Illinois General Assembly

CIRCUIT BREAKER SCHOOL

Media investigations on isolated seclusions and restraint in Illinois sparked controversy and prompted immediate emergency rule changes from the State Board of Education last fall.

Peter Medlin

Illinois state representatives from both sides of the aisle came to Northern Illinois University this week. They fielded student questions, debated state budget issues and discussed the challenges of the political process.

The Illinois House of Representatives boasts dozens more Democrats than Republicans. But Representatives from both parties said they were encouraged by bipartisan action they saw when working on the budget.

Chase Cavanaugh

Illinois Republican Jeff Keicher is the freshman Representative for the State's 70th House District, which includes parts of DeKalb, Kane, and Boone counties. He sat down in the WNIJ studios to discuss the end of the recent legislative session.

He said quite a lot was accomplished, considering the position his party was in.

Members of the Illinois Board of Higher Education are satisfied with how higher ed fared in the new state budget passed by Illinois lawmakers.

For several years, Illinois higher ed officials have been fighting their way out of the hole dug during the two-year budget impasse.

But they say the budget, passed by the General Assembly, is a big improvement. Nyle Robinson is the Higher Education Board’s Interim Executive Director.

“...major steps in repairing the damage," he said. "In fact, this is arguably the best session for higher education in a generation."

tomdemmer.org

Democrats dominate both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly, but Republicans were able to get some of their measures passed in the final days of the legislative session.

Republicans had reservations, or even opposition, to several Democratic bills, such as the legalization of recreational marijuana.  But House Deputy Minority Leader Tom Demmer says his party was able to get support from across the aisle for reforms in conjunction with the budget.

Friday is the last day of the Illinois General Assembly’s scheduled spring legislative session, and lawmakers still have a long list of things to do.

Proposed plans for legalizing recreational marijuana in Illinois shifted from "when" to "how."

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan is on board. So are state Sen. Heather Stains and state Rep. Kelly Cassidy. Their plan would allow Illinois residents to purchase and possess 30 grams of cannabis for recreational use. Non-residents would be allowed to have half this amount.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The Illinois General Assembly is considering whether people should be allowed to sue to block regulatory decisions of state government. The state’s business community says that’s dangerous for the economy.

The legislation would change the rules surrounding decisions on things like construction permits. Typically, input on those decisions are limited to a state agency and a business applying for a permit. Anyone who proves they would be “adversely affected” by a project could sue to get its permit revoked.

Hindu Prayer To Open General Assembly Session

Jan 16, 2018
State of Illinois

Each day of session in the General Assembly starts off with a prayer from a minister or chaplain. For the first time, a Hindu will be sharing a recitation from his religion.

Rajan Zed is the President of the Universal Society of Hinduism. He has prayed before government councils and groups all over the country.

When Zed appeared as a guest chaplain in the U.S. Senate, he was met by protest from a small group of Christian extremists.

Shutterstock

Illinois lawmakers acted quickly last month in response to sexual harassment allegations at the statehouse.  But several female legislators say this isn't a quick fix. They say the process was rushed and not enough thought was given to explore alternative options.

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, says the new policies were not inclusive of everyone affected by the issue—such as legislative staff and lobbyists. She says she hopes newly-formed legislative task forces in the House and Senate will resolve this concern.

State of Illinois

National politics and the recent surge of sexual harassment allegations have resulted in calls to increase the number of female candidates in the 2018 state legislative elections. But Illinois did not necessarily meet these expectations.

The only increase came from female participation in the races for the state House of Representatives and the race for lieutenant governor—where three women are competing for the spot.

senatorsilverstein.com

Chicago Democrat Ira Silverstein is resigning his leadership position in the Illinois Senate following accusations he sexually harassed an advocate working with him on a bill. 

Silverstein represents Lincolnwood and parts of other towns in the northern Chicago suburbs. 

Lobbyist Denise Rotheimer publicly accused him of harassing her last year.

A crime-victims advocate told an Illinois House committee Tuesday that a powerful state senator sexually harassed her last year as they were working together on legislation, causing her so much mental anguish that she dropped 20 pounds and lost her hair.

Brian Mackey/NPR Illinois

State Rep. David Harris is the latest in a growing list of Illinois lawmakers who say they’re not running for re-election.

Harris, R-Arlington Heights, has been attacked for breaking with his party to raise taxes and end the state's two-year budget impasse.

“The fact that we now have a budget, I think, is a good thing," Harris said Wednesday in a telephone interview. "It prevented the state from going to the status of junk bonds, which would have been disastrous."

Harris said he’s worried the Republican Party has become too divided.

courtesy Bob Pritchard / Facebook

About a dozen Illinois lawmakers have announced they are quitting or not running for re-election. That includes Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, State Sen. Tim Bivins of Dixon, and State Rep. Bob Pritchard, who has represented the DeKalb area for 14 years. For this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Susan Stephens caught up with Pritchard while he was doing what he calls the best part of his job: hanging around with his constituents.

Schools are scheduled to receive their first payment from the state for the coming school year in just three days, but that can’t happen until the Illinois legislature approves a new evidence-based funding model.

Lawmakers have several choices:

Brian Mackey/NPR Illinois

The top Democrats and Republicans of the Illinois General Assembly met Sunday for the first time this year, and there are some signs of progress.

