Government

Government and Legislature

Brian Mackey/WUIS

The finishing touches are going on a plan to streamline local government costs.

One of Gov. Bruce Rauner's controversial ideas is to give local governments the option to discontinue collective bargaining. That's something state law requires now.

The task force chaired by Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti has embraced the idea.

By the end of this year, Sanguinetti says the group will have a report published, with that and other recommendations for finding mandates that can be done away with, room for government consolidation, and cutting costs.

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

Little changed about Illinois pensions since the state's high court declared lawmakers' last attempt unconstitutional. But the state's leaders signaled they may be ready to talk about trying again.

“No one wants to talk about it, but we have to.” House GOP Leader Jim Durkin said last week while leaving a private meeting with the governor and other legislative leaders, where Durkin says they had a healthy discussion about pensions. “Unfunded liability continues to grow. We can't lose sight of that. We can get there at some point.”

FAA

The nation’s 13 busiest airports and air traffic centers, including those in Chicago, don’t have enough air traffic controllers. And many of the most experienced are ready to retire. That’s according to recent testimony before Congress by a government inspector. 

Illinois Troopers Lodge 41

The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police says a proposal by state lawmakers to license officers seems redundant.

Some Chicago Democrats are pushing for a way to license police officers, like the state does for lawyers or even hairdressers.

Keith Turney is with the Illinois police union. He says he’s not opposed to licenses, but there’s already a certification process for cops in the state.

“So, you know, maybe to save a lot of anguish and of course tax money, is maybe we just look at beefing up the certification in some way versus licensing,” Turney said.

Years of mismanagement led to Illinois’s current fiscal crisis. A recent report from the University of Illinois’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs recommends changes to the budgeting process that could help prevent future disasters.

Illinois Public Radio’s Jamey Dunn talked with Richard Dye, one of the authors of the report. 

IPR's Jamey Dunn talked about the recommendations with Richard Dye, who is co-director of the IGPA's Fiscal Futures Project and one of the authors of the report. 

Illinois Lottery / illinoislottery.com

The Illinois Lottery will resume paying out big prizes, thanks to a partial budget just signed into law. 

But that won't be enough to end a class-action lawsuit.

The jackpot's been out of reach, even for Lottery players lucky enough to win $600 or more. Illinois suspended paying larger prizes because, without a budget, it didn't have the legal authority to do so.

Now the winners' wait is coming to an end.

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from gun owners who challenged a Chicago suburb's ban on assault weapons.

The justices on Monday refused to hear the case of a Highland Park pediatrician who objected to the city's 2013 ban on semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines. The federal appeals court in Chicago upheld the Highland Park law, ruling that local governments have leeway in deciding how to regulate firearms.

Brian Mackey

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner says it may be another five months before the state has a budget.

Rauner recently addressed a crowd of manufacturers eating lunch in a downtown Chicago hotel.

“I am the most persistent rascal on the planet,” Rauner said. “I do not back down; I do not give up.”

But Democrats also have been persistent. They won’t agree to any of the business-centered reforms Rauner’s pushed.

As a result, Rauner says the stalemate will continue.

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

A stopgap budget plan moving through the Illinois General Assembly won't be enough for the Secretary of State to resume mailing reminders of expiring driver's license stickers.

The office announced in September it would stop sending the notices via post because of the budget impasse. A stopgap spending plan will give the Secretary of State’s office $10 million.

But spokesman Dave Druker says they will not use it on the reminders:

“Not at this point,” he said. “We thought paying the landlords and the utilities rated as a higher priority.” 

Associated Press

In a prime-time speech from the Oval Office Sunday night, Obama said that the United States would defeat the threat of terrorism — without compromising American values.

Obama began his third Oval Office address by remembering the 14 Americans who died in Wednesday's attack in San Bernardino, California.

He noted that the FBI has no evidence that the attack was directed by a terrorist organization, but said it was clear the shooters had gone down the "dark path of radicalization."

"This was an act of terrorism," Obama said, "designed to kill innocent people."

