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Thursday, May 31, 2012

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If you’re looking for constantly updated end-of-session coverage…

Thursday, May 31, 2012

* It’s at this link. We’ll have updates throughout the day and late into the evening. Check for videos of press conferences and press releases, plus live reports from numerous reporters on the ground. Don’t miss it!

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Thursday, May 31, 2012

* By now, you’ve seen Rep. Mike Bost’s rant on the House floor the other day. Profanity alert

* From the Southern Illinoisan

State Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, said colleague reaction Wednesday, a day after he erupted at the onset of a discussion to overhaul state pensions, was generally empathetic.

“I think they understand. I don’t normally do that,” Bost said late Wednesday afternoon while legislators worked to get a state budget passed and continued work on pension reform.

Bost’s tirade, directed at Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, was shown on state and national media outlets Wednesday morning.

It began, “Again, total power in one person’s hands — NOT the American way” shortly before Bost tossed a handful of papers up and gave them a midair swat.

Bost tore into Madigan for purportedly making rules that bind legislators and pervert the idea of representative democracy. “Enough,” Bost said during his outburst. “I feel like somebody trying to be released from Egypt. Let my people go. My God, they sent me here to vote for them.”

Bost said he thought no differently Wednesday.

“One good thing about this is people in the media understand the tyranny we’re under with this leader,” Bost said.

He said he was contacted all day by national media. Additionally, websites such as The Drudge Report, The Huffington Post and YouTube carried clips. The state lawmaker said he received so many emails, his cellphone quit working.

As I mentioned the other day, Bost voted for pretty much all of the rules that he complained about.

* Aaron Blake at the Washington Post

Illinois state Rep. Mike Bost’s (R) explosion on the floor of the Illinois state House may go down in history as one of the great political rants of all time.

Bost manages to swing and miss at a stack of papers, offer an awkward rallying cry of “let my people go,” and even attempts the vaunted mike drop — with a microphone that is attached to a podium.

Phil Davison , you’ve met your match.

* The Question: Was Rep. Bost’s outburst justified? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


- Posted by Rich Miller   76 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY: New Senate district term list

Thursday, May 31, 2012

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More on the House’s budget

Thursday, May 31, 2012

* As mentioned below, the House Republicans pulled out of budget negotiations after Speaker Madigan refused to bend on pension reform. That caused a chain reaction. Some GOP projects were cut because Republicans weren’t voting for the budget, but state facilities in Republican districts that had been targeted for closure were left intact. The Democrats also added $50 million to the General State Aid budget for schools. Republicans were furious

House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, also accused Democrats of adding money to the budget after they learned that Republicans would not support it.

“There’s $50 million more than when we were working with you,” Cross said. “Fifty million is a lot of money. You can’t control yourselves. That’s what happens when you are left to your own devices.”

Democrats said they added $50 million to general state aid to schools. With the addition, general state aid would drop by $161 million under the House budget, instead of $211 million. […]

Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates, said Republicans told him they would not support a budget that did not keep all state facilities open.

“We found the money. Isn’t that something?” Crespo said.

Although many of those facilities are in Republican districts, they still voted against the budget.

The House Democrats say that even with the school money, which came from refinancing state debt, the budget will still be $4 million below the spending cap the chamber agreed to earlier this year.

* More

Republicans were also unhappy about some changes made to the human services budget. Funding for transportation for mental health patients was taken out, and instead, more money went to the Department of Children and Family Services. Money for drug addiction prevention and youth in transition programs also fell under the Democratic budget ax.

“It was a good budget before you started whacking away at it,” said Rep. Rosemary Mulligan, a Republican from Des Plaines. “Now you’ve cut things that everyone at the table agreed to, Democrat and Republican.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


Today’s quote

Thursday, May 31, 2012

* Congressman Joe Walsh

“’I am scared. I really am scared, Patrick, that we’re past the point — we have so many people now dependent on government, so many people want handouts,” he told constituents.

“The Democratic Party promises groups of people everything. They want the Hispanic vote, they want Hispanics to be dependent on government, just like they got African Americans dependent on government. That’s their game.

“Jesse Jackson would be out of work if they weren’t dependent on government. There’d be no work for him.”

* Video

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      


Bill to strip workers of union membership goes to Senate floor

Thursday, May 31, 2012

* I was shocked into reality when I found out a couple years back that legislative liaisons were being allowed to join a union. I know many of these people. Many of those are my friends or at least friendly acquaintances. But if anyone ought to be “at will” employees, it should be liaisons. Their jobs are based on politics and on who the governor is. But anyone who joined the union in 2010 would still have a job today if Sen. Bill Brady had defeated Gov. Pat Quinn. That’s not right.

