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Reader comments closed for the holidays

Friday, Dec 21, 2012

* I want to thank all of you out there. Subscribers, readers, commenters. It’s been a heckuva year. We’ve had some fun, got angry, were surprised, were amused, but we were always in it together. Thanks so much for being who you are and I’ll talk to you next year.

* As is our custom, we will close out the year with Hardrock, Coco and Joe

* Suzy Snowflake

* And Frosty the Snowman

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all!

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


And the winners are…

Friday, Dec 21, 2012

* Thank you to everyone who contributed to our Golden Horseshoe Awards this year. Your nominations were so good that I often had a difficult time picking many of the winners. A big congratulations to all of our winners. These awards started as sort of an inside joke, but people now take them seriously, and I’m always amazed at the response. Some have even used the award to help them get a job, which is pretty darned cool.

* Let’s move on to today’s winners. The Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe Award for Best CapitolFax.com Commenter goes to Oswego Willy. Wordslinger said it best…

Lots of good friends and great choices, but I vote for Willy for the simple fact that he is desperately — and at times, it seems, singlehandedly — trying to get the Illinois GOP to wake up and compete seriously.

He has no use for the Litmus Testers, Puritans or those who just blame it all on Chicago. He takes no excuses, and demands hard work and accountability.

He won’t concede any part of the state and is adamant that the GOP needs to hit the streets and knock on doors with an optimistic message for the future, not just preach the politics of resentment to a dwindling base.

He’s a Happy Warrior and I hope he and those like him succeed, because this state could use a real, statewide, Republican Party like we had not that long ago.

Quite a large number of people come to this blog every day just to see what Oswego Willy has to say. I love the guy.

* Runner up is Michelle Flaherty. Here is Oswego Willy’s take…

Look back at some comments, and look at the incredible scope of topics she can comment on. Michelle Flaherty gives enough of an inside joke to get a knowing nod, and more than enough of a broad base statement to get a hearty laugh. Tough thing to do with many words. Now … do it in as few words as Michelle Flaherty does, yikes, that is getting it done.

Wordslinger has this award named after his unbeatable knack to be well versed in the topics at hand, and be as funny as can be and as serious as need be. There is Wordslinger, a space, then maybe another empty tier. Michelle Flaherty is beyond deserving with her spot-on commenting, comic genius, and clarity of thought in the fewest words possible. Michelle Flaherty makes you wait to see what really cool SENTENCE will be used to make her point, and she makes you read in wonder how she can be so concise, so accurate, and so funny. Well Done.

Consistently, the funniest person here.

* The Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Statewide Officeholder goes to Auditor General Bill Holland

Bill Holland, hands down. Holland is now, in essence, the parental unit of our state government. His work has saved taxpayers countless millions of dollars, and reports produced by his office instantly carry more credibility than anything issued by other state officers or agencies.

The reputation, integrity and diligence of his office are beyond reproach.

In Illinois politics, that’s really saying something.

There is no one better. Period.

* Runner up is Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka

As Comptroller, she pulls no punches about Illinois finances. I hear no complaints about her office in terms of efficiency and she rarely if ever showboats for the press. No fancy spin or press releases, just the facts. The way it should be. Way to go Judy!

I’ve always loved me some JBT.

* We received a ton of nominations for lobbyists, but very few for The Mike McClain Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Statehouse Insider. So, I’m giving it to Mike McClain

He’s the best in the business and the namesake of the award and is still operating at top levels.

Ain’t nobody better, or even close.

* Here is the complete list of this year’s winners, with runners-up in parentheses…

* The Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe Award for Best CapitolFax.com Commenter: Oswego Willy (Michelle Flaherty)

* The Mike McClain Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Statehouse Insider: Mike McClain

* Best Statewide Officeholder: Auditor General Bill Holland (Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka)

* Best “Do-Gooder” Lobbyist: Bruce Simon (Kathy Drea)

* Best Contract Lobbyist: Tom Cullen (Ed Peck)

* Best In-House Lobbyist: Rob Karr (Mark Denzler)

* Best Legislative Liaison: Bresha Brewer (Cameron Schilling)

* Best Illinois Congresscritter: US Sen. Dick Durbin (Congressman Bob Dold)

* Best State Agency Director: Malcom Weems (Amy Martin)

* The Mark Beaubien Lifetime Service award for the Illinois House: Rep. Skip Saviano, Rep. Joe Lyons (tie)

* The John Millner Lifetime Service award for the Illinois Senate: Sen. Susan Garrett (Sen. Tom Johnson)

* Best Illinois State Senator - Republican: Sen. Matt Murphy (Sen. Pam Althoff)

* Best Illinois State Senator - Democrat: Sen. Don Harmon (Sen. Dan Kotowski)

* Best Illinois State Representative - Republican: Rep. Jim Durkin (Rep. David Harris)

* Best Illinois State Representative - Democrat: Rep. Elaine Nekritz (Rep. Greg Harris)

* The Steve Brown Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Government Spokesperson: Joe Tybor (John Patterson)

* Best legislative campaign staff director: Will Cousineau (Brendan O’Sullivan)

* Best campaign staffer - Illinois House Democrats: Shaw Decremer, Kristen Bauer (tie)

* Best campaign staffer - Illinois House Republicans: Bob Stefanski (Nick Bellini)

* Best campaign staffer - Senate Democrats: Jill Dykhoff (Sam Strain)

* Best campaign staffer - Senate Republicans: Helen Albert (Rachel Bold)

* Best State Senate Staffer - Non Political: Giovanni Randazzo (Kim Schultz)

* Best State House Staffer - Non Political: Samantha Olds (Tyler Hunt)

* The Beth Hamilton Golden Horseshoe Award for Best House Secretary/Admin. Assistant: Carol Shehorn, Sally McDaniel-Smith (tie)

* Best Senate Secretary/Admin. Assistant: Robin Gragg (Melissa Earle)

* Best political bar in Springfield: DH Brown’s (JP Kelly’s)

* Best political restaurant in Springfield: Sebastian’s (Saputo’s)

* Best bartender: Mike at DH Brown’s (Jamie at Boone’s)

* Best waiter/waitress: Annie at Sunrise (Jess at Brown’s)

Congrats to all!

