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Sunday session live blog, with a new twist

Sunday, May 29, 2011

* We’re going to try something new today. I’ve set ScribbleLive to follow a few Statehouse types and I’ll be adding my own updates as well. But I’ve also enabled ScribbleLive’s comment function so that you can also update everybody on the front page. Just click the “Comment Now” button and post your session update.

Please, try to leave opinions out of your ScribbleLive comments. Just post updates and links to news stories you see pop up during the afternoon/evening (add a headline, though, or we won’t be able to figure out what the links mean). You can post your opinions in the blog’s comment section below. Thanks.

…Adding… I just realized that my account automatically moderates all ScribbleLive comments. So, don’t be alarmed if your comment doesn’t immediately appear. I’ll get to it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      


Question of the day

Sunday, May 29, 2011

* Scott Reeder is not happy that the pension bill excludes judges from paying higher contribution rates

A circuit judge in Illinois earns $170,000 — just $7,000 less than Gov. Pat Quinn.

As the Illinois Policy Institute pointed out last year, that’s $39,855 more than a circuit judge in Iowa, $43,908 more than a circuit judge in Indiana and $49,701 more than one in Missouri.

So with judges making so much, why would the sponsors of the bill keep judges out of the mix?

I’m no wizard at math but even I know that a judge who earns $170,000 a year puts a greater strain on the state’s pension system than a teacher making $40,000.

Shouldn’t they at least be paying the same percentage of their paychecks toward retirement?

Illinois judges currently make less than most first year associates at big Chicago law firms. Most surrounding states like Iowa don’t have a wealthy big city like we do.

But that last line, about judges paying the same percentage as teachers, ignores the fact that judges currently pay 11 percent of their salaries toward their pensions, while teachers pay about 9 percent. A floor amendment which would include the judges requires them to pay 34 percent of their salaries to the pension fund, compared to 14 percent for teachers. And many teachers union locals have already negotiated away their currently required 9 percent contribution. The school districts pick up the whole tab.

Then again, I can see the point he makes. Let’s discuss.

* The Question: Should judges be included in the pension reform bill? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please. Thanks.


- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      


Unintended consequences

Sunday, May 29, 2011

* Doug Finke reports on a recent Senate Appropriations Committee hearing which looked at the House’s cuts to the human services budget

Things like phones and travel also took hits. Cutting those things plays well back home, especially travel. Everyone knows that when you talk about state travel, it means public employees going off on junkets to resort areas, right?

Well, members of the state guardian’s office testified about what those cuts mean to their operations. Cut travel? That means cutting the money for staff to make the home visits required by state law. Cut telecommunications? Most of that money is used for staff to access computer files on clients.

It all falls under the general category of unintended consequences. Expect a whole lot of those stories in the days and weeks after the General Assembly adopts a new state budget that lawmakers from both parties vow will cut state spending.

Oops.

* The House passed a bill yesterday which cracked down on sex offenders

The latest bill would add conspiracy, “luring,” unauthorized videotaping and other offenses to the range of crimes that can land a person on the registry. It would also expand the minimum time on the list for misdemeanor offenders from 10 to 15 years.

Bills to expand the reach and restrictions of the registry are practically an annual requirement in Illinois for any lawmaker who wants to look tough on crime. “If it was your son or your daughter walking to school, you’d want to know who was trying to lure them,” said Dennis Reboletti, R-Addison, speaking in favor of Saturday’s bill.

But Kevin McDermott quoted legislators who had some serious concerns about what is usually a very popular category of Statehouse legislation

“We’re making it impossible for them to live anywhere, we’re making it impossible for them to work anywhere, we’re making it impossible for them to go anywhere,” said Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Des Plaines. “We need to take a step back.”

Nekritz is a liberal Democrat, but concern about this latest expansion wasn’t limited to that wing.

“You’re making this more and more onerous for people to comply” with the registration list, warned Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Sycamore, a conservative stalwart.

Another, Rep. Rosemary Mulligan, R-Park Ridge, acknowledged that “most of us will vote for it because it looks bad if you don’t,” but she expressed concern about the annual proliferation of “layers” of new laws regarding the list.

Pritchard and Mulligan both ended up voting “yes,” and the bill is now on its way back to the Senate for a concurrence vote. It will almost certainly pass, but the issue is clearly becoming less cut-and-dried than it used to be.

