State News

State news stories and features from Illinois Public Radio.

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. 

Work begins on U.S. Farm Bill

May 16, 2013

The U.S. House Agriculture Committee began work Wednesday on a five year farm bill. Taylorville Republican Rodney Davis introduced an amendment to give the U.S. Department of Agriculture more say in any changes introduced by the Environmental Protection Agency that affect agriculture.

Group pushes Illinois redistricting plan

May 15, 2013

A grassroots group says it is almost done with a plan that would change who draws Illinois legislators’ districts.

Dog-tethering measure passes IL Senate

May 15, 2013

The Illinois Senate has approved limits on how dogs can be tethered.  The animals would have to be kept on a rope or light chain that's at least 10 feet long. The sponsor of the legislation, Senator Linda Holmes, a Democrat from Aurora, says it's meant to promote the humane treatment of animals.

Deere and Company posts record earnings

May 15, 2013

Deere and Company set another earnings record in the second quarter, and it's also an all-time high for any quarter. Deere says net income totaled nearly $1.1 billion for February, March, and April, or $2.76 per share, compared to $2.61 a year ago.  Spokesman Ken Golden says agriculture and turf equipment sales rose 12 percent in the second quarter. But sales of construction and forestry equipment dropped five percent.

WIU announces budget cuts

May 15, 2013

Western Illinois University workers now have an idea of what the administration plans to do to cut costs. But the plan unveiled Tuesday is the first step in a long process. Illinois Public Radio’s Rich Egger reports. 

A new audit says Illinois' Road Fund overpaid for employee health insurance. More than 150-million dollars that should have gone for road construction was diverted. IPR’S Brian Mackey has more.

The Road Fund collects fees, taxes and federal money and is supposed to spend it on building and maintaining highways. But a report from Illinois' auditor general found that less than half the money was actually going for such projects. The majority went to pay off bonds and to fund salaries and other benefits.

Quad Cities business at center of court battle

May 14, 2013

Can the state of Illinois grant a permanent property tax exemption to a private, for-profit business ? That's the question for a court battle getting started in the Quad Cities. IPR’s Herb Trix reports: 

State measure would increase drunk driving penalties

May 14, 2013

House Republicans in Illinois have introduced a measure that would increase the penalties for hired drivers who work while drunk. Violators would be charged with a felony, which is punishable with up to three years in prison. Representative Dennis Reboletti, a Republican from Elmhurst, says currently only school bus drivers can be charged with felony DUI's.   Other hired drivers who are caught drinking while driving can only get a misdemeanor charge.  Reboletti says that isn't tough enough.

The pros and cons of special legislative panels

May 14, 2013

This legislative session, Illinois lawmakers have proposed creating about two dozen special panels. These task forces would examine topics ranging from how schools are funded, to government transperancy to high school students' drug use.  

A new report shows nearly a quarter of Illinois’ state spending plan for next year will go toward pension payments. The Illinois State House and the State Senate have so far disagreed on the best way to address the worst-funded pension system in the country.

Illinois lawmakers continue to negotiate a bill to ban minors from receiving life sentences in prison. It comes nearly a year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the practice unconstitutional. 

The sponsor of a plan that would prohibit talking on cell phones while driving says he plans to change it, so first-time violations carry a lesser penalty. The measure would have considered first-time offenses as moving violations. Penalties included a fine AND mention on a criminal record, which could lead to higher insurance rates.

IL House approves flash mob measure

May 10, 2013

The Illinois House has approved legislation that would impose tougher punishment on anyone convicted of using social media to plan or incite a mob attack.

Madigan: downstate schools should pay pension costs

May 9, 2013

The leader of the Illinois House of Representatives says Downstate school districts will eventually have to pay for their employees’ pensions. 

Quinn speaks on Madigan’s pension plan

May 9, 2013

Governor Pat Quinn says House Speaker Michael Madigan's pension-reform plan is “comprehensive” and deserves a vote in the Senate.  The House approved Madigan’s measure last week. It would require employees to pay two-percent more toward retirement benefits. 

Clean up continues after last month's floods

May 9, 2013

Clean-up continues after last month's floods. IPR’S Jenna Dooley has more on efforts in LaSalle County where hundreds of students are still in temporary classrooms:

JoEllen Fuller laughs nervously when asked how last month's floods damaged Marseilles Elementary School:

Il Senate to vote on pension overhaul

May 9, 2013

The Illinois Senate is expected to vote Thursday on the latest proposal to fix the state's drastically underfunded pension systems. Many aspects of the plan have been put forth before in what's become a multi-year pension debate. But as Illinois Public Radio’s Brian Mackey reports, it has one element that makes it unique. 

A U.S. Senate committee is expected to vote Thursday on a plan to provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of people living in the United States illegally. The Senate immigration reform bill includes a special provision for farm workers that shortens the waiting period for legal residency. Illinois Public Radio’s Sean Powers explores how that section would impact Illinois’ agricultural workers.

An Illinois Senate committee has approved a proposal that would allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The Senate Executive Committee voted ten to five Wednesday to send the measure to the full Senate. The proposal allows physicians to prescribe marijuana to patients who have been diagnosed with certain medical conditions. Democratic Senator Bill Haine, from Alton, says marijuana can relieve continual pain without causing the harmful side effects of some prescription drugs.

The sponsor of a plan that would allow a video gambling corporation to monitor games across Illinois says he expects a final vote by the end of the week. Illinois issues a contract with a private company to make sure video gambling games follow state guidelines. State law currently prevents a game manufacturer from filling that role. But Representative Frank Mautino says Scientific Games, a national gaming corporation, submitted the bid before that law went into effect.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is following through on his promise to try and relieve the state from having to pay for teachers' retirement benefits.  IPR’S Amanda Vinicky explains.

The two chambers of the General Assembly are focused on competing proposals that seek to reduce the state's pension costs. What both plans have in common, though, is what they lack. Neither shift the cost of downstate and suburban public schools teachers' pensions from the state to the school districts that employ them.

Callis running for 13th Congressional District

May 8, 2013

A former chief judge in Madison County says she’s motivated by public service, and wants to use her experience to help people in new ways. Democrat Ann Callis resigned from the post Friday, and has announced she’s seeking the Democratic nomination for Illinois’ 13th Congressional District. Callis cites her efforts to set up Illinois’ first veterans’ court, and was inspired by her son, who recently finished officer candidate school in the U.S. Army after earning a degree:

Possible replacements for Pat Brady

May 7, 2013

Illinois Republican Party bosses say they already have a few dozen candidates who want to be the next party chairman.  Pat Brady resigned that post Tuesday - following controversy around his support for same-sex marriage.  IPR’s Alex Keefe reports:

State frees 120 inmates on early release

May 7, 2013

The Illinois Department of Corrections has freed 120 inmates as part of a new early-release program. But the director of the department says letting more inmates out is not the answer to overcrowding in prisons.