Politics and Government | WGLT

Politics and Government

Rauner Claims A Productive First Year

Jan 11, 2016

Gov. Bruce Rauner says he's taken steps to improve Illinois during his first year in office, but the job ``is nowhere near complete.'' Tomorrow/today marks one year since the Republican businessman's inauguration. Since then, Rauner and Democratic leaders have been unable to agree on a state budget or other major issues such as how to eliminate Illinois' $111 billion unfunded pension liability.  
    

The top Republican in the Illinois Senate says "it's possible" the standoff over a state budget could last for several years if Democrats aren't willing to compromise. She says if Illinois continues to spend money at current levels without raising taxes the state's backlog of unpaid bills could reach almost $25 billion in four years. That's based on a report from GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget office. Radogno says "While I hope it doesn't happen, I think it's possible." Radogno says Democrats are too concerned with maintaining the status quo.

McLean County Board Chair Matt Sorensen will wait a couple more days for his first court appearance on federal wire fraud charges. He faces five counts related to an alleged false billing scheme to defraud State Farm Insurance. The appearance had been set for Monday but is now slated for Wednesday afternoon. Sorensen's co-defendant Navdeep Arora allegedly gave Sorensen more than $370,000 when Arora was a partner in the consulting firm of McKinsey and Company. Sorensen was an internal consultant at State Farm until 2012, also the year Arora left McKinsey and Company.

MAP Grants May Be Victim of Budget Impasse

Jan 11, 2016

The state recently released a survey showing that many colleges won’t credit MAP grants for low-income students this spring semester. But those Monetary Award Program students aren’t the only ones whose grants have gone away.

When a police officer, firefighter or prison guard is killed or disabled in the line of duty, the state promises to provide their dependents with a college education.  But the budget impasse has put that promise on hold, says Eric Zarnikow, director of the Student Assistance Commission.

More than 30-thousand state employees are members of AFSCME, Illinois' largest public employee union. The union says Governor Bruce Rauner has walked away from contract talks.

It was clear early on that Rauner, a Republican, was no fan of AFSCME. He once bestowed a nickname upon the union:

"the children in poverty. I'd rather have my tax dollars going to that, than SEIU or AFSCammy, who are out there for their own interests."

Flood waters are continuing to recede across Illinois as residents begin the recovery process after dealing with more than a week of high waters. Officials with the Illinois Department of Emergency Management say the agency has asked affected counties to provide it with initial damage assessments by Jan. 18.

Spokeswoman Patti Thompson says the agency will review the reports and could ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help with a more thorough assessment if it appears the state would meet federal disaster declaration thresholds.  

Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration has named an insurance company executive to lead Get Covered Illinois, the state's health insurance marketplace. The Illinois Department of Insurance says Karen Woods will fill the post. Woods previously worked as executive director of Blue Cross Blue Shield's retail claim operation. She succeeds Karin Zosel who left in early August to return to MacMurray College in Jacksonville where she worked before the Republican appointed her.

Brian Mackey / IPR

New figures from Republican Governor Bruce Rauner's administration outline just how deep Illinois' deficit is, as the state's in is seventh month without a budget. Even without a budget in place, Illinois is spending million more than last year. Despite the fact that Illinois' taking in less revenue -- the income tax rate rolled back at the start of 2015.

unknown / US Atomic Energy Commission

This weeks detonation of a nuclear device by North Korea is of immediate concern to the US. That's what Illinois State University professor of Politics and Government T. Y. Wang says. He says North Korea claims to have a missile that could cross the Pacific. He says combined with continued nuclear tests, it's disturbing.

Abundant Anger over Illinois' Lack of Budget

Jan 7, 2016

Meagan Davis / Flickr

There's a conspiracy theory circulating about the state budget standoff. It goes like this. Both Democrats and Republicans realize the situation cannot be fixed without a lot of pain. Both sides have an interest in helping their electoral chances by having someone else to blame and not so much to compromise on their values. So, cuts get made willy nilly without planning. In this conversation with Charlie Schlenker, State Representative Dan Brady rejects this notion.

Some McLean County Board members have been asking how much of a distraction Chairman Matt Sorenson's legal troubles will be for board business? But, State's Attorney Jason Chambers says there is no way to resolve it if that does become an issue.

Former Bloomington Alderman Jim Finnegan has died at the age of 82. Finnegan served 12 years on the council  until 2009. Former Mayor Steve Stockton says he relied on Finnegan for institutional memory and advice when he took office, "Jim was very even tempered, stable, and always worked for compromise. If the council would get split on something, Jim would always look for ways to try to help me bring the council together."

