State News

State news stories and features from Illinois Public Radio.

Former Aide to Court Clerk Indicted

May 5, 2017

Today federal prosecutors announced an indictment against a former top aide to Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown. The indictment alleges 55-year-old Beena Patel lied to a federal grand jury in 2015 and 2016. 

Facebook/Northern Illinois University

Northern Illinois University officials say cuts and deferred maintenance will be necessary to save money as the school faces a $35 million funding gap from the lack of a state budget.  University President Doug Baker says the school must prepare for a worst-case scenario until the next fiscal year.

The Veterans’ and Military Discount Program was supposed to go into effect in 2015. According to the law, it is designed to connect veterans and active-duty service members with merchants who want to offer special discounts and promotions.

State auditors found the program didn't get off the ground.

Eight maximum security inmates at Cook County Jail in Chicago have been charged with aggravated arson after they allegedly set fire to their uniforms last month.

Flickr Creative Commons/Chicago Architecture Today

The future of a state building housing about 2,200 employees is sparking the latest disagreement between Gov. Bruce Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  Republicans pitched plans earmarking future property tax receipts of a possible James Thompson Center sale for Chicago schools. 

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton's plan to protect undocumented immigrants from what proponents consider federal harassment has won approval.  The Democratic-controlled Senate voted to approve the "TRUST Act." It prohibits local or state police from cooperating with federal authorities who are investigating immigrants but do not have a criminal warrant. 

Illinois senators have narrowly approved legislation to give individuals the right to find out what information online companies collect on them.  It would also allow internet users to determine which third party companies, like Facebook or Google, they are sharing their personally-identifying details with. 

Researchers are trying to gain greater insights into why people experience different health outcomes.  A healthcare expert from Illinois believes those differences could be reduced through community coalitions.

Illinois’ budget stalemate has held up compensation for people who’ve been unjustly imprisoned. But on Thursday, a bipartisan group of state senators took a step toward fixing that.

Former congressman and Southern Illinois University president Glenn Poshard has resigned as president of a private Christian liberal arts college after just more than 2 months on the job.  Poshard resigned from Morthland College in West Frankfort in an April 26 letter, effective immediately. 

Some aldermen are pushing to get high-powered rifles into the hands of more Chicago police officers after two plainclothes officers were wounded in a shooting with that kind of weapon.

A Democratic candidate for Illinois governor has failed to get Senate approval for a plan to provide taxpayer funds to match small contributions to political candidates.  State Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston is a 2018 candidate for the Democratic nomination that includes two independently wealthy candidates: Chris Kennedy and J.B. Pritzker. He is running as a candidate reliant on small-dollar gifts. 

Sixty one social service agencies suing the State of Illinois over the budget impasse got their day in court today.  Providers of addiction treatment and rape counseling sued the state for payment.  A Cook County judge ruled they don’t have to be paid if there is no budget.  So those groups appealed.

Facebook Works to Stop Broadcast of Violent Crimes

May 4, 2017

Some leaders in Chicago’s black community say they’re working with Facebook to stop violent crimes from being broadcast on the social networking site.  Several horrific acts of violence have been streamed live on Facebook this year in Chicago, including the murder of a 2 year old.

The State Board of Elections says hackers gained access to the information of 80,000 Illinois voters — including their social security numbers and driver’s licenses.

Elections officials say hackers had access to Illinois’ system for nearly three weeks before they were detected. They did get access to personal information, but officials say that’s about it.

A tentative contract agreement has averted a possible strike that was planned by thousands of Illinois nursing home workers.  Representatives of more than 5,000 workers at nursing homes around Chicago and Rockford had planned to strike starting on Thursday, but a statement on behalf of Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois says an agreement was reached on a 3-year deal.

A legal battle between the city of Decatur and its former police chief who said he was wrongly fired has ended with a settlement.  City officials say the termination of Brad Sweeney's employment in February 2016 will now be considered a retirement. 

