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Friday, Apr 24, 2015

* The grass ain’t greener, the wine ain’t sweeter either side of the hill

Clank your chains and count your change

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

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Friday, Apr 24, 2015

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Today’s long story

Friday, Apr 24, 2015

* Garrett Brnger at Illinois Issues has a good story about the controversy over electronic license-plate readers

It doesn’t take much time at all, fractions of a second, to be marked and mapped, recorded and reported.

The automatic license plate reader cameras don’t look like much — just a pair of strobe lights on the back of a squad car, or maybe a cartoon character, depending on whom you ask.

“We had little kids call them ‘Wall-E,’” says Springfield Police Sgt. Charles Kean, whose department has been using the technology on two squad cars since 2013. The reference is to a lovable animated robot, the titular character from a 2008 Disney film.

But the mounted cameras are a little more formidable than that. Like many technologies available to law enforcement, they offer power that police praise and civil rights advocates consider warily. ALPRs, as they’re known, can scan and record thousands of license plates every hour. Comparing the plates to lists of stolen or otherwise flagged vehicles, the systems’ software sounds an alarm when there’s a match — giving police officers a handy technological edge in traffic enforcement.

“It’s impossible to remember 25,000 plates and cars and whatnot,” Kean says. With the ALPRs, there’s no need for officers to try.

Go read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      

Rauner approval rating: 40-36

Friday, Apr 24, 2015

* Progress Illinois

Forty percent of Illinois voters say they approve or strongly approve of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s job performance, according to a new Ogden & Fry poll released in light of the Republican’s first 100 days in office.

In a March 13 Ogden & Fry Poll taken after the governor’s first 60 days in office, Rauner’s approval rating was also at 40 percent. That’s down from a 43 percent approval rating Rauner garnered in a February Ogden & Fry survey.

Thirty-six percent of the 971 voters surveyed for the latest poll, conducted April 22 on behalf of the Illinois Observer, gave the governor a negative job approval rating. About 23 percent of the respondents were neutral or had no opinion on the governor. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.21 percent.

The poll is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   47 Comments      

AP and Chicago Tribune - Study: Exelon subsidy would cost $1.6B over 5 years

Friday, Apr 24, 2015

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

“I never did give them hell. I just told the truth, and they thought it was hell.”
- President Harry S. Truman

“A plan to financially reward Exelon Corp. for producing no-carbon energy and potentially save three Illinois nuclear plants from closure would cost ratepayers $1.6 billion over five years and strain budgets for financially strapped businesses and municipal governments, a study released Tuesday found.” - Associated Press, 4/21/15

By applying legislative mandates in SB 1585 / HB 3293 to historical data on Illinois electric costs and consumption, the Kestler Energy Consulting study simply calculated how much of a rate hike Exelon’s legislation would impose on families, businesses and local governments statewide.

Chicago Tribune: “Exelon-backed legislation could cost ratepayers $1.6B, study says”

Businesses and governments can learn how much the bailout would cost them at

Just say no to the Exelon bailout. Vote no on SB1585/HB3293.

BEST Coalition is a 501C4 nonprofit group of dozens of business, consumer and government groups, as well as large and small businesses. Visit

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      

Question of the day

Friday, Apr 24, 2015

* Which happens first?…

Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.

web survey

It’s Friday, so snark is heavily encouraged.

- Posted by Rich Miller   52 Comments      

Illinois Credit Unions – A Smarter Choice

Friday, Apr 24, 2015

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

In these uncertain times, it’s important to have a financial institution you can trust. Credit unions have been serving their members for more than a century, providing them with a member-owned, not-for-profit alternative to traditional banks.

Credit unions are different. They return profits back to their members in the form of lower rates and reduced fees. And because credit unions are member-owned and member directed, credit unions provide members with services they want, not products that will generate a tidy profit for a few investors.