Judge David Butler

One of the things that changed with the New Year is the departure of a longtime fixture on the McLean County bench. Circuit Judge Charles Reynard retired.

Mitsubishi Photos / Flickr via Creative Commons

Illinois’ business climate and worker compensation laws could be to blame for losing a buyer for the Mitsubishi plant, according to State Senator Jason Barickman. Town of Normal Mayor Chris Koos disagrees and thinks elected officials need to talk about what's right in Illinois and not what's wrong.

McLean County Board Chair Matt Sorensen will be arraigned on federal fraud charges Monday. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois says the 2 p.m. hearing will be in the Dirksen Federal Building on South Dearborn in Chicago.

Sorensen is accused of colluding with a member of the firm McKinsey and Company to falsely bill State Farm Insurance for work not performed. Sorensen allegedly took more than $370,000 of the proceeds in kickbacks from Navdeep Arora.

The five count indictment of Sorensen also refers to another person called Co-schemer A.

Staff

Illinois State University Politics and Government Professor Meghan Leonard says the best way to keep the public trust in government is for voters to research candidates thoroughly, hold elected officials accountable, and vote undesirables out of office. She appeared on Sound Ideas with WGLT's Willis Kern.

Local Judge Bids Farewell to Long Career in Law

Jan 6, 2016

A Guide to Handling Government Scandal

Jan 6, 2016

BLDD Architects

Construction on a new Town of Normal fire station headquarters could begin in June and the project will cost nearly a million dollars more than originally projected. During a regular Sound Ideas appearance, Town Mayor Chris Koos explains to WGLT's Mike McCurdy the cost was creeping even higher.

Ralph Weisheit / WGLT

McLean County Board Chairman Matt Sorensen faces a federal fraud indictment. The document alleges Sorensen conspired with an outside consulting firm when he was an internal consultant at State Farm Insurance to engage in false billing for work never done. Sorensen allegedly personally benefited by more than $370,000 in the scheme. State Farm says it alerted federal prosecutors to the situation in 2012 and Sorensen has not worked for State Farm since.

Ralph Weisheit / WGLT

Mayor Chris Koos is taking a wait and see approach on the indictment of McLean County Board Chair Matt Sorensen.  He spoke with WGLT's Mike McCurdy.

Sorenson is accused of using his position as an internal consultant at State Farm Insurance to collude with an outside firm to file phony consulting work invoices. The indictment also alleges Sorenson steered State Farm work to fellow defendant Navdeep Arora a former partner at the firm of McKinsey and Company, who was arrested Sunday. 

A month ahead of the the Iowa caucuses, presidential contenders can officially file to run in neighboring Illinois. 

Five Republicans got their petitions in early Monday, with at least 3,000 signatures each.

The Illinois Republican Party's attorney John Fogarty says the popular vote for president is known here as the "beauty contest."

That's because who Illinois GOP primary voters pick as delegates -- who are listed on the ballot as supporters of a particular candidate -- is where the race is really won.

BLDD Architects

The Town of Normal is moving forward with its plans to build a new fire department headquarters along North Main Street. Town Council members voted in support of an additional $384 thousand to take the next step in the process as part of a total project cost of around $7.9 million.

Monday (today) is the first day presidential candidates can officially file to run in Illinois.

Gov. Bruce Rauner says Illinois won't help Chicago Public Schools avert a financial "disaster" unless Mayor Rahm Emanuel starts pushing some of the Republican governor's legislative agenda. Rauner says he won't change that position even if CPS begins laying off thousands of teachers.  

CPS faces a $1 billion budget shortfall, due largely to increasing pension payments. Emanuel wants state lawmakers to change how pensions are funded to reduce CPS' costs and make the system more equitable for Chicago taxpayers.  

New Year, No Budget

Jan 4, 2016

senatorbarickman.com

Democratic Lawmakers and Republican Governor Bruce Rauner have each been unwilling to give enough to reach a budget deal over the last six months. When and how the deadlock can be broken depends on pressure.

In this interview with Charlie Schlenker GOP State Senator Jason Barickman who represents part of Bloomington-Normal says both sides are losing, as is the state.

LongitudeLatitude / Flickr

Come Friday,  when the New Year begins, 237 new laws will be in effect in Illinois – about half of those that passed during Gov. Bruce Rauner’s first term. But the state is still without a budget as Rauner and lawmakers fight over a handful more.

Black legislators say Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner hasn’t done enough in the wake of the release of police shootings of LaQuan McDonald and other African Americans.

When asked by reporters, Gov. Rauner said he cried after watching the 2014 video of black Chicago teenager LaQuan McDonald getting shot 16 times by a city cop.

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