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.

 

The Illinois General Assembly voted to increase a fee on cell phone bills in order to fund 911 services. It was a rare example of Republican lawmakers defying the Rauner administration.

 

Emergency dispatchers, phone companies, and lawmakers from both parties were in agreement. The fee on cell phone bills needed to increase — to keep 911 services  going and to add new technology mandated by Illinois.

 

 

The Illinois Senate passed a budget package Tuesday after a similar plan failed last week. The difference was several new “yes” votes from liberal Democrats. No Republicans supported either plan.

The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that the Illinois High School Association has no obligation to release internal documents.  The court said the IHSA is not subject to Freedom of Information laws, calling it a private non-profit, not a governmental body.  FOIA , as it’s often called, allows anyone to request records related to government work.  

The Illinois State Board of Elections is fining Auditor General Frank Mautino’s former campaign committee. A complaint alleges he failed to properly report some $380,000 dollars in spending.

The seven Republican Congressmen from Illinois are recommending state Senator Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, to be next U-S ambassador to Kenya.

The Illinois Senate unanimously passed legislation today intended to help dentists who’ve been affected by the budget stalemate. Many dentists who treat state employees have not been getting paid for their work.  They’re part of a long list of businesses and institutions waiting to be reimbursed for work they’ve already done.  

Jonas Boni / Flickr

Illinois Democrats and senior-citizen groups are challenging Governor Bruce Rauner’s push to change home health care services. With a growing elderly population, Rauner says the state needs more control over how much it pays home health care workers, and what those services include. Donna Peek is a home health care aid, and member of the union SEIU. She says Rauner’s plan will upend close relationships between clients and their caregivers.

 

 

Comptroller Susana Mendoza says she’s not sure when school districts will receive state money owed to them for the rest of this school year. Mendoza’s office is in charge of paying the state’s bills.

The state treasurer says not enough people realize Illinois’ credit could soon be rated “junk.” That’s if lawmakers and the governor don’t agree on a budget by the end of this month.  Treasurer Mike Frerichs has mostly avoided the political fight surrounding the state’s budget crisis. But he says if former Republican Governor Jim Edgar can criticize the current governor, piling on isn’t political.

The Illinois Senate passed legislation today that’s meant to increase voter registration automatically.  Just a few months ago, Democrats failed to override Governor Rauner’s veto of automatic voter registration. The new version is intended to address his concerns. It’d automatically add people to the rolls when they interact with government, like getting a driver’s license.

The State Board of Elections says hackers gained access to the information of 80,000 Illinois voters — including their social security numbers and driver’s licenses.

Elections officials say hackers had access to Illinois’ system for nearly three weeks before they were detected. They did get access to personal information, but officials say that’s about it.

Reg Natarajan / Flickr

Governor Bruce Rauner is broadening the role of private companies in Illinois’ Medicaid program. But Democrats say he’s using the state’s lack of a budget to avoid transparency. Medicaid is one of the largest pieces of the state’s budget, and Democrats say the governor is trying to significantly alter the way the program is managed.

 

Senator Martin Sandoval, from Chicago, says Rauner is also bypassing normal review channels.

Illinois legislators voted against letting people with drug-related convictions receive welfare benefits today.  Supporters say when drug offenders lose welfare benefits, it punishes their children, who did nothing wrong, but still rely on public assistance.  Despite the growing heroin epidemic all over the state, members of both parties were not buying the argument. Representative David Reis is a Republican from Willow Hill.

Prison Nurses to Keep Jobs

Apr 27, 2017

Seven Republican lawmakers say they convinced Governor Bruce Rauner to go back on his decision to lay off 124 prison nurses. Instead, they say the governor will return to negotiations.  Rauner’s previous plan was to outsource the jobs to a private company called Wexford, which already provides healthcare to inmates at the Department of Corrections.  

Members of the Illinois House passed legislation today that would require state agencies to buy American products, even if they’re not the cheapest.

Democratic Representative Jay Hoffman of Swansea is sponsoring the proposal. He says it aligns with President Donald Trump’s focus on American manufacturing.

“I could just reference your president’s executive order regarding ‘Buy American.’ This is saying our state taxpayer dollars should put our people to work and we should use the buying power of our state to create jobs and economic opportunity.”

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.

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