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Thursday, Apr 26, 2007

I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent talking on the phone and exchanging e-mails with my hosting company about the site problems we’ve had this week. I’m very sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you, but I’ve been assured over and over by the company that they’re working on it.

It seems to be running better now, so we’ll just have to wait and see. This morning, I threatened to call the CEO of the company’s corporate parent with my beef, and that may have done the trick.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Dispelling the “Deep Pockets” Myth

Thursday, Apr 26, 2007

(The following is a paid advertisement.)

*Dispelling the “Deep Pockets” Myth*

Insurance companies are leading a propaganda campaign against SB 1296.


SB 1296
is not about “deep pockets,” but merely responds to a recent Appellate Court case that would open a legal loophole allowing negligent manufacturers, reckless construction companies and even drunk drivers to dodge their responsibility when their negligence injures or kills someone.

Opponents of SB 1296 are hoping that recent Appellate Court case will overturn 21 years of legal practice, allowing wrongdoers to shift responsibility for their negligence to individuals and small businesses who have long ago been dismissed as defendants from a lawsuit, by placing their name on jury verdict forms and encouraging juries to assign damages against them.

Insurance companies falsely claim that dismissed defendants have_always_ appeared on jury verdict forms. Not true, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

“Historically, juries have not been allowed to consider settling defendants when figuring out percentages of fault, since 1986, when that portion of the civil liability code was written.” (4/23/2007)

Before you buy into the “Deep Pockets” propaganda, keep in mind that 88% of all tort cases in Illinois are for $50,000 or less (Illinois Supreme Court annual report).

Learn more here.

- Posted by Capitol Fax Blog Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Thursday, Apr 26, 2007

First, the setup…

Beyond the obvious and wrenching tragedy for everyone involved, the Virginia Tech massacre became a Rorschach test of sorts as Americans tried to analyze how it happened and how it could have been prevented.

Many have asked how it was that no one in a position to act authoritatively heeded the numerous red flags that the gunman was a disturbed and menacing presence. Others have suggested that the shooting spree could have been cut short if even one of the students or professors had been armed. Still others have wondered how someone with the killer’s record of brushes with the mental health system was allowed to buy guns.

All of these questions and points of view are understandable to one degree or another. The last is being addressed — and appropriately so — by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. […]

Illinois law requires any individual buying a gun to possess a Firearm Owner’s Identification card. Prudently, state law denies a FOID card to anyone who has undergone inpatient mental health treatment. Federal law also bans the sale of guns to anyone deemed mentally ill. […[

Illinois law might not stop someone with a potentially homicidal tendency from legally buying a handgun. The FOID law prohibition is for those who have had inpatient treatment, not outpatient. […]

But Illinois law also says a FOID card may be denied to anyone with a mental condition who “poses a clear and present danger.” A gray area, to be sure.

Question: Do we need to do more to prevent the mentally ill from buying guns? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   47 Comments      


Right back atcha

Thursday, Apr 26, 2007

* As I told subscribers this morning, a House committee will vote today on an amendment to Sen. Gary Forby’s bill that will reattach ComEd to the Ameren-only rate rollback and freeze legislation.

A House committee is scheduled today to take up the legislation to freeze Ameren electric rates, Senate Bill 1592. A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan said it could be amended to include ComEd, passed in the House and returned to the Senate for reconsideration as early as Friday.

* People agitating for a freeze also delivered petitions to Senate President Emil Jones…

Advocates delivered what they said were more than 23,000 petitions calling for rate relief to Senate President Emil Jones’ office after the news conference.

* More

Rank-and-file lawmakers have grown increasingly frustrated with the battle between Jones, a major beneficiary of ComEd campaign contributions, and Madigan, who has supported a freeze since last fall.

Downstate lawmakers have been inundated with complaints from Ameren customers about skyrocketing utility bills they have received since a nearly 10-year-long rate freeze expired with the new year. A group of consumer advocates dumped petitions in Jones’ office Wednesday asking him to support a rate freeze.

