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Transit Controversy

Wednesday, Aug 29, 2007

* Mark Brown: Time running out to pass transit bill

You wouldn’t think it would need to be said, but we all benefit from strong mass transit, not just those who ride the trains and buses. If you drive to work like yours truly, mass transit means that many fewer motorists with whom to contend on the roads. Fewer cars on the road mean cleaner air for all of us.

Of course, a lot of people riding the CTA don’t have the option of driving. They can’t afford a car. But our local economy couldn’t survive if they can’t get to their jobs or classes.

It’s starting to sound too much like I’m preaching, and I didn’t want to do that.

* Sales tax hike could fund CTA, road improvements

Chicago Transit Authority drivers were among those cheering the loudest as politicians promised to vote next week on a proposed sales tax increase for roads and mass transit. Those drivers received letters threatening that their jobs could be eliminated next month.

“Yes, I’m very afraid of getting laid off,” said bus driver Calvin Alexander.

“You lay us off, then it means we can’t provide for our families. Then it also messes with the public,” said CTA bus driver Gail Williams.

* Daley, others lead rally for transit funding

To provide transit funding, a Senate bill calls for a 0.25 percent increase in the RTA sales tax collected in the six-county region and a new real estate transfer tax in Chicago.

The House Mass Transit Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on the measure in the Thompson Center. Committee Chairwoman Rep. Julie Hamos (D-Evanston) said she expected that the committee would pass the measure, and that it would be voted on by the legislature on Sept. 4.

Hamos and other supporters said they were confident they would have votes to override a veto from Blagojevich, who has said he would not approve any increase in the sales tax.

* Daley lead rally to support mass transit

* Mass transit funding close to passing?

- Posted by Paul Richardson   Comments Off      


Governor signs rate relief bill

Wednesday, Aug 29, 2007

* Governor signs electric rate relief despite displeasure with bill

Blagojevich spent almost a month reviewing the deal –which lawmakers approved at the end of July after lengthy negotiations — before signing the plan into law at the Downstate DuQuoin State Fair

“This bill is a good starting point,” Blagojevich said in a written statement.

Under the package, the average Chicago-area customer will see between a $50 and $60 service credit on their October bills, said Bob McDonald, ComEd’s senior vice president and chief financial officer.

The lump-sum credit will serve as a retroactive, partial-bill credit for service this year. The amount will vary depending on how much energy the customer used.

* Rate relief now a reality

The governor drew criticism by not immediately signing the bill into law when he received it nearly a month ago. Some feared his inaction could cost consumers millions of dollars in higher rates by negating the price of a contract Ameren had negotiated to buy power.

But Lisa Madigan spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler said consumers actually will save $17 million over several years compared to the original negotiated price because of fluctuations in recent weeks.

Blagojevich defended his long review, comparing himself to a careful customer standing up to pressure from a used-car dealer.

Negotiators are hopeful consumers see bigger benefits from moves made to keep prices as low as possible.

* Governor belated signs utility deal

But Blagojevich, who sat on the sidelines during the negotiations, angered lawmakers by announcing that he would take up to 60 days to review the bill. He said he thought he might be able to persuade the power companies to sweeten the deal, despite warnings from the attorney general’s office that any delays could lead to higher bills.

“After reviewing it, I believe it will provide immediate relief and put us in a position to keep working on longer-term electricity issues that need to be addressed to ensure that electricity in Illinois is affordable,” Blagojevich said in a statement.

State Rep. George Scully (D-Flossmoor), the House’s lead utility negotiator, said he was happy the governor signed the bill. “But it’s very unfortunate that he forced the people of Illinois to wait another month to get rate relief,” Scully said.

* Electric rate relief now a done deal

“The only thing the governor’s delay produced is a delay in when residents get the relief to which they are entitled,” state Rep. Dan Beiser, D-Alton, said in a statement, echoing a common complaint lately among downstate legislators whose constituents were hardest hit by the rate hikes.

Blagojevich, flanked by lawmakers and consumer advocates Tuesday, defended his decision not to sign the bill right away.

“Beware when these big companies are pressing you to sign on the dotted line before you’ve had a chance to (study) … a bill as complicated and as thick as the one you just saw me sign,” Blagojevich said. “When you get a big company like Ameren that’s treated customers the way they have, I think it’s prudent to be suspicious of their motives.”

* Ameren checks expected to arrive in September

- Posted by Paul Richardson   Comments Off      


Chicago-related news

Wednesday, Aug 29, 2007

* ‘Welcome to hell,’ new OPS chief told; more here

* Alderman reignites sparkler debate; more here

* Plans for citywide wireless dropped with bogged negotiations; more here

* City could earn $7.4 million off car stickers scofflaws

Nearly 62,000 Chicago motorists have been slapped with $120 tickets since the revised July 15 deadline for failing to display valid city stickers — and that’s before investigators resume their annual hunt for sticker scofflaws in city-licensed garages

* Michael Sneed: Potentials filter out in Chicago top cop search

- Posted by Paul Richardson   Comments Off      


Morning Shorts

Wednesday, Aug 29, 2007

* Forby to seek another term

* Appellate judge won’t seat Congressional seat

* Lawyer for Ryan attack conduct of trial proceeding

* Ryan seeks new trial amid ‘avalanche of errors’

* Census: Illinois poverty drops, but uninsured up

* Governor OKs funding stem-cell research

Although no money is directly tied to the Illinois law, the bill’s sponsors said they would seek to secure millions in funding over the next few months.

