Stories by Hannah Meisel — Capitol News Illinois

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Don Tracy rallies the party faithful at the 2023 Illinois State Fair. Less than a year later, Tracy announced his resignation, citing party infighting. (Jerry Nowicki / Capitol News Illinois)

Weeks Before Republican National Convention, Illinois GOP Chair Don Tracy Announces Resignation Citing Party Infighting

Don Tracy, who’d held the job since February 2021, explained his resignation in a two-page letter that cited intraparty “power struggles.” He also said he is concerned about the direction the party is taking under the current membership of the Illinois Republican State Central Committee.

Conservative political operative Dan Proft (left) and former GOP governor candidate Darren Bailey (right) are pictured during an April 2024 hearing before the Illinois State Board of Elections. (Andrew Adams / Capitol News Illinois)

Election Board Urged to Dismiss Complaint That Darren Bailey and GOP Operative Dan Proft Illegally Coordinated in 2022 Campaign

A hearing officer is recommending the Illinois State Board of Elections dismiss a complaint that alleged conservative radio host and political operative Dan Proft illegally coordinated with former Republican state Sen. Darren Bailey during his 2022 campaign for governor.

Sports betting has become popular among Illinoisans since the market launched in 2020. But the state has also benefitted from taxing sportsbooks, netting nearly $415 million so far — a figure that’s set to rise even higher under a tax hike Democrats pushed through the General Assembly last week. (Amit Lahav / Unsplash)

Analysis: Democrats Tap Gaming Cash Cow to Help Fill Illinois Budget Gap

Sports wagering and video gambling have developed into two of the most robust markets in the nation; Illinois’ sportsbooks collectively have the fourth-largest handle among all states, while Illinois’ video gambling industry is by far the largest of any state.

(Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)

Judge Blocks Illinois Law That Would Have Banned Newly Slated Candidates From Ballot

A Sangamon County judge blocked the Illinois State Board of Elections from enforcing a new law that would have prevented certain General Assembly candidates who didn’t run in the March primary from getting on the November ballot. The move doesn’t void the bill in its entirety, but rather blocks it only for this year’s general election for the 14 named plaintiffs in the case.

The Sangamon County Complex is the venue for a legal challenge to a new state law that bars parties from placing candidates on the general election ballot if no candidate ran in the party’s primary. (Capitol News Illinois file photo)

After Would-Be Illinois GOP Candidates Sue, Judge Considering Whether Slated Candidates Can Appear on November Ballot

Democrats who control the General Assembly pushed the measure through the legislative process and Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed it into law in a matter of days last month, arguing that slating is unfair to voters who didn’t get a say in a primary contest. 

Brady Burden, a member of House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch’s staff, accompanies state Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, during floor debate of the budget bill early Wednesday, May 29, 2024. (Jerry Nowicki / Capitol News Illinois)

Members of Illinois House Speaker’s Staff Sue Over Ongoing Unionization Conflict

The Illinois Legislative Staff Association, which formed in the fall of 2022, claims House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch’s refusal to engage in collective bargaining since then is a violation of the Workers’ Rights Amendment.

Brady Burden, a member of the Illinois Legislative Staff Association organizing committee, is pictured with House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch in an October 2023 committee hearing. (Jerry Nowicki / Capitol News Illinois)

Would-Be Union of Legislative Staffers Accuses House Speaker of Undermining Organizing Effort

Seven months after Democratic Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch advanced a measure that would allow legislative staff to unionize, members of his own staff on Tuesday blasted the speaker for allowing the bill to languish.

The Illinois House of Representatives, shown during floor debate early in the final scheduled week of the 2024 spring legislative session. (Andrew Adams / Capitol News Illinois)

Nursing Home Industry Unlikely to See Much Help From Springfield in Tough Budget Year

The nursing home industry is still reeling from COVID-19, which exacerbated pre-existing challenges in long-term care — difficulties hiring and retaining staff and a population more reliant on government-funded care chief among them.

Stateville Correctional Center. (WTTW News)

Stateville May Close as Early as September Under Pritzker’s Prison Plan

Top officials with the Illinois Department of Corrections testified in front of a key panel of state lawmakers. Gov. J.B. Pritzker previously announced a plan to close Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill and Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is pictured on the state House floor on Thursday, April 18, 2024. (Jerry Nowicki / Capitol News Illinois)

Pritzker Says State ‘Obviously’ Needs to Change 2010 Law That Shrunk Pension Benefits

With a month and a half left in the General Assembly’s spring session, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration is readying its proposal to address Illinois’ chronically underfunded pension system.

Products that contain delta-8 THC are pictured next to the original packaging they resemble. (Hannah Meisel / Capitol News Illinois)

Illinois Lawmakers, Cannabis Industry Call for Ban on ‘Delta-8’ and Other Psychoactive Hemp Products

New legislation filed in Springfield revives an ongoing debate over delta-8 and other hemp-derived products, which are totally unregulated in Illinois even as the state approaches the five-year anniversary of legalizing cannabis.

Illinois State Capitol. (WTTW News)

Illinois Senate Advances Changes to State’s Biometric Privacy Law After Business Groups Split

Illinois is the only state that grants residents the right to sue over businesses’ improper collection and mishandling of biometric data — whether they are an employee or a customer. Business groups have been clamoring for changes as upwards of 2,000 lawsuits have been filed under the law since roughly 2018.

The Illinois State Board of Elections building is pictured in Springfield. (Peter Hancock / Capitol News Illinois)

Appeals Court Skeptical of Mike Bost’s Case to Stop Ballot Counts After Election Day

A panel of federal judges seemed skeptical of legal arguments made on behalf of Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, who claims Illinois’ law allowing counting of mail-in ballots for two weeks after an election is in violation of federal law.

