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Question of the day

Wednesday, Feb 29, 2012

* From the AP

The Illinois Human Rights Commission is endorsing legislation that would require a statewide bullying-prevention policy.Commission chairman Martin Castro said Tuesday the panel also voted to join the Prevent School Violence Illinois Commission.

The legislation is sponsored by Chicago Democratic Rep. Kelly Cassidy. It would require school districts to adopt guidelines to prevent bullying and cyberbullying by the start of school this fall.

It would require schools to regularly update the policies and require collection of data on bullying incidents.

* The Question: Were you ever bullied in school? Tell us the story.

- Posted by Rich Miller   60 Comments      


Unexpected revenues for schools?

Wednesday, Feb 29, 2012

* Will newfound money patch the budget hole? Maybe

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn suggested Tuesday that better-than-expected sales-tax collections could be used to plug a hole in state school funding this year.

The budget that lawmakers and Quinn approved is about $230 million short for schools, and state education officials said Monday that they would likely not be able to make the final aid payment to school districts during the second half of June. The Illinois State Board of Education warned that a similar payment scheduled for the first half of June also will fall short.

Asked about the situation Tuesday, Quinn said he believed the money could be found within the already strapped budget because sales tax revenues are up. From July through December, Illinois brought in $4.312 billion in sales tax revenue — $239.1 million more than the same period the year before and $139.8 million more than initially projected, according to the Department of Revenue. […]

The governor added that he’d like to look at closing so-called “tax loopholes” to help the state make school aid payments next year, which could be more than $400 million short under a budget plan Quinn proposed last week.

Look, here’s the thing. School funding is remaining level for next fiscal year. But because of increased costs, etc. the per pupil funding level will be less. With the rest of the budget taking big hits and billions of dollars in overdue bills to struggling vendors, does it make sense to spend more money on schools? If you’re pro-school, you’ll say yes. Others might say no. But this does need to be honestly debated.

Also, closing tax loopholes to fund schools? Man, he must want to close a whole lot of loopholes because he used his recent budget address to outline some pretty big plans for that cash, and they didn’t include school funding

That’s why I have instructed my Revenue Director, Brian Hamer, to meet with legislative leaders of both houses and both parties to identify and close unnecessary loopholes.

Part of the loophole revenue can be used to provide targeted tax relief for hard-working families and businesses across Illinois.

By taking on the loophole lobby, we can find the revenue to permanently abolish the natural gas utility tax. […]

Why not a moratorium on unfair loopholes in the tax code as an important way to pay the bills faster?

* Meanwhile, Illinois Statehouse News has a story about some of Gov. Quinn’s proposed budget cuts

Funding for domestic violence shelters in Quinn’s budget would be cut by $2.3 million, from $18.8 million this year to $16.5 million.

Cutting aid to these shelters is like cutting funding to a local fire department, because people never know when they will need their help, said Vicky Smith, executive director for Illinois Commission Against Domestic Violence, a nonprofit that works against the abuse of women and children.

“They are emergency crisis-intervention services and need to be available when people need the assistance,” Smith said. Quinn’s cuts are “not good. This is a very, very high risk population that needs help immediately.”

In Illinois, there are 63 domestic violence shelters, and the proposed funding cut would shrink that number, Smith said.

Quinn’s budget also zeros out funding for youth substance and alcoholism abuse from the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Division of Family and Community budget.

Eliminating the $2.6 million in prevention funding would cut services to more than 34,000 children, but it would be more than just the children affected, said Eric Foster, chief operating officer for the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association, a nonprofit lobbying group that represents drug and alcohol abuse centers statewide.

“Substance abuse prevention services affect every single aspect of the state — health care, law enforcement corrections, the courts,” Foster said.

* Related…

* An Alternative Solution To The Illinois Budget Crisis: The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability released a report today touting the benefits of a graduated income tax. This is compared to the status quo where all residents – from Derrick Rose to your neighbor – pay five percent of their yearly income to the state.

* Quinn: Public safety a top priority with prison closures

* Hospital deal appears unlikely before Thursday deadline

* Hospitals ready if talks break down on taxes

* Home health care workers protest proposed Illinois budget cuts

* More staff cuts ahead for Plainfield schools

* Sandack says no hopes emerge from Quinn’s budget

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


Kinzinger doubles down

Wednesday, Feb 29, 2012

* Earlier this week, I told you about how Congressman Adam Kinzinger grossly distorted a newspaper columnist’s words. Well, when called on it, Kinzinger attacked the newspaper columnist. I kid you not

On Saturday, Chuck Sweeney of the Register Star wrote an article saying Kinzinger had been taking his words out of context and twisting them in his campaign literature to misrepresent the voting record of his challenger, incumbent Don Manzullo. Kinzinger claims Sweeney compared Manzullo to Barney Frank, but Sweeney says his words were taken wildly out of context.