Look, I fully understand why management and political types chose to join the union. They were getting the shaft by the Blagojevich administration and then by Quinn himself. They haven’t gotten pay raises in years. They’re often not treated well on the job and have too little job security.

But we have a situation now where, according to the administration, there is only one non-union employee at the Jacksonville Developmental Center. That means two out of three shifts have no non-union management on the job. That’s a bit crazy, man.

The House passed a bill last year that stripped up to 1,900 employees of their union membership. The Senate Democrats have been trying to work out a deal ever since. Those negotiations failed and the Senate Executive Committee passed the bill to the floor last night, where it awaits final action

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has pushed for the legislation because he fears without it, 99 percent of the state workforce, including some of the top decision-makers in government, will have union protection.

In addition to deputy directors and legislative liaisons, those with Rutan-exempt jobs, term appointees and at-will appointees could be affected, said Robb Craddock, a labor relations official with Central Management Services. […]

Henry Bayer, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said that senior state workers were underpaid and mistreated under former Gov. Rod Blagojevich so they moved to unionize, a point not disputed by Quinn administration officials in their testimony. This measure could result in those employees again having lower salaries and poor treatment, he said.

The bill, which would only affect union employees hired after December 2008, could result in nearly 2,000 workers being ejected from the union, Bayer said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      


11th Hour tax hikes proposed

Thursday, May 31, 2012

* Subscribers know a bit more about this fight

A Senate committee approved a 5 percent tax on satellite television service on Wednesday, legislation Democrats said would put services like DirecTV and Dish Network on the same competitive playing field as cable television and raise money for education.

The legislation passed on a 10-4 vote, with state Sens. David Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, and John Jones, R-Mount Vernon, joining Executive Committee Democrats in voting “yes.” […]

Supporters of the legislation argued that since consumers have to pay a 5 percent franchise fee if they are cable customers, satellite customers should have to do the same. But a representative of DirecTV and Dish said the franchise fee is different from the tax approved by lawmakers. […]

“Heaven help the taxpayers. We have 27 hours left. How many more taxes can we impose,” [Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno] said, alluding to a measure passed by the committee earlier that would make offshore oil captured by oil companies taxable, legislation Democrats said closed a tax loophole.

The Democrats said the TV tax proposal would raise $75 million. The satellite TV guys say that number will be far lower.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY: End of session party details

Thursday, May 31, 2012

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*** UPDATED x1 - “All funding for research” removed *** Did Madigan kill diabetes research funding out of revenge?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

* Things got pretty tense in the House yesterday, and it escalated a bit when the House Republicans admitted that they were refusing to vote for the budget plan because Speaker Madigan was pushing a pension cost shift proposal they didn’t like

…Madigan and Cross sparred hours earlier, with Cross saying that Republicans would not support a state budget plan that they had negotiated with Democrats because of the speaker’s decision to push for the cost shift.

“We want to do pensions, but we have to do it right and without taxing Downstate and suburban property taxpayers,” Cross said on the House floor. “For that reason, you will not see us supporting a budget.”

But Madigan chastised Cross for trying to link the state budget to pension reforms.

“I did not take the position that I would not adopt a budget for the entire state of Illinois unless I got some other issue I selected,” Madigan said angrily.

* And then it got even more intense when the House Republicans accused the Democrats of playing nasty budget games

Shortly before his about-face, Madigan endured a bitter GOP attack for allegedly “zeroing out” juvenile diabetes funding in what one House Republican described as “hardball” punishment against Cross and Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), who both have diabetic children and who opposed the Madigan pension-reform package.

“Speaker Madigan, who is the same as the rest of us, is playing hardball in some kind of game after we’ve all worked so hard for so many weeks,” yelled state Rep. Jim Sacia (R-Pecatonica), calling out Madigan for a $2.47 million funding cut for diabetes research.

“We’re less than 30 hours from adjournment, and all of a sudden, we’ll show those Republicans what we’re gonna do. Is this what we’re all about?” Sacia asked. “This is shameful.”

The diabetes-funding fireworks, which came as House Democrats began voting out a $33.7 billion budget, did not draw a direct response from Madigan himself, but an aide mocked Sacia’s claim.

“I have no idea what Sacia was talking about,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said. “I don’t talk to Sacia anymore. He wasn’t very coherent.”

Thoughts?

*** UPDATE *** I missed this passage in an Illinois Issues Blog post

Republicans were especially outraged at the zeroing out of money for a juvenile diabetes research program. Members of House Republican leadership, including Cross, have children with the disease. Republicans called the changes “punitive.”

Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, the chair of the House Human Services Committee, said research was cut in many areas to direct more money to services. “We have systematically removed all funding for research.”

