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Question of the day

Thursday, Mar 29, 2012

* This bill passed the Senate yesterday 50-1

The Cancer Treatment Centers of America would be allowed to weigh whether someone is a smoker when they make hiring decisions under legislation approved in the Illinois Senate Wednesday.

The proposal, from state Sen. Dan Duffy, lets for-profit companies that only treat cancer patients not hire someone because they smoke or use other tobacco products.

“That has an impact on people, when they go in (for treatment) and smell that smoke,” the Lake Barrington Republican said.

Only Cancer Treatment Centers of America would be affected by the rule. Hospitals and other employers still could not discriminate against smokers when making hiring decisions because their sole business pursuit isn’t treating cancer. […]

The only opponent was state Sen. Shane Cultra, a Republican from downstate Onarga, who said discrimination shouldn’t be allowed.

* The Question: Should state law be changed to allow Cancer Treatment Centers of America to refuse to hire tobacco users? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments.

- Posted by Rich Miller   76 Comments      

House looking at bigger cuts to pay off some old bills

Thursday, Mar 29, 2012

* As I told subscribers earlier today, this proposal also includes another $500 million from federal Medicaid matches, leading to a proposed late overdue state bill reduction of $1.3 billion

Illinois House members plan to use $800 million of next year’s tax receipts to pay down old bills, something that will force even deeper cuts to state programs. The House Revenue Committee approved resolutions dividing up estimated state revenues among various state programs, such as education, human services and public safety. […]

Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, said taking money off the top to pay down bills will result in cuts to state programs that will have to be negotiated by the various House appropriations committees.

He estimated the appropriations committees would have to cut various state budgets by 5.5 percent.

Those reductions are on top of the governor’s proposed cuts. Some agencies are already slated for 9 percent cuts. And it does include the governor’s proposed $2.7 billion in Medicaid cuts, although it mandates that the budget will have to be cut further if Gov. Pat Quinn’s target isn’t reached. The resolution is here.

* And while that spending cap will be quite painful, the General Assembly is also looking at some smaller items. Here’s a quick roundup…

* Illinois House votes to reduce DNR mandates: The Illinois House signed off Wednesday on a Department of Natural Resource’s initiative to shed mandates it cannot or does not fulfill. The chamber voted 114-0 on House Bill 404 in an effort to save millions. For instance, if the department eliminates meeting requirements for the Illinois Geographic Information Council and changes how it reports, Mautino said DNR will save about $200,000 a year.

* Bill would eliminate inactive commissions: State government boards and commissions that no longer meet — or have never met — are a step closer to abolition after an Illinois House vote Wednesday. House Bill 3816, which was sent to the Senate on a 106-8 vote, would dissolve any board or commission if it has not met once in the last two years.

* Urban hospitals propose Illinois Medicaid plan: But the state’s top Medicaid official disputed the group’s claims. Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Director Julie Hamos said the bulk of unclaimed federal matching money is for a portion of the All Kids health insurance program for children in higher income families. That’s a program the legislature may want to target for cuts, she said. “I wish we had found $100 million in new money, but that’s not it,” Hamos said.

* Proposal requires SURS reimbursement when retirees return to work: Under certain circumstances, House Bill 4996 would require state colleges and universities to pick up the tab for retirees’ pension payments if they go back to work. The bill passed the House on a 112-0 vote and now heads to the Illinois Senate.


- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      

Not the greatest subject matter for a guy with a birthday party hangover

Thursday, Mar 29, 2012

* Yuck

The Illinois House voted unanimously Wednesday to criminalize sexual conduct with a corpse.

House Bill 5122 also would make it a felony to move a dead body without authorization.

The bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Daniel Beiser, D-Alton, said he had received complaints from prosecutors and county coroners in Madison County that some people have moved the bodies of people who had overdosed on drugs. That contaminates a crime scene, Beiser said.

Beiser said the section criminalizing sexual conduct with a corpse was added in response to a case in Madison County from the 1990s. Today, such a person can be charged only with criminal damage to property.

* Ugh

State laws don’t address the issue of sex with a corpse, and prosecutors have resorted to charging suspects with criminal damage to property.

“When you think of that, you think of someone going … breaking a mailbox or something similar,” Beiser said. “We obviously understand that isn’t adequate, that anybody who abuses or mishandles a deceased just demeans the meaning of that person’s life.”

