WBEZ | legislature http://www.wbez.org/tags/legislature Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Illinois Senate votes to legalize gay marriage http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/illinois-senate-votes-legalize-gay-marriage-105530 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS6806_AP217659454282-scr_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated: 3 p.m.</em></p><p>Illinois moved closer Thursday to becoming the 10th state in the nation where same-sex couples can legally wed, after the Senate voted to lift a ban on gay marriage.</p><p>Senators voted 34-21 to approve the measure, sending it on to the state House where Democrats also hold a majority. Gov. Pat Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, has said he will sign the bill if the House approves it.</p><p>The bill&#39;s sponsor, Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, called it &quot;a vote for the history books.&quot;</p><p>&quot;We have the opportunity today to welcome all families in Illinois as equally valued,&quot; she said.</p><p>Before approving the measure, the Senate attached an amendment Thursday that explicitly states no church or other religious organization will be forced to solemnize same-sex marriages. It also says churches cannot be sued if they don&#39;t allow their parishes to be used for same-sex marriage ceremonies.</p><p>Some Republicans raised concerns that the bill would force religious organizations to allow same-sex marriage ceremonies in their fellowship halls, parish centers or even in their sanctuaries. Steans said even before the amendment was added that the bill made clear churches won&#39;t be forced to perform same-sex marriages.</p><p>Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Champaign, was the only Republican to vote yes. He said he worked with Steans on the amendment before pledging his support.</p><p>&quot;I think it was the right thing to do,&quot; Barickman said. &quot;It&#39;s a vote that I understand some have varying opinions on, but I feel that I voted in the correct way.&quot;</p><p>The Valentine&#39;s Day vote marked the first time gay marriage has passed on the floor of either chamber of the Legislature. Steans and other supporters tried to pass it during the January lame duck session. But after getting approval from a Senate committee, Steans opted not to call for floor action, saying it didn&#39;t have enough votes.</p><p>After picking up seats in November, Democrats entered the current legislative session with control of 40 seats in the Senate, where 30 votes are required to advance most measures. The Senate Executive Committee approved the gay marriage bill on a party-line vote last week, setting up the Valentine&#39;s Day floor action.</p><p>Jim Bennett, regional director for Lambda Legal, said supporting same-sex marriage is &quot;both politically smart and morally right.&quot;</p><p>Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, said he &quot;the prospects are very good&quot; in the House, where he&#39;s the bill sponsor.</p><p>Harris said he hasn&#39;t spoken with House leadership about when a vote may occur in the House, but he said he hopes it will be soon. He wouldn&#39;t comment on how the roll call looks so far.</p><p>Polls show voters&#39; feelings shifting rapidly in favor of gay rights. President Barack Obama said last year he supports same-sex marriage, and in November voters in four states either approved or voted down bans on gay marriage.</p><p>&quot;I think it&#39;s a safer vote to vote with us than to vote against us at this point,&quot; Bennett said.</p><p>The issue has caused internal conflict among Republicans as the party works balance its efforts to appeal more to younger voters, minorities and women with the more socially conservative positions of some members.</p><p>After Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady announced his support for gay marriage during the lame-duck legislative session, saying it was a civil rights issue, some Republicans called for his ouster. Opponents of gay marriage pledged to fund primary challenges to any Republican who voted in favor of the bill.</p><p>Thursday&#39;s vote came two years after Illinois lawmakers approved civil unions, which provide legal recognition of a partnership between two people, regardless of gender. But gay marriage supporters said it wasn&#39;t enough.</p></p> Thu, 14 Feb 2013 10:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/illinois-senate-votes-legalize-gay-marriage-105530 Senate panel OKs licenses for illegal immigrants http://www.wbez.org/news/senate-panel-oks-licenses-illegal-immigrants-104108 <p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; Supporters of licensing illegal immigrants to drive say it would make Illinois roads safer with trained motorists required to carry insurance.</p><p>The Senate Executive Committee voted 12-2 Thursday to advance the plan for some of the 250,000 people living in Illinois illegally.</p><p>Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran told the committee unlicensed and uninsured illegal immigrants cause $64 million in damage claims each year &mdash; a cost covered by insured motorists&#39; premiums.</p><p>Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont says the plan is a good example of state law filling in where the federal government has failed to act.</p><p>The legislation&#39;s sponsor is Senate President John Cullerton. The Chicago Democrat says the licenses would be good for three years.</p></p> Thu, 29 Nov 2012 12:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/senate-panel-oks-licenses-illegal-immigrants-104108 Illinois Senate overrides Quinn's prison cuts http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-senate-overrides-quinns-prison-cuts-104072 <p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; The Illinois Senate has voted to restore Gov. Pat Quinn&#39;s budget cuts that would force the closure of prisons and other state facilities.