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Friday, Mar 30, 2007

Besides heading to Illinoize and having some fun there, your weekend reading assignment is the Pew Research Center’s March 22 survey on trends in political values and core attitudes, 1987-2007 . It’s fascinating.

Harold Henderson has one bit on his blog…

In 1987, 73% of white evangelical Protestants agreed that school boards should have the right to fire homosexual teachers. Today, just 42% do so. And in 1987, 60% of white evangelicals believed that AIDS might be a punishment for immoral sexual behavior; today just 38% believe this.

Here’s more…

In 1987, about half of the survey’s respondents (49%) gave conservative answers to at least four of the six questions. In 2007, just 30% did so. This trend has occurred in all major social, political, and demographic groups in the population. While Republicans remain significantly more conservative than Democrats or independents on social values, they too have become substantially less conservative over this period.

The decline in social conservatism is being hastened by generational change, as each new age cohort has come into adulthood with less conservative views on the questions than did their predecessors.

All in all, though, it’s a lot more nuanced than this. Go read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Updates on updates *** Updated x3 ***

Friday, Mar 30, 2007

We have several updates today, so this will direct you to them.

* As of 2 o’clock, we’re still waiting on the Illinois Senate to take up Sen. Gary Forby’s bill to roll back electric rates to last year’s levels and freeze them for a year. Go here for the latest. Paul is at the Senate while I’m waiting by the blog.

*** UPDATE *** More on this in a few minutes.

*** UPDATE 2 *** It looks like the bill won’t be called today. Subscribers, check your fax or e-mail.

*** UPDATE 3 *** They’ve adjourned. It won’t be called. Forby told reporters he plans to call the bill after the two-week break.

* Unlike the teachers unions, the Illinois PTA is supporting HB 750. Check it out here. [fixed link]

* On that same post, the Illinois Press Association is holding a joint teleconference with the IL Chamber on the gross receipts tax.

* And still on that post, the business groups opposed to the governor’s tax plans have a new TV ad.

* One more on that post right now, Doug Kane, the governor’s adviser on the GRT is our newest blogger at Illinoize.

* And while this isn’t an update, there’s no other post to amend it to so I’ll just put it here. Broken down warhorse Ald. Berny Stone claims there was some sort of fraud in the first round of his aldermanic election…

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

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Friday, Mar 30, 2007

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Obamarama - Replacement talk

Friday, Mar 30, 2007

The National Journal’s CongressDaily publication [subscription only] had this little gem today…

“There really hasn’t been much of a conversation,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., said about replacing Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., if he becomes the 44th president. “If there is a conversation about it, I want to be in the mix.”

In Illinois, in addition to Schakowsky, there is speculation that Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich might want to serve in the Senate, but the most likely candidates come from the congressional delegation, perhaps Rep. Rahm Emanuel or one of the state’s three black representatives, all Democrats: Reps. Bobby Rush, Jesse Jackson Jr., or Danny Davis.

Rush, who defeated Obama in a 2000 Democratic primary by a 2-1 margin, said he supports Obama’s presidential bid, and added there would be no dearth of candidates to replace him. “There are a lot of people who I think would be well-positioned to become a U.S. senator,” Rush said.

Aides said Emanuel has not given the Senate any thought. Other prominent Illinois Democrats include state Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Chicago Mayor William M. Daley, although one party source suggested the mayor might see Washington as a “lateral move” at best.

Oh, brother, I can’t stop laughing. Tears are in my eyes. What a hoot!

- Posted by Rich Miller   48 Comments      

Question of the day

Friday, Mar 30, 2007

First, the setup

Legislation being considered by the Illinois House says dogs can accompany owners at outdoor cafes.

The bill is sponsored by State Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago). It passed the Senate earlier this month.

The legislation applies to cities with populations over a million, meaning only Chicago qualifies.

The bill doesn’t propose allowing animals inside restaurants. It says that restaurants would have to comply with health codes and could refuse service to a dog owner if the animal’s behavior threatens the health or safety of other diners.

And now, the question: How do you feel about this proposal? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   82 Comments      

Rate hike showdown today *** Updated x5 ***

Friday, Mar 30, 2007

* The Senate is expected to vote today on Sen. Gary Forby’s plan to roll back electric rates to last year’s levels and freeze them for a year. Word is that will happen sometime around eleven o’clock, so check back often for updates on this post.

