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Afternoon updates

Thursday, Apr 17, 2014

Posted by Barton Lorimor (@bartonlorimor)

So far, break has been just that. However there was one bit of news that came out of the SIU Board of Trustees meeting this morning you might be interested in…


Follow along for any other breaking news…

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   4 Comments      


“Not Recommended Budget” would cut $450M from education

Thursday, Apr 17, 2014

Posted by Barton Lorimor (@bartonlorimor)

* All week we have seen agency directors and not-for-profit executives featured in media stories about what services they would have to cut if the income tax rate’s sunset dates stand as they are. The school funding card in that equation is a big one, and the Senate Democrats played it yesterday…

If Illinois lawmakers don’t extend the state’s temporary income tax, school districts could see a net reduction of more than $450 million in general state aid next year.

That was the message sent by Democrats in the Senate Wednesday as they released a breakdown of how Illinois schools would fare under a doomsday budget scenario.

Nearly every one of the state’s 800-plus school districts would come out on the losing end of the state funding blueprint at a time when Illinois already is spending 89 percent of what it says it should be spending to guarantee all students get a quality education.

Emphasis added.

The Senate Republican response…

“We don’t believe the scenario they’ve created — that without an extension of their 67 percent income-tax increase the state budget will collapse,” said Patty Schuh, spokeswoman for Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno. “We believe they are attempting to create a crisis to justify going back to taxpayers’ pockets.”

Schuh said Democrats “have not made education a priority” the past 10 years they’ve run the Statehouse.

“The Democrats have chosen to spend taxpayers money in other areas, so who would believe now that education would be a priority?” she said.

The “Why should we believe you?” argument made a regular appearance last week during Executive Committee hearings on the graduated income tax and before Speaker pulled the plug on the millionaire’s tax.

* Related..

* Report: Big cuts to state aid for schools if income tax increase expires: In Springfield alone, the school district would see a reduction of just over $4 million. The Senate Democrats’ figures showed the district getting about $35.8 million in general state aid this year.

* District 150 would see $5.4M cut in state budget scenario

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   66 Comments      


Protect Patient Safety – Don’t Let Psychologists Prescribe

Thursday, Apr 17, 2014

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

In any discussion about treating mental illness, patients and their families must come first. But Senate Bill 2187 – sometimes called “RxP” – puts the interests of a small group of professionals ahead of protecting patients.

SB 2187 would allow psychologists who have no medical training to prescribe medications. Current Illinois law allows only people who have medical training – doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants – to prescribe drugs.

Why does medical training matter? Physical illnesses and mental disorders are often intertwined. Additionally, psychiatric medication, such as drugs for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, can interact negatively with medication for chronic illnesses. Finally, many drugs are powerful and have risky side effects. To understand these complexities, psychiatrists go through four years of medical school and four additional years of residency, on top of their college training in the sciences. They learn to treat the whole patient – not just the brain.

“When you talk about prescribing medicine, the Number One point that you want to drive home is safety,” says Dr. Napatia Tronshaw, an Orland Park psychiatrist and medical doctor. “In order to safely approach prescribing medication, there is a certain knowledge base that you should have.”

Psychologists who want to prescribe can follow the route taken by Illinois nurse practitioners, physician assistants and doctors. They can obtain medical training – instead of insisting on a law that would put patients at risk. To become involved, join the Coalition for Patient Safety, http://coalitionforpatientsafety.com.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Question of the Day

Thursday, Apr 17, 2014

Posted by Barton Lorimor (@bartonlorimor)

* A little while back, I created a post on Facebook about what songs I should include on an iTunes playlist called “Session.” For example, “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” by Cage the Elephant is there. “Life in the Fast Lane” by The Eagles was a must. Dylan’s “Things Have Changed” is on the list.

You get the idea.

Anyway, the original post didn’t really attract much attention (sad story, I know). So with that in mind…

Question: What songs would you include on a music playlist entitled “Session?”

