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Illinois Politics

A Tazewell County mayor is apologizing for taking part in a student video depicting a bank robbery and shootout that was recorded inside the village hall. Morton Mayor Ron Rainson told village board members his participation was inappropriate and the village would review its rules on the use of public buildings. The the film, called ``The Withdrawal,'' was made by a student for a YouTube contest. The 15-year-old is the son of village trustee Rod Blunier.

A former professional football player-turned-Illinois lawmaker has joined the Democratic race for U.S. Senate, setting up a three-way contest to take on Republican Mark Kirk. State Sen. Napoleon Harris of Harvey officially announced Tuesday he's challenging Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth and ex-Urban League CEO Andrea Zopp in the March primary. The winner will face Kirk, who's considered one of the most vulnerable senators seeking re-election in 2016.

Illinois Immigrant rights groups and advocates are blasting Gov. Bruce Rauner's decision to temporarily stop accepting new Syrian refugees in Illinois in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris.  

The Arab American Action Network says the decision creates a "fictitious link" between those fleeing war and violence and those responsible for the deadly attacks. The group says it also fuels racist stereotypes.  

The Organized Communities Against Deportations wants Rauner to reconsider.  

Rauner Moves To Block Syrian Refugees

Nov 16, 2015
Brian Mackey / IPR

Gov. Bruce Rauner says Illinois will temporarily stop accepting new Syrian refugees in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris. Rauner says Illinois will consider its legal options pending a review of U.S. Department and Homeland Security's acceptance and security processes.

Rauner is one of several U.S. governors who say they will  stop allowing Syrian refugees into their states after Friday night attacks in Paris left at least 129 people dead.  

More items seized from the former Dixon comptroller who was convicted of stealing nearly $54 million from the northern Illinois city will be auctioned off. The second online auction of items that once belonged to Rita Crundwell will begin Tuesday. A recent auction of an English riding saddle, spurs and other items raised nearly $47,000 and the next auction that runs through Dec. 1. will include Crundwell's collection of belt buckles. A sealed bid auction is also underway for Crundwell's horse show trophies. Auction proceeds will go to the city.

No Legislative Summit This Month

Nov 16, 2015

Gov. Bruce Rauner has postponed the Nov. 18 budget summit because a family matter will prevent House Speaker Michael Madigan from attending. Rauner deputy chief of staff Mike Schrimpf says that the meeting will instead be held Dec. 1 in Springfield. The change came shortly after Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, released a statement saying he needed to attend an out-of-state family funeral next week. Schrimpf offered the governor's condolences. The much-anticipated meeting will be the first time in months that the Republican governor and the four legislative leaders have met.

Poe Named New Ag Director

Nov 16, 2015

Outgoing State Representative Raymond Poe -- who begins today as head of the agriculture department -- says he has a favorite as Republicans look to replace him.

The University of Illinois is officially asking Illinois leaders to come to terms on a state budget for the current fiscal year.  At their meeting in Chicago Thursday, the trustees approved a resolution urging an end to the budget impasse, and signed a presentation copy.

U of I President Timothy Killeen says a hiring freeze affecting 230 full-time positions at the university is just one of the cutbacks instituted to cope with the budget delay.

Illinois Lawmakers / creative commons

Illinois reform groups are calling on Governor Bruce Rauner to release details about his upcoming meeting with the legislative leaders.

Holiday Lights Going Up On Capitol Dome

Nov 10, 2015

Crews are hanging holiday lights over the Illinois capitol dome today... a week after the Secretary of State Jesse White announced there wouldn't be any because of the budget impasse.

Governor Bruce Rauner has cut back on institutional care available to seniors.  The Republican used an amendatory veto Friday to reduce the cost of the measure aimed at protecting people who get institutional or at-home care while officials develop a new way of measuring need. Chicago Democratic Rep. Greg Harris sponsored the plan. He says it ensures people getting assistance now won't get cut off by a new assessment process.  

The lack of a state budget is putting stresses on Illinois' public universities that still aren't receiving money from the state. Larger schools such as the University of Illinois are faring better than smaller schools where enrollment has fallen, or fundraising is harder. Those schools have seen layoffs and furloughs, funding cut for athletics, and cash reserves raided. Alan Phillips, chief financial officer at Northern Illinois University, says it would be ``very difficult'' to get through a full year without state funding.

No Christmas Lights For Capitol

Nov 4, 2015

Illinois' budget impasse will replace the Grinch when it comes to decorating the state Capitol dome this year. The Illinois Secretary of State's office, which maintains the Capitol building, announced Tuesday they will skip the annual tradition of stringing Christmas lights on the dome. Officials say the ongoing impasse that has left Illinois without a budget since July 1 is the reason for taking the lights out of the holiday season.

Insurance Companies Sue State Treasurer

Nov 3, 2015

Three insurers have sued Illinois Treasurer Mike Frerichs over an attempt to seek records on life insurance policies. Frerichs said Monday an audit was sought to find unpaid death benefits because returning unclaimed property is part of his office's mission. Frerichs says beneficiaries might be unaware policies exist. The information received would be checked against a federal death database. The lawsuit filed last week in Sangamon County argues the treasurer doesn't have such authority; benefits are paid if there's a claim and proof of death. The insurers are Chicago-based Kemper Corp.

