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This just in…

Monday, Feb 28, 2011

* 2:07 pm - As you know by now, ICC Chairman Manny Flores was having big trouble with his nomination. He had opposition in the Senate because of past political differences and because of utility company opposition. He wasn’t going to be confirmed.

So, as subscribers already know, Gov. Quinn decided to withdraw Flores’ nomination and move him over to another job while giving the ICC chairmanship to IEPA Director Doug Scott. From a press release

Today Governor Quinn named Doug Scott as chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) and Manuel “Manny” Flores as director of the Division of Banking of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Scott has served as director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) since 2005 and Flores has chaired the ICC since January 2010. Governor Quinn also named Andrew Ross as the state’s chief operating officer and Lisa Bonnett as interim director of IEPA.

Lisa Bonnett will be the IEPA’s interim director. She is currently the acting deputy director.

* Also today, Quinn filled chief of staff Jack Lavin’s old job of chief operating officer…

Today Governor Quinn also named Andrew Ross as the state’s chief operating officer. Ross, who for the last two years has served as a deputy chief of staff in the governor’s office, will lead efforts to promote continued job growth in Illinois. He will manage efforts in the governor’s office and across state government to keep and attract new companies, encourage expansion of the green economy, and spur entrepreneurship and innovation across Illinois. In his previous position, Ross worked on an incentive package to keep Navistar and 3,000 jobs in Illinois, aided implementation of the state’s $31 billion capital program and helped overhaul the regulation of the Illinois cemetery industry following the tragedy at Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip.

* Meanwhile, the Atlantic has uncovered Chicago’s best kept secret: The name behind the “fake” Mayor Emanuel Twitter account. It’s Dan Sinker, the founder of Punk Planet and a journalism teacher at Columbia College

As a professor, Sinker focuses on entrepreneurial journalism and independent media. A student in one of his classes described him as down-to-earth, knowledgeable, and interesting. She said he encouraged his students to build businesses around their work, helping underserved groups find places to congregate online. “He’s DIY,” she said and “big on building communities.” Most importantly, in a journalism world drenched in negativity, she said Sinker inspired students because he’s actually positive about the future of media. […]

“My wife has asked me,’Why did you actually start tweeting?’ And for the life of me I can’t remember,” Sinker said. “I remember I was at home. I think everyone had gone to bed. And I remembered, ‘Oh, I have that account. This might be kind of funny.’”

From the start, the account began to take off. After three tweets, Sinker himself retweeted a message and @MayorEmanuel had a few hundred followers in just a few hours. Within two days, it had 1,000 followers, largely on the quality of its industrial-strength swearing. “At the beginning, a lot of the mental amusement was putting two words together, one of them is profanity and maybe the other one is also profanity and it’s kind of weird,” he recalled.

But that started to change around Halloween, during a particularly excellent hallucination brought on my eating too much candy corn. “I started to think, I can really tell a story about this,” Sinker said. “And Halloween probably also marks the beginning of the end of creative profanity.”

The story about Fake Emanuel and Quaxelrod (the duck - you had to be there) floating on a Chicago River ice floe and bumping into Mayor Daley on his own ice floe is an all-time classic.

…Adding… From the Illinois GOP

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady [yesterday] called upon the Board of Directors of the Regional Transportation Authority to rescind the employment agreement of Speaker Mike Madigan’s son-in-law, Jordan Matyas. Matyas, who is married to Madigan’s daughter, was recently given a $130,000 per year lobbying position with the RTA.

“Whether the job offer was a peace-offering with the Speaker or an attempt to curry favor, it stinks and we need to stop running the State of Illinois like a banana republic,” said Brady. “How about hiring an experienced Government Relations professional with a deep understanding of regional transportation issues instead of an individual whose only qualifications are family dinners at the Madigans and an occasional ride on Metra?”

* But Pat Durante, who’s no Democratic lackey, disagrees with his GOP chairman

But the senior Republican on the RTA Board, Addison Township GOP Committeeman Pat Durante, said it’s Mr. Brady who needs to back off.

Mr. Durante noted that Mr. Matyas has worked as a Capitol lobbyist for several years, most recently with the Humane Society of the United States.

“His (Madigan) relationship shouldn’t be held against him,” said Mr. Durante, a longtime adviser to the late Congressman Henry Hyde. “I’ve been in politics a lot longer than Pat Brady. There are relatives who are qualified to hold a job, and this young man is one of them.”

