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Wednesday, Feb 28, 2007

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Question of the day

Wednesday, Feb 28, 2007

First, the setup

Even though his drunken driving killed four people, Randy Visor faces no special penalties for driving with his license revoked.

But under a new Illinois House bill, the 34-year-old Aurora man could have been charged with a felony, because his license was revoked for committing reckless homicide.

Visor spent four years in prison after he was convicted in the 1997 drunken-driving crash that took the lives of four people, including three Waubonsie Valley High School students.

In March 2006, Batavia police apprehended him for driving with a revoked license. Under current law, he was charged with a misdemeanor, just like any other people caught driving while their license is revoked.

Rep. Joe Dunn, a Republican who represents the far east side of Aurora and Naperville, now is sponsoring a bill that would upgrade the charge of driving on a revoked license based on a reckless homicide from a misdemeanor to felony. On the first violation, the bill would prohibit reinstating an offender’s driving privileges for at least three years. By the third violation, an offender would have his license revoked for life.

I would assume you support this bill, so that’s not the question. Here’s the question: What other changes to DUI laws could you support? Or do we have enough? Explain

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      


Wednesday, Feb 28, 2007

I noticed something last night while doing a bit of instant analysis on the Chicago city council races.

* Brendan Reilly stomped Burton Natarus by nine points, but Natarus refused to concede.

* Sandi Jackson creamed Darcel Beavers by almost 15 25 points, yet Beavers also refused to concede.

* And Ald. Aurenda Troutman was absolutely steamrolled, losing by 30 points, yet she, too, refused to concede. Troutman even claimed there was some sort of evil conspiracy in the counting that somehow deprived her of a victory.

I’m wondering what you think of all this. Are these aldermen just isolated nutballs, are they just so arrogant that they couldn’t imagine ever losing, or do they have no respect for the voters’ wishes? Or is it something else?

We have a couple of other local election threads here, so let’s try to stick to the topic at hand. I really am curious what you make of these clowns (or “buffoons,” as the case may be.)

And, please, don’t try to claim that there weren’t enough results in last night for the three to realize what had happened to them. The Natarus race was over by 8 o’clock, as were the other two contests.

- Posted by Rich Miller   62 Comments      

Rate rage roundup - The morning after

Wednesday, Feb 28, 2007

* We’ll start our coverage with today’s Tribune story

Lawmakers, school officials and mayors lashed out at utility companies Tuesday in a rare public hearing before the full House, saying skyrocketing electricity bills are forcing consumers to choose between food, medicine and heat.

“I can’t begin to describe the crisis and calamity going on,” said Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion), sitting by a bundle of constituents’ bills 2 feet high. “The scales of justice in this state are out of whack.” […]

The hearing unleashed pent-up rage over bills that began arriving in consumer mailboxes about the time House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President Emil Jones reached a stalemate over how to address one of the biggest pocketbook issues the two Chicago Democrats have faced in years.

* Meanwhile, ComEd claimed they don’t have a rate problem up north, and blatantly threw Ameren under the bus

“Yes, there’s a serious issue in the state of Illinois,” Clark said. “But it’s not all over Illinois and 75 percent of the customer base in Illinois is not having that problem. Now do we need to address the situation in southern Illinois? Absolutely.”

* Sun-Times

Madigan said he’s “still very hopeful” that the Senate will support another freeze, even though Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago) stymied a similar plan in January.

Ameren and ComEd executives have said another freeze would wreak financial havoc on their companies.

* Madigan called the ICC-imposed “reverse power auction” nothing more than a fix

“That auction is nothing more than a fix,” Madigan said. “It’s a fix for Exelon and other large power producers that can produce power at costs so low that when you compare the cost of producing the power against the price set by the reverse clock auction, there’s enough spread (that) the financial houses from New York have become buyers and sellers of power in Illinois. That’s not right.”

* And Ameren offered up a “compromise“…

The president of Ameren’s Illinois utilities, facing a roomful of angry state lawmakers Tuesday, vowed one-time partial refunds to Illinoisans who have been socked with unusually high power bills this month — a $20 million gambit apparently designed to persuade the Legislature not to re-regulate electric rates.

* But as I told you last night, when I was the first to run a brief piece on the Ameren proposal, the Speaker turned thumbs down, claiming the Ameren offer (which totaled $35 million) was insufficient.

