Maureen Foertsch McKinney

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is the NPR Illinois News Editor and a lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers,  and is curator of the Equity blog. Maureen joined the staff in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Hate crimes rose by 30 percent in Illinois in 2018, according to a recently released FBI report.

A coalition of 26 advocacy organizations sent a letter to Gov. J.B. Pritzker this week asking him to order the Illinois Department of Corrections to immediately improve its treatment of a suicidal transgender inmate. 

Janiah Monroe, who is isolated in a medical unit, is in danger of committing suicide because of the departments’ refusal recognize her as a woman and its denial of her request to provide surgery to treat gender dysphoria, according to the letter. She's one of five transgender women who have a lawsuit pending against IDOC.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has a bill on his desk that would end the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for most non-moving violations, like unpaid parking tickets.

Nationwide, the abortion rate has been declining since the 1980s, but Illinois has recorded a smaller drop than our neighboring states.

THOMAS HAWK VIA FLICKR / CC BY-NC 2.0

Amid a federal corruption probe, a suburban Chicago lawmaker wants to effectively ban red-light cameras.

*The city of Fairview Heights in southwestern Illinois has drawn national attention for the stealthily built Planned Parenthood Clinic that will open there later this month.

The 18,000-square-foot clinic will dwarf another one that  Planned Parenthood already operates in Fairview Heights, about a dozen miles from downtown St. Louis.  That site only provides medication abortions and other medical treatments.

An Illinois agency is conducting a survey to gauge violent crime against LGBTQ  individuals.

The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority points out research has shown a higher incidence of violence against those who identify as LGBTQ.  That’s according to the agency’s Jaclyn Houston Kolnik. Twenty percent of hate crimes reported in 2015 were related to sexual orientation or gender-identity bias.

An Illinois lawmaker has filed legislation that would prohibit the state from requiring employees to travel to any state that has enacted tight abortion restrictions.

State Rep. Daniel Didech, a Buffalo Grove Democrat, says his bill covers states with laws aimed to restrict abortions within eight weeks of pregnancy or laws that could trigger a criminal investigation if a woman miscarries, as some have interpreted a Georgia measure to do.

Illinois' Legislative Inspector General says a former aide to House Speaker Michael Madigan sexually harassed a subordinate, Alaina Hampton.

Inspector General Carol Pope’s report says Kevin Quinn harassed Hampton, relentlessly pursuing a relationship over her objections. Pope says that harassment created “an intimidating, hostile, and offensive working environment.”

In a letter, Quinn accepted responsibility for his actions and apologized to Hampton.

Though the U.S. poverty rate has dropped to the pre-recession level, Illinois has not yet reached that target.

Voices for Illinois Children

Nearly 90 percent of the children living in concentrated poverty in Illinois are nonwhite, according to a recent report by a child advocacy group.

The woman who blew the whistle on Michael Madigan's silence in her #MeToo case is still searching for a job and closure.

Alaina Hampton says she is finally starting to heal emotionally, but she still wishes she could afford therapy. And she’s struggling to find work.

Christopher Fuller Photography

A recent report illustrates just how much harder it is for people who aren’t white to get small-business loans.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday signed a sweeping anti-sexual harassment law. But one woman who accused a lawmaker of harassment is disappointed with an aspect of the new rules.

Denise Rotheimer says she objects to part of the new law that levies a fine of $5,000 on accusers for leaking information from an inspector general  report's release.

Billy Brown / Flickr / CC-by 2.0

Banks in Illinois are more likely to lend to white-owned small businesses as opposed to their minority counterparts — to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. That’s according to a report released Tuesday by the Woodstock Institute, a social justice and research think tank.

An inmate’s complaint about an Illinois prison’s refusal to let her breastfeed has led to a system-wide policy change at the Illinois Department of Corrections

Emily French said she tried to breastfeed her newborn son Elijah but guards at Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln ordered her to stop, citing Department of Corrections’ rules.

“We offered to use a blanket to cover and they said no. So, it was, it was uncomfortable. I felt guilty that I couldn't do anything about it.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed a law intended to prevent discrimination against living organ donors. It will apply to employers and insurance companies.

Megan Craig said she made the best decision of her life at age 25. That’s when she donated a kidney to 20-month-old Evan Simms. Eight years later, Simms is alive and well and resides in South Wilmington. And Craig works at the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation that will allow some Supplement Nutrion Assistance Program (SNAP) - formerly known as food stamps - recipients to use benefits at restaurants.

The program will be offered to people who are elderly, homeless or have a disability. 

More counties appear on an anti-poverty group’s watch and warning lists this year than last.

Of the state’s 102 counties, 67 are on a watch list — or more serious warning list — created by the research arm of the Heartland Alliance, which works on social issues in areas that include poverty. That’s up from 52 last year.

This year, 14 counties throughout the state made the severe warning list.

The state of Illinois  is expected to hire more than 300 training and technical  staff members in an attempt to bring down a backlog of unprocessed Medicaid applications.

The  General Assembly also approved a bill this spring aimed at addressing problems with the Medicaid program. Those include a high denial rate cited by providers and the application processing backlog – which has reached over 100,000.  

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.

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.

Denise Rotheimer, who accused an Illinois state senator of sexual harassment at the start of the #Me-Too movement, now wants Gov. J.B. Pritzker to throw out part of an anti-harassment bill state lawmakers just passed.

All Illinois employers would have to conduct sexual harassment training under sweeping legislation adopted in the waning days of the General Assembly. 

“This really deals with sexual harassment, discrimination, and equity issues affecting every worker in the state of Illinois,’’ said  Democratic state Senator Melinda Bush of Grayslake, who is sponsor of the bill, which would protect independent contractors under the Illinois Human Rights Act. “So it is, I would say, probably one of the biggest pieces of civil rights law we’ve had in years.”

The Illinois legislature last week approved a measure to have public schools include LGBTQ history in their curriculum. That news hit home with Callie Vine, who will attend Carbondale High School in the fall.

Callie, who's 14, is gender-nonconforming, which means she doesn’t fit into a set definition being of masculine of feminine. She made this bill the focus of her history fair project, and won the chance to compete at state.

Gov.  J.B. Pritzker’s signature would ensure that single-occupancy public restrooms in Illinois will be gender neutral.

The bill was approved by the Senate in April and a few days ago by the House of Representatives.

Kim Hunt is executive director of the Pride Action Tank, which advocated for the measure.

“It brings me a great deal of joy that we live in a state where legislators get it, and that’s not the case in many others,’’ she said,

The measure will update the state’s plumbing code, which specifies that restrooms be labeled by specific gender.

State Representative Kelly Cassidy said Thursday that she’s received a pledge from House Speaker Mike Madigan that her expansive abortion legislative will be heard.

That bill would lift provisions that would make performing abortions illegal if Roe. V. Wade is overturned. The bill would also require private insurers to cover abortion if they already cover pregnancy-related expenses.

The Alabama legislature approved some of the most restrictive abortion rules in the country this week. A group of lawmakers wants to make Illinois the most progressive state.

Seventy-five women dressed in long red robes and white bonnets gathered at the capitol Wednesday. They represent characters from the dystopian Margaret Atwood novel and recent television series The Handmaid’s Tale.

Illinois could become the third state in the nation to require that single restrooms in offices, restaurants and other public places be gender-neutral.

Similar laws are in place in California and Vermont.

Illinois could become the first state in the Midwest to require public schools to teach LGBTQ history.

The plan calls for the contributions of LGBTQ people to be acknowledged in history courses and in textbooks purchased by public schools. The State House of Representatives approved the bill in March. The state Senate could consider it as early as this week.

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