16th Dist. Candidate Rep. Adam Kinzinger said, “Chuck has made it very obvious in all of his columns who he’s supporting in this race. He has an opinion. He has someone he’s backing. That’s not an independent columnist–that’s doing independent reporting for a column. That’s an opinion columnist.”

“All of his columns,” eh? Really? Well, how about this one

The race for the Republican nomination in the 16th Congressional District came down Monday to a question of age and longevity in office: With 20 years of service, should 67-year-old U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo of Egan be retired by voters to give the new kid on the block a chance?

Dave Winters thinks so. The veteran Republican state representative from Shirland has endorsed Manzullo’s March 20 primary opponent, 33-year-old U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Manteno. Winters is quitting his job after 18 years, and he believes Manzullo should have followed his example. Winters is 58. He wants voters to put Manzullo out to pasture.

Or this one

The “I’m more conservative than you” campaign between U.S. Reps. Don Manzullo, R-Egan, and Adam Kinzinger, R-Manteno, is boiling on the front burner. Manzullo, first elected in 1992, and freshman Kinzinger are vying for the GOP nomination in the 16th District.

Monday, the Illinois Tea Party endorsed Manzullo: “Don is the true fiscal conservative in this race,” said Barb Offill, president of the Iroquois County Tea Party. “Don is an ethical man and a passionate conservative who always votes in line with his values. His 19 years of experience in (promoting) manufacturing, creating jobs, cutting wasteful spending, and reducing the deficit in Washington is a strength.” […]

I asked Kinzinger spokeswoman Brook Hougesen for comment, and she said: “Congressman Kinzinger is proud of the strong support he’s received districtwide, including his endorsement from Rockford-area state Rep. Dave Winters, R-Shirland, who chose a fresh conservative voice over the status quo. We need a break from the past — no more bailouts, earmarks or Obama spending projects like Congressman Manzullo has supported. The new 16th District needs someone like Congressman Adam Kinzinger who will bring representation to the area and has the energy and drive to advocate for local concerns and needs.”

* Meanwhile, Manzullo whacks Kinzinger in a new TV ad. Rate it

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


Jackson radio ad riles opponent, not true

Wednesday, Feb 29, 2012

* Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.’s new radio ad has stirred up a hornet’s nest. Check it out…

Believe it or not, the woman who yells: “She voted 88 times with the Republicans and 88 times against President Barack Obama? She’s crazy!!!” is Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL).

The full script…

[Jesse] President Obama and I are working together. Fighting for good jobs paying good wages.

[Rep. Waters]
Congressman Jesse Jackson Junior, fights every day for the people of Chicago and the Southland.

[Jesse] I sat in the Speaker’s chair, leading the fight to pass President Obama’s health care law. But I’ve also fought successfullyto hire more than a thousand nurses, and keep our hospitals open.Because we need jobs, and we need health care.

[Rep. Waters]
His opponent, Debbie Halvorson, has a different agenda. Halvorson voted with the Republicans, opposing President Obama and health care for all. And she voted with the Republicans and the NRA against stopping gun violence.

In fact, Halvorson voted with the Republicans and against President Obama 88 times!

[African-American male] How many?

[Rep. Brown]
She voted 88 times with the Republicans and 88 times against President Barack Obama? She’s crazy!

[Jesse] I’m Jesse Jackson, Junior, and I approved this ad.

[African-American male]
88 times against President Obama is 88 times too many.I’m sticking with Jesse!

[Jesse]
Paid for by Jackson for Congress.

* Some media outlets just gave it the quick he said, she said treatment

In Jesse Jackson Jr.’s latest ad, the incumbent accuses his challenger Debbie Halvorson of voting 88 times with the Repubican majority and against the president.

He called that “crazy.”

Halvorson is fighting back saying Jackson Jr. is “lying.”

* But the Sun-Times did a good job of fleshing out the truth...

Jackson arrived at his number of “88 Times” by counting the number of votes on which he and Halvorson differed during Halvorson’s two years in Congress. Of those 133, Halvorson voted against the wishes of Congressional Democratic leaders 88 times.

But Halvorson said voting against House Democratic leaders is not voting against Obama. For instance, on ethics legislation to sanction Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel, Halvorson voted with Republicans for tougher ethics standards. That was not a vote against Obama, she said.