Feigenholtz, a Chicago Democrat, said: “These are gut wrenching decisions that we make.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 - IFT Responds *** The next time you blame the state for skipping pension payments, remember this

Thursday, May 31, 2012

* For a while, yesterday’s pension reform debate in the Senate Executive Committee focused on the state’s past failure to make pension payments. But one Senator objected to the claims by unions that this is all the General Assembly’s fault

Teachers unions have protested cuts to their benefits, saying it was lawmakers’ actions, skipping payments into pension funds, that created the debt.

Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno shot back during a hearing, presenting old paperwork from 2005 showing that both the Illinois Education Association and Illinois Federation of Teachers supported skipping the payment then.

“There’s plenty of culpability to go around,” the Lemont Republican said.

* I asked the Senate Republicans for the list of proponents and opponents of the bill which allowed the state to skip pension payments. Here it is…

SB 27 Proponnents:

Rich Frankenfeld, IEA “testimony if necessary”
Derek Blaida, CPS
Steve Preckwinkle, IFT “testimony if necessary”
Laura Arterburn, IFT
Michael McGann SEIU
Kurt Anderson SEIU

Opponents:
Randy Witter, Retired State Employees Association
Martin Noven, Treasurer’s office (Topinka)

Topinka was furious about the pension payment holidays back then and, as it turns out, she was right.

*** UPDATE *** From the Illinois Federation of Teachers…

SB 27 originally contained other pension language including changes to the Early Retirement Option and end of career salary increases that reduced the state’s cost for pensions by over $80 billion. In addition to supporting these pension reforms, the unions also supported increased gaming revenues, a higher cigarette tax, or the issuance of Pension Obligation Bonds to cover pension costs. The leadership refused to consider these options and chose to add the pension holiday at the last minute. We never supported that provision of the bill.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


Protected: *** UPDATED x1 - Archived video *** SUBSCRIBERS ONLY: Live video of Senate district drawings

Thursday, May 31, 2012

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*** UPDATED x1 *** Oops

Thursday, May 31, 2012

* As I reminded subscribers this morning, the Chicago Tribune endorsed all but one serious House Republican candidate in the 2010 general election. The Tribune mainly used the pension reform issue as its excuse for going all-in for the GOP.

Yesterday, the Tribune came out against the pension reform plan sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan, and today it doubled down

We won’t be surprised if, by late Thursday, the Democrats who dominate both legislative chambers produce something they proclaim is a major pension overhaul. But if any legislation they pass doesn’t truly solve the crisis, we hope Gov. Pat Quinn will stick to his threat and keep lawmakers in Springfield until they do. […]

If the majority Democrats push through pension reform lite at the last minute, with virtually no Republican input and with genteel treatment of current workers, they will have delivered one more in a long line of feckless legislative sessions that didn’t fix the most pressing danger to state government’s financial future. […]

But on the year’s most crucial issue — pension reform — lawmakers have perpetuated their decades-long habit of popping huge legislation on the eve of adjournment, creating an artificial rush to an uninformed decision. At that point, bosses rule and gotcha politics trumps good policy. […]

By nightfall Thursday, the best option may be for Quinn to let June 1 arrive, then order lawmakers to set aside any consideration of pension reform lite and instead negotiate more dramatic reforms — with both parties participating.

* Trouble is, after that editorial was written House Speaker Michael Madigan announced that he would transfer sponsorship of the pension bill to House Republican Leader Tom Cross

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan abruptly reversed course late Wednesday night, promising to remove a key provision from his pension restructuring bill and could clear the way for the measure to pass the General Assembly today.

In another dramatic moment on the House floor, the powerful Chicago Democrat said Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn asked him to drop a provision that would have shifted the “normal” cost of pensions for teachers and university employees from the state to local school districts, universities and community colleges. Normal costs are the total benefits accrued by active employees each year.

Republicans had pledged to vote against Madigan’s pension plan if it included the cost shift.

“I had an interesting meeting this morning with Governor Quinn,” Madigan said late Wednesday. “And I was surprised that the governor disagreed with me on the issue. He agrees with you. He agrees with the Republicans. He thinks that we ought to remove the issue of the shift of normal cost out of the bill.

“I disagree with the governor, but he is the governor,” Madigan said. “This is his request.

So, Leader Cross now owns a plan that the Tribune despises. I wonder how that’s gonna go down at the Mothership?

*** UPDATE *** The Illinois Review may now regret publishing this headline since Tom Cross is the bill’s current sponsor…

Oops.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* Earlier in the day, Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration hedged on the cost-shifting plan

Radogno asked Stermer if Quinn would support a proposal removing the cost shift but leaving other provisions, the core of which offers employees and retirees a choice between lower cost-of-living adjustments coupled with guaranteed access to the state health-care plan, or higher cost-of-living adjustments without access to the state health-care plan.

