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*** UPDATED x1 - Rauner response *** Unions file suit over Rauner executive order

Thursday, Mar 5, 2015

* A not unexpected development…

The Illinois AFL-CIO and 26 unions that represent more than 40,000 Illinois state employees today filed suit in circuit court to invalidate Gov. Bruce Rauner’s unlawful executive order that violates state law and multiple collective bargaining agreements by blocking state agencies from complying with the fair share provisions of those agreements.

“The men and women who do the real work of state government are first responders, nurses, caregivers and corrections officers. They plow snow, protect children, care for veterans and do many other tough, essential jobs that benefit all Illinois residents,” Illinois AFL-CIO president Michael T. Carrigan said. “Governor Rauner’s political obsession with stripping their rights and driving down their wages demeans their service, hurts the middle class and is blatantly illegal. We’re asking the court to restore the integrity of our democratic process and make clear that no one, not Governor Rauner or anyone else, can place themselves above the law.”

The court filings follow earlier statements from Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger, a Republican, and Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, who say that Gov. Rauner’s order is illegal. Fair share agreements are authorized by the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act—which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Jim Thompson in 1983—and included in each of the state’s contracts with each of the unions in question.

The unions’ Circuit Court complaint says the Governor’s order violates state government’s separation of powers. “Rauner has usurped the constitutional power of the legislative branch by promulgating an Executive Order that effectively repeals a duly passed Public Act [and] has unlawfully exercised the executive power vested in the Governor,” the litigation states. “The executive power is the power to faithfully execute the laws enacted through the legislative process, not to refuse to implement the laws that have been properly enacted by the State.”

Gov. Rauner has falsely claimed that his order makes workers more “free.” In reality, contrary to the governor’s frequent misstatements, no employee is required to join any union. Instead, fair share agreements provide that a union-represented employee who chooses not to join and pay dues is obligated only to pay a proportional fair share of the cost of negotiating and administering the union contract from which they benefit. (Also contrary to the governor’s statements, by law, fair share excludes political contributions.)

The governor’s own rhetoric and the language of the executive order itself make clear that his true intent is to drive down the wages earned by first responders, teachers, nurses, corrections officers, child protection workers, and other state employees by weakening their unions.

“Governor Bruce Rauner believes state employees are overpaid and receive excessive benefits for their public service. He wants to cut their wages and benefits,” the lawsuit states. “The Executive Order is expressly intended to prevent ‘Illinois state employee unions’ from ‘using … fair share fees to … influence …wages, pensions and benefits, that are currently mandatory subjects of collective bargaining under the Illinois Labor Act.”

Later Thursday the unions will file a motion to dismiss Gov. Rauner’s related lawsuit in federal court, pointing out that a state court is the appropriate venue to enforce state law.

In addition to the Illinois AFL-CIO, the 26 unions that are party to the legal filings include affiliates of AFSCME, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Illinois Nurses Association, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the Teamsters, SEIU, the Laborers, the Police Benevolent and Protective Association, the Bakery Workers, the Bricklayers, the Carpenters, the Electrical Workers, the Food and Commercial Workers, the Machinists, the Operating Engineers, the Painters, the Plumbers and the Metropolitan Alliance of Police.

…Adding… The lawsuit is here.

*** UPDATE *** Lance Trover, Director of Communications, Office of the Governor…

“We always expected the government union bosses to fight to keep their stranglehold over Illinois taxpayers in place. These forced union dues are a critical cog in the corrupt bargain that is crushing taxpayers, and the government unions will do anything to keep the broken status quo.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   74 Comments      


Could Schneider face a primary foe?

Thursday, Mar 5, 2015

* Riopell

Democrat Brad Schneider is in Washington, D.C., this week, having met with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Tuesday about a potential third rematch run against Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Dold in 2016.

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering is in the capital this week, too, talking to people to explore a run as a Democrat for the same seat in the north suburban 10th Congressional District.

Rotering didn’t say for sure whether she’d pursue a primary challenge to the one-term former Rep. Schneider if he decided to pursue a return to Congress. But the first-term mayor also said she’s leaning toward a run.

“We’re getting a really great response from people in the district,” Rotering said. “We are definitely leaning toward going for it.”

He’ll have higher name ID than any other foreseeable opponent, so Schneider is the heavy favorite. But, even though it seems doubtful at this point, maybe people will think he’s already had enough chances. What say you?

