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This just in… *** Updated x5 ***

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The House will pass its own budget tonight.

$290M more for schools

$801M in net approp growth
$300M from loophole closings from SB1544

UPDATE: Add $84M to schools for categoricals.

Also, word is that Sen. Pres. Jones may run the 3 year rate freeze to the guv’s desk so that Downstaters will vote for the budget.

It’s looking like the Senate might (or not) run this low growth budget to keep the gvt running. The governor is then likely to call us into special session to deal with things like health care and education funding.

Also, HDems voted in caucus on Lang’s gaming bill but it came up way short of what they’ll need to pass it.

More later.

UPDATE 2: 4:25pm It looks like HB1500 (to get AT&T into cable) has Madigan’s OK and may be moving soon.

Also, one reason for MJM moving a budget tonight is that the guv has been prodding him publicly to come up with a plan.

And those of you who think this is the final budgetary word ought to think again.

By the way that “growth” listed above is net appropriations growth.

UPDATE 3: The House budget will be SB 1132 House amenment 1

UPDATE 4: 10:16PM… The debate has begun. Republicans are complaining that the bill didn’t pass thru the proper hoops. .

UPDATE 5: By the way, the HDems tacked the budget onto the supplemental bill, which is worth $1.2 Billion in federal funds to hospitals over the next two years.

- Posted by Rich Miller   72 Comments      


Priest threatens to “snuff out” legislators

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina’s Church, went way over the top this week. During a protest against Chuck’s Gun Shop, Father Pfleger twice threatened to “snuff out” the shop’s owner and threatened the same fate for legislators who oppose his position on gun control.

“We’re gonna find you and snuff you out,” Fleger said about the gun shop owner, likening the man to a “rat.” He later repeated his threat to “snuff out” the owner.

Fleger also had this to say to state legislators who vote against gun control measures.

“We’re gonna snuff out legislators who are voting [garbled] against our gun laws and we’re coming for you because we are not going to sit idly.”

The Illinois State Rifle Association, which has employed some pretty harsh rhetoric of its own but hasn’t, to my recollection, called for anyone to be “snuffed out,” had this reaction

“Certainly Fr. Pfleger has offered Absolution to a murderer or two during his tenure as a priest,” commented ISRA Executive Director, Richard Pearson. “That’s why it’s shocking to hear him actually advocate the murder of a gun shop owner who has never committed a crime in his life. He then compounds the problem by calling for the murder of legislators who disagree with his personal political views — something I suspect is a felony in this state. Pfleger’s comments were disgusting and dangerous. And, I seem to remember that the Fifth Commandment frowns on murdering one’s neighbor.”

Audio…

[Clip is fixed now.]

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Audio of Paul’s interview with the guv; Madigan and Meeks audio; The “plan”; Freeze; Taxes; Trouble; Roundup (Use all caps in password)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Enter your password to view comments      


Illinois children can’t wait another year for reform

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The following is a paid advertisement

The 2007 legislative session ends on Thursday, and lawmakers are dangerously close to leaving Springfield without any improvements in school funding and quality.

Every year that state leaders refuse to act is another year that Illinois ranks nearly dead last in the nation for its share of school funding. While officials delay improvements to school funding and quality, Illinois children face another year of overcrowded classrooms, outdated materials and unsafe buildings. Students in poor areas face a growing achievement gap and lack of opportunities. Homeowners face another year of skyrocketing property taxes and a bigger share of the state’s school funding burden. And employers face a local workforce without the skills to compete in the global economy.

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- Posted by Capitol Fax Blog Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Next year, voters will get the chance to cast their ballots for or against calling a state constitutional convention.

I usually don’t express my opinion on QOTDs, but I’m heavily leaning towards the idea. Unless you’re a fan of gridlock, the system sure appears to be broken. It’s too easily dominated by powerful players with axes to grind. Individual legislators have few, if any, rights, and they too easily give up whatever they have. The list goes on and on.

