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Question of the day

Wednesday, Oct 2, 2013

* From the Illinois Policy Institute

Earlier this year Texas Gov. Rick Perry wrote a letter to Illinois’ businesses and individuals trying to sell them on a move to Texas. The sales pitch was simple — it wasn’t tax credits, grants or sweetheart deals. The sales pitch was this — Texas doesn’t have an income tax.

As we learned yesterday, ADM pays next to no state income tax. That’s why it wants an EDGE tax credit. Lowering the company’s tax rate wouldn’t provide ADM with the money it wants to locate its new world headquarters and tech center in Chicago.

* I don’t like these “incentives” much, particularly when it involves moving a company from one part of Illinois to another.

But we need to focus on facts and not simple-minded ideology as this debate goes forward - and it will go forward. The state tax rate means little to nothing to ADM.

Zurich North America explained to the House Revenue Committee yesterday that insurance companies don’t pay corporate income taxes. They pay a different sort of tax. ZNA wants an EDGE credit to move its headquarters less than a mile within Schaumburg to a TIF district.

The tax rate did, however, mean something to CME, which loudly threatened to pull out of Chicago. But even there, the story I’m told is that some complicated tax changes took effect without CME taking notice and its tax burden went way up.

* The other easy way out is the liberal perspective that this “corporate welfare” must absolutely end. Yet, for the most part, we hear nothing about truly reforming workers’ comp laws from that crowd - and workers’ comp costs are far more likely to send companies to other states than corporate taxes.

* And while the two extremes debate, Texas, Florida, Indiana, Wisconsin, etc. are all trying to poach our companies. Maybe you don’t care. But we need jobs here, man. And considering our national reputation - even though some of it is undeserved - it’s crystal clear that business execs ain’t keen on coming here and/or expanding here without some state help.

* Almost never mentioned is our low entrepreneurial rate here. We have a climate that simply doesn’t encourage innovative startups, unless those startup folks have some insider knowledge or help. As just one example, restaurants in Chicago have such a powerful lobby that the city had to impose ridiculous limits on food trucks. The overly restrictive medical marijuana law is another. We’re just too afraid of change.

* What we need is a sane, rational, but innovative tax and regulatory system here.

The fracking law shows that this is possible. All sides came together and we should soon be reaping the benefits.

So, it can be done. But we need real leadership at the top which can convince the entrenched interests on all sides that we all benefit when we open the door to innovation.

I don’t advocate following the Texas model. We need our own.

* Instead of a question today, how about we talk about things we’ve seen that are messed up and how we can fix them.

- Posted by Rich Miller   61 Comments      

Gay marriage roundup

Wednesday, Oct 2, 2013

* The publisher of the Windy City Times is demanding a veto session vote on gay marriage

A lot of people have called me naive ( and worse ) when it comes to pushing for a vote in May—and now. But I am not alone in wanting to know where people stand. They do not need more time to decide if they have courage. You either have it or you don’t. If your career is more important than your integrity, or than doing what is right, than maybe you are in the wrong profession. In the 1980s Chicago City Council, the community pressed multiple times for a vote on the gay-rights law, and each time more politicians joined the side of justice. But we had to start with a vote to know where to press for change. […]

Let me be clear: There is a lot more to lose here if they delay a vote than if they lose a vote. There is far more courage in fighting for what is right and losing than staying on the sidelines. If we lose, we will fight another day ( and encourage people to get married in other states in the meantime ). And if a similar bill returns next spring, and passes after a lot more work, it would start the same time as if it were to have passed this fall with a simple majority. But we do not want that.

What do we want? A vote. When do we want it? This fall.

* Others are trying to tamp down expectations. An article from Windy City Times

It’s a matter of strategy and not an issue of support, say advocates, but sponsors and leaders might wait to call for a vote on marriage equality until winter, despite promises to push for this fall.

John Kohlhepp, campaign manager for Illinois Unites for Marriage, told Windy City Times that leaders have their sights set on the fall veto session. But he added that the team is also debating holding off on a vote until January, a move that would give the bill an earlier effective date but might raise eyebrows among supporters who expected to see a vote sooner.

“Everything in our whole strategy is pushing for a vote in veto session,” Kohlhepp said. But, he added, coalition leaders have not ruled out push during regular session.

