My name is Steve Brown, and I’m committed to making your voice heard on Capitol Hill. Like you, I want to play an active role in making my community, state and country a safer, better place to raise my children, run my business, and forge a future filled with unlimited promise.
If you share my vision, I urge you to connect with me and help make it happen! Together, we can make a meaningful difference– for our families, our communities, and our country.
* Yesterday, we discussed Gov. Bruce Rauner’s latest front against organized labor, a request made through the Illinois Municipal League that local governments adopt an anti-union resolution. The draft resolution put together by Team Rauner actually covers a little more than that. Here it is…
Resolution in Support of the “Turnaround Agenda” for Local Government Empowerment and Reform
WHEREAS, Illinois state law creates a “one size fits all” approach to collective bargaining for local units of governments. This approach creates added costs which are ultimately passed on to taxpayers; and
WHEREAS, voters and local officials should determine what is a subject of bargaining - not the State; and
WHEREAS, local control of bargaining would allow voters or local governments to determine if certain topics should be excluded from collective bargaining, including contracting, wages, provisions of health insurance, use of employee time, required levels of staffing, procedures and criteria for personnel evaluations; and
WHEREAS, state law sets thresholds for workers on state and local construction projects increasing costs significantly; and
WHEREAS, state law has increased utilization of Project Labor Agreements for construction projects; and
WHEREAS, repealing the Illinois Prevailing Wage Law and the requirements for Project Labor Agreements would allow local governments more control over construction and project costs; and
WHEREAS, more than 280 unfunded mandates have been imposed in recent years on communities across Illinois, costing those communities billions. Rolling back mandates will create more flexibility in local government budgets; and
WHEREAS, Illinois’ workers’ compensation costs are the seventh highest in the nation – and more than double the costs in Indiana; and
WHEREAS, updating how injuries are apportioned to ensure employers pay for injuries that occur on the job, a clarification regarding the definition of “traveling employees” to ensure a reasonable standard that excludes risks that would impact the general public, and implementation of American Medical Association guidelines when determining impairment would result in major cost savings for local governments; and
WHEREAS, voters in our community should be allowed to decide via referendum whether or not employees should be forced to join a union or pay dues as a condition of employment; and
WHEREAS, local empowerment zones will help attract jobs and make our community more attractive for businesses; and
WHEREAS, local governments face unfunded liabilities that threaten core services and functions of government. State action on pension reform for future work should provide local governments the ability to address pension reform for future work as well;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the (CITY/TOWN/VILLAGE) of (NAME) endorses major reforms in state government that will encourage local control, reduce costs on local governments, empower local voters, and increase competitiveness in our community.
*** UPDATE *** Mayor Emanuel vows to “oppose every step”…
STATEMENT FROM MAYOR EMANUEL ON GOVERNOR RAUNER’S CALL ON CITIES TO PASS RIGHT TO WORK ZONE RESOLUTIONS
“Governor Rauner is continuing his race to the bottom by asking cities like Chicago to pass ‘Right to Work’ zone resolutions. I will not support – and will oppose every step of the way – any such resolution in Chicago because I believe it directly threatens our strategic goal to strengthen Chicago’s middle class, not undermine it. We should instead be focused on rebuilding our neighborhood infrastructure, public transit, public schools, and public parks to keep growing local jobs. And that’s why I’ve launched an effort to build “Right to Thrive” zones that will protect our workers and provide an array of incentives to help businesses create jobs in struggling neighborhoods throughout our city.
“Competing against Mississippi and Alabama for low wages is not a strategy to build a great city. When companies look for a new home or a place to grow, our competition is the other great cities of the world like New York, London, Beijing, and Tokyo. By building a stronger local economy with good-paying jobs, Chicago will continue to be among those great cities and every resident, from every neighborhood, will benefit.”
I was never more excited than the day I walked into this chamber six years ago. I leave here with sadness and humility.
For those whom I’ve let down, I will work tirelessly to make it up to you. I know that God has a plan for my life. The Good Book tells us that before I formed you in the womb I knew you. I also know that every person faces adversity in life.
Abraham Lincoln held this seat in Congress for one term. But few faced as many defeats in his personal business and public life as he did. His continual perseverance in the face of these trials, never giving up, is something all of us Americans should be inspired by, especially when going through a valley in life.