Credit unions know their members. Loan decisions are made locally, not by bureaucrats and computer models from across the country. If you are a credit union member, you already know the credit union difference. If you are not a credit union member, go to to see which credit union can show you the advantage of credit union membership.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      

Advertisers behaving badly

Friday, Apr 24, 2015

* Crain’s

Exelon’s downstate nuclear plant will see a revenue increase from a spike in downstate Illinois electricity bills, but it won’t come close to the $50 million that some critics and analysts have estimated.

Exelon said yesterday that its money-losing Clinton nuclear plant, which the company threatens to close without financial help from the state, will see $13 million in higher revenue in the year beginning June 1. That won’t solve Clinton’s financial problem.

“The results are not sufficient to make Clinton power station profitable,” Exelon said in a statement. […]

If Exelon had bid all of its capacity at the Clinton plant into the auction held by MISO, it would have seen a $50 million-plus windfall.

But Exelon already had sold more than half of Clinton’s output for the year beginning June 1 to other parties. And the company did not set the $150-per-megawatt-day clearing price that’s causing downstate electricity rates to soar.

So, Exelon makes a bad business decision and that’s a reason for a government bailout?


Also, Exelon contracted to sell three quarters of its Clinton nuke power to wholesale suppliers, many of them out-of-state. Yet, it continues to harp about how the Clinton nuclear plant is so vitally important to Illinois’ power supply system.

* Meanwhile

The CEO of Illinois’ second largest power generator is warning lawmakers that they will put downstate jobs at his company’s coal-fired power plants at risk if they approve Exelon’s proposal to hike electric bills statewide in order to provide more revenue to its Illinois nuclear fleet.

Bob Flexon, chief executive of Houston-based Dynegy, said that Illinois effectively will be sacrificing jobs downstate to protect jobs mainly in the northern half of the state if it agrees to subsidize Exelon to stave off threatened nuke closures.

“It’ll have a severe economic impact on jobs downstate,” he said in an April 22 interview. Dynegy’s plants will be “more at risk for shutdown.”

What he really means is he wants some nuke plants to close in order to drive up prices for Dynegy’s coal plants.

* And Exelon is sure making noises about that prospect

In the meantime, Dominguez said Exelon continues to demand action from Springfield on its bill in this legislative session. The electricity-rate spike downstate is prompting some to call on Exelon to delay the bill until the fall veto session to see how power markets develop. A similar capacity-price increase that would hike electric bills beginning in mid-2018 is forecasted for the regional grid that includes the Chicago area.

Exelon won’t agree to that, Dominguez said. “We need to have certainty one way or the other by the end of the session,” he said.

If this Exelon bid follows the usual corporate handout playbook, we’ll soon be seeing some sort of announcement about an imminent plant closure.

* Exelon is also putting the squeeze on local governments

The Clinton Nuclear Power Station and the Clinton Board of Education continue to be at odds over the value of the power station.

The value of the power station means a great deal to the Clinton Board of Education as they reap the benefits of the property taxes that come in from it. According to Dr. Jeff Holmes, Superintendent of Clinton Schools, the latest negotiations have been as productive as several before. […]

The taxing bodies will be entering into an appraisal process with the power plant. Dr. Holmes points out this has been done before and has found the value of the power plant is decreasing because of factors in the energy markets. It is the belief of the taxing bodies the decline in the value is not as drastic as Exelon officials say.

Exelon wants to lower the value of its plant from $217 million down to a mere $72 million.

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      

Your daily “right to work” roundup

Friday, Apr 24, 2015

* Once again, the governor’s office has no local “right to work” resolution results to report. Livingston County Board members decided last week to remove the Rauner resolution from its agenda, but hundreds of people showed up last night and the board allowed public comments

The twice-postponed Livingston County Board meeting finally took place within the Pontiac Township High School gymnasium Thursday evening, and the Board rolled right through its regular agenda.