</p><p>The Senate voted 35-16 to reject cuts of $56 million to funds for the Tamms high-security prison, the Dwight women&#39;s lockup and other sites.</p><p>The measure moves to the House. If the House approves it, Quinn wouldn&#39;t be forced to spend the money on the facilities. But it would prohibit the Democratic governor from spending the cash on anything else.</p><p>Quinn opposed the override. He wants to improve child-protection program funding. His administration has argued that Tamms and some juvenile detention centers are underutilized and that developmentally disabled residents in state institutions would do better in community settings.</p></p> Wed, 28 Nov 2012 12:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-senate-overrides-quinns-prison-cuts-104072 Illinois Senate plans vote on tax 'transparency' http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-senate-plans-vote-tax-transparency-104041 <p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; Illinois Senate President John Cullerton plans a vote this week on a measure that would require some corporations to reveal their income-tax bills.</p><p>Cullerton and House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie say two-thirds of corporations in Illinois don&#39;t pay any income tax but state officials don&#39;t know who they are. The Chicago Democrats say the proposal would help lawmakers decide future tax policy and whether corporate tax breaks are working.</p><p>Publicly traded corporations would have to post online the amount of corporate income taxes they paid two years prior to publication.</p><p>Business groups, however, contend tax bills are confidential. They say lawmakers know how much each business tax break they create costs overall and can decide policy based on that.</p></p> Tue, 27 Nov 2012 12:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-senate-plans-vote-tax-transparency-104041 Illinois Senate to weigh revised tax-break plan http://www.wbez.org/story/illinois-senate-weigh-revised-tax-break-plan-94865 <p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Under pressure to act quickly, the Illinois Senate is scheduled Tuesday to consider tax relief for some big-name companies threatening to leave the state. The proposal is part of a $330 million package sweetened by aid for smaller businesses and struggling families.</p><p>CME Group Inc., which operates the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Sears Holdings Corp., has been urging lawmakers to take action before the end of the year. Along with the trading company CBOE Holding Inc., CME has threatened to move to different states unless Illinois helps cut its tax bills.</p><p>The Senate is scheduled to meet a day after the tax package passed the Illinois House. The Senate has approved similar legislation in the past, so the latest version is likely to get the chamber's stamp of approval.</p><p>Some House members were dubious about responding to threats from businesses, and protesters in the House gallery on Monday unfurled a banner saying "Stop Corporate Extortion." Their timing was off, though: They displayed the message while lawmakers were debating tax breaks for individuals.</p><p>House approval marked a dramatic turnaround. Just two weeks ago, a similar package failed 8-99, with some lawmakers demanding more relief for poor families and others opposing any help for the poor.</p><p>This time, backers split the proposal into separate bills, one dealing with corporate taxes and the other with personal taxes. Each bill then passed because the two groups of opponents were voting against different bills. The business measure passed 81-28. Tax relief for families passed 67-49.</p><p>Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn called the package "a win for the people of Illinois" because it would help business while also offering some relief to families.</p><p>The financial exchanges had appealed for lower taxes by arguing that it's no longer appropriate for the state to tax every one of their transactions as if they take place on a Chicago trading floor. Most are now handled electronically and do not involve buyers or sellers in Illinois.</p><p>Under the proposal headed for the Senate, the exchanges would be taxed on just 27.54 percent of their revenue, a somewhat arbitrary figure legislators said should be re-examined later. The change should save the companies about $85 million a year.</p><p>CME employs about 2,000 people in Illinois. If the company were to move, most of those jobs would move, too, but executives say the trading floors for the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange would stay.</p><p>Sears would be granted an extension of an economic development credit it has been getting for years. It would save $15 million a year for the next 10 years. A break on local taxes for its headquarters in the Chicago suburbs would also be renewed. Sears called the House vote a "major step" and said it hoped the Senate would follow suit.</p><p>Losing the Sears headquarters would cost Illinois about 6,000 jobs.</p><p>Lawmakers also approved $2 million in tax breaks to encourage production of live theater in Chicago and $350,000 a year in credits for Champion Laboratories Inc., a southern Illinois company that is moving to the Chicago suburbs.</p><p>For businesses in general, the package includes a research-and-development credit, a more generous method of writing off losses, extension of a tax break for ethanol and an expansion of what property is exempt from estate taxes. The cost of these measures would be roughly $120 million a year.