Bill Wheelhouse

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Illinois' budget crisis won't be resolved this year.  Governor Bruce Rauner and legislative leaders are sticking to their respective positions, and this week House Speaker Michael Madigan didn't attend a meeting that focused on discussion of term limits and other aspects of Rauner's demands.  WBEZ Public Radio's Tony Arnold joins the panel.

As we enter the holiday season, many workers are thinking about the extra days off.  The State Chamber of Commerce keeps tabs on paid holidays by employers across the state.   

A national retail group says sales are expected to increase nearly four percent over last year's holiday shopping. 

There are efforts at the State Capitol to double the homestead tax exemption across Illinois.  

Illinois’ comptroller says the state doesn't have the cash to pay into the public pension systems next month, the governor suggests selling the aging Thompson Center in Chicago, and the former head of Chicago’s public schools pleads guilty to charges of corruption.  WBEZ's Becky Vevea and Lauren Chooljian joins the panel.

 

Adrian S Jones / Flickr/Creative Commons

Illinois appears to have potential for growth in wind energy.  One area that some say is ripe for development is wind farms off the shores of Lake Michigan.   

A federal study says Illinois could become the number two wind energy producer in the next 30 years.

A few years back, the state created a commission to examine wind energy development in Lake Michigan.

But one expert doesn't see that happening any time soon off the shores of Illinois.  David Loomis, the Director of Illinois State University's Center for Renewable Energy, says it would be a tough sell:

A marijuana advocacy group is urging Illinois lawmakers to accept Governor Bruce Rauner's changes to a marijuana decriminalization plan. 

It's been 30 years since Illinois' mandatory seatbelt law took effect.   The latest numbers estimate that 95 percent of the state's motorists are using their safety belts. The goal is to try to persuade that other five percent:

State Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn says males in their early 20's are primarily the ones who still don't buckle up.   

A new report details urban flooding problems in Illinois.  The report from the Department of Natural Resources says damage from urban flooding (flooding on higher ground outside a flood plain) cause more than $2 billion worth of damage between 2007-2014 in Illinois.

The Illinois Senate this week may vote on a plan to create a "one stop shop" for people wanting to set up businesses in Illinois.  

Last year, Illinois was one of a handful of states that lost population. More than 90,000 people moved elsewhere.  It became a campaign issue for Governor when then candidate Bruce Rauner criticized the state's lack of friendliness to business. And it has others  throwing up caution flags.   The numbers don't mean mean there is a crisis, or even a real clamor, to leave the state.                     

What does a volcanic eruption in Indonesia 200 years ago have to do with Illinois?  In addition to killing 100,000 people and eventually leading to cholera outbreaks across the globe, that eruption may have led to Illinois becoming a state.

A Company proposing to run power lines through Illinois wants to be declared a utility.  Clean Line Energy Partners wants to build transmission lines to carry wind energy from the plains states to Illinois. 

If they are granted utility status, they would then have a shot at getting eminent domain powers to acquire land along the route of the so called "Grain Belt Express" in west central and southern Illinois.   The company's Mark Lawler says while they'd prefer to acquire the land  in negotiations, eminent domain helps with the planning:

A leading business group is hinting that it could loosen its stance on opposition to a service tax. During the campaign, Governor Bruce Rauner proposed a tax on certain services as a possible way to raise money.

A new report predicts an uptick in home sales in Illinois in the coming year. Although a number of potential homebuyers are still sitting on sidelines. The forecast for housing prices in the coming year shows some increases, but not the kind of gains experienced in the last couple of years. 

Geoffrey Hewings, Director of the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory at the University of Illinois says while the housing market continues to recovery, he says millennials would rather rent than buy.

The leading cause of on-the-job deaths in Illinois is vehicle accidents. 

172 people died on the job in Illinois in 2013, up  from the year before.   Almost a third of those deaths came from transportation accidents.   Laura Johnson is the Executive Director of the Iowa-Illinois Safety council.

"It really doesn't matter where your employee gets hurt does it? It is still a catastrophic event for your organizations. So we really push defensive driver training for our member companies".

www.ioc.state.il.us

With the death of Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, it would seem that the next step is for the Governor to appoint a successor. However, election officials are unsure about the process.

For fans of baseball, the midwinter tradition is underway — counting down the days until the pitchers and catchers report for spring training.

When evaluating Illinois’ recovery from the recession, James Glassman uses a baseball analogy. The head economist for commercial banking with JP Morgan Chase says Illinois has only reached the fifth inning in the recovery.