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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      

Question of the day

Thursday, Feb 25, 2010

* Devise bumper sticker slogans for both the Pat Quinn and Bill Brady gubernatorial campaigns. Snark heavily encouraged.

…Adding… Since he got 10 percent last time and might do pretty well this time, we should probably include Green Party candidate Rich Whitney.

- Posted by Rich Miller   108 Comments      

Six degrees of separation

Thursday, Feb 25, 2010

* I’m not sure exactly what this means, but hizzoner’s comments probably sent a chill down more than a few Statehouse spines

Don’t expect to see video poker any time soon in the city of Chicago.

That’s according to Mayor Richard Daley. The machines are banned in the city. The City Council would have to repeal that ban, but Daley says that’s not on the radar.

DALEY: So I don’t know how anybody can come out for it if we don’t allow video poker in Chicago. No, there’s no discussion. No one’s ever even brought it up.

The state of Illinois approved a measure legalizing video poker last year. That was designed to raise revenue to help the state deal with a massive budget debt. Daley has previously spoken out in favor of video poker.

If Chicago doesn’t approve video gaming, they’re gonna have to find another way to fund the capital bill.

Most likely, Daley wants to put off any decision until after next year’s election. It wouldn’t exactly be easy convincing aldermen to vote to legalize the machines with all the other grief they’re getting from constituents on parking, schools, mass transit, etc.

* Speaking of capital projects, an attempt to keep Illinois’ outsized share of federal transportation dollars jumped the tracks yesterday

The $15-billion jobs bill the Senate passed Wednesday morning hit a roadblock in the House in the afternoon, partly because it steers a large amount of highway funding to Illinois.

Some House Democrats are balking at the Senate bill because four large states would get 58% of $932 million in highway construction money set aside for special projects. Illinois would get 16%, or about $151 million; California would get 30%, and 22 states would get none.

The controversy means Congress probably will have to pass yet another short-term renewal of federal highway programs for 30 days, instead of the one-year extension the Senate adopted, creating uncertainty and making it more difficult for bidding to proceed on major highway contracts this spring. The law authorizing federal highway expenditures otherwise expires Sunday.

The dispute harkens back to the 2005 surface transportation bill and the additional funding that Illinois and some other states received for special projects when former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Plano, was in power. Illinois got the second-largest share of those earmarks, which were allocated separately from highway funding distributed by traditional formulas based on population and other factors.

* And speaking of DC, Congressman Aaron Schock is involving himself in some state central committee races and sparking curiosity about his future plans

Are U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, and his chief of staff, Steven Shearer, trying to influence who gets on the Republican State Central Committee? And if so, why?

Those questions are being asked by some Republican county chairmen in central Illinois.

And some of them are asking another question as well: Is Schock preparing the way to run for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Democrat Dick Durbin, D-Ill., in 2014?

* And speaking of political parties

The Illinois House speaker, and leader of Democrats in the state, says only a handful of people have contacted him personally about becoming the party’s lieutenant governor candidate.

One of those is Raja Krishnamoorthi. He’s the former Peorian who narrowly lost the democratic primary for comptroller.

More on Krishnamoorthi

Less than a month after Krishnamoorthi narrowly lost his Democratic bid for comptroller, he has launched an entirely new political campaign. The Hoffman Estates resident said he has reached out to every committee member to stress what he could bring to that office: votes in the suburbs and downstate.

He also would continue themes cited in his February comptroller bid that he says would transition well to the lieutenant governor’s office: transparency, reform and accountability in government.

Response from members of the central committee has been positive, Krishnamoorthi said Wednesday while in Peoria, where he grew up.

* And speaking of the lt. governor

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s plan to abolish the office of lieutenant governor in 2015 advanced Wednesday despite Republican concerns that too many proposed constitutional amendments might be vying for the November ballot. […]

In a letter to Democratic leaders, House Republican leader Tom Cross warned that a “judicious and prioritized approach” is needed to decide which amendments should go before the voters due to restrictions on the number that can appear on the ballot. Other amendments under consideration, for example, include redistricting reform and a progressive income tax.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Lou Lang’s proposal that would require candidates for governor and lieutenant governor to run as a team in the primary cleared a House committee Tuesday. Lang, a Skokie Democrat, said his proposal made more sense than completely abolishing the office because it “would solve the problem you’ve heard recently of candidates not being vetted by political parties.”

