Brian Mackey

Brian Mackey covers state government and politics for WUIS and a dozen other public radio stations across Illinois. He was previously A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. He can be reached at (217) 206-6412.

Subscribe to Brian Mackey's State of the State podcast on WUIS' podcast page, or by copying this URL into iTunes or any other podcast app.

The Illinois Department of Public Health recently reported the state is aware of 47 cases of Zika virus, including at least three pregnant women. Meanwhile, officials in Florida are trying to contain the first known mosquito-borne outbreak of the disease in the continental U.S.

In an attempt to sort through the facts and fears about Zika, we spoke to Dr. Janak Koirala, division chief of infectious disease and a travel medicine specialist at the SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.

Could a campaign emphasis on "law and order" derail the emerging bipartisan consensus on crime and punishment?

Donald Trump continues causing headaches for down-ballot Republicans. Meanwhile, state legislators are already airing TV ads, and a conservative group sues to block same-day voter registration.

A number of Illinois politicians continue to push the issue of of term limits.

This is the first week on the job for the new director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

This is the first week on the job for the new director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of some of the most devastating battles of World War I.

This Thursday at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, there’ll be a lecture on trench warfare during what was once known as The Great War.

Mark DePue is a historian at the museum and a specialist in American and military history. He spoke with our reporter Brian Mackey.

Last week’s shootings in Dallas, Minnesota and Louisiana have renewed attention on the relationship between police officers and African-American citizens.

Earlier this week on Illinois Edition, we heard from several activists with the Black Lives Matter movement. Today we’re going to hear from across the protest line.

On Monday, reporter Brian Mackey spoke with Chris Southwood, the president of the Illinois Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Who should pay for the Illinois courts?

Some Illinois politicians are making a push to eliminate time limits on when people can be prosecuted for child sex crimes.

The move was prompted by the case of former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert.   

Illinois government has been stuck in a rut for going on 18 months now, and much of the attention has centered on the fight between Governor Bruce Rauner and the Democratic leaders in the General Assembly.

  The administration of Governor Bruce Rauner is touting the low interest rate Illinois got in last week’s bond sale. But at least one public finance expert says that’s not the full story. 

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The Illinois Supreme Court has struck down a law meant to help a business expand in Illinois.  The Illinois Constitution says you can’t have laws targeting individual people or businesses. So to get around that, lawmakers will sometimes pass bills that seem general but, wink wink, everyone knows who’s benefiting.

As the Illinois government budget stalemate continues, Democrats are thinking about who might challenge Governor Bruce Rauner in 2018.   Among the Democrats who might be interested are former governor Pat Quinn.  He lost all but one of Illinois' 102 counties to Rauner two years ago, but has lately made a public push to get back into politics. 

Gov. Bruce Rauner marked the end of the legislative session with a blistering attack on Democratic legislators. He then embarked on an eight-city tour — mostly downstate — where he continued his critique.

One of Rauner’s main messages is that Democrats are holding the state budget “hostage” in order to get their way. I thought that accusation of political ill-will had a familiar ring, so I decided to take a closer look at the governor’s communication strategy.

Former Gov. Jim Edgar expressed a dim view of stopgap funding measures during an appearance Tuesday on the public radio program The 21st. He also shared his views on whether current Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic supermajorities in the legislature will ever come to terms on the anti-union aspects of the governor’s "Turnaround Agenda."

Gov. Bruce Rauner has lately been critical of efforts to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, saying it’s not “what matters” in Illinois government. Our reporter has been closely following the governor’s overall efforts to improve Illinois’ criminal justice system, and was struck by Rauner’s comments on pot. So he decided to talk to someone who can explain how decriminalization fits into that broader effort.

  A federal judge has approved the settlement in a lawsuit over the treatment of Illinois’ mentally ill prisoners.

Without admitting wrongdoing, Department of Corrections Director John Baldwin says his agency is building four new mental health units, hiring more staff, and changing its policies on solitary confinement.

The use of solitary confinement has drawn increasing scrutiny nationwide. And last week, the John Howard Association issued a statement (PDF) on the practice in Illinois prisons.

Now that it seems Donald Trump will be his party’s nominee for president, Republicans have a decision to make.

On Monday, an organization called Illinois Voices sued the Illinois State Police and attorney general’s office. It’s targeting what it says are unconstitutionally vague and burdensome restrictions on people who have to register under the state’s sex offender laws.

The case is Does 1-4 v. Madigan, No. 16 CV 4847 (N.D. Ill.). Download the complaint here (PDF).

Fallout continues from the lead contamination of the water supply in Flint, Michigan.

Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is among the Democratic lawmakers pushing for a series of new laws in response to the crisis.

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A Sangamon County judge has declined to give a group of Illinois prisoners a new parole hearing — at least for now.

The case has to do with a formal process for assessing how much of a risk certain prisoners pose. The Department of Corrections was supposed to have this risk-assessment tool in place by 2013. But three years later, it’s just now beginning to roll it out.

 

A pair of the state’s longest serving inmates have sued over the delays.

 

The speaker of the Illinois House made a rare policy speech during a debate Tuesday afternoon. It was intended to put in context legislative Democrats’ long-running dispute with the Republican governor over state spending.

We’re going to hear an excerpt of the remarks. But first, Illinois Public Radio Statehouse reporter Brian Mackey sets the scene.

This week, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno declared, "We need change!"  However, there is still no agreement among state lawmakers and Governor Bruce Rauner on what form that change should take as Illinois continues to go without a spending plan.  Illinois Issues' Jamey Dunn and The State Journal-Register's Bernie Schoenburg join the panel.

Last December, the state of Illinois tentatively agreed to settle a class action lawsuit over the treatment of prisoners with mental illness. But changes to mental health at the Department of Corrections have been slow in coming, in part because Illinois has gone more than 9 months without a budget.

This week, authorities in Illinois are finalizing the results of this month’s primary elections.

Turnout was record-setting, and that left an unknown number of voters disenfranchised by ballot shortages and long waits at the polls. But officials say they don't believe there was any nefarious intent.

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has been pursuing an appeal of his corruption conviction and 14-year prison sentence. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would not take up the case.

The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday struck down another attempt to control the cost of government pension benefits.

This time it was Chicago city employees and retirees whose pensions were being targeted. The retirement system for one set of workers is projected to be insolvent in about a decade.

In 2014, the Illinois General Assembly changed the rules, but in Thursday's 5-0 ruling, the Supreme Court found that unconstitutional.

Illinois Public Radio’s Brian Mackey spoke with his colleague Amanda Vinicky about the decision.

With victories Tuesday in Illinois and elsewhere, Donald Trump is continuing his march toward the Republican presidential nomination. Those contemplating what a Trump presidency would look like might consider Illinois' ongoing case study in the promise and perils of the businessman-turned-politician.

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