Flickr Creative Commons/Kheel Center

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics has released figures that show union membership in Illinois matched a historic low in 2016.  Union membership in Illinois accounted for 14.5% of the wage and salary workers in the state last year. That is down from 15.2% from the previous year and ties the historic low set in 2007.

Chicago Public Schools officials are seeking a preliminary injunction barring the state of Illinois from disbursing education funds until it adequately funds the state's largest school district.  Faced with a huge deficit and an upcoming teacher pension payment, CEO Forrest Claypool says the Chicago school year could end three weeks early on June 1 if the state doesn't come through with funds.

City governments across Illinois are asking to have their state funding put on autopilot.  It’s the latest consequence of Illinois’ 20-month budget stalemate.  The money in question comes from taxes on gasoline, phone bills, and gambling. It's collected by the state and passed along to local governments.  That is, unless the powers that be never agree on a budget.

A group of Illinois legislators are pushing an agenda intended to help farmers who sell at local markets.

A southwest Illinois school official says he plans to seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018. Robert Daiber is the Madison County regional superintendent of schools.  He says the state faces a real financial crisis, including the ongoing budget impasse, and the governor's chief responsibility is to submit a spending plan. He says his candidacy will focus on compromising collaboration.

Chicago's Civic Federation has laid out a map to lead Illinois out of the fiscal abyss.  The non-partisan government research organization says Illinois’ biggest problem is state government’s failure to pass a budget for going on two years.

State legislators are making another attempt at bringing automatic voter registration to Illinois.  Democrats filed bills in the state House and Senate that would automatically register state residents to vote when they visit certain state agencies, unless they decide to opt out. The agencies include the Secretary of State's offices, where residents apply for driver's licenses, and four others.

Small communities throughout Illinois are having trouble recruiting and retaining volunteers at their local fire departments. 70% of fire departments in Illinois are volunteers. Springfield is the only community in Sangamon County with an all full-time fire department.

Legislation has been introduced in the Illinois Legislature that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to register for the state's organ and tissue donor registry.  The measure would let teens become part of the registry when they register to drive or register for their state identification card. It would amend the Illinois Anatomical Gift Act, which requires those joining the donor registry to be at least age 18.

Beth Purvis serves as Gov. Bruce Rauner's Secretary of Education, and she headed the 25-member commission he tasked with finding a way to make Illinois' school funding more equitable. After six months of meetings, the bipartisan panel adjourned yesterday releasing a report meant to guide lawmakers toward drafting a reform measure. Shortly after that final meeting, Purvis talked to me about the novel test she used with the commission, and why the panel stopped short of endorsing a specific plan.

Illinois has become the 17th state to reach a settlement with a California-based human resources software startup for alleged insurance code violations.  Illinois Department of Insurance investigators found the startup Zenefits violated state law by allowing unlicensed employees to sell insurance to Illinois-based businesses.

Illinois continues to lead the nation in environmentally sustainable building by making strides in sustainable design and construction.  The 2016 national rankings by the U.S. Green Building Council list the state in third place. This makes it one of just two states to remain in the top ten since the rankings began seven years ago.

  Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner delivered his third State of the State speech WEDNESDAY. Brian Mackey reports it comes amid a protracted political fight that's decimated parts of state government.


The State of the State address is usually a time when governors tout accomplishments.


Paul Coussens

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton is still trying to arrange a floor vote Wednesday on a compromise budget plan even as loud opposition has arisen in the Capitol.  The Chicago Democrat says the massive tax-increase and spending overhaul plan he negotiated with Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont is complex and the two leaders are having difficulty lining up votes for it. Cullerton says he's still pushing because it's an emergency.

Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin had harsh words today in Springfield for Republican proposals in Congress to repeal Obamacare and give states more responsibility in running Medicaid.  President Donald Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan have both said they’re in favor of so-called block grants. 

The Supreme Court won't hear an appeal challenging Illinois' system for issuing permits for people to carry concealed weapons in public.  The justices let stand a lower court ruling that upheld the state's requirements for obtaining a concealed-carry license.

State officials say television and film production generated nearly a half-billion dollars in spending in Illinois last year.  The Illinois Film Office says the 2016 figure of $499 million represents a 51% increase over 2015. Film office officials say the state worked with 345 television, commercial and film projects which generated nearly 13,400 job hires during 2016.

Governor Bruce Rauner said he does not support a repeal of Obamacare without a replacement.

Seoul Virus Hits Illinois Pet Rats

Jan 20, 2017

State Public Health officials are warning people who own or breed rats to watch out for the Seoul virus. Six people in Illinois and two in Wisconsin have been found to have the virus, caught from rats that were traced to two rat-breeding operations in Illinois. 

Rauner: Obamacare Replacement Needed

Jan 18, 2017

Governor Bruce Rauner said Wednesday he is opposed to a repeal of Obamacare  without a replacement. It’s a rare comment from the governor about national politics.

An Illinois Department of Human Services official has told state legislators that group homes for adults with disabilities will face stricter licensing standards and enforcement, and that they'll be graded on safety and quality for the first time.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is in the early stages of imposing new employment terms for members of AFSCME the state's largest government labor union.  That's because of a state labor relations board decision early this week that the two sides are at an impasse in contract negotiations.  But AFSCME members like Randy Knight, with the department of revenue, want Rauner to instead choose to resume talks.  Knight and hundreds of other state employees picketed outside their Springfield office over the lunch hour.

Flickr Creative Commons/Matt Turner

After record-breaking spending on state legislative races… Democrats will retain control of both the Illinois House and Senate.  That’s even after Republicans picked up at least seven seats.  In the Senate, Republicans flipped two seats, including the one long held by Democrat Gary Forby in far southern Illinois.  Senate Democrats, however, will maintain their veto-proof majority.

The presidential race is capturing most voters' attention. But here in Illinois, there's record-breaking spending going into races for the General Assembly. Hanging in the balance is the state of Illinois, or at least its budget, anyway.

Illinois consumers who buy health insurance on the marketplace created by President Barack Obama's overhaul will find less choice than ever when they pick a policy for next year.  The lack of competition is felt nationally. A new analysis finds about one-third of U.S. counties will have only one health marketplace insurer next year. 

Flickr Creative Commons/Kyle May

The first question on Illinois ballots in November's election isn't for president or senator, but on a proposed constitutional amendment prohibiting diversion of public money targeted for transportation projects to other state budget needs.

Wikimedia Commons

  TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - States adjacent to Lake Michigan have agreed to cut back on stocking the lake with chinook salmon and lake trout over the next two years.

Alachua County, Creative Commons

Illinois health officials are testing feral cats and warning residents to have their pets vaccinated after two outdoor cats tested positive for the disease in northern Illinois and western Missouri.

Gov. Bruce Rauner is gearing up for the Land of Lincoln's 200th birthday. Illinois became the nation's 21st state on Dec. 3, 1818.  Rauner says the bicentennial will be a chance to "celebrate Illinois' contributions to the country and the world and plan for our next 200 years of innovation and achievement."

Some Illinois Service Agencies See Payment

Sep 14, 2016

Social service agencies around Illinois are starting to get the money the state government owes them from the year-long budget impasse.   Becky Beilfuss runs Teen Parent Connection, an organization that serves about 500 DuPage County families with teenage parents.  The state government owed the organization $335,000 dollars during the budget impasse.