Illinois Issues

Dana Heupel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

“Moderates are on their way to becoming extinct on both sides of the aisle, and if you happen to be one, you better not tell anyone because you will be gone in your next primary.”

So writes former Illinois Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson in her recent book titled Playing Ball with the Big Boys: And Why the Big Girls Better Get in the Game.

Jamey Dunn 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois should provide mental health care and addiction treatment to those who truly need it instead of incarcerating thousands of the addicted and the mentally ill, making taxpayers shell out for care in the much costlier settings of prison and jails. 

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

During this spring’s debate over same-sex marriage, a recurring theme among opponents has been the dire societal consequences they said would result from its legalization.

Jesse Jackson Jr.’s star was still rising when he spoke at the 2008 Democratic Convention.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

When Jesse Jackson Jr. walked into a Washington, D.C., federal courthouse in February to plead guilty to federal charges of looting his campaign fund of $750,000, Capitol Hill insiders held a similar reaction.

What could have been?

From the time the Chicago ex-congressman took office, bets were wagered on how high his star would rise: Mayor of Chicago? U.S. Senate?

“I have no other office in mind besides where I’m at now,” Jackson insisted in 1996. “This is my magnificent obsession.”

WUIS/Illinois Issues

The question of the state’s obligation to provide affordable public higher education is easy to shove aside these days, as our disgraced and dysfunctional state government grapples with more fundamental issues of fiscal survival. Truth be told, it may be a moot point.

Let’s go back one generation.

Flickr/ Mark Byzewski


“We have an impossible situation. If we solved pensions, then we would be looking at only $6 billion worth of debt with a dramatic drop of revenue taking place in 2015. That’s the best-case scenario.”

Kent Redfield,
emeritus political science professor 
at UIS

As lawmakers spend countless hours debating gun control measures and changes to the public employee pension systems, the next potential budget disaster in the state is on its way. 

Dana Heupel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As I grow older, I reflect more on the past and worry more about the future, not just for myself but for my grandchildren, whose ages range from 2 months to 10 years. 

Jamey Dunn 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois Democrats controlled both chambers of the General Assembly and the governor’s office when it came time to redraw the state’s congressional districts in 2011. The resulting map painted the state’s congressional delegation in blue. However, in most other states where lawmakers played a role in redistricting, the results were decidedly redder. 

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

For someone with a penchant for stream-of-consciousness speechmaking, Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget address last month was notable for its laser-like focus on the need to address the state’s mounting pension debt, now approaching $100 billion.

The oft-repeated theme: Ever-mounting pension obligations are crowding out funding for education and other core services.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began using heavy equipment to remove nearly 900 cubic yards of limestone from the navigation channel at Thebes in Alexander County in December.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The Army Corps of Engineers blew up part of a levee in 2011 to divert rising Mississippi River floodwaters away from Cairo. Now, in early 2013, Corps engineers find themselves in completely opposite circumstances, cautiously taking measures to ensure that commercial shipping can continue as water levels drop. 


Recent severe drought conditions that destroyed crops across Illinois also threaten to shut down barge traffic on the country’s most important waterway for commercial shipping. 

Mark Heyrman, a University of Chicago law professor, says the state is not using all the money from the facility closures on community care, as required by law, and he is heading up a lawsuit against Illinois.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Recent high-profile tragedies, including a school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut that took the lives of 20 children and six adults, have prompted states to reassess their mental health care systems. After almost $2 billion in cuts nationwide, many of them, including Illinois, are finding their support systems for the mentally ill in tatters. 

Advocates and providers say cuts to mental health funding in the state have left the system decimated, but they say the implementation of federal health care reform offers hope for those who are unable to access services now. 

Venkat Srinivasan is a researcher for the U.S. Battery and Energy Storage Hub based at Argonne National Lab.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Venkat Srinivasan has a relatively short list of requirements when shopping for a car. With a young baby at home, safety is important. “My wife is very clear,” he says. “We want to have a car where I can put my baby in the center seat in the back.” He also needs a fair amount of trunk space for all the baby gear. But what Srinivasan really wants is an environmentally friendly, plug-in hybrid. And that has been a problem.

Dana Heupel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

“People assume, because I was so sort of early in all this, that I was heavily discriminated against — and I probably was — but I’d always claim I was too dumb to realize that I was being discriminated against.”

Jamey Dunn 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

McGraw-Hill, the parent company of the world’s largest credit rating agency, Standard and Poor’s, was slapped with lower bond ratings than the state of Illinois in February. 

End and Means: Gov. Quinn's Speech Didn't Avoid Pension Subject

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

Listening to lawmakers’ reaction and reading the pundits’ commentary after Gov. Pat Quinn delivered his State of the State speech a few weeks ago was even more entertaining than the governor’s 38-minute performance.

A random sampling, with sources not identified to spare any potential embarrassment:

Quinn “made a campaign speech,” complained various lawmakers, most but not all of them Republicans.

Adam Walsh
WUIS/Illinois Issues

In 2005, Joseph Duncan tied up Brenda Groene, her 13-year-old son, Slade Groene, and her husband, Mark McKenzie, and beat them to death with a hammer in the family’s home in Idaho. Duncan kidnapped Brenda’s 8-year-old daughter, Shasta Groene, and 9-year-old son, Dylan Groene. He took them to remote campgrounds in Montana and over several weeks, he sexually assaulted both children and eventually murdered Dylan. Shasta survived the ordeal after a waitress at an Idaho Denny’s restaurant recognized her and called the police. 