Today’s question: Do you support a constitutional convention? Why or why not? What changes would you propose?

- Posted by Rich Miller   68 Comments      


Complications are many

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

* This Tribune story makes the claim that the dispute over gaming is standing in the way of a budget deal…

Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Senate President Emil Jones blamed House Speaker Michael Madigan on Tuesday for failing to advance a new state budget, but Madigan said there isn’t enough support among his members for the massive gambling expansion that the other two want. […]

Jones and the governor have embraced a broad gambling package that would include casinos in Chicago and three suburbs as well as subsidies for horse racing tracks, Internet betting between boats and bookie-style betting over the telephone.

Trust me on this, it’s not the gaming bill. Yes, the gaming proposal is a problem. A big problem. But there’s a whole lot more going on in this fight than a disagreement over a riverboat bill.

* This is the problem…

Deputy Gov. Sheila Nix took aim at House Democrats — who have rejected many of the governor’s budget priorities — for not providing a plan of their own. “We believe it’s time for them to get their act together,” she said.

Returning fire, Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said House Democrats have offered ideas.

“Maybe it’s Ms. Nix’s inexperience … but we sat in the meeting, and they talked about not making bombastic statements. I don’t know what she hopes to accomplish,” Brown said.

They don’t talk, and when they do talk they don’t listen.

* This is also the problem…

Democrats in both the House and Senate say that an education-funding increase is their top priority. They’ve been lukewarm about Blagojevich’s plan to provide health insurance to everyone in Illinois.

Universal health insurance is seen as a federal priority, not a state priority. The governor just didn’t have enough skill or time to convince legislators to back his ideas.

* And this is another huge problem…

As he exited the Capitol on Tuesday evening, the governor said, “My only regret today is that I didn’t get a chance to go down to Marion and be there for the first pitch for the new single-A baseball team.”

Asked about budget issues, Blagojevich said, “I wish I could have gone to Marion.”

Focus, governor. Focus.

* And now events appear to be rapidly devolving. Sen. Meeks has played the race card yet again…

The South Side’s Sen. James Meeks fears the Chicago Public Schools that are his top priority will not get the big funding increase he says they need.

“We need to call it what it is: racism. We need to return to the marches and protests of the ’50s and ’60s. And say to Springfield, enough is enough,” Meeks said.

Meeks said at a Black Caucus event last night that if the Chicago public school system was all white then Madigan would be a lot more eager to fully fund it.

We’re in for a long summer.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


If this is the way they’re gonna play it, this thing will never pass

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Senate Democrats privately insist that Calumet City is in the strongest position to get a new south suburban riverboat, but Carol Marin is absolutely right to suspect that Bill Shaw’s Dolton is in the running.

The only thing about the Shaws to be grateful for, I suppose, is that their mother had twins, not triplets. These two have wreaked enough havoc on the notion of good government in 50 years of elective and appointed office.

That includes a civil racketeering suit against the village, convicted felons getting honorary police badges, and the testimony of a convicted drug smuggler in federal court saying he paid Mayor Shaw $30,000 to join the force.

In recent years, voters have gotten restless. Bob was deposed as alderman of Chicago’s 9th Ward, dumped as a commissioner of the Cook County Board of Review (but not before voting to reduce his brother’s property taxes), and defeated in a run for mayor of South Holland. Bill, meanwhile, only narrowly won a third term as Dolton mayor a couple of years ago after being clobbered by state Sen. James Meeks, who ejected him from his legislative seat in 2002.

So why be worried that these guys could get the cash windfall of a casino along the Little Calumet River in their south suburb?

Because, people, this is Illinois.

One of Mayor Shaw’s best friends is Senate President Emil Jones, and, as we’ve seen time and time again, Jones hasn’t exactly been shy about helping out friends and family this year. Jones has been pushing very hard for a south suburban casino in private leadership meetings and in talks with the governor - perhaps a bit too hard to take him at his word that his best buddy isn’t somehow in the mix.

