Politics and Government

IDOT Cold Weather Plans On Hold

Oct 8, 2015
Teddy Wade

There'll be fewer orange signs on Illinois' roadways as construction season winds down and winter approaches. But the longer the state's budget impasse goes on, come spring, the Illinois Department of Transportation might not be able to fix all the damage the cold, snow and ice will do to the state's highway system this winter.

Linda Healy/WGLT

Ray LaHood spent more than two decades in Congress and served another 4 1/2 years as President Barack Obama's first Secretary of Transportation. Next month, his book, “Seeking Bipartisanship: My Life in Politics” is being released.

He spoke in Normal Wednesday to the Illinois chapter of the American Planning Association state conference. But before that, he stopped by the GLT studios to discuss transit funding, politics and life after governmental service with WGLT's Willis Kern.

Rauner Tells Dems 'Time's Up'

Oct 7, 2015

Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is picking up where he left off a few months ago: delivering a campaign-style stump speech as the state continues without a budget.

Mautino Recomended For AG Job

Oct 6, 2015

A bipartisan panel has selected longtime state Representative Frank Mautino to serve as Illinois' next auditor general. The Legislative Audit Commission voted Tuesday to recommend the Spring Valley Democrat to replace retiring Auditor General William Holland. Mautino's selection for the job of overseeing audits of state agencies must be approved by a three-fifth vote in the Illinois House and Senate. Mautino has represented parts or all of Bureau, LaSalle, Livingston and Putnam counties since 1991. He's served as deputy majority leader since 2011.

Normal Mulling Over Sales Tax Priorities

Oct 6, 2015
Michael Hill / WGLT

The Normal Town Council will take more time to decide how to spend additional revenues coming from a sales tax increase passed last month. They're discussing funding for Connect Transit, economic development, and infrastructure; but using sales tax dollars for a sports complex is no longer under consideration. 

Council Member Kathleen Lorenz said Normal could also decide to use the increase toward programs and services that would normally receive money from the General Fund.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner says the standoff over a state budget "could go on for a while" but his administration is prepared to continue managing state finances without one. The Republican spoke Friday following a manufacturing expo in Effingham.  

He says he remains committed to getting Democrats to approve some of his pro-business agenda. He repeated that if Democrats don't want to work with him they can balance the budget _ by passing a tax increase _ without his support.  

A newspaper analysis of Illinois' signature corporate tax-break program has found companies that receive the deals often don't add jobs or even lay off workers. An analysis by The Chicago Tribune of 783 tax deals the state has made through the Economic Development for a Growing Economy program found two-thirds of the companies that completed agreements didn't maintain agreed-upon job levels. And state officials can't say how many jobs have been created by the program known as EDGE.

The presidents of Illinois' nine public universities are urging Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and leaders in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly to end the ongoing state-budget stalemate. The presidents said in a letter to the governor and lawmakers on Thursday that uncertainty over how much state money the schools will get this fiscal year and when they'll get it is beginning to damage their ability to teach and do research.

Nobel Prize Winner: Iran Deal Makes Sense

Sep 30, 2015
Michael Hill / WGLT

The main focus of a visit to Bloomington/Normal by Nobel Prize Winner Mohamed ElBaradei surrounds the idea of "Preventing a Nuclear Nightmare." He won the 2005 Nobel Prize for his efforts in preventing military use of nuclear energy, and supports a potential nuclear deal between the United States and Iran.

ElBaradei says the Iran deal makes sense.

Charlie Schlenker / WGLT

If the early look at Bloomington Aldermen is a guide, outsourcing golf courses and recovering costs from the downtown police hireback program for high volume nights in the bar district will be priority items as the city cuts its budget. Whether or how to fund the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts also came up as a potential cut during an informal discussion of prioritizing budget task force recommendations. Alderman Scott Black says it's important to look at the BCPA early in process even it it makes it more likely to be cut.

The search for Illinois' next Auditor General has been narrowed to a field of four. That includes a pair of state lawmakers --- both Democratic members of the Illinois House: Frank Mautino of Spring Valley and Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook. A legislative commission will endorse one of the finalists ... and forward that name to the full General Assembly ... which gets to vote on the final choice. The current state auditor is retiring at the end of the year.
 

Willis Kern / WGLT

People concerned with an unmowed lawn, a clogged street drain, or even broken windows in Bloomington have a new place to get problems addressed. Yes, there's an app for that. The City is rolling out a  new mobile website and app. WGLT's Mike McCurdy spoke with Bloomington Communication Manager Nora Dukowitz about the new "myBloomington" app that she says is a natural progression given the city's use of other technology. 

City of Bloomington

The work of the City of Bloomington Task Force is complete. The panel designed to help aldermen come up with a workable plan to eliminate a $7 million structural deficit released its final report last week, the same day the city council approved by a wide margin a 1% increase in the sales tax rate. WGLT's Willis Kern talks with Mayor Tari Renner.

There is a lot of repetition going on at the state capitol these days.  And it has a political purpose.

