated from the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois Springfield, where she spent a legislative session covering statehouse news for The Daily Herald. Previously, Mary reported for The State Journal-Register, covering city government. She received her BA in International Studies from American University. 

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

Ever wonder what happens to campaign swag after election day? Some of it is thrown away, but a lot finds a home with collectors of political memorabilia.

Collectors of campaign buttons, posters and flags are in Springfield this week at the national convention of the American Political Items Collectors.

Co-organizer Bob Atwater says there’s something for everyone.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

This is part of our election-year series, Money Machines, looking at campaign spending in the 2018 election. The first article can be found here.

Madelyn Beck / Illinois Newsroom

Dave Plunk has run Music Makers in Galesburg for more than 15 years, occupying two floors of a three-story building on the town’s main street with rows of guitars, amps and other music equipment.

Photo by Simon Abrams on Unsplash

Entrepreneurs and job-seekers in central Illinois can mark their calendars for December 3 and 4, 2018. Facebook is bringing a two-day workshop to Springfield.

NPR Illinois 91.9 | UIS

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on online shopping left two things clear – consumers who buy online will have to pay sales tax on more items, and some states will see more money from those online purchases.

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.

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.

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.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

A branch of the American Civil Liberties Union and other immigrants-rights organizations rallied in Springfield Friday afternoon, criticizing a controversial U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy.

The Trump administration has come under fire for stepping up a policy that splits up families caught entering the country without proper documentation. 

“It would be devastating to be pulled away from my mom,” said 8-year-old Kinley Lazare to the crowd gathered outside U.S. Attorney office.

MATT ALANIZ ON UNSPLASH

Talks to legalize sports betting in Illinois have heated up after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal ban last week.

State Week logo
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Gov. Bruce Rauner used his amendatory veto powers to rewrite a gun bill, simultaneously proposing more gun control than the original bill called for while also reinstating the death penalty.

Meanwhile, local governments are complaining about the state's attempt to share less money from the income tax, while gambling interests prepare to fight it out after the U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for legal sports betting in every state.

Illinois Public Radio

Illinois lawmakers have two weeks to get together a spending plan. Officials from cities across the state are going on the offensive to keep lawmakers from balancing the budget by raiding their pockets.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Mounting pension debt, persistent cash flow issues, and political gridlock – Illinois has a lot of problems. But it wasn’t always this way.

In a recent article for the magazine Governing, Daniel Vock examines how the state got here

Methodist College students take a break between classes at the campus in Peoria, which is a former furniture store.
Mary Hansen / NPR IllINOIS | 91.9 UIS

As more retail chains shut down, cities across Illinois figure out what to do with millions of square feet of empty space.

Google Maps

A federal judge has ruled the Illinois prison system is still providing inadequate mental healthcare to inmates and that the treatment qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment.

The ruling comes after attorneys representing inmates filed a claim last year with the court that the department was not following through on a settlement reached in 2016 to overhaul mental health treatment in Illinois prisons.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

U. S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth made history last week by being the first to bring her infant to the Senate floor while she voted. In Springfield, both chambers have been open to mothers and children.

NPR Illinois 91.9 | UIS

Legislation to expand Illinois’ sales tax for online shopping recently passed the Senate. But it faces several more hurdles before it could become law.

Google Maps

The Illinois Department of Corrections says a major cash crunch has it struggling to keep its facilities running.

The warning came Wednesday at a Senate budget hearing. But some Democratic lawmakers say that was the first time they were hearing the situation was so dire.

Matt Alaniz on Unsplash

March Madness fans in Illinois could not legally bet on Monday’s championship game. But a U.S. Supreme Court decision expected this spring could open the door to states allowing sports betting, both in-person and online.

Lawmakers in Illinois and more than a dozen other states are considering proposals that would regulate the industry.

A study from Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, LLC shows earnings could total $681 million in the state, according to Chris Grove, managing director of sports with the firm. That could mean tax revenue in the tens of millions.

Katherine Johnson / CC BY 2.0 / FLICKR

Planning for the state fair is in full swing, but Illinois has yet to pay all the costs for last year’s fair.

The state still owes the city of Springfield around $109,000 for the fire protection it provided to the fairgrounds in the fiscal year that ended last summer. The same amount for the current fiscal year is due by June.

Springfield budget director Bill McCarty says the fire department will continue to provide protection regardless, but late payments do present challenges.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Pickup trucks and construction equipment crowd the lawn of the Illinois Executive Mansion and the block across the street.

Gov. Bruce Rauner and his wife, Diana, have raised the money for the $15 million mansion makeover, which is slated to be complete by the end of the summer. And the governor is eyeing the city-owned block, dubbed the “Y-block” for the YWCA that used to sit there, as an extension of that project.

The Toys R Us store location in Springfield, Illinois.
Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

As big box stores continue to close, some worry Illinois isn't ready for the changing economy.

Erika Harold's and Kwame Raoul's campaigns

Erika Harold won the Republican nomination for Illinois attorney general, while state Sen. Kwame Raoul defeated a crowded race to win the Democratic nod. They'll face off in the general election in November.

Incumbent Attorney General Lisa Madigan set off a scramble last year when she made a surprise announcement she would not seek a fifth term. The race drew ten candidates in all.

With funding from the Republican Party and Governor Bruce Rauner, Harold beat former Burr Ridge mayor Gary Grasso, winning 60 percent of the vote.

Illinois statehouse with storm clouds in the background
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

As Illinois attempts to balance its books, it’s dipping into pots of money meant to help cities and towns pay for services. And local officials are looking for options.

One idea is to make it easier for smaller cities to gain home-rule status, which allows those towns to have more flexibility in how they operate. 

springfield.il.us

The Springfield City Council voted this week to raise the tax on landline phones and internet service, but rejected a second proposal to raise the sales tax. 

Money from the higher telecommunications rate will fund Lincoln Library, Springfield’s public library. The 6 percent rate, up from 4, could take effect July 1.

The hikes were part of a proposal from Mayor Jim Langfelder to plug a multimillion-dollar hole in the city’s budget for the fiscal year that starts March 1.

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois / 91.9 UIS

Candidates in the Illinois governor’s race blew through campaign contribution limits months ago, but recently a few state House races did too.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Part 2: Most of the radium-tainted earth from decades-old manufacturing in Ottawa has been removed, but one major site still needs cleanup.

Dylan Blake

During his first year in office, President Donald Trump has rescinded or repealed many of his predecessor’s policies aimed at curbing climate change and protecting the air and water from pollution.

Those rollbacks — along with funding cuts to state environmental protection agencies — have concerned Jennifer Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council (IEC).

“We’ve seen that whether it’s in Flint, Michigan, or… the lead in water in East Chicago, Indiana, these are issues states can’t necessarily deal with on their own,” Walling said. If Illinois were faced with an environmental crisis, it may not have the resources needed to address it.

Bill Meier / FLICKR / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Illinois coal mines lost 228 jobs in the last year, according to numbers from the federal agency that tracks mine safety. That’s fewer jobs than were shed in 2016, and production is up by around 11 percent in the state.

The trend is encouraging, said Phil Gonet, president of the Illinois Coal Association. He attributes the shift in part to President Donald Trump’s roll-back of the Clean Power Plan and other environmental regulations during his first year in office.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Illinois lawmakers ended the state budget impasse and made big changes to how the state pays for public schools. The state also wrestled with the debate over abortion and a nationwide rise in hate incidents.

Pages