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Tuesday, Jul 31, 2007

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This just in…

Tuesday, Jul 31, 2007

*** 10:01 am *** The governor is meeting with agency directors in his office in a few minutes to discuss the lack of a new budget. This meeting is generating tons of rumors that Blagojevich will order at least a partial government shutdown at midnight tonight, regardless of what they were saying yesterday. But so far I’m getting reports from inside that the rumors are overblown.

Nobody can really predict with 100 percent accuracy what the mercurial Blagojevich will do. I wondered yesterday whether he might try to “prove” his relevance by instigating a shutdown and was told that it wouldn’t happen tonight but a partial closure might happen before August 8th.

The governor’s press office, however, just told me this: “We are not furloughing workers.” Apparently, the rumors are flying about furloughs.

The governor is also reportedly sending a letter to state employees today which will, according to the spokesperson, “ask them to report to work in the absence of a state budget, and will explain that we intend to pay them for the work that they do.”

There’s no word yet, however, on what will happen with road projects or other state contractors. The meeting should be over at around 11:30, so check back before lunch.

* 11:27 am - The governor’s letter to state employees, which is currently being distributed, can be downloaded here

I am writing to thank you for your service as a state employee. I am asking for your cooperation to avoid a shutdown in government services by reporting to work tomorrow, and I want to make sure you are paid for the work that you do.

As I’m sure you are aware, on July 27th, I requested that the General Assembly act on a one month budget extension. One of my top priorities in making this request was to provide a measure of certainty for the employees of the State of Illinois. If the General Assembly takes immediate action on my request, then employees will continue to be paid on time, and all agencies will continue to have the resources required to operate.

Should the General Assembly not act on a one month budget extension while we continue to negotiate a full year’s budget, then employees may not receive their paychecks on time. Despite this prospect, I hope you will continue to perform your duties until a full year’s budget is in place. With your cooperation, the people who count on state government will experience no inconveniences.

* 12:11 pm - Still awaiting word on the guv’s meeting with the agency heads, but this tidbit might be interesting…

The governor has reportedly invited the four leaders in for a sitdown at 1 o’clock today. Not sure if they’ll comply yet. The governor is meeting with Senate President Jones as I write this. Jones has strongly and repeatedly advocated against any type of government shutdown.

*** 12:28 pm *** The governor’s office claims that Gov. Blagojevich used the meeting with his agency directors this morning to go over the content of the above letter that was sent to state employees.

So, what about road projects and other state contractors? From the governor’s spokesperson…

“We’re also asking vendors to continue to provide their services with the intention of paying them when we have a state budget.”

Individual vendors might make the choice to shut down, of course.

* 12:49 pm - I’ve been trying to calm some nerves in comments, but I’m not sure it’s doing much good, so let me try again on the front page.

There is NO real difference between the current budget situation and what was happening on June 30th, when the state was also without a Fiscal Year 08 budget. Several days later, the GA passed a one-month budget and everybody got paid and nobody outside the Statehouse barely knew the difference.

The only difference now is that the governor has been playing coy for days about a possible shutdown, which he wasn’t doing in June. But he walked that all the way back today. If he was seriously considering the idea, and not just playing “good cop, bad cop” he most likely realized that if Senate President Jones was against a shutdown, then the governor would lose his only ally and Blagojevich would get the full blame for any unnecessarily preemptive action.

Way too many people bought into the media hype, however, fueled partly by the guv’s office. But now, with this letter to state employees, we can be pretty sure that he won’t pull the rug out from under everyone and shut down the government.

As far as paychecks are concerned, well, the first, relatively small group of state workers will miss a payday if and only if a new budget isn’t approved by August 8th. That’s an eon away in legislative terms.

Everybody just calm down.

* 1:03 pm - The leaders meeting with the governor has reportedly been moved back to 3 o’clock.

- Posted by Rich Miller   123 Comments      


Question of the day

Tuesday, Jul 31, 2007

* The governor, you most certainly already know, has proposed a one-month budget, while the four tops would rather have a one-year budget…

Blagojevich said the deadline shouldn’t be an issue. He wants lawmakers to approve another one-month budget so the state can continue to pay its bills. […]

Legislative leaders say they’re not interested in another stopgap spending plan for the state.

The governor had previously said that he opposed another one-month budget because they were Republican budgets in disguise.

Question: What do you think his game is here?