* I’m pretty sure that this Tribune headline was intended to have a very specific consequence

Lawmakers take holiday break with big issues left to tackle

They adjourned yesterday afternoon and are back this afternoon. That’s not much of a “holiday break.” Sheesh.

* Related…

* Backseat passengers need to buckle seat belts under bill sent to governor: “In the last year … 38 folks died unfortunately because they weren’t wearing their seat belt,” said Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), the bill’s chief Senate sponsor. “This bill is going to definitely save lives.”

* Catching suburban texting drivers can be difficult

* Parents of disabled children giving up on Illinois - Families move to other states as Illinois’ social service funding shrinks

* IL lawmaker references own drug addiction to argue against immunity bill

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      


Caterpillar expresses strong reservations as workers’ comp bill advances

Sunday, May 29, 2011

* Caterpillar was at the heart of a huge controversy earlier this year after its CEO revealed he was being courted to move the company’s headquarters to another state because of Illinois’ business climate. The workers’ comp reform bill was seen by many as a chance to show Cat and other business leaders that the state was getting its act together. But Cat is dissatisfied with the workers’ comp reform plan which overwhelmingly passed the Senate yesterday. From a press release…

“At Caterpillar, our goal has been, and remains to help make Illinois one of the best states in the union for attracting investment and jobs. This legislation is a small step toward lowering the cost of doing business in Illinois. However, we remain concerned it will not put the state in a position to attract additional investments and jobs.”

“We are not opposed to this bill, but even with this change, more work needs to be done, or Illinois will continue to struggle to find companies willing to invest and grow their operations in the state. We will continue to encourage state officials to work toward meaningful reforms that will improve the business climate in Illinois.”

* Two Senators who represent the Peoria area, where Cat is based, went at it on the floor yesterday

Sen. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, charged the bill would not make Illinois competitive with other states. LaHood ticked off how Caterpillar decided to build an excavator plant in South Carolina and an engine plant in Texas as a “direct result of our workers’ compensation system here in Illinois.”

But Sen. David Koehler, D-Peoria, shot back with a frank question: “Is this better or worse than what the status quo is? I say it’s better.”

* Lots of Republicans who voted for the bill also expressed reservations during debate

“It’s important that we highlight, not to just the employers in Illinois, but to people who are looking at making investments around this nation that our job is not done here. This may not even be getting to first base,” said state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington. […]

“I would hope that we’re all open to a realistic review. If the costs don’t come down, we need to come back, but of course it needs a little bit of time to work,” state Sen. Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, said on Saturday.

* Sen. Brady also expressed regret at the 30 percent reimbursement rate hit taken by by the medical community. And the Medical Society made this point yesterday about that cut

Businesses said a 50 percent cut would be best, while medical groups said anything beyond 20 percent would be too painful for doctors and hospitals.

“Yes, Illinois competes for business, but you also compete for physicians,” said James Tierney, lobbyist with Illinois State Medical Society. “Fifty percent leave the state already. This legislation will make a very, very harsh practice environment that much worse.”

* Republicans say sponsoring Sen. Kwame Raoul’s harsh closing remarks cost him three SGOP votes

With the bill’s fate now in the hands of the House, which reconvenes today, Raoul gave a vigorous response to the lineup of mostly Republican critics who said the legislation didn’t go far enough.

“This is major reform, and you all cannot deny it. I refuse . . . to accept the characterization that this is just a step in the right direction. That’s political speak,” Raoul said. “This is major reform.”

Listen to Raoul’s remarks…

* Related…

* Senate approves workers’ comp reforms

* Editorial: Give OK to workers’ comp bill

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


Sunday Remapalooza: Republicans and Democrats begin to cannibalize

Sunday, May 29, 2011

* I’ve been told by a very top source that Kinzinger will run in the 16th. This report is from Kurt Erickson at Lee Newspapers

Mapped out of his home territory by a new Democratic map, Republican U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger could be gearing up to run in a district stretching from Livingston County to Rockford.

In a note distributed Saturday, Livingston County Republican Party Chairman John McGlasson said Kinzinger may be planning to run in the newly drawn 16th Congressional District in the 2012 election.