*** UPDATE 1:34 pm *** Both parties left for caucus about an hour ago. They should be back soon. Stay tuned.

*** UPDATE 2:00 pm *** They’re back from caucus, but they have a ways to go before they get to the bill.

*** UPDATE 2:26 pm *** Lots of hot rumors right now, but I was asked by the Senate Democrats to hold off on an “Extra” for a few minutes. Stay tuned for more.

*** UPDATE 2:43 pm *** It doesn’t look like the Forby bill will be called today. Subscribers, check your fax or e-mail.

*** UPDATE 2:48 pm *** They’ve adjourned. It won’t be called. Forby told reporters he plans to call the bill after the two-week break.


* Here’s a background story. And here’s another one.

* I kinda doubt that this little flower shop was as successful as claimed if they’re going out of business after one month of high rates, but we’ve seen several stories like this so here’s another one

Kerry Bieker started work at the little flower shop here the day it opened, and she thought the place could really make a go of it.

It did, too. At least for a while. But when the Ameren electric bill this month cost more than the rent, the owners decided to fold, making it perhaps the first store in the area to go out of business because of the electric company’s rate increases. […]

Rent at the four-room building was just $300 a month. Last month’s electric bill, though, was more than $400.

* I’ve told you before that Attorney General Lisa Madign believes there may be some collusion between New York bond rating firms and the electric utility companies. She filed a “motion to compel” this week for force out information about the relationship between the companies. Here’s a background story, but here are some excerpts from that motion…

There have been a number of instances in which the nature and timing of credit rating agencies’ announcements relating to Illinois utilities, including Ameren, have raised troubling questions as to whether the credit rating agencies are providing objective information or promoting the interests of their clients - the utilities and their parent companies.

a. In the fall of 2005, Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s issued warnings and downgrades — seemingly right on cue to promote the interests of the utilities and their parent companies in a lobbying campaign claiming that elected officials and regulators were setting Illinois on a course toward a “California-style energy crisis” that would lead to utility bankruptcies:

On September 27, 2005, a utility-sponsored “consumer coalition” called Consumers Organized for Reliable Electricity (”CORE”) announced its formation “to warn the public about political threats to the electric industry…”

On September 30, 2005, Moody’s Investors Service announced that it might cut its ratings on Ameren and Commonwealth Edison Company, citing “an increasingly contentious political and regulatory climate in Illinois.”

On October 3, 2005, Standard & Poor’s lowered the credit ratings of Ameren and Exelon because of the “heightened adversarial regulatory environment in Illinois.”

On October 3, 2005, CORE issued a barrage of press releases:

“Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said today that it lowered its corporate credit rating on diversified energy company Exelon Corp. and its subsidiaries […]

“Moody’s places the long term debt ratings of Ameren . . . [Illinois subsidiaries] under review for possible downgrade.” […]

On October 3, 2005, Fitch Ratings noted that “despite the controversy, there have not been any adverse regulatory rulings.” Fitch left the ratings unchanged for Ameren and ComEd and kept their outlooks stable. […]

b.More recently, Moody’s downgraded the Ameren Illinois utilities to junk status, even though there was no change in the utilities’ revenues or costs, thereby “forcing” Ameren to cancel millions of dollars of rate relief […]

On March 13, 2007, the Illinois Commerce Commission approved Ameren’s rate relief plan and, only hours later, Moody’s announced that it was downgrading the Ameren Illinois utilities’ rating to junk status.

[Emphasis added]

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      

Girding for battle *** Updated x5 ***

Friday, Mar 30, 2007

* I had a long talk with a staunchly pro-labor southern Illinois Democrat last night who was surprised to learn that one of his local lumber yards - which employs 50 people - has gross receipts of about $5 million a year. One of his car dealers, who is threatening to move out of state if the governor’s gross receipts tax passes, had gross revenues last year of about $4.7 million. Both businessmen are furious about the GRT plan. The legislator is not exactly overjoyed with the governor right now and won’t be around when Blagojevich breezes through the area on his statewide bus tour next week.

