Statehouse

Hannah Meisel/NPR Illinois

Former State Sen. Marty Sandoval (D-Chicago) died Saturday after a battle with COVID-19, nearly a year after resigning from the legislature amidst an ongoing federal corruption probe involving Democratic politicians and other power brokers from Chicago’s City Hall to Springfield.

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Brian Mackey

This week, investigations began into the deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the La Salle Veterans' Home investigation, while Michael Madigan continued to lose support for his role as House Speaker in his own caucus amid the ComEd bribery scandal.

Rachel Hinton of the Chicago Sun-Times joins the panel.

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The Illinois Senate Democrats will keep their new leader in the new year. Don Harmon of Oak Park became Senate President earlier this year when former President John Cullerton retired.

Harmon’s caucus supported him during a private meeting Thursday.  

The Senate Democrats saw a drawn-out internal battle to replace Cullerton, but ultimately Harmon was elected. Since then, however, the caucus seems to have united behind him. There has been more churn in other caucuses.

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Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Hospital beds across the state continue to fill with COVID-19 patients, and an investigation has been announced to look into the deadly breakout in the LaSalle Veterans' Home.  Michael Madigan says he has no intention of stepping down as House Speaker, although he may not have the votes needed to keep that position the next time the Legislature meets.

WBEZ's Dave McKinney joins the panel this week.

Brian Mackey

Illinois will borrow $2 billion more from the Federal Reserve to pay bills associated with COVID-19, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday.

Hannah Meisel/NPR Illinois

Longtime Illinois Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) says has no intention of stepping down — even after a federal indictment this week nabbed four people alleged to have orchestrated a bribery scheme for Madigan’s benefit.

This week, a Michael Madigan confidant and three others were indicted in an alleged bribery scheme that prosecutors say also involved the powerful House Speaker, known as Public Official A in federal documents. 

Madigan again denied he's done anything wrong and he's not been charged.  But more House Democrats have publicly pulled their support for him, making it seem less likely he can win another term in the leadership post in January.  There have also been calls for him to resign as the state's Democratic Party Chairman. 

Our panel discusses Madigan's future and whether his long tenure in politics is about to end.  

Hannah Meisel/NPR Illinois

Gov. JB Pritzker on Thursday called on longtime House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) to resign from his speakership if he could not explain his knowledge of or role in a years-long bribery scheme allegedly orchestrated by lobbyists and officials of electric giant Commonwealth Edison in an attempt to curry favor with Madigan.

Brian Mackey/NPR Illinois

A longtime confidante of House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) was charged along with two other former Commonwealth Edison lobbyists and the CEO of ComEd’s parent company in a nine-count indictment Wednesday, alleging the four conspired on a wide-ranging bribery scheme all designed to influence the powerful House Speaker.

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Brian Mackey

This week, Governor J.B. Pritzker admonished Illinoisans who continue to flout COVID-19 mitigation measures and warned that he soon may have no choice but to order another stay-at-home directive.  Meanwhile, the Pritzker administration is left with a huge budget problem to deal with, especially with the failure of the governor's proposed graduated income tax amendment.

Dan Vock, reporter and author of the States of Crisis newsletter, joins the panel.
 

Hannah Meisel/NPR Illinois

Citing a sharp uptick in Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations across Illinois, Democratic leaders of the Illinois General Assembly canceled their planned two weeks of Veto Session late Tuesday afternoon, just hours after Gov. JB Pritzker said scrapping session while the state is in dire fiscal straits “would be disappointing.”

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Brian Mackey

The election saw disappointing results for Democrats at the state level, especially the failure of Governor J.B. Pritzker's proposed change to a graduated income tax.  And House Speaker Michael Madigan is under increasing pressure to step down as head of the state Democratic party.

The State Journal-Register's Bernie Schoenburg joins the panel.

Hannah Meisel/NPR Illinois

Illinois voters rejected Gov. JB Pritzker’s signature plan to change Illinois’ flat-rate income tax system to a graduated income tax on Tuesday, delivering a major blow to the first-term Democrat as vote totals showed an insurmountable lead in "no" votes Wednesday, even with up to 400,000 mail-in ballots still left to be counted in Illinois.

 

After spending nearly four years pushing for the issue first as a candidate and then as governor — and spending millions of his own wealth — Pritzker is left with few options to with another difficult budget year looming and the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying recession nowhere near over.

In the dueling campaigns for and against Gov. JB Pritzker’s signature plan to implement a graduated income tax structure in Illinois are the echoes of past attempts at tax reform. 

 

The players have changed and the policy proposals are different, but what remains constant are both Illinois’ underlying structural revenue imbalance and the element of mistrust of Springfield politicians.

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Brian Mackey

This week saw a continued rapid rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations around the state, and ten out of the eleven regions in the Restore Illinois Plan will be under stronger mitigation measures by the end of the weekend.  There has been a record volume of early voting and voting by mail in the state ahead of Tuesday's election, and many eyes are watching Democratic Illinois Supreme Court Justice Tom Kilbride’s bid to retain his seat.

