Illinois Issues

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Reporting and analysis taking you beyond the daily news and providing a deeper understanding of our state. 

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Illinois Issues: Legislative Checklist

Sep 15, 2016
Chamber
Flickr user: Matt Turner

Gov. Bruce Rauner has taken action on hundreds of bills over the summer. He signed most of them into law, but he also made some high-profile vetoes. 

This week, we’re revisiting an Illinois Issues interview with House Speaker Michael Madigan from 1988. In the interview, Madigan talked about his views on taxation and its relationship to Illinois’ business climate, many of the same topics that are in play today.

The most recent attempt at changing the way legislative districts are drawn might have had a shot — had only the proposal left the auditor general out of the equation. 

A law going into effect next month will ban zero-tolerance policies in schools and turn suspension and expulsion into disciplinary options of last resort. Districts throughout the state are taking different approaches to prepare for the changes.

Illinois Issues: Historic Dilemma

Aug 18, 2016
John Owens

Efforts to preserve historic buildings in low-income and inner-city neighborhoods throughout the state face challenges — like the lack of access to financing and restoration projects taking a back seat to more pressing issues in the community. 

flickr/ Pal-Kristian Hamre

The governor describes the stopgap budget as a bridge to reform. But it could also be called an excavator — digging the state’s fiscal hole deeper.

Black Lives Matter Champaign-Urbana

Black Lives Matter is one of the largest activist movements since the civil rights era of the 1960s. The organization has garnered more attention in recent weeks due to protests over the fatal police shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. Meanwhile, attacks on police and the presidential election have shifted the conversation since Black Lives Matter got its start in 2012 after the death of Trayvon Martin. 

The Phoenix Center

The state has some of the most aggressive protections for transgender people in the country, but the issue still generates controversy here.

Illinois, with its expansive decade-old anti-discrimination law, is one of the most progressive states in the country when it comes to transgender rights, but even in this state there has been a noisy response to rapidly evolving national and local policies on the issue.

Who should pay for the Illinois courts?

Democratic leaders in the legislature and Gov. Bruce Rauner appear to be close to a deal to approve some funding for social service providers, higher education, capital construction and state operations. The proposal would also fund K-12 schools for all of next fiscal year.

But the plan can’t erase the destruction caused by the state going for a year without a budget.​​

A new law makes a drug that counteracts opioid overdose easier to get. But is that enough?

Northlake resident Steve Kamenicky is lucky to be alive.

He’s 58 years old and says he’s used heroin for 46 years, starting at age 12. He has overdosed several times and nearly died, but he survived because of the medication naloxone hydrochloride, also known by the brand name Narcan. 

Illinois political leaders’ performance on the budget is reminiscent of the losingest team in modern baseball. 

Illinois Issues: Shredding Lincoln

Jun 9, 2016
Cartoon by Chris Britt

 Power struggles and a loss of funding have put The Papers of Abraham Lincoln in peril.

This story is the product of a collaboration with Illinois Times, Springfield’s independent weekly, where Bruce Rushton is staff writer.

police line
flickr/ Sarah

After video of a white Chicago police officer shooting a black teenager 16 times was released to the public, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel became the focus of intense backlash. He responded by firing Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.

In many ways this was history repeating in a city that has had twice as many police chiefs than it’s had mayors in the past six decades — and more than its share of police scandals.  

flickr/dnak

Soon after taking office, Gov. Bruce Rauner set a goal of  cutting Illinois' prison population by a quarter over the next decade. But the current budget crisis has cut off funding for programs that could be key to meeting his target.  

Illinois State Police

The state’s heroin crisis has captured headlines and the attention of lawmakers. But in the past few years, the number of methamphetamine lab busts has crept back up, and law enforcement officials say the drug is also coming into the state from Mexico. 

hourglass with dollar signs instead of sand filtering through
flickr/ Bill Brooks

Bipartisan working groups are currently trying to find a way out of the budget impasse. But the crisis could have been prevented long before the battle between Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic leaders began.

Illinois Issues: A Schooling in Democracy

May 5, 2016
Chicago Public Schools Board of Education

State lawmakers are considering whether school board members in Chicago should be elected — as they are in all other Illinois school districts.

flickr/ Jim Bowen

Looking beyond our state’s borders and into Illinois’ past for a playbook to end the current budget standoff. 

Flickr user: TaxCredits.net

Illinois is one of only eight states with a flat income tax. The reasons can be traced to the state’s first-ever successful attempt at putting an income tax in place.  

An effort to change the current tax structure is underway, but supporters face a fast-approaching deadline.  

public domain

High school seniors who plan to go on to college should be finalizing their dorm and roommate choices about now.

But this year, those decisions aren’t about who brings the mini-fridge. With a total lack of  state funding for higher education, it’s about which schools and programs will be fiscally stable, or whether to go at all.

Sarah Mueller

Cities in Illinois and across the country have laws regulating panhandling. But courts are tossing them out, and Springfield’s ordinance could be next. How can local governments balance First Amendment rights and maintaining public order? 

Illinois Issues: The Next Pension Time Bomb

Mar 30, 2016

Illinois has more than $100 billion in pension debt. So far, attempts to fix it have been mostly illegal.

Frank de Kleine/Flickr

 A new state law aims to end the days of women having to choose between a healthy pregnancy and work, but has it been effective?

Trump and Rauner
Trump by Michael Vadon / Flickr, Rauner by Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

With victories Tuesday in Illinois and elsewhere, Donald Trump is continuing his march toward the Republican presidential nomination. Those contemplating what a Trump presidency would look like might consider Illinois' ongoing case study in the promise and perils of the businessman-turned-politician.

flickr/ Leonard J. DeFrancisci

The country seems especially divided over the 2016 race for president. But there was a time in Illinois history when division led to bloodshed over political campaigns. 

The governor's budget address had few specifics about his priorities, or his plans to balance the state's spending with its revenue. 

flickr/ Zoe Hoornaert

A couple of legislative primary races are serving as stand-ins for the political struggle between the governor and Democratic leaders. 

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law by President Barack Obama a few months ago.

public domain

Congress recently authorized a complete rewrite of the unpopular No Child Left Behind Act. What does that mean for Illinois?

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