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Defending the indefensible

Monday, Sep 30, 2013

* OK, you’re about to see something that you’ve probably never seen here before. I’m gonna defend Rep. Bill Mitchell and Reboot Illinois.

First, Kass

The Quad City Times reported that state Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, said he was having lunch with a friend when Cohen’s ruling [striking down Quinn’s veto of legislative salaries[ was issued:

“His first thought was, ‘When do we get paid?’”

That was Mitchell’s first thought? When does he get paid?

Nice.

I called Springfield to speak with Rep. Mitchell about his first thoughts of getting paid, but he wasn’t available.

“His assistant is not in today,” said a lady on the phone. “She’s out. You try his district office?”

I called his district office. No answer. I left a message, then called again and again and again. Still nothing.

* The missing context from the original story

Mitchell is a full-time lawmaker, meaning he had to dig into savings to make ends meet during the impasse.

“It was a bad three months,” he said.

Unless you’re independently wealthy, if your entire income is based on one job and you aren’t getting paid for that job, then no paychecks can cause real hardships. I see no reason to pick on the guy for being honest.

* Let’s move on to a story about Reboot Illinois’ new legislative contact app

Here’s how Reboot describes itself on its website, rebootillinois.com. “Reboot Illinois aims to encourage citizens to retake ownership of our governments. Through non-partisan digital and social media, Reboot Illinois intends to engage citizens giving them the information and tools they need to act on improving the jobs climate, schools, taxes and state debt.”

One of those things is a new feature allowing people to contact their public officials via email on certain issues. This includes their local lawmakers, legislative leaders like Madigan and Cullerton, and the governor. More importantly, it also allows a person to find out just who represents them in the General Assembly simply by typing their home address into the site.

So far, so good. The trickier part comes from the suggested messages to send public officials. The site has a series of issues listed covering such things as raising the minimum wage or pension reform or the progressive income tax along with a sample letter that can be sent to lawmakers. For example, you can send a message that you do not want the state to raise the minimum wage. Or you can send a message saying that the 3 percent compounded COLAs for pension benefits must end, along with raising the retirement age for workers.

Now, if you want to say you like the idea of a higher minimum wage or that the state shouldn’t change COLAs for retirees, well, you’ll have to compose your own thoughts on that. The site doesn’t provide that option. Also, it doesn’t provide the email addresses of the public officials, so if you want to send your own thoughts, you’ll have to add a step.

Actually, you can compose your own message and it’s pretty easy. You just select all, delete what Reboot wrote and write whatever you want. The group will then send your message for you. I tried it today by sending a test message to Rep. Poe’s office and it worked fine.

Now, maybe you aren’t literate enough to write your own message, but if that’s the case, then why bother at all? Or maybe you’re not computer literate enough to know you can delete Reboot’s message and replace it with your own. So, what the heck are you doing on the Web then?

However, Reboot might wanna just add a simple message saying you can write whatever you want, just to be clear.

Click here and see for yourself.

* I tried to get in the spirit of things by finding a recent state-related Tribune editorial I could praise, but had no luck.

Sigh.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      


Question of the day

Monday, Sep 30, 2013

* Gov. Pat Quinn got a flu shot on Friday, the same day he failed to convince two judges for a stay during appeal of the previous day’s legislator pay ruling…

* The Question: Caption?

Funniest commenter wins a new Statehouse mobile app that I’ll be launching soon.

Our most recent winner was Old Shepherd

“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”

- Posted by Rich Miller   109 Comments      


We should all probably calm down and wait

Monday, Sep 30, 2013

* You may have noticed that I’ve completely avoided the Illinois Obamacare implementation story. That’s by design. There’s been just way too much propaganda from both sides to easily sift through.

For instance, a few days ago Gov. Pat Quinn announced that health insurance exchange rates were lower than expected. That doesn’t really mean anything because we don’t know how much more the exchange health insurance policies will cost than what people already have, which doesn’t really mean much because the new insurance policies will cover more than many bare-bones policies currently do, which doesn’t mean much if you can’t afford the new rates, which doesn’t mean much if you qualify for subsidies, etc., etc., etc. Not to mention all the people who don’t have insurance now because they can’t afford it and may be able to with the new program.

