Illinois Issues

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Last fall, JB Pritzker spoke to reporters after getting the nod from the Illinois Democratic County Chairs in Springfield. He told the crowd what his campaign was about.

"It's a lot about beating Bruce Rauner. But it isn't just about beating Bruce Rauner," the Hyatt Hotel heir and billionaire said. "It's about electing every Democrat, everywhere in this state. It's about building the biggest, strongest tent in Illinois politics. It's about being ready to win up and down the ballot."

Sam Dunklau / NPR Illinois

Experts say billions in a multi-year plan won't go far enough to address infrastructure repairs and upkeep.

With help from the federal government, Illinois will put more than $2 billion toward infrastructure projects this year across the state's network of roads and bridges. But that network is underfunded by billions more, and what the state has pledged is a far cry from fixing that.

NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on online shopping left two things clear – consumers who buy online will have to pay sales tax on more items, and some states will see more money from those online purchases.

In Illinois, one of the largest internet retailers, Amazon, has been collecting the tax from customers since 2015. And residents are asked on state income returns whether they’ve bought anything online so they can pay outstanding sales taxes, though many leave it blank.

Lee V. Gaines / Illinois Newsroom

Chuck Bleyer is worried the southern Illinois school district he heads won’t be able to fill an open teacher position by the time classes start this fall.

Bleyer serves as superintendent of Pope County Community Unit District 1, a small school district with about 540 students on the edge of southeastern Illinois, right next to the Ohio River and in the middle of the Shawnee National Forest. (After four years as superintendent, Bleyer said he’s leaving his job this summer to serve as superintendent of Wabash Community Unit Schools District 348.)

Flickr User SOUNDFROMWAYOUT / (CC X 2.0)

Chris Quintana covers "culture wars" on college campuses and other news for The Chronicle of Higher Education. He was intrigued by the story of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign's one-time icon, Chief Illiniwek.

Wikimedia Commons

Last month, the state's voters decided on the Republican and Democratic nominees for governor. But with the primaries behind them, the winners still have to convince those who wanted someone else at the top of the ticket.

Incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner probably thought he didn't need to worry about his only Republican opponent, state Rep. Jeanne Ives, during the primary campaign. In the past, he'd called her a "fringe candidate" and decided to forgo campaigning against her until just a few weeks before election day.

RICK PROCTOR / UNSPLASH

Lawmakers see chance for green with recreational marijuana.

Marijuana legalization is getting another look in Illinois, particularly for the money it could bring the state. The state has overdue bills nearing $9 billion after a more than two-year budget stalemate, and some argue a little extra cash could go a long way.

FLICKR USER JASON KARSH / (CC X 2.0)

In 2010, lawmakers changed the rules for how the state picks its second-in-command. No longer would voters separately nominate candidates for lieutenant governor and governor in the primary, and hope for a successful match.

  

He tried to warn us. At the very least, he tried to be upfront about his past. That he'd been charged with domestic battery.

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, as well as the 2016 election, have sparked renewed passion for electing women to office in Illinois.

It's a cold, slushy weeknight as about 50 people pour into the community room of a Springfield grocery store on the west end of town. They're making protest signs for the second annual Women's March. Two friends sit in a corner using cutout letters and permanent marker. Business owner Katie Dobron is writing, "Vote women in."

A Call For Immunizations

Feb 12, 2018
MARY CULLEN / NPR ILLINOIS | 91.9 UIS

With more cases of vaccine-preventable disease in Illinois, doctors say shots should not be skipped.

Dr. Kemia Sarraf's support for vaccinations became much fiercer when her son, Joseph, was diagnosed with leukemia three years ago. Joseph, 15, is considered to be immunocompromised because of his chemotherapy treatments.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Part 2: Most of the radium-tainted earth from decades-old manufacturing in Ottawa has been removed, but one major site still needs cleanup.

Ken Ricci refers to his purchase of a Geiger counter, a handheld machine that detects radiation, as a "God wink." The 91-year-old Ottawa resident picked it up at a garage sale in 1982. Soon after, he and a friend used it to find several hot spots of contamination throughout the central Illinois city.

'Moneyball': The 2018 Illinois Governor's Race

Jan 16, 2018
BRIAN MACKEY AND KEITH COOPER / CC BY 2.0 / A DERIVATIVE OF MONEY / PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY CARTER STALEY / NPR ILLINOIS

This year’s campaign pits a multimillionaire incumbent against a field that includes a multibillionaire in what could be the costliest governor's race in U.S. history.

The labels used in American politics to differentiate candidates today are fairly standard: Republican and Democrat. Moderate and radical. Establishment and anti-establishment.

But a new pair of labels is needed to fully consider Illinois' 2018 race for governor: haves and have-nots.

A Derivative of photo by Erik Hersman , licensed under CC By 2.0/ FLICKR

A recent federal appeals court decision struck down the requirement that minor parties offer a full slate of candidates for statewide or countywide offices, while another court battle looms.

On a windy Sunday in October, Josh Dill spent the afternoon gathering petition signatures for a Democratic candidate for Congress, Dr. David Gill.

Illinois Issues: Cairo Faces Public Housing Crisis

Aug 21, 2017
Richard Sitler/The Southern Illinoisan

Southern Illinois city's residents grapple with planned closure of public housing complexes.

As the sun set on a recent Friday evening at the McBride apartment complex in Cairo, people gathered in a yard between the building rows.

Young girls practiced cartwheels. Boys played chase. And a dozen or so teens stood around talking about their pride in Cairo: several noted the long tradition of success on the high school basketball court, as well as the love that can be found in this city. Sounds of music, conversation and laughter filled the air.

C/O EAGLE FORUM & JENNIFER LEE

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of  sex. 
—   The proposed Equal Rights Amendment.