I believe that through life’s struggles, we learn from our mistakes and we learn more about ourselves. And I know that this is not the end of a story, but rather the beginning of a new chapter.
Thank you for the honor to serve. I look forward to keeping in touch with my friends in this chamber and my friends across the 18th District.
May God continue to bless this awesome institution and the important role that it plays for America and the rest of the world. With that, I yield back the balance of my time.
* And speaking of Schock, we talked earlier this week about longtime Schock fundraiser Lisa Wagner’s odd letter to contributors. Here’s the full text…
You have been on my heart and mind this week. While we don’t know each other well, out of the respect for you and all you have done in the past, I wanted to personally reach out to you regarding Aaron Schock.
You personally and generously supported Aaron in the past and were very kind to him. He deceived us all.
I suspect you are feeling like me: sad, angry, cheated….a wide range of feelings, mostly they are filled with total disgust, disbelief and disappointment.
The last time I saw Aaron was February 8, 2015. I have tried to text, email and call, but with zero response.
Right now, I feel like someone we thought we knew really well died.
As a fundraiser and a professional, it is so important when someone is solicited for funds that the entity or organization they give to must be a good steward of the resources donated. The reports about Aaron seemingly lack of respect for the taxpayers’ dollars and the donors’ investment in his campaign are most disturbing and disappointing.
I believe he should be held accountable for his choices….whatever the consequences be…I have no sympathy for the him right now.
I am, however, thanking God and my guardian angels. I worked for Aaron for 4 years, got paid a modest monthly retainer, but received no bonus, no trips, no gifts, no sporting events or rock concerts, not even a Schock t-shirt. Worked my tail off and played by the rules for him. I guess that is why I was kept out of the loop –until he need something - a fundraiser for Rauner, a fundraiser for him, 15M for the NRCC.
As a mom, I am teaching my kids to act with integrity, follow the rules and do their jobs to the best of their ability. So many people here in Illinois and across the country truly believed in Aaron and in his ability to legislate, to be a voice, to lead, to get things done and help people. What has happened is so very sad and disappointing for everyone, but especially for Aaron.
For your reference, I have requested any money anyone donated to him in 2015 be returned. The response I received from the person managing his compliance now is that they legally have to return the 2016 general contributions, but not the primary money. My request is that all of it should be returned.
In addition, I went thru and re-read Aaron’s resignation statement and some of his clips. Nowhere in there did I see any kind of mea culpa or acknowledgement of wrongdoing.
So…for what it is worth….I am truly sorry for the pain Aaron’s situation is causing you, me, his friends, supporters, staff, donors, the voters, those who believed in him - everyone. This whole situation hurts everyone.
IMPACT and the Heartland Alliance Policy and Advocacy team have released two sets of fact sheets for each Illinois legislative district. The fact sheets, which focus on poverty and human services in each district, provide a local-level picture of the current state of, and demonstrate the effect that Governor Rauner’s proposed budget cuts would have on Illinois communities.
* The Question: What new thing(s) did you learn by clicking those above links and looking up your district info? You could also discuss other districts you are familiar with or curious about, and even compare some. Thanks!
Laws passed in the 1960s and 1970s were supposed to protect the environment, but lax enforcement left corporations with little incentive to comply. Ultimately, trial attorneys were the ones who sought justice for communities destroyed by corporate polluters.
More than 50 million U.S. residents live with unhealthy air, despite the passage of the Clean Air Act. As many as 49 million Americans have water supplies that contain levels of arsenic, radioactive substance and coliform bacteria. U.S. corporations produce more than 25 billion pounds of hazardous waste every year. Trial attorneys have worked on behalf of targeted communities to force corporations to be held accountable for the contaminants they have dumped in groundwater, rivers and streams. Trial attorneys have led the fight those who have been injured and sickened by corporate attempts to evade their negligence.
Without the civil justice system, many corporate polluters would never have been held accountable for the disasters they caused. For more information, click here.
U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon of the Northern District of Illinois, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, and Special Agent in Charge Robert Holley of the FBI’s Chicago Division announced today that two Aurora, Illinois, men were arrested Wednesday night for allegedly conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a foreign terrorist organization.