Ray Long of the Chicago Tribune joins the panel.

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Brian Mackey/NPR Illinois

Seven months after Congress passed a $2 trillion stimulus package in the early days of the Coronavirus pandemic, local governments in Illinois are still fighting Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration over approximately $150 million meant for municipalities. 

The Illinois Municipal League, which lobbies on behalf of cities and towns in Illinois, already won a fight with Pritzker’s administration this summer over whether municipalities would be able to spend their share of CARES Act money on small grants for businesses in their communities. 

Screengrab via Facebook

Local State Rep. Tim Butler (R-Springfield) tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, he announced on social media.

 

Butler said he was quarantining in the basement at his Springfield home and was unsure where he contracted the virus.

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Brian Mackey

This week, the rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations prompted Governor J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health to impose increased mitigation measures in regions around the state.  State officials also revealed their plans for distributing a vaccine when one becomes available.  The election is just over a week away, and the ballot referendum on moving the state to a graduated income tax continues to be a focus of attention.

NPR Illinois file photograph / NPR Illinois

The campaign over Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposal to impose a graduated income tax has focused mainly on who would pay higher taxes. But perhaps just as important is the question of how that money would be used.

A sign in the Sangamon County building directing voters.
Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

With three weeks to go until Election Day, more than 526,000 Illinois voters have already cast their ballots, according to data from the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Illinois Solar Tour

Clean energy advocates are crying foul after Ameren Illinois ended its solar credit program for new solar customers earlier this month, even after state regulators urged the company to hold off. 

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Brian Mackey

This week, Illinois Republicans expressed outrage at the decision to put an Illinois House committee investigating House Speaker Michael Madigan on hold until after the November elections.  Meanwhile, the public's vote on Governor J.B. Pritzker's proposal to move Illinois to a graduated income tax draws nearer, and this week the governor  released his proposals for criminal justice reform.

A.D. Quig  of Crane's Chicago Business joins the panel.

Illinois Legislative Black Caucus

Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford says she plans to reintroduce legislation that would lower the Illinois' compulsory kindergarten starting age from 6 years old to 5. 

Lightford, a Maywood Democrat, successfully pushed to lower the start for kindergarten from the age of 7 years old to 6, which took effect in the 2014-15 school year. Last year, the state Senate passed legislation to drop the compulsory age further, but the measure failed to get out of the House.

Hannah Meisel/NPR Illinois

The libertarian-leaning Illinois Policy Institute on Monday filed suit in an effort to derail Gov. JB Pritzker’s signature policy proposal — changing Illinois’ constitution to allow for a graduated income tax — by forcing the state to issue “corrective notices” about the intent of the tax change, or declaring the vote on the amendment “void.”

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Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Questions about the connection between Democratic Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and a bribery scheme by energy giant Commonwealth Edison continues to create problems for the Speaker.  Republicans claim a House investigative committee is protecting Madigan, and representative Stephanie Kifowit announced she intends to challenge his position as the leader of the chamber.

The Chicago Sun Times' Rachel Hinton joins the panel.

Illinois State Board of Elections
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

A Lake County power couple has allegedly been breaking state campaign finance laws for years, allowing the pair — who sit on the Lake County Board and Lake Forest City Council — to take in more campaign contributions than legally allowed, including from Republican mega donors Dick and Liz Uihlein.

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Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

This week, Governor Pritzker's administration warned that if its proposed graduated income tax vote fails, income taxes on everyone in the state will have to be raised.  Also, with the continuing extensions of the statewide eviction moratorium, landlords are facing problems paying their mortgages.

WBEZ's Michael Puente and reporter Hannah Meisel join the panel.

Illinois House Democrats on Monday accused State Rep. Amy Grant (R-Wheaton) of making racist and homophobic statements during a phone call with a purported GOP donor.

The phone call, which was recorded, included instances of Grant mentioning her opponent Ken Mejia-Beal's race and sexuality. Mejia Beal, of Lisle, is Black and openly gay. 

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Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

This week, Governor J.B. Pritzker told state government agencies to prepare for across the board budget cuts.  The Big Ten sports conference declared that they will hold games this fall, putting pressure on Governor Pritzker to allow all Illinois students to play.

WBEZ's Kate McGee and WSIU's Jennifer Fuller join the panel.

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Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

This week, a special Illinois House committee began investigating House Speaker Madigan’s alleged role in a decade-long bribery scheme involving Commonwealth Edison.  Meanwhile, Senate President Don Harmon's office was subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney.  And billionaire Ken Griffin is spending money to fight the proposed graduated income tax amendment.

The Chicago Tribune's Jaime Munks and Professor of State Politics at the University of Illinois at Chicago Chris Mooney join the panel.

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