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Question of the day

Thursday, Feb 28, 2013

* A Reuters lede

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan lit a fire under the state’s tepid public pension reform efforts on Wednesday, introducing measures that would mean harsh changes for public sector workers.

One of Madigan’s amendments, which would’ve raised the retirement age to 67, received just a single vote today. Another amendment which would’ve increased employee contributions by five percentage points, received three votes. A proposal to eliminate COLAs until the pension funds are 80 percent funded got five votes.

* The Question: Tomorrow’s lede?

And, to be clear, I’m not trying to pick on Reuters here. They do good work. We’re just having a little fun, OK? Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   48 Comments      


Today’s number

Thursday, Feb 28, 2013

* The Tribune totals up Mayor Bloomberg’s spending in the 2nd Congressional District special primary

Independence USA’s overall spending, which also included some direct-mail pieces, was equivalent to about $72.23 for each vote Kelly received, based on unofficial vote totals in the low-turnout election.

By comparison, a CNN analysis found that Obama and his allies spent the equivalent of $25.33 per vote to win the battleground state of Ohio last year, while Republican nominee Mitt Romney and his allies spent $30.60 per vote in that state.

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


Kass on Rauner

Thursday, Feb 28, 2013

* I’ve already told subscribers about likely Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner’s stump speech, which is pretty much the same things he told John Kass

“I think I’m going to be very dangerous to the people in Springfield,” he said. “I think they’re going to be scared. They should be. Because I can’t be bribed, influenced, intimidated, threatened. I just want the state fixed and I just want to do the right thing for the taxpayers. You’re right, I’ve done well in business. I’m very proud of it. I’ve got the resources to do whatever it takes to win, and to do what it takes to help fix the state. … And the powers down there that like the status quo, they should be very scared.” -

I highly doubt that the powers that be will be scared of him, no matter what he does. The governor has a lot of constitutional power, but that has prompted the General Assembly to manufacture its own powers via tradition, rules and statutes.

* Back to Kass

For weeks Rauner, the retired chairman of the private equity firm GTCR, has been meeting privately with Republican governors from Wisconsin’s Scott Walker to Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal to New Jersey’s Chris Christie, as well as former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. He’s been traveling across Illinois, speaking at Lincoln Day dinners and so on, and is putting a team together.

He has indeed been riding the circuit. So much so that I’m wondering why he hasn’t yet filed any campaign finance reports, which kick in at $5,000.

* Kass

Republican consultants circle him, and the common wisdom is that they view him like a side of beef, eager to carve him up for dinner.

“These political consultants love business guys who’ve never been in politics to try and take advantage of them. I get that. What I’m going to do is try and study from the smartest governors. I’m a pretty disciplined investor and pretty disciplined buyer. I do my due diligence. I do my homework. I don’t waste money.”

You can do all the due diligence you want, but amateurs aren’t pros, and way more often than not end up being fleeced. We’ll see.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      


Today’s map

Thursday, Feb 28, 2013

* From the DEA, we have a map of all calendar year 2012 “meth clandestine laboratory incidents,” including labs, dumpsites, etc. Click the pic for the national map…

Looks like Indiana and Missouri are out-doing us again.

/snark

- Posted by Rich Miller   55 Comments      


Pension roundup

Thursday, Feb 28, 2013

* As I told you yesterday, House Speaker Michael Madigan is holding yet another “weekly order of business” today, but this time on pension reform. He has four amendments, two each to HB1154 and HB1165.

Keep a close eye on our live session coverage post for updates.

The SJ-R summarizes the Madigan amendments

* End cost-of-living adjustments to pension benefits for anyone hired before Jan. 1, 2011. Retirees now receive a 3 percent compounded COLA annually. Other pension proposals have called for limiting COLAs, but not eliminating them.

* Stipulate that COLAs would be eliminated until the pension systems achieve an 80 percent funding level. The five state-funded pension systems now have a funding level of about 39 percent.

* Raise the retirement age at which a person could collect full pension benefits to 67.

* Increase working employees’ contributions to their pensions by 5 percent of salary, in addition to what employees already pay into the system. Other pension plans have called for higher employee contributions, but in the range of 2 percent or 3 percent.

* AP

They include elimination of pension cost-of-living increases, an apparently extreme measure that Madigan put forth as a serious potential remedy because “there’s a huge problem,” spokesman Steve Brown said.

“Everything’s serious,” said Brown, “and it’s just, keep working on the issue until we can find a majority of the Legislature willing to pass a bill and send it to the governor.”

* Meanwhile, as we’ve already discussed, Rep. Elaine Nekritz and House GOP Leader Tom Cross have introduced a retooled pension reform plan…

But don’t expect any immediate budget savings

Cross and Nekritz said their legislation could save the state $2 billion a year. But it wouldn’t take hold immediately and help lawmakers with the budget they’re working to craft now.

“We still have enormous fiscal pressures,” Nekritz said.

* Senate President Cullerton is OK with the new language, but still wants his own plan to be part of the solution

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton is on board with the newest Illinois House pension solution plan.

Spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon says the Chicago Democrat plans to amend his proposed pension fix with language from a bipartisan House plan announced Wednesday. But Cullerton would retain other provisions he says would ensure the plan’s constitutionality.

* Related…

* Speaker gears up test votes on pension proposals

* New pension reform plan surfaces in Springfield

* House GOP OK with new cost-shift on pensions

* Editorial: Illinois stands to run off road

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      


*** UPDATED x5 - No more free health insurance premiums *** This just in… Tentative agreement on AFSCME contract

Thursday, Feb 28, 2013

* 9:45 am - From AFSCME’s website

Tentative agreement reached on state contract

Last night at approximately 12:30 a.m., the AFSCME state bargaining committee reached a tentative agreement on a new contract with the Quinn Administration.

Congratulations to the bargaining committee for this achievement and thanks for all the hard work.

