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Thursday, Jan 31, 2013

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Quote of the day

Thursday, Jan 31, 2013

* Careful what you pray for

“I don’t have enough words to say thank you. All I can say is I’ll give you my whole heart and soul,” State Sen. Toi Hutchison said Wednesday as a group of African-American ministers prayed that the other black candidates- Robin Kelly, Alderman Anthony Beale and State Senator Napoleon Harris  would remove themselves from the ballot. They believe by having one black candidate, it would be easier for an African-American to win on February 26.

Not long after that prayer, Napoleon Harris dropped out - and endorsed Robin Kelly.

Oops.

Also, after whacking Kelly for accepting Harris’ endorsement, who is pro-life and against gay marriage, you gotta wonder if any of those ministers endorsing Hutchinson feel the same way.

* Related…

* Gun violence a big issue at 2nd District candidates debate

* Gun violence takes center stage in Congressional race

* VIDEO: 2nd CD candidates’ debate

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      


Why did Illinois yank its bond issue?

Thursday, Jan 31, 2013

* Reuters looks into why Illinois withdrew its bond issue this week

Illinois yanked a $500 million general obligation bond issue slated for Wednesday because of credit concerns that could boost its borrowing costs, in the latest financial blow to the state, which has failed to fix its bloated public pensions.

Investment banks that planned to bid on the debt indicated investors would demand higher yields on the 25-year bonds, said John Sinsheimer, Illinois’ capital markets director.

“We were getting indications of higher spreads than we were anticipating,” said Sinsheimer, who declined to discuss specific spread levels. “We felt it was prudent to pull the deal for the time being.”

Illinois is already faced with the highest spreads - 137 basis points in the latest week - over Municipal Market Data’s benchmark triple-A scale among states and cities tracked by MMD, a unit of Thomson Reuters. By contrast, the spread for California, another low-rated, high-debt issuance state, was only 48 basis points in the week ended Jan. 25. […]

Tim McGregor, director of municipal fixed income at Northern Trust, said the state probably would have had little difficulty selling the bonds on Wednesday “with a little bit of yield” given low supplies of debt in the $3.7 trillion municipal market and yield-hungry investors. He added that if Illinois wants to attract lower rates in the market, it needs to fix its finances, particularly pensions.

“Spreads won’t tighten just because they want them to tighten,” he said, adding the state needs to impress the market by tackling pension reforms.

Either way, it was probably prudent to let the furor over the rating reduction die down for a while.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


New way to file taxes for couples in civil unions

Thursday, Jan 31, 2013

* People in civil unions can now file their taxes electronically

[Department of Revenue spokesperson Sue Hofer] said couples in civil unions can file electronically this year as a result of a software upgrade at the revenue agency. Last year, the first tax year for civil unions in Illinois, paper returns were required.

“It’s not fair to say, because you’re in a civil union, you have to file paper returns,” said Hofer.

A “civil union income report” also is required that allows state and federal returns to be matched for online filing.

The revenue department does not separately track civil-union returns, but nearly 5,200 civil unions were reported statewide from the time of legalization in June 2011 through the end of 2012.

* The Civil Rights Agenda responded via press release…

Because the federal government does not recognize civil unions, couples cannot file joint federal tax returns, so each partner in a civil union must prepare their tax returns twice.

“Taxes are such a headache and that is especially true if you are in a civil union,” said Anthony Martinez, Executive Director of The Civil Rights Agenda. “We received a large amount of calls and emails last year asking about filing taxes when a couple is in a civil union. The process is complicated and lengthy and includes the couple doing their taxes twice, once as if they were single and once as if they were married. The process also creates a large amount of unique paperwork. ,We are pleased that the Department has taken steps to ease the burden of filing taxes when you are in a civil union. Hopefully, the new Schedule will make a painstaking process a little bit easier.”

“The fact that there has to be a special schedule created for couples in civil union highlights that civil unions are not equal to marriage,” stated Rick Garcia, Director of the Equal Marriage Illinois Project and Senior Policy Advisor for The Civil Rights Agenda “The couples file their Illinois taxes as if they are married, but then have to use a special schedule that creates extra steps. Although these changes are welcome, we still must point out that civil unions are a separate institution from marriage and do not provide the same rights or responsibilities.”

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      


Dems to target Davis

Thursday, Jan 31, 2013

* From a press release…

Building on its successful 2012 record, House Majority PAC today announced it will run political programs in 10 Congressional Districts to target vulnerable Republicans, beginning in 2013. The Republican members of Congress are Michele Bachmann (MN-06), Mike Coffman (CO-06), Gary Miller (CA-31), Rodney Davis (IL-13), Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08), Michael Grimm (NY-11), Joe Heck (NV-03), David Joyce (OH-14), John Kline (MN-02) and Steve Southerland (FL-02).

Each of these Republicans represents a competitive district and has an out-of-touch, extreme record.

Over the course of 2013, House Majority PAC will execute individually tailored plans in each of these 10 districts, to include earned and paid media, online communications and social networking. These efforts will lay the groundwork for increased political activity leading up to Election Day in 2014.

