State News

Government
5:02 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

IL House pushes for its pension overhaul

Reps. Darlene Senger (left) and Elaine Nekritz discuss pensions in a Statehouse conference room.
Credit (Brian Mackey/Illinois Public Radio)

Members of the Illinois House continued pushing for their version of a pension overhaul Tuesday. The Democratic leaders of the House and Senate remain deadlocked over the best approach to fixing Illinois $100 billion pension problem. The latest twist could affect how public school teachers' pensions are funded. IPR’s Brian Mackey has more.
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State News
7:58 am
Tue May 28, 2013

Il House approves Medicaid expansion

Low-income adults who do not have children would for the first time be eligible for state-backed health care coverage under a measure approved Monday in the Illinois House. The Medicaid expansion is a signature plank of the federal Affordable Care Act.

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State News
7:55 am
Tue May 28, 2013

With Days To Go, Crunch Time In Springfield

While many people across Illinois had Monday off from work for Memorial Day, the members of the Illinois General Assembly were meeting in Springfield. Just four days remain until lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn for the summer. 

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State News
7:43 am
Tue May 28, 2013

Il has option of spending more money than realized

The state of Illinois' budget has been under pressure for years, forcing lawmakers to make difficult decisions to cut spending. But as IPR’S Brian Mackey reports, they learned about an entirely different kind of problem on Monday.

Even people who closely follow state government can lose track of all the billions and millions that get tossed around during budget-making season. But lawmakers were paying attention when financial experts reported Illinois would have the option of spending $200 million more dollars than they previously realized. It's because of the "April surprise."

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State News
7:22 am
Tue May 28, 2013

Sen. Durbin says vets should receive disability payments sooner

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says the way American veterans receive disability claims has “got to change.”His comments come as the federal Department of Veterans Affairs is working on a new digital, paper-less way of handling the claims. The V.A. is working to get that done by September.

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State News
7:46 am
Mon May 27, 2013

Lawmakers have a lot of work to do before legislative session wraps up

There are five days left in the Illinois General Assembly's spring session.  And as IPR'S Amanda Vinicky reports legislators have a lot of work ahead of them.

Typically, fighting over the budget carries into the waning hours of a legislative session. But Democrats, who have enough seats to pass a spending plan without any Republican votes, say they've already reached a deal.

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State News
7:25 am
Mon May 27, 2013

Former Il Gov comments on legislative session

A former Illinois Governor says he's watching Illinois lawmakers closely as this legislative session draws to a close. Jim Thompson says he’s disappointed with “the partisan rancor” in Springfield, but doesn’t blame the usual suspects:

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State News
7:17 am
Mon May 27, 2013

Senate Democrats to meet on concealed-carry legislation

Senate Democrats are planning to meet Monday to figure out how to respond to concealed-carry legislation passed by the House on Friday.

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State News
7:14 am
Mon May 27, 2013

House passes measure allowing internet gambling on horse racing

Internet gambling on horse racing would once again be legal in Illinois under legislation approved Sunday by the Illinois House of Representatives. IPR’S Brian Mackey has more.

Online and telephone horse betting has been illegal in Illinois all year.  A law authorizing it expired on Dec. 31. The practice, known as "advanced deposit wagering," was a $122 million business in Illinois last year.

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Government
5:43 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

IL House approves concealed carry plan

Credit Brian Mackey, IPR.

The Illinois House Friday approved legislation that would let gun owners carry concealed firearms in public.  But as IPR’s Brian Mackey reports, the governor says he'll work to "stop it in its tracks."
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State News
9:22 am
Fri May 24, 2013

Why are gas prices higher in Chicago?

It’s Memorial Day weekend, and people are hitting the road. Drivers are paying more for gas. The Lundberg Survey says the price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States rose sharply in the last two weeks because of outages at Midwest and West Coast refineries. Gas prices in Chicago are often higher than New York, Los Angeles -- even Hawaii. Why does this happen when we aren’t far from oil-rich Canada and we have a huge refinery right next door. Illinois Public Radio’s Michael Puente reports.

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State News
7:12 am
Fri May 24, 2013

Judges left out of pension conversation

Illinois lawmakers remain at odds over how to handle the state's 100 billion dollars of pension debt. But there's a chance that this spring the General Assembly may finally do something about it. After years of no major action, there are not one, but two major packages designed to reign in Illinois' retirement costs.  The House and Senate passed competing plans.  Both of them seek to save Illinois money by cutting current and retired government workers' benefits.

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State News
7:03 am
Fri May 24, 2013

House to consider concealed-carry legislation

A measure that would allow Illinois residents to carry concealed firearms is heading to the House floor after lawmakers approved it in committee Thursday. The legislation prohibits concealed-carry in many public places, like public transit, sports arenas, schools, and street festivals. Some of these have been sticking points for gun-rights advocates, who would prefer universal carry.

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State News
6:57 am
Fri May 24, 2013

Senate approves creation of health insurance exchange

The Illinois Senate took a key step Thursday toward implementing the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare." Senators approved the creation of a "health insurance exchange." But as IPR’S Brian Mackey reports, it's still a long way from becoming law. 

A health insurance exchange is at the heart of the Affordable Care Act. It's a marketplace where people who don't otherwise have insurance, like through an employer, are supposed to be able to find it. 

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State News
6:45 am
Fri May 24, 2013

Measure closing "tax loopholes" heads to the House

A measure that would close three so-called “corporate tax loopholes” in Illinois is beginning to make its way through the House. Governor Pat Quinn’s office says Illinois could bring in as much as 445-million dollars by ending the tax breaks.