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


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Friday, Dec 21, 2012

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Let’s hurry, people

Friday, Dec 21, 2012

* I’m shutting down for the holidays today at 5 o’clock, so I really need you to finish your Golden Horseshoe nominations today. Click here for The Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe Award for Best CapitolFax.com Commenter, and click here for the Best Statewide Officeholder and The Mike McClain Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Statehouse Insider.

Nominations typically come in throughout the evening on these things, but today’s nominations just can’t wait. So get to it, campers. I’ll be announcing the winners at 5 o’clock.

Thanks.

* Also, I wrote this in comments today, but then thought it needed to be on the front page…

I love pretty much all my commenters, who I always say are the best - bar none - of any website anywhere in the US of A. […]

After some particularly bad experiences, I tried running a blog without comments. It just didn’t work. I do better when I have constant feedback, and so many readers craved the strong, credible and (usually) sober voices in my comment section that I had no choice but to bring them back. Eliminating comments was a bigger mistake than my doomed “New Coke” site format, which was dropped after less than a day.

You people have become almost part of my family. Some days, I just get so disgusted with reporting on this messed up state that I want to scream. But the commenters always bring me back.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of you. I just couldn’t do this without you. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Three quick points about today’s NRA press conference

Friday, Dec 21, 2012

* 1) Regarding NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre’s demand today that the government pay for an armed guard in every school, Columbine had an armed deputy sheriff assigned to the school

As Gardner stepped out of his patrol car, Eric Harris turned his attention from shooting into the west doors of the high school to the student parking lot and to the deputy. Gardner, particularly visible in the bright yellow shirt of the community resource officer uniform, was the target of Harris’ bullets. Harris fired about 10 shots from his rifle at Gardner before his gun jammed. Although Gardner’s patrol car was not hit by bullets, two vehicles that he was parked behind were hit by Harris’ gunfire. Investigators later found two bullet holes in each of the cars.

Gardner, seeing Harris working with his gun, leaned over the top of the car and fired four shots. He was 60 yards from the gunman. Harris spun hard to the right and Gardner momentarily thought he had hit him. Seconds later, Harris began shooting again at the deputy.

* 2) Regarding LaPierre’s comments today about controlling violent video games, research shows no actual correlation between violent video games and real life violence

In 2001, John and I were approached by McGraw Hill with a book idea that explored the research behind video games and violence. As fate would have it, we were nearly finished with a proposal about games and communities. While we rejected the idea of a book based on violence, we did include a chapter on the issue.

We spent quite a bit of time reading 60 years worth of studies, interviewing folks, and sifting through medical research. What we found, not unsurprisingly, is that games with violent images (e.g. first-person shooters) have no effect on actual violence.

In the wake of recent events and the re-kindled discussion about games and violence, we thought we’d share that chapter with you. This is Chapter 8: Gamers, Interrupted from Dungeons & Dreamers.

Plus, isn’t Wayne LaPierre putting 2nd Amendment rights ahead of 1st Amendment rights? I thought the NRA was all about the Constitution. Apparently, I was mistaken.

And virtual reality guns must be controlled, while real life guns should not? What the heck is that?

* 3) By demanding that the government create a national database of the mentally ill, doesn’t that beg the question about why the group won’t support a national database of every gun?

This is not to say that LaPierre didn’t make some good points. But, all in all, those were some extremely ill-advised comments today. The NRA likely did its cause no good today, and maybe some real harm.

- Posted by Rich Miller   72 Comments      


Golden Horseshoe Awards, Round Two

Friday, Dec 21, 2012

* The Golden Horseshoe Award for Best “Do Gooder” Lobbyist goes to Bruce Simon

Bruce Simon really cares. He works constantly and effectively, and has done for a long time. He is very creative, honest, and a man of his word. He is also willing to let others take credit for his ideas and strategies as long as his clients get help. There are several safety-net hospitals which wouldn’t be in business if it weren’t for bruce. And to top it off he is a nice guy.

Not only is Bruce a great guy, he’s a major White Sox fan. So, I guess I’m biased. Whatever. He wins. There is no appellate process here - not that anybody would ever object to Bruce winning this award, mind you.

* Runner-up is Kathy Drea

She’s been the “No Smoking Queen” for years, but this year she took it to a new level. After passing a cigarette tax to help fund education and keep children from smoking, she passed bills regulating radon in daycares and new homes. She’s always worked against well-funded, powerful opposition, but nearly always gets the job done. Maybe not everyone agrees with her, but you have to admit she’s doing it for everyone’s health.

* The Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Legislative Liaison goes to Bresha Brewer...

It seems like Bresha has been a liaison for just about every agency. She’s easy to work with, has great connections and a good sense of humor.

There’s no doubt that Brewer is a star.

