* 3:46 pm - Gov. Blagojevich is expected to be in Harrisburg, Illinois tomorrow to announce the move of about 150 IDOT jobs from Springfield to that far southern Illinois community.
SIU has reportedly done an economic impact statement that shows as many as a hundred spin-off jobs could be created in the area. Southeastern Illinois College Foundation will be partnering with IDOT in the move.
Harrisburg is in Sen. Gary Forby’s district, as well as Rep. Brandon Phelps’ district.
Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, said he was notified Thursday afternoon of Blagojevich’s appearance. He said IDOT is planning to move the division into a former Wal-Mart building that’s been converted to office use. The building is owned by the Southeastern Illinois Community College Foundation, Phelps said.
GOP grrr: Sneed hears there’s trouble brewing in the Republican caucus.
• • The great chagrin: Word is caucus member/state Sen. Christine Radogno (R-Lemont), who lost her bid for state treasurer to Alexi Giannoulias, is making moves to run for governor.
• • Headache heaven: State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) has already announced he’s running. It ought to make for interesting gruff sessions in the fishbowl caucus of 22 members.
* The Question: We’ve had some fun here at the blog speculating on a Gubernatorial run by Bill Daley. What do you think the chances are that Sen. Radogno runs? What do you think the chances are of her winning the primary?
* Lisa Madigan has been getting a lot of press over a new lawsuit against Countrywide Financial. The suit shows how Illinois residents have suffered, and has attracted national attention as an overall critique of companies who have helped to spur the mortgage crisis:
The lawsuit offers a comprehensive look at how the company allegedly ripped off homeowners by pushing them into loans they couldn’t afford while not telling them what they were getting into.
One Countrywide customer in Illinois, a 64-year-old widow on a fixed income, was paying about $300 a month on her mortgage. After Countrywide refinanced her loan, her payments shot up to $800 a month, the lawsuit says.
Nor was Countrywide straightforward about loan terms, the lawsuit alleges. Details were in tiny type, and consumers who actually read footnotes were at times referred to footnotes of footnotes.
Madigan says Countrywide should pay back borrowers who lost their homes, and she’s also asking a court for a temporary stay on new foreclosures.
The Chicago area had the most subprime loans of any metropolitan area in the country, according to a 2006 study by the Chicago Reporter, an investigative magazine. And Countrywide held more of those loans than any other lender. The Chicago area also has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country.
The attorney general also says her office has received more than 200 complaints about the company since 2005.
In early 2007, the company issued nearly $8 billion in risky subprime loans, which generally are given to borrowers with poorer credit histories and lower incomes than those given standard loans.
* You can view the Attorney General’s complaint here.
Whatever the results of the suit are, I’m sure that Madigan will continue to receive accolades from angry Illinoisans for trying to hold companies accountable for the mortgage mess.
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration is escalating its public-relations blitz for more state budget money, pressing legislators directly and through the media to approve $1.5 billion in new revenue sources –- and warning that everything from Amtrak riders to AIDS patients will suffer debilitating budget cuts if they don’t.
“The House . . . (should) come back and finish what they started,’’ Deputy Gov. Bob Greenlee said today in a conference call with the Post-Dispatch editorial page. It was one of several such meetings administration officials are conducting this week around the state with newspapers, social agency heads and lawmakers themselves, in an attempt to pressure the Legislature into providing more money to the budget.
In newspaper meetings, and in an unusual mass conference call with lawmakers yesterday, Greenlee pressed House Dems to rethink their opposition to those revenue sources.
The administration has listed numerous potential cuts in areas like transit, health care, and education that he’s poised to make if the revenue sources aren’t approved early next month. And it looks like many in the media are eating it up…
Joe Szabo, with the United Transportation Union, said the $28 million subsidy being threatened by Gov. Rod Blagojevich if revenue streams for the state’s FY09 budget aren’t delivered would wipe out all but the City of New Orleans train, which only arrives in Carbondale from the Louisiana city in the early hours of the morning.
All spring, the Illinois House rejected those ideas. The House then adjourned having passed plenty of new spending bills but none of the governor’s proposed revenue bills. It sent the governor a budget he claims is $2 billion out of balance. As promised, the governor this week released a list of cuts he plans to make to the budget. Unless, of course, the House changes its mind and passes all the things it rejected all spring.
THAT IS not going to happen, and that’s why we believe the only solution begins with the governor ordering the General Assembly back to Springfield for a special session.
