State News

State news stories and features from Illinois Public Radio.

Pension talks to continue today

May 30, 2013

A solution for dealing with Illinois' 100 billion dollars of pension debt continues to elude legislators, even as the spring session rapidly approaches its end. The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn Friday. IPR’S Amanda Vinicky reports.

Lawmakers have taken votes to deal with the pension debt. Problem is the House passed a plan that Speaker Mike Madigan says will save more money. And the Senate passed a different plan that his fellow Democrat, President John Cullerton, says is better because it's more likely to be upheld by the courts.

Senate approves education funding

May 30, 2013

Illinois Democrats continued approving a new state budget on party-line votes Wednesday. The Senate approved spending plans for education, from elementary and high schools to colleges and universities, with funding pretty much at last year's level.

Senate approves changes to state election law

May 30, 2013

The Illinois Senate has approved a multi-faceted change to the state's election laws. The legislation is almost as notable for what it does NOT do, as for what it does. IPR'S Brian Mackey explains.

The proposal would make dozens of changes to state law including online voter registration. But until Wednesday, the legislation also would have changed how Illinois gets a lieutenant governor.

IL concealed carry talks continue

May 29, 2013

Legislators are continuing to negotiate as they seek an agreement on concealed carry legislation.

Gambling expansion proposal still being negotiated

May 29, 2013

Supporters of gambling expansion in Illinois are scrambling to negotiate the bill in Springfield. A plan to add five casinos in Illinois, including one in Chicago, is still being negotiated as state legislators are scheduled to end their session on Friday.

State budget passes out of the House

May 29, 2013

The bulk of a new state budget passed out of the Illinois House Tuesday, and now heads to the Senate.  It's far less harsh than lawmakers had been predicting at the start of the legislative session.  IPR's Amanda Vinicky reports.

When he presented his budget back in March, Governor Pat Quinn referred to it as his most difficult.He warned that pension costs were eating up money for other causes. But higher-than-expected revenues came into state coffers last month, freeing up enough money to the point that Democratic Rep. Greg Harris says while many human service programs will be cut, it's only by one-percent.  Others won't be at all.

U of I grad makes it easier to follow state capitol bills

May 29, 2013

More than six thousand bills are before the Illinois General Assembly this spring session. Legislators have until Friday to get through them. And with some of the biggest policy issues facing the state still outstanding, measures will move, change and die rapidly. Illinois Public Radio’s Amanda Vinicky spoke with a recent University of Illinois Urbana Champaign graduate who has founded a company that aims to make it easier to follow what's happening at the capitol.  


Debate on use of drones in non-combat situations

May 29, 2013

Drones have been a controversial military weapon in the last decade, and just last week President Obama set tighter standards and oversight over their use. As debate over military drones continues, there’s another debate going on about the use of drones in non-combat situations within the U.S. Illinois Public Radio’s Sean Powers reports from Urbana.

Il Senate approves Medicaid measure

May 29, 2013

A measure that would implement a key part of “Obamacare” in Illinois is on its way to the governor’s desk, after it was approved by the Senate Tuesday.

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.