* There’s no doubt that the rollout has been bungled. For instance

Only a fraction of the expected army of outreach workers will be certified and ready Tuesday to help Illinois residents sign up for insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care law, state officials told The Associated Press late Friday.

That will leave most people on their own to figure out the complicated enrollment process — at least during the first week of a six-month enrollment period.

Only around 100 workers will be certified by Saturday, said Kelly Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the new Illinois insurance marketplace where people will be able to comparison shop for health plans starting Tuesday. Sullivan said Illinois officials would work to certify “hundreds more” by Tuesday’s launch.

Officials have said 1,200 temporary outreach workers, hired with federal grant money, would ultimately be trained and certified. About 1.8 million Illinois residents are uninsured, about 15 percent of the population.

The outreach workers are important because the enrollment process is complicated and many consumers will need assistance. They will help walk people through the new health insurance options available to them through the online marketplace. Health care marketplaces, a key component of the Affordable Care Act, will operate in every state.

That’s just ridiculous.

* Then there was the goofy, focus-grouped logo the administration touted in a press release…

The orange color palette is decidedly optimistic, representing the colors of sunrise – tied to focus group feedback that October 1 felt like the “dawn” of a new day for those uninsured.

Really?

* But does any of this mean that the whole program is not worthwhile? The most informed take I’ve read so far is from the guy who implemented former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s health insurance program, on which Obamacare is closely based. Money quotes

“Up here in Massachusetts, the biggest opponent of the individual mandate was John Sweeney of the AFL-CIO. He said it was going to be the end of employer-based health-care here. Well, that certainly wasn’t the case.

“The analogy I like to use is a building that’s burning down. The number of people covered by employer-based health-care plans is dropping by a percentage point a year. The system is falling apart. So you put in a new safety net. That means a few more people are going to come in. If you’re not willing to risk making some things worse, you’re never going to make anything better.

“My estimate is that 80 percent of the people are not going to feel any change at all, and that 17 percent or so are going to find that things are better, and that about two or three percent will be worse off, and those are the people who benefit from the discriminatory nature of health-insurance at the present time.

“If health-insurance companies can’t discriminate any more, those people will have to pay a little more. When we decided that people couldn’t discriminate in what they paid black people or women any more, people had to pay more because employers couldn’t discriminate in what they paid black people and women. Was that a bad thing?”

* And since Obamacare has been tied in with the government shutdown/debt ceiling circus, I’ve been even more loathe to go there. As far as I can tell, this is the smartest take I’ve yet seen on what to expect with that mess

But while it’s certainly the case that Boehner thinks a shutdown would be terrible for the party, and that he’d prefer to avoid one, it’s not at all clear it’s in his interest to do so. Why? Because there are two things Boehner presumably cares about more than avoiding a shutdown: not being ousted as Speaker, and raising the debt ceiling by mid-to-late October so as to avoid a debt default. The latter would be far more damaging to the economy than a shutdown, and therefore more devastating to the Republican brand. Unfortunately for Boehner, the only plausible way to both keep his job and avoid a debt default is … to shut down the government when the fiscal year ends next week.

Here’s why: Tea Party conservatives in the House, following the lead the distinguished non-filibusterer from Texas, are all keyed up for a confrontation with Obama in which they refuse to fund the government unless they can simultaneously defund (or rather, “defund”) Obmacare. This is why Boehner and Cantor, after initially hoping to keep the two initiatives separate, reluctantly agreed to make defunding Obamacare a condition for funding the government in the bill they passed last Friday. The Democratic Senate and the president obviously aren’t going along with this. So the only way to avoid a shutdown is for Boehner to walk it back, which conservatives will regard as a humiliating retreat. […]

(O)ne of two things is probably going to happen if we avoid a shutdown: Either John Boehner is going to turn around and appease irate conservatives by insisting on delaying Obamacare in exchange for raising the debt limit, thereby sending the government into default (since Obama isn’t negotiating). Or he’s going to back down and allow the debt ceiling to be raised with a minority of House Republicans and a majority of House Democrats, thereby further infuriating conservatives and almost certainly costing himself his job. (Recall that conservatives got more than halfway to the number of defections they needed to oust Boehner back in January, after he’d merely allowed a vote on a small tax increase when a much bigger one was kicking in automatically.) That is, either Boehner gets it or the global economy gets it, both of which Boehner would like to avoid even more than he’d like to avoid a shutdown.