- Posted by Rich Miller   56 Comments      


Horror story

Tuesday, Jul 31, 2007

The governor told me about this story a few weeks ago. I’m glad to see that it’s finally getting some coverage…

As a press aide to the governor, Annie Thompson helped promote a plan to improve health care access, but didn’t think much about the realities of facing serious illness without insurance.

Now she can think of little else.

In early May, Thompson’s uninsured mother finally agreed to see a doctor for her abdominal pain. The doctors found a softball-sized mass.

Her mother, Pat, underwent surgery for colon cancer and spent about two weeks in the hospital, piling up nearly $100,000 in debt. After a delay over money, she’s starting chemotherapy, with most of the cost covered by a state program she can join only because one of her daughters hasn’t yet turned 19.

“I realized what a struggle it is when you don’t have health insurance. When she was in the hospital, she was turning down pain medications because she knew that every little pill, every little IV bag was going to up the tab,” said Annie Thompson, 25. “It just hit me all of a sudden: It’s a real issue. It’s not just political games.”

There is a valuable lesson in this story, however. It’s very dangerous to drop your health insurance, even if your premiums skyrocket…

Pat Thompson, a self-employed daycare provider in Springfield, said she dropped her health insurance three or four years ago when her premiums tripled to about $300 a month.

“I took the chance and lost,” said Pat, who is in her 50s but wouldn’t give an exact age.

We’ve had innumerable debates about the pros and cons of the governor’s health insurance plan, and over whether or not the state actually should intervene. It’s gotten repetitive and we’ve all gotten the gist by now.

Instead, today let’s discuss your own personal health insurance situations, and any horror stories you might have about yourselves or your families and friends.

- Posted by Rich Miller   49 Comments      


Mushrooms golf while leaders work

Tuesday, Jul 31, 2007

This was obviously not a good idea, despite the noble goal…

The road to a budget deal in Springfield took a detour Monday morning, for a golf outing on the far South Side sponsored by the Legislative Black Caucus, to raise money for college scholarships.

One of the organizers, reverend and state senator James Meeks, says the outing was scheduled months ago when no one anticipated a marathon overtime session, and since they are not due back in Springfield until Monday afternoon, and there is nothing to vote on yet, they decided not to cancel the outing even though the budget extension they passed in June expires at midnight Tuesday.

“If there was legislative business for us to attend to, we would be there in Springfield. But since nobody has planned any meetings that involve us, we’re not there,” said State Sen. James Meeks, Legislative Black Caucus.

“It makes you wonder that why do we have all these state senators and representatives if they’re not really players,” said Jay Stewart, Better Government Association.

Stewart makes a good point. Yes, there was not a lot going on, and yes, hardly anybody showed up

When the Illinois Senate came into session Monday, there were 16 of 59 members in the Senate. The number doubled to 32 after the Pledge of Allegiance and daily prayer were finished.

Over in the Illinois House, there were 26 representatives of 118 on the attendance roll call for the 10th special session ordered for 2 p.m. by Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

However, it appeared that on the Republican side at least one of those lawmakers was absent and someone else had voted him present. Which would make the real number 25.

The House census increased to 67 during the 5 pm session, but that’s hardly an astounding figure.

Events like that scholarship fundraiser only serve to underscore the lack of any real power that rank and file members have - even though they have flexed their muscles and had more input this year beyond anything that has occurred in the recent past. They made themselves look like uninterested, uninvolved mushrooms.

Bad move.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      


Shutdown hype

Tuesday, Jul 31, 2007

* Just because July’s one-month budget expires tonight, it does not necessarily mean that the government shuts down, despite what you may have read

Lawmakers have until midnight tonight to pass a new budget.

* Again, the lack of a new budget does not mean that the state automatically stops functioning

State Comptroller Daniel Hynes says he only feels comfortable keeping his office in operation until August 8 if the state legislators and the governor can’t agree on a state budget by then. He said in a Statehouse news conference Monday that August 8 is the first day his office needs to cut the checks in order for 4,900 employees to get paid on time and for public schools to get $170 million’s worth of state aid on time to start the school year. […]

But they do have eight full days before Hynes’ warning applies. A full-year budget in the first week of August is possible.

By the way, many congrats to Bethany Carson, who revealed in that above post yesterday that she’s splitting town for a couple of weeks to get married and go on her honeymoon.

