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this just in…

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

* 4:45 pm - The Senate Dems have come up with their own recall proposal. SJRCA 70 adds judges and local officials to the pool of recallable politicos. That’s considered a poison pill. Senate Exec is meeting at 5:30 to take up the proposal and then the full Senate will reconvene tonight.

Also today, a con amend proposal to do away with the flat rate income tax received just 19 votes in the Senate. And another con amend in the House to change redistricting passed by a large margin.

*** 4:56 pm *** Also in the Senate’s recall proposal is a provision that would tie the Lt Governor’s fate to the guv So if the guv is recalled Pat Quinn would go down with him. Ouch.

*** 5:33 pm *** Oh this is rich. The SDems have attached this con amend to a bill that’s on first reading. Bottom line is even if it passes it’s highly unlikely if not downright impossible to pass this in the House by the final deadline. So this proposal is purely an empty gesture. They get to vote on something that will never be on the ballot.

*** 5:54 pm *** HOLD EVERYTHING *** A spokesman for Speaker Madigan just said that the House is prepared to stay in session to get this Senate constitutional amendment on the ballot if the Senate passes this SJRCA in a timely manner.

In other words, the bluff has been called.

*** 6:18 pm *** LG Quinn just said that this was a “good” proposal.

*** 6:35 pm *** SJRCA 70 Amendment 1 passed SExec 12-1. Pres. jones was the only no. The full Senate will now reconvene and vote on the amendment to the con amendment. tonight tomorrow.

*** 7:07pm *** If this does pass the Senate Thursday, the House apparently will have to pass it “as is.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      

No comment

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

* I just don’t know what to say about this

“Weird Al” Yankovic and Huey Lewis & the News will perform at the 2008 Illinois State Fair, according to the performers’ Web sites, and the Grandstand lineup will be confirmed Thursday.

Yankovic is scheduled to perform Saturday, Aug. 9, and Lewis on Sunday, Aug. 10. The Web sites say only that the performances will be at the fairgrounds, but these probably will be Grandstand shows.

Words fail me.

- Posted by Rich Miller   64 Comments      

Must-See Video

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

* Click on the pic to see how a St. Louis TV reporter learns firsthand the occupational hazards of covering Gov. Rod Blagojevich…

Watch your step, dude.

…Adding… The governor’s office claims Blagojevich took questions from reporters during that St. Louis-area visit for 20 minutes and the above reporter never asked his question.

It still makes me chuckle because I know the feeling the story evokes, even if the piece itself is possibly disingenuous.

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      

Question of the day

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

* As I’ve told you before, the Illinois Constitution lays down no set parameters for impeachment, except that it requires 60 votes in the House. But if someone is impeached they then proceed to an eventual trial in the Senate presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, so there probably ought to be grounds other than the “We don’t need a reason, we just need the votes” argument.

* Question: What do you think ought to be the minimal requirements for impeachment of a governor?

* As a bonus question, should any impeachment occur during a criminal investigation, or should the General Assembly allow those investigations to run their course before acting?

By the way, this is not a question about whether Gov. Blagojevich should or should not be hauled before the House and Senate. It’s about the concept.

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      

Board of Elections site appears to be functioning today *** UPDATED x1 ***

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

* After our often heated and quite wonky critique of the State Board of Elections’ website yesterday, some of the problems appear to have been fixed, at least for now. I played with the site this morning and didn’t get any error messages or timeout warnings. That’s a very good thing. They also seem to have cleaned up the site a bit.

Now, if they would just enable tabbed browsing and add RSS feeds to candidate filings, campaign disclosure reports, etc. they’d be well on their way to entering the 21st Century. :)

No website is perfect. This one certainly isn’t (I still haven’t been able to get swf files to play properly here, which led to temporarily replacing that Auto Alliance ad yesterday with a jpg file). But lots of us rely on the Board of Elections’ site every day, often multiple times a day, and that clunky code was driving many of us up the wall, as the volume of comments showed yesterday.

* Anyway, I thought you might like a chance to thank the Board for quickly addressing some of their most egregious problems and perhaps politely suggest ways to make the site even better.

…Adding… C’mon, people. We all whacked them but good yesterday. A kind word and a helpful suggestion is too much to ask?

*** UPDATE *** Well, I may have spoken too soon. A commenter pointed out that the committee search in the campaign disclosure reports is still broken. I checked and the commenter appears to be half right. If you click the “search” button, the search works. If you just hit “return” on your keyboard, you get this result…

Unable to retreive a list of documents for the specified query:Incorrect syntax near ‘'’. Expected ‘!’, ‘(’, NOT, ISABOUT, FORMSOF, STRING, PREFIX_STRING. SQLSTATE=42000

The site is still better than yesterday - by leaps and bounds - but there are some remaining bugs.