Army National Guard Specialist Hasan Edmonds, 22, a U.S. citizen, was arrested without incident at Chicago Midway International Airport by members of the Chicago FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) while attempting to fly to Cairo, Egypt. Jonas Edmonds, 29, a U.S. citizen, was arrested without incident at his home in Aurora. After the arrests on Wednesday night, agents executed search warrants at the residences of both defendants. The defendants were charged in a criminal complaint filed yesterday in U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois with one count of conspiring to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization. The initial appearances of Hasan Edmonds and Jonas Edmonds are scheduled at 3:00 p.m. today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila Finnegan.
As alleged in the complaint, in late 2014, Hasan Edmonds came to the attention of the FBI. The investigation subsequently revealed that he and Jonas Edmonds had devised a plan for Hasan Edmonds to travel overseas for the purpose of waging violence on behalf of ISIL. Hasan Edmonds, a current member of the Illinois Army National Guard, planned to use his military training to fight on behalf of ISIL. As part of their plans, Hasan Edmonds booked airline travel to depart yesterday from Chicago and arrive in Cairo today, with layovers in Detroit and Amsterdam.
As alleged in the complaint, both defendants also planned for Jonas Edmonds to carry out an act of terrorism in the United States after Hasan Edmonds departed. In particular, both defendants met with an FBI undercover employee and presented a plan to carry out an armed attack against a U.S. military facility in northern Illinois, an installation where Hasan Edmonds had been training. Jonas Edmonds asked the FBI undercover employee to assist in the attack and explained that they would use Hasan Edmonds’ uniforms and the information he supplied about how to access the installation and target officers for attack.
“We will pursue and prosecute with vigor those who support ISIL and its agenda of ruthless violence,” said U.S. Attorney Fardon. “Anyone who threatens to harm our citizens and allies, whether abroad or here at home, will face the full force of justice.”
“According to the charges filed today, the defendants allegedly conspired to provide material support to ISIL and planned to travel overseas to support the terrorist organization,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “In addition, they plotted to attack members of our military within the United States. Disturbingly, one of the defendants currently wears the same uniform of those they allegedly planned to attack. I want to thank the many agents, analysts, and prosecutors who are responsible for disrupting the threat posed by these defendants.”
“The arrests today are the culmination of a successful investigation that involved a great deal of coordination and communication with our law enforcement and military partners,” said Special Agent in Charge Holley. “Throughout the course of this investigation, the defendants were closely and carefully monitored to ensure the safety of the public and our service men and women.”
Conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted, the court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
The case was investigated by the FBI’s JTTF, which is comprised of special agents of the FBI, officers of the Chicago Police Department and representatives from an additional 20 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Assistant Attorney General Carlin joins U.S. Attorney Fardon in extending his appreciation to the JTTF.
The Chicago Police Department, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), the Illinois State Police, the Aurora Police Department and the Illinois National Guard also provided significant assistance.
The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Barry Jonas and John Kness of the Northern District of Illinois, and Trial Attorney Lolita Lukose of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.
The public is reminded that a complaint contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
In the past, I’ve been a tad bit skeptical of the FBI’s participation in these sorts of sting operations. But considering what happened in Paris not long ago, I’m totally OK with them now. Set ‘em up if you have to, then knock ‘em down.
*** UPDATE *** Governor Bruce Rauner…
“Yesterday, Adjunct General Daniel M. Krumrei and Illinois Public Safety Director Rodger Heaton briefed me regarding the ongoing investigation into an Illinois National Guard soldier, his potential involvement in terrorist activities and the soldier’s impending arrest.
“Last night, I was informed that the Illinois National Guard soldier was arrested for alleged terrorist activities including attempting to join and assist ISIS and conspiring to facilitate other terrorist actions. I commend the Illinois National Guard and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for working together closely to apprehend this individual and his associates. On behalf of all citizens of Illinois, I thank all the members of our National Guard as well as the FBI for protecting our state and defending our country. “
…Adding… I read a fascinating piece the other day explaining ISIS better than anything I’ve ever seen. Graeme Wood’s piece in the Atlantic is a must-read today. Click here.
