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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.

Brian Mackey/Illinois Public Radio

Some Illinois lawmakers – including Elaine Nekritz, Christine Radogno and Tim Bivins – recently resigned or announced they will not run for re-election. Any options they may have for their next steps could even include lobbying for the time being, under the state’s revolving door policy.

YouTube

Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been released from prison in Minnesota and transferred to a Chicago re-entry facility.

Hastert is nearing the end of a 15-month sentence that a federal judge gave him in April 2016 in a case that revealed accusations that he had sexually abused teenagers while he coached wrestling at Yorkville High School.

Jenna Dooley

The Illinois Senate took action Tuesday meant to end a two-year budget stalemate. 

After two years of no budget and under threat of “junk bond” status, Democrats finally convinced enough Republican lawmakers to break with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

What would be the state’s first full budget in years includes an unpopular income tax increase.

Dale Righter of Mattoon is the only Republican senator who was persuaded to vote for it.

Jenna Dooley

The Illinois Senate is expected to vote on a full budget today.

That’s after the House passed a spending plan and a tax increase over the weekend to try and end the two-year long impasse.

In the House, 15 Republicans went against Gov. Bruce Rauner and voted yes.

But it’s not a given that the Senate has the votes to pass it.

Senate Democrats already passed a budget. It included more spending than the plan they’re set to consider today.

Senate Republicans opposed that budget - and the question now is whether they’ll oppose this one too.

@Bill_Brady / Twitter

A day after Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno announced she was stepping down, the caucus has chosen a new leader.

Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, will be the next Senate minority leader.

Radogno says the ultimate decision was unanimous, though Brady did initially have competition.

Brady emerged as an ally of Gov. Bruce Rauner this spring. He took an active role in pushing for more concessions from Democrats in the so-called “grand bargain" negotiations.

State of Illinois

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan said Democrats are finalizing a proposed state budget plan and could present it to minority Republicans as soon as Tuesday.

Madigan and fellow Chicago Democratic Rep. Greg Harris would not discuss details but said they're devising a spending plan and revenue to pay for it. It might be ready for discussion at Tuesday's meeting of the four legislative leaders. 

@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).

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has called state legislators back to Springfield this week to begin 10 special sessions through the end of June.

 

He says he wants a budget deal, but he also is spending money attacking Democrats. The attacks have come in at least three forms: online ads, direct mail, and TV commercials.

 

congress.gov

On A Friday Forum earlier this year, Illinois U.S. Representatives Bill Foster and Randy Hultgren talked about their hopes and concerns for the new Congress as it began its work. For this week's Friday Forum, WNIJ's Guy Stephens asked the two for an update on how things are going in Congress.

paulnehlen.com

Paul Nehlen says he will run against House Speaker Paul Ryan after losing to him in the Republican primary by 68 points last year. Ryan represents Wisconsin's 1st district.

Nehlen announced his 2018 candidacy Friday in an email that doubled as a fundraising plea. Nehlen says he's running against Ryan because "Ryan has led the way to thwart President Trump's bold agenda every step of the way."

Nehlen courted Trump voters last year. His longshot candidacy garnered attention after Trump praised him and initially stopped short of endorsing Ryan. Trump endorsed Ryan days later.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies today before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Senators are expected to question Sessions about the investigation into Russia's ties with President Donald Trump's administration and 2016 campaign.

Sessions also could be asked about Trump's firing of former FBI director James Comey, who testified last week.

WNIJ and NPR are providing a live audio stream of today's hearings, which begin at 1:30 CT.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

The partisan divide in Springfield seems wider than ever as Illinoisans brace for the start of another fiscal year without a budget. Lawmakers adjourned Wednesday without a spending plan. In this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Susan Stephens asked Rockford University Economics and Political Science Professor Bob Evans how we ended up here again.

Pres. Donald Trump has been in office for 100 days -- and one week. He promised to shake things up in Washington. How do his policies and actions at the top trickle down to local political organizations? We asked a couple of local party leaders for this week’s Friday Forum.

           

Paul Stoddard chairs the DeKalb County Democratic Party and Jim Thompson is Winnebago County’s Republican Party chairman.

 

Obama Foundation

Former President Barack Obama says he envisions his future presidential center as an institution where the next generation of young leaders will be trained.

Obama spoke Wednesday at a community forum in Chicago where renderings of the center and library were unveiled.

Obama estimates the center will be finished in four years, but says programming will start this year. He announced that he and former first Lady Michelle Obama personally will donate $2 million to summer job efforts in Chicago.

chicagocitytreasurer.com

Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers says he will not run for Illinois governor, despite seeking the endorsement of Cook County Democratic Party leaders earlier this year.

Instead, he’s endorsing one of the Democrats hoping to unseat Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner.

When Summers said Wednesday that he’s not running for governor, he really didn’t explain why. He endorsed billionaire venture capitalist JB Pritzker, saying Pritzker would best serve the African-American community as governor.

Rici Hoffarth/St. Louis Public Radio

It's a sentiment shared by Democratic politicians and liberal pundits: disgust over how Republicans drew up favorable (for them) legislative districts after the 2010 Census.

