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This just in… Governor’s suit against House Clerk dismissed *** Governor announces veto *** Now Weller will announce Friday? ***

Thursday, Sep 20, 2007

* 2:55 pm - Judge Kelley just dismissed Gov. Blagojevich’s lawsuit against the House Clerk. Blagojevich had hoped to force the Clerk to retroactively enter the guv’s budget veto messages into the House Journal.

Nobody noticed, but the House did enter the budget veto message into its journal on Monday. They entered several others on Tuesday in preparation for the upcoming veto session.

Yesterday, the guv’s people were saying privately that they expected the judge to order Speaker Madigan’s Clerk to enter the veto message retroactively on the day the lawsuit was filed. Didn’t happen. The judge had been presiding over negotiations, but the governor’s lawyers had demanded a hearing. So, the hearing went forward today and the case was dismissed.

“Veto session continues as scheduled,” Madigan’s spokesman said a few minutes ago.

* More

Kelley ruled that the issue is moot because the House entered the vetoes into the House Journal on Monday. That gives the House until Oct. 2 to act on the vetoes.

Oct. 2 is scheduled to be the first day of the fall veto session.

William Quinlan, chief lawyer for the governor, said after the hearing he’s glad the House has moved the process along. He also said it was not the governor’s intent to deny the House a chance to act on the vetoes.

Had Kelley approved backdating the House journal entry to Sept. 4, the House would have missed its chance to override the governor’s budget vetoes.

Kelley said in court that allowing events to proceed might lead to an improvement in the “ridiculous and embarrassing Hatfield and McCoy atmosphere” that has marked some legislative negotiations this year.

* 3:48 pm - Mysteriously enough, I can’t ever seem to get a press release out of the governor’s office in a timely manner these days. Here’s a segment of his release on his amendatory veto of the Cook County property tax assessment cap extension bill, sent by a pal…

Governor Blagojevich made two primary changes to House Bill 664: increasing the Expanded Homeowner Exemption (often called the 7% solution) for Cook County homeowners to $40,000 per year from its current $20,000 maximum; and making the increased exemption permanent. The Expanded Homeowner Exemption is the mechanism that currently helps slow the growth of rising property tax bills to 7% per year; it expires this year.

The full release can be downloaded here.

[Update: Almost right when I hit the “publish” button an e-mail showed up from the guv’s office with the release.]

* 4:31 pm - When will the back and forth end? Sun-Times

Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.) is expected to announce he will retire from Congress during a Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Friday, a source familiar with the situation told the Chicago Sun-Times.

The seven-term congressman from Morris intended to make his announcement in mid-October, but word spread through Republican circles this week

* RollCall

Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.), who has had to fend off allegations in recent weeks about questionable Central American land deals, will announce Friday that he will not seek an eighth term in 2008, inside sources confirmed late Thursday.

- Posted by Rich Miller   44 Comments      


This just in… No Weller announcement today *** Governor to take action on assessment caps bill *** Hearing set for 1:30 today on clerk suit *** Judge denies Planned Parenthood motion *** WJBC: Pol says Weller will run again

Thursday, Sep 20, 2007

* 11:14 am - No Weller announcement today

U.S. Rep. Jerry Weller will announce whether he’ll seek an eighth term in office in the next couple of weeks, a spokesman said Thursday. Combating rumors that the Morris Republican would be calling it quits Thursday, spokesman Andy Fuller said no such announcement was planned.

“Nothing is going on today,” Fuller said.

Fuller, however, would not confirm whether Weller is running again.

“That will be covered in that announcement,” Fuller said.

* 11:25 am - A lot of outlets jumped on the rumor that the announcement could be as early as today, but here is what the Tribune reported

One of the sources said the announcement could come as soon as Thursday. Others said it would be early next month.

* 12:09 pm - Planned Parenthood of Aurora is live-blogging its hearing today on whether it can open its controversial clinic. You can find some of the filings in question here.

* 12:15 pm - From the governor’s public schedule…

On Thursday, September 20, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich will take action in providing significant property tax relief for the vast majority of Cook County homeowners.

WHO: Governor Rod R. Blagojevich, Alderman Eugene Schulter, James Houlihan, Cook County Assessor, Mike and Linda Vacala, homeowners

WHAT: Gov. Blagojevich will provide property tax relief to Cook County homeowners.

WHEN: 2:00 p.m.

WHERE: 2221 W. Winona
Chicago, IL 60625

If Schulter and Houlihan are there, you can bet there’s gonna be a flashy amendatory veto involved.

* 12:22 pm - A hearing is set for today at 1:30 regarding the governor’s lawsuit against the House Clerk. Stay tuned.

* 12:32 pm - According to Planned Parenthood of Aurora’s blog, a judge has denied the group’s motion to force Aurora to allow it to open its new clinic.

12:18PM: The judge is saying that there is a dearth of evidence showing discrimination and that there was not enough time for a reasonable investigation.

12:20PM: In its present form, the judge is denying the motion. He is leaving the option open to refile.

12:22PM: The judge said that by no means is the case over. He said that the delay itself is not of constitutional magnitude, but that could change.

12:24PM: Court is adjourned. The judge has denied the motion on the ground that we haven’t provided enough evidence. We can reapply later when we have more evidence. But for now, the clinic has to remain closed.

