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Friday, May 31, 2013

* House Speaker Michael Madigan and his spokesman Steve Brown look up at the big board during a floor vote…

Photo taken by my intern Andrew Niebur.

- Posted by Rich Miller   59 Comments      


Harris, Mell talk about failure of gay marriage bill

Friday, May 31, 2013

* We have a couple of must-watch videos regarding the failure of the Illinois House to call the gay marriage bill. First up. Rep. Greg Harris explains why the bill wasn’t called. The speech was interrupted a few times by protesters favoring his bill. Watch

* Rep. Deb Mell talked about what a gay marriage law would’ve meant to her

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      


Cullerton issues statement on pension reform

Friday, May 31, 2013

* From Senate President John Cullerton…

When I became Senate President I took an oath to uphold the constitution and I made a promise to make the Senate an open chamber where member legislation gets a fair hearing. Anyone following the issue of pension reform can confirm that I have honored those commitments this session.

I personally have worked to craft reform proposals that might satisfy the constitution and while achieving considerable savings. To date the Senate has worked to pass five different pieces of legislation designed to reform our systems within the confines of the constitution. Not one of these plans was brought to the House floor for a vote.

My preference for adhering to the plain language of the constitution hasn’t prevented me from working with other leaders who interpret the pension clause differently. That’s been evidenced by the fact that I refused to block votes on opposing pension plans.

I crafted a compromise plan that would have made unilateral cuts the law while including a default constitutional savings plan. I then voted for a second plan and sponsored a third plan to impose unilateral cuts pension benefits.

As Senate President, I could have buried those proposals to satisfy my personal political philosophy. That is not why I am Senate President and that is not how I lead.

The Senate has spoken repeatedly and consistently on pension reform. Still, this issue is not resolved. I am committed to staying at the table until a comprehensive solution is passed into law. I invite Governor Quinn, Speaker Madigan and all leaders of the General Assembly to continue with me.

Emphasis added for obvious reasons. But notice that there was no demand that Speaker Madigan call the Senate’s pension bill for a vote.

- Posted by Rich Miller   92 Comments      


Concealed carry compromise clears both chambers

Friday, May 31, 2013

* All that’s needed now is Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature

The state House Friday voted 89-28 to approve a compromise gun deal that preserves local gun laws, including Chicago and Cook County’s bans on assault weapons, and keeps gun owners from carrying their loaded weapons on public trains and buses.

But it hands gun owners a potent new right that would end the state’s last-in-the-nation prohibition on concealed carry and, in the eyes of gun-rights advocates, put a dent in the state’s crime rates. […]

The House’s action came after the Senate voted 45-12, with one voting present.

Quinn has kept his intentions about concealed-carry close to the vest. On Friday, as the legislation took a fast-track path through the Senate and House, his administration expressed neutrality toward the bill.

Asked whether he’d sign it, spokeswoman Brooke Anderson would say only, “The governor will review the bill once it reaches his desk.”

Think he’ll sign it?

- Posted by Rich Miller   55 Comments      


Protected: *** UPDATED x1 *** SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Session update

Friday, May 31, 2013

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Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - State party chairman update

Friday, May 31, 2013

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*** UPDATED x3 *** Nekritz: Maybe we should pass both bills

Friday, May 31, 2013

* Rep. Elaine Nekritz may have shown the way forward today on stalled pension reform legislation. From the Daily Herald

Nekrtiz said that given the Illinois Senate’s strong rejection of her [pension] proposal Thursday, she’d be open to an idea proposed by Senate President John Cullerton that would have lawmakers approve two competing plans. That would, in theory, let the courts strike one down plan and let the other stand.

Showing the immense legal complexities of the debate, Nekritz said she’d only go along if the two plans were approved in separate legislation, not in one bill.

“That’s something that I think we should consider,” she said.

I’m not sure how they could pass both bills as separate entities because it would be a legal nightmare, unless one was held up with a parliamentary hold while the other moved through the courts. That’s a scenario I told subscribers about weeks ago.

*** UPDATE 1 *** Rep. Nekritz’s spokesperson told me that the parliamentary hold idea (making a motion to reconsider and then keeping it on until it has to be lifted as a backup) is exactly what Nekritz was referring to when she talked to the Daily Herald.

*** UPDATE 2 *** They may need to get something done quick or trouble could be afoot. Reuters

Moody’s Investors Service warned the state of Illinois that its credit rating could fall further if the legislature fails to fix the state’s huge public pension problem.

“Our view is that failure to enact pension reforms could drive the state’s general obligation bond rating lower from A2, which is already the lowest level for a U.S. state,” said Moody’s analyst Ted Hampton.

*** UPDATE 3 *** The obvious problem with the idea is that the court case on the first bill could end up lasting longer than the 98th General Assembly. If that happened, then the parliamentary hold would expire, along with the bill. So, it may very well be a no-go with the Senate Democrats.

- Posted by Rich Miller   74 Comments      


A viewer’s guide to today’s coverage

Friday, May 31, 2013

* Today is gonna be very busy for everybody. I’ll post updates on the front page when I can, but you should really make sure to follow our live blog closely. Most of the action will be there. I’ll be updating on the live blog as well. Click here now.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


*** UPDATED x1 - Joe Walsh responds *** Yeah, that’ll work

Friday, May 31, 2013

* Joe Walsh admits that he didn’t even try to get elected state party chairman

From what I hear, most if not all of the members of the State Central Committee have already made up their mind as to who they are going to vote for tomorrow for the Republican Party Chairman. They’ve been lobbied for weeks by certain candidates, all the usual political deals have been cut, and it sounds like tomorrow’s silly, closed door process of a five minute speech followed by 20 minutes of questioning in private executive session is just for show.