More information coming soon.

I’ve been calling around all morning about this and wasn’t able to get a confirmation. Well, it’s out now. I’ll let you know more when I know more.

* 10:04 am - I’m hearing that the deal tentatively includes 3 years of step increases plus a Fiscal Year 13 retroactive raise, and COLAs in years 2 and 3.

There’s also apparently a Springfield meeting at the Hoogland Center for the Arts tonight to go over details.

* 10:39 am - From the governor’s office…

GOV. QUINN, AFSCME ANNOUNCE TENTATIVE CONTRACT AGREEMENT
Negotiators send proposed three-year agreement to AFSCME members for ratification

The Quinn Administration and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 have reached a tentative agreement on a new union contract covering some 35,000 state employees. Negotiations have been ongoing for more than 15 months.

“At a time when the state is facing unprecedented financial challenges, this agreement is fair to both hard-working state employees and all taxpayers of Illinois,” Governor Pat Quinn said. “I want to thank the women and men who have stayed at the table for more than a year for their commitment to reaching an agreement.”

“AFSCME is very pleased that we were able to reach an agreement that protects our members’ standard of living, and is fair to them and all Illinois citizens, even in these very challenging economic times,” AFSCME Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer said.

AFSCME members must ratify any contract negotiated by their elected bargaining representatives. The ratification process will get underway at worksites statewide during the week of March 4.

Details of the tentative agreement will be released after the union’s membership has had the opportunity to review it.

* 10:59 am - There are also several reports going around that some sort of movement has been achieved on AFSCME’s lawsuit regarding back pay.

* 11:18 am - There is, indeed, an agreement on the pay raise lawsuit.

Also, there’s an agreement that will produce hundreds of millions of dollars in savings that takes away free health insurance premiums for retirees.

* 11:52 am - From AFSCME…

The local union president asked me to make clear to you that this meeting [tonight at the Hoogland] is the regularly scheduled general membership meeting for AFSCME Local 2600. This is NOT a ratification meeting. In case union members are seeing this information on your blog, they should know that tonight’s meeting is a general membership meeting, and that ratification meetings to discuss the tentative agreement have not yet been announced.

- Posted by Rich Miller   131 Comments      


*** UPDATED x3 - “All heck breaks loose” *** Senate rebukes Quinn over SIU spat

Thursday, Feb 28, 2013

*** UPDATE 1 *** I’m told that all heck broke loose at the SIU trustee meeting today. “Herrin and Poshard allegedly had a heated shouting match in front of the media in which four letter words were used,” said one local.

Wow.

So far, just a simple story in The Southern

The Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees failed to establish a quorum for its scheduled meeting Thursday in Edwardsville, one day after the state Senate rejected three new appointees by Gov. Pat Quinn to the group.

Trustee Marquita Wiley was not in attendance for Thursday’s meeting. Since the board has lost former trustees John Simmons, Ed Hightower and Mark Hinrichs and the Senate rejected new appointments Sandra Cook, Melvin Terrell and Lee Milner, there weren’t enough members left to conduct regular business.

*** UPDATE 2 *** The Alton Telegraph has more

In addition, a growing board dispute spilled more into the open during an exchange between SIU President Glenn Poshard and trustee Roger Herrin, in which Poshard accused Herrin of engineering this week’s departure of the board’s general counsel. SIU announced Wednesday that General Counsel Jeff McLellan has announced that he will retire effective March 1.

During the exchange, Poshard and Herrin, of Harrisburg, were openly hostile to each other.

Poshard accused Herrin of “rigging” the vote for general counsel.

Herrin responded: “If you’re going to accuse me of rigging the vote, you better have something to back it up. That’s going beyond the pale,” Herrin said.

Poshard said Herrin’s pick for general counsel was 11th on the list. A selection committee narrowed the field down to three.
“I have the e-mails (to prove it),” Poshard said.

*** UPDATE 3 *** The Southern has updated

The argument got particularly heated after Herrin said Poshard was once a good friend of his. Poshard said that when people ask him to rig elections, for the general counsel, it doesn’t matter if that person is “a friend or anything else.”

Herrin then responded that Poshard had crossed a line and said if Poshard thought he did something illegal then he should “put on his big boy pants and go after it.”

[ *** End Of Updates *** ]

* Not a good day for Gov. Pat Quinn

In a rare move, the Illinois Senate on Wednesday slapped down Gov. Pat Quinn’s latest appointments to the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees.

Just two days after Quinn nominated new members to the board, senators used their appointment powers to send a strong message to the governor that they don’t approve of his tinkering with the makeup of the board.

The governor’s proposed appointments of Sandra Cook of Collinsville, Dr. Melvin Terrell of Chicago and Lee Milner of Springfield received zero “yes” votes, 23 “no” votes and 32 “present” votes.

The smackdown marked just the latest tussle involving Quinn’s attempt to install current Trustee Roger Herrin of Harrisburg as chairman.

The three trustees targeted for replacement by Quinn — John Simmons of East Alton, Mark Hinrichs of O’Fallon and Ed Hightower of Edwardsville — had been part of a coup to oust Herrin as chairman in 2011 after board members and university President Glenn Poshard complained of Herrin’s management style.

Not a single Senator voted for Quinn’s nominees, with 23 voting “No” and 32 voting “Present.” Most of those voting “Present” were Democrats, while Republicans and some Downstate Dems and some Black Caucus members voting “No.”

* Sun-Times

Herrin, a Quinn appointee and one-time SIU board chairman, has clashed sharply with Poshard over his management of the university, blaming the 1998 Democratic gubernatorial nominee for not stemming declining enrollment and doing a poor job of overseeing university finances.

Herrin owns nursing homes and banks and has donated more than $27,000 to Quinn, state records show.