So, this statement by the Illinois Education Association’s spokesman might be a bit optimistic

McBarron said that the teachers unions have plans to step up their campaign for the gross receipts tax next week when legislators return from Springfield to their districts.

“They’re going to be hearing from their constituents, and we feel confident that by the time they return to Springfield, many of them will feel much better about supporting the gross receipts tax,” McBarron said.

* The editorial page editor of the Rockford Register-Star makes a connection today between the GRT and skyrocketing downstate electric bills in a column about the Illinois Press Association’s opposition to the tax hike…

Advertising representatives at smaller newspapers, especially those served by Ameren, are having a tough time selling ads. Business owners say they have enough trouble paying utility bills that have almost doubled; they can’t buy ads, too. Throw in a new tax and those small businesses, and the newspapers in their communities, will struggle to survive.

You may see a lot more of that logic during the governor’s statewide bus tour next week.

* The Tribune is now noticing dissension within the Senate Democratic ranks since Senate President Emil Jones issued a statement saying he will never call the tax swap for a vote…

Senators in Jones’ own caucus are showing signs of rebellion and are chafing under a process where legislative leaders call most of the major shots.

Meeks suggested rank-and-file lawmakers are weary of “sitting on the bus in full gear while other people play the game.”

Key Hispanic senators also released a statement criticizing the Blagojevich proposal and praising legislation to reduce reliance on local property taxes for schools.

The Tribune often drives coverage in other papers and media outlets, so watch for this meme to finally begin spreading.

* And Phil Kadner makes a good point about the significance of HB 750 moving out of a committee yesterday…

But it never would have passed out of committee without a green light from House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago).

* More tax and spend stories…

* Harriet Meyer: Governor’s budget plan a boost for healthcare, education

* Joseph Persky, professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a member of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers: GRT is best option for raising revenues

* Governor’s ‘drive for healthcare’ goes to Quincy

* Doug Whitley: Governor’s new tax is bad policy

*** UPDATE *** Unlike the teachers unions, the Illinois PTA is supporting HB 750 as the “best way to provide fairer funding for schools.” No mention of the gross receipts tax on the organization’s front page

You are urged to call your representativesand senator next week to express our continuing support for H/S 750, as the best way to provide fairer funding for schools, while providing additional money for state needs by the fairest method.

[Hat tip: YDD in comments.]

*** UPDATE 2 *** From a press release…

On Monday April 2, at 1:30 the Illinois Press Association will host a teleconference with the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Taxpayers Federation to address Governor Blagojevich’s proposed Gross Receipts Tax (GRT). Both Doug Whitley of the Illinois Chamber and Tom Johnson of the Taxpayers Federation will offer remarks for a few minutes and then take questions from IPA members.

The IPA encourages all members – publishers, editors and reporters — with questions or concerns about the proposed GRT to take part in this conference.

*** UPDATE 3 *** The biz groups opposed to the GRT have a new television ad. Watch it below…

*** UPDATE 4 *** Blagojevich GRT advisor Doug Kane is our newest blogger at Illinoize. Check out his first post here

We have been told so often over the past several decades that a state has to have a good business tax climate in order for its economy to grow, that we have begun to accept it as the truth.

*** UPDATE 5 *** Tom Kacich at the Champaign News-Gazette has a great blog and a very good post this afternoon about the governor’s upcoming stop in Danville. He wonders which state legislators might show up and then writes

And state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, said today that she still hasn’t taken a position because she still hasn’t seen the GRT legislation. “I don’t really talk about hypothetical situations,” she said. “I haven’t even seen what the proposal is yet so I can’t take a position on something I haven’t seen.’

In addition, she wasn’t aware that Blagojevich was going to stop in Danville on Thursday. “What you’re telling me is something I haven’t been told.”

Nice advance work by the governor’s office, I’d say.

What the heck is this guy doing? More House and Senate Dems are peeling off this idea every day, the business groups are running effective TV ads against it (I even saw one on ESPN last night) and statewide Democratic officials have come out against it. It looks like the teachers unions and a few other groups are going to be stuck driving over the cliff with the governor on this initiative.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      

Boland’s smoking bill flames out in House

Friday, Mar 30, 2007

Rep. Mike Boland is not exactly the most popular member of the Illinois House. Many of his colleagues say they just don’t trust his word. I used to like the guy. I thought he was plucky in the face of overhwhelming odds. Then I saw close hand a couple of years ago why he wasn’t trusted.