“In 2012, House Majority PAC built a strong record of success and in 2013 we are ready to hit the ground running to hold these Republicans accountable and communicate with swing voters about their extreme records and backwards priorities,” said Alixandria Lapp, Executive Director of House Majority PAC. “Whether it’s supporting the end of Medicare as we know it, backing tax cuts for the wealthy, working to roll back the clock on women’s rights or opposing stem cell research, these Republicans are simply out of step with the districts they represent. House Majority PAC will work to ensure voters know the truth.”

During the 2012 cycle, House Majority PAC spent approximately $36 million, amassing a record that independent observers termed “impressive” and “winning.” The Democratic candidate won in 63 percent of the races in which House Majority PAC spent a significant sum. And of the 10 races in which House Majority PAC spent the most money, Democrats won eight. [Emphasis added.]

I have my doubts about the potential for success there. The district has a ton of college students, from Bloomington, to Champaign to Edwardsville and everything in between. They tend to vote Democratic, but they don’t vote big in off-year elections. If Davis had lost last year, he’d be my favorite to win in 2014.

But maybe you have a different idea. Let’s hear it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      


Reform and renewal

Thursday, Jan 31, 2013

* Not good

The Illinois Department of Corrections filled a high-ranking prison administrator’s position with a man who had political clout but whose qualifications fell far short of the agency’s own job-description requirements, a state investigation has found.

The Illinois Executive Ethics Commission, in a report released Wednesday, did not name the administrator or the prison where he works. But it indicated he had prior experience only in teaching theater, as an assistant manager at a “movie store,” and managing an office for his father’s political campaign. The report did not name the father.

The agency’s description for the job cited the need for extensive educational and practical experience in criminology, penal administration and prison supervision. Corrections Director S.A. “Tony” Godinez, who is named in the report, acknowledged that the job required the ability to run the entire prison in an emergency.

The commission recommended that Gov. Pat Quinn’s office “take appropriate action” in the case of the employee because he wasn’t qualified. But one of Quinn’s lawyers responded that a review of the employee’s status showed that he “has achieved the requisite education and employment experience” for the job.

It’s the second time in less than three months that Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza has found hiring violations in in the Quinn administration. Meza reported in November that he found 10 violations of hiring law at the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

The report is here.

* Meanwhile

The state’s top ethics watchdog Wednesday accused a campaign consultant for state Sen. Napoleon Harris of misusing family leave time from his state job so he could do legislative campaign work.

State Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza recommended that University Park resident Curtis Thompson be barred from future state employment because of his alleged actions.

“Mr. Thompson sought [family] leave on a fraudulent basis, submitted a false [family leave] form and attempted to cover up his fraudulent activity by stating that he had resigned,” Meza’s report said.

Thompson, a one-time $66,612-a-year administrator at the Department of Central Management Services, obtained family leave time from the agency in January 2012 ostensibly to care for his terminally ill father in Alabama, Meza alleged.

But instead, the report said, Thompson did political work for parts of three months, leading up to the March 20, 2012 Democratic primary where Harris prevailed in a three-way race in the 15th Senate District.

Meza’s report does not explicitly name Harris as the legislative candidate for whom Thompson worked while on family leave from the state, and an aide to Meza would neither confirm nor deny Harris was the candidate.

That report is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      


Schock stumbles on why he opposes gay marriage

Thursday, Jan 31, 2013

* Republican Congressman Aaron Schock reiterated his opposition yesterday to gay marriage during a Springfield media availability. But when asked why he opposed gay marriage, the potential gubernatorial candidate hesitated and stumbled. Watch

He did recover a bit, but overall, not stellar.

Many thanks to BlueRoomStream.com for the video. Subscribers have access to Schock’s complete remarks.

* Related…

* Rep. Schock holding big-bucks GOP fundraiser in Chicago

* VIDEO: Schock Stumps for Moore

* Schock: GOP serious about possible government shutdown

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      


Pampered, spoiled and unable to care for themselves

Thursday, Jan 31, 2013

* Will Caskey, a regular commenter here and one of the state’s top opposition researchers, penned an op-ed for Crain’s about Debbie Halvorson’s self-published memoir “Playing With The Big Boys” and extrapolates what the real problem is in Illinois

I have read her 147-page book and find that it unintentionally provides some insights into how Springfield works — or, more precisely, doesn’t work. Take, for example, her explanation for voting for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s ill-fated Gross Receipts Tax despite not liking it at all:

    I quickly piped up and said that it was a terrible idea and it wouldn’t work. I was told otherwise and to watch it move through the legislature. Under my breath I was mouthing, ‘Not with my vote’…Those of us on the Senate Executive Committee (which is made up solely of Senate leadership) were pressured to vote on the measure to move it to the full Senate for discussion.

In Ms. Halvorson’s view, her voting record isn’t her fault; then-Senate President Emil Jones or, later, U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi are to blame. Even worse, as the memoirist tells it, Ms. Pelosi didn’t listen to Ms. Halvorson’s advice about her own district […]

Write it down, ladies: “Playing ball with the big boys” means doing whatever the big boys say even when you think it’s awful. And then you lose your election and self-publish a book about it. Ms. Halvorson’s career is a tragedy in two parts: She did what she was told, and then there were consequences.

