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Thursday, Jul 31, 2008

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This just in… Gaming “off the table” *** $100 million raid on GRF *** Pork suit filed *** No special session announcement yet *** Guv hasn’t spoken to Daley since July 7th ***

Thursday, Jul 31, 2008

*** 3:24 pm *** The governor said today that the last time he talked to Mayor Daley was during Chicago police officer Richard Francis’ funeral, which was July 7th. That was nine days before the governor suggested he might call out the National Guard to stem the “out of control” violence in the city.

The governor said he called Daley to discuss his National Guard proposal, but as I told subscribers this morning, that call has not yet been returned.

*** 2:33 pm *** A spokesperson for the governor just said that the governor wants to take a couple of days to decide whether to call a special session. More in tomorrow’s Capitol Fax unless something breaks publicly before then.

*** 2:03 pm *** Read the governor’s press release on the “compromise” capital plan by clicking here.

*** 1:57 pm *** From the SJ-R

Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Illinois Senate President Emil Jones are the targets of separate lawsuits filed today in Sangamon County court by a group that claims the two officials are keeping secret information about pork-barrel spending.

The Washington, D.C.,-based Judicial Watch wants Blagojevich and Jones to release information about how lump-sum member-initiative funds are being spent. […]

No lawsuit has been filed against the Illinois House of Representatives because that chamber has provided information about member-initiative spending, Calomino said.

Read the lawsuit against Blagojevich here, and the suit against Jones here.

*** 1:49 pm *** The governor has finished speaking. No mention of a special session. I figure we’ll get a press release about it eventually. They have a “compromise” plan, now they have to make Madigan look bad for rejecting it. How could they do that without a special? The only thing that would stop him from calling a special session would be Senate President Jones.

*** 1:35 pm *** Gov. Blagojevich: “Speaker Madigan is not here again. Instead he has sent his minions.”

Helpful.

*** 1:24 pm *** Senate President Emil Jones: “Let the bridges fall and the schools crumble. All they will do is sit and criticize.”

“They,” of course, are the House Democrats.

*** 1:17 pm *** The proposed “compromise” capital plan will now total $25 billion, according to a legislative spokesperson.

*** The Lottery lease, Road Fund money and “excess” revenues from the gasoline sales tax will be used to fund the proposal, as I outlined to subscribers this morning.

*** That gasoline sales tax raid is gonna cause some problems. This is a $200 $100 million skim out of the General Revenue Fund (gas sales tax goes to GRF, gas tax, which is based on gallonage, goes to Road Fund). The governor just whacked $1.4 billion out of the GRF and now he wants to deprive it of an additional $100 million. Plus, what happens if gas prices continue to decline and he has to find the rest of that $100 million elsewhere in GRF?

*** 1:11 pm *** House Majority Leader Barb Currie just told reporters that the governor merely suggested that he would put the pay to play bill into the mix if the General Assembly approves the capital bill. She said the guv should sign it before any action is taken on capital.

*** Rep. Currie also said the Lottery lease was never a good idea, putting this proposed “compromise” in serious doubt. The Lottery and a couple of other smallish things will fund the capital projects package, now that gaming is off the table.

*** 1:02 pm *** Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson just told reporters that Gov. Blagojevich has agreed to put the pay to play ethics bill into the mix with the capital bill. Not sure yet whether he is actually threatening to veto it if he doesn’t get the capital bill or what. More in a bit.

*** Sen. Watson also told reporters that all gaming expansion is off the table as a funding mechanism for the capital plan. Not a huge surprise.

*** Leader Watson also claimed that a special session was not discussed during the leaders meeting.

* 12:52 pm -Subscribers know I had a brief piece this morning about the current lack of communication between Gov. Blagojevich and Mayor Daley. I’m hearing that CBS 2 has done some more snooping around and will run a story about it this evening.

* 12:24 pm - From the AP

House Republican leader Tom Cross says Governor Rod Blagojevich and House speaker Michael Madigan need a “super timeout” to mend their fractured relationship.

Madigan skipped another meeting Thursday with Blagojevich and top legislative leaders who are talking about a compromise to get a statewide construction program passed to repair Illinois’ infrastructure.

* 11:10 am - Kevin is at the Thompson Center awaiting word on the leaders meeting. While you wait, perhaps you can chew on this…

Comptroller Dan Hynes is hitting the road

GALESBURG - State Comptroller Dan Hynes said Wednesday that although he hopes his two-week, 18-city trip will persuade Gov. Rod Blagojevich to sign House Bill 824, ending so-called “pay-to-play” politics in Illinois, he’s not confident the governor plans to sign the bill as is. […]

“It’s been nine straight years of corruption in state government,” Hynes said. “That, I think, has fed this strong desire for reform. I think if there is one issue most problematic, it is this pay-to-play issue.”