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      

Expensive tastes

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

* Mick Dumke has compiled an astonishing list of Chicago judgement and settlement payouts just since the beginning of this year

$15 million (with another $35 million coming from insurers) to settle suits from the 2003 fire in the Cook County Administration building that left six people dead;

$12 million dispersed to victims of the Daley administration’s patronage system;

$11 million to pay off a Millennium Park contractor fired several years ago for not working fast enough;

$13 million so far to victims of abuse under former police Commander Jon Burge;

$2.7 million in January to settle various suits over police misconduct, traffic accidents, and citizens’ “animal loss.”

In case you lost count, that’s $53.7 million just this year. The total judgments and settlements for all of last year was $47 million. In 2006, the total was $49 million. And in 2005 it was $34 million.

Chicago is on a roll, baby, and nothing changes

Sneed has learned Ald. Ed Burke plans to introduce a City Council ordinance demanding the mandatory sterilization of any dog or cat over 6 months old living in Chicago.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      

Gloom and doom

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

* The problem

[Illinois] State government collected just less than $9 million in horse racing tax revenue last year. That’s down 14 percent from 2006 and only a fraction of the $40-plus million a year collected throughout the 1990s.

* A proposed solution…

It’s actually unclear whether Internet betting is illegal under Illinois law, but tracks aren’t willing to press their luck because a 2000 attorney general opinion noted state law doesn’t expressly authorize it.

Now some lawmakers are trying to help Arlington and other tracks by setting up a licensing system for [advance deposit wagering] vendors, with profit-sharing guidelines to keep more betting money in Illinois and ensure owners, horsemen and the state get their share.

“It’s not something that we love to see, but we have no choice but to get it for our tracks,” said Rep. Bob Molaro, the Chicago Democrat pushing the idea in the House. “We have to do this to survive.”

* This idea has been shot down before, and the horsemen aren’t thrilled with it…

Steve Brubaker of the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association said his members worry the new betting system might not bring in new patrons and could let track owners take even more purse money at horsemen’s expense.

* And the proposal is coming at a time of extreme legislative gridlock

At the beginning of the year, Republicans and Democrats alike talked highly of spending $25 billion to fix roads, bridges and schools, as well as put thousands to work.

But as April comes to an end and lawmakers are scheduled to have a state budget done by the end of May, some have seen that optimism diminish.

‘’I don’t feel as good now as when I first came in,'’ state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, said of the prospects of such a plan.

State Rep. Patrick Verschoore, D-Milan, said he felt good in January about the chances to get construction money. But the past several months have brought more infighting among Democrats who control state government and have the most power to shape such a plan.

* And

Illinois won’t have passed a budget by the end of May, state Sen. Dan Rutherford predicted today to a Pontiac audience… No capital-improvements bill will be passed by the General Assembly, he also predicted.

* But there are lots of pressures on lawmakers to at least try and get something done. For instance

The Lawrence County Soil & Water Conservation District closes its doors today, “The district will continue to operate as a Soil & Water Conservation district but will have no staff available to work with landowners,” says Rich Nichols, the executive director of the Associatio of Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

Nichols says there are already waiting lists for programs those districts provide, “Which means we anticipate there’ll be quite a bit of federal money returned. It just will not be able to be spend.”

So, your guess is as good as mine. Go ahead an make your guesses in comments.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      

We need something better

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

* This is yet another good reason to hold a constitutional convention. The completely bungled legislative redistricting language in the current document…

The framers of the 1970 Illinois Constitution thought they had devised a way to force bipartisanship on the contentious issue of redrawing legislative district maps every 10 years. If the governor and General Assembly couldn’t agree on a map, the job would fall to an eight-member commission of four Democrats and four Republicans.

Except it never worked out that way. In the 1981, 1991 and 2001 remap efforts, both parties decided to play “chicken” instead of working out a deal. They allowed a drawing to determine which side would draw the maps.

* As the editorial notes, there is a constitutional amendment in the hopper right now to address this issue…

The amendment, sponsored by James Brosnahan, D-Evergreen Park, would do away with the lottery as a tiebreaker. If the legislature is unable to reach a compromise, the job would go to a special master or masters appointed by the chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court and a justice from the other political party.

But why allow the incuments to draw their maps in the first place? Even if this does encourage bipartisan compromise, that means even more incumbent protections. The maps should be drawn by computer, like Iowa does, and we wouldn’t have goofy-looking districts intended to keep people in power.

Look at Iowa’s maps. Now, look at Illinois‘.

* More Con-Con stuff…

* Con Con Considerations: Party Affiliation

* Income tax vote expected

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      

Impeach, ethics and Campaign 2010

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

* We’re not sayin’, we’re just sayin’

Impeachment, rather than recall, would be the better option to pursue if people think that Gov. Rod Blagojevich should be ousted from office, two Democratic state senators said Monday.

Sens. Mike Frerichs of Gifford and Kwame Raoul of Chicago made it clear, though, that they’re not saying the governor ought to be impeached.

“If you have a problem and if it has to do with dereliction of duty, you know, that (impeachment) is the route to take,” Raoul said.