* The problem

(L)eaders in both legislative chambers in Illinois have an unusual amount of power: Committees are a formality at best, and legislation is almost always advanced as amendments to empty “shell bills” after last-minute deals. Rank-and-file legislators have almost no reason to raise their own money, or advance their own bills and whip their own votes, or show any other typical political skill. All they have to do is show up and vote as they’re told. And it works, right up until they try to move up into Congress, where a decent campaign costs over $2 million and no one is interested in giving them that much money.

That explains what happened to Ms. Halvorson. She went from Springfield to Washington and got clobbered.

And that, in a nutshell, is Illinois: We suck because of strong party leadership, not despite it. Ms. Halvorson and politicians like her are just the logical outcome of a top-heavy power structure. The setup has its benefits, sometimes, when both chambers and the governor have a minimally functional relationship. But whether that relationship exists or not, individual members are free to be knuckleheads, so they are. Democrats in Illinois don’t have to be smart, or good at their own fundraising, or effective at legislating, so they aren’t. When they face tough votes, they complain about having to take them instead of following the best path to re-election. When they have to raise their own money, they complain that the party hasn’t come through. When they face the consequences to their own actions and records, they’re astonished.

* However, it’s not always this way. Kurt Erickson takes a look at how sub-caucuses have often held sway in the Illinois GA

In the frenzied final hours of the 2005 spring session of the Illinois General Assembly, the push to finalize a new state budget suddenly ground to a halt when a bloc of Democratic lawmakers announced they couldn’t support the spending plan.

Without their votes, there was no way the Democratic majority could adopt a budget without Republican input, raising speculation that the session could go into overtime.

Facing the prospect of being stuck in Springfield during the summer months, House Speaker Michael Madigan called the members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus into his private office near the House floor to try to find a way to meet their needs and keep the budget-making process on track. Hours later, members of the caucus announced they were back on board. No terms of the negotiations were ever outlined, but Republicans pointed to the insertion into the budget of hundreds of millions of dollars for local projects as an example of how the deal likely was sealed. […]

The incident is just one example of the role that caucuses can play in the legislative process. And, with Democrats now holding super-majorities in the Senate and the House, the informal coalitions could become an even bigger factor in what gets done and what doesn’t on the floor of the House and Senate. […]

In theory, the majorities held by Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton could allow them to ignore the threat of a veto from the governor.

Cullerton, however, believes the possibility of that happening is “exaggerated’’ because of the diverse nature of the Democratic caucus. In other words, just because they are Democrats doesn’t mean they see eye to eye on every issue.

“We have numerous caucuses. We have to compromise within our caucuses,” Cullerton says.

And last year, Senate Democratic incumbents raised hundreds of thousands of dollars on their own, which was then supplemented by money from their leader. It was quite impressive.

* But, yeah, legislative leaders are often like ward committeemen and their members are like constituents. They are coddled and serviced into submission. And when that doesn’t work, the hammer comes down.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


Question of the day

Thursday, Jan 31, 2013

* First, click here and take another look at House Speaker Michael Madigan’s letter to the AFL-CIO about declining to attend the pension reform summit and labor’s response.

* Then, check out the media coverage…

* Madigan letter to unions: Drop dead

* Madigan: Too late for union summit on pensions

* Madigan scolds unions for ‘no cooperation’ on pensions, state’s fiscal plight

* Madigan: ‘No cooperation’ from unions on pensions

* Madigan brushes off labor group’s call for a summit on pensions

* Madigan says ‘no’ to union pension summit

* The Question: Should public employee unions be more willing to negotiate a pension reform deal that doesn’t involve higher taxes and does involve benefit cuts? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


survey software

- Posted by Rich Miller   140 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Crosstabs and a supplement to today’s edition

Thursday, Jan 31, 2013

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


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

Thursday, Jan 31, 2013

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*** LIVE *** 2nd Congressional District debate

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013

* Tonight’s debate begins at 6:30. It’ll be on public access channel 27 in Chicago, but you can also watch it on YouTube right here

* And you can also watch updates on our ScribbleLive thingy. Blackberry users click here, everybody else can just watch it all unfold when it starts…

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 - Labor responds *** This just in… Speaker says “No” to summit, tells unions to get in the game

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013

* 3:23 pm - The Illinois AFL-CIO has called for a pension “summit” next month, but House Speaker Michael Madigan has now declined to attend via a stinging letter to AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan

Dear Mr. Carrigan:

I’d like to respond to your January 22, 2013 letter regarding the need to develop legislative solutions to address the underfunding of the state’s pension systems. Your interest in taking a more active role on this issue is welcome.

However, your suggestion of a meeting in Burr Ridge is not timely. A summit on this topic could have been called several years ago when we first started to grapple with this complex and controversial topic. A number of proposals have advanced since that time, but we have not been able to assemble the necessary bipartisan coalition to approve a plan that would stabilize the state systems for current and future retirees.

Your letter implies pension reforms faltered because the concerns of labor were not considered. In my view, the positions of organized labor were taken into account during the 2012 legislative session. I recall no fewer than eight high-level meetings that took place with labor, legislative leaders and the governor. At that time, I felt there was little willingness from representatives of labor to draft a comprehensive, common-sense solution.

