Maureen Foertsch McKinney

News Editor

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is the NPR Illinois News Editor and a lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers,  and is curator of the Equity blog. Maureen joined the staff in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Anti-Defamation League

Hate crimes rose by 30 percent in Illinois in 2018, according to a recently released FBI report.

A coalition of 26 advocacy organizations sent a letter to Gov. J.B. Pritzker this week asking him to order the Illinois Department of Corrections to immediately improve its treatment of a suicidal transgender inmate. 

Janiah Monroe, who is isolated in a medical unit, is in danger of committing suicide because of the departments’ refusal recognize her as a woman and its denial of her request to provide surgery to treat gender dysphoria, according to the letter. She's one of five transgender women who have a lawsuit pending against IDOC.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has a bill on his desk that would end the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for most non-moving violations, like unpaid parking tickets.

Cynthia Buckley and students / Univesity of Illinois Urbana Champaign

Nationwide, the abortion rate has been declining since the 1980s, but Illinois has recorded a smaller drop than our neighboring states.

Thomas Hawk via Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Amid a federal corruption probe, a suburban Chicago lawmaker wants to effectively ban red-light cameras.

The company SafeSpeed has contracts to provide red-light cameras to several Chicago suburbs. And it's reportedly part of a federal investigation driving raids on several suburban municipal offices and on the offices and home of state Sen. Martin Sandoval. Late last week the Chicago Democrat resigned his powerful position as head of the Senate Transportation Committee.

ACLU of Illinois

The Illinois Human Rights Commission, in the first case of its kind in the state, ordered a Chicago area school district to give a transgender student access to a communal boys’ restroom.

In 2015, the Komarek School in suburban North Riverside refused to let a now-12-year-old use the communal boys’ restroom, forcing him to use the male staff members’ bathroom.

The Human Rights commission ruled that was discrimination based on gender-related identity.

Plannned Parenthood

*The city of Fairview Heights in southwestern Illinois has drawn national attention for the stealthily built Planned Parenthood Clinic that will open there later this month.

The 18,000-square-foot clinic will dwarf another one that  Planned Parenthood already operates in Fairview Heights, about a dozen miles from downtown St. Louis.  That site only provides medication abortions and other medical treatments.

Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority

An Illinois agency is conducting a survey to gauge violent crime against LGBTQ  individuals.

The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority points out research has shown a higher incidence of violence against those who identify as LGBTQ.  That’s according to the agency’s Jaclyn Houston Kolnik. Twenty percent of hate crimes reported in 2015 were related to sexual orientation or gender-identity bias.

Maureen McKinney / NPR Illinois

An Illinois lawmaker has filed legislation that would prohibit the state from requiring employees to travel to any state that has enacted tight abortion restrictions.

State Rep. Daniel Didech, a Buffalo Grove Democrat, says his bill covers states with laws aimed to restrict abortions within eight weeks of pregnancy or laws that could trigger a criminal investigation if a woman miscarries, as some have interpreted a Georgia measure to do.

Chicago Tonight

Illinois' Legislative Inspector General says a former aide to House Speaker Michael Madigan sexually harassed a subordinate, Alaina Hampton.

Inspector General Carol Pope’s report says Kevin Quinn harassed Hampton, relentlessly pursuing a relationship over her objections. Pope says that harassment created “an intimidating, hostile, and offensive working environment.”

In a letter, Quinn accepted responsibility for his actions and apologized to Hampton.

Heartland Alliance Social Impact Research Center / Heart

Though the U.S. poverty rate has dropped to the pre-recession level, Illinois has not yet reached that target.

Voices for Illinois Children

Nearly 90 percent of the children living in concentrated poverty in Illinois are nonwhite, according to a recent report by a child advocacy group. 

Concentrated poverty by the definition of the Annie E. Casey Foundation is when 30 percent or more of the population in a neighborhood is impoverished. The Foundation’s report was released this week.  

It shows there are about 300,000 children living in concentrated poverty in Illinois.

State Week logo (capitol dome)
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

A new report raises questions about the future profitability of casino gambling, one of the first people to say #MeToo in the context of Illinois politics is still looking for work, and the Illinois State Fair's claim of record revenue is not the whole story.

Chicago Tonight

The woman who blew the whistle on Michael Madigan's silence in her #MeToo case is still searching for a job and closure.

office of state Rep. Daniel Didech

A new law will ensure individuals who are LBGTQ cannot be barred from serving on juries because of their sexual orientation.

Jemiyah Beard is the owner of Mary's Master Cleaning Serivices in Champaign.
Christopher Fuller Photography

A recent report illustrates just how much harder it is for people who aren’t white to get small-business loans.