Stermer hedged, saying the governor is considering anything that could fix the $83 billion unfunded pension liability facing the state.

* Related…

* ADDED: The Choice Between Two Unconstitutional Options is Not Constitutional

* Editorial: A last gasp for pension reform?

* Madigan announces possible pension reform deal in Springfield

* Madigan reverses course, paves way for pension reform

* Pension legislation gets new life in General Assembly

* Pension shift to local schools to be removed from plan

* IL pension reform in limbo as lawmakers mull cost shifting

* Pension overhaul, budget face uncertainty

* Our Opinion: Gradually shift cost of teacher pensions

* Our View: Pension nightmares and political legacies

* Five reasons why Illinois Policy Institute supports local pension accountability

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Thursday, May 31, 2012

* Plan could lift campaign caps if super PACs enter fray

* House lifts limits on some campaign contributions

* Springfield Rolls Back Campaign Donation Caps When Super PACs Are Involved

* House votes to outsource workers’ compensation administration

* State House passes bill banning new landfills in Cook County

* Cook County landfill ban bill heads to governor

* In interview, Rezko says he was convicted of the wrong crimes

* Tony Rezko says Blagojevich knew about pay-to-play for state posts

* Rezko: Blago aware of payments for posts

* Editorial: Mickey and the boys learn better manners

* Legislation limits special 
prosecutors

* Editorial: Bad bill would erode privacy rights: But current law already allows officers to wear listening devices without prior approval from a judge for this narrow purpose — so that a cop in danger can utter a “safe word” that says to his fellow officers “come and get me.” Where House Bill 4081 goes off the rails is in allowing the information gathered by such recordings, though approved only by a state’s attorney, to be used as evidence at trial.

* Quinn allowed to withhold info on Tamms inmates

* Online Powerball bill heads to Quinn

* Judge: I’ll hold Beavers’ trial by year’s end

* Charges dropped against judicial candidate charged with stealing campaign signs

* Bernard Schoenburg: Schock’s largess in 16th raises ‘smoke’

* 17th CD polling shows Schilling ahead by 16 points

* VIDEO: Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.discusses problems with the F-22 Raptor

* Roskam gives democracy lesson to third-graders

* Emanuel presses for cuts in manpower, pay from firefighters

* CTA says new savings will avert fare hike, service cuts

* Fare hike dodged; CTA closes budget gap

* CTA offers naming rights to 11 stations

* Commuter agencies fire back at RTA over claims of waste, duplication

* Evanston aldermen considering methods for dissolving township

* Death, Taxes, & Parking Meters

* Two veteran state park chiefs retiring

* New private Ill. nature preserve opening

* Metro East Police Commission Could Become A Reality

* Will Quinn sign off on new legislation to aid metro-east police?

* U. of I. president skipping many of his final duties

* 31 percent of Q1 Ill. home sales were foreclosures

- Posted by Owen Irwin   1 Comment      


SB: 1849 A Revenue and Jobs Solution

Thursday, May 31, 2012

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Last week the Illinois House of Representatives took a stand for bringing jobs and new revenue to Illinois, and we applaud their vote. Experts predict that SB 1849 will create more than 20,000 jobs and more than $200 million in new annual revenue at a time when our state desperately needs them.”

“Getting through the House was the first big step in getting this bill passed,” said Michael Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO. “We want to remind Senate leaders about the importance of getting Illinoisans back to work. SB 1849 is a solution that would put tens of thousands of workers back on the job. Now is the time for the Illinois Senate to show the leadership necessary to restore economic stability.”

SB 1849 will save 30,000 plus agri-business jobs, while creating more than 20,000 new jobs, including nearly 10,000 construction jobs. The state’s unemployment remains hovering around 9 percent. The time for a solution is now. SB 1849 will put Illinoisans back on the job and will produce millions in revenue for the state of Illinois.

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*** LIVE SESSION COVERAGE ***

Thursday, May 31, 2012

* Blackberry users click here

- Posted by Rich Miller   55 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Campaign news, supplement to today’s edition and a big Statehouse roundup

Thursday, May 31, 2012

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Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today’s edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

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If you’re looking for live session coverage…

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Click here.. It’s timely and comprehensive.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

* The setup

Illinois lawmakers have approved raising cigarette taxes by $1 a pack. It now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn, who supports the increase.

The state Senate approved the legislation 31-27 Tuesday in a vote that largely followed party lines.

Democrats argue the increase will help close a hole in the state Medicaid budget and also help prevent smoking. Republicans object to any tax increase.

Officials face a $2.7 million budget problem for Medicaid. They’ve already approved spending cuts of roughly $1.6 billion.