* Lawmakers comment on electric rate hikes

* Outlining the program options offered by ComEd

* And a Daily Herald semi-blogger registered his complaints.

Making the management of the proceedings even more questionable was the fact that it was 7:30 p.m. before the Ameren CEO took the witness stand to explain why some of his company’s customers are seeing power bill increases of 200 to 300 percent and tell lawmakers what he planned to do about it. Scott Cisel, the Ameren CEO, outlined an 8-point plan of customer relief only to have it largely dismissed by downstate members who openly accuse the company of lying to them about the effects of rate hikes.

But by then, Mayor Daley was being declared the winner of yet another term in Chicago and across the state, media attention was turning to key local races, particularly downstate where there aren’t the resources in many media markets to cover both the hearing and the elections. And, unlike the hearing, the elections were producing results Tuesday night.

At nearly 11 p.m., ComEd’s CEO still had not testified or taken questions.

* Soundclips from committee of the whole hearing [Madigan’s full statement will be posted later this morning in the subscriber-only section]

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      

Local Elections Roundup

Wednesday, Feb 28, 2007

[Note: View Rich Miller’s commentary from last night on some of the aldermanic races, plus links to other stories by clicking here.]

* Reilly headed to City Council

* Rounding up other aldermanic races

* Mark Brown: Jackson’s win shocks political dynasty’s boss ‘hog’

* Night of upsets

If it was a bad day for incumbents, it was a good day for the unions that targeted them for opposing the failed big-box ordinance that would have required large retailers to pay their workers more.

“I don’t know how you spin this other than a very big night for organized labor,” said Jerry Morrison, executive director of the Service Employee International Union’s State Council, predicting that Daley will face a more independent Council. “This is a new day dawning, brother.”

* Incumbents struggle all election night

* Tough fights throughout the city

* Corruption hurts Troutman, Daley gets away unscathed

* Kristen McQueary: Some up some down in election

* Embattled Troutman (CBS2 video clip) ousted, and other aldermanic victims

* Rugai reelected to fifth term

* Upstart topples Natarus (CBS2 video clip), unions help many in northside

* Race summaries in the 10th, 14th, 18th , 23rd

* Expectedly low primary turnout numbers

* Incumbent Davlin pleased with results, far ahead of Strom

* Zion mayor trounces challengers

* No surprises in southwest suburbs

* Naperville mayor wins big in primary

* Mayors ahead big in Naperville and Zion

* Incumbent mayors win in Elgin and Hoffman Estates

* This was the easy part, says Daley

* Daley cruises to historic election victory

* Sun-Times Editorial: Daley has his work cut out for him

* Tribune Editorial: Chicagoans voting on Chicago with Daley

* Editorial: Victory comes much too easy for Daley

* Neil Steinberg: A vote for Daley in spirit

* DeValle keeps Clerk’s office

- Posted by Paul Richardson   18 Comments      

Morning Shorts

Wednesday, Feb 28, 2007

* HPV vaccine too pricey for many

For medical practices, however, sales tax and federal excise tax can increase the cost to almost $140 a dose. And then there is the cost of refrigerated storage, insurance and the time it takes to administer the vaccine.

* Bill aims to drop 5% sales tax from textbook sales

* Amtrack struggling to run trains on time

* Dan Hynes: Illinois poised to lead on stem cell research

It will allow the state to strengthen its international standing in the field of medical research and claim its place as the preeminent location of stem cell research in the Midwest. And it will spur the creation of thousands of new jobs and tens of millions of dollars in private sector investment.

* 2 admit fake minority venture in $49 million County contract bid

The contract called for 30 percent minority participation in the deal. Siemens said Faustech Industries was a minority business that had a joint venture in the deal. Prosecutors say it was a sham: The companies arranged to pay Faustech a flat fee of $500,000.

* More jobs cut in latest county budget figures, up to 1,700 occupied positions

* Stroger’s office defends healthcare cuts

* Lawmakers decry $70,000 of fomer state worker as chauffeur:

Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, wanted to know “how many more do we have in a position making a lot of money for doing a job that may not need to be done in the first place.”
Mautino sits on the appropriations committee of the House that reviews state agencies involved in public safety. He said he will question each of the agencies to see if they have people in similar positions.

* Rezko trial put off for a year, bond restrictions stay

- Posted by Paul Richardson   9 Comments      

* Happy Thanksgiving!
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Five unanswered questions
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