Brian Mackey

Brian Mackey covers state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. He was previously A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.

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Illinois legislators are trying to help state taxpayers get around limitations in the new federal tax law. But the federal government may negate the plan before it even has a chance to become law.

Conversations around gun violence often revolve around long-term solutions, like improving schools or the local economy.

But even if those things were easy — and they’re not — it would take a generation to realize the benefits.

And for the Illinoisans living and dying in these communities — mostly low-income, black communities — they don’t have time to wait.

BRIAN MACKEY / NPR ILLINOIS

Passing a state budget is arguably the most important thing the Illinois General Assembly does every year — or at least should do every year.

After last year's drama — when a two-year standoff ended with a Republican revolt against Governor Bruce Rauner — it's an open question about how things will go this year.

So I set out to answer a simple question: Will there be another impasse?

The question may sound simple, but the answer, like most things in state government, is complicated.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The University of Illinois president told a panel of lawmakers Thursday that he'd like to maintain a freeze on tuition rates.

Tim Killeen, president of the U. of I. system, spoke directly to state Sen. Dan McConchie, whose daughter received financial aid offers from other Big Ten universities, but not the U. of I.

Consequently, she’s joining thousands of other traditional college students moving out of state.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Governor Bruce Rauner’s office has been criticized by a state audit.

The auditor general’s report found that the governor’s office hasn’t kept track of state equipment, like a missing sofa. It also says the administration couldn’t name who was responsible for a computer that had vanished, or whether it contained confidential information.

Rauner says “nobody’s perfect.”

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A mother is suing Illinois and Sangamon County officials for failing to prevent her daughter's suicide.

Tiffany Rusher had serious mental health problems. While an inmate at Logan Correctional Center, she tried again and again to take her own life — swallowing batteries, banging her head against a wall, and repeatedly trying to hang herself.

MIKAELA LEFRAK / WAMU

With more student protests expected after the shooting in Parkland, Fla., the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois is encouraging schools to "nurture your students’ efforts to learn for themselves about participatory democracy."

In an open letter published Monday, the civil liberties group suggests excusing absences for students who demonstrate.

CANDIDATES' CAMPAIGNS

How would contenders for the state's top legal office have handled the budget stalemate?

One of the limitations of modern political debates is that candidates are usually only asked what they'll do. But in this era of political dysfunction and governmental obstruction, it can be just as important to know what a candidate might choose not to do.

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A divided Illinois Supreme Court says it was OK for the government to seize a woman’s Harley-Davidson — even though it was her husband who used it to drive drunk.

Petra Henderson had been driving her husband to various bars, but eventually he jumped on her Harley and basically told her: Get on or walk home.

The state says by getting on, Henderson was consenting to let her husband drive, and basically enabling a crime.

Five of the Supreme Court justices agreed with that logic.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Most of the Democrats running for governor of Illinois have long since come out in favor of a graduated income tax, where wealthier people pay a higher rate on income above a certain amount. But it wasn’t until Thursday that one candidate said what he thought that amount ought to be.

The concept of a graduated income tax has been embraced by state Sen. Daniel Biss, J.B. Pritzker, Chris Kennedy, and Bob Daiber.

A law taking effect January first is meant to force Illinois government to be more honest about its money problems.

jeanneives.org

The state representative challenging Governor Bruce Rauner in next year’s Republican primary is proposing several changes to Illinois’ pension systems.

Jeanne Ives of Wheaton is calling for three things. First, she want to amend the Illinois Constitution to eliminate protections for government pensions. Second, she wants to enroll all new state workers in a 401(k)-style plan. And finally, she wants to renegotiate pensions as part of an “honest conversation” with both current employees and retirees about the state pension system.

jb-pritzker.com

Illinois’ two Democratic U.S. senators are taking sides in the primary for governor. 

Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth are both endorsing businessman J.B. Pritzker.

It’s the latest example of Illinois' Democratic establishment lining up behind Pritzker. He's already gotten nods from a variety of different politicians, party organizations, and labor unions.

Another gubernatorial candidate, state Sen. Daniel Biss, says while he admires the senators, Democrats need to decide whether they want to be the "billionaire party," a reference to Pritzker’s wealth.

Alisa Ryan/Flickr

Anti-abortion advocates made their initial appearance in a Springfield courtroom yesterday.

They’re challenging a new Illinois law that will allow state money to pay for some abortions. It applies to women who have health insurance through state employment, as well as those on the Medicaid program. Lawyer Peter Breen says their case is about how state tax money is spent — not whether abortion is right or wrong.

Gov. Rauner Faces Primary Challenger

Dec 5, 2017
jeanneives.org

State Rep. Jeanne Ives will challenge Gov. Bruce Rauner in next year’s Republican Primary. She cites disagreements with the incumbent on a range of issues.

