State News

State news stories and features from Illinois Public Radio.

IL House approves cellphone driving ban

May 29, 2013
(Brian Mackey/Illinois Public Radio)

It's now up to Governor Pat Quinn whether "hang up and drive" will become law in Illinois. The House gave final approval Tuesday to a measure that would make it illegal to talk on a hand-held phone while driving. Representative John D'Amico, a Democrat from Chicago, says talking on the phone while driving has been linked to traffic accidents.

IL House pushes for its pension overhaul

May 28, 2013
(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.

Il House approves Medicaid expansion

May 28, 2013

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.

With Days To Go, Crunch Time In Springfield

May 28, 2013

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. 

Il has option of spending more money than realized

May 28, 2013

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."

Sen. Durbin says vets should receive disability payments sooner

May 28, 2013

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.

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

May 27, 2013

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.

Former Il Gov comments on legislative session

May 27, 2013

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:

Senate Democrats to meet on concealed-carry legislation

May 27, 2013

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

House passes measure allowing internet gambling on horse racing

May 27, 2013

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.

IL House approves concealed carry plan

May 24, 2013
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."

Why are gas prices higher in Chicago?

May 24, 2013

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.

Judges left out of pension conversation

May 24, 2013

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.

House to consider concealed-carry legislation

May 24, 2013

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.

Senate approves creation of health insurance exchange

May 24, 2013

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. 

Measure closing "tax loopholes" heads to the House

May 24, 2013

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.

IL Senate approves cellphone driving ban

May 23, 2013

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

Lawmakers want study for east-west rail corridor through Peoria

May 23, 2013

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

Law to increase the speed limit heads to Governor

May 23, 2013

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. 

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.