Bethany Jaeger

House Prosecutor David Ellis makes the case for the impeachment of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich  photograph by Jay Barnard, courtesy of the Illinoisan House Democrats
WUIS/Illinois Issues

David Ellis is like a character in a good book. The more you find out about him, the more you realize how much you don’t know. Your first impression only skims the surface. You’re intrigued to know more, so you keep reading.

His day job is to serve as chief legal counsel for House Speaker Michael Madigan. In his “spare time,” or, rather, in the time that he hasn’t fallen asleep in front of the computer, Ellis writes mystery novels.

Brad McMillan, executive director of the Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service at Bradley University, explains Illinois’ oddly shaped districts during a Statehouse news conference last spring.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The Illinois General Assembly has one year and seven months to meet a constitutional deadline it has failed to meet each of the past three decades. But in 2011, the process of redistricting — redrawing the state’s congressional and legislative maps — could be different.

Headlines leading up to the 2011 redistricting process are likely to be that Illinois is expected to lose at least one congressional seat next year, maybe even two if not all residents are counted. But other changes will affect the way Illinois settles on a new map.

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Within 90 days of being on the job, Illinois Department of Corrections Director Michael Randle announced sweeping changes in the way offenders are either sentenced to prison or diverted to community-based programs.

Pharmacist David Mikus of the Medicine Shoppe in Springfield
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Todd Evers is in constant conversation with his bank, most recently in August, to prepare for the “inevitable what if.” What if the state stops paying?

He has had to borrow money twice a year for the past decade to keep open his group of pharmacies in Collinsville and the St. Louis area as he waits for a check from the Illinois comptroller that will pay him for services he provided to public aid customers months ago. 

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Centers for people with disabilities and many other community-based services have known for months that they were unlikely to receive as much state funding as they have in previous years.

But even a 10 percent to 20 percent reduction in funding can significantly alter their clients’ daily lives.

WUIS/Illinois Issues

While Illinois’ highest court could try to avoid making policy, one case on its docket this fall has potential to start a domino effect that would have policy implications at all levels of government.

Specifically, state and federal lawmakers would have to reconsider the tax liabilities of nonprofit hospitals, as well as the payment for public health care programs that they often bill.

Heightening the importance of the court’s decision, the case is six years old.

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Pat Quinn plans to lay off as many as 1,000 prison workers at the same time a recent state audit reveals that staffing shortages within the Illinois Department of Corrections contributed to mounting overtime costs.

The price of workers putting in extra hours spiked from $19.2 million to $37 million in fiscal years 2007 to 2008. 

Utilities don’t profit from the cost of energy. They simply pass that cost on to their customers, which accounts for about two-thirds of their overall bills. Utilities make their profits from a charge to deliver that power.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The ease of flipping a switch on a kitchen wall masks the complicated process that flows electricity to homes and businesses.

Electricity customers can be blissfully unaware that the process underwent a regulatory facelift of sorts over the past two years. Commonwealth Edison, which serves the northern part of the state, and Ameren Illinois, which serves the central and southern regions, no longer procure their own power loads.

The Illinois Power Agency does it for them.

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Tricia Krause asked Crestwood residents to tie color-coded ribbons around their trees to demonstrate the village’s “epidemiological cancer map.”

“And, therefore, it would show the significance of how many people are sick in the village — because there are so many,” she says.

The cost of the system, so far, is covered by a $9 million federal grant. The State Board of Education estimates the first-year cost of developing the program at about $1.1 million, followed by $2.5 million each of the next three years.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois is about to embark on a new system that will make self-described “data wonks” bug-eyed. They’ll be able to delve into arcane details of test results and graduation rates, among other statistics collected from the state’s 877 school districts each year. What’s different about this new system is that it will track the same group of students from the time they learn their alphabet to the time they embark on college or careers.

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Pat Quinn is a breath of fresh air after the impeachment and removal of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. While Quinn has revived at least some of the cooperative spirit in the Capitol, GOP Sen. Dave Luechtefeld of Okawville said last month that the expectation was for Quinn to purge agencies of “bad appointments” after a decade of alleged corruption under Blagojevich and former Gov. George Ryan, a convicted felon.

