Brian Mackey

Brian Mackey covers state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. He was previously A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.

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Our two-part series looks at where Sen. Mark Kirk and U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth are on a few key issues, and why the politics of 2016 mean those policy positions may not have much effect on the outcome.

Several downstate mass transit districts say they are on the verge of shutdown — or have already shut down.

Thousands of people rely on the services to get to medical appointments, the grocery store, or even work. And in turn the services rely on the state of Illinois for their funding.

A key source of funding for the Department of Natural Resources could be blocked. Or maybe not.

Before he ran for governor, Bruce Rauner described a plan to use funding for social services as a “wedge” issue to persuade Democrats to support anti-union proposals. The fact that lawmakers did nothing to address the rollback of the temporary income tax increase, which was passed in 2011, set the stage for him to try out his strategy.

We’re just over a month away from the election of 2016. It’s a season of campaign advertising, speeches, debates, and of course polling.

Every election cycle, Illinois voters are asked their opinions on a range of issues by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at SIU Carbondale.

This year, they weighed in on elections for president and U.S. Senate, the popularity state government leaders, and whether Illinois ought to amend its constitution to lock in road-building money.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library digitized a rare copy of a 1956 presidential primary debate. What does it have to say about American politics today?

A federal judge has blocked an Illinois law that had been aimed at making it easier to vote this fall.

The law required the state’s biggest cities and counties to let citizens register to vote on election day and at their local polling place. It did not impose the same requirement on smaller election authorities.

Even at this time of economic anxiety, America's system of organized labor is so convoluted, it’s no wonder unions are so unpopular.

In an era of political gridlock, one of the few topics on which there's been hope of bipartisan cooperation is on the issues of crime and punishment.

Politicians have traditionally been averse to doing anything that could get them painted as being "soft on crime."

It's an easy attack, and one that's been frequently deployed in the past. But this year, criminal justice reform advocates are fighting back.

The Illinois Department of Public Health recently reported the state is aware of 47 cases of Zika virus, including at least three pregnant women. Meanwhile, officials in Florida are trying to contain the first known mosquito-borne outbreak of the disease in the continental U.S.

In an attempt to sort through the facts and fears about Zika, we spoke to Dr. Janak Koirala, division chief of infectious disease and a travel medicine specialist at the SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.

A number of Illinois politicians continue to push the issue of of term limits.

Gov. Bruce Rauner may be done with the presidential campaign, but the presidential campaign isn’t done with Gov. Rauner.

Gov. Bruce Rauner is apologizing for saying half of Chicago public school teachers are “virtually illiterate.”

(As state lawmakers consider another try at cutting pension benefits for government workers, we revisit this interview from 2016 with former Illinois Senate attorney Eric Madiar)

Illinois continues to have the worst funded government pension systems of all 50 states. Legislators have taken several swipes at reducing those costs. But so far they’ve all been batted away by the Illinois Supreme Court.

Who should pay for the Illinois courts?

Illinois government has been stuck in a rut for going on 18 months now, and much of the attention has centered on the fight between Governor Bruce Rauner and the Democratic leaders in the General Assembly.

  The administration of Governor Bruce Rauner is touting the low interest rate Illinois got in last week’s bond sale. But at least one public finance expert says that’s not the full story. 

Illinois has a constitutional requirement that its budget must be balanced — spending has to equal revenues every year. But is the Illinois budget ever really balanced?

Brian Mackey put that question to two people who closely follow Illinois' finances: Charlie Wheeler, director of the Public Affairs Reporting at the University of Illinois Springfield, and Jamey Dunn, editor of Illinois Issues.

    

Gov. Bruce Rauner marked the end of the legislative session with a blistering attack on Democratic legislators. He then embarked on an eight-city tour — mostly downstate — where he continued his critique.

One of Rauner’s main messages is that Democrats are holding the state budget “hostage” in order to get their way. I thought that accusation of political ill-will had a familiar ring, so I decided to take a closer look at the governor’s communication strategy.

  A federal judge has approved the settlement in a lawsuit over the treatment of Illinois’ mentally ill prisoners.

Without admitting wrongdoing, Department of Corrections Director John Baldwin says his agency is building four new mental health units, hiring more staff, and changing its policies on solitary confinement.

Now that it seems Donald Trump will be his party’s nominee for president, Republicans have a decision to make.

The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday struck down another attempt to control the cost of government pension benefits.

This time it was Chicago city employees and retirees whose pensions were being targeted. The retirement system for one set of workers is projected to be insolvent in about a decade.

In 2014, the Illinois General Assembly changed the rules, but in Thursday's 5-0 ruling, the Supreme Court found that unconstitutional.

Illinois Public Radio’s Brian Mackey spoke with his colleague Amanda Vinicky about the decision.

It’s been 10 months since the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the state’s last attempt at a pension overhaul. Legislators have yet to decide what to do about Illinois’ worst-in-the-nation pension debt, but they are beginning to weigh their options.

Republicans in the U.S. Senate have vowed to block any nominee the president might submit to succeed the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. But Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois says there’s more than enough time to consider who should fill the vacancy.

Gov. Bruce Rauner endorsed the work of his criminal justice commission Thursday. He also made an unusual statement on prisons.

Commissioners are still working to reach Rauner’s goal of reducing Illinois' inmate population by 12,000 men and women over the next decade. They have delivered their first set of recommendations, and Rauner told commissioners he was excited about the report, calling it "excellent."

"What I can guarantee you: I will work tirelessly to make sure this isn't just something that just gathers dust," he said. "I’m going to implement this."

Illinois could finally reckon with its dramatically overcrowded prisons in 2016.

The entire system is at 146 percent of the capacity it was designed to hold, but that number doesn’t tell the whole story. Some individual prisons — such as East Moline, Illinois River and Lincoln — are above 200 percent of the rated capacity.

With Illinois in its sixth month without a budget, the state's top political leaders met Tuesday in Springfield. It was the first time they'd all gotten together in months. We asked Brian Mackey to tell us whether anything was accomplished.

A federal lawsuit is seeking to overturn Illinois’ ban on campaign contributions from medical marijuana companies.

  The case was brought last week by two Libertarian Party political candidates: Claire Ball of Addison, who says she's running for comptroller, and Scott Schluter of Marion, who says he's running for state representative. They say they favor legalization of drugs, and that companies that agree with them should be able to support their campaigns.

Gov. Bruce Rauner is standing by his decision to backtrack on cuts to a low-income daycare program. That comes even as Democrats in the Illinois House failed to pass legislation that would have forced Rauner to undo his changes.

The program is meant to help parents out of poverty by subsidizing daycare, so they can work or go to school.

Rauner unilaterally slashed eligibility this summer. After months of outcry and a Democratic threat to pass legislation undoing his changes, Rauner on Monday announced he'd back off most of the cuts.

The Illinois Supreme Court has once again ruled in favor of tobacco giant Philip Morris. The decision, announced Wednesday, saves the company from a $10.1 billion judgment. 

The case has been before the court off and on for more than a decade. A group of smokers say Philip Morris tricked them into thinking “light” cigarettes were safer than regular. 

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