* The governor isn’t helping matters much, refusing to say when or if state government will shut down…

During a bill-signing ceremony in Farmersville, Blagojevich said contingency arrangements have been made to keep essential state services running if a temporary budget is allowed to expire at midnight. The governor did not elaborate on those plans. […]

Later, Blagojevich spokesman Justin DeJong said, “The state has contingency operations plans that are to be used in case of emergency, and on August 1 (Wednesday), we will begin putting those plans into motion.” He, too, declined to elaborate, although he said the plans do not call for the immediate closure of either state parks or historic sites.

* But at least the governor hasn’t ordered a premature closure tonight

Gov. Blagojevich’s administration has directed state workers to come to work Wednesday, despite the lack of a state budget and the possibility of not getting paid on time.
With no new progress to report on budget negotiations Monday, the threat of a partial government shutdown looms larger as a temporary budget passed last month lapses on Wednesday.

Without offering specifics, the governor said his administration has had preparations in place for a possible shutdown “for weeks and, in fact, months.

* Back to Hynes

Comptroller Dan Hynes says the absence of a spending plan doesn’t have to mean prisons, universities and state parks will close immediately.

He says Aug. 8 is the key date. That’s when Hynes says he needs to know the spending plan so he can get money to schools and make the state’s payroll.

* Some checks have to be written, others won’t…

Even without a budget, some state payments will continue, Hynes said. Checks to state retirees, welfare recipients and bond-holders must all be paid even with no budget.

Others, though, will be out of luck.

Hynes said his office would normally write about $100 million a day in checks for Medicaid payments, child care, equipment and other expenses.

* And a coinkydink?

Aug. 8 also is the date House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, has set for a special hearing on education, indicating that he might believe lawmakers could still be working on a budget then. […]

“I see the glass as half full,” Blagojevich said. He added about Madigan: “Evidently, he sees it as half empty.”

* Meanwile the four tops continued to meet without the governor…

All four leaders met for about an hour … Not much was said only that they’re making progress. […]

The senate president’s spokesperson says the leaders will meet again tomorrow … Without the governor. But adds the senate president has the same goals as the governor. When asked if the governor was a problem during the negotiations… She wouldn’t respond. The speaker is calling for the entire house to meet next Wednesday about education funding.

* More

Legislative leaders emerged from a closed-door meeting on Monday with little to report.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson, R-Greenville, declined to comment.

Senate President Emil Jones said only that the meeting went well and the leaders were trying to get the budget done “as soon as possible.”

* And a small protest was held yesterday in Chicago…

Chants filled the air and candles lit up the night in front of the Thompson center as more than 100 people gathered to urge state lawmakers to pass a budget.

The People’s Movement, which sponsored the event, says lawmakers need to consider money for affordable housing, housing for the homeless, HIV patients and provide adequate resources for after school and violence prevention programs.

The Reverand Archury Phillips says any potential shutdown of the government would hurt the neediest families and communities.

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      


Morning shorts

Tuesday, Jul 31, 2007

* $684,924 and we’re counting

* City’s ‘08 budget picture not pretty: $217 mil. short - Fees may rise; aldermen say no property tax hike

* Another budget crunch expected - City’s ‘08 shortfall could be $217 million

* Stroger agrees to pay raise deal for non-union workers

* Cab Drivers Stay Parked In Protest Of Low Fares - Cabbies Say Fares Haven’t Kept Up With Insurance, Gas Price

* Effect of taxi strike unclear

* Illinois Gov. gets own lawyer after AG bails on Fed. subpoena cases

* IL taxpayers sponsor latest tawdry episode of AG v. Gov. soapie

* Blagojevich Says He Wants New Lawyer

* Student-loan agency sells more assets

* Weller, Biggert back Rudy

* Agency cuts back on meal program

* Cole to try a second time for power over alcohol

* Officials interpret AG letter differently - Disagree on what it says about ISP report on police misconduct

* Sun-Times: Atheist and agnostic doctors are as likely to provide care for the poor as religious physicians, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Chicago and Yale New Haven Hospital.

* Cramer’s ‘Mad Money’ Recap: Doomsday Scenario

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


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Tuesday, Jul 31, 2007

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The further adventures of the OT in Hell button…

Monday, Jul 30, 2007

Yet another loyal Capitol Fax Blog reader has taken his “Overtime in Hell” button on vacation. This time, to Hyannisport, Massachusetts. The reader was a guest of the Kennedy family, believe it or not, and took the photo with Sen. Ted Kennedy’s sailboat Mya in the background.