In a blistering floor speech Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader James Clayborne (D-Belleville) accused Herrin of not making minority enrollment a priority and questioned the desire to put him back in charge of the SIU board.

“It concerns me there’s a push to make this individual the chairman of the board. What direction are we going? What message are we sending by appointing or placing an individual on this board, who does not believe that everybody should receive an opportunity to go to college, that we’ll close the doors on those individuals not because of their merit, not because of the hard work they put into it, but because they’re a minority?” Clayborne said. […]

Sen. William Haine (D-Alton), whose district includes SIU’s Edwardsville campus, said he knew little about the Quinn appointees’ backgrounds and questioned the governor’s desire to see three pro-Poshard trustees driven from the board.

Metro East members were mainly upset that two of their folks were booted from the board, including Simmons, a hugely successful (and politically active) asbestos attorney, and Hightower, the superintendent of Edwardsville’s school district who is widely feared in the area.

* Poshard and Quinn have been fighting for a few years now, and it enraged Quinn when Poshard moved the governor’s hand-picked chairman out of the spot and installed Simmons. Some background

The big move by the governor resulted from turmoil that erupted on the board about a year ago, according to the Southern Illinoisan newspaper, based in Carbondale.

Poshard has been a consistent critic of Herrin, according to the paper. Hinrichs said he and the other trustees who opposed Herrin were told they would be replaced if they did not go along with him.

Despite the threat, they replaced him as chairman with Simmons. Hinrichs said in a telephone interview Tuesday that the Southern Illinoisan’s account is correct.

* The Senate essentially forced Quinn back to the negotiating table with Poshard. This round goes to the southerner. But I wouldn’t expect Quinn to give up anytime soon. Check out the official response

“The students of Southern Illinois University’s three campuses deserve better than they got today,” Anderson noted. “Instead of playing politics, the members of the Senate should give Sandra Cook, Dr. Melvin Terrell and Lee Milner a fair hearing.”

* Meanwhile

State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Collinsville, introduced legislation in the Illinois House Rules Committee on Wednesday proposing to split the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses.

House Bill 3389 would amend the Southern Illinois University Management Act, abolish the board of trustees and create separate boards for the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses.

The legislation also proposes the SIU School of Medicine in Springfield would be associated with the Edwardsville campus, not Carbondale. […]

SIU President Glenn Poshard said he previously convinced legislators that the SIU campuses are healthier as a system.

Poshard said there is a lot of anger in Metro East about the lack of SIU Edwardsville representation on the board of trustees, other than the campus’ student trustee.

“I’m sure he (Hoffman) is upset,” Poshard said. “People in the Metro East have a lot of pride in that school.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 - Club For Growth responds to Schock *** Schock responds to Club For Growth attack

Thursday, Feb 28, 2013

*** UPDATE *** From a press release…

Washington, DC – In response to Illinois Republican Congressman Aaron Schock’s defensive reaction to www.PrimaryMyCongressman.com, Club for Growth Action today sent Congressman Schock an open letter from Club for Growth President Chris Chocola. The content of the letter can be found below:

Congressman Aaron Schock
U.S. House of Representatives
328 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congressman Schock,

It’s notable that you have chosen to respond to Club for Growth Action’s new website, www.PrimaryMyCongressman.com, with a desperate attempt to hide your liberal voting record. The fact is that any empirical analysis proves that you have consistently voted against policies that would limit government and increase economic growth since you entered Congress.

If you were truly the fiscal conservative you claim to be, you would have no problem answering the following questions:

    • When you voted against cutting all of the spending from President Obama’s failed “stimulus” bill, was that because you are a big spender at heart? (RCV #42, 2009)

    • When you voted to increase the debt ceiling by $2.1 trillion, was that because you wanted to give President Obama more money to spend? (RCV #690, 2011)

    • When you voted for a budget extension that funded ObamaCare, was that because you secretly like ObamaCare and want to implement it? (RCV #579, 2012)

    • When you were one of only 13 Republicans who voted against blocking funding for a National Labor Relations Board lawsuit that would have infringed on a worker’s right to a secret ballot in union elections, was that for the benefit of your friends in big labor, or the people of the 18th Congressional district? (RCV #229, 2012)

    • Speaking of your pro-labor union voting record, how do repeated votes for Davis-Bacon wages on government projects, which are nothing but giveaways to Big Labor, benefit the hard-working taxpayers of Illinois’s 18th Congressional District? (RCV #122, 2009; #414, 2011; #395, 2011; #144, 2011; #585, 2011)

    • When you were one of only 41 Republicans to vote against cutting $1.2 million from the budget of the U.S. Botanic Gardens, located in Washington, D.C., did you mistakenly think it was located in Illinois’s 18th Congressional District? (RCV #371, 2012)

    • When you voted against 40 out of 45 amendments to cut spending in the last Congress, was it because you think all government programs are necessary and that there is no waste to be cut out of the budget? (LINK)

    • When you claim you voted for a tax cut in the “fiscal cliff” tax increase deal, do you think that the other 151 Republicans who voted the other way voted for a tax increase? (RCV #659, 2012)

Congressman Schock, your liberal record speaks for itself. You understandably would like to hide the reality that you are a pro-stimulus spending, pro-ObamaCare, pro-debt limit increase, pro-tax increase, pro-labor “Republican”, but all the evidence points to that very fact. Your actions as a member of Congress matter, and because of you and your votes, taxes and debt are higher, ObamaCare is funded, labor bosses receive their handouts and both your constituents and Americans have less economic freedom.

Congressman Schock, please stop pretending to be a fiscal conservative. The voters of Illinois’s 18th Congressional District are not blind: they can tell when someone is pretending to be something they’re not.

Sincerely,
Chris Chocola
President – The Club for Growth

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* In case you missed it yesterday, the background is here.