* Runner-up goes to Cameron Schilling

Despite his recent departure from the Governor’s office, Cameron was a hard worker, smart, and articulate. Cameron clearly knew the players, politics and policy; yet had a tough job as the Governor’s legislative (environmental) liaison. Cameron will be missed, but is sure do good things both at the ICC and throughout his career.

* Let’s move along to our final category…

* The Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe Award for Best CapitolFax.com Commenter

Also, try to nominate a winner and your pick for runner-up. Thanks.

Also, as always, intensity is what matters here. No explanation = no vote. Thanks.

…Adding… Last year’s winner was Steve Schnorf. Oswego Willy was runner-up.

- Posted by Rich Miller   62 Comments      


Question of the day - Golden Horseshoe Awards

Friday, Dec 21, 2012

* This is our final day, so we need to do two today to finish things up. Let’s go to the winners of yesterday’s first round.

* The Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Contract Lobbyist goes to Tom Cullen

He is a man always willing to help you out and if you’re his opponent on something, he’s never going to go behind your back. He’ll stick the knife in while smiling, but he will be completely and brutally honest with you while doing so, and that’s a trait that is critical to his respectability. He’s sharp as a tack, a master strategist, and a treat to work with - when he’s with you.

I’m assuming that Tom will also get a bunch of nominations for “Best Insider” this year. He’s that good.

* Runner-up is Ed Peck

I’ve worked with Ed on a number of big issues and as a member of staff, he provides valuable insight and gets back to you right away. I know that sounds simple, but working on the minority staff, you see lobbyists ignore our office. A testament to Ed that he works every angle and makes sure he does the job right. It is greatly appreciated.

I’ve known Ed for a lot of years. He most definitely goes the extra mile for his clients.

* The Golden Horseshoe Award for Best In-House Lobbyist goes to last year’s runner-up, IRMA’s Rob Karr

Rob is a consummate professional and well versed in virtually every issue having the slightest impact on both his members and the state’s business community. Even those who oppose Rob’s positions will agree that he is always willing to try and reach a compromise on differing opinions - a virtue that is seemingly lacking in the statehouse these days. As someone who has worked with Rob since his very first days in Springfield, retailers in Illinois are in very good and widely respected hands.

IRMA is without a doubt one of the most effective groups under the dome. Karr, under the tutelage of Dave Vite, is a major part of that.

* Runner-up is the IMA’s Mark Denzler

Mark Denzler is not only extraordinarily effective, I’ve never seen him take credit for other people’s work like some of the business lobsters. Pairing him with Rob Karr and you have Batman & Robin. But please Mark…no tights!

Agreed.

* Alrighty then, campers, let’s move along to today’s first set of categories…

* The Mike McClain Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Statehouse Insider

* Best Statewide Officeholder

As always, make extra sure to explain your votes. An unexplained vote will not be counted. Also, try very hard to nominate in both categories. Thanks much.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


More gun stuff

Friday, Dec 21, 2012

* This happens a lot after major nationally publicized incidents involving guns, but the buying appears to be pretty intense

Background checks for gun sales in Illinois have almost doubled since Friday’s school shootings in Connecticut, according to data from the Illinois State Police.

Gun sellers say some buyers appear concerned about self-defense, but many already own guns and appear to be adding to their collections amid talk of tougher restrictions on gun ownership. Semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15 used in the school shootings last week in Connecticut are generating much of the interest, sellers said. Those guns are being mentioned as the mostly likely target of tougher laws.

More than 12,500 background checks were done in Illinois between Friday, when 28 people were killed at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and Tuesday, according to data provided by state police. In comparison, 6,870 checks were done during the same time a year earlier.

The state’s Firearms Transfer Inquiry Program is processing about 2,500 requests a day, compared to about 1,370 a year ago.

* But this is what concerns me

Sellers said in some cases, people are buying weapons they don’t even know how to use. “It’s all panic buying,” Polhamus said.

My brother pointed this out to me the other day after he’d visited a few southern Illinois gun shops. A whole lot of amateurs who know little to nothing about guns are now stocking up.

* Meanwhile, a couple of pro-gun 2nd Congressional District candidates are retooling their gun messages

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, another candidate, has voted in favor of the NRA’s position on various gun measures that have come before state lawmakers more than 90 percent of the time, earning an “A” rating from the organization this year. But Hutchinson told Roll Call this week that while she stands firm on the rights of hunters, she has always supported an assault weapons ban as well as a plan to outlaw high-capacity ammunition magazines. Yet another candidate with a top NRA rating, former Congresswoman Deborah Halvorson, said this week that she may be willing to consider an assault weapons ban.

Hutchinson did not respond to a request for comment. Halvorson could not be reached.

* From Project Vote Smart via Huffpo, here are the gun rankings for the Illinois delegation. The higher the rating, the more the person is for gun control. So, at “A+” rating means strong anti-gun positions…


* Mother Jones took a look at Bill Clinton’s assault weapons ban, which Rahm Emanuel helped pass

The assault weapons ban proved of little value where it counted most: on the street. The legislation prohibited the manufacture, possession, transfer, and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, yet it defined assault weapons in a manner that would allow gun manufacturers to skirt the ban without much trouble. It exempted 650 firearms and grandfathered in weapons and ammo clips produced or purchased before the enactment of the ban. “It was better to get what we got than nothing,” the former Justice Department official says. And the measure’s prohibition on high-capacity clips was probably its most effective provision. “Ultimately, the 1994 ban was almost meaningless because it was so defectively drafted,” says Tom Diaz, a senior policy analyst at the Violence Policy Center, who worked for the House subcommittee on crime in 1994.