“President Jones, do your job!” shouted Jeanne Lakin, a resident of Downstate Godfrey, who said her February electric bill nearly quadrupled to $717 from a year ago. “Be there for us! Enough politics have been played!”

Consumer groups also have warned that Chicago area ComEd customers are likely to see rapid increases in their bills once the summer air-conditioning season arrives.

* More utility-related stories, compiled by Paul Richardson…

* Disconnect notices sent out

* Comments made by angry Ameren customers prompt investigation

* Death threat of lawmaker spurred by electric rate hike

* Police could wrap up death threat probe this week

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      


Pay raises and pajamas

Thursday, Apr 26, 2007

The Statehouse was abuzz yesterday with word that Senate President Emil Jones had been seen walking into House Speaker Michael Madigan’s office. What could the two antagonists be discussing, people wondered.

It turns out, Jones wanted to see Madigan about the supplemental appropriations bill that Madigan had been holding up for weeks. The Pantagraph has more…

Illinois lawmakers approved billions in new spending Wednesday, including cash for their own pay raises and a windfall for hospitals.

Last year, lawmakers decided not to block a measure that awarded themselves and some state executives about 15 percent in pay raises. But the cash to pay them had never been approved.

A House panel voted 4-2 Wednesday to pay about $1.5 million for those raises and billions more for other programs.

The spending measure included a key provision that gives about $2.4 billion to the state’s hospitals in order to leverage billions of federal money. The state has to pay for the federal government to give its full amount.

Meanwhile, in another budget-related matter, DHS is stonewalling reporters who want the agency to back up its claims about the “Pajama Scandal.”

The state Department of Human Services refuses to turn over records to back up its claim that two highly paid aides had other duties besides chauffeuring their bosses.

Department officials said the decision to keep the documents secret was supported by the state’s top lawyer, Attorney General Lisa Madigan. But Madigan’s office disputed that Wednesday, calling the claim “completely inaccurate.”

Human Services Secretary Carol Adams has told lawmakers that Carlos Estes and Eugene Davis were not mere drivers. Their job descriptions also say they wrote articles to educate the public, delivered speeches and press briefings, conducted special studies and research, and handled agency correspondence.

But in response to a Freedom of Information Act request for such records from The Associated Press, DHS said the documents could be kept secret under the law because they were “drafts” meant for internal decision-making.

I spoke to an organization yesterday that gets much of its funding through DHS. I told them that lawmakers may be unwilling to give a lot more money to an agency when they don’t trust the director. This story won’t help matters much.

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Thursday, Apr 26, 2007

* “Request Denied” Series:

* Survey shows no improvement in FOIA compliance

* Governor criticized for concealing information

* One man’s expensive struggle for information

* Reporter: Journalists need to use FOIA more

* Loves Park city council votes unanimous to voice opposition to the GRT

* Panel OKs abortion notification changes

* McQueary: I’ve got pension envy

Almost every pension system in Illinois faces a frighteningly high unfunded liability, which I will be paying off until I’m old and creaky. And yet lawmakers tend to cave to special interests and beef up benefits year after year.

* Editorial: Gun access and the mentally ill

* Material on tax return not hazardous

* Local lawmakers back Giuliani

* Editorial: Unfair Illinois-Indiana tollway price disparity

* Committee backs bill protecting teachers from internet threats

* House votes for campaign finance reform

* House targets contractor donations

* House backs ban on contractor ban

* House approves bill targeting ‘pay-for-play’

“Our local newspapers would be much, much thinner but for stories of scandal and corruption in our state,” Fritchey said. “This is aimed at eliminating those stories.

* Illinois House cuts links between contracts and contributors

* Phil Kadner: Stephens’ miracle, a riverboat without a river

* Chicago school leaders seek to limit local council power

* Sun-Times Editorial: New system holds hope for transit riders

* Daily Show preparing spoof on Chief Illiniwek

* Aldermen: city should have cut off Rezko

* Clout lives on in hiring?