The residents of Illinois have been asked to shoulder a higher tax burden in recent years. For several years, Illinois has had to address very serious issues, including rising pension, Medicaid and state healthcare costs, all of which have contributed to the state’s massive budget pressures. The state has reduced spending in many areas, but costs for pensions continue to increase and unions representing state employees insist that salaries be increased. Many state lawmakers understand the difficult situation before us, having voted to cut their own legislative pay the last four years.

To date, we have received no cooperation from the labor unions representing state employees on addressing these challenges. In fact, these unions often have been strongly opposed to any attempt to solve the problem. For example, AFSCME recently said it will not ratify a contract that decreases the take-home pay of its employees.

It is worth noting a recent editorial points out that of the 12 most populous states, Illinois has the fourth highest average state worker pay, including overtime, and information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Kaiser Family Foundation shows that Illinois state workers pay significantly less for their insurance premiums than those in the private sector.

It is time for labor to come to the table with an honest proposal that recognizes the state’s serious fiscal condition and puts government employees on par with those in the private sector relative to a benefits package.

One measure introduced in the 98th General Assembly, House Bill 98 sponsored by Rep. Elaine Nekritz, includes a series of proposals that would put Illinois on a path to preserving the state’s pension systems. We must also look for fresh ideas to end the practice of state payments for non-state workers. I look forward to your thoughts on both topics.

I look forward to your announcement of support of reforms that helps the state address its budget pressures and preserves the pension systems for the employees counting on them. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

With kindest personal regards, I remain

Sincerely yours,

MICHAEL J. MADIGAN
Speaker of the House

Emphasis is in the original.

*** UPDATE *** From the We Are One Coalition…

The following statement is attributable to Michael T. Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, speaking on behalf of the We Are One Illinois coalition:

We Are One Illinois regrets that Speaker Madigan has indicated he will not participate in the Pension Summit proposed by our union coalition. Our summit is a demonstration of good faith and commitment to seeking to solve the state’s pension funding problem in a way that is fair and constitutional.

Our coalition has already put forward a plan that addresses the intertwined problems of inadequate revenues and underfunded pensions. It would end the practice of politicians shorting actuarially required payments to the retirement funds; ease state budget pressures by closing wasteful tax loopholes, especially for big corporations; and require active public employees to pay more toward the pensions they earn and rely on. Our plan would provide at least $2.35 billion a year to stabilize the retirement funds, while preventing cuts to retirees who worked hard and played by the rules.

The We Are One Illinois plan has the potential to be a starting point for participatory discussions around a pension-funding solution. Crucially, we believe that pension legislation supported by all parties is the only way to meet constitutional muster and avert costly and time-consuming court battles.

In downgrading Illinois credit last week, Standard and Poor’s warned that unconstitutional pension cuts “risk … legal challenges” that could take “several years” to resolve, delaying “improved funded ratios and budget relief.” Illinois doesn’t have years to waste. The We Are One Illinois coalition of unions remains ready to work constructively on this problem right now.

We have pointed out that the public employees and retirees represented by our unions are helpers and problem-solvers by trade—the teachers, the caregivers, the protectors and those who respond in emergencies. They are committed to being a part of the solution to the pension problem as well, but they can’t do it alone.

We were particularly surprised and disappointed that the Speaker singled out state employees from our coalition—which includes teachers, police, fire fighters, nurses, caregivers and many others—and decried their efforts to maintain decent wages and affordable health care. In terms of comparison to other states, it is true that Illinois state employees are fairly paid—just as are other public employees , and indeed unionized private sector workers in our state. Illinois is a relatively high-wage state and all of our citizens are the better for it. Further, when comparing benefits to private-sector workers, it must be noted that nearly 80 percent of Illinois public employees—including teachers, police, fire fighters and university employees—are not eligible for Social Security. Finally, every serious, academic study has shown that public employees are paid less in wages and earn less in total compensation than comparable private-sector workers with similar jobs and educational attainment.

On the pension issue, the Speaker is correct to recall a series of discussions involving the union coalition, legislative leaders and the governor nearly one year ago. We were disappointed when those discussions were abruptly halted by the elected officials last spring, and despite our invitations throughout the ensuing months, never resumed. Our Feb. 11 Pension Summit is an opportunity to get back to work.

The people of Illinois want and deserve leaders who work together to solve problems. The public employees and retirees who serve the people need and depend on the modest pensions they earn and pay into from every check. A pension-funding solution that is constitutional, sustainable and fair requires openness and dialogue from all parties.

- Posted by Rich Miller   100 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY: Committee List and Aaron Schock Press Conference Video

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013

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*** UPDATED x4 - Hutchinson slams fellow Senators *** Napoleon Harris dropping out of the 2nd CD race

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013

* From a media advisory…

Senator Napoleon Harris, Robin Kelly to hold joint press conference to make campaign announcement

Today State Senator Napoleon Harris and former State Representative Robin Kelly will hold a joint press conference to make a major campaign announcement.

Who: Senator Napoleon Harris and former State Representative Robin Kelly

When: Today, January 30 at 2:30 pm

Where: Offices of Adelstein/Liston, 222 West Ontario Street Suite 600, Chicago, Il

Stay tuned.