* While we’re on the subject of primaries

Illinois lawmakers are moving ahead with plans to push back the state’s early February primary to a later date.

A Senate committee and then the full Senate Wednesday voted without opposition for Senate Bill 355, which would move Illinois primaries to the third week of March. That’s when it was traditionally held before it was moved up to early February in 2007 to help then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.

The measure now heads to the House.

Charles Thomas says the date change should’ve happened sooner

The fact remains that the General Assembly’s powers-that-be could have [changed the primary date] last year and affected the election three weeks ago. Former IRC chairman Patrick Collins told me the 2009 non-decision was like “passing an incumbent’s protection act” in Illinois because the short campaign season favored those already in office and gave Cullerton and Madigan the best chance to sustain their democratic majorities in the Senate and House.

Collins’ prediction didn’t work out too well considering the lt. governor’s race.

* Prosecutor Joe Birkett may sit out the next primary

With the murderer of Jeanine Nicarico now sitting on death row, DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett said it is getting time for him to find a new seat as well.

Birkett said during an informal press conference Wednesday that when his term is over in November 2012, he likely will not seek re-election.

* Birkett also made some interesting allegations yesterday

The special prosecutor whose investigation led to criminal charges against seven DuPage County law officers for their handling of the Jeanine Nicarico murder case earlier had told prosecutors they had a “moral obligation” to try the case, DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett said Wednesday.

Birkett said William J. Kunkle, who in 1999 prosecuted the so-called DuPage 7 case, had five years earlier reviewed the case for then-State’s Attorney Jim Ryan. At that time, the Illinois Supreme Court had just overturned the second conviction of one of the Nicarico defendants, Rolando Cruz.

Kunkle told Ryan “not only is there sufficient evidence to go forward, you have a moral obligation to take the case to trial,” Birkett said.

He also said this

In an extraordinary, two-hour interview with a handful of reporters and commentators — including some who have been highly critical of his office — Du Page County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett said Wednesday morning that, in his opinion, charges never should have been brought against the three initial suspects in the Jeanine Nicarico murder case.

* Other stuff…

* Tensions Rise over Redistricting

* Senate committee OKs helmets for motorcyclists younger than 18

* Illinois ponders ‘sexting’ trend

* Oak Lawn considers video gambling

* Voice of The Southern: Let state voters choose between doctors and lawyers

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      

Not scary enough, or is it?

Thursday, Feb 25, 2010

* Sorry, but you’re just not gonna scare many people with $2 billion in cuts

Gov. Pat Quinn laid the groundwork Wednesday for another push at an income tax hike, previewing a grim spending plan that would severely cut money for education, social services and public safety yet still leave the state with a yawning budget gap. […]

Quinn unveiled the gloomy picture on a state Web site,, asking citizens to e-mail any ideas that might help alleviate a budget shortfall he estimates at more than $11 billion.

And that’s after Quinn’s proposed $2 billion in cuts, including $922 million from elementary and high school spending, and about $400 million from public universities and colleges. Human services programs would take a $400 million hit and public safety would lose $69 million.

Then again

A spokeswoman for House Republican Leader Tom Cross terms the Guv’s plan “a set up” that seeks to force lawmakers into raising taxes by clobbering school spending.

Um, Tom? Dude, these proposed cuts are nothing considering the overall budget hole.

* Meanwhile, subscribers know the answer to this question

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D­Chicago, would not say Wednesday if he ad­vised Quinn to avoid calling for a tax hike now.

My own personal opinion is that Quinn should not ask for a tax hike and just run a very real, very stark budget without new revenues. The governor disagrees

Quinn supported an income tax hike, and various tax hike proposals could raise $3 bil­lion to $5 billion.

“I don’t think he’s wavered at all,” Vaught said of Quinn’s stance.

Bill Brady had some harsh criticisms about the tax hike plan

State Sen. Bill Brady, the Bloomington Republican running for governor, said a Quinn-backed tax increase would hurt the Illinois economy.

