Only six of those 33 [override] motions to restore the funding passed, worth about $480 million.
Lots of legislators voted with their feet this week. They knew this game was essentially a farce. As long as the Senate refuses to return, their votes were meaningless, except as political cover and a vehicle to put the onus on the other chamber.
House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) refused to call legislation this week that would raise more money to avoid the cuts, including a measure that would allow the administration to dip into other state funds to cover expenses.
Jones spokeswoman Cindy Davidsmeyer also cited Madigan’s decision for why the Senate also wasn’t in town. “They didn’t pass the revenue, so there is no reason to come back,” Davidsmeyer said. […]
Blagojevich called the House overrides “totally irresponsible” and said he won’t call the Senate back to Springfield unless the House passes a meaningful revenue bill.
Restoring vetoed money without adding at least some revenue streams is not the most responsible thing the House has ever done.
* The AP finally updated their over-the-top story from yesterday which completely bought the claim by some Downstate Republicans that Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago) had injected racial hatred into a committee debate. But maybe they should’ve just retracted the whole thing. The lede is the same from yesterday morning…
Three Republican state representatives accused a Democratic colleague of spreading “racial hatred” during a committee meeting Wednesday and demanded that the speaker of the House investigate the incident.
“That type of racial hatred that was displayed in committee went out with the ’70s, and I respectfully request that you review the transcript,” Rep. Jim Sacia, R-Pecatonica, said on the House floor.
A recording of the hearing shows that while Davis alleged some lawmakers want to keep crime rates up so that prisons stay full, the racial content was minimal: She argued that her fellow African-American legislators must fight hard for legislation to help former criminals go straight.
Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Greenville, alleged that Davis specifically said some lawmakers want to keep prisons filled with “black people from Chicago.”
He called it “Alice in Wonderland kind of stuff” to suggest any lawmaker would want to keep crime rates up. Suggesting a racial motivation is even worse, he said.
“That is a criminal insult and she should be sanctioned,” Stephens said. Rep. Dennis Reboletti, R-Elmhurst, agreed. He accused Davis of “race-baiting.”
* Sorry, guys, but you’re the ones doing the race-baiting. From the Tribune…
But a tape of the hearing shows that Davis never accused the Republicans of protecting prisons on the basis of race. In fact, she said it was a matter of economics.
“Illinois must recognize there’s some people in the Illinois General Assembly who have prisons in their district and their whole objective is to keep them filled,” Davis said at the hearing. “Anything — anything — that would create an atmosphere to get those prisons with fewer people, were threatened to close, it’s a war. ‘We’ve got to have those prisoners. They got to come down here from Chicago and we got to keep em filled because that’s how we get work. That’s our economy. We no longer plant corn. We no longer have farms. We don’t raise cows and pigs. We keep prisoners.’ So if you don’t have prisoners you will not have the economy to keep their livelihood going.”
* What Rep. Davis did was impugn the motives of Downstaters with prisons in their districts. That was over the line. But if anybody ought to be “sanctioned” (and I’m not arguing for sanctions, just throwing their words back at them) it should be the legislators who shouted the bogus claims about “racial hatred.”
“Her comments were definitely racial,” [Rep. Jim Sacia] said after the hearing. “They were directed at white Republicans. It was totally unacceptable.”
What does their reaction say about those legislators? Davis talked economics and they heard race. Not a banner day.
* From what I gather, yesterday’s announcement by Gov. Rod Blagojevich that he wanted to “help” Chicago fight crime by sending in more police and possibly the National Guard was an “off script” moment.
Blagojevich had apparently mused about the idea in private, and then kinda blurted it out at a bill signing ceremony. Oops. Here’s how it started..
“Something is wrong, and this violence has to stop. And we have to do something constructively to try and make that violence stop,” he said. “Maybe, we can play a role and provide more manpower so that the mayor doesn’t have to make that choice between taking a police officer from, let’s say, the North Side and putting that police officer on the street in the South Side.”
* And then after the governor mentioned the state cops and the National Guard, he decided to take it one step further…
“The mayor can be a great help in this in getting the House Democratic leadership to pass that big capital program,” he said.