* The Question: What’s your opinion of the cigarette tax hike? Make sure to explain, please. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   88 Comments      


Schilling poll: Bustos trails by 16 points

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

* A Public Opinion Strategies poll of 400 likely voters May 20-22 in Illinois’ 17th Congressional District found that freshman Republican Bobby Schilling is leading Cheri Bustos 51-35. From the pollster

Key Findings

1. Bobby Schilling has worked very hard in his freshman year in Congress, and it shows in the Congressman’s image rating.

In a redrawn district that is approximately half the district Schilling currently represents and half new territory for him, the Congressman has strong name ID (86%) and a solid image of 42% fav/22% unfav. Most encouragingly, Schilling enjoys a 54% fav/28% unfav image in the portions of the new district that he already represents, demonstrating that those who know him best, like him best.

2. Cheri Bustos begins the campaign with a very weak image.

Cheri Bustos’ name ID in the district is at just 51% and her hard name ID is a lackluster 28% (16% fav/12% unfav). In a sprawling district that covers three different media markets, Bustos will have a difficult time increasing her name ID and favorables without a significant investment from her campaign.

3. President Obama leads Mitt Romney by ten points on the Presidential ballot.

President Obama is over 50% and has a double-digit lead (51% Obama/41% Romney) on the Presidential ballot. This margin is down a bit from 2008 when the President won this redrawn district by more than 20 points, but his current ten point advantage demonstrates that, at least at the Presidential level, this new district tilts Democratic.

4. Schilling enjoys a double-digit lead on the ballot and intensity also favors him.

Schilling leads Bustos by 16 points (51% Schilling/35% Bustos) on the ballot. To already be over 50% in a district that is half new to him is a very good sign for Schilling early in this race. Another positive sign for the incumbent is that he also has a double-digit lead on intensity, with 34% of voters saying they would definitely vote for him and just 22% definitely voting for Bustos. Perhaps most impressively, Schilling receives the same level of support in this district as the President. Clearly, while voters in the district are inclined to re-elect President Obama, they also love the job their Republican Congressman is doing and also want to see him re-elected.

The survey had a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percent.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      


Two eavesdropping proposals surface

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

* The SJ-R editorial board broke a bit of news this morning about the eavesdropping bill kerfuffle. As you may remember, Sen. Mike Noland refused to call a bill passed by the House that would’ve decriminalized the act of audio recording an on-duty police officer in a public place. The penalty for doing such a thing is currently a felony here, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. But there’s now a new bill

The bill’s Senate sponsor, Sen. Mike Noland, D-Elgin, believed the House bill was deficient by not granting police officers the unfettered ability to make recordings of private citizens in public places. This despite Illinois law already giving law enforcement officers eight exemptions that allow them to do so. He said he would let the House version die in the Senate rather than allowing a vote. As sponsor, that’s his prerogative.

Here’s the civics lesson: Now the language of the stalled bill has been placed into another bill (House Bill 1237) with friendly sponsorship in the Senate. We urge the Senate to pass this version and send it back to the House, which we assume would reaffirm the 71-45 vote by which it approved the bill last week.

While the legislative maneuvering might make it look otherwise, this is not rocket science. It should not have become an occasion for law enforcement to try to gain even more freedom than it already has to listen in on private citizens. Good law enforcement officers know this bill will only benefit them. Good legislators know that amending a judicially invalidated and outdated law need not create a major expansion of domestic surveillance. End of civics lesson.

And I totally agree with the SJ-R here. Rep. Elaine Nekritz passed a good bill.

* Trouble is, the bill was assigned to Noland’s own committee, and it wasn’t called for a vote today. Noland now has his own bill in his own committee that uses Nekritz’s language, but also includes this

A person may record the conversation of a law enforcement officer who is performing a public duty in a public place and any other person who is having a conversation with that law enforcement officer if… the person notifies the parties that the conversation is being recorded.

* So, how, exactly was the person who took this video of a “Black Bloc” attack on Chicago police supposed to “notify” the parties that their conversation was being recorded? Could he have just yelled it out? Or would he have had to go up to each person and notify them beforehand? I’m not quite sure I get it

This is a bad idea by Noland.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


House Republicans go ballistic

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

* SJ-R

The difficult process of revamping Illinois’ pension systems led to a dramatic confrontation Tuesday between the top two leaders in the House of Representatives.

House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego angrily objected to a pension bill backed by Speaker Michael Madigan that was approved Tuesday morning in the House Personnel and Pensions Committee.

The GOP opposition stems from a provision that would gradually shift the state’s pension costs for teachers and university employees to local school districts and universities. […]

But Cross’s efforts to eliminate the provision failed on the floor of the House, leading him to lambaste Madigan personally for a litany of pension abuses.

“Maybe you need to take responsibility, Mr. Speaker, for your actions,” Cross told the House. “For the last 40 years, you’ve had your fingerprints on the mess we’ve had today.”

