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This just in… Part 2 *** Updated x7 ***

Thursday, May 31, 2007

* 6:21pm - Not that it would have done any good, but there was no leaders meeting today.

Apparently, the guv is still assessing the situation (yes, he’s in town) and Sen. Prez Jones has been busy meeting with his members.

Jones has quite the situation on his hands. He wants to pass a gaming bill, but downstaters are steamed that the results of the Senate Exec Committee’s passage of the rate freeze weren’t read into the record last night, preventing floor action today. Tomorrow, of course, the bill will require a three-fifths vote to pass.

Yet another coinkydink I’m sure.

* In other news, AT&T’s bill to ease its way into cable TV zoomed out of the House this evening.

* And stay tuned late tonight for some possible developments. Sorry, but I can’t say more than that.

* 6:56pm - Tom Cross just walked into Madigan’s office. He wouldn’t say why. Not even sure why I’m posting this. Just thought you’d like to know.

* 7:20pm - The Speaker just announced a three days per week schedule for the month of June. The guv has yet to speak on this topic, however.

More importantly, the rate freeze negotiations are rapidly heating up, according to two sources involved.

Downstaters in the Senate won’t vote for a boat bill until this issue is taken care of.

* 8:52pm - Strong reason to belive that Sen Jones might have finally compromised enough to pass the gaming bill tonight.

* 9!00pm - Senate Approp Committe is doing a subject matter only hearing on the House approved budget. The parliamentary hold is still in place on the bill in the House, which has adjourned the “regular” session and won’t be beck until tomorrow.

* 9:20pm - Looks like the surprise I told you about earlier is off. Ali Ata’s indictment today means the guv may not make an appearance.

* 10:30 - Here we go. Senate is starting the gaming bill (HB 25). Barring GOP votes, this could be close.

* 10:58pm - The guv’s office says they are monitoring the Senate before making a decision on what to do, so I suppose a presser is still possible.

- Posted by Rich Miller   59 Comments      

This just in… Holbrook holds up budget, and updates *** Updated x1 ***

Thursday, May 31, 2007

* Rep. Holbrook hasn’t returned my call either, and the House Dems have refused comment, but this is as good a theory as any I’ve heard… [Holbrook has now returned my call. See “Update 1″ below]

A downstate Democrat has used a parliamentary procedure to block advancement of a relatively austere state spending plan approved late Wednesday night by the House.

That means the Senate, on the last scheduled day of the Legislatures spring session, must wait to consider the budget plan.

Rep. Thomas Holbrook, D-Belleville, filed a motion to reconsider the House vote in support of the plan. And until the chamber disposes of that motion, it cannot transmit the plan to the Senate for consideration.

Holbrook could not be immediately reached for comment, but his move might be linked to ongoing debate over whether to roll back recent rate hikes imposed by Commonwealth Edison and Ameren, the electric utility serving central and southern Illinois.

* Word is the Senate Democrats will remove all language pertaining to Chicago State University from the gaming bill and run it today. The bill will include other changes as well.

* The so-called “seven percent solution” property tax assesment cap bill will likely be called in the Senate today. It flew out of the House with over a hundred votes yesterday. The governor, however, has privately said that he might veto the bill. Stay tuned.

* Meanwhile, a proposal to levy a quarter-percent sales tax for the RTA/CTA jetted out of a House committee today with bipartisan support. The governor has indicated he will veto the bill if it ever reaches his desk.

* No word yet on when or if the Senate will call the electric utility rate freeze, but check back later.

* Also, a bill to make it easier for AT&T to enter the cable TV industry rocketed out of a House committee this morning and easy passage is expected in that chamber, and perhaps both chambers.

*** UPDATE 1 *** Rep. Tom Holbrook just called me back to answer questions about why he put the hold on the budget bill passed by the House last night. Turns out, Aaron Chambers was right again. It was about electric rate relief.

“We know there will eventually be a budget. We don’t know whether there will eventually be rate relief,” Holbrook said. Holbrook added that the Downstate Caucus voted to put the parliamentary hold on the budget yesterday and that he, as chairman, was in charge of executing the plan.

Holbrook also said that he told House Speaker Michael Madigan before the budget was debated last night that he would be placing the hold on the budget bill, adding, “We’ve told him all along that we don’t wish to vote on a budget until we’ve voted on the rate issue.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      

Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Senate Democratic plans; House Dem plans; Cable; Gnome (Use all caps in password)

Thursday, May 31, 2007

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Enter your password to view comments      

Daley to governor: “Set your priorities”

Thursday, May 31, 2007

It’s doubtful that the governor will listen to Mayor Daley, but he ought to

With time running out in Springfield, Mayor Daley urged Gov. Blagojevich today to abandon his universal health care plan — or settle for a cheaper version of it — to fund the higher priorities of education and mass transit.

