Stories by Peter Hancock — Capitol News Illinois

Ronnie Preston dances in the Illinois Capitol in February 2024 as part of the Native American Summit organized by the Chicago American Indian Community Collaborative. (Andrew Adams / Capitol News Illinois)

Native Tribe Seeks Return of Ancestral Land in DeKalb County

A bill pending in the General Assembly would give back roughly 1,500 acres of park land in DeKalb County to the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. That tribe once occupied much of the Great Lakes region but was forcibly removed in the 19th century.

Former state Sen. Sam McCann is pictured in a mugshot after being arrested last week for violating his conditions of pretrial release. (Courthouse photo by Peter Hancock, Capitol News Illinois; booking photo from Macon County Sheriff’s Office)

Trial of Former GOP Illinois Lawmaker Delayed Another Day as He Cancels Plan to Represent Himself

Former state Sen. SamMcCann’s trial has been delayed numerous times since his February 2021 indictment on fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion charges.   

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

Trump Ballot Challenge in Illinois to Move Forward

The case is based on claims that former President Donald Trump’s actions surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the U.S. Capitol amounted to an insurrection, and thus he should be disqualified from holding public office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

State Superintendent of Education Tony Sanders, left, and Illinois State Board of Education Chair Stephen Isoye speak at the board’s regular meeting on Jan. 24, 2023. (Peter Hancock / Capitol News Illinois)

Illinois State Board of Education to Seek $653M Increase in Upcoming Budget Year

PreK-12 education spending currently makes up about one-fifth of the state’s entire General Revenue Fund budget. The proposed increase, if approved, would bring the state’s total GRF spending on public education to just over $11 billion.

Democratic state Reps. Maurice West, of Rockford, and Carol Ammons, of Urbana, discuss Ammons’ proposal to expand voting by mail in Illinois during a meeting Jan. 10, 2024, of the House Ethics and Elections Committee. (Peter Hancock / Capitol News Illinois)

Proposal Calls for Expanding Voting by Mail in Illinois

As the 2024 election season draws near, voters will once again choose whether to cast their ballots in person or by mail. One Illinois lawmaker is proposing a bill that would make voting by mail the default option for people in counties and cities that choose to go that route.

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

Trump Faces Ballot Challenge in Illinois Minutes After Filing His Petitions

A group of five voters filed a joint objection to former President Donald Trump’s candidacy, arguing that he should be disqualified under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits anyone who took part in an insurrection against the U.S. from holding federal office.

(MD Duran / Unsplash)

As Dual Credit Participation Grows in Illinois, Study Shows Gaps Widening

A growing number of students are working to earn as many college credits as possible while they are still in high school. But even as the popularity continues to grow for “dual credit” offerings, a new study shows disparities between racial, economic and geographic groups are also widening.

Illinois State Police acting chief legal counsel Suzanne Bond told lawmakers the agency has listened to gun owners’ concerns and made changes to the rules that were first proposed in September. (Capitol News Illinois)

As Deadline Looms, Assault Weapons Registration Rules Still Unresolved

Firearm owners in Illinois will have to wait at least another month before knowing exactly what items they must register with the Illinois State Police under the state’s assault weapons ban, even as the deadline for submitting those registrations is less than three weeks away.

Justice Lisa Holder White is pictured in a file photo during the Illinois Supreme Court's oral arguments at Chicago State University in May. (Andrew Adams / Capitol News Illinois)

Supreme Court Rules Chicago Teen Bicyclist Is Covered by Father’s Auto Insurance Policy

The case involved a 14-year-old Chicago boy who was struck by a hit-and-run driver in 2020 while riding his bicycle on a public street. He suffered injuries to his right arm, shoulder and thigh that required medical attention.

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

Illinois Supreme Court Rules FOID Records Exempt From Public Disclosure

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled Thursday that people may obtain records about their own Firearm Owners Identification cards, but they may not use the state’s Freedom of Information Act to do so.

Illinois Superintendent of Education Tony Sanders listens to public comments during the Illinois State Board of Education’s monthly meeting in Chicago on Nov. 16, 2023. (Andrew Adams / Capitol News Illinois)

Illinois School Board Weighs Increased Funding Requests Ahead of Budget Season

Officials at the Illinois State Board of Education say they’re receiving more requests for increased funding for next year than the state could possibly afford, and they’re bracing for the possibility that budgets will start to tighten in the near future.

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

Illinois Supreme Court Weighs Constitutionality of Lifetime Restrictions on Child Sex Offenders

The court is weighing whether it is constitutional to impose lifetime restrictions on where a person can live after they’ve been convicted of a sex crime involving a minor.

