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A missed revenue opportunity

Monday, Apr 27, 2015

* This kinda burns me up a little

A Southeast High School Spartans hooded sweatshirt retails for $26.99 at the Walgreens at Fifth Street and South Grand Avenue.

Also for sale is a Southeast performance T-shirt for $16.99, a Springfield High School hooded sweatshirt for $26.99 and a Springfield High regular T-shirt for $12.99.

There’s nothing stopping Walgreens, or any other store in town, from selling Springfield School District apparel, School Superintendent Jennifer Gill told school board members last week.

There’s also nothing in writing ensuring that the district, individual schools or booster clubs get a cut of the profits made off apparel sold by retailers, she said.

What the heck, man? Why isn’t the IHSA all over this? And why would stores rip off schools like that?

- Posted by Rich Miller   44 Comments      


Caption contest!

Monday, Apr 27, 2015

* From Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey’s Facebook page

Granted it’s not the best picture of us but it was still a pleasure to have Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger stop by my office to chat about various issues and how we can work together in our respective capacities.

The pic…

- Posted by Rich Miller   106 Comments      


Union-sponsored poll shows support for labor agenda

Monday, Apr 27, 2015

* The governor has been touting some horribly biased polling results which purport to show that the public favors his “Turnaround Agenda.” The Illinois AFL-CIO has now countered with its own statewide poll. You could argue that its questions are somewhat biased, but they’re not nearly as biased as Rauner’s polling was. Check it out

Governor Rauner says the State of Illinois has been spending too much money over the past decade and therefore must make drastic across the board cuts to the state budget, including education. Others say these drastic cuts could be avoided by rolling back tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. Which is closer to your view: that we should make across the board cuts to the state budget, or that we should roll back tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy?

    Should Make Across the Board Cuts to State Budget 37%
    Should Roll Back Tax Breaks for Corporations and the Wealthy 56%
    Not sure 6%

Governor Rauner has been a staunch opponent to labor unions that represent state workers, saying that they have too much power. Others say unions are necessary because they provide a voice for workers, improve public service, and fight for the middle class against politicians and corporate greed. Which is closer to your view: that unions have too much power, or that they are necessary to fight for the middle class?

    Unions Have Too Much Power 42%
    Unions are Necessary to Fight for the Middle Class 56%
    Not Sure 3%

Governor Rauner says public sector unions should not be able to make campaign contributions to the elected officials who negotiate their contracts. Others say that as long as billionaires and corporate CEO’s have a right to make huge campaign contributions, workers should have a right to participate in the democratic process through their union. Which is closer to your view: public sector unions should not be able to make campaign contributions, or public employees have a right to participate in campaigns through their union?

    Public Sector Unions Should Not Be Able To Make Campaign Contributions 41%
    Public Employees Have a Right to Participate in the Democratic Process Through Their Union 55%
    Not sure 4%

Illinois law does not require anyone to join a union, but allows labor and management to agree that union represented employees must pay at least a fee sometimes called ‘fair share’ to cover the costs associated with bargaining the contract that benefits all employees. Some people believe that all employees who receive benefits as a result of collective bargaining should be required to pay something toward the costs of negotiating those benefits and administering union contracts. Governor Rauner does not agree that everyone represented by a union should pay something toward negotiating those benefits and administering union contracts. Do you agree or disagree that everyone represented by a union should pay something for negotiating and administering union contracts?

    Agree 55%
    Disagree 33%
    Not sure 12%

The Illinois prevailing wage is a rate based on local wage standards for workers on public works construction projects. Governor Rauner wants to allow the state to pay workers lower wages than the prevailing wage in local areas, since it would save the state money. Others say the state should not undercut local, middle class wage rates because it drags down everyone’s incomes and hurts local business. Which comes closer to your view: that the wage standard should be set locally with a prevailing wage, or that the state should pay below the local prevailing wage?

    Wage Standard Should be Set Locally with Prevailing Wage 68%
    State Should Pay Below Local PrevailingWage 23%
    Not sure 9%

Workers’ compensation costs, including medical expenses and payments to injured workers, were substantially reduced in 2011 by the State Legislature; however there is no evidence that insurance companies reduced insurance premiums accordingly. Do you support or oppose tougher regulation of insurance companies so that this does not happen again?

