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Friday, May 9, 2014

* My mom doesn’t like loud music. Never has. It bothers her. And, unfortunately for her, she married a rocker and had five sons who loved to turn it all the way up. It’s a good thing for us that she had a lot of patience and a very strong sense of humor.

My dad always used to crank up the volume and sing this week’s song to my mom, whose name is Barbara. She’d usually roll her eyes and tell him to stop it, but always with a smile, albeit sometimes forced.

I actually grew to love this song over the years. It’s so loose, which is something the super-tight, even uptight Beach Boys weren’t exactly known for back then. The song was part of an album called “Beach Boys’ Party!,” which was made to sound like it was recorded during a party. Check out their version of the Beatles’ “I Should Have Known Better.” It really does sound like it was just a bunch of folks at an impromptu beach party singalong. You can almost see the campfire. It’s a fun little album.

Anyway, let’s hope Mom’s sense of humor is with her today

Tried Peggy Sue
Tried Betty Lou
Tried Mary Lou
But I knew she wouldn’t do

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Friday, May 9, 2014

* This Sunday is Mother’s Day. So, how about telling us your favorite story about your mom?

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      


#SaveTheDE

Friday, May 9, 2014

* Last year, the folks who run SIUC’s student newspaper made an agreement with University President Glenn Poshard. They’d slash costs and Poshard would reallocate a little money to keep the paper afloat until a student fee could be approved. The Undergraduate Student Government approved a $9 fee to keep the daily paper going last December, while Poshard was still in charge. Carbondale Chancellor Rita Cheng backed the fee in February. The university’s Edwardsville campus has an $8 fee for a weekly newspaper, so the Carbondale fee wasn’t out of line at all.

Well, within six days of new SIU President Randy Dunn’s taking office, he and the board of trustees nixed the fee. Really bad move.

SIUC has the most committed alumni at the Statehouse. While the U of I alumni are incredibly organized statewide and are truly feared, Salukis have a tight-knit group of folks who make sure to unofficially watch out for the university’s interests. The Senate President’s chief of staff, the House Speaker’s spokesman, and on and on and on and on. That Saluki list is really long. I’m constantly amazed by it.

I’m assuming President Dunn is hearing from those folks this week.

What a wonderful little welcoming party they’ll be planning for his next Springfield visit.

* Then there’s this

The paper’s closure would mean the end of the School of Journalism. There is no selling point without the Daily Egyptian, and future graduates will be less prepared than their peers who worked for college dailies. It renders us moot in the field of journalism; an already bleak job market.

The Daily Egyptian has former editors in prestigious positions around the country in media outlets such as the Chicago Tribune, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Washington Post, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, USA Today Weekly Edition and Almanac of American Politics.

Several of those folks took to social media yesterday to voice their opposition to President Dunn’s move.

* I’m no fan of journalism schools. At all. But my brother Devin received great hands-on training at the DE. I’ve known several people over the years who had the same experience at the paper. To me, newspaper reporting is more like a trade. I’m not sure that extensive classroom training is hugely important, but on the job training - and especially learning from real-time, real-life mistakes - can be crucial. And the DE, by all accounts, does a very good job.

Since the chancellor was for it, and the student government was for it and the other campus has a similar fee, I really don’t see the problem with allowing this small fee to proceed.

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      


Drone bill clears both chambers

Friday, May 9, 2014

* SB2937 passed the House unanimously today and now goes to the governor. From the synopsis

Provides that except as provided in the Act, a law enforcement agency may not acquire information from or direct the acquisition of information through the use of a drone owned by a private third party. Provides that in the event that law enforcement acquires information from or directs the acquisition of information through the use of a privately owned drone under the Act, any information so acquired is subject to the retention and disclosure requirements of the Act. Provides that nothing in the Act prohibits private third parties from voluntarily submitting information acquired by a privately owned drone to law enforcement. Provides that in the event that law enforcement acquires information from the voluntary submission of that information whether under a request or on a private drone owner’s initiative, the information is subject to the retention and disclosure requirements of the Act.

