State News

State news stories and features from Illinois Public Radio.

A Chicago tax policy and research group is urging Illinois lawmakers to pass a full budget instead of "piecemeal" solutions in the final weeks of the legislative session.  The Civic Federation says in order to close an estimated $4.6 billion deficit, Illinois needs spending restraints, increased revenues, and borrowing for unpaid bills. 

A nonpartisan research group says Illinois’ desperate financial condition is getting even worse.

The Civic Federation of Chicago says unless something is done soon, by next year the state’s pile of unpaid bills could consume half of all new tax revenue.

Pigs may soon fly in Chicago. That's if a massive piece of installation art gets approval to take off. The idea was inspired by the album Animals by Pink Floyd, which itself was influenced by George Orwell's "Animal Farm," political fable critical of inequitable social structures like class.

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New bylaws from the University of Illinois fraternities' governing board will require all chapters to train their members on how to intervene to prevent sexual assault.  The change from the university's student-run Interfraternity Council requires all 42 campus fraternities to teach every second-year member about "bystander intervention" in addition to the two sexual-assault-prevention programs already mandated for all students on campus.

Northern Illinois University officials say there will be 150 staff position reductions as the school tries to cut expenses.  NIU president Doug Baker says most cuts will be achieved through attrition however 30 of the affected jobs will be active positions. He says most of the affected employees were notified by Monday.

Three people are in jail after Will County authorities pulled over a car and found the trunk held several bricks of cocaine with a street value of more than $1 million.  The Will County Sheriff's Department says the discovery happened Monday night after deputies pulled over a car they'd spotted swerving on a road in Green Garden Township. 

The spring legislative session has been overshadowed by a 22-month stretch without a budget. Nevertheless, meaty legislation is being weighed. Those issues include abortion, wage theft, animal research and criminal justice.

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois officials have released detailed plans for how they'll reintroduce a giant fish that was thought to be extinct from the state's waters. 

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Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has unveiled his formal portrait in the state Capitol. The 68-year-old Democrat who stepped into the job when his predecessor was ousted donated the first "interactive" portrait.  The portrait depicts Quinn in his "lucky" purple-striped tie. He stands in front of a background of 44 representations of people, issues and events from more than four decades in public service.

The state treasurer says not enough people realize Illinois’ credit could soon be rated “junk.” That’s if lawmakers and the governor don’t agree on a budget by the end of this month.  Treasurer Mike Frerichs has mostly avoided the political fight surrounding the state’s budget crisis. But he says if former Republican Governor Jim Edgar can criticize the current governor, piling on isn’t political.

Authorities say the house where a toddler was found dead has burned to the ground one day after her funeral.  East Joliet Fire Chief Robert Scholtes says fire crews were called about 3 a.m. Saturday to the Joliet Township home where 16-month-old Semaj Crosby was found dead under a couch April 26.

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New Illinois tourism figures show about 110 million tourists from around the country visited the state last year, a more than 1 million increase compared to 2015.  Eighty three percent of visitors came for leisure and 17% came for business. 

Officials with the American Association of University Professors say an academic censure of the University of Illinois over a professor who lost his job offer over a series of anti-Israel tweets could end next month.  Delegates to the national AAUP meeting in June are scheduled to take up the Steven Salaita case again after voting last year to leave the 2015 censure in place.

Some Illinois school districts are revamping their summer school programs this year with virtual programs designed to allow students to complete lessons outside of the classroom.  But some education experts worry that online learning programs aren't the best approach for younger students. 

Data from Chicago police show that the number of tickets officers have issued for distracted driving has plummeted over the last three years.  Chicago police gave out 25,884 tickets for motorists using mobile devices in 2015. That number was 186 tickets in 2016 and 24 tickets through April 16 of this year.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan is pushing legislation aimed at protecting Illinois students who take out college loans.  The plan would establish a "student loan bill of rights" outlining information companies have to provide, including all repayment options. 

A Chicago-based federal appeals court is looking into allowing TV cameras to cover some of its proceedings. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could join state high courts and several federal appellate courts in permitting live broadcasts.

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The Democratic speaker of the Illinois House has appointed envoys to find areas of compromise on a state budget deal with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. 

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CHICAGO (AP) - A suburban Chicago unit has begun deploying drones to help with investigations of major traffic accidents. 

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CHICAGO (AP) - An anti-crime group that first gained national attention by naming Chicago gangster Al Capone Public Enemy No. 1 will meet with Department of Justice officials about current high rates of city violence. 

The question of how to fund Illinois schools has become one of the most urgent — yet complicated —issues facing lawmakers.

Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is putting his heart into attacking the Republican health care bill — literally.

Durbin is citing his own recent cardiac procedure to point out what he and other Democrats say are flaws in the legislation.

The faculty will be back in class today for the start of finals week. The agreement was reached after long negotiations over the weekend including 16 hours Sunday.  Details won’t be released until a ratification vote later.

A wireless phone company must give refunds to customers who were still owed wireless services when it went out of business.  In a news release, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says her office has reached a settlement with PlatunumTel Communications. 

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This year's University of Illinois commencement has become a big draw.  Officials say students have already picked up more than 33,000 tickets for the May 13 graduation ceremony at Memorial Stadium. The keynote speaker is actor and humorist Nick Offerman.

The Illinois Senate passed legislation today that’s meant to increase voter registration automatically.  Just a few months ago, Democrats failed to override Governor Rauner’s veto of automatic voter registration. The new version is intended to address his concerns. It’d automatically add people to the rolls when they interact with government, like getting a driver’s license.

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. 

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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.

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