* Rep. Washington, who participated in a conference call with other legislators and the governor’s office on Wednesday, jumped in the mix saying thats he’s leaning toward a vote on funding before the July 9 deadline:
“They’re reeling us in over Madigan’s objections,” he said. “They’re trying to weaken his leadership in the House and break the unity of the House. The speaker should really consider letting the proposal (seven bills proposed to offset the deficit) come to the floor and letting it fall or rise on its own merits.”
“I don’t think he’s capable of that,” said Righter, R-Mattoon. “He’s had six years to demonstrate he can be prudent with state money. Unfortunately, what he has done is demonstrate an eagerness to cut the budget in smaller areas that are particularly sensitive to downstate Illinois.”
“He goes after these popular programs to strike fear into people,” said state Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan. “He’s blaming the House, but we passed a barebones budget and there were even some modest increases in the barebones one.”
The question is, who blinks first in this game of chicken?
*** UPDATE *** The Governor plans on announcing a $14 million, statewide summer-jobs program today for 10,000 teens and young adults in violence-prone neighborhoods.
Steve Brown, a spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, quipped:
“He made the statement . . . about approving this budget would be like signing a bad check. How can a man make that statement and 48 hours later announce a new spending program?”
* It makes a doomsday scenario of deep budget cuts a little harder to swallow when you roll out a new $14 million dollar summer-jobs program for teens…
*** 10:16 am *** This may get lost in the shuffle because of the gun ruling, but it could greatly impact congressional and US Senate races throughout the country…
The Supreme Court has struck down the “millionaire’s amendment” as an unfair way to help opponents of wealthy candidates who spend from their personal fortunes.
The law allows candidates to receive larger contributions when their wealthy opponents spend heavily from their personal fortunes.
The court says by a 5-4 vote that the law violates the First Amendment.
The law was challenged by Jack Davis, a New York Democrat who has so far spent nearly $4 million of his own money in two losing campaigns for Congress and says he will spend another $3 million this year.
This Court has never upheld the constitutionality of a law that imposes
different contribution limits for candidates competing against each other, and it agrees with Davis that this scheme impermissibly burdens his First Amendment right to spend his own money for campaign speech… While BCRA does not impose a cap on a
candidate’s expenditure of personal funds, it imposes an unprecedented penalty on any candidate who robustly exercises that First Amendment right, requiring him to choose between the right to engage in unfettered political speech and subjection to discriminatory fundraising limitations. The resulting drag on First Amendment rights is not constitutional simply because it attaches as a consequence of a statutorily imposed choice.
*** 10:43 am *** And here’s the Court’s message to Congress…
If the normally applicable limits on individual contributions and coordinated party contributions are seriously distorting the electoral process, if they are feeding a “public perception that wealthy people can buy seats in Congress,” and if those limits are not needed in order to combat corruption, then the obvious remedy is to raise or eliminate those limits. But the unprecedented step of imposing different contribution and coordinated party expenditure limits on candidates vying for the same seat is antithetical to the First Amendment.
Chicago’s handgun ban, which has lasted for more than a quarter-century, came under threat Thursday when the Supreme Court decided that Washington D.C.’s law against handgun ownership is unconstitutional.
In a 5-4 decision, the high court determined that Americans have the right to own guns for self-defense as well as hunting. The decision, which had been expected, is a win for gun rights advocates and provides a better definition of the rights of Americans to own firearms.
Illinois gun-rights activists have said they expect to mount a quick legal challenge to the Chicago Weapons Ordinance.
It was the first time in nearly 70 years that the court had taken up broad questions about the 2nd Amendment’s protections of the right to bear arms. The city of Chicago, which has had its own ban on handgun ownership since 1982, had filed a brief with the court in support of the ban in January.
Justice Scalia’s opinion stressed that the Court was not casting doubt on long-standing bans on carrying a concealed gun or on gun possession by felons or the mentally retarded, on laws barring guns from schools or government buildings, and laws putting conditions on gun sales.
The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home […]
The handgun ban and the trigger-lock requirement (as applied to self-defense) violate the Second Amendment. The District’s total ban on handgun possession in the home amounts to a prohibition on an entire class of “arms” that Americans overwhelmingly choose for the lawful purpose of self-defense. Under any of the standards of scrutiny the Court has applied to enumerated constitutional rights, this prohibition—in the place where the importance of the lawful defense of self, family, and property is most acute—would fail constitutional muster. Similarly, the requirement that any lawful firearm in the home be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock makes it impossible for citizens to use arms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense and is hence unconstitutional.”
Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.