If Boehner resigns himself to a shutdown, on the other hand, suddenly the future looks manageable. After a few days of punishing political abuse, Boehner will be able to appear before his caucus, shrug his shoulders in his distinctive Boehnerian way, and bleat that he executed the strategy conservatives demanded, but that the country is overwhelmingly opposed to it, as are most Senate Republicans and almost every semi-legitimate right-wing pundit and media outlet. Most of these people have already said that shutting down the government would be a mistake; they would presumably only grow more vocal in as Republicans’ poll numbers collapsed and they hemorrhaged blood all over Washington. Boehner will be able to point to the party’s extreme political isolation as a reason for calling off this round of jihad, in the same way he did during the payroll tax cut debate in late 2011 and the fiscal cliff debate in late 2012. The demoralized conservatives will realize they’re out of moves—at least in this particular battle—allowing Boehner to raise the debt limit a few weeks later with little drama. There will be no debt default, and no conservative coup in the House.

Try very hard to avoid a national political throwdown in comments, please. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      


Answer the question, please

Monday, Sep 30, 2013

* Rick Pearson asked Gov. Pat Quinn late Friday about the implications of the governor’s veto of legislative salaries. Quinn essentially dodged it

Asked by reporters if his veto would set a precedent for governors to withhold pay from lawmakers over other issues, as critics have alleged, Quinn said the unfunded pension liability was a “crucial, crying issue in our state.”

“It’s urgent. It’s an emergency. It’s been going on for decades. That’s why I acted as I did,” he said.

Asked if he also considered legalizing same-sex marriage, which he supports, an emergency, Quinn said: “I think it’s a very important issue, but on the issue of pensions, that deals directly with state finances, where the legislature has had much time to act, they have failed to put a bill on my desk that’s necessary for the common good.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the governor has exploited a very dangerous loophole. Whatever happens in the court case, going forward the Legislature ought to pass a continuing appropriations bill on their salaries so nobody can pull this stunt again.

Also, many kudos to Rick for trying to pin the governor down. More like this, please.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


Still some sticking points

Monday, Sep 30, 2013

* So, while Gov. Pat Quinn has been running all over the state cutting ribbons on capital projects approved by the General Assembly while, ironically, defending his veto of legislative salaries because those same legislators hadn’t finished their jobs, was he actually working on pension reform? Not according to Rep. Elaine Nekritz, the House Democratic point person on pensions

[Nekritz] said she had not spoken to anyone from Quinn’s office since July on the progress of pension negotiations.

* Despite Quinn’s non-involvement, or maybe because of it, Nekritz believes a pension plan could be voted on during the veto session later this month

“We’re close enough where I think that there’s a definite possibility we could take action in veto session,” Nekritz said of the scheduled Oct. 22 return of the General Assembly.

“We have a few, what I would call, details to work out, but as in any negotiation, when you get to the end, the things that were not so significant in the beginning become big,” she said in a WGN-AM 720 interview. “So, I’m not saying that the whole thing can’t fall apart, and we’ll be back to square one, but it’s also very likely we could come to an agreement and be done in a couple of weeks.”

* More

She acknowledged that the move for a 1 percentage point reduction in employee contributions to their pensions was aimed at meeting a state constitutional prohibition against diminishing or impairing public employee pension benefits.

Still, she said, “I don’t think there’s any way we can avoid being sued by the public employees — whether it be actives (current employees) or retirees.”

The House Republicans are pushing hard to eliminate that 1-point reduction, among other things.

* Sen. Kwame Raoul, who chairs the pension reform conference committee, has pushed back

“The charge of the (pension) conference committee is to come up with a proposal that we think (can) solve the pension problem … and that can pass a constitutional challenge,” Raoul said.

But, in the end, Raoul still wants a bill. So, we’ll see.

…Adding… Sun-Times editorial board

The big snag, we understand, is a new list of demands unveiled by committee Republicans two weeks ago and a new total savings target — $150 billion, up from an agreed-upon $140 billion. We want more savings, too, but what’s maddening is that most of the Republican demands don’t amount to much.