I haven’t lobbied or spoken with any members of the SCC. My intention was to drive to Springfield tomorrow and tell them what the Republican Party needed if it wanted to avoid permanent extinction in Illinois. My message was going to be brief and clear — the next Party Chair had better be a reform conservative. Someone who can rally and energize the Party base of conservatives and independents behind our core principles of freedom, limited government, and individual responsibility and then develop a well financed plan to passionately take that message out to the rest of the voters in the State. Seems pretty simple to me. What the Party can’t do is pick another establishment insider who doesn’t know or care about its core voters.

Yeah. That’s somebody who would’ve been a great chairman. Don’t bother to do any legwork, just show up and pontificate.

Besides, there’s no way he was gonna give up his new radio gig for that party post.

*** UPDATE *** An e-mail from Joe Walsh…

your objectivity continues to amaze.

I never said i didn’t try to become chair — I said i wasnt going to lobby individual members of the SCC. My intention is to go down there tomorrow and make my case.

And…how do you know I wouldnt give up my radio gig if picked as party chair? Nobody would know that but me…

come on rich…do a little better

I doubt you can be state party chairman and host a radio show. But maybe I’m wrong.

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


End of session mental health break

Friday, May 31, 2013

* It’s probably gonna be a long, crazy day, so by popular demand here are some Oscar the Puppy pics to help you cool your jets…

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


Question of the day

Friday, May 31, 2013

* The Chicago Tribune’s editorial board opines again today about pension reform, demanding that the Senate pass the House’s bill

Nearly seven years after the first warning that state pension funds are hurtling toward insolvency, the Illinois Senate took a few minutes Thursday to raise the likelihood of that doomsday. With their vote to kill this year’s best pension reform bill, the senators deserve to spend the summer trying to explain why they spiked a plan projected to save taxpayers $187 billion-with-a-b — and to eliminate unfunded pension obligations of nearly $100 billion.

Thursday night’s show of failure, orchestrated by Senate President John Cullerton, could be reversed Friday. That would require Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan, his fellow Chicago Democrat, to end a nasty spitting match.

* The SJ-R’s editorial board wants Speaker Madigan to call the Senate’s union-backed bill for a vote and forget about those three separate pension bills, which could be used to test the issue’s constitutionality

The House has approved Madigan’s plan and sent it to the Senate, which has not voted on it. And the Senate has approved the Cullerton-backed plan and sent it to the House, which, you guessed it, has not voted on it. It’s gridlock, but there’s still time for lawmakers to find common ground.

Even after all the back and forth, Cullerton’s SB 2404 still appears to be the stronger legislation. The projected savings are significant. The plan has the backing of state workers and retirees who are being asked to share in the pain of pension reform. It is constitutionally sound, and it doesn’t potentially thrust added Social Security costs onto schools and other retirement systems already at a breaking point.

Forget about approving all or part of Madigan’s plan so it can be tested in a potentially lengthy court challenge. Pass the Cullerton plan now for the best, fairest and most logical shot at pension reform today.

* The Question: What should they do?…

1 - Should the Senate try again to pass the House pension reform bill?

2 - Should the Senate pass one or more of the three pension bills that the House passed earlier to test their constitutionality?

3 - Should the House call the Senate’s pension bill for a vote?

4 - Should both chambers find another way to reform pensions?

Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


survey service

- Posted by Rich Miller   56 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - A quick gay marriage update

Friday, May 31, 2013

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Despite impasses, some Statehouse progress made

Friday, May 31, 2013

* A loud anti-fracking protester was physically escorted out of the House gallery after this vote yesterday

The Illinois House passed legislation Thursday evening that would regulate horizontal hydraulic fracturing in the state in a 108 to 9 vote.

The legislation now moves to the Senate, the final hurdle for the bill before it reaches Gov. Pat Quinn, who urged the Senate to send the bill to his desk “as soon as possible.”

* A huge economic development bill passed out of the House

The Illinois House approved a plan Thursday to give as much as $35 million in state and local tax breaks to help a Delaware-based company build a fertilizer plant in central Illinois.

The incentives are part of a massive 11th-hour package of economic development plans that include an expansion of the McCormick Place exhibition hall in Chicago to include a hotel and a new basketball arena for DePaul University. It also includes incentives aimed at developing a new third Chicago-area airport in Peotone.

The measure was sent to the Senate on a vote of 81-35.

More

The legislation approved Thursday — SB20 — allows the Illinois Department of Transportation to enter into a public-private partnership to develop the South Suburban Airport in Peotone. […]

The measure also authorizes financing for a new 10,000-seat basketball arena for DePaul University near Chicago’s McCormick Place. The facility also would be used as a hall for conventions and trade shows.

* Much of the budget is done, but some bills are awaiting action

The House still needs to vote on budgets for K-12 and higher education. Better-than-expected tax revenues are allowing the legislature to avoid cuts proposed in the governor’s March budget next year for general state aid, transportation, bilingual and early childhood education. The legislature’s higher education budget also avoids a 5 percent cut the governor called for, as well.

The K-12 funding is included in Senate Bill 2555. The higher education funding is included in Senate Bill 2556.

The Senate plans to take up two budget bills tomorrow as well:

    * House Bill 214 is general services spending, the General Assembly’s budget and the constitutional officers’ budgets.
    * HB 215 is public safety and transportation spending, Illinois Department of Corrections budget, capital construction spending for the next fiscal year and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources budget. Both have been approved by the House.