From a press release. All emphasis in the original…

Statement from Steven Shearer, Schock chief of staff, on Club for Growth attacks

Club for Growth’s endgame is for Congress to become even more strident and gridlocked.

They are targeting nine Republicans with conservative voting records, for the sole reason of winning the arms race of what interest group can be furthest to the right. That helps in fundraising. Few people are going to agree with a Congressman who has cast over 3,000 votes. All conservative AND liberal national organizations rate Aaron Schock as a mainstream conservative—except the Club for Growth and Heritage Action. They are loud, but not an accurate reflection of Congressman Schock’s record.

Among his recent scores from longtime conservative organizations:

    The National Federation for Independent Business (NFIB), 92%.
    Americans for Prosperity, 89% lifetime rating.
    The National Tax Limitation Committee, 87%.
    U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 93%.
    National Association of Manufacturers, 97%.
    American Conservative Union, 81% lifetime rating.

There are organizations on the far left and right that believe members of Congress should reflexively vote in accordance with their precise vote recommendations and submit to their demands to co-sign letters and other measures. If that should be the case we could install robots instead of having elected representatives.

Aaron Schock however, believes he was elected to represent the people of the 18th District, not the board of directors of Club for Growth. He will not cede his responsibility to represent all the people of the 18th District to any self-anointed guardian of the economic interests of the district.

The number one reason Aaron Schock is in public service today instead of using his degree in Finance to pursue business interests is his passionate commitment to economic growth. Economic growth is the only way to sustain a path toward a balanced budget. Growth is the only way the middle class and working poor will be able to prosper.

Unfortunately, many of Club for Growth’s rigid policies would damage economic growth.

If Congress listened to Club for Growth this past New Years Day, our country would have gone off the fiscal cliff resulting in:

    Higher marginal income tax rates.
    Higher capital gains tax rates.
    Higher interest and dividend tax rates.
    An alternative minimum tax that would have gouged millions more people
    a higher death tax
    Doctors would have been reimbursed far less than the cost of treatment in many instances for treating Medicare patients, forcing them to choose between covering Medicare patients or going out of business.
    The Farm Bill would have expired damaging Illinois agriculture.

With the sequester kicking in at the same time as the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the payroll tax cut, our economy would have suffered a tremendous blow that would have destroyed hundreds of billions of dollars of private wealth by reducing both stock market equity and home values. Governments would have then racked up even more debt as pension systems’ equity values would have also been further damaged.

One of the bills Club for Growth faulted Congressman Schock on his vote for the Paul Ryan budget to put our country on a SUSTAINABLE path to a balanced budget, instead of the so called “RSC” budget which would have required immediate cuts to CURRENT Medicare and Social Security benefits. That is not acceptable to the American people and therefore unsustainable. Aaron Schock has not supported showy and elusive quick fixes for show, which seek to do too much, too fast that risk losing all progress on getting spending under control.

Aaron Schock supports far reaching Farm Bill reforms such as ending “direct payments,” but he could not support suddenly gutting most farm programs such as crop insurance. That would not be representing the economic interests of the 18th District, whose number one employer is agriculture.

Club for Growth faults Aaron Schock for supporting federal spending on building roads, bridges and other vital public infrastructure, essential for GROWTH. Building infrastructure is a legitimate role of government for all but the most extreme ideologues, and Aaron Schock isn’t going to stand by while our roads and bridges crumble, leading to economic decay.

Going over the fiscal cliff this past New Years Day would have caused massive wealth destruction and radically higher tax bills for everyone, which would have savagely damaged economic growth.

Spending money attacking nine Republicans that are impure in their eyes, rather than working to expand our slim 15 seat majority is counter-productive. They ought to join Congressman Schock in going above and beyond in helping to win more seats from Democrats to bolster the Republican House majority. If Nancy Pelosi becomes House Speaker again, federal spending would again explode. That would be catastrophic for economic growth.

Congressman Schock has strongly supported trade expansion, tax simplification, lower marginal tax rates, lower capital gains taxes, the Paul Ryan budgets, and voted against President Obama’s stimulus, Cap and Trade, Cash for Clunkers, Obamacare and other big spending bills.

Congressman Schock was elected by—and works for—the over 700,000 constituents in the 18th District—not unelected special interest groups based in Washington. He regularly meets with constituents throughout the district and is far more in tune with their values and their economic interests than organizations inside Washington’s beltway.

Having out-performed all Republicans in the 18th District in the 2012 election with 74% of the vote, Aaron Schock needs no lesson in representing the 18th District from Club for Growth. He is proud to be in tune with the vast majority of people in the 18th District.

If the House majority followed Club for Growth’s dictates, we would have lower economic growth and Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker again.

You can never be too pure for those few who make a buck on rabble rousing to differentiate themselves from other stellar conservative organizations.

* Meanwhile, this new ad buy report is from Comcast…

Jobs and Progress Fund
Targeting IL CD 18
Agency: Pierce Communications, Columbus, OH
$6,170
2/25 – 2/28/13
Networks: FXNC
Dayparts bought: 5a-9a, 9a-4p, 4p-7p, 7p-12m
Syscodes / Zones:
7919 Jacksonville $376
0316 Springfield $1,809
7827 Peoria INT $3,985
Total Order: $6,170

- Posted by Rich Miller   90 Comments      


*** LIVE *** SESSION COVERAGE

Thursday, Feb 28, 2013

* Blackberry users click here

- Posted by Rich Miller   4 Comments      


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Cicero ramblings

Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013

* The Sun-Times lede says it all

Cicero voters Tuesday ignored allegations of corruption, sexual harassment and nepotism in town hall and overwhelmingly re-elected Larry Dominick for a third term as the leader of the hardscrabble western suburb.

An effective political machine that also delivers governmentally for residents and functions pretty well is almost never undone by negative media reports. And, man, was there ever a ton of negative media on Dominick. Even his own brothers jumped into the fray against him.