They’re pressing for things like raising the retirement age, raising the employee contribution and creating a 401(k) option. Those sound good but would barely move the cost-savings needle.

I really think this bill should not be tanked over a 30-year savings of $10 billion. But they may try to blow up the process anyway.

- Posted by Rich Miller   101 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Has the running mate game changed?

Monday, Sep 30, 2013

* The Sun-Times has a story called “Kwame Raoul would run for lt. gov., but Quinn’s not asking.” I asked Sen. Raoul about the rumors I’d been hearing last week, and I came away with a different impression than the Sun-Times

Lately, it’s a question that state Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) gets all the time: Would he run as Gov. Pat Quinn’s lieutenant governor?

The answer is basically yes.

* Here’s what he told the Sun-Times

“A lot of people have been calling me,” said Raoul, who told the Chicago Sun-Times he would be open to running as Quinn’s lieutenant governor for the 2014 race. “A lot of people — not the governor — have called and inquired, hearing rumors.” […]

Raoul said he would consider the job with a major caveat — that it would come with responsibilities.

“The state Senate hasn’t been an awful place for me, I’ve been able to engage in a lot of things. It’s not the worst place in the world. I don’t have to run for higher office this time around,” Raoul said.

* And here’s what he told me via text…

Obviously, Raoul doesn’t want to just sit around his office for four years doing nothing as Quinn’s lieutenant governor. He would want some real responsibilities. Whether Quinn would give those to him is anybody’s guess. As I’ve already pointed out today, Quinn has been trying to increase the power of the governor’s office, not dilute them.

* And then there’s the fact that Quinn is now essentially unopposed in the primary. His running mate choice can now be aimed at the general election.

So, does Quinn really need an African-American running mate now? It could help boost turnout, at least some. First black lieutenant governor, etc. But how much? I dunno.

Your thoughts?

*** UPDATE *** A valid point from Matt Dietrich

Should they win in 2014, Raoul could be an effective envoy for Quinn in the General Assembly. That’s something Quinn has sorely lacked throughout his time in office. Quinn’s inability to shepherd legislation through the legislature via floor leaders has been a big weakness for his administration and is among the major reasons why his pension reform efforts led to the current stalemate.

…Adding… As some have already pointed out in comments, Quinn doesn’t listen much to Gary Hannig as it is, and the former Deputy House Majority Leader Hannig was a very good choice to run the legislative shop. If he won’t listen to Gary, would he listen to Kwame? Maybe not.

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      


Why Quinn is appealing

Monday, Sep 30, 2013

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

A bipartisan chorus seemed to rise as one last week to urge Gov. Pat Quinn not to appeal a ruling by a Cook County judge. The judge ruled that the governor had violated the state Constitution when he vetoed lawmaker salaries last summer. Quinn said he vetoed the appropriations because he was tired of waiting for legislators to finish a pension reform plan.

Despite urgings by both Democrats and Republicans to drop the whole thing, Quinn forged ahead, issuing a defiant statement in which he vowed to pursue an appeal of Judge Neil Cohen’s decision voiding the veto and ordering lawmaker paychecks to be processed “immediately.”

Judge Cohen agreed with Quinn on one issue about veto process, but then went on to declare Quinn’s veto wasn’t valid from the moment it was issued. Cohen did so by relying on the meaning of a single word: “Changes.”

Quinn had argued that transcripts from the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention clearly showed that delegates hoped to stop legislators from increasing their salaries when they agreed on language that prevented “changes in the salary of a member” from taking effect during their term of office following their most recent election.

Cohen relied on two dictionary definitions to declare that the common meaning of “changes” included both increases and decreases. Therefore, Quinn’s veto violated the Constitution and was declared null and void.

It’s actually a pretty well reasoned and informed decision, especially considering the fact that Judge Cohen seemed more than a little out of his element during a previous hearing. He didn’t appear to understand the briefs that had already been presented, and appeared confused at times about the Constitution and general procedure. He even agreed to put off his decision by a week so that Madigan and Cullerton could file another brief, but then went ahead without them and gave them what they asked for.

