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Reform and Renewal

Friday, Feb 26, 2010

* The Senate Dems kinda-sorta unveiled their redistricting plan yesterday. What I mean is, they held a press conference, but didn’t introduce an actual bill

Under [the SDem] plan the legislature would draw the new map. If they chose to de-nest the districts, not have the same districts for the Senate and the House, then each chamber would draw its own map and pass it with a three-fifths vote. If they decided to stick to the current nested system, then the General Assembly would create one map that would pass as a bill and require the governor’s signature.

If the legislature cannot agree on a map, or maps, by June 30, 2011, a commission, appointed by the legislative leaders would get the job. The leaders would each appoint seven members to the 14-member commission to create a map for approval by the General Assembly. If that doesn’t work, the Democrat’s plan mirrors the Republican one in the creation of a special master to draw the map. That master would be chosen by the chief justice of the Supreme Court and a justice of the other party.

The major difference between the parties’ plans is who draws the first map. In the Democrat’s plan the legislature does it, while in the Republican plan it is a commission appointed by the leaders. This is the point on which it seems neither side is willing to compromise.

Sen. Raoul was pretty up-front about the GOP/reformer demands that legislators be entirely removed from the mapmaking process

…Trying to take politics out of the process is a non-starter, [Raoul] said.

“I think we should be honest about that. The redistricting process is inherently political,” Raoul said.

That’s a fundamental difference.

Here’s some video from yesterday’s presser


The Republicans were not kind in their criticism

“The Democrat plan allows the General Assembly to pick its voters in every district,” said State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon.

Sen. Righter also claimed that the new SDem idea was actually worse than the current redistricting apparatus. Watch


* In other reform news, I’m always a bit torn when it comes to minimum signature requirements. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that would-be candidates have to knock on lots of doors in the rain and snow to get on the ballot. Putting together a decent petition drive can be a great tune-up for the upcoming campaign.

On its face, a bill requiring aldermanic candidates to gather 500 signatures doesn’t sound too horrific. That ain’t a lot. So, at first, this Progress Illinois piece seemed a bit off

We recently stumbled across a bill (HB6000) introduced by State Rep. Joe Lyons (D-Chicago) that would make it a whole lot harder for new candidates to get on ballots in 2011. Lyons is attempting to bump up the number of required signatures on nominating petitions in Chicago elections to 500. Compared the current requirement — a mere 2 percent of the votes cast in the ward during the preceding election year — enacting the measure would raise the threshold in every ward. In some, the increase would be dramatic; last election cycle, for example, a 22nd Ward candidate only needed 87 names.

87 names? Sheesh. That seems way too low.

But, PI goes on to make a good point…

There’s another catch too. Lyons’ measure — which passed out of committee this week and is headed to the House floor for a vote — seeks to codify a state statue that ensures each voter can only ink one candidate’s petition. That’s currently the lay of the state election law, Jim Allen from the Chicago Board of Elections points out, but it has been routinely challenged because of a gray area in another state statute known as the Revised Cities and Villages Act of 1941. That, of course, would be eliminated by writing the rule into the amended statue.

Voters will be the big losers if the measure is adopted, David Morrison from the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform tells us. “It really puts a terrible burden on petition signers,” he says. “And in small wards, [candidates] could rack up 2,000 or 3,000 signatures and there would be no one left to sign.”

Well, not quite “no one,” but point well taken. The bill removes the cap on the maximum number of signatures that can be submitted at once, so the proposal could encourage vacuuming up as many sigs as humanly possible.

Therefore, I actually have to agree with the Tribune editorial board today

Could they at least lay off the crass attempts to protect the members of the City Council? Come on. Stuff the Lyons bill. It’s an insult to your constituents.

* Today’s other Tribune editorial, however, is a bit silly. The Mother Ship is just beside Herself with rage at the lack of progress on ethics reforms

Instead we’ll just point out that it’s February — late February — and lawmakers have shown little interest in finishing what they barely started last year.

Yeah. It’s February. The House’s 3rd Reading deadline for House bills is March 26th - a month away.

The Tribune also claimed that not much reform was passed last year. FOIA reform, contracting reform and campaign contribution caps - no matter how leaky - were all enacted last year.

And as far as the caps are concerned, how did they work out for the Tribune’s favorite US Senate candidate David Hoffman? The white knight reformer had to mostly self fund because he found out the hard way that outsiders have a real problem raising lots of money under the capped federal system. Heck, the Tribune opposes caps anyway on principle, except for last year, when the editorial board raged about how the state reformers’ cap plan was being blocked, even though the Tribune didn’t like the idea in the first place.