The law did little to affect gun violence. Prior to the ban, nervous gun owners and dealers stocked up on assault weapons and the high-capacity clips, and afterward gun manufacturers made cosmetic changes to semiautomatic weapons so these guns would not violate the new law. And the 1994 federal ban was passed with a built-in 2004 expiration date. When the time ran out, then-President George W. Bush did nothing to extend the law. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama called for reviving the assault weapons ban. But after he became president, his administration took no steps to do so. Guns were too hot (politically) to touch.

The .223 caliber Bushmaster AR-15 semiautomatic rifle reportedly used by Adam Lanza in the Newtown shootings was the sort of weapon gun control advocates had hoped to prohibit with the 1994 ban. Yet even though the state of Connecticut passed its own assault weapons ban, modeled on the 1994 federal law but with no sunset clause, this particular gun was legal in the state because Bushmaster had made a slight and insignificant change in its design to evade restrictions.

* More stuff…

* Rahm Emanuel Blasts NRA, Calls for New Gun Laws: “I fully expect the NRA to do exactly what they always do,” Emanuel said at a press conference at Chicago City Hall, where he called for a ban on assault weapons of the kind used in the Newtown killings. “I expect the Washington gun lobby and the gun lobbies around to do exactly what they always do, which is to try to apply political pressure so you ignore the overwhelming public opinion.”

* Mayors push for assault ban: More than 20 mayors and local leaders are backing the effort, and Emanuel was flanked by eight mayors on Thursday from several cities and towns, including Gary, Ind., another community plagued by gun violence. Diamond Mayor Teresa Kernc, who leads the village of roughly 2,500 people about 50 miles south of Chicago, is also backing the effort.

* List of mayors in Emanuel’s new group

* Gun Violence Plays Heavily in Illinois Special: Finally, there’s the large roster of Democrats seeking the seat, including two previously backed by the Illinois State Rifle Association. Given the unwieldy field, any one of the seven better-known candidates — including those two — could win the Feb. 26 primary. “It’s going to make a difference in the Illinois delegation, certainly,” said Richard Pearson, ISRA’s executive director. “One 435th of a vote? We’ll take it.”

* More funerals in Newtown

- Posted by Rich Miller   59 Comments      


Bill Daley tells City Club audience he’s seriously considering a run against Quinn

Friday, Dec 21, 2012

* He’s talking a good game, but this is the third time he’s talked a good game, so we’ll have to wait and see

Former White House Chief of Staff William Daley talked a lot about a lack of “leadership” in Illinois government Thursday as he continued to mull a run for governor in 2014.

“I am thinking about it seriously. We are a way’s off [from the next gubernatorial campaign],” said Daley to applause from a packed house at a City Club of Chicago luncheon. […]

What’s changed is that his brother, Richard M. Daley, is no longer mayor of Chicago — which some political observers viewed as a stumbling block to him winning the state’s highest office because too much power would be concentrated in the Daley family. “I couldn’t convince Rich then to get out,” Daley joked to reporters.

He called Quinn “a decent, honest, good person” and refused to be pinned down about a run against the Democratic incumbent.

* He believes he’s diagnosed the problem, leadership

“I’ve had the privilege of working with great leaders,” Daley said. “I was in the situation room (when Obama made the call to kill Osama Bin Laden.”

Daley also focused on his father, Richard M. Daley’s, leadership, saying that the decision to raze Little Italy to make way for the University of Illinois Chicago campus took real guts. […]

Quinn, he suggested, does not possess those qualities — and failed to lead on pension reform.

“Gov Quinn’s proposals had promise but have been ignored. Divisiveness keeps winning out. …it’s not right to blame the workers. If Illinois is to solve the pension crisis political leaders need to put themselves at risk.”

But it’s not just pensions, Daley said. It’s education, energy and more.

“The list goes on and on of needs,” he said. “We’ve been forced to look inward at problems that should have been fixed long ago.It’s no wonder people of Illinois hunger for leadership.”

His work with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama would be positives in a Democratic primary.

But here’s my question: What Democratic primary voters does Bill Daley win over that Dan Hynes didn’t?

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   44 Comments      


Tamms to close by January 4th

Friday, Dec 21, 2012

* An Alexander County judge followed the state Supreme Court’s dictates this week and lifted his injunction against closing state facilities. As a result, the state has started transferring inmates out of the Tamms super-max prison

Illinois prison officials have started inmate transfers from the high-security Tamms prison in preparation for a Jan. 4 closing date.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Stacey Solano said 25 inmates from the “supermax” prison in far southern Illinois are moving Thursday to Pontiac Correctional Center.

That leaves just more than 100 inmates in the single-cell isolation portion of Tamms. Just less than 100 minimum security inmates must move too.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


Golden Horseshoe Awards - Round Two

Thursday, Dec 20, 2012

* Once again, the Golden Horseshoe for best Illinois Congresscritter goes to US Sen. Dick Durbin

Dick Durbin is not only the best member of the Illinois delegation (which includes several other stars) but one of the best in the country. He manages to be a floor leader and advisor to the President, top leader to Reid, key fundraiser for colleagues around the country, national D spokesperson, dogged advocate for many causes he cares deeply about, and a full-time advocate for Illinois.

* Runner-up is Congressman Bob Dold

Always willing to listen to a position, even if he was initially opposed to it. Always out in the district meeting voters, elected officials of municipalities and groups. Not afraid to either buck his own party position to the detriment of party support, or to support his own party position to the detriment of what his constituents thought. Worked 16 hour days 7 days a week. A sharp individual who could quickly understand a subject and always tried to do the best. With the passage of time, he will be sorely missed by the 10th District and the State of Illinois.