“Governor Rauner is responsible for the 32 percent tax increase," she said. "He failed to hold Republicans together, and he budgeted for such as well. His proposed budget actually spent more money than the passed budget by the Democrats.”

Ives was referring to this summer’s end of the budget impasse, when more than a dozen Republicans broke with Rauner to help Democrats pass a tax increase.

Jenna Dooley

The Illinois General Assembly’s new ethics watchdog can now begin investigating a backlog of 27 cases.
They’ve been piling up for nearly three years while the office has been vacant.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a law yesterday that removes an expiration date on some of the complaints. Rauner wasn't satisfied with all of the bill's content.

“House Bill 137 is very flawed," he said.

Gov. Bruce Rauner is declaring victory after the House failed to override a key veto. The bill was a priority of organized labor.

Ryan Delaney/St. Louis Public Radio

Illinois U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth is calling for a new law that would give Congress a greater say before America could attack North Korea.

"I think what’s important is to realize that war is very much imminent in North Korea,” she said.

She says war would be “catastrophic" for people in the region, including thousands in the American military.

State Rep. Jeanne Ives says she’s taking on Governor Bruce Rauner in the upcoming Republican primary.

The former Wheaton city councilwoman and West Point graduate acknowledges it will be tough going up against Rauner’s vast personal wealth. But she says the governor has betrayed Republican principles, and wants to give voters a choice.

llinois lawmakers are working to end the $10 fee for freezing consumer credit data.

It comes months after Equifax, Inc. exposed the sensitive personal information of tens of millions of Americans.

The Illinois House is advancing legislation to ban “bump stocks.” The devices gained national prominence this month, when they were reportedly used by the Las Vegas shooter.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has spent much of the past few years bad-mouthing the Illinois economy — saying his agenda would turn things around. But not everyone in his administration is sounding the alarm.

flickr user / Michael Coghlan "Prison Bars" (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Advocates say the treatment of Illinois prisoners with mental illness is so bad that the prison system is in a “state of emergency.” They’re asking a federal judge to intervene.

More than a year ago, the Illinois Department of Corrections agreed that it needed to improve its treatment of prisoners with mental illness. It settled a decade-old court case, but lawyers for the prisoners say the state isn’t improving quickly enough.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis was back in his central Illinois district Friday, donating blood in Springfield.

He’s among the Republicans who’ve indicated an openness to tighter regulations on "bump stocks," devices that enabled the Las Vegas shooter to fire more rapidly. Davis had personal experience of a mass shooting earlier this year, when a man opened fire as he and other Congressmen were playing baseball.

jb-pritzker.com

J.B. Pritzker won another big-ticket endorsement in his campaign to win the Democratic nomination for Illinois governor.

The Democratic County Chairmen’s Association met in Springfield over the weekend and picked Pritzker from the large field of candidates. Association President Doug House says Pritzker — a billionaire who’s self-funding his campaign — is the only candidate who can build the infrastructure to take on Gov. Bruce Rauner next year.

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State and federal legislators from Illinois are proposing new laws in response to Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas.

Brian Mackey/NPR Illinois

State Rep. David Harris is the latest in a growing list of Illinois lawmakers who say they’re not running for re-election.

Harris, R-Arlington Heights, has been attacked for breaking with his party to raise taxes and end the state's two-year budget impasse.

“The fact that we now have a budget, I think, is a good thing," Harris said Wednesday in a telephone interview. "It prevented the state from going to the status of junk bonds, which would have been disastrous."

Harris said he’s worried the Republican Party has become too divided.

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Illinois politicians continue reacting to Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, but responses are falling down party lines.

As happens with just about every mass shooting, and the more routine violence that plagues parts of cities like Chicago, Democrats say it shows the need for tighter gun laws.

Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin says military-grade weapons should not be considered normal.

But Republicans prefer to set aside those conversation, which is what Gov. Bruce Rauner did when asked whether he would support a so-called assault weapons ban.

Illinois financial regulators are recommending an increase in the fees that currency exchanges charge for cashing checks. Opponents say it will hurt the state's poorest residents.

Currency exchanges petitioned the state for the higher rate — which could be up to 3%, depending on the amount of the check.

They say the move to direct deposit and pre-paid cards has cut into profits — putting the industry into decline.

A federal indictment alleges Larry Wyllie misused taxpayer money to build a dog-training school and to give himself a retirement bonus. It also says that, as superintendent, he lied about the finances of Lincoln-Way High School District 210, using money borrowed for construction to pay for regular expenses.

District 210 mainly serves Frankfort, Mokena and New Lenox, southwest of Chicago. Household income and property values are well above the state average; yet, among hundreds of Illinois school systems, Lincoln-Way’s finances are ranked third from the bottom.

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