Politics

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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:

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.

St. Louis Public Radio

In a rare Sunday session, the U.S. Senate gave overwhelming approval to a plan to re-authorize the charter of the Export-Import Bank, as part of its six-year highway bill.  The bank’s charter expired in June.  All four U.S. senators from Illinois and Missouri voted for the plan, backed by Democrats and mainstream Republicans.

Tea Party Republicans have long opposed the bank, calling it “corporate welfare” for big business. Supporters disagree and say the bank helps businesses of all sizes.

Hopes for ending the budget stalemate faded even further this week when Gov. Bruce Rauner's office interrupted a news conference called by Senate President John Cullerton.

Cullerton, a Democrat, began by telling reporters that Rauner's budget was unbalanced when it was introduced. But then Cullerton appeared to offer an olive branch, according to Illinois Public Radio's Amanda Vinicky. In front of reporters, he asked the Governor to start over on the budget.

Flickr user / Images Money "Healthcare Costs" (CC BY 2.0)

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration is not yet saying whether it plans to fund Medicaid providers outside Cook County. That question remained after a federal judge ordered the state to pay providers in Cook County while the budget impasse at the Statehouse continues.

A decade-old court order was used as a vehicle to sue state government and force Medicaid payments to Cook County hospitals and doctors.

Democratic Sen. Heather Steans says she hopes Gov. Rauner, a Republican, expands that ruling to Medicaid providers all across the state.

state of Illinois

The search for a new state Auditor General has begun in earnest. 

The Auditor General serves as Illinois governments' top internal investigator. It's a job that Bill Holland has held for more than two decades.

But last month, he announced he's stepping down.

A bipartisan legislative commission says it's accepting applications for his replacement. At his retirement announcement, Holland gave his view of the desired skills set:

durbin.senate.gov

The question of whether members of the military should be allowed to arm themselves is getting more attention after last week’s shooting death of five service members in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

The Chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services committees say they are already working on legislation to clarify when a post commander may allow service members to be armed while on U.S. soil.

Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin believes members of the military should be allowed to protect themselves when they are functioning in uniform, and in an official capacity.

St. Louis Public Radio

The U.S. Senate reached a tentative agreement for a multi-year highway funding bill. The plan includes a provision to impose user fees on electric vehicles.

Greater fuel efficiency, more hybrids and a growing number of electric vehicles mean the federal motor fuel tax does not go as far as it once did. 

Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt says the new proposal addresses that yearly short fall and guarantees funding for the first half of the six year plan.

Michael Madigan / Rod Blagojevich
WBEZ / WTTW

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is feuding over the state budget with Gov. Bruce Rauner now. But eight years ago, the summer stalemate was with the now-imprisoned, then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

An appeals court tossed some of Blagojevich's corruption convictions yesterday. Madigan says he hasn't read the whole opinion; just the final paragraph.

"It seems to say that Mr. Blagojevich will remain as a guest of the United States government, rather than coming back to Illinois," Madigan said.

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