If passed during the legislature’s veto session, SB10, the marriage equality bill, would not take effect until June. But if sponsors pass it in January during regular session, it can go into effect the following month. That could mean fewer months of waiting for same-sex couples anxious to see marriage in Illinois.

My best guess would be next May, safely after the primary. But, heck, I could be quite wrong. Your guess?

* Leader Durkin thinks it’ll pass eventually

The new leader of Illinois House Republicans says the writing seems to be on the wall for marriage equality in the state. House Minority Leader Jim Durkin said his personal religious convictions cause him to oppose gay marriage, but he acknowledged the likelihood it may someday be the law of the land.

“They’ve been able to achieve a lot in a very short amount of time. We just got to go back…a little bit of history…back in the last lame duck session, where they produced an income tax increase, repealed the death penalty, and passed a civil union bill within a 48-hour period with just Democratic votes.”

While Durkin points out the Democrats huge majorities in Springfield, he cautions same-sex marriage is not a Democratic or Republican issue.

* But Zorn prefers a judicial solution

Gay marriage is not a right to be granted or conferred by a newly generous majority. It’s a right to be recognized. At last and forever.

* In other news, Rep. Greg Harris, Ald. Deb Mell, Thomas More Society senior counsel Peter Breen and Catholic Conference of Illinois executive director Robert Gilligan debated gay marriage in Chicago last night. Skip ahead to about the 8-minute mark. Watch

* And the Illinois Family is planning a veto session lobby day and hopes to bring thousands of folks to Springfield. Here’s a promo video

* Related…

* Military Veterans Join Push for Illinois Gay Marriage

* Gay pastor finds new ministry in marriage fight

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      

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Wednesday, Oct 2, 2013

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Third strike for Health Alliance?

Wednesday, Oct 2, 2013

* Is this yet another waste of time? We’ll see

The state has selected four new contractors for state retiree health coverage, effective Jan. 1, 2014, and Health Alliance Medical Plans isn’t among them.

That will require 6,000 retirees who get their care through the Carle health system to change where they go for medical care by the end of the year, Health Alliance spokeswoman Jane Hayes said Wednesday morning. […]

None of the selected insurers has Carle in its provider networks, which is why current retirees in the state system would have to change where they go for health care, Hayes said.

* Health Alliance has a vast provider network that it’s built up over many years. There are legit worries about not enough doctors to go around. That was also the case two years ago

Health Alliance wasn’t selected for state employee and retiree health coverage in 2011 contract selections, setting off a public uproar, legislative action and a court challenge, and was eventually restored as an insurer for employees and retirees.

* But this battle to dethrone Health Alliance goes beyond 2011. Rod Blagojevich tried to do it, too. From 2004

Meanwhile, another health-care related issue involving the state has drawn the attention of federal investigators. A spokeswoman for Health Alliance, a longtime health insurance provider for state employees, said Friday that federal agents had questioned officials from the firm. The spokeswoman said Health Alliance was not being investigated.

Health Alliance and state workers complained after the Blagojevich administration earlier this year dropped the insurance provider after trying to rebid the insurance contract. The resulting outcry forced the administration to extend the state’s existing insurance contracts, including Health Alliance’s.

State Sen. Rick Winkel (R-Champaign) said his contacts at Health Alliance have told him the U.S. attorney’s office had contacted the company regarding irregularities in the bidding process.

* Meanwhile, another state move
is causing some consternation out there as well. Just one of many e-mails from a retired state employee reader…

Rich, I received a letter today that was from a company that is representing CMS. They are doing an audit check to make sure my dependents are still qualified to be on my insurance plan. They are asking for a copy of my federal tax face page and property tax statement for 2012. There were other ways to prove if your wife or kids are allowed to be on your plan. I have been married for 39 years and worked for the state for 23. I guess they are trying to purge the insurance rolls and remove unqualified people. The company doing this work is from Indiana. You would think CMS would be able to do this without hiring a out of state company. Failure to comply with this will result in cancellation of the dependents insurance.

- Posted by Rich Miller   58 Comments      

Fix it, please

Wednesday, Oct 2, 2013

* This is welcomed news. Tribune editorial board

Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride, in a Sept. 26 letter, has called for Chief Judge Timothy Evans, County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, Sheriff Tom Dart, Public Defender Abishi Cunningham and court administrator Michael Tardy to meet with the members of the state Supreme Court. The purpose: frank talk about the operations of the criminal courts.

