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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      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Rumors fly about Meeks, but he denies them all

Tuesday, Nov 30, 2010

* From Mark Brown’s column today

Sun-Times reporters Tim Novak and Abdon M. Pallasch report that a single individual, Arthur J. Hardy Jr., is listed as the circulator who gathered some 7,000 signatures on nominating petitions for two mayoral candidates — 3,160 for the Rev. James Meeks and 3,990 for Rob Halpin, the real estate developer renting Rahm Emanuel’s house.

That’s a lot of signatures for any one individual to gather in a short time, which is all Halpin had after launching his last-minute mayoral bid, egged on by those seeking to accentuate the issue of whether Emanuel meets the city’s residency requirement for citywide candidates.

I’m not saying it couldn’t be done, but if you couple Mr. Hardy’s prolific output with the fact he lists his address as an Uptown homeless shelter, there’s a reasonable basis for asking some questions, such as whether he really collected all those signatures or whether somebody got carried away signing his name.

At the going rate of $1 per signature — which is what professional petition circulators typically are paid — that would also mean somebody owes Hardy a nice chunk of change. One of the other interesting questions would be who it is that hired him — and whether it’s the same person for both candidates.

I checked with Sen. Meeks today about this and he flatly denied any connection. “I don’t need to roll like that,” he said. Meeks said he has had zero contact with Halpin, never met him and totally denied any involvement by his campaign. Meeks said his campaign decided during the last week of filing to hire people to help pad his signature totals and that Hardy was apparently hired during that time period. But, he said, there was no connection between Hardy’s work for Meeks and Hardy’s work for Halpin.

A check of campaign expenditure reports shows that Arthur Hardy has apparently never received any money from any campaign in the past. This could just be a homeless guy trying to get himself out of poverty. If so, good for him. But pure coincidences are few and far between in Chicago (and Illinois, for that matter), so Meeks will probably have to deal with this for a while even if he is innocent.

* Meanwhile, we have this from Chicago Pride

Requesting anonymity, a source in Springfield tells ChicagoPride.com that State Sen. and Rev. James Meeks, who represents the 15th District on Chicago’s south side, has allegedly been working behind the scenes with other African-American ministers to derail passage in the House as an effort to keep the legislation from making it to the Senate, thus relieving the prominent minister from declaring his vote, for or against, on record.

“Rev. Meeks has been playing fast and loose with the LGBT community,” said the source.

Meeks also flatly denied this report, adding: “I have not spoken with a single person in Springfield about the civil unions bill.”

*** UPDATE *** Both of Sen. Meeks’ House members, Reps. David Miller and Will Davis, said this morning that Meeks has never spoken to them about the civil unions bill.

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


*** UPDATED x2 - Harris hasn’t heard of compromise - No delay in vote today *** Catholic Conference offers 11th hour compromise on civil unions

Tuesday, Nov 30, 2010

* The Catholic Conference of Illinois is apparently so concerned that the civil unions bill could pass the House today that it has issued a statement offering to compromise

The statement reiterated that the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”

“Accordingly, we stand ready to work with the legislature and other agencies of state government to prevent unjust discrimination and to provide benefits to people judged by the civic authority as deserving — as long as such provision does not include the attempted redefinition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman for the sake of family,” the statement said.

*** UPDATE 1 - 9:26 am *** “That’s the first I’ve heard of it,” said Rep. Greg Harris, the sponsor of the civil unions bill, about a proposed compromise. Harris said he is “always interested in talking to everyone,” but said the Catholic Conference has not approached him yet about any possible compromise and that he hadn’t heard anything about it until he saw it on CapitolFax.com this morning. Harris promised to get back to us if he is contacted today.

*** UPDATE 2 - 10:48 am *** From Illinois Review

House Republicans Mathias, Mulligan and Myers and Democrat Dugan are out today. The civil union proponents need the votes of Mulligan and Dugan — we may see the vote on SB 1716 delayed. May force the delay all the hot social issues today.

Proponents weren’t expecting votes from Mathias and Myers. Mulligan is on her way down. Rep. Dugan, however, is not. Rep. Harris said he would continue to push forward with a vote today. He said he’d like to have a bigger cushion, but it is what it is.

[ *** End Of Updates *** ]

* But things are proceeding apace and proponents appear to be getting closer

Supporters of civil unions for same-sex couples say they’re close to having the 60 votes needed to pass the measure in the Illinois House.

It would still need state senate approval and Governor Pat Quinn’s signature, who says the measure could help the state’s economy.

* Proponents even have a Catholic nun on their side

Activists plan to take several dozen clergy members of various faiths to the Illinois Capitol Tuesday, when lawmakers could vote on the civil unions plan.

“We know your mothers and your teachers taught you to respect the choices people make and the primacy of their choices,” Catholic nun Donna Quinn, of Palos Heights, said in a statement.

* Opponents are obviously worried about the House’s 18 lame ducks

David E. Smith, executive director the Illinois Family Institute, said he has heard anecdotally about some lawmakers from conservative areas who aren’t returning to office after January and appear poised to support Harris’ bill.

Chicago Cardinal Francis George also weighed in on the lame ducks

[Cardinal George] criticized the fact that such an important measure was being considered by a lame-duck General Assembly. “More should be done to engage the people in public debate” on it, he said.

* The opposition is seriously cranking up the heat, and pointing to a pension note request that’s sparking some controversy. From Illinois Review

While gay rights activists insist the number of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender persons are now at the levels of 10 percent of the American population, when asked how much legalizing same sex civil unions could cost Illinois taxpayers, the state’s budget office minimalized the projected number of LGBTs to be only one percent of the state’s population.

Using the fraction of a fraction as the projected number of LGBT state employees whose same sex partners may eventually benefit from the state workers’ pension plans, the budget office gave this report in answer to a pension note query filed by State Rep. David Reis (R-Willow Hill):

SB 245 from the 96th General Assembly allowed members of TRS and the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund to designate a domestic partner as a surviving spouse for purposes of survivor and death benefits (SB 245 has not advanced out of committee). Based on that legislation, the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability’s actuary estimated that if 1% of active TRS members designate a domestic partner as a beneficiary for survivor benefits, the impact to the system would be as follows; (1) Increase in total actuarial liability = $15,750,000; (2) Increase in total annual costs = $1,838,000; (3) Increase in total annual costs as a payment of payroll = $0.02%.

The pension note focused on survivor benefits, but health care costs were not included in the estimation. The budget office said they can’t estimate the cost to Central Management Services:

* The rhetoric is also increasing

“It’s not legitimate for the government to recognize the relationship of homosexual partners or polygamous partners or incestuous partners,” [David E. Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute] said.

Except, if civil unions is this difficult to pass, I seriously doubt that incest and polygamy would ever be legalized.

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   51 Comments      


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* *** UPDATED x3 - Script *** Quinn airs radio ad of Rauner joking about being "scared" of four African-Americans
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