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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.


- 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.


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.


- 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

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- 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      


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

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