Mary Hansen

Reporter

Mary reports for NPR Illinois and the Illinois Newsroom. She graduated from the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois Springfield, where she spent a legislative session covering statehouse news for The Daily Herald. Previously, Mary reported for The State Journal-Register, covering city government. She received her BA in International Studies from American University. 

springfield.il.us

After months of recounts and appeals, the decision of who should represent Springfield’s Ward 2 landed at the city council Tuesday. But council members could not reach agreement between Ald. Gail Simpson or Willie “Shawn” Gregory.

Much of the debate revolved around small initials election judges need to make on every ballot. On two contested ballots for Gregory – a judge had signed it, just not on the line where she was supposed to.

Retired Judge John Mehlick, who acted as hearing officer, recommended not counting them.

Rodney Davis
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

As President Donald Trump pushes for a question about citizenship on the census, a Republican Congressman from central Illinois is avoiding taking sides on the issue.

Republican Congressman Rodney Davis said he could go either way on whether U.S. residents are asked if they are citizens on the decennial survey.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

Gas prices in Illinois are creeping up as a 19-cent increase in the fuel tax took effect Monday.

The average price around Illinois for a gallon of gas rose slightly – from $2.79 to $2.84 between Sunday and Monday, according to gasbuddy.com - a crowdsourcing app. The consumer group AAA puts the average price around the state at nearly $3, up from $2.89 Monday.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on whether the Trump administration can add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. In Illinois, Governor J.B. Pritzker is moving ahead with plans to make sure everyone in the state is counted.

State of Illinois drawn on chalkboard
Carter Staley / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Illinois is investing tens of millions of dollars to make sure no one is missed in the 2020 census.

State lawmakers included $29 million in the budget. The majority of the money will go to community groups to educate the public on how the census works and how the government uses the information it collects, according to Sol Flores, a deputy governor leading the census efforts.

She said about 10 percent will be earmarked for radio, television and online ads encouraging census participation. And a small amount will go to the administration of the grants and ad campaign.

NPR Illinois 91.9 | UIS

Illinoisans are likely to have to pay more sales tax when shopping online after state lawmakers made two big changes to tax rules. State tax collections are expected to increase by $288 million this year.

First, marketplaces – think eBay or Etsy – will be required to collect the 6.25 percent state sales tax on behalf of third-parties selling to Illinois customers. Until this legislation, it’s been up to each seller to collect the tax. And, Rob Karr, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said many do not.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Sunday night, the Illinois General Assembly finished what by most accounts was a historic session.

From the legalization of marijuana to a massive expansion of gambling, lawmakers made significant changes to the state. We thought we’d listen back to some of the voices that made news in the last week of the 2019 legislative session.

HOUSE REPUBLICAN LEADER JIM DURKIN: “It's been a long year, we've had a lot of emotions that have gone on in this chamber.”

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois

Illinois lawmakers doubled the gas tax, raised vehicle registration fees and the tax on tobacco – all to gather money for a $45 billion statewide construction program.

Negotiations spilled into the weekend as an agreement on a gambling package – the primary funding mechanism for building improvements throughout the state – fell apart on Friday, the last day of the spring legislative session.

House Speaker Michael Madigan speaks to his colleagues and Gov. J.B. Pritzker on the last day of the 2019 legislative session
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Illinoisans will soon pay more for gasoline and cigarettes. Those are just two tax increases needed to pay for a $45 billion infrastructure plan, which includes money from sports betting and additional casinos.

Speaker Madigan watching a roll call on the electronic display board.
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

The usual May 31st deadline for the Illinois General Assembly passed last night, but lawmakers are not yet done with their work.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

Construction workers are building the foundation for new tracks at a train crossing south of downtown Springfield. The long-term plan includes new underpasses so cars won’t have to wait for trains.

Several months ago, Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder sent a letter to lawmakers asking for $127 million in a construction plan to pay for the next phase – new tracks and overpasses farther south.

Illinois Capitol Rotunda
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

The U.S. Census count is less than a year away, and the group tasked with making sure everyone is counted is asking state lawmakers for millions to help in that effort.

If the count on April 1, 2020 reveals that Illinois has lost another 45,000 residents, the state could lose two of its 18 congressional seats, according to an analysis from Election Data Services Inc., a political consulting firm.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Most of the electricity used in Springfield comes from the coal-fired power plant on Lake Springfield. The city's public utility, City Water, Light and Power, is considering a recommendation to shut down a large part of that plant and move to wind or solar.

Some CWLP workers are worried about their jobs in light of the study. Meanwhile, environmentalists who support the move away from fossil fuels have said the city can limit the impact on workers with retraining and other job opportunities.

Peter Gray / NPR Illinois

Drive down a major road or highway in Illinois and you’ll likely feel the bump of potholes. A report from TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based research group, put a number on what it costs drivers to travel these roads — $18.3 billion. That includes additional car repairs, time lost in traffic, and crashes caused by poor road conditions.

Lawmakers are using the new report to push for a multibillion-dollar infrastructure plan, paid for in part by a gas tax hike and higher vehicle and registration fees.

Alex Coleman / Illinois Newsroom

In one town in the Metro East, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, police are forcing landlords to evict tenants who have called for help during an overdose because they have heroin or other controlled substances in their rental property.