The higher ed budget just passed. Check the live session post for constant updates.

* But then there’s this

Quinn and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees are backing a spending bill to cover the back wages, but as of [yesterday], the bill is sitting in the House, still on second reading. It could not pass in its current from before tomorrow’s adjournment deadline. However, the measure could be drafted into a different bill and still make it through by the end of the day [today]. “There is strong bipartisan support in the General Assembly for HB 212, the supplemental appropriation to pay wages owed to caregivers, correctional officers and other state employees dating back nearly two years,” said Anders Lindall, a spokesman for AFSCME Council 31. “Public servants shouldn’t have to wait a day longer for the wages they earned, and Illinois taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay another penny of interest or legal costs incurred by the state’s continued failure to fulfill its responsibility to its employees.” The raises were not paid to workers in 2011 because Quinn said that lawmakers did not approve the funding for them.

* Gaming hasn’t popped yet. Negotiators met until very late last night without resolution

A plan to expand gambling in Illinois is still being negotiated and it’s unclear if lawmakers will take it up, with just hours left in the session to deal with other major issues.

* Related…

* Fracking bill has a clear path to becoming law

* Illinois House approves new drilling rules

* Illinois Fracking Bill Passes House, Sponsor Says Bill Could Create 70,000 Jobs

* Quinn to sign bill lowering required school enrollment age

* Lieutenant Governor Election Process Unchanged

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


Don’t Tax My Credit Union!

Friday, May 31, 2013

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

As Congress considers comprehensive tax reform, 96 million credit union members across the country, including nearly 3 million in Illinois, urge all lawmakers to keep credit unions tax exempt. Credit unions are not-for-profit financial institutions owned by their members, not by stockholders out to make money for someone else. All of the money that a credit union generates stays with the credit union to the benefit of its members - to the tune of $6 billion each year. In fact, for every $1 of their tax exemption, credit unions return $10 to consumers through lower fees on services, lower rates on loans and higher rates on deposits. And, when there is a credit union in the marketplace, bank customers benefit too – almost $2 billion a year. Put together, this $8 billion benefit greatly outweighs the $500 million that the Joint Committee on Taxation says the tax status costs the government. It’s a great return on investment and good public policy. But if credit unions are taxed, these benefits go away. That’s not what we need in tax reform. Taxing credit unions will eliminate real financial choice. Don’t touch the credit union tax exemption! Learn more about this effort today - http://www.donttaxmycreditunion.org/!

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Vote Yes on SB 103: Renewables Cut Power Costs $177 Million/Year; Supported by 87% of Illinois Voters

Friday, May 31, 2013

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Renewables Save Hundreds of Millions for Ratepayers

The Illinois Power Agency recently issued its 2013 report on the costs and benefits of renewable energy in Illinois. It found “a savings of $176.85 million” in total payments for electricity generation in both 2011 and 2012.

SB 103 Would Save Ratepayers $281 Million MORE Between 2014-2017

According to an analysis verified by the ICC, SB 103’s unified competitive procurement approach would save Illinois ratepayers an additional $281 million between 2014 and 2017.

87% of Illinois Voters Support Renewables

A Clean Energy Trust/Zogby poll of 700 likely voters earlier this month found 86.7% of likely Illinois voters support “policies to bring renewable energy to Illinois.” 77% support SB 103.

Unintended Conflict Has Broken Down the Law

As reported in the Chicago Tribune (“Energy Fund Lacks Power”, May 13, 2013) and Crain’s Chicago Business (“A Mighty Wind Problem”, April 8, 2013), the RPS law has broken down because of an unforeseen conflict with the municipal aggregation tidal wave.

A No-Cost Fix

SB 103 contains a simple solution to resolve this problem that preserves rate caps and increases efficiency.

Fix the RPS - Vote Yes on SB 103

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Kicking the can

Friday, May 31, 2013

* We talked yesterday about the We Are One report on the Teachers Retirement System actuarial analysis of SB 1, the House’s pension reform plan. The union report claimed that Speaker Madigan’s reform plan would force teachers into Social Security, which would greatly drive up costs. The reason is that benefits would be less than the teachers would actually be paying into the system.

Rep. Elaine Nekritz, Madigan’s pension point-person, didn’t deny this and issued a statement

Simple answer is it’s an issue that’s not immediate — probably 10-12 years down the road — and could be addressed later. It shouldn’t stand in the way of a real solution like SB 1.

* I checked with TRS this morning and they said SB1 is short $6-7 billion in payments between now and 2045. But that cost estimate is based only on the assumption that the money would be baked into the 32-year plan right away.

So, delaying this for 10-12 (or even 15, according to TRS) years from now will increase that $6-7 billion cost considerably. The more they delay, the higher the cost. Just like we got into this mess in the first place.

* And the TRS estimate doesn’t include the cost of fixing the exact same problem with the “Tier 2″ plan that passed in 2010. I asked TRS for those numbers, but they don’t have them yet.

Now, $6-7 billion is pretty small compared to the $100 billion unfunded liability problem, even with the added interest of waiting at least a decade. But if the House bill passes, the state would be essentially saving money now that it’ll have to pay in the future by slashing estimates of the benefits it will need to pay.

