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Election authorities around Illinois expect to be ready when early voting begins this Thursday.

Still, reform groups say rule changes are needed after problems arose during the primary. A ballot challenge in the crowded attorney general race delayed the start of early voting in some counties early this year.

Flickr: Gabriel Garcia Marengo / 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Drone enthusiasts, be aware – the rules for the small, unmanned aircrafts could be changing in Illinois.

A new law bars cities from regulating the use of drones.

The law excludes the city of Chicago, but a spokesman with the Illinois Department of Transportation says it will create consistent rules around the rest of the state.

Jackie Reiser is a co-owner of Measure Illinois – a Springfield-based company that provides drones to oversee power lines and construction sites. She says more unified regulation is a good thing.

Rachel Otwell

Earlier this month, Diane Nash told a full auditorium of University of Illinois Springfield students that she and fellow civil rights activists, “Loved you before we met you.” She said efforts to make the U.S. a more equitable place had been done, and are still being done, “For generations yet unborn.” And she urged others to join the cause, or risk sliding into what she sees as an increasingly authoritarian state.

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Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

All four candidates for governor shared a stage this week for the first of three televised debates. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and his Democratic challenger, J.B. Pritzker, picked up right where their mudslinging TV ads left off.

Statewide, with host Sean Crawford, brings you reports and conversations from in and around Illinois.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker carried their negative campaigns on stage Thursday evening in the first of three televised debates. Libertarian candidate Kash Jackson and Republican state Sen. Sam McCann (running for governor under the Conservative Party banner) also participated in the slugfest.

Dusty Rhodes

Illinois’ new school funding formula — approved last year — could already be facing revisions. That's because lawmakers had such a tough time agreeing on this new formula, they tried to ensure they'd never have to fight so hard again. So they built in a Professional Review Panel, and empowered the group to recommend recalibrations as needed.

​One idea under consideration: Adding a racial equity component, to address the historic underfunding of predominantly black districts.

A hospital room
Bill McChesney

Non-profit hospitals in Illinois will still get to avoid paying property taxes. That’s after a ruling Thursday by the Illinois Supreme Court.

Mae Benjamins daughter Melody works as Maes personal health care assistant.
COURTESY OF MELODY BENJAMIN

Some experts say black women may bear the brunt if union membership declines or financial support lessens as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, which decreed that public sector unions can no longer force workers they represent to pay fees in lieu of union dues. But conservative groups say the cost is justified to protect workers' free speech rights. 

Victoria Nieto For Illinois Newsroom

In 2000, Charles Davidson was arrested the day before the 4th of July for a crime he said he didn’t commit. Urbana Police responded that evening to a complaint of fireworks and came upon Davidson, who claims he made the complaint on behalf of his mother. According to court records, police accused the now 68-year-old youth mentor of providing officers with the false last name of “Edwards.” Davidson said “Edwards” was his mother’s last name, and he simply gave police his first name.

NPR Illinois

The Illinois Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments over whether victims of the illegal drug trade can sue dealers.

Illinois Supreme Court Building
Illinois Supreme Court

Fired Prisoner Review Board member Eric Gregg is asking the Illinois Supreme Court to give him his job back. In a case argued Tuesday, the justices were also asked to consider the limits of a governor’s power to fire certain state officials.

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

Students from a high school in Parkland, Florida turned trauma into activism and a get-out-the-vote campaign. Their high school was the site of a mass-shooting earlier this year. Their work has trickled down to Illinois and Springfield.

Illinois Supreme Court
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday from a man who earned a state teacher pension after substitute teaching --  for one day. 

Sean Crawford and Jeremy Hobson share a laugh at the event September 10 on the Legacy Theatre stage.
Mike Taylor / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

Here & Now anchor Jeremy Hobson joins NPR Illinois in Springfield to discuss his background in journalism and the upcoming state and national elections Monday, September 10t, 2018.  Hobson also participates in a question and answer session with the audience. 

Midwest High Speed Rail Assoc.

Imagine trains that travel 200 miles per hour between Chicago and St. Louis, drastically cutting the travel time for that trip.  It’s not far-fetched.  In fact, it’s happening in other places.  But in Illinois, high speed rail has been more about baby steps than giant leaps. 

frowning piggy bank
Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

A new report says Illinois state government is at “elevated risk” in the event of an economic downturn.

J.B. Pritzker
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

As of Monday, there are 50 days until Election Day. And in the race for Illinois governor, debate season is finally getting underway.

Heartland Alliance Social Impact Research Center

Poverty rates nationwide improved in 2017 but were stagnant in Illinois

Chicago-based Heartland Alliance says census numbers show the national poverty rate is 12.3 percent — a little better than Illinois' 12.6 percent. 

Katie Buitrago  directs Heartland’s research arm:

“I think there’s a number of reasons that Illinois is not faring as well as the rest of the nation in addressing poverty. The two-year budget crisis that Illinois experienced extended well into 2017 and these 2017 poverty numbers reflect the effects of that crisis and well as cuts before that.”

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Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Gov. Bruce Rauner attempts to reset his campaign with a speech to a small group of supporters. Will it be enough to overcome the 14 percentage points that separate the Republican incumbent from his Democratic opponent, J.B. Pritzker?

Statewide, with host Sean Crawford, brings you reports and conversations from in and around Illinois. 

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

The Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday from a man trying to sue the police for wrongfully convicting him.     

NPR illinois

Illinois government has some deep fiscal problems.  A backlog of unpaid bills, pension debt and a growing list of infrastructure needs.  The problems can be overwhelming, but there are some best practices that can be taken to improve the situation.  

Rachel Otwell / Michael Christensen

A fiddling duo is playing Civil War era tunes on the Old State Capitol plaza in downtown Springfield. Near them is a log cabin on wheels (well, technically it's made of cardboard) with a large ball attached to it - fashioned to look as though it was made of iron or steel, with the words "link on to Lincoln." It's old-timey propaganda created by a contemporary Illinois artist.

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The Illinois Department of Public Health said they are trying to prevent an outbreak of Hepatitis A after several neighboring states have experienced their own.

Yolanda Harrington walks one of her students into Barkstall Elementary in Champaign. Harrington, who had dreams of becoming a teacher, makes $18 an hour and works a second job. She has been a paraprofessional for 19 years.
Courtesy of the Student's Family

Like most states, Illinois is struggling with a severe teacher shortage. And, also like most states, that shortage is felt most profoundly in the area of special education. There is, however, an army of teacher assistants already on the job. Could they help relieve this shortage?

Sean Crawford/NPR Illinois

The University of Illinois Springfield is the latest state school to see an enrollment decline, part a recent    trend for the campus.  

Technology changing access and outcomes in abortion debate

President Donald Trump has stood strongly behind the anti-abortion movement, and his Supreme Court picks have some questioning the future of abortion access. However, technology could be key to access, too -- for both sides of the abortion debate.  

The room looks like an office. There are tables, chairs, a laptop and a cash register -- though that register isn’t for money.

The space is used for telemedicine abortions in Planned Parenthood’s Iowa City clinic.

Illinois Farm Bureau

Food and drink vendors at this year’s Illinois State Fair say fewer people lined up for things like corn dogs and lemon shake-ups. That fits with an official report of declining overall attendance.

    

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Corn and soybean fields as far as the eye can see are the typical sights of summer throughout rural areas of Illinois. But next year, 'fields of green' will take on an entirely different meaning as farmers will soon be allowed to grow industrial hemp. 

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