“My guess is the governor may be smarting because the mayor was quoted publicly as saying he tried to convince [Blagojevich] to have a more common-sense approach to the capital plan, and that advice was ignored,” Brown said. […]
“Making sure that kids aren’t shot and guns aren’t in the hands of bad guys is far from political,” [Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero] said.
“It is, at the very least, a little disconcerting that we’re only hearing about this as the media does,” she said.
* But the governor does have a good point about the violence…
The governor noted 16 children — “almost one child a day” — have been gunned down in Chicago since June 26. The shooting death toll for Chicago Public School students stands at 29 since last fall.
“Twenty-eight of those kids are African-American and Latino. Hard to imagine that that would be acceptable if that were, in fact, the case in other parts of the city or in a middle-class suburb somewhere. . . . Something is wrong, and this violence has to stop,” he said.
The standing room-only cars will begin operating within a few months, probably starting on the Brown Line and later expanded to the Red and Blue Lines, CTA President Ron Huberman told the transit agency’s board.
With gun violence at a crisis, Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Wednesday said he is in talks with Illinois State Police and the Illinois National Guard to see if more police officers can be deployed to the streets of Chicago.
The governor said Chicago Mayor Richard Daley hasn’t asked for help, but Blagojevich says he’ll call the mayor once he has some concrete suggestions about what help he can provide.
Blagojevich didn’t have many specifics, but he said it’s more likely that state police will be brought in than the National Guard.
He also apparently suggested that retired police officers could be brought back for duty. Interesting that he hasn’t broached the subject with Mayor Daley yet.
Just how the State Police would play a significant role is questionable since Blagojevich has only recently begun rebuilding its ranks after union officials say the agency lost more than 10 percent of its positions from 2001 through 2005 and patrolling of many areas, particularly during nights and weekends, is spotty at best.
* They also have a response from the mayor’s office…
“We’re obviously not going to turn away help on a front as important as this,” Heard said. “At the same time, we’re a little puzzled about how it would work. It’s unprecedented. Obviously, help in the form of reducing the number of guns on the street go a long way to addressing the problem.”
* And this…
Blagojevich and Daley have not been politically close. Like Daley, Blagojevich has alienated many leading Democrats in the state—Senate President Emil Jones being a strong exception—over a style of governing that critics contend is dominated more by a personal publicity pop than putting any substance behind it.
*** UPDATE 3 *** The governor’s press secretary has just issued this clarification…
As mentioned at today’s press conference, Gov. Rod Blagojevich said it was “highly unlikely” that the Illinois National Guard would be sent out to help the Chicago police. The more likely scenario involves the Illinois State Police. The Governor is meeting with law enforcement officials later today to look at options on how the state can help Mayor Daley with more personnel.
The National Guard will only be attending the meeting today for informational purposes.
The only way the National Guard would be involved, if they are involved, is with the use of tactical helicopters that are currently used in narcotic operations. No National Guard troops are being considered. [emphasis added]
* 10:59 am - There is quite a lot of dispute over what Rep. Monique Davis said in committee this morning, even among Republicans who were present, so hold your fire in comments. We’re working on getting some audio, but this broke open today when GOP Rep. Jim Sacia rose on a point of personal privilege this morning to protest what he described as outrageous racial remarks during a committee hearing…
Three Republicans in the Illinois House are accusing a Democratic colleague of “race-baiting” and spreading “racial hatred.” They’re asking the speaker of the House to investigate comments made this morning by Representative Monique Davis.
The dispute arose when a committee debated legislation to help ex-convicts get jobs and start businesses.
Both sides agree Davis claimed that lawmakers with prisons in their districts oppose that kind of legislation because they want to keep the prisons full.
Outraged Republicans say she made it a racial issue and said they want prisons filled with “black people from Chicago.”
Davis denies she made the statement. More in a bit.
*** UPDATE 1 *** Here are some quotes from some House Republicans about what Rep. Davis may or may not have said during that committee. It appears that AP story may have overstated the GOP unanimity about what happened…
REP. RON STEPHENS: “The Representative from Cook was shouting in a very accusatory tone. At first I thought she was being sarcastic, so I started laughing, and then I realized that she was serious…
“I heard her say the term ‘blacks from Chicago’, but I could have misheard her…
“In all the 22 years that I have been here I have never been accused of being tough on crime in order to keep prison jobs in my district.”
