Illinois Legislature

Justin Fowler / ILCA Photo pool

COVID-19 was both in the forefront and in the background during the abbreviated spring legislative session that Illinois lawmakers wrapped over the weekend. It was the focus of both the legislation and the politics in Springfield.

State Week logo
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Governor J.B. Pritzker is extending his “Stay-at-Home” order for another month in the face of lawsuits and complaints that he has exceeded his authority.  Joining the panel this week is Greg Hinz, a columnist writing about government and politics for Crain’s Chicago Business.

The panel talks about the legal challenges to the governor's order, when and how the Illinois legislature might reconvene and a big borrowing package being pushed by the Pritzker Administration.

State Week logo (capitol dome)
Brian Mackey

Note: The show was taped during the noon hour on Friday, while debate and negotiations at the Statehouse were still ongoing.

On the final day of the Regular Legislative Session, lawmakers continued to work on finalizing the state budget, along with votes still to come on a constitutional amendment to switch Illinois to a graduated income tax, legalization of marijuana, expansion of gambling, and abortion legislation.  WTTW's Amanda Vinicky joins the panel.

State Rep. David McSweeney at podium
Amanda Vinicky / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

Two new proposals at the Illinois statehouse aim to hold lawmakers and other government officials accountable in cases of harassment or discrimination.


Commentary: Expanded economic interest disclosures would lead to more accountability

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

Sexual harassment at the Capitol, workers' rights and student loans — a look at recent action in the state legislature.

Red light camera at intersection
Derek Jensen / Wikimedia Commons

If there’s anything in Illinois with a lower approval rating than state government, one imagines it could be red-light cameras: those big-brother tattle-tales that catch drivers in the act of running a red light at intersections.

Illinois Municipal League Supports Rauner Proposals

Feb 23, 2016
Gov. Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Cities in Illinois want their financial ability to be a factor in labor contract negotiations. Union workers in public safety jobs can collectively bargain, but they can't strike. Disputes are settled by an objective arbitrator.

Chicago Vs. Illinois

Mar 23, 2015
flickr/Daniel X. O'Neill

In politics, local government, like city wards, can be seen as the “minor leagues.” This is where candidates are scouted and get recruited to run for higher office.

But time and again, state legislators from Chicago do the opposite. They leave behind jobs in the Statehouse to serve on the City Council.

So that begs the question: What’s more important? Making sure potholes are filled, garbage is picked up on time and what the neighborhood watch group is up to?

History Series: The First Illinois Legislature

Oct 2, 2014
Illinois Historic Preservation Agency

Today, we begin a series of stories sponsored by the Sangamon County Historical Society. Tara McClellan McAndrew, history columnist for the State Journal-Register, has written six pieces about local history that we'll air over the next three months.    In the fall of 1818, Illinois was still a large, mostly wild territory. But it would become a state before the end of the year, and it needed a state government. Illinoisans held elections and chose their first lawmakers, who created our state government from scratch: 


Chris Mooney is Director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois.  The following is an article he authored:

Prisons vastly are overcrowded. College tuition is rising fast. Roads and bridges are crumbling. Public pensions are on the verge of disaster.

Why is Illinois state government so inept? While public problems are inherently difficult to solve, Illinois seems to be particularly adrift these days.

Services are pending for former west-central Illinois state lawmaker Mike Smith.  

Oak-Hines Funeral Home in Smith's hometown of Canton says the 48-year-old Democrat died Saturday morning at his home of a suspected heart attack.  

The (Peoria) Journal Star  reports Smith served 16 years in the state Legislature before losing his 2010 re-election bid.  

Howard A. Learner
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois has become a start-and-stop clean energy and environmental leader making great progress in some areas, but hitting too many self-imposed roadblocks. The recent legislative session likewise reflects both accomplishments and frustrations. Here are some glass half-full and half-empty examples: 

Former Democratic state Rep. Kevin McCarthy is now a lobbyist for such utilities as ComEd and AT&T through his firm, KMAC Consulting.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

For some Illinois lawmakers, casting votes on the issues of the day is just the beginning of a potentially lucrative climb up the financial ladder.

After mastering how the Capitol operates, they can trade in their state paychecks for a bigger windfall as registered lobbyists.

Take former state Rep. Kevin McCarthy as an example.

The Orland Park Democrat was the main negotiator and sponsor of legislation last year that gave the state’s largest utility company — Commonwealth Edison — the ability to raise its rates with less regulatory oversight.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Might they be amenable to casting politically difficult votes on contentious issues such as budget cuts or Medicaid and pension reforms if legislative leaders and Gov. Pat Quinn can hammer out compromises?

Conventional wisdom would suggest that the first election following legislative redistricting would offer voters a wide array of choices, as veteran lawmakers retire and droves of ambitious wannabes scramble to capture voters’ allegiance in newly minted districts.

But conventional wisdom would be wrong, at least for the 2012 election season.

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

A 16-year-old Rochester student tailed Gov. Rod Blagojevich with a video recorder as they walked into the State Fair last month. Surrounded by a group of news reporters, Aaron Mulvey didn’t hesitate to call out his question.

“Mr. Governor, I’m a junior at Rochester High School, and I’m still wondering: Three years ago you came to our school and told us we were getting our money. I’m just wondering where it is. We’re still on the top of that list.”

Illinois Republicans were in a bind. Their Senate candidate had dropped out of the race, and now the party was scrambling to find a replacement or face disaster in a critical election. 

Sounds familiar, right? But this wasn't the U.S. Senate race featuring a GOP import from Maryland. Instead, it was a state Senate race in western Illinois. The Republican nominee had decided he didn't have the stomach for a tough campaign against first-term state Sen. John Sullivan of Rushville. 

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Like Alice returning from Wonderland, Illinois legislators faced up to fiscal reality just in time for the state’s new budget year.

Their wake-up call came from Gov. George Ryan, who vetoed $565 million from what lawmakers claimed was a sound financial document, then summoned them back to Springfield to produce “an honest and balanced” budget for FY 2003.

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Stanley Weaver has seen plenty over the course of a long political career.

When this Republican arrived in the General Assembly in 1969, some 400,000 young people were preparing to join Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker and Janis Joplin at a three-day concert on a farm in upstate New York. And Neil Armstrong was training to land on the moon. 

Ed Wojcicki
WUIS/Illinois Issues

We weren't alone in predicting that the big issues in this spring's legislative session might be rewriting telecommunications law, doling out education funding and drawing new legislative maps.

As you can tell from the Legislative Checklists in this issue (pages 8-9) and in recent months, the legislature has dealt with numerous other matters. Our new bureau chief, Aaron Chambers, has done an admirable job of following the action.