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Death penalty bill advances, open primary setback, seniors may no longer ride free

Tuesday, Nov 30, 2010

* Legislation to abolish the death penalty in Illinois just passed a House committee 4-3.

* The Tribune recently editorialized in favor of the legislation

The last prisoner executed by the state of Illinois was Andrew Kokoraleis, who died by lethal injection at the Tamms Correctional Center in March 1999. The next year, then-Gov. George Ryan declared a moratorium on executions, concerned that a deeply flawed system had sent innocent people to death row. Three years later he commuted the sentences of 167 condemned inmates and pardoned four others.

A lot of Illinoisans apparently believe that was the end of it. Only 39 percent of voters responding to a recent poll answered (correctly) that Illinois still has the death penalty. The others said it does not (33 percent) or that they didn’t know (28 percent).

No, the death penalty hasn’t been abolished in Illinois. It hasn’t been fixed either.

Those poll results show to me that people don’t really care all that much. Whether they will care if the bill passes is the big question, however.

* Unsurprisingly, another sweeping amendatory veto went down to defeat yesterday in the House

A bill that would shield voters’ political party preferences from the public record has been killed in the Illinois House.

Gov. Pat Quinn had rewritten House Bill 4842 so voters would not have to publicly declare their parties when voting in a primary election. The bill originally instructed the State Board of Elections to publish a voters guide on the Internet during primary elections.

However, House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, said the amendatory veto was unconstitutional.

“He created a wholly different bill,” Currie said. “That was not what was contemplated by the people who drafted and the people who supported the 1970 Constitution.”

Lots of people support the governor’s idea, but not so much in the General Assembly. Plus, legislators don’t take too kindly to a governor attempting to legislate with an amendatory veto.

* A case in point is the seniors ride free bill. That one was such a political hot potato that the General Assembly decided to go along with Rod Blagojevich’s AV. But opponents have persisted and another vote to get rid of it appears likely

On Monday, a House committee approved legislation that would scale back the free-rides program by setting income limits for seniors to qualify.

“There is no such thing as a free lunch or a free ride,” Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, said.

Gov. Pat Quinn has previously said he would veto legislation limiting free rides, but Currie said she is confident the proposal will have enough support for lawmakers to override a veto.

When the Majority Leader is on board, that usually means the Speaker is on board, and that usually means that the bill will pass.

* But not everybody is ready to vote for it

State Rep. Fred Crespo, a Hoffman Estates Democrat, was among lawmakers hesitating to take the perk away. He said it might be difficult for seniors to adjust to the change.

* Keep in mind, however, that a federal law requires seniors to get a 50 percent mass transit discount, so they still won’t pay the full freight

On Monday, a House committee approved limiting free bus and train rides to seniors who make less than $27,600 a year. More affluent seniors would pay the federally mandated half price for rides.

…Adding… From the RTA…

Saw your blog post on the RTA’s senior ride free bill today. Thanks. Just a small note: the bill doesn’t eliminate seniors riding free. It means test it so that seniors who are in the Circuit Breaker Program ride free and all others half off. It works the same way our current People with Disabilities Ride Free Program works which was created by the General Assembly a few months after the Seniors program was created.

* Roundup…

* House Dems elect Madigan again

* ComEd fights Ill. on conservation

* Stimulus program helping 26,000 Illinoisans may expire

* Lawmakers, advocates, opponents hash out reform for Medicaid, workers’ comp

* A big push to end capital punishment - Death penalty abolitionists say now is the time

* Broken Beyond Repair

* The dollars and cents of medical marijuana in Illinois

* Waste in state government? Don’t blame auditor general

* Keep Illinois casinos smoke free

* Bill would reduce police, fire pension benefits

* The other pension crisis

* The gambling balancing act

* Quinn: Come down from North Pole

* Smokers may get to light up in casinos

* Taylorville coal plant bill advances; support lacking in full House

* Tensaka Supporters: Time To Act

- Posted by Rich Miller        


25 Comments
  1. - Jo - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 10:24 am:

    So, you take something that costs the State nothing (free rides), and then you “fix” the problem by making every senior who wants free rides go through a state-run income verification process each year.

