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Tuesday, Feb 28, 2012

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It’s just a bill… um… a resolution

Tuesday, Feb 28, 2012

* This was bound to get some publicity, but it means absolutely nothing

In an action late Monday, Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, who narrowly lost to Democrat Pat Quinn in the 2010 gubernatorial election, filed a resolution calling on Congress to overrule new insurance regulations issued by the Obama administration.

The resolution says the rules “would dramatically affect the ability of many religious-affiliated schools, universities, and health care facilities to continue to provide educational and health care services to their employees and families and to people of faith.”

The rules created a bit of a furor when first issued by the president because they would have ordered religious employers in almost all instances to provide and pay for contraceptive coverage in insurance policies.

Mr. Obama later partially backed off, saying that contraception still would have to be covered but the cost would be picked up by insurers, not religious employers.

The resolution quotes both Madison and Jefferson

WHEREAS, President Thomas Jefferson warned that “to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles, on the supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty”;

Just so we’re clear here, this is a federal rule that would require health insurance policies to cover contraception. Religious institutions wouldn’t have to pay for the extra coverage.

* Meanwhile, on a related topic

Controversial legislation that would require women seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound or decline to do so in writing is working its way through the Illinois State House, and the American Civil Liberties Union says Illinois voters are not happy. […]

The measure in Illinois was approved by the Agricultural Committee in the House last week, sending the bill to the House floor for debate.

The ACLU released a poll Tuesday that showed only one in three Illinois voters support the bill. The poll also found the majority of both men (57 percent) and women (53 percent) were opposed to it.

Subscribers have more results from the poll.

- Posted by Rich Miller   49 Comments      


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Tuesday, Feb 28, 2012

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Question of the day

Tuesday, Feb 28, 2012

* Three stories…

* Former US Sen. Roland Burris will never accept reality: Burris said in an interview broadcast Friday on WBEZ that he was the victim of malicious journalists who owe him an apology. “It really impacted my family,” he said of the criticism, adding that “99.9 percent of it was totally unjustified. All I did was accept the appointment from the governor. Did nothing else.”

* Patti Blagojevich tells Rosie O’Donnell her husband is innocent: “I’m positive,” she says, adding, “I was there, and I’ve heard all the conversations. I know his heart. So much of this case was intent — what was his intent? And I know his heart.”

* Donald Trump thinks Blagojevich’s sentence is too harsh: “He doesn’t go down as Albert Einstein,” Trump said, “But people liked him. There was something about him that was nice. I just think that to be going away for years and you have killers walking the street that don’t get sentenced like that.”

* The Question: Which of these stories do you care about the least? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please. Thanks.


- Posted by Rich Miller   57 Comments      


Is that really all you got?

Tuesday, Feb 28, 2012

* The Chicago Tribune editorial board got all angry today at the University of Illinois for not giving them more information about college-bound kids whose parents or others asked legislators to make a call on their behalf

(T)he U. of I. continues its long effort to keep secret its data on 800 applicants who got special treatment from 2005 to 2009. That secrecy keeps Tribune reporters from exploring connections between politicians and clouted applicants.

The university claims that federal privacy laws are an issue. The Tribune disagrees and is suing.

This has been a very contentious issue. Parents who struggle to get their kids into the U of I were not happy to learn that legislators and others may have “clouted” kids in ahead of them.

But here is the Tribune’s big example today of what it calls a “protection racket”

Among the politicians involved: Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago. He made eight admission requests from 2005 to 2009; at least seven of the applicants were accepted. In one case, Cullerton asked about a relative of a real estate broker and lawyer who has attended Cullerton political fundraisers and is his former legal client.

The article quoted U. of I. official Terry McLennand asking then-Chancellor Richard Herman to help: “The (Senate) President thought this students scores seemed a little high for wait list and asked if we could intervene and admit the student at this time rather then waiting for the April decision date.” The student was admitted in April.