- Posted by Paul Richardson   15 Comments      


Question of the day

Wednesday, Apr 25, 2007

First, the setup, from The Onion

CHICAGO—Mere weeks after his unusual mid-March graduation from Northwestern University’s School of Law, Shaun Daley, son of Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley, was named chairman of the Illinois Nepotist Party Monday.

“I’m thrilled and humbled to be chosen to lead one of Chicago’s most beloved and respected political organizations,” said Daley, who was sworn in at his family’s ancestral residence, the Chicago City Hall. “I swear to you all that I shall do my best to uphold the principles and last name that have made Chicago what it is today.”

Daley vowed to use his position to combat unemployment amongst the sons and daughters of Illinois’ most prominent politicians and business figures.

Question: Do you think the current backlash against the election of Cook County Board President Todd Stroger has put the kibosh on this nepotism thing for a while? Why or why not?

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


U of I trustees in the news again

Wednesday, Apr 25, 2007

This article is really two articles. First, the excerpts from the Senate action…

The Illinois Senate approved new six-year terms for three University of Illinois Board of Trustees members Tuesday despite complaints that senators were denied a chance to quiz them about the controversial retirement of Chief Illiniwek. […]

Many Republicans said they voted “no” to protest Sen. Rickey Hendon’s decision to prevent the trustees from testifying before a Senate committee hearing on Friday.

The four GOP members of the Senate Executive Appointments committee requested that Eppley, Montgomery and Vickrey appear at Friday’s hearing. But Hendon, a Chicago Democrat who chairs the committee, said he rejected the request because the senators wanted only to grill the trustees about the Chief.

Senate President Emil Jones is quoted in the story calling the Republican complaints and “No” votes on the trustees “silly political games.” He apparently said that without any irony.

And here’s the other story, from the House…

Also Tuesday, the House voted almost unanimously to have U of I board members elected publicly, rather than appointed by the governor. […]

Seven members would be elected from the state’s four judicial districts; the other three would be student trustees elected by students from the U of I’s three campuses in Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. The three student trustees would have one binding vote between them.

You already know how I feel about the now-defunct makeup-wearing dancing white guy, but I don’t think I have a solid opinion about electing the trustees again. I’m curious if you do.

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


Hynes cries foul

Wednesday, Apr 25, 2007

* I’m not sure who’s telling the truth here (although I have my suspicions), but it looks like the governor’s people are more than hinting that Comptroller Hynes is trying to force a budget crisis. On the other hand, it might be assumed that the governor’s office is keeping the squeeze on Medicaid providers in order to prod them into backing his GRT plan, which would provide lots of cashola.

The Blagojevich administration missed a chance to pay $650 million in Medicaid bills in early April, despite a suggestion to act from Comptroller Dan Hynes’ office, the agency said Tuesday.

However, the governor’s office said the plan outlined by Hynes’ staff would have left the state short of money to pay Medicaid bills through the rest of the budget year, which ends June 30. […]

On April 4, Hynes’ chief of staff, Keith Taylor, sent a letter to Barry Maram, director of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. In it, Taylor said the comptroller’s office had an opportunity to pay $650 million in Medicaid bills if the department would forward the invoices for payment. […]

[Yesterday, Taylor sent a follow-up letter] “The Office of Comptroller is extremely disappointed that your department failed to respond to our letter of 4/4/07 . . .” Taylor wrote. “Given the fact that you held and continue to hold an additional $1 billion in Medicaid bills, we find your lack of action or even an official reply to our April 4 communication inexplicable.”

Knowles said the payment plan relied on money borrowed short term to kick-start an assessment program that taxes hospitals to obtain additional federal money to treat Medicaid patients. However, the legislature still hasn’t approved a supplemental spending bill needed to fully implement the hospital assessment program.

* The irrepressible Ralph Martire is at it again

The man behind the so-called tax-swap proposal to fund Illinois schools said Tuesday night that McHenry County state legislators were acting neither fairly nor morally in rejecting his measure.