* All heck broke loose

While the bill did not come up for a vote in the full House, some drama and shouting ensued on the House floor today as Republicans tried to push an amendment to the floor that would have taken the cost shift to schools out of the bill. House Minority Leader Tom Cross pointed to bipartisan efforts made in the House to pass Medicaid reform and work toward balancing the state’s budget. But Cross said that pension reform is a different story. “I had the false sense and hope that we were going to actually do something on pensions, a collaborative effort,” Cross said. Cross accused Madigan of inserting the “poison pill” of the cost shift in the bill to kill it because he says Madigan wants to stall on scaling pensions back for teachers until after the November election. “It became clear over the last couple of days that he was going to go down a route that reminded me of the old days of Mike Madigan. No more collaboration. No more bipartisanship,” Cross said. “And the biggest issue of the day, the biggest liability the state’s ever seen — we’re on the verge of getting it done, and he says: ‘No more. I’ve got a different idea. Take it or leave it.’”

Democrats used House rules to block Republicans efforts to have the amendment heard. “Total power in one person’s hands is not the American way,” shouted Rep. Mike Bost, a Murphysboro Republican.

Madigan said that most in the chamber recognize that the state’s pension system is “financially unsustainable” and has to be changed and characterized the situation as one of simple disagreement. He warned that lawmakers should not get “swept up in the emotion of the minute.” “There’s a lot of frustration here in the House of Representatives and the General Assembly. We experience it all the time on a whole variety of issues — frustration, tension, interaction with different personalities pursuing different agendas. That’s life in the General Assembly. That’s life in the House of Representatives,” Madigan said. “Many people have worked on the question of pension changes, pension reform, for several several weeks — I being one of them. I’ve adopted a certain position on pension changes. Some of you agree with me; some of you don’t. That’s what happens here legitimately, and that’s what should happen. That’s why we come here. That’s why we’re sent here.”

Madigan added: “But it doesn’t serve any purpose to let our frustration and our disappointment get away with us. It doesn’t help. We have several major issues to get resolved before we end the session. I plan to work deliberatively on all of those issues. I don’t plan to issue any threats.”

* Leader Cross talks to the media and blasts Madigan

It’s tough to argue with at least some of what Cross said. This should’ve been a far more bipartisan bill. It clearly wasn’t.

* We also have video of Rep. Bost’s tirade. It contains profanity, so be careful if you’re at work. We don’t want to get you in trouble with the folks at OEIG, right? OK

Here’s an idea: Elect more Republicans, get a majority and then you won’t have to complain so much. Also, most of the rules that Bost is complaining about were put in place by Republicans in 1995, and he voted for them.

But he does have a point that major legislation like this shouldn’t be unveiled at 7:50 in the morning and moved right away, unless, of course, both leaders agree to do it (like they did the last time pension reform was passed), then it’s OK I suppose. Or not. Whatever.

* Related and a roundup…

* Pension reform may quell Quinn’s summer plans

* Schools predict local burdens from pension plan

* Judges left out of Illinois pension reform plan

* Cross challenges Madigan on pensions

* Cross to Madigan: Take cost shift out of pension reform

* Will Mike Madigan get his way and pass pension reform in Springfield?

* Rep. Mike Bost Furious Over Quick Pension Vote

* House floor debate explodes over Democrat proposed pension cost shift

* Unions: Pension bill forces choice ‘between harm … or more harm’

* Republicans balk at pension cost shift

* Editorial: Improve the pension bill

* Editorial: Pension reform – time to set Illinois right

* Our View: Alter pension bill

* Illinois House committee approves pension overhaul

* Professors’ group urges fight against pension plan

* Vote On Pension Changes Expected At Statehouse

* Senate Battles Over Pensions, Passes Cigarette Tax Increase

* Lawmakers OK $1-a-pack cigarette tax hike

* Illinois Senate passes $1 cigarette tax increase

* Illinois Legislature passes big cigarette tax hike

* Cigarette tax increase heads to governor

* Illinois Senate approves cigarette tax increase

* Past tobacco tax hike lucrative for Illinois

* Cigarette tax hike heading to Gov. Quinn’s desk

* Senate approves tobacco tax increase

* $1 per pack tax hike passes Illinois Senate

* Our View: Cigarette tax hike good for fiscal, physical health

* Cigarette tax boost goes to Quinn

* Statement from Governor Quinn on General Assembly Passage of Legislation to Save Medicaid

* Quinn thanks lawmakers who voted for cigarette tax

- Posted by Rich Miller   85 Comments      


Translating the Tribune

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

* The Chicago Tribune editorial board is not impressed with House Speaker Michael Madigan’s pension plan

Madigan’s plan, which incorporates some but not enough of Quinn’s plan, keeps the reduced COLA. But it doesn’t ask employees to contribute more or raise the retirement age. Those are huge pluses for the unions, which on Tuesday were opposing Madigan’s plan through what struck us as crocodile tears. More crucial to this discussion, eliminating those demands depresses the state’s predictable savings: Quinn’s proposal to exact higher contributions from workers and reduce the number of years they will collect pensions creates definite, knowable savings for the pension system.

