Tom Lisi

Tom reports on statehouse issues for NPR Illinois.  He's currently a Public Affairs Reporting graduate program student at the University of Illinois Springfield.  He graduated from Macalester College.  Tom is from New York City where he also did stand-up and improv and wrote for the Awl and WNYC public radio.

U-S Representatives Darin LaHood and Rodney Davis are out touring their districts together in Central Illinois. With a capricious president leading the party, the congressmen are part of a Republican majority looking for a path forward. Illinois Public Radio's Tom Lisi caught up with them at an event in Springfield.

LaHood and Davis are joining forces to make Route 66 a Historic National Trail. One problem? President Trump’s budget would gut the National Park Service. Republicans seem to be pulling in all directions these days. Here’s LaHood speaking on healthcare:

New legislation would require Illinois residents to replace their smoke detectors.

Newer models can be temporarily silenced for burned pizza — so homeowners don’t have to remove the battery.

Springfield Fire Marshal Chris Richmond says non-functioning smoke detectors are found at the scene of many fire deaths.

“Here in Springfield just on February 13th, we had a three-year-old die in an apartment fire. That apartment did not have functioning smoke alarms. Tragic situation, tough on my personnel, tough on the entire community.”

Milkweed could become the Illinois state wildflower under legislation pending in the General assembly. The proposal would also prohibit local governments from treating it as a noxious weed.


 

Democrats in the Illinois House of Representatives Thursday passed a plan to send more than $800 million to human services and universities. They call it a “lifeline” for programs facing catastrophe.

Illinois voters in 2014 overwhelmingly approved raising the state’s minimum wage to ten dollars an hour. Legislators never followed through on that referendum. Now unions are pushing for a 15-dollar wage.

The proposal, which passed a House committee, would raise Illinois’ minimum wage from $8.25 to 15 dollars an hour over five years.

Business groups are against any increase, but say 15 dollars an hour would hurt the economy. They say employers would have to cut worker hours.

The failure to pass a real budget is driving up the cost of Illinois government. The state hasn’t been paying its bills for employee health care, and interest penalties now exceed $500 million dollars.   It’s no secret credit card companies make their money when people don’t pay their bills in full. Those interest rates cause even a modest bill to grow quickly.

 

Yesterday’s “I voted” sticker is today’s ballot selfie. But some voters last fall found out Illinois makes it illegal to take a selfie with your ballot. Lawmakers are trying to change that, inspired by the young people who simply wanted to share their fulfillment of their civic duty on social media.

Ten years ago, Cindy Bonnet found out she was getting new neighbors in Nora, Illinois: 10,000 cows. It’s what’s known in the industry as a “concentrated animal feeding operation,” or CAFO: basically a big cow warehouse, with a giant trough under it to catch their waste.


Illinois lawmakers are working on legislation intended to help youth programs struggling under the state budget impasse.  Youth services do things like help kids avoid time in jail; one helps school kids after a classmate is murdered. 

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) made a stop at the Springfield Boys & Girls Club, saying its funding is under threat by President Trump’s budget proposal.

The nursing home industry is fighting legislation that would require them to have higher staffing levels — and greater penalties if they don’t meet them.

Illinois’ long-term care ombudsman tracks complaints and looks out for residents of nursing homes. But the ombudsman has her own complaint. She says state agencies that regulate nursing homes are ignoring her.

New legislation would deal with two problems she keeps hearing about: low staffing levels, and discharging residents to hospitals. That second practice, known as “dumping,” also blocks patients from coming back.

Minor league baseball players are suing Major League Baseball, claiming unfair pay. But a new proposal in Illinois would protect independent leagues from a similar lawsuit.

The state’s minimum wage law applies to most workers, but there are a few exceptions: farm hands, children of small business owners, and outdoor salesmen to name a few.

Rich Sauget is the owner of the Gateway Grizzlies, a minor league team in the East St. Louis area. He wants his players, coaches, and trainers to be added to that list.

 

The Republican health plan currently in Congress would remove $40 billion from the Illinois’ current Medicaid program over the next 10 years, according to numbers from the Congressional Budget Office. The Illinois Hospital Association says they expect over 400,000 Medicaid recipients to lose coverage.

