Illinois

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

Two of three major bond-rating firms have chimed in with a positive note on the financial outlook for Illinois.

S&P Global Ratings issued a notice Monday that a House vote to raise $5 billion through an income-tax increase "represents a meaningful step toward the enactment of a comprehensive budget."

Illinois has been without a budget for two years. It has a $6.2 billion deficit and backlogged bills total $14.7 billion. The major credit agencies had warned of a downgrade to "junk" status without swift action.

"SLOW NO WAKE" by Flickr User Kevin Jarrett / (CC X 2.0)

A no-wake ordinance on the Rock River will be lifted in some northern Illinois counties today, according to sheriff's department officials.

The no-wake order was posted in several northern Illinois counties last week after the National Weather Service-issued flood warning.

That included Lee, Ogle and Winnebago counties. Ogle County lifted their no-wake ban early Monday morning. Lee County Sheriff John Simonton says the no-wake signs will be taken down by Monday afternoon.

Rockford Police doled out 459 arrests for drunk driving last year, according to a recent study.

Decatur came in second with slightly more than 400 arrests. Chicago is not factored into the evaluation due to its size. 

Meanwhile, Illinois State Police saw a significant drop in intoxicated driving arrests. 

Rockford Police Chief Dan O'Shea said his department stepped up its efforts after 16 traffic fatalities in 2015. 

"There's crashes, crime or complaints, if you will," he said. "Those three things drive how we push our traffic enforcement."

Jenna Dooley/WNIJ

Illinois lawmakers are back to work after a dramatic vote in the House to increase income taxes.

Attention turns Monday to the Senate, where lawmakers will consider the budget measures approved by the House a day earlier.

The Illinois House of Representatives approved an increase in the state income tax Sunday that will bring the personal tax rate to 4.95 percent. Corporations would pay 7 percent instead of 5.25 percent.

Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

The budget measure, Senate Bill 6, voted on in the Illinois House Friday, while not yet the final word, outlines funding for all aspects of state government operations, goods, services, grants, projects and more.

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Illinois lawmakers have approved a new version of a plan to keep emergency 911 call centers funded past June 30.

The plan will increase phone fees to pay for emergency services and allow Illinois to drop traditional landline service.

The original measure sponsored by Harrisburg Democratic Rep. Brandon Phelps would increase the telephone surcharge for emergency services. It would go to $5 from $3.90 in Chicago and from 87 cents to $1.50 in the rest of the state. 

Rauner called those hikes "unacceptable.'' 

The state budget impasse could affect the accreditation of Illinois universities, which have seen deep cuts in state funding in the nearly three years lawmakers have failed to agree on a spending plan.

The Higher Learning Commission, which accredits schools in the Midwest, recently issued a letter cautioning lawmakers that a lack of funding places Illinois universities at risk of losing their accreditation.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale President Randy Dunn says losing accreditation could make it difficult to hire more staff.

Carl Nelson / WNIJ

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner says if legislators fail to send him a budget by Friday, he'll extend a legislative special session until they “get the job done.''

A statewide property tax freeze demanded by Rauner as part of a deal to end the budget stalemate failed in the House during the eighth day of the special session.

It would have created a four-year freeze on the nation's next-to-highest property taxes. It would have exempted Chicago, the city's school system and 17 other financially distressed school districts.

NIU Today

Northern Illinois University's College of Law dean has resigned from his position.

Eric Dannenmaier’s resignation comes after an investigation into alleged improper conduct in the workplace. According to an NIU spokesman, he opted to resign after the investigation’s conclusion, “citing his desire to see the law school remain focused on its important educational mission and to continue his own work in environmental law and policy.”

Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin says Republicans are reviewing a budget proposed by House Democrats but are skeptical.

Durkin told reporters Tuesday evening that the House Democrats' proposal is missing pieces, including the revenue part of it. He says he doesn't trust that it's a balanced budget.

Democrats have made the same claim about Republicans' proposed spending plan. 

WUIS

Attorneys in a lawsuit over $2 billion in unpaid Medicaid bills say court-ordered talks to resolve the issue haven't made progress. 

They're asking a judge to order Illinois to start paying $1 billion a month as it heads into a third year without a budget.

The request in a Tuesday filing in Chicago federal court comes three weeks after Judge Joan Lefkow ruled Illinois isn't in compliance with previous orders to pay health care bills. She also told the sides to work out a deal on a level of payment ensuring critical medical care for the most vulnerable.

FAFSA Filings Down Significantly In Illinois

Jun 27, 2017
Jessie Schlacks / WNIJ

The volume of applications in Illinois for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is down about 14 percent from last year, according to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

The decrease in filings follows the Department of Education's recent changes to encourage more people to submit them; the filing window is open earlier, and the application does not require people to update it with 2016 tax information.

Eric Zarnikow is the executive director of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

The trial is delayed indefinitely for the wife of a former Fox Lake Police lieutenant who killed himself and made it look like it was duty related.

Prosecutors Monday filed a certificate in Lake County Court stating that a judge's recent ruling impairs their ability to prosecute the case against Melodie Gliniewicz. The judge previously ruled that prosecutors can't present as evidence text and emails between her and her late husband Charles Gliniewicz.

BRIAN MACKEY / NPR ILLINOIS

The Illinois Legislature wrapped up its third day of a special session. Gov. Bruce Rauner called the meeting to force a budget deal before July 1, when the state crosses into its second year without a full spending plan.

A northwest Illinois state senator said the special session so far has been an exercise in frustration.

Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, likened the session to a classic sitcom.  

Governor Names New DCFS Director

Jun 23, 2017
LinkedIn

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has appointed Beverly (BJ) Walker as Director of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).