The public commentary session near the end, however, doubled the length of the meeting as a number of union activists, of the hundreds filling the bleachers, spoke out against right-to-work, prevailing wage, and the encompassing Turnaround Agenda proposed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

The Turnaround Agenda advisory vote was taken off the County Board’s revised agenda for the rescheduled Thursday night meeting despite its appearance on the prior agenda.

Still, union workers filled the high school’s parking lot by 5 p.m., and shortly before the meeting took place an hour later, most filed into the building and squeezed into the bleachers of Crowley Gymnasium on either side of the County Board members, who stretched in a line at the south end of the gym.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** It’s just a bill…

Friday, Apr 24, 2015

* And it’s dead, for now

A bill restricting the use of electronic cigarettes in some indoor places will not be called for a vote after the sponsor decided to wait for regulation guidelines from the federal government.

Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Addison, sponsored House Bill 2404, which originally would have banned the use of electronic cigarettes, or “vaping,” indoors. After receiving a multitude of calls to her office and working with shop owners and industry professionals, Willis said she decided to amend the bill to only include schools and public places in government facilities.

Now, Willis said she is going to wait for the Food and Drug Administration to release its guidelines before moving forward on the legislation. Vaping products are not regulated at the federal level.

“The big thing is the FDA just came out last week saying they are ready to release their regulations on vaping products,” she said. “With that right on the horizon, it didn’t make sense to me to move forward with this bill.”

* I’m told the sponsor moved her bill yesterday over concerns about House attendance today, which is the passage deadine for bills on 3rd Reading. So, while there was some tension yesterday, it’s not really a sign of things to come. Those’ll get bad soon enough on their own accord

A measure the Department of Children and Family Services says creates a substantial new financial liability for the state passed the House Thursday with only 61 votes. And, passage of the measure provides at least one Republican representative with concerns of things to come for upcoming budget discussions. The measure would provide transitional and independent living programs, among other services, for people up to 21 years old. Despite several requests to hold the measure another day so lawmakers could work on several issues the Democratic majority voted in favor while 44 representatives voted present. After the vote, Republican Representative Barbara Wheeler says she’s worried that’s a sign of upcoming budget actions.

“It was, however, revealing how this budget process is going to proceed. Please don’t insult us anymore by asking us for bipartisan support. As my colleague from the supermajority just reminded me, “that’s just how it goes,” very disappointed.”

In a fiscal impact note for House Bill 3507 DCFS says the measure increases the state’s liability by possibly expanding the number of lawsuits that can be brought against the state, provides statutory requirements regarding $100 million in projected service expenditures, and disincentivizes youth from engaging in services. The measure now heads to the Senate.

*** UPDATE *** From the ACLU’s Ed Yohnka…

Noticed the post today with regard to DCFS services for youth ages 18 to 21 years-old. It is curious to see the Department refer to these services as a “new” financial responsibility. In fact, DCFS has been responsible for services for youth in this age cohort (when a juvenile court just finds the young person would continue to benefit from the continued protection/services, like education or mental health care, provided by DCFS) as part of a long-standing consent decree — the “B.H.” decree. In other words, the State long ago promised to provide these services. Nothing new here.


[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* First, pumpkin pie, now sweet corn

The Illinois Senate unanimously endorsed sweet corn to be the official state vegetable on Thursday.

State Sen. Sam McCann, R-Plainview, said the idea came from the fourth-grade classes at Chatham Elementary School south of the capital city as a way for them to learn about state government.

McCann said he has heard complaints that there are more important things to take care of in state government, like the budget. But he insisted sweet corn is important, as the fourth-grade classes watched from the Senate gallery.

“We have to invest in the future leaders of our state and nation,” McCann said. “And these young people took an extraordinary interest in the process.”

* From Illinois Review

The Illinois House of Representatives today approved Rep. David McSweeney’s (R-Barrington Hills) legislation to provide property tax relief for Illinois residents.

House Bill 178 passed the full House today by a vote of 75-37. The bill would help reduce skyrocketing property taxes here in Illinois by freezing the property tax levy for many townships for a one year period.