REP. DENNIS REBOLETTI: “I’m not sure if I ever heard her use the term ‘blacks from Chicago’. It was very loud and heated in the room. However, there was a racial overtone to the whole debate.”
REP. JIM SACIA: “I never heard Rep. Davis say ‘blacks from Chicago.”
*** UPDATE 2 *** Kevin has listened to the audio of the committee hearing and says Rep. Davis never made reference to “black people from Chicago,” in the context that has been alleged and reported by the AP. Here’s the relevant quote…
“African-Americans [legislators] down here have to fight harder to stop this continued recidivism because opportunties are denied. But you have to take the names of people with prisons in their districts and see how they vote. They don’t want to stop crime, it’s their livelihood. It is sad when your whole economy is based on the imprisonment of Americans.”
I’m not sure what the heck the howling about racial stuff is based upon.
*** UPDATE 3 *** We now have audio. It’s not the greatest because we couldn’t directly convert the file provided by the House, but click here to listen.
* 11:08 am - This ain’t huge news, but Treasurer Giannoulias admitted yesterday to considering a run for governor…
The ongoing budget battle in Springfield is not just upsetting voters. State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias said Tuesday in Galesburg that “to see what’s going on in state government is horrifying.” During a visit with a portion of the editorial board of The Register-Mail, Giannoulias said he is “open” to the idea of running for governor. […]
“If this was a private corporation, if he was the CEO of a private corporation, he would have been fired a long time ago,” Giannoulias said. “Sometimes … you wake up and say ‘you know, I think I could do a better job than the governor.’ I’m thinking about it (running for governor). I don’t stay up at night thinking about it.”
And check out this line…
[Giannoulias] said there’s been a lack of leadership in Illinois for too long, and labeled the Blagojevich administration as “vendetta-driven” government.
Asked to comment, Luis Guerrero, the governor’s director of communications, said by phone that his only comment was “accusations are counter-productive.”
That response might be read as: Keep your mouth shut if you know what’s good for you.
* 11:21 am - If you tuned into the House floor audio/video and are wondering why nothing is happening, the House GOP is caucusing on the budget, capital, etc. They should be back sometime soon.
* 11:24 am - The negotiations still have a long way to go, particularly over the issue of health insurance payments, but an AFSCME strike doesn’t appear to be imminent…
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has agreed to extend its state contract for several more weeks after saying “some progress” was made during two-days of mediated contract negotiations.
*** 11:37 am *** House Speaker Michael Madigan was just asked whether the chamber would advance any revenue generating bills today, including a special funds sweep. The House had been working on a scaled-back $300 million sweep as a counter-measure to the Senate’s $500 million sweep.
Madigan said they would not be moving a funds sweep. No further session is scheduled until November, so that’s apparently that.
*** 12:45 pm *** The House is now debating veto overrides. Here’s the bill in question. The first override attempt of a line item failed, but several House Republicans voted with the Democrats. The second override attempt received far fewer votes. The roll calls aren’t posted yet, but we’re gonna get them for you as well as (hopefully) the analysis of what was in that first override vote. We’ve got a long ways to go, however.
The third motion, to override the governor’s veto which effectively increases the payment cycle for hospitals is being debated right now.
*** 12:53 pm *** The House overrode the governor’s veto which increased the payment cycle on hospitals. They’re debating the same issue for nursing homes now. The pressure will be on the Senate bigtime with that hospital vote.
*** 12:56 pm *** As expected, the nursing home money was restored. Ibid above on Senate pressure.
* 12:58 pm - The SJ-R has some details on the first budget override attempt that failed earlier today…
The House voted 64-26 this afternoon to override the governor’s veto in five spending areas totaling nearly $40 million, including a $27.5 million increase for workers who serve the developmentally disabled. But the motion needed 71 votes to pass.
*** 1:25 pm *** A pattern has been developing so far. Reduction overrides - which require simple majorities - have passed, while line-item overrides - which require three-fifhts votes - are failing. A vote to override a line-item veto for the secretary of state failed badly a few moments ago, but an override motion of a reduction veto in personnel services for the SoS passed with 64 votes.
* 1:30 pm - The same thing just happened with a couple of human services overrides. Line item override failed, reduction override passed.