If the measure becomes law, sex with a corpse would result in a Class 2 felony, with punishments ranging from probation to seven years in prison. Anyone caught moving a corpse would face a Class 4 felony, with penalties ranging from probation to three years in jail.

I just wanna go back to bed.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      

Judge: Blagojevich exhibited “mental instability”

Thursday, Mar 29, 2012

* Rod Blagojevich’s former chief of staff John Harris was sentenced to just ten days in prison yesterday. Judge James Zagel seemed to almost pity him at times

The federal judge who handed Rod Blagojevich a 14-year prison term cited the corrupt former governor’s reputation for erratic behavior Wednesday in sentencing a former top Blagojevich aide to only 10 days behind bars.

Former chief of staff John Harris’ role in the bartering over President Obama’s old Senate seat was “so serious and so crucial” that it warranted some prison time, said U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel. But Zagel also noted that Harris’s boss exhibited “elements on some level of mental instability.”

“It was difficult for me to understand, on many occasions, what the governor was doing,” Zagel told Harris. […]

Before announcing the sentence, the judge said he could not honestly claim he would have reacted to a superior’s directives differently than Harris responded to Blagojevich — with one exception.

“I would have left sooner, much sooner,” said Zagel, who was a state official in the 1970s and 1980s and credited Harris with disobeying some of Blagojevich’s orders.

The judge also cited what he described as an “unusual set of character reference letters” for Harris, many from prominent figures in city and state political circles. Zagel said he knew at least 10 of the letter writers personally.

* Judge Zagel also praised Harris for his cooperation with prosecutors

Harris’ cooperation included testifying for 10 days at two Blagojevich trials. A subdued, matter-of-fact Harris told jurors he and Blagojevich talked about parlaying the power to name someone to Obama’s seat for campaign cash or a lucrative job for Blagojevich.

Much of Harris’ testimony involved him interpreting FBI wiretaps played in court, including a Nov. 3, 2008, recording where an almost giddy-sounding Blagojevich talks about the prospect of benefiting by appointing Obama friend Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat.

“Now, we should get something for that, couldn’t I?” Blagojevich asks Harris.

“Yes,” responds Harris flatly.

* And the prosecution stepped up for their witness

During her 15-minute statement at the hearing, prosecutor Carrie Hamilton didn’t have a single critical word for Harris.

She told Zagel Harris was “the most important” witness at Blagojevich’s corruption trials. And unlike Blagojevich, who fought the more numerous charges against him until he recently reported to prison, Hamilton said Harris had “owned up” to his misdeeds within days of his Dec. 9, 2008, arrest.

She also highlighted what she said was Blagojevich’s extreme inconsideration for his staff. She described how on one call captured on FBI wiretaps, Harris tells Blagojevich he was hanging Christmas tree lights with his kids and wanted to get back to it.

“Blagojevich did not care what else was going on” and kept Harris on the phone for more than an hour, Hamilton said.


- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      

Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY: House advancing spending cap

Thursday, Mar 29, 2012

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Thursday, Mar 29, 2012

* BlackBerry users click here and everyone else can just hang back and watch all of today’s events unfold…

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

*** UPDATED x2 *** Caption contest!

Thursday, Mar 29, 2012

* Oh, it was a late night at Boones, campers. I’m running real slow and having difficulty finishing the Fax.

Thanks to everyone who came out for my 50th birthday party. We raised a whole lot of money for Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. We also auctioned off five bottles of barbeque sauce, raising an amazing $4,250 for the Harrisburg tornado disaster relief fund.

The 50/50 raffle ticket winning number is 827066. The total amount is over $700, but I’m sure whoever won will donate their half back to LSSI, right?

* AARP IL had a little fun at my expense by presenting me with a huge new membership card. Sorry for the pic quality…


*** UPDATE 1 *** You know, if I was more cynical and if it wasn’t my party, I might think the 50/50 drawing was rigged. AARP IL has the winning raffle ticket…

…Adding… And, of course, the other half will be donated back. Thanks!

*** UPDATE 2 *** We raised just shy of $6,000 for LSSI last night and just over $4,000 for the tornado victims. Ten grand for charity ain’t a bad night. Saturday will be a whole lot bigger, though.

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      

* Happy Thanksgiving!
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Five unanswered questions
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Question of the day
* Caption contest!
* Crossing the line
* Moody's warns Illinois
* The Credit Union Difference
* *** UPDATED x1 - Franks responds *** Uh-oh
* Then and now
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