Illinois Issues

  Taxes suck.

That, it seems, is the only truism. Nobody wants to render unto Caesar. But, at least in Illinois, Caesar needs to get re-elected, and so stuff can get complicated.

WUIS/Illinois Issues

When historians look back on this time, they might well refer to it as the “Age of Food.”

Food appreciation is a hobby. Chefs are rock-star famous. Grocery stores carry exotic items once only available in restaurants. Blogs are devoted to every kind of cuisine. “Food porn” glamorizes images of food. In fact, so many people call themselves “foodies,” some chefs and critics are shunning the word.

Dana Heupel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

When I came to Springfield 22 years ago, I didn’t expect that I would still be here when I retired. I was simply looking for a place to land in the Midwest after a stereotypical midlife crisis so I could be closer to my son, who had moved from California to Indiana with my former wife.

Jamey Dunn
mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

On the federal level, marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Schedule 1 drugs are considered to have a high risk for causing dependency and no acceptable use as medication. Other drugs classified as Schedule 1 include LSD, heroin and ecstasy. 

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Once upon a time, a veteran political reporter asked a simple question of his cub sidekick. “Young man,” intoned the legendary newsman, “What do you think of the Illinois legislature?” The rookie answered with all the insight gained during a couple of weeks on the Statehouse beat. “I can’t believe I have to live in a state where the laws are made by such a bunch of bozos!” he declared indignantly. “Young man,” responded his mentor, “no matter what you may think of them, never forget that every one of them is here because the folks back home voted for them over anyone else.”

Valinda Rowe is the spokeswoman for the all-volunteer IllinoisCarry.Com, a Second Amendment rights group.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

A December 2012 federal court ruling overturning Illinois’ ban on carrying firearms in public set the stage for what has been a year-long conversation about guns in the state. The issue brought citizens, clergy members, victims’ family members, volunteer advocates and lobbyists to the Statehouse in droves to hold rallies, give speeches and testify before committees. 

Bruce Rauner
WUIS/Illinois Issues

If there’s a common observation regarding Gov. Pat Quinn’s future, it’s this: He’s one darn lucky guy.

We know the story: He faced the most formidable of challengers — the well-financed and personally popular Lisa Madigan as well as Bill Daley, who comes from another big Chicago family name with plenty of connections. 

Kent Redfield
WUIS/Illinois Issues

In the final weeks of 2013, Illinois was among more than 20 states tripping over each other like eager suitors to woo a new Boeing production plant for its 777x airliner. The aerospace giant had put out word that it was abandoning its Washington state production plans over labor disputes and would consider the presentations of any states that wanted a shot at it. It said it would decide in January 2014 which state would get the estimated 8,500 jobs and other economic windfalls associated with the project.

Dana Heupel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln project is on a mission to capture digital images of every document written by or to the nation’s 16th president during his lifetime. It also intends to transcribe those documents, annotate them and publish them in a free online database.

So far, the project has scanned more than 97,000 documents from more than 400 repositories and 190 private collections in 47 states and six foreign countries. The staff expects the Papers to encompass more than 150,000 documents when complete.

Jamey Dunn
mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Communities on the southeast side of Chicago have borne the brunt of industrial pollution for decades. In recent years, community pushback has led to positive environmental developments. But residents now find themselves in the middle of a battle over piles of petroleum waste that are coating their homes and businesses in black dust. 

End and Means: Illinois Should Examine Its Revenue Structure

Feb 1, 2014
Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Has the time come to overhaul Illinois’ venerable (outdated?) revenue structure?

The question is more than academic, given the daunting challenge for Gov. Pat Quinn and the Illinois General Assembly to craft a balanced budget for next fiscal year with some $2 billion less in receipts due to the partial rollback of the 2011 income tax increase.

Classie Poe says East St. Louis even has few fast-food jobs
Robert Loerzel / WUIS/Illinois Issues

In some pockets of Illinois, where one in every three people live in poverty or close to it, the need is visible in the landscape: empty lots where buildings once stood in Cairo; abandoned houses marked with X’s in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood; families living in ramshackle trailers in Kankakee County’s Pembroke Township.

WUIS/Illinois Issues

When a September meeting of one of Illinois’ many obscure government oversight commissions turned into a discussion about the proper seasoning blend for making hot dogs, it served as yet another reminder that there are problems with the state’s revamped rules for purchasing goods and services.

WUIS/Illinois Issues

When the framers of Illinois’ Constitution, which was adopted in 1970, were considering the revenue article, the state’s income tax was practically brand new.  

Dana Heupel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Two of the laws that take effect this month affect motorists in Illinois. One is apparently designed to make driving safer; the other would seem to make it more dangerous. According to research, however, the predicted results might surprise you.

Jamey Dunn
mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois will soon join the other 49 states in allowing some citizens to carry firearms in public. 