…Adding More… From the Emanuel campaign…

Now that the cat is out of the bag, the Mayor-elect will keep his commitment to donate $5,000 to the charity of Prof. Sinker’s choice. Details to follow in the coming days.

- Posted by Rich Miller   48 Comments      

Time to grow up?

Monday, Feb 28, 2011

* My syndicated newspaper column looks at Speaker Madigan’s latest move

After decades of dominating every tiny aspect of life in his legislative chamber, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan now appears to want his members to grow up a little and do some things for themselves.

One of the first steps in that process to adulthood is handing more power to the House’s five appropriations committees and the House Revenue Committee.

The appropriations committees have been toothless kittens for decades. They listen to a parade of agency directors outline their upcoming budget requests and press them about jobs for various constituencies, minority and otherwise. Occasionally, an appropriations chairperson will briefly have a seat at the bargaining table when the governor and the leaders sit down to talk turkey.

But, for the most part, they’ve been cut out of the process. That’s especially been the case the past two years when the General Assembly has sent “lump sum” appropriations to the governor in order to avoid cuts.

But Illinois’ new “Budgeting for Results” law has given Madigan an opportunity to hand off a bit of power to see how his members deal with it. The law requires that the state first determine how much revenue is available to spend before deciding how to spend it. Then, agencies have to come up with realistic benchmarks to prove that their programs are performing up to par.

So, Madigan has introduced a House resolution to establish how much cash will be available to the state from every possible revenue source. Determining the actual anticipated revenues will be the job of the House Revenue Committee, which will begin holding hearings on the matter this week.

Once the resolution is passed, each of the five appropriations committees will be given a spending limit. They will then decide how the state cash is divvied up agency by agency. If they exceed the limit, or discover they don’t have enough money to go around, they’ll have to make cuts.

To be sure, Madigan’s staff will have a lot to do with this process. And dealing with how the Senate determines its own revenue and spending process hasn’t yet been figured out. The two chambers could hold a conference committee (which we haven’t seen in years), or the “budgeteers” (trusted appropriations lieutenants) could step in and negotiate, or Madigan and the other leaders could just take it from there.

But considering that more than half the chamber’s members sit on the various House appropriations committees, it will, at the very least, be a needed eye-opening experience for these people, who so often have been shielded from making any hard choices.

Madigan, by the way, also has informed standing committee chairmen that they need to learn to say “No” a lot more often. Usually, the committees will approve legislation as a courtesy, or send bills to the floor even though the measures still may need a lot of work.

But Madigan reportedly is concerned about the large number of bills introduced this year and wants the chairmen to start weeding them out. In the past, Madigan has imposed limits to the number of bills his members could advance. Now, though, he wants members to try to take more responsibility for themselves.

To an outsider, this story probably looks pretty silly. Of course legislators should be more responsible. But those of us who’ve watched the House over the years know how much they’ve been spoiled by a leader who has taken it upon himself to do everything for them.

After the 2001 terrorist attacks, Illinois’ revenue streams crashed with the economy. The General Assembly was faced with the prospect of approving a budget with less money than the year before. Madigan told Republican Gov. George Ryan and Republican Senate President Pate Philip that his chamber was full of people who wanted to keep spending freely. So, they devised a scheme to pass a bloated budget and then Ryan would either reduce or delete spending items. The House would vote to override the cuts, then the Senate would vote to accept and everybody would be happy.

Now, though, Madigan may be thinking of what might happen when he’s not around to protect his members from reality. Nobody will ever again have the immense power and sway over the process that he’s had.

The question, however, is: After three decades of pampering his mushrooms, how long will it take to move his members into adulthood?

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      

Question of the day

Monday, Feb 28, 2011

* The Better Government Association took a look at some of the bills assigned to the House Agricultural Committee this year

* concealed possession of hand guns,
* waiting periods for firearm purchases,
* changes to the criminal code for minors when handguns are involved,
* rules requiring women to have ultrasounds before having an abortion,
* required reporting of child abuse, and
* gaming.

That “gaming” bill involves horse racing, which is in Ag’s natural domain.

* And then comes the editorializing

But when bills are placed in committees that have nothing to do with their subject matter, the entire legislative process risks being subverted.

Pam Sutherland, head of policy for Planned Parenthood of Illinois pointed out that placing a bill about women’s health into the Agriculture Committee is “like sending a hog-farming bill to the Public Health committee.”