* It’s when things go bad for residents that the great leaders are sometimes brought down. Mayor Daley over-stayed his welcome. Things turned sour. He ran out of ideas. The city stopped “working.” His poll numbers plunged. But he wasn’t defeated. He retired. If he’d wanted to stay, he probably could’ve. Who would have challenged him? And with what?

Remember how the media pummeled Cook County Assessor candidate Joe Berrios a while back and praised Forrest Claypool up and down as a real deal reformer? Claypool got trounced. Not even close.

* Also, it was pretty apparent to anybody with eyes that the media’s attempt to make Dominick’s opponent Juan Ochoa into some sort of reformer wasn’t exactly all that honest. As “bad” as Dominick is, Ochoa was no white hat. From Ray Hanania in comments yesterday

[Cook County Clerk David Orr] complained about signs but did nothing when we complained four weeks ago about suspicious absentee balloting by Ochoa’s campaign workers, including ballots filled from vacant lots, dead voters and gang members in prison.

Yikes.

* To give you an idea of how strong the Cicero machine is, the town is 86.6% Latino, according to the Census. Ochoa, a Latino, couldn’t oust Dominick, who is definitely not a Latino.

Back to the Sun-Times article

Ochoa, the former head of McPier and of the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, was expected to win support of the Latino community.

Yeah, well, that isn’t what happened. At all. Dominick got 60 percent of the vote in a three-way race.

* From a Wordslinger comment yesterday

I’ll tell you one thing: they treat their seniors like royalty [in Cicero]. My mother-in-law was in fantastic, brand-new senior township housing with incredible service — cleaning, rides to the store, home nurses, turkeys at Thanksgiving and Christmas, etc.

And they helped her vote, too, right in the complex, lol.

That was in Betty’s day. And she loved her some Betty. They all did.

And now they love them some Dominick, no matter what journalists, columnists and editorial writers say or predict.

* Your thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   42 Comments      


*** UPDATED x2 - MJM “scared straight” amendments surface *** Unions warning members about impending legislative “attacks”

Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013

* As I told subscribers this morning, Speaker Madigan is calling yet another “weekly order of business” this Thursday on pension reform. From the IEA

This means there will be floor debate on legislative amendments that, if passed into law, would reduce pension benefits for participants in TRS, SURS and the other state pension systems.

The floor debate and voting, which are expected to begin on Thursday, will focus on areas of great concern to IEA members in the affected pension systems;

    The annual cost of living adjustment (COLA)
    The retirement age for active members of the state pension systems
    Employee contributions to the retirement systems, as well other pension-impacting proposals offered by members of the House.

This is a serious attack on your pension– Call NOW!

IEA members are urged to contact their state representatives immediately to stop these pension-cutting proposals from getting out of the House.

*** UPDATE 1 *** Tribune

…House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, has filed a package of amendments viewed by some as a “scared straight” approach that could shock government workers opposing any kind of benefit rollback into thinking about the potential alternatives.

Madigan distributed to his Democratic troops a description that says one amendment would eliminate all future cost-of-living adjustments and one would halt the adjustments until the pension plans reach an 80 percent funding level. A third proposal would raise the retirement age for full benefits to 67 and a fourth would require employees to chip in another 5 percent of their paychecks toward retirement. The changes would apply to lawmakers, rank-and-file state workers, university employees and public school teachers outside of Chicago.

Republicans this week have grumbled that they expected Madigan to put these before the full House Thursday to test each measure’s support on up-or-down votes similar to the way he rolled out more than a dozen amendments on the concealed weapons legislation on Tuesday.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Madigan’s “scared straight” amendments that will be debated tomorrow…

* HB1154ham001

* HB1154ham002

* HB1165ham001

* HB1166ham001

[ *** End Of Updates *** ]

* Meanwhile, this is from AFSCME

URGENT: Strong rumors in the state Capitol indicate that legislation stripping state employees of their right to collective bargaining over health care costs and benefits could be moved in the House of Representatives as soon as today. Your action is needed NOW to prevent its passage.

At this point there is no substantive language or a specific bill. But a shell bill that could be the legislative vehicle passed out of committee on Tuesday night, Feb. 26. Substantive language could be added to this or other legislation and called for a vote of the full House chamber at any time. If passed by the House, the bill would go to the Senate.

This is a direct attack on state workers’ fundamental right to collective bargaining. Negotiating health care benefits and coverage is just as vital as bargaining over wages and other benefits.

- Posted by Rich Miller   52 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Cross, Nekritz introduce new pension plan

Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013

* House Republican Leader Tom Cross and Rep. Elaine Nekritz have filed a new pension reform bill, HB 3411. Video of the press conference, via BlueRoomStream.com, is here.

It appears to have a sorta kinda cost shift in it. From the press release

• Creates Tier 3 defined benefit/defined contribution plan for SURS and TRS members who start work after January 1, 2014. Local Employers and employees will be responsible for funding these plans.

* Moving on to the fact sheet, this is for public employees hired before 2011

Members (public employees hired before 2011)
• Cost-of-living adjustments apply only to the first $25,000 of the employees’ pension

    o That limit is reduced to the first $20,000 for employees eligible for Social Security

• COLAs are delayed until the employee turns 67 or five years after retirement, whichever comes first

    o This applies to all employees and retirees who are currently receiving COLAs

• Retirement age is increased by:

    o No increase for employees age 45 and older
    o One year for employees age 40 to 44
    o Three years for employees age 35 to 39
    o Five years for employees age 34 and younger
    • Employees would be required to contribute more toward their pensions by:
    o One percent starting July 1, 2013
    o Two percent starting July 1, 2014

• Pensionable salary – the amount of salary that counts toward a pension – is limited to the higher of the Social Security wage base or the participant’s salary when the legislation becomes law

