Brian Mackey

Brian Mackey covers state government and politics for WUIS and a dozen other public radio stations across Illinois. He was previously A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. He can be reached at (217) 206-6412.

Subscribe to Brian Mackey's State of the State podcast on WUIS' podcast page, or by copying this URL into iTunes or any other podcast app.

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A nonpartisan research group said Illinois’ desperate financial condition is getting even worse.

The Civic Federation of Chicago said unless something is done soon, by next year the state’s pile of unpaid bills could consume half of all new tax revenue.

The group has published an 86-page report outlining where it thinks Illinois ought to go.

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Illinois lawmakers have returned to Springfield as state government is closing on 22 months without a budget.

Governor Bruce Rauner has been saying he’s heard there's good progress on an overall budget deal.

Seth Perlman / AP

State legislators in Springfield are moving to address gun violence in Chicago. The Illinois Senate Thursday passed stricter gun laws long sought by the Chicago Police.

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Governor Bruce Rauner was in the Chicago suburbs Monday pushing to add toll-lanes to Interstate 55. He also took the opportunity to attack Illinois Democrats.

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Attorney General Lisa Madigan is taking her case over state employee pay to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Madigan is asking the justices to review a lower court order that has kept state workers getting paid during the 20-month budget stalemate.

Meagan Davis / Flickr

Illinois senators are putting Governor Bruce Rauner’s agency directors under the magnifying glass. It’s part of the ongoing fallout from Rauner’s move to block the bipartisan "grand bargain” — meant to end Illinois’ 20-month budget stalemate.

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Members of AFSCME, the biggest labor union representing Illinois state workers, have taken a big step toward a possible strike.

AFSCME has been fighting with Gov. Bruce Rauner over its contract for more than two years.

And the strike authorization vote comes more than a year after Rauner broke off negotiations, saying they were at impasse.

Daniel X. O'Neil / Flickr

After 19 months without a state budget, Illinois senators Tuesday were not yet ready to move forward on a compromise plan intended to end the impasse.

Democrats and Republicans spent hours behind closed doors, arguing about whether the deal negotiated by their leaders was good enough to end Illinois’ unprecedented budget fight.

It came a day after Senate President John Cullerton, a Democrat, made the case for his so-called grand bargain in a speech Monday in Chicago.

“If not this plan, then what? If not now, then when?" Cullerton asked.

Not today, apparently.

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Top leaders in the Illinois Senate continue to negotiate on a "grand bargain" to end the state's budget standoff.

They left the Capitol on an 11-day break Thursday without voting on the proposals. Senate President John Cullerton, a Democrat, is negotiating with his Republican counterpart. He told his colleagues when session resumes next month, come back ready to vote.

Meagan Davis / Flickr

Members of the Illinois Senate spent hours Tuesday considering a deal meant to end Illinois' 18-month budget standoff.

Scott Proctor / Flickr via Creative Commons

The Illinois Supreme Court considered a case Thursday that asks whether not-for-profit hospitals have to pay property taxes.

It involves Urbana-based Carle hospital and clinics,  though it could affect health systems across Illinois.

At issue is the constitutionality of a state law that exempts not-for-profit hospitals from paying property taxes. Laurel Prussing, the mayor of Urbana, said losing that tax money cost the city 11 percent of its tax base.

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The Illinois House has approved a plan meant to help victims of crime in some of the state's most violent neighborhoods.

The idea is that today's victims often become tomorrow's perpetrators, and early intervention by people trusted in the community could stem the cycle of violence.

It's sponsored by Democratic state Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth, from Peoria, whose stepson was shot and killed nearly three years ago.

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Details of a massive, bipartisan compromise meant to end Illinois' budget stalemate emerged Monday in the Illinois Senate. But, the plan has been put on hold.

Rube Goldberg would be impressed by this budget plan. It's got cuts to government pensions, six new casino licenses, and a gradual minimum wage hike.

Emma Shores / Staff

Illinois U. S. Senator Dick Durbin said he has "deep concerns" about president-elect Donald Trump's choice for attorney general.

The Illinois Democrat met Wednesday with nominee Jeff Sessions, a Republican senator from Alabama.

Durbin said he asked Sessions about his longstanding position against special protections for immigrants who were brought to America illegally as children.

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An Illinois group is warning that if Obamacare is repealed without a replacement, there could be significant human and financial consequences.

President-elect Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans made repealing the Affordable Care Act a key plank in their campaigns.

That could be expensive, says Illinois Hospital Association president A. J. Wilhelmi.

"Hospitals faced with cuts have tough decisions to make, and those decisions include laying off staff, reducing services, and putting projects on hold for infrastructure improvement, "Wilhelmi said.