Senate Committee Amendment No. 1

Allows use of a drone without a search warrant, if a law enforcement agency is using a drone during a disaster or public health emergency. The use of a drone does not require an official declaration of a disaster or public health emergency prior to use. The drone may be used to obtain information necessary for the determination of whether or not a disaster or public health emergency should be declared, to monitor weather or emergency conditions, to survey damage, or to otherwise coordinate response and recovery efforts. The use of a drone is permissible during the disaster or public health emergency and during subsequent response and recovery efforts. Disaster and public health emergency have the meaning as defined by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act.

* From the ACLU…

With today’s vote on Senate Bill 2937, Illinois soon will have some of the most far-reaching regulation of the use of drones by law enforcement in the nation. This new bill builds on last year’s enacted law, and ensures that law enforcement cannot simply turn to the growing army of private drone operators to conduct surveillance and evade the current law’s regulations. We hope the Governor will quickly add these protections to Illinois law.

The emerging drone technology is a powerful surveillance tool. We must ensure that our laws keep current with this advancing technology in order to protect privacy in our state. This measure is consistent with our commitment to this process.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      


Fun with numbers

Friday, May 9, 2014

* GOP Rep. Patti Bellock and Sen. Dale Righter held a press conference yesterday to claim that Medicaid reform has turned into “un-reform.” From a press release

Bellock and Righter said they feel an added sense of urgency because of recent meetings in which majority Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives have been pushing for further unraveling of the agreed-to reforms.

“What we have seen since passage of the 2011 and 2012 laws is the ‘un-reform’ of the Medicaid system,” said Righter. “Where the reforms have been implemented, the state has experienced significant savings. However, these carefully negotiated reforms have consistently fallen short of projections and mandated goals because the Quinn administration and Democrat lawmakers refuse to implement the reforms as mandated in law and have quietly worked behind the scenes to undermine and disassemble the bipartisan reforms we enacted.”

In 2011, only 7% of Medicaid enrollees were in a managed care program, leaving the majority of Medicaid enrollees without a medical “home,” with many relying on more costly emergency room care. In response, the 2011 Medicaid reforms mandated that within four years, managed care enrollment was statutorily required to reach 50%. Well over three years later, and quickly approaching the end-of-year deadline, the number in managed care stands at an abysmal 16%.

The lawmakers stress this lagging enactment is indicative of the program’s overall implementation. Many provisions in the SMART Act have been ignored and program expansions have continued. Provisions limiting the number of prescriptions have not been enforced, and the third-party vendor hired to scrub the Medicaid rolls was relieved of its duties—despite saving the state more than $86 million after only reviewing 25% of total Medicaid cases.

* SJ-R

Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services personnel were not available for comment Thursday, but department director Julie Hamos said in a statement that the state is on pace to meet the goals set out in the SMART Act.

“Since the implementation of that plan two years ago, we reduced Medicaid spending by $3.2 billion, and are now managing within that budget,” Hamos said.

She said the Act was passed with strong bipartisan support to put the state “on track to catch up with the nation’s other states by implementing coordinated care. As a result, we are on target to achieve the state’s 50 percent mandate by Jan. 1, 2015.”

She said the department’s goal is to provide better health care at a lower cost, “and we are doing that.”

The lag on managed care enrollment is indeed quite curious and deserves a much better response. Soon.

* However, Righter’s claim during the press conference that the effort to root out fraud was a “stunning success” caught my eye.

Bruce Rauner and many other Republicans have claimed that billions of dollars could be saved by kicking ineligible recipients off Medicaid. Yet, the outside contractor only found $86 million in savings? That’s not a “stunning success,” and it can’t even be easily projected out over the other 75 percent when you remember this crucial point by Doug Finke last December

the ones that were checked first were mostly cases where the state already had suspicions. In other words, easy pickings. Once those are gone, it’s entirely possible the rate of fraud discovered will go down.