Translation: The unions didn’t cry hard enough so workers should definitely be forced to endure more pain.

* The Trib also contradicted itself

Madigan’s plan also creates a big risk for property taxpayers statewide. We share his belief that school boards irresponsibly have sweetened educators’ pensions and blithely passed along those huge costs to Springfield. But the gradual shift of all educator pension costs from state government to school districts is more central to Madigan’s plan than it is to Quinn’s original proposal. As a result, the districts essentially would have three options: They could slash expenditures (not likely), they could force teachers to forgo raises or otherwise chip in (more likely), or they could do what school districts historically have done in tight times, namely, raise property taxes (most likely by far).

Translation: We agree that school districts should be more responsible for jacking up pension costs, but a gradual phase-in over several years will cause property taxes to spiral upward, even with tax caps.

From the Daily Herald

The reform would require school districts to pay an additional 1 percent of their payrolls into the pension system that year and each year after for the next six years. After that, the annual increase would be 0.5 percent for an undetermined number of years.

School officials say it’s premature to say what the consequences of this added cost would be on property taxes, class sizes and teacher contract negotiations.

But there will be consequences, District 300’s Chief Financial Officer Cheryl Crates said.

“The 1 percent increase will cost the district about $800,000 in the first year, alone,” she said, and it will compound after that.

* There is, however, a good reason to worry about the Madigan proposal. From the Senate Republicans…

Schools, universities, colleges are also on the hook for increases in unfunded liability. Those increases from market fluctuation, rate of return changes, investment decisions etc — are not capped or phased. We believe the costs will be more than the normal costs.

Fair enough.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


Inspector General Clouseau strikes again

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

* When a friend read me excerpts from this story last night I thought it was a joke. Nope

The former chief internal auditor for the State Employees’ Retirement System served a 20-day suspension without pay because he used his state email account for work related to a college course he was teaching, ate lunch at his desk against agency policy, and didn’t request enough leave time.

Lawrence Stone, 60, of Sherman was the subject of an Governor’s Office of Executive Inspector General investigation in 2010. The Executive Ethics Commission released the inspector general’s office final report on the case last week.[…]

Stone told investigators a former superior gave him permission to eat at his desk, which he said he did after spending his hour-long lunch period at a health club about three days a week. The report said Stone never sought such approval from the supervisor he had for at least four years.

“Employees are required to cover an extended lunch using benefit time, but Stone does not use benefit time to cover the time spent eating at his desk,” the report states.

It also states that surveillance determined that Stone was 43 minutes late coming to work Oct. 28, 2010, but later submitted a request for only 30 minutes of personal leave.

I kid you not. The Office of Executive Inspector General actually conducted surveillance of this guy on two separate days to make sure he was returning from lunch on time. And then he got busted for using an extra 13 minutes on one of those days.

Sheesh.

This is the best they can do over there? Really?

* Read the full report if you dare.

- Posted by Rich Miller   42 Comments      


Today’s numbers

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

* The Moline Dispatch took a look at how much some politicians put into their pensions vs. how much their cash benefits have been worth to date

– Former Gov. Jim Edgar: $134,853 annually; $1.252 million total to date. His total contributions: $164,657.

– Former Gov. James Thompson: $131,031 annually; $2.023 million total to date. His total contributions: $84,966.

– Former Attorney General Roland Burris: $129,162 annually; $1.743 million total to date. His total contributions: $134,680.

Then again, our last two governors are ineligible to receive pensions, so maybe the bright side is their lawbreaking helped the pension fund a little bit.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      


Rev. Jackson: People will die

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

* This possibility was mentioned during the Senate floor debate over the Medicaid cuts. It’s very possible that people will, indeed, die because of the cuts

Rev. Jesse Jackson urged Illinois Governor Pat Quinn Tuesday to not sign a bill that would cut Medicaid expenses.

The senate bill is expected to reduce Medicaid costs by $1.6 billion in fiscal year 2013. It would cut services designed to help the poor and disabled, including a shutdown to Illinois Cares Rx, a senior prescription drug assistance program. The program currently services 180,000 people.

Jackson said people could die because of the cuts.

“Medicaid is life or death and we choose life,” Jackson said. “The Governor must not sign this bill until we find an alternative.”

* But there is still a safety net

Illinois hospitals would be required to provide free care to some poor people under a bill passed by the Legislature and headed to the governor’s desk.

