State News

State news stories and features from Illinois Public Radio.

Governor Pat Quinn is on his way to Mexico Wednesday. Quinn says the focus of his trip is on improving trade between Mexico and Illinois.

Edgar joins call for immigration reform

Apr 2, 2013

  Former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar says it’s time for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.  Edgar, who’s a Republican, is now with the University of Illinois’ Institute of Government and Public Affairs.  He recently joined a new group called the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition. Its members include Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman and the president of the U of I. Edgar says it should be easier for people living in the country illegally to gain their citizenship, especially if they’ve contributed to society, avoided criminal activity, and found a job.

Past and present members of the armed forces will soon be able to examine their military careers in an academic setting. Kevin Beeson never served in the military, but says over the years he has developed a great respect for those who have. Beeson says he's wanted to give something back to them, and found a way as a visiting instructor at UIS.

It's time for Illinois hunters and fishermen to renew their sports licenses. Monday marks the expiration date of licenses from last year. Tim Schweizer of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources says there is no price increase for the licenses.  But he says DNR is charging more for other things, thanks to a new law intended to stave off state park closures. 

Illinois' Pontiac, Sheridan and Stateville prisons will have more guards on rotation. The Departments of Corrections says most of the employees who had been working at the Dwight correctional center start their new jobs today Monday. An additional 148 employees will join Pontiac's prison staff:

State MAP grant funding exhausted for students

Apr 1, 2013

Illinois college students have qualified for more than $1 billion in federal Pell Grant Funding for the 2013-2014 academic year. Students have been filing their Free Application for Federal Student Aid for the last three months and have already exhausted the state’s Monetary Award Program funding. The Illinois Student Assistance Commission says nearly 94-percent of MAP-eligible students also qualify for federal Pell grants. Officials say the grant can provide more than $5,000 annually for full-time students.

Police in Illinois could see a key step in obtaining search warrants become quicker. Lawmakers are considering a plan that would allow police to lay out evidence before a judge using an Internet chat session, as long as it has video and audio. Cook County Assistant State's Attorney John Carroll says it's not always easy to find a judge to approve a warrant.

Illinois lawmakers are considering a change that would keep more teenagers out of adult court. The measure would send 17 year olds charged with nonviolent felonies into the juvenile court system. 

Since 2010, 17 year olds charged with misdemeanors have been sent to juvenile court, while those charged with felonies are sent to adult court. Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, a Democrat from Chicago, says getting more 17 year olds in juvenile court has led to fewer of them being sent to prison.  Courts that focus on youths have more options to help troubled kids.  While kids sent to adult court are much more likely to commit crimes in the future.

In March, President Obama visited Argonne National Lab in the western suburbs of Chicago. Among the many projects there is an effort to dramatically improve battery power. It’s one of several green energy hubs around the country.  

Over the last few weeks the Illinois Department of Corrections has been moving 600 men into gymnasiums across the state where they’re now living. It’s the latest sign of the overcrowding problem facing the prisons -- but it’s something the public will not see.

  This spring, community colleges in Illinois saw enrollment drop for the third straight year. But a state education official says that's not necessarily a bad thing. IPR’s Chris Slaby reports: 

Illinois taxpayers are paying a private healthcare company more than one point three billion dollars over ten years to provide care for inmates in prisons.

The US House and Senate have each approved separate budget measures for next year. The next step, working on a version both chambers can agree on. Partisan gridlock has prevented a deal, but a freshman Congressman from central Illinois says there's hope. 

  Illinois legislators already passed a law that lets ComEd and Ameren charge higher rates for electricity.  Now, natural gas companies want the same treatment.  IPR’s Amanda Vinicky has more: 

 The argument for letting ComEd and Ameren hike electric rates was that it'll allow the companies to make needed updates to the electric grid. Consumer advocates balked at that; but they admit those upgrades could ultimately bring their customers savings.

Congressman says Pat Brady should serve out term

Mar 26, 2013

  A Republican Congressman says he believes his party's chairman should be allowed to complete his term, after taking a controversial stance earlier this year.  High-level Republicans unsuccessfully tried to overthrow State Party Chairman Pat Brady after he announced his support for same-sex marriage. Congresssman Rodney Davis of Taylorville stands by Brady, saying he did a “good job” bringing the GOP together during the 2012 election season.  Instead of focusing on inner-party politics, Davis says Republicans should focus on solving the problems that plague Illinois.

