Last year, House Speaker Michael Madigan sent a clear message to Governor Rod Blagojevich when he brought all of the governor's highly unpopular tax and fee hikes to the floor for up-or-down votes.

The governor's bills all lost by overwhelming margins, and Blagojevich was forced to back down from his demand that Madigan pass his proposals.

Illinois Republican leaders who attended a recent Will County retreat with Karl Rove were a little taken aback when the White House political guru talked excitedly about bringing Vice President Dick Cheney into Illinois to campaign on behalf of the Republican candidate for Illinois attorney general.

The scathing audit of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services that made such big headlines last week could be just the tip of the iceberg. The audit uncovered numerous problems at the agency, including some possible criminal activity, but inside sources say that there is much more to come.

There's no violation of state law if a toxic-waste landfill is partly owned by one of the governor's in-laws, or even a nuclear-waste dump, for that matter. There's no problem with the law if a member of the governor's family owns stock in a regulated monopoly such as Commonwealth Edison or SBC.

Harsh statements and public and private threats by Senate President Emil Jones over the past two years have prompted Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson to reach out to some labor leaders.

Jones has been sharply critical of the construction trades unions, accusing them of freezing out African Americans and Latinos from apprenticeship programs and job sites.

Dan Hynes is slowly working his way back to the top.

Hynes was once the brightest of Illinois' young political stars. After winning his first statewide race for Illinois comptroller in 1998, the then-30-year-old Democrat's future looked limitless.

Almost half of the entire Illinois House has signed up to sponsor a pro-life bill this year.

The proposal is an exact replica of a federal law that ostensibly protects infants who are "born alive" during botched abortion procedures.

Senate President Emil Jones was not treated too well during his 10 years as Senate minority leader.

The majority Republicans locked him out of the room and killed most of his members' bills. His fellow Democrat, House Speaker Michael Madigan, treated Jones like a junior associate, occasionally helping him out, but not doing all that much to backstop him in the process.

One of the problems with applying "appearance of impropriety" rules to Illinois and Chicago politics is that most of the players are swimming in a very small political pond.

We're constantly treated to stories about how this or that political insider connected with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is representing a company that just landed a sweet city contract.

The reaction by the Religious Right to the passage of a gay-rights law in Illinois has been predictably loud and aggrieved. But the law's critics have universally zeroed in on one key argument - a claim that churches and religious institutions will now be forced by the government to hire gays and lesbians.

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