* Related…

* Cost-shift pension plan clears House

* Pension cost-shift for higher education clears Illinois House

* Madigan’s pension-reform package goes down in flames

* Illinois Senate rejects House pension reform plan

* Illinois Senate defeats sweeping pension reform bill

* Editorial: Senators, hold your tantrums and pass SB1

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Tentative agreement on concealed carry

Friday, May 31, 2013

*** UPDATE *** The new bill is here. There’s also a technical amendment here.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* The SJ-R has some deets about a tentative concealed carry deal

Forby said an “absolute pre-emption” provision that wipes out all local gun regulations — even those unrelated to concealed carry — has been dropped despite objections from pro-gun lawmakers.

Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, who also was involved in negotiations, said municipalities could keep current gun ordinances, such as Chicago’s assault-weapons ban and Cook County’s firearm and ammunition tax, but would be prohibited from enacting ordinances that could potentially deter a person’s Second Amendment rights.

Municipalities also would have a window of time to enact ordinances if they hadn’t done so already, he said.

Despite strong objections from Senate Democrats, people will be able to bring their guns into bars or restaurants, depending on how much of their sales come from alcohol. But business owners could still post signs prohibiting weapons if they wish.

Chicago’s firearm registration ordinance appears to have been preempted as well.

* More

But the revised version also would toughen penalties for carrying a firearm while drunk.

The bill would prohibit guns from being carried in places like CTA and Metra buses and trains, casinos, government buildings, stadiums and several other locations that were banned in previous incarnations, he said.

The proposal would require the Illinois State Police to review applications for concealed carry permits, but local law enforcement could object if they believed an applicant was a public danger. Those objections could be appealed to an independent board.

Passage depends upon keeping the Senate’s liberals on the roll call. So far so good, but nothing is ever easy or guaranteed. As of last night, the plan was to start the bill in the Senate. We’ll see.

- Posted by Rich Miller   78 Comments      


Can Dorgan pull it off?

Friday, May 31, 2013

* Subscribers know more. Hinz

A veteran Illinois GOP insider and Springfield lobbyist appears to have moved to the front of the pack in the competition to fill out the term of resigned state Republican Chairman Pat Brady.

Multiple high-level Republican sources tell me that Jack Dorgan, a Rosemont village trustee, is close to securing the votes he’ll need from fellow members of the Illinois Republican Committee when that panel meets on Saturday to elect a new chairman to serve until April 2014.

Mr. Dorgan, 53, declined almost all comment to me, saying only in a phone conversation that he’s interested in the job and is “excited about the opportunity to remind the voters that Illinois is a two-party state.” But he has a long, long record, one that has both made him friends and enemies in the party. […]

I predict a lively meeting on Saturday, with much to discuss. But Mr. Dorgan has friends, with sources suggesting that U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., will back him.

Dorgan didn’t decline to comment to me.

* Sun-Times

Dorgan, who is also a Rosemont Village Trustee, does not yet have the needed 50 percent-plus-one majority votes from the panel, but he’s closer than the remaining seven candidates, a knowledgeable source told the Sun-Times. Attorney Mark Shaw, businessman Jim Nalepa, Angel Garcia, Don Tracy, Lori Yokoyama and Joe Walsh are others still on list.

– Other developments: Cook County Commissioner Tim Schneider, who was once rumored to be the front-runner, has withdrawn his name from contention.

– Former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh is the only candidate not to provide a resume yet and is not actively calling people asking for support. (It’s thought that a party leadership role would threaten Walsh’s new radio gig).

– Each candidate will have five minutes to address the public before the committee goes into private session with the candidates.

I’ve known Dorgan for years, and I still don’t understand why he wants the worst job in Illinois. He thinks he can do some good. But, man, is he ever in for some tough times if he wins.

- Posted by Rich Miller   54 Comments      


Lobsters hired just a day before session’s end

Friday, May 31, 2013

* Gay marriage proponents have known for months that they had big problems with the House Black Caucus. The proponents have several Statehouse lobbyists on the payroll, including two affiliated with the House Republicans who have produced just two votes so far. But until yesterday, they had just one black lobbyist, and he’s a former Senate Democratic staffer.

Yesterday afternoon, a day before the scheduled end of session, two former African-American House members were finally put on the lobbying payroll

Veteran lobbyists Paul Williams and Coy Pugh, both African-Americans and ex-Democratic lawmakers from Chicago, have been hired by advocates backing the marriage equality bid to persuade House Black Caucus hold outs to vote for the bill sponsored by State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago).

I’m not sure what two guys can do in a day and a half. I talked to one of them yesterday, and he’s not sure what he can do, either. This sort of stuff takes time. And it’s truly amazing to me that it took the proponents this long to realize what they were missing at the Capitol.

There is a lot of finger-pointing going on right now about what should’ve happened. Maybe the Senate shouldn’t have passed the bill in February, before the votes were lined up in the House. But that sort of stuff is easy to see in hindsight. The lack of House-affiliated African-American lobsters, however, should never have been overlooked.

Even so, there’s no guarantee that the bill will fail today. If it’s not called for a vote, the recriminations will no doubt begin in earnest. Speaker Madigan will undoubtedly be in for some blame. But the proponents will also need to reexamine what they did.

* Meanwhile, competing Statehouse rallies are planned for today. From the Illinois Family Institute…

Lawmakers will be in Springfield one more day before they adjourn for the summer. Homosexual activists are pushing hard for a vote on SB 10, the same-sex “marriage” bill. They are planning a rally at the State House tomorrow at 11 a.m.

We need you to join us to make a strong showing for natural marriage. If you are at all able to join us tomorrow morning at the Illinois State Capitol, please do so. We will meet in the Rotunda at 10 a.m.

* And this is from Lambda Legal, ACLU of Illinois and Equality Illinois

URGENT: Meet at the Equality Illinois office (3318 N Halsted) in Chicago tomorrow (Friday) morning at 7:30 for free buses to our marriage equality rally in Springfield!