* 1:09 pm - Congressman Weller told at least one county party chairman that he is planning to run for reelection

McLean County GOP Chairman John Parrott tells WJBC, he talked with Weller last night and the lawmaker claimed reports he’s stepping down were strictly rumors and that he planned to announce his re-election campaign.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY (Part 2) - Quinn; Lightford; Meyer; Lauzen; Electric; Brady; (use all caps in password)

Thursday, Sep 20, 2007

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Question of the day

Thursday, Sep 20, 2007

Hiram Wurf thinks it’s a good time to start contemplating a possible gubernatorial bid by House Republican Leader Tom Cross.

Yes, I know the governor’s race is a long way off, but what do you think Cross will do? And how will he do if he jumps in?

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      


New poll for presidential preference *** Updated x1 ***

Thursday, Sep 20, 2007

* A recently released poll by the Survey Research Office, located in the Center for State Policy and Leadership, of the University of Illinois at Springfield had predictable results for the Democratic presidential primary here in Illinois. The telephone survey was conducted over a six-week period, from July 24 through September 4, 2007. According to the SRO, the entire survey consisted of interviews with 1,028 randomly-selected Illinois households.

* Barack Obama leads Hillary Clinton 51-27 among those who say they’ll take a Democratic primary ballot.

Obama’s lead decreases only slightly when the voting pool is narrowed to those who indicated they are “very likely” to vote in the primary (49%-27%). Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards is a distant third in all of these groups, at 6%. About 13-14% in all these groups have no opinion.

* Democratic crosstabs are here. Republican crosstabs are here.

* The Republican results are more interesting, of course…

Giuliani has a lead of 34% to 19% over Arizona Senator John McCain among respondents who said they would take a Republican ballot in the primary. Following in a close race for third are former Tennessee Senator and actor Fred Thompson (12%) and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (11%). Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee garners nearly 6%. About 14% have no opinion. (It should be noted that the survey was completed prior to Fred Thompson’s formal entry into the race and prior to former Illinois Governor James Thompson’s endorsement of Giuliani.)

Giuliani’s margin over McCain drops a bit when the voting pool is expanded to include all those who were asked the Republican preference questions (30%-19%). [This includes Republicans and independents leaning Republican who did not say what party ballot they would choose.]

The same decrease in his margin occurs when the pool is narrowed to those who indicated they are “very likely” to vote in the primary (31%-18%). These drops are a result of a small decline in Giuliani’s support rather than an increase in McCain’s. Among “very likely” voters, Fred Thompson’s support increases to 15% while Romney is at 12% and Huckabee at 4%. About 17% have no opinion.

The Republican race differs when the strength of Republican identification is taken into account.

For “strong” Republicans, Giuliani holds a lead of 35% to 18% over Fred Thompson. Romney is at 11%, McCain at 10% and Huckabee at 9%. About 12% have no opinion.

For possible Republican voters who are not “strong” Republicans, Giuliani holds a narrow 27% to 24% lead over McCain. Following are Romney (11%) and Fred Thompson (nearly 10%). Texas Congressman Ron Paul (nearly 4%) and Huckabee (3%) are next. One in five (20%) have no opinion.

* By region…

For “all possible” Republican primary voters, Giuliani’s lead narrows as we move further from the Chicago area. For instance, he has a lead over McCain of 34%-18% in the Chicago suburbs, with Fred Thompson and Romney both at 10% and Huckabee at 7%. In north/central Illinois, Giuliani’s lead decreases to 28% vs. 17% for both McClain and Fred Thompson (with Romney at 6%). And, his lead decreases even further to a virtual tie at 21%-20% with McCain in southern Illinois (with Fred Thompson at 13%, Romney at 7% and Huckabee at 4%). (Not enough possible Republican primary voters were interviewed in the City of Chicago to reach meaningful conclusions.)

* By gender…

Giuliani has a substantial lead over McCain among possible female Republican voters (37%-14%), followed by Romney (9%) and then Fred Thompson (6%). But, among males, he has only a slight lead over McCain (24%-21%) followed closely by Fred Thompson (17%). Romney garners 10% of the male support, and Huckabee is at 8%.

Thoughts?

[Hat tip: Bethany]

*** UPDATE *** I forgot to post the trend lines. You’ll recall that I commissioned a poll back in April on presidential preference. Here are the new results with my old results in parentheses…

Democrats
Obama 51.1 (52.6)
Clinton 26.8 (24.6)
Edwards 6.1 (9.5)
Biden 1.8 (2.3)
Kucinich 0.6 (1.25)
Richardson 0.4 (2.4)
Dodd 0.4 (0.53)
Gravel 0.0 (N/A)
Undecided 12.8 (6.9)

Republicans
Giuliani 33.5 (25.7)
McCain 18.9 (26.1)
F. Thompson 12.4 (17.4)
Romney 11.3 (10.2)
Huckabee 5.8 (N/A)
Paul 2.2 (N/A)
Brownback 1.5 (N/A)
Hunter 0.7 (N/A)
Tancredo 0.4 (N/A)
T. Thompson OUT (3.3)
Undecided 13.5 (17.2)

There was much more movement on the Republican side, which reflects national trends.