    Support 77%
    Oppose 13%
    Not sure 10%

More questions here.

The crosstabs show that the governor’s base is mostly sticking with him, but not on everything…

* Methodology…

Public Policy Polling surveyed 642 registered voters in Illinois between April 10th and 12th on behalf of the Illinois AFL-CIO. The survey’s margin of error is +/-3.9%.

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


A good way and a bad way

Monday, Apr 27, 2015

* Erickson

During a hearing before lawmakers Wednesday, the new head of the state’s economic development agency offered up a recipe for how he’s going to lure more companies to Illinois.

Jim Schultz, an Effingham entrepreneur tapped by Rauner to run the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, said Illinois has many “hidden assets” that he’s going to use in his quest to replace jobs lost in recent years. […]

He said he wants to go to drought-affected California and tell manufacturers what Illinois can offer.

“Come to our state, I’ll give you our water. We have unlimited water,” Schultz said, pointing to the Mississippi, Illinois and Ohio rivers. […]

“We have so many great hidden assets. We just haven’t optimized them,” Schultz said. “My focus is to go out and market this state.”

1) It’s nice to finally see a Rauner appointee not running down this state.

2) Water is, indeed, a major Illinois asset. Check out this list of the nine most drought-endangered states. Lots of Illinois competitors on there, including Texas.

* The lesson here is that the governor and his people don’t always have to harp on the union issue when it comes to economic development. As I told subscribers several days ago, the governor’s anti-union local resolution efforts are doing for unions what they haven’t been able to do for themselves: get organized locally.

Here’s Doug Wilson in the Quincy Herald-Whig

Adams County Board members voted April 15 to table their resolution supporting Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda” after union members wanted to speak and the board’s one-week-early sign-up period for speakers was challenged. Board Chairman Les Post expects the vote will occur next month.

So what will this vote do?

It won’t really put any pressure on the Legislature. Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, a pair of Chicago Democrats, have control over whether a right-to-work bill comes up for a vote. They’re never going to allow a vote.

What it will do is energize the unions, which will want to get more politically involved and get their people in office.

* Related…

* Cahill: How exactly is privatization better, Mr. Governor?

* Chicago Sun-Times Editorial: Exelon’s rate-hike proposal is a bad bill

* Schoenburg: Downstate representation gone from Illinois Commerce Commission

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      


The next target

Monday, Apr 27, 2015

* From the twitters…


When the governor bemoans the state’s “vast bureaucracy,” he’s not just talking about unionized state workers. He’s also talking about Illinois’ huge network of not-for-profit human service providers.

* From a Tribune story on the latest round of budget cuts

At the Department of Human Services, for example, most programs will continue to provide services because money can be moved around to cover the cuts. But for seven programs within the department, such maneuvers aren’t possible and spending on services will be slashed by $1.1 million, department spokeswoman Veronica Vera said. Among those is a domestic violence shelter program that will lose $419,300 and a program for expectant parents that will lose $225,900. […]

Jeri Linas, the executive director of Chicago’s Teen Living Programs, said she is expecting her organization to face cuts but hasn’t yet learned just how much.

With locations in Bronzeville and Washington Park, Teen Living provides housing and support services for homeless youths in Chicago. The agency gets about $275,000 from the state, some of which pays for staff members who help young at-risk clients find jobs, enroll in school and get subsidized housing. […]

“The double whammy is, some of us who have contracts utilize funding from the state as a match for federal funding,” Linas said. “So when you cut a program’s budget … the risk of an agency closing its doors is very real.”

* There’s no question that Illinois needs much better oversight of these not-for-profits. There’s also no question that the groups can provide services much more cheaply than the state - they raise a significant amount of money on their own and they don’t employ higher-priced state workers. And there’s no question that most of those groups have political sponsors.

So, it’s a delicate balancing act. Some groups need to be weeded out. Others may no longer be providing a necessary service. Slashing funding for autism programs was stupid on all counts. Initially, that showed Rauner was willing to take on this “vast bureaucracy” no matter what the political price. He’s since been forced to backtrack.

