Politics and Government | WGLT

Politics and Government

Michael Hill / WGLT

Bloomington Aldermen are considering several options to recover costs of providing additional police protection to serve the Downtown Bloomington bar district. Mayor Tari Renner and Alderman Scott Black spoke with WGLT's Mike McCurdy during Sound Ideas.

More Questions Than Answers Over Pollution

Dec 22, 2015
Staff / WGLT

Bloomington Aldermen are discussing a contamination problem in a four block area of Bloomington near the intersection of Linden and Emerson Streets. The source is a Freedom gas station, across from a child care facility, and within yards of Sugar Creek. As part of the consent agenda, the council was going to vote to prohibit water wells in the contaminated area, but Alderman Amelia Buragas, who represents the area, asked to table the issue. During GLT's Sound Ideas, Mayor Tari Renner says it was premature to have it on the consent agenda.

Jim Browne / WGLT

The growing shift to on-line shopping is hurting bricks and mortar stores as consumers buy on-line, in part, to avoid paying retail sales taxes. Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, says Congress should pass the Marketplace Fairness Act. The bill would give states the ability to collect sales taxes for on-line purchases.

PGVA Planners

The City of Bloomington is continuing to move forward on a TIF district for the Empire Street corridor. Alderman voted 8-1 to schedule a public hearing for the district on February 8th. Mayor Tari Renner joined Mike McCurdy to discuss the Tax Increment Finance district, a new contract with the police union, and divesting golf courses to close a budget gap.


The Not In Our Town Movement in Mclean County says enough with the anti-Muslim rhetoric already. Not In Our Town is sponsoring an interfaith community solidarity event. Reverend Kelley Becker of First Christian Church in Bloomington says God loves and accepts everyone of all faiths.

Becker says it is troubling to her that people are using fear to further political campaigns.

She says stereotyping of groups such as Muslims is not acceptable.

Donald Trump's remarks this week calling for banning Muslims from entry into the country has been widely denounced by both Democrats and Republicans. WGLT's Washington correspondent Hanna Gutmann reports some Republicans, including central Illinois' Rodney Davis, are worried about how it will impact the Republicans brand, and worried it could broad brush bigotry across all Republican candidates.

A year ago, Illinois' income tax rate fell by 25-percent. The top Democrat in the Illinois House is suggesting is go back up.  IPR's Amanda Vinicky reports.

Following a rare speech at the City Club of Chicago, longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan was asked this question about the state budget:

"How high do you think taxes need to go?"

Madigan tried to avoid getting specific, saying at first:

PATH and Collaborative Solutions Institute

The effect of the state budget deadlock has entered a new phase.

An Illinois State University expert on constitutional law says the Supreme Court's decision not to take the Highland Park gun control case is in part a political act. The court let stand a ban on semi automatic weapons and firearms with extended magazines in the Illinois village of Highland Park. ISU political scientist Meghan Leonard says the court did not want to be a part of the 2016 Presidential contest.

Leonard says the court takes very few gun cases.

Cars on Veterans Parkway
Ralph Weisheit / WGLT

The House has overwhelmingly approved a five-year, $305 billion transportation bill that boosts highway and transit spending. The measure assures states that federal aid will be available as they plan major projects. Congressman Rodney Davis touts the $7.5 billion dollars for Illinois and the $668 million increase for the state over the life of the bill. He's also pleased with efficiency measures in the legislation.

The State of Illinois owes Bloomington, Normal, and McLean County governments more than 5.4 million dollars according to public officials.

The measure approved by the Illinois House and up in the Senate next week would improve some of that cash flow crunch. The largest single chunk of cash owed local governments is Motor Fuel Tax Receipts. County Administrator Bill Wasson says release of that money would ease the process of going out to bid for road projects next spring.

The Illinois House has endorsed a partial spending plan that frees up $1.9 billion for local governments, but also adds money for public safety in a compromise with Gov. Bruce Rauner. Language that releases already-collected tax money for cities and counties for road upkeep and emergency-dispatch services passed Wednesday and moves to the Senate. The Senate will return Monday.  

The House approved legislation last month releasing taxes collected on motor fuel and cellphone calls to help local governments even though there's no budget agreement.  

Mayor Chris Koos of Normal is speaking out against a wave of xenophobia aimed at Syrian refugees. Koos is among 62 U.S. Mayors who have signed an open letter to Congress saying a ban on Syrian refugees is not warranted.

Koos says the Syrians who become refugees are not radical, and not militant. Koos urges taking a step back from politics and taking a look at the thorough process already in place.

Rauner Doubles Down On Syria Position

Nov 24, 2015

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner says he’s pursuing legal options to prevent Syrian refugees from coming into the state. Rauner has said there are security threats to America following attacks in Paris. He says he’s not getting the answers he wants from the Obama administration on who’s coming to Illinois. Rauner is talking to lawyers about how a governor could actually stop Syrian refugees from entering the state.

Meantime Democratic Senator Dick Durbin has rebuked Rauner’s statements, saying Syrian refugees pass strict tests for U.S. entry.


Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner says the state is taking precautions ahead of the release of a video showing a Chicago police officer shooting and killing a 17-year-old.

Rauner is asking the state police to coordinate with Chicago police. He wouldn’t say if he’s also talked with the state’s National Guard - which falls under the command of the governor.