Sigh.

And what about this year? I doubt any of the reformers thought they could reopen the campaign finance reform stuff this session. Their focus right now is redistricting reform. They’ll most likely get back to the finance reform after there’s actually been an election under the changes enacted last year.

* Ever the “me too” little brother, the Daily Herald edit board also raged and rambled about an allegedly stalled campaign finance reform bill today.

Somebody apparently did a great job yesterday of ginning up these two papers.

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      


Learn history’s lessons - or face the consequences

Friday, Feb 26, 2010

* My Sun-Times column today takes a look back while looking ahead

I ran into Glenn Poshard the other day.

As I walked away from our pleasant little chitchat, I told my intern that Illinois would be a far different place today if Poshard had been elected governor in 1998 when he ran against George Ryan.

Federal prosecutors might not have had much interest in going after somebody who’d been voted out of public life. Even if they did, and Ryan still wound up in prison, he’d be an ex-secretary of state, not an ex-governor.

If the Democrat Poshard had prevailed, his fellow Dem Rod Blagojevich most likely wouldn’t have been elected governor four years later. Considering who he is, Blagojevich might’ve wound up in trouble with the law anyway, but not as our governor.

One big reason Poshard didn’t win was he was considered too far to the right for the Chicago area. Glenn Poshard was pro-gun, pro-life and anti-gay rights. Ryan had a reputation for being a conservative, but he ran to the left of Poshard on social issues and won.

Poshard won heavily Democratic Cook County by only 128,000 votes. To put that into perspective, Rod Blagojevich won Cook by over 500,000 votes in 2006. If Poshard had won Cook by just half that amount, he would’ve defeated George Ryan.

Sen. Bill Brady, the likely Republican gubernatorial nominee this year, has pretty much the same stances on social issues as Poshard.

Understandably, the Democrats will do all they can to scare people about Brady, and he isn’t doing himself any favors by reintroducing a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages and civil unions.

Brady also caught some heat this week for recently introducing a bill to re-legalize the currently banned use of gas chambers to “euthanize” large numbers of dogs and cats at once. Illinois is home to almost twice as many Illinois pet owners as expected voters this November. Oops.

When Ryan defeated Poshard in 1998, the economy was humming along wonderfully, the state budget had a billion-dollar surplus and the last governor to go to prison for acts committed while he was in office was 30 years earlier.

I’m not saying that abortion rights, or gay rights or gun rights or even pet rights are unimportant here. They are to a whole lot of people. That pet gassing bill might actually say more about who Brady is than anything else. All of it deserves coverage and plenty of debate.

But Illinois’ unemployment is now over 11 percent. The projected state budget deficit is almost half of its operating budget. We’ve got one former governor in prison and another one on deck.

So far, Gov. Quinn hasn’t really come up with many great ideas to solve most of these problems. His budget plans have been unworkable and have therefore been tossed aside; his economic plan is mostly confined to public works projects; his reforms, while significant, have fallen somewhat short.

Brady’s budget plan is to slash programs and cut taxes, so we need to know far more about how, exactly, those ideas would truly impact Illinois. His economic program is somewhat vague, and while some of his reform ideas are pretty good, it’s unclear whether he can make them happen.

So, by all means, let’s pay attention to the hot buttons and the character issues, but this year we all need to give at least equal weight to how these two guys intend to repair the wreckage created after Glenn Poshard lost to George Ryan. The times absolutely demand it.

* Meanwhile, Brady’s gas chamber bill has Michael Sneed and Gov. Pat Quinn in an uproar and Quinn is vowing to keep the story alive

Gov. Quinn, the devoted owner of the state’s first dog, Bailey, is on the war path over a dangerous dog path.

• Translation: Quinn is aghast over legislation that was pushed by Quinn’s likely opponent, state Sen. Bill Brady, which could have allowed the mass killing of frightened, fighting and gasping shelter animals in a box of 10!

• Upshot: Quinn, who has a yelping 12-year-old Yorkshire terrier, is so incensed, he channeled up a dog legend Thursday. “If that bill had ever gotten out of the Legislature, I’d veto it faster than you can say Rin Tin Tin!” Quinn told Sneed.

• Tipshot: Watch for Quinn to show up Saturday at the dog rescue section of the 2010 Chicago Dog Show at McCormick Place to show his displeasure over the legislation, which wound up being gutted by Brady on Wednesday after being condemned as cruel by the Humane Society of the United States.

(The heinous legislation was first tipped in Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax newsletter, Springfield’s political must-read.)