Illinois Senate Democrats say Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration inappropriately spent money to move records from a closed prison to new warehouse space.

Illinois saw an average statewide precipitation of slightly more than 7 inches last month, making it the second-wettest April on record. January through April also was the warmest on record, with an average temperature of 44.5 degrees. That's 5.4 degrees above normal.

David Kidd / Governing Magazine

One way the University of Illinois has been able to weather uncertain state funding over the past several years is by increasing international enrollment. International students at the U of I pay a tuition rate more than twice as high as in-state students … and international student enrollment at Illinois has gone from about 5,00 students a decade ago, to more than 12,000 students today.

Reg Natarajan / Flickr

Governor Bruce Rauner is broadening the role of private companies in Illinois’ Medicaid program. But Democrats say he’s using the state’s lack of a budget to avoid transparency. Medicaid is one of the largest pieces of the state’s budget, and Democrats say the governor is trying to significantly alter the way the program is managed.

 

Senator Martin Sandoval, from Chicago, says Rauner is also bypassing normal review channels.

The death of a one-year-old child in Joliet Township has Illinois' child-welfare agency on the defensive.

Department of Children and Family Services director George Sheldon testified Wednesday before a state Senate committee.

A private foundation pushed by Gov. Bruce Rauner is preparing to kick off a major fundraising effort to revamp Illinois' dilapidated fairgrounds.
 
Rauner announced the creation of the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation during last year's state fair, with the goal of raising enough money to repair crumbling buildings, deteriorating roadways, and aging sewer and electrical systems. The fairgrounds have also battled flooding during heavy rains.
 

Illinois Senate Democrats say Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration inappropriately spent money to move records from a closed prison to new warehouse space.
 
Sen. Andy Manar is a Bunker Hill Democrat. He questioned Corrections Department Director John Baldwin during an appropriations committee hearing Wednesday.
 

Illinois DCFS

The head of Illinois’ child welfare agency is defending the decision to leave a toddler in a Joliet Township house where she was later found dead. George Sheldon answered questions about the incident today at a state Senate hearing in Springfield.

One-year-old Semaj Crosby was found dead, under a couch, last Thursday. Her mother had reported her missing a couple days earlier — and just before that, the family had been visited by a caseworker from Illinois' Department of Children and Family Services.

Springfield Bicycle Club

AAA has found an appropriate way to celebrate National Bicycle Safety Month. Roadside assistance is now available in Illinois for members who are bike riders.

Spokeswoman Beth Mosher says AAA began offering bicycle service in several other states first, and the most common calls are for flat tires and chains that have fallen off.

An Illinois judge is demanding to know what state child care workers did to help the family of a 1-year-old girl who was found dead in their home. Will County Circuit Judge Paula Gomora made the request Tuesday during a hearing to determine where to place the deceased girl's three older brothers.

 

Future of CTA Blue Line Stop in Limbo

May 3, 2017
Tripp / Flickr

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says there’s a big open question involving the sale of the James R Thompson Center downtown, what’s going to happen to the Clark and Lake Blue Line stop? Governor Bruce Rauner wants to sell the state office building, but Emanuel says he needs to know how the state will deal with the busy L station that’s underneath it.

If the station goes away, the mayor estimates a replacement station could cost $80 to 120 million dollars.

"I’m not gonna stick that on Chicago taxpayers. The developer! Or the state has to do it!"

Democrats in the Illinois Senate say they want Republican support for a partial state spending plan.  The proposal would free up more than $800-million for human services and higher education, neither of which have been fully funded since summer 2015.  

More than two dozen health care providers and insurance companies are telling a federal judge in Chicago they may have to stop serving some poor patients. That’s because the State of Illinois is so late in paying Medicaid bills due to the budget impasse. Twenty-five health care organizations are asking a federal judge to make the state government reimburse them faster for seeing Medicaid patients. They say if the judge doesn’t agree, then doctors may stop seeing Medicaid patients altogether.

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