Associated Press

President Obama will deliver an Oval Office address at 7 p.m. this evening, discussing the San Bernardino attack and the broader issue of terrorism.

WNIJ News will present live special coverage of the President's remarks, hosted by NPR's Lynn Neary. She will be joined by NPR correspondents for analysis of the speech.

The White House says the president will provide an update on the continuing investigation of the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., which killed 14 people earlier this week.

Brian Mackey/Illinois Public Radio

Illinois' unemployment insurance program will see some changes next year ... the result of something that's rare in Springfield these days as a budget stalemate persists: hard-fought negotiations giving way to a compromise.

Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration, labor, and business, all agreed on something: changes to the unemployment insurance program.

The measure awaiting the governor's signature would make it easier for businesses to prove worker misconduct.  That could decrease employer’s costs by exempting them from having to pay benefits.

Brian Mackey / Illinois Public Radio

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner spoke in public Wednesday for the first time since Tuesday's big summit with legislative leaders. He says he is still defending his decision not to negotiate a budget until Democrats approve his agenda.

Rauner says he's not expecting quick progress in his standoff with Democrats in the General Assembly. The governor says he wants Illinois to be more business-friendly.

File photo by Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

With Illinois in its sixth month without a budget, the state's top political leaders met Tuesday in Springfield. It was the first time they'd all gotten together in months. Was anything accomplished?

In a word: No.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democrats who run the Illinois House and Senate seem as divided as ever.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner pledged to save taxpayers money by eliminating some of the state's nearly 7,000 units of government.

Now, a task force is preparing its final recommendations.

Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti is the commission's chairwoman. She says its suggestions could make government more efficient and effective if the Legislature and Rauner choose to implement them.

The suggestions include letting voters decide whether a unit of government should be eliminated.

“At the end of the day, the savings are going to be huge,” Sanguinetti said.

Flickr user 401(K) 2012 / "Money" (CC v. 2.0)

A group of human service providers wants Illinois lawmakers and Governor Bruce Rauner to pass a budget for the current fiscal year and next fiscal year. That’s after it appears the state will go more than half of this fiscal year without one.

Judith Gethner is with Illinois Partners for Human Services. She says they want both to happen in January, so providers can prepare for cuts that are likely to come.

University of Illinois

Illinois public universities are using their reserves to survive while Illinois operates without a budget. But University of Illinois president Tim Killeen says burning through savings at a rate of $76 million per month is not sustainable. 

“It is time to fix this,” Killeen said. “My expectation is that there will be a good outcome or a reasonable outcome in the January/February time frame, at which time we will pick up the ball and run and University of Illinois will go from strength to strength, I assure you of that.” 

Flickr: West Midlands Police / Photo cropped from original

A Chicago Democrat says he hopes a new state law will prevent the very situation that’s playing out over the death of a 17-year-old killed by a Chicago police officer.

The new law sets standards for officers who wear body cameras.

State representative Elgie Sims says it’s significant, given the release of a police dashboard video of the shooting death of Laquan McDonald.

“It only reinforces what we did,” Sims said.

Flickr user Daniel Borman / "Money, Money, Money" (CC BY 2.0)

When the state finally has a budget, who will be left out?

Illinois is facing the very real possibility of going for more than half of the current fiscal year without a budget.

Over that same six months, court orders, consent decrees and the one budget bill that Gov. Bruce Rauner did sign — funding for K-12 education — put the state on track to spend well above the revenue it’s taking in. Illinois Comptroller LeslieMunger estimates that roughly 90 percent of state spending is still happening, even without a budget.

DeKalb's Future Plans Unveiled

Nov 25, 2015

The City of DeKalb has released a draft of its 10-Year Strategic Plan and invites community members to review it and offer comments and suggestions. The plan combines input gathered at more than 40 group discussions held throughout DeKalb and facilitated by Northern Illinois University's Center for Governmental Studies.

Kankakee Community College

Many public Illinois colleges and universities are hard-hit by the budget stalemate. The state isn’t mandated to fund higher education the way it must pay for kindergarten through high school.