A Break From the Past

May 1, 2009
Senate President John Cullerton in his Statehouse office.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The soulful sounds of “A Change Is Gonna Come” resonated throughout the Illinois Senate January 14, when flowers and American flags adorned the chamber for a momentous inauguration ceremony.

Then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who had been impeached by the Illinois House five days earlier, fulfilled his constitutional duty by swearing in senators of the 96th General Assembly. 

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Democrats and Republicans fully expected to make tough choices this year. As they react to the 17th month of a national recession and a $12.4 billion deficit projected for next year, Illinois lawmakers are on the hot seat now.

Gov. Pat Quinn proposed his own plan that would trim spending and generate new revenues. Some of his money-making ideas are expected to create tough votes for lawmakers before May 31, the day they’re supposed to adjourn the spring legislative session. 

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Just as Illinois citizens want to know when federal stimulus money will trickle down to help them pay their mortgages or open the door to jobs, state officials want to know when the money will help them avoid drastic cuts to services or painful increases in state taxes.

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Momentum is not enough. This state has felt momentum build and bust too many times for everything from education to health care, transportation, construction and, often, ethics. Illinois voters are used to being disappointed.

This spring, however, even skeptics are sensitive to the actions of public officials. Their attitude: Either do something noticeable to change the way government can improve our daily lives, or our attention will turn away as fast as it was recaptured by the high-level corruption and the arrest of Rod Blagojevich.

Christiana Glover at the homeless shelter within Contact Ministries in Springfield.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Quintina Honorable is 18 years old and says she’s “not as homeless” as she was at age 16, but she’s moved at least six times since leaving her mother’s house in Springfield.

“I’m homeless, but I dress myself in a way to where I don’t look that way,” Honorable says. “You don’t let your weaknesses define you.”

She currently lives in a Springfield apartment with a few other people, but she only has half of her clothes. The rest are stored elsewhere just in case her new roommates don’t work out. 

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Pat Quinn and state legislators will have to be held accountable on spending this year. They can’t afford not to be.

Without help from a federal stimulus package, the state could face up to a $9 billion deficit. Declining revenues merge with overdue bills for an ominous picture. And that’s before the nation’s economic crisis is fully taken into account.

His critics and supporters alike say Quinn is clean when it comes to funding his campaigns and prioritizing ethics. But some worry more about whether he, as Illinois governor, would work with the legislature and how he would navigate the ship of state
Bethany Jaeger / WUIS/Illinois Issues

The new governor of Illinois once was booed on the House floor. When this magazine last profiled Quinn in 1980, Statehouse insiders described him as a gadfly who persistently challenged the government establishment and grabbed headlines by holding Sunday news conferences (see Illinois Issues, February, 1980, page 4).

Gov. Pat Quinn takes issue with the gadfly stereotype. He cites a number of reforms that he spurred by organizing grassroots movements, all in the name of democracy in the Land of Lincoln.

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The so-called pay-to-play ban, which was aimed at Gov. Rod Blagojevich and took effect last month, took three years to win legislative approval and barely survived Blagojevich’s veto pen. 

The good news, according to Cynthia Canary, executive director of the 
Illinois Campaign for Political Reform in Chicago, is that the next attempt to strengthen the state’s ethics laws could actually be less complicated. But it would be more drastic and widespread.

Rep. Frank Mautino reviews a COGFA report.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

This year might be a good time to take up yoga. 

Consumers will continue to need more ways to relieve stress as the recession threatens their jobs and their personal wealth. Budget experts expect little, if any, economic good news for the next 18 months. 

It’s a vicious cycle. Consumers stop spending money on homes, vehicles and services. When the demand for goods and services declines, employers lay off workers. Without a paycheck, even more consumers tighten their wallets, continuing to hurt the economy.

State of the State: Gov. Rod Blagojevich Left A Mess

Jan 1, 2009
Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois has become a joke after Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s December 9 arrest.

The national media flew in like hawks hunting prey for the 24-hour news cycle. They interviewed Illinois lawmakers and commented on how strange the situation had become, particularly for the state that produced the next U.S. president. 

