Government

Government and Legislature

City of Rockford / rockfordil.gov

There are big plans for an important part of Rockford’s downtown. Thursday night, the public gathered at Memorial Hall to hear about the future of Davis Park.

hhs.gov

It’s time to sign up or pay up. The deadline for getting an insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act is Sunday. 

You either have health insurance Monday or face fines -- big fines, starting at $695. Kathleen Falk is the Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She says there are a lot of reasons people haven’t registered yet, including still not being convinced they can finally get an insurance company to cover them.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Supporters and opponents of a proposed gambling complex in southern DeKalb County turned out Tuesday for a meeting with federal officials. It was the first step in a long study of how 24-hour bingo parlors will affect the village of Shabbona.

Carl Nelson/WNIJ

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner delivers his second State of the State address tomorrow.  

  If you're curious about what Rauner will say, you're not alone. So is Senate President John Cullerton, a Democrat.

"Eager to hear what the governor's plans are on Wednesday, but it's in bad shape, and we want to change it.

ncai.org

The federal government wants to hear from the public tonight about how they think they’ll be affected by a gambling facility in Shabbona. 

A proposed entertainment complex offering 24-hour bingo has been in the works for years on Potawatomi Nation land near Shabbona, in southern DeKalb County. Tonight, the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs hosts a public hearing at Kishwaukee College. It’s the first step in the process of developing an environmental impact study of the project.

Brian Mackey/Illinois Public Radio

The state's largest private provider of social-service programs is closing 30 programs serving 4,700 people because of the budget impasse. 

Lutheran Social Services of Illinois announced Friday it is laying off 750 employees -- about 43 percent of its staff. 

President and CEO Mark Stutrud says the state owes $6 million. He says the nonprofit can no longer rely on bank credit or its fundraising foundation to cover its costs. 

Planned Parenthood

The state Senate has passed a bill that would strip Planned Parenthood of federal grant money.

That measure would require the state to apply for federal Title X grant money, which currently all goes to Planned Parenthood.

The money can't be used for abortions. Under the bill, abortion providers couldn't get any money; the grants instead would go to the state's Well Woman program, which provides breast and cervical cancer screenings.

The move would cost Planned Parenthood about $3 million per year.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

A major overhaul of DeKalb County’s jail is on target to be finished by the summer of 2018. Sycamore’s city council got an update at its meeting this week on the progress of the $35-million jail expansion.

Wikipedia

Democratic legislative leaders say they want to hear bold plans from Gov. Scott Walker during today’s State of the State address.

Rep. Peter Barca and Sen. Jennifer Shilling said yesterday that the Republican governor needs to work with them to strengthen the state's middle class and improve its infrastructure.

They say Democrats have a suite of proposals aimed at boosting working families, including creating a child care tax credit, expanding broadband access in rural areas and restructuring student loan debt.

Rockford Police Complete Change To A New Look

Jan 16, 2016
Rockford Police Department

The Rockford Police Department will completes its transition to single-color uniforms this weekend, part of a national trend of police departments to standard navy blue uniforms.

All sworn officers -- from patrolman to chief -- will be outfitted the same regardless of rank. Command staff is indicated by bars or stars on the collar, and insignia on the left cuff which represents years of service for each officer. Each hash mark signifies five years of service.

AFSCME31.ORG

The rift between Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and the state's public employee union has escalated.

Rauner announced Friday he's asking the state labor board to decide if negotiations with AFSCME have reached an impasse. A few days ago in an interview with Illinois Public Radio, Rauner -- a Republican -- said his bargaining team is spinning its wheels.

After roughly one year -- about 67 sessions -- he claimed "AFSCME has refused to compromise off of their starting position, which was status quo with major increases in compensation, and other issues." 

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

The familiar orange and black monarch butterfly has become a much rarer sight over the past few decades. There’s a growing movement to restore the habitat along the monarch’s migratory path. A new federal grant enlists farmers in the effort.

Vijay Kumar Koulampet, CC BY-SA 3.0 / via Wikimedia Commons

The Wisconsin state Assembly has approved a tougher penalty for hiding a corpse.

Right now, hiding a corpse is a Class G felony that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. The Republican-authored bill would classify the crime as a more severe Class F felony punishable by up to 12.5 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.

The Assembly approved the bill on a voice vote Tuesday. The Senate approved the bill on a voice vote in June.

State of Illinois

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is observing his first anniversary in office.

Rauner campaigned on a promise to shake up Springfield. On that account, at least, he has succeeded. Illinois is in the midst of a historic budget impasse -- with no signs of it coming to an end.

Critics, including Democratic Rep. Lou Lang of Skokie, lay the blame on the governor.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Time is running out for people who haven’t signed up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act

Sen. Durbin: More Money For Medical Research

Jan 11, 2016
durbin.senate.gov

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin visited Southern Illinois University’s School of Medicine Friday to announce an increase in federal funding for medical research for this year.

Senator Durbin said the federal government will pay an extra $2 billion more than last year to study and treat diseases.

The Democrat held up a 3-D model of an infant heart with a birth defect as an example of how advances in medical research can help families.

