Charles N. Wheeler III

The director of the Public Affairs Reporting (PAR) graduate program is Professor Charles N. Wheeler III,  a veteran newsman who came to the University of Illinois at Springfield following a 24-year career at the Chicago Sun-Times.

Wheeler covered state government and politics for the Sun-Times since 1970, when he covered the Sixth Illinois Constitutional Convention. For the last 19 years of his Sun-Times tenure, Wheeler was assigned to the newspaper’s Statehouse bureau. During that time, he was elected to 16 consecutive one-year terms as president of the Illinois Legislative Correspondents Association and served for many years on the PAR program and admissions committees.

Since 1984, he has written a monthly column for Illinois Issues magazine, which has won five Capitolbeat awards for magazine commentary/analysis. In 2006, the Illinois Associated Press Editors Association inducted him into The Lincoln League of Journalists, which honors men and women who have provided exemplary service to other journalists and to daily newspapers published in Illinois. In 2013, he was chosen as the Journalist of the Year by the Journalism Department at Eastern Illinois University.  He is also a regular on the panel for State Week, WUIS' weekly political analysis program that airs on public radio stations across Illinois.

Before joining the Sun-Times in 1969, Wheeler served more than three years as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in the Republic of Panama. He is a graduate of St. Mary’s University, Winona, MN, majoring in English, and received a master’s degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Wheeler draws on the talents of many UIS faculty with expertise in such fields as public budgeting, political science, and communication, as well as professional journalists and state officials, to present students with a well-rounded program to bridge the academic and professional areas.

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.

The Illinois General Assembly has just one week left in its spring legislative session, and the number of outstanding issues are beginning to pile up.

A graduated income tax constitutional amendment seems to be on track, but lawmakers are still hashing out details — and rounding up votes — on crafting state budget, funding an infrastructure program, legalizing marijuana, and expanding gambling.

Republicans are trying to get back in on next year's budget negotiations. Meanwhile, as red states compete to place more and more restrictins on abortion, activists want Illinois to move the other way.

Illinois gets an April surprise — $1.5 billion in unexpected revenue — as lawmakers debate what the windfall means. The public also got its first look at the long-anticipated language in a proposal that would legalize marijuana for recreational use.

Meanwhile, an audit found that child abuse and neglect investigations suffered during the budget impasse of 2015-17, and lawmakers advanced legislation that would more than double the gas tax in order to pay for infrastructure building and repair.

Listen to a special State Week, recorded in front of an audience at the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices state historic site in downtown Springfield.

Host Sean Crawford, along with regular panel members Brian Mackey, Daisy Contreras and Charlie Wheeler, are joined by guest Hannah Meisel of The Daily Line. The discussion focused on the governor’s push for a graduated income tax and Senate Democrats pushing it through that chamber. You'll also hear about prospects for recreational marijuana, sports betting, a capital construction program and more.

Illinois’ former legislative inspector general went public this week with a complaint that one of her reports was buried. She says the office is desperately in need of reform, and absent that, is effectively powerless.

Meanwhile, WBEZ-FM is reporting Gov. J.B. and First Lady M.K. Pritzker are under federal investigation for removing toilets from a mansion in order to lower their property tax bill.

Even though it’s the legislative spring break, there are several issues still to be negotiated, including a potential construction program funded with a gasoline tax, legalization of recreational marijuna, dealing with the state’s growing pension debt, and what to do about a declining population.

Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot spends two days meeting with Illinois lawmakers. How much of her agenda runs through Springfield?

Meanwhile, Democrats began moving on a centerpiece of Gov. J.B. Pritzker's agenda: a constitutional amendment that would pave the way for a graduated income tax.

Lori Lightfoot was elected mayor of Chicago this week, trouncing Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

How’d she win? What’s her agenda? And what kind of city council will she have to work with?

A long time ago, the tax was proposed by the GOP and opposed by Democrats. It became law, but it didn't last long.

This week, rallies at the statehouse over gun rights and abortion; still more questions about legalized sports betting; and despite the launch of a new awreness campaign, another State Trooper killed by a semi-trailer on the highway.