This can’t be done with an axe, no matter how much some folks are eager for that to happen.

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


Question of the day

Monday, Apr 27, 2015

* Gov. Bruce Rauner was asked a question about his Wikipedia entry last week by a student journalist

“You played the English horn in college and won several honors for outstanding performances in playing this instrument. Do you still play this instrument?” Gordon asked. […]

Rauner, however, said the entry isn’t true.

“This is a good life lesson for all of us,” the governor told the class. “I never — I didn’t play the English horn. This is a good lesson and it’s OK. I get asked that question a lot, and I go ‘I didn’t play the English horn.’

“We changed it. In fact, we had it removed from the website twice and someone puts it back. And I’m like, ‘You’re kidding me!’” he said. […]

“I actually played the trumpet and I played the baritone,” he said. “I can’t say I was award winning. I was pretty good, but I wasn’t award winning.”

Indeed, if you take a look at the Wiki revision history, you’ll see somebody has been attempting to claim he played or plays either the English horn or the French horn.

* The Question: Your theory about this weird but very real Wikipedia conspiracy?

Snark is heavily encouraged.

…Adding… The Sun-Times looks at some of the revisions

* He plays the English horn in his spare time.
* French horn musician.
* In order to help himself cope with his divorce 22 years ago, Rauner has found solace in playing the French horn.
* At Dartmouth, he also studied [English horn], played in the orchestra and won several statewide honors.

The paper reports that the English horn reference was added again this morning, then changed.

- Posted by Rich Miller   73 Comments      


Sam Zell quadruples wife’s contribution

Monday, Apr 27, 2015

* Remember last week when I told you that Sam Zell’s wife Helen had contributed $1 million to IllinoisGO, an ostensibly “Democratic” PAC that many folks believe is really guarding Gov. Bruce Rauner’s left flank?

Well, not to be outdone, Sam Zell himself just contributed $4 million to Gov. Rauner’s Turnaround Illinois committee, which is an independent expenditure PAC.

No collusion, though. For sure.

/Snark

[Hat tip: Tom Kacich.]

…Adding… Speaking of contributions

A Gov. Bruce Rauner appointee to the Illinois Gaming Board heads a group that has taken money from the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, the state’s most lucrative casino.

In naming Illinois State Police special agent Hector Alejandre last month to the board that regulates the state’s casinos, Rauner said Alejandre “will bring a law enforcement perspective to the position.”

The governor noted that Alejandre is the president of the Hispanic Illinois State Law Enforcement Association, or HISLEA, a nonprofit organization of Latino police officers.

The group — which holds safety seminars and provides college scholarships — has taken $5,500 in donations from Rivers since 2012. The money went toward scholarships and programs, according to Juan Valenzuela, a spokesman for the group.

Doesn’t seem like a big deal.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      


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Monday, Apr 27, 2015

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Cleaning up part of the CoD mess

Monday, Apr 27, 2015

* From a Sen. Michael Connelly (R-Wheaton) press release…

“The Saturday before the local election I found in my mail a promotional piece touting the College of DuPage. The notion that a government body sees no issue with mailing a taxpayer-funded mail piece, a mere 3 days prior to this month’s election is absolutely ridiculous,” Connelly said. “Taxpayer funds should never be used to either explicitly or implicitly influence an election.”

Senator Connelly successfully advanced Senate Bill 914, which bans all units of local government from sending any promotional materials from Jan. 1 to the date of the consolidated election. The measure is similar to already long-established bans that are in place for Illinois constitutional officers and legislators.

If local government officials, employees, or contractors engage in the behavior, they could face termination from their jobs and be charged with a Class 4 felony.

* The CoD board was under siege before the election because of corruption allegations and federal investigations. Several board members were facing strong electoral opposition. The mailer was blatant pre-election propaganda…

Connelly’s bill passed 56-1. The only “No” vote was Sen. Landek, who’s the mayor of Bridgeview.

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


Today’s number: $42,000

Monday, Apr 27, 2015

* Uh-oh

According to campaign records with the Illinois Elections Board, Illinois State Senator James Clayborne from East St Louis, the number two man in the state senate, spent some $42,000 on chauffeured limousines between 2003 and 2014.