* But then Hynes appeared to contradict himself. All that corruption should be brushed aside and the problems with the governor’s lack of truthfulness should somehow be magically overcome…

Of the Legislature, he said, “They just do not trust this governor. I think they have reason not to trust him. I don’t trust him, but you have to get past that.” […]

“Distrust can’t be used as an excuse,” he said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


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Thursday, Jul 31, 2008

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Question of the day

Thursday, Jul 31, 2008

* The setup

…some state officials, including Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, have spoken out in support of a new bill that would ban using a wireless device while crossing streets. […]

The Illinois General Assembly bill, also known as HB 4520, was introduced in January by Rep. Ken Dunkin (D- Chicago), who then insisted: “This legislation is not laughable. On the surface it’s like, ‘Oh wow, what is this?’ But it’s becoming more and more of a common problem with people haplessly crossing an intersection and almost killing themselves.”

Under the proposed law, Illinois residents would get slapped with a misdemeanor and a $25 fine if caught using a cell phone or other wireless device while traversing streets.

* The question: Do you support or oppose this proposed texting while walking ban? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   53 Comments      


Biggert claims huge lead

Thursday, Jul 31, 2008

* Two events have helped create a minor buzz about Republican Congresscritter Judy Biggert’s reelection chances. First, Biggert’s Democratic opponent Scott Harper raised almost as much as she did in the recent reporting quarter. Then, CQ Politics made a minor adjustment to her ranking

• Illinois’ 13th (New Rating: Republican Favored. Previous Rating: Safe Republican). Republican Rep. Judy Biggert , who has centrist GOP leanings, has been very politically secure in a mostly Republican-leaning district that includes Naperville, Bolingbrook and other suburbs southwest of Chicago.

But she may need to keep an eye on Democratic businessman Scott Harper, who already has raised more money than 2006 Democratic nominee Joseph Shannon, who won 42 percent of the vote in what was the best showing by a Democrat against Biggert in her five terms. Harper’s campaign is serious enough that he’s attracted contributions from Illinois Sen. Richard J. Durbin and Rep. Jan Schakowsky.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the political arm of House Democrats, hasn’t included Illinois’ 13th on its lists of highly competitive Republican-held districts, and Biggert still is strongly favored. But this a race to keep an eye on for signs of increased competitiveness.

That last graf is the most important. CQ is just saying that the race might be tighter than first thought.

* And now, Biggert has released a poll to try to tamp down the buzz

Republicans are seeking to downplay any talk that Rep. Judy Biggert (R) could be in a competitive race after her opponent outraised her in the second quarter, and they passed around an internal poll Wednesday that showed Biggert way ahead.

The Biggert poll, conducted by American Viewpoint Inc., was done in mid-June and showed the incumbent holding a 55-30 lead, with a job approval rating of 67 percent.

Democrat Scott Harper’s campaign disputed those numbers, citing its own polling data, which it says shows the incumbent’s job approval below 50 percent.

Three things: That Biggert survey is a pretty old poll. However, note that Harper’s campaign didn’t relase the head-to-heads or even “deserves to be reelected” numbers. And, Rod Blagojevich’s job approval was way below 50 in 2006, meaning that this number, in and of itself, is not a great guage.

* LCV has the Biggert poll

An American Viewpoint (R) poll; conducted 6/16-17 for Rep. Judy Biggert (R); surveyed 400 LVs; margin of error +/- 4.9% (release, 7/30). Tested: Biggert and businessman Scott Harper (D).

General Election Matchup

J. Biggert 55%

S. Harper 30

Undec 13

Re-Elect Biggert

Re-elect 55%

Someone else 28

Fav/Unfav

J. Biggert 67%/18%

Biggert As Rep.

Approve 67%

Disapprove 19

* Meanwhile, the Sun-Times is playing catch-up to a story that’s been bubbling around the blogs for a while now…

Concrete mogul Marty Ozinga’s companies racked up $59,000 in unpaid taxes over the last 20 years, according to documents provided to the Sun-Times by political operatives.

The tax liens have been filed against the Republican congressional candidate’s companies in Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana. Some are fines on his trucks that pour concrete in Chicago.

The response is a bit weak…

Ozinga’s campaign notes his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Debbie Halvorson was fined $44 after being late on a $910 real estate tax payment for her Springfield condominium. She also was fined $25 for letting a corporation she founded lapse after not using it.