Kankakee Community College made cuts earlier in the year due to a continued decline in enrollment. Officials cut down on its award-winning sustainability program and decided to stop operating its public radio station.

Hundreds of candidates -- or their supporters -- stood in line Monday morning outside the State Board of Elections office in Springfield to turn in nominating petitions.

Anyone there before 8 a.m. could be listed first should they make it onto the primary ballot.

Theresa Mah is one of them. She's running for state representative in the second district, in Chicago.

Mah says that, when she knocked on voters' doors to get their signatures, most people were supportive. 

Others were concerned about the Illinois budget.

DeKalb County's Top Prosecutor To Run Again

Nov 23, 2015
Susan Stephens / WNIJ

DeKalb County State's Attorney Richard Schmack will seek another term.

Schmack, a Democrat, is likely to face opposition in the general election next November. At least three local attorneys --Hinckley attorney Charles Rea, Sycamore attorney Rick Amato, and former DeKalb County State's Attorney Clay Campbell - are seeking the Republican nomination for the office.

Schmack's campaign committee, Citizens to Elect Richard Schmack, said he will file his nomination paperwork and petitions November 30 to appear on the March 15, Primary Election ballot.

Amanda Vinicky

Illinois is in uncharted territory. It will soon begin its sixth month without a budget. 

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democrats who dominate the legislature continue to spar about what the future of Illinois should look like.

Rauner wants to rein in unions; Democrats say that's akin to bolstering business tycoons at the expense of the middle class.

How long can it go on?

If you're someone who reports on government and politics, like I do, there's one question you've asked a lot lately: "When is Illinois going to get a budget?"

Illinois General Assembly

The race for Illinois comptroller has narrowed: There will no longer be a Democratic primary.

State Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, confirmed he will not run. That means Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza will have no opposition in the Democratic primary next March.

Candidates can begin filing paperwork today to run for state office. They have until the end of the month.

But Biss says he won't turn in his petitions at all.

Larry Stephens

Illinois is about to enter its six month without a budget … which means communities haven’t received funding from Springfield.

The winter storm forecast for most of the WNIJ listening area could present an issue for those who rely on motor fuel tax funds from the state.

The National Weather Service is predicting up to eight inches of snow from this weekend’s storm. But Motor Fuel Tax funds trapped in the Illinois budget impasse might mean some communities won’t have access to state money for road salt.

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

A task force created by Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is trying to figure out how to reduce the number of local governments in the state. That group voted Thursday to recommend restrictions on organized labor.

Members listening in via conference call heard an unexpected interlude.

The task force is made of legislators, mayors and a library trustee. During the meeting, they approved recommendations like incentivizing schools to consolidate and encouraging municipalities to share equipment.

Rauner Admin. Progress In Poison Hotline Cuts

Nov 19, 2015
Illinois Poison Center

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s administration is moving forward with cuts to a poison hotline.

The Illinois Poison Center is a non-profit that includes a hotline to field calls from doctors, hospitals, or just people who are worried about something their kid ingested.

Now, the Poison Center stands to lose 2 million dollars in state money.

Rauner’s administration announced in June it wanted to stop the flow of government money for the program, since there isn’t a state budget. This week, the administration got the go-ahead to make that cut.

Illinois Child Care Bureau

Thousands of Illinois families who lost access to state-subsidized child care this summer are once again eligible.

Governor Bruce Rauner rolled back the program drastically in July, which helps low-income working parents afford daycare. Lawmakers were set to reverse the cuts last week, but Rauner agreed to a deal instead.

Senator Toi Hutchinson helped to negotiate with the governor.

New hearing dates have been set to review charges against the two top officers of the Beloit Police Department.

The Beloit Police and Fire Commission scheduled nine days in January to hear evidence against Beloit Police Chief Norm Jacobs and Deputy Chief Tom Dunkin.

City Manager Lori Luther told a news conference October 13 that Jacobs and Dunkin “grossly mismanaged the department, incurring significant liability for the city and the community as a whole.”

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