Kristin Walters

Illinois continues to lose residents, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau released in April. Overall, around 45,000 fewer people lived in the state in 2018 than 2017, a loss of about 0.4%.

About half of that decline is in the Chicago metropolitan region, particularly in Cook County, which saw a 0.5% decrease. The recent numbers show growth in the Chicago region has slowed, but long-term trends find that downstate is shrinking at a much faster and sustained pace.

“If we take that longer view, we’re actually seeing population growth centered up around Chicago,” said Cynthia Buckley, a professor of sociology and social demographer at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

David Sam, president of Elgin Community College, said Wednesday the school has received nearly $1 million in donated equipment to help train workers for manufacturing jobs. But there’s a problem – he doesn’t have the space on campus to put it.

“Most of us don’t even have the space to put the equipment so that we can train the much-needed individuals to serve the manufacturing community,” Sam said during a news conference at the statehouse. 

Gas station pump
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Former Republican congressman and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made a pitch Monday for Illinois to raise its gas tax.

The Peoria native told a panel of lawmakers he would champion the tax hike even though his fellow Republicans may be opposed.

“I remember the days like many of you do when Illinois was a great state, when we had great infrastructure, when we were able to attract business to our state,” said LaHood, who headed the U.S. Department of Transportation under former President Barack Obama. “That’s what we want to get back to.”

A bowl of sesame seeds
Flickr user: jacqueline CC BY-NC 2.0

Around 150,000 children have an allergy to sesame, a study from Northwestern University shows. A proposal at the Illinois Statehouse could help parents and children avoid foods with the ingredient.

State Rep. Jonathan Carroll’s eight-year-old daughter is among the kids with the food allergy. During a cooking demonstration at school, she started swelling up because of tahini – a sesame-based product. Luckily, she took an antihistamine before the reaction was too bad.

State Week logo (capitol dome)
Brian Mackey

Even though it’s the legislative spring break, there are several issues still to be negotiated, including a potential construction program funded with a gasoline tax, legalization of recreational marijuna, dealing with the state’s growing pension debt, and what to do about a declining population.

Gas station pump
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

While gas prices fluctuate, one charge at the pump has stayed the same since 1990. Illinoisans have paid the same gas tax – the charge per gallon the state collects. But that could soon change.

NPR Illinois

Fewer Springfield residents voted in Tuesday’s mayoral election than four years ago.

Around 25,000 voters cast ballots in Springfield’s mayoral race, which incumbent Jim Langfelder won, according to preliminary numbers from the Sangamon County Clerk’s office.

That’s around 2,000 fewer than voted in 2015, when he was first elected. Turnout was still around 35%.

Tom Holbrook – a political science professor at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee – studies turnout in municipal elections. He says that’s above the average of 25% among the cities he’s looked at.

Dana Vollmer / NPR Illinois

Springfield voters gave Mayor Jim Langfelder a second term Tuesday.

He won out over Frank Edwards, a former alderman and fire chief, getting around 58% of the vote.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

Tensions around racial inequality in Springfield flared at a candidate forum Wednesday night.

The candidates competing to represent some of the city’s oldest neighborhoods were asked at an event hosted by the State Journal-Register and 94.7 & 970 WMAY to react to an investigation into racial segregation in central Illinois.

A group of Southeast High School students participated in Illnois Public Media’s Civics Youth Engagement Summit in March. They came up with ten questions to ask.

Illinois Public Media emailed questionnaires to the candidates for city council. Below are the submitted responses from Ward 3 Ald. Doris Turner.

A group of Southeast High School students participated in Illnois Public Media’s Civics Youth Engagement Summit in March. They came up with ten questions to ask.

Illinois Public Media emailed questionnaires to the candidates for city council. Below are the submitted responses from Ward 10 candidate Rob Patino. Ward 10 Ald. Ralph Hanauer and candidate Olajide John Animasaun did not respond. 

A group of Southeast High School students participated in Illnois Public Media’s Civics Youth Engagement Summit in March. They came up with ten questions to ask.

Illinois Public Media emailed questionnaires to the candidates for city council. Below are the submitted responses from candidates for the Ward 8 seats, Erin Conley and Debra Kunkel. Candidate Dean Graven did not respon. 

A group of Southeast High School students participated in Illnois Public Media’s Civics Youth Engagement Summit in March. They came up with ten questions to ask.

Illinois Public Media emailed questionnaires to the candidates for city council. Below are the submitted responses from Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin. Candidate Brad Carlson did not respond.

This post may be updated.

A group of Southeast High School students participated in Illnois Public Media’s Civics Youth Engagement Summit in March. They came up with ten questions to ask.

Illinois Public Media emailed questionnaires to the candidates for city council. Below are the submitted responses from Ward 6 Ald. Kristin DiCenso. Candidate Elizabeth Jones did not respond. 

A group of Southeast High School students participated in Illnois Public Media’s Civics Youth Engagement Summit in March. They came up with ten questions to ask.

Illinois Public Media emailed questionnaires to the candidates for city council.

Below are the submitted responses from Ward 5 Ald. Andrew Proctor. Candidates Lakeisha Purchase and Sam Cahnman did not submit answers.

This post may be updated.

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