Um, huh? This is the big, unholy, outrageous, egregious politics-riddled, influence peddling violation?

To review…

    1) Cullerton makes a call for a friend to see if a kid really has to be wait-listed.

    2) The kid remains on the waiting list.

    3) Tribune editorial board screams about a “protection racket”

* And in case you weren’t suitably outraged about this horrible non-scandal, the Trib tossed in some diversionary red meat…

Cullerton, recall, is a chronic protector of the tuition waiver program under which legislators have awarded free rides at state universities to children of their cronies and contributors. That program needs to end.

* This, however, could be a big problem

The state’s controversial “legislative scholarship” program carries a simple rule for Illinois lawmakers: They may award tuition waivers for state-sponsored schools only to students who reside in the lawmaker’s respective districts.

But since 1999, state Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago) has awarded taxpayer-funded scholarships to at least 10 students who records show lived outside of her Far South Side district at the time they received free tuition, the Better Government Association has found.

State law says: “Each member of the General Assembly may nominate annually 2 persons of school age and otherwise eligible, from his district . . .”

Matt Vanover, spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Education, which administers the scholarships, said “the statute is pretty clear . . . students nominated must be from the [lawmaker’s] district.”

That program really does need to end.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


Parents outraged at closure decision

Tuesday, Feb 28, 2012

* Reporters were taken on a rare tour yesterday of the Jacksonville Developmental Center, which Gov. Pat Quinn wants to close. The governor’s administration claims that the residents would be much better served in community settings, but some parents said they’d already tried that route. From Jacksonville’s WLDS radio

Doctor David Iacono-Harris’ son Jonathan lives at JDC. He says his son has been in community settings twice. Both instances have yielded disastrous results.

“He has literally physically destroyed two group homes. He is not a candidate for the community,” says Iacono-Harris.

Janet Anderson’s daughter Elly Voth says she’s lived at JDC for 12 years. Anderson says the problems Elly has are best handled at JDC.

“She’s OCD. She tears her clothes. She’s incontinent. What she needs is a staff who can handle someone like that, who is educated,” says Anderson.

“She did live at a group home at Hope School in Springfield, and it was an absolute disaster. It was just hell every day. She always had a bruise on her. She had two black eyes that were swollen shut, and the eye doctor said it only had to come from a ball bat. She was overmedicated, ended up in the hospital for six weeks two different times, three weeks each,” she continues.

* Humans in general often don’t like change. But change can be even harder on the seriously developmentally disabled, so closing the facility will definitely have an impact at least for a while

“Another transition, she’d go through hell,” said Anderson, voicing her concern over what will happen to her daughter if the center closes.

* From the SJ-R

Many of the residents’ rooms are personalized with pictures and other objects. In one area, staff members were beginning to put up decorations for St. Patrick’s Day.

“Inside the building, we try to make it as homelike as possible,” Day said.

Rep. Jim Watson, R-Jacksonville, said people sometimes picture JDC as a virtual dungeon for its residents.

“The impression this is a stale environment I don’t think is accurate,” said Watson who also toured the facility Monday. “You see these rooms are like dorm rooms. I would argue some of these folks here live better than a lot of our senior citizens who go to nursing homes.” […]

The boiler is so old replacement parts must be fabricated individually because they are no longer manufactured.

* WAND TV

* Background

The trend toward deinstitutionalization of the developmentally disabled has steadily accelerated, following passage of home- and community-based service waivers under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

But Illinois is an outlier in that trend. It ranked sixth nationally in public and private institutionalization in 2006, with 63 per 100,000 developmentally disabled individuals living in institutions. It ranked last in the proportion of persons served in residential settings that support one-to-six people. […]

Community services spending in Indiana, adjusted for inflation, grew by 85 percent between 1999 and 2008, while institutional spending declined by 81 percent. In 2006, Indiana committed 88 percent of its total developmentally disabled resources to community services, compared with 64 percent in Illinois.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      


Drilling further into the budget

Tuesday, Feb 28, 2012

* The long and short of this is that the state is once again skipping its last payment to local school districts

Gov. Pat Quinn likes to refer to himself as the “education governor,” but the state’s continued money problems are putting that moniker under intense pressure.