* Meanwhile, the great game continues on the ethics bill

Illinois lawmakers are close to an agreement to outlaw “pay-to-play” politics — an agreement that may include an unusual public vow that the Legislature will override any attempt by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to change the bill.

A Blagojevich spokeswoman hinted on Monday that the governor might, in fact, change the bill by “amendatorily” vetoing it. The governor says it doesn’t go far enough — a stance his critics allege is designed to prevent any reform at all from passing. […]

“I want a public statement from Senate leadership that there will be … an override of any veto of the bill,” said Fritchey, who believes Blagojevich may use his amendatory veto powers to stall the reforms.

Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, the lead Senate negotiator on the issue, confirmed that the negotiations included a “mutual understanding” on how to respond to a gubernatorial veto.

It’s not difficult to understand why Fritchey would want such a public vow. The broken promise on last year’s budget deal has completed poisoned the Statehouse waters, and those who believe that Senate President Emil Jones would just go along with the governor again and not override a veto - which would kill the bill - are well within their rights.

* Speaking of ethics, this press release just landed in my in-box…

A university professor who aced an ethics test has won a legal battle with state officials who wanted him punished for completing the written exam too quickly.

A settlement agreement has been reached between the state and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIUC) professor, Marvin Zeman… The settlement agreement states that Zeman and Wallis read and understood the material and successfully passed the test when they originally took it in 2006.

What a stupid thing to punish college professors for understanding the ethics materials too well.

* Comptroller Dan Hynes is keeping up the drumbeat

“For a long time, this state has been without effective leadership out of the executive office. Now, at the worst time possible, we have an administration that is retrenched and in hiding. Our deficit is growing, our bills are mounting, our roads are crumbling, hospitals are closing, revenues are disappearing and our governor is hiding,” Hynes said.

* My intern asked me yesterday when the 2010 campaign would kick off. I said it already has. Petition filing for the primary begins in something like 16 months. Hence, the Hynes statewide tour and, possibly, Paul Vallas’ return visit to Chicago

Illinois Democrats are already looking past Gov. Rod Blagojevich and to the future. Paul Vallas, who lost to Blagojevich by a scant 21,000 votes in 2002, is back.

As CBS 2 Political Editor Mike Flannery reports, Vallas looks like he’s getting ready to run again.

A standing ovation greeted Vallas Monday at a City Club luncheon. The former chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools, who now runs the system in New Orleans, used the forum to send the strongest signals yet that he wants to replace Blagojevich as governor of Illinois.

Vallas told the crowd he plans to work in New Orleans only one more year. He said he’s now a commuter, and that he and his wife, Sharon, moved with their children to a home in the southwest suburbs last summer.

He’ll be starting with a very big disadvantage if he waits until next May to begin campaigning and raising the big bucks. There are reports floating around that he wants to the education job if Obama wins the presidency, and this is his way of putting pressure on Obama, who would likely support Alexi Giannoulias for the governor’s job.

* More reform and renewal…

* Vallas re-run would be a mistake

* ‘Fitzgerald would be terminated’

* Witness: Hastert linked to alleged plot to dump Fitzgerald

* Hastert’s Name Comes Up in Rezko Trial

* Hastert Named In Alleged Scheme To Oust Fitzgerald

* Second witness refers to hint of Fitzgerald ouster

* Witness: Rezko said ‘Fitzgerald would be eliminated’

* Rezko Quoted As Saying Prosecutor Would Be Replaced

* Obama to donate funds received from Rezko friend

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      

Morning Shorts

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

* FEMA turns down Illinois’ plea for disaster aid

The federal government has denied Illinois’ request for assistance for people and businesses in 15 Southern Illinois counties affected by severe flooding last month, state Emergency Management Agency Director Andrew Velasquez III said Monday.

“It’s very disappointing that FEMA failed to recognize the devastating impact this flood had on so many lives in Southern Illinois,” Velasquez said.

* Potholes are so bad that IDOT must pay for outside help with repairs

* NIU president offers 3 options for Cole Hall future

All the options would take about two years to implement. Peters said if state funding is obtained this year, reopening of a renovated Cole Hall could occur in fall 2010.

* Illinois giving colleges $3.5 million for scholarships

* Treasurer secures college funds

* With justices’ OK, voter ID moves ahead

* Neuter news

To wit: Sneed has learned Ald. Ed Burke plans to introduce a City Council ordinance demanding the mandatory sterilization of any dog or cat over 6 months old living in Chicago.

* A Wrigley still in charge– for now

* What Wrigley and Mars might accomplish together

* ‘It’s a little sad,’ but sale won’t hurt Chicago

* Buffett helps unite storied family firms

* Wrigley timeline

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   8 Comments      

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Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

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* Happy Thanksgiving!
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Five unanswered questions
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Question of the day
* Caption contest!
* Crossing the line
* Moody's warns Illinois
* The Credit Union Difference
* *** UPDATED x1 - Franks responds *** Uh-oh
* Then and now
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