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Friday, Feb 21, 2014

* Despite saying earlier this week that the new labor-financed TV ad against Bruce Rauner was “ineffective,” the Rauner campaign has sent cease and desist letters to TV stations demanding they pull the spots down

I am counsel to gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, and in that capacity request that you cease and desist from any broadcast of Illinois Freedom PAC’s false, misleading, deceptive and unsubstantiated new advertisement against Mr. Rauner (“the Advertisement”).

The Illinois Freedom PAC responded with a long legal brief that you can read by clicking here. So far, no stations have pulled the ad and WLS TV has sent Rauner’s lawyer a formal rejection of its request, the PAC says.

* Also

Documents obtained by The Associated Press show Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford spent nearly $27,000 on an investigation into allegations of political coercion and sexual harassment against him. […]

Rutherford spent more than $18,000 on the investigation by Ron Braver & Associates. Another $8,800 was paid to the law firm of the Brown, Hay & Stephens.

* Trombone Shorty will play us out

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Friday, Feb 21, 2014

* We do this occasionally, and I think now would be a good time to try it again. Who will win the 2014 Republican gubernatorial primary race? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


customer survey

- Posted by Rich Miller   113 Comments      


Federal judge rules gay Cook County couples can marry now

Friday, Feb 21, 2014

* AP

Same-sex couples in Illinois’ largest county can begin applying for marriage licenses immediately, according to a federal judge’s ruling Friday that some attorneys said could give county clerks across the state reason to also issue marriage certificates right away.

Illinois has legalized same-sex marriage, but the new law doesn’t take effect until June 1. However, U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled Friday that same-sex marriages can begin in Cook County, where Chicago is located.

“There is no reason to delay further when no opposition has been presented to this Court and committed gay and lesbian couples have already suffered from the denial of their fundamental right to marry,” she wrote in the order.

The decision stemmed from a lawsuit filed against Cook County Clerk David Orr, who supports gay marriage. Coleman already ruled in December that same-sex couples did not have to wait until June to marry if one or both partners has a life-threatening illness. Several same-sex couples married after that ruling.

The ruling is here.

* The Tribune has Cook County Clerk David Orr’s plan

Orr said he will keep the downtown Bureau of Vital Records, in the lower level of the Daley Center, open an extra two hours tonight – until 7 p.m. – to accommodate any couples who want to get a license after work.

Only the downtown office will issue same-sex marriage licenses on Friday. All offices will begin issuing licenses on Monday, he said.

Marriage licenses are valid for 60 days. “Don’t rush to get your license if you have a summer wedding planned because you don’t want the license to expire before your big day,” Orr said.

The $60 license fee will be waived for any couple who already has an Illinois civil union license. Couples who wish to convert their prior civil union date to a marriage will have to wait until June 1 because it was not addressed in Coleman’s order, Orr said.

* From Governor Pat Quinn…

“Many couples in Illinois have waited long enough for marriage equality, and today’s ruling means thousands of Illinois couples no longer have to wait.

“Our law is a victory for equal rights in America, and shows that citizens and lawmakers can come together on issues of fairness and human rights.

“I applaud U.S. District Court Judge Sharon J. Coleman for her stance in recognizing that ‘there is no reason to delay further’ giving all couples the right to marry in Cook County.

“Every county across the state should enjoy the same freedom without having to wait until June.”

Governor Quinn pushed for marriage equality throughout the 2013 legislative session. In 2011, the Governor signed into law historic civil union legislation. Since then, more than 6,000 couples from across Illinois have joined in a civil union. Prior to the Governor’s efforts, same-sex couples in Illinois had been denied many rights enjoyed by couples who are married.

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      


A closer look at the Arizona pension case

Friday, Feb 21, 2014

* Crain’s takes a look at the Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling striking down a state law that cut pension benefits

The Arizona case has been on the local radar because Arizona and Illinois are, along with New York, the only three states with constitutionally mandated protections for state pensions.

“My one-word comment is ‘predictable,’ ” said Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, on today’s ruling. “All the Arizona Supreme Court did is read the plain language and said there’s no need for legal construction here: The language is plain on its face. Hence, it’s unconstitutional.”

