School, City Officials Plead For State Amtrak Funding

May 20, 2015

Mayors and others affected by Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposal to cut Amtrak funding by 40 percent spent Tuesday morning testifying before a Senate Higher Education Committee.

Schools as small as Spoon River College and as large as the University of Illinois rely on Amtrak trains to bring their students to campus. They say Governor Bruce Rauner's proposal to drastically reduce Amtrak funding would affect enrollment at all downstate schools. 

state of Illinois

Partisan accusations continue with just a dozen days until the General Assembly is set to adjourn.

Republican legislators' leaders came out swinging Tuesday. They held a press conference to accuse Democrats of using "gotcha" politics to try to embarrass Governor Bruce Rauner and of not taking Rauner's pro-business prescription for Illinois seriously.

Secretary of State

More than a million people have Illinois drivers' licenses but aren't registered to vote. They would be registered automatically under a measure before the General Assembly.

Democrat Daniel Biss from Evanston says he thinks it is his responsibility as a public official to make the election process as open as possible.

"I think that we have a challenge in our society right now where participation in democracy feels first of all difficult and second of all, unfortunately sometimes pointless," Biss said.

A case with a $10 billion verdict at stake returns to the Illinois Supreme Court this morning a decade after justices threw it out. 

The heart of the question is whether tobacco giant Philip Morris defrauded smokers by pitching "light" cigarettes.

Back in 2003, a court ruled "yes" and granted smokers a monster $10 billion judgment. It was reversed by the Illinois Supreme Court, citing federal regulations. It volleyed the case down to a lower court.

Justice Lloyd Karmeier, who eked out another decade term in November's election, will once again be on the bench.

Illinois legislators brought in the head of a nonpartisan research group to hear about its problems with Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget proposal. 

The Civic Federation's Laurence Msall told senators he applauds the governor's efforts to balance next year's budget, but he doesn't see how some savings would be possible. 

Msall scolded lawmakers for not raising revenue through more taxes.  

State Higher Education Budget Remains In ‘Balancing Act’

May 19, 2015
state of Illinois

Illinois lawmakers get back to work this week, with about two weeks left in their spring session to finalize a budget. 

The budget was also on Governor Bruce Rauner’s mind when he visited Southern Illinois University’s Carbondale campus last weekend to deliver a graduation speech.

"We are in that balancing act right now,” Rauner said. “Everybody's going to have to give a little bit. And that's the way the political process should work. We'll come up with bipartisan solutions that are really a compromise."

A measure making its way through the Illinois legislature would allow transgender people to lay out instructions on how they want to be buried.

The bill would allow a person to include instructions regarding his or her gender identity, including chosen name, appearance, and pronouns used in the obituary.

It would secure in writing instructions for the funeral arrangements and burial.

Mike Ziri from Equality Illinois says the measure is another step for the LGBT community and would bring respect and solace for those who are transgender.

Flickr user Jim Bowen / "Illinois State Capitol" (CC BY 2.0)

Illinois students could see a new form to sign when they start college -- one that would allow mental health information to be disclosed to their parents.

Michael Predmore knew his son Chris was going through a tough time. But he didn’t know Chris tried to kill himself months before he died from suicide.

Chris Predmore’s counselor at Illinois State University knew, but wasn’t able to let his parents know because of privacy laws.

Michael Predmore says knowing could have made all the difference -- he could have done something to help his son.

state of Illinois

A non-binding referendum on a so-called millionaires' tax got support from about 64 percent of Illinois voters during the last election. Now, state legislators are preparing to vote on it.

The measure would include an extra three-percent surcharge on all income over $1 million. The profit would go to education.

It's an idea that Speaker Michael Madigan tried to push before, but it was short on votes to get through the House.

state of Illinois

Politicians say one of the most common complaints they hear is about high property taxes.

A measure that would put a hold on them is inching forward in the Illinois House, but whether the measure ever will become law is uncertain.

Freezing property taxes was one of the promises Gov. Bruce Rauner made on the campaign trail.

But it wasn't his plan that got called for a vote, leading Rauner's fellow Republicans once again to accuse Democrats of pulling a political stunt intended to embarrass the governor.