“Year after year, Illinois ranks near the bottom of the list of tax friendly states,” Rep. McSweeney stated. “My bill isn’t a cure-all, but it’s a first step that will be a welcome news for many Illinois families. Property tax relief is long overdue.”

* A bit harsh, but probably worth it

Former Gov. Pat Quinn’s 11th-hour solution to the violence plaguing Chicago’s streets would have been banned under a Republican initiative unveiled Wednesday.

At a press conference in the Capitol, Republican state Sen. Jason Barickman of Bloomington said governors and legislators would be banned from publicly promoting new programs and grants in the 60 days preceding an election.

The blackout period might have stopped Quinn’s 2010 Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, which was pitched by the Chicago Democrat as a way to combat violence in the state’s largest city.

Republicans have argued the $50 million program was actually a political slush fund designed to put taxpayer money in the hands of Quinn supporters in the lead-up to his 2010 victory against state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington.

* SJ-R

A proposal banning the sale of powdered caffeine in Illinois breezed through the Senate on Wednesday.

Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant’s Senate Bill 9 would ban the sale of pure, powdered caffeine to minors. The Shorewood Democrat’s bill passed without opposition. […]

Pure caffeine is typically used as a workout supplement. One teaspoon can contain the same amount of caffeine as 25 cups of coffee, potentially leading to heart failure.

It is currently unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration and can be purchased in bulk.

The bill passed unanimously.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      

Ford plant reaches 100,000 cop car milestone

Friday, Apr 24, 2015

* Good news

Ford’s Troy Design & Manufacturing operation isn’t as well known as the Dearborn, Mich.-based firm’s sprawling assembly plant on Torrence Avenue on the far Southeast Side of the city.

But the Troy facility, in part of a shared warehouse about a mile and a half east of the main assembly line, is where Ford autoworkers outfit police vehicles for use across the globe.

It’s at the Troy facility that the Interceptor sedans and sport-utility vehicles get the red-and-blue lights, hidden door locks, ballistic upgrades and other features that make them ready for police forces.

Yesterday, workers at the operation rolled the 100,000th vehicle they’ve customized in Chicago since the operation started up about three years ago through a bay door in the warehouse, pausing to commemorate the moment.

* And just the day before

In order to support American-made products, the House endorsed legislation Wednesday to require the state to buy vehicles assembled in North America.

State Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, who sponsored a similar proposal that failed to win support in the Senate last year, is the main proponent of the legislation.

“This is for the state of Illinois only. It does not include municipalities or any other governmental agencies,” Smiddy told his colleagues during a debate on the House floor.

The legislation requires the state to rent or buy vehicles assembled in North America, excluding Mexico. […]

Though the 70-42 vote was not a complete political split, many Republicans voted “no.”

The rollcall is here. Republicans voting for the bill included Brady, Bryant, Cabello, Moffitt and Sommer.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      

House approves marijuana tickets

Friday, Apr 24, 2015

* I’m not a fan of decriminalization because it does nothing to address the illegal supplier market. Legalization would yank the production and supply chain away from often violent criminals. But, hey, every little step in that direction is a good step and we shouldn’t be locking people in cages for smoking pot

A bill treating low-level marijuana possession charges similar to speeding tickets statewide passed the Illinois House on Thursday with bipartisan support.

The bill is the brainchild of Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, and would make possession of 15 grams of marijuana — or roughly half an ounce, the equivalent of about 30 joints — punishable by a fine of up to $125. It also would create protocol for a driving under the influence of marijuana charge. Offenders would have their records expunged of the possession offense after six months.

Cassidy said the bill would help alleviate some of the racial disparity involved in criminal sentencing as well as save the state money. The bill passed by a 62-53 vote. […]

The Illinois Department of Corrections estimated that Cassidy’s proposal would save the state about $30 million.

Rep. Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove, supported the bill and said it is in line with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s platform of both reducing the prison population and cutting costs.

The rollcall is here. Most targets voted against the bill.