The director of the Decatur Airport says the loss of their air traffic control tower staff will affect airport operations, but not flight safety.

Protecting children of rape victims

Mar 25, 2013

A Chicago attorney is asking Illinois legislators to do more to protect the children of rape victims.  Chris Slaby reports on loophole in state law. Shauna Prewitt is an attorney now.  But when she was a senior in college, she was raped and became pregnant.  She decided to keep the child, a daughter. And then she became a victim of a different stripe ... "when seven years ago I had to fight my rapist for custody of my daughter."  Prewitt's now advocating for what she calls a "small but important change.

Some Illinois prisoners in for trivial crimes

Mar 25, 2013

The agency that runs Illinois prisons has more inmates than it has room for….Fifty thousand in a system built for 33-thousand. So now the agency— the Illinois Department of Corrections--says it will house more inmates in prison gymnasiums.  Many of the people crowding into the facilities... they’re not all the hardened criminals you see on T.V. As Robert Wildeboer reports, a large number of inmates are there on rather trivial charges. 

Online gambling measure considered

Mar 25, 2013

 The latest version of a plan to give Illinois more casinos also bets on a type of wagering currently not allowed at all: Internet gambling. But as Amanda Vinicky reports ... the Governor's not interested in playing.Governor Pat Quinn has already rejected several plans that would make way for five more casinos in Illinois. But he seems to have come around to the idea ... even mentioning it in his last, major budget address. A new version of a gambling package seeks to assuage the governor's regulatory and ethical concerns.

Illinois’ constitution requires the state have a balanced budget. But numbers are easy to manipulate and disguise. Republicans in the Illinois House want to force the issue. They propose amending the constitution so that the state’s Auditor General would have to check budgets before they take effect. If the auditor finds the budget is not balanced, the state would freeze state payments and salaries until it is.

Consolidating school districts would become easier if a measure that made it through the Illinois House becomes law. It would allow school boards to dissolve districts with less than 750 students. Voters usually have to approve a referendum before a district can dissolve, which prepares it to combine with another district.

Pension proposals darted across the statehouse last week.  But teachers, as well as  state and university workers, worried about what legislators will do to their retirement benefits can rest easy that there will be no major action this week.  The General Assembly is on its spring break.   

Illinois Public Radio’s Robert Wildeboer has been reporting about and inside Illinois prisons. Today, he introduces us to a certain point in the prison experience: the time when an inmate gets to leave. Many inmates are not met at the prison gates by family or friends. Instead, they pack all their belongings into a small box or bag. Then, they’re given a train or bus ticket and ten dollars and sent out to become productive citizens.    

A proposal that would keep teens out of tanning beds is one step closer to becoming law in Illinois.The House voted 67 to 49 to approve the measure, which prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from using a tanning bed.

Mayors from several Mississippi River communities joined with members of Congress Thursday to draw attention to the importance of the waterway. The goal of the so-called Mississippi River Platform is to raise awareness of such issues as water quality, community development, and drought and flood preparation. Mayor JoAnn Smiley of Clarksville (Missouri) told reporters at Washington, D.C., press conference that the quality of the Mississippi’s water is a huge issue for her town.

Commonwealth Edison and Ameren customers will be on the hook to pay higher electricity rates under a measure headed to Governor Pat Quinn. Legislators rushed to pass the proposal at the utilities' behest.A state law that took effect two years ago was supposed to have already allowed the companies to charge higher rates.

Illinois House passes pension measure

Mar 21, 2013

Illinois legislators have yet again done what was long unthinkable, the House Thursday passed a measure reducing state employees' and teachers' retirement benefits.   IPR’s Amanda Vinicky has more: 

Rate hike progress for Commonwealth Edison

Mar 21, 2013

Utility giant Commonwealth Edison is on its way to securing a rate hike that will pay for upgrades to the state's electric grid.  As IPR’s Amanda Vinicky reports, legislators passed the measure in a hurry:

IL House passes tanning bed measure

Mar 21, 2013

A proposal that would keep teens out of tanning beds is one step closer to becoming law in Illinois. The House voted 67 to 49 to approve the measure, which prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from using a tanning bed. 

Governor Pat Quinn wants the Illinois Senate to take another look at his picks for who should sit on Southern Illinois University's Board of Trustees. In a rare move last month, state senators profoundly rejected three individuals Quinn nominated for the board.  None of the nominees received even a single "yes" vote.