* For public employees hired since 2011

• All new employees in the Teachers Retirement System and State University Retirement System are placed in a stacked hybrid plan (combination defined benefit and defined contribution plan)

    o Employees are guaranteed a minimum defined benefit
    o Employers and employees contribute an additional amount in to a 401(k) style benefit plan
    o Local school districts can negotiate the generosity and cost of the 401(k) benefit with employees

• TRS and SURS employees hired before the effective date can choose to remain in Tier 2 or join the stacked hybrid plan (Tier 3)
• COLAs for General Assembly Retirement System members will match those of Tier 2 members in the other pension systems

* For TRS and SURS members who start work after January 1, 2014

• Hybrid Defined Contribution, Defined Benefit plan
• Defined Benefit component:

    o Employee contribution is 4% of pay
    o Final Average Salary = Highest 8 out of last 10 years
    o Unreduced retirement at 67 and 5 years of service
    o Reduced retirement at 62 and 10 years of service
    o 1.1% annual accrual rate
    o COLA is lesser of 3% or ½ CPI, simple starting at age 67

• Defined Contribution component:

    o Employee contribution is 5% of pay
    o Local employer can make optional matching contribution (pursuant to local contracts) of between 3% and 10% of pay
    o Ability for the DC plan to be invested in existed investments in the system and managed by the system for employees.
    o 5 years to vest in the employer contributions.

* More

• Employer contributions will be on a 30-year level-funding plan to achieve 100 percent funding
• State contributions will be enforced through court action or intercept of other state funds
• Revenue currently being used to repay pension obligation bonds will be used to pay down our unfunded liability once the pension obligation bonds are paid off

* From the bill’s synopsis

Amends the General Provisions, General Assembly, State Employee, State Universities, and Downstate Teacher Articles of the Illinois Pension Code. In the Downstate Teacher and State Universities Articles, creates a Tier 3 composite defined-benefit, defined-contribution retirement plan for employees hired on or after January 1, 2014 and certain others. Makes corresponding changes in other parts of those Articles and in the Retirement Systems Reciprocal Act. Increases the retirement age for certain Tier I members and participants. Changes the conditions of eligibility for, and the amount of, automatic annual increases for Tier I retirees. Increases required employee contributions for Tier I members and participants. Limits pensionable salary for Tier I and Tier 3 participants. Changes the required State contribution to each of the affected retirement systems so that those systems are 100% funded by 2043. Adds State funding guarantees. Makes other changes. Amends the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act to provide that this amendatory Act takes precedence. Amends the State Finance Act. To the list of standardized items of appropriation, adds “State retirement contribution for annual normal cost” and “State retirement contribution for unfunded accrued liability”. Defines those terms. Amends the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget Act. Adds those terms to a list of classifications to be used in statements and estimates of expenditures submitted to the Office in connection with the preparation of a State budget. Amends the State Mandates Act to require implementation without reimbursement. Includes an inseverability provision. Makes other changes. Effective immediately.

*** UPDATE *** SJ-R

The latest plan does not give employees a choice of retirement benefits, something Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, has said is essential for a pension reform plan to be found constitutional. Cross and Nekritz said they believe the plan is constitutional anyway.

“We feel very strongly that there are legal opinions that support this as constitutional,” Nekritz said.

“Anything is going to end up in the courts,” Cross said. “The reality is nobody knows (how the courts will rule).”

- Posted by Rich Miller   85 Comments      


Concealed carry roundup

Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013

* Yeesterday’s hours-long debate on concealed carry was at times brutal

Tempers rose and ebbed as frustrated Republicans questioned the majority’s motives. Democrats booed and shouted “No!” when Rep. Jim Sacia suggested imposing gun limits across Illinois because of Chicago’s homicide problem would be like forcing statewide castration because of a population boom in the city.

“If you’re having too many kids, you want me to get castrated,” said former FBI agent Sacia, a Pecatonica Republican. “That was an analogy to show how silly this is. You bet I used Chicago as an example because you’re the folks that want this craziness.”

Sheesh.

The video

Sacia and Rep. Will Davis got into it after that one.

* There was plenty of intrigue yesterday

The House began the day with 27 separate amendments dealing with concealed carry, many of which restricted where guns could be carried. Gun prohibitions in schools, casinos, stadiums and other locales go OK’d in amendments that go so far as to include parking lots, meaning firearms couldn’t be stored in cars while gun-owners go inside.

“You’re spray-painting red circles around all these places, and at the end of the day, the whole state is going to be red and you won’t be able to carry a gun anywhere,” Phelps said.

As the day dragged on, the approach faced a series of setbacks. The House rejected successive amendments banning guns from colleges, establishments that sell alcohol, and public gatherings or rallies.

Democrats soon withdrew 12 amendments, including requirements for 40 hours of firearms training in classrooms and the field; carrying $1 million in liability insurance; and for a psychological fitness examination, moving straight to the Phelps amendment, which is language taken as a whole from a separate concealed-carry bill he’s introduced, but didn’t get a hearing Tuesday.

* House Republican Leader Tom Cross, who has introduced dozens of empty shell bills, claimed the Democrats were wasting time. But he did make some good points

With Madigan, the state Democratic Party chairman, already picking up suburban seats in the last election, Republicans feared he was setting his sights on gaining even more ground rather than actually trying to address the concealed carry issue. Republicans questioned why Democrats were focusing on the gun issue now, in this fashion, rather than on Illinois’ budget problems and $96.8 billion pension debt.

Republican Minority Leader Tom Cross asked state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, whether her gun amendment does anything to address the state’s pension crisis. Feigenholtz said the proposal was an “attempt to save lives.”

“This bill can’t pass out of the House like it is, nor can it go to the Senate, so how does that save a life?” Cross said.

The Trib’s analysis is correct and Cross’ last quote was absolutely spot on.