At the same time, noting that Illinois Supreme Court justices are elected officials themselves, Laurence Msall, president of the watchdog group Civic Federation of Chicago, said, “Illinois’ financial situation by any measure is far more precarious than Arizona’s, and it is against that backdrop that the courts will eventually rule.”

* What Msall said is true, but check out this lede in the Arizona Capitol Times

State lawmakers cannot balance the budget by limiting pension benefit increases for retired judges, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Thursday. The justices said a voter-approved section of the state constitution makes public pension plans a contractual relationship. More to the point, that provision says benefits “shall not be diminished or impaired.”

* Our resident pension expert RNUG read the decision yesterday and weighed in

With a few changes in case names and citations, the [Illinois Supreme Court] could use most of it pretty much as it stands.

The parallels with Illinois are amazing. Couple of things jumped out. They referenced contract law, which is what I expect most of the IL decision to turn on. They also noted that, like IL, benefits vest at hiring. In declaring the benefit formula protected, they even cited the IL Miller case as part of their reasoning.

* The full opinion is here. As RNUG notes, there are some quite interesting passages. The unanimous opinion notes that while there is strong legal precedent for allowing the impairment of contracts under certain conditions, the state’s Constitution expressly forbids any impairment or diminishment of this particular contractual obligation.

The opinion also declares that the meaning of the term “benefit” includes benefit increases and references an Illinois decision

This definition of “benefit” also comports with the use of the term in other states that have similar constitutional provisions protecting public pension benefits. For example, construing a similar definition of “benefit,” New York and Illinois have also determined that benefit calculation formulas are entitled to constitutional protection.5 See Kleinfeldt v. New York City Emps.’ Ret. Sys., 324 N.E.2d 865, 868–69 (N.Y. 1975) (including the formula utilized in calculating an annual retirement allowance under the Pension Clause); Miller v. Ret. Bd. of Policemen’s Annuity, 771 N.E.2d 431, 444 (Ill. App. 2001) holding benefit increases to be constitutionally protected).

* Eric Zorn took a look at Arizona’s pension reform history late last year

That state, like Illinois, is one of the handful in which public pension rights are enshrined in the state constitution as a “contractual relationship,” the benefits of which “shall not be diminished or impaired.”

Nevertheless, citing the looming burden of underfunded pensions, the Arizona legislature in April 2011 passed a series of reforms to state retirement systems that included hikes in employee contribution levels and decreases in cost-of-living adjustments.

It was different in some ways yet similar in thrust to the reforms passed this week in Springfield, and the public employees went to court.

In February 2012, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Eileen Willett issued a stinging rebuke to the legislature, declaring a key reform element unconstitutional in an action that had been filed by a group of schoolteachers.

“When the plaintiffs were hired as teachers, they entered a contractual relationship with the state regarding the public retirement system of which they became members,” said Willett’s written opinion. “Their retirement benefits were a valuable part of the consideration offered by their employers upon which the teachers relied when accepting employment.”

The ruling neatly seconded the argument that lawyers for public employees are certain to make in Illinois: We had a deal. Our side kept up its end of the bargain and relied on your side to do the same. The constitution compels your side to keep its word.

Willett’s ruling ended up forcing the Arizona legislature not only to rescind the increase in payroll contributions, but also to reimburse employees the amounts they lost.

In May 2012, the state lost again in court, this time when Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Buttrick used a similar constitutional rationale when ruling in favor of judicial retirees who had challenged changes in the cost-of-living formula that was part of the pension reform effort.

That case was fast-tracked to the Arizona Supreme Court on appeal, and three other legal challenges to the reforms were put on hold pending the outcome.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   75 Comments      


More trouble at DNR

Friday, Feb 21, 2014

* Uh-oh

A state mine safety officer running for the Illinois House is on unpaid leave from his job after revelations arose that he accepted coal company contributions.

Tony Mayville, of Du Bois, went on unpaid leave Feb. 10 from his position as supervisor of mine safety enforcement at the state’s Office of Mines and Minerals, spokesperson Chris McCloud said Thursday.

The Mines and Minerals Office is a branch of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The move came after IDNR Director Marc Miller became aware of possible misconduct and initiated disciplinary actions against Mayville, McCloud said. The matter has been referred to the Office of the Executive Inspector General.

