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.

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.

In January, the Illinois prison population was down by more than 2,500 inmates over a year earlier. But that’s still a long way off from Gov. Bruce Rauner’s goal of cutting the population by 12,000 prisoners over the next decade.

The commission he appointed to make that happen is still figuring out how to meet his goal, and met Monday in Chicago to continue deliberations.

It’s been 10 months since the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the state’s last attempt at a pension overhaul. Legislators have yet to decide what to do about Illinois’ worst-in-the-nation pension debt, but they are beginning to weigh their options.

It’s been 10 months since the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the state’s last attempt at a pension overhaul. Legislators have yet to decide what to do about Illinois’ worst-in-the-nation pension debt … but they are beginning to weigh their options.
One set of proposals would let employees collect their pension as a single payment when they retire.

Illinois government has been collecting a lot less money since an income tax rollback took effect at the beginning of last year. On Tuesday, officials warned that problems in the broader economy could make things even worse.

A top Illinois economist is warning of danger signs for the state’s economy.  Illinois has been slow to recover from the Great Recession in part because consumer spending has been what one official calls "lethargic."  

Todd Pilon, WTVP

Governor Bruce Rauner's budget speech today largely avoided specifics about state spending. Instead, he's still arguing Illinois should be more favorable to business. Brian Mackey has more.

Rauner took pains to portray himself as open to working with majority Democrats -- he used the word "compromise" five times. But the governor is standing by his overall strategy: pro-business laws first, then we can balance the budget.

"I won’t support new revenue unless we have major structural reforms to grow more jobs and get more value for taxpayers."

Governor Bruce Rauner has spent more than a year promoting his business-friendly, anti-union Turnaround Agenda.  Now a group of community organizations and labor unions are offering a counterproposal. They call it the People's Agenda.

Republicans in the U.S. Senate have vowed to block any nominee the president might submit to succeed the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. But Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois says there’s more than enough time to consider who should fill the vacancy.

With Governor Bruce Rauner set to make his budget address Wednesday … interest groups are already lining up to make the case for state funding.
Today, backers of higher education pointed out that Illinois has not funded colleges and universities since last summer. It’s also failed to pay for grants to thousands of low-income students.
Lynn Fisher is president of the faculty union at the University of Illinois Springfield. She says students at some schools will be on the hook for the unfunded grants.

Supporters of changing the way Illinois draws its legislative districts did not waste any time yesterday. They immediately began claiming President Barack Obama endorsed their idea in his speech. But the president has taken pains to be more nuanced.

President Barack Obama is set to address the Illinois General Assembly in Springfield Wednesday. Statehouse reporter Brian Mackey filed this preview of what the president is expected to say — and what he probably won’t say.

Governor Bruce Rauner is scheduled to meet with members of his criminal justice reform commission this morning. He's set a goal of reducing Illinois' prison population by 25 percent over the next decade. 

Illinois could finally reckon with its dramatically overcrowded prisons in 2016.

The entire system is at 146 percent of the capacity it was designed to hold, but that number doesn’t tell the whole story. Some individual prisons — such as East Moline, Illinois River and Lincoln — are above 200 percent of the rated capacity.

Illinois' newest state legislator has been sworn in.

Gov. Bruce Rauner spoke in public Wednesday for the first time since Tuesday's big summit with legislative leaders.

Gov. Bruce Rauner spoke in public today for the first time since Tuesday's big summit with legislative leaders.  Rauner says he's not expecting quick progress in his standoff with Democrats in the General Assembly.

With Illinois in its sixth month without a budget, the state's top political leaders met Tuesday in Springfield. It was the first time they'd all gotten together in months. We asked Brian Mackey to tell us whether anything was accomplished.

The Illinois law allowing the sale of medical marijuana, also prohibits campaign contributions from companies in the cannabis industry. Now that part of the law is being challenged in federal court.

Gov. Bruce Rauner is standing by his decision to backtrack on cuts to a low-income daycare program. That comes even as Democrats in the Illinois House failed to pass legislation that would have forced Rauner to undo his changes.

The program is meant to help parents out of poverty by subsidizing daycare, so they can work or go to school.

Rauner unilaterally slashed eligibility this summer. After months of outcry and a Democratic threat to pass legislation undoing his changes, Rauner on Monday announced he'd back off most of the cuts.

The Illinois Supreme Court has once again ruled in favor of tobacco giant Philip Morris, saving the company from a 10-billion-dollar lawsuit.  The case has been before the court off and on for more than a decade. A group of smokers say Philip Morris tricked them into thinking “light” cigarettes were safer than regular.

applawyers.org

Former Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald has died.  In more than three decades as a judge, he cleaned up the scandal-plagued traffic courts in Cook County, led one of the first reviews of Illinois’ mistake-prone death penalty system, and presided over the impeachment trial of Governor Rod Blagojevich. 

Senior citizens are among those feeling the pain of Illinois' partial government shutdown. AARP and other groups are calling on the state’s top politicians to set aside their differences and pass a state budget.  John Zorn, age 86, says he’s had four eye operations in the past few years, which has made him almost blind.

Two men have been arrested in connection with Sunday’s stabbing on the University of Illinois Springfield campus.

There was a bit of commotion in the Illinois Capitol Thursday when an activist hijacked a committee hearing to call for the impeachment of Gov. Bruce Rauner.

There was a bit of commotion in the Illinois Capitol today when an activist hijacked a committee hearing. He called for the impeachment of Governor Bruce Rauner. 

The activist is Rob Sherman, best known for his strident atheism.  

His call for impeachment prompted two Republicans to walk out; and the Democrats to disavow his proposal.

But Sherman's attack did get at a key truth about the ongoing standoff between Rauner and the Democrats:

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