*** 1:48 pm *** In case you missed the link above, you can find roll calls on the override motions at this link. None have been posted as of yet, however.
*** 2:01 pm *** The House failed to override the governor’s line-item veto of millions of dollars for drug treatment programs. Again, the pattern holds. Line-item veto overrides are failing while reduction overrides are passing.
*** 2:08 pm *** The House Clerk’s office has finally put the override motion rollcalls online. Click here.
*** 2:17 pm *** Another drug treatment veto override attempt is forthcoming. The next one will require just 60 votes and will restore $43 million reduced by the governor.
*** 2:41 pm *** As predicted, the House just voted to restore $43 million in reductions to the state’s drug treatment programs.
*** 2:44 pm *** Again, the House failed to override of a line item veto on school construction grants. The motion received just 60 votes. Maybe if the House Dems had more members they could make some of these votes a bit closer.
*** 2:48 pm *** OK, we finally had a motion fail on a reduction veto. It went by pretty fast, but I think it was a community college veto. The motion came up a vote or two short of the sixty required to pass.
…Adding… It was a community college override. The governor had reduced the base operating grants. Motion 24 if you’re following along.
…Also… A human services reduction veto was not overridden just now (3:10 pm). It was Motion 17, which would have restored $33.5 million in cuts to the community care program.
…And… From the SJ-R, which is also following along…
The House shot down restoring $148 million in construction money for Rochester and about two-dozen other school districts who have waited since 2002 for money promised by the state but never delivered. Lawmakers voted 60-26 to restore the money, but it needed 71 votes to pass.
“It’s important to these schools and it’s only living up to the obligation this state has had,” said Rep. Lisa Dugan, D-Bradley.
Then, the House rapidly rejected restoring six chunks of money worth tens of millions of dollars for higher education. That includes $18 million for the MAP grant increase, $10 million for community colleges and millions for grants and improvements at several state universities.
*** 3:17 pm *** An override motion to restore funding to elder abuse programs to the FY 08 level also came up two votes short.
*** 3:35 pm *** After stopping the governor from delaying Medicaid payments to hospitals and nursing homes, the House failed to prevent the governor from moving $185 million of Medicaid payments for prescription drugs, transportation, home health, medical appliances, hospice care and labs to Fiscal Year 10. The motion only required 60 votes, but came up way short.
*** 3:51 pm *** Yet another reduction override failed. This one would’ve restored about $27 million for cuts in community based services for developmentally disabled and mentally ill. The motion came up 2 votes shy. Some tourism vetoes were also sustained when the House couldn’t muster enough votes - one a line item and one a reduction veto.
*** 4:00 pm *** House Speaker Madigan is adjourning the House as I write this. He said he doesn’t intend to call the House back until November, but added that if the need arises he may call them back before that.
*** 4:00 pm *** Speaker Madigan’s spokesman claims the House has voted to restore about $420 million that was vetoed by the governor.
*** 4:37 pm *** From the governor’s press office…
The House passed a budget without approving sufficient revenue sources to pay for it. That is incredibly irresponsible — it’s the equivalent of writing a check that you know will bounce.
For most people, they’d be charged with a misdemeanor. In Springfield, it’s just more games. The Governor acted responsibly. He balanced the budget. The House should be using this time in Springfield to pass revenue measures already approved by the Senate rather than casting blame toward others. This is a problem they created. This is their budget.
MillerCoors has picked Chicago for its headquarters.
The company, a joint venture of Molson Coors Brewing Co. and SABMiller PLC, will employ 300 to 400 people and is still finalizing a location downtown. [..]
The firm chose Chicago over Dallas for its new home base and is making a $39.5-million investment, according to a press release from the state. The state is providing an economic package of roughly $18 million, while the city is expected to provide between $2.5 million and $5 million in tax-increment financing subsidies.
The state’s incentives include an $825,000 grant over two years and tax credits totaling $17.5 million over 15 years, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
But landing MillerCoors comes at a price of over $20 million in state and city subsidies, raising an oft-asked question in economic development circles: Would it have come here anyway, even without an aid package?
After all, Chicago is hardly a Rust Belt relic. It’s what economic development experts would call a “winner” city, a place with a healthy, diversified economy and cultural and recreational amenities to attract highly skilled workers.