House Speaker Michael Madigan has consistently objected to Gov. Bruce Rauner making his political and economic agenda a prerequisite for passing a budget. At Sunday's meeting, Madigan said Republicans were still talking about what he calls “off-budget” issues. That, he said, “prompted me to add items to the off-budget list.”

Flickr user / Victor "Handcuffs" (CC BY 2.0)

The Illinois General Assembly has approved legislation intended to make it easier to hold drug dealers accountable when their customers overdose.

After eight years in the Army, Evan Rushing had PTSD. One day last year, he drove to St. Louis to buy heroin. It was a bad batch; he overdosed and died.

Evan’s mother, Janice, said police identified the dealer who sold the drugs. Prosecutors couldn’t charge him with drug-induced homicide though, because Rushing bought the heroin in Missouri.

State of Illinois

Today was the last day of the annual legislative session in the state capitol. It also happens to be the 700th day since Illinois last had a real budget.
Democrats – who hold a majority in both chambers of the General Assembly -- still aren’t saying whether they plan to do anything about that.
This is third year in which House Democrats have put themselves in this same position: going up to the end of session without a clear path on the budget.

Flickr user Eric E Castro / "The Tampon Fairy" (CC V 2.0)

The Illinois General Assembly passed legislation requiring public schools to provide free feminine hygiene products in girls' bathrooms.

It would apply for schools with grades six through 12.

State Rep. Litesa Wallace, a Democrat from Rockford, sponsored the legislation.

"This is another way to make sure that we not only are keeping the young lady discreet and with dignity; it's a public health issue,” she said.

Wallace said it's no different from supplying hand soap and paper towels.

Wikimedia Commons

Milkweed could become the Illinois state wildflower under legislation pending in the General Assembly. 

Vanessa Tyler is a Girl Scout who attends Pleasant Plains Middle School, near Springfield. She and her troop lobbied lawmakers to support the proposed state designation. She says it’ll help people think twice about killing milkweed.

"170 - Typing" by Flickr User Hillary / (CC X 2.0)

Two bills meant to expand internet privacy rights cleared procedural hurdles in the Illinois House.  

Chicago Democratic Rep. Art Turner Jr., says he wants to make it easier to find out what kind of information companies collect. He says that’s particularly important since President Trump and Republicans in Congress are scaling back federal protections.

“Illinois is in a unique position now to provide privacy rights and that protection for consumers here," Turner says.

llinois state legislators opened a new two-year session of the Illinois General Assembly Wednesday. Amid the ceremonies and celebrations, the focus remains on the political stalemate that's left Illinois without a budget for more than 18 months.

Democrats remain in firm control of the General Assembly, so it's not surprising Michael Madigan was re-elected speaker of the House for a 17th time. That's despite a Republican Party campaign to pressure Democrats into dropping him.

CREDIT "COURTROOM ONE GAVEL" BY FLICKR USER BETH CORTEZ-NEAVEL / (CC BY 2.0)

The Illinois General Assembly voted Tuesday to expand sick leave rights.

Under the change, people would be entitled to paid time off to care for stepchildren and domestic partners.

State Representative Peter Breen, a Republican from Lombard, has opposed same-sex marriage, but says adding domestic partners was simply about keeping Illinois consistent with federal law.

“I don’t believe we were making a great statement on some social issue of the day, really doing anything other than trying to make sure the people of Illinois can use their Sick Leave Act,” Breen said.

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin says the tone in Springfield is deteriorating - and has been since the election.

He blames this on Democrats upset with his party picking up seats in the recent election.  

"For many years, Republicans have been pushed around," he says.  "We’ve been defeated, outspent - grossly outspent - for many, many years. Republicans gave them, them - the Democrats, a taste of their own medicine last November and I think that they’re still reeling over it."

Illinois legislators will only get a brief post-election respite from politics. They are scheduled to be back in Springfield next Tuesday to begin the veto session. The current makeup of the General Assembly will remain in place for that but, come the new year, the Capitol welcomes a new set of lawmakers elected Tuesday night and the balance of power will shift -- slightly.

Election Day is like the Super Bowl of politics.

"Courtroom One Gavel" by Flickr User Beth Cortez-Neavel / (CC BY 2.0)

Illinois is more than a year behind on payments to people who've been wronged by state government.

These individuals can seek compensation through the Court of Claims.  Its caseload ranges from injuries caused by state workers, to the pleas of people unjustly imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.

Claims Court Chief Justice Peter Birnbaum says the court hasn't let the budget impasse interfere with its work.

Obama Will Speak In Illinois Capitol Feb. 10

Jan 29, 2016
The White House

President Barack Obama will return to the Illinois Capitol Building on Feb. 10 and speak to the Illinois General Assembly.

Obama will talk about "what we can do, together, to build a better politics — one that reflects our better selves," a White House advisory declared.

The president, who served in the Illinois Senate from January 1997 until he was elected to the U.S. Senate in November 2004, will return to that venue nine years after announcing his candidacy for president.

Emanuel Talks Trust With Springfield

Jun 16, 2015
cityofchicago.org

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the main players in Springfield should cool out.

His comments come as Republican Governor Bruce Rauner started an ad campaign criticizing Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Emanuel says those commercials could make it harder to break a stalemate.

“In politics, dialogue and trust are essential and any time you break that up, you make coming to terms harder," Emanuel said.

State of Illinois

Members of the Illinois General Assembly received the fifth-highest legislator salaries in the nation. That's according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures

The average salary for politicians in the state was about $67,000.

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