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New Illinois Laws in 2019

Jan 1, 2019
Meagan Davis / Flickr

State lawmakers approved hundreds of changes that are now Illinois law.

Guns, hemp, and stalking are among the themes of the more than 250 new Illinois laws signed by Governor Bruce Rauner that took effect on New Year’s Day.

We took a look at some of the biggest changes to come out of Springfield in the past year, and how they'll affect life in the Prairie State in 2019.

  

Dana Heupel, who oversaw Illinois Issues for seven years, passed away Wednesday at his home in Springfield. He is being remembered for his professionalism, journalistic skills and kind nature.

Jennie Hodgers AKA Albert Cashier served in the Company G of the 95th Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry, which fought at Vicksburg.
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

An Illinois woman posed as a man and served in the infantry during the Civil War. Was she transgender?

adapted photo from Heath Alseike/flickr

With growing support among politicians and the public, Illinois could likely legalize recreational marijuana as soon as next year. But, passing legislation may hinge on where the revenue will go. 

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

Two small towns in rural Illinois recently lost their Walmart stores -- more than three decades after the retail giant came in and pushed out mom and pop shops. Now, the communities have lost convenience as well as major property and sales tax revenue. Some see it as an opportunity to revitalize main street, while others are not so optimistic.

Blagojevich mugshot with wiretap waveform
Brian Mackey (illustration) / U.S. Government (photo)

News Analysis — This coming Sunday, December 9, marks the 10th anniversary of the day the FBI arrested Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

The event led to his impeachment, criminal conviction and a 14-year prison sentence. There were also changes in state ethics laws.

But there are those who say the corruption was not the worst part of the Blagojevich administration — and I am among them. I'll make that argument in this week's Illinois Issues in-depth report.

The first Illinois capitol at Kaskaskia.
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Archives

Prairie politicians didn't let challenges, like rules, get in their way, historians say.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Commentary: Trying to impose his will rather than seeking compromise and calling counterparts corrupt got the one-term politician nowhere.

Like an actor in a Greek drama or a Shakespearean character, Gov. Bruce Rauner will leave office as a tragic figure, felled by his overriding hubris -- excessive pride or self-confidence, arrogance -- that led to his political downfall.

Why Is Deerfield (Still) So White?

Nov 15, 2018
Art Shay / @Art Shay Archive, 2018

Commentary: A North Shore suburban native reflects on the community's troubled racial history.

J.B. Pritzker for Governor

Former and outgoing Illinois leaders offer suggestions for the man going to the mansion. 

Third Parties: If Not Now - When?

Oct 31, 2018
Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois

In an especially contentious election year, there are a couple alternatives to the major party candidates in the race for Illinois governor. But, even some backers of third parties say they aren’t great options either, though that’s not where they want the story to end.

Pritzker - Rauner
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

The upcoming general election will decide whether Republican Bruce Rauner gets another term as Illinois governor or if the voters will choose to go with Democrat J.B. Pritzker.

But there’s one outcome of the election we already know for certain: Illinois will continue its experiment with amateur politicians running state government.

Question cards form Illinois Issues Forums
Sean Crawford / NPR Illinois

A statewide series of forums this year found plenty of concern about the direction Illinois is heading.  But we also found work is being done at the local level to solve some of the problems.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Archives

Voters this fall are choosing who will occupy the state’s two financial offices: treasurer and comptroller. Even during campaigns, these positions rarely get much attention. In fact, their very existence usually comes into question in proposals to merge the offices into one. Years ago, one person was in charge.

It all changed after a massive scandal filled with fast moves, fancy cars and fraud tarnished state government moneyhandling forever.


Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

Secretary of State Jesse White  has held the elected office nearly two decades. This year, his Republican opponent is questioning whether White will be able to serve out another four-year term if elected.

Sad Piggy Bank
Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

While debating, candidates offered no concrete suggestions for addressing fiscal problems but possibilities exist.

In today's fevered political climate, is it possible to have a serious discussion about possible ways to address the fiscal problems Illinois faces?

Not very likely, if one judges by the first debate among incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and his three challengers, Democrat J.B. Pritzker, Conservative candidate/Republican Sen. Sam McCann, and Libertarian Grayson "Kash" Jackson.