In fact, despite all the worries over lost corporate headquarters, the number of high-paying corporate management jobs—the kind MillerCoors will create—has grown at a heady pace in recent years, according to federal employment data.
* The question: Do you support or oppose economic development efforts like this one? Explain.
* The House GOP held some town-hall meetings last night to unveil a campaign platform for the fall election campaign…
House Republicans announced a new “Agenda for Action” Tuesday. It provides a seven-point platform — ranging from true balanced budgets to tough anti-corruption laws — to entice voters to put the GOP back in charge of the chamber in November.
That’s a tall task. Democrats now have a 67-51 advantage and are trying to build a 71-vote supermajority. Both sides know how legislators vote this week will be used in the upcoming elections.
Speaking to a live crowd of about 70 at Forest View Educational Center and an Internet audience, Cross and colleagues accused Gov. Rod Blagojevich, along with House and Senate Democratic majorities, of profligate spending, misplaced priorities, veiled decision-making and failure to listen to constituents.
The Republicans hit hardest at Democratic spending.
“We have this mentality of spending money that we don’t have,” Cross said. “We don’t think about the fact that some day we’ve got to pay the piper. Well the piper’s at the door and has to be paid.”
State Rep. Mark Beaubien, of Barrington Hills, said Cross was generous in calling the recently passed budget $2 billion out of balance. The figure, Beaubien said, is closer to $3 billion.
* That’s the first time I’ve heard the $3 billion deficit figure, and it may not be the only thing the HGOPs are exaggerating…
About 60 people attended the Town Hall meeting to participate in the range issues.
Some were broad: “Approve a comprehensive capital program that will reinvigorate Illinois’ economy, create 700,000 new jobs and rebuild and repair Illinois’ crumbling roads, unsafe bridges and overcrowded schools and hospitals.”
Quite a few of those in attendance were candidates, and even Gov. Rod Blagojevich only uses 600,000 as his job creation figure for the capital bill - and that’s undoubtedly overstated.
* As I told you yesterday afternoon, the House advanced a $1.8 billion “capital plan” out of the Executive Committee yesterday. At first, they claimed the proposal would generate about $5 billion, but they were apparently confused. The Dems defended the proposal…
The House Democrats are trying to send a signal to the feds that Illinois has the money ready to go to fund the projects most at-risk of losing the federal funds, said Rep. Gary Hannig, a Litchfield Democrat sponsoring the measure [emphasis added]. “This would allow us to make our 20 percent payment. In turn, we would expect the federal government to then come up with the 80 percent. But these are projects that our congressmen have determined and earmarked in a federal transportation bill.”
Steve Brown, Democratic spokesman, said the measure aims to bring in $1.2 billion for highway projects and $600 million for mass transit projects. He said House Democrats proposed those amounts in response to information from the Illinois Department of Transportation about the federal dollar amounts at risk without a state match. But IDOT couldn’t confirm that information or interpretation of the situation. Department spokesman Mike Claffey said IDOT didn’t have a comment but was looking into the legislation.
And as Hannig said, no one really knows when the federal earmarks will expire. “I think the view is that the sooner we try to access this money, the better, clearly.”
* The House Republicans on the committee all voted for the proposal yesterday, but the governor’s office pounced…
“This is designed to make sure Illinois doesn’t lose any federal funds,” said Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago). […]
“This House action puts us 1 percent closer to meeting our state’s infrastructure needs,” gubernatorial spokesman Lucio Guerrero said. “Before they start pounding their chests to congratulate themselves, it’s our hope they intend to go back to work and pass the other 99 percent necessary to meet our state’s infrastructure needs.”
Tensions between Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and House Speaker Michael Madigan are still simmering in Springfield. Upstate, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley says he tried to play peacemaker - but got shot down. […]
DALEY: It’s a personal feud. It’s the Hatfield and McCoy’s, you know that. When people don’t trust each other in politics or in families, you have issues.
Daley says he’s tried to get the politicians together to smooth things out - but he says they won’t listen to his appeals.
* Some of the mainstream types are finally taking serious notice of a topic I’ve been discussing with subscribers, column readers and you for months: The legislative pay raise’s impact on the Blagojevich-Jones-Madigan war. From CBS2…
Under Springfield’s weird rules, if President Emil Jones convenes his State Senate for just two more days, every legislator immediately gets an almost 12 percent raise, even members of the House who voted overwhelmingly to reject the raise.
