State of the State

State of the State, produced by Brian Mackey, is a podcast about the effectiveness and culture of Illinois government.

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President-elect Donald Trump, Gov. Bruce Rauner, and House Speaker Michael Madigan
Trump by Michael Vadon/Flickr, Rauner and Madigan by Brian Mackey/NPR Illinois

As we get ready to welcome 2017, we thought we’d take a few minutes to listen back to another tough year in Illinois government and politics. We heard Republicans struggling to reckon with Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, Democrats and Republicans engaging in another year of war over the soul of Illinois policy, and a growing list of everyday people being crushed by the budget standoff. Here now are some of the voices that made news in 2016.

Chicago's million-dollar blocks
chicagosmilliondollarblocks.com

State of the State Podcast:
A New Way To Think About 'High-Crime' Neighborhoods

John Cullerton, Bruce Rauner and Michael Madigan
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

As we get ready to welcome 2016, we thought we’d take a few minutes to listen back to what’s been a difficult year in Illinois government and politics. There was an epic fight between Democrats and Republicans in Springfield, disgrace for two Illinois Congressmen, and a reckoning over violence in Chicago. Here now are some of the voices that made news in 2015.

Illinois could finally reckon with its dramatically overcrowded prisons in 2016.

The entire system is at 146 percent of the capacity it was designed to hold, but that number doesn’t tell the whole story. Some individual prisons — such as East Moline, Illinois River and Lincoln — are above 200 percent of the rated capacity.

hot dogs neon sign
Jeremy Brooks / via Flickr.com/jeremybrooks

Even though much of Illinois government is operating without a budget, the state is still looking to spend money. Right now, on Illinois’ procurement website, there are dozens of notices. Reporter Kurt Erickson returns to State of the State for a procurement primer.

TRANSCRIPT: From NPR Illinois, it’s State of the State. I’m Brian Mackey, and the state of the state today is on a buying spree.

SOUNDBITE: "And they ran out of hot dog spice, or wiener spice, as I called it. And they had to go out and try to find some and emergency purchase."

Rodger Heaton
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

On episode 16 of the State of the State podcast, a commission working on an overhaul of Illinois’ criminal justice system has approved its first set of recommendations.

Lloyd Karmeier
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Ideology has long been at the heart of high-profile judicial battles, whether the judges are elected or appointed. But is it different when the fight puts a specific case on the line?

Bruce Rauner
WUIS

Did the voters know what they were getting?

Trevon Yates interrogation
MacArthur Justice Center

How do you get a 17-year-old to confess to a crime he didn’t commit? Turns out it’s not that hard.

Tom Davidson / Creative Commons via flickr.com/88100135@N02

The Donald's stance on immigration has kept him atop the polls, but it presents dangers for Republicans in a state with a growing Latino electorate.

bucket
Dru! / flickr.com/druclimbs

Former Illinois Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon has written a paper on what's often regarded as one of the least important offices in Illinois politics. "A Warm Bucket of What? Assessing the Role of Lieutenant Governor in Illinois" was published by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

State of the Union 2015
Bill Ingalls / NASA (flickr.com/nasahqphotos)

A pair of economists have put one of the central claims of Obamacare opponents to the test: Is Obamacare a job-killer? We hear the answer in the latest episode of the State of the State podcast.

Hall of Governors
Brian Mackey / WUIS

This summer, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been back in the news. Years after he was convicted on corruption charges and began serving a 14-year sentence in prison, a panel of federal appellate judges threw out some of the convictions against him. Blagojevich has asked the full appellate court to hear his case in the hopes they'll vacate his entire conviction.

Gov. Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

News Analysis — Six months into the new administration, we finally have a sense of what Gov. Bruce Rauner’s top priority really is.

ALPR
Garrett Brnger / Illinois Issues

Sometimes, police don't put up much of a fight when it comes to limiting their use of technology. That's what happened when Illinois regulated drones. But if they've already invested in the tools, passing legislation to rein it in becomes a lot harder.

Rod Blagojevich mug shot
U.S. Government

Here we are, rapidly approaching the Fourth of July, and we are still talking about legislative battles, a governor picking a fight with the speaker, and Illinois heading toward a new fiscal year without a budget in place. Sound familiar?

coin flip
Ray Nelson / flickr.com/ray811

In episode 5 of the State of the State podcast, we look at moral luck. In the context of the law, moral luck is the notion that chance outcomes can play a significant role in how one is treated — think of the different punishments for attempted murder versus actual murder.

Las Vegas in the 1970s
flickr.com/roadsidepictures

The politics of "tough on crime" were born of a culture of fear in the 1960s and '70s. In Illinois, that was exemplified by the public statements of then-Gov. Dan Walker, who both described aspects of Illinois prisons that are still problems today, while at the same time arguing for policies that would leave Illinois’ criminal justice drastically overcrowded.

Govs. Dan Walker, left, and Bruce Rauner.
file / WUIS

If you follow state government long enough, you start to hear the same things over and over again. That holds even across four decades.

Last week, I produced an obituary for the late Gov. Dan Walker, who died at the age of 92. In listening to several of his speeches from 1975 and '76, I was struck by the similarities to the sorts of things we hear from politicians today — particularly Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Both of these men came in after unpopular tax hikes, and both downplayed their wealth with folksy images. So I'm asking the question: Are they essentially the same guy?

graph showing collective bargaining membership
Compiled by Barry Hirsch and David Macpherson at Unionstats.com. / Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau

The future of labor depends in large part on which view prevails: that of business, so neatly represented by Gov. Bruce Rauner, seeing unions as past their prime, and an impediment to the full potential of capitalism. Or that of the unions, who've seen the decline of labor precipitate a concentration in wealth at the top of the economic ladder, and ever-increasing income inequality.

University of Washington sociologist Jake Rosenfeld, author of What Unions No Longer Do, joins me to talk about the status of labor in America — and Illinois.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois struggles with its prison population in part because of its political culture. For decade, policymakers enacted greater and greater penalties for lesser and lesser crimes.

Will Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has convened a new commission to reduce Illinois' prison population, have the political courage to follow through on recommendations that may well come back to bite him in future campaigns? Commission member and Loyola University criminologist David Olson joins me to talk about what it'll take.