The new Republican health care legislation in Congress could cost Illinois $40 billion dollars in federal funding over the next decade. That’s according to the recent report by the Congressional Budget Office.

Illinois’ health care exchange has not been the success Obamacare proponents were hoping for. Insurance companies have struggled to find customers.

But hospitals say the expansion of Medicaid has been huge for Illinois. It’s given 600,000 people access to healthcare, so far paid in full by the federal government.

Bernard Thomas / AP Photo

Immigrant and refugee groups were pushing their legislative agenda today in the Illinois Capitol. They want the state to restore adult English classes and limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

Governor Bruce Rauner’s new rules restricting overtime pay for home health aids passed a major test today.

Starting August 1st, caretakers will be limited to a 45-hour work-week. If people require more care, they’ll have to find an additional worker.

A news release touted the administration’s “cost saving efforts.” But Fred Flather, chief of staff for the Illinois Department of Human Services, says money is not the driving factor.

Illinois Democrats want to make it harder for outside political groups to confuse voters with absentee ballot schemes.


Liberal groups and Illinois lawmakers celebrated International Women’s Day at the state Capitol. But one subset of legislators was absent: Republicans.

The all-Democratic list of speakers didn’t shy away from politics. There were shots at the governor, and talk of a legislative platform focused on social services and health care access for women.

But Democratic state Senator Toi Hutchinson, of Olympia Fields, says there is respect for GOP women … like Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, who launched the “grand bargain” negotiations:

Dr. Ronald Lynch runs a family dentistry in Jacksonville. He says approximately 20 percent of his patients are state workers. Because Illinois is still running with no budget, the state has not been paying its employees’ health bills on time — and the delays are growing.

A day after the Illinois Senate failed to vote on its “grand bargain,” lawmakers are wondering how to pick up the pieces.  Democrats were angry when most Republicans refused to vote on the budget deal.  They blamed it on the intervention of Governor Bruce Rauner, who’s reportedly been meeting with Republicans this week.  Rauner says the deal isn’t good enough.

Yet another proposal aims to get the state out of crisis.

A 1917 report conducted on the Illinois pension system revealed bad news. After a pension-focused trip around the globe, with studies on such nations as Great Britain, New Zealand, and Austro-Hungary, it got to crux of the matter:

 

A group of retired military generals is the latest to come out against an element of the Illinois Senate's "grand bargain" legislation. Their focus is a measure that would cut the state’s mandate of daily physical education to just three times a week.

Another group is coming out against part of the so-called grand bargain, meant to end Illinois’ budget impasse. Several retired military generals say relaxing physical education requirements is a threat to national security.

 

Retired Brigadier General Mark Rabin of the Air National Guard says a quarter of Americans between 17 and 24 years old are not fit enough to join the military. The most common problem, he says, is being overweight.

In his budget address Wednesday, Governor Bruce Rauner said he was open to an income tax increase as part of the Illinois Senate’s so-called grand bargain. But he came out against a tax on food and medicine, which is also part of the Senate deal.

 

Peoria State Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth says her fellow Democrats are frustrated the governor did not push Republicans to support the compromise. A series of test votes last week got zero Republican support.

 


Donald Trump’s presidency has Illinois lawmakers weighing an issue not usually given as much attention in the General Assembly: abortion.

College students rallied in the state Capitol rotunda Wednesday. They’re urging lawmakers to restore state funding to universities and community colleges.

Library of Congress / Wikimedia Commons

Any day now, Illinois will be surrounded by right-to-work states. The Missouri governor is expected to make his state the sixth to adopt such a law in the last few years.

A group of Republican lawmakers want to set up automatic payments to state workers. It would ensure Illinois’ employees get paid regardless of whether there’s a budget. 

If there’s anything in Illinois with a lower approval rating than state government, one imagines it could be red-light cameras: those big-brother tattle-tales that catch drivers in the act of running a red light at intersections.

Members of Springfield’s Muslim community turned out for a demonstration on Monday against President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration.

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