Boland also introduces more than his share of goofy bills. One of those bills crashed and burned yesterday

While opponents whistled the sound of falling bombs, proponents argued passionately for anti-smoking legislation aimed at protecting the health of young children.

House Bill 1769 went down in flames Thursday, garnering just 18 “yes” votes while the 91 opponents cheered.

The bill would have prohibited smoking in a vehicle with children ages 8 and under.

Rep. Mike Boland, D-East Moline, sponsor of the bill, said he chose that age because children are in car seats until then. He thought it would simplify things for police officers.

If everyone had voted, Boland might have hit the magic “Century” mark of “No” votes. Anyway, here’s more

“Enough is enough,” said state Rep. Bill Black, a Danville Republican. “What’s next? Are we going to have the smoke police come to your house?

“Why don’t we just put a bill on the calendar that says no cigarettes shall be sold in the state of Illinois and the possession … the mere possession of a cigarette would be a Class X felony?”

State Rep. Michael Boland, an East Moline Democrat, sponsored the plan, citing similar laws in Louisiana, West Virginia and Arkansas. […]

Few of his colleagues agreed.

“Few” is right.

Meanwhile, the Senate passed a statewide smoking ban yesterday…

Handing anti-tobacco forces a major political win, the Illinois Senate on Thursday voted to ban smoking in bars, restaurants, casinos and workplaces statewide.

The initiative, which passed 34-23 and now moves to the House, would replace a patchwork of local anti-smoking laws beginning next January.

The American Cancer Society estimates that eight Illinoisans die each day — about 2,900 a year — after getting sick from breathing smoke-filled air.

Restaurant and bar employees who work eight-hour shifts in a smoke-filled environment breathe in the equivalent of 16 cigarettes, supporters said.

The Pantagraph takes another angle

Thursday’s Senate vote to ban smoking in all Illinois public places comes on the heels of hundreds of thousands of dollars in television advertising trying to convince voters and lawmakers that second-hand smoke is dangerous.

The anti-smoking ads join spots about Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s business tax plan and others about cable TV competition as recent commercials that could interrupt the local news or “Good Morning America.”

Jeff Brand, a communication professor at Millikin University in Decatur, says it’s not necessarily unusual to see groups take their legislative goals to the tube.

“I think right now we just have a glut of issues,” he said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      

Morning Shorts

Friday, Mar 30, 2007

* Friday Beer Blogging: 32 Edition

* Koehler looks to alter state pension code

* Truck speed limit may go up

* Editorial: Keeping kids out of school has a wider cost

* Need a student loan? State might help those who stay

For the first time, the state would give Illinois students who study in Illinois a break on interest rates for student loans. Then, the break gets better if those students find jobs in-state after graduation, or opt for smaller-paycheck professions such as public service or health care in underserved areas.

* Sun-Times Editorial: Springfield must extend ‘7% solution’ for Cook Co.

* Will lost license stop teen drinking?

* Governor will decide future of hospital board

If the plan were allowed to expire Sunday night, regulation involving hospital construction would cease to exist, meaning any hospital could be built provided it complies with local zoning restrictions. Hospitals still would be required to be licensed by the state before opening.

* Gambling expansion bill is revived

* House OKs housing at community colleges

* Lawyers seek to question Daley in torture suit

* Three city workers accused of bribery

* Voter registration jumps in wards with runoffs

* Foie gras purveyor fined

* Carol Stream preparing for change as 2 run to be new mayor; taxes are #1 issue

- Posted by Paul Richardson   6 Comments      

* Pressure builds on Alvarez, McCarthy
* Final day to file!
* SEIU claims court victory on health insurance
* Question of the day
* So long, Kurt!
* Will "right to work" pop up again?
* A little bit of what's at stake this week
* More poison pills
* Time heals most wounds
* NYT looks at Griffin, Rauner
* LaQuan McDonald case: Three suggestions for state action
* Yesterday's blog posts

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