House members were chosen to sit on the Agriculture Committee because of their expertise and interest in agriculture. They do not have the subject matter expertise that allows them to make informed decisions on legislation unrelated to that topic.

House Speaker Michael Madigan knows how to play the game and is aware that bills with little chance of passing in the correct committee can sail through another committee simply because lawmakers don’t know or care to ask the right questions.

Actually, a hog farming bill might very well have an impact on public health.

People aren’t necessarily chosen for committee assignments based on their “expertise.” If they were, the committee assignments would look a bit different than they do now. The sparsely populated Counties and Townships Committee would have a lot more members than it does, for instance.

* The truth is that the House Ag Committee has been the place to send more culturally conservative legislation for a while now so that the sponsors are assured that their legislation makes it to the floor. Madigan likes to make his members happy, and getting floor votes on bills is part of that process. This started with guns and went from there. Pro gun bills were sent to Ag. Gun control bills were sent to whatever committee had the most liberals on it.

The “child abuse” bill assigned to Ag requires people whose work encompasses “abortions, abortion counseling, abortion referrals, contraceptives, contraceptive counseling, sex education, or gynecological care and services” to report suspected child abuse. Hence, the assignment.

* Anyway, I’ve been thinking for a while that Ag’s name should be changed to reflect its far more influential role in the process. So…

* The Question: What should be the House Agricultural Committee’s more “appropriate” new name?

Snark is heavily encouraged, of course.

- Posted by Rich Miller   58 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** Somebody notify DCFS

Monday, Feb 28, 2011

* You gotta be kidding me. From a press release

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will be the keynote speaker at a student political convention sponsored by the Junior State of America (JSA), the largest high school student-run organization in the country.

The two-day seminar in Chicago will host over 500 students from 13 states. JSA strives to invite speakers who have applied their interests in government, politics, and debate towards real-world success.

“As both a Chicagoland local and the most recognized politician of our generation, Mr. Blagojevich is ideal for this role,” says Tony Castagnoli from JSA. “Students are excited to hear the former governor speak and we believe this will be our best convention ever.”

“Real-world success?” Really? He succeeded at what? The guy is barred from running for state or local office for life. And the FBI surveillance tapes reveal a deeply cynical man who wanted to use his office to line his own pockets. Not to mention all the swear words. Yes, he’s a fantastic role model for kids.


* From the group’s website

The Junior Statesmen mission is to strengthen American democracy by educating and preparing high school students for life-long involvement and responsible leadership in a democratic society.

And Blagojevich can do that how, exactly? By showing them what they shouldn’t do?

The mind reels at this one.

*** UPDATE *** The AP reached the group and asked what the heck they were doing

JSA spokeswoman Lindsey Bowen says it’s up to Blagojevich to decide the focus of the speech. But she adds students are sure to ask tough questions about the accusations that led to his impeachment.

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      

Emanuel makes first post-election mistake

Monday, Feb 28, 2011

* Apparently, Judy Erwin didn’t tell Team Emanuel that she’d just been busted for ethics violations and the Emanuel people didn’t check. Oops

A veteran politician Rahm Emanuel named to his mayoral transition team resigned her high-level state job last summer and paid a fine for conducting political business on state time, according to a newly filed ethics report.

Judy Erwin, a co-chair of Emanuel’s mayoral campaign, said late Friday night that she would resign her new post on his transition team after the Tribune contacted her and the campaign. She said she hadn’t informed Emanuel of the ethics violation.

Erwin, the former executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, admitted using her office e-mail and phone while working on a campaign committee for presidential candidate Barack Obama, using staff resources to plan her trip to the 2008 Democratic National Convention and engaging in campaign fundraising activity while on the job, the state’s Executive Ethics Commission ruled in a decision filed Feb. 16.

The ethics commission said she cooperated with the investigation by the executive inspector general, reimbursed the state, agreed to pay a $4,000 fine and promised to never work for the state again. She resigned Aug. 15.


In the filing, Erwin’s explanation was that she “was not careful enough in separating her political work from her state responsibilities . . . and also that she had become accustomed to using administrative assistants in the private sector in a way that is not permitted in the public sector.”

But the commission found it “particularly troubling” that Erwin had made a campaign contribution to a state representative who was chairman of a committee overseeing the Board of Higher Education’s budget.

“This suggests that she was responding to a real or imagined pay-to-play incentive within state government,” the commission wrote in its filing.