Governor Pitches Vision During Bloomington Stop

Nov 2, 2015
Jim Browne / WGLT

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner made a pitch for his budget vision at a McLean County Chamber of Commerce event at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts. That vision does not apparently include members of unions, who were stopped by city police before they could enter the theater. Rauner, who came into office preaching an anti-union message, now says he's no longer pushing for state "Right to Work" legislation.

Gov Says He'll Fix Education

Nov 2, 2015

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner says his administration is working on "big reforms on education" ... but they're still being formulated. Other matters --- like redistricting, a property tax freeze, and lifting unions' ability to bargain – have so far topped his agenda. Rauner says his education plans will be announced in coming months.

The Illinois Department of Corrections says it will return five semi-trucks to a company that has walked away from a contract after the state failed to pay. The Larson Group agreed to six-year contract in 2010 to lease five trucks to the agency for $68,000 a year. The company decided to walk away from the contract a year early because the department owes more than $17,000. An IDOC offshoot called Illinois Correctional Industries used the trucks. IDOC spokeswoman Nicole Wilson says the agency is scheduled to return the trucks Thursday. Right now they are parked at a warehouse in Lincoln.

Illinois' public universities have gone without state support during the nearly five months legislators and the governor have been caught in gridlock. IPR's Amanda Vinicky reports on how that's creating a double fiscal whammy.

Rauner Dismisses Criticism From Past Peers

Oct 22, 2015

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is sloughing off critical comments made by his a pair of his predecessors. IPR's Amanda Vinicky reports, on Illinois' 113th day without a state budget.


The Illinois State Museum is in danger of losing its accreditation after Gov. Bruce Rauner closed the museums due to the state budget impasse. The Accreditation Commission voted 7-to-0 to put the museum system on probation. The commission says the accreditation is a ``mark of distinction'' given 1,043 museums nationwide. It recognizes museums that meet certain criteria for collections, staff, financial stability and other areas.

Mautino Voted Auditor General

Oct 20, 2015

The Illinois House and Senate both hurried to pass one measure during their one-day session. They voted to make Democratic State Representative Frank Mautino the state's next auditor general.

Republican Senate Leader Christine Radogno says it makes sense to have a seasoned legislator in the job.

Mautino will take over the new role in January as Bill Holland is retiring.  He'll be in charge of scrutinizing state funds and investigating government agencies' and programs' performance.

Mautino will be only the third person to hold that post in Illinois history.

Illinois lawmakers are increasingly trying to make it easier for residents to be involved in politics -- there'll be a hearing Tuesday in Chicago on automatic voter registration. Another proposal goes in the opposite direction. You can currently register on the day of the election. Republican Rep. Mark Batinick of Plainfield says that's expensive; judging by how many took advantage of a trial run last year.

Batinick doesn't want to do away with same-day voter registration. He proposes scaling it back to set places on election day.

182nd Airlift Wing / Wikimedia Commons

It's the 100th day Illinois has been without a budget. The state has without a budget before -- but going this long is unprecedented.

A newspaper analysis of Illinois' signature corporate tax-break program has found companies that receive the deals often don't add jobs or even lay off workers. An analysis by The Chicago Tribune of 783 tax deals the state has made through the Economic Development for a Growing Economy program found two-thirds of the companies that completed agreements didn't maintain agreed-upon job levels. And state officials can't say how many jobs have been created by the program known as EDGE.

IL Stiffs State Fair Vendors

Oct 1, 2015
Il Dept. Agriculture

The Illinois State Fair ended in August. But many who worked there are still owed money. The event is a celebration of agriculture and more. But this year, the state warned vendors they might have to wait to get paid.

Amanda Vinicky

Two historic Illinois tracks will hold NO horse races next year ... a decision that could lead to their permanent closing. IPR's Amanda Vinicky reports. 

There is a lot of repetition going on at the state capitol these days.  And it has a political purpose.

Jim Bowen/Flickr

By now you probably have a sense that things in Illinois state politics have gotten downright nasty - even if it's not completely clear what all the fighting is about. But there's more to that fight than the public gets to see. There's squabbling and gamesmanship and backbiting that rarely makes the news. Democrats have been using tactics to get under the skin of Governor Bruce Rauner.  But as IPR's Tony Arnold reports, Rauner has also been doing something that's really been getting under Democrats skin.

Hastert Plea Deal Under Negotiation

Sep 28, 2015

Prosecutors and defense attorneys for former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert have told a federal judge they're talking about a possible plea deal in the Republican's hush-money case. The disclosure came during a hearing in federal court in Chicago for the 73-year-old Republican. Details weren't immediately released. The one-time teacher and wrestling coach has pleaded not guilty to violating banking laws and lying to the FBI.  A May indictment says Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million to someone, identified only as ``Individual A,'' to hide past misconduct.

License Renewal Notifications To End

Sep 28, 2015

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White says his office will suspend mailing reminder notices on renewing motor vehicle registrations because there's still no state budget. White said Monday that interrupting the mailing service will save about $450,000 a month. White sent Gov. Bruce Rauner a letter last week warning of potential major problems at government facilities related to the budget standoff. He says vendors aren't being paid and are threatening to suspend services. He also worries that utilities could be shut off at the state Capitol in Springfield.