OK, back to the appeal, which is no surprise, to say the least. Even setting aside the overwhelming popularity of the governor’s veto and Quinn’s natural stubbornness, there should have never been any doubt that Quinn would attempt to appeal this ruling.

Quinn has jealously guarded his powers and attempted - often bungling - to expand the powers of his office ever since he was elevated in 2009. One of the ways he’s done this is by issuing presidential-like “signing statements.” His latest, issued in July, promised that he would not allow a bill he’d signed to undermine the state’s compliance with a class action consent decree. Quinn is the first to use such statements, which are normally reserved for vetoes.

He has also constantly meddled in the affairs of various boards and commissions, demanding resignations of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees after a political influence scandal and recently calling for the ouster of the director of the state’s torture commission. He attempted to pack Southern Illinois University’s board this year in order to get his way at that university, but was solidly rebuked when the Senate unanimously rejected his appointees.

Quinn called for the “fumigation” of state government when he was first elevated to the office, but then resisted several legislative efforts designed to get rid of Blagojevich holdovers, saying it was his job to fire them.

An appeal, therefore, would be right in line with Quinn’s history of protecting and expanding his powers. He clearly believes he had the absolute right to veto those salaries and that the judge was wrong to stop him. This is more than just a political game to Quinn, even though the game is most definitely part of it.

He acts like such a goofball at times that it’s often difficult to take what he says and does at face value, but this is obviously very serious business to the governor. Make no mistake, Quinn wants the right to do this again. And he wants his successors to have this right in order to bring the General Assembly to heel.

Most people don’t know that Chicago mayors are legally quite weak. They compensate by building strong political organizations.

Illinois governors are constitutionally strong, so state legislative leaders have compensated for their comparative weakness by building huge political fiefdoms and devising innumerable rules to stymie the governor’s powers. Quinn appears to be trying to inject some balance into the government with this veto.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** This just in… Appellate court denies stay motion

Friday, Sep 27, 2013

* 4:46 pm - I’m told by an attorney involved in the fracas that the appellate court has denied Gov. Pat Quinn’s motion for an emergency stay of Judge Cohen’s rulings on Quinn’s legislative salary veto.

More when I know more.

*** UPDATE *** The one-sentence appellate court order denying Quinn’s motion for a stay can be read by clicking here. Not much to see, but it could be suitable for framing if you’re a state legislator.

…Adding… And there go the checks…

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Reader comments closed for the weekend

Friday, Sep 27, 2013

* I think I’ll go see Los Lobos at Donnie’s Homespun. Better turn it up, y’all

Life is a fly
And then you die

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Quinn files emergency appellate motion for stay

Friday, Sep 27, 2013

* I haven’t had a chance to go through it all yet, but here are two documents filed with the appellate court today…

* Emergency motion for stay of judgment pending appeal

* Supplemental affidavit

* The governor’s motion admits the “impracticality” of forcing legislators to return their paychecks, but wants immediate action to block the next round of pay checks to be issued Monday. From the motion…

An immediate stay is needed to preserve the status quo and the ability to effectuate the Governor’s veto if he prevails on appeal. If the judgment is not stayed, the plaintiffs and the other 175 members of the General Assembly will receive payment of their legislative salaries from the Comptroller’s office. Once that occurs, a ruling by this Court or the Supreme Court that the Governor’s veto was valid would to a large extent be a pyrrhic victory.

Still reading. I’ll let you know what else I find.

…Adding… Man, they laid it on thick…

(A)ny potential hardship the plaintiffs may experience will be short-lived and is vastly outweighed by the Pandora’s Box that would be opened if the members of the General Assembly were allowed to collect their salaries prior to the final adjudication of the issues in this case concerning ripeness and the constitutionality of the Governor’s veto. It would be inappropriate to allow these issues of great public importance to be effectively decided at the trial court level, but that is exactly what would occur in the absence of a stay.

It was actually shorter than it first looked, so I think I’m done. I’ll be closing comments soon and will let you know if a stay is issued today or over the weekend.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Perhaps a little payback?