That would set up a potential face-off against fellow GOP colleague Don Manzullo. Freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh of McHenry also may be angling for a shot in the 16th after Democrats drew him into a district with Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren of Winfield.

The confusing jockeying by Republicans is exactly what Democrats had hoped would happen as they released a proposed new set of boundaries for Illinois congressional districts Friday. The map is drawn to favor Democrats and puts Kinzinger, a former member of the McLean County Board, into a tough-to-win district with Democratic U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. […]

In his note, McGlasson said Kinzinger “has called to say he intends to run for election in our new district.”

* And some potential primaries are taking shape for the Democrats as well

Former U.S. Rep. Bill Foster has plans to make another run at Congress. The Foster campaign on Saturday confirmed that Foster on Tuesday is expected to announce that he will be running in the Congressional district containing Aurora.

A filing with the Federal Election Commission shows that Foster, of Batavia, filed to run as a Democrat in the proposed 11th District, which would cover Naperville and Joliet in addition to Aurora. He would run in the 2012 election.

Foster, a Democrat, represented the 14th District for more than two years before losing the seat to Randy Hultgren in November.

* That district wasn’t meant for Foster

But state legislative leaders want Foster, a physicist and businessman, to run in an expansive new 14th district that includes his home in Batavia and runs from far north suburban Antioch and Harvard to southwest suburban Minooka.

Democrats, who control both houses of the state Legislature, could approve the new congressional map Sunday.

The new map of the 11th district includes Burr Ridge, where insurance broker John Atkinson lives. Atkinson, though, has already raised $500,000 to launch a primary challenge in the 3rd district against Rep. Dan Lipinski, a conservative Democrat from the Southwest Side.

“I have serious policy differences with Dan Lipinski — I would prefer someone in that seat who wanted to work with the president,” Atkinson said Saturday.

But state Democratic leaders want Atkinson to win a new seat for Democrats in the 11th rather than challenge Lipinski, an ally of powerful state House Speaker Michael Madigan, who lives in the 3rd district.

Atkinson said Saturday he was still evaluating what to do.

“I’m not going to be rushed — this is not about who plants a flag first. This is about who puts together a campaign to be able to win,” he said.

Best laid plans, etc.

* Meanwhile, the jockeying has begun in the 13th

The new 13th District includes the home of U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, but it is a virtually new district for him, including not only most of Champaign-Urbana, but also most of Bloomington-Normal, and Springfield, Decatur and some parts of Democratic Madison County.

It would be a politically competitive district, said Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign.

Frerichs was coy when asked if he would be interested in running in the district, which has a heavy tilt toward higher education and student voters. It has four public universities — the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Illinois-Springfield, Illinois State University and Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville — plus a number of private schools, including Illinois Wesleyan in Bloomington and Millikin University in Decatur.

“I’ve told people I’m interested in serving the people of East Central Illinois,” he said. “I think I am happy where I am today.”

* But don’t count on this happening

One feature of the new map is a district connecting Decatur with the east side of Springfield. It appears designed to oust freshman Republican state Rep. Adam Brown of Decatur and replace him with a Democrat.

Which got us to thinking: Is there a Democrat who lives in Decatur but works in Springfield and has extensive knowledge of both state government and Decatur city government?

Indeed, there is. His name is Michael Carrigan, a former member of the Decatur City Council who serves as president of the Illinois AFL-CIO.

We ran the scenario past him during a break in the action of the General Assembly last week. He laughed and said he was a bit too busy to contemplate the idea of running for the seat because of the crush of legislative business under way in the Capitol.

* And Democrats Ilya Sheyman of Waukegan and Brad Schneider of Deerfield have already opened campaign offices in the new 10th District

Sheyman, who was endorsed by former presidential candidate and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean this week, likes the look as well. He has lived and worked in the areas as a community organizer. He feels he knows the people and their needs.

“I’m extremely pleased Buffalo Grove where I grew up and Waukegan where I live are in the district,” Sheyman said. “These are communities I have organized for years.”

Though the campaign is young, charges have already been made Schneider has voted in Republican primary elections and donated $3,300 to Kirk. He explained he voted in the 2000 Republican primary to support close friend Andy Hochberg.

Local Democrats are looking elsewhere, however.

