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Illinois Lawmakers: Celebrating 25 Years


Wednesday, April 13th, 2011


Illinois Lawmakers wraps up the regularly scheduled Spring Session of the Illinois Legislature with two new broadcasts airing Wednesdays, May 11 and 25 at 10:00 p.m. on WTVP 47.1.

Now in its 25th anniversary season, Illinois Lawmakers offers public television viewers “...a front-row seat to watching history in the making,” says Jak Tichenor, host of the landmark Illinois Public Television series covering the Illinois General Assembly. The program is distributed simultaneously on the state’s nine PBS member stations via satellite.

From live coverage of midnight-hour budget debates to furious floor battles, cantankerous committee hearings, and literally hundreds of in-depth on-set interviews, Illinois Lawmakers has earned a well-deserved reputation as the television program of record for legislative coverage since its debut in the spring session of 1986. “There’s really nothing else quite like it in scope and substance,” says Tichenor, who has served as Statehouse correspondent for the program since 1991. “This is the one place where both parties know that they’ll get a chance to tell their side of the story and defend their viewpoints to the voters of Illinois.”

Illinois Lawmakers’ unequaled access to the people making policy for the state of Illinois makes the series unique. “We have developed a great rapport with the members and the legislative leaders over the years,” says Marty McLaughlin, executive producer for the series since 1986. “They trust us to get the story right, and we’ve earned their respect for being scrupulously balanced in our coverage.”

Broadcast from the Speaker’s Gallery above the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives, Illinois Lawmakers is literally a window into the state’s political process as floor debates take place just below the program’s vantage point. “I think part of the appeal of the series is that it’s actually produced in the heart of the action and in many cases, it captures the heat of the moment,” says McLaughlin.

The current spring session could prove especially volatile. “Illinois still owes billions of dollars to vendors and other creditors despite hiking the state income tax 67-percent earlier in the year,” says Tichenor. “Republicans and Democrats in both houses and Governor Pat Quinn are still far apart on how much to cut from the current budget while trying to stay below the spending caps that were passed as part of the tax package. There also will be plenty of debate on hot-button issues like workers compensation, pension reform, and concealed carry legislation.”

Cutbacks in Statehouse coverage by many news organizations highlights the crucial role Illinois Lawmakers plays in keeping citizens informed about state government. “The series fills a huge void in today’s coverage of the General Assembly,” says McLaughlin. “We don't just give viewers the headlines of the day, we invite lawmakers from both parties to frame the discussion on critical issues like the state budget crisis, taxes, education funding, healthcare, crime and punishment, and more. It’s an invaluable public service to the people of Illinois.”

Illinois Lawmakers features background reports and features, exclusive newsmaker interviews with the legislative leaders, lively on-set debates between committee chairs and ranking members, and expert analysis from the state’s most respected print and electronic journalists. This format allows individual senators and representatives to define the issues and debate the pros and cons of legislation.

In a typical one-hour program, Illinois Lawmakers features material gathered from as many as 40 separate interviews with lawmakers, as well as clips from committee hearings, floor debates, and news events in and around the Capitol. McLaughlin especially values the give-and-take during the program’s extended length interviews.

“A ten-second sound-bite simply can’t do justice to the kinds of issues we’re covering,” he says. “That’s why we seek out the General Assembly’s top policy experts from both sides of the aisle and give them a chance to debate an issue at length. The fact that Jak has covered most of the lawmakers from their freshman years here at the Capitol is also a big plus. He’s got the background and the institutional knowledge to ask them the right questions while making sure that the subject matter is understandable to the average viewer.”



For further information contact Linda Miller, WTVP Vice President of Programming, at (309) 495-0591 or linda.miller@wtvp.org



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