Fox 2 also discovered Clayborne spent $50,000 in campaign funds during those years on overseas travel to a dozen nations.

The senator represents some of the most impoverished areas of the metro east.

When asked to explain himself, Clayborne said, “Campaign dollars are donations. They’re not public dollars.”

* Ugh. Here is just a small handful of the Senator’s disclosures. Click here for the full file

* One quibble

But clearly the public cares how candidates spend dollars. The Illinois Policy Institute helped with this investigation.

“Campaign money should go towards campaigning,” said executive director Kristina Rasmussen.

Actually, state law allows legislators to use campaign money to pay for legislative functions. It saves taxpayers some money. But that many limo rides? Sheesh.

* Video

- Posted by Rich Miller   44 Comments      


Anti Israeli boycott bill moves to the House

Monday, Apr 27, 2015

* This topic comes to us via a highly biased piece in the Chicago Monitor. I’m posting it only because I didn’t see any other stories online

On Wednesday, the Illinois Senate voted to punish companies that boycott Israel… by requiring Illinois retirement funds to expend resources blacklisting, monitoring and withdrawing funds from such companies. The House adjourned on Friday without calling its own identical bill that had already been voted out of committee. The Senate Bill will now go to a House Committee for hearings before it goes to the whole House for a vote.

The Illinois Coalition to Protect Academic Freedom and Free Speech (member organizations listed below) was formed in response to this anti-boycott legislation introduced in the Illinois State Senate. This same coalition defeated bills in the Illinois legislature last year that sought to penalize Illinois higher education institutions, teachers, and other academics if they supported the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Many of the same Illinois senators and representatives that voted against these anti-boycott bills in committee last year have voted for these bills this year.

* The difference this time around is that the bill is strongly supported by Gov. Bruce Rauner

Requires the Illinois Investment Policy Board, by April 1, 2016, to make its best efforts to identify all Iran-restricted companies, Sudan-restricted companies, and companies that boycott Israel and to assemble those identified companies into a list of restricted companies. Defines “Iran-restricted company”, “Sudan-restricted company”, “company that boycotts Israel”, and “restricted companies”. Requires the Illinois Investment Policy Board to review the list of restricted companies on a quarterly basis. Requires State-funded retirement systems and the Illinois Board of Investment to identify restricted companies in which it owns either direct holdings or indirect holdings and, under certain circumstances, to divest from those restricted companies. Prohibits State-funded retirement systems and the Illinois Board of Investment from acquiring securities of restricted companies. Provides that the cost associated with the activities of the Illinois Investment Policy Board shall be borne by the boards of each pension fund or investment board created under the State Universities, Downstate Teachers, or Investment Board Article. Provides that actions taken in compliance with the amendatory Act are exempt from any conflicting statutory or common law obligations, including fiduciary duties. Provides that beginning January 1, 2016, certain Sections of the Code that prohibit investment in certain companies that do business with the Government of Iran and the Republic of the Sudan shall be administered in accordance with the amendatory Act. Contains a statement of legislative intent. Contains a severability clause. Makes other changes. Effective immediately.

* The measure passed the Senate 49-0, with three Democrats voting “Present” (Landek, Raoul, Van Pelt) and six Democrats and one Republican not voting (Bennett, Brady, Collins, Hutchinson, E. Jones, Sandoval, Stadelman).

The Middle East can bring out teh crazy in some people, so I’m only going to say this once: Confine yourselves solely to the content of the bill. Extremists will be deleted and then banned for life. No exceptions. No further warnings will be issued. This is a state politics blog, so let’s keep it that way. Thanks.