- Posted by Rich Miller   55 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Capital bill and veto analysis; CotW; Banks (Use all caps in password)

Thursday, Sep 20, 2007

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Daley breaks agreement, and more on those “racist” high-rise dwellers

Thursday, Sep 20, 2007

* Mayor Daley appears to be backing out of an earlier agreement not to put the Chicago Children’s Museum on Randolph St. in Grant Park…

“I don’t know why this is an issue now,” [former Ald. Burt Natarus] grumped, arguing that he’d reached an agreement with the Daley administration while he was still in office to prevent the museum from being relocated from Navy Pier to Daley Bicentennial Plaza, the section of Grant Park that is the subject of the current debate.

“It was already decided not to build it there,” Natarus said. “I put it in my campaign literature.”

* Meanwhile, the race issue is still causing sparks to fly

Carole Brown, the Chicago Transit Authority chairman and a member of the museum board, said she heard a woman at a meeting earlier this month ask why the museum didn’t move to the South Side and another opponent ask if the children visiting a new museum were going to play on a Grant Park playground.

* Let’s take those issues one at a time. Is suggesting that the museum locate on the South Side racist? Perhaps that was the intent of the person who said it, but I would assume that aldermen from all over the city would like to use the museum to help revitalize their neighborhoods. As Cate Plys points out in an excellent piece this week…

However, to buy into that scenario, one must believe some manifestly untrue points: That the Children’s Museum is and will be largely patronized by needy children, rather than the mainly middle-class and wealthy people one generally sees there;

* And what about that crack about the kids playing in Grant Park? More from Plys

This park area is not a “little-used sanctum.” Neighbors report waiting up to an hour on weekends to get a child on a swing there. (My sister-in-law says only two swings have been functional for most of the summer.) The skating rink is nearly as crowded as Millennium Park’s - so much so, I’d rather have my niece come skate at my neighborhood rink. The Bicentennial rink is free - except skate rental - and wide open to all comers. Particularly in the summer, the area is used by many people who don’t live anywhere near downtown.

UPDATE: I should’ve pointed out here that “Gigi” Pritzker thinks racism has a lot to do with the controversy

Pritzker, the billionaire president of the board of the Chicago Children’s Museum, which is planning a controversial move to just east of Millennium Park, said the uproar is “just killing me.'’

But in an interview Wednesday, Pritzker, 45, vowed to continue to press for the Daley Bicentennial Plaza site despite opposition by some neighbors and Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd). While not all who object to the project are racist, the theme is there, she said.

“The thing that’s sad is the loudest voices — it doesn’t mean the whole community — seem to have that component to them,'’ Pritzker said.

Who are those loud people? You got me.

* More from Plys…

I’m sure there must be some Bicentennial Plaza neighbors who don’t want to mix with anyone of a different background or income level. How could it be otherwise? There isn’t a block in this city where you won’t find people like that. The rest of the park’s neighbors, however, have legitimate concerns about welcoming a museum already drawing about a half million people per year to an area buzzing with traffic - and in the process of adding 15,000 new residents.

* And one more point from Plys’ piece…

I guess it’s easy to demonize the residents of East Randolph and Lakeshore East if you don’t know any. I know several families there besides my brother’s, and they’re all decent people who are not attempting to blockade Grant Park against anyone with less money or darker skin. Let’s give them the consideration due any citizen: consider the merits of their actual arguments, rather than inventing nefarious and non-existent motives to debate instead. […]

Instead, they’ve chosen to throw their lot in with Chicago. They understand that cities are important, that you can’t just leave them behind like an old sweater when one piece starts unraveling. They think cities are worth putting up with smaller living spaces, bad traffic and crime. They are the people who have fueled the recovery and reinvention of downtown Chicago, which is nothing short of a miracle to anyone who remembers when the Loop, South Loop and North Loop were ghost towns after normal business hours.

* Meanwhile, a brief mention in the Sun-Times story yesterday was enough to prompt a resignation

Patrick Thompson, a nephew of the mayor’s who has represented the museum at community meetings, withdrew from the job to avoid having the proposed move “be delayed or eroded by a tangential issue.'’

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


CMS 2 finally free

Thursday, Sep 20, 2007

* This is very good news

Governor Blagojevich is dropping a case against two state workers accused of manipulating the hiring process.

The governor’s office said it will not appeal a ruling that restored the jobs of Dawn Defraties and Michael Casey with back pay.

Both were fired last year when the Blagojevich administration accused them of hiring state employees based on political connections.

* More

…appealing the decision was up to the Civil Service Commission, which decided against it, Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said without elaboration in an e-mailed statement.

Commission members all are chosen by Blagojevich. And the two Blagojevich-controlled agencies that employed DeFraties and Casey at the time they were fired, the Department of Healthcare and Family Services and the Historic Preservation Agency, could have appealed, too.

Ottenhoff did not respond to follow-up questions.

Madigan spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler also refused to explain why there is no appeal. Madigan’s staff represented the commission. A lawyer from the private law firm that represented the agencies that employed the two did not return a call seeking comment.

Congrats to both.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


Morning shorts

Thursday, Sep 20, 2007

* Weller reportedly to leave the House

Rep. Jerry Weller, dogged by ethics questions surrounding his Nicaraguan investments and his wife’s finances, is set to announce his retirement in the near future, Republican sources said Wednesday.

* Reports: Weller ready to quit

Weller’s campaign manager, Steven Shearer, insisted that Weller intends to run again next year.

* Weller faces criticism, subpoena

* Democrat Chuck Giger plans run for LaHood’s congressional seat

* Cook Co. gobbles up Illinois grants

Cook County is slicing millions off the top of state grants meant to help catch deadbeat dads or argue death penalty cases and using that money to run the government.