Just a few hours ago, we emailed with an urgent message to call Speaker Madigan and ask him to schedule a vote on the marriage bill now.

Hundreds of calls have come into Springfield, but no vote has been scheduled. So here’s what’s next:

We need you to join us for an urgent rally at the State House in Springfield tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. Together, we’ll show the Speaker — and all our representatives — that we want a vote taken on the marriage equality bill before the House adjourns at the end of the day tomorrow.

The groups have a Facebook events page as well.

* No way this is happening

As advocates and observers continue to wonder when the marriage legislation will come up for vote, and as House lawmakers remain in session to deliberate other bills, proponents of the marriage equality measure are calling Madigan’s Capitol and district offices to demand a vote before it’s too late. […]

Many of those callers were reportedly told by Madigan aides the bill will be considered on Friday; however, when pressed, Madigan Press Secretary Steve Brown denied the alleged messaging, noting, “The people who answer the phones don’t say things like that.”

Brown is right. They don’t tell people that sort of thing on the phone in Madigan’s office. First, the people who answer the phones wouldn’t know, and secondly they’d probably lose their jobs if they did say stuff like that.

There were tons of Statehouse rumors yesterday and it was almost impossible to keep up with them. Most of them were false.

* I’m told by the proponents that CNN is considering doing a live feed from the House during the debate, if it happens. There will be lots of attention on Illinois today. A press conference yesterday which announced basically nothing was mobbed by reporters.

* Things are also heating up on the Republican side of the equation. From Illinois Review

Last night U.S. Senator Mark Kirk was on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight with Carol Marin. One of the topics covered was the resignation of Party Chairman Pat Brady. The discussion went like this: (see video below at 4:26 minutes)

    Carol Marin: Has this [same-sex marriage] become sort of a fire line of this, “Who’s a conservative and who’s not?”

    Sen. Kirk: Actually, I didn’t want the Republican Party to be run by the top anti-gay bigot in the state.

    Marin: When you say the top Republican bigot, you mean Jim Oberweis?

    Kirk: No

    Marin: Who do you mean?

Kirk refused to answer and moved the discussion to Apple and immigration.

* Video

* But Speaker Madigan is clearly becoming a target of the left. Via IR


- Posted by Rich Miller   91 Comments      


*** LIVE *** SESSION COVERAGE

Friday, May 31, 2013

* Blackberry users click here

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      


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

Friday, May 31, 2013

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Madigan: Senate lacks leadership

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* Senate President John Cullerton has done his best not to rile things up between himself and House Speaker Madigan. It hasn’t worked

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan said the Illinois Senate’s failure to advance a pension reform measure he backed showed “a lack of leadership,” in that chamber.

The Chicago Sun-Times caught up with Chicago Democrat just moments after the Illinois Senate torpedoed his pension reform plan.

When asked what he thought of the vote he initially responded: “not much.”

* Background

The Illinois Senate tonight overwhelmingly defeated a major overhaul of the state’s heavily indebted government worker pension systems, throwing into question whether cost-saving reforms will be approved before Friday night’s adjournment deadline.

The measure, whose architect is House Speaker Michael Madigan, mustered only 16 votes in the Senate while 42 voted against it. The bill needed 30 to pass.

The defeat continued the pension reform stalemate between Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, who has long argued the speaker’s plan is unconstitutional while his own would withstand a legal challenge.

Although Cullerton did not speak out against the Madigan bill during debate, he pointed out that the plan “unilaterally” scaled back cost-of-living increases, required workers to chip in more from paychecks and put limits on the size of a salary that could be counted toward a pension.

- Posted by Rich Miller   90 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 - BIMP *** The mother of all development bills

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* McCormick Place expansion, a new third airport board, Rosemont convention incentives, a Downstate fertilizer plant, a brownfields redevelopment plan and who knows what the heck else, but there’s tons of projects in House Amendment 2 to SB 20. Go check it out.

*** UPDATE *** I haven’t had a chance to read it all yet and I missed the committee hearing, but the budget implementation bill (usually very much worth a read) is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      


Durkin to run for House GOP Leader, won’t vote for gay marriage

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* Subscribers have known about both of these developments for days

With ramped-up talk that House Republican Minority Leader Tom Cross is moving toward a statewide run for Illinois Attorney General, state Rep. Jim Durkin said he’s ready to fill the void.

Earlier this year, Durkin (R-Westchester) a former prosecutor and current corporate litigation attorney, was said to be interested himself in a run for Illinois Attorney General.

On Thursday, however, he said this: “I am pursuing the position as House Minority Leader, if and when that vacancy occurs — that may be in the near future,” Durkin told the Chicago Sun-Times. […]

The news comes as Durkin, 52, announced he would not back a vote on same-sex marriage. “I’ll be voting no.”

Durkin had been rumored to be leaning toward a yes vote.

Lots of others are interested in Cross’ job, as subscribers already know.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


Question of the day

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* Believe it or not, but the B.A.F.F.L.E.D. blog has a couple of posts about Statehouse style here and here. Go check ‘em out.

Yes, Statehouse style.

Springfield is not generally known for style, but there are some sharp dressers. Ron Holmes on the Senate Democratic staff is always styling…

Dude, tuck in your shirt!

* The Question: Who’s the most stylish person you know at the Statehouse? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   62 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Nekritz: House pension plan saves more state dollars

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* Rep. Elaine Nekrtitz’s spokesman has responded to the We Are One coalition’s research which shows that their pension reform plan saves more than the House’s plan off the unfunded liability…

This new report suggests more significant savings from SB 2404 than SB 1 if you calculate in health care savings from employee choices. But there are a couple of important points.