* There was no clear consensus for Best Agency Director, but last year’s runner-up Malcom Weems is a good one…

I would never ever want his job and trying to untangle the mess that agency is dealing with after years of mismangement would drive me crazy. Somehow Malcolm holds it all together and is working to streamline the agency. He is a nice guy too which should count for something.

* Runner-up is Amy Martin at the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency…

Even though she’s only been there less than a year, she’s moved quickly to pull an agency literally and figuratively stuck in the past into the 21st century. She’s brought a keen marketing eye to promoting historic sites and finding new ways to bring fresh faces into Illinois History (last week’s Santa reading for kids at the Old State Capitol was a huge success, as was her earlier legislative reception at the Dana Thomas House). More importantly, she has the clout to get things done. Not only was she smart to keep Catherine Shannon with her at the agency, but she’s quickly assembled a very strong management team in a very short period, and has them focused on modernization at every level. After years of neglect, IHPA is an agency that’s going to be a lot better when she leaves than when she found it.

* On to round two…

* Best “Do-Gooder” Lobbyist

* Best Legislative Liaison

Don’t forget, this is about intensity, not about the number of votes. So fully explain your nominations, please. Also, do your very best to nominate in both categories. Thanks much.

- Posted by Rich Miller   46 Comments      


STOP THE SATELLITE TV TAX!

Thursday, Dec 20, 2012

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

HB 5440 calls for a new tax increase on the 1.3 million Illinois families and businesses who subscribe to satellite TV. A recent statewide poll conducted by We Ask America confirms there is universal opposition to the cable industry’s push to place this NEW 5% tax on satellite TV service. The poll was conducted on November 14, 2012 yielding 1,288 responses with a margin of error of +/- 3%.

Key findings:

* 84% of all respondents oppose a new satellite tax
* 81% of cable subscribers even oppose this concept
* Opposition is strong among both Democrats & Republicans – 83% (D) and 87% (R)
* Regional Opposition

    o Chicago 81%
    o Suburban Cook 77%
    o Collar Counties 84%
    o Downstate 89%

Cable pays rent in the form of franchise fees. Satellite companies don’t pay franchise fees for one simple reason: our technology orbits the earth. Why should satellite customers pay for a service they do not utilize?

With family budgets already stretched to their limits, this is one new tax Illinois consumers and families cannot afford.



Tell Your Lawmakers to Stop The Satellite TV Tax
Vote NO on HB 5440

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Two coalitions come together on gay marriage

Thursday, Dec 20, 2012

* Two “new” coalitions have been formed around the gay marriage push. The opponents usually work together on Statehouse issues

The “Coalition to Protect Children and Marriage”, announced on Tuesday, includes the Illinois Family Institute, Eagle Forum of Illinois, Abstinence and Marriage Partnership, Illinois Citizens for Life PAC, Lake County Right to Life, Concerned Christian Americans and Family-Pac.

Paul Caprio, director of Family-Pac, said that the coalition would use the resources of those organizations to lobby against same-sex marriage in Illinois.

Not included in the coalition, however, is the Catholic Conference of Illinois, which is somewhat interesting.

* The pro-gay marriage side announced a new coalition today [fixed link]. Its members include groups that don’t usually work on gay rights, including

AFSCME Council 31

Chicago Bar Association

Chicago Jobs with Justice

Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics

Illinois State Bar Association

SEIU

United Electrical Workers, Western Region

* The inclusion of the American Academy of Pediatrics should help counter the opposition’s main argument, which seems to currently be focusing on “the children.” From a press release…

Paul Caprio, Director of Family-Pac, said, “Traditional marriage, between one man and one woman, our existing state law, developed and survived for thousands of years because it is the best familial arrangement for the protection of children and, therefore, for the future continuation of society.”

Said David Smith, Director of the Illinois Family Institute, “Government did not create marriage. It merely recognizes and promotes this type of relationship that exists and which protects the rights and serves the best interests of children and, therefore, of society. Research has consistently demonstrated that children fare best when raised, whenever possible, by their biological parents. The state has a vested interest in promoting this institution because it provides the ideal environment in which to raise the next generation of healthy and productive members of society.”

Said Penny Pullen, former state legislator and President of Eagle Forum of Illinois, “As foundational as the family is to our society and especially to the well-being of children, it would be both wrong and dangerous for our state to interfere with the family for the sake of a social experiment whose results we cannot know for decades. The risk to future generations is too high to take this chance.”

Mary Anne Hackett, President of Catholic Citizens of Illinois stated, “Only a marriage of heterosexual persons can produce children and secure the future of society. The protection of the lives and development of children must take priority over the personal gratification of even one single adult. The definition of natural marriage must be between one man and one woman, unchanged by whims and claims of equality.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      


Illinois’ Education “Fiscal Cliff”

Thursday, Dec 20, 2012

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Illinois is facing its own “fiscal cliff” in the current House budget – a $200 million shortfall for education funding if we don’t take action to address this serious gap. Illinois already ranks dead last in the nation in the amount of school funding provided by state revenues. We simply cannot continue to underfund our schools.

Beyond this, there are other ways our state is falling behind. Current state revenue laws have not been modernized to keep pace with the changing times. However, there is assistance on the way: House Bill 5440, which closes a corporate tax loophole on satellite television providers, delivers much needed funding relief for Illinois and adapts to the current marketplace for TV service.

By closing off this loophole, HB 5440 would generate up to $75 million in additional revenue for the Illinois education fund, ensuring that satellite providers industry standard fees to support our state.

