Illinois

Lawmakers Get Back To The Grind Today

May 22, 2015
Illinois Public Radio

Illinois legislators took a weekend break, but there are major issues unresolved heading toward their May 31 adjournment.

A handful of Gov. Bruce Rauner's initiatives were introduced -- term limits, restrictions on where lawsuits can be filed, minimizing what companies are responsible for when it comes to workers' compensation claims, and a property tax freeze.

"It's time that we get down to business and really start making a difference in how we do business in the state," Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno said.

WUIS

The PARCC test, associated with the Common Core, will be somewhat shorter next year. 

Illinois was one of 11 states to administer the test this year, and parents complained it was too long. It would take up to 10 hours and spread across two sessions -- one in March, another in May.

The PARCC consortium voted this week to reduce the test by about an hour and a half and consolidate it into one session instead of two.

Anne Morris, a test coordinator for a Springfield school district, says that’s what she's been hoping to hear.

Senate Votes To Allow Bobcat Hunting

May 22, 2015
WUIS

Bobcats, beware. Illinois lawmakers have renewed their call to lift a ban on hunting bobcats.

Former Governor Pat Quinn vetoed a previous attempt in one of his last acts as governor. Bobcats are off limits to hunters now, and democratic Sen. Linda Holmes of Aurora wants to keep it that way.

"There isn't a need to get rid of this animal, which is a native predator species in the state," Holmes said.

She says the bobcat population is fragile, and unlike hunters' other prey -- which carnivorous eaters can turn into a meal -- bobcats are solely hunted as trophies.

Binding Referendum To Tax Illinois Millionaires Stalls

May 22, 2015
Flickr user 401(K) 2012 / "Money" (CC v. 2.0)

As Illinois lawmakers grapple with a budget shortfall, a measure to impose a tax on millionaires' income stalled.

Adding a surcharge to income over a million dollars to raise more money for Illinois schools was a concept Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan introduced last year, but there wasn't enough support. Now, as Illinois faces a $6 billion budget gap, he brought it back.

"We're simply asking those that have done well in life to help our educational system," Madigan said.

Flickr user Thomas Ricker / "Bully" (CC BY 2.0)

The school year's end is drawing near for many Illinois communities, but bullying won't necessarily end when classes do. A new city ordinance might change disciplinary actions for those offenses, but will it be enough to get bullies to stop?

Flickr user Parker Knight / "Chopperz 10" (CC BY 2.0)

Two tax policy organizations with distinct views released a joint report about Illinois revenue. 

It outlines how taxing services, such as haircuts and pet grooming, could generate up to two point one billion dollars in new annual revenue.

Ralph Martire, who is from the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, says Illinois has one of the most narrow tax bases in the country.

WBEZ

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is pushing to restructure the retirement benefits of county employees. But she needs Springfield’s help to do it -- and that’s proving to be a challenge.

Like the state of Illinois and City of Chicago, Preckwinkle wants to lower the costs of pensions for Cook County. That’s in spite of legal questions.

Some key unions argue her plan is unconstitutional. But Preckwinkle has other hurdles to clear before it’s tested in court.

Flickr user / alamosbasement "old school" (CC BY 2.0)

Legislation that would temper the way schools discipline students passed the Illinois House and Senate and now awaits the governor’s approval.

Suspensions and expulsions could be used only as a last resort.

Sarah Johnson, one of the youth leaders of the group, said the plan is designed to change the culture of schools.

“Our education system should be wanting us to stay in school and right now they’re pushing us out of school. So the environment that we’re in, that our young people are in right now, is not an environment of learning. It’s an environment of push-out."

WUIS

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has stayed out of the public eye for the past couple of days. But he's making his feelings on the budget known in an article published late Wednesday night.

The Illinois legislative session is scheduled to end  May 31, but Rauner is signaling he's prepared to keep it going much longer. Rauner -- the first Republican governor Illinois has had in a dozen years -- wrote a first-person opinion piece for The State Journal-Register in Springfield.

Flickr user Brent Hoard "ECU School of Education Class Room" (CC BY 2.0)

The Illinois budget crisis is costing low-income public schools some of the federal money intended to help them compete with wealthier schools. That’s the finding of a report published this weekend by the Rockford Register Star. Reporter Corina Curry found that state lawmakers are diverting money from a program known as “Title One” and putting it toward teacher pension debt. WNIJ’s Susan Stephens spoke with Curry about her research.

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