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 - Manar responds *** Madigan creates school funding task force

Thursday, Mar 5, 2015

* Another blue ribbon commission…

House Speaker Michael J. Madigan on Thursday announced the creation of a bipartisan task force focused on studying the way in which the state distributes funding to Illinois’ public schools.

“Our goal is to strengthen every school across Illinois, so we need to make sure any significant changes are given a thorough review,” Madigan said. “Changes to the school funding formula always raise significant concerns from a number of educators, parents and legislators. We want to make sure we take a good look at proposed revisions to the funding formula to determine how we can best educate students across the state.”

The task force made up of Democratic and Republican members of the Illinois House will discuss how changes in the school aid formula could impact schools throughout the state. While House Democrats have been studying various proposals for several months, Madigan formed the task force because he believes any solution ultimately approved by the General Assembly must be bipartisan and good for students across Illinois.

“When you consider the issues that every community in Illinois is concerned about, state support for schools is right at the top of the list,” Madigan said. “A vital issue like this that affects every public school and the education of about 2 million students deserves an in-depth and proper discussion.”

The bipartisan House Education Task Force will include legislators representing Southern Illinois, the collar counties, suburban communities and Chicago and will be chaired by state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago.

The task force’s first meeting will be at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, March 11 in Room 118 of the Capitol. Madigan expects additional hearings to be scheduled at a later time.

Madigan’s appointments…

Chair: Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago
John Bradley, D-Marion
Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora
Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates
Will Davis, D-Homewood
Marcus Evans, D-Chicago
Laura Fine, D-Glenview
Esther Golar, D-Chicago
Elizabeth “Lisa” Hernandez, D-Cicero
Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan
Emily McAsey, D-Lockport
Michelle Mussman, D-Schaumburg
Elgie Sims, D-Chicago

*** UPDATE *** From Sen. Andy Manar…

Two years ago when we began conversations fair school funding, I knew that our the mission would take years of education and work to build a consensus for change. Since that time, there has been clear progress on bipartisan solutions for classrooms across this state. That progress can now be accelerated as leaders in the Illinois House outline specific actions that can be taken to close the funding gap for Illinois schools.

I applaud the leadership of Speaker Michael Madigan in creating a forum for continued discussion that leads to action. His action today confirms that he understands the importance of school funding equity just as clearly as he did when he supported Governor Jim Edgar’s sweeping reforms in 1996. I applaud his continued leadership and the engagement of the House of Representatives as we advance legislation this year.

- Posted by Rich Miller   49 Comments      


Today’s number: $1.8 billion

Thursday, Mar 5, 2015

* I don’t disagree about the need for more infrastructure spending, it’s just that this is a pretty darned big ask

The Transportation for Illinois Coalition argues the current setup of the motor fuel tax, which drivers pay on a gallon of gas each time they fill up at the pump, falls woefully short of properly funding upkeep of roads and bridges — not to mention improvements. The group says Illinois needs to pump another $1.8 billion a year into the state’s transportation system to cover day-to-day maintenance as well as pay for a borrowing plan to finance long-term upgrades.

While the coalition has backed away from specifics in an effort to begin fresh negotiations with Rauner, its general outline calls for raising the gas tax to keep up with inflation. It also has pitched a menu of other possibilities, including eliminating tax exemptions for ethanol, increasing drivers’ fees, expanding the sales tax to cover services ranging from auto repairs and oil changes, and taxing the sale of food and prescription drugs.

Illinois imposes a base tax rate of 19 cents per gallon for gasoline and 21.5 cents a gallon for diesel, though other fractions of a penny are added on to pay for costs associated with environmental cleanup and underground storage of fuel. That doesn’t include the 6.25 percent sales tax the state also collects on each gallon of fuel, federal taxes, or the variety of other levies some counties and cities like Chicago also pile on top.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


Question of the day

Thursday, Mar 5, 2015

* It turns out that Model Illinois Government is a lot like the original. From the MIG Journal

The first floor session of the Model Illinois Government Senate convened in the Illinois Old State Capital Friday evening.

The first bill on the docket set term limits for Senate and House leadership positions. It would require a four-year absence from serving after the completion of an individual’s second term.

The majority stood in opposition of the bill, arguing it limits the will of the people exercised in elections.

“Maybe if the Republicans could get someone elected they wouldn’t feel the need for term limits,” said Senate Majority Leader Anna Mulch.