Please don’t everyone suggest every track on Pink Floyd’s “Animals” album. VanillaMan, it’s your time to shine, buddy!

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   94 Comments      


Then and now

Thursday, Apr 17, 2014

Posted by Barton Lorimor (@bartonlorimor)

* If the Metra cards have been anything, they have been an interesting compare/contrast.

It’s hard for me to imagine a time where patronage was so common that hard-copy records were actually kept…

The existence of the records was first disclosed in the report issued last month by the Northeastern Illinois Public Transit Task Force, appointed last summer by Gov. Pat Quinn to recommend improvements for Metra and the other transit agencies. The task force was created after ousted CEO Alex Clifford alleged that House Speaker Michael Madigan and other power brokers pressured him on issues ranging from hiring to contracts.

The cards date roughly from 1983 to 1991, and relate to people who were referred for jobs, promotions or raises by various public officials or others with political influence, the task force said. Some of those people got the jobs they were seeking and others did not, the task force said.

The index cards provide a quirky but incomplete history of hiring at Metra. Each card offers a partial snapshot of job candidates, what positions they were seeking or received and who was listed as their patron.

The jobs range from budget analyst to car cleaner, and the patrons were some of the most colorful characters in Chicago history. They include a host of now-convicted power brokers, from ex-Gov. George Ryan to former Chicago Ald. Ed Vrdolyak and former Metra board member Donald Udstuen. Among the other marquee political names were Madigan, former Gov. Jim Edgar, former Illinois Senate President James “Pate” Philip, ex-Mayor Jane Byrne and even the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon.

* Now if there is a suspicious hiring move or a salary bumps, it’s a headline…

Former Democratic state Rep. Karen Yarbrough has been Cook County’s recorder of deeds for little over a year.

But in that time, records show, Yarbrough has put one family member on the payroll and hired several people with political ties to her, as well as to her husband, former Maywood Mayor Henderson Yarbrough.

Borrowing a legal argument crafted by Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios, Yarbrough claims in court papers that the county ethics ordinance — which bars the hiring of family members — doesn’t apply to her as an independently elected office holder.

What’s more, when Cook County Inspector General Pat Blanchard looked into the hires, the employees and ranking staffers lied to investigators and refused to cooperate, Blanchard said in a blistering report released Wednesday.

I think “Don’t lie when they come talk to you” was a tip that came up more than once in yesterday’s Question of the Day.

Related…

* Who’s who of pols as job references on Metra clout cards

* Clout worked for some job-seekers, not all, at Metra

* Metra’s $2.4 million in non-union raises — here’s the list

* Claypool hires ex-county staffers with past ethics problems: Claypool named James D’Amico to help manage the CTA’s rail maintenance. Though D’Amico has no railroad experience, he is a longtime government worker who late last year left his county management post after the inspector general recommended he be fired for allegedly coercing government workers into donating to Todd Stroger’s campaign. D’Amico joined Gerald Nichols, a top executive under John Stroger, who is Claypool’s general manager of legislative affairs and government and community relations at the CTA. In 2006, Nichols was placed on paid suspension from his county job pending an internal investigation into hiring irregularities following an FBI search of county offices that did not result in any charges. Nichols remained suspended until he left the county later that year.

* D’Amico leaves one public job — and heads into another

* Herald-Review: Senate should pass public access bill

* Two Cook County employees get prison for bribery scheme

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   20 Comments      


Like deja vu all over again

Thursday, Apr 17, 2014

Posted by Barton Lorimor (@bartonlorimor)

* Remember the old “I was put on this Earth to fix pensions” days? Whacky fun, right?

Before the state pension bill passed, Gov. Quinn frequently deferred to comment on other issues because it wouldn’t be right to address anything but pension reform. Of course now that there is (at least momentarily) a pension bill in the books, the Governor can’t use that as cover anymore. And sure enough, gaming expansion proponents are back at it. A hearing was held yesterday to discuss the latest amendments to the proposal…

The newest version separates plans for a Chicago casino with up to 10,000 betting positions from a broader package that would add a total of five new casinos across the state and allow slot machines at horse tracks. The shift in strategy is aimed at blunting arguments that the gambling market outside the city is already saturated with existing casinos and video gambling machines at neighborhood bars.

