In this Feb. 27, 2012, file photo, a residential building at the Jacksonville Developmental Center is seen during a media tour of the facility.
Seth Perlman/Associated Press
December 30, 2016

Report: Auction Preceded Move To Group Homes In Illinois

A published report details problems during former Gov. Pat Quinn's administration as Illinois closed an institution for adults withdevelopmental disabilities. The Chicago Tribune reports state officials required
group home operators to promise not to undermine the closure plans - or risk getting no referrals to fill beds. The Tribune reports 67 businesses signed a loyalty pledge to avoid being shut out of referrals in what amounted to an auction.

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Cronus Chemicals CEO Erzin Atac discusses its new fertilizer plan in Tuscola in October 2014.
Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media
June 10, 2016

Construction Delayed For Douglas County Fertilizer Plant

Plans for building the Cronus Chemicals fertlizer plant in Tuscola have been put off until 2017.  A spokesperson says the company is trying to finalize deals with contractors, and cost for setting up the facility on land once considered for the FutureGen project is now listed at $1.9 billion.

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House Speaker Michael Madigan talks to lawmakers in Springfield December 3.
(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
January 07, 2015

House Speaker Favors Comptroller Election In 2016

Chances the state will hold a special election for comptroller in 2016 have improved - now that the Illinois House Speaker has signaled his support. 

Llawmakers will be back in Springfield for special session Thursday to vote on it.

Speaker Michael Madigan's spokesman, Steve Brown, said Madigan will support giving voters a say, instead of allowing an appointee to take over long-term.

Brown had previously only said that Madigan believed the future of the comptroller's office was a matter to be settled by the executive branch.

"This was all precipitated by the sad passing, of Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, before sworn in for the term she won last November," he said.

As it stands now, Illinois law permits a governor to make an appointment to fill vacancies in constitutional offices.

That would allow Governor-elect Bruce Rauner's pick for comptroller, businesswoman Leslie Munger, to hold the office for four years.

But if the legislation introduced this week becomes law, Munger's appointment would only last two years. 

Then, in 2016, voters would weigh in on who should be comptroller. Brown says he's hopeful the measure will pass, then immediately go to Governor Pat Quinn for his signature.

Quinn supports the plan; on Monday he'll be replaced by Rauner, who has dismissed the concept of a special election.

"I thank Speaker Madigan for his partnership and support of this important legislation that will allow voters to exercise their democratic right to elect their Comptroller," said Quinn, in a statement released Wednesday.  “We must ensure that power always lies with the people in choosing who their statewide elected officials should be.  I look forward to working with Speaker Madigan and President Cullerton to pass this measure tomorrow in the Illinois House and Senate.”

 A sample of medical marijuana is displayed at a dispensary in Portland Oregon.
January 02, 2015

Illinois Has No Explanation For Delay In Marijuana Permits

Gov. Pat Quinn's administration concedes it missed its end-of-the-year target for deciding which businesses will receive permits to begin the state's medical marijuana program.

The lag will force cultivation center owners to break ground for new construction during the coldest winter months.

The delay pushes back the harvest of the first cannabis crop. Patients will have to wait, perhaps until summer, before they can legally use the drug.
Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold says the state is conducting "a comprehensive review'' of applications to ensure only the most qualified are approved.

She says an announcement will come when the review is finished.
Democratic state Rep. Lou Lang, who sponsored the state's medical marijuana legislation, predicts permits will be awarded before Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner's inauguration Jan. 12.

December 31, 2014

Hear The Sounds Of 2014 In Illinois Politics

Brian Mackey compiled this audio montage for Illinois Public Radio, of some of the voices that made news in Illinois politics in 2014.

Most of the action was in the campaign for governor ... in which Bruce Rauner became the first Republican to win that office since the late 1990's. But you'll also hear the voices of Rauner's GOP primary rivals including Bill Brady and Dan Rutherford, Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and the late state comptroller, Judy Baar Topinka.