“The governor is out in left field here. I mean, he’s completely out of line. People are struggling in Illinois,” said Brady, who contended higher taxes would drive away more jobs and put more Illinois families at risk. “I’m hopeful that we’re able to persuade whoever we have to persuade that this is absolutely the wrong time to increase the tax rate.”

Brady has maintained he would address the budget woes largely by making across-the-board cuts in spending, rolling back taxes and fees, including the estate tax, and taking advantage of economic growth that would respond to a better business climate. Brady would not answer whether borrowing would be needed under his approach.

* And while the governor and the GA decide what to do, some local schools are hoping to try something new

The Jamaica school district in southern Vermilion County could save as much as $100,000 a year by moving to a four-day school week, Superintendent Mark Janesky said Wednesday.

Janesky and state Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, appeared before the House Education Committee to promote Black’s bill that would allow school districts to lengthen their school day while shortening their school week. The bill is being held in committee, Black said, while the State Board of Education reviews it.

I read somewhere that a Utah legislator has proposed balancing that state’s budget by eliminating 12th Grade.

Your thoughts?

* Related…

* Schools to take wallop in 2011 state budget

* Quinn releases budget numbers

* Budget plan threatens big cuts at schools, colleges

* New Budget Website May Prove To Be Too Much For Some Illinoisans

* State Senate restricts legislative scholarships: The measure would ban a legislator from giving a scholarship to someone whose family could be linked to a campaign contribution within the previous five years. In addition, family members of a scholarship recipient could not give a campaign contribution for five years to a lawmaker who distributed the award.

* Ill. Senate President blocks proposals to end tuition waivers

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- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** The back and forth continues: Collins defends himself

Thursday, Feb 25, 2010

* Yesterday, I told you about how House Speaker Michael Madigan’s spokesman Steve Brown had written a letter flatly denying claims in Patrick Collins’ new book. Brown allegedly “essentially proposed that the [Illinois Reform Commission] cut a deal with the legislature,” according to Collins, who did not name Brown in the book. The allegations resulted from a meeting Brown had with reform commission member Brad McMillan.

Today, Collins published his own letter responding to Brown

Brown claims I intentionally distorted what happened at the meeting. He is wrong.

Within hours of the Brown meeting, McMillan contacted me and described the unusual session - the two had not previously met - in an e-mail being released today.

“Steve shared his thoughts that the panel had very little real-world political experience and ‘almost none of them had ever written a political campaign check.’ I told him that while the panel may not be the most experienced politically, it was a very diverse and talented group that was truly independent,” McMillan wrote.

Brown also told McMillan that Speaker Madigan wondered whether an agreement could be reached to “avoid a direct confrontation.”

“Steve also had done some research on my campaign for the Illinois Appellate Court (3rd District) and knew that I had taken out a personal loan that was paid back by the generosity of my supporters following my loss in the Republican primary. I think the point he was trying to make is don’t change the system because candidates will not be able to afford to run for political office if you limit contributions. In his opinion, the current rules are fine and it is just a few bad apples giving Illinois a bad reputation. I also think he was subtly trying to show that they were looking into the backgrounds of the commissioners,” McMillan continued.

I have never characterized the meeting as a shakedown. However, I do believe it was Springfield’s way of telling us prospects for success would be dim if our report veered from leadership’s script.

The meeting also troubled other commission members. Nonetheless, we chose to move forward and do our work over the next 100 days. We traveled Illinois, took testimony, drafted a comprehensive blueprint for reform and wrote legislation.

Brown and his boss did not like most of our proposed reforms. And so we lost. That’s the way it works.

By executive order, our commission expired last May. Since that time, a number of us have continued to promote reform as private citizens. That fact galls Brown, as he claims it is important to raise issues about my credibility now lest I further mislead the public.

Brown’s calculated personal attacks do not trouble me. What does trouble me as a citizen is the revelation that he disagrees with the premise of my book that there is a culture of corruption in Illinois that must be challenged. He believes that having 1,500 people - including several governors - convicted of corruption in 40 years is evidence of a 99.99 percent ethical government.

Many of us disagree. Beyond indictments, there are significant parts of government that are broken. Brown has been part of a team that has had power for over two decades to change Illinois, but they have chosen to steer their own course. They have to take their share of the responsibility for the plight we face, both on ethics and on Illinois’ monumental fiscal crisis.

