State News

State news stories and features from Illinois Public Radio.

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.

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.