Besides Dolton and Cal City, the other eligible towns for a casino in the Senate proposal include Harvey and Chicago Heights. Country Club Hills is too far from the Indiana border (the limit is eight miles from the Indiana border) to qualify, and Mayor Dwight Welch is not happy about that.

Country Club Hills has been a leading contender for a possible south suburban casino. Investors have a site chosen and a business plan that won high marks from state gaming board staff in 2004. And Welch has gotten neighboring towns to sign on by promising to share the revenue.

Welch is allied with Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., who is not exactly a major Jones ally. So it’s no surprise that his town was dumped.

Meanwhile, the Senate Democrats claimed that they’ve cleaned up the gaming bill, but it doesn’t look like they did nearly enough sweeping

A top Jones ally, Sen. Rickey Hendon (D-Chicago), said other controversial elements of the gaming package had been scaled back. A provision was removed that would have compensated investors in the failed Emerald Casino planned for Rosemont, he said, and plans to dedicate casino revenue to Chicago State University, a favorite of Jones, was trimmed to about a quarter of what had been an estimated $40 million. The remainder would go to other state universities, Hendon said.

So, Chicago State still gets $10 million a year while other universities split $30 million? That’s fair. Not.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


More reform and renewal

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The repeated flouting of state ethics laws really needs to cease and desist

Despite an ethics act that promised to shine a light on unpaid advisers to statewide officeholders, no one has filed the required paperwork for the last three years, including a close friend of Gov. Rod Blagojevich who helped inspire the law.

The provision in the ethics law was embraced by the Democratic governor in 2003 after being added at the insistence of Republican lawmakers. They raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest arising from what one lawmaker described as a “shadow government” of advisers to Blagojevich who wielded influence on state policies.

Christopher Kelly, a longtime Blagojevich confidant singled out by Republicans, was one of two people who filed the economic disclosure form after the special designation took effect. But a recent review of state records shows the administration requested that Kelly be removed from the list just before Christmas 2004. […]

After being removed from the list, Kelly flew on the state’s airplane with Blagojevich and the governor’s aides on at least four occasions in 2005, though the governor’s campaign fund picked up the costs for Kelly. In addition, Kelly met with Blagojevich and top aides in February 2007 at the governor’s campaign headquarters, a campaign spokesman has said.

[Emphasis added]

As usual, the administration refused to answer questions about why Kelly is no longer on the list. They never feel a need to explain this stuff.

But Kelly isn’t the only person who hangs out with the guv. Lon Monk, his former chief of staff, is now a bigtime lobbyist. John Wyma, his chief of staff for his congressional office, is a major Illinois lobbyist who rarely shows his face in town (he doesn’t need to as long as he has direct access to the governor). But according to the Tribune story, nobody has filed disclosure reports in the past three years.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

* Internet filters for libraries hits a snag

* Illinois bill calls for insurance to cover HPV vaccine

“I don’t see (a mandate) happening for a long time,” said state Rep. Elizabeth Coulson, R-Glenview, the bill’s sponsor in the House. “We need a lot more medical data on side effects and all of those other types of things. This is too new to mandate.”

* Senate Oks bill to aid young sex offenders

* School wind farms get state aid

* Tougher driving bill awaits governor’s signature

* IIS Radio: HPV vaccine, specialty licenses, highway markers

* Michael Sneed: Former Gov. Dan Walker, Obama

* CTA plea for help comes amid last minute capitol rush

* CTA considered $7 a ride for rush hour commuters

* Why suburban residents may bail out CTA

* Parents, students: CPS proposal on wrong ‘track’

* Feds: Alderman’s father took photos for fake Ids; more here

* Stroger says he will consider property tax hike

* Rail authority creation on right track

* State passes Peoria airport tax bill

- Posted by Paul Richardson   20 Comments      


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