But there’s a catch. With many voters angry about their own pay cuts, Jones wants to delay the double-digit raise for legislators until after the November election.
So, important budget business facing the general assembly must wait, too.
“The tail is wagging the entire dog of the $60 billion state budget because a few senators want their pay raise,” said State Rep. Jack Franks.
The House is back this week to fight Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s budget cuts, but the Senate is avoiding the Statehouse in a move that protects lawmakers’ chances of getting a post-election pay raise.
Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago) has said there is no need for the Senate to meet because his chamber, unlike the House, has already approved funding plans that would alleviate the need for the governor’s veto of $1.4 billion in spending from the new state budget.
But critics said returning to Springfield also would force the Senate to vote on whether to boost base salaries for lawmakers next summer by 7.5 percent, to $72,985. Jones has not scheduled the Senate to return until after the November election, when it would be less volatile for lawmakers to take a vote. […]
Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest), who has fought the pay raise and wants a pre-election vote, contended the Senate is shirking its responsibility to tackle budget issues now because some senators want to protect salary hikes.
“Some people in leadership would rather us not be in Springfield because we would not have to address the pay raise,” she said.
This may have been too “inside baseball” for most publications back in May, but it’s having a serious impact on the Statehouse budget/capital/etc. stalemate and needs more coverage.
However, the Senate’s maneuvering might distract attention from the House Speaker’s role in the ongoing mess, including the fact that funding for cost of living allowance increases is included in the House’s budget bill.
Civic Federation President Laurence Msall, who plans to testify Wednesday at a public hearing on the budget, says, “In a time of economic hardship for Chicagoans, exacerbated by enormous recent property and sales tax increases, the federation believes that governments should focus their efforts on reducing costs, not increasing taxes and student fees.”
“Coming out of the blocks, Rep. Foster had to decide whether to take his lead from pro-business Melissa Bean or pro-union Phil Hare,” says William Lane, Washington director of government affairs for Peoria’s Caterpillar Inc., the biggest manufacturer in Mr. Foster’s district. “We would say he chose poorly.”
* 12:41 pm - Just 87 members are present in the House today. Listen or watch here.
* 12:45 pm - IL AARP takes a swipe at the guv for eliminating or cutting increases in funding for “programs and services that are essential to the welfare and safety of thousands of older adults in Illinois”…
Caring enough about seniors to offer them free rides should also translate into making sure that older Illinoisans have fully funded programs and services so they can live independently and with dignity in the communities of their own choice.
* 12:51 pm - The House was led in prayer today by Rep. Tim Schmitz, who was sent a prayer used in the Indiana House of Representatives several years ago…
Almighty God, You who created the heavens and the earth, light and darkness, the waters and the dry land, the stars and the moon, the plants and the animals, Adam and Eve in six days, help these hardworking legislators that they might successfully complete their work in sixty-one. Then after You have done that, please enlighten the governor as to the wisdom of their accomplishments so that they might rest securely in the knowledge that he won’t undo all the good they have done.
* 12:56 pm - The Illinois Federation of Teachers has sent a letter to Senate President Emil Jones…
We urge you to immediately reconvene a regular session of the Senate to act on the overrides.
Read the full letter here. Read the IFT’s letter to Speaker Madigan here.
* 12:57 pm - The House appears to be adjourning until tomorrow.
* 1:01 pm - GOP US Senate candidate Steve Sauerberg trumpets his polling numbers…
The polling, conducted by Southern Outreach, an Atlanta-based firm, shows Durbin struggling to break 50% in the uninformed ballot matchup against Sauerberg. In a head to head with Dr. Sauerberg, Durbin leads 52% to 35%. Outside of the Chicago-metro area, Durbin fails to garner 50% and only leads Sauerberg 47% to 40%.
The independent Rasmussen Reports recently polled the race at 61-27 for Durbin.
*** 1:07 pm *** The House has adjourned and will go to committees at 2 o’clock. The big action will be tomorrow. I doubt I’ll have more updates here for a while, but check back anyway.