*** UPDATE 1 *** Confirmed.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Check out the harsh rhetoric in the response from Sen. Toi Hutchinson’s campaign…

Vlad Gutman, campaign manager for Toi Hutchinson’s campaign for Congress, today made the following statement on Robin Kelly’s endorsements over the last two days:

“While pretending to be an advocate for gun safety reform, Robin Kelly yesterday accepted the endorsement of someone facing a felony gun charge. And today, after claiming to be a progressive supporter of women’s rights, she accepted the endorsement of Senator Napoleon Harris, one of the Democratic Party’s most deeply conservative voices. Senator Harris is on record as anti-choice, anti-marriage equality, against the Equal Rights Amendment, and in favor of voter ID laws. Anyone who values these rights needs to question whether Robin Kelly can be trusted to stand up for them in Washington.”

Keep in mind that both Donne Trotter and Napoleon Harris are fellow state Senators. She’d better win now.

*** UPDATE 3 *** From Robin Kelly’s campaign…

Today I was honored to stand with my friend, State Senator Napoleon Harris, and accept his endorsement of my candidacy. Senator Harris is a great leader for the community and I deeply respect his commitment to public service. At the press conference we held, Napoleon showed his commitment to our community in the following statement:

“Even though I am ending my bid for Congress today, I am still committed to fighting for the same causes that led me to enter this race,” Harris said. “I believe we need to fight for more educational opportunity, better jobs and to get guns out of the hands of criminals and gangs that are preying on our neighborhoods. I believe Robin Kelly is the right candidate to pick up that cause to fight for the people of Chicago and the Southland.”

I am honored to have his endorsement, and look forward to a long partnership together, working to stop gun violence and get dangerous weapons off our streets. The voters of the second district deserve someone in Congress who they can trust to stand with President Obama to take on the NRA.

*** UPDATE 4 *** From a press release…

Harris ends Congressional bid, endorses Kelly

Chicago, Il—- Today, state Senator Napoleon Harris ended his bid for Congress and endorsed the candidacy of Robin Kelly.

“Even though I am ending my bid for Congress today, I am still committed to fighting for the same causes that led me to enter this race,” Harris said. “I believe we need to fight for more educational opportunity, better jobs and to get guns out of the hands of criminals and gangs that are preying on our neighborhoods. I believe Robin Kelly is the right candidate to pick up that cause to fight for the people of Chicago and the Southland.”

“Senator Harris is a great leader for the community and I deeply respect his commitment to public service. That’s why I am so honored to have his endorsement today,” Kelly said. “My campaign for Congress continues to build momentum every day because voters are responding to my five-point pledge to stop gun violence and get dangerous weapons off our streets. The voters of the second district deserve someone in Congress who they can trust to stand with President Obama to take on the NRA.

“While some of my opponents have A ratings with the NRA, I couldn’t be more proud of my F rating and it’s that record that I will take to Congress to fight for the families across Chicago and the Southland,” Kelly added.

- Posted by Rich Miller   63 Comments      


Question of the day

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013

* The new concealed carry bill pushed by the NRA requires four hours of training to obtain a license to carry a concealed weapon. The instruction includes

(A) handgun safety in the classroom, at home, on the firing range, and while carrying the firearm;
(B) the basic principles of marksmanship;
(C) care and cleaning of handguns;
(D) laws relating to the justifiable use of force.

The proposal also requires that the applicant prove s/he has

passed a live fire exercise with a handgun consisting of: (1) a minimum of 30 rounds; and (2) 20 rounds from a distance of 7 yards and 10 rounds from a distance of 15 yards at a B-21 silhouette or equivalent target as approved by the Department.

* The Question: Is four hours of training and 30 rounds fired to obtain a concealed carry license sufficient, or should it be more, or less? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please. Also, stick closely to the topic at hand or you’ll be deleted.


customer surveys

- Posted by Rich Miller   69 Comments      


Halvorson hedges on guns

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013

* Former US Rep. Debbie Halvorson is hedging a bit about her gun record

While Halvorson has recently said she would not support a ban on assault weapons, she said she would be open to toughening laws against straw purchasers, changes in background checks as well as boosting accuracy of weapon-owner databases. […]

“It was my NRA rating when I represented a rural district, with no Cook County, representing all rural, no Cook County,” she said of her district before a congressional remap changed boundaries. The Second Congressional district stretches into Cook, Will and Kankakee counties. “I did have an A rating, as did Toi Hutchinson. Since then, I haven’t even filled out an NRA questionnaire, I didn’t now.” […]

Cook County already has an assault weapons ban. If I were Toni Preckwinkle, I would be embarrassed, too. If I were Toni Preckwinkle, I would try to change the subject also. It’s a shame she’s trying to change the subject. I don’t think it’s her fault, but I do think it’s hypocritical of her to try to blame me, she’s the Cook County Board President, why aren’t they talking about what they can do to reduce crime instead of saying we need a national ban on assault weapons and Debbie Halvorson isn’t doing enough about it.”

* Meanwhile, we’ll have live coverage of tonight’s 2nd Congressional District debate at 6:30. It’s being televised on cable access. Click here for the live link if you want to bookmark it.

All the candidates were invited, except for Mel Reynolds, Greg Hinz reports

“It’s being held at a high school,” quipped event organizer Wendell Mosby, in a not-too-subtle reference to Mr. Reynolds’ conviction on charges of receiving child pornography and having sex with a minor.