And what happens when the rate of fraud discovered goes down as most likely will be the case? Well, critics will contend it’s all Quinn’s fault.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      


Union wants Quinn intervention

Friday, May 9, 2014

* UNITE HERE Local 1 represents approximately 15,000 hospitality workers and casino workers in the Chicago area, including a couple of dozen workers at the Thompson Center food court. From a press release…

Today, food service workers at Great State Fare in the Thompson Center are calling on Governor Quinn to protect their jobs. Sodexo, the food service company that employs Great State Fare workers, is leaving its post at the State of Illinois building putting all 29 workers’ jobs at risk, some who have worked at the cafeteria for over two decades. Layoffs are expected to begin in the coming days. Workers are rallying outside of the State of Illinois building, home of Governor Pat Quinn’s Chicago office.

Sodexo workers at Great State Fare have recently ratified a collective bargaining agreement that improves their wages. The new contract would bring the lowest paid worker up to $10.35 an hour – more than the minimum wage increase to $10.00 that the Governor has been advocating. Yet, as the company plans to leave in the coming weeks, workers will not make it to the wage increase they’ve bargained for.

“Just as we’re about to make a more livable wage, we’re losing our jobs,” said Maria Sanchez, Sodexo worker at Great State Fare. “I’ve been able to rely on this job to support my family for over 20 years. But, now, I don’t even know if I will have job next week.”

In Illinois, a full-time worker earning the state minimum wage of $8.25 an hour makes approximately $17,000, which is far below the Federal Poverty Threshold of $19,790 for a family of three. By increasing the minimum wage to just $10.00, those that earn the current minimum wage would make an extra $4,800 a year.

Should Quinn intervene?

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 with photo *** Chicken man?

Friday, May 9, 2014

* It’s Friday, so a light post is in order. AP

Things are getting a little fowl at the Illinois governor’s mansion.

A flock of eight clucking hens has moved onto Executive Mansion property, laying eggs that are eaten by guests dining at the home in downtown Springfield.

The chickens peck at flowers, recycle plant waste and provide manure for the gardens. They live in a donated coop that’s inside a fenced-in enclosure and are part of an ongoing sustainability effort.

Backyard chickens are legal in Springfield and several other Illinois communities. They’ve become increasing popular as part of a local food movement among other reasons.

* Erickson

Located on the heavily landscaped grounds surrounding the 159-year-old Italianate home is a penned-in area home to eight laying hens.

The chickens have come home to roost at 5th and Jackson streets in downtown Springfield as one part of the governor’s ongoing sustainability initiative. […]

The chickens live in a donated coop inside of a secure fenced-in enclosure near Fifth Street and eat a mix of chicken scratch and vegetation from the gardens.

The hens are a range of breeds, including Rhode Island Reds and Ameraucana, which lay eggs that can be pastel shades of brown, green or gray.

There was a huge and very loud party Wednesday night at the governor’s mansion. I can’t help but wonder how the chickens felt about that.

*** UPDATE *** Rep. Greg Harris sent along this photo of himself posing with the chickens. He said the party didn’t appear to have bothered them at all…

Caption?

- Posted by Rich Miller   44 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** A justifiable warning

Friday, May 9, 2014

* Dan Proft warns legislators about voting to make the income tax hike permanent

Liberty Principles PAC intends to monitor very closely the votes of those legislators up for re-election in November, such as the 11 House Democrat sponsors of HB 1064, who made a commitment to sunset the 2011 tax increases as originally promised.

I hasten to add that Liberty Principles PAC’s willingness to engage is bipartisan in nature, as was proven in the March primary election. We will also take an interest in the political future of any Republicans who would aid and abet defrauding Illinois taxpayers.

If we do not hold to account legislators who make promises they know they will not keep, we will beget more of those kinds of legislators. And if we do not have legislators who keep their promises, Illinois will keep losing businesses and families to states that do.

Liberty Principles PAC has a balance of more than $1 million in its campaign account currently. I am confident that figure will grow substantially between now and November.

* Set aside the rhetoric and Proft makes an extremely good point about HB 1064, which was introduced last year

Reduces the rate of tax to 3% for individuals, trusts, and estates and 4.8% for corporations.

The bill’s sponsorship list

Martin J. Moylan - Stephanie A. Kifowit - Sam Yingling - Katherine Cloonen - Natalie A. Manley, Deborah Conroy, Sue Scherer, Jerry F. Costello, II, Carol A. Sente, Patrick J. Verschoore and Kathleen Willis

Those legislators, plus historically anti-tax Democratic state Rep. Jack Franks, are more than enough to kill the tax hike extension on their own. If any of them flip, Proft and everyone else will have good reason to go after them.