The future of a Lake County charter school is uncertain after a judge this week ruled that a state commission was wrong in giving the school approval to operate for another five years.
The Illinois Charter School Commission’s decision to extend the charter for Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake was “clearly erroneous and is reversed,” Cook County Judge Thomas Allen wrote in his Monday ruling. […]
Prairie Crossing was established in 1999 and has long been a source of controversy. The school’s creation was approved by the state over the opposition of its feeder districts, Woodland Community Consolidated District 50 in Gurnee and Fremont Elementary School District 79 in Mundelein.
Because of the way charter school funding is set up, Prairie Crossing siphoned off about $3.1 million of District 50’s $3.5 million in state funding, said James Petrugaro, attorney for District 50. In a district where 30 percent of students are from low-income families, that money is crucial to providing services for a population with a lower property tax base, the other primary source of school funding, Petrugaro said.
Yet while nearly one-third of District 50’s Woodland’s students are from low-income families, only 1.8 percent of Prairie Crossing students fit that category, Petrugaro said. District 50 has argued that the charter school “has long significantly failed to enroll low-income and other at-risk students in its program,” according to a district news release.
Prairie Crossing Executive Director Geoff Deigan said in a letter to parents that Woodland is trying to close the school in an effort to “miraculously cure years of mismanaged budgets by their administration and their school board.” Deigan said he expects Prairie Crossing will prevail in appellate court.
Yes, we get almost all their state money, but they’re mismanaging their budgets!
Illinois State Charter School Commission members voted 5-4 in favor of renewing Prairie Crossing through the 2018-19 academic year. Commission member Milton Wharton, a retired circuit judge from the East St. Louis area who voted against the renewal, criticized Prairie Crossing at length for the lack of diversity.
Woodland has about 31 percent low-income students compared to Prairie Crossing’s 0.5 percent, according to the state report card.
The money isn’t following the children that Prairie Crossing was created to serve based on Illinois Charter Schools Law, which states that charter schools in Illinois were created with a “special emphasis” on educating at-risk students.
The General Assembly further finds and declares that this Article is enacted for the following purposes:
(1) To improve pupil learning by creating schools with high, rigorous standards for pupil performance.
(2) To increase learning opportunities for all pupils, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for at-risk pupils, consistent, however, with an equal commitment to increase learning opportunities for all other groups of pupils in a manner that does not discriminate on the basis of disability, race, creed, color, gender, national origin, religion, ancestry, marital status, or need for special education services.
[Senate President John Cullerton says] they’re still working to get the votes.
“Well, these are cuts to state government. There’s no revenue here … so that’s a cause of concern for some Democrats,” he said.
Still, Cullerton says it’s compromise. One which he says gives Gov. Bruce Rauner less of the flexibility than he’d wanted, but which still lets the Republican finesse planned spending.
Cullerton says he should be able to guarantee the support of ten of the Senate’s 39 members; enough, he says, as long as all 20 Senate Republicans vote “yes,” as did every Republican member of the House (House Democrats were more divided; many suburbanites, particularly those in swing districts, opposed the measures).
“We’re trying to look to see if most, if not all, Republicans support their governor as they did in the House,” Cullerton said. “Since all of their state reps voted for the bill, I would assume that all of the (Senate) Republicans could do the same or close to unanimous.” […]
“These are cuts to state government. There’s no revenue here,” Cullerton said. “That causes concern for some Democrats. I believe it will certainly have at least 10 (Democratic) votes and that will be sufficient if all Republicans vote for it.”
Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, has spoken to all of her members about the need for the bill, spokeswoman Patty Schuh said.
“Sen. Radogno is working to get as many votes as possible,” she said. “We have to clean up the fiscal mess we are in right now.”
Exelon has repeatedly claimed their $1.5 billion bailout bill, the so-called “Low Carbon Portfolio Standard,” is actually “a technology-neutral policy that rewards all low carbon resources equally within a competitive market framework.” Is it?