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As 2014 dawns, the new year brings with it a personal milestone for yours truly — the start of my 31st year as an Illinois Issues columnist. Since January 1984, I’ve had the privilege of sharing my observations about Illinois government and politics with you, the magazine’s loyal readers, in more than 300 columns, by my reckoning.

So I thought some reflection might be in order, if you’ll bear with me, along the lines of the more things change, the more they stay the same, to quote the old French proverb.

Gov. Pat Quinn and supporters at the bill-signing event
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Chicago Democratic state Rep. Greg Harris glowed with a look of satisfaction as he received a standing ovation at the bill-signing event for the state’s new same sex marriage law. 

The day the bill was signed into law was a heart-warming event for supporters and gay couples. The crowd clapped, waved rainbow flags, a symbol of the gay rights movement, and cheered in celebration.  “It’s time to stop planning rallies and start planning weddings. Congratulations,” Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon said at the Chicago event on November 20.

 After years of inaction on changes to the state's employee pension systems, legislative leaders say they have hammered out a deal that could be presented to lawmakers December 3.

 

Rep Lou Lang speaks at a press conference on his medical marijuana bill.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

After voting to reject medical marijuana legislation three times in previous years, the Illinois House approved a bill in April. Sponsor Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat; worked to tighten the bill, which proponents call the most strictly regulated medical marijuana program in the country. “This bill is a very carefully drafted bill,” Gov. Pat Quinn said when he signed the legislation. He did not openly support the bill as it moved through the legislature but said he would keep an open mind if it reached his desk.

Protesters seeking a moratorium  on fracking in Illinois stationed themselves outside the  governor’s office.
Jamey Dunn / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois' fracking regulations were regarded as some of the strongest in the nation when they were approved in the spring, but opponents worry that they will be weakened when put into practice.

Sandi and Jesse Jackson Jr. at the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver
WUIS/Illinois Issues

His predecessor in the U.S. House, Mel Reynolds, went to jail in the mid-’90s, being convicted of bank fraud and having sex with a 16-year-old girl. But Jesse Jackson Jr. was the first son of a candidate for president from Illinois to serve time in prison.

In late October, Jackson Jr. reported to a North Carolina prison camp, where he was expected to serve until December 2015. It was the end of what had been a spectacular rise and a hard fall. He was still trying to come up with the cash to cover his restitution.

Jamey Dunn
mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

When the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice split from the state’s Department of Corrections in 2006, it moved forward with a distinct mission: recognize that youth offenders have different needs than adults and address those needs with the goal of helping them turn their lives around.

End and Means: Crisis? Maybe Not. But the Red Flags Are Waving.

Dec 1, 2013
Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

When Senate President John Cullerton a few weeks back said the state’s pension funding problems were not a crisis, the reaction was swift: shock and outrage that the Chicago Democrat might suggest that failure to slash public employee retirement benefits NOW would not mean the imminent demise of the Land of Lincoln.

July skies are fiery over a Union artillery position on the northern end of  Cemetery Ridge, the center of the Union line, where it joins Cemetery Hill north of the copse of trees. This position is overlooking the broad valley down to Seminary Ridge.
Robert Shaw / WUIS/Illinois Issues

One of the more misleading myths about the Gettysburg Address is that it was not properly appreciated by the audience who heard it or the readers who soon afterward saw it in newspapers. In fact, many of the 15,000 assembled at Gettysburg were profoundly moved. Edward Everett, who delivered the main oration just before Lincoln delivered his “few appropriate remarks,” noted that the president’s handiwork was “greatly admired.” And so it was.

Although the search for a way out of the state’s public pension mess has been the focal point in Springfield for the past two years, it’s not the only fiscal question mark looming over Illinois’ political landscape.

But unlike the years-long build-up that led to the slow-motion pension train wreck, this potential debacle has a timeline that’s crystal clear. On January 1, 2015, the first phase of the state’s temporary 2011 income tax increase will expire, potentially blowing a projected $2.2 billion hole in the state’s revenue stream.

WUIS/Illinois Issues

If you are trying to keep tabs on the race for governor in Illinois, online social media platforms are some of the best places to do it. 

Louis Kosiba
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Editor’s note: I am forgoing my column this month to instead publish a piece by Louis Kosiba, executive director of the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund. Primarily because state law requires municipalities to contribute to their employees’ retirement annually, the Municipal Retirement Fund is in much better shape than other public pension funds in Illinois, where lawmakers and governors have repeatedly skipped payments or only made partial contributions. — Dana Heupel 

Jamey Dunn
mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

After a shooter took the lives of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Conn., policymakers at the state and federal levels called for a re-evaluation of many things. Gun laws, school security and behavioral health treatment topped the list.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

“You can’t tell the players without a scorecard.”

That refrain, oft-repeated at ballparks across the land in bygone days, may take on new meaning when voters go to the polls a year from now to elect a new Illinois House of Representatives.

With the deadline still weeks away for filing petitions to qualify for the March primary ballot, the House seems on pace to set a record for voluntary turnover in the first election after redistricting.

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