* Illinois public high school reading scores take a dive

Illinois high school reading scores took their biggest tumble in at least five years, while elementary reading scores moved solidly upward, 2007 statewide test results showed Wednesday.

Math scores showed a similar — but not as extreme –split, with math up in third through eighth grade but down a bit in 11th grade.

* State test scores sink to new low

* Gov. Ryan returns to Springfield

* ‘My conscience is clear,’ says Laura Lynn Ryan

* State’s attorney’s office guides bill into law

* New law firm reaps millions in Cicero

Cicero has for years been a lucrative cash cow for legal work, attracting the likes of powerbroker Ed Vrdolyak, who reaped millions off the embattled town.

Now records show a new law firm — brought in by a professed reformer promising to reduce legal costs — has made nearly $3 million in two years and double in one year what Vrdolyak earned.

Giglio & Del Galdo, which also represents Melrose Park, Morton College and two school districts, earned $2 million in fiscal year 2006 and $907,000 in 2005 — prompting criticism of Cicero President Larry Dominick. A town spokesman contends the law firm inherited a heavy workload.

* Stroger, board remember Jones

- Posted by Paul Richardson   7 Comments      


This just in…

Wednesday, Sep 19, 2007

* 1:27 pm - The House is planning a Committee of the Whole. The press release didn’t come through properly, so I’ll get back to you in a few minutes.

Also, I’m told by the governor’s office that a hearing scheduled for today on the governor’s lawsuit against the House clerk has been postponed until tomorrow. The governor wanted the court to force the clerk to retroactively enter the guv’s veto message into the House Journal for Sept. 4 - the last time the House was in session. A Sangamon County judge (Kelly) has been holding meetings with both sides to try to work out an agreement, but no luck so far.

If the House had entered the veto messages into the journal on the 4th, they would have been required to take some action on the override by today.

* 2:25 pm - Thanks to some commenters, it needs to be pointed out that the Senate did not enter the governor’s vetoes into its journal on Monday, as the governor claims the Constitution requires in his suit against the House Clerk. The governor has vetoed several Senate bills since the last time that chamber was in session.

I’m sure the guv won’t be taking the Senate Secretary to court, however.

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


Arrr… I forgot

Wednesday, Sep 19, 2007

No drivelswigger, I, my landlubber brain forgot that it’s Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Let’s talk about those bilge rat Cubs like we’re pirates, eh, maties?

And thanks to me pal, David for reminding my addled self.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


Question of the day

Wednesday, Sep 19, 2007

First, the setup

Today, [George] Ryan will appear with his wife Lura Lynn in Springfield. Mrs. Ryan will be signing the book “At Home with Illinois Governors: A Social History of the Illinois Executive Mansion.” The book sounds like a fine piece of work. And we certainly understand why Mrs. Ryan, as a co-author, would show up at a book signing.

But if George Ryan wanted to show some class and remorse — if he is actually capable of that — he would stay away from such events. This man tied Illinois up in a web of corruption for years. He enriched his friends with public contracts while receiving lots of financial favors in return. […]

Those who truly care about clean, honest government will refuse to fete Ryan as an honored former governor in a tea-and-cookies ceremony such as today’s. To do so is to diminish the serious crimes he committed.

Question: Do you agree or disagree with the SJ-R editorial?

- Posted by Rich Miller   51 Comments      


He’s come undone

Wednesday, Sep 19, 2007

* This fight over whether to move the Children’s Museum to Grant Park is just downright bizarre. Earlier this week, Mayor Daley exploded at Ald. Brendan Reilly’s refusal to allow the museum to move from Navy Pier to Grant Park, which is supposed to be free of development…

Mayor Richard Daley strongly endorsed a proposal Monday to build a new Chicago Children’s Museum in Grant Park, and he questioned whether race is playing a role among the project’s critics.

Despite opposition by residents of high rises near the proposed museum site, Daley insisted that “we have a lot of support” to go forward.

“You mean you don’t want children from the city in Grant Park?” Daley said. “Why? Are they black? Are they white? Are they Hispanic? Are they poor? You don’t want children? We have children in Grant Park all the time. This is a park for the entire city. What do you mean no one wants children down there? Why not? Wouldn’t you want children down there?”

* The mayor wants to go over Reilly’s head

Daley is so determined to place the museum at Daley Bicentennial Plaza near Millennium Park that he will push for the matter to be decided by all 50 aldermen, violating the long-standing City Council tradition of abiding by the wishes of the local alderman on zoning and development issues.

Daley has also been pressed recently by Jean “GiGi” Pritzker, the chair of the museum board whose family donated millions for the construction of Millennium Park. The park’s Pritzker Pavilion would be linked to the grounds of the new children’s museum by the snake-like BP Bridge.

* Apparently, things got a little tense at a recent neighborhood meeting…

Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of the predominantly black St. Sabina Catholic Church… said he recently discussed with the mayor an incident he says occurred last week at a New East Side neighborhood meeting over the museum project.

According to Pfleger, one woman asked him why the museum wasn’t being built in a black neighborhood and another suggested it be moved to Foster Park at 83rd and Loomis.