Don’t Shortchange our Students! Vote YES on HB 5440! To learn more and make your voice heard, visit www.YesOn5440.com.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Gun stuff

Thursday, Dec 20, 2012

* The TRS board isn’t scheduled to meet again until February, but staff is taking a look at its investments in gun manufacturers

Illinois’ largest pension fund is gathering information about investments it might have in gun manufacturers in the event the system’s trustees want to re-evaluate those investments.

The Teachers’ Retirement System took the action after last week’s mass shooting at a school in Connecticut that left 20 children and six adults dead.

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System said Monday it is reviewing its investments in a private equity firm that, in turn, owns the company that manufactured the rifle used in the shootings.

“We are going to be gathering information about whether any TRS assets are invested with gun manufacturers, in the event that the board of trustees decides to re-evaluate any investments in the portfolio,” said TRS spokesman Dave Urbanek. “With a $37 billion portfolio, it takes some time to go through the layers of business transactions and the depths of corporate ownership to get to what might be there.”

* The California move could cause a decline in some gunmaker stocks, but not everybody is convinced

With this recent tragedy, gun sales are up, Ruger and Smith and Wesson shares are down. That is a typical short-term market reaction that represents a buying opportunity. Ruger is not likely to have a major revenue decline even if there is a return of an assault weapon ban and high capacity magazine ban. In California, if anything, Ruger benefited from the nation’s tightest assault weapon ban. Ruger’s equivalent .223 caliber rifles, with wood stocks lacking pistol grips, remained on the market, albeit with 10 round magazines. Ruger does have a gas piston AR15 type rifle priced at the high end of the AR15 market, so a decline in sales or loss in sales of this rifle are unlikely to have a major impact on Ruger’s bottom line.

* And Illinois is in the top tier on background checks this year

The [FBI] reported more than 16.8 million background checks by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System through the first 11 months of 2012, already the highest total for any year since the system was introduced in late 1998 — and nearly double the total from a decade ago even without data from December. Among states, the number of checks performed so far this year is highest for Kentucky (2,329,151), Texas (1,196,176), California (981,798), Illinois (923,920) and Pennsylvania (835,293).

As mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, a background check is required in order to buy any firearm at retail. The background checks don’t necessarily correlate to the number of guns actually sold as buyers might have changed their minds about their purchase, or might have bought multiple weapons.

* Sales are soaring and prices are rising

With President Barack Obama endorsing sweeping gun restrictions in the wake of the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, prices for handgun magazines are surging on EBay (EBAY) and semi-automatic rifles are sold out at many Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) locations. […]

On EBay Inc.’s auction website, shoppers have recently bid up gun magazines. The current bid for four Glock handgun magazines, ammunition for one of the guns used at Newtown, is $118.37 compared with $45 on the day before the shooting. The bid for seven Glock magazines hit $201 on Dec. 17 from $71.01 before the massacre.

* Nate Silver looks at demographics

Gun ownership has declined over the past 40 years — but almost all of the decrease has come from Democrats. By 2010, according to the General Social Survey, the gun ownership rate among adults that identified as Democrats had fallen to 22 percent. It remained at about 50 percent among Republican adults. […]

White voters were substantially more likely to own guns than Hispanics or blacks. But white Republicans were more likely to own guns than white Democrats.

And based on demographic inertia, the differences seem likely to grow over time.

About 35 percent of Democratic voters age 65 and older reported having a gun in their home, against about 25 percent of those ages 18 to 29. But gun ownership rates bore little relationship to age among Republican voters, and were constant at about 55 percent among all age groups. That might suggest that gun ownership will continue to decline among Democrats while holding steady among Republicans, further increasing the partisan gap.

Gun ownership rates are highest in rural areas, where guns are more likely to be used for hunting as well as personal protection. A slight majority of Democratic voters in rural areas said they had a gun in their home, according to the survey, although the rate was somewhat higher, 65 percent, among rural Republicans.

In urban areas, 40 percent of Republican voters said they had a gun in their home, while 20 percent of Democrats did.

The differences are most apparent in suburban areas. There, 58 percent of Republican voters said there was a gun in their household, against just 27 percent of Democrats.

* A good friend of mine has a son with Asperger’s, and that kid is now having problems with other kids at school because of the Connecticut shooting. So, this was a welcome piece

Critics, though, say that if you want to understand how such a statement might be taken, try this hypothetical substitution: “Law enforcement officials said they were closely examining whether Mr. Lanza is gay.” There is, for a reasonable person, the suggestion of cause and effect. It is very unlikely that that sentence would have appeared in The Times without further explanation.

* Meanwhile, back when Rahm Emanuel was running the DCCC, he was infamous for recruiting conservative, often very pro-gun Democratic candidates. In other words, he helped create the gridlock over the federal assault weapons ban. When he became President Obama’s chief of staff, he deliberately put an assault weapons ban on the back burner. As Ted McClelland notes, “the anti-gun Brady Campaign gave Obama an F during his first year in office.” Sun-Times

Author Daniel Klaidman wrote in his book “Kill or Capture” that after Holder said he would push for the ban, “Emanuel was furious. He slammed his desk and cursed the attorney general. Holder was only repeating a position Obama had expressed during the campaign, but that was before the White House needed the backing of pro-gun Democrats from red states for their domestic agenda. The chief of staff sent word to Justice that Holder needed to ‘shut the —- up’ on guns . . .

* But now, Emanuel is demanding an assault weapons ban. Maybe it’s because he’s mayor of a city with way too many gun-related murders. But as we’ve discussed before, the assault weapons issue has become standard Democratic schtick every time something bad happens.