* In other news, Chinese-American groups are upset at the new congressional map. From a press release…

The Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community (CBCAC) is deeply disappointed with the Illinois Congressional map proposal, issued yesterday, which continues to divide the Greater Chinatown community area into three districts at the Congressional level. After a great deal of hard work to keep the community intact at all levels in the redistricting process, CBCAC considers this new development to be a setback in its effort to gain fair voting rights for the Chicago Chinatown community. Despite the community’s success with the state house and senate maps, which keep Chinatown intact, the result of Congressional redistricting indicates a lack of regard for the community that is unacceptable.

CBCAC is disappointed in the process that did not provide opportunity for input in the drawing of Congressional boundaries and asks that adjustments be made in the remaining time before the map is passed by the state legislature. For the past ten years, the Chinatown community has suffered from neglect and poor representation as a result of the way it was fractured at all levels during the 2001 redistricting process. According to the 2010 census, the Asian population in Illinois grew by 38.6 percent, the fastest rate among minority groups in the state. The area that is currently and continues to be divided between Danny Davis’s 7th District, Daniel Lipinski’s 3rd District, and Luis Gutierrez’s 4th District, includes about 30,000 Asian Americans, an increase of more than 50 percent since the 2000 census. The people in this community deserve better. We call on the Illinois Senate and House Redistricting Committees to address our community’s concerns so that we may be fairly represented all levels of government.

* Related…

* Editorial: Guv has every excuse to veto this map, too

* Map proposal for congressional districts unifies Macon County with Shimkus as incumbent

* Marion and Most Area Counties Put Into 15th Congressional District Under Proposed Redistricting Map

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


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Sunday, May 29, 2011

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Sunday video: Three more days

Sunday, May 29, 2011

* Ray Lamontagne kicks off our Sunday

I know it’s wrong to be so far from home
I know it’s wrong to leave you so alone

Everybody holding up OK?

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      


Congressional Remapalooza: An intensely partisan work of art

Saturday, May 28, 2011

* You gotta give the Democrats credit. They drew a much more partisan congressional map than many Republicans thought possible. Politico’s lede is pretty accurate

Illinois Democrats are poised to force through a dramatically transformed congressional map that would endanger all of the state’s freshman Republicans and could take a significant bite out of the GOP’s current 24-seat House majority.

In an astonishing display of line-drawing power, Democrats unveiled a redistricting proposal Friday that forces at least five Republicans into match-ups with other incumbents and thrusts others into solidly Democratic districts. While GOP officials said they were scrambling to determine the damage the potential lines would have, they acknowledged that the new map would take a hammer to the state’s Republican delegation.

* Also accurate

“It’s payback and a power grab. The democrats lost four seats in the november elections and they want them back,” said ABC7’s political analyst Laura Washington.

* This is an interesting point that has so far been lost in the mix

While the state would lose a congressional seat, the suburbs would gain collective strength, according to the proposal. There would be a total of seven congressional districts in Northwest suburban Cook, McHenry, Lake, DuPage and Kane counties, up from the current six.

* Some analysis

Democratic redistricters have also created Democratic-leaning districts out in the suburbs: a 10th district on the North Shore and inland in what has been increasingly Democratic territory, an 8th district in DuPage County and northwest Cook County that seems drawn to exclude more Republican suburbs and an 11th district that unites heavily Hispanic or black communities in Aurora and Joliet in the hope that their heavy Democratic margins will override small Republican percentages in much of the land in between.

* But lots of suburban counties are being split up into several congressional districts

While any map would necessarily have to divide some counties, this map would split DuPage and Will counties into five Congressional districts, and Kendall County into two.

* Here’s one way DuPage was split

Take Elmhurst. Longtime residents of the western suburb are used to having conservative Republicans like the late Henry Hyde and Rep. Peter Roskam as their congressman. They soon could find themselves represented by the liberal Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley, whose home base is the North Side of Chicago.

* Still, this isn’t a bad point

Bob Peickert, DuPage County Democratic Party chairman, said changing demographics warranted changes in district boundaries.

“Thirty percent of the population in DuPage is now either Hispanic, Asian or African-American,” he said. “And that’s been a significant change over the last 10 years, which would justify boundaries that would take into consideration of that new demographic.”

* The Democrats carved up more than just the suburbs, of course

Democrats in Springfield released a proposed congressional map Friday that splits Rockford into two districts.

