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.

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.

Marco Verch / Flickr (BY-CC 2.0)

People in Illinois struggling to repay certain kinds of debt could get some relief under a new plan pending approval from Gov. J.B. Pritzker. 

The measure calls for lowering interest rates on outstanding consumer debt from 9 percent to 5 percent. It would also trim 10 years off the time a lender can pursue collection.

The legislation would only apply to consumer debt — that is, debt for personal, family or household expenses. It's also limited to debt under $25,000.

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.

Annie E. Casey Foundation

Looking at the well-being of Illinois’ children through a racial lens … shows big disparities, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual KIDS count report.

Racial disparities show up on measures of health, educational achievement, and economic well-being.

State Week logo
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Gov. J.B. Pritzker this week signed a bill to make what he and activists say is the most progressive abortion-rights law in the country. But could Democrats risk a backlash by going too far? And what are they targeting next?

Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the most comprehensive abortion law in the land.

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

Denise Rotheimer, who accused an Illinois state senator of sexual harassment at the start of the #Me-Too movement, now wants Gov. J.B. Pritzker to throw out part of an anti-harassment bill state lawmakers just passed.

Maureen McKinney / NPR Illinois

All Illinois employers would have to conduct sexual harassment training under sweeping legislation adopted in the waning days of the General Assembly. 

“This really deals with sexual harassment, discrimination, and equity issues affecting every worker in the state of Illinois,’’ said  Democratic state Senator Melinda Bush of Grayslake, who is sponsor of the bill, which would protect independent contractors under the Illinois Human Rights Act. “So it is, I would say, probably one of the biggest pieces of civil rights law we’ve had in years.”

Flickr (By CC-2.0)

Illinois has too few mental health providers to deal with demand, putting those who don't get care at risk.

Christopher Vine

The Illinois legislature last week approved a measure to have public schools include LGBTQ history in their curriculum. That news hit home with Callie Vine, who will attend Carbondale High School in the fall.

Callie, who's 14, is gender-nonconforming, which means she doesn’t fit into a set definition being of masculine of feminine. She made this bill the focus of her history fair project, and won the chance to compete at state.

Jeffrey Beall / FLICKR (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Gov.  J.B. Pritzker’s signature would ensure that single-occupancy public restrooms in Illinois will be gender neutral.

The bill was approved by the Senate in April and a few days ago by the House of Representatives.

Kim Hunt is executive director of the Pride Action Tank, which advocated for the measure.

“It brings me a great deal of joy that we live in a state where legislators get it, and that’s not the case in many others,’’ she said,

The measure will update the state’s plumbing code, which specifies that restrooms be labeled by specific gender.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

State Representative Kelly Cassidy said Thursday that she’s received a pledge from House Speaker Mike Madigan that her expansive abortion legislative will be heard.

That bill would lift provisions that would make performing abortions illegal if Roe. V. Wade is overturned. The bill would also require private insurers to cover abortion if they already cover pregnancy-related expenses.

Maureen McKinney / NPR Illinois

The Alabama legislature approved some of the most restrictive abortion rules in the country this week. A group of lawmakers wants to make Illinois the most progressive state.

Seventy-five women dressed in long red robes and white bonnets gathered at the capitol Wednesday. They represent characters from the dystopian Margaret Atwood novel and recent television series The Handmaid’s Tale.

Jeffrey Beall / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Illinois could become the third state in the nation to require that single restrooms in offices, restaurants and other public places be gender-neutral.

Similar laws are in place in California and Vermont.

Lark Mulligan

A group of eight Illinois transgender women with criminal records say a state law violates their First Amendment rights.  

Office of State Sen. Heather Steans

Illinois could become the first state in the Midwest to require public schools to teach LGBTQ history.

The plan calls for the contributions of LGBTQ people to be acknowledged in history courses and in textbooks purchased by public schools. The State House of Representatives approved the bill in March. The state Senate could consider it as early as this week.

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