Kilbride has also invited Eric Washington, chief judge of the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals, who is well-versed in court management issues. Make no mistake, this is an extraordinary turn of events. The Illinois Supreme Court generally is quite reluctant to step into the operations of local courts.

It didn’t have much choice in this case, not after Preckwinkle pleaded for help in a Sept. 12 letter to Justice Lloyd Karmeier. She requested that a judge from outside Cook County be assigned to help process delayed criminal cases. She also asked the court to convene a commission to audit the system and to develop long-term solutions to the problem. […]

The sheriff’s office reports that more than 300 inmates have waited three years or more for their cases to conclude, 55 of them for five years or more. On the civil side, many people who rely on the courts to settle their cases — divorces, child custody, foster care — face a long, expensive haul from start to finish.

The entire system is a freaking mess. The circuit court clerk should also be involved, however, because her office is about as antiquated as they come. I can’t tell you how many horror stories I’ve heard about people getting caught up in the county judicial system.

* More

This isn’t uncharted territory. Other counties and other states have improved efficiency by implementing electronic case filing, video conferencing of bond hearings and cameras in the courtrooms, which let the public see how the courts are working. The leaders of other court systems have forced lollygagging judges to step up and put in a full day’s work.

In New York City, court officials frustrated with the slow pace of justice in Bronx courtrooms put an outside judge in charge. In less than a year, Justice Patricia DiMango transformed the Bronx courts into a fair and efficient system, resolving hundreds of cases that had lingered for two years or more.

If an outside judge is what it takes, the powers that be should make it happen. ASAP.

* Speaking of Tribune editorials I like, here’s one about child abuse

Three out of every four deaths linked to child abuse involve households that had no prior contact with the department. While DCFS gets its share of blame for child deaths that could have been prevented, the fact is most abuse is never brought to the department’s attention. According to a recent report, 70 percent of all child abuse in the U.S. goes unreported.

According to DCFS, children tell an average of seven adults they are being mistreated before it gets reported to authorities. Seven adults.


* More

DCFS installed a new phone system last fall, after the Tribune reported that an unreliable, outdated hotline was preventing callers from getting through. The new system ensures a live person will answer promptly and start a quicker DCFS response. We tested it on a busy Friday afternoon and reached a dispatcher after waiting less than two minutes. Use it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      

Chutzpah, fruitless and in the middle

Wednesday, Oct 2, 2013

* The National Republican Congressional Committee is running a radio ad targeting freshman Democrat Bill Enyart for causing the government shutdown. I kid you not.

Here’s the NRCC ad script…

How out-of-touch is Bill Enyart with Illinois families? So out-of-touch that he voted to shut down the government in order to protect Congress’ taxpayer funded healthcare!

While Washington forces ObamaCare on Illinois families, Enyart votes to give himself a break.

Instead of living by the same rules as everyone else, members of Congress receive special subsidies to pay for their healthcare.

And what are Illinois families left with? Higher premiums, higher health care costs and less access to quality care.

Washington is broken and it’s clear Enyart is part of the problem.

Call Bill Enyart today and tell him it’s time to put Illinois families first and stop the sweetheart deals for Congress.

Paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. www-dot-NRCC-dot-org. The National Republican Congressional Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.

* Statement from the NRCC…

“Bill Enyart has proven time and time again how out-of-touch he is with Southern Illinois families. He’s put his own taxpayer-funded healthcare above the needs of his constituents, and after voting to shut down the government this week it’s clear that his priorities do not lie with hardworking Southern Illinois families.” – NRCC Spokeswoman Danielle Varallo

* Meanwhile, here’s a communique from the DCCC about an Illinois Republican…

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is launching a paid grassroots campaign to tell Congressman Peter Roskam to end their government shutdown, a manufactured crisis that he created. The DCCC’s automated phone calls will connect the people of Illinois directly to Congressman Roskam so they can tell him to “stop the nonsense and focus on common sense solutions that protect our health care and grow our economy.”

An example of the call script running against Congressman Peter Roskam is below:

    While you were sleeping, Congressman Peter Roskam shut down the government. You heard that right. But even worse – Congressman Roskam is still getting paid – and he’s not listening to our frustration. All because of his demand to take away your benefits and protect insurance company profits.