The city is currently covered by Rep. Don Manzullo’s 16th District.

Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey was disturbed by the change.

“I think it’s really going to make it hard to maximize the value of our representation in Washington,” Morrissey said. “It seems to me a very intentional disservice to our taxpayers.”

* But, again, the Democrats looked at the bright side

Winnebago County’s Democratic Party chairman Dan Lewandowski said he is pleased with the new map, which splits Winnebago County into two districts. He said having two congressmen will give the county more clout in Washington, D.C., and the voters more choices for candidates.

“In the Rockford area, we’ve had the same congressman for about 20 years, Don Manzullo, Republican, and I think it certainly allows us to have more choices,” Lewandowski said.

* Meanwhile, I don’t agree with this at all

While Shimkus’ new district appears to include more Democratic areas, it probably will remain a safe seat for him, said Kent Redfield, emeritus professor of political studies at the University of Illinois Springfield.

“You might get more serious candidates than you have had recently running against Shimkus,” Redfield said. “Twenty years ago, (then-U.S. Rep. Dick) Durbin won in a district that ran from Springfield down to the Metro East. This is all much stronger Republican than it used to be.”

It’s a signficiantly more Democratic district that it is now. Look at the map. It includes university and African-American precincts in Champaign-Urbana, Bloomington-Normal, Springfield and Decatur. There are a dozen or so universities and colleges in that district. This was clearly drawn as a hostile district for Shimkus.

* But this is about right

The proposed new Illinois District 17 congressional map could tip the balance in favor of a Democratic candidate, putting heavy pressure on Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, to hold onto his seat in 2012.

The proposed new boundaries released Friday by Illinois Senate Democrats would radically reshape the district. The district would gain Rockford and stretch right to the northern boundary of the state to include Jo Daviess, Stephenson, Carroll, Whiteside and part of Winnebago County. Southern parts of the district, which snaked south to connect Quincy and Decatur, would be cut off. A portion of Peoria also would now be in the district.

The map is being viewed by commentators as an attempt to bring more Democratic voters into the district to squeeze out Schilling in 2012. But the proposed district is more geographically uniform than the old one, which was one of the more oddly shaped in the country and designed to heavily favor Democrats. But that didn’t stop Schilling beating former Congressman Phil Hare in the 2010 congressional elections, securing victory in a district that had long been under Democratic control.

* We covered much of the reaction to yesterday’s congressional map proposal, but I forgot to include this one

Democrats also went an extra step to protect one of their own — U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) – from a challenge within his own party.

The Burr Ridge home belonging to John Atkinson, who has raised more than $500,000 this year in what he had hoped would be a 2012 primary bid against Lipinski, was moved two blocks outside Lipinski’s 3rd Congressional District. Atkinson now lives in the 11th Congressional District that could be without an incumbent because of Kinzinger being redrawn into Jackson’s district.

“I haven’t measured the distance, but when I woke up this morning, I was living in the 11th congressional district, not the 3rd District,” said Atkinson, who added that he has not decided which district he will run in.

* Roundup…

* New congressional map splits city of Peoria

* Three new congressional districts for county

* Democrats pass proposed congressional map for Illinois that irks Republicans

* Shimkus Odd Man Out in Proposed Congressional Map

* Johnson denounces congressional remap

* Congressional map would carve up county

* Suburban GOP districts in limbo

* Proposed Congressional Map Splits Northern Suburbs

* Rush, Jackson districts extended to Will County

* Who will speak for Naperville?

* Carving up the county: Democrats’ map plan could hurt Shimkus

- Posted by Rich Miller   50 Comments      


Question of the day

Saturday, May 28, 2011

* Saturday, even during the end of session, is always a very slow day around here, so this ought to jack things up a bit. From the Northwest Herald..

Despite how union leaders are trying to frame it, pension reform is not an attack on unions in general or public employees specifically. We respect the hard and necessary work that public employees do. But taxpayers already give too much.

Pension reform is a necessary correction to an unsustainable system that has taxpayers paying much more than what a public employee himself pays toward his own retirement.

Of course, the unions are fighting reform tooth and nail, and lobbying legislators to defeat this measure.

* The Question: Do you support the pension reform bill? Take the poll and then please explain your answer in comments. Thanks much.