* SJ-R

Taking roll call votes on separate issues, although preliminary, did give lawmakers a chance to essentially “explain their votes” to constituents later, said Kent Redfield, emeritus professor of political science at the University of Illinois Springfield. said.

“Someone could say ‘Hey, I fought the hard fight,’ but ultimately … the choice was either to pass what was in front of me or to automatically have weapons in the street,” he said.

Tuesday’s unusual approach also could give some leverage to House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, in negotiations over a final bill, Redfield said.

“Let’s assume a vote to exclude guns on mass transit gets 70 or 80 votes,” he said. “If you’ve got a big majority for something that (pro-gun supporters) didn’t want, then that would give you leverage in negotiations.”

That’s also correct.

* Another good point

Democratic Rep. Michael Zalewski of Riverside said that today’s session was useful for getting members to grasp the complexity of the issue and getting a feel for where their preferences lie. “I think we needed this particular day to ensure that people were aware of the issues that we face on this. Everyone assumes that we can just pass a bill and this will all figure itself out, but there’s so many … factors that go into this and how we balance protecting public safety with the constitutional right to carry a weapon, so we needed this for people to start thinking about the issue.” He said the votes on the amendments banning guns were instructive about what proposals could receive support in a final bill. “We may not be able to put a restriction on what people do in a public way. We may only be able to regulate schools and mass transit and parks and things. So that’s my takeaway.”

* Sun-Times

In a key test vote, Chicago-area mass-transit users couldn’t take concealed weapons on public trains or buses under legislation that moved forward in the Illinois House Tuesday during a more than a seven-hour session on guns.

But in later action, the House went on record supporting a broad concealed-carry amendment written by gun-rights advocates, an initiative that was adopted shortly before 9 p.m. by a 67-48 margin. It explicitly permitted guns on public transportation.

The mass-transit amendment by Rep. Deb Mell (D-Chicago) and backed by gun-control advocates advanced 65-45 with four voting “present.” It represented one of the biggest of more than a dozen votes the House took Tuesday that could help shape a broader concealed-carry bill that likely will surface in the chamber this spring. […]

An amendment pushed by Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg), the leading House champion of concealed-carry, won a majority in the House but fell short of the 71-vote supermajority that could be required in the House once a final concealed-carry package gets voted on. That supermajority also would be needed to fend off a possible veto by Gov. Pat Quinn.

Backed by the National Rifle Association, Phelps’ amendment dictates that the State Police “shall” issue $80 concealed-carry permits to those who undergo training and haven’t been adjudicated as mentally ill. His plan would bar concealed weapons in government buildings, bars, airports, schools, child-care centers, casinos, amusement parks, stadiums, arenas, community colleges and universities.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   139 Comments      


More troubles for Schock

Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013

* As if Aaron Schock doesn’t enough trouble with some shadowy super PAC funding negative ads and mailers against him. Now, the Club For Growth has him in the crosshairs. From Illinois Review

The conservative political action group Club for Growth has a low tolerance for Republican Congress members that score low on their annual scorecard. Wednesday Club for Growth announced a new website, “PrimaryMyCongressman.com” in which they will feature two Illinois GOP Congressmen - Adam Kinzinger and Aaron Schock - now in the group’s crosshairs for 2014.

From the website

WHY SCHOCK?

Aaron Schock likes to portray himself as a defender of economic freedom, but his record is not consistent with that portrayal. His website claims that he’s focused on “fighting the massive expansion of government spending and debt.” However, one of the first votes Schock took in the House was against cutting all of the spending projects from Obama’s failed $800 billion stimulus bill, joining only 43 Republicans. He voted for the August 2011 debt limit deal that gave Obama a $2.1 trillion increase in the national debt, and he’s been a consistent supporter of keeping Davis-Bacon wage requirements for federal projects, nothing but an anti-free market giveaway to big labor.

Schock has a 61 percent lifetime rating with the Club For Growth, but apparently that’s not good enough.

* As I’ve told you before, Adam Kinzinger has been traveling the state and talking about how the Republican Party needs to moderate its message. He was in Quincy recently and delivered the same message, along with a plug for Schock

n his speech, Kinzinger primarily focused on the idea that Republicans should calm themselves in their interactions with others in order to advance the message. He alluded to other Congressman who “go on Fox News and see who can scream the loudest.” However, he didn’t name any names.

He also criticized the use of the term “RINO”, which stands for “Republican in Name Only” and is typically used to describe a Republican who either isn’t conservative or has recently voted with the Democrats. Kinzinger said that anybody who was with him a majority of the time was good enough to be in the party.

He said that Democrats would never kick somebody out of their party who wasn’t ideologically pure and that Republicans shouldn’t either if they wanted to build the party.

The message received mixed reactions from the audience.

However, the most interesting part of Kinzinger’s speech came at the beginning when he called out potential gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, directly accusing him of being behind recent radio and TV ads targeting Rep. Aaron Schock.

Rauner had been in attendance and gave a short speech but had ducked out just prior to Kinzinger’s speech.

Kinzinger said that “a million dollars spent by a Republican against a Republican is as good as two million spent by a Democrat.”

Video

* From the Club For Growth’s website

WHY KINZINGER?

Kinzinger zinged Congress at a 2010 Homer/Lockport Tea Party Rally as a candidate, saying “We should have been talking about our belief in the private sector. We should have been talking about what it takes to allow entrepreneurs and small business owners to create jobs. We should have been talking about tightening our belts…” But as a member of Congress, Kinzinger voted against cutting $15 million the Preisidio Trust Fund, leaving him as one of just 10 Republicans in favor of a subsidy for a national park in San Francisco that is a pet project of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s.