That would be our quote of the week.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      


About those ratings agencies…

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013

* From the Senate Republicans in the wake of the state’s latest credit rating downgrade

The rating drop from S&P gives Governor Quinn his 11th downgrade since taking office. No other Governor in the state’s history has presided over more credit downgrades than Quinn. In fact, Quinn now owns more downgrades than all earlier governors combined. The previous record holder, Rod Blagojevich, had three downgrades during his time in office.

* The Illinois Policy Institute has posted a couple of useful graphs. First, dates of the Quinn downgrades

* And here’s the interest premium Illinois pays above AAA-rated states on 10-year bonds

* Wordslinger had this to say in comments yesterday

Illinois has and is cutting spending, has raised taxes substantially and is making big-time pension system contributions.

That, of course, gets you regular rating downgrades.

Yet during the Blago years, when spending kept going up, tax rates remained unchanged and pension payments were being blown off, the ratings remained unchanged until his last year or so.

Makes perfect sense.

I would only add that two years ago the state also reformed pensions for new employees, which should save quite a bit of money in the future.

* Whatever you say about Pat Quinn, and you can say a lot, he has at least tried to get the state’s finances in order. He’s made some very tough decisions, unlike his predecessor. Yet, it wasn’t until after both Rod Blagojevich and the big-spending George Ryan were both in prison did Illinois begin to pay a real price for fiscal profligacy.

Seems a bit like CYA for the ratings agencies to me. For all their tsk-tsking about Illinois, either they didn’t really see this coming, or they didn’t care. If they had, we’d have been slammed with big downgrades long ago.

- Posted by Rich Miller   59 Comments      


Only in Illinois

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013

* A pastor who served on the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission claims he didn’t know he was violating a law he was supposed to enforce. Great

A former member of the Illinois panel that conducts hearings on alleged ethics violations has been fined $2,500 for attending a prayer breakfast and fundraiser for a political candidate, according to an ethics commission report released Tuesday.

The Illinois Executive Ethics Commission found Stephen Thurston violated state law by attending a March 25, 2011, prayer breakfast and fundraiser for David Moore, who was running for Chicago City Council. Thurston spoke at the breakfast about “Moore’s Christian character, the need for everyone to get involved in the election process, and that Moore would be a good alderman,” the ethics panel said in its report.

State law prohibits commissioners from contributing to political campaigns or even attending a rally for a candidate for a specific post. Moore lost in the April 2011 runoff election for the 17th Ward spot to incumbent Latasha Thomas.

* The full report is here. More from the Trib

Thurston, a pastor at New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church, praised Moore as a good alderman for the ward at a “critical time in the African-American community” that suffered from low voter participation, according to the report. Moore lost the runoff election to Ald. Latasha Thomas less than two weeks later.

Thurston’s actions violated state ethics law, which says commissioners are banned from participating in political activities that could influence a candidate’s chances at filling a public office, the report said.

“Although (Thurston) attempted to make a disclaimer limiting the political nature of his comments at the prayer breakfast, he crossed the line into advocacy for a candidate,” the report said.

Moore’s campaign issued a news release after the breakfast naming supporters, including Thurston, but later apologized for using his name.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


*** LIVE *** SESSION COVERAGE

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013

* The House convenes at noon today. The Senate returns next week. Blackberry users click here

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*** UPDATED x2 *** State delays bond sale

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013

* Uh-oh


*** UPDATE *** Full statement from the governor’s office…

The state of Illinois has delayed Wednesday’s scheduled bond sale. Our conversations with potential bidders lead us to believe the market is unsettled because of recent actions and comments by the bond rating agencies. We plan to schedule a new bond sale after the markets have had time to digest the news.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Leader Cross…

“The administration’s decision to pull the $500 million bond sale today is a clear indication that officials were concerned that we might pay too much in interest, in large part due to our awful credit rating. Our failure to pass meaningful pension reform, to pay down our large backlog of bills and to live within our means is contributing to this uncertainty in the markets for us. We stand ready to address these issues today–so that we are not forced to pay unnecessarily high interest rates.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      


A quiet lame duck win

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013

* January’s lame duck session was a bust, but not a complete bust. The trial lawyers scored a victory. But, so far, only myself, the Madison-St. Clair Record and the Tribune have written much about this proposal. The Record

Gov. Pat Quinn on Friday put his stamp of approval on a bill that places a cap on attorneys’ fees in medical malpractice cases.

Pushed by the Illinois Trial Lawyers’ Association, Public Act 97-1145 caps these fees at one-third of a plaintiff’s award and bars lawyers from petitioning the court for higher fees.

The new law, which was introduced earlier this month as Senate Floor Amendment No. 2 to House Bill 5151, took effect Friday.

* Tribune

The bill surfaced in the Senate on Jan. 2, tacked onto a measure that originally dealt with firearm ranges. A day later it passed the Senate mostly on Democratic votes. Over in the House, powerful Democratic Speaker Michael Madigan sponsored the bill. A few days later it went to the governor on a 67-46 vote, again with mostly Democratic support. Quinn signed the measure into law Jan. 18, disclosing his move on a Friday afternoon, when politicians often choose to bury controversial news.

