State News

State news stories and features from Illinois Public Radio.

Sex ed measure heads to the Governor

May 23, 2013

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:

Illinois’ bill backlog drops by billions

May 22, 2013

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.

Lawmakers override Quinn veto of ‘Smart Grid’

May 22, 2013

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

‘Amazon tax’ issue heard in IL Supreme Court

May 22, 2013

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: 

Senate overrides Governor's veto of smart grid legislation

May 22, 2013

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.

Analysis: little savings in union-backed pension overhaul proposal

May 22, 2013

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.

Lawmakers consider expanding Medicaid

May 22, 2013

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.

Democratic Senator apologizes for Hitler remarks

May 22, 2013

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.

Funding for Rural Development Program up in the air

May 21, 2013

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.

Lawmakers considering "Homeless Bill of Rights"

May 21, 2013

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. 

Il House to take up fracking regulation bill

May 21, 2013

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

Sandy Hook parents testify at senate committee hearing on ammunition

May 21, 2013

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.

Gov. Quinn confident lawmakers will find compromise on pension reform

May 21, 2013

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn says he thinks lawmakers in the next two weeks will break a stalemate over competing pension reform plans. The General Assembly is scheduled to wrap up its legislative session at the end of the month.

Republicans call Quinn appointment a political arrangement

May 21, 2013

Republicans in the Illinois Senate say Governor Pat Quinn’s appointment of a state health official is a political arrangement intended to shape a Congressional race next year. Bloomington physician David Gill was named the assistant director of the Illinois Department of Public Health earlier this month. 

Senators calling for removal of DHFS Director

May 21, 2013

Two groups of lawmakers in the Illinois Senate are urging Governor Pat Quinn to replace the director of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. Members of the African-American and Latino caucuses say Director Julie Hamos’ priority lies with cutting the budget  instead of offering medical services for the disadvantaged.

High schools may have to buy "catastrophic insurance"

May 21, 2013

The Illinois House has voted to require that high schools carry insurance in case student athletes are injured. IPR’S Brian Mackey has more.

Schools would have to buy what's called "catastrophic insurance." The legislation would apply to both public and private schools, and the insurance would kick in once an injured athlete's medical expenses exceed $50,000.

Lawmakers to determine where to cut spending

May 20, 2013

Despite years of cuts to the Illinois state budget, even more are ahead.  As IPR’S Amanda Vinicky reports, legislators are still deciding where else they can slash spending. 

"Human services" is a legislative phrase that covers ...

Senate committee to vote on gun control measure

May 20, 2013

An Illinois State Senate committee is expected to vote on a gun control measure today. It's scheduled to hear from some parents whose children died in December’s mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. IPR’S Tony Arnold reports.

Three parents from Connecticut talked Sunday in Chicago about banning high capacity magazines. A proposed bill would make magazines that hold more than 10 rounds illegal. Nicole Hockley’s 6-year-old son Dylan was killed in the Newtown school shooting.

Advocates for disabled fight special education rule

May 20, 2013

The State of Illinois caps the number of high needs learners who share the attention of a single special education teacher.

For the past decade, there has also been a limit on how many children with disabilities can be placed in what are known as “general education” public school classrooms. But those rules could soon be repealed.

As Illinois Public Radio’s Peter Gray reports, the mother of a young man with autism has joined advocates for the disabled who say the proposed change has to do more with cost-savings than with properly educating kids.

IL Senate approves Medical Marijuana

May 17, 2013

The Illinois Senate approved legislation FRIDAY that would legalize the medical use of marijuana. Brian Mackey has more.

In the end, the vote was not that close -- 35 senators voted yes, 21 no.

Concealed-carry snags in IL Senate

May 17, 2013

  The sponsor of a concealed-carry plan in the Illinois Senate says he's not giving up, despite the fact that his legislation was not called for a vote FRIDAY.

Senate committee approves concealed-carry legislation

May 17, 2013

An Illinois Senate committee has approved legislation that would pave the way for concealed-carry of firearms in Illinois. But gun-rights advocates say it's too restrictive, and the measure faces an uphill climb. IPR’S Brian Mackey has more:

State Sen. Kwame Raoul, a Democrat from Chicago, was trying to negotiate a compromise with gun-rights supporters. But ultimately he went his own way. 

Universities agree to pick up cost of employee retirement benefits

May 17, 2013

Illinois universities and community colleges have signed on to a deal that would have them pick up the cost of their employees' retirement benefits.  It's part of lawmakers' ongoing efforts to reduce how much the state is spending on pensions. IPR’S Amanda Vinicky reports.

Illinois has cut its spending on universities for years, and even more reductions are expected next year. School administrators say it's forced them to hike tuition, and to leave positions unfilled. And yet they've agreed to a plan that could collectively cost them hundreds of millions of dollars.

The chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education says the next two weeks represent a “critical period” for public schools. Two weeks is the amount of time lawmakers have to finish a state budget before they’re scheduled to leave the capitol for the summer. Chairman Gery Chico says while he isn’t sure cuts can be avoided, there’s still time to make a case against them.

Actor asks for lawmakers to expand film production tax credit

May 17, 2013

Actor Billy Zane was in the Illinois Capitol Thursday, asking lawmakers to expand the state's film production tax credit. Zane, a Chicago native, has had more than a hundred movie and T.V. roles including a lead part in 1997's "Titanic."

Chicago officials looking to boost tourism

May 17, 2013

Chicago officials want to boost the city’s tourism and convention business. They’re rolling out a sweeping plan that calls for a new sports arena and an overhaul for Navy Pier. IPR’S Alex Keefe reports.

The proposal calls for nearly 170-million dollars’ worth of changes to Navy Pier including a bigger children’s museum and a makeover to make the Pier feel a bit less like a carnival.

Sandack removes name from consideration to become next Il GOP Chairman

May 16, 2013

A Republican Illinois lawmaker who supports gay marriage is taking his name out of the running to be the next state GOP chairman. IPR’S Alex Keefe reports.

State Representative Ron Sandack  was one of nine candidates looking to replace the party’s former chairman. Pat Brady resigned last week following a controversy stemming from his public support of gay marriage.

Tempers flare in Illinois House

May 16, 2013

Just over two weeks remain before the Illinois General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn for the summer, on May 31st. They still have a lot to deal with in that time like pensions, concealed carry, same-sex marriage, and next year's budget. But as IPR’S Brian Mackey reports, an incident in the Illinois House Wednesday shows tempers are already starting to flare.

The trouble began with a simple piece of legislation to ban lion meat -- yes, the slaughter and sale of lion meat. As it dawned on the sponsor that his legislation was heading for defeat, he withdrew it.

Measure regulating fracking gains steam

May 16, 2013

A new plan to regulate the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing is back on track in the Illinois legislature. IPR’S Amanda Vinicky has more.

New technology allows energy companies to use high volumes of water mixed with chemicals to drill deep into the ground for oil and natural gas. There's hope Illinois' New Albany shale could be rich with both. But before companies start "fracking," as the practice is known, the state needs to set up rules.

Rita Crundwell's assets all sold

May 16, 2013

Federal marshals have finished selling all the known assets of Rita Crundwell. IPR’S Jenna Dooley has more:

The former Dixon comptroller is now serving a federal prison sentence for embezzling nearly $53 million from the city. Last week, marshals sold Crundwell’s final three assets, including two vehicles and a trailer.