Senate Bill 1 makes important changes to how Illinois calculates and funds its pension systems according to actuarial science — changes intended to ensure we pay into these systems what is required to meet our obligations. These actuarially appropriate changes are not included in Senate Bill 2404.

Assuming the health care numbers cited are correct, unfunded liability savings are not the only important calculation here. Senate Bill 1 saves a proven $180 billion off the state’s 30-year pension spending — far more than anything saved under SB 2404. And it also provides certainty, predictability and a sufficient solution for a massive problem where SB 2404 falls far short. We remain hopeful this will be considered and SB 1 approved before session ends tomorrow.

So far, no response to the union coalition’s other claim, that the House bill will force teachers into Social Security, driving up costs.

*** UPDATE *** Here’s the Nekritz spokesperson answer on the Social Security question…

Simple answer is it’s an issue that’s not immediate — probably 10-12 years down the road — and could be addressed later. It shouldn’t stand in the way of a real solution like SB 1.

- Posted by Rich Miller   63 Comments      


Finally, a good bill passes

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* Personally speaking, this is the best bill of the session. From a press release

The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America has asked Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn to sign Senate Bill 1775, which would allow Illinois drivers to present electronic proof of insurance to state officials.

The bill, which enables insureds to present the proof without consenting to the access of any other information on their mobile devices, allows insurers to post policies to the Internet for policyholder access, although policyholders will still be able to request a paper copy.

“This legislation will allow insurers to satisfy increasing consumer demand for increased electronic communication and reduce printing and mailing costs,” Deirdre Manna, PCI’s vice president of political engagement and regulatory affairs, said in a statement. “Insurers will still be required to provide paper copies of any documents policyholders request, if that is their preference.”

The Illinois House and Senate both passed the legislation unanimously. The legislature has 30 days to send it to Quinn, who then has 60 days to decide whether to sign it into law.

I am always forgetting to put my new insurance card in my car. Last year, I went through a road block in Williamson County and didn’t have my insurance card in my glove box. So, I got a ticket.

Trouble is, Williamson County (southern Illinois) requires you to hand-deliver a physical copy of the insurance card to the courthouse before they’ll dismiss the charge. You can’t mail it, fax it, e-mail it. Hand deliver.

And Williamson County is a long way from Springfield, man. Thankfully my brother lives in the county and I e-mailed him a copy which he printed and brought to the court building.

Anyway, a good and sensible bill.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


Rush says Kirk idea is “upper-middle-class, elitist white boy solution”

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* From a press release…

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) [yesterday] met with U.S. Attorney for the Northern District nominee Zachary Fardon to discuss his confirmation process and the need to prioritize prosecution of violent crime in the U.S. Attorney’s office upon his confirmation. Kirk and Durbin urged Fardon to use the full power of the office to pursue and prosecute violent criminals in Chicago and across the Northern District.

“I would like to thank Senator Durbin and our joint bipartisan screening committee for all of the effort that went into recommending Zachary Fardon for U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois,” Senator Kirk said. “After meeting with Mr. Fardon today, I am more convinced than ever that he is the right choice for northern Illinois’ next U.S. Attorney. I believe he is the best pick to build upon Patrick Fitzgerald’s legacy and take down dangerous drug gangs like the Gangster Disciples that threaten our communities.”

* Congressman Bobby Rush followed up by playing the race card

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) is highly critical of a proposal by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) for mass arrests of 18,000 Gangster Disciples, telling the Sun-Times on Wednesday that Kirk’s approach is “headline grabbing” and an “upper-middle-class, elitist white boy solution to a problem he knows nothing about.” […]

Rush, asked by the Sun-Times to react to Kirk’s proposal said in a phone interview: “It’s a sensational, headline-grabbing, empty, simplistic, unworkable approach.”

If there is $30 million for Congress to spend, better most of it be allocated for “job creation and job training,” to address the gang problem, Rush said.

Rush’s House district includes communities plagued by gang violence. He said his criticism of Kirk is “not to excuse their activities.”

Rush said an arrest sweep “is not going to work. . . . It is not a law and order, lock ‘em up solution.”

Sheesh.

- Posted by Rich Miller   89 Comments      


They’re close, on paper

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* The concealed carry negotiations continue. SJ-R

The Senate’s top Democrat said Wednesday both sides of the debate have made “a lot of progress” as talks between both houses advance in an attempt to reach some middle ground.

“We’d like to pass a bill,” Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said. “If the two sides were so far apart, there’d be nothing to talk about (and) I’d say this doesn’t look good. But this looks very good.”

Technically, yes, they’re close. But, as with any negotiation, those last items are always the toughest

But a leading pro-gun lawmaker and sponsor of a more permissive House bill, Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, said both chambers are still miles apart over how to approach a “pre-emption” provision pro-gun advocates are pushing that would wipe out all local gun ordinances — even those unrelated to concealed carry. […]

Last week, Phelps’ bill with absolute pre-emption passed the House with 85 votes, he said, adding pre-emption is something pro-gun advocates are not willing to give up.

“You already voted something (like) absolute pre-emption for the whole state; it’s hard to take back something on that because we’d feel like we’d be going backwards,” he said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   51 Comments      


Rutherford to announce Sunday

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* No surprise

After a year’s worth of saying he’s going to run for governor in 2014, Republican state Treasurer Dan Rutherford will formally announce his plans at a series of stops and rallies beginning Sunday.