…Adding… The legislation may come up tonight…

Israeli Consulate holds Israel Independence Day celebration with Consul General of Israel to the Midwest Roey Gilad hosting Gov. Bruce Rauner as keynote speaker

WHAT: Israel’s 67th Anniversary reception and concert
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Monday, April 27, 2015
WHERE: Standard Club, 320 S. Plymouth Court
WHO: Consul General of Israel to the Midwest Roey Gilad
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez
Cong. Bill Foster
City of Chicago Aldermen and other elected officials
Members of the Consular Corps
Israeli ensemble Baladino and Chicago-based Fifth House Ensemble
WHY: To celebrate Israel’s 67th Anniversary

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


Out of state biz journalists peeved at Rauner

Monday, Apr 27, 2015

* Welcome to Illinois

If it was part of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s agenda to court the press during his speech at the Society of American Business Editors and Writers conference in Chicago, it didn’t quite work out.

Rauner, a businessman who made his fortune in private equity, gave the keynote speech on Saturday, the final day of the conference, to a nearly-full ballroom, pitching his ambitious agenda to transform Illinois.

He opened his speech with a request to reporters to help him pass his reforms, asking for the press’s support three times during his 15-minute speech. […]

After the governor wrapped up his speech, he declared he wouldn’t answer any questions from the audience. An audible groan rippled through the crowd. As he left, several reporters followed him into the hallway. […]

According to [Marty Wolk, president of SABEW], it was a difficult process to get Gov. Rauner to appear at the event. He explained that all speakers know beforehand that their comments are on the record and are expected to take a few questions, given their audience is a room full of business journalists.

“An hour before he arrived, his advance person said no questions from the podium, but that he would be available for 15 minutes afterward to meet people,” Wolk said. Rauner left immediately after his speech.

“For a public figure to say, ‘I want you to help me sell this story’ and not understand it’s a two-way conversation, and not take questions? It fundamentally misunderstands the role of media in this age. In any age,” Wolk said.

* Video

Raw audio is here.

* This is not unusual. Here is the governor’s latest public schedule notice…

Daily Public Schedule: Monday, April 27, 2015

What: Governor Attends Alliance for Illinois Manufacturing Luncheon

Where: Chicago Marriott

540 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago

Date: Monday, April 27, 2015

Time: 12:15 p.m.

Note: No additional media availability.

What: Governor Discusses Turnaround Agenda at Great Lakes Economic Forum

Where: Chicago Cultural Center

78 E. Washington St., Chicago

Date: Monday, April 27, 2015

Time: 2:15 p.m.

Note: No additional media availability.

Emphasis added.

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Your daily “right to work” roundup

Monday, Apr 27, 2015

*** UPDATE *** Oops. I forgot about this one

Macon County Chairman Kevin Greenfield said there are no plans to discuss or vote on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda” resolution.

“The community is upbeat and things have been going well enough that there’s been a lot of positive attitude going around,” said Greenfield, R-Decatur. “The last thing I want to do is bring about a resolution that could divide the county up and really rile up people.” […]

The decision by Macon County officials comes despite Republicans holding an 11-10 advantage on the county board. In addition, Rauner proved popular in the area in the gubernatorial election, receiving 61.24 percent of the 33,773 votes recorded in Macon County.

However, the county board has rarely acted in an overtly partisan manner in recent history, with members of both parties coming together to pass budgets and handle other, seemingly heated issues.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* Nothing yet from the governor’s office, but here’s the IFT’s aggregated roundup (mostly from the IL AFL-CIO) of upcoming Rauner resolution votes

* Jefferson County
Monday, April 27 at 7:00 p.m.
100 S. 10th St., Mt. Vernon

* Lexington (McLean County)
Monday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m.
329 W. Main St., Lexington

* City of Chicago Committee on Workforce Development and Audit
Tuesday, April 28 at 11:00 a.m.
City Council Chambers

* Village of Mahomet (Champaign County)
Tuesday, April 28 at 6:00 p.m.
503 E. Main Street, Mahomet

* Kane County Board
Tuesday, April 28 at 4:00 p.m.
719 S. Batavia Ave, Geneva

* Cook County Board
Wednesday, April 29

Chicago and Cook are taking up anti-Rauner resolutions. Kane is expected to take a pass on the whole thing.

* Chuck Sweeny looks around northern Illinois

Stephenson County Chairman Bill Hadley, also a Republican, said Friday he’d just received the governor’s resolution, which he’s going to send to the board’s Finance Committee and then to the full board for a vote in May.