- Posted by Rich Miller   62 Comments      


Then and now on workers’ comp reform

Saturday, May 28, 2011

* There’s been much consternation at the Statehouse over the fact that the Illinois Chamber’s claimed “neutrality” on the workers’ compensation reform bill is more than a little shaded toward opposition

“It doesn’t go far enough to give us true reform,” said Doug Whitley, president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, which has declared itself “neutral” on the bill because the measure doesn’t harm businesses. “Yes, there will be some savings, but when the dust settles three years from now, we’ll still be a high-cost state.”

Whitley’s absolutely right about the fact that we’ll still be a high-cost state if this bill passes. This is an effort at reform, but it’s not a fix. Our workers’ comp costs are so far out of whack that only draconian, radical measures would’ve gotten us in line with everyone else. For instance, medical provider rates were cut 30 percent. A 50 percent cut would have moved us out of our rank as second highest in the nation, but we’d still just barely be in third place.

* However, Whitley also said this

“If we support (HB 1698) than it would give the impression that we fixed workers’ comp. And we don’t think that’s true,” Whitley said.

* Hmm. Back in January, Whitley testified at the House Executive Committee about a workers’ comp reform bill which cut only about half as much from employer costs as the current one

“The Illinois Chamber is here today to say we support the changes that are being offered and we encourage the members of the General Assembly to approve this bill. But the legislation pending before this General Assembly does not go nearly far enough to satisfy the objectives of employers who are looking for extensive reforms in our State. But there is no question that the legislation presented by Representative Bradley embodies improvements over the existing law.”

The difference between now and back in January is some believed that the reform process would continue in the spring. Whitley, himself, made some mention of that in his January testimony

“What I heard today is that that people said we got issues but for some reason a lot of these people here with issues don’t recognize that this is an ongoing process.”

So, I can see where the current legislation is viewed as the more “permanent” legislation and should, therefore, be taken more seriously. But if that bill had passed back then, I doubt that the GA would’ve taken it up again in May because the legislative plate is so darned full right now. It would’ve most likely been checked off the list. And Whitley also closed with an implied call for continued work in the years to come

“We are not here to suggest that this is the panacea or that this is perfect. In fact, we are here to say that we will recommend that you pursue what you’ve got in front of you and for gosh sakes let’s keep at it. Let’s continue to work on this issue going forward for an extended period of time. There is no quick fix, there is no silver bullet, it’s complicated, there are many people with interest in this subject area and we need to listen to them and we need to adapt. But there is no such thing as okay this is it, walk away, wash your hands we have fixed workers compensation and the problems in Illinois. We will improve the situation in Illinois if Representative Bradley’s legislation is passed. Are we done with it . . . Not at all, Thank you very much.”

* Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune is exectedly disappointed with the workers’ compensation reform proposal

But it falls so far short of what’s needed, we can’t join in the celebration. This issue presented an opportunity for the state to improve its troubled business climate. Instead of providing a competitive advantage, the proposed reforms merely stand to make Illinois less uncompetitive.

Disappointment No. 1: “Causation.” In principle, any successful claim must be related to an injury caused by the job. Illinois has a lax standard for proving that, and as the negotiations unfolded, plaintiff’s lawyers fought any effort to tighten it. Many of their cases, we suspect, would become non-starters if they had to connect the injury to the workplace in a common-sense way. Stricter causation rules have cut a fortune from work-comp costs in neighboring Missouri. In Illinois, no such luck.

The reform also includes built-in loopholes that enable lawmakers to pretend they tackled big problems while actually changing very little. One measure, for instance, establishes a network of providers with the goal of screening out doctors who would support illegitimate claims. Sounds good, but it contains a wide-open escape clause. Same goes for a proposal to follow American Medical Association guidelines when determining the level of impairment from an injury or condition. Lawyers eager to get around those potential obstacles no doubt will appreciate the roadmaps that legislators have conveniently included.

* Related…

* House OKs bill that would dump workers’ comp; but will system be scrapped altogether?

* Dueling workers compensation reform proposals pushed in Springfield

* Measure to repeal workers compensation OK’d

* Illinois House votes to change state’s workers’ comp system

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      


Lisa Madigan doing robocalls against ComEd

Saturday, May 28, 2011

* Attorney General Lisa Madigan is featured in a robocall opposing ComEd’s controversial bill. Scripts..