The first-term statewide officeholder confirmed Thursday that he’ll launch a day’s worth of rallies in Chicago on Sunday and then head south for stops in Pontiac and Springfield.

He’ll make a formal announcement to the press on Monday in Springfield.

The 58-year-old Pontiac native will be the first to formally enter what could be a crowded GOP race. Other potential candidates include wealthy hedge fund manager Bruce Rauner of Chicago and state Sens. Bill Brady of Bloomington and Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale.

* This, however, is a bit of a surprise

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley gave some love last week to state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who is running for governor in 2014.

Daley was receiving a “Chicago Champion Award” at the Chicago Innovations Award Un-Gala, held May 22 at Untitled, 111 W. Kinzie St. At the end of his prepared remarks, he pointed out Rutherford.

Mispronouncing the treasurer’s name as “RUTH-er-ford,” rather than “ROOTH-er-ford” (Da Mare has not become more eloquent in retirement), Daley said he was a wonderful man and a politician who has done more than many for our great state of Illinois.

- Posted by Rich Miller   44 Comments      


Online voter registration advances

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* 18 states already have some form of online voter registration. If sent to the governor, the new plan would begin next July, after the primary

llinoisans could someday register to vote via the internet under legislation endorsed Wednesday by the Illinois Senate.

The measure, which is just one piece of a package of proposed state election law changes being considered by state lawmakers, is designed to make the voting process more appealing to a bloc of potential voters who rarely come out in force. […]

Under the plan, the state would set up a system in which applicants could register through the state Board of Elections website, using a driver’s license and the last four digits of a Social Security number. The state would then transmit the registration to the person’s home county. […]

Cook County Clerk David Orr said online registration could be cheaper than the current paper process. In a statement, Orr said other states have seen a drop in the cost of processing a registration from 83 cents to 3 cents.

* There are some controversial aspects to the omnibus bill, however

A political dispute over the future of elections in Lake County has consumed top officials, as its top Democrat favors turning voting control over to a new board and a bipartisan collection of other leaders is pushing back hard.

The Illinois Senate on Thursday approved lengthy statewide elections legislation that emerged this week. Tucked inside is a plan that would take away election supervision from County Clerk Willard Helander and create a five-member board to handle voting.

* And

Most local officials are poised to keep their controversial power to kick political opponents off the ballot after lobbying from those officials helped stall a reform proposal in the General Assembly.

Instead, a piecemeal effort is moving forward that will abolish panels that rule on candidate eligibility in school districts only, shifting such authority to the county level. The latest proposal leaves the controversial panels in place for cities, villages, community colleges and townships across the state.

While critics of the current system support changes for the school districts, they say the final proposal will do nothing to stop scores of other local candidates from being kicked off the ballot by political opponents for questionable reasons.

Cook County Clerk David Orr called it “disappointing.” And David Morrison, acting director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said it was “an unfortunate retreat” because city and village panels tend to be the most political and face the most criticism.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


Unions: Our pension plan actually saves more than House plan

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* AP

An Illinois Senate pension reform plan would reduce state indebtedness to current and future retirees by more than a rival House proposal if health insurance costs are counted, a new analysis by a league of union groups shows.

A study by the We Are One Illinois shows that if half of employees and retirees choose to forgo post-career health insurance as part of Senate President John Cullerton’s proposal, the state’s debt to two health insurance programs would be cut in half, by $26 billion. […]

In an analysis released last week, Nekritz pointed out that if roughly half of employees and retirees choose to forgo health care in favor of compounded cost-of-living increases in annual pension payouts, the Cullerton idea would only drop the pension liability by $6 billion.

The review acknowledged that it didn’t count savings in retiree health care - a bill of $52 billion in addition to the $97 billion pension shortfall.

* From the We Are One Coalition…

SB 2404: Health Care Savings Estimate

In contrast, evidence continues to mount that SB 2404 saves more than previously recognized. Leaders of We Are One Illinois have produced a new, preliminary estimate of $26 billion in health care savings in the coalition-supported legislation, Senate Bill 2404, based on the choice outcome suggested by SB 1 supporters. This brings the total immediate savings on the health care and pension unfunded liabilities to $31 billion – more than SB 1.

SB 1 supporters have wrongly argued that SB 2404 does not save enough. They estimate that because 50% will choose to opt out of retiree health care, that SB 2404 will save approximately $6 billion immediately off the pension unfunded liability.

But this calculation fails to include the significant health care savings that would accrue from a 50% health care opt out. If 50% of employees and retirees choose the health care opt out, approximately $26 billion in accrued health care liability would be saved, for a total combined liability savings of around $32 billion. If fewer opt out of health care, the pension savings would be greater. These are preliminary estimates calculated from the FY 2011 year ending actuarial valuation of Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) for the State Employees Group Insurance Program and Teachers Retirement Insurance Program.

“This is all the more reason the House should pass SB 2404 without change or delay,” Michael T. Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO.

Remember, this is only about the teachers’ pension fund. . Oops. Health savings are estimated for both State Employees Group Insurance Plan (SEGIP, covering SERS, SURS, GRS, JARS) and Teachers Retirement Insurance Plan (TRIP).

The TRS actuarial analysis is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      


Close or not? House gay marriage vote looms

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* As I told subscribers earlier today, the most pervasive rumor at the Statehouse is that the gay marriage bill will be called for a vote today. I’m not sure what to believe at this point. Here’s the Illinois Observer’s take

A top Democrat told The Illinois Observer on Wednesday night, “The roll call is in the high 50s. It’s close; it’s almost there.” […]

Some pro-marriage equality activists, who have been chafing at the Illinois House’s inaction this spring while other states have swiftly approved their own same sex marriage bills, have grown increasingly frustrated with House Speaker Michael Madigan, arguing that he only needs to “twist some arms” to get to 60.

