Lisa Ryan

Lisa Ryan is a graduate student in the public affairs reporting program at the University of Illinois at Springfield. She previously worked at Indiana Public Radio and the college radio station founded by David Letterman. She is a 2014 broadcast journalism and political science graduate of Ball State University.

In addition to public radio, Lisa loves traveling. In 2014 she traveled to Budapest, Vienna and Bratislava as part of an international reporting class.

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Union workers protested in Springfield yesterday against what they call unfair proposals from Governor Bruce Rauner.

After six months of negotiating, state workers and the administration have yet to reach an agreement for contracts, which end June 30th.

"We do not want a strike,” Jennifer Desulis, a union member who works for the Illinois Department of Revenue, said. “We want everybody to have a resolution. We want a fair contract. We want services to continue on for the whole community, for the whole state."

Flickr user Shannon / "Happy Hour at Scene" (CC BY 2.0)

Happy hour drink specials have been banned in Illinois since the late 1980s, but they could come back under a measure awaiting the governor's signature. 

The proposal would restrict specials to four hours a day and no happy hour deals after 10 p.m. 

Its sponsor, Democratic Representative Sara Feigenholtz from Chicago, says it modernizes the law. 

Happy hour drink specials have been banned in Illinois since the late 1980s, but they could make a comeback under a measure that's awaiting the governor's signature.

The proposal would restrict specials to four hours a day and no happy hour deals after 10 p.m. 

Sponsor Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, says it modernizes the law. 

Flickr user TheeErin / "Good Read" (CC BY 2.0)

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner says he plans to raise eligibility levels for senior citizens in Illinois’s Community Care program. He says it’s necessary to address a budget Democrats passed without sufficient revenue. 

The program helps keep seniors out of nursing homes by providing in-home health care, which allows them to remain independent.

Gerardo Cardenas of AARP says the plan is short-sighted. He says Medicaid will be forced to cover the cost of nursing homes.  

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The Illinois General Assembly will meet in overtime session this summer. That’s because of partisan disagreement over the state's spending plan.

But Republican Sen. Sam McCann from Carlinville says government at the state level is not entirely divided.

McCann says lawmakers compromise on proposals throughout the session, and it's natural to be divided over a big issue like the budget.

Flickr user / docentjoyce "Bobcat - Lynx rufus" (CC BY 2.0)

Illinois hunters may soon be able to kill bobcats.

The legislature barely passed the proposal Sunday.

Bill sponsor Rep. Patrick Verschoore, D-Rock Island, had to postpone the vote because it didn't have enough support. But it passed the second time around with the minimum number of required votes.

Verschoore says it's an important bill to manage the bobcat population.

"They're becoming a nuisance in the southern part of the state,” Verschoore said. “They're killing. There was an instance where here just recently they killed several kid goats at a farm."

Flickr: West Midlands Police / Photo cropped from original

An Illinois proposal would provide funding for police body cameras.

The measure creates procedures for arrests and traffic stops, including pedestrian searches. Incidents like officer-involved shootings and arrests would have a standard protocol across Illinois, and the proposal would require more police training.

Funding would come from an increase in fines for traffic tickets.

Democratic Rep. Elgie Sims says when police officers wear body cameras, both the community and police benefit.

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

The Illinois House approved major portions of a new state budget, despite Republican opposition.

The Democrats’ budget includes funding many programs Gov. Bruce Rauner planned to cut, even though the state is short about $3 billion to pay for that spending. They say finding the matching revenue is a work in progress.

Republicans like Representative David Leitch from Peoria say it's an unbalanced budget. 

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Despite overall cuts to higher education, "MAP" grants could see an increase in the next fiscal year. The grants help Illinois students -- especially ones from low-income families -- pay for college. 

Democratic Rep. Christian Mitchell from Chicago says this will help get rid of the barrier of access for some students. He says those who qualify and are able to get into college should have the money to go so that they can “be productive citizens.”