The measure, which bans human cloning, ensures researchers could work with embryonic stem cells in Illinois, which typically come from early-stage human embryos left over from in-vitro fertilization. Groups opposed to abortion argue the research requires the destruction of human embryos and is immoral. Proponents say embryonic stem cells offer the best chance of treating or curing many debilitating diseases.

The law also establishes procedures for couples to donate their unused in-vitro fertilization treatments for research and authorizes the Illinois Department of Public Health to administer the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute to give grants for research.

* Governor to appeal base closing rule

* Forced moment of silence in schools vetoed

“I believe in the power of prayer,” Blagojevich wrote. “I also believe that our founding fathers wisely recognized the personal nature of faith and prayer, and that is why the separation of church and state is a centerpiece of our Constitution, our democracy and our freedoms.”

The measure’s House sponsor, Rep. Will Davis, a Homewood Democrat, had argued it was not a religious exercise, but a chance for pupils to settle down and reflect on the coming day.

He noted that both the Illinois House of Representatives and Senate begin each legislative day with prayers led by members of the clergy.

* Rep. Fritchey: Supporting governor’s ‘moment of silence’ decision

* Editorial: Veto of forced school prayer a wise move

* State loan commission makes $1 billion sale

* SAT scores down, but diversity up as Illinois bests national average

The decline isn’t significant and may be explained by the larger pool of test-takers, which numbered nearly 1.5 million high school graduates, said officials with the College Board, the private company that administers the SAT.

Illinois students did better than their counterparts across the nation. The state composite reading score was 594, up 3 points from last year; the math composite was 611, a jump of 2 points.

* State SAT scores buck national trend

* Privacy issues curb teen-driver rules

* Editorial: Prison recidivism pilot a test worth taking

- Posted by Paul Richardson   Comments Off      


Blagojevich sues Madigan

Tuesday, Aug 28, 2007

* Special sessions: A job or a joke?

By refusing to meet at the time set by the governor, the lawsuit says, “in theory, Madigan would possess the unilateral authority to wait 10 years, if he so chooses, to convene a special session proclaimed by the governor for tomorrow.” It says a ruling from the court is imperative because “the governor intends to call additional special sessions in the near future to address significant issues facing the state. . .”

* State power struggle spills into third branch

In the lawsuit, which was filed by Blagojevich’s general counsel William Quinlan, the governor asks for a court order compelling Madigan to convene a special session with enough members present to vote on legislation on any date or time specified by the governor. Blagojevich also asks the court to order Madigan to follow the governor’s special session proclamations in the future.

Though Madigan has not challenged the governor’s authority to convene a special session, he has said the governor cannot compel attendance on any specific date or time.

In the lawsuit, Blagojevich claims he does have that authority, pointing to a state law that says the governor shall file any proclamations for a special session with the secretary of state, who “shall take whatever reasonable steps necessary to notify members of the General Assembly of the date and time of the special session.”

* Blagojevich sues Madigan

The House and the Senate did not conduct any substantial business during the 16 special sessions Blagojevich ordered this summer.

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown derided Blagojevich for exploiting the purpose of the original intent of special sessions: to deal with emergencies. Brown noted that the House had met every day — although not necessarily at the specific time — that Blagojevich had ordered.

“He’s making a farce of the special session process,” Brown said.

* Illinois governor sues over special sessions

The schism between the two and the showdown over the special sessions had an oddly unifying effect as Democrats and Republicans in the House lined up against the governor.

Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, a 12-year veteran of the Legislature, said there’s little disagreement even among his fellow Republicans about which of the two Democratic leaders is at fault in the conflict.

“I’ve been called into special session by (former Gov. Jim) Edgar, I’ve been called in by (former Gov.) George Ryan. And we always knew we were there for a real reason,” said Bost. “It wasn’t about personality issues.”

But with Blagojevich, “there was no need for any of these special sessions,” Bost said.

* Blago sues over special session fiasco

* Governor sues the Speaker

* Bethany Jaegar: Blago sues

* Rep. Fritchey: On the governor’s latest move

* Editorial: Blagojevich making a joke of government

- Posted by Paul Richardson   Comments Off      


« NEWER POSTS PREVIOUS POSTS »
* Good morning!
* Final thoughts before calling it a night
* *** UPDATED x3 - Script *** Quinn airs radio ad of Rauner joking about being "scared" of four African-Americans
* Karen Lewis endorses Chuy Garcia for mayor
* Friday night TV ad rating
* Yesterday's blog posts

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