“Madigan is loathe to force a member to vote against his or her district and to anger a majority of his or her constituents,” said an insider. “That’s how expensive primary challenges are created, which waste money needed to beat Republicans in the fall.”

The insider also noted that a string of controversial votes taken during the spring legislative session could ignite multiple primary contests for Democrats next year.

“The pension vote and the conceal carry vote have already exposed multiple Democrats to potential primary challenges,” said the insider. “A risky same sex marriage vote will just expand the pool of Democratic incumbents staring at a primary fight.”

There’s no doubt that Chicago-area Democrats could be looking at primary challengers because of this year’s controversial session.


* Meanwhile, President Obama
spoke about the gay marriage bill last night in Chicago

America is probably more tolerant, more accepting of difference than any time in our history. Obviously, you’ve got an African American President, a former and soon to be again female Speaker of the House. The work that we did together to end “don’t ask, don’t tell” is something that I could not be prouder of. But we also know that there’s still a lot of people who are excluded in our society and we’ve got more work to do.

Here in Illinois, we’ve got a vote on same-sex marriage that’s going to be coming up in the state legislature. And I just want to say for the record it’s something that I deeply support. I wrestled with this for a long time and I am absolutely convinced it is the right thing to do. And we have to make sure that wherever we go, we are reminding people that the essence of America is that everybody is treated equally under the law without exception.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


Photos: The wall comes down

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* Workers have been remodeling the western wing of the Statehouse since session ended two years ago. Large, wooden walls have blocked the view of the wing during the extensive reconstruction. Late yesterday, the 1st Floor wall came down and Statehouse denizens flocked to see the progress.

I took some pictures and posted them on our live session coverage post, but you may have missed them since it was so late in the day. The view is obstructed by the scaffolding, but click the pics for larger images…

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


Possible end game, while unions claim unintended problems with SB1

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* A few days ago, I told subscribers about the possibility that the Senate Democrats might hold a vote on the three smaller pension bills that passed the House back in March, rather than pass the bigger Madigan bill, SB!. Those three bills are now starting to move

Thursday is shaping up as a pivotal day in the Senate on pensions, with Cullerton saying he intends to survey his 40-member caucus on Senate Bill 1 and other pension-reform options

One of those options may involve three obscure bills that the House passed in March and that quietly began moving in the state Senate Tuesday evening.

Legislation to hike the retirement age for employees under 45, cap “pensionable” salaries at Social Security wages and delay when retirees can get compounding, annual cost-of-living increases was discharged from the Senate Assignments Committee.

The House passed all three bills in March in a series of test votes on pensions to gauge support for a comprehensive pension-reform package. The three bills contain key pieces of what eventually got put into Senate Bill 1, which has faced a flurry of intense union opposition.

“All legislative options for a comprehensive plan are being considered,” Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon told the Chicago Sun-Times Wednesday.

Expect a vote on SB1 as well, but Cullerton expects that one to die.

* Meanwhile, I told subscribers a little bit about this earlier today. Sun-Times

A House-passed plan that Speaker Michael Madigan has endorsed to fix Illinois’ nearly $100 billion crisis contains a flaw that could amount to a legislative stake-in-the-heart in the state Senate, the top Senate Democrat said Wednesday.

Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) said the legislation contains a provision that eventually could leave retired suburban and downstate teachers with less in benefits than they are legally entitled to if they qualified for Social Security benefits, potentially forcing teachers and the school districts that employ them to begin paying into Social Security.

* The We Are One report relies on the Teachers Retirement System’s actuarial analysis. From the union report

Quotes from the TRS actuarial analysis and explanation follow:

“The Tier 1 employer normal cost is now negative.”

    • During her media availability, Rep. Elaine Nekritz characterized this as a good development for school districts, saying “[t]here would be no shift” if a TRS cost-shift bill passed.
    • This fails to recognize that TRS pensions would no longer qualify for a Social Security exemption. Far from paying nothing, under a TRS cost-shift, school districts would ultimately be on the hook to pay the employer’s portion (6.2%) of Social Security benefits.
    • Once school districts are required to pay Social Security taxes, this will almost certainly necessitate massive property tax increases across the state.
    • SB 1 would be the largest unfunded mandate imposed on school districts in history.

“The current proposal…creates a Social Security compliance issue for Tier 1 in addition to the existing issues for Tier 2.”

    • SB 1 creates the same problem in Tier 1 as exists in Tier 2 – an inadequate pension benefit structure.
    • Again, if SB 1 becomes law, school districts would eventually begin paying Social Security taxes because TRS pension benefits are too low to qualify for a Social Security exemption.
    • It is likely that the same problems for TRS will also affect SURS.

“SB 1 provisions result in Tier 1 and Tier 2 members paying for more than the cost of their benefits.”

    • The SB 1 pension cuts are so absurdly deep that workers would actually be paying more than what their pension benefit is worth.
    • This is more than just completely unfair. It is immoral and illogical. SB 1 creates a pension system that actually penalizes its members. The bill slashes pensions so aggressively that employees would face a monetary loss by being part of the pension system.
    • The bill goes to extremes to hurt working, middle-class families.

Discuss.

* Related…

* Senators expected to discuss pension plans

* Pension Solution Continues To Elude Legislators

- Posted by Rich Miller   64 Comments      


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