</p><p>Critics fear the corporate tax breaks will take scarce dollars away from state services.</p><p>The Service Employees International Union asked why CME Group needs tax relief when it is making huge amounts of money — $316 million in the most recent quarter alone.</p><p>The tax breaks for families would cost the state about $110 million a year and come in two forms.</p><p>One is an increase in the personal income tax exemption. It now stands at $2,000, which means for every person in a household $2,000 is exempt from state taxes. The new legislation would raise that to $2,050 and require it to rise each year with the rate of inflation.</p><p>The other tax break is an increase in the state's earned-income tax credit, which helps the working poor hang on to more of their money. The credit is now 5 percent of the federal tax credit. The House action would raise that to 10 percent.</p><p>House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, said the increase means a single mother making minimum wage and raising two children would see her $400 state tax bill cut to $259. That money goes back into the economy and helps Illinois businesses, she said.</p><p>"This is not money people are going to sit on. It's money they are going to spend," Currie said.</p></p> Tue, 13 Dec 2011 18:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/illinois-senate-weigh-revised-tax-break-plan-94865 Quinn would consider keeping prison open http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-would-consider-keeping-prison-open-92861 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-October/2011-10-05/quinn advantage illinois presser.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn said Wendesday he's willing to consider reallocating money to avoid a prison closing. Seven state facilities including a central Illinois prison might close because of a lack of state funds.</p><p>But Quinn said the money to keep the prison open must come from re-allocation, and that he won't borrow cash. The General Assembly would have to agree to re-allocate the money.</p><p>"The bottom line is we can't just sit here and hope for the best. The fiscal year is a quarter over now and we have to make the economies necessary to get through the fiscal year," Quinn said.</p><p>Quinn's threats have sparked fears of over-crowding in other prisons. A Quinn spokeswoman said that even if the prison in Lincoln, Illinois were closed, the state Department of Corrections would still have a sizeable budget deficit.</p><p>The other threatened facilities include a youth prison and facilities for those with mental illness and disability.</p><p>"We're not going to have as many institutions in the future," Quinn said, referring to the closure of facilities for people mental health conditions. "We're going to have much more emphasis on community care, which is more economical and in many cases many people feel is more humane."</p><p>All told, closing the seven proposed facilities would cut 2,000 state jobs.</p><p>Earlier this week, an arbitrator ruled closing the facilities would violate an agreement with AFSCME, the state's largest public employees union. Quinn said his hands are tied because the legislature didn't allocate enough money in the state's strapped budget to keep the facilities running.</p><p>Quinn's offices released a statement saying they plan to take the matter to court.</p></p> Wed, 05 Oct 2011 18:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-would-consider-keeping-prison-open-92861 Indiana, Illinois legislatures consider new abortion laws http://www.wbez.org/story/abortion/indiana-illinois-legislatures-consider-new-abortion-laws <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/77159310.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Indiana House of Representatives could consider abortion legislation this week.</p><p>The Indiana Senate approved two bills dealing with reproductive issues. Now, the House could take them up.</p><p>One bill would prohibit the state from making contracts or grants with organizations that provide abortions. Hospitals would be exempt.</p><p>Another bill would require a doctor to tell any woman who is seeking an abortion that life begins at conception, and that her fetus might feel pain.</p><p>Planned Parenthood of Indiana calls the bills a bills amount to a legislative assault on women. The group's planning a rally at the statehouse Tuesday that's meant to kill the proposals.</p><p>It's not clear whether there will be debate, though. Indiana Democrats are in a legislative boycott related to labor unions.</p><p>Meanwhile, a proposal in the Illinois statehouse would require doctors to ask pregnant women if they want to see their ultrasound images. This would apply to women at clinics where abortions are performed.</p><p>If a woman says no, the measure would require her to sign paperwork saying she declined.</p><p>American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Lorie Chaiten said requiring a woman to sign off on an ultrasound is insensitive.</p><p>&quot;For a woman who has survived a sexual assault, but has become pregnant as a result of it, that offering of viewing the ultrasound and then requiring her to sign a statement that she doesn't want to see it can be traumatic and cause her and her family pain,&quot; Chaiten said.</p><p>Patients would also have to wait an hour after the ultrasound before doctors can perform the abortion. Chaiten said that waiting period could end up putting the woman's health at risk.</p><p>But supporters say the point is to prevent women from making an uninformed decision.</p></p> Mon, 07 Mar 2011 13:44:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/abortion/indiana-illinois-legislatures-consider-new-abortion-laws