Illinois Issues

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
mattpenning.com 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
defense.gov

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
mattpenning.com 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. 

Former Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell with one of her horses.
American Quarter Horse Association

Even the most optimistic citizens of Dixon don’t think they’re ever going to get their $53 million back.

At this point, they just hope they’ll at least get their pound of flesh. 

“The citizens are anxious to see what kind of sentence she gets” if she’s convicted, says Mayor Jim Burke, referring to his city’s former comptroller, Rita Crundwell. “There isn’t a day that goes by when someone doesn’t call and say, ‘If she gets off with a slap on the wrist ...’”

The Illinois Senate in session.
Jamey Dunn / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Legislative sessions scheduled after a general election but before a new General Assembly is sworn in are historically a time when things get done. 

Recently in such sessions, Illinois lawmakers approved civil unions for same-sex couples, abolished the death penalty and passed the only income tax increase the state has seen in 20 years. 

Dana Heupel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The Chicago area is the most corrupt region in the nation, according to a research paper presented at a recent statewide ethics conference, and Illinois is the third most corrupt state.

Jamey Dunn headshot
mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Now that the election is over, several movements advocating for major changes in the state are gaining momentum. Same-sex marriage

After three states approved same-sex marriage in November’s general election, gay rights advocates in Illinois say it may be the right time to pass a bill legalizing same sex marriage in the state.

Charlie Wheeler headshot
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Unprecedented.

An often overused term, prone  to hyperbole, but a spot-on summary of last month's votes  for the 98th General Assembly, for never before in Illinois history has one political party captured veto-proof majorities in both legislative chambers in the same general election.

Democrats did so, winning 40 Senate seats — the party's most ever — and 71 House seats, leaving shell-shocked Republicans to wonder if anyone caught the number of the bus that hit them.

Margie Wade in an undated photograph
Belleville News-Democrat

Since 2003, the deaths of 53 disabled adults were reported to, but not investigated by, the Illinois Department of Human Services - until a newspaper probe shed light on those stories.

 Margie Wade was trapped. She was too weak to move. Even to close her eyes.

The 59-year-old disabled woman, critically ill from severe diabetes, lay unconscious; face down on a plastic mattress cover that adhered to her body so tightly it would have to be cut away. She wore only a shirt.

Under the new Medicaid eligibility requirements, Oliver Wellman’s parents make too much money to qualify for the 24-7 nursing care he needs because of his tracheostomy, but not enough to be able to afford to pay for the care themselves.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Maria, the mother in a family of four living in Willowbrook, doesn’t want her real name or that of her family made public. A private, proud woman, Maria would rather keep her problems to herself and solve them herself.

But Maria is in a Catch-22 that might force her to quit her job. Her daughter needs expensive medical care, and Maria and her husband don’t make enough money to cover the costs but make too much to get help. Out of frustration, she shares her story.

Welfare Chart
WUIS/Illinois Issues

When Illinois passed legislation in 1997 to help implement the federal overhaul of the welfare system, then-state Sen. Barack Obama voiced concerns about poor residents falling through the cracks.

Dana Heupel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Elsewhere in this issue, you will find a graphic photograph of Margie Wade taken by sheriff’s deputy a few hours before the 59-year-old woman died in 2003 in a Hillsboro hospital. It is not our normal practice to publish shocking images, and we seriously weighed the pros and cons before I decided to use it because it tells the story of her last moments in a way that words alone cannot.

Jamey Dunn headshot
mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Though I never met him, Paul Simon has had a profound effect on my life. Some years ago, a fateful visit to the Public Policy Institute he founded at my alma mater, Southern Illinois University, solidified my choice to shift my career path from public relations and take a gamble on journalism, regardless of my fears about finding a job in a struggling industry.

Is Mike Madigan the Darth Vader of Illinois government, a sort of Dark Lord responsible for all the woes besetting the Prairie State, from its lowered bond rating to its mountain of unpaid bills, maybe even this summer’s devastating drought?

That’s the narrative Republican leaders hope will persuade Illinois voters on November 6 to support GOP candidates up and down the ballot, but most importantly for the Illinois General Assembly.

William Holland was first appointed as auditor general in 1992.
Lane Christiansen

Illinois Auditor General William Holland, recently appointed to an unprecedented third 10-year term in that office, occasionally gets invited to speak to college accounting classes. When he does, the students are in for a surprise.

Holland typically opens by telling his audience that he isn’t a trained auditor and that he has no auditing experience. Next, he adds: “You’re thinking, then, I must be an accountant. I’m here to tell you I am NOT an accountant.”

Education Inequality
WUIS/Illinois Issues

It’s been a decade since a blue-ribbon panel outlined an ambitious plan designed to finally force the state to provide an adequate level of funding for Illinois schoolchildren.

But, just as they’ve failed in the past, Illinois policymakers have again fallen far short of the goals laid out in the 2002 Education Funding Advisory Board report. The state’s recently approved budget will leave many school districts having to dip into their reserve funds, take out loans or, if labor contracts allow for it, cut personnel and programs to deal with a $161 million cut in general state aid.

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts
WUIS/Illinois Issues

While many states are pushing back against President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform plan, Illinois is moving forward with the law since it was upheld by the U. S. Supreme Court. But even in the president’s adopted home state, the path to making the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act a reality is not without its pitfalls and political battles. 

Dana Heupel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

We’d like to thank those of you who took the time to complete our recent reader survey. We’ve been poring over the results for more than a month now, and as promised, we want to share some of them with you. (I apologize in advance that this column will be what we call “number heavy,” but that’s pretty much the nature of this beast.)

Jamey Dunn headshot
mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

When it comes to addressing the issue of racial profiling, Illinois has a data collection system that is a model for the nation. However, the state has done little to make use of that information to eliminate the discriminatory practice. 

A 2000 report from the U.S. Department of Justice defines racial profiling as “police-initiated action that relies on the race, ethnicity or national origin rather than the behavior of an individual or information that leads the police to a particular individual who has been identified as being, or having been, engaged in criminal activity.”

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