Pritzker and Rauner headshots
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

The 2018 Illinois Issues Survey produced by the UIS Center for State Policy & Leadership's Survey Research Office and NPR Illinois shows dissatisfaction with state government, as nearly 3 out of 4 respondents feel the state is on the wrong track.  That sentiment appears to be impacting the race for governor.

Mae Benjamins daughter Melody works as Maes personal health care assistant.
COURTESY OF MELODY BENJAMIN

Some experts say black women may bear the brunt if union membership declines or financial support lessens as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, which decreed that public sector unions can no longer force workers they represent to pay fees in lieu of union dues. But conservative groups say the cost is justified to protect workers' free speech rights. 

Yolanda Harrington walks one of her students into Barkstall Elementary in Champaign. Harrington, who had dreams of becoming a teacher, makes $18 an hour and works a second job. She has been a paraprofessional for 19 years.
Courtesy of the Student's Family

Like most states, Illinois is struggling with a severe teacher shortage. And, also like most states, that shortage is felt most profoundly in the area of special education. There is, however, an army of teacher assistants already on the job. Could they help relieve this shortage?

Audeince in ballroom at forum.
Randy Eccles / NPR Illinois

Economic growth, a changing workforce, and new innovations were discussed at the forum in Champaign. 


PHOTOS COURTESY OF CANDIDATES' CAMPAIGNS

Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan's decision to not seek re-election after over 15 years in office drew a plethora of candidates to the ballot. The last three standing, Republican nominee Erika Harold, Democratic candidate Kwame Raoul and Libertarian Bubba Harsy, continue to battle it out with just nine weeks until the general election.

What is the lasting impact of the budget impasse on higher education? 

shape of Illinois in coins
Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

When it comes to state spending, Illinois politicians are giving voters what they want. That’s the problem.

Are Illinois residents able to readily and fairly access healthcare and education? Is there equal opportunity for economic growth?

Explore these topics and more with NPR Illinois at the Election 2018: Seeking Solutions Forum in Carbondale, Illinois at The Varsity Center. The forum is August 30th with light refreshments being served at 5:30 PM and the discussion beginning at 6.

The panelists will be answering questions from the moderator and from the audience during the one-hour question and answer forum. 

Forum organizers on stage for photo
Lizzie Roehrs / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

Panelists in Rockford discuss the challenges faced by small businesses - including economic growth and workforce needs. 

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, John Lucas and his granddaughter, McKenna, bet on Saber Rattler at the Fairmount Park Racetrack in Collinsville.

"If she wins this, it'll be the third race in a row she's won," says Lucas as they watch the horses round the final stretch of the track. Saber Rattler came in second.

Lucas has been visiting the track outside of St. Louis a few times a year since the 1980s, traveling across the Illinois border from O'Fallon, Missouri.

Lucas has noticed the steady downturn in fortunes for the track.

Panelists in Alton, Illinois discussed why Illinois residents may be looking to move to bordering states. 

Questions from the audience ranged from recreational cannabis to property taxes. 

NPR Illinois news director Sean Crawford moderated a panel including:

  • Nathan Grimm, managing editor of the Alton Telegraph
  • Sara McGibany, executive director of Alton Main Street and board member of Senior Services Plus
  • Susie Harris, East Alton regional director of Caritas Family Solutions

This forum series is sponsored by AARP. 

Lance Cpl. Damany S. Coleman / Released by the United States Marine Corps [Public Domain]

Once considered the new frontier of drugs and drug trafficking, synthetic cannabinoids have been around for years now and they’re becoming increasingly dangerous. More recently, authorities say dozens of overdoses in Connecticut occurred due to a drug called K-2 that was possibly laced with fentanyl.  

Annabelle Shemer, Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Advocates say increasing access to hormonal contraceptives could help reduce unplanned pregnancies. One legislative proposal considered earlier this year aims to do just that by allowing patients to skip a physician's visit and head straight to a pharmacist. But it is having trouble catching on in Illinois.

Community member comments.
Lizzie Roehrs / NPR Illinois

Panelists in Moline joined NPR Illinois for the Seeking Solutions forum exploring the issue of residents leaving the state to move elsewhere.

Panelists:

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