Collins sent me the full McMillan letter, which you can read by clicking here.

I asked Brown today if he specifically passed along the information about how Speaker Madigan wanted to “avoid a direct confrontation.” Brown said he didn’t remember doing it and wouldn’t have anyway because Madigan wasn’t much interested in the reform commission at that point.

Brown also said he would respond in the comment section today.

*** UPDATE *** I have Collins’ book, and this is what he wrote…

Within days of the [Illinois Reform Commission’s] formation, we received a not-so-subtle message about the type of reception that awaited us in Springfield.

Unbeknownst to me, one of our commission members received an unexpected call from a top aide to Speaker Michael Madigan. He asked the member to meet for coffee to discuss “ideas on ethics reform,” and the member agreed to meet. However, instead of any discussion or exchange of substantive ideas on ethics reform, the aide essentially proposed that the IRC cut a deal with the legislature up front in order to avoid, as the aide put it, a direct “confrontation” with the legislative leadership.

When I received word of this visit, I passed on the information of the not-so-subtle message we were being sent to my fellow commissioners. Our decision: There would be no backroom deals; we would roll up our sleeves, get to work, and generate a thoughtful product for the public.

So, did Collins overstate the content of the meeting in order to gin up his fellow commissioners? Or was this a legit read of the meeting?

- Posted by Rich Miller   46 Comments      

Brady backs off pet gas chamber bill

Thursday, Feb 25, 2010

* After two years of negotiations, the Humane Society of Illinois succeeded in passing legislation to ban the use of gas chambers to kill several dogs and cats at once. From the June, 2009 press release

The Humane Society of the United States, on behalf of its more than 448,000 supporters in Illinois, commends the state’s General Assembly for passing legislation at the close of the session banning the use of carbon monoxide gas chambers in shelters and animal control facilities. The new law also bans the use of carbon monoxide gas as a form of euthanasia statewide, so puppy mills will no longer be able to use makeshift gas chambers using engine exhaust.

“The Illinois legislature has spoken clearly that in those unfortunate situations where an animal must be euthanized, they deserve that it be done humanely,” said Jordan Matyas, Illinois state director for The HSUS. “The use of the gas chamber is less humane, more expensive, and more time consuming than the use of lethal injection.

Sen. Bill Brady voted against the legislation.

Two days after the February 2nd primary, Brady introduced a bill to re-legalize mass euthanasia via gas chambers. I told subscribers about this situation yesterday, and the Sun-Times and Lee Newspapers picked it up today. From the Sun-Times

The GOP’s likely nominee for governor, state Sen. Bill Brady, came under fire Wednesday from a leading animal-rights group for pushing legislation to allow the mass killing of stray shelter animals in gas chambers.

Brady (R-Bloomington) introduced the legislation sought by an animal-control facility in his district on Feb. 2, two days after the GOP gubernatorial primary that he now leads. […]

“I have no idea why Sen. Brady introduced a bill that would allow as many animals as you want to be put into a gas chamber and they’d be exposed to one another,” said Jordan Matyas, the Humane Society’s state director.

“Under his legislation, you could have 10 dogs in one box, gasping for air, at the same time fighting, at the same time fearing for their lives,” said Matyas, whose group has more than 400,000 members in Illinois. “Even if the animals are separated, you still have to run the gas chamber 20 to 40 minutes, which takes a lot more time than an injection.”


Brady said a veterinarian in his district asked that lawmakers consider making the change. But Wednesday, Brady moved to shelve the legislation.

Brady, the possible GOP candidate for governor, said he wanted to have a debate over how to tweak the plan but pointed criticisms from the Humane Society have killed that possibility.

“It’s not ready,” Brady said of the legislation. “And the political games were distracting from the discussion.”

Since my story appeared, Brady has filed an amendment to shell out the offending language and handed off sponsorship to Sen. John O. Jones.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 54 percent of Illinois households own a pet. That works out to almost 2.5 million households. Average Illinois household size is 2.63, so that means about 6.5 million people have a family pet. That’s almost twice the number of people who voted in the 2006 gubernatorial general election (about 3.5 million).


- Posted by Rich Miller   51 Comments      

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