Heh.

* Anyway, I posted that little story as a prelude to telling you that my intern, Marc Reiter, was elected MIG governor over the weekend after serving two terms as House Speaker. Before you congratulate him, just know that he has to put a budget together next year which closely resembles Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposal.

So, condolences might actually be in order.

* Today is also Marc’s birthday. From his Facebook page…

* The Question: Congratulatory caption?

- Posted by Rich Miller   51 Comments      


Editorial: “Don’t fall for Exelon bailout”

Thursday, Mar 5, 2015

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Editorial boards are sounding the alarm about the Exelon bailout bill.

Crain’s Chicago Business: “THIS ‘MARKET SOLUTION’ ONLY BENEFITS EXELON”

You know you’ve got a good thing going when profitability is only a bailout away…

Bailouts for profitable enterprises? That’s not the kind of juice that ratepayers should be shelling out for.

Chicago Sun-Times: “EXELON MUST MAKE CASE FOR BAILOUT”

Not so long ago, Exelon…was extolling the merits of an open market for power as its profits rolled in. Now, with power prices plunging, Exelon has lost enthusiasm for the open markets it championed in the 1990s and wants the Legislature to devise a new formula that will protect its profits, quite likely driving up utility bills for homeowners and businesses.

If Exelon is hard up, they can show us. The company should open its books to show how its nuclear fleet is performing.

What’s good for Exelon doesn’t much matter if it’s bad for the rest of Illinois.

Belleville News Democrat: “DON’T FALL FOR EXELON BAILOUT”

Good old Exelon. The company has come up with legislation to subsidize its nuclear reactors, get electric users throughout the state to pay for it and claim it’s in the interest of clean energy.

State lawmakers need to see this bill for the dirty trick it is and kill it.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


IDOT hiring monitor issues first report

Thursday, Mar 5, 2015

* Sun-Times

A federal court-appointed monitor said Wednesday she wants to sign off on all political hires, promotions or transfers within the problem-plagued Illinois Department of Transportation until the agency audits its employment mess.

Special Master Noelle Brennan also said the ability of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s new IDOT director to fire “at will” past IDOT political appointees has been “undercut” by the transfer of many of such hires into union positions that carry job protections.

The paper’s story is pretty comprehensive, so go read it all.

* To the report itself, which is here. This item comes as absolutely no surprise, but we can probably expect to see some names mentioned in the near future, so expect some juicy headlines

Although the full extent and influence of political manipulation is still under investigation, a preliminary review reveals that numerous elected officials have sought to influence a range of job actions at IDOT, including, hires, transfers, promotions, and raises. Many of these politically favored individuals appear to lack any specialized experience or skills that uniquely qualify them for IDOT positions, but were nonetheless selected for positions and promotions outside any competitive process, in violation of the Rutan principles.

Moreover, IDOT employs numerous family members of politicians or senior IDOT officials in ostensibly “exempt” positions, although many of those individuals perform routine duties. This results in the exclusion of other, more qualified individuals, from consideration. […]

The OEIG Report identified a number of Staff Assistants that had political connections. Additionally, the OEIG Report identified a number of Staff Assistants with a family member in a senior IDOT position. The OEIG Report explained that the political connections of the Staff Assistants were determined primarily on reviewing the resumes of the Staff Assistants. Our initial review of the testimony provided by witnesses and application materials found that, beyond the individuals identified in the OEIG Report, at least an additional 30 Staff Assistants appeared to have political connections or a relative in a senior IDOT position. Our initial review also suggests that certain elected officials are more heavily involved in making recommendations for employment to IDOT than others. We believe further investigation is warranted to determine both the breadth of political influence in IDOT’s employment practices and the processes that led to IDOT’s acting on the political recommendations.

* She’s also alleging collusion between IDOT and labor unions

Additionally, due to questionable agreements between IDOT officials and certain unions, IDOT’s ability to comply with the Rutan principles going forward is compromised. These agreements, which have resulted in the unionization of numerous Rutan-exempt positions, have undercut the new administration’s ability to exercise its rights under the Rutan principles. Now, although IDOT has hired hundreds of individuals based on political factors, because of the terms of existing union contracts, IDOT’s new administration may not be able to fire those same individuals, based on political factors.