–LIVE ANSWER SCRIPT

LISA: Hi, this is Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan

BOB: and this is AARP Illinois State Director Bob Gallo.

LISA: Right now, ComEd, Ameren, and other Illinois utility companies are trying to pass legislation that will raise your electric and natural gas bills automatically every year – and guarantee higher profits for themselves.
BOB: We’re asking you to take action. Press 1 on your phone right now to tell your legislator “No Way!” to automatic utility rate increases. Join AARP and Attorney General Lisa Madigan to stop this legislation.

LISA: Press 1 on your phone right now and tell your legislator NO, you won’t foot the bill to guarantee profits for ComEd, Ameren or any other Illinois utility.

BOB: For more information, call AARP Illinois at 1-866-448-3613.

–ANSWERING MACHINE SCRIPT

LISA: Hi, this is Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan

BOB: and this is AARP Illinois State Director Bob Gallo. We’re sorry we missed you.

Lisa: Right now, ComEd, Ameren, and other Illinois utility companies are trying to pass legislation that will raise your electric and natural gas bills automatically every year – and guarantee higher profits for themselves.
BOB: We’re asking you to take action. Join AARP and Attorney General Lisa Madigan to stop this legislation.

LISA: Call 1-800-719-3020 and tell your legislator NO, you won’t foot the bill to guarantee profits for ComEd, Ameren or any other Illinois utility.

BOB: Call 1-800-719-3020 and tell you legislator “No Way” to automatic utility rate increases.

* Even so, ComEd’s bill is poised to fly through the General Assembly, but the ICC Chairman is also quite unhappy

In a rare political move, the chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission came out Friday against legislation being pushed by Commonwealth Edison that would reduce the regulatory body’s role.

The company has said a faster process for determining electricity rate hikes that locks in its profit margins and sets rates according to a formula would make it easier to plan and pay for modern infrastructure, including smart grid, and would lead to fewer outages.

“This bill, at its core, is not about smart grid,” said ICC Chairman Doug Scott, who oversees the regulatory body that reviews and approves utility rate increases that show up on consumers bills.

“While smart grid is in there, this bill is really about two things: 1) being able to recover all the utility’s costs through a new system with far less stringent review; and 2) getting all those costs back at a more favorable rate of return that’s locked in by the General Assembly instead of the current method that’s designed to balance the company’s interest with the ratepayers’ interest and to account for market forces.”

* Environmentalists are also still opposed

The latest version of the bill, released yesterday, dropped the idea of automatic rate hikes in advance of any regulatory review and added provisions to draw support from environmental groups and other interests.

“The bill’s becoming something of a Christmas tree,” said Howard Learner, president and executive director of the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center, which opposes the bill. “Clearly at this point ComEd doesn’t have the votes, but that could change in two minutes,” he said about an hour before the bill cleared the committee.

* But ComEd says low current wholesale prices will mitigate its most recent rate hike

Commonwealth Edison says a rate increase authorized by the Illinois Commerce Commission will be offset by a drop in the wholesale price of electricity.

According to ComEd, residential consumers should see an average $1.30 drop in their monthly bill.

The ICC on Tuesday ruled ComEd can raise its electric rates by $156 million. ComEd originally requested an increase of nearly $400 million. Much of that would have gone to new technology.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      


Latino division over legislative maps

Saturday, May 28, 2011

* Late yesterday afternoon, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund issued a press release…

After analyzing HB3760, the legislative redistricting map passed earlier today by the Illinois House, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) opposes the plan because it fractures communities of interest and weakens the voting strength of Latino neighborhoods. For example, the proposed Illinois plan unnecessarily splits Little Village, a community of interest that is maintained whole in MALDEF’s proposed redistricting plan previously offered to the Legislature.

“We cannot support a map that splits one of the most important Latino communities in Chicago,” stated Nina Perales, Vice President of Litigation. “In our proposed map, MALDEF kept Little Village together, created additional Latino majority districts and ensured the preservation of Black majority districts. MALDEF’s proposed map demonstrates that the Legislature elevated incumbency protection over respect for the Latino community,” continued Perales.