   

Walker has leadership and management experience from more than 30 years in human services and education.

She previously worked for the State of Illinois as Director of Community Operations for the Department of Human Services. Walker also served as Assistant to the Governor for Human Services Reform under Gov. Jim Edgar.

Wikipedia

Judges will be encouraged to prescribe longer sentences for repeat gun offenders under a plan signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

  

The idea is to help curb street violence in Chicago. Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson attended the bill signing Friday at the Capitol with the Republican governor.  

The law also introduces a diversion program for non-violent first-time offenders and creates a State Police-led violent crime intelligence task force.

"Phone" by Flickr User Jacqui Brown / (CC X 2.0)

Gov. Bruce Rauner has threatened to reject a plan extending the funding mechanism for the state's 911 call centers, saying proposed fee increases are too high and the plan is loaded with other things.

The Republican's administration issued a Thursday memo, saying he seeks a "clean" extension bill by next week's end. That's when the plan sunsets. An extension is needed for 911 services to continue to get funding.

A former Illinois state representative who pleaded guilty to child pornography charges has died in prison.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons says Keith Farnham died Sunday. The 69-year-old from Elgin had been serving an eight-year sentence at the federal prison in Butner, North Carolina.

The Democrat was elected to the Illinois House in 2008. He resigned in 2014 citing health issues and was charged one month later with compiling and trading more than 2,000 pornographic images of children online.

Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

The special session lasted about seven minutes; Republicans and Democrats then separately went behind closed doors to strategize.

Republicans also reiterated their requirement that passing the governor’s political and economic agenda is a prerequisite to passing a balanced budget. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin:

“It has to be a compromise," he said. "We’ve always said, for the last two years, ‘reforms before revenue.’”

But Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan said the focus should be on Illinois' finances.

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

Rental housing costs vary across the state, but there is no place where it's affordable to someone earning the minimum wage of $8.25 an hour.

Bob Palmer, Policy Director for Housing Action Illinois, said the numbers show a problem that can lead to more homelessness.

"Swings" By Flickr User halfrain / (CC X 2.0)

A progress report filed in federal court shows that Illinois' child welfare agency has slowly made "incremental" improvements, but concerns linger about the impact of the state's budget impasse and a "revolving door" of leadership.

Prosecutors in northern Illinois say they will appeal a judge's ruling regarding the upcoming trial of the wife of a former Fox Lake Police lieutenant who killed himself.

A Lake County judge on Monday morning upheld a previous ruling that prosecutors can't present as evidence text and emails between Charles Gliniewicz and his widow, Melodie Gliniewicz.

She was indicted after her husband committed suicide in September 2015. She has pleaded not guilty to charges including siphoning money from the village's youth policing program.

repnekritz.org

One of the top  Democrats in the Illinois House is resigning. Democratic Representative Elaine Nekritz is stepping down after nearly 15 years in the General Assembly.

She’s helped pass major legislation on state pensions and criminal justice — and has a record of working to find bipartisan support for legislation.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan argued in court Tuesday that paying state employees removes “any imperative” for Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly to “fulfill their basic constitutional obligations ... and resolve their budget impasse.”

Madigan is trying to halt state employee paychecks. She said only the General Assembly can approve state spending, which means Illinois does not have the legal authority to make payroll.

Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

The cases involve two groups: one which has been getting paid; and another which hasn’t, but wants to.

Today's case before the appellate court in Mount Vernon, involves state employees. Lawyers from Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office are arguing against a ruling that said these workers must be paid. 

Normally, their salaries must be appropriated by the legislature; when that didn’t happen in 2015, the AFSCME union convinced a judge to order that the payments be made.

NIU Law Dean Still On Administrative Leave

Jun 6, 2017
NIU Today

The dean of the Northern Illinois University College of Law is still on administrative leave pending an investigation, according to a university spokesperson.

NIU’s Human Resources office received a complaint regarding Dean Eric Dannenmaier in mid-February. He voluntarily went on paid administrative leave shortly after.

NIU College of Law professor Mark Cordes is serving as acting dean. He held the role prior to Dannenmaier’s arrival.

Dannenmaier became dean at NIU in June 2016.

Victor Yehling / WNIJ

You may have noticed signs about DeKalb’s administrative tow policy when you enter town. But why are they there?

DeKalb city attorney Dean Frieders says the signs are to ensure that the public is notified about DeKalb’s administrative tow policy. He says that’s because the city needs to publicly notify residents and visitors of the city-adopted policy by law.

ilga.gov

Democratic state Rep. Scott Drury said he's running for Illinois governor.

The former assistant U.S. attorney from the Chicago suburb of Highwood announced his 2018 bid on Tuesday.

In a news release, Drury said he'll be the independent Democrat in the race.

In January, he was the only Democrat not to vote in favor of House Speaker Michael Madigan's election to a 17th term as speaker. Madigan also serves as chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois.

"Exams Start... Now" by Flickr User Ryan McGilchrist / (CC BY 2.0)

Three years after Illinois changed how science would be taught and tested, performance data still isn't available because schools haven't seen science exam scores.

Illinois officials tell the Chicago Tribune that science testing and scoring hasn't gone smoothly, largely due to state budget woes.

Illinois adopted the updated Next Generation Science Standards in 2014. A new exam wasn't created by 2015 testing time, resulting in no test or scores that year.

illinoismansion.org

Illinois First Lady Diana Rauner held a groundbreaking ceremony Friday at the governor’s mansion in Springfield. The Rauners are raising $15 million privately to finance a restoration of the 162-year old building.

 

Beyond long-delayed repairs, the plans call for a small art gallery and an educational exhibit for school children. Diana Rauner said she looks forward to helping out with a new garden.

 

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