Kimberly Lightford

Jaclyn Driscoll

Women in the Illinois Senate plan to advance their voices in leadership with the creation of their own caucus. Women on both sides of the aisle say they’ve had a significant role in crafting policy, but may not always get the credit they deserve. 

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The Illinois State Senate spent Sunday in session, where Senators voted 38 to 19 to override Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of the new school funding bill. The override wasn't a surprise, because this new evidence-based funding plan had originally cleared the Senate with a veto-proof majority. The House, however, represents a higher hurdle, where Democrats will need Republicans to vote with them. That vote is scheduled for Wednesday.

 

Sen. Andy Manar, the Bunker Hill Democrat who sponsored the measure, says he'd rather negotiate a compromise.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

The future of state funding for Illinois schools is still up in the air Monday afternoon. The fight over Senate Bill 1 — legislation that would overhaul the way Illinois supports k-12 schools — has such high stakes and such slim vote margins that it has turned into a parliamentary chess game. Now, the next move belongs to Gov. Bruce Rauner.

A bacteria model hanging from a classroom ceiling.
Carter Staley / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Property taxes, PE, police, twins, tampons, Title I funds, teacher evaluations, lactating students and lottery dollars — these are a few of the legislative measures working their way through education committees in the General Assembly.

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

Gov. Bruce Rauner's efforts to equalize school funding in Illinois have gotten a lot of publicity lately, since the bipartisan commission he established concluded by issuing a report earlier this month. But another group of lawmakers was simultaneously tackling the same issue. It was lead by State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood). What conclusion did that group come to?

KENT KRIEGSHAUSER / GALESBURG REGISTER-MAIL

Who has been hurt the most by shifts in the Illinois economy?

When it comes to school funding, Illinois has been ranked as the worst in the country because our system is so inequitable. Basically that means some schools offer a lot of advanced placement courses and have fancy science labs and swimming pools, while other schools can’t afford new math books and have to cut their band programs. The fight over how to fix this has gone on for years.

In July, Gov. Bruce Rauner announced that he was creating a bipartisan commission to change the way Illinois funds public schools. That commission held its third meeting yesterday. But there’s another commission tackling the same topic, and its founder claims her group is getting more work done.

A law going into effect next month will ban zero-tolerance policies in schools and turn suspension and expulsion into disciplinary options of last resort. Districts throughout the state are taking different approaches to prepare for the changes.

Who should pay for the Illinois courts?

The State Legislative Leaders Foundation

Illinois legislators haven’t been paid in months, but that’s about to change.

Flickr user: Dean Hochman

Lawmakers return to Springfield with some new ideas, but the unfinished business of 2015 will likely overshadow other topics in the second year of the legislative session. 


police cars
flickr.com/appleswitch (Creative Commons)

  So far, it seems no police officers have been disciplined for helping conceal the circumstances under which Chicago teenager Laquan McDonald was killed. Because of that, a group of black lawmakers say Illinois should consider licensing police.

Brian Mackey/WUIS

By now, most people probably have a sense that things at the Illinois Statehouse have gotten downright nasty, even if it’s not completely clear what all the fighting is about—or, how it’s playing out behind the scenes.

To reveal the parts of the fighting that the public doesn’t get to see—the squabbling and cynical gamesmanship—we wanted to pull back the curtain.

Should criminals bear the cost of their own rehabilitation?

The finished product uses shades of green, blue, rose and peach that match the marble throughout the Capitol.
Bethany Carson / WUIS/Illinois Issues

The Illinois General Assembly doesn't typically meet during the summer. But legislators are back for another one-day session today.

2014 General Election Total Votes
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Despite overwhelming support from voters at last fall’s general election, an increase in the minimum wage appears to be dead in the spring session of the Illinois General Assembly.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Editor's note appended.

Last week’s short-term budget fix underscores tensions between some Democratic lawmakers and the new Republican governor. House and Senate Democratic leaders urged their members to support the appropriations, but many didn’t. Some Hispanic legislators and members of the Legislative Black Caucus voted against the budget legislation, which funded programs several of them said were important to their respective constituents.

Child care providers who accept a state subsidy are “trying to hold on,” as one provider says. Funding for the Child Care Assistance Program dried up last month. Many of them converged on the state Capitol building Thursday to urge legislators and the governor to fund the program through June, the end of the state’s fiscal year.

