Illinois

WUIS

You’ll be able to get your fill of corn dogs and lemon shakeups as usual when state fairs get underway next month. 

Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan said that without a budget, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner does not have the power to spend on Illinois’ two state fairs.  But both events are moving forward.

Without a state budget, funding has halted for social services and other programs. Rauner’s administration has not made clear how it intends to pay for fair expenses.

McHenry Sheriff / First Electronic Newspaper / McHenry County Blog

A McHenry County newspaper won a five-figure settlement against the sheriff's office over a Freedom of Information Act violation. 

On top of a $5,000 civic penalty, Judge Thomas Meyer ruled the McHenry County Sheriff's office has to pay about $80,000 in attorneys fees for First Electronic Newspaper publisher Pete Gonigam's lawyer. 

Brandy Quance is the assistant state's attorney in McHenry County who represented the sheriff's office in the case. She said the ruling was based on another disclosure of information in the report. 

statefairmuseum.org

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s office says the Illinois State Fair will take place next month, with or without a budget.

House Speaker Michael Madigan says the administration gave up the legal power to spend money on the fair. The governor vetoed most of the budget approved by the legislature -- including the funding for the event.

“He had options under the constitution…today, there is no budget and there is no spending authority,” Madigan said. 

Six-Year Highway Bill Stalls In U.S. Senate

Jul 29, 2015
KWMU

Efforts by the Senate to pass a six-year highway bill have stalled.  Instead, the House is scheduled to vote today on another short-term extension and then leave town for its five-week August Break.

If approved, it will be the 34th short-term extension since 2009, but Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt says it will likely be the last, for years to come. He says both the House and Senate are committed to using this extension to work out details for a five or six year highway bill.

Flickr user Daniel Borman / "Money, Money, Money" (CC BY 2.0)

Illinois state lawmakers are warning key figures in Chicago and Cook County governments to draft back-up plans for their underfunded pensions.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle are both trying to approve changes to the retirement benefits their government workers receive because the funds are running out of money.

But that comes after the state Supreme Court called reductions in benefits to State of Illinois employees’ pensions unconstitutional.

Political Leaders Urge Rauner To Backtrack On Amtrak Cuts

Jul 29, 2015
Brian Mackey / WUIS

A group of downstate political leaders is urging Governor Bruce Rauner to backtrack on proposed cuts to Amtrak.

Members of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association held a news conference in Springfield to warn of possible cuts. Joining them was State Representative Don Moffitt, whose district includes the Amtrak line through Princeton, Galesburg and Macomb. 

Moffitt says Amtrak currently serves a lot of college students in western Illinois and across the state. He says if passenger rail service is ever going to be self-supporting, it must be on-time and provide options. 

Illinois is likely to enter August without a full-year budget for Fiscal Year 2016, which began July 1. The longer the impasse continues, the more the impact will be felt. 

Most Illinois residents may be busy with their summer and less focused on the state budget, since schools are expected to open on time. State workers also are getting paid.

Republican State Rep. Tim Butler says the ongoing fiscal fight will boil over in more ways:

WUIS

Illinois may not be done with the 2013 law reducing state employees’ pensions after all. Attorney General Lisa Madigan appears to be readying an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Many thought the question of whether Illinois could save money by reducing state workers’ and retirees’ pensions was resolved in May, when the state’s Supreme Court justices unanimously ruled the answer is “no.”

Governor, Union Conflicted Over Contract

Jul 27, 2015
WUIS

Governor Bruce Rauner's administration and the state's largest public employee union remain at odds on a new contract.

The two sides appear to still be far apart. A memo from the union known as AFSCME became public last week. It laid out several demands from the administration, including no pay increases and cuts to worker's benefits. The memo theorized the Governor was pushing for a strike or a lockout, which Rauner's camp has refuted.

Tim Butler is a Republican State Representative from Springfield, whose district includes a lot of state employees. 

Illinois Prisons Still Overcrowded Despite Prisoner Decrease

Jul 27, 2015
Flickr user miss_millions / " Prison cells" (CC v 2.0)

New state data show that the number of people incarcerated in Illinois prisons has fallen in recent years but facilities still remain overcrowded.

The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reports that the most recent report on Illinois Department of Corrections facilities shows the agency held 47,483 inmates in May 2015. That's the lowest since May 2010 when the department reported 47,150 inmates behind bars.

The peak was in January 2013 with 49,321 inmates.

The state prison system's facilities are designed to house 32,000 prisoners.

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