* Anyway, things deteriorated further yesterday

“I hope all 49 [other] aldermen, I hope everyone in the city, understands what this fight is about,” the mayor said. “It’s a fight for the future of this city. That is why I am very strong on this. If you lose this one, you lose the strength of our city. I have never seen anything like it in the city of Chicago in my term of office. This is worth fighting for. If we don’t fight for our children, who are we going to fight for?” […]

Misstating his name, Daley declared, “Ald. Brendan O’Reilly—and I quote—said ‘Grant Park is not a kids’ park.’… Parks are not for kids? He says [Grant Park] is a people’s park, and kids are not invited. I think everybody should be outraged that the people think the children can’t go to a museum to be educated.” […]

Informed of Daley’s heated comments, [Reilly] said that “obviously somebody misquoted me”—a point ultimately confirmed by Daley’s office—and gave no hint of caving in to the powerful mayor, though Reilly has been in office only since May after winning the first election of his young political career.

* The mayor may face an uphill fight in his battle to take away Reilly’s aldermanic privilege on this issue…

Of 17 aldermen surveyed by the Sun-Times on Tuesday, only one — Patrick Levar (45th) — declared his intention to side with Daley. The other 16 were either undecided or chose to uphold the long-standing City Council tradition of abiding by the wishes of the local alderman on zoning and development issues.

“I believe strongly in aldermanic privilege — even though it happened to me,” said Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), who is still trying to persuade his colleagues to approve the Chatham Wal-Mart they rejected three years ago.

“Today, it’s him. The next day, it could be me,” said Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th).

* And not only is Daley pimping for a rich donor (again), there is (as always) another connection to the project

[Daley’s nephew] Patrick Thompson, is the attorney who represented the museum at community meetings.

* Today’s Tribune editorial put it about as bluntly as possible

This debate is not about people who’ve chosen to live near a park that welcomes people of all races and incomes suddenly wanting to exclude poor minority kids. This is about rich people certain that they have enough influence over you to claim a part of Grant Park for their project. […]

The issue here, Reilly correctly wrote, is “the future of Grant Park” — whether uncounted generations of Chicagoans will enjoy the same open space that’s under the stewardship of this generation. What will we bequeath to them? […]

Chicago offers several good locales for sizable public facilities. There are several locales that wouldn’t present the traffic hazards and headaches of the proposed Grant Park site along three-tier Randolph Street.

* And added…

What’s not reasonable is a suddenly livid mayor characterizing people who’ve accepted Chicago’s invitation to live in a rapidly expanding part of downtown as child-loathing racists.

Why the hysteria, Mr. Mayor? Why set out to divide Chicagoans by race and class?

- Posted by Rich Miller   82 Comments      


Madigan on the hot seat

Wednesday, Sep 19, 2007

* The Tribune has a pretty good summary

The state Senate on Tuesday bypassed a long-term fix for Chicago area mass-transit systems, instead passing a plan for a massive public works program that would expand gambling and offer stop-gap funding for public transportation.

The move was the latest attempt by Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago) and Gov. Rod Blagojevich to pressure House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) to take up the same issues in his chamber by testing the resolve of rank-and-file House members who want money for local projects.

Madigan, who has cast doubt about a major gambling expansion, favors a mass-transit bill that would ease the cash crunch with a sales-tax increase. Jones’ allies had said as late as Friday that they would call a version of that legislation for a vote this week.

* What’s next?

Despite the Senate’s action, there are doubts by many that the proposal will ever advance in the House, which is controlled by Speaker Michael Madigan. Both Madigan and House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, have expressed reservations about the size of the gambling expansion, which would also allow the state’s existing casinos to add gaming positions.

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said history shows that large-scale gambling expansions generally do not win legislative approval. When the House returns next month, Brown said the focus will be on a long-term solution to Chicago’s mass transit needs. […]

“This thing is dead on arrival. It was an exercise in futility,” said state Sen. William Delgado, D-Chicago, who voted “yes.”

* And

The House could tweak the Senate’s plan to do a limited expansion of gaming, but that risks being shot down in the Senate again. As Hendon said, “I just hope the House doesn’t tweak so much ‘till it’s dead on arrival when it gets over here.”

* The pressure will be on Madigan now

Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, said the Senate vote may force Madigan to change his mind.

“If the bill is in his chamber, there will be a tremendous amount of pressure from his members and other constituents to ask him to call that for a vote,” Sullivan predicted.

Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson, R-Greenville, a major proponent of the capital program, said he was aware “there will be some problems in the House.”

“We know this isn’t the last bill we will see,” Watson said. “We want to send a message that capital is important.”

* This is a key point, which could help break the deadlock…

Senate Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson, D-Crete, said the proposal could spur negotiations with the House on millions of dollars in budget cuts Blagojevich made last month that have drawn the ire of many lawmakers.

* The lack of a real resolution on mass transit funding will also be part of the next step

“I don’t know if this gets much farther,” said Madigan spokesman Steve Brown. “The darnedest thing . . . is it doesn’t deal with the RTA/ CTA problem in any way.”

Brown said the top House priority will be passing a sales tax increase in Cook County and the collar counties and a new real-estate transfer tax in the city to fund mass transit.

The Senate plan does not deal with the CTA’s looming pension crisis and requires the $200 million be repaid if the state sets up a reliable funding stream for transit.

* What’s in the capital plan?

Mass transit: $200 million loan to the RTA to stave off cuts until next June. RTA must pay it back with a funding source to be determined later.

