Illinois Issues

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Reporting and analysis taking you beyond the daily news and providing a deeper understanding of our state. 

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Carly Hagins / Flickr (BY-NC 4.0)

As national debate on government-mandated paid family leave continues, lawmakers in Illinois say they want it enacted here.

An 1859 illustration of John A. Logan.
Gillam Bernhard / Library of Congress

One was sold away from her children. Another was freed and became a businessman. Others were freed only to be kidnapped and sold back into slavery. These are just a few stories of people who were enslaved in Illinois.

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Documents illustrate what happens when a student is put in an isolation room.

The Illinois State Capitol circa 1860
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library

Last weekend, lawmakers elected Don Harmon to be president of the Illinois Senate. It’s been described as a bitter fight, but it has nothing on some of the conflicts from Illinois’ past, including one particularly “discreditable row” from the year 1857.

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

Tuesday marks one year since J.B. Pritzker was sworn in as governor of Illinois. Since then, the state has raised its minimum wage, legalized marijuana, and passed several other pieces of legislation long sought by Democrats.

Pritzker marked the occasion with a series of interviews, including with our Statehouse reporter.

Courtesy of Alexis Mansfield

Advocates have ideas being hashed out by a state task force.

Attorney Alexis Mansfield said her clients have told her troubling stories of what happens when small children reach the glass in a jail that separates them from a parent.

Illinois Department of Corrections

A pair of laws recently enacted  in Illinois were designed to take into account how children are affected by their parents' incarceration and to find ways to address their needs.

Rick Proctor / Upsplash

Buying and using marijuana will be legal in Illinois as of January 1. We asked top state experts what that does and doesn’t mean, and compiled their answers in this Q&A.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Many cities across Illinois are struggling to meet required police and fire pension payments. In Springfield, every dollar homeowners pay in real estate taxes goes right back out to cover that cost. Next year, as payments grow, the city needs to come up with an additional $1.5 million dollars.

Courtesy of Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library

2020 is the 75th anniversary of America dropping atomic bombs on Japan to end World War II. Without Illinois, there wouldn’t have been nuclear medicine, nuclear power or nuclear weapons.

Sandbagging the Bulkheads (mural study, Cairo, Illinois Post Office) by Wendell Jones
Wendell Jones / Smithsonian American Art Museum

Would you say that most people can be trusted, or that you can’t be too careful? An NPR Illinois survey shows Illinoisans are divided on the question — though not in the usual ways of politics. This week, we look at the issue of trust, and why it matters for democracy.

Rodney Davis speaking at the Illinois State Fair in August 2019
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

With the impeachment investigation moving into a more public phase this week, members of Congress are calibrating their responses.

Rodney Davis’ 13th District includes wide swaths of rural, central Illinois, where President Trump is popular. But is also includes college towns filled with Democratic voters, and Davis was re-elected by a slim margin last year.

It’s against that backdrop that Davis has traveled from being a Trump objector — to a Trump supporter.

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

Gambling has expanded throughout Illinois as the state struggles to catch up with its budget deficit. The lure of additional revenue brought support from local governments, businesses and unions. But not everyone is a fan, as some argue it takes advantage of the vulnerable among us.

One woman has spent the last two decades fighting against state-sanctioned gambling.

The Illinois State Board of Education yesterday released its new report card. That name makes it sound like gives schools a grade, which it does. But there’s much more to it than that. Here are five things you need to know about the Illinois Report Card:  

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.

Rod Waddington via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Illinois residents across the state, and across party lines, largely support more gun regulations. That’s according to the results of an NPR Illinois - University of Illinois Springfield survey. We took a look at the new data and explored what might be behind the numbers.


Gov. Pritzker speaks at a Democratic candidate forum
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

A majority of Illinoisans think the state is on the wrong track and have a dim view of the economy, but the pessimism doesn’t seem to be affecting Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s job approval.

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.

Charlie Wheeler in the Speaker's Gallery of the Illinois House of Representatives in 2019.
Clay Stalter / UIS Campus Relations

Charlie Wheeler has been covering Illinois government for 50 years. As he retires from leading the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois Springfield, he reflects on the decline of the Statehouse press corps, the threat that poses to democracy, and the rays of hope in non-profit news.

TIF: The Swiss-Army Knife Development Tool

Sep 5, 2019

Analysis: University of Illinois Springfield Distinguished Public Finance Professor Kenneth Kriz co-edited a book that documents the evolution of tax increment financing, an economic and community development method widely used across the country, including in Illinois, which has more than 1,400 TIF districts in over 500 municipalities. 

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.

Benjy Jeffords / WSIU/NPR Illinois

One southern Illinois community gathers forces together to prepare for the count.

Cornell Tech
Lindsay France / Cornell University

Most press conferences don’t provide breakfast pastries. But in mid-May, when the University of Illinois announced that every public four-year college in the state had signed on to its Innovation Network, the event was staged with some extra sizzle. Along with muffins, coffee and juice, there was a line-up of college presidents and chancellors, plus Springfield mayor Jim Langfelder, flanked by a big banner showing 15 stars strewn across the state of Illinois.

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

Unlike other rural towns in central Illinois, officials in Beardstown say their population is growing. And they want to make sure everyone is counted in the 2020 census. 

For this week’s Illinois Issues, we look at the challenges to an accurate count and what’s at risk if not everyone participates.

Dr. Partha Sarathi Sahana / via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Kids across Illinois will be heading to school next month. For parents, that means checking off supply lists, calming those first day jitters, and even getting their kids vaccinated. Not everyone believes in that last one, which is why states like Illinois offer families exemptions for religious reasons.

Kaskaskia: The Lost Capital of Illinois

Jul 18, 2019
Southern Illinois University Press

The authors have taken a fresh look at the story of Illinois’ first capital city in a new book published by Southern Illinois University Press called “Kaskaskia: The Lost Capital of Illinois.” They’ve put together what they say is a comprehensive account of the town, complete with historical photos, maps, and even tales of a centuries-old curse. 

satellite image of Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois, cut into puzzle pieces with a few missing
Photo: Apple Maps / Illustration: Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

After decades of growth, the number of men and women in the Illinois prison system has declined sharply in the last several years. A complex blend of decisions is behind the drop — ranging from the highest reaches of power in the General Assembly down to individual police on the beat.

decades of budget books line the shelves in the LEgislative Reference Bureau's library in the Illinois state Capitol
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

When lawmakers made performance-based budgeting the law in Illinois, they promised it would transform the way the state spends money. But after years of failing to invest in the program, backers say Illinois is finally getting serious about Budgeting for Results.

The state of Illinois has a problem with its prison boot camps: too many empty beds.

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

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