Tom Lisi

2017 Public Affairs Reporting Intern - Statehouse

Tom reports on statehouse issues for NPR Illinois.  He's currently a Public Affairs Reporting graduate program student at the University of Illinois Springfield.  He graduated from Macalester College.  Tom is from New York City where he also did stand-up and improv and wrote for the Awl and WNYC public radio.

Ways to Connect

Evan Rushing
NPR Illinois

The Illinois General Assembly has approved legislation intended to make it easier to hold drug dealers accountable when their customers overdose.

Illinois House Republicans

 

The Illinois General Assembly voted to increase a fee on cell phone bills in order to fund 911 services. It was a rare example of Republican lawmakers defying the Rauner administration.

 

Negotiators involved in the legislation say the governor tried to pull Republican support because Rauner did not want Mayor Rahm Emanuel to get a win.

 

But GOP lawmakers ended up voting for the measure, which includes a cell phone fee increase in Chicago.

 

 

Emergency dispatchers, phone companies, and lawmakers from both parties were in agreement. The fee on cell phone bills needed to increase — to keep 911 services  going and to add new technology mandated by Illinois.

 

 

 

Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin, says he was not part of the talks, but he was ready to lend his support when talks broke down.

 

WUIS

 

 

The Illinois Senate passed a budget package Tuesday after a similar plan failed last week. The difference was several new “yes” votes from liberal Democrats. No Republicans supported either plan.

WUIS

The Illinois State Board of Elections is fining Auditor General Frank Mautino’s former campaign committee. A complaint alleges he failed to properly report some $380,000 dollars in spending.

Each One Feed One

The seven Republican Congressmen from Illinois are recommending state Senator Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, to be next U-S ambassador to Kenya.

The seven Republicans in Illinois’ Congressional delegation sent a letter to President Donald Trump, saying McCarter would be a good candidate for the job. McCarter has done charity work in the east-African country for decades.

McCarter would still have to be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

WUIS

 

Comptroller Susana Mendoza says she’s not sure when school districts will receive state money owed to them for the rest of this school year. Mendoza’s office is in charge of paying the state’s bills.

The state of Illinois still owes local school districts nearly $1 billion to cover the current school year. But Mendoza, a Democrat, says she’s not sure when they’ll actually get the money.

 

The State Board of Elections says hackers gained access to the information of 80,000 Illinois voters — including their social security numbers and driver’s licenses.

Elections officials say hackers had access to Illinois’ system for nearly three weeks before they were detected. They did get access to personal information, but officials say that’s about it.

Medicaid is one of the largest pieces of the state’s budget, and Democrats say the governor is trying to significantly alter the way the program is managed — without oversight from the legislature.

Gov. Bruce Rauner announced in February a new format by which healthcare companies and organizations bid for contracts to administer Medicaid. Five years ago, Illinois moved to increase the use of outside parties to take care of the paperwork and administration of Medicaid.

ilga.gov

 

A group of Republican lawmakers say Gov. Bruce Rauner has rescinded his decision to lay off 124 nurses at the Illinois Department of Corrections. Rauner was planning to move the jobs to a private contractor.

 

The governor has not confirmed the announcement. The Illinois Nurses Association, the union representing the IDOC nurses, says it’s taking all this with some skepticism.

 

NPR Illinois

 

 

With support from labor unions, Illinois House Democrats passed legislation Wednesday that would restore certain bargaining rights for Chicago Public Schools teachers — letting them negotiate with the city on things like class size, length of school day, and layoffs.

Illinois House Chamber
Tom Lisi / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

As women rallied at the Illinois Capitol Tuesday, the House passed a measure that would allow abortion to be covered by Medicaid and state-employee health insurance.

CREDIT NPR ILLINOIS

U.S. Representatives Darin Lahood, R-Peoria, and Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, have been joining forces in touring their home districts during Congress' spring break. They say they're trying to bring back a  consensus from voters on some issues in which there clearly isn't one for Republicans in Washington.

Milkweed could become the Illinois state wildflower under legislation pending in the General assembly. The proposal would also prohibit local governments from treating it as a noxious weed.

Vanessa Tyler is a Girl Scout who attends Pleasant Plains Middle School, near Springfield. She and her troop lobbied lawmakers to support the proposed state designation. She says it’ll help people think twice about killing milkweed.

 

Credit wikimedia commons

 

Democrats in the Illinois House of Representatives Thursday passed a plan to send more than $800 million to human services and universities. They call it a “lifeline” for programs facing catastrophe.