Jim Bowen/Flickr

By now you probably have a sense that things in Illinois state politics have gotten downright nasty - even if it's not completely clear what all the fighting is about. But there's more to that fight than the public gets to see. There's squabbling and gamesmanship and backbiting that rarely makes the news. Democrats have been using tactics to get under the skin of Governor Bruce Rauner.  But as IPR's Tony Arnold reports, Rauner has also been doing something that's really been getting under Democrats skin.

Nora Dukowitz / City of Bloomington

The Bloomington City Council approved $130,000 to improve part of the northern shore of Lake Bloomington. The area, also known as North Park, has erosion that can affect water quality and capacity for the city. Water Director Bob Yehl says the department wants to use money wisely when it comes to preventing erosion.
 

Redbirds For Bernie Blame Media Neglect

Sep 28, 2015

Senator Bernie Sanders supporters in Bloomington Normal have chips on their shoulders over what they see as media neglect of the candidate. Along with several ISU students on the bridge above College Avenue, was retired teacher Bill Smith. He says he joined the Redbirds for Bernie demonstration to get people to give serious thought to voting in the Democratic primary.

Students at the University of Chicago Monday cheered on Democratic candidate for president Bernie Sanders during a brief campaign stop. Sanders, a Senator from Vermont, bemoaned low voter turnout and encouraged students to get involved in the political process.  

Sanders said the Supreme Court decision eliminating contribution caps with the idea that spending equals free speech hurts the nation.

Critics say Sanders is too liberal ... but he's gaining in polls against presumed Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

Hastert Plea Deal Under Negotiation

Sep 28, 2015

Prosecutors and defense attorneys for former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert have told a federal judge they're talking about a possible plea deal in the Republican's hush-money case. The disclosure came during a hearing in federal court in Chicago for the 73-year-old Republican. Details weren't immediately released. The one-time teacher and wrestling coach has pleaded not guilty to violating banking laws and lying to the FBI.  A May indictment says Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million to someone, identified only as ``Individual A,'' to hide past misconduct.

License Renewal Notifications To End

Sep 28, 2015

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White says his office will suspend mailing reminder notices on renewing motor vehicle registrations because there's still no state budget. White said Monday that interrupting the mailing service will save about $450,000 a month. White sent Gov. Bruce Rauner a letter last week warning of potential major problems at government facilities related to the budget standoff. He says vendors aren't being paid and are threatening to suspend services. He also worries that utilities could be shut off at the state Capitol in Springfield.  

Illinois is about to enter its fourth month without a budget. One of the state's top Democrats says the problem could be resolved within days ... if the governor moved off his insistence that other laws pass first.  IPR's Amanda Vinicky reports. 

A recent agreement means that -- despite the budget impasse -- Illinois WILL fund services for babies with disabilities. But as IPR's Amanda Vinicky reports, therapists and children who rallied at the Statehouse today say their worries aren't over.


Illinois State Capitol exterior
Justin Brocke / Flickr

There was a bit of commotion in the Illinois Capitol when an activist hijacked a committee hearing. He called for the impeachment of Governor Bruce Rauner. IPR's Brian Mackey has more.


Durbin Likes Pope's Message

Sep 24, 2015
(flicker)

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois is impressed by Pope Francis' joint address to congress. Durbin calls the pope an inspiration not just through his words, but his actions.

Applications are available to replace Darin LaHood in the Illinois Legislature. LaHood resigned from the Illinois Senate and recently won a seat in Congress, replacing former US Rep. Aaron Schock. Schock resigned earlier this year after questions about spending. Republican Party leaders from the ten counties in the state Senate district have created a formal selection committee. LaHood is a Republican. Henry County GOP leader Jan Weber is leading the selection committee, which tentatively set Oct. 4 as the day to meet and choose a replacement.

Gov. Bruce Rauner's office is warning lawmakers that the Republican will veto a $3.8 billion spending bill pending in the Illinois House. The measure approved by the Senate this month would provide funds for breast cancer screenings, autism treatment, lottery payouts and more during the state budget stalemate.

Some have argued the Bloomington Budget Task Force process was a charade to give Aldermen political cover to make unpleasant choices in higher taxes and budget cuts. But, Task Force Chair David Sage says there are two valuable things the task force provided, first an honest assessment from established leaders about the choices before the city.

Mike McCurdy / WGLT

The community budget task force has presented its final recommendations to Aldermen and the community. Aldermen also took action on one of the funding recommendations in the task force presentation - a one-percent sales tax increase. WGLT's Mike McCurdy talked with two members of the task force during Sound Ideas.

Aaron Schock Documents Dribble Out

Sep 18, 2015

Aaron Schock has submitted 72 more documents to a federal judge that he is arguing shouldn't be released to prosecutors as part of an investigation into the former congressman. Schock's attorney filed a memo to US District Judge Sue Myerscough. The judge will review the 72 new documents along with others and decide if they will be given to prosecutors. Schock's attorneys are expected to file a brief later this month telling the judge why they think the documents shouldn't be released.

Darin LaHood Sworn In As Congressman

Sep 18, 2015

Dunlop Republican Darin LaHood has been sworn in to represent Illinois 18th district in Congress. WGLT Washington Correspondent Hanna Gutmann reports he immediately made it clear he's no Aaron Schock, the Congressman who resigned amid an ethics investigation

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