    That’s going to require the hiring of countless new state employees or temps, new phone lines to handle a gigantic influx of calls, and not to mention that every new senior who comes in for the free rides will also get a nice healthy property tax grant from state coffers (and other benefits).

    If you want to reduce the size of government, stop adding layers upon layers of bureaucracy.


  2. - amalia - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 10:30 am:

    the murder of a Chicago Police Officer and a retired CHA officer by a person out on parole, who should have been in on an attempted murder, cries out for the death penalty. in fact, the man upon whom the attempt murder was committed says that he hopes the guy gets the death penalty. Law enforcement, time to contact Springfield!


  3. - the Patriot - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 10:31 am:

    ==make less than $27,600==

    One line of thinking we have to get away from is giving handouts based soley on income. Most Seniors make less than $27,600.00 per year because they are on fixed incomes and when the economy goes south, investments do not yeild. But if you live in a $1.5 million house and have 3$3million in the bank, do you need a free ride more than the single mom of 3 making $28,000 per year.


  4. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 10:32 am:

    amalia, the abudction, rape and murder of a young girl in DuPage County also cried out for the death penalty. I mean, if anything ought to be punished by death, it would be that combination of crimes.

    Turns out, the thrice convicted men were not guilty.


  5. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 10:33 am:

    –So, you take something that costs the State nothing (free rides), –

    How so? The state kicks in plenty to mass transit. So do taxpayers in other ways besides their support of state revenues.

    If the state didn’t have any skin in the game, mandating free rides would be even worse.


  6. - Jo - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 10:33 am:

    Um, even if the death penalty was reinstated, that teen wouldn’t have gotten the death penalty for an armed robbery conviction, and he would still have done this.


  7. - Jo - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 10:35 am:

    word -

    The free rides cost the State of Illinois nothing. They may cost the transit agencies, but the State doesn’t reimburse the transit agencies for the rides.


  8. - amalia - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 10:39 am:

    Rich, I believe the punishment should be available. I believe it is just to give the punishment in certain cases. The real question is, if you knew, with certainty, that a person committed a murder, would you be in favor of the death penalty? and remember, even Rolando Cruz thinks the guy should go down out in DuPage!


  9. - cassandra - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 10:44 am:

    This is such low hanging fiscal reform fruit, but it could be stickier to implement than expected, and thus incur the wrath of those seniors who arrive at the station and find that their cards don’t work. Maybe they could convert the free cards to 50 percent fare cards and initiate an expensive advertising campaign (contract to a Democratic contributor ) to tell folks what to do about adding payment to those cards. Or maybe everybody will have to apply all over again. . And many seniors would legitimately find trooping down to some state office and waiting around to reapply exhausting, Could be messy.

    I wonder if this is what we have to look forward to with respect to the Illinois budget crisis. Piecemeal reforms targeting specific groups (but never unionized state employees) but no comprehensive strategy and definitely no shared sacrifice.


  10. - Chicago Bars - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 10:58 am:

    Between free rides, the lack of any income taxes on retirement income, medicare expenses, and the impending baby boomer demographic bubble hitting 65 isn’t doing everything possible to drive seniors away the unpleasant but pragmatic thing for Illinois to be doing?

    Free rides seem to be just the tip of this geriatric government program iceberg that will hit Illinois over the next decade.

    I don’t have any idea on what the net revenue flow on Illinois senior citizens is now, or will be in a few years, but with all the baby boomers hitting it seems like those program expenses should inevitably skyrocket.

    But I’m a beer and bar booster not an actuary so I freely admit I may be wrong.


  11. - Aldyth - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 11:05 am:

    It is time to do away with the death penalty. Until we reach the point where our system of criminal justice is infallible, we have no business applying the death penalty to anyone.