* Earlier this week, CBS This Morning pressed Emanuel on his record. He mostly filibustered

O’DONNELL: And that you went – and said – the chief of staff sent word to Justice that Holder needed to shut up on guns.

EMANUEL: (unintelligible) Let me say this, Norah: President Obama always stood for getting this done – number one. Number two, I passed the Brady Bill, the assault weapon ban. It is very, very important that we do that. The fact is, in 2009, the President and the entire government was very clear to say this, as the attorney general knows, in getting all the President’s legislation done and working with Congress to do that.

O’DONNELL: But I want you to explain that, because, were you worried about the political backlash of taking on and pushing for the assault weapons ban? Why didn’t – why didn’t Obama do that?

EMANUEL: No, because, first of all, the President’s record is very, very clear on this. It’s clear when he was a state senator. It was clear when he was also a U.S. senator. It was clear also as a President, and he was dealing as you well know with a myriad of issues. And he was pushing very hard and making sure, also, that we had the funding to do everything we needed to do in the Justice Department.

O’DONNELL: But the Brady campaign, I mean, in the first year, gave Obama an ‘F’ - an ‘F’!

EMANUEL: Yeah, well, you know – yeah, but-

O’DONNELL: You know? And there was a report in The New York Times on Sunday that after the Aurora shooting, that the Justice Department – I know you weren’t at the White House then - but that the Justice Department went to the White House with ways to expand the background check system, in order to reduce the risk of guns falling in the hands of mentally ill people, and there was a decision made not to go that far. What I guess I’m trying to ask is not assign blame, but politically, how hard is it to take on the NRA?

EMANUEL: First of all, having fought to pass the Brady Bill and the assault weapon ban, the last time we really had gun control, it is very hard. That’s why what you have to focus on is criminal access and the type of guns and make it a law enforcement issue. When I worked for President Clinton, we had all the police chiefs in D.C., and that’s why I also think now the proximity to the vote is very, very important. I think it’s essential to have a vote of conscience - put it up, people notice what happened here – number one. Number two is – it has to be about people – the type of criminal access to the type of gun, which is why you showed earlier the type of gun, because I think when people see that, it’s clear that gun is not for the streets. It’s not for sports. It’s really a gun of war.

Video is here.

* Related…

* Teachers union rips idea of arming teachers: “It’s ridiculous to think bringing guns into a school or classroom would somehow make that area safer,” said Charlie McBarron, a spokesman for the Illinois Education Association. “It’s hard to understand how a sane person could make that serious suggestion.”

* Chart Of The Day: At least according to Google’s search stats, Friday’s shooting is clearly making an impact

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      


Question of the day - Golden Horseshoe Awards

Thursday, Dec 20, 2012

* I’ll announce yesterday’s winners a little later today. We’re doing nominations in two parts today because we’re simply running out of time…

* Best Contract Lobbyist

* Best In-House Lobbyist

Keep in mind that an unexplained vote will not count. Also, please do your very best to nominate in both categories. Thanks much.

- Posted by Rich Miller   44 Comments      


Pack consequences

Thursday, Dec 20, 2012

* One thing that happens when a high-profile person gets in a spot of trouble is that the media pack tends to start kicking over rocks in the hopes of finding a new scandal. Ergo

State Sen. Donne Trotter, the 2nd Congressional District candidate facing a felony gun charge, tried to thwart state efforts in 2010 to recoup a $1.25 million state grant after a now-indicted ex-south suburban police chief allegedly was caught skimming the public funds to pay herself rent and to hire her brother.

The case in question surrounds job-training money Trotter helped arrange as a top Senate budget negotiator to We Are Our Brother’s Keeper, a nonprofit organization once run by former Country Club Hills Police Chief Regina Evans. She sought state help to fix up the historic New Regal Theater on the South Side, which had fallen into disrepair. […]

“Miss Evans and her husband both came to my office and said they felt they were being harassed, that there was no merit to the issues that they’d brought up,” Trotter told the Sun-Times in an interview before his arrest earlier this month on a felony weapons charge for allegedly trying to take a handgun through a security checkpoint at O’Hare Airport.

“They had not shown me any documentation and had just asked whether I’d try to intervene and find out if there are problems, and if they were just technical ones,” Trotter said. “She seemed very sincere in wanting to do something positive in the community, not a for-profit venture, but one that was also giving back to the community and having this job-readiness program. It wasn’t just like, ‘Enrich me.’ ” […]

“I was surprised when I saw details of some of the things she’d done. I don’t know when she got off track. That wasn’t the track that they were on. I didn’t look at them as con people,” he said. “I thought they were — and still think they are — decent people, but somehow [they] have just gone someplace else, got in over their heads.”

There are two different schools of thought about this phenomenon as relates specifically to Trotter’s campaign: 1) The media may eventually succeed in hounding Trotter out of the race; or 2) When the “white” media attacks a black candidate, black voters often tend to rally around that candidate.

* And you gotta wonder whether this story would’ve emerged had it not been for Trotter’s arrest

It might surprise some citizens that, in addition to being Chicago’s most powerful alderman, Ed Burke is a private eye.

Ald. Burke (14th), who chairs the influential City Council Finance Committee is, according to state records, a licensed private detective, trained and authorized to carry a semiautomatic weapon.

Burke also is a licensed private security contractor.

He is approved by Illinois statute to carry a gun while “in the performance of his . . . duties” and carry it “to and from” his place of employment.

Where is that place of employment?