While he waited for the concession call from Mitt Romney, the president worked on his acceptance speech with Jon Favreau, director of speechwriting, and campaign adviser David Axelrod at a Chicago hotel.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Collin Corbett is a Republican whose job it is to elect Republicans. His company in Chicago’s northern suburbs, Cor Strategies, has worked with presidential contender Mitt Romney, gubernatorial hopeful Sen. Bill Brady and dozens of lesser-known politicians vying for offices such as city council or circuit clerk. 

After President Barack Obama won re-election in November, Corbett says his Republican clients immediately wanted to copy the Democrat’s campaign tactics, especially when it came to technology. 

Before 2010, Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood was split into five state House districts and three Senate districts.
Ashlee Rezin / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Latinos added more than a half-million people to the state of Illinois in the last decade, becoming the state’s second-largest ethnic/racial group.

But the increase from 12 percent of Illinois’ population in 2000 to 16 percent in 2010 was not adequately reflected in the state’s most recent drawing of its legislative map, some Latino advocates say.

Dana Heupel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Pat Quinn and the Illinois General Assembly continue to search for a way to reduce the state’s nearly $97 billion public pension liability by changing the benefits of current state employees, teachers, university workers, legislators and, perhaps, judges.

Jamey Dunn 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

During the legislature’s lame-duck session in January, an Illinois Senate committee approved a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage, but it lacked the support to pass in the full Senate. Similar legislation was not called for a vote in the House. Just days later, at the beginning of the new legislative session, Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Greg Harris introduced new bills in their respective chambers to end the ban on same-sex marriage. 

End and Means: General Assembly Ends its Term Quietly

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

This is the way the 97th General Assembly ended — not with a bang but a whimper. (With apologies to T.S. Eliot.)

When the outgoing legislature quit for good on January 8, its list of unfinished business was considerable, topped by its inability to agree on anything to help restore fiscal stability to the state’s retirement systems.

T-shirts are sold on the first day of the September 2012 teachers’ strike.
Chicago Teachers Union

Three years ago, Gov. Pat Quinn was preparing to sign legislation that would tie teachers’ performance evaluations to the growth of their students. It was hailed as historic. Part of a national trend spurred by states’ desire to qualify for the Obama administration’s Race to the Top federal education grants.

The plan was to phase it in year by year, starting with Chicago in the fall of 2012, followed by the lowest performing schools across the state, with all schools in compliance by 2016.

Deputy House Majority Leader Lou Lang, a Democrat from Skokie, chairs the Asian-American caucus.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The Democrats' new super-majorities promise to enhance the power of individual caucuses.

In the frenzied final hours of the 2005 spring session of the Illinois General Assembly, the push to finalize a new state budget suddenly ground to a halt when a bloc of Democratic lawmakers announced they couldn't support the spending plan.

Without their votes, there was no way the Democratic majority could adopt a budget without Republican input, raising speculation that the session could go into overtime.

Tammy Duckworth

The election in Illinois’ 8th Congressional District was defined by personalities, by national ideological and demographic trends and by political realities specific to Illinois. In one corner, Hoffman Estates Democrat Tammy Duckworth, born in Thailand, became another data point in a sweeping national victory for Democrats and the progressive left. In the other, Republican Joe Walsh, the incumbent and an outspoken member of the Tea Party wave that took the House in 2010, became another casualty in a Congress that will be less male and Caucasian than any before.

Dr. John Warner Hospital in Clinton stopped dispatching ambulances at the end of 2012.

“The hospital decided to get out of the ambulance business because we were losing just under $600,000 a year on the operation,” says Earl Sheehy, chief executive officer of the city-owned medical facility. “It was difficult. There were a lot of emotions involved and all that.” But he says the hospital could no longer bear the financial drain. “The community can have a better ambulance service, and the hospital can be stronger without having to sustain the ambulance service.”

Dana Heupel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gay marriage. Gambling expansion. State employee pension reform. Medical marijuana. Forcing some businesses to disclose tax breaks. Driving privileges for undocumented immigrants. Keeping open prisons and mental health and developmental centers. Implementing federal health care expansion.

Jamey Dunn 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

In late November, Gov. Pat Quinn was dubbed with the infamous title of the least popular governor in America.

End and Means: Neophyte Lawmakers Face a Bunch of Tough Issues

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

When the 98th Illinois General Assembly takes office in a few days, almost one out of every five lawmakers will be a newcomer with no previous legislative experience, the largest batch of rookies in more than a decade.

So many new faces — 11 in the Senate and 22 in the House — might be expected in the aftermath of the first election following redistricting, when candidates for all 177 legislative seats are running under a new map. Ten years ago, 32 newcomers were sworn into office in the wake of the 2001 remap and the 2002 election.

Heaven Sutton and her mother, Ashake Banks
Cook County Sheriff's Department

It felt like summer in Chicago, but it was barely spring. In mid-March — a time of year when the highs are usually in the upper 40s — temperatures hit the 80s on eight days during one nine-day stretch. And in some parts of the city, bullets began flying.

Day after day, headlines delivered the grim news: “1 dead as shootings erupt around city”; “Chicago shootings leave 7 dead, 33 hurt”; “CHICAGO COP SHOT”; “Shooting death of girl, 6, marks lethal weekend. ‘She didn’t deserve this,’ mother says”; “49 people are shot citywide, 10 fatally.”

What's a Bond Rating Worth?

Nov 1, 2012

At the very least, downgrades lead to negative press; at the worst, taxpayers pay a price.

When it comes to Illinois’ bond rating, what’s past is prologue.

Joan Walters was director of the Bureau of the Budget under Republican Gov. Jim Edgar, whose administration is fondly thought of by some at the Statehouse as the last truly fiscally responsible gubernatorial administration.