However, peeling a Chicago casino out of a larger gambling package presents its own problems as Downstate and suburban lawmakers may be less inclined to vote in favor unless they get a piece of the gambling pie. But sponsoring Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, said a new provision that would split revenue from a Chicago casino evenly between the city and state should help win support of legislators and the governor, who has vetoed two previous expansion bills.

More…

Crain’s Chicago noted that Governor Pat Quinn might be more amenable to this plan than he has been to previous proposals that involved building casinos throughout the state. However, as both Crain’s and the AP described, putting a single, large casino in Chicago will almost certainly face long odds in the General Assembly; downstate representatives have already objected on the grounds that the primary purpose of a casino bill ought to be revitalizing economies around the state with construction and permanent jobs.

In fact, and as you will recall from last week in one of Rich’s posts, the Governor has lightened up on a Chicago casino. But get this…


Why is one of the most vocal proponents of a Chicago casino recycling lines from one of its biggest opponents?

One theory is the Mayor does not want to upset the Governor while the city’s pension bill is still on his desk.

In the meantime, though…

After years of pushing for slots machines at racetracks, some horse racing advocates are worried the smaller number proposed in a new plan won’t generate enough money.

The current plan would allow for 600 slot machines at Arlington International Racecourse, half the 1,200 called for in previous plans that were vetoed by Gov. Pat Quinn.

“All right, we’ll exist. Horse racing will exist with (600) machines. But we will not flourish. We will not flourish like other states,” said Bob Molaro, an industry lobbyist.

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   12 Comments      


Kirk to campaign for Oberweis afterall

Thursday, Apr 17, 2014

Posted by Barton Lorimor (@bartonlorimor)

* Sen. Mark Kirk has come a long way from withholding his endorsement from Jim Oberweis. The junior Senator told reporters yesterday he intends to campaign for Oberweis this year…

Kirk says he doesn’t believe the decision will affect his “very good relationship” with Durbin, who’s running for a fourth term.

Kirk and Durbin have worked together and have had a public friendship, particularly after Kirk suffered a stroke in 2012.

Durbin told IRN he wasn’t aware of Kirk’s turnaround.

Related…

* Durbin banks more than $6M for 2014 Senate bid

* Down-ballot fundraising shows big gaps: Democrat candidate Mike Frerichs of Champaign has raised $375,820 since January, giving him more than $1.08 million to spend. That’s compared to the $232,133 raised by his opponent, Republican Tom Cross of Oswego. He currently has $210,000 on hand. … Attorney General Lisa Madigan has an enormous fundraising advantage over her Republican challenger, Paul Schimpf. The Chicago Democrat raised $59,503 last quarter, putting her cash reserves at over $4.7 million. Schimpf brought in $22,135. After campaign expenses for the quarter, Schimpf reports having only $14,649 on hand.

* Quinn with nearly $9 million as Rauner reloads: Democrats held a campaign fundraising advantage in statewide races for secretary of state, attorney general and treasurer, but not for comptroller. In that contest, Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka had $1.1 million left and Democratic challenger Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon had $399,000.

* Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka reports $125,000 in income, $20,000 in taxes in 2013

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   36 Comments      


Today’s numbers

Thursday, Apr 17, 2014

Posted by Barton Lorimor (@bartonlorimor)

* A new report by the Public Interest Research Group says businesses that pay taxes in other countries through shell companies costs individual Illinois taxpayers $1,396 a year. For small businesses, that number is $4,588. From the coverage…

Every year, corporations and wealthy individuals avoid paying an estimated $184 billion in state and federal income taxes by using complicated accounting tricks to shift their profits to offshore tax havens. Of that $184 billion, $110 billion is avoided specifically by corporations.