Gov. Rauner’s spokesman responds…

“The report confirms that previous governors were engaged in a corrupt bargain with government unions, making illegal political hires and putting them into protected government union positions. Governor Rauner is committed to reversing the illegal hiring scheme and enacting civil service reforms that will prevent these types of abuses from happening in the future.”

* Back to the Sun-Times story

.

Brennan reported Wednesday that “there is evidence concerning the involvement of the [Pat Quinn] Governor’s Office that has not been fully explored” and “further investigation is required into the Governor’s Office’s role in the misuse of the position” of staff assistant.

Oof.

* OK, let’s switch to the AP’s coverage

The monitor’s preliminary report, part of a federal lawsuit by anti-patronage activist Michael Shakman against the Illinois Department of Transportation, said Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration should freeze hires and transfers in some IDOT positions until conflicting hiring and union rules are rectified. […]

[Brennan] said the agency should identify every position in which an employee theoretically can be hired or fired at will but also has collective-bargaining rights that restrict terminations.

Rauner, who’s making noise in union-friendly Illinois with plans to control labor’s influence, balked at the special master’s proposal to freeze activity in those jobs. Rauner’s office said that while the Republican is “committed to reversing” illegal hiring, the proposal would mean leaving critical IDOT positions vacant.

* Actually, Brennan wrote this

Although the State agreed in principle with this recommendation, it did not agree to implement it on the ground that the recommendation could cripple some current IDOT operations.

As an example, the State noted the need to hire four attorneys into Rutan-exempt union positions in IDOT’s Office of Chief Counsel. Although we understand and appreciate the State’s reasons for not agreeing to implement this particular recommendation, we cannot overemphasize that, failing to stop the hiring, transferring or promoting of individuals through the Rutan-exempt process, into union covered positions, at least until a complete job audit is completed, all but guarantees future violations of the 1972 Decree and compounds the existing difficulty of reconciling the rights of current governmental employees, as demonstrated by the pending Teamsters litigation.

Look, there are things the state has to do. And some things just can’t wait for a hiring process fix, no matter how much that fix may be needed.

I don’t think the Rauner administration is being unreasonable here, and Brennan isn’t exactly furious, either. The easy road is to scream “Rauner is violating his campaign promise!” The truth, like governing, is much more complex.

- Posted by Rich Miller   53 Comments      


The Key to Lowering Workers’ Compensation Costs is Insurance Transparency and Oversight

Thursday, Mar 5, 2015

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

In 2011 the Workers’ Compensation “Reform” package was signed into law, aimed at lowering costs for employers in Illinois. These changes have had a negative effect on workers in Illinois and their ability to receive fair and reasonable compensation when they are injured on the job and have not resulted in insurance premium reductions for employers in Illinois, even though workers’ compensation costs have undeniably come down.

The National Academy of Social Insurance reports workers’ compensation is the second most profitable line of insurance after auto insurance. Over 300 insurance companies compete for and write workers’ compensation insurance in Illinois, more than just about any other state in the country. If Illinois is so unprofitable, why are these insurance companies climbing over one another to sell insurance here? It may be because insurance companies in Illinois are essentially unregulated when it comes to setting insurance premiums.

Decreased benefits for injured workers, medical reimbursements plummeting, claims falling, and reduced costs have all resulted in big profits for the insurance industry. This is the real result of the 2011 workers’ compensation reform.

Any further changes in workers’ compensation laws should instead look to promote insurance premium transparency and oversight – not further sacrifices by the injured worker.

For more information on workers’ compensation, click here.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Under the bus he goes

Thursday, Mar 5, 2015

* ABC 7

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is accusing Illinois governor Bruce Rauner of trying to balance the state’s budget on the backs of Chicago’s working families.

Everything from kids to cops, technology to transit could be impacted by state budget cuts, according to Mayor Emanuel.

“I’ve been very clear to all the leaders and to the governor,” Emanuel said on Wednesday. “This budget will not stand. It’s wrong for Chicago and I believe it’s wrong for Illinois.”

The City forecasts Rauner’s proposed budget would mean 1,000 fewer cops, $130 million in cuts to the CTA and 60,000 kids losing subsidized daycare.