I was going to ask Ethyl Kennedy to pose with the button, but I failed you there. I hope you enjoy this.

P.S. MYA is the Native American Indian word for “wind.”

One never knows when this overtime might end, so you probably need to get your OT in Hell swag soon. All proceeds benefit Sojourn Center in Springfield.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


This just in…

Monday, Jul 30, 2007

* 11:44 am - Well, this ought to get tongues a-waggin’. House Speaker Michael Madigan has scheduled a meeting of the Committee of the Whole for next Wednesday August 8th. Subject matter: Education.

The hearing was scheduled last Thursday at 1:30 pm, which was before the first meeting with Senate President Emil ones and the other tops on the state budget. Jones’ Majority Leader, Debbie Halvorson and other members of Jones’ leadership team have since said they hope the budget can be done by this weekend. Anyway, this will be treated as a developing item unless I find out something otherwise.

* 12:24 pm - Freshman Sen. Michael Frerichs (D-Gifford) on the negotiations: “I think the four legislative leaders can agree on capital, I think they can reach agreement on revenue… (and) on eduation. But the governor’s health care plan, I think it’s going to be very, very, very difficult if not impossible to reach agreement there.” [Hat tip: IlliniPundit]

* 12:25 pm -
Aaron Chambers has a good column on the exceedingly nasty Operating Engineers’ Local 150 president’s race.

* 1:22 PM - Ruh-roh

Mayor Daley has a whopping $217.7 million hole in his 2008 budget that can only be filled through tax increases, employee layoffs, non-personnel spending cuts or a painful combination of the three, aldermen were told today.

The shortfall is the second-largest in 10 years in the city’s corporate fund alone and is coupled with smaller but still sizeable gaps in the city’s water and sewer funds.

It comes just five months after Daley breezed to re-election on a budget that froze the city’s property tax levy for a third straight year, held the line on all other taxes and fees, and used $94 million of the $1.83 billion Chicago Skyway privatization windfall to finance an array of neighborhood and social programs.

Union leaders accused the city of exaggerating the financial crunch tied to the housing slump to stifle their contract demands. Aldermen claimed just the opposite. They argued that former city Budget Director-turned-Chief Financial Officer Paul Volpe kept the lid on the crisis until after the election. […]

Volpe was in Springfield lobbying for an increase in the telephone surcharge that helped fund Chicago’s 911 emergency center in hopes of shaving the deficit by $50 million. He could not be reached for comment.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


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Monday, Jul 30, 2007

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Voters support Higher Education, while state support has declined

Monday, Jul 30, 2007

(The following is a paid advertisement.)

In 2000, a statewide poll found that 88% of Illinois residents strongly or somewhat agree that a college degree has become as important as a high school diploma used to be. Unfortunately, the level of state funding for higher education is the same as it was nearly a decade ago. It is essential that higher education funding is not lost in the shuffle.

An investment in public higher education will grow leaders in business, education, social services and the private sector, as well as good consumers, good taxpayers and good citizens. The Illinois Higher Education Legislative Coalition is working to turn the tide this year and provide additional funding for higher education in Illinois.

Higher education in Illinois is many things to many people:

✪ 355,684 students attend 48 community colleges

✪ 202,236 students attend 9 public universities on 12 campuses

✪ 31,775 bachelor’s degrees conferred in 2005

✪ 25,158 associate degrees conferred in 2005

✪ 11,826 master’s degrees conferred in 2005

✪ Public institutions of higher learning employ more than 54,000 full time employees.

Making sure that higher education is affordable and pro­vides the highest level of career preparation for Illinois citizens is the common goal that we all must work toward.

- Posted by Capitol Fax Blog Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Monday, Jul 30, 2007

What movie or book would you recommend that somebody watch or read to understand Illinois politics? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   67 Comments      


Obamarama - NYT on our country bumpkin legislature

Monday, Jul 30, 2007

* The lede of the latest Barack Obama in Springfield profile succinctly sums up how the national press corps too often views us lowly “flyover” types…

There was something improbable about the new guy from Chicago via Honolulu and Jakarta, Indonesia, the one with the Harvard law degree and the job teaching constitutional law, turning up in Springfield, Ill., in January 1997 among the housewives, ex-mayors and occasional soybean farmer serving in the State Senate.

[Emphasis added.]

From reading the story, it looks like NY Times reporter Janny Scott spent at least some time in Springfield. So, you’d think Scott would have noticed that there is more to the General Assembly’s makeup than what was reported. However, it is, after all, a citizens legislature. Pardon us for not measuring up to the standards of the eastern elite.

