Illinois Issues

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.

WUIS/Illinois Issues

After the media frenzy at the 1930s trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann for kidnapping the Lindbergh baby, the American Bar Association enacted policies barring radio, newsreels and photo cameras from trials. Federal and state courts followed suit. For more than 70 years, reporters could only use pen and paper. But as technology changed, states began to allow electronic media into their supreme, appellate and circuit courts.

WUIS/Illinois Issues

Officials involved with health care in Illinois say a bad economy, job layoffs and the high cost of medical insurance contributed to thousands of Illinoisans going uninsured in recent years — and one study asserts that nearly 5,000 Illinoisans died between 2005 and 2010 because they didn’t have health insurance. 

Key Metrics for All Properties
Illinois Association of Realtors

Five years after the real estate market collapsed and the country fell into the Great Recession, Illinois’ housing market is showing signs of recovery.

Dana Heupel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

I have never understood why same-sex marriage isn’t an issue that more political conservatives would support. After all, for a philosophy that stands on the principle that government should intrude as little as possible in citizens’ lives, what could be more intrusive than regulating behavior among consenting adults in their own homes?

 

Jamey Dunn
mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Pat Quinn may be a fan of Squeezy the python, a cartoon character created to educate the public about the state’s growing pension liability, but his administration has put another mascot out of work. 

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Officially, it’s “Sec. 18-8.05. Basis for apportionment of general State financial aid and supplemental general State aid to the common schools for the 1998-1999 and subsequent school years,” in the statute books.

More familiarly, it’s known simply as the “state aid formula.”

By either name, it’s the prescription by which the state doles out billions of dollars each year to public school districts across Illinois to help pay education costs for more than one million children from kindergarten through high school.

Murphysboro Republican Rep. Mike Bost’s rant went viral on YouTube and made Late Night with David Letterman.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Willie Sutton reputedly said he robbed banks because that’s where the money was.

That kind of stark mathematical logic also could explain why Illinois’ political system has, more than ever it seems, turned its back on that oddly defined region we call “Downstate” to focus almost exclusively on “Chicagoland.”

As Sutton might say, with painful obviousness, it’s because that’s where the money is. And the votes.

Medical Marijuana
WUIS/Illinois Issues

For U.S. Army veteran Jim Champion, the signing of Illinois House Bill 1 into law in early August eventually could mean relief not only from the side effects of the pills he takes for multiple sclerosis but relief from the fear of doing something illegal.

Champion, a resident of Somonauk, was among a handful of citizen lobbyists who spent years trying to persuade the Illinois General Assembly and Gov. Pat Quinn to make Illinois the 20th state in the nation to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana.

Since 2009, government agencies in America have lost more than 94 million records containing citizens’ information. 

Dana Heupel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

OK, children, today’s class is a lesson in problem solving. We all know the state of Illinois owes a big pot of money to its workers for their retirement savings — as much as $100 billion — but it doesn’t have enough to pay them. That’s our problem. So, let’s make it fun and discuss it.

Does anyone know how much $100 billion is? Ty?

“It’s as much as all of the members of the Civic Committee have in all their piggy banks.”

That’s a good guess, Ty, but it may be even more than that. Patrick?

Jamey Dunn
mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

The Illinois Department of Corrections is in the early stages of rolling out a new systemwide policy that advocates say could be one of the biggest reforms in the agency in recent history.

 

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

After watching Illinois government and politics for more than 40 years, one might reasonably assume that he or she has seen it all.

One — or at least this one — would be wrong.

On returning home from the Wisconsin Northwoods, I discovered not one but two new cases that stretch the limits of belief — one an unprecedented abuse of gubernatorial power, the other an amazing display of legal treachery.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Across the world, the drilling process referred to as "fracking" has caused controversy. Some say it brings heavy profits with the oil and natural gas it extracts from far underground. Others say it's caused pollution, contaminated water... and even initiated earthquakes. It's an issue Illinois residents have been largely untouched by - until now, as fracking has recently begun in the southern part of the state.

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