The following exclusions are contained in the legislation:
• No projects “whose costs were being recovered through State-regulated rates as of January 1, 2015” (Exelon’s plants were built with ratepayer funds and paid off long ago)
• No projects with power purchase agreements longer than five years (how most independent projects are built)
• No hydro power larger than three megawatts
• No project unless registered in “Generation Attribute Tracking System”
• Must meet “Minimum Internal Resource Requirements”
Crain’s put it best:
“the bill places such great limits on bidders other than Exelon’s Illinois nukes that Exelon is highly likely to win most if not all of the credits…the nukes by themselves could meet the state’s new standard.” [Crain’s, February 26, 2015 – emphasis added]
Exelon’s $1.5 Billion bailout bill ensures only Exelon will benefit. Or as the Belleville News Democrat said:
“State lawmakers need to see this bill for the dirty trick it is and kill it.”
This poll’s one-sided wording should cause thoughtful observers of all stripes to discount its results. Only on the fair share question are opposing views accurately presented, and there, tellingly, Illinois voters support workers against the governor’s attacks by 60-33.
[ *** End Of Update *** ]
* We Ask America live interview poll taken March 9 of 500 registered voters. Commissioned by the Illinois Manufacturers Association.
Gov. Bruce Rauner’s job approval rating…
* Despite those horrible approval numbers, the poll has some good news for the governor…
Gov. Rauner has been a staunch opponent to the amount of power that labor unions that represent state workers hold. Do you agree or disagree that those public-sector unions are too powerful?
In your opinion, should public sector unions be able to make campaign contributions to the elected officials that negotiate their contracts?
Gov. Rauner has suggested empowering local voters to make decisions on a variety of issues affecting the economy. I’m going to ask you about several of these proposals to get your opinion. For example, Governor Rauner would allow Illinois communities where unemployment recovery is lagging behind to create local empowerment zones where employees are NOT required to join any union…a system often referred to as “right to work.” Indiana, Michigan and now Wisconsin have right to work laws. Do you think that’s a good idea, or a bad idea to allow economically depressed area in Illinois to have this ability to attract companies by not requiring union membership?
Good idea 59.40%
Bad idea 31.80%
Today, all union members are required to pay “fair share” union dues that cost about $500 per year. Governor Rauner believes that individual employees should be able to decide whether or not to pay union dues. Labor unions believe that all employees in a union should be required to pay dues since they benefit from collective bargaining agreements. We’d like to know your opinion on that.
All should pay 60.60%
Not all should pay 33.20%
His labor message is apparently fairly well received, except for the fair share stuff.
* Budget stuff…
According to Gov. Rauner, 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 everywhere except education. Do you agree, or disagree that the state has been spending too much money for the last decade?
Do you think the State can afford to continue spending at the current rate?
Do you think the best way to deal with the budget shortfall is make drastic cuts or raise taxes?
If you believe that taxes should be raised, in your opinion what is the best way to increase revenue?
Sales tax 6.02%
General income tax hike 7.83%
Millionaire tax 60.24%
All of these 12.05%
None of these 10.24%
Governor Rauner proposed freezing property taxes and allowing local governments to raise property taxes ONLY if approved by voters at a local election. While some taxpayer groups have applauded this approach, school districts and taxing bodies have expressed concern that this will impact their ability to generate revenue. Do you support, or oppose freezing property taxes unless the voters approve an increase?
* More issues…
We’d like to know if you think that Illinois should do what other states do and pay only standard rates to doctors and hospitals for injured workers.
Also on this same subject, unlike other states, Illinois allows workers with pre-existing conditions to claim workers compensation status when they claim that pre-existing condition impedes their current work. Do you think Illinois should–like other states–take into account THE CAUSE of the injury…and not just the fact that the person has a job therefore it gets put into the workers’ comp classification?
* And, finally…
Governor Rauner supports terms limits and believes that voters should determine whether Illinois has term limits for elected officials. Do you support or oppose term limits?
Both the Illinois governor’s office and the General Assembly have been under control of the Democratic Party for more than a decade. What kind of grade would you give the Democrats during that timeframe?
44 percent give the Dems a D or F. Sounds about right, considering.
As a pioneer of Smart Grid technology, ComEd is at the forefront of revolutionary changes that are shaping an environmentally sound and prosperous energy future for Illinois. Just four years into the rollout of innovative Smart Grid technologies, we have helped customers avoid more than 3.3 million power interruptions, improved outage restoration by 30% and created 3,600 jobs.