* Doesn’t this look a lot like legislating from the bench?
It is no answer to say, as petitioners do, that it is permissible to ban the possession of handguns so long as the possession of other firearms (i.e., long guns) is allowed. It is enough to note, as we have observed, that the American people have considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon. There are many reasons that a citizen may prefer a handgun for home defense: It is easier to store in a location that is readily accessible in an emergency; it cannot easily be redirected or wrestled away by an attacker; it is easier to use for those without the upperbody strength to lift and aim a long gun; it can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police. Whatever the reason, handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, and a complete prohibition of their use is invalid.
An angry Mayor Richard Daley on Thursday called the Supreme Court’s overturning of the Washington D.C. gun ban “a very frightening decision” and vowed to fight vigorously any challenges to Chicago’s ban.
*** 3:16 pm *** From the Illinois State Rifle Association home page…
The Illinois State Rifle Association, together with Second Amendment Foundation and several individual plaintiffs, filed suit against the City of Chicago in federal court this morning at 9:15 CDT. More information will be made available in a statement from the attorneys tomorrow.
The program will demonstrate a “commitment to climate action,” said bid leader Patrick Ryan, who announced the initiative. “We know, for example, that Tokyo is going to be emphasizing the environment very significantly, but we don’t think they will have any more commitment to it than we do.”
During the five-year period of the study, teachers at schools with the state’s highest poverty levels made the greatest gains in academic capital, narrowing by 27 percent the gap between Chicago and the east central region of the state, where the educators with the highest academic index teach.
The gains were largely a result of hiring inexperienced teachers with stronger academic backgrounds, the study found.
State Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-33d) of Park Ridge attended. His bill helped fund the program.
Physicians at Wednesday’s press conference explained that new state of the art equipment recently brought online at the hospital is helping doctors tell the difference between PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.
The attorney general’s Civil Rights Bureau has informed Joliet officials that it has received a complaint alleging discrimination in the hiring of patrol officers and firefighters. City officials said they do not know the origin of the complaint, and an attorney general spokeswoman could not be reached Thursday for comment.
There were questions about the legality of the dual roles. According to Illinois law, “No member of the board shall have any interest in any brokerage fee, commission or other profit or gain arising out of any investment made by the board.”
* 12:10 pm - AFSCME invokes contract mediation. Via press release, AFSCME Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer…
“On Monday, thousands of state employees rallied at the capitol. They made clear that they can’t afford the drastic increases in health care costs the governor is trying to force on them.
“After the rally we were able to make some progress at the bargaining table. […]
“Even so, the differences between the parties are still very substantial. The governor’s representatives are still pushing proposals that would make health care unaffordable for many state employees and their families.
“As a result, AFSCME has invoked its right under labor law to request the participation of a mediator, and the parties have agreed to extend the current contract that was set to expire June 30. The existing contract will remain in place through the first mediation session.”
The next step is the union and the governor’s office have to agree on the specific mediator. A union spokesperson said he was confident that will be accomplished.
* 12:57 pm - Maybe Gov. Blagojevich and Jim Thompson could scheme to buy this for the state instead of that dilapidated old Tribune ballpark…
Tribune Tower is in play.
Tribune Co. Chairman Sam Zell told staff today the company is in discussions with “a number of real estate firms” to determine how to generate the most value from the neo-Gothic Michigan Avenue home of the flagship Chicago Tribune, an iconic bookend of the city’s Magnificent Mile.
Bill Daley is apparently looking to scratch his life-long political itch. He’s sounding out Democrats and big-time fundraisers about the 2010 race, as first disclosed by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Rich Miller in his “Capitol Fax” newsletter.
“It’s something he’s seriously considering,” said a source familiar with the discussions. Bill Daley bowed out in 2002 because, “His kids didn’t want him to do it. They’re more supportive now,” the source said.
The political landscape has changed a lot, too, since 2002. Federal investigators are swarming all over the Blagojevich administration; the governor’s former fund-raiser Tony Rezko is a convicted felon, and Mell now is estranged from his son-in-law.
Mayor Daley and Blagojevich have spent the last six years clashing over everything from education and CTA funding to casino gambling and business taxes.
I’ve talked to Daley twice in the past week, and I’m willing to take him at his word when he repeatedly insists that he has zero interest in the US Senate or any other position. This is, he says, the only job he’s looking at - a capstone to a long political and business career.
* The question: What do you think the odds are that Bill Daley actually runs for governor?