As is usual with these Springfield stories emanating from the big outlets, almost nothing new was reported. You got yer Denny Jacobs quotes, the Emil Jones as his mentor stuff, congressional bid against Bobby Rush rehash, highlights of his push for ethics reforms, lowlights of his tiffs with a couple of his fellow African-American Senators, blah, blah, blah. It’s mainly the standard fare.

There was one tiny new revelation, though…

(Sen. Rickey) Hendon, who says he is writing a book on electoral politics called “Backstabbers,” …

I’d read that book.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


Irrelevance and the budget mess

Monday, Jul 30, 2007

* My syndicated newspaper column this week deals with the growing irrelevance of Gov. Rod Blagojevich…

Two months into a record-breaking overtime legislative session, the four state legislative leaders met last week to talk about the budget, but for the first time ever, they made a point not to invite Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Senate President Emil Jones and House Speaker Michael Madigan, as well as very high level members of the other two legislative caucuses, all described the talks as generally positive.

The governor’s people also described the meeting as a positive event. Jones sat down with the governor later to brief him about the meeting. The governor’s people say Blagojevich also outlined where he wanted the budget talks to go. The governor’s office insisted that the two men are still on the same page. Blagojevich and Jones have been practically welded at the hip all year, so attending a budget negotiation without Blagojevich was seen as a major step by the Senate president, which is why the governor’s office was quick to claim everything was still fine between the two men.

The idea behind the meeting sans governor was that Blagojevich isn’t much of a negotiator. Instead of trying to find mutual solutions, the governor tends to give canned speeches over and over again and endlessly repeats his talking points, particularly about his demand for his much-beloved health insurance plan for the uninsured. He’s also quite abrasive and confrontational during the negotiating sessions, particularly with House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate GOP Leader Frank Watson.

In other words, he was more of a hindrance than a help when it came time to negotiate the budget. On Friday, Blagojevich brought Sen. Watson into his office to discuss “building a relationship,” according to WLS Radio reporter Ryan Hermes. If he had done that sort of thing six months ago, the governor might not have had so many problems this year.

* The Tribune has more on Senate President Emil Jones’ attempt to mediate the budget talks and distance himself from Blagojevich…

Jones has tried to show the governor that there is insufficient support for his plans even in the Senate Democratic caucus, which stood most strongly with Blagojevich over his first term. A few weeks ago, rank-and-file Senate Democrats said Jones gave them a chance to tee off in an animated and frank closed-door discussion in the president’s office, where they made it clear to Blagojevich that boosting school funding outranked his health-care agenda.

Underscoring that point, Jones last week separated the slimmed-down version of the governor’s health plan from his spending plans, isolating it in its own bill.

Jones also has come down from the $1.5 billion he and Blagojevich initially sought for schools, in favor of a $900 million infusion that would be backed by a massive expansion of gambling.

* Finke doesn’t believe that the governor will call an endless series of special sessions, as Blagojevich has threatened to do if he doesn’t get his way on the budget…

Remember how Blagojevich said he would keep lawmakers in session every single day until a budget was passed? That pledge lasted just over a week before he caved to pressure from Jones to give lawmakers a day off.

Maybe the public sees or reads that stuff about special sessions forever and still takes it seriously. No one inside the Capitol does anymore.

* The Daily Herald looks at the governor’s flip-flop on a one-month budget. First he was against it, now he’s for it…

Ironically, just a few weeks ago, it was Blagojevich who cautioned lawmakers that temporary budgets were not a solution and he’d soon stop supporting them because the spending levels are far below what he wants.

“A continuing string of one-month budgets is nothing more than a Republican budget in disguise,” Blagojevich, a Chicago Democrat, said in late June.

Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottehnoff said a temporary budget is better than a government shutdown.

However, House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, said the apparent change by Blagojevich illustrates the difficulty lawmakers have in working with the governor.

“See, that’s his behavior that’s not helpful to this process. It’s behavior that’s not helpful toward negotiating a budget for the people of the state of Illinois,” Madigan told reporters. “We need good, firm leadership. Leadership that unites; does not divide. When the leadership changes its position, changes its direction, it simply doesn’t help.”

* Kurt Erickson has some adjournment predictions…

State Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, suggested that things could be wrapped up by this weekend.

State Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said the General Assembly would be stuck in the Statehouse well into September.