“The (IDNR) has zero tolerance for misconduct. After learning that Mr. Mayville may have violated agency policy, we immediately launched an investigation,” the state agency said in a written response.

* Will Reynolds first broke the story earlier this month

Tony Mayville is a candidate for State Representative in southern Illinois and Chairman of the Washington County Democratic Party. He has also supervised the Mine Safety division and served as acting director of Mines & Minerals at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Over several years, including time while Mayville was responsible for regulating Illinois coal mines, he collected thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from companies owned by billionaire coal mine operator Chris Cline. In November 2013 a fatal accident occurred at a coal mine owned by Chris Cline and regulated by Tony Mayville.

Mayville chairs the political fund of the Washington County Democratic Party Central Committee. Their campaign finance reports show the committee raising thousands of dollars from multiple companies owned by the Cline Group at least since 2008 through 2013.

Several contributions were from Cline subsidiary Hillsboro Energy. They gave Mayville’s Washington County Democratic fund $1,000 in 2008, $500 in 2010, and another $1,000 in 2011. During that time, the company was seeking a permit from the Department of Natural Resources for the Deer Run longwall mine. Mayville was already collecting coal industry campaign contributions when Governor Pat Quinn made him acting director of the Office of Mines and Minerals, where he would oversee the mine permitting process.

Similarly, Mayville’s Washington county committee took $500 from Macoupin Energy LLC, another Cline subsidiary seeking a new mine permit.

More recently, Cline-owned Foresight Energy donated $1,000 in 2012 to the party committee, and another $2,000 to Mayville’s state representative campaign fund in March of 2013. Foresight Energy’s donation to Mayville’s campaign attracted negative attention, so last week his campaign sent a letter to the state board of elections claiming it was accepted by accident. He transferred the contribution to the Washington county party committee he chairs. The distinction may be legally significant, but regardless of which of his committees he used, Mayville accepted campaign contributions from coal mine owners while overseeing mine safety at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

* From the Illinois Times

Andy Boner, Mayville’s campaign manager in his bid for state representative, said he could not discuss the situation because of ongoing legal matters. Gov. Pat Quinn and Foresight Energy could not be reached for comment.

Jim Tenuto, spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections, says a state law on official misconduct may make the contributions a criminal act, though that’s up to a state’s attorney or the attorney general to decide. Under the state law, if Mayville solicited the contributions, it would be a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison and a $2,500 fine.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      


Today’s numbers

Friday, Feb 21, 2014

* Kurt Erickson has a story about the cost for Illinois universities of raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour

At Southern Illinois University, for example, President Glenn Poshard said an increase could cost his institution $3.2 million in additional wages at a time when the General Assembly may be considering further cuts in aid to higher education.

“We need an increase in funding in higher education,” Poshard told members of a House appropriations panel Thursday. “We don’t have any extra to run our university.” […]

Illinois State University officials say the change could affect nearly 4,200 student workers currently earning the minimum wage at jobs ranging from campus food services to the student recreation center.

In all, the cost at ISU of an increase would be about $1.6 million, officials said.

Eastern Illinois University predicts an increase will cost about $940,000. And, because the university has committed to no tuition increase next year, a minimum wage hike likely would trigger a reduction in the number of student workers, said Derek Markley, chief of staff to President Bill Perry.

By the way, Senate minimum wage hike sponsor Kimberly Lightford told Kurt she’s at least two votes shy of passing the bill in the Senate. The real test, though, will be in the House.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


Dillard: “I could not support a pension bill without input from the IEA”

Friday, Feb 21, 2014

* Sen. Kirk Dillard has offered up several explanations for why he voted against a pension reform bill last year after voting for a very similar bill just months earlier.

But he has now offered up another reason via a quote used by the Illinois Education Association in its first mailer to members on Dillard’s behalf…

The full mailer is here.

* From earlier this week

Gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady lashed out at competitor Kirk Dillard, accusing him of allowing politics to guide his “no” vote last December on a landmark — but controversial — pension bill.

Dillard responded by saying essentially that Brady was envious.