“You have to set your priorities. . . . Education is the highest priority [or] should be in the state of Illinois because if you don’t educate children, then you have major issues — not just health. You have criminal activity. That’s what’s happening for many, many years. We have not educated children. Our prisons are loaded up with a lot of young, young people,” Daley said.

“You never know. Maybe he can get . . . something [for health care.] But, you have education and you have public transportation. This session was supposed to be a session of getting things done [on those two key issues.] . . . If the session just ends with nothing happening, that’s a very sad comment on the Democratic Party.” […]

“You need universal health care [nationwide]. You can’t do it city by city, county by county or state by state. You wish you could, but you couldn’t. Because say if I have 500 employees. . . . Now they come along and say, ‘I’m gonna charge you extra to give everybody health care.’ Well, why should I be in the state of Illinois? I’ll go someplace else,” Daley said.

Daley’s comments are pretty much right on the money. There just isn’t the will to raise revenues for education, infrastructure AND health care. Time to back off.

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      

Question of the day

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tribune or Sun-Times? Why?

- Posted by Rich Miller   51 Comments      

The problem with Jones *** Updated x1 with a warning ***

Thursday, May 31, 2007

I happen to like Senate President Emil Jones, despite all the mistakes he’s made this session (and there have been many). But there’s no escaping the fact that his credibility has been shot to hell this year. Phil Kadner puts his finger on it in today’s Southtown column…

State Sen. President Emil Jones (D-Chicago) didn’t realize he was cutting Country Club Hills out of the bidding for a casino in the south suburbs by requiring that any new gambling joint be built within 8 miles of the Indiana border.

That’s his story, and he’s sticking to it.

Jones also didn’t realize his stepson had a big contract with ComEd when he opposed extending the electric rate freeze.

That’s his story, and he’s sticking to it.

And Jones says the $80,000 bump his wife received in her state salary and the $57,000 state job his son received had nothing to do with his support for Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s gross receipts tax proposal.

That’s his story, but you don’t have to believe it.

As I told you yesterday, Country Club Hills has long been a contender for a Southland riverboat. Part of its proposal is to redistribute money from the boat revenues to neighboring towns and the mayor was baffled when it was excluded from Jones’ bill. He shouldn’t have been. The mayor is a strong ally of Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Dolton Mayor Bill Shaw is a longtime foe of Jackson.

Kadner’s column finishes this way…

Country Club Hills is about 10 to 12 miles from the Indiana border.

People in the south suburbs who gamble in Indiana would save about 30 minutes driving time by going to Country Club Hills, which can be reached from I-57 or I-80.

I’m not saying that Country Club Hills should get a casino.

What I am saying is that right now it is the best bet for the south suburbs.

To eliminate the city before the competition even starts is a huge mistake.

Jones can play dumb. But I don’t think he is. As always, he’s looking out for his buddies.

Jones has had way too many convenient coinkydinks for my taste this session.

* Related stories…

* Jackson gets involved in casino bill debate

* McQueary: Go ahead, call me a spoilsport

* Waukegan casino buoyed by legislature

* Sun-Times Editorial: If tax hike won’t fly, expand gambling

* Sweeney: Rockford aldermen revved up on gambling

NOTICE: I posted this in comments and I’ll post it here, too, as a further warning

OK, I’ve already deleted one comment that got way too personal. Let’s avoid that, shall we? There’s enough material here to work with that you don’t need to write that sort of stuff.

Please don’t make me ban you. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   46 Comments      

Stumbling towards overtime

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Nobody reported anything about the Senate Democratic caucus yesterday, where the spending and revenue-generating plans (including the casino expansion proposal) put forward by Senate President Emil Jones and Gov. Rod Blagojevich went down in flames. For details on that, you’ll have to be a Capitol Fax subscriber. For the rest of you, here’s the public roundup of yesterday’s events…

* Tribune

House Democrats on Wednesday advanced Speaker Michael Madigan’s limited-growth state budget plan that would pump $400 million in new money into education but omit the expansive health-care program that Gov. Rod Blagojevich has made the centerpiece of his second term.

With lawmakers staring at a midnight Thursday adjournment deadline, Madigan’s decision to move forward with a plan far less expansive than what Blagojevich and Senate President Emil Jones wanted symbolized the fractured state of Illinois’ top Democratic leadership. It was questionable whether Blagojevich and Jones would accept Madigan’s plan, setting up the potential for an overtime legislative session that would empower Republicans in crafting any final budget.

* Gatehouse

Some Democrats view what passed Wednesday night as House Speaker Michael Madigan’s starting point for further negotiations. Others see it as a stop-gap measure to keep state government going if the General Assembly runs into a lengthy overtime session. There is widespread belief among lawmakers that Blagojevich will call them back into special session beginning June 1 if they do not approve his plan to provide health insurance to all Illinoisans.