* Related…

* Ozinga backs return of renewable energy credit

* Candidate touts benefits of wind energy

* ELECTION ‘08: Halvorson brings campaign to Washington

* Roskam slams illegal immigration practices

* Roskam Fighting Local Hero

* Hastert now ‘senior adviser‘ to DC lobbying firm

* Candidate dumped from ballot

* Durbin on the Leading Edge

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


Stay tuned for more “fun” *** UPDATED x1 ***

Thursday, Jul 31, 2008

*** UPDATE *** I forgot to post the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform’s latest demand….

“The governor claims he wants billions in new infrastructure spending to create jobs and to guard against a bridge collapse as happened in Minneapolis last year,” Canary said. “But after years of headlines about contracts that look more like pay-to-play than legitimate state business, taxpayers have to wonder whether his top concern is bridge safety or building up his campaign treasury.

“If he would sign the bill to discourage pay-to-play and stop soliciting money from people doing business with the state, he would give the public reason to believe those new construction dollars would be spent fairly,” she said. “Legislative leaders should insist HB 824 is signed into law before giving the governor the ability to award billions in new spending for bridges, roads, and other projects.”

Seems reasonable.

*****************

* Eric Zorn makes the fatal mistake of assuming that just because there’s a “way” to find money to restore cuts to alcoholism and substance abuse programs, the “will” to do so will automatically follow.

But he does have this at the end of his post…

[Speaker Madigan] wants the Senate to reconvene and pass a different, highly specific and highly targeted “funds sweep” bill that would allow for restoration of many of the social-service cuts.

Senate President Emil Jones has shown no inclination to reconvene his chamber, but Brown and many others close to the situation say they have heard rumblings that Gov. Rod Blagojevich plans to call both chambers into special session during the Illinois State Fair, Aug. 8 -17.

Gubernatorial spokesman Lucio Guerrero responded to these grumblings with a a note that said, “The issue (of a special session) may come up at the leaders’ meeting, but nothing has been decided. The first priority is getting all the leaders - at least the three that show up - to agree on a compromise and then the decision would be made about the next step.”

* The leaders will meet this morning at 11 o’clock. We’ll live-blog it here. The Sun-Times has more

Gov. Blagojevich is prepared to revise or outright eliminate plans for a Chicago casino in a bid to jump-start his stalled statewide construction program, a top aide said Tuesday.

The governor also is open to reducing the size of the $34 billion capital plan and rethinking how to pay for it in an effort to gain the support of Mayor Daley and House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago). […]

Now, the governor is considering lowering the buy-in figure, giving the mayor broader control over how school construction money is spent and even eliminating the city casino entirely if that’s what the mayor wants, Blagojevich’s spokesman said.

“There are a whole host of things that are being looked at on gaming to make it more palatable,” Blagojevich press secretary Lucio Guerrero said.

“The governor thinks [a capital deal] is too important to let die. He’s looking for ways to compromise,” Guerrero said.

There’s more to this, but non-subscribers will have to wait and see what’s announced after the meeting. We’ll know more about 12:30 or so.

* But relying on gaming expansion outside Chicago is an iffy proposition at best

A drop in the number of customers at Harrahs Metropolis Casino riverboat is translating into not only in a decline in casino revenues but also a decline in the amount of money going into the coffers of the city of Metropolis.

According to the Illinois Gaming Board, adjusted gross receipts at the casino were about $10.3 million in June, down from the $14.7 million the casino pulled in during the same month a year ago. […]

Officials say the downturn in casino attendance can be traced back to January, when the state of Illinois instituted restrictions on smoking in public buildings.

That’s not the only casino experiencing trouble.

* The Sun-Times thinks that Speaker Madigan ought to show up to today’s leaders meeting…

What are we paying him for? Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, arguably the most powerful Democrat in the state, takes home $95,000 a year but refuses to sit down with the governor.

We say that’s what we’re paying Madigan for.

* But in a Sunday editorial entitled “The tale of ‘Governor Goofy’”, the Tribune offered up some reasons why nobody should take the governor seriously …

Blagojevich remains the governor who cannot govern, the thespian who tries to rule via press-conference theatrics: State troopers to the right of me, National Guardsmen to the left of me, I will triumph.

Blagojevich’s behavior is what it is. He cannot, though, control how he’s judged. He cannot escape from the nicknames people give him or from their anger about his ineptitude when it comes to bridging rivalries and fashioning solutions to his state’s crying needs.

* Related…

* Blagojevich, top lawmakers to meet again in Chicago

* Blago urges lawmakers to OK capital bill

* Sincere or Sensationalizing: A year after a Minnesota bridge collapse sent people tumbling to their deaths, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich reflects on the situation and uses it to try to prod approval of his $34 billion gambling-expansion-for-road-construction plan.

* Bridge repairs hinge on capital funding compromise

* The DCEO bone is connected to the EPA bone…

* SJ-R Opinion: Governor’s cuts decimate DNR

* Some lawmakers showing resistance to IDOT jobs move before hearing

* Commission to gather testimony on IDOT move today

* Traffic safety employees speak their minds — big

* Officials: No plans to use results of prison study

* State Capitol Notebook: Pleading for cuts to be reversed

* Prosecutors, Defense Object To Governor’s Budget Cuts

* Davis Mansion shakes off budget woes, gears up for car show

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      


Did the governor just admit to being a potential defendant?