ComEd’s Energy Plan for Illinois’ Future – HB 3328 / SB 1879 – builds on the strength of the Smart Grid foundation to provide superior solutions for a cleaner and greener Illinois, simultaneously empowering energy consumers, the Illinois economy and enhancing security and resiliency of critical infrastructure.
What’s more, this package of initiatives will have net zero cost among residential customers over the next ten years.
These high value initiatives* include:
• Cost effective Energy Efficiency Expansion
• Equitable Solar Power for the Community
• Jump starting electric vehicle market with large scale deployment of electric vehicle charging stations
• Enhanced security and resiliency for critical infrastructure with Microgrid technology
• More Assistance Dollars for Customers in Need
• Greater access to renewables
• New jobs in Illinois
HB 3328 / SB 1879 reflects the need for continuous improvement in the system at a time when our modern digital economy is increasingly dependent on electricity and greater security. This legislation will meet these important infrastructure challenges. It will enable Illinois utilities to keep planning for the future and deliver even more tangible value today.
Vote Yes for HB/SB1879.
*Initiatives align with published desires of environmental stakeholders.
Shield Political Research, a Democratic opposition research firm with experience researching opponents as well as offering self-research to clients, is pleased to announce the launch of a new service to campaigns and political organizations: self-research on the social media history of potential staffers and other new hires.
The early stages of the 2016 cycle have been filled with stories of what turned out to be short-term campaign hires generating distractions — and embarrassing headlines —with regretful social media posts that were discovered too late, including misogynistic Twitter posts, tweets taking a swipe at early-state voters, and tweets calling officials on both sides of the aisle “idiots,” and worse. […]
Many of the men and women who will staff and lead campaigns this cycle are from a generation in which virtually their entire adult lives —for better or worse —are reflected on social media accounts.
Shield will examine these social media accounts — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, among other sites —and flag any potential sources of trouble, including questionable photos, comments, tweets, “likes” or followed feeds.
Our methods go beyond simple searching, using triangulation, archived pages and social-web analysis to guarantee we capture a full picture of the staffer’s social media footprint.
The service will employ the same touchstones that mark Shield’s other research products: speed, accuracy and a price that makes it a shrewd investment for national and local campaigns alike.
Shield’s social media reports for staffers will be completed in three days or less, and be protected by a confidentiality clause.
Credit unions are committed to several cooperative principles, including social responsibility. At Staley Credit Union in Decatur, encouraging their members and the community to make steps toward better health is a top priority. Since 2006, the credit union has been a primary sponsor of the annual Penguin in the Park 5K. As a result of the credit union’s staunch support, this important community event has grown from 135 to nearly 1,000 participants.
Now in its 10th year, Penguin in the Park will once again receive more than $3,500 from Staley Credit Union for medals, t-shirts, sports bags, and other items. This event continues to be highly important to the credit union because health statistics in Macon County relative to obesity and physical inactivity exceed comparable data for all other Illinois counties.
Helping the community develop and maintain healthy lifestyles is just one facet of the credit union’s extensive outreach, which also includes awarding college scholarships, financially supporting a wide variety of city and county school athletic programs, post prom parties, and helping to sustain local food pantries. At the heart of the credit union philosophy is the principle of people before profits – and another reason why members are so fiercely loyal.
As Gov. Bruce Rauner considers whether to finally kill off the proposed Illiana expressway, this is a question he might want to get answered:
Why did ex-Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration, amid an all-out rush to stampede the controversial roadway through to final approval last year, commission a secret, $112,000 study of whether Illiana finances would be solid enough to quality for a big federal construction loan?
And why was that study, which apparently came back negative, never released—even now, with everybody in Springfield who knows passing the buck to someone else? […]
n fall 2013, the staff of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, this region’s official gatekeeper for federal transportation cash, concluded that the road, which is supposed to be a public-private partnership, never would pay for itself. That would leave Illinois taxpayers on the hook in a major way.
But Quinn’s Department of Transportation strongly disputed that, saying in part that the project would qualify for a big, low-cost federal loan under the U.S. Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.