  12. - Cheryl44 - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 11:06 am:

    I have a friend whose father implemented his personal senior half price discount. He uses his senior free ride card for half of a trip on the CTA, then pays full fare for the other half of the trip.


  13. - Transit Supporter - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 11:17 am:

    Jo - the state already verifies income through the Circuit Breaker program - which is why it was picked. And yes, the state does reimburse reduced fare programs.


  14. - Skeeter - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 11:19 am:

    Serious question:
    The vote for Madigan was unanimous? Did I miss something? Did those Dems who claimed that they would not support him all lose in November?


  15. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 11:21 am:

    ===Did those Dems who claimed that they would not support him all lose in November? ===

    LOL

    One person said that and he lost. Big.


  16. - Skeeter - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 11:24 am:

    Thanks. I knew of one. I thought there were others. My bad.


  17. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 11:27 am:

    –The free rides cost the State of Illinois nothing. They may cost the transit agencies, but the State doesn’t reimburse the transit agencies for the rides. –

    I really can’t follow your logic. The state provides transit agencies hundreds of millions a year. By your logic, why doesn’t the state just mandate free rides for everyone, since it doesn’t cost anything?


  18. - Jo - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 11:54 am:

    Transit - yes, the state verifies income through Circuit Breaker, and that’s why the dimwitted legislators chose it. Problem is - there are about 150,000 seniors enrolled in the Circuit Breaker program, and more than 300,000 seniors enrolled for free rides (and most at the circuit breaker income levels). I am sure you can figure out what is going to happen there. Legislators assume that since they create a program, or a program exists, that all people eligible for that program automatically and without effort get all the benefits. They don’t realize that you have to find some way to get all those people to enroll.

    Also, the state has been reimbursing for reduced fare rides for a long time. Not the free rides. The reduced fare reimbursement today is the same as it always has been. If you put it back to reduced fare rides only, you don’t save any money.


  19. - Jo - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 12:03 pm:

    word -

    The only state General Revenue Fund money that goes to transit agencies is the $35 million reduced fare reimbursement.

    If the State mandated free rides for everyone (and they could), it would not cost the State anything.

    That would cost a lot for transit agencies, and they would have to try and raise sales taxes, mft, or find other revenue to pay for it.


  20. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 12:11 pm:

    Jo - My husband actually works for a transit system in this state. You have no idea how much those free rides actually cost them. Additionally, the free ride card is being used by non-seniors, etc. Who is supposed to police that? The bus drivers???? Of course there should be a verification process and of course, the cheating is costing the state in the form of reimbursement for illegal use.


  21. - Jo - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 12:19 pm:

    Anonymous - I am not making a comment on how much free rides cost the transit agencies. But make no mistake - it is costing only the transit agencies, not the state’s general fund.

    Additionally, the reduced fare reimbursement paid out of the State GRF is a fixed amount that has been the same for a number of years.

    Also, there is a verification process to prove you are a senior already in place. The change would be to add an INCOME verification, which is one of the most costly things to do.


  22. - cassandra - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 12:49 pm:

    Not low-hanging fruit but irrelevant to the state’s fiscal crisis.

    Just what one would expect from our current state political leadership-lots of noise and no beef.
    A useless lot.


  23. - Fed up - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 1:00 pm:

    I just cant see why letting the dead ride the bus for free is a big deal, they get to vote and keep their property tax exemptions so why shouldnt the dead get to ride the bus for free.


  24. - Great Caesar's Ghost! - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 2:11 pm:

    All Quinn has to do with the free ride bill is wait until the GA adjourns sine die and then veto it. There would be no chance for an override vote so the bill would be dead.


  25. - Conservative Veteran - Tuesday, Nov 30, 10 @ 3:29 pm:

    I know a rich 84 year-old man who uses the free rides because he can, although he can easily afford to pay for the rides. I know some poor young people who can barely pay for their rent and food, and they have to pay the full price, on trains and buses.


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