Sam Dunklau

Sam is a Public Affairs Reporting intern for spring 2018, working out the NPR Illinois Statehouse bureau.

Artists throughout Illinois have been hit particularly hard by the social distancing effects of the coronavirus pandemic. For many, their primary source of income has dried up as gigs and events have been canceled.

For this week’s Illinois Issues report, I gathered stories of their struggles and their solutions for keeping creativity alive during a global pandemic.  

Illinois health officials announced a surge of new COVID-19 cases Wednesday. The state’s Department of Public Health has confirmed 128 new cases across 17 counties, bringing the total to 288.

As widespread disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic continues around the country, Illinois retailers are asking residents not to buy more supplies than they need.

Illinois' U.S. Senator, Dick Durbin, said the Senate will vote soon on the latest deal to address a nationwide outbreak of COVID-19.

RIVERS CASINO

Legalized sports betting has officially launched in Illinois. This week, a casino in suburban Chicago opened the state’s first place for gamblers to legally bet on professional sports games. But rolling out Illinois’ sports books has been a slow-going process, and uncertainty remains about how much revenue the practice will end up generating for an already cash-strapped state. For this week’s Illinois Issues report, I explored what’s happening in the wide world of Illinois sports wagering.

Electricity and environmental advocates offered their pitches to Illinois state senators this week on how to reduce a portion of the state’s carbon emissions. But each group has different ideas about how to do it.

Drive down any U.S. interstate and there's a good chance you will see a pun or a funny reference on the next electronic message board you spot. Such messages have become ubiquitous across the country lately.

But besides getting a snicker, what's behind these roadside bits, and are they making drivers behave differently?

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritkzer and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot tried to calm fears over the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak on Friday. They said efforts are already underway to minimize Illinois’ exposure to the disease also known as novel coronavirus.

A group of Illinois House lawmakers this week began considering whether one of their colleagues is qualified to serve in the General Assembly. It’s a rare process — and part of the continuing fallout from a federal corruption investigation.

President Donald Trump said Tuesday he is forgiving the remaining prison sentence of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. That move has received bipartisan criticism.

State lawmakers and public health advocates want to make it more convenient for Illinoisans to get rid of their unwanted medicine.


Two professional basketball players said it's only fair to allow college athletes to seek sponsorships and other lucrative deals if colleges and universities are profiting at the same time.

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Robert Thomas is retiring from the bench after nearly 20 years. The judge, who has led careers in both law and athletics, plans to practice privately at a personal injury firm in Chicago.

More Illinois students now qualify for college financial aid. State government will now offer money to students who might have been disqualified from getting federal help.


Marijuana sales began with more than $3 million in sales on New Year’s Day. Backers of the law, however, say that news ought to take a back seat to the more than 11,000 pardons for past pot convictions Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a day earlier.

Illinois’ recreational cannabis dispensaries made around $3.2 million in sales on New Year’s Day, according to early estimates from a state agency overseeing the now-legal industry.

The more than 255 new Illinois laws taking effect on New Year's Day may affect everything from your car to your paycheck.

We took a look at some of the biggest changes coming in 2020.

Higher Wages, Tip Ownership

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker approved a plan Wednesday to pool the pension funds of nearly 650 downstate police and fire departments.


Illinois’ Attorney General is suing e-cigarette maker JUUL Labs, alleging the company intentionally hooked teens on vaping.


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.

Illinois' Department of Agriculture published its bi-annual study that looked at how to improve water quality by cutting down on pollutants that runoff into streams and rivers. Runoff has been on the rise lately, and officials say reducing it involves more than just farmers.

Beginning in January, all Illinois employers will have to start providing sexual harassment training for their employees.

RANDY VON LISKI VIA FLICKR / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could determine whether a person convicted of battery can still own a gun.

The plaintiff is Shawna Johnson, a southern Illinois woman, who had her Firearm Owner I-D -- or FOID -- card revoked by the state police, and she’s suing to get it back.

Five Illinois residents have died so far this year after vaping. Two of those people have died within the last week, while public health investigators have struggled to find what’s behind the spike in illnesses.

Speedy drivers have been a particular problem for the Illinois State Police so far this year. Troopers across the state have issued nearly 2,500 tickets for drivers going 100 miles per hour or faster on Illinois roadways.


Illinois lawmakers Wednesday advanced a plan to pool more than 650 downstate and suburban police and fire pension funds. Passing the measure out of both chambers by week’s end is a top priority for Governor J.B. Pritzker.

Pritzker’s office has been arguing for weeks that combining all of those funds would make more money for retired police and firefighters, while cutting fees and reducing the need to raise local property taxes.

The Illinois Senate approved a move Tuesday that would allow Illinois to stay on daylight saving time permanently.

The second and final week of the Illinois legislature’s fall veto session begins Tuesday. State lawmakers will have just three days to get a number of proposals — big and small — over as many legislative hurdles as possible.


Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker says he’s "furious" about the behavior of state lawmakers ensnared in federal probes this year. Now he’s calling for changes in the way lobbyists disclose their finances.

State lawmakers are now formally considering legislation to pool the resources of nearly 650 local Illinois police and fire department pension funds.


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