The law eliminates the sliding scale that spelled out how much attorneys could charge for bringing medical malpractice cases. Previously, attorneys could collect one-third of an award up to $150,000, 25 percent for awards ranging from $150,000 to $1 million and 20 percent for awards of more than $1 million. Attorneys also could petition the court for even higher fees, a practice the new law eliminated.

The new system will see attorneys collecting a flat one-third rate on all awards. The Medical Society contends that means a patient who was awarded $1 million would now pay $333,333 in attorney’s fees as opposed to $262,500 under the old standards — the first $150,000 of the award at the one-third rate and the rest at the 25 percent rate.

“This (law) goes against the purpose for which money is awarded to an injured patient,” said Dr. William N. Werner, Illinois medical society president. “Awards are intended to offset patients’ losses, not pad the pockets of their attorneys.”

But Gregory Shevlin, president of the state’s trial lawyers association, said clients can hire attorneys for less than the maximum fee amount. Shevlin said clients could end up saving money under the new limits, because attorneys no longer will be able to petition the court for fees beyond what is set in law.

* I wrote about the “why” a few weeks ago

Last year when the state hiked the cigarette tax by almost a dollar a pack, the tobacco industry cut a deal to pass a bill that limited appeal bonds.

Right now, state law mandates that bonds be posted equal to 1 1/2 times a judgment on certain cases before the ruling can be appealed. That resulted in a required $12 billion appeal bond years ago when Philip Morris lost a case involving Marlboro Lights. The appeal bond was lowered after negotiations, but the company has been fighting ever since to get something into law.

The House passed a bill last year, but Senate President Cullerton, a visceral anti-tobacco legislator, bottled it up. It passed last week after the trial lawyers were given a neat little plumb that guaranteed them higher contingency fees on big medical malpractice cases.

* In other news

A measure that intends to put an end to forum shopping has been introduced in the Illinois General Assembly.

House Bill 138 would amend the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure to provide for the dismissal of lawsuits for lack of proper venue if the defendants are not Illinois residents and the cause of action didn’t occur in the state.

Current law allows plaintiffs to bring suits in any county if the defendants are nonresidents.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, said this year will mark at least her third attempt at pushing a venue reform measure.

The Illinois Civil Justice League (ICJL) has supported her legislation in previous years and the Illinois Trial Lawyers’ Association (ILTA) has opposed it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   1 Comment      


Concealed carry bill introduced

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013

* Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) has introduced a new concealed carry bill. Jamey Dunn has a very good description of the new bill

Phelps, who has sponsored several versions of a concealed-carry bill throughout the years, said he introduced a bill this session because he wants to negotiate in good faith. “We filed a bill to show people that we do mean what we say about working on this issue.” Phelps, a Harrisburg Democrat, said his new legislation, House Bill 997, is similar to House Bill 48, which failed to get the needed support to pass in the House in the spring of 2011. “Now’s not the time to reinvent the wheel,” he said.

Under the new proposal, applicants must be 21 years old and hold a Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card. They would be required to undergo four hours of training on topics including: “basic principles of marksmanship, care and cleaning of handguns and laws relating to the justifiable use of force.” They would also have to pass a live fire exercise with a certified instructor. A database of applicant information would be accessible to law enforcement officials. Statistical information about licenses issued by demographics, such as race, age gender or geographic location, would be available to the public. However, information about specific applicants would be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

If an applicant met all the requirements in the bill, the legislation requires that the Illinois State Police issue a license within 30 days of receiving his or her application. The state police would be able to consider objections from local law enforcement when processing applications. Those applicants who were granted licenses would be able to carry a loaded or unloaded handgun either concealed or openly in public and while in a vehicle. The measure prohibits guns in certain areas, such as state and federal buildings, and bars firearms at college campuses and schools. Some of those places, such as schools and campuses, could opt to allow concealed-carry if approved by school authorities. Business owners could choose not to allow guns inside their establishments.

The bill would preempt home rule, so it would apply across the state, including in Chicago. The proposal would bar home rule units of government from limiting the number of guns a concealed-carry permit owner could have or requiring that they register the guns they own.

* More from Phelps and a react

“Since taking office, I have constantly stood up for Illinois citizens’ right to bear arms, and this year will be no different,” Phelps said. “Currently, Illinois is the only state that does not have any form of concealed-carry permits.

“With this added pressure from December’s federal appellate court’s ruling, I think we are the closest we have ever been, and I remain focused on ending the practice of punishing law-abiding citizens by denying them their right to concealed carry.”

Colleen Daley, executive director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, said her organization wants to ensure any concealed-carry bill included “reasonable restrictions,” including better mental health information sharing with the federal government and mandatory background checks for any firearms sales.

“Because of the court’s ruling we are also looking at putting together the most comprehensive and common-sense concealed-carry proposal in the country,” Daley said.

* Rep. Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley) peers into the future

“I think chances are good that we’ll vote on it this time around and, in light of recent court decisions, I believe it will pass.”

Discuss, but take a deep breath first, please. These gun conversations are becoming tiresomely obnoxious and repetitive.

* Meanwhile

Fifteen freshmen members of the Illinois General Assembly will be part of Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon’s new Firearms Working Group.

Simon announced the members on Tuesday. They include 13 Democrats and two Republicans from Chicago, the Chicago suburbs, southern Illinois, northern Illinois and western Illinois. Simon says the group will meet with people on both sides of the gun control debate to better inform legislation.