As GateHouse Media Inc. stock sank more than 20% in early trading Tuesday — briefly touching $1 a share — Morningstar released a trenchant report declaring shares of the acquisitive community newspaper publisher “could be worthless.”
“Because of the company’s exposure to a challenging advertising environment, a debt-heavy balance sheet, and declining cash flows, we think the equity shares could be worthless,” stock analyst Tom Corbett wrote. […]
Morningstar also said GateHouse is close to violating one or more of the covenants on its huge debt. “Should that happen, its debt could become due immediately, resulting in a possible liquidation scenario,” Corbett wrote.
*** 3:02 pm *** The House Executive Committee moved a drastically scaled back capital plan to the floor this afternoon. The proposal would reportedly be worth about $5 billion $1.8 billion - far less than the governor’s $34 billion plan. But the House version will require no new money. The billion dollars in state cash $360 million - to be used to leverage about $4 billion $1.8 billion in federal money - will come out of the state’s Road Fund. More in tomorrow’s Capitol Fax.
In the wake of a frightening incident in which a 7-year-old suffered a fractured skull from a foul ball at Wrigley Field, fans may be wondering what they can do to stay safe at the ballpark and, if they aren’t, who bears the legal responsibility for such an accident.
Lawyers say the liability is with the fan, because teams have virtual immunity in most cases. […]
A century of legal precedent from personal injury cases requires club owners to string netting in the most dangerous areas of the park but puts the onus on fans to protect themselves from bats and balls that aren’t stopped by the nets. Lawmakers bolstered the principle further in Illinois, Colorado and Arizona with laws in the 1990s that underscored immunity from lawsuits for ballplayers and the clubs that employ them.
The White Sox and the Cubs—a team owned by Tribune Co., which also owns this newspaper—sought the 1992 Illinois law after local courts had found them liable for fans’ injuries. Expansion teams in the other states asked for similar laws before opening their gates. The legal result is almost airtight.
* The warning: Let’s try very hard not to drag this particular kid and the parents into our discussion.
* The question: Do you support leaving state law as it is or changing it to allow for some liability by team owners? Explain.
* The original version of this story posted yesterday at the Tribune’s site included a quote that isn’t in the piece today…
Chicago police were investigating an attempted arson that took place Sunday night at Cook County Commissioner William Beavers’ South Side office, police said.
A neighbor saw someone on the roof of the office, 2552 E. 79th St., about 10 p.m., police said Monday afternoon, citing preliminary reports. The neighbor notified police, and Chicago firefighters responded to pour water on gasoline found on the roof to dissipate it, said Officer Dan O’Brien, a police spokesman.
No fire was actually set.
“I understand [investigators were] out there today. Last night somebody poured gasoline on the roof and the building next door,” Beavers said. “It was an attempted arson.”
The original version quoted Beavers as saying, “It wasn’t me.” Not sure why the Trib took it out.
I showed the original story to somebody yesterday who asked, “Do you think he did it?”
No way, I said. He doesn’t have any sort of real election coming up. You only torch your own office so you can blame it on an opponent. Not that Beavers would ever do such a thing. I’m not saying, I’m just saying. Hypothetically speaking, of course.
I remember a Downstate legislative candidate years ago whose campaign van caught on fire right before election day [actually, now that I think about it, I believe the van was firebombed]. The local media openly speculated about whether his opponent set the blaze, but I always figured his people did it. Particularly one guy, but I won’t go into names. He was in town that day and, well, let’s just say he was somewhat of an over the top type trained in the dark arts of espionage.
A clout-heavy company with two generations of ties to the Daley family has been chosen to fill in a “missing link” in Chicago’s riverwalk at a cost of $8.1 million, double the city’s original estimate.
The contract awarded last month calls for Walsh Construction to build a walkway on landfill beneath the Michigan Avenue bridge so pedestrians can stroll along the Chicago River without running upstairs, crossing the street and going back downstairs.
The walkway was supposed to cost $4 million and be financed through the Central Loop tax increment financing district. Instead, Walsh will be paid $8.1 million. Walsh was the “lowest qualified bidder” after a seemingly lower bid was ultimately deemed to be higher.
* The idea, as I’ve told you before, behind this budget fight is to force the House to finally relent and pass the capital construction plan. The way to do that is to put as much heat as possible on Speaker Madigan with these budget vetoes.
