State News

State news stories and features from Illinois Public Radio.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

In Illinois, election maps are drawn by the political party in power. Thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, that will continue to be the case — even after the 2020 census.

Anti-Defamation League

White extremist propaganda surged by almost 60 percent on Midwestern college campuses last year. That’s according to a new report from the Anti-Defamation League.

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A hot and unusually wet summer has stretches of Illinois roads at the breaking point. Drivers are being warned to watch out for road buckling.

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The Illinois State Board of Education has decided to review the slate of standardized tests students take, to try to make sure the exams align with each other.

Currently, kindergarteners are evaluated by one test, then elementary students with another, and high school juniors with a third. All those tests measure different concepts, making it difficult to see where the curriculum needs to be improved.

Amanda Elliott, legislative affairs director with the state board, says the current system causes many districts to implement additional tests.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is rejecting a push to take on Chicago’s pension debt. But local pension costs are a growing problem across the state.

U of I Institute of Govt & Public Affairs

The June numbers for the University of Illinois’ Flash Index show the Illinois economy’s growth rate has fallen for two months in a row. But the economist who compiles the index isn’t too concerned. The Flash Index measured the health of the state’s economy at 105.6 in April, 105.4 in May and 105.2 in June. 

Gas prices in Illinois are creeping up as a 19-cent increase in the fuel tax took effect Monday.

The average price around Illinois for a gallon of gas rose slightly – from $2.79 to $2.84 between Sunday and Monday, according to gasbuddy.com - a crowdsourcing app. The consumer group AAA puts the average price around the state at nearly $3, up from $2.89 Monday.

Illinois’ weed legalization law won’t take effect until next year, but the Illinois State Police is wasting no time. That agency is preparing to enforce new regulations surrounding legal cannabis.


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CHICAGO  - Illinois residents under 21 won't be able to buy tobacco products and cigarettes will cost more under new laws taking effect on Monday. 

This week, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed off on marijuana, infrastructure, and gambling.

Copyright 2019 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS. To see more, visit NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is cosponsoring legislation that would rollback one of the provisions of the 1994 crime bill. It’s called the Restoring Education and Learning Act— or REAL Act. The bill would restore Pell Grant eligibility to people incarcerated in state and federal prisons.

The state of Illinois has a problem with its prison boot camps: too many empty beds.

The Department of Corrections runs two military-style programs in DuQuoin and Dixon Springs. But the facilities are at just 12 percent of capacity. Illinois lawmakers are trying to boost that number.

It’s rise and shine at 0530 hours for men in the DuQuoin Impact Incarceration Program.

By 0600, they’re outside doing drills — scissor kicks. jumping jacks, and pushups. Then it’s time for a mile-long “motivational” run.

Who should pay pension costs for Illinois teachers and school administrators? Currently, the state bears virtually all the cost, leaving the state’s 852 school districts free to negotiate benefits without worrying about the price tag. 

As Statewide listeners heard earlier this month, the education advocacy group called Stand For Children hopes to persuade lawmakers to shift pension costs to districts by integrating them in the new school funding formula. The group’s legislative director, Jessica Handy, calls that an “equity boost.”

This week, we bring you the response from the Illinois Education Association — the state’s largest teachers union — whose lobbyist, Will Lovett, spoke with our education reporter Dusty Rhodes.

The age to buy tobacco products in Illinois will officially be raised from 18 to 21 next week. Supporters say the move is aimed at stopping young people from starting a bad habit.


When it comes to the battle against distracted driving, Illinois is taking it up a notch.   

The Illinois Pollution Control Board determined an energy company is responsible for contaminating groundwater with coal ash in four Illinois communities. 

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a law Tuesday legalizing recreational marijuana. That makes the state the 11th to approve recreational use.

Low-income college students in Illinois got some good news today. The state's Monetary Award Program — which provides MAP grants to help pay for tuition — will be able to give more grants with more money, thanks to the largest appropriation in the fund’s history.

Lynne Baker, with the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, says the agency approved a new formula that will boost grants by an average of $220 and cover at least 6,700 more students.

Opioid use is on the rise in Illinois. In response, the General Assembly adopted a plan to create a statewide needle exchange.

The measure calls for a  new community-based needle exchange programs, which the Illinois Department of Public Health would have to sanction.

Illinois is investing $29 million to try to get an accurate count in the 2020 Census. On the line are two seats in Congress and the Electoral College.

Members of AFSCME Council 31 have a new  labor deal with the State of Illinois, according to the union. 

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on whether the Trump administration can add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. In Illinois, Governor J.B. Pritzker is moving ahead with plans to make sure everyone in the state is counted.

The Illinois Supreme Court is letting Walgreens off the hook for improperly collecting a tax on sparkling water.

A bible belonging to Abraham Lincoln has been unveiled to the public for the first time in 150 years.

One of Illinois' top Republicans declined on Tuesday to say how much money he has made off his business relationship with a video gambling company that's licensed by the state.

 It was a logical step for a state that granted suffrage rights years before.   

Legislation adopted this spring aims to chip away at the growing problem of college student hunger in Illinois.

Under that measure, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission could soon have to notify students of their eligibility for food assistance.

The measure would target people eligible for the Monetary Assistance Program, which provides grants for lower-income students.

They would have to be told they might be eligible for the food aid  know as  SNAP — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

In 2018, nine gun-related homicides happened in Bloomington-Normal. All the victims were people of color, and seven were black.

Looking at the well-being of Illinois’ children through a racial lens … shows big disparities, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual KIDS count report.

Racial disparities show up on measures of health, educational achievement, and economic well-being.

When Illinois revamped its school funding formula in 2017, lawmakers didn’t touch the teacher pension system. That means it’s still operating under the same inequitable framework that led to the push for school funding reform in the first place.

Now, an influential advocacy group is warning those inequities will be compounded if the state doesn’t address the teacher pension system soon.

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