“There’s some things in there I like, but I have the same concerns that the Winnebago County Board had. They took all the anti-union stuff out,” Hadley said.

Boone County Board Chairman Bob Walberg said he got the Rauner resolution too late to put it on last month’s agenda.

“We’re going to send it to a committee, and bring it out of committee and decide whether to endorse it or not. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out,” said Walberg, a Republican who believes the governor is trying seriously to get the state back on the road to fiscal solvency.

* Meanwhile, Finke calls out the governor on some anti-union rhetoric

“I went into one department. I looked around, and there’s a lot of people and papers moving around. There’s a lot of papers on the walls in the back room,” Rauner said. “I said, ‘You know, somebody told me computers got invented a couple of years ago. This looks like we could digitize this and maybe make it more productive and more efficient.’”

But, as Rauner related it, the employees said that wasn’t possible. Why? Because — wait for it now — the unions won’t allow it. Specifically, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. […]

“And people knew the numbers,” Rauner said. “Very quickly somebody got back to me and said, ‘Governor, we could spend approximately $1.7 million on a computer system. We could save $8 million a year.’ “

The rub, though, is that making the change would cost 120 jobs, and therefore the union won’t agree to the change. According to Rauner.

But the Rauner administration wouldn’t tell Finke which agency Rauner was referring to. AFSCME is skeptical, to say the least

“This sounds like pure fiction,” spokesman Anders Lindall said. “There is no work rule preventing digitization. Gov. Rauner is making claims without bothering to talk to the union or find out the facts.”

* I’m told negotiations are now under way on this bill

Illinois Republicans have unveiled legislation backed by Gov. Bruce Rauner they say will clean up state hiring rules that allow a governor to hand out jobs to loyal lieutenants instead of hiring strictly on merit. […]

But majority Democrats in the General Assembly are wary. The bulk of McConnaughay’s measure is devoted to limits placed on collective bargaining units, going so far as to remove some employees from labor unions and empowering the government to transfer or dismiss those found to have been improperly hired at IDOT. They warn that the bill could lead to more politics in state hiring.

It also includes a “hiring reform” section which directs agencies under the governor to correct faulty job descriptions, revise procedures for determining exempt positions and seek to decertify union coverage where appropriate. […]

The proposal “would result in stripping thousands of public employees of their right to be represented by a union,” AFSCME Council 31 spokesman Anders Lindall said, “with the perverse result, given the bill’s supposed purpose, of giving agencies even greater leeway to circumvent the merit system.” It would do “nothing to prevent future political hiring scandals,” he said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      


Redistricting effort to reboot this week

Monday, Apr 27, 2015

* Let’s hope they do better than last time. There is no doubt that we need a new, less partisan and far less goofy remap process here. From a press release…

Independent Maps, a non-partisan statewide coalition, will hold a news conference Tuesday to brief reporters on the start of a campaign to win voter approval of a state constitutional amendment creating a non-partisan independent commission responsible for drawing Illinois General Assembly districts.

The coalition will have one year to collect 290,216 valid signatures on petitions to place the Independent Map Amendment before voters in November 2016. The Independent Maps coalition will build on the statewide network of thousands of volunteers involved in the 2014 campaign for an independent redistricting commission.

WHO: Dennis FitzSimons, Chair of Independent Maps, and the coalition’s board of directors, which includes prominent members of both major political parties, as well as leaders from the clergy, academia and philanthropic organizations. FitzSimons is Chairman of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and a former Chairman and CEO of Tribune Company.

WHEN: 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 28

WHERE: Hotel Allegro, 171 W. Randolph, Cinema Room, 3rd floor, Chicago.

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


Having it both ways

Monday, Apr 27, 2015

* April 20th

The Illinois House Monday took a first step toward possibly ending the dizzying proliferation of specialty license plates in the state.

By a 108-1 vote, the House approved a bill that calls for creation of a universal specialty plate that can then be sold to support a variety of charitable causes.

If the bill eventually becomes law, the state would no longer issue new plate designs for charitable causes approved by the legislature.

