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.

Red Burchyett is getting his wheelchair and his job back.

That's good news for Mr. Burchyett, who was laid off several weeks ago from his mechanic's job at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich tends to bring out the worst in people.

A good example of this would be a malicious and false rumor that made the rounds about the governor a couple of months ago. My phone rang off the hook for days as people called to fill me in about the latest variation on the theme.

The ongoing Illinois drama over the medical-malpractice-reform debate intensified last week when President George W. Bush paid a visit to Madison County.

Yes, that Madison County - the favored courtroom home to many of the nation's wealthiest trial lawyers, made universally infamous by the multi-billion-dollar class-action lawsuits filed over asbestos and Marlboro Lights, and the focus of a multi-million-dollar Supreme Court race last year that featured both candidates accusing each other of being soft on child molesters in front of a backdrop of stories about small-town hospitals closing their doors and doctors fleeing to neighboring states, and ending with the trial lawyers' hand-picked Democratic candidate losing both the campaign and his appellate court seat, which then spun off a bizarre sequel when the loser immediately filed a nine-figure defamation lawsuit against his opponent's financial backers.

In my opinion, 2004 was the weirdest year in Illinois political history.

January: Governor Rod Blagojevich used most of his State of the State address to blast the State Board of Education for being a "Soviet-style" bureaucracy - the first time a sitting governor red-baited a state agency.

It was probably no accident that Governor Rod Blagojevich chose a Naperville school last week to unveil his proposal to criminalize the sale or rental of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors.

If he had used an impoverished inner-city school as a backdrop, the assembled parents might have asked him about the real-life violence that their children face every day.

Pages