Gill Off Ballot Again

Sep 19, 2016
David Gill

A central-Illinois physician has lost another round in his fight to become an independent candidate for Congress.

David Gill says it’s not fair that independent candidates like him have to gather nearly 15 times as many signatures as Democrats and Republicans.

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A Bloomington doctor running for Congress has successfully sued to keep his name on the ballot.

David Gill is running as an independent, and failed to file the number of valid signatures required by Illinois law.

He went to court because the signature requirement is much higher for independents than it is for Democrats and Republicans.

He explained his position after a hearing Wednesday in Springfield.

Katherine Johnson / Creative Commons

You’ve probably heard of a “one-party state,” but what about a "one-man party"?

One man setting the agenda. One man calling the shots. And perhaps most importantly - one man - writing the checks.

Last week’s shootings in Dallas, Minnesota and Louisiana have renewed attention on the relationship between police officers and African-American citizens.

Earlier this week on Illinois Edition, we heard from several activists with the Black Lives Matter movement. Today we’re going to hear from across the protest line.

On Monday, reporter Brian Mackey spoke with Chris Southwood, the president of the Illinois Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.

AMSF2011

Illinois U. S. Senator Dick Durbin continues to tamp down speculation that he might run for governor in 2018.

Illinois is approaching a full year without a budget, owing largely to the stalemate between Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and the Democrats who control the legislature.

That has some Democrats looking ahead to 2018, whispering about Durbin as a possible candidate.

On Monday, an organization called Illinois Voices sued the Illinois State Police and attorney general’s office. It’s targeting what it says are unconstitutionally vague and burdensome restrictions on people who have to register under the state’s sex offender laws.

The case is Does 1-4 v. Madigan, No. 16 CV 4847 (N.D. Ill.). Download the complaint here (PDF).

The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday struck down another attempt to control the cost of government pension benefits.

This time it was Chicago city employees and retirees whose pensions were being targeted. The retirement system for one set of workers is projected to be insolvent in about a decade.

In 2014, the Illinois General Assembly changed the rules, but in Thursday's 5-0 ruling, the Supreme Court found that unconstitutional.

Illinois Public Radio’s Brian Mackey spoke with his colleague Amanda Vinicky about the decision.

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It’s been 10 months since the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the state’s last attempt at a pension overhaul. Legislators have yet to decide what to do about Illinois’ worst-in-the-nation pension debt … but they are beginning to weigh their options. One set of proposals would let employees collect their pension as a single payment when they retire. Brian Mackey has more.

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Even as Governor Bruce Rauner announced his first steps toward criminal justice reform Wednesday, a police group says the lack of a state budget is making Illinois a more dangerous place to live.

Illinois Lawmakers / Illinois Public Media

Governor Bruce Rauner's budget speech largely avoided specifics about state spending. Instead, he's still arguing Illinois should be more favorable to business. 

Rauner took pains to portray himself as open to working with majority Democrats -- he used the word "compromise" five times.

Governor Bruce Rauner has spent more than a year promoting his business-friendly, anti-union Turnaround Agenda. Now a group of community organizations and labor unions are offering a counterproposal. They call it the People's Agenda.

Amisha Patel, with the Grassroots Collaborative, says investment in communities would help the Illinois economy grow. "A rising tide lifts all boats. But, the Governor has been draining the pool. It's time to pursue a different path and put people back on the agenda," she said.

Staff

Supporters of changing the way Illinois draws its legislative districts did not waste any time. They immediately began claiming President Barack Obama endorsed their idea in his speech Wednesday. But, the president has taken pains to be more nuanced.

Before Air Force One had even left Springfield, the head of “Independent Maps” was out with a press release. He said: “People all over Illinois – and now the White House – want to end the practice of Illinois politicians picking their voters.”

Gov. Bruce Rauner endorsed the work of his criminal justice commission Thursday. He also made an unusual statement on prisons.

Commissioners are still working to reach Rauner’s goal of reducing Illinois' inmate population by 12,000 men and women over the next decade. They have delivered their first set of recommendations, and Rauner told commissioners he was excited about the report, calling it "excellent."

"What I can guarantee you: I will work tirelessly to make sure this isn't just something that just gathers dust," he said. "I’m going to implement this."

Brian Mackey / Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

At least one aspect of Governor Bruce Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda" is moving forward. A commission working on an overhaul of the state’s criminal justice laws has approved its first set of recommendations. IPR's Brian Mackey has more.

How do you get a 17-year-old to confess to a crime he didn’t commit? Turns out it’s not that hard.

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