Friday, Sep 27, 2013

* Top Republicans received an interesting little mailer this week. The entirety of the letter was a recent Tom Kacich column in the Champaign News-Gazette about Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner’s unusually large number of ties to Democrats. The sender highlighted the most important parts. Here’s a cellphone pic of one page of the letter…

* The sender didn’t use a bulk mail permit, so we can’t trace its origin. But check out the postmark…

Hmm. What Rauner enemy lives in Peoria? Lemme think a bit. Nope, I just can’t possibly guess.

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      


Protected: Subscribers only: This just in… Yet another retirement

Friday, Sep 27, 2013

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Your Friday moment of Zen

Friday, Sep 27, 2013

* It’s been a crazy day. Actually, it’s been a bit of a crazy week. So let’s chill for a moment, shall we?

Here’s a pic I took yesterday of Oscar the Puppy…

* A commenter who owns the same breed of dog as Oscar wrote here not long ago about the phenomenon known as the “nut run.” It’s when dogs just go a little crazy and start running around like a bat outta heck.

When the weather is nice, I’ll take my laptop and Oscar to the back yard. If I’m too busy to play, he’ll sometimes go on a nut run.

Here’s the tail end of one from yesterday. The little guy had already slowed down a lot by the time I started recording his fun

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


This Is Illinois

Friday, Sep 27, 2013

* From the Belleville News-Democrat

An attorney appointed to represent the interests of some residents from the Warren G. Murray Developmental Center says in a sworn statement that the private homes they’re being sent to are unsafe and woefully understaffed.

The attorney, Stewart Freeman, says in his affidavit that he fears someone might even die in one of the privately-run homes.

Freeman says one of his clients who has been moved to a private facility suffered a seizure because the home ran out of medicine, and another was fed a store-bought nutrition drink for days because the home ran out of the doctor-prescribed nutrition that the resident is supposed to receive via feeding tube.

But the head of the state office that is responsible for safeguarding Illinoisans with developmental disabilities says in his own sworn statement that he, too, has visited the privately-run homes, and found former Murray residents who are living happily in well-run facilities.

* AP

A year after Illinois was sued and reached a settlement over inadequate conditions in its juvenile detention centers, two separate reports are detailing a number of conditions that the authors say must change.

The first report is by a panel of experts, submitted in U.S. Northern District Court Monday as part of the settlement. It details an eight-month investigation of the state’s six juvenile detention centers in Kewanee, St. Charles, Warrenville, Joliet, Harrisburg and Pere Marquette. The juvenile justice and adolescent psychiatric experts describe incarcerated teens mowing lawns during the school day, being improperly medicated and routinely subjected to more solitary confinement than necessary.

The second report, by watchdog group the John Howard Association, was obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its scheduled release Thursday morning.

The group examined conditions at Kewanee, a specialized mental health facility that’s seen an influx of maximum security inmates following the closure of another facility by Gov. Pat Quinn. The Joliet Youth Center closed in February as part of Quinn’s decision to shutter several Illinois prisons and other facilities as a way to save money. The report says Kewanee is a facility with “extremely limited resources” to deal with its population of juvenile sex offenders and youths with acute mental illness.

* Tribune

The staff of the agency charged with overseeing land use and transportation planning for northeastern Illinois is recommending against the construction of a new toll road connecting interstates in Illinois and Indiana.

The proposal for the Illiana Corridor is “broadly incompatible with the overall goals and recommendations” of the region’s long-range master plan, the staff at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning said in a report issued this morning.

Building the Illiana would “expose the State of Illinois to extensive financial risk” due to the proposed toll road’s estimated cost and potential financing structure, the report found.

The Illiana, a project strongly pushed by Gov. Pat Quinn, would be a 47-mile toll road cutting across southern Will County and linking Interstates 55, 57 and 65 in Indiana.

The full report is here.

Greg Hinz has more

CMAP estimates that in addition to the $950 million IDOT estimates the road will need from the state or a private investor, there is an additional “funding gap” of $440 million to $1.1 billion.

The Illiana will be “unable to repay its initial debt, pay for annual operations and maintenance, finance required periodic capital maintenance expenditures and meet private-sector return on investment requirements without a public subsidy,” the report says. […]

Officials in Will County strongly back the roadway. So do proponents of a proposed third metropolitan airport at Peotone, which the Illiana would pass to the south. But foes — including the Metropolitan Planning Council and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle — suggest that CMAP’s integrity and ability to send resources where they’re most needed is on the line if it begins caving in to demands from powerful politicians.