Thursday, Jul 31, 2008

* The governor’s legal team is using a somewhat unusual tactic to convince a court that it doesn’t have to release federal subpoenas requested under the state’s Freedom of Information Act…

In an argument to the Illinois Appellate Court, Blagojevich’s legal team cites a 27-year-old federal court ruling that says “potential” criminal defendants don’t have to turn over grand jury subpoenas in civil litigation. That’s one of the arguments the governor is making in an effort to overturn a Downstate judge’s ruling that the Better Government Association, a Chicago watchdog group, is entitled to the subpoenas under Illinois’ open-records law. [Emphasis added]

* More from the BGA’s attorney…

“In the Admiral Heating case, the court extended the rule that prohibits prosecutors or grand jury members from disclosing information,” says Donald Craven, the Springfield lawyer and open-records law expert who’s representing the BGA. “The court extended the rule to prohibit defendants or potential defendants from disclosing that information, as well. It seems to me that the governor is now characterizing himself as a defendant or potential defendant, rather than just as a witness before the grand jury, in an effort to bring himself within the confines of this rule.” [Emphasis added]

* The governor’s press secretary responds…

“This is just a deplorable manipulation of the facts,” he says, “in an effort to make headlines and advance an illusory theory in the press that would overwhelmingly be thrown out in any court of law.”

The governor is planning an unrelated press conference this afternoon. Maybe the reporters can ask him to clear things up.

* Somewhat related…

* Blagojevich raises cash while reform bill sits

* Governor steps up fundraising

* State contractor: Stop me before I give money to the governor again

* SJ-R Opinion: Governor, do the right thing

* City Club of Chicago Welcomes Governor Blagojevich

* Jim Ryan: ‘Something is not quite right’

* Former head of Ill. prisons sentenced to 2 years

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Thursday, Jul 31, 2008

* Moody’s Downgrades GateHouse On ‘Likelihood’ Of Default

GateHouse Media is likely to default under its credit agreement unless it can negotiate an amendment to its covenants or get a cash injection from its largest stakeholder, Moody’s Investor Service says in a report downgrading the community newspaper publisher’s credit and probability of default ratings.

Moody’s downgraded GateHouse’s Corporate Family rating to Caa1 from B2. Under Moody’s definition, the new rating signifies a “substantial risk” of default.

Moody’s also downgraded its Probability of Default rating to Caa2 from B3.

* GateHouse Media cut to Caa1: Outlook negative - Moody’s

* News business is news-worthy

* Chicagoans happier with their city than Parisians, New Yorkers

* Chicago Lay-Offs a Possibility in Bleak 2009 Budget Picture

* Daley mum on budget shortfall specifics

Daley cited the national economic downturn as the reason he won’t release the city’s preliminary budget numbers to the city clerk by the deadline.

* Trash talk

Under Daley’s plan, the city would be divided into 10 to 20 “franchise areas,” each with a single hauler. Instead of choosing private companies to pick up their waste as they do now, businesses and institutions would be stuck with whatever company the Daley administration picks for them. For seven years.

Let’s see if we have this right: The mayor wants to usurp business owners’ choice, bestow monopolies on 10 to 20 lucky contractors and invite the usual abuses that inevitably occur when lucrative city contracts are in play. What part of this is good for the citizens of Chicago?

* Barking up the wrong tree

This year’s anti-pit-bull measure is a benevolent-sounding proposal to require that dogs (and cats) older than 6 months be spayed or neutered. The City Council got a lot of attention on Tuesday when former TV game show host Bob Barker showed up to talk in favor of the idea.

* Report: Illinois beaches 1st in bacteria levels

* GOP ‘Agenda for Action’ more wish list than blueprint

The Illinois House Republican “Agenda for Action” is a lot like a child’s Christmas list: There are a lot of good things on it, but the likelihood of getting them all is small.

* Lake County Radio Personalities Debate Pros and Cons of a Constitutional Convention

* Meth Coffee fails to amuse Madigan

* Decision to charge piano owners in Birkett’s hands

* Peraica donors include felons

* Alvarez, Peraica still trading barbs on questionable donors

* Peraica giving back donations

* Misspellings, grammar errors put county mag on ice

But county officials have the final say on what’s published. And Tracy accepted $24,999 from Stroger’s administration last November to launch the magazine — $1 under the amount that would have required the approval of the full Cook County Board.

* Pat Cassidy leaves WBBM-AM 780

* Politics Is National in Local Web Campaign

* Billing snafus led to some CTA overcharges

* Metra looking out for the Southland

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   12 Comments      


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Thursday, Jul 31, 2008

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