Asked why Jackson’s ad presented that as a vote against Obama, Jackson spokesman Kevin Lampe said, “Democrats have got to stick together in Congress.”

And

In fact, Jackson voted against Obama twice as often as Halvorson, according to records compiled by Congressional Quarterly magazine.

Jackson voted against the president more than any other Democrat from Illinois except for Downstate Rep. Jerry Costello, who, like Jackson, voted against Obama 21 percent of the time, according to the CQ statistics for 2010.

Oops.

* Tribune

In a list of the 88 votes supplied by the Jackson campaign, some were not votes against the president but were procedural in nature. Another vote cited by Jackson was a move by DemocraticRep. Dennis Kucinichof Ohio to immediately withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2010, which was not on Obama’s agenda.

Um, OK.

More

But Jackson’s campaign said Halvorson voted against the initial House version of Wall Street reforms and against steering $4 billion in Wall Street rescue money for low-interest loans to the unemployed and for neighborhood stabilization. The transfer of funds had been sought by the Congressional Black Caucus.

“Congresswoman Halvorson wants people to believe she’s a progressive Democrat, but she votes like a conservative Republican,” Jackson said in a statement. “She voted against us, the people of the 2nd District and President Obama, 88 times.”

Instead of lying about her voting record, I gotta wonder why they haven’t really played the gun card yet. Halvorson was a major NRA supporter, and the 2nd is not exactly a big NRA district. It sure beats linking her to “political demonic forces”

U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. on Monday touted the backing of more than 50 ministers, including one who said “political demonic forces” were driving the agenda of Democratic primary opponent Debbie Halvorson.

The congressman’s campaign aides refused to comment on whether they thought the remarks were appropriate. Halvorson called the comments the result of a “desperate” campaign.

* But I’d be careful about tempting fate, if I was Halvorson

The president has endorsed Jackson in the race. Still, as Halvorson pointed out, the president himself hasn’t said the words publicly, instead relying on aides to confirm his support for the congressman.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


*** UPDATED x2 - Death toll rises *** Harrisburg hit hard by killer storm

Wednesday, Feb 29, 2012

* My photojournalist brother Devin is on his way to Harrisburg as I write this, so we may have more pics soon. But it looks bad

A hospital administrator in the southern Illinois city of Harrisburg says at least three people were killed in a severe storm that swept through the region.

Harrisburg Medical Center CEO Vince Ashley says the three victims were pronounced dead on arrival at that hospital in Saline County after the storm hit at about 5 a.m. Wednesday.

He couldn’t immediately say how many other victims were being treated at the hospital. He says the hospital itself also sustained some damage in the storm that knocked out the 78-bed site’s heating and cooling system. Ashley says no one at the hospital was injured.

* By the looks of this video from local TV, at least part of Harrisburg appears to have been flattened. Buildings are gone, roads are indiscernible and stuff is just scattered everywhere .

* A friend forwarded some recent photos from Harrisburg…

* This is what’s left of St. Joseph’s Church…

*** UPDATE - 9:26 am *** I just spoke with Rep. Brandon Phelps who was heartbroken to discover minutes ago that the granddaughter of his district office employee was found dead this morning. Phelps is on his way to Harrisburg now and said he’s had reports of people missing and trapped in debris. The SJ-R is reporting that Springfield firefighters are heading south to help.

…Adding… I’m told this is what’s left of the apartment building where that young woman lived. Apparently, several residents were killed or injured…

*** UPDATE 2 - 9:43 am *** The Harrisburg death toll has reportedly risen to 10 [UPDATE: The death toll has been revised downward to 6.] Let’s plug in a new ScribbleLive feed. Blackberry users click here

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      


*** LIVE SESSION COVERAGE ***

Wednesday, Feb 29, 2012

* The Senate is in at 11:45 and the House convenes at 12:30.

I’ve been meaning to thank LIS for finally abandoning those ancient Windows Media video streams and switching over to a much more modernized and embeddable streaming system. I’ve been hoping for that for years. Also, lots of Statehouse types are now using iPads and were having trouble with the old video format. This new format is much more iPad friendly. So, thanks, LIS.

Because of this, we’ll have an embeddable live video feed of today’s House Executive Committee. I’ll post it in the ScribbleLive thingamajig. The hearing begins at 11 am. But you can watch Room 114 committees all morning by clicking here. The Senate has yet to set up any of their committee hearing rooms to accommodate live feeds.

* Blackberry users click here, everybody else can just kick back and watch…

- Posted by Rich Miller   1 Comment      


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Wednesday, Feb 29, 2012

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Wednesday, Feb 29, 2012

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* Oops
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* Today's number: 86 percent
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