Though Mr. Quinn has argued that the roadway would serve transportation needs, it also would serve political needs as he enters an election year. It could potentially help him attract votes in Will County, campaign contributions from contractors and shore up support for the Peotone airport that he’s also pushing as a way to attract support from African-American voters.

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      


This just in… Quinn to appeal stay denial

Friday, Sep 27, 2013

* 12:01 pm - I’ve confirmed that Gov. Pat Quinn is planning a quick visit to the appellate courts to try to overturn Judge Cohen’s ruling from this morning that denied Quinn a stay on Cohen’s Thursday legislative pay ruling. Quinn wanted the stay during his appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Fasten your seatbelts, campers.

*** UPDATE *** * 12:20 pm - Tribune

“The governor violated the constitution. He had no right to do that despite his benevolent intent,” Cohen said.

Cohen commended Topinka for following his order to “immediately” issue checks.

Testimony showed Topinka will issue checks for October by 3 p.m. today. Quinn attorneys are appealing Cohen’s denial of a stay immediately to the state appellate court.

Quinn’s attorneys argued that “no one in this courtroom” believed Cohen’s decision that the governor violated the constitution “would be the final word in this case.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      


This just in… Judge denies Quinn request for stay pending appeal

Friday, Sep 27, 2013

* 11:01 am - From the Twitters…


*** UPDATE *** Sun-Times

-Republican Treasurer Dan Rutherford, a 2014 candidate for governor, joined the bi-partisan chorus of officeholders Friday calling on Gov. Pat Quinn to drop his appeal of a court decision that blocked the governor’s pension-driven bid to withhold legislative salaries.

“I think the judiciary has spoken. He should just let it be at rest,” Rutherford said in an interview in the Chicago Sun-Times Statehouse office. […]

“It really added a great deal of acidity in the waters between two co-equal branches of government, the executive and legislative. I just don’t see how this is going to enhance the ability to try to work together to help fix what Illinois needs to have fixed,” Rutherford said.

“The second thing is it also is a horrible precedent to set. At what point does a future governor say that he or she wants you to do something, and if you don’t general assembly, I’ll veto your salaries?” the treasurer said. “I just think it was a bad move.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      


Question of the day

Friday, Sep 27, 2013

* Mary Ann Ahern

Thx @GovernorQuinn for stopping by WLS Radio with @John_Kass #lawmakerspay

Kass asked Quinn if lawmakers should be forced to stand in line in public to get their paychecks so the media could photograph them. Quinn laughed and kinda dodged the question.

* Mary Ann’s photo

* The Question: Caption?

Funniest commenter wins a new Statehouse mobile app that will be launched very soon.

- Posted by Rich Miller   50 Comments      


*** UPDATED WITH LIVE COVERAGE *** In other courtroom news…

Friday, Sep 27, 2013

* WGN

A Cook County judge is expected to make a ruling today, on whether a same sex marriage ban in Illinois is constitutional.

A lawsuit seeking to legalize same sex marriage got opposition from five downstate county clerks.

Twenty-five gay couples initiated the case because they want the legal right to marry. Cook County’s top prosecutor and the Illinois Attorney General say the ban violates the state constitution.

The hearing begins at 11 o’clock.

Looks like a busy Friday.

* Meanwhile, the Catholic Conference of Illinois is gearing up. From a press release

The Catholic Conference of Illinois is promoting a “Defend Marriage Lobby Day” scheduled for Wed., Oct. 23 at the Capitol in Springfield.

Efforts to change the state’s legal definition of marriage from “between a man and a woman” to “between two persons” dominated the legislative session last year.

Senate Bill 10 passed the Senate in February, but was not called for a vote in the House by the May 31 deadline because it lacked the votes needed for passage.

The legislature will meet for its fall session on Oct. 22-24, and Nov. 5-7. There is always the possibility that SB 10 could be called for a vote in the House.