And, House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, sounded like he was joking last week when he said lawmakers might be here in December.

Maybe he wasn’t being silly. In other words, no one really knows when they’ll figure out a way to end the stalemate over the budget.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


Morning shorts

Monday, Jul 30, 2007

* Some may remember Tim Ryan from his days working at Play it Again Sam’s. His death provides a human face to many of us who have heard or read about the homeless situation at Springfield’s Lincoln Library. Steve Brown knew Ryan from the old days and writes, “Timmy Ryan was a friendly, funny playful and, yes, sometimes obnoxious drunk. I met him at Play It Again Sam’s. His life had taken a wrong turn several years ago. But as far as I know he never hurt anyone. The altercation was over a box of sandwiches. The alleged attacker wanted the whole box. Timmy thought they should be shared with everyone. Arrangements are pending.”

From the SJ-R

The death of Timothy Ryan, a 45-year-old homeless man whose head was stomped on during an alleged attack by another homeless man, was a shock to those who stayed with both men outside Lincoln Library.

“It’s not like that’s commonplace by any means,” said Tim Hawker, a homeless man who often acts as a spokesman for many who reside at the library, where the beating occurred Thursday night. “Everybody is sorry. We’re going to miss Tim … It’s something you never want to see.”

* Cigarette tax hike may disappoint - Smokers could take revenue to Missouri; New Jersey increase falls short

* Progress Made Towards RTA Funding Bill

* Transit bill backer undaunted

* Obama intern from Glen Carbon arrested

* State’s attorney says lawyers in his office don’t have the right to form a union. Others say that’s not true.

* Taxi Drivers Threaten To Park Cabs On Tuesday - Drivers Plan to Stop Driving To Secure Fare Increases

* Editorial: ComEd rate deal rolls back hike, ends ‘reverse auction’

* Editorial: Smoke-Free Illinois win for workers, residents, visit

* Federation of Indian Association to spare no efforts to make India Day big success

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


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* Schilling endorses LaHood
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* Question of the day
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* *** UPDATED x1 *** Brown: Exploring an exploratory committee is "under review"
* Rauner administration denies union report of progress on fair share suit
* *** UPDATED x2 - Durbin out of the running? *** Illinois Republicans react to potential Durbin elevation
* Is a new era finally dawning in Illinois?
* Meanwhile, in Opposite Land...
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        * A pro-labor mayor for Chicago?..
        * Effingham native Schultz brings entrepreneurial.....
        * Chuck Sweeny: Don't hide behind Amtrak's skirts.....
        * Rauner OKs compromise plan to fix budget hole; .....
        * Area joblessness is down, but so are jobs..


        * 12-year-old shot to death in Quincy
        * Chicago's retired Cardinal George readmitted to hospital
        * Chicago universities study astronaut on 1 year space mission
        * Bison to graze at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
        * Nation's biggest nuclear firm makes a play for green money
        * Chicago's Thompson Center could get price tag
        * Bison to graze at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
        * University of Oklahoma unveils racist chant probe findings
        * Bradley names Brian Wardle its 14th basketball head coach
        * Ferry reopening between southern Illinois, western Kentucky

        * Effingham native Schultz brings entrepreneurial spirit to state agency
        * Rauner's 'right-to-work' proposal focus of larger debate on business climate
        * Irresistable force, immovable object on business reform
        * Rauner considering appraisal of Chicago's Thompson Center
        * Budget-patching deal dips into various state funds
        * Comptroller Munger expedites funds to child care providers
        * Lawmakers' budget deal raises concerns over burial costs
        * Former Congressman Schilling making 'special announcement' Saturday in Peoria
        * Illinois Army National Guard member, cousin arrested for allegedly supporting Islamic State group
        * Senate passes plan to fix $1.6B budget hole

        * Chicago likely to get sacked by NFL draft
        * Would Cat be better off at half the size?
        * Is Mondelez the next takeover target?
        * Guess which carmaker is Chicago's favorite
        * Don't mention the “U” word around Rauner


          * Emanuel and Garcia scour city for votes
          * Cops: Woman dies in crash after husband drove car off closed bridge
          * Prosecutors: 7-Eleven robber told investigators 'I was just trying to feed my family'
          * Angie's List put expansion on hold, citing new Indiana law
          * Man fatally shot after argument over woman at South Loop lounge
          * Wrigley rooftop owner indicted on fraud charges in alleged $600,000 scheme
          * 12-year-old boy shot to death in Quincy
          * Bison to roam Midewin prairie again
          * Prosecutors: Man shot victim in head, stood over him and fired 8 more times
          * 1 fatally shot, 2 wounded in South Side shootings