* Not everyone was buying into the mayor’s rhetoric. The Tribune’s coverage was entitled “Emanuel tries to score points with Rauner attack”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel offered up a double serving of political theater Wednesday, attacking his friend Gov. Bruce Rauner’s attempt to slash state spending and airing a TV ad in which the mayor appeared contrite about his first term but didn’t specify what he got wrong. […]

Emanuel’s castigation of Rauner’s budget blueprint represented a time-tested way for a Chicago mayor to score quick political points by attacking whoever is in the governor’s mansion. […]

Emanuel’s criticism of Rauner also served the political purpose of attempting to distance himself from a Republican private equity specialist he once did business with during a brief stint as an investment banker that made the mayor personally wealthy.

* Sun-Times

On Wednesday, Emanuel set out to prove that he is, indeed, fighting for everyday Chicagoans and does not deserve the “Mayor 1 percent” label that his challenger has used to define him.

* On to the actual attack

“You ran for office saying, ‘Here are the challenges.’ I get it. [But] I don’t think you did the hard work of saying, ‘Early childhood is important. Here’s how we’re gonna do it different.’ They just said cut. And the brunt of the cuts are the hundreds of families and parents that rely on a qualified, healthy environment for their kids.”

Instead of wielding the budget ax in a way that would deprive Chicago of “hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said Rauner should zero in on “corporate loopholes” like the ones the mayor closed in Chicago.

Implied, but not stated, was Emanuel’s claim that he had the guts to take on the corporate donors who filled his campaign fund with $15 million.

He also said the governor’s proposed cuts gave new meaning to the phrase “Women and children first.”

* More

“These are just random cuts. There are no reforms to asking a core question: If this is an essential service, how do we do it? How do we do it better? Are we the best to do it?” Emanuel said of Rauner’s budget. “This budget is wrong. It’s wrong for Illinois, it’s fundamentally wrong for Chicago, and it will not stand.”

* Video

* Chuy Garcia’s response

“The mayor should go to Springfield and sit with Rauner. Maybe open up one of those expensive bottles [of wine] and figure out how he’s going to really fight for the people of Chicago when his buddy is the person who’s bringing on the bad news that will spare no one, especially the most vulnerable people,” Garcia said.

* Gov. Rauner’s response

“Governor Rauner had to make some hard decisions to balance a $6 billion budget shortfall caused by years of fiscal neglect and bad practices. The amount of money transferred to local governments has ballooned by more than 40 percent in the last decade and the reduction to local governments proposed in the budget puts Illinois in line with neighboring states. In Governor Rauner’s budget proposal, Chicago’s overall revenues are reduced by less than 2.5 percent. Through the local government task force, Governor Rauner is committed to working with local communities to reduce costs and give them increased flexibility. Additionally, as part of his Turnaround Agenda, the governor proposed empowering local residents with tools to control costs at the local level and get more value for their tax dollars.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   49 Comments      


Learning the wrong lessons

Thursday, Mar 5, 2015

* Fox Chicago

[Mayoral candidate Chuy Garcia] has declined for months to say what he would do about the financial crisis confronting Chicago, even as he criticizes moves the mayor has made.

Since December, Garcia has said only that he is “studying” the budget crisis.

“What I’m telling you is that I’m consulting with experts on financial matters of the city. I will not be pressured by his time frame,” Garcia said. “We’re going to be releasing some of those positions shortly.”

Garcia’s been ducking questions about Chicago’s budget crisis since he filed to run for mayor last fall. He told FOX 32 News he does not “foresee” any tax increases, but won’t say what he would cut or how he would pay with more than a billion dollars needed for police, fire and teacher pensions next year.

Mayor Emanuel has now used a Garcia quote against him in an ad posted on socialmedia.

* Rate the ad

* Garcia is so far taking the Bruce Rauner approach, as is Emanuel, for that matter.

It’s hugely important for candidates to discuss what they plan to do after the election, but the Chicago media mostly gave Rauner a pass last year when he promised details for months and never provided them.

Candidates always learn from the success of other candidates. The city’s two newspaper editorial boards rewarded a candidate with endorsements last year who stayed mostly silent about his plans. This was a horrible precedent, particularly by the Tribune, which brushed off their own reporters’ pointed questions to the would-be governor as unnecessary.

* So, like Emanuel, I’d love to see Garcia go into some detail. But I don’t really blame Garcia after what happened last November. The guy who ran on a promise to renew a tax hike lost, and the guy who refused to say just about anything won. It’s truly frustrating.