“It’s sour grapes on the part of Mr. Brady, I have a long, long history in interest in public education,” Dillard responded Tuesday. “The IEA support is much much more than my pension vote.” […]

“He sold out on pension reform,” Brady told the Sun-Times.” There’s no question. His campaign wasn’t going anywhere. His Lt. Gov. (Jil Tracy of Quincy) voted for it. He’s used every excuse in the book. He was trying to throw life support to make a political decision which amongst Republican primary voters is really hurting him when you talk to them.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


This is a new one on me

Friday, Feb 21, 2014

* From the always interesting Big Debbie’s House blog about Champaign-area politics

There is no doubt that George Gollin is running an unconventional campaign, but unconventional may have just veered into screwball.

According to an Ann Callis volunteer, Gollin himself spent this Saturday afternoon (2/15) outside the Callis Campaign Headquarters, located at 1922 Edwardsville Club Plaza in Edwardsville, putting flyers on Callis volunteers’ cars and putting up Gollin yard signs in front of the Callis HQ. Oh, and our tipster also got photos of Gollin doing this

Gollin and Callis are Democrats hoping to challenge freshman GOP Rep. Rodney Davis.

* One of the pics

What an absolutely bizarre thing to do.

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      


Rauner attempts to fend off attacks over nursing home abuse

Friday, Feb 21, 2014

* Carol Marin took a look at the allegations against Bruce Rauner of nursing home resident abuse

Arlene Townsend’s family said she fell 18 times over 6 years at the same nursing home, the last time in 2007 resulting in her death.
92-year-old Elvira Nunziata died after falling down the stairs in her wheelchair at another nursing facility in 2004. A Florida newspaper reported no one knew she was missing for almost an hour.

In January, Rauner was asked about the deaths and financial judgments. “The attacks, we will have plenty of time to talk about them, there’s no there, there,” he said. When asked if his firm was culpable for the jury verdicts, Rauner replied no.

At the time of the deaths of Elvira Nunziata and Arlene Townsend, Rauner’s company, THI, had ended its relationship with the nursing homes.

But attorneys representing the three families contend in this lawsuit filed in January that not only THI, but GTCR should have to pay the financial judgments regardless of the timing of the deaths.

The family’s attorney Isaac Ruiz-Carus.

“It was an enterprise, a conglomerate of companies that,” said attorney Isaac Ruiz-Carus, who represents the three families, adding the companies, “Short-staffed it. Under-budgeted it. As a result the nursing home residents were suffering.

In a statement the Rauner campaign called the allegations completely false and said “Pat Quinn, the Democratic Governor’s Association and the government union bosses behind this ad should be ashamed.”

Rauner declined to speak to NBC 5 on camera.

In the end Rauner’s GTCR lost $60 million in the nursing home business according to a court document.

Video is here.

…Adding… Here’s the more easily embeddable YouTube version

* Rauner’s campaign already has a new ad up responding to the latest union-backed nursing home TV spot. Rate it

* But Sen. Bill Brady’s campaign is demanding answers. Press release…

BRADY DEMANDS ANSWERS FROM RAUNER ON NURSING HOMES ABUSE AND NEGLIGENCE

Senator Bill Brady, Republican candidate for Governor, tonight demanded that Bruce Rauner come clean on questions about his role in nursing homes where patients allegedly suffered abuse and neglect that led to their death.

“Tonight we again saw more of the same from Mr. Rauner in declining to answer questions about the tragic circumstances in nursing homes owned by companies in which he had a substantial financial interest. It’s more of a pattern, whether it’s nursing homes, Arne Duncan, Stuart Levine, Ed Rendell, or accounting fraud at a Michigan firm, and it’s time for him to answer the questions, “ Brady said.

“He’s trying to earn the support of Illinois voters in the primary less than four weeks from now, and his not me, don’t remember, didn’t know, didn’t have anything to do with it brush-offs are a disservice to all Illinois citizens.”

“The voters deserve transparency from people who want to be their governor, and they certainly deserve the truth,” Brady said.

“What’s the truth, Bruce?”

- Posted by Rich Miller   116 Comments      


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Friday, Feb 21, 2014

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* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* Long list of appointments by Gov. Rauner
* Question of the day
* *** UPDATED x1 *** The Democrats' budget time bomb is starting to explode
* State threatens to zap all Chicago GSA school funding
* Another optics problem
* This is why we can't have nice things
* Tiny, secluded county wants no part of ATV plan
* It's just a bill
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* Governing ain't easy
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