Flickr user Parker Knight / "Chopperz 10" (CC BY 2.0)

Two tax policy organizations with distinct views released a joint report about Illinois revenue. 

It outlines how taxing services, such as haircuts and pet grooming, could generate up to two point one billion dollars in new annual revenue.

Ralph Martire, who is from the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, says Illinois has one of the most narrow tax bases in the country.

Secretary of State

More than a million people have Illinois drivers' licenses but aren't registered to vote. They would be registered automatically under a measure before the General Assembly.

Democrat Daniel Biss from Evanston says he thinks it is his responsibility as a public official to make the election process as open as possible.

"I think that we have a challenge in our society right now where participation in democracy feels first of all difficult and second of all, unfortunately sometimes pointless," Biss said.

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Illinois legislators brought in the head of a nonpartisan research group to hear about its problems with Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget proposal. 

The Civic Federation's Laurence Msall told senators he applauds the governor's efforts to balance next year's budget, but he doesn't see how some savings would be possible. 

Msall scolded lawmakers for not raising revenue through more taxes.  

Flickr user Jim Bowen / "Illinois State Capitol" (CC BY 2.0)

Illinois students could see a new form to sign when they start college -- one that would allow mental health information to be disclosed to their parents.

Michael Predmore knew his son Chris was going through a tough time. But he didn’t know Chris tried to kill himself months before he died from suicide.

Chris Predmore’s counselor at Illinois State University knew, but wasn’t able to let his parents know because of privacy laws.

Michael Predmore says knowing could have made all the difference -- he could have done something to help his son.

Illinois House Democrats continued to advance budget means that would restore funding to human services programs that the governor proposes cutting.

Republicans continue to question Democrats' motive. They say it's more of a partisan play than a real budget vote.

GOP Rep. Ron Sandack from Downers Grove complained that the measures did not go through typical budget procedures.

"We gotta get past this and actually engage in a budget process that's inclusive, bipartisan and actually moves the needle," Sandack said. "This does nothing but waste time."

The Illinois State Museum, located next to the statehouse in Springfield, is being renamed for the late U.S. Sen. Alan Dixon.

Dixon passed away last year, but he left behind a legacy of service and the ability to work in a bipartisan manner.

Several Illinois leaders gathered for the dedication ceremony. House Speaker Michael Madigan started as a state representative in 1971, when Dixon was a state senator.

"He was always a joy to be with," Madigan said. "Always a laugh, old story, reminiscing about whatever it may be which concerned a bottle of beer."

Illinois voters passed a constitutional amendment last year to ensure crime victims' rights. Now lawmakers are working to make the criminal code match up.

Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins fights for victims' rights because her sister, brother-in-law and their child were murdered. She was denied the right to provide a victim impact statement. Even though Illinois law allowed impact statements at the time, it didn't allow victims any recourse if they were denied.

The Illinois Cancer Action Network is calling attention to breast and cervical cancer screenings, especially as some of those programs face cuts.

The governor's proposed budget would reduce funding for breast and cervical cancer screenings by 71 percent. Democratic Rep. Mike Smiddy of Hillsdale is opposed. He says his wife is a cancer survivor, and without early screening his children might not have a mother.

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

As Illinois faces major budget problems, everyone has a different answer for which services to cut and which taxes to raise.

Mike Nobis is worried. His commercial printing company has been in Quincy, Ill., for 108 years. He says he's struggling to compete with other companies, especially those across the border in Missouri.

The current Illinois sales tax does not cover most services. Nobis says that, if the sales tax is expanded to cover the printing industry, he might go out of business.

Friday was Girl Scout Day at the Capitol, and hundreds of Girl Scouts marched to the Statehouse to learn more about government and the history of Illinois.

About 2,000 Girl Scouts gathered in the Illinois capital to earn their Citizenship badge.

Kate Peters of Girl Scouts of Central Illinois says during part of the expo, the girls spoke to women in different careers.

alplm.org

The director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum supports the proposed separation of the museum from its current government home, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. 