- Posted by Rich Miller   64 Comments      


Rauner blasts “outrageous” lack of action

Thursday, Mar 5, 2015

* Gov. Bruce Rauner talked about the FY 2015 budget yesterday

“We’re out of money,” he said in Springfield during a talk to YMCA representatives from around the state. “I didn’t create this budget, but we’re out of money. We’re not funding our day care. It’s outrageous. We should have fixed this a month ago, but the political process, dragging their feet and pushing — it’s sausage being made.”

Yes, this should have been fixed a month ago, but managing the legislative sausage process isn’t like managing a business. There’s a whole lot of give and take. And there was too much take and not enough give for most of that time.

* Senate President John Cullerton responded

“It’s not true,” Cullerton said of suggestions the [Senate] Democrats are blocking progress. “If that were the case, I’m sure the House would have passed the bill over to us already.” […]

Staff members for each of the four legislative leaders and in Rauner’s office have been meeting to work out a compromise. Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, said negotiators made a lot of progress Monday and that the Rauner administration had backed off its initial position that it wanted fairly extensive authority to shift around money.

Senate Democrats said they want more detail from Rauner about what he intends to do, especially in light of his budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1, which included extensive cuts to many human services programs.

“It’s very hard — it’s very complicated because we’re talking about his proposals, cutting a lot of programs,” Cullerton said of the negotiations. “I think maybe the administration thinks that since they’re new, ‘Here’s a proposal, just vote on it.’ We have to get votes for it, and that’s difficult.”

Let’s take those paragraphs one by one.

1) The House doesn’t want to advance legislation unless there’s an agreement, and there’s no agreement. But Cullerton does have a point.

2) Legislative approp staff has never before had the authority to sign off on any agreements, or even make them. They’ve cut legislators who chair approp committees completely out of the process.

3) This has been a long-standing demand by the SDems.

4) See above three points.

- Posted by Rich Miller   98 Comments      


*** LIVE *** Session coverage

Thursday, Mar 5, 2015

* Both chambers convene at noon today. Watch the bouncing ball with ScribbleLive

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today’s edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)

Thursday, Mar 5, 2015

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PREVIOUS POSTS »
* *** UPDATED x1 - Rauner response *** Unions file suit over Rauner executive order
* Could Schneider face a primary foe?
* *** UPDATED x1 - Manar responds *** Madigan creates school funding task force
* Today's number: $1.8 billion
* Question of the day
* Editorial: "Don't fall for Exelon bailout"
* IDOT hiring monitor issues first report
* The Key to Lowering Workers’ Compensation Costs is Insurance Transparency and Oversight
* Under the bus he goes
* Learning the wrong lessons
* Rauner blasts "outrageous" lack of action
* *** LIVE *** Session coverage
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* Yesterday's blog posts

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        * House forms education funding task force..


        * BNSF freight train with crude oil derails near Illinois city
        * Remains of 2 babies put in ceiling at Indiana funeral home
        * Unions sue to block Gov. Rauner's order on dues collection
        * BNSF freight train derails near Galena
        * Woman admits role in arson that killed 15-year-old son
        * Anti-violence group lose funds as Illinois freezes spending
        * Cardinal Egan, retired NY archbishop, dies at age 82
        * Madigan creates task force to examine school funding
        * Missouri woman admits role in arson fire that killed son, 15

        * House forms education funding task force
        * Senate Democrats criticize salaries in governor's office
        * Unions sue to block Rauner's order on dues collection
        * Lawmakers propose increasing state's earned income tax credit
        * Local men plead guilty to stealing millions from Illinois EPA
        * Report: State budget cuts would harm children in poverty
        * Court monitor says IDOT should clean house on hiring rules
        * Senate President Cullerton: We're not stalling
        * Judge grants delay of medical marijuana permit in Kankakee
        * State's medical marijuana patients now number 1,600

        * Train hauling 103 oil cars derails outside Galena
        * Whistleblower alleges conspiracy at Peoples; ICC to vote on probe
        * Unions sue to block Rauner's order on dues collection
        *
        * State Farm hiking Illinois auto rates for third time in 18 months


          * Another smash and grab at Oakbrook Center
          * 3 boys, 2 men wounded in separate city shootings
          * Judge finds probable cause of rape of escort by ex-boyfriend
          * Moody's downgrades Chicago Park District's debt rating
          * 1 dead after being hit by Metra train near Round Lake
          * Protest on Mag Mile blocks traffic near Water Tower Place
          * Funeral home could face suspension after babies' remains discovered
          * Unions sue Rauner over 'fair share' fees
          * Train carrying crude oil derails close to Mississippi River near Galena
          * Cardinal Egan, retired NY archbishop, dies at age 82