No Republicans joined them, saying a temporary fix just removes the urgency to enact a real budget. "The reality is we don’t do things around here without pressure. And so we need that pressure to get to a full budget,” said Rep. Steve Andersson (R-Geneva).

I Voted sticker roll
Wikimedia

 

Yesterday’s “I voted” sticker is today’s ballot selfie. But some voters last fall found out Illinois makes it illegal to take a selfie with your ballot. Lawmakers are trying to change that, inspired by the young people who simply wanted to share their fulfillment of their civic duty on social media.

NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Ten years ago, Cindy Bonnet found out she was getting new neighbors in Nora, Illinois: 10,000 cows. It’s what’s known in the industry as a “concentrated animal feeding operation,” or CAFO: basically a big cow warehouse, with a giant trough under it to catch their waste.

Bonnet says a California businessman was behind the venture.

“You know that’s what bothered us, that he wasn’t even going to be farming there and actually going out milking the cows himself. He was gonna hire someone else to do it, ” she said.

NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) made a stop at the Springfield Boys & Girls Club, saying its funding is under threat by President Trump’s budget proposal.

flickr

 

 

The nursing home industry is fighting legislation that would require them to have higher staffing levels — and greater penalties if they don’t meet them.

Illinois’ long-term care ombudsman tracks complaints and looks out for residents of nursing homes.

But the ombudsman has her own complaint. She says state agencies that regulate nursing homes are ignoring her.

Alex Proimos / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

 

The Republican health plan currently in Congress would remove $40 billion from the Illinois’ current Medicaid program over the next 10 years, according to numbers from the Congressional Budget Office. The Illinois Hospital Association says they expect over 400,000 Medicaid recipients to lose coverage.

The largest factor for the state comes from dismantling the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, which Illinois chose to accept. In its first three years of operation, 650,000 new people in the state got coverage under Medicaid.

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s new rules restricting overtime pay for home health aids passed a major test Tuesday. Starting August 1, caretakers will be limited to a 45-hour work-week. If people require more care, they’ll have to find an additional worker.

A screenshot of The Illinois Opportunity Project website.
Credit illinoisopportunityproject.org

Illinois Democrats want to make it harder for outside political groups to confuse voters with absentee ballot schemes.

It’s a reaction to reports of a conservative political group started by radio host and activist Dan Proft. The group is called Illinois Opportunity Project, but during election season last year it sent absentee ballot applications under the name “Rock Island County Vote by Mail Center.”

Before Mary Rabbe died from complications related to Alzheimer’s in 2015, she moved between several different long-term care facilities in the Springfield area — five nursing homes, a 10-day stay at a hospital psychiatric ward, and three visits to the E.R. — all in less than three years.

A green dentist chair
Liz West / CC by 2.0 / Flickr

Dr. Ronald Lynch runs a family dentistry in Jacksonville. He says approximately 20 percent of his patients are state workers. Because Illinois is still running with no budget, the state has not been paying its employees’ health bills on time — and the delays are growing.

Sunset over long canyon
Flickr

Yet another proposal aims to get the state out of crisis.

A 1917 report conducted on the Illinois pension system revealed bad news. After a pension-focused trip around the globe, with studies on such nations as Great Britain, New Zealand, and Austro-Hungary, it got to crux of the matter:

Flickr Commons

 

A group of retired military generals is the latest to come out against an element of the Illinois Senate's "grand bargain" legislation. Their focus is a measure that would cut the state’s mandate of daily physical education to just three times a week.

The generals said the proposal would be a threat to national security, as many young Americans are too overweight to enter basic training.

 

 

Donald Trump’s presidency has Illinois lawmakers weighing an issue not usually given as much attention in the General Assembly: abortion.

 

Since the 1970s, Illinois’ abortion laws have stayed mostly the same. Brigid Leahy, legislative director of Planned Parenthood of Illinois, says legal-abortion advocates are now moving to stem the tide they see coming from Washington. “We haven’t done a proactive bill like this in a number of years,” she said.

 

Student rally in Illinois state capitol rotunda.
Tom Lisi / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

College students rallied in the state Capitol rotunda Wednesday. They’re urging lawmakers to restore state funding to universities and community colleges.

Red light camera at intersection
Derek Jensen / Wikimedia Commons

If there’s anything in Illinois with a lower approval rating than state government, one imagines it could be red-light cameras: those big-brother tattle-tales that catch drivers in the act of running a red light at intersections.

NPR Illinois

Members of Springfield’s Muslim community turned out for a demonstration on Monday against President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration.

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