His late daughter, Christine, had the same heart defect as the 3-D model when she was born.

Secretary of State

If you have not gotten your passport yet due to Real ID compliance issues in Illinois, no need to worry. The effectiveness date for the act has been extended.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says there will be no I.D.-related security changes at airports for at least two years. The department previously said the act would go into effect after Sunday.

"Satsop Nuclear Power Plant" by Flickr User Tony Webster / (CC BY 2.0)

The state Assembly is set to take up a bill that would lift Wisconsin's moratorium on new nuclear power plants.

Republicans who control the chamber placed the bill on Tuesday's calendar during a meeting yesterday.

Under current law, state regulators can't approve a new nuclear power plant unless a federal storage facility for waste from nuclear plants nationwide exists and the plant wouldn't burden ratepayers.

No centralized federal repository exists. Nuclear plants have been storing waste on-site.

State of Wisconsin

Governor Scott Walker wants Wisconsin's attorney general to challenge President Barack Obama's gun control plan.

Walker said in a statement Wednesday that he believes Obama overstepped his authority when he announced an executive action to expand mandatory background checks to gun shows, flea markets and online sales.

Walker says Obama has created uncertainty for law-abiding citizens who want to sell guns and could deprive millions of Americans of their gun rights without any indication of imminent danger.

He called the plan an illegal act.

Jeff Bossert / Illinois Public Media

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner visited the Iroquois County seat of Watseka Tuesday, on the same day he declared that county and 10 others state disaster areas due to flooding, bringing the total to 23.  Watseka Mayor Bob Harwood says he has greater hopes for a federal disaster declaration than he did last summer.

Harwood says the December rains were unusual in that they impacted both the Iroquois River and Sugar Creek, hitting Watseka’s south side nearly as much as the north, which typically more prone to flooding. 

State of Illinois

An Illinois task force for local government consolidation and unfunded mandates released its final report today.

Gov. Bruce Rauner created the Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates Task Force almost a year ago. Its purpose was to find ways to restructure local government functions to save taxpayer money.

Flickr user ynse / "dna rendering" (CC BY 2.0)

A bipartisan group of Wisconsin legislators is trying to move a bill mandating the state destroy defendants' DNA samples if they're found innocent.

Current Wisconsin law requires police to take DNA from anyone arrested for a violent felony and send the samples to the state Justice Department's crime lab.

Convicted felons, sex offenders and anyone convicted of a misdemeanor also must surrender their DNA.

If a defendant is found not guilty or delinquent he or she can ask the DOJ to destroy their DNA samples and purge all records of the samples.

New Sentencing Law Affects Minors

Dec 31, 2015
State of Illinois

A number of new laws take effect January 1st. One such law affects young people who are convicted of crimes. Illinois minors will no longer face mandatory life sentences without parole.

DraftKings

A lawsuit that could determine the fate of fantasy sports betting in Illinois could go to trial next summer.

Boston-based DraftKings and the Illinois Attorney General agreed to an expedited schedule and a bench trial in a lawsuit that could determine the fate of daily fantasy sports betting in the state.

An order filed in Cook County Circuit Court shows Lisa Madigan agreed to respond to DraftKings' complaint by January 22nd. A trial could begin by June.

DraftKings' attorney said in a statement the company and its legal team “are confident” they will win their case.

State of Illinois

After four DUI convictions, drivers in Illinois permanently lose their licenses. But some who fall in that group could get the chance to drive again in 2016.

A new law that goes into effect in January will allow those with four DUI’s on their record a chance to apply for a restricted license. To get one, applicants would have to prove they have been sober for three years. 

Flickr user Pictures of Money / "Money" (CC BY 2.0)

Reimbursements for some Illinois county positions haven’t been paid since July – even though they’re required by law.

That’s because of the state budget gridlock.

Those positions include each county’s state’s attorney, public defender and assessment supervisor.

Center for Governmental Studies / Northern Illinois University

A new Census analysis shows Illinois leads the nation in population loss.

The U-S Census updates its population numbers every year by looking at government documents like tax returns as well as birth and death records. Illinois lost 22-thousand people over the past year. That’s like losing a city the size of Freeport in just one year.

Northern Illinois University

Illinois colleges and universities still haven’t received state funding due to the budget impasse. Northern Illinois University trustees passed a resolution earlier this month to address that.

NIU trustees passed a temporary budget in September. It anticipated Governor Bruce Rauner’s originally proposed cuts … which was about 29 percent less than the previous year's funding.  

Flickr user Sean Freese / "Day 116: "Alexis"" (CC V 2.0)

It can be scary for a victim of sexual abuse to have to testify about it in court. An Illinois law taking effect in 2016 is meant to give them comfort. 

With a judge's approval, kids will be able to have a therapy dog with them when they take the witness stand.

"You don't want it to be a sideshow in the courtroom; it has to be up to the level of decorum that we expect,” Senator Scott Bennett, the law's sponsor and a former prosecutor, said.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

There may be another substantial amount of money from Rita Crundwell’s assets heading to the city of Dixon. The Justice Department has worked out a settlement with the former Dixon comptroller’s family.

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