* Bruce Rauner, by the way, was also at that Quincy GOP event. Video of his stump speech

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      


Gay marriage bill barely clears Exec

Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013

* The House Executive Committee has always been tightly controlled. Leadership sends bills there to pass, or fail, depending on what leadership wants. And while gay marriage passed Exec yesterday, it was a close, 6-5 vote, with one Democrat voting against it and another voting for it just to advance it to the floor. That vote shows the problems the bill faces in the full chamber

The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act advanced out of the House Executive Committee by a 6-5 vote with the panel’s four Republicans voting against the plan. State Rep. Eddie Jackson (D-East St. Louis) also voted “no,” the lone Democrat on the panel to do so. […]

Harris assembled a pair of high-powered black ministers in a bid to help shore up shaky support among some African-American legislators like Jackson. The legislation is backed by Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel and already has passed the Senate.

Testifying in support of the bill were the Rev. R. Herbert Martin, former Mayor Harold Washington’s minister, and the Rev. Otis Moss III, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, which is President Obama’s former church on the South Side. […]

Beyond Jackson, there were other fissures within the Democratic Party. Harris’ bill drew opposition from state Rep. Luis Arroyo (D-Chicago), who voted to let the legislation move to the House floor but said he likely wouldn’t be a supporter once it’s called for a final vote.

“I don’t think I could vote for this bill on the floor of the House because of my religious beliefs and because of the churches in my district I represent and support,” Arroyo said.

* The roll call

Voting for the bill were Daniel Burke, Robert Rita, Greg Harris (replacing Edward Acevedo), Toni Berrios, Keith Farnham and Luis Arroyo.

Voting “no” was Mike Bost (replacing Ed Sullivan, Jr.), Renee Kosel, Joe Sosnowski, Michael Tryon and Democrat Eddie Lee Jackson, Sr.

* Related…

* VIDEO: 2-26-13 House Executive Committee

* Gay marriage moves to state House on 6-5 vote

* Illinois House committee advances gay marriage bill

* Editorial: Ill. moves toward gay marriage as state GOP self-destructs: So go ahead and oust Brady. Chalk it up as yet another self-destructive act by Illinois’ Republican Party.

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      


Question of the day

Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013

* Tribune

Disgraced former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., who pleaded guilty last week to misusing $750,000-plus in campaign money, is writing a memoir, two sources familiar with the project told the Tribune.

Jackson, 47, will be sentenced June 28 after a seven-year spree in which he used the illicit money for a Rolex watch, celebrity memorabilia, furs, a cruise and two stuffed elk heads, among other purchases. […]

One of the Tribune’s sources, who has seen drafts of portions of the memoir, said Jackson was trying to “clear up his legacy.”

“He has nothing else to do right now,” the source said. “He’s desperately trying to change the narrative of his life story.”

* The Question: Name Jackson’s book?

- Posted by Rich Miller   111 Comments      


A few thoughts about the CD2 race

Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013

* As you already know, Robin Kelly won the 2nd Congressional District special primary yesterday with 52 percent of the vote. Debbie Halvorson received 25 percent and Anthony Beale got 11 percent.

From the February 22nd Kankakee Daily Journal

The campaign of 2nd Congressional District candidate Debbie Halvorson got a boost today with the results of a new poll of 500 voters likely to cast a ballot in the upcoming election.

The former congressman, D-Crete, now leads with 21 percent of the vote, with former front-runner Robin Kelly polling 17 percent. […]

Conducted Feb.17-19, the poll was conducted by Victory Research for WCKG AM Radio.

Pollster Rod McCulloch said that Halvorson’s opponents’ negative advertising about Halvorson regarding issues involving gun control may have backfired.

* I didn’t report on this poll. But NBC5 and the Huffington Post did.

Why did I shy away?

We Ask America ran two polls for me in the days leading up to the election, which I shared with subscribers. Both showed Robin Kelly with large leads and the second poll showed she was most definitely surging upward.

With my own current polling, it seemed to me that the pro-Halvorson poll was just not credible, so I didn’t run it.

* Speaking of Halvorson, a whole lot of commenters predicted yesterday that the black vote would be divided and Halvorson would win.

Here’s the thing, folks: Chicago-area black people vote in higher numbers than anybody else in the region. Black wards pretty much always have the highest turnout. And, in this instance, the voters knew enough about the campaign to know who was who and went with Kelly. She even won Ald. Anthony Beale’s 9th Ward with over 50 percent of the vote. That is quite a feat.

* And speaking of Beale, his concession speech was bitter and way over the top, perhaps to mask his humiliating defeat in his own back yard. Watch…

Beale ran a terrible race. He didn’t raise money, claimed he had a field operation when he really didn’t, and could never focus on an issue that would resonate with voters. I’m almost positive he would’ve lost even without Mayor Bloomberg’s intervention.

* Meanwhile, on the Republican side

The race among Republicans to replace former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is too close to call.

Chicago resident Paul McKinley was leading fellow Republican Eric Wallace by about two dozen votes as of late Tuesday night. But with a handful of precincts outstanding, no winner was declared.

And

Paul McKinley calls himself an “ex-offender” who wants to get other ex-offenders to work. That’s why he ran as a Republican candidate in the special primary to replace Jesse Jackson Jr.

McKinley served prison time for robbery, he says. Now he’s on a mission to offer “street repentance.”

“Street repentance means to help a young man to not go in the same direction that I went,” McKinley says in this campaign video.

With 99 percent of the precincts reporting late Tuesday, McKinley was in the lead with just a couple of dozen of votes over Eric Wallace.

* Roundup…

* Ald. Beale blown away by Kelly win: “Wow. That’s what money buys you,”

* Kelly easily wins Democratic race to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. in Congress

* Kelly Takes Aim At NRA In Victory Speech

* Crowd cheers “Robin! Robin!” as Kelly declares a new day in the battle against gun violence

* Candidate backed by Bloomberg wins Democratic primary in Chicago

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      


*** LIVE *** SESSION COVERAGE

Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013

* For the first time in over a long time, both chambers are in session today. Blackberry users click here

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      


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