Simon said Tuesday that both the Illinois State Rifle Association and the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence plan to meet with members to talk about concealed carry legislation.

- Posted by Rich Miller   110 Comments      


*** UPDATED x2 - Ryan released from halfway house *** VIDEO: George Ryan leaves prison, enters halfway house

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013

*** UPDATE 1 *** Tribune

Former Gov. George Ryan has already been released from the halfway house on Chicago’s West Side and will be confined at his Kankakee home until he completes his 6 ½-year sentence, according to his lawyer, former Gov. Jim Thompson.

Thompson said Ryan found out about the decision by the Bureau of Prison early this morning as he was being released from a federal prison camp in Terre Haute, Ind.

Ryan will not have to wear electronic monitors while under house arrest at his home, said Thompson, who wasn’t sure if Ryan, soon to be 79, would work.

Bureau of Prison spokesman Chris Burke said today Ryan did not receive special treatment in order to be released to home confinement.

Sun-Times

Speaking from Ryan’s living room, his attorney Jim Thompson said Ryan was beaming and surrounded by his smiling grandchildren

“If you could see his and his grandkids’ smiling faces,” Thompson, himself a former governor, said by phone from Ryan’s home. “He is surrounded by happy faces.”

Ed Ross, a spokesman with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons in Washington D.C., said such quick a release, though, is not uncommon.

Ross said it was “very common” for elderly inmates to spend just a few hours in a halfway house. While at his home in Kankakee, Ryan will not be allowed to leave home during non-working hours and will remain “under the strict supervision of the Bureau of Prisons,” Ross said.

“The whole point of community corrections is to transition the individual back into their community. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis as to how much halfway house time … an individual needs,” Ross said.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Monique Garcia


[ *** End Of Updates *** ]

* Former Gov. George Ryan checked into a Chicago halfway house this morning after being released from federal prison. NBC5 has video


View more videos at: http://nbcchicago.com.

* Former Gov. Jim Thompson was also there and talked to the media

Former Gov. Jim Thompson said his friend George Ryan “paid a severe price” when he was convicted and imprisoned. “The loss of his wife and brother while he was in the penitentiary, the loss of his pension, his office, his good name. That is a significant punishment.”

Video


View more videos at: http://nbcchicago.com.

…Adding… Tribune

Ryan smiled tightly as he refused to answer questions from reporters. Ryan’s son, George Ryan Jr. and former Gov. Jim Thompson accompanied Ryan into the house.

After Ryan checked in, Thompson came back out and told reporters “today is another step in a long journey for George Ryan. . .He would like me to tell you he’s grateful to leave the penitentiary. He’s grateful also for the encouragement and support from many people. He has paid a severe price. The loss of his wife and brother while he was in the penitentiary, the loss of his pension, his office, his good name and 5 1/2 years of imprisonment. Now near 80 years old, that is a significant punishment. But he is going to go forward.”

Ryan left the prison early this morning and managed to escape the notice of media camped at the facility. The first indication that Ryan has been released was around 6:45 a.m. when he left a building down the street and started walking toward the halfway house.

His son put his left hand on his father and guided him out the door. Ryan kept his head down, his hands in his pockets as he talked to his son and walked slowly through the knot of TV cameras.

* ABC7

A visit to the dentist will be one of the first orders of business for Ryan now that he is at the halfway house in Chicago.

After orientation, Ryan will then be assigned a room in the 210-bed “Freedom Center.”

“What does George Ryan have to go back to a halfway house for at 79 years old?” said former Chicago city clerk Jim Laski. “What are they gonna tell him?”

The mission of halfway house is to help inmates get their feet planted back in society with a job of some sort.

Laski, who did six months of his sentence at the “Freedom Center,” found it to be a process burdened by bureaucracy.

“It’s like going through high school with some goofy orientation program,” said Laski. “It was really a waste of time.”

Still, the ex-governor must follow Federal Bureau of Prisons directives, although his stay at the halfway house likely be a matter of weeks instead of months.

* Sun-Times

Meanwhile, Ryan’s halfway house release begins a new era for the Kankakee native. He’s expected to stay for a maximum of six months at the same Salvation Army where dozens of onetime politicos from Illinois made their transition back to freedom. They included former City Clerk James Laski and Cicero Town President Betty Loren-Maltese.

Loren-Maltese didn’t sugarcoat her stay at the same venue.

“I was cleaning the bathrooms,” she said. “I thought it was horrible there — it reminded me of the high-security prison because of being locked in all the time.”

Laski, who pleaded guilty in 2006 to taking $48,000 in bribes, has few good memories of the place — an environment he called “dingy, cold and dark.”

“It’s not the most friendly place,” Laski told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday.

Laski, who went to the South Ashland facility in mid-2007 from a dormitory-type prison in West Virginia, described the buffet-style food as “fair to middling,” but a slight improvement over prison grub.

Laski recalled his first day at the halfway house, when he was required to introduce himself to various staff members and gather a signature from each of them.

“You run around like a little kid, getting signatures. . . . It’s silly,” said Laski, who lives on the Southwest Side and runs a consulting business with offices in Chicago and Miami.

* Related…

* Timeline Of George Ryan Case

- Posted by Rich Miller   62 Comments      


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