Ralph Martire, the executive director of the bipartisan organization Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, outlined House Bill 750 at District 300’s Community Finance Committee meeting Tuesday, which drew officials from neighboring districts to hear the school funding expert speak. […]

“We need to stop being cafeteria capitalists and start reading Adam Smith [widely considered the father of modern economics] again,” Martire said Tuesday. “[These legislators] are frankly ignoring the issue. … Of course rich people should be paying more in taxes than they get back.”

* More…

* Martire’s board of directors

* Professor: Gross receipts tax will not fix state budget problem

* Scholar borrows a pension solution

* Chambers fight gross receipts tax

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


Steve Greenberg? *** Updated x1 ***

Wednesday, Apr 25, 2007

Does anybody know anything about this guy? The Hill’s article says he’s a wealthy young man who makes money investing in turnarounds. He has little political experience (he’s served on the state Republican Party finance committee and is a precinct committeeman), but he’s lusted after by party bosses because he could self-finance. He also appeared to be slightly naive, at least about Durbin, but that seems to be changing…

Businessman Steve Greenberg is weighing whether to challenge Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), or neither in 2008, and he will go public with his decision around May 15, Greenberg told The Hill on Monday.

The young, wealthy political newcomer met with the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) in Washington last week and said he is now more seriously considering a House bid in one of the GOP’s top targeted districts, Illinois’s 8th. […]

In February, Greenberg expressed interest in running against Durbin. But he said on Monday that his meeting with NRCC Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Political Director Terry Carmack altered his perspective. […]

“There are a lot of people who think this state is not Republican, and I think it is,” Greenberg said. “In this state, people have not been proud Reagan Republicans, and we’ve been trying to pander to be what I would call Democrat-lite. I think that’s the absence of leadership in the candidacies.”

The Hill goes on to claim that Chicago Board of Trade executive Kevin J.P. O’Hara is also interested in running against Durbin, but then stretches creduility by claiming that Sen. Bill Brady and Joe Birkett are also possible candidates. Not. Well, at least for Brady. I also seriously doubt Birkett, who has been touting his chances in the 2010 governor’s race, would like to go 0 for 3 in statewide raes by losing to Durbin.

According to The Hill, President Bush won Bean’s district with 56 percent in the last two elections. On paper, the Republicans count this as one of theirs, but Bean has proved much more resilient than they expected.

Thoughts?

*** UPDATE *** Eric Krol had a story about Greenberg’s possible candidacy back in February

Greenberg, who turns 36 next month, was an executive with Promotions Unlimited, a Racine, Wis., supplier of merchandise and promotional sale ads to independent drug stores. His father, Ira, founded the company in 1973 in Rosemont and eventually acquired the Ben Franklin variety and craft store franchise rights.

Steve Greenberg, who now invests in turn-around companies, served on the Illinois GOP’s finance committee. He’s also a former minor league hockey player with the Washington Capitals organization.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


Death threat alleged against Forby and Jones

Wednesday, Apr 25, 2007

* Needless to say, I hope they throw the book at this cretin

State police confirmed Tuesday that an investigation is under way concerning an alleged death threat made against state Sen. Gary Forby and Senate President Emil Jones that was apparently inspired by the lack of relief from recent electric rate increases.

Scott Compton, a spokesman with the state police in Springfield, said nobody is in custody but interviews are under way.

Compton said the investigation is ongoing and that some individuals have been interviewed more than once. “Right now we’re still in the process of trying to determine what, if anything, did take place,” Compton said.

State police are working in cooperation with law enforcement officials in Franklin and Sangamon counties, Compton said. He said when the state police investigation is completed the information will then be forwarded to both state’s attorneys and a decision will be made whether to file charges.

Compton would not say if there is a suspect in the case or how the alleged threat was made.