While there were clear violations in the ethics report, that campaign contribution amounted to just $125 to former Rep. David Miller. Not exactly a king’s ransom.

* Roundup…

* Rahm Emanuel stops by luncheon honoring Justice Anne Burke

* GOP could increase members on City Council

* An election ‘thank you,’ stamped with an alderman’s government letterhead

* Weis may be out as soon as Tuesday

* Weis would like to find a job in Chicago

* Rosenthal: My advice for Rahm Emanuel

* Emanuel Has a Tough Row to Hoe, but Far From an Impossible One

* Emanuel Spent $11M To Be Mayor

* Mitchell: How Rahm Emanuel won black voters

* Are stars aligning for Rahm’s long-term plans?

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      

Today’s number: $122 million

Monday, Feb 28, 2011

* From a Tribune editorial urging Gov. Pat Quinn to sign the death penalty abolition bill that’s sitting on his desk

Taxpayers have spent more than $122 million in 10 years to send 15 new prisoners to death row, but the moratorium remains in place because the system can’t be trusted. That’s why lawmakers passed the bill that awaits Quinn’s decision.


- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      

Legislative walkouts have a long - bipartisan - history in Indiana

Monday, Feb 28, 2011

* It turns out that walkouts have been a relatively common occurrence in the Indiana House for the past 16 years by both parties..

– In 1995, Democrats staged a two-week walkout during the 1995 session until Republican leaders withdrew a surprise proposal to redraw legislative districts for the 1996 elections and reduce the 100-member House by one Democratic seat. Democrats won back the House majority in the 1996 election as Democrat Frank O’Bannon was elected governor.

– In 2001, outnumbered Republicans holed up for two days, refusing to take the floor in protest of new legislative districts drawn by Democrats. But Bosma and Democratic leaders agreed to some minor changes that were just enough to break the impasse. Democrats kept their slim majority in the 2002 election.

– In 2004, Republicans blocked action for a week by staying off the floor because then-Speaker Bauer refused to let a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage even be debated. Republicans won a 52-48 majority in the 2004 election that also saw Daniels win the governor’s office.

– In 2005, Democrats staged a one-day walkout that temporarily derailed a voter ID bill and other Daniels initiatives that later became law, leading to the governor lashing out at Bauer. Democrats regained House control in the 2006 election. [Emphasis added.]

* At least 70,000 protested at the Wisconsin Statehouse on Saturday, some Chicagoans rallied as well

Union workers and supporters ignored wintry weather Saturday as they rallied downtown to protest efforts by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to strip most public employees in that state of their collective bargaining rights.

The rally came as one of the 14 runaway Wisconsin senators said in an appearance at Operation PUSH Headquarters on the South Side that she and the other Democratic legislators won’t return home until the GOP governor agrees to negotiate on his plan to end collective bargaining for public workers.

“His agenda is wrong for Wisconsin, and we’re standing our ground,” Wisconsin State Sen. Lena Taylor said.

Organizers estimated about 2,000 people braved snow and cold winds to attend the rally outside the James R. Thompson Center. There were no arrests, police said.

Chicago police estimated the crowd at less than half that.

* ABC7

* US Sen. Dick Durbin spoke at Saturday’s Chicago rally. Watch

* There was a Springfield demonstration as well, but I didn’t see any SJ-R coverage on its website. The Quad City Times and the St. Louis Beacon did post stories, however

Several hundred demonstrators representing Illinois unions and political action groups gathered in front of the Capitol in Springfield, Ill., Saturday to show support for public workers in Wisconsin.

* The fleeing Indiana legislators are still in Urbana with no plans to go home. And that’s costing a local pizza franchise

For a second straight day, a Papa John’s pizza delivery man showed up with 20 pies that pranksters — not the Democrats — had ordered.

On Thursday, the Democrats each chipped in enough cash to buy the pizza anyway.

On Friday, Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, sent the delivery man away.

* Related…

* Quinn hits GOP union ‘crusade’: “I think some of the animus against the unions, the public employee unions, is motivated by their political activities in the past, and I don’t think that is right,” Quinn told me. “I have had strong disagreements on policy with AFSCME. They did not support our public pension reform at all, nor did the teachers unions, both IEA and IFT, but we were able to get that done and signed into law and we worked with them on a variety of other issues. But clearly some of the other Republican governors are on an ideological crusade.”

* Largest crowds since Vietnam War march in Wisconsin: A crowd estimated at more than 70,000 people on Saturday waved American flags, sang the national anthem and called for the defeat of a Wisconsin plan to curb public sector unions that has galvanized opposition from the American labor movement.