Urban hospitals would have to provide free treatment to patients with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. That’s about $46,000 for a family of four.

Rural hospitals would have to give free care to patients with incomes below 125 percent of the poverty guidelines. That’s about $29,000 for a family of four.

Care would have to be medically necessary and patients would have to apply for assistance.

The hospitals supported the free care proposal, but as subscribers were told over a week ago, the Senate Republicans were against it.

* Related…

* Tamms, Dwight prisons stay open in House plan

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


ACLU to file equal protection lawsuit over state’s civil unions law

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

* Separate but unequal? That’s basically the argument here

The gay rights group Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois each plan to file a lawsuit Wednesday against the clerk of Cook County, claiming that not issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the Illinois Constitution.

Activists say they will continue to press lawmakers to legalize same-sex marriage. But these lawsuits mean that the judicial system, and possibly the Illinois Supreme Court, will play a role as well. […]

The two Illinois lawsuits are similar to ones filed in California not long after the state enacted a domestic partnership law that provided the legal equivalent of civil unions. The suits in California led the high court there to rule that it was unconstitutional to ban same-sex marriage. But that ruling was eventually trumped by Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that barred gay and lesbian couples from marrying.

That turn of events in California is one reason some activists would prefer to win marriage equality through the Legislature, believing it puts same-sex marriage rights on more secure footing.

* More

Civil unions give same-sex couples some, but not all, of the same legal rights and protections as marriage in Illinois, such as the power to decide medical treatment for a partner and to inherit a partner’s property. When that law was approved, however, opponents including some religious and conservative groups said it was an unwanted step toward gay marriage.

“The courts shouldn’t mandate it. Nobody should mandate homosexual marriage,” Colleen Nolen, director of the conservative Concerned Women for America, said late Tuesday.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   49 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

* Editorial: Community care first

* Backers of detention center bill race against clock

* State internal auditor disciplined for rule violations

* House committee endorses ban on flavored cigar wraps

* Illinois House committee doesn’t like flavor for blunt wraps; OKs bill

* Illinois Senate again rejects anti-bullying bill

* Bullying bill fails in Senate

* Internet dating safety bill in Illinois passes Legislature, goes to governor

* Dee Beaubien Presses On in Race for 52nd District Seat

* Sen. Mark Kirk: Ex-wife engaged in ‘bitter personal attacks

* Mark Kirk’s 2010 Campaign Payments to Girlfriend Draw Scrutiny

* Kirk’s ex-wife files FEC complaint questioning campaign payments

* Firefighters union calls Emanuel’s plan to cut costs ‘ridiculous’

* Emanuel touts crime-fighting plan

* Emanuel rolls out new plan to fight Chicago gangs

* Chicago Teachers Union President’s Speech at Historic Rally

* Editorial: Those cleared in court shouldn’t be wiped out defending themselves

* NATO Protesters to city: Pay us for mental, physical injuries

* City Estimates NATO Parking Meter Bill At $65,000

* Meet the meter tax — Latest parking insult is likely not the last

* Taxpayers won’t foot NATO parking tab

* Developers give first glimpse of proposed complex at junction of Chicago River branches

* ComEd delivery rates to fall

* Sun-Times Editor Barron leaves newspaper

* Judge reduces prison sentence of insurance mogul

* Amiel Cueto dies; Enemies feared this power broker

* Amiel Cueto, former Belleville attorney and political powerbroker, dies

* Disbarred southern Illinois attorney Cueto dies

- Posted by Owen Irwin   3 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today’s edition and a big Statehouse roundup

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

This post is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


The Allied Waste Bill – Fact Versus Fiction

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

    Claim: Land and Lakes is a polluter and has a poor environmental record.

    The facts: In a House committee meeting yesterday, bill proponents were unable to cite a single EPA or IEPA violation at Land and Lakes’ facilities going back 20 years. That’s because no violations exist. Who’s spinning this baseless claim and why?

    Claim: The bill is of utmost importance and must be passed this spring.

    The facts: No landfill expansion will occur between now and November. In fact, no landfill expansion will happen for several years. So, we wonder, what’s the rush to pass this bill?

    Claim: The DNR’s Millennium Reserve Plan would be harmed by Land and Lakes’ plan.

    The facts: In the long-term, Land and Lakes will create 135 acres of open land with river trails, restored habitat, bird watching and green space that was a brown field. If HB3881 passes, the community will receive nothing more than brown fields for generations to come.

Land and Lakes welcomes a thorough, robust debate about the merits of its plan and the concerns of our neighbors. So let’s have that discussion in earnest instead of ramming a flawed bill through the legislature in the 11th hour.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


*** LIVE SESSION COVERAGE ***

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

* Blackberry users click here

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today’s edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

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