Maureen Foertsch McKinney

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is the NPR Illinois News Editor and a lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers,  and is curator of the Equity blog. Maureen joined the staff in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.

An Illinois lawmaker is proposing a measure to create a state income tax credit as high as $600 dollars per child. 

A prison watchdog group in Illinois is calling on the state to take a bigger role in scrutinizing Illinois’ 16 pre-trial juvenile detention centers.  

Illinois could have a new state holiday commemorating the day in 1865 when the last enslaved people were freed. A state senate committee Wednesday approved making June 19 Juneteenth National Freedom Day.

State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, a Democrat from Maywood, sponsored the bill, which would create a paid holiday for state employees. She said the day is a milestone for Black Americans that should be celebrated and used to educate youth.

Ending cash bail doesn't lead to an increase in crime, according to a new report from researchers at Loyola University Chicago. 

A group of transgender women has asked for an independent monitor of the Illinois Department of Corrections because the agency has not improved those inmates’ care as ordered by a judge last year.

 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker today (Thursday) announced new guidance for places of worship. It comes as he has faced multiple lawsuits over his ban on gatherings of more than 10 people. Pritzker now says faith leaders should try to limit attendance to a quarter of a building’s capacity or 100 attendees, whichever is lower, along with social distancing. 

White supremacist organizations have infiltrated stay-at-home  protests such as  those in Springfield and Chicago last week, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. 

David Goldenberg, the Midwest regional director of the ADL, says over the last two weeks the center has tracked dozens of rallies to protest stay-at-home orders across the country, including in Illinois. “They’ve attracted a good number of members who are members of extremist organizations,’’ he said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker decried as hate-filled some of the signs that demostraters in Springfield and Chicago carried Friday to protest his stay-at-home order.

He addressed the issue at his daily briefing Saturday. Of the hundreds gathered at state buildings in Chicago and Springfield, including the state Capitol. Some carried signs with swastikas that said, HEIL PRITZKER.

The spokesman for the ACLU of Illinois says courts have ruled that laws can be set in the name of public health, which makes Gov. J.B. Pritzker s order on face coverings enforceable. 

Ed Yohnka said precedent has been set with vaccination requirements at public schools being imposed because they are considered to be for the good of public health.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker used some complicated math to come to the conclusion that Illinois is starting to see a slowing of new cases and deaths from COVID-19.

Illinois House Republicans in a press conference Monday said Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration has not done enough to address the tsunami of unemployment insurance claims from recent weeks.

By Saturday, officials expect 500 hospital beds to be in place at a converted McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago to deal with the overflow of COVID-19 patients. 

The massive facility off Lakeshore Drive is expected by mid-April to have up to 3,000 beds, including ICU units, to deal, if needed with COVID-19 cases. There are now more than 5,000 cases statewide, most in the Chicago metropolitan area.

Gov. J.B Pritzker announced the progress in his daily press briefing on Monday.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday described an Illinois worst-case scenario in which the state could  be far short of the ventilators, hospital beds and intensive-care unit spaces for expected COVID-19 cases.

After days of blasting President Donald Trump over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the two spoke by phone Monday.

Pritzker has been especially critical regarding the lack of supplies going to states.  But he said in their conversation, the president was “very responsive.”

Polls are open, even though far fewer voters than usual are expected to turn out for today’s primary election because of coronavirus concerns.

Illinois today joined Virginia and Nevada, in filing a federal lawsuit to get the Equal Rights Amendment on the books now that it’s been ratified by enough states.

Virginia on Monday became the 38th state to ratify the ERA, but President Trump’s administration is trying to block it from being added to the Constitution.

A pair of laws recently enacted  in Illinois were designed to take into account how children are affected by their parents' incarceration and to find ways to address their needs.

Buying and using marijuana will be legal in Illinois as of January 1. We asked top state experts what that does and doesn’t mean, and compiled their answers in this Q&A.

Likely more than 100,000 Illinoisans will lose food stamps under a rule change finalized by President Donald’s Trump administration this week. 

Hate crimes rose by 30 percent in Illinois in 2018, according to a recently released FBI report.

*The city of Fairview Heights in southwestern Illinois has drawn national attention for the stealthily built Planned Parenthood Clinic that will open there later this month.

The 18,000-square-foot clinic will dwarf another one that  Planned Parenthood already operates in Fairview Heights, about a dozen miles from downtown St. Louis.  That site only provides medication abortions and other medical treatments.

Illinois' Legislative Inspector General says a former aide to House Speaker Michael Madigan sexually harassed a subordinate, Alaina Hampton.

Inspector General Carol Pope’s report says Kevin Quinn harassed Hampton, relentlessly pursuing a relationship over her objections. Pope says that harassment created “an intimidating, hostile, and offensive working environment.”

In a letter, Quinn accepted responsibility for his actions and apologized to Hampton.

Though the U.S. poverty rate has dropped to the pre-recession level, Illinois has not yet reached that target. 

Newly released figures from the U.S. Census put the national poverty rate in 2018 at 11.8 percent, which shows a gradual decline from the year prior. Illinois’ rate of 12.1 percent about equals  the pre-recession number. That’s according to the Heartland Alliance Social Impact Research Center, which crunches the numbers.

Katie Buitrago is director of research at the center. She says it is likely Illinois’ budget crisis played a role in numbers stagnating. 

MARCO VERCH / FLICKR (BY-CC 2.0)

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday signed into law a debt collection reform package.

The measure calls for lowering interest rates on outstanding consumer debt from 9 percent to 5 percent. It would also trim about a decade off the time a lender can pursue collection.

The legislation would apply to consumer debt under $25,000 for things such as car loans or medical bills. That’s for debts that have had a court judgment.

Mike Mozart / Flickr (BY-CC 2.0)

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation that will allow some Supplement Nutrion Assistance Program (SNAP) - formerly known as food stamps - recipients to use benefits at restaurants.

The program will be offered to people who are elderly, homeless or have a disability. Nolan Downey, who is an attorney with the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, advocated for the legislation.

HEARTLAND ALLIANCE SOCIAL IMPACT RESEARCH CENTER

More counties appear on an anti-poverty group’s watch and warning lists this year than last.

Of the state’s 102 counties, 67 are on a watch list — or more serious warning list — created by the research arm of the Heartland Alliance, which works on social issues in areas that include poverty. That’s up from 52 last year.

This year, 14 counties throughout the state made the severe warning list.

Denise Rotheimer, who accused an Illinois state senator of sexual harassment at the start of the #Me-Too movement, now wants Gov. J.B. Pritzker to throw out part of an anti-harassment bill state lawmakers just passed.

Advocates for children are pushing for expansion of a child care program for lower income families that was cut by former Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration. 

The Child Care Assistance Program was cut severely in 2015 so that 90 percent of the participants lost services. The eligibility limits have increased since then.

Legislation under consideration would further increase the number eligible families by making the income limit higher.

A recent report finds mainly women are in poverty in Illinois and improving their financial status would boost the overall economy in the state.

The report from the research arm of the Heartland Alliance concluded that improving wages and other conditions for women would be particularly helpful to women of color.

Katie Buitrago of the Heartland Alliance said women are over half the population in Illinois and that the poverty rate for families headed by women is double that for families headed by single men.

Hundreds of anti-abortion protestors filled the Capitol rotunda today following the passage of a measure that would repeal parental notification of abortion.

Meanwhile, a group of Republican lawmakers are speaking out against legislation intended to expand abortion rights throughout Illinois.

State Representative Terri Bryant, a Republican from Murphysboro, also spoke out against another proposal being considered that would completely overhaul abortion throughout the state. 

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