Blagojevich doesn’t want to cut $2 billion, of course. He wants the legislature to pass some Band-Aid revenue measures to pay for most of the $29.7 billion in spending they approved without fully funding. A $16 billion pension bond issue would shore up state retirement funds and let them divert $400 million to help balance the budget. A $33 billion public works bill would cut loose $600 million. He also wants to skim about $530 million from several restricted funds.
In other words, a lot more gimmickry to get through another year.
Blagojevich’s alternatives have loads of problems. He wants the legislature to pass a massive gambling bill—read: three more casinos—that he’s hardly made an effort to explain to voters. He wants to borrow billions for pensions—but won’t do anything to curb pension costs. […]
Blagojevich is betting Madigan will find those cuts unacceptable. We’re betting Madigan won’t. The best way to find out is to stop playing blame games and use the veto pen to cut the budget.
If it turns out lawmakers are serious about living within their means, so be it. If they don’t like the cuts, they can figure out how to restore them. But they can’t get started if everything’s on hold till July 9. No more news conferences, Governor. Do your job.
That last graf has the salient point. He hasn’t made the cuts yet. Right now, all we have is a press release and a bunch of threats. The House and Senate have not yet sent him the budget bills, but that will happen soon. Will he really pull the trigger on all those cuts? As I reminded my subscribers this morning, he didn’t cut 4-H this spring after threatening to decimate the program. He’s playing “chicken,” and it’s time to just get it over with.
The governor, however, does not want to end up wearing the jacket for unpopular budget cuts. To that end, Blagojevich said he would “protect” school spending and suggested the cuts could be avoided if the House would “take an afternoon” to reconvene and approve a new balanced budget.
He’s “protecting” school spending because Senate President Emil Jones demanded it. He can’t lose Jones’ alliance. But that means a whole lot of other stuff will get cut to protect education’s $400 million increase.
As for making Madigan wear the jacket, Madigan has encouraged the guv to cut away, so that makes the job easier. Still, Blagojevich is the governor. The governor always wears the jacket, regardless of who else may be at fault.
Seriously, we have a five-month session which produces a claimed $2 billion deficit and the governor wants to put all the blame on someone else? Ever hear of leadership?
Madigan should reconsider at least one of those [revenue generating] bills, the so-called fund sweeps bill. This is a relatively noncontroversial bill, which could generate as much as $530 million toward ending that $2 billion deficit. Madigan should let this bill move forward — to help reduce the deficit and to show he can do more than just cast stones.
It may be noncontroversial to the Sn-Times, but it doesn’t have 71 House votes.
The stage has been set for another long, hot summer in Springfield.
The only way the General Assembly returns for a “long, hot summer” is if Blagojevich crosses Senate President Jones. And if that happens the Statehouse summer session won’t be long, but it will be hot.
In fact, what yesterday’s press conference may signal is the end of the spring session, rather than the beginning of a summer session.
* DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett is apparently using the Barack Obama campaign to build his network in advance of a possible 2010 gubernatorial bid. Obama was in Las Vegas on Monday, and Birkett was featured in a GOP conference call..
Birkett, a former Republican candidate for governor in Illinois, raised doubts about Obama’s judgment based on a 2005 real estate deal with the wife of Tony Rezko, a Chicago-based political fundraiser and real estate developer who was convicted earlier this month of sixteen federal counts of bribery, fraud and money laundering.
Birkett said it was “more than bone-headed” for Obama to purchase a house in Chicago the same day Rezko’s wife purchased an adjoining lot, and that Americans should question “whether or not [Obama] has the kind of judgment to be the president of the United States.” […]
“Obviously, one of the things I do not do is speculate about criminal activity,” said Birkett. “However, I can tell you this, that oftentimes we have seen during the course of the last several years in Illinois where public officials are having things done for them privately that do in fact turn out to be related to some deal, some quid pro quo.”
Birkett quickly added that he was “not aware of any quid pro quo and certainly would not accuse Sen. Obama of that.”
Some of that is just obvious crud, but I’m more interested with how Birkett is using Obama to bolster his own party cred.
* Republican US Sen. Gordon Smith has a far different approach to Obama, which may be adopted here by some of the more vulnerable incumbent Republicans…
“Who says Gordon Smith helped lead the fight for better gas mileage and a cleaner environment? Barack Obama! He joined with Gordon and broke through a 20-year deadlock to pass new laws which increase gas mileage for automobiles.”
Four years ago, Republican Illinois state Rep. Beth Coulson had Obama all over her literature, and you can expect quite a bit of that again.