The state is short more than $230 million in aid to school districts in this year’s budget, and that figure could climb to more than $400 million in next year’s spending plan.

In the near term, the practical effect is that the state will fall short of making its 22nd and final annual payment to school districts. That’s usually made in the last half of June. The payment in the first half of June also will be slightly smaller, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.

The situation has angered a key education supporter who called Quinn’s assertion last week that he was holding education spending flat next year “total baloney.”

Jim Edgar also did this back in the day in order to disguise an education funding cut.

* Meanwhile, automatic cost of living raises are in the budget

Governor Quinn would see his salary jump $1,600 to $179,100 under the proposal.

Secretary of State Jesse White would see his salary jump $1,400 to $158,000.

Treasurer Dan Rutherford would see his salary jump $1,200 to $136,900.

Collectively, the members of the Illinois House would get a $73,200 raise. That breaks out to about $620 for each member.

For the Illinois Senate, members would get a collective raise of $37,200. That breaks out to $630 for each member.

When you add up all of the proposed raises, the total comes out to almost $250,000 more than what was spent on salaries in FY12.

It’s more than $968,000 higher than what was spent in FY11.

* Related…

* ADDED: Hospitals, state unlikely to make Thursday deadline on charity-care tax-exemption talks - Sources say parties divided on key issues, but progress being made; stakeholders from Illinois Hospital Association, Gov. Quinn’s office, Department of Revenue, others plan last-ditch meeting Wednesday

* ADDED: Illinois coalition has hospital charity care plan

* ADDED: State Seeks To Settle Issue Of Nonprofit Hospitals, Property Tax Exemptions

* ADDED: Proposals arise for Illinois hospital charity care

* Closing youth lockups applauded

* Tollway to webcast bid openings

* City launches $11 million plan to combat problems in minority contracts program

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


*** LIVE SESSION COVERAGE ***

Tuesday, Feb 28, 2012

* The House convenes at noon and the Senate convenes at one. Watch the House here. Watch the Senate here.

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

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


More Gaming Board follies

Tuesday, Feb 28, 2012

* The Illinois Gaming Board claims that video poker will begin rolling out by September. But the system appears to be a mess. From the Tribune

• The Illinois Gaming Board has completed its review of only 46 of 144 license applications received from manufacturers, distributors and “terminal operators” — the owners of the games who will place them in establishments.

• Gaming officials have yet to accept applications from thousands of bars, restaurants, truck stops and fraternal organizations that plan to offer the games, or to start investigations needed to approve those licenses.

• Game manufacturers have yet to be given final technical specifications from the state and still must have their games tested by independent laboratories to ensure they meet state law.

Complicating the work is the fact that the Gaming Board’s staff is more than one-third smaller than it should be, said board Chairman Aaron Jaffe, leaving him reluctant to offer a hard timeline for when video poker finally will start making the state money.

The General Assembly appropriated all the money the Board needs to hire staff. But the Board is taking six months to a year to hire employees, according to the article, and the governor’s office apparently isn’t releasing enough cash to ramp up the hiring. [Memo to Gov. Quinn: A little money spent now means more money can start flowing into state coffers soon.]

This is the same Gaming Board that screwed up the 2010 bidding for a central computer system. The contract was rebid and finally awarded last month.

And it’s still unclear whether the Board will allow some establishments to offer the games to their customers ahead of others

“When you have got thousands of people to license, somebody is going to get theirs ahead of somebody else,” said Jaffe, the Gaming Board chief.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


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Tuesday, Feb 28, 2012

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Tuesday, Feb 28, 2012

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