          * Listen to State Week - February 27, 2015
          * Unions Take Rauner To Court
          * A Daily Realization
          * Art Beat: Three Art Shows & Rock N' Roll
          * Parents, Day Care Providers Worry About Child Care Funding
          * Full Audio: Poetry Out Loud - Central IL Regional Contest 2015
          * Let's Talk Kids - "A Shot in the Arm"
          * Lincoln Carriage Headed To DC
          * "Don't Get Used To This" Breezy Budget Hearing
          * Lawmaker Suggests Eliminating Tuition Waivers For University Employees' Children


          * House forms education funding task force
          * Senate Democrats criticize salaries in governor's office
          * Unions sue to block Rauner's order on dues collection
          * Lawmakers propose increasing state's earned income tax credit
          * Local men plead guilty to stealing millions from Illinois EPA
          * Bernard Schoenburg: Butler will listen to many before taking tough votes
          * Rep. Mark Batinick: Illinois can find savings in workers' comp reforms
          * George Will: Stopping the IRS
          * Eugene Robinson: Boehner's sorry spectacle
          * Court monitor says IDOT should clean house on hiring rules


          * Basketball pick em game 18: Purdue
          * LIVE! Big Ten tournament
          * Resident hears 3 explosions from train derailment near Galena
          * Lawmakers want healither options in vending machines
          * Cornel West cancels UI speech, calls Salaita case 'a moral scandal'
          * Lavender's eight points lifts SIU to halftime lead
          * AFL-CIO endorses Gerard for Champaign mayor
          * Spicing up things
          * Sports Talk 03-05-15
          * Lawmakers favor pumpkin pie as the official state pie


          * Cicero official sues Naperville over arrest
          * Lawsuit alleges Nashville center Ribeiro assaulted nanny
          * Phil Moss fired as coach of A-League's Central Coast side
          * Flu strikes Panthers, who are already without top 2 goalies
          * BNSF freight train with crude oil derails near Galena

          * Giffords says ‘time is now’ to fight for b...
          * Bi-partisan background check bill introduc...
          * Bill would close background-check loopholes
          * The latest Gabby Giffords push for modest ...
          * Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: Maryla...
          * Gabby Giffords Returns to Capitol Hill to ...
          * National Review’s Rick Lowry and His Phony...
          * US lawmakers condemn Boko Haram’s terroris...
          * Bob Clifford Named One of 100 Most Powerfu...
          * Bost support of comp time bill has comment...

          * Saunders: Democrats and their over-reactio......
          * Why Conservatives' Prison Reform Plans Won......
          * Despite Wrongdoing, Former IRS Exec Lois L......

          * Despite Netanyahu claim, cheap oil not see......
          * Rowe business group rallies forces for imm......

          * Lincoln and Douglass’s Last Encounter
          * McDonald's To Curb Use Of Antibiotics In Chicken Food Supply
          * IL Coalition Wants Gas Tax Changes To Boost Road Funding
          * Tryon Sponsors Bill to Clarify Appointment Process for Statewide Office Vacancies
          * Train loaded with crude oil derails near Galena, Illinois
          * Lawsuit Filed Over Fatal Chicago Police Shooting Of Roshad McIntosh
          * U.S. Senate Unsuccessful In Overriding Keystone Pipeline Veto
          * Protesters Keep Pressure On CPD Over Homan Square Facility (VIDEO)
          * Unions File Suit Over Rauner's Executive Order On Fair Share Fees
          * Reeder: Goofy demonstrators surround Wisconsin's right-to-work debate


          * Statewide Financial Aid Workshops Help Improve Illinois FAFSA® Completion Rates - Illinois Student Assistance Commission Encourages Students to Continue to Complete Their FAFSAs
          * White-Nose Syndrome Found in Four Additional Illinois Counties - Disease That Has Killed Millions of Bats in North America Confirmed For First Time in Union, Saline, Johnson and Jackson Counties
          * IDHR Introduces Training on Preventing Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace - Program will focus on proactive compliance with new law
          * IEMA Urges People to Prepare for Severe Weather - Tornadoes, floods and severe storms can happen any time of year
          * IDHS helps more than 5,000 individuals with disabilities find jobs - Program offers necessary tools to earn a living wage and become more independent




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