I don’t know whether I have a point here, but it is interesting to see how Obama is impacting GOP races. Thoughts?
* There’s little doubt that House Speaker Michael Madigan’s control of the Democratic Party of Illinois has been more about power and saving money on postage for his House candidates. During the last cycle, there were lots of grumbled complaints that no coordinated campaign was in place to help congressional candidates. And Madigan is the only state party chairman in the country to refuse Democratic National Committee field staff.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a figurehead among Illinois Democrats, is working to build his own Illinois voter database — a “voter file” distinct from the party’s central voter file, which is controlled by House Speaker Michael Madigan’s political organizations — as well as a new layer of the party’s grass-roots operation. […]
“Under Speaker Madigan, (the Illinois Democratic Party) really has focused on the House, particularly,” Durbin said.
* Durbin is working with the Democratic County Chairmen’s Association, which is beyond Madigan’s direct control. The chairman of the association, Alan Pirtle, is allied with Rep. Jay Hoffman, Gov. Blagojevich’s House floor leader.
As mentioned above, one of the initial tasks is creating a new “voter file”…
The state party’s own voter database, known as the “voter file,” has been developed and maintained by Madigan’s personal campaign committee, Friends of Michael J. Madigan, since the early 1980s, Brown said. The database contains layers of information including voting history and demographics to help candidates identify potential voters. […]
[Brown] said candidates can gain access to [the voter file] for a fee, and who can gain access to the file is made on a “case-by-case basis.”
* “Bored Now,” a regular commenter here, explains…
What Durbin has done is to make Votebuilder (also known as The Van) available in Illinois. Durbin correctly points out that Votebuilder is available “across the count[r]y.” elsewhere, the state parties have partnered with the DNC to bring it to their states. The Van was also the basis for both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s databases. It had been previously available in Illinois through resolute consulting and was used in 2006 by Congressional candidates like Dan Seals. others may remember van through efforts in 2004 on behalf of John Kerry through act and the America votes coalition. it was one of several attempts by Democrats to duplicate the success Republicans have had with the voter vault.
The Van is also the basis for the DNC’s neighborhood volunteer program. What is interesting about this effort is that the national party is giving people access to their database at a local level for voter contact. The information gathered by these efforts gets folded back into the database for future use by democrats running at all levels.
* Durbin has played a role in several local and congressional elections over the past few years. He has been heavily involved in helping turn Will County from “red to blue,” for instance.
Durbin is not a particularly threatening figure in the Democratic Party, so there’s never been much of a push-back from Madigan when he’s done local party building efforts. But controlling that voter file is a big thing for Madigan. Information is power, even if the system he’s using is out of date…
If you’ve ever worked with Madigan’s database, you know that it is fairly ancient is both design and user-friendliness, and the backend is limited, at best, to simple variables limited to (primarily) public data. But it has been the only game in town, and its success was largely due to the fact that it had no competition.
Some regional education staff for Adams and Pike counties got day spa treatments worth around $150 each as “performance incentives.” Others got $1,500 “mileage bonuses” that had nothing to do with mileage.
“Anything is possible,” said Jerold Gruebel, president and CEO of West Central Illinois Educational Telecommunications Corp., which operates three public television stations, including WSEC-TV in Springfield. “We have a cash-flow crisis. It’s a real test of fortitude.”
In this challenging economy, absolutely it’s important for Illinois to watch the bottom line. But the governor must be careful not to nickel-and-dime DNR patrons to the point that the public no longer wishes to use its public parks. That would defeat the purpose of having them. We trust that’s not the intent.
“Countrywide’s conduct has contributed to the high number of foreclosures in Illinois and caused significant harm to the public, the market, and scores of Illinois borrowers and homeowners,” according to a draft of the lawsuit provided by Madigan’s office Tuesday.
The alderman said he’s concerned about precedent. A mid-rise building could become an excuse for taller projects. “We’ve got to be careful that 25 years from now the charm of Wrigley Field still includes a neighborhood,” Tunney said.
The process is always confusing, but this year, several commissioners said it was nearly impossible because President Todd H. Stroger’s budget department has yet to release the final 2008 budget, more than six months into the budget year.
Johnathan Goldman, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council, said spending less money on fuel would create jobs by putting more money into people’s pockets and that individual measures, such as recycling, using compact fluorescent bulbs and driving a fuel-efficient car are not enough.
Emanuel says his policy pursuits have one unifying theme: “globalization and its impact on the standard of living of the American people, and how do you put together a set of policies that make it better?”