“I think putting it in the hands of the Senate Democrats, if we need to have a continuing appropriation so things don’t shut down, I think it’s a decent start,” said Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley.

* Daily Herald

The budget includes provisions but no money for things like pay raises for members of the state employees’ union. Supporters said the governor’s free to come up with the money from elsewhere or reduce the workforce to come up with the cash for the raises.

Similarly, the budget includes a more than $500 million increase in the state’s contribution to the state pension system. But the actual funding portion doesn’t include money to cover it. Again, the answer was the governor could probably find the money somewhere in the budget.

What that means is the pension funds will get their money (no matter what the Republicans claim) because it will come right off the top. Funding for the rest of state government will be shortchanged as a result.

* Sun-Times

The Madigan budget plan would increase state spending by $800 million. Of that, $500 million would come from growth in the state’s tax base, while the balance would come from ending several corporate tax breaks.

The proposal would boost education spending by about $400 million, a far cry from the $1.5 billion boost Blagojevich originally envisioned for schools.

No new funds exist for the cash-strapped Chicago Transit Agency, but Cook County Hospital would get a $100 million grant under the Madigan plan.

* Daily Herald

“That’s a heck of a lot of money,” said Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, casting off critics’ contention this is a “no-growth budget.” […]

But even before it emerged, the plan was assailed as woefully lacking by interest groups and those backing Blagojevich’s nearly $60 billion budget proposal that would sell off the lottery and impose various new business taxes to pay for health coverage for all Illinoisans and ultimately provide billions more for schools. […]

“It addresses needs rather than wishes,” said state Rep. John Fritchey, a Chicago Democrat.

* Post-Dispatch

Although the Senate is under the same constitutional deadline as the House, powerless Senate Republicans will remain that way after today, regardless. The Senate’s Democratic majority is so overwhelming that even under the “three-fifths'’ rule, Democrats still will be able to pass a budget bill there without any Republican votes.

Nonetheless, Cross said, if he gets a seat at the table, he’s bringing Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson of Greenville with him — whether Blagojevich, Madigan and Jones want him there or not. “Frank’s going to be there,'’ Cross said. “He’ll go with me.'’

* Meanwhile, the governor seems to be preparing for the summer session and may bring his family to town. I broke this yesterday, and Bernie leads his column off with the item today

Illinois’ first family seems to be contemplating a significant stay in the Executive Mansion this summer.

“In the event we are in overtime session this summer, Mrs. (PATTI) BLAGOJEVICH called the Springfield Park District to ask about swim lessons for ANNIE and ice skating opportunities for AMY,” said REBECCA RAUSCH, spokeswoman for Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH. […]

This, of course, is good news for those who have long thought the governor and his family, who live in Chicago, should get to know Springfield a little better. It’s not such good news for lawmakers, who just may think they have personally spent enough time in the capital city this spring.

* More budget stuff, compiled by Paul…

* Illinoize: What’s left before adjournment?

* House Dems approve limited growth budget

* House approves budget proposal

* Democrats need deal today or it’s overtime

* State House approves budget with new business tax

* Dan Miller: Here’s one vote for budget sanity

* Editorial: Hold off on health care expansion

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      

Morning Shorts

Thursday, May 31, 2007

* Ad touting Blagojevich still on the air

But under the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act, statewide elected officials cannot be named or shown in ads or public-service announcements for state-administered programs. The law is often cited by Blagojevich as an example of his push for governmental reforms.

* Editorial: Make the right moves on mass transit

* Rep. Fritchey: State must renew 7% solution

* House Oks plan for county sales tax

“I really like the idea,” said state Rep. Roger Eddy, R-Hutsonville, who is also a school superintendent in Crawford County. “If lawmakers in Springfield aren’t going to do anything on a statewide basis, why not let the local residents decide?”

* Lawmakers approve license plate bill to support private out-of-state schools; more here

* Revising home value caps

* Eric Zorn: Giving new life to debate on death penalty

Any humane reform of the justice system that includes ending the death penalty, they say, must also include adding opportunities for lifers to earn their release. This side of the debate is behind the ongoing work of an Illinois House committee formed to study issues related to long-term incarceration, and it includes key members of the Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

* Governors start to back 2008 candidates

* County incapable of fixing juvenile center say critics

* State approves Cook Co. pension buyouts

* Sad day for alderman after dad’s ID arrest

- Posted by Paul Richardson   10 Comments      

* *** LIVE COVERAGE *** Gov. Rauner press conference
* Zopp whacked as she prepares to air TV ads
* Should voter registration be easier or tougher?
* Rate the Alvarez kick-off video
* Face facts and stop playing the victim
* Joe Tybor
* Poll: Majority of Southern Illinois voters disapprove of Rauner
* Yesterday's blog posts

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