Crime, violence and domestic abuse will increase in Illinois if the governor’s 43 percent funding cut to substance abuse and prevention programs is allowed to stand, program providers and law enforcement officials said Monday.
Area social directors gathered Monday at the Illinois Centre Mall in Marion, where they voiced outrage over proposed budget reductions announced last week by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to community-based social service agencies.
State budget cuts made by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will have a devastating impact on local substance abuse programs that treat some of the most vulnerable people in the state, Quad-City advocates said Monday.
Keith Kuhn is bracing for the implosion about to hit one of the state’s service systems that can least afford it.
Kuhn, community director of the Gateway Foundation in Springfield, and other substance-abuse prevention and treatment center advocates are pleading for help after Gov. Rod Blagojevich slashed $55 million in state money from their programs last week.
* The groups that will put $3 million into a “Vote No” campaign on the constitutional convention ballot question held their inaugural press conference yesterday. From a press release…
Members of the Alliance acknowledged the state faces real problems, but they stressed that electing better representatives and leaders is the real answer, not putting one of the most citizen-friendly and progressive constitutions in America up for grabs.
This new coalition includes the Illinois Chamber, the Illinois AFL-CIO, the League of Women Voters and on and on and on. In other words, the very same groups that have been endorsing and funding legislative and statewide candidates for decades. Now they say they goofed and backed the wrong people? Please.
Nancy Kaszak heads the Alliance to Protect the Illinois Constitution. It’s a group of higher-ups representing business groups mostly. Kaszak says she doesn’t trust the current leadership in Springfield to be involved in possibly changing the constitution.
KASZAK: It’s a gimmick to distract voters from Springfield’s failure. These politicians are blaming the constitution rather than taking responsibility for their own failures to solve problems.
Only a tiny handful of legislators are calling for a con-con. Most who have spoken up are opposed. So Kaszak’s argument is simply designed to incite fear and loathing in the electorate.
A constitutional convention is not the only way to amend the constitution, which already provides a clear mechanism for amending it. This amendatory process is proven to work — Illinois voters have considered 18 amendments; ten were passed.
Besides the House cutback amendment, the other amendments first had to be approved by the General Assembly. Only amendments dealing with the structure of the GA can be put on the ballot without first being approved by three-fifths of both chambers. So, the above argument is a fairy tale. The system will not change itself. Not. Gonna. Happen.
* More from the release…
“Scheduling a convention for 2010 would freeze any movement on pressing issues that need to be addressed,” said Kevin Semlow, director of state legislation for the Illinois Farm Bureau. “
That’s not a bad argument, but will anything get done anyway? I doubt it.
People are sick and tired of the political feuds, they don’t like an unfair tax system and corruption that exists for far too long in Illinois and this is our chance to send a message to Springfield that it’s time to reform and the people are gonna get the job done.
The idea is to tie a “Yes” vote to the fury over the total Statehouse breakdown That may be a good idea, politically, but it’s not completely honest. There’s serious work to be done here.
Jan Czarnik, executive director of the League of Women Voters, added, “No one has shown us how a con-con is going to address the problems we all agree are endemic in our state government.”
Well, they didn’t look much then. A tougher balanced budget provision, scaling back amendatory veto powers, requiring computerized legislative redistricting, more precisely delineating special session powers, strengthening the education funding “preponderance” language to make it crystal clear to the Supreme Court are just a few ideas off the top of my head.
Only the electorate could amend the constitution. The delegates to the convention could suggest amendments. But only the electorate could approve or reject them.
The boogeyman is coming and he is going to have a $3 million campaign behind him to scare you into voting against giving yourself more power over improving your state government. Don’t hide under the blankets.
* Let me be very clear: I haven’t closed my mind on this topic by any means. I’m totally open to sound, logical, reasoned arguments for a “No” vote that don’t resort to silly fear and loathing tactics. But those were few and far between during yesterday’s press conference. It truly insulted my intelligence.
If they want to be leaders, then they should lead. Don’t treat us like children who are easily frightened and should do what we’re told.
It’s one thing for California, Massachusetts and New York, the sort of coast states to do this, but opponents are pulling out all the stops and all the big guns for Illinois, so it’s very important for people to express their feelings to state legislators.