(WTTW News)

Latest Illinois School Report Card Shows Proficiency Gains, Persistent Gaps on Racial Lines

Elementary and secondary students in Illinois showed consistent improvements in their reading and math scores while the state’s high school graduation rate reached a 13-year high for the most recently concluded school year.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announces his intention to create a new state agency to oversee early childhood education programs, combining functions currently managed by three state agencies. (Andrew Adams / Capitol News Illinois)

Pritzker Proposes Creation of New Standalone Early Childhood Agency

New entity would coordinate child care, preschool, early interventions

Vowing to make Illinois the top state in the nation for child care accessibility, Gov. J.B. Pritzker unveiled a plan to consolidate all the state’s early childhood programs and funding into one new state agency. Currently, early childhood services are spread across three agencies.

An Illinois State Police squad car is pictured in a file photo. (Jerry Nowicki / Capitol News Illinois)

Assault Weapon Registration Period Remains Open as Illinois State Police Seeks Further Input

People who own certain guns and other items now prohibited under the state’s assault weapons ban still need to register them with the Illinois State Police. But ISP says it plans to hold additional public hearings about that process and may refine the rules before they become permanent next year. 

A panel of education and policy experts speaks at an event hosted by the City Club of Chicago. Pictured left to right: Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, Illinois State Board of Education Chief of Staff Kimako Patterson, 2023 Illinois Teacher of the Year Briana Morales and Advance Illinois board member Shayne Evans. (Andrew Adams / Capitol News Illinois)

Illinois’ Educator Workforce Weathered Pandemic, But Persistent Issues Remain: Report

The supply of education professionals continues to improve in Illinois despite strains brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, but persistent issues remain in certain regions of the state and within some teaching fields.

(Pavel Danilyuk / Pexels)

Illinois Nurses Unions Push for Mandatory Staff-to-Patient Ratios

Unions representing nurses in Illinois are pushing for legislation that would impose mandatory staff-to-patient ratios in hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities. But lobby groups representing hospitals and nursing homes argue a nationwide nursing shortage makes it impossible to comply with such a mandate.

House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, is pictured with Senate President Don Harmon (left), D-Oak Park. (Jerry Nowicki / Capitol News Illinois)

Illinois House Speaker Introduces Bill to Allow Legislative Staff to Unionize

The bill comes in response to a monthslong effort by Democratic staff in House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch’s office to unionize and negotiate wages, hours and other working conditions.

Chicago voters line up at a polling place on Feb. 28, 2023. (WTTW News)

In Joint Effort, Illinois Election Authorities Try to Tamp Down Misinformation Ahead or 2024 Races

Before the next presidential primary elections in Illinois, county clerks and other local election authorities are asking for the public’s help in stopping misinformation campaigns before they get started.

Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Jane Theis speaks to the crowd at an opening ceremony for the court's new learning center. (Peter Hancock / Capitol News Illinois)

Illinois Supreme Court Opens New Interactive Learning Center in Springfield

Displays offer insight into role of judicial branch

“We’re very excited about it,” Chief Justice Mary Jane Theis said in an interview. “It tells the story about the Illinois court system from 1818 to today.”

A gun store display is pictured in a file photo. (WTTW News)

Illinois Gun Owners Who Want to Keep Now-Banned Assault Weapons Must Register Them

The law provides an exception for Illinoisans who already owned such items before it went into effect. Those people are required to submit an endorsement affidavit through their Firearm Owner’s Identification Card account before Jan. 1, 2024.

House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, is pictured at a news conference in the governor’s office earlier this year. (Jerry Nowicki / Capitol News Illinois)

Illinois House Speaker’s Staff Could Test Limits of Workers’ Rights Amendment

The Workers’ Rights Amendment provides, in part, that all employees have a “fundamental right” to organize and engage in collective bargaining over wages, hours and working conditions.

(WTTW News)

Copay Requirements Paused for Noncitizens on Illinois State Health Plan

The programs are for noncitizens over age 42 who would otherwise qualify for Medicaid if not for their immigration status.

Loretto Hospital workers and other union supporters picket in front of the hospital’s emergency wing in Austin during the first day of the strike on July 31, 2023. (Eunice Alpasan / WTTW News)

Surge in Organization Efforts Has Illinois Labor Leaders Optimistic for the Future

As workers in Illinois celebrate Labor Day, a new report shows there has been a surge in efforts to organize labor unions in workplaces throughout the state, while overall public approval of labor unions nationally is the highest in nearly six decades.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul listens during a May 2023 House floor debate of a bill subjecting gun dealers and manufacturers to civil action if they use deceptive marketing practices. (Jerry Nowicki / Capitol News Illinois)

Days After Pritzker Signs Law, Gun Industry Group Challenges New Firearms Marketing Restrictions

The Connecticut-based National Shooting Sports Foundation filed the suit in the Southern District of Illinois on Monday, just two days after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed it into law.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a bill signing ceremony in Chicago Aug. 4, 2023, before signing three measures extending cultural protections to Native Americans in Illinois and requiring the teaching of Native American history in public schools. (Credit:

Pritzker Signs Bills Expanding Cultural Protections for Native Americans and Mandating History Lessons

At a bill signing ceremony in Schaumburg, Pritzker highlighted three historic sites that were significant in Native American history in Illinois.