• Dogshot: Sneed is told Quinn has invited Uno, the Westminster Kennel Club dog show award-winning Illinois beagle, to visit the mansion anytime.

- Posted by Rich Miller   74 Comments      


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Jason Plummer discovers that live TV ain’t easy

Friday, Feb 26, 2010

* Take it from me, doing live TV is a whole lot harder than it looks. One little screwup and you look like a freaking moron.

Republican lt. governor nominee Jason Plummer had one of those moments on Chicago Tonight last night. Less than two minutes into his interview with host Phil Ponce, he lost his train of thought and completely froze up. Phil mercifully bailed him out. Have a look

Almost the same thing happened to me last night during a speech to Model Illinois Government. I was able to make a funny joke about it, though, and move along. That comes from experience. Plummer doesn’t have much of that yet.

What I always try to do is watch the tapes of my live appearances. It’s a painful exercise, but it’s the only way to learn. Plus, I’ve learned a few tricks about how to attract attention at crucial moments during panel discussions or undermine somebody else’s arguments - and that’s crucial if another person on the program is, um, dissembling.

Watching and learning is essential. Back during the impeachment brouhaha, I was on Chicago Tonight and I thought the camera was shooting Carol Marin and I from the shoulders up. Nope. Most of our bodies were in the shot while I was unconsciously twiddling my thumbs. Oops. But because I watched the replay, you won’t ever see me do that stupid thing again.

* Anyway, Plummer’s performance during the rest of the interview wasn’t exactly stellar, either. Ponce is an expert at calmly and dispassionately taking apart his guests, and this interview was no exception…

“So, in terms of what you got out of those internships that would help you be governor, what would you say?”

Oof.

Plummer’s answer to why the Madison County Republican Party rented an office from his family and paid $13,000 in rent and fees while he was chairman wasn’t the greatest…

“That was the best retail location. It was the only one available at that time for that function.”

The only retail location in all of Madison County? Really? Luckily for Plummer, Ponce let that one go by.

Go have a look.

- Posted by Rich Miller   60 Comments      


New poll has big leads for Quinn, Giannoulias; Claypool won’t answer; “Fiddling while Rome burns”

Thursday, Feb 25, 2010

* A new statewide poll taken by Research 2000 for Daily Kos has Pat Quinn and Alexi Giannoulias with significant leads over their GOP opponents. Full results here.

First, a big advantage for Quinn vs. Brady…

Pat Quinn’s favorables…

Bill Brady’s favorables…

* Giannoulias vs. Kirk

Giannoulias’ most recent poll had him ahead 49-45. Research 2K’s last poll in January had the race at 38-30.

The poll of 600 likely voters had a margin of error of +/- 4 percent. It was taken Feb. 22-24.

From the Hotline

After a tougher primary race and whispers of a scandal surrounding a bank associated with Giannoulias’ family, Giannoulias is actually more popular than Kirk, according to the poll. Giannoulias is viewed favorably by 49% of respondents, while 34% view him unfavorably. Kirk’s fav/unfav rating stands at 42%/35%.

Despite a difficult climate for their party, Dems have been seeking to portray Kirk as the DC insider in the race. Among indies — those most likely to be disillusioned with DC — Giannoulias leads Kirk by the smallest of margins, 36-35%.

Kirk trounced challenger Patrick Hughes, who ran to his right, in the GOP primary. But his moderate creds, such as support for the Dem energy bill last spring, aren’t yet paying off in the general. He is capturing just 9% of the Dem vote in the poll, while Giannoulias holds 71% of Dems.

Meanwhile, IL’s most famous DC export, Pres. Obama, remains popular among the voters he once represented in the Senate. Fully 60% of ‘10 LVs view Obama favorably, while 36% have an unfavorable impression of him.

* I’m not the only one who can’t get a call-back from Forrest Claypool

Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool, who’s retiring from that spot to go into private business, so far isn’t returning calls about a report in Capitol Fax that the White House wants him to replace Mr. Cohen on the November ticket.

Mr. Claypool has, frankly, seemed a bit burned out on public life lately, and winning in November is no sure thing. On the other hand, the commissioner is the best of buddies with presidential counselor David Axelrod, who can be mighty persuasive.

* Our afternoon video was taken by my intern Dan Weber. Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) criticized the General Assembly this afternoon during a speech on the House floor for adjourning so early on yet another “go home” day. Nekritz said she thought that the GA was “fiddling while Rome burns.”

Dan followed up and here’s what she had to say


- Posted by Rich Miller   65 Comments      


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