*** UPDATE *** I also seriously doubt that former Rep. Keith Farnham’s recent replacement can be a “Yes” vote on the tax hike extension. That’s 13 total. The House Dems have 71 members with 60 needed for passage. Do the math. This ain’t gonna be easy or pretty.

- Posted by Rich Miller   68 Comments      


County grand jury probing Dorothy Brown and her husband over land deal

Friday, May 9, 2014

* Tribune

Cook County prosecutors are investigating a land deal that netted Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown and her husband tens of thousands of dollars with no money down, the Tribune has learned.

Brown’s husband, Benton Cook III, confirmed that a grand jury is probing the deal, which saw him get a North Lawndale building for free from a longtime campaign contributor to Brown.

The court clerk quickly became a co-owner, and her company sold the parcel for $100,000 to a Frankfort real estate developer who’d long had his eye on it. The developer said Thursday that he testified before a grand jury earlier this year about how he came to acquire the land.

The investigation of the land deal comes as State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office also is looking at money Cook received as part of a controversial state anti-violence program that Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn launched in fall 2010 as he was locked in a close election campaign. County prosecutors have issued subpoenas seeking documents related to the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative and specifically requested information about the agency that hired Cook. […]

Musa Tadros, the owner of south suburban Frankfort-based Crown Commercial Real Estate and Development, told the Tribune that he testified before a grand jury in January or February about the land deal.

It’s becoming even more clear that Alvarez’s probe of Gov. Quinn’s anti-violence initiative is a lot more about Brown than it is about Quinn - at least, for now.

* Meanwhile, from the Sun-Times

Not long after taking over the budget committee of a state agency, Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown voted by proxy to channel $5 million to a West Side nonprofit to help continue funding Gov. Pat Quinn’s now-disbanded Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.

That vote by Brown came at the same time the nonprofit, Chicago Area Project, employed her husband, Benton Cook III, to oversee millions of dollars in Neighborhood Recovery Initiative programming. The organization subsidized his paycheck with state anti-violence grant money.

It’s not clear whether any of the grant funds Brown authorized for Chicago Area Project’s use in September 2012 trickled into Cook’s paycheck since the nonprofit says he left its payroll in October of that year.

As I told subscribers earlier this week, that decision about CAP’s funding came directly from Quinn’s office. The vote was most likely a mere formality, and it doesn’t look like Brown’s husband got much, if any, benefit from it.

* But that didn’t stop the governor’s office from once again throwing Brown under the bus

“If that’s the case, it’s unacceptable,” Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said of her vote. “Potential and actual conflicts of interest should always be disclosed by public officials and their designees. They should recuse themselves from decision-making on any matter involving a member of their family.

“The governor’s office has asked the authority’s chairman to look into this matter and act appropriately to address any conflict-of-interest issues,” Anderson said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


Credit Unions – Cooperative in structure, valued in service

Friday, May 9, 2014

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Credit unions are committed to several cooperative principles, including social responsibility. At First Illinois Credit Union in Danville, reaching out to area school children as part of their financial literacy program is a top priority. For over 20 years, the credit union has partnered with area schools, educated students in the classroom and has invited them to open savings accounts. Scholarships are awarded to graduating eighth graders. Members that are high school graduates are also granted scholarships. By giving out scholarships at school-wide functions, it affords the credit union the opportunity to provide financial education to hundreds of students in the audience. Educating children is just one facet of the credit union’s extensive outreach, which also includes breakfast meals for low income families, financial education for seniors during Money Smart Week, volunteering as a buddy at baseball games for children with disabilities, and many more local clubs and organizations. For all their efforts, First Illinois Credit Union has been recognized by their members and the community as a top financial institution. At the heart of the credit union philosophy is the principle of people before profits – and another reason why members are so fiercely loyal.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


*** LIVE SESSION COVERAGE ***

Friday, May 9, 2014

* Senate is gone, early House session, no committees

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today’s edition and a Statehouse roundup

Friday, May 9, 2014

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


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

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