    Call Congressman Roskam at (630) 232-0006 to end the shutdown.

Roskam’s district is overwhelmingly Republican, so I really doubt that the national polls and these robocalls will have any impact at all.

* One person who is truly in the middle of all this is freshman Republican Rodney Davis, who faces a primary opponent from his right and a well-funded Democrat to his left. From a Davis press release…

“Like most of those I represent, I remain opposed to Obamacare, but a government shutdown is absolutely unacceptable,” said Davis. “It’s unfortunate that the President and leaders in Congress were unable to negotiate in good faith to put forth just a 6-week plan to fund the federal government. The Senate has even proven to be unwilling to remove a special rule to allow a federal subsidy on health care coverage for Members of Congress and their staff. We owe it to the hardworking taxpayers to continue working as quickly as possible to compromise and get this done. I remain ready and willing to work with my colleagues and leaders in the House and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, until we come to an agreement to fund our government.”

* From the Democrats’ House Majority PAC…

Weeks ago, Rodney Davis proudly proclaimed he’d do “whatever it takes” to end Obamacare.

And Davis followed it up with action, voting four separate, distinct times to shut down the government over the Affordable Care Act.

And now? As it’s clear voters blame Republicans for shutting down the government, shuttering the National Parks, furloughing hundreds of thousands of workers, and potentially delaying veterans’ benefits:

Davis: “I remain opposed to Obamacare, but a government shutdown is absolutely unacceptable.”

POLITICO — Vulnerable Republicans: End the shutdown

* From WUIS

[Democratic opponent Ann Callis] immediately pounced, saying Davis helped force the shutdown to score points with what she calls his “right wing base.”

“He’s one of many of the Republicans that are doing this. I mean if you don’t like a law you don’t shut down the government. It is harming, and it’s already coming out now. Hundreds of thousands of people are being affected by this. And it’s not the right way to govern. It’s just not.”

In a statement, Congressman Davis calls the government shutdown “unacceptable,” although he has consistently voted with House Republicans who are attempting to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

As always, try to take a deep breath and remain calm in comments. DC politics can really bring out the nutbags, so let’s not encourage them.

- Posted by Rich Miller   62 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** No veto session vote?

Wednesday, Oct 2, 2013

* Rep. Elaine Nekritz told the Tribune’s Rick Pearson Sunday that she thought a pension reform vote could be held during veto session. She said this despite telling the SJ-R’s Doug Finke late last week: “I have stopped making predictions on time because mine have all been very wrong.”

Well, maybe she should’ve taken her own advice with Pearson. The bill obviously can’t pass without Republican votes, and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin doesn’t think there will be action during veto session

The Western Springs lawmaker also says he has doubts meaningful pension legislation will come up for a vote during the upcoming fall veto session. Some members of the bipartisan legislative commission studying ways to plug Illinois’ massive $100 billion pension hole say much progress has been made this summer and a bill could be passed on to the governor soon.

Durkin says that’s more likely to happen in a special session prior to January.

If he wants to wait that long, I don’t know why he wouldn’t want to put it off until January, when the bill could have an immediate effective date.

*** UPDATE *** From Leader Durkin’s press secretary…

“Leader Durkin is not suggesting that we need to wait to vote on pension reform until January. Rather, the point he is trying to make is that we are getting close to veto session and there is no agreement yet. He is simply cautioning that a vote may not occur during the six days scheduled for veto. If an agreement is reached after veto we can always come back to Springfield for a vote in November or December.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      

Rauner and Dillard both intrigued by legislative salary veto

Wednesday, Oct 2, 2013

* Kurt Erickson

Republican gubernatorial candidates Bruce Rauner and Kirk Dillard are not ruling out using the same tactic as Gov. Pat Quinn when it comes to trying to prod the legislature into action.

Although Rauner, a political newcomer from Wilmette, called Quinn’s attempt to block lawmaker pay in order to force action on pension reform a political stunt, spokesman Mike Schrimpf said Friday, “You never want to say never.”

Dillard, a state senator from Hinsdale, is campaigning on the idea of withholding lawmaker pay under one specific scenario: “You don’t get paid unless you have a balanced budget.”

Dan Rutherford and Bill Brady said they wouldn’t use such a tactic.


- Posted by Rich Miller   48 Comments      

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