Former Democratic state Sen. Terry Link exits the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago with his attorney Catharine O'Daniel on Wednesday, March 6, 2024, after being sentenced to three years’ probation on tax evasion charges. (Dilpreet Raju / Capitol News Illinois)

With Feds Citing ‘Extensive Cooperation,’ Ex-State Sen. Terry Link Sentenced to 3 Years Probation

During a brief sentencing hearing, the 76-year-old Terry Link made a public apology. Speaking slowly and with a tremor borne of a neurological condition that has worsened since he left office in 2020, Link said he’d made a mistake and “did not intend to cheat the government.”

Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s longtime chief of staff Tim Mapes exits the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in downtown Chicago on Monday, Feb. 12, 2024, after he was sentenced to 30 months in prison for perjury and attempted obstruction of justice. (Andrew Adams / Capitol News Illinois)

Judges, Ex-Lawmakers, Lobbyists Wrote to Support Convicted Ex-Madigan Aide Tim Mapes

Tim Mapes was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison, though U.S. District Judge John Kness told Mapes he had “zero hesitation in agreeing, wholeheartedly, that you are a good man,” after reading dozens of letters written to the court on Mapes’ behalf.

Former GOP state Sen. Sam McCann’s pickup truck – the same make and model of a truck named as an illicit purchase in his indictment – is parked outside of the Paul Findley Federal Courthouse in Springfield, where McCann was supposed to have faced a corruption trial this week. (Hannah Meisel / Capitol News Illinois)

Former Illinois Lawmaker Taken Into Custody Amid Delays to His Corruption Trial After Sudden Hospitalization

Judge declares Sam McCann out of ‘excuses’

The arrest caps a bizarre week that was supposed to have seen his corruption trial begin and end – until a last-minute hospitalization forced its postponement until Monday. 

State Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago, is pictured at a committee hearing in Chicago in July 2023. (Andrew Adams / Capitol News Illinois)

Democratic Leaders in Springfield Poised to Revisit Biometric Information Privacy Act After Court Rulings

Democratic leaders in the legislature appear ready to revive talks to reform the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act, or BIPA, after business groups poured cold water on the majority party’s ideas last spring.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, pictured right, explains how his office will implement a program to offer state IDs to exiting inmates. The program is a collaboration with Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias. (Capitol News Illinois photo by Andrew Adams)

Illinois Secretary of State Helps Launch First-of-Its-Kind State ID Program for People Leaving Cook County Jail Custody

Regardless of how long a detainee stays in jail, however, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said a state ID has consistently been at the “top of the list” of needs that those in jail reported to officials upon intake “because it unlocks everything else.”

The Illinois Supreme Court chamber is pictured in Springfield. (Peter Hancock / Capitol News Illinois)

Illinois High Court Rules Health Care Workers Exempt From Biometric Information Privacy Law

The justices ruled against a pair of nurses who sued their employers over their use of fingerprint-enabled medication storage — a technology many hospitals have adopted to curb abuse or theft of certain drugs.

The Illinois Supreme Court building is pictured in Springfield. (Jerry Nowicki / Capitol News Illinois)

Illinois Supreme Court Skeptical Consolidation of 649 Municipal Police and Fire Pension Funds Hurt Retirees’ Voting Rights

The nearly three-dozen pensioners and 17 individual pension funds that sued have already lost twice in lower court. But their attorney was insistent the retired police and firefighters were wronged when Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the law – passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

State Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Deerfield, is pictured in Springfield. (Jerry Nowicki / Capitol News Illinois)

Illinois Lawmakers Pass Bill Aimed at Modernizing Professional Licensing

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation has failed to meet its goals to speed up both initial licensing and renewals in key industries as applications to the agency grew by 15% between 2019 and 2022.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is pictured in his Capitol office. (Jerry Nowicki / Capitol News Illinois)

J.B. Pritzker Urges Joe Biden to Intervene as ‘Untenable’ Pace of Migrants Arriving in Illinois Accelerates

Buses from Texas accelerate as Illinois counts 15,000 new arrivals in 13 months

Without naming GOP figures like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Pritzker blamed political leaders who “have shipped people to our state like cargo in a dehumanizing attempt to score political points.”

Capitol News Illinois file photo. (Capitol News Illinois)

Disparately Resourced Public Defenders Across the State Prepare for End of Cash Bail in Illinois

Illinois on Monday will become the first state to fully abolish cash bail through an act of the legislature — a major criminal justice overhaul spurred by the advocacy of a progressive faction of the Democratic Party that’s grown increasingly powerful in recent years.

Former House Speaker Michael Madigan (middle), confidant Mike McClain (left) and longtime chief of staff Tim Mapes are pictured in Capitol News Illinois file photos. (Capitol News Illinois photos by Andrew Adams and Jerry Nowicki)

Emails Shown at Mapes Trial Detail Madigan World’s Response to 2018 Sexual Harassment Scandal

The email was introduced as evidence in the trial of longtime Madigan chief of staff Tim Mapes, who was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice after allegedly lying to a grand jury investigating Madigan and his inner circle.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul (Capitol News Illinois file photo)

Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Illinois Law Subjecting ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centers’ to Civil Liability

A new law allowing Illinoisans to sue so-called crisis pregnancy centers under the state’s Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act is on hold after a federal judge late Thursday granted a preliminary injunction against it.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker takes questions on Monday after a news conference at which his administration announced a new interagency effort to ensure access to abortion care in Illinois. (Credit: Illinois.gov)

Illinois to Invest More Than $23M in Abortion Access, Reproductive Health Care Initiatives

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced several new programs to help address the influx of out-of-state abortion seekers the state has seen in the 13 months since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.