          * With GOP votes, Indiana House approves religious objection bill
          * After spending scandals, Rep. Aaron Schock says goodbye
          * Legislature to consider Madigan plan to fill state budget gap
          * Rauner signs into law compromise plan to fix budget hole
          * Where can a politician wield more influence? Chicago's City Council vs. Illinois' Statehouse
          * More people moved away from Illinois last year than any other state
          * Flamin' Hot Cheetos top Chicago Public School vending machines
          * Flamin' Hot Cheetos top some Chicago Public School vending machines
          * Flamin' Hot Cheetos top Chicago Public School vending machines
          * ACLU: Chicago police make more stops than New York at its peak


          * Effingham native Schultz brings entrepreneurial spirit to state agency
          * Rauner's 'right-to-work' proposal focus of larger debate on business climate
          * Rauner considering appraisal of Chicago's Thompson Center
          * Phil Eaton: Illinois can't arrest, treat or bury its way out of heroin epidemic
          * Charles Krauthammer: The GOP racing form: First edition
          * Quote of the Day: Saturday, March 28, 2015
          * Budget-patching deal dips into various state funds
          * Comptroller Munger expedites funds to child care providers
          * Lawmakers' budget deal raises concerns over burial costs
          * Former Congressman Schilling making 'special announcement' Saturday in Peoria


          * Best of Fred, No. 19: Birth of a program
          * The hunt is on
          * Week ahead looks wet, mild — and maybe even snowy
          * Egg hunts have same goal: The prize inside
          * Gifford Gets More Trees
          * Route 9 traffic diverted by accident
          * They just want to play: Special Olympians square off in Belleville soccer tournament
          * Special Olympians square off in Belleville soccer tournament
          * Mahomet-Seymour vs Urbana Baseball
          * ‘Smelled it, tasted it, felt it’: VFW leaders remember Vietnam at Belleville event


          * Keep the sofa ma, but have you joined Facebook?
          * Glenbard East cruises past Addison Trail
          * UConn wins in a rout; Dayton continues improbable run
          * Bartlett goes 2-2-1 in Tennessee
          * Staal, Faulk score in 3rd, lead Hurricanes past Devils 3-1

          * Rep. Barr Introduces Taking Account of Bur...
          * Former Congressman Schilling making 'speci...
          * Question of the day
          * Knox County Health Department receives $1 ...
          * Kelly develops ag platform for diverse dis...
          * Hultgren: Rooting out Medicare and Medicai...
          * Special election to be held to replace US ...
          * Post office named for Champaign County's 1...
          * Bustos announces health center funding
          * Obama Operatives Try to Sway Israel's Elec...

          * Schumer's Challenges Before Becoming Dem. ......
          * After 5 terms, Reid sets retirement...
          * Parker: Wacko birds continue nesting in U.......
          * How Chuck Schumer rose to the top of the U......

          * Tammy Duckworth to Challenge Mark Kirk for......
          * US Senate threatens Iran with new sanctions...
          * Brown supports bill to reduce OB-GYN short......
          * Chuck Sweeny: Poll shows most support Gov.......
          * Illinois’ GOP Seat In Jeopardy As Democrat......

          * The desperate panderer.
          * My dinner with Rahm.
          * Scientism in the Age of Obama
          * Stantis: Budget Bandaids
          * Illinois Congressman Luis Gutiérrez shouted off the stage at USC
          * Chicago Road Rage Caught on Camera
          * Vote daily to help Jirak get REALTOR® Magazine award
          * Opportunity Race: RPAC postcards support Giarrante re-election
          * Schilling looking at bid to succeed Schock
          * Corbett among eight honored by Illinois Jaycees


          * Governor Rauner Takes Bill Action
          * Nominating Petitions Available For Illinois Commodity Board Seats
          * Health Matters: 2015 Illinois Minority Health Efforts - Creating & Sustaining Healthy Communities
          * ‘Text First, Talk Second’ Often Best Way to Contact Loved Ones When Disaster Strikes - IEMA Encourages People to Have Plan for Communicating with Family Members, Friends during Emergencies
          * New Illinois Server Training Law effective July 1 - State currently offering FREE responsible beverage server classes




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