Illinois Issues

Question cards from Illinois Issues Forums.
Sean Crawford / NPR Illinois

A statewide series of forums this year found plenty of concern about the direction Illinois is heading.  But we also found work is being done at the local level to solve some of the problems.

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. 

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?

PHOTOS COURTESY OF CANDIDATES' CAMPAIGNS

Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan's decision to not seek re-election after over 15 years in office drew a plethora of candidates to the ballot. The last three standing, Republican nominee Erika Harold, Democratic candidate Kwame Raoul and Libertarian Bubba Harsy, continue to battle it out with just nine weeks until the general election.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, John Lucas and his granddaughter, McKenna, bet on Saber Rattler at the Fairmount Park Racetrack in Collinsville.

"If she wins this, it'll be the third race in a row she's won," says Lucas as they watch the horses round the final stretch of the track. Saber Rattler came in second.

Lucas has been visiting the track outside of St. Louis a few times a year since the 1980s, traveling across the Illinois border from O'Fallon, Missouri.

Lucas has noticed the steady downturn in fortunes for the track.

Panelists in Alton, Illinois discussed why Illinois residents may be looking to move to bordering states. 

Questions from the audience ranged from recreational cannabis to property taxes. 

NPR Illinois news director Sean Crawford moderated a panel including:

  • Nathan Grimm, managing editor of the Alton Telegraph
  • Sara McGibany, executive director of Alton Main Street and board member of Senior Services Plus
  • Susie Harris, East Alton regional director of Caritas Family Solutions

This forum series is sponsored by AARP. 

Lance Cpl. Damany S. Coleman / Released by the United States Marine Corps [Public Domain]

Once considered the new frontier of drugs and drug trafficking, synthetic cannabinoids have been around for years now and they’re becoming increasingly dangerous. More recently, authorities say dozens of overdoses in Connecticut occurred due to a drug called K-2 that was possibly laced with fentanyl.  

Online Learning Can Open Doors For Kids In Juvenile Jails

Aug 2, 2018
Students have access to hundreds of courses while they are in Illinois' juvenile justice facilities, but they tend to focus on math, language arts, social studies and science.
Tara Garcia Mathewson / The Hechinger Report

But the quality of online coursework is one of many concerns for advocates.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

This is part of our election-year series, Money Machines, looking at campaign spending in the 2018 election. The first article can be found here.

Jennie Hodgers AKA Albert Cashier served in the Company G of the 95th Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry, which fought at Vicksburg.
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

An Illinois woman posed as a man and served in the infantry during the Civil War. Was she transgender?

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.

Marcia O'Connor, Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Hemp has been used for centuries to make rope, fishnets, paper, car parts, fuel and much more. It’s an unruly crop. It’s skinny, it’s tall, but what has made it controversial is that it’s a derivative of the cannabis plant.

Marcus Butler of  Springfield has been unemployed since October of 2016.
Katie Buck / NPR IllINOIS

Experts blame the long-standing problem on discrimination, especially the "inadequate, inequitable'' education funding system.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Illinois will host what could be the most expensive race for governor in U.S. history. The huge increase in campaign spending raises a lot of questions about the rise of big money in politics. Between now and the election, Illinois Issues will examine the impact in a series we're calling Money Machines.

Flickr User: Stanford EdTech

A measure that has passed the Illinois House would require hospitals to have Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) who can treat and examine victims of sexual assault. Some say it would mean better collection of forensic evidence and better treatment of victims.

Illinois State Police

 

For this week’s Illinois Issues, we bring you a story about a measure that would train more nurses how to collect DNA evidence after a sexual assault for use in a criminal trial, often referred to as rape kits. NPR Illinois spoke with Melissa Souto about her experience undergoing the testing.

Souto, a 23-year-old Chicago resident, said she was sexually assaulted two years ago on an Illinois college campus. She could not say where since her legal case is pending. Following the incident, Souto decided to get a rape kit.

Molly Marshall / flickr cc nc2.0

Keeping cases unsealed leaves guiltless tenants at risk for rejection, but that could make it difficult for landlords to be diligent in screening, Realtors say.

Methodist College students take a break between classes at the campus in Peoria, which is a former furniture store.
Mary Hansen / NPR IllINOIS | 91.9 UIS

As more retail chains shut down, cities across Illinois figure out what to do with millions of square feet of empty space.

Jaclyn Driscoll

In the wake of mass shootings comes the debate around gun laws. This week, I explore a different angle: the personal responsibility of carrying a firearm. 

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.

Mary Cullen / NPR Illinois

Illinois’ bicentennial commission finds ways to commemorate the state’s 200th with little time and limited budget.

Illinois will celebrate its 200th birthday with statewide events, building projects, specialty Pepsi cans, stamps, rosé, apparel and even an officials brew, "1818 Prairie State Farmhouse Ale."

Illustrator Pat Byrnes​

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, state lawmakers have tried to address sexual harassment in a variety of ways. We explore what's been done and what some say may be ahead.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Pickup trucks and construction equipment crowd the lawn of the Illinois Executive Mansion and the block across the street.

Gov. Bruce Rauner and his wife, Diana, have raised the money for the $15 million mansion makeover, which is slated to be complete by the end of the summer. And the governor is eyeing the city-owned block, dubbed the “Y-block” for the YWCA that used to sit there, as an extension of that project.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Commentary: Insights from the 2018 primary election

"Is this embattled Republican governor toast?" -- Natasha Korecki, Politico

"Is Gov. Bruce Rauner a lame duck limping?" -- Chuck Sweeny, Rockford Register Star

The Toys R Us store location in Springfield, Illinois.
Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

As big box stores continue to close, some worry Illinois isn't ready for the changing economy.

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.

Jason Karsh / Flickr / CC BY-NC 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.

Rich Saal / The State Journal-Register (pool)

Commentary: The governor's plan would rely on some iffy savings from shifting pensions costs to schools and universities and getting state workers to pay more for their health care.

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.

A Call For Immunization

Feb 8, 2018
Mary Cullen / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

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

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