Republicans voting in favor included Butler, Cabello, Fortner, McDermed, McSweeney, Sandack and Tryon.

* Tribune

“I think police have been bogged down with petty possession crimes,” Sandack said. “I think courts have been bogged down with petty possession crimes. These people, they’re not dealers. They have no intent to sell.”

Others opposed a provision in the bill that would prevent drivers who test positive for small traces of marijuana from being charged with driving under the influence.

“It’s like a slap on the wrist. There’s no penalty,” said Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego. “The effect of the bill, in some people’s minds, is that marijuana is a less offensive drug than alcohol in Illinois. That concerns me.”

But advocates argue that because marijuana can stay in a person’s system for a longer period of time than alcohol, it’s possible someone could be charged with a DUI even if he or she isn’t showing signs of impairment.

- Posted by Rich Miller   72 Comments      

*** LIVE *** Session coverage

Friday, Apr 24, 2015

* The Senate left yesterday, the House is in this morning. Watch the week wind up with ScribbleLive

- Posted by Rich Miller   3 Comments      

More cuts announced

Friday, Apr 24, 2015

* Tribune

A month ago, new Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and state lawmakers agreed to $300 million in cuts as part of a plan to fix a budget passed last year that didn’t have enough money to cover 12 months of spending. […]

The administration will make roughly $106 million in cuts to the Medicaid health care program for the poor, much of which takes the form of a 16.75 percent reduction to reimbursement payments to doctors and pharmacies. Another $1.1 million would be slashed from human service programs including domestic violence shelters, services for homeless youths and the sickle cell clinic at the University of Illinois.

College scholarship grants for low-income students also would be cut, as would funding for community colleges. Lawmakers briefed by Rauner budget director Tim Nuding said he indicated that scholarships would be trimmed by about $6 million and colleges would lose about $8 million.

Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, said the cuts are “consistent” with agreements made during weeks of budget negotiations between lawmakers and Rauner’s office to fix a budget that the new governor inherited from his Democratic predecessor Pat Quinn.

* AP

According to a document released by Rauner’s budget office, the Department of Human Services will see an overall loss of $1.1 million. That includes a $419,000 cut to domestic violence shelters and a $103,000 reduction to homeless youth services. A mental health program involving psychotropic drugs would be cut by $42,000. Spokeswoman Veronica Vera said the only two programs not affected are for developmental disabilities and mental health.

Illinois community colleges will see a $6.37 million cut, according to data from its governing board. Spokesman Matthew Berry said the cut would have an immediate impact on the schools because it’s occurring so late in the year and could have an impact on services over the summer as schools will be forced to dig into reserve funds

Rauner’s budget office also said cuts will affect the Monetary Award Program at the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, but did not disclose a specific dollar amount. […]

State Sen. Dan Kotowski, one of two Senate appropriations chairs, called Thursday’s move a “stark contrast to the letters that were sent out on Good Friday without any notice.”

These are not going to be popular cuts, but legislators are at least being informed about what’s going on.

- Posted by Rich Miller   54 Comments      

* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Next week's pressers
* Today's long story
* Rauner approval rating: 40-36
* AP and Chicago Tribune - Study: Exelon subsidy would cost $1.6B over 5 years
* Question of the day
* Illinois Credit Unions – A Smarter Choice
* Advertisers behaving badly
* Your daily "right to work" roundup
* *** UPDATED x1 *** It's just a bill...
* Ford plant reaches 100,000 cop car milestone
* House approves marijuana tickets
* *** LIVE *** Session coverage
* More cuts announced
* Yesterday's blog posts

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          * Emergency Management Officials Launch Weather Alert Radio Contest - ‘Weather Alert Radios Save Lives’ contest promotes awareness; 100 radios to be awarded
          * IDOT Launches Statewide Listening Tour to Discuss Illinois Infrastructure Needs, Priorities
          * Illinois Student Assistance Commission Encourages Families To Learn About Personal Finance During Money Smart Week Event

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