Gambling: Puts a casino in Chicago and two more at locations to be determined later. Existing casinos get access to more slots, table games.

School funding: $259.7 million for general state aid and $1.9 billion in construction over three years, with the first $150 million going to 24 districts waiting since 2002.

Roads and bridges: $4.8 billion in construction spending over six years.

* The Senate roll call is here.

* Gov. Blagojevich’s remarks after the vote…

* More stories, compiled by Paul…

* Russ Stewart: Doomsday scenario for Gov. Blagojevich?

* Illinois Senate backs casino expansion

* Senate OKs casinos to end transit woes

* Chicago Public Radio: Senate votes for transit bailout and casinos

* Senate OKs package with three casinos

* Carol Marin: Casino plan isn’t worth the gamble

* Indiana casino’s watch Illinois moves with interest

* Editorial: School districts continue to be caught in the crossfire

* Editorial: Don’t treat government as a game

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


Weller under siege, may not run

Wednesday, Sep 19, 2007

* I was told by some top Republicans yesterday that Congressman Jerry Weller is not yet circulating his nominating petitions. Kristen McQueary reports today that Weller’s donors are getting indications that he may not run for reelection. And that’s bringing up the possibility of a hotly targeted race featuring a prominent Illinois Democrat, who is in the middle of a four-year term…

Senate Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson (D-Crete) is considering running for the 11th District congressional seat, in part because of hot pursuit from Emily’s List, a prominent fundraising group in Washington, D.C., that supports pro-choice Democratic women. Halvorson is meeting with Emily’s List recruiters this month to discuss a possible congressional bid.

Rumors are circulating that Weller may decide against another term, particularly in light of the bad press he is receiving over his Guatemalan financial interests. Phone calls, I’m told, have been made to his top donors indicating he may be preparing to “hang it up.” His family, after all, lives in Guatemala. That’s a long commute. […]

“I don’t know if I want to be one person out of 435,” [Halvorson] said Tuesday. “Compared to, possibly, being the first-ever woman Senate president, I don’t know. It’s a big decision.” […]

Either way, Weller will have to face questions about the Nicaraguan land deals and whether he reported or hid them on his congressional disclosure forms. Then there’s the Central America Free Trade Agreement vote that may have benefitted him directly and the questions that arise every election cycle about where he really lives - Morris, D.C. or Guatemala. He is scheduled to address the Joliet Chamber of Commerce later this week. Will he make a big announcement? Address the media? Or slink away in his Jaguar without taking questions?

* Meanwhile, the news just gets worse for Weller

Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.) has landed on a Washington watchdog group’s list of the “22 most corrupt” members of Congress – and, separately, been subpoenaed in a criminal case linked to disgraced former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham of California.

The “most corrupt” list, an annual compilation of the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, includes several congressmen and senators reportedly under investigation for ethical issues, including Reps. John Doolittle (R-Calif.), Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) and William Jefferson (D-La.) and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).

Weller makes the list, the group said, for a host of ethical questions, including his failure to report some Nicaraguan land deals on his financial disclosure form. The group also alleges Weller appears to have used his position to boost interests in Puerto Rico and Belize in exchange for campaign contributions.

The group’s report on Weller is here.

* And then there’s this

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), House Republican Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and 11 other members of Congress have been subpoenaed to testify in the trial of a defense contractor charged with bribing jailed former Rep. Randy ‘’Duke'’ Cunningham.

All of the lawmakers said they would not comply on the advice of House attorneys. […]

Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.) was also subpoenaed.

This Weller situation has become a full-blown problem for the GOP.

- Posted by Rich Miller   50 Comments      


Morning shorts

Wednesday, Sep 19, 2007

* Gov mum on hiring convicted felon

* Blago mum on charges against Poshard

* Panel to look at plagiarism claims against Poshard; more here

* Cook Co. to cut off drugs for non-residents

* Legislation increases penalties for sex offenders

* Tenants stuck in hard place when landlord loses property

Illinois renters whose landlords default on their mortgage payments soon will be protected from eviction under a state law that will give them until the end of their lease or 120 days to find a new home - but tenants may suffer other effects of foreclosure not covered by the new law.

* Editorial: Quick reply needed on disaster status

* Chicago to unveil new Olympic logo’ more here

* DuPage State’s Attorney hires backed by board

- Posted by Paul Richardson   11 Comments      


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Wednesday, Sep 19, 2007

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This just in… Part 2

Tuesday, Sep 18, 2007

* 3:40 pm - I’m told that Chicago will testify in favor of the gaming bill with some reservations.

There’s also word that Senate President Jones may not call the transit bill for a vote. Craziness has resulted with some SDems threatening to drop off the gaming bill.

* 4:10 pm - The transit bill wasn’t called in committee. Mayor Daley stood firm against the changes to the RTA governing board made by Sen Prez Jones.. Sen. Cullerton claimed it was a drafting error. Not. Daley threatened to kill the bill. Nobody knows if the bill will come up again tonight. Sen Jones was the one who insisted on changes opposed to by Daley for whatever reason. Cullerton has sided with Daley all along.

…Adding… Jones inserted the language at the behest of some suburban members. Jones’ version is more advantageous to the ‘burbs while the House version favored Chicago.

* 5:40 pm - The Senate is taking up the gaming bill now. The smoking exemption for the casinos will apparently be dropped but that could imperil the bill’s chances

… Adding… the smoking exemption was specifically dropped because of the roll call realities. But there are a lot of members whovare flipping all over the place at the moment.