But Sunny Fischer, the chair of the IHPA, says the existing structure works well as it is.

"This structure calls for IHPA to handle administrative work like accounting and human resources, while leaving the presidential library and museum free to focus on serving the public as it has done so well," Fischer said.

A scholarship program run by the state treasurer's office is on hold. For about a decade, the treasurer's office has given out scholarships. It's a program associated with the Bright Start college savings program.

Treasurer Michael Frerichs ordered an independent review upon taking over the office in January. The report found there aren't proper rules to determine how the treasurer should award the scholarship money.

On top of that, he says there was no follow up. Only about half of the scholarships have been used.

Cameras that collect information on license plates are thought by some to be an overreach of government. A proposal in the Illinois legislature would regulate the automatic license plate readers.

Some police officers use automated cameras that track vehicles' license plates. In Illinois, there are no regulations on them and the data collected. House Bill 3289 would impose limits, such as how long the data can be kept.

Democratic Rep. Scott Drury says the proposed regulation doesn't go far enough.

Chatham Elementary School students had a lesson Thursday in how government works. Their proposal to make sweet corn the official state vegetable passed the state Senate.

The sponsor of Senate Bill 800, Republican Sen. Sam McCann from Carlinville, says not all responses have been positive.

Lawmakers are hoping to put an end to red light cameras in some places in Illinois.

A proposal in the Illinois legislature would ban red light cameras in non-home rule cities.

Opponents say red light cameras, which are designed to stop drivers from running red lights, actually cause more accidents from cars abruptly stopping.

Republican Rep. Steven Andersson is a local prosecutor. He says some people receive tickets even though they weren't the one driving the car.

The Illinois Senate could begin voting Wednesday on a plan to reverse a smattering of state grants recently eliminated by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Democratic legislators say they were caught off guard earlier this month when Rauner suddenly took $26 million in funding away from programs, including ones that support autistic children and people with epilepsy.

Sen. Dan Kotowksi, a Park Ridge Democrat, says Illinois should restore at least a portion of the money. He proposes getting it by sweeping special state funds that have reserves.

Illinois has more jobs than qualified workers, a group of business leaders say.

To bridge that gap, Sean Noble of ReadyNation says Illinois needs to improve its education system, primarily by expanding early childhood education.

"Current education and labor market trends indicate the Illinois workforce faces an increasingly serious skills gap," Noble said. "That's the gap between two important numbers: job postings and the workers who are skilled enough to fill those positions."

A proposal to stop the creation of new specialty license plates has been approved by the Illinois House.

The sponsor -- Democratic Rep. John D'Amico of Chicago -- says it will help identify vehicles better. He says many Illinois drivers receive tickets that aren't theirs, especially from iPass computers misidentifying the plates.  

Private equity investor Gov. Bruce Rauner often says his goal is to make Illinois more competitive.

At a recent speech to business owners, he sang Illinois' praises. He says the state has the hardest working people, the best location and the most fertile farms.

The president of Wiley Office Furniture, Zach Hoffman, agrees with Rauner.

Lawmakers took a break from some of the more serious bills in the Illinois House to discuss a proposal that would designate an official state pie.

House Bill 208, which would make pumpkin pie the official state pie, passed on Thursday, but not without some lighthearted debate.

As legislators debated giving pumpkin pie the special designation, the dessert talk got so loud Rep. Al Riley had to ask them to quiet down.

The quiet didn't last long. Legislators like Republican Rep. David Harris of Arlington Heights tossed in spoonfuls of puns.

A day of remembrance was held at the state capital Wednesday for President Abraham Lincoln, on the 150th anniversary of his death.

The ceremony included a 21-gun salute, music from a military band and a prayer from Chaplain Maurice Buford of the U.S. Navy.

"We honor him because his flame of leadership still kindles, his seat at the eternal table of prominence is permanent and because he continues to teach this great nation to always have the faith that might makes right,” Buford said.

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