Among the subjects discussed this week: medical and recreational marijuana, an anti-abortion rally at the capitol building, Illinois' teacher shortage, and legalizing sports gambling.

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

The Illinois General Assembly was busy this week, passing legislation intended to fight gender pay inequity, teach LGBT history, and raise the age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.

The panel also discusses NPR Illinois' recent series examining Gov. J.B. Pritzker's proposed tax increases and expansions.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has finally revealed a few details about his plans to change the Illinois income tax. He's asking the General Assembly and voters to approve a constitutional amendment making the flat tax into one that's graduated, where the wealthy pay higher rates.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker's first budget proposal is calling for new taxes, more spending, and a series of moves around state pensions. But that's all a placeholder as he begins a push to change Illinois' flat income tax to one where the wealthy pay more.

We'll analyze what he said, what he didn't say, and what's next for Illinois' ailing finances.

Democrats in the Illinois House approved an increase in the state minimum wage. Assuming Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs the legislation — he's said he will — the rate will gradually climb to $15 perhour in the year 2025;

The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that House Speaker Michael Madigan was recorded pitching his private legal services to someone wearing a wire for the federal government. It took place several years ago and the speaker has not been accused of wrongdoing.

It came as part of the investigation into the activities of Chicago Ald. Danny Solis, whose cooperation already led to corruption charges against Chicago Ald. Ed Burke.

This week, J.B. Pritzker was sworn in as Illinois' new governor, promising a progressive agenda. 

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

A new General Assembly sworn in on the eve of a new Governor and administration.   Tina Sfondeles of the Chicago Sun-Times joins the panel.

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

Chicago Ald. Ed Burke is accused of using his position to steer business to his law firm. The city's longest-serving alderman has ties across government in Illinois and the city — will there be other shoes to drop?

Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker announced his ninth and tenth transition committees this week, including one on business issues and economic development. He also reiterated his committment to raising Illinois' hourly minimum wage to $15.

Gov. Bruce Rauner held his first news conference since losing re-election. He would not say why he thinks he and his fellow Republicans lost, but he did tell reporters he's “scared” for the people of Illinois.

Commentary: Trying to impose his will rather than seeking compromise and calling counterparts corrupt got the one-term politician nowhere.

Like an actor in a Greek drama or a Shakespearean character, Gov. Bruce Rauner will leave office as a tragic figure, felled by his overriding hubris -- excessive pride or self-confidence, arrogance -- that led to his political downfall.

Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget office issued its final five-year forecast and the trends are not good. Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker is likely going to face an uphill climb toward meeting his campaign promises while coming anywhere close to balancing the state budget.

The Illinois General Assembly rolled over Gov. Bruce Rauner in the first week of veto session, voting to override his vetos of more than three-dozen bills. But that's only half the game.

When lawmakers return for week two of veto session, the House and Senate will swap bills to complete the override process — will the governor fare any better then?

In the final days of the 2018 elections, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic nominee J.B. Pritzker are making their closing arguments.

National politicians like President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden were also in Illinois in the last week, mostly to stump for Congressional candidates as Democrats and Republicans vie for control of the U.S. House.

The Democratic candidate for Illinois governor is facing a racial discrimination lawsuit against his campaign — from 10 of his own campaign workers.

With early voting underway and less than three weeks until Election Day, he denies the allegations and is pushing back hard.

This week, major-party candidates Governor Bruce Rauner and his Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker engaged in their second televised debate, which excluded the other two candidates on the ballot.

WBEZ Public Radio's Dave McKinney joins the panel.

Gov. Bruce Rauner attempts to reset his campaign with a speech to a small group of supporters. Will it be enough to overcome the 14 percentage points that separate the Republican incumbent from his Democratic opponent, J.B. Pritzker?

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Democratic nominee for governor J.B. Pritzker and incumbent Republican Bruce Rauner haven’t taken a break from campaigning since winning their respective primaries last week. Pritzker won in a landslide, while Rauner squeaked by his opponent. Mary Hansen talked with Charlie Wheeler, who says the tight race was no surprise.

Charlie Wheeler is the director of the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois Springfield. 

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