Illinois Governor Pat Quinn
December 31, 2014

Quinn Issues Posthumous Pardons For 3 Abolitionists

Gov. Pat Quinn has granted clemency to more than 100 people, including posthumous pardons for three Illinois abolitionists found guilty of working on the Underground Railroad. 

The three granted Wednesday weren't part of the thousands of requests awaiting the Chicago Democrat who leaves office next month. Among those, he granted 99 requests and denied 208 for cases dating to 2008.

The crimes included burglary and forgery.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon pushed for the posthumous pardons. Her office worked on them with state historians and legal interns as a special project.

The pardons were granted to Richard Eells of Quincy and Julius and Samuel Willard of Jacksonville, who were convicted more than 170 years ago.
Overall, Quinn has acted on over 4,000 clemency petitions, granting 1,520.

He leaves office Jan. 12 when Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner is sworn in.

Illinois Budget Director Jerry Stermer looks on before Governor Quinn delivers the State Budget Address in March
(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
December 19, 2014

Quinn Names Longtime Aide To Replace Topinka

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has named his budget chief as a short-term replacement for late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. 

Jerry Stermer has been director of the governor's budget office since 2012.

He was the Chicago Democrat's chief of staff during Quinn's first term and the longtime director of advocacy group Voices for Illinois Children.  
Incoming Gov. Bruce Rauner had called on Quinn to name Topinka's longtime chief  of staff as her replacement.
Stermer will serve until Rauner takes office on Jan. 12, when the new governor will announce a full four-year replacement.
There have been conflicting ideas about how to fill Topinka's terms.
Quinn has called lawmakers back to Springfield to consider a 2016 special election so voters could have a say in the process.

“Appointing a temporary placeholder and keeping Judy Baar Topinka’s staff in place is an appropriate decision and will ensure continuity of services for the people of Illinois – for that I thank the governor," said Gov.-Elect Bruce Rauner.  "I know Jerry Stermer will be well served by Nancy Kimme and the team in the comptroller’s office.”

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton on Senate floor Thursday.
(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
December 04, 2014

Senate Adjourns Veto Session

Illinois' Senate president says it's unlikely the chamber will return to work before a new General Assembly is sworn in next year.

Chicago Democrat John Cullerton made the comments as the Senate concluded its fall veto session Thursday.

He says he's keeping the chamber open to have the option of reconvening between now and Jan. 13.

"But it's not anticipated we'll be having any more action," he said.  "So, thanks once again for all of hard work these last two years, we've done a great job. Look forward to seeing you next year."

The House on Wednesday formally adjourned for the year after Speaker Michael Madigan said he didn't have enough votes for a bill raising the state's minimum wage. 

The Senate passed the bill by a 39-18 vote after the House left.
Outgoing Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn or legislative leaders could agree to call a special session, but Quinn hasn't indicated if he will do so.

A Quinn spokesman says "all options are on the table.''

Bruce Rauner
December 02, 2014

Rauner: State Budget 'Worse Than Discussed'

Governor-elect Bruce Rauner was back in Springfield Tuesday.  He told reporters - not surprisingly - that Illinois’ finances are in terrible shape.

Rauner says he's spending Tuesday and Wednesday at the Capitol in Springfield. He is meeting with lawmakers and budget experts to get a better handle on the budget situation.
Rauner says he has been surprised to learn details of a $35.7 billion budget passed by lawmakers in May that didn't allocate enough money to cover agency expenses.

Now Rauner says the problem is even worse than it seemed.

“This is about good communication with the voters and the taxpayers," he said.  "Right now, we are discussing the challenges that we face in some more detail so the voters really understand, because the voters have been misled intentionally by the politicians."

Outgoing Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn's assistant budget director Tuesday noted that the governor proposed a different budget praised by bond rating agencies and has called the one approved by lawmakers "incomplete.''

Rauner campaigned on a pledge of lowering taxes. He says he plans to "discuss solutions in the coming months.'' 

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