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday signed a sweeping anti-sexual harassment law. But one woman who accused a lawmaker of harassment is disappointed with an aspect of the new rules.

Denise Rotheimer says she objects to part of the new law that levies a fine of $5,000 on accusers for leaking information from an inspector general  report's release.

Keith Cooper / Flickr (BY-CC 2.0)

A Chicago-based think tank on Tuesday called for a federal investigation into racial disparity in small-business lending.

Banks in Illinois, and the nation as a whole, are more likely to lend to white-owned small businesses as opposed to their minority counterparts to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Illinois Senate

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed a law intended to prevent discrimination against living organ donors. It will apply to employers and insurance companies.

Megan Craig said she made the best decision of her life at age 25. That’s when she donated a kidney to 20-month-old Evan Simms. Eight years later, Simms is alive and well and resides in South Wilmington. And Craig works at the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois.

Emily French

An inmate’s complaint about an Illinois prison’s refusal to let her breastfeed has led to a system-wide policy change at the Illinois Department of Corrections

Emily French said she tried to breastfeed her newborn son Elijah but guards at Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln ordered her to stop, citing Department of Corrections’ rules.

“We offered to use a blanket to cover and they said no. So, it was, it was uncomfortable. I felt guilty that I couldn't do anything about it.”

Country Financial

A law recently signed by Governor J.B Pritzker requires that all single-use public restroom signs make no reference to gender. But one brew pub owner has a problem with the signage he’ll have to replace in his establishment. 

At Buzz Bomb Brewing Company in Springfield, one set of restrooms has stick figure silhouette signage - - one with in a skirt, the other without.

Marco Verch / Flickr (BY-CC 2.0)

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday signed into law a debt collection reform package.

The measure calls for lowering interest rates on outstanding consumer debt from 9 percent to 5 percent. It would also trim about a decade off the time a lender can pursue collection.

The legislation would apply to consumer debt under $25,000 for things such as car loans or medical bills. That’s for debts that have had a court judgment.

Office of state Rep. Lamont Robinson Jr.

The rates of HIV infection in Illinois are decreasing among adults, but are climbing among people ages 13 to 24, especially youth of color. So, advocates want to encourage young people to use a preventative medication.

Chicago Democratic Representative Lamont Robinson Jr. sponsored legislation that would give people as young as 12 years old access to the HIV prevention drug called PREP — without requiring permission from a parent or guardian. The once-a-day pill can effectively prevent the disease if taken properly.

Mike Mozart / Flickr (BY-CC 2.0)

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation that will allow some Supplement Nutrion Assistance Program (SNAP) - formerly known as food stamps - recipients to use benefits at restaurants.

The program will be offered to people who are elderly, homeless or have a disability. 

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

The federal government plans to cut funding to clinics that provide abortion referrals. But in Illinois, any clinics that lose that funding can get grants from the state. 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the plan Thursday, saying it amounts to about $2.4 million for 28 clinics throughout the state. Those clinics normally receive federal Title X grants, which cover services like family-planning and HIV screening for low-income, under-insured and uninsured women.

Mark Schultz / Illinois Public Media

White extremist propaganda surged by almost 60 percent on Midwestern college campuses last academic year. That’s according to a new report from the Anti-Defamation League.

Heartland Alliance Social Impact Research Center

More counties appear on an anti-poverty group’s watch and warning lists this year than last.

Of the state’s 102 counties, 67 are on a watch list — or more serious warning list — created by the research arm of the Heartland Alliance, which works on social issues in areas that include poverty. That’s up from 52 last year.

This year, 14 counties throughout the state made the severe warning list.

The state of Illinois  is expected to hire more than 300 training and technical  staff members in an attempt to bring down a backlog of unprocessed Medicaid applications.

The  General Assembly also approved a bill this spring aimed at addressing problems with the Medicaid program. Those include a high denial rate cited by providers and the application processing backlog – which has reached over 100,000.  

Wheeler Cowperthwaite / Flickr (BY-CC 2.0)

Opioid use is on the rise in Illinois. In response, the General Assembly adopted a plan to create a statewide needle exchange.

The measure calls for a  new community-based needle exchange programs, which the Illinois Department of Public Health would have to sanction.

College of DuPage

Legislation adopted this spring aims to chip away at the growing problem of college student hunger in Illinois.

Under that measure, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission could soon have to notify students of their eligibility for food assistance.

The measure would target people eligible for the Monetary Assistance Program, which provides grants for lower-income students.

They would have to be told they might be eligible for the food aid  know as  SNAP — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

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