MALDEF will continue fighting for Latino voters with a map that creates more Latino majority districts and that keeps Little Village whole.

* MALDEF also had some sharp words for the House Majority Leader

“We have studied the map very carefully, and we don’t consider it a good map,” said Elisa Alfonso, redistricting coordinator for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, who declined to say whether her group would challenge these maps in federal court as it did an earlier set of boundaries in 1991.

MALDEF contended what lawmakers approved “fractures communities of interest and weakens the voting strength of Latino neighborhoods,” including having Little Village split into two House and Senate districts rather than keeping the Latino community united.

During her floor speech, Currie told lawmakers that MALDEF had requested such a division, but Alfonso angrily denounced that statement from the No. 2 House Democrat as a “flat-out lie.”

“Anyone who says that is just working to protect incumbents,” she said.

Expect a lawsuit over this map.

* But the Latino Policy Forum isn’t nearly as upset. From a press release…

Leadership from the 49-member Illinois Latino Agenda is cautiously optimistic about gains in Latino representation included in legislative maps approved today by the General Assembly. Unprecedented collaboration among the Agenda’s diverse city- and suburban-based member organizations has influenced the creation of stronger Latino legislative districts throughout Metro Chicago.

“The new maps represent the growing influence of the Latino community—some advances were significant, some smaller, but all important in allowing Latino voters to effectively decide who will represent them in Springfield,” said Hipolíto “Paul” Roldan, president of the board of directors for the Latino Policy Forum, the co-convener of the Agenda. “Significant among our successes was our unified effort itself. The Agenda represents agreement among nearly 50 diverse Latino groups—a strong, united voice representing a growing, diverse community.” […]

These gains are tempered, however, by the fact that Latinos, Illinois’ second-largest ethnic community and one of its fastest-growing population segments, will continue to be underrepresented in Springfield: Latino Policy Forum analysis indicates that if the two million-plus Latinos in Illinois were proportionately represented, there would be at least 28 Latino super-majority districts in the state legislature. However, analysis shows that geographic concentration would require 13 such districts.

Additionally, Latino leaders are upset that advances came unnecessarily at the expense of community cohesion. Despite the Agenda’s advocacy to the contrary, lines were drawn through—not around—the predominately-Latino communities of Little Village, Back of the Yards, Cicero, Berwyn and Brighton Park. Fracturing these communities dilutes residents’ ability to influence their legislators and improve their neighborhoods. Some of these districts, drawn extensively across municipalities, represent a threat to real representation for Latino communities.

“Outcomes were mixed, but the process itself shows promise: Latinos and other communities of color played a significant role in determining how these maps were drawn,” said Maria S. Pesqueira, President and CEO of Mujeres Latinas en Acción and member of the Illinois Latino Agenda. “Our next step is to turn these new district lines into actual representation. More representation for Latinos in Springfield is good for all of Illinois.”

The problem with the demand for all those new districts is that Latino growth was dispersed pretty much throughout the state.

* Meanwhile, the governor kept his tongue in his head when asked about the proposal

“I’ve said over and over, it’s got to be fair. I will tell every member of the General Assembly, both houses, both parties: emphasize fairness. That’s what the people want,” Quinn said.

* The Republicans were not so averse to speaking out, however

“Illinois’ redistricting process is rotten to the core. It just doesn’t work,” said Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale. “When we have a two-party system, things in this state are much fairer and work a lot better.”

Republicans, who became the legislature’s minority party under a Democratic-drawn map a decade ago, contended the current plan would pit 19 House Republicans against an incumbent while only six Democrats would face an incumbent. Even worse, they contend, eight Republican Senate incumbents would face each other while no Senate Democrats would. […]

Republican Sen. Dale Righter of Charleston, the ranking GOP member of the Senate Redistricting Committee, complained that Democrats did not provide enough time for a thorough review of the concepts underlying the map.

“There’s a tragic lack of information about how the lines were drawn the way they are,” Righter said.

That complaint about pairing is a bit rich. The Republicans’ map pairs 14 Senate Democrats into the same districts while only pairing 4 Republicans.

* Roundup…

* Democrats approve new legislative maps, send them to governor

* Illinois lawmakers OK Democratic redistricting map

* Remap of General Assembly clears House

* Illinois state legislature redistricting approved

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      


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