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Government
8:38 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

IL Senate approves cellphone driving ban

The Illinois Senate has voted to ban the use of cell phones while driving. But there are a few exceptions.  

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Government
1:49 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

Lawmakers want study for east-west rail corridor through Peoria

A group of Illinois lawmakers are encouraging the state to study the feasibility of an east-west passenger rail corridor.

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State News
6:53 am
Thu May 23, 2013

Law to increase the speed limit heads to Governor

The Illinois House has votes to raise Illinois' top speed limit to 70 miles-per-hour. Currently, cars and trucks are limited to 65 miles-an-hour on most Illinois highways. 

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State News
6:45 am
Thu May 23, 2013

Sex ed measure heads to the Governor

Schools that have sexual education classes would have to go beyond "abstinence-only" under a measure Illinois legislators sent the governor. As IPR’S Amanda Vinicky reports, the plan seeks to ensure students are getting medically accurate and age appropriate information.

The measure does not require schools to offer sex ed courses. But if they do, the legislation mandates that middle and high schools include information about birth control. Senator Linda Holmes is a Democrat, from Aurora:

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Government
5:54 pm
Wed May 22, 2013

Illinois’ bill backlog drops by billions

Illinois' backlog of bills has dropped to under six billion dollars, down from $8.5 billion dollars at the start of April. That's thanks to residents and companies paying their taxes last month. Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says that's good news, at least for Illinois' "new normal." She warns that lawmakers should not get "cozy" as they draft a new spending plan.

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Politics
4:23 pm
Wed May 22, 2013

Lawmakers override Quinn veto of ‘Smart Grid’

The Illinois General Assembly has overridden Governor Pat Quinn's veto of legislation that addresses so-called "Smart Grid" technology.

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Courts
2:42 pm
Wed May 22, 2013

‘Amazon tax’ issue heard in IL Supreme Court

The Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a case challenging the state's so-called "Amazon tax." The decision could change the way Illinois websites make money online. IPR’s Brian Mackey reports: 


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State News
7:17 am
Wed May 22, 2013

Senate overrides Governor's veto of smart grid legislation

The Illinois Senate Tuesday voted to override Governor Pat Quinn's veto of so-called smart grid legislation. As IPR'S Brian Mackey reports, it was yet another display of ComEd's power over the Illinois General Assembly.

When the Chicago-land electric utility ComEd did not like the way the state regulator was handling its request to charge customers more money, it pleaded its case to the legislature. Lawmakers obliged by superseding the regulator, but earlier this month, Gov. Quinn vetoed the legislation.

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State News
7:03 am
Wed May 22, 2013

Analysis: little savings in union-backed pension overhaul proposal

A state pension overhaul backed by government employee unions may save only half of what advocates had promised.  That underscores an ongoing battle between the House and Senate over pensions, with only ten days left in the legislative session.  IPR'S Amanda Vinicky reports. 

There's general agreement on this much: that Illinois' public pension systems have $100 billion dollars in unfunded liabilities.  That's a fancy word that *basically* means "debt." It's a big number that's getting Illinois in trouble with bond houses and eating into the state's budget. And the House and Senate have different plans on how to drive that number down.

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State News
6:47 am
Wed May 22, 2013

Lawmakers consider expanding Medicaid

The Illinois House is advancing a measure that would significantly expand Illinois' health care for the poor. Under this legislation, Medicaid would for the first time cover adults who do not have children.Representative Sara Feigenholtz, a Democrat from Chicago, says in a way, we're already paying for these people's health care.

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State News
6:41 am
Wed May 22, 2013

Democratic Senator apologizes for Hitler remarks

A Democratic state senator who compared Governor Pat Quinn to Hitler is apologizing for his remarks. Senator Donne Trotter, who's from Chicago, made the comment to Illinois Public Radio on Monday. He was expressing his frustration with Quinn's support for the director of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Julie Hamos. Trotter, along with other members of the black and Latino caucuses, is calling for Hamos' ouster.

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State News
2:15 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

Funding for Rural Development Program up in the air

Staunton, Ill., Mayor Craig Neuhaus (left) checks out the town’s new water plant with Hank Fey, a public works director. (Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media).

As Congress fiddles with major farm legislation, there’s a portion of it that gets very little attention. Yet supporters say it is a difference-maker for job creation in small rural communities and provides a boost those towns need. Harvest Public Media’s Bill Wheelhouse reports: 

House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill passed out of the ag committees in Mid-May. The funding status for the various rural development programs remains in flux, though the House bill would eliminate 13 programs and reduce funding levels by more than $1.5 billion over five years.

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State News
2:01 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

Lawmakers considering "Homeless Bill of Rights"

The Illinois legislature is considering a measure that would create what's called a "Homeless Bill of Rights." It's intended to prohibit discrimination based on housing status when it comes to things like privacy and employment. But opponents say the proposed legislation could inundate cities with unnecessary lawsuits. 

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State News
12:16 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

Il House to take up fracking regulation bill

A measure that would regulate hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” heads to the full Illinois House after Representatives approved it at a hearing Tuesday.

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State News
7:58 am
Tue May 21, 2013

Sandy Hook parents testify at senate committee hearing on ammunition

Parents of two children killed in the Sandy Hook school massacre say it's possible their sons may be alive if the shooter had been forced to reload more often. They were on hand as an Illinois Senate committee Monday approved a ban on the sale of high capacity ammunition magazines. IPR’S Amanda Vinicky reports.


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