A case in point is CNN’s headline the day after the governor’s arrest: “Illinois state politics read more like a script from ‘The Sopranos’ than a page out of the history books.”

Artwork from the Decatur Illinois Post Office WPA mural.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

One of President John F. Kennedy’s last speeches before his assassination described poet Robert Frost as possessing fidelity that strengthened the “fibre of our national life.” That speech, on October 26, 1963, at Amherst College in Massachusetts, went beyond honoring a single poet, however. Nestled in his message was Kennedy’s take on the arts as part of the nation’s strength, morality, wealth, wisdom, power and purpose.

Senate President Emil Jones Jr. is retiring.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

 

Voters will have cast their choice for U.S. president by November 4, but one more president must be elected in Illinois. The general public won’t have a say in this one, however. 

It’s solely internal, as Illinois Senate Democrats will pick a new presiding officer to replace outgoing President Emil Jones Jr., who will retire in January. His son, Emil Jones III, will fill his Senate seat, but the race to replace him at the helm of the chamber is exposing a lengthy list of candidates.

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Two government employees ate lunch at Joe’s Place in rural Fulton County nearly two years ago. Their conversation spurred what is now the first-of-its kind option for Illinois electricity customers, a direct result of the state’s recently deregulated power industry.

Question & Answer: Constitutional Convention

Oct 1, 2008
Illinois Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn
WUIS/Illinois Issues

In Illinois, the very first question on the ballot November 4 — even before the question of who shall be president — will ask voters whether Illinois should open up the state Constitution for a potential rewrite.

It’s a choice voters might not get for another 20 years.

The last time they saw that question on the ballot was in 1988, when they rejected the idea by a 3-to-1 margin, with 900,109 voting in favor of a convention and 2,727,144 voting against it. But 1 million other voters skipped the question entirely.

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The state has the primary responsibility for financing the system of public education.

— The Illinois Constitution, 1970

Noah Davis of Springfield loves to draw animals, but they must have four legs. And all four legs must simultaneously be touching the ground. He has Asperger Syndrome, a milder disorder on the autism spectrum.
Bethany Jaeger / WUIS/Illinois Issues

An autism diagnosis sends parents on an anxious search for ways to save their children from closed, mysterious worlds. 

They jump at the chance to learn more about scientific breakthroughs, hoping that some day, science will find a way to “fix” their children.

Harvard University scientists propelled those hopes in July with an article published in the journal Science. The study suggests that activating some defective genes in the brain could emulate flipping a light switch and, say, enable communication skills. 

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

A 16-year-old Rochester student tailed Gov. Rod Blagojevich with a video recorder as they walked into the State Fair last month. Surrounded by a group of news reporters, Aaron Mulvey didn’t hesitate to call out his question.

“Mr. Governor, I’m a junior at Rochester High School, and I’m still wondering: Three years ago you came to our school and told us we were getting our money. I’m just wondering where it is. We’re still on the top of that list.”

The Illinois House chamber uses a ventilation system that circulates air from columns in the chamber to the attic, where the air is filtered and dispersed over the lawmakers’ desks.
Bethany Jaeger / WUIS/Illinois Issues

State Sen. Mattie Hunter says she used to leave her home in Chicago feeling perfectly fine. But as soon as she walked off the elevator on the way to her office in the Capitol in Springfield, her nose would run. The headaches would start.

“The pounding headaches, you know?” she says. “And it never happened until I got into this building on this floor.”

She says she has asthma, sinusitis and a mold allergy, so she felt particularly sensitive to the air quality. She wanted to know whether the sixth-floor office space was making her sicker.

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

During the closing hours of their spring session, legislators debated whether the state should change its rules so a Nebraska-based energy company could invest in a central Illinois coal plant using pollution-control technology.

The plan fell just shy of the votes needed, further delaying the $2.5 billion project that’s been in the works for years.

It’s the second time the General Assembly rejected the plan, making supporters question whether that’s the final straw for Tenaska Inc. to give up on constructing the proposed Taylorville Energy Center.

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