“It’s hard for police officers to keep up with every plate on the street,” said Rep. John D’Amico, D-Chicago, sponsor of House Bill 1081. “It seems like we constantly have more and more plates coming before us. This would stop these plates from growing out of control.”

* And then

Before leaving town last week, members of the House voted 110-5 to create a special license plate that will raise money to pay for planting milkweed along Illinois highways.

The reason: Monarch butterflies, which are the official state insect, need the plant to survive.

“Today’s vote in the House was an overwhelming victory and demonstrated broad bipartisan support for the Illinois state insect,” noted Rebecca Riley, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      


Why isn’t Speaker Madigan voting on bills?

Monday, Apr 27, 2015

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

A couple of weeks ago, I started noticing that House Speaker Michael Madigan wasn’t voting on most legislation during his chamber’s floor debates. Madigan was feeling under the weather that week, and was ill enough that a leadership meeting with the governor couldn’t be scheduled until a few days later, so I let it go.

But the pattern continued the following week. A spot check of roll calls showed Madigan was listed as present and accounted for, but hadn’t voted either for or against much of anything.

What the heck?

Madigan’s historical voting record is all over the map because, in the past, he has tended to vote for all of his Democratic members’ bills unless he has a strong ideological position in opposition, or if he has a conflict of interest.

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown told me the speaker decided in January that he only wants to make “informed” votes. There are just so many bills out there and not enough time to consider each one, Brown said.

Huh?

Madigan and his top staff examine each and every bill and amendment back and forth, upside down at least once a week, and often several times a week. So if any legislator is informed, it’s Michael J. Madigan.

Brown also agreed with my own observation that Madigan could be patterning his behavior after the U.S. House speaker, who traditionally votes on only the rarest of occasions. Madigan did vote for a recent fiscal 2015 state budget fix, but that’s probably because he was a party to the agreement. He has voted on a handful of other bills, but there doesn’t seem to be much of a pattern.

Brown said it was conceivable that Madigan would also step in and vote if one of his members needed an extra push to get his or her bill to the minimum majority of 60.

It’s possible, I suppose, that Madigan doesn’t want to tip his hand to the governor, or anyone else for that matter, about where he actually stands on legislation. But I was told by others that this has nothing to do with the new governor, although they refused to say what was really going on.

Keep in mind, this is a guy who is legendary in Springfield for his mildly eccentric habits. He eats an apple at noon every day. He eats dinner at precisely 7 at night — almost always at one of two Springfield restaurants (unless he’s in the rare mood for a steak, and then he and his people head out to that spot), and he eats the same meal and drinks the same wine every time. A severe crisis erupted at one of those restaurants several years ago when weekend staff accidentally served all of Madigan’s special wine to some tourists.

There is, or at least seems to be, a reason for every single thing he does. He makes no moves without considering all the possible angles. It took him eight hours to issue a press release after Rod Blagojevich was arrested, for crying out loud.

So, after 44 years in the Illinois House, for this man to suddenly and without a credible explanation decide to stop voting on almost all legislation is simply bizarre.

And his top lieutenants are enforcing Madigan’s new policy with a vengeance. I’m told a couple of staffers were upbraided last week when they pushed Madigan’s roll call button on some legislation. They were reportedly told in no uncertain terms to never do that again.

Some have darkly speculated without evidence that maybe some investigators are poking around Madigan’s voting record. But, really, if something is up (and there is zero evidence of that) then why change his behavior now, after it’s too late? That just doesn’t make sense.

Maybe he’s just trying to play with everybody’s head. I just don’t know. Whatever is going on, Madigan certainly wouldn’t allow any of his members to behave this way. I can just see it now:

Madigan: “Why aren’t you voting?”

Member: “I only want to make informed votes, Mr. Speaker, sir.”

Madigan: “Then read the analyses that my staff writes for you and pick a button. Better yet, just let my staff ‘inform’ you of your best voting options. Your constituents sent you here to vote on legislation, not sit there like an armless bump on a log with zero political future because I’m going to find somebody else to take your seat if you don’t start voting right now.”

Member: “Yes, sir. It’ll never happen again, sir. I’m sorry, sir. May I please shine your apple, sir?”

Madigan: “Too late. It’s 12:30.”

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      


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