* 6:53 pm - The gaming bill just passed with 37 votes.

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


This just in… SGOPs: If SDems kept promise, we have votes for the capital bill

Tuesday, Sep 18, 2007

* 11:53 am - If you’re waiting for the Senate to start doing something, the Senate Democrats’ spokesperson told me a bit ago that they are working on drafting changes and then will go to Rules Committee.

* 12:23 pm - Senate President Jones reportedly told his leaders this morning that he was very close to a deal with the Senate Repubs on the capital/gaming legislation. The meeting broke up when Jones received a call from Senate GOP Leader Watson. So far, though, no Senate Republicans whom I’ve talked to have reported hearing anything about anything today.

* 12:34 pm - Did you know that Tony Peraica has a blog? I didn’t. Hat tip to Carl. Also, the Illinois GOP has a nifty new website.

* 12:59 pm - From a press release…

Illinoisans wasted nearly 203 million hours of additional time on the road, and 141 million gallons of additional gas as a result of traffic congestion in 2005. The additional wasted time and fuel cost the public an equivalent of $3.9 billion, according to the federally sponsored Urban Mobility Report released today by the Texas Transportation Institute.

* 1:44 pm - The Senate Republicans have not yet agreed to the language of the capital/gaming plan. They’ve gone through several drafts, apparently, and can’t pin it down. A Senate GOP spokesperson wouldn’t even go so far a few minutes ago to say that they even have an agreement in principle. And now there are rumors that they may have to stay in town another day. We’ll see. More on the boat stuff in a few.

* 1:51 pm - The boat people are presently unhappy, for various reasons. Casinos in the Chicago area are concerned about where those two new riverboats will go. They don’t want the new boats too close to them. The smoking ban provision is also causing trouble. The proposal would allow the three Mississippi River boats to set aside 25 percent of their casino space for smokers for five years, or until Missouri and Iowa imposed smoking bans of their own. Those three boats don’t think that’s enough, and the other boats want it applied to them as well. Plus, the provision will not be included in the bill. Instead, it will be added as an amendment which could be stripped when the package reaches the Senate floor.

* 1:55 pm - The Senate is coming in. Listen here.

* 2:02 pm - I did finally get a high-level Senate Republican to say that there is a broad-brush agreement, but he didn’t believe that the details had been worked out. He also said he didn’t know why the Senate was coming back to session as I write this.

* 2:06 pm - Here are some comments made by Senate GOP Leader Frank Watson yesterday, courtesy of Metro Networks

* 2:07 pm - ABC7 and CBS2 have cameras in the gallery, expecting action, apparently.

* 2:17 pm - Rules Committee is now meeting.

* 2:23 pm - They’ve scheduled an Executive and a Transportation committee for later this afternoon.

* 2:33 pm - OK, here are the bills they’ve posted for committees this afternoon…

* HB 2035 SA 8 is the gaming bill

* HB 3667 SA 1 & 2 is the mass transit bill (essentially the original transit bill, so maybe Senate President Jones has decided to let Cullerton try to run it and see if it can pass)

* SB 1110 SA 5 is the capital projects bill

* SB 785 SA 1 is the bond authorization bill.

I’ve got to go to committee, so post your updates in comments.

* 3:07 pm - The Senate Republicans’ spokesperson just said that if the Senate Democrats did everything they said they were going to do in the capital legislation language then they would put votes on the bills later today. As of right now, though, they’re still going through the legislation.

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      


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Tuesday, Sep 18, 2007

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Question of the day

Tuesday, Sep 18, 2007

Sometime late last night, this blog reached a dubious milestone…

Over one million spam comments have been blocked by Akismet on this blog since I installed the miraculous piece of software just fifteen months ago. I don’t know how it works, but it’s saved me more trouble than you can imagine. Spammers had found a way of getting past captcha code, so Akismet was the only workable solution available.

We’re all familiar with e-mail spam. But you don’t see much, if any, comment spam here because of Akismet. I don’t know what I’ll do if the evil spammers find a way around this software. The flood is truly horrendous. Akismet claims that “93% of all comments are spam.” That ratio is a bit lower here. If you have a blog, then you absolutely need to install this device.

Anyway, the question today is: Do you think the government should be more involved in stopping spam? If so, what should it do? If not, why not?

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      


Kadner sums up the fight

Tuesday, Sep 18, 2007

* As you probably know, the governor has yet to take any action on the legislation extending the Cook County property tax assessment cap. Phil Kadner writes about the issue today, noting that property tax bills can’t be sent out until the situation is resolved, which means that schools and local governments aren’t gonna get paid. Kadner does a good juob of summing up the Statehouse meltdown

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger and Houlihan had scheduled a news conference Monday to call attention to the property tax crisis, but they called it off at the last minute.

According to my sources, the governor’s office assured them Blagojevich would take “some action” on the tax cap bill on Wednesday.

“But we don’t know if that means he plans to veto the bill, use his amendatory veto power or sign it as it is,” another source said.

Many people in government refused even to speak on the record about the crisis for fear of getting caught up in the Blagojevich-Madigan feud.

“These guys will kill you if you if they think you’re coming out for one or criticizing the other,” I was told. “They won’t let any legislation pass that you need. Everything’s a vendetta down in Springfield these days. They don’t care about anything else.”

