State News

State news stories and features from Illinois Public Radio.

Providers of ambulance and other emergency services in Illinois face a shortage of money. Some patients use on Medicaid, Illinois' low-income health insurance, to pay for trips.

U-S Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois says lawmakers continue to make headway on immigration reform.Durbin is part of a bipartisan group of eight Senators developing a national immigration plan. As a guest on Fox News Sunday, the number two Democrat in the Senate said the group is still working through a number of difficult issues.

Illinois legislators say they've reached a deal on the taxes and fees companies that use hydraulic fracturing must pay the state.

In about two weeks, Illinois’ only maximum-security female correctional center will close its doors. 

A pair of pension measures met success in the Illinois House yesterday ... a day after a Senate panel approved two other proposals. Supporters of overhauling the state's underfunded pension systems see it as a sign it could happen this spring.  

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan doesn't want Illinois to allow fracking, a controversial process that injects a mixture of water and chemicals deep underground to reach oil and natural gas reserves.  

Republicans are fighting the idea that Downstate and suburban schools are the only ones getting a "free lunch" from Illinois state government. House Speaker Michael Madigan has has used the phrase in describing how local school districts should have to pay the employer's share of pension costs for teachers. That expense is currently covered by the state for all school districts, except Chicago.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan is waiting to see what the General Assembly does before deciding if she'll ask the US Supreme Court to weigh in on Illinois' concealed-carry ban. A federal court has given the state until June to pass a law that will allow people to carry guns in public.

House Speaker Michael Madigan says there's not enough support in the Illinois House to pass same sex marriage. He says it is a dozen votes short.  But the measure's sponsor, Chicago Democratic Representative Greg Harris, says the number's less. Harris says there is still work to do, but he believes when the time comes, it will pass.

Madigan supports fracking moratorium

Mar 13, 2013

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan doesn't want Illinois to allow fracking, a controversial process that injects a mixture of water and chemicals deep underground to reach oil and natural gas reserves.  IPR’s Amanda Vinicky reports. 

 Companies are longing to access the oil and natural gas laced in the rocks of the New Albany Shale, in southeastern Illinois.

As the country's economy slowly improves, an economist says there are several reason why Illinois' is not. Edward Boss the chief economist for the state's government forecasting commission. He says Illinois is one of just a handful of states at risk to fall back into a recession.

Illinois education board asks for more funding

Mar 12, 2013

A week after Governor Pat Quinn suggested lawmakers slash the state's education budget -- Illinois school officials are asking them to instead increase spending on schools. IPR’s Brian Mackey has more: 

 The chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education, Gery Chico, says public schools can't afford any more cuts. He says they're already eliminating extracurricular activities, getting rid of staff, and shortening the school day.

A coalition of environmental groups accuse other advocates of selling out when it comes to the drilling technique known as "hydraulic fracturing."  IPR’s Amanda Vinicky has more.  

 Environmentalists have warned of the dangers of "fracking" - a process that extracts natural gas or oil by pumping millions of gallons of water and chemicals deep underground.That's why it was a big deal a couple weeks ago that the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council stood with business leaders to announce they'd reached an agreement that could pave the way for fracking in Illinois.

Illinois, SEC reach settlement

Mar 11, 2013

Illinois has reached a settlement with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, which accused the state of misleading investors about the depth of its pension problems.

The top leaders of the General Assembly are sending strong signals they won't go along with key parts of Governor Pat Quinn's budget.  They're insistent Illinois spend less than the Governor has proposed.

The Illinois Department of Public Health says when it comes to HIV awareness, sexually-active women and young girls are often overlooked.  The Department putting a renewed emphasis on teaching women to protect themselves, and how to get tested.

If Governor Pat Quinn's agreement with AFSCME, Illinois' largest public employee union, goes through, new employees will be treated differently than those already on the payroll. Union members get pay boosts the longer they work for the state. Quinn's Chief of Staff, Jack Lavin, says it will take longer for new hires reach those step increases, and he says they'll start off making less too.  “And new, to achieve the top of that job classification it was previously eight years, now it’ll be 11 years.

The Illinois House continued test votes on measures to address the state's pension problem, and after a series of failures, one finally passed. But as IPR’s Brian Mackey reports, most Republicans are still boycotting the process.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn may have a hard time getting most of his budget through the General Assembly, but he is expected to act Friday on one proposal that doesn't require getting legislators' approval.  

Counties focus on mental illness, gun access

Mar 7, 2013

More Illinois counties are complying with a law intended to keep guns away from people with mental illness. IPR’s Chris Slaby reports: 

 An audit last year found only three county court clerks reported people with "disqualifying mental health conditions" to the Illinois State Police.  Now, that number's up to 27.  Jessica Tramme is chief of the firearm services bureau for the Illinois State Police.She says a change in January means judges MUST order court clerks to notify the State Police when people are found "mental defective" or "intellectually disabled."

Illinois pensions would eat up about a fifth of state spending under the budget Governor Pat Quinn proposed Wednesday. As IPR’s Amanda Vinicky reports, Quinn say it’s the most difficult budget he's ever submitted to the General Assembly.

Governor Pat Quinn's budget speech highlighted his administration's recent contract agreement with AFSCME, the state's largest government-employee union.

Days after Governor Pat Quinn vetoed a measure that would authorize a major expansion of gambling in Illinois, the state Senate is moving forward with new legislation that would expand gambling even further.  

There were few surprises Wednesday in Gov. Pat Quinn's budget address in the Illinois General Assembly. He called it a "difficult" proposal, with steep cuts in spending on education. So we challenged Statehouse reporter Brian Mackey to find seven things that were surprising about the governor's speech.

Congressmen from Iowa and Illinois want to improve health care in rural parts of their states. Wednesday, democrat Bruce Braley from Iowa's First District and republican Aaron Schock from Illinois' 18th district introduced the Rural Health Clinic Fairness Act.  Braley says Medicare currently has an incentive program, with grants up to 44-thousand dollars, to encourage hospitals and other health professionals to transition to electronic medical records. Their bill would make rural health clinics eligible for these grants. 

 In his annual budget address Wednesday, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn laid the blame on the General Assembly for forcing him to cut spending on schools and other key state priorities.  Quinn says the cost of pensions is "squeezing" Illinois' finances, to the point that he's calling for a $400 million hit to education.  IPR’s Amanda Vinicky reports:  Governor Pat Quinn unveiled a budget that spends around $35 and a half billion dollars from the state's main checking account.One fifth of that would go toward the states' public pension systems.

Illinois' finances were already bleak when Pat Quinn became governor in 2009.  Despite heavy cuts and an end to the national recession, they remain so.  

The first woman elected to statewide office in Illinois has died. Dawn Clark Netsch was 86. In January, she revealed she had ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Pioneering Illinois politician and former state comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch died Tuesday at age 86.  Many Illinois Constitutional Officers, Congressman Mike Quigley, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Senator Dick Durbin have issued statements about Netsch and her service to the state.  Senator Durbin called her an indomitable force who blazed a path suitable for generations of Illinois women to follow.  IPR’s Brian O’Keefe talked with Illinois political expert Kent Redfield about Netsch’s life and contributions to state government:

State AFSCME deal carries effects

Mar 4, 2013

   A tentative agreement between Governor Pat Quinn and the state's largest public-employee union, AFSCME, means retired workers finally know how much they should budget for health care.  And it means the state will finally get the savings it had already been counting on. State and university employees who retired after long government careers have not had to pay any health care premiums. A new state law requires them to contribute. But how much they pay was subject to contract negotiations. And AFSCME and the Quinn administration's negotiations dragged on for 15 months.