Redistricting is blamed for the relative lack of legislative production in Congress and the rise of stringent partisanship, and has prompted Democrats to fight back in several states. Even former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is getting in on the issue, leading the National Democratic Redistricting Committee to crusade against gerrymandering.

Maddee Muuss / WNIJ

Lawmakers are grappling to reestablish ethics in the age of “alternative facts.” In a recent lecture to Northern Illinois University law students, Illinois State Senator and NIU alumna Toi Hutchinson warned against being so rigid in your positions that you cannot empathize with other perspectives.

“Democracy requires participation. Citizenship requires participation,” Hutchinson said. “If we make it so that nobody wants to touch this with a ten foot pole, then we’re cheating ourselves. We do much better when we’re all in, so we all need to be in.”

Governor Bruce Rauner made Rockford one of the stops on his two-day trip across Illinois. He met with a large group made up mainly of his fellow Republican elected officials.

Rauner criticized Democrats in the state Legislature and blamed them for the budget stalemate. He urged them to make Illinois more business-friendly. He told reporters after the event, “I’ll judge myself by how strong the economy in Rockford grows over the next two and six years, while I am governor. And we need a strong economy for everybody in Illinois.”

Rick Guzman conceded to Richard Irvin Friday in the Aurora mayoral race.    

Irvin declared victory late Tuesday night when unofficial totals from the polls put him 170 votes ahead of Rick Guzman. But Guzman said in an email Wednesday morning the race was too close to call. He said an unknown number of outstanding vote-by-mail, grace-period, overseas military and provisional ballots have yet to be counted. That left the possibility that the apparent result of the April 4 election could be reversed.

tammyduckworth.com

Tammy Duckworth is glad to be back working for the entire population of Illinois.

She has just completed her first three months as a U.S. Senator, following her defeat of Republican incumbent Mark Kirk last November.

Duckworth spent three years as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs before moving to Washington D.C. as Assistant Secretary for Veterans Affairs under President Obama. She returned to Illinois in late 2011 and won the Illinois 8th District U.S. House seat the following year.

House Approves $817M Stop-Gap Budget Plan

Apr 6, 2017
Jenna Dooley/WNIJ

The Illinois House wants to tap incoming but unallocated revenue to relieve struggling universities and human services. 

The House voted 64-45 Thursday to authorize spending $817 million that is sitting in special funds during a two-yearlong budget holdup.

Chicago Democratic Rep. Greg Harris is the sponsor. He says the measure would release $559 million to higher education and $258 million to human services whose funding is not ordered by court rulings.

Compiled below – county by county – are links to the unofficial results from the Consolidated General Election, To access links to the vote totals, as provided by the appropriate election officials, click on the county (or election office) name.

 Boone County

The countywide referendum to increase the existing Public Safety Sales Tax by one half percent – or 5 cents on a $10 purchase -- for public safety purposes was defeated by more than 11 percentage points.

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

If you’d like to prepare for your votes in the Illinois Consolidated Election next Tuesday, April 4, WNIJ News offers these links to help you be informed about the races and the issues.

Compiled below – county by county – are links that will allow you to view the sample ballots that may affect you. Click on the county or election office name to access the ballots. A summary of ballot issues in the counties also is provided.

Boone County

House Republicans emerged from a members-only meeting Tuesday morning to bullishly declare the health care legislative battle is not over.

"We promised that we would repeal and replace Obamacare, and that's exactly what we're going to do," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters after the meeting.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Now that the Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act has been tabled, one Congressional Democrat from northern Illinois says it’s time to work together to make the existing law better.

17th District Rep. Cheri Bustos says she’s on the same page with President Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan on two important changes they want in the health care law: they all want people to pay less for premiums, co-pays, and deductibles, as well as prescription drugs. She says where they differ is how to get there.  

photos courtesy of the campaigns

Rockford voters will choose a new mayor April 4. Mayor Larry Morrissey decided last year he wouldn’t run for re-election, after 12 years in office.

Flickr user / Images Money "Healthcare Costs" (CC BY 2.0)

Rockford residents who are getting their health insurance through the Illinois exchange under the current Affordable Care Act will lose an estimated average of $3,662 in subsidies under the proposed replacement American Health Care Act.

That’s a drop of more than 42 percent.

Moreover, Rockford would be the hardest-hit by the changes – and residents in only two other Illinois cities would see their subsidies shrink.

Janie Wilson Cook

Former Rockford State Senator Joyce Holmberg died this week at the age of 86.

Holmberg was first elected to the State Senate in 1982 but had been very involved in the Democratic Party for decades. She was urged to run for what was dubbed “The Woman’s Seat” by Vivian Hickey, who had also served as Senator in the 34th District.  

Facebook.com

A Democratic State Senator from Evanston is running for governor. Daniel Biss announced live on Facebook today that he is a candidate, then took questions from viewers.

Biss has served in the Illinois legislature since 2011, first in the House and now in the Senate.

He has been an outspoken critic of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, leading a PAC called “Leading Illinois For Tomorrow.” It paid for millions of dollars in advertising trying to link Rauner with then-candidate Donald Trump in the minds of voters.

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