Two Libertarian political candidates are asking a federal court to declare unconstitutional an Illinois ban on political contributions from the medical marijuana industry. Claire Ball of Addison and Scott Schluter of Marion filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Chicago last week. They say they support marijuana legalization and want to solicit campaign donations from the marijuana industry. Illinois law bars such contributions.  

Obama Library Position Hired

Nov 23, 2015

The Obama Foundation has hired a native Chicagoan and former aide to President Barack Obama for a key role in the development of his presidential library and museum. It says Michael Strautmanis will become its vice president of civic engagement in January. He's currently vice president for corporate citizenship at the Walt Disney Co.  

Strautmanis will be in charge of developing and leading outreach efforts and civic engagement for the Obama Foundation. He served in a number of engagement positions with Obama during the president's first term.

The Illinois National Guard says the commander who led its largest post-World War II deployment has retired. Major Gen. Scott Thoele led the National Guard's 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team to Afghanistan in 2008 and 2009. Roughly 3,000 members of the Illinois-based brigade were deployed. Thoele called his time as commander of the brigade the highlight of his 21-year career.

He is also a veteran of the war in Iraq. Thoele also recently retired from his civilian job as vice president of a bank in Quincy where he and his wife, Paula, live.

Poe Post Filled

Nov 20, 2015

The chief of staff to Illinois first lady Diana Rauner has been appointed to the state House of Representatives. Sara Wojcicki Jimenez of Springfield will replace Republican Raymond Poe. Poe resigned last week to become Gov. Bruce Rauner's state agriculture director.

Sangamon County GOP Chairwoman Rosemarie Long made the announcement Friday. The 36-year-old Jimenez is a former television reporter who was also press spokeswoman to a Democratic state treasurer and then-House Republican Leader Tom Cross. She joined the first lady's staff in January.  

Normal Approves 'Uptown 2.0'

Nov 17, 2015
Brad Basham Photography / bbasham.com and Town of Normal

The Normal Town Council is moving forward with Uptown 2.0. Council members approved the master plan update presented last September. 

Garry Knight / Flickr via Creative Commons

An Illinois State University Political Scientist says the attacks in Paris say something significant about ISIS' deteriorating position. Professor Ali Riaz is the Chair of ISU's Department of Politics and Government. In this interview with GLT's Charlie Schlenker, Riaz says the Egyptian plane bombing, other bombings in the Mideast by ISIS, and now the assaults in Paris, show a shift to a strategy of asymetrical warfare.

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.  

Ralph Weisheit / WGLT

NPR's White House correspondent is doing what she wanted to do when she was a child. Not necessarily walk the halls of the most famous home in America, but talk on the radio. WGLT's Willis Kern talked with Tamara Keith just before she spoke at GLT's Radio Faces event last Friday.

Illinois' new medical marijuana shops sold nearly $211,000 worth of cannabis in the first week, with less than a quarter of eligible patients buying so far.  

The state's first regulated marijuana dispensaries opened Monday. Program director Joseph Wright said Friday the dispensaries served 806 customers. They purchased about 460 ounces of marijuana, or about a half an ounce per person, on average.  

Green Thumb Industries CEO Ben Kovler says the numbers are "a very strong start." 

A month and a half after the Illinois State Museum shut its doors to visitors ... lawmakers have passed a measure that could lead to its reopening.  Advocates have mourned the loss of the Springfield-based museum, which also hosts researchers and preserves millions of artifacts.

Despite the closure, most of the museum's staff have so far held onto their jobs. Their union is fighting with Governor Bruce Rauner's administration in court. But State Museum Board Chairman Guerry Suggs says other employees have quit, taken new jobs, or retired. 


Illinois Republican Congressman Rodney Davis of Taylorville (13th District) says President Obama is missing out on making economic progress by rejecting the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. That's one of the topics covered during a Sound Ideas interview with WGLT's Willis Kern.

Jim Browne / WGLT

US Representative Rodney Davis spent part of his day Tuesday touring the new crisis and detox unit at Bloomington's Chestnut Health Systems. During the tour, Chestnut Chief Operating Officer Alan Sender told the Republican times are tough.

Davis held a round table at the center, focusing on mental healthcare, and discussed a bill from Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Tim Murphy. The measure promises more beds for patients, and a tele-psych system to make up for a shortage of psychologists and psychiatrists. Davis says the mental health system is 'broken.'

An education activist visiting Illinois State University says children receiving a poor education are having their civil rights violated.  Dr. Pedro Noguera is a distinguished professor of Education at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.  He is also a sociologist whose research is focused on how schools are influenced by social and economic factors.  GLT's Jon Norton talked with Noguera via Skype to talk about his research, and how his morality factors into his lifelong passion of ensuring equal access to education for all children.  Norton started by quoting a sentence from his recent book "Excellence Through Equity."

Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger has issued a one word response to the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. That word is "crazy." The Obama Administration has formally rejected the pipeline to carry Canadian oil into the U.S. after seven years of delays and deliberations.

Kinzinger's fellow Illinois Republican, Rodney Davis was more voluble in reaction. Davis represents part of Bloomington Normal and says it puts politics over people. Davis says instead of encouraging energy independence and job growth in that industry, the President placates his political base.