This story will begin with an ending. In an Illinois Issues edition that came out in 1982, author Diane Ross wrote something about the last day of the Illinois General Assembly spring session that sounds eerily relatable to the present:

Cyndy Sims Parr/Flickr

Under a federal measure passed 30 years ago, the spent fuel from America’s nuclear reactors is supposed to be permanently buried out in the Mojave Desert, tucked deep under a mountain, far from any population center and easily guarded.

In reality, though, that radioactive waste – tens of thousands of tons of it – is sitting in temporary storage at dozens of current and former nuclear power sites all over the country, as it has been for decades. The largest portion of it is divided among seven sites that dot the nation’s fifth-largest state: Illinois.

Carter Stanley/NPR Illinois

For Carolyn Parrish, a privacy professional based in Evanston, data privacy is just as important in her personal everyday life as is it to keeping her business running.

When Parrish was looking to download a women’s health and menstrual cycle tracker on her phone, she noticed that many of the available U.S.-based apps required access to her location and her phone’s contacts before she could use any of their features. Parrish said this made her feel uneasy.

So she opted for a German-based app that only required a user account without additional data-sharing.

Illinois Pork Producers Association

Growing up in Rushville as the granddaughter of Schuyler County pig and dairy farmers, Carrie Johnson learned early the importance of agriculture to the local economy. Now an adult living and working in Rushville, Johnson says she supports the growth of local business and agriculture.

Sean Tenner

In response to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s order for a 10-day special session, the General Assembly returned to Springfield this week to focus on crafting a budget.

Three weeks ago, legislators tried to beat the end of the official spring legislative session and worked to pass measures dealing with women’s and LGBT rights, farmer’s market concerns, and issues related to women in prison.

 

@TED SCHURTER / STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER

Could a reborn Mushroom Caucus be the key to breaking the political impasse that has the financial health of Illinois at death’s doorstep?

The self-deprecatory moniker was coined a generation ago by a group of legislative backbenchers who complained they were kept in the dark by their leaders and fed horse (manure).

Justin Wright

Some reformers say the Illinois minimum age for juvenile detention needs to go up. 

Justin Wright still remembers well the time he spent as an 11-year-old at the Cook County Juvenile Detention facility. That was nearly 25 years ago.

“When I went in there, I was a scared little kid. But I came out a hardened criminal,” he said.

Illinois Issues: State Marches Toward Clean Energy

May 22, 2017
Dylan Blake

Even as a landmark clean-energy plan unravels in Washington, D.C., Illinois is on track to meet the coal emissions-reduction goals it set.

For Dulce Ortiz, the Clean Power Plan was a long-awaited victory.

For years, Ortiz and fellow environmental activists had been trying to get rid of the coal-fired power plant in their hometown of Waukegan. Yet pleas to the energy company, to Waukegan’s mayor, and to Illinois energy regulators all had proven unsuccessful.

Flickr User Ken Teegardin/Flickr CC by SA 2.0

“Let’s get a truly balanced budget ... ”
-- Gov. Bruce Rauner and his aides, in various venues on numerous occasions from 2015 to the present.

Not to downplay the governor’s mantra, but what exactly is a “truly balanced budget?”

Consider the notion of a balanced budget for a family: For the average Illinois family, a balanced budget most likely means that household expenses don’t exceed household income for the period being measured: a month, a year, whatever.

Warehouse Workers for Justice

Isaura Martinez was working at a Bolingbrook factory when she felt a pull in her left wrist as she was attaching a metal hook to the back of a Christmas-card holder. Four years have passed, but the Cicero woman still feels pain after surgery to correct the issue. 

Equality Illinois

With rapid-fire changes to LGBT provisions at the federal level, advocates want to keep Illinois' status as one of the leading states in offering protections. 

Alex McCray didn’t want to believe Donald Trump had won the election. In the words of the transgender nursing student from downstate Sherman: “I was hoping it was all just one terrible nightmare. It felt like my rights were being ripped out right from underneath me.”

Illinois Issues: When Women Are Paid Less Than Men

Mar 27, 2017
Kendall Coyne

A bill in Springfield seeks to ease the gender pay gap.

Palos Heights native Kendall Coyne, an Olympic silver-medalist in the 2014 Sochi Winter Games and a member of the U.S. Women’s Hockey Team, has joined her fellow skaters in a fight off the ice.

The U.S. Women’s Hockey Team last week announced its boycott of the Hockey Women’s World Championship to be held in Michigan beginning March 31. The team has been at odds with USA Hockey over fair wages and equitable support.

Wilhelm Joy Sanderson/Flickr

Columnist Charlie Wheeler says there are serious consequences under Gov. Bruce Rauner's tax proposal.  

Northwestern University's Pritzker School of Law

A 1917 report conducted on the Illinois pension system revealed bad news. After a pension-focused trip around the globe, with studies on such nations as Great Britain, New Zealand, and Austro-Hungary, it got to the crux of the matter:

FACEBOOK/CLINTON AUTO AUCTION

Disparate entities say laws in this area need to change at the state and national levels.

The police took away a 70-year-old Moline woman’s car when her grandson drove it with a revoked license. “Why am I being punished?” Judy Wiese asked a reporter last year at the Rock Island County courthouse. After the story made headlines, a lawyer stepped forward and helped her out, pro bono — and the grandmother got her Jeep back.

Hackers Expose Illinois Cybersecurity Holes

Feb 6, 2017
bluecoat.com

In 2016, the Illinois Board of Elections and the state Republican Party were victims of cybersecurity breaches. But uncertainty lingers as to what the hackers wanted and whether future attacks can be prevented. 

When Tim Soper received a letter from the Illinois Board of Elections in late September informing him that personal data from his voter registration may have been compromised in a cybersecurity breach, he chose to find the humor in the situation.

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