That’s why the Catholic Conference of Illinois is promoting a “Defend Marriage Lobby Day” on Wed., Oct. 23 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Capitol in Springfield. Download a flier about the day here. […]

The “Defend Marriage Lobby Day” is sponsored by the Illinois Family Institute.

*** UPDATE *** Tony Arnold and I presume others will be covering the 11 o’clock hearing. Here’s a ScribbleLive feed

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      


Updates and nuggets

Friday, Sep 27, 2013

* We had a long, thorough discussion about Judge Cohen’s ruling yesterday. There’s not much in today’s coverage that expands on what I’ve already told you and what you commented on.

But there are some updates. Tribune

Dealt a loss in his attempt to wipe out lawmakers’ paychecks, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn will try to put the ruling on ice Friday as he attempts to kick up to the Illinois Supreme Court the legal question of whether his move was constitutional.

Those efforts were complicated by Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka’s decision to send money electronically overnight to lawmakers’ bank accounts for the checks they missed in August and September while the dispute played out in rounds of legal briefs and hearings.

Subscribers know more about the current status of the checks. But this is from NBC 5

Quinn’s camp immediately filed a motion to appeal that decision and a hearing was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Friday.

I’ll let you know what happens.

* AP

Topinka, a Republican who controls the state’s checkbook, said late Thursday her office already was processing the checks and that lawmakers with direct deposit should have money in their bank accounts Friday morning. Paper checks also would be in the mail, she said. She also criticized the Democratic governor for what she called “game playing.”

Topinka’s quick action brought a rebuke from Quinn’s office.

“We’re disappointed that she started to issue paychecks,” said Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson. “Her enthusiasm to hand out paychecks to legislators appears to exceed her interest in public pension reform.”

Ouch.

* On to the nuggets. SJ-R

A co-chairman of the pension reform conference committee declined to speculate Thursday when the committee will finish its work.

“I think we’re very close (but) I have stopped making predictions on time because mine have all been very wrong,” said Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook.

Nekritz, who was at a meeting with some other committee members Thursday, said the outcome of the lawsuit should have no impact on the talks.

“It didn’t have any impact when the governor made that decision. I don’t think it will now,” she said. “We’re still focusing on getting some legislation that will get (the necessary) votes.”

* Sun-Times

The governor’s office is represented by outside legal counsel, Steven Pflaum, and a Quinn aide said Thursday it was unclear exactly where the legal tab now stands in defending against the Madigan/Cullerton lawsuit.

“I can tell you in the grand scheme of things, it’ll be pennies compared to $5 million a day,” Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said, referring to the multimillion-dollar rate at which Illinois’ unfunded pension liability grows daily. […]

The total for legislators’ pay for August, September and October stands at $1,000,581 per month, though it is unclear how much additional interest will have to be paid out on top to comply with Cohen’s order.

* From AFSCME…


Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


Our sorry state

Friday, Sep 27, 2013

* Forbes

Illinois boasts the fourth-most big companies in the U.S., including Boeing, Abbott Labs, Caterpillar and Kraft Foods.

Job growth, however, is projected to be second worst in the country over the next five years, according to Moody’s Analytics.

Throughout my lifetime, Illinois has lagged other states at the end of recessions. But this one is worse. Much worse.

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


Quote of the day

Friday, Sep 27, 2013

* From OneMan in comments

You know at this point I would have to say the entertainment value of CapFax comments if Rauner wins the whole thing would be priceless

I was telling somebody yesterday that Bruce Rauner inspires more heated debate in comments than anyone I’ve seen since the Rod Blagojevich days. I might have to endorse the guy out of purely personal self-interest.

Just kidding.

Mostly…

Why do you think he rubs people the wrong way here?

- Posted by Rich Miller   68 Comments      


Twittereaction

Friday, Sep 27, 2013

* Two consecutive tweets from yesterday…


A bit contradictory, no?

* On the other hand, Rep. Ron Sandack was clear and concise…



* But the fake Speaker Madigan was the best by far…


Heh.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


Protected: *** UPDATED x2 *** SUBSCRIBERS ONLY: And the race is on…

Friday, Sep 27, 2013

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* *** UPDATED x1 - Quinn campaign responds *** Rauner campaign responds to firestorm over Sun-Times reporter's sidelining
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