Yep. Everybody seems to wake up each morning wondering how they’re gonna shaft everyone else. The governor doesn’t want to sign any legislation backed by Speaker Madigan, such as the assessment cap, Jones is going along for the ride, and Madigan is doing his utmost to fight back.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


Gaming still on the table, but future, as always, is doubtful

Tuesday, Sep 18, 2007

* Senate President Emil Jones said yesterday that he plans to call a vote on the capital projects package today. It would be funded with three new casinos

The latest plan reportedly involves placing a land-based casino in Chicago and adding two more riverboat casino licenses at unspecified locations. Also, existing casinos will be allowed to expand their operations.

Money from gaming expansion would allow the state to embark on a multibillion-dollar capital program for roads, bridges, schools, mass transit and other projects.

* But even if it passes the Senate, which is not at all assured yet, the proposal faces a dim future in the House…

“His comments that there is not much support for a big gaming expansion in the House remains unchanged,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said Monday. […]

“I think all four leaders and the governor have to be on the same page for this to work,” [
Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago] said. “I think it’s pretty good (bet) it’s dead on arrival in the House.”

* More on the gaming proposal…

“I don’t think I’d be placing any wagers on it at this time,” said Sen. James DeLeo, D-Chicago.

* The mayor is not yet on board. The Tribune went conservative with its explanation today…

A City Hall source said Mayor Richard Daley has not signed onto the casino package, although he is studying it. The mayor has been open to a land-based casino in Chicago under the right circumstances, including an assurance that the city would get a share of the proceeds that would make hosting a casino worth the trouble. But the mayor has not signed on to any riverboat casinos.

* Still more

State Sen. James Meeks, D-Chicago, said he can’t support a plan that relies on money generated by adding new casinos in the Chicago area.

“I’ve never voted for a gaming bill. So I’m 100 percent sure I won’t be voting for it if that is the solution,” said Meeks. “I think the solution should rest in an income tax increase.”

Complicating the situation are ongoing disagreements between Blagojevich and House Speaker Michael Madigan, who was not included in Monday’s meeting.

“How do you leave out the speaker of the House in this discussion?” Watson asked.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      


Another loan proposed for transit *** Updated x1 ***

Tuesday, Sep 18, 2007

* This mass transit “solution” is ludicrous

Senate President Emil Jones is expected to ask lawmakers Tuesday to back a $24.6 billion capital-improvements plan that would be paid for by a major expansion of gambling, according to lawmakers briefed on the plan.

But Jones surprised Chicago lawmakers by proposing a short-term loan for the Chicago area’s struggling transit system rather than moving forward with a vote on a tax package that would raise $435 million a year for the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace.

The loan would be for $229 million, of which $200 million would go to Chicago-area transit agencies and $29 million to Downstate transit systems, said Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago), Jones’ top budget expert. The agencies last week agreed to take a $91 million cash advance offered by Gov. Rod Blagojevich as a way to postpone what officials at the agencies called “Doomsday” service cuts and fare increases.

Jones is covering for the governor, who opposes the regional sales tax hike. Another loan? Ridiculous. Rep. Hamos had it right…

“It is very difficult for me to believe that the only immediate prospect for transit is a loan,” Hamos said. “As of last week, the transit system had to repay $91 million. It would be irresponsible to add another $200 million on top of that with the expectation that they could somehow pay it back — which we all know they could not.”

* More transit stories, compiled by Paul…

* Illinoize: State’s multi-billion dollar construction plans need safeguarding against politics

* Tribune Editorial: Chicago’s transit ‘disgrace’

* Chicago’s woes could aid Metro East transit

* Bethany Jaegar: All in one…gaming, capital, and mass transit

*** UPDATE *** From the governor’s office…

In response to this talk about a “loan” for transit agencies - it’s not a loan. It’s an advance - if there’s a permanent solution. If there is NOT a permanent solution, they don’t have to the pay the $229 mill back.

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


Morning shorts

Tuesday, Sep 18, 2007

* Cook Co. prosecutors seek to audit firm with ties to the gov

* Undercover blogger gives insider’s view of police dept.

* Opening of abortion clinic in Aurora blocked; more here and here

During a hearing in U.S. District Court on Monday, Planned Parenthood attorney Chris Wilson argued that Aurora was “imposing a different review process … in response to political demands” and the protests that have resulted.

“There is no other objection other than the outcry over abortion services,” Wilson told Judge Charles R. Norgle.

Lance Malina, an attorney representing Aurora, told the judge the city was reviewing possible “material omissions” when Planned Parenthood, identifying itself as Gemini, was going through the permit process. At the conclusion, the city will decide whether an operating permit should be issued.

* SIU won’t appeal ruling on Poshard contract

* Poshard says he did not try to influence poll results

* Zorn: 72 year old judge is right to challenge the age-old practice of mandatory retirement

* Ameren unveils rate relief programs

* Energy firm gets notice for alleged pollution

* Vrdolyak’s lawyers seek to have indictment tossed; more here

* Sneed tidbit: Pssst… Sneed hears rumbles 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti may challenge U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush for his Dem committeeman seat. Hmm.

* Daley implies opposition to Children’s Museum move is racial

* Mayor questions race role in Grant Park debate

* DuPage pushes to hire prosecutors despite budget loss

- Posted by Paul Richardson   33 Comments      


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Tuesday, Sep 18, 2007

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