Sam Dunklau

Reporter

Sam is a general assignment reporter.  Previously, Sam was a Public Affairs Reporting intern for spring 2018, working at the NPR Illinois Statehouse bureau.

Since 2015, he's been floating around the radio airwaves as a reporter, disc jockey, and station manager.  A multimedia journalism degree from Augustana College now rests comfortably under his belt. 

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Springfield-based Land of Lincoln Goodwill is backpedaling on its recent decision to lay off a number of workers with disabilities. The move by CEO Sharon Durbin sparked broad criticism this week.

Last month, Durbin announced Goodwill would be laying off its workers with disabilities, saying it couldn’t afford to keep them due to the upcoming minimum wage hike. That’s despite the fact that Goodwill is legally allowed to pay those workers below the minimum wage. Durbin herself receives a six figure salary.

via Twitter

A hot and unusually wet summer has stretches of Illinois roads at the breaking point. Drivers are being warned to watch out for road buckling.


Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois 91.9 FM

Illinois farmers now have until July 15 to officially say they won’t be planting crops this year. A key deadline has been extended for claiming some types of crop insurance.

It's been one of the wettest springs in state history. Just last month alone, Illinois averaged more than five inches of rainfall, a whole inch above normal. It’s been so wet for so much of the planting season, farmers across the state haven’t had much of a chance to get their crops in the ground.

Sam Dunklau / NPR Illinois 91.9 FM

The Illinois State Armory is perhaps the largest state-owned building that no longer has a purpose. The 200,000-square foot behemoth was once a fixture of life and culture in downtown Springfield, and a central component to the State Capitol complex.

But, the more than 80 year-old building is a shell of what it once was. It’s fallen into disrepair.

That may soon change now that state lawmakers devoted $120 million from the latest infrastructure bill to fix up the place. 

Michael Kappel via Flikr / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/?ref=ccsearch&atype=rich

If you’re driving this holiday weekend, you’ll be paying more to fill up your tank in Illinois.  A 19 cent per gallon gas tax increase went into effect this week. But Governor J.B. Pritzker claims the money is an investment.


via Illinois CMS

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is rejecting a push to take on Chicago’s pension debt. But local pension costs are a growing problem across the state.

Inventorchris via Flickr / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/?ref=ccsearch&atype=rich

Illinois’ weed legalization law won’t take effect until next year, but the Illinois State Police is wasting no time. That agency is preparing to enforce new regulations surrounding legal cannabis.


Ratclimaa via Flickr / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

The age to buy tobacco products in Illinois will officially be raised from 18 to 21 next week. Supporters say the move is aimed at stopping young people from starting a bad habit.


via Twitter

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a law Tuesday legalizing recreational marijuana. That makes the state the 11th to approve recreational use.

Susana Mendoza
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Illinois lawmakers from both parties have been bragging about passing a balanced budget this year, but Comptroller Susana Mendoza says the state still needs to address more than $7 billion in unpaid bills.

Illinois is among the 45 states that celebrate Juneteenth today. The holiday recalls the day at the end of the Civil War when slaves in Texas were told they were free, and is the oldest known commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States.

Rebecca Anzel / Capitol News Illinois

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has signed a controversial bill expanding access to reproductive healthcare, including abortions. The move comes as several other states have all but banned the procedure.


Sam Dunklau / NPR Illinois 91.9 FM

Illinois Governor J-B Pritzker is starting to act on the flurry of bills sent to his desk in the wake of this year’s spring legislative session. Among the first that he’s signed requires schools to provide a minimum of five hours of learning time.


via Twitter

Illinois colleges and universities are set to receive more funding from the state now that lawmakers have approved a nearly $40 billion state budget. They’ll also be getting chunks of the $45 billion capital plan that will fund state construction projects over the next several years.

The University of Illinois at Springfield appears poised to benefit from both bills. Among other things, it’s expecting some $35 million dollars for a new library.

Reporter Sam Dunklau sat down with UIS Chancellor Susan Koch to talk details on the planned building, and how the University plans to move forward with more money to use.


Jacob Torres

Spring is back in Illinois, and soon comes April showers, May flowers, and of course the bees that help those flowers grow. In recent years though, bee populations have been dwindling for largely unexplained reasons. If the trend isn’t reversed, food supply chains across the country could suffer shortages.

But one graduate student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is out to stop that, by arming beekeepers and concerned citizens alike with data. 

Nicholas King / via Flikr

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker is asking state lawmakers to raise the tax on cigarettes, and begin taxing vaping products. It’s part of a plan he introduced last month to balance the state budget.


Caleb Froidcouer

A team of Illinois college students is trying to get to the bottom of bad recycling habits. Undergraduate students Caleb Froidcoeur and Marissa Jones headed up a waste management study based at the University of Illinois Springfield. It examined how the public interacted with bedazzled recycling bins. I spoke with them about the results.


Nearly 100 Illinois children who died within the last two years were involved with the state’s Department of Children and Family Services. That’s according to a recent Inspector General report

 

Lee Milner / Illinois Times

Mayor Jim Langfelder is facing challenger Frank Edwards in Springfield city elections this spring. The candidates met on Friday in the campaign’s first forum.


Sam Dunklau / NPR Illinois 91.9 FM

A group of Illinois state lawmakers is moving to limit the industrial use of a cancer-causing gas known as ethylene oxide.


via Think Big Illinois Facebook page

A new dark money group in Illinois says it plans to shed some light on what it's doing by voluntarily disclosing the names of its donors.


Lee Milner

President Abraham Lincoln would have celebrated his 210th birthday on Tuesday. Military veteran groups and politicians gathered in Springfield to mark the occasion and laid wreaths at the 16th President’s tomb.


via Think Big Illinois Facebook page

A new lobbying group says it plans to promote Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s agenda using secret money. It’s being run by a close Pritzker ally.


inhaling a cigarette
Julie via Flickr / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

For decades, public health advocates have pushed for limits on smoking. They've included warning labels on products to limits on where someone can light up, all of which have helped bring down smoking rates. But in Illinois, a push to raise the smoking age has repeatedly failed to become law. We took a look at this year's push, and what chance it has at becoming law.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

A state lawmaker has proposed a plan to use state funds to build a new higher education center in downtown Springfield.

State Senator Andy Manar (D, Bunker Hill) introduced legislation on Wednesday that calls for $50 million to build a campus and public affairs center. The proposed building would sit within a mile of Southern Illinois University's existing medical school.

401kcalculator.org via Flikr

A program designed to curb Illinois’ pension debt is now underway. Early numbers show more Illinois state employees than expected are choosing to take a pension buyout from the state.


via Blue Room Stream

Illinois firearms dealers will now have to have state licenses. That’s part of a package of changes Governor JB Pritzker signed into law on Thursday.


Illinois Department of Corrections

Before leaving office, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner granted a pardon to a man wrongly convicted of attempted murder. What makes this clemency unique is that man, Grover Thompson, is now deceased.


The Illinois General Assembly began a new legislative session Wednesday—with both new and familiar faces. Though the legislative leaders remain the same, making what was old “new” again,  Democrats have expanded their veto-proof majority, known as a “supermajority".

Sam Dunklau / NPR Illinois 91.9 FM

The new Illinois House of Representatives was sworn in Wednesday at a ceremony in Springfield, and longtime Speaker of the House Michael Madigan was elected to his 18th term in that post. But, one of the 74 newly sworn-in Democrats did not vote for Madigan.


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