“This is yet another example of why tax reform needs to be more than just campaign rhetoric,” said U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., a co-sponsor of H.R. 1554. “Hard-working middle-class Americans and the small businesses that are the future of this nation should not be forced to carry the tax burden sidestepped by others through the use of offshore accounts. I applaud Illinois PIRG for their exemplary work on this issue.”

Illinois can also take measures to reclaim some of the revenue lost to tax havens. Illinois PIRG found that by passing a simple, proven reform already on the books in other states, Illinois could save $108.3 million annually.

“The Illinois number is striking,” said Illinois state Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago. “If big corporations only paid their fair share for one year, the state’s operating budget problems could disappear overnight, elementary, secondary and higher education would be fully funded, MAP grant scholarships doubled, home and health services for senior citizens and people with disabilities fully restored, after-school and anti-gang programs tripled, and every overdue bill paid. So many of the troubles that face our state and communities would be wiped out in an instant if these loopholes were closed.”

A full copy of the report is here.

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   17 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Thursday, Apr 17, 2014

Posted by Barton Lorimor (@bartonlorimor)

Let’s get this Thursday show on the road…

* Rep. Smith pleads not guilty to bribery charges

* Berrios gets new term as county Democratic boss

* Del Mar easily retains Cook GOP chairmanship

* Long, Turner get new terms leading Sangamon County parties

* Kane Co. GOP selects Hartwell as new party chairman

* Lake County GOP chooses new leader: In their own conference, held simultaneously in Gurnee, the Democrats re-elected state Sen. Terry Link as their chairman.

* ComEd asks state for rate hike to help fund smart grid: Electricity customers would pay the higher rate regardless of which electricity provider supplies their electricity because its pays for upgrades to the ComEd-owned system that delivers that power. “These improvements, if done right, should pay for themselves in the long run, but the key moving forward is to hold ComEd accountable,” said Jim Chilsen, a spokesman for consumer advocacy group Citizens Utility Board in Chicago.

* New warden named for Menard prison: Kim Butler, a 20-year veteran of the Illinois Department of Corrections, was named warden of Menard Correctional Center on Wednesday. She is the first woman to serve as warden at the maximum-security prison in Chester.

* Diversity helps justice system, Garman says

* Study: Jail now housing more serious offenders

* Lawmakers propose emergency responder task force

* Opponents of Murray center closure win round in court: The decision means a public guardian can continue his job of overseeing some residents of the Warren G. Murray Developmental Center. The ruling stems from a decision last year in which attorney Stewart Freeman was named as the legal guardian of 28 Murray residents after questions were raised about the representation they were receiving from a state guardian. In his position, Freeman has the power to block the state from taking certain steps to move the residents out of Murray, potentially stymieing the governor’s push to shutter the facility.

* DCFS warning Il lawmakers against budget cuts

* Fake Twitter account prompts real raid: Police searched a West Bluff house Tuesday and seized phones and computers in an effort to unmask the author of a parody Twitter account that purported to be Mayor Jim Ardis. The account — known as @Peoriamayor on the popular social media service that limits entries to 140 characters — already had been suspended for several weeks when up to seven plainclothes police officers executed a search warrant about 5:20 p.m. at 1220 N. University St. Three people at the home were taken to the Peoria Police Department for questioning. Two other residents were picked up at their places of employment and taken to the station, as well. One resident — 36-year-old Jacob L. Elliott — was booked into the Peoria County Jail on charges of possessing 30 to 500 grams of marijuana and possessing drug paraphernalia, but no arrests were made in connection with the Twitter account.

* Illinois Lottery looking at new ways to distribute winning ticket information

* Proposal to deny firearms ID cards to medical pot users is nixed

* Kane County works on concealed carry policy

* Senator Kirk Promotes Stroke Research Funding

* Sente to hold Environmental Citizens’ Advisory Committee Meeting

* Opponents of Flooding Prevention Plan Fear Contamination

* Bolingbrook School First in State to Receive National Counseling Honor

* Local attorney Jeff Flanagan named temporary chief public defender for Peoria County

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   13 Comments      


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