* Meanwhile, the Tribune editorial page has finally mentioned last Friday’s parliamentary shenanigans in the Senate, but the paper buried it way down in an editorial against the rate freeze…

The Senate voted to impose a one-year freeze on Ameren and ComEd. But Jones used a parliamentary maneuver to keep ComEd out of the legislation. We agree with Jones’ goal, but it was dead wrong to use such a strong-arm tactic to thwart a majority vote. No veteran of Springfield expects it to operate like Mayberry — but this tactic stunned a lot of people and added to an air of distrust in the capital.

* The Northwest Herald editorialized today for a freeze of sorts…

The state House should pass an amended bill, providing ComEd with a modest increase – in the range of 5 to 7 percent – for a year and send the bill back to the Senate. Then, Jones will have to be pressured by lawmakers and residents to do the proper thing and approve the rate-hike rollback.

Rolling back Ameren’s and ComEd’s rates for one year will give lawmakers another shot at addressing the issue. But an agreement would have to be hammered out now, not sidestepped until the 11th hour again.

* The Post-Dispatch also editorializes for a rate freeze…

As the weather heats up, so will demands for rate relief. Warm as things have been so far for Illinois lawmakers, they will get even hotter when customers start receiving huge electric bills during the summer months. Mr. Jones is going to have a hard time preventing a rate freeze in the months to come.

The larger issue for Illinois, however, is the flawed energy deregulation plan that produced major rate hikes. Deregulation has resulted in higher rates in every state where it has been adopted. But freezing electric rates is simple compared to re-regulating utilities.

The General Assembly should move forward with a rate freeze. But its work won’t be done until it creates an independent panel to outline options for fixing the state’s electric power system. The sooner that process starts, the faster a solution will be in sight.

* Sen. Gary Forby tells the Post-Dispatch that he and Senate President Jones had a little talk yesterday…

Forby said Jones, his own party leader in the Senate, apologized, “kind of,” on Tuesday. A Jones spokeswoman said she could neither confirm nor deny that.

But the fallout continues…

Jones’ maneuver has angered even some members of his own party who agreed with him on the freeze issue. “You never (use) a parliamentary maneuver like that on one of your own members,” Sen. William Delgado, D-Chicago, said Tuesday. “That’s something used on the other party.”

* More…

* Ameren: We have not cut off delinquent customers

* Power bill debate heats up

* Ameren threatens to leave talks on rate relief for customers

- Posted by Rich Miller   4 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Wednesday, Apr 25, 2007

* Madigan reviewing gun owner ID cards

* State sues over student loan debt

The state claims the firm “wrongfully withheld'’ at least $1.6 million in commissions. ISAC says its student loan operating fund is short nearly $800,000 because of money being withheld.

* Student loan agency losses top $7 million

* Proposal would give parents online access to teen’s driving records

* Burt Constable: Will Don Stephens find patronage and tax deals in heaven?

* Report: Oversight of Hospice care lagging

* Mark Brown: Legislation is no laughing matter

* Sun-Times Editorial: A sensible solution to limit home foreclosures

* Excerpts from recent Illinois editorials

* Rockford’s sales tax shortcut has a long way to go

* ID sweep triggers protest; more here

* Is CTA chair next to go?

Brown will survive only if she’s willing to step away from the limelight, a mayoral adviser said. “If it’s a fight for who gets to the podium first” to get media attention, “she loses,” the adviser said.

* More CPS graduates going to college

* Fire official accused of asking race of underling says he’s disgusted with administration

* Challenger Gordon files suit against Ald. Moore; more here

* Has Harvey violated FOIA?

* Mayor Daley, now a senior citizen

- Posted by Paul Richardson   4 Comments      


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* On this point, I agree with Pat Quinn
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* *** UPDATED x1 *** Isikoff hacking scoop criticized
* Rauner says he won't be involved in Murphy replacement
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* Question of the day
* Illinois prison population drops 8.7 percent in two years
* Another attempt to explain the Trump phenomenon
* Rauner schooled on school funding
* Dem calls Rep. Kay "misogynist," Kay fires back
* Falling into his own trap
* They knew the odds were stacked against them going in
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