Burke’s application is silent on that except to say that Ed Burke employs Ed Burke.

* Related…

* Gun Violence Plays Heavily in Illinois Special

* Robin Kelly’s 2nd District House Campaign Team

* Democrat says congressional hopefuls should back gun limits: Her agenda includes refusing campaign contributions from “organizations that oppose reasonable gun-safety legislation.”

* Robin Kelly’s Open Letter To Fellow Candidates On Gun Violence

* Robin Kelly Adds Alderman Will Burns To Her List Of Endorsements

* Toi Hutchinson campaign team: Illinois 2nd c.d. special election

* Jonathan Jackson Won’t Run in Illinois’s 2nd District Special Election

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      


SEIU to spend $500K to blast Rahm for aping anti-Obamacare companies

Thursday, Dec 20, 2012

* Greg Hinz

The state council of the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, has approved a $500,000 plan seeking to demonize Mr. Emanuel as “the national poster child for Neo-Liberals who are hell-bent on adopting regressive policies.”

That language comes from a document approved by the SEIU council — a document whose authenticity I have confirmed. It calls for spending $100,000 on polling and “opposition research” aimed at Mr. Emanuel, and $200,000 each on “targeted ward work” and paid communications, including texting, radio ads and posters on Chicago Transit Authority buses and trains.

In a phone interview, council President Tom Balanoff declined to comment on what might be in the council’s budget. But Mr. Balanoff, whose union was neutral in Mr. Emanuel’s 2011 election race, wasn’t at all shy about attacking the mayor, who recently implemented a new maintenance contract at O’Hare International Airport that the union considers deeply flawed.

“I think he’s trying to save some money, and he’s taking it out of people who can least afford it,” Mr. Balanoff said. “And at the airport, he’s not saving (taxpayers) money, he’s saving airlines money,” since all revenue the city gets from O’Hare is plowed back into airport operations rather than going to the general city operating budget. […]

According to Mr. Balanoff, the contract, which covers private firms that clean O’Hare domestic terminals, is shortchanging workers on pay, health care and other benefits. A similar pact for maintenance services at police stations resulted in workers being shifted to part-time work of less than 30 hours a week, which allows their employers to avoid paying for their health insurance under provisions of the president’s national health insurance program. […]

Adds the [Emanuel] spokeswoman: “It is very unfortunate that the SEIU leadership has decided to spend a half-million dollars on an investigation to smear the mayor instead of focusing their attention on helping their members, organizing the new janitors at O’Hare or providing other important job resources. The mayor remains steadfastly focused on and committed to what really matters: collaborating with labor unions to save and create thousands of new jobs in Chicago, not false attacks and smear campaigns.”

* According to the document, the O’Hare maintenance worker deal signals that Mayor Emanuel is…

using the City’s procurement process to take advantage of a loophole in Obamacare to jettison the health insurance costs of many city contract work. Essentially, Rahm is doing the same thing to city contract workers that Applebee’s, Denny’s, Papa John’s Pizza and so many other Right Wing nationalemployers have announced they are doing to their workers in the lead-up to the implementation of Obamacare.

In the coming months, the national news will be dominated by these types of stories. We feel strongly that Rahm Emanuel can be made the national “poster child” for Neo-Liberals who are hell-bent on adopting these regressive policies that are designed solely to delay or even stop the implementation of Obamacare.

* The budget

* Background from Progress Illinois

For several weeks, the workers, represented by SEIU* Local 1, and their advocates have called on Mayor Rahm Emanuel to rebid a contract with a janitorial company that slashed hourly wages to $11.90 from a pay range of $12.05 to $15.45. The $99 million contract also cuts employee health benefits, changing them from family health care plans to individual plans that cost hundreds of dollars more to include family members. The city is not saving any money under the contract, according to SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff, because the funds that pay for the contract comes from the airport’s airlines.

The contract also failed to ensure that the workers, many of whom have worked at O’Hare for several years, would keep their jobs; instead allowing the company to offer an “open enrollment” process, which required the workers to reapply for their jobs. Only a handful, approximately 20 to 30, of the more than 300 workers have been rehired to continue working at the airport.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      


Calling out the governor

Thursday, Dec 20, 2012

* An e-mail from a longtime subscriber…

It’s been great reading the dialogue on the blog about mental health care and society, some very intuitive comments. I work on behalf of a number of providers across the state that have struggled with steadily reduced state funding to support their programs..people slip through the cracks, even with as hard as they are trying to get people help and find those who need help.

We all heard Governor Quinn stand up during his budget speech last year and lay down the gauntlet on rebalancing to support community based disability and mental health care…then his budget tried to cut community mental health care funding by $56 million.

The legislature did everything they could to preserve funding for community mental health care at last year’s levels in the state budget (it’s dropped from $230 million in FY08 to $115 million in FY13), but then the Administration cut funding to providers by $21 million anyway.

Right now, at this very moment, even as the national discussion on mental health care is as high as it’s been, we are on our own fighting just to get $12 million back into the budget so community providers can try and restore some crisis care services and psychiatric support. WE CANT EVEN GET THE ADMINISTRATION TO ACKNOWLEDGE OR EVEN SUPPORT US IN NEGOTIATIONS!!

Sorry, I don’t know why I am venting to you…

So far, Gov. Pat Quinn has focused his post-Connecticut comments almost solely on guns. He wants an assault weapons ban, for example. But the hard reality is he’s been shlashing funding for community mental health care even as he closes state mental health facilities.

The governor needs to be called to account.

- Posted by Rich Miller   69 Comments      


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