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. 

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.

Erika Harold's and Kwame Raoul's campaigns

Erika Harold won the Republican nomination for Illinois attorney general, while state Sen. Kwame Raoul defeated a crowded race to win the Democratic nod. They'll face off in the general election in November.

Incumbent Attorney General Lisa Madigan set off a scramble last year when she made a surprise announcement she would not seek a fifth term. The race drew ten candidates in all.

With funding from the Republican Party and Governor Bruce Rauner, Harold beat former Burr Ridge mayor Gary Grasso, winning 60 percent of the vote.

Illinois statehouse with storm clouds in the background
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

As Illinois attempts to balance its books, it’s dipping into pots of money meant to help cities and towns pay for services. And local officials are looking for options.

One idea is to make it easier for smaller cities to gain home-rule status, which allows those towns to have more flexibility in how they operate. 

springfield.il.us

The Springfield City Council voted this week to raise the tax on landline phones and internet service, but rejected a second proposal to raise the sales tax. 

Money from the higher telecommunications rate will fund Lincoln Library, Springfield’s public library. The 6 percent rate, up from 4, could take effect July 1.

The hikes were part of a proposal from Mayor Jim Langfelder to plug a multimillion-dollar hole in the city’s budget for the fiscal year that starts March 1.

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois / 91.9 UIS

Candidates in the Illinois governor’s race blew through campaign contribution limits months ago, but recently a few state House races did too.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Part 2: Most of the radium-tainted earth from decades-old manufacturing in Ottawa has been removed, but one major site still needs cleanup.

Dylan Blake

During his first year in office, President Donald Trump has rescinded or repealed many of his predecessor’s policies aimed at curbing climate change and protecting the air and water from pollution.

Those rollbacks — along with funding cuts to state environmental protection agencies — have concerned Jennifer Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council (IEC).

“We’ve seen that whether it’s in Flint, Michigan, or… the lead in water in East Chicago, Indiana, these are issues states can’t necessarily deal with on their own,” Walling said. If Illinois were faced with an environmental crisis, it may not have the resources needed to address it.

Bill Meier / FLICKR / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Illinois coal mines lost 228 jobs in the last year, according to numbers from the federal agency that tracks mine safety. That’s fewer jobs than were shed in 2016, and production is up by around 11 percent in the state.

The trend is encouraging, said Phil Gonet, president of the Illinois Coal Association. He attributes the shift in part to President Donald Trump’s roll-back of the Clean Power Plan and other environmental regulations during his first year in office.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Illinois lawmakers ended the state budget impasse and made big changes to how the state pays for public schools. The state also wrestled with the debate over abortion and a nationwide rise in hate incidents.

Environmental groups in Illinois are renewing their push to stop fracking in Illinois before it starts. 

A derivative of photo by Erik Hersman, licensed under CC BY 2.0 / FLICKR

A recent federal appeals court decision struck down the requirement that minor parties offer a full-slate of candidates for statewide or countywide offices, while another court battle looms.

W. WADAS / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Springfield residents appreciate the city’s connection to the 16th U.S. president, but they hope to move beyond that, according to officials who developed a 20-year plan for the city.

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

Buying shoes, a new computer or even toilet paper online can be convenient and cheap, but officials in cities across central Illinois say it’s taking a bite out of their budgets.

UIS

The University of Illinois Springfield plans to establish a center to study President Abraham Lincoln and his continuing relevance.

The initiative is one of several priorities for a $40 million fundraising campaign the university launched Tuesday.

JEFF SHARP / FLICKR

Producing electricity at Springfield’s coal-fired power plant instead of buying it on the wholesale market cost customers $261 million over the last nine years, according to an analysis commissioned by the local chapter of the Sierra Club.

Bill Mathews / City Water, Light and Power

A  dozen linemen from Springfield’s City Water, Light and Power repaired electricity lines Thursday in the hurricane-damaged town of Lake Worth, Florida, about 60 miles north of Miami.

The crews arrived Tuesday to assist in restoring power to tens of thousands of residents after Hurricane Irma swept through the city.

“We kind of have to help each other out because you can’t staff enough workers for a storm like this,” said Bill Mathews, a CWLP supervisor. “Maybe we have an ice storm some time and they come up here and give us a hand.”

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