The rally comes a day after Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner gave his first budget address, acknowledging the costs of having the program run out of money. “Families are worried about how to care for their children,” Rauner said.

Amanda Vinicky

The Illinois House has adjourned its two-year legislative session for good, without a vote on a minimum wage hike - meaning that Representatives will not be back in Springfield before Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner takes over.  But backers of an increase are raising the possibility that the proposal isn't quite dead yet.

In Latin, "Sine Die" means “without a date," so when House Speaker Michael Madigan said "I move that we adjourn Sine Die," he meant that current makeup of the Illinois House was adjourning for good - with no intent to meet again.

Amanda Vinicky

A revamped statewide minimum wage hike is in the works, following Chicago's passage of one for the city. As the legislative session nears its end, specifics are developing.

Backers of a higher minimum wage are doing what they can to get it through the General Assembly.

That means phasing it in over a longer period of time --- so it'd go up to $9 in July, instead of $10, then notch up each summer by 50 cents, until it reaches $11 in 2019. They're also adding on a tax credit for small businesses, to ease the cost of paying workers more.

Amanda Vinicky

The sponsor of a minimum wage hike says she'll push to get it passed during the legislature's veto session, which began today, Tues. Nov. 19.

Sen. Kim Lightford, a Democrat from Maywood, pointed to the results of a non-binding referendum. Sixty-seven percent of Illinois voters said “yes," Illinois should raise its minimum wage to $10 an hour by Jan. 1, 2015. The current rate is $8.25.

Results showed support for an increase in much of the state, including traditionally Republican areas, like the Chicago suburbs and downstate.

The Illinois General Assembly has approved legislation intended to make charter schools follow state laws for special education. But some lawmakers see this as the latest attack on charter schools.

  Charter schools already have to follow federal laws on special education and for students who are just learning English. But according to the Illinois State Board of Education, a "handful" say they were exempt from stricter state requirements.

wikimedia

Gov. Pat Quinn says he supports asking voters whether Illinois' minimum wage ought to be raised to $10 an hour.

The state Senate approved that question today for the November ballot.

Senator Kimberly Lightford, a Democrat from Maywood, says polling shows support for the hike across the state. She says a ballot question could give lawmakers the push they need.

capitol
Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  A plan to raise the minimum wage in Illinois has cleared its first legislative hurdle. But as it moves through the General Assembly, it continues to draw criticism from business groups.

The plan would gradually increase the state's minimum wage to $10.65 an hour. Illinois' current rate is $8.25, already one of the highest in the nation.

Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  The battle over raising the minimum wage got lot louder on Wednesday. Several hundred minimum wage workers and union members rallied in the Capitol.

A coalition of unions and activist groups lobbied lawmakers and shared their stories of life on minimum wage.

Rachel Bittenbender is 25 and earning $8.25 an hour. She works just shy of full-time at a fast food restaurant in Dixon, near Rockford.

"After I pay my bills? That's about it," she said. "I have a little bit aside to help with some groceries...and then get my car with some gas if I need it for that week."

flickr/LizMarie_AK

Illinois lawmakers are considering what steps police should have to take before questioning kids at school.

The legislation would basically make police read kids their Miranda rights — that they can remain silent, and anything they say can be used against them in court.

It would also make police notify parents they have the opportunity to be present during questioning.

Sen. Kim Lightford, a Democrat from Maywood, calls it a "student bill of rights."

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

As we get ready to welcome 2014, we thought we’d take a few minutes to reflect on some of the voices in the news this past year in Illinois state politics and government. People in the Capitol were busy with same-sex marriage, medical marijuana, and dozens of other issues. What follows are a few of the more memorable moments.

Gov. Pat Quinn: “This is no small issue. This is a choice about whether we will make the tough decisions necessary to balance our budget by reforming our public pension systems."

Gov. Pat Quinn is again making a push for raising Illinois' minimum wage.  
The Chicago Democrat has been visiting black churches in the Chicago area as he ramps up his 2014 re-election bid. On Sunday, he told congregants at Missionary Baptist Fellowship Church that helping those who live in poverty is a principle as old as the Bible.  
Illinois last raised the minimum wage in 2010.