Brian Mackey

Brian Mackey covers state government and politics for Illinois Issues magazine, 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.

Brian Mackey

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner laid out an ambitious, pro-business agenda Thursday during his first State of the State address. The Republican was addressing a legislature that’s still dominated by Democrats, and the reaction was mixed.

A version of this story appears in the February 2015 edition of Illinois Issues magazine.

WUIS/Illinois Public Radio

As we welcome 2015, we thought we’d take a few minutes to reflect on the past year in Illinois state government and politics. Most of the action was in the campaign for governor, in which Bruce Rauner became the first Republican to win that office since the late 1990s. Here now are some of the voices that made news in 2014.

Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale: “If you’re a Democrat or an independent, there’s no action coming up on your side of the ballot on March 18. Come on over to ours and save your state.”

Illinois’ main prison for women has nearly 2,000 inmates. An outside monitor says that’s the result of poor planning when Illinois closed the prison at Dwight nearly two years ago.

The majority of Illinois female inmates are incarcerated at Logan Correctional Center in central Illinois.

Millions more workers would have access to private retirement accounts under a proposal approved Wednesday by the Illinois General Assembly. It would require companies with at least 25 employees, which do not already offer retirement plans, to automatically enroll workers in a new type of individual retirement account.

Even as Chicago aldermen were voting Tuesday to raise the city's minimum wage, Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner issued a warning on the subject.

Rauner had a simple message for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner visited the Executive Mansion during his trip to Springfield Thursday.

Red light cameras will continue issuing tickets in Chicago and other parts of Illinois. The Illinois Supreme Court had been considering a constitutional challenge to the cameras, but Thursday the court dismissed the case.

Illinois lawmakers are weighing the future of Springfield’s Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. At issue is whether the museum should become its own state agency instead of remaining under the control of the Historic Preservation Agency.

Governor Pat Quinn is giving up on his bid for re-election. On Wednesday afternoon, he conceded to Republican Bruce Rauner.

  Most media outlets called the election on Tuesday night. Rauner was up by five percentage points, and declared victory.

Quinn, however, told supporters he wasn’t ready to concede. Some Chicagoans waited into the early morning hours to vote.

Republican investor Bruce Rauner will be the next governor of Illinois — probably. He declared victory over incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn and is up by five percentage points, but the Democrat is refusing to concede.

Rauner made hundreds of millions of dollars as a private equity investor. Lately, though, he’s been investing in himself — spending $27 million of his vast fortune on a quest to become governor of Illinois.

This story first ran in the October 2014 edition of Illinois Issues magazine.

The idea of requiring police to wear body cameras has been a hot topic after the protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Friday, a group of Illinois lawmakers will take up the issue. 

This story first appeared as Illinois Issues' State of the State column in the October 2014 edition of the magazine.

The two leading candidates for Illinois governor met Thursday night in Peoria for the first debate of the election season. Both men stuck closely to the ideas they’ve been honing for months on the campaign trail.

Democratic Governor Pat Quinn and his Republican challenger, Bruce Rauner, are running carefully scripted campaigns.

Quinn has a populist message: That he’s a friend of the working man, always looking out for the little guy.

Incumbent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican nominee Bruce Rauner met for the first formal debate of the general election season Thursday in Peoria. The panel included Illinois Public Radio/WUIS Statehouse Bureau Chief Amanda Vinicky and Illinois Issues Executive Editor Jamey Dunn.

Watch or listen to the full debate:


A watchdog group says whoever wins the race for governor is going to face difficult choices about Illinois’ prisons. The group Wednesday is laying out what it’s calling a “roadmap” for overhauling crime and punishment, and wants to know where the candidates stand. 

The non-partisan John Howard Association says decades of “tough on crime” policies have led Illinois to lock up 49-thousand people in a system designed to hold 32-thousand.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Tuesday called on state lawmakers to reduce penalties for drug possession. 

Republicans across America have high hopes for Bruce Rauner's campaign to be the next governor of Illinois. Campaigning with him Wednesday in Springfield was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. 

It’s expected to be some time before the courts decide whether Illinois can trim retirement benefits for public school teachers, university workers, and state employees. But the uncertainty continues to affect the credit outlook of schools and community colleges across the state. Illinois Public Radio's Brian Mackey writes about this in the latest Illinois Issues magazine and has this report:

Governor Pat Quinn recently signed legislation that will remove all references to the GED from Illinois law. It’s part of a much broader change in the education program for people who didn’t finish high school.

Voters will get to weigh in on whether Illinois should raise its minimum wage for adults to 10 dollars an hour. Governor Pat Quinn approved the ballot question Sunday, and as IPR'S Brian Mackey reports, he wasted no time campaigning on the issue.

The question is just advisory. Lawmakers don’t have to heed the people’s advice, but supporters of the increase say they hope it’ll pressure reluctant legislators to go along.

  The Illinois Republican Party says longtime conservative activist Jack Roeser has died. The wealthy businessman spent years on the outside, fighting the party establishment. 

A former state employee Thursday filed more allegations of political and sexual harassment against Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford. He's also expanding the list of defendants to include Mitt Romney's presidential campaign organization.

Governor Pat Quinn has approved a supplemental spending bill for the budget year ending June 30th. The 1.8 billion dollar package, signed Monday, pays down some of the state’s overdue bills.

 

As Democrats in coal states rush to distance themselves from new federal regulations intended to address global warming -- Senator Dick Durbin says Illinois is in a good position among coal-producing states. 

Dick Durbin is calling for an increase in federal spending on medical research. The Illinois senator made his case Monday in Springfield, before  a group of doctors and scientists at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. IPR's Brian Mackey has more.

Durbin says federal investment in basic medical research has lagged far behind inflation. He says a decade ago, 30 percent of grant proposals were funded, while today that number is down to just 15 percent.

Flickr.com/banspy

A new law will automatically clear certain arrest records for juveniles when they turn 18. It’s meant to keep arrests that did not result in criminal charges from following kids into adulthood. IPR's Brian Mackey has more.

The law applies only to arrests for lesser crimes, mostly non-violent. Sex offenses and top felonies will stay on the books, as will any arrest that resulted in formal criminal charges.

A state senator and candidate for higher office on Thursday sought some attention for giving up a portion of his pay. This comes after Illinois lawmakers — for the first time in years — did not vote to symbolically cut their own pay. This form of salary self-denial has become popular in Illinois, but its roots are much deeper than that.

The base salary for a member of the Illinois General Assembly is $67,836 a year.

The credit rating agency Moody's is criticizing the Illinois state budget passed last week. As IPR's Brian Mackey reports, this is not a surprise to government officials.

Moody's says because Illinois did not extend higher income tax rates, it could have to rely on what it calls "credit negative" practices. Illinois already has the lowest credit rating of any state in the country. Moody's isn't lowering it further, at least not for now.

Pages