* 45 Tea Party protesters at IN Statehouse

* Photos of national protests

* VIDEO: Sen. Dick Durbin Addressing “Save The American Dream” Rally In Chicago

* VIDEO: Springfield labor rallies in support of WI public employees

* VIDEO: Roberta Lynch addresses protesters

* Springfield 2-26 American Dream rally news and pictures

* Union supporters rally in Carbondale

* Union battle in the Midwest a pull for political power: “It’s very simple. Wealthy individuals and corporations can still give six-, seven-, eight-figure checks to all the candidates, state parties and causes they want to,” said Michael Fraioli, a Democratic strategist who works closely with organized labor. “If you take away unions and their ability to organize … you cut at the heart of our financial support.”

* Daniels Blasts Indiana Democrats For Legislating From Hot Tubs

* Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker rejects compromise on Meet the Press

* Wisconsin lawmakers’ life on the lam

* Bernard Schoenburg: AWOL Wisconsin senators include former area resident

* In Indiana, Clues to Future of Wisconsin Labor

* Attack on the middle class?

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      

Morning Shorts

Monday, Feb 28, 2011

* Cook County Board rolls back controversial sales tax increase

* Cook County Board marathon session on Preckwinkle budget

* Firm moving to take over Illinois Lottery despite court ruling

* FutureGen on the horizon once again: Four Illinois counties got the word in December that they made the cut for the FutureGen project.

* State budget shortfall hits Morton East day care center for students’ kids: During the last two years, the Children’s Center has cut 10 percent of its offerings, from bus service to snacks at holiday parties, administrators said. It expects to lose another $68,000 in state funding next school year and plans to eliminate weekly support groups, home visits and summer outings for teen parents, they said.

* Finke: In southern Illinois’ Franklin County, Mary Ann Adams worked for the regional office of education. She decided she wanted a raise. She went to the then-Franklin Williamson regional superintendent, Barry Kohl, who agreed to the raise with the stipulation that Adams kick back half of it to him each month. The raise came in two paychecks in addition to Adams’ regular paycheck. She’d cash one of the two pay raise checks and give the proceeds to Kohl. This went on for several years before she retired. Three years later, an auditor employed by the Teachers’ Retirement System uncovered the deal. TRS said money involved in an illegal kick-back scheme doesn’t count as salary for retirement benefits. Adams said she earned the money and should get a pension on it. She fought TRS’s ruling. She lost an administrative review, in circuit court and most recently in an appeals court. All said she can’t collect taxpayer-funded pension benefits for salary that was part of a kickback scheme. That will cost her $15,000 a year in pension benefits. She’ll still get about $50,000.

* Charter schools spark emotions, debate at School Board meeting

* Schools chief says Illinois needs to consolidate districts

* Lawmakers, Superintendents Talk Illinois State Funding for Education

* 3rd Chicago airport no worry for B-N officials

* Champaign cuts back: Fewer firefighters ahead

* New bike study measures where rubber meets road

- Posted by Rich Miller   3 Comments      

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* Question of the day
* Prepare for a skewering
* Rauner apologizes for no budget, blames Dems
* This just in... Mautino to be recommended for Auditor General
* Study: Four of the ten worst cities for African-Americans are in Illinois
* Lip service
* Today's quotable
* War of words resumes
* BND collects two more scalps
* McCarter gearing up to challenge Shimkus
* Caption contest!
* Sorry to see him go, happy to see the other guy leave
* "Unclear" on the concept
* A complete leadership stalemate
* Behind the impasse
* Report: Child care more expensive than state university tuition
* We're not exactly Old Faithful here
* Good morning!
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* CTU's Karen Lewis To Run For Re-Election
* Peoria Council Member Selected To Fill LaHood's Illinois Senate Seat
* Advocates: TPP Deal Could Hurt Illinois Jobs And Health

* IEMA Announces Elgin Community College Attains ‘Ready to Respond Campus’ Designation - Elgin one of five Illinois campuses to receive distinction
* New Mortgage Loan Interface Increases Efficiency, Compliance
* State Fire Marshal Ushers In Fire Prevention Week - “Hear the Beep Where You Sleep!”
* October Is Illinois College Application Month! - Over 130 High Schools Will Hold Events to Help Students Get to College
* Illinois Takes Part in Nationwide Community Banking Study, Findings Announced

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