* It turns out, though, that Quinn’s administration asked Fitch Ratings to look into whether the project would qualify for the federal infrastructure loan. IDOT finally admitted yesterday that Fitch said the project probably wouldn’t qualify…
“Fitch Ratings did inform IDOT advisers verbally that the financing plan being pursued by the previous administration likely would not receive a favorable rating. As part of its ongoing review of the project with the governor’s office, IDOT continues to explore the potential financial arrangements and risks. The agreement with Fitch Ratings remains open and potentially part of the ongoing review process.”
* Rockford has been hoping that a new Amtrak service could boost its local economy by drawing suburbanites further west. But that project is on hold for now…
Amtrak representative Ray Lang met late Wednesday afternoon with [GOP Rep. John Cabello of Machesney Park] and other members of the House Public Safety Appropriations Committee. Lang told the lawmakers all expansion projects are on hold for the foreseeable future.
“I asked him if Amtrak is coming to Rockford, and he said, ‘No,’” Cabello said. “They are federally and state funded. When their funding goes down, they have to live within their means, unlike us.”
Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey said the issue is not dead.
“To say that Amtrak is dead is misleading. Ray Lang testified the (governor’s) proposed budget would not have enough funding for this year. He testified to something we already knew.
He also added, “The governor proposes the budget. It’s up to the Legislature to pass the budget.”
While Illinois Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, sits on the committee and supports passenger rail, he stands by his claim that funding to bring it back by this year was never in place.
“It was made clear, which we tried warning last year, that Quinn was not honest with the citizens of northern Illinois when he said last year that the project and operations were funded and rail would be running later this year,” Syverson said last month.
A top Amtrak official says Illinois would be on the hook to repay more than a billion dollars in federal aid if service is reduced on the Chicago-St. Louis passenger rail corridor. […]
His comments to a House appropriations panel came as Rauner has proposed a budget for the next fiscal year that would slash the state’s share of Amtrak funding by 40 percent, from its current $42 million per year to $26 million.
Lang said if service cannot be reduced on the Chicago-St. Louis route because of the federal payback issue, service would have to be cut on other routes. […]
Lang’s statements run counter to Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Guy Tridgell’s comment to the Lee Enterprises Springfield bureau on Tuesday.
“The state’s financial support for Amtrak’s annual operations is independent of any construction work that’s ongoing or has already taken place,” Tridgell had said in an email.
Population growth in the Chicago area ground to a near halt, as even the limited momentum the area experienced during the Great Recession has dissipated.
According to figures being released this morning by the U.S. Census Bureau, the metropolitan area, which takes in portions of Illinois, southeast Wisconsin and northwest Indiana, gained an estimated 9,802 residents in the 12 months that ended June 30. That means births and immigration into the region barely exceeded the number of people who died or moved out.
That 9,802 figure—to a new total of 9,554,598—amounted to an increase of less than .1 percent. Within the Illinois portion, the increase was only 4,735, under .07 percent.
Earlier in the decade, estimates suggested that bad economic times might be keeping some people here who otherwise would have moved to other regions of the country. Now, with an economic recovery under way, outmigration appears to have picked up.
* “When I’m With You” by the London Souls popped up on the radio while I was driving to the Statehouse yesterday. As I listened and smiled and danced in my seat I thought about all of you and how I so thoroughly enjoy spending time with you every day. Today is my birthday and I’ve been thinking lately how amazingly blessed my life is right now. You’re a big part of that and I just wanted to thank you…
Access to the north entrance of the state Capitol is being restricted after concerns were raised about the structural integrity of brickwork supporting the entryway.
Secretary of State spokesman Henry Haupt said workers recently noticed some flaking underneath the brickwork supporting the north entryway.
“We had a structural engineer look at that brickwork beneath the entrance way and he determined it needed to be shored up and fortified,” Haupt said. “He’s putting together a plan to proceed. In the meantime, he recommended to err on the side of caution, that large groups of individuals, particularly just standing on that north porch, was not a good idea.”
Haupt said the office was told there isn’t a danger of collapse, but was advised that large groups of people should not be allowed to stand on the north porch.
Consequently, the north entrance will be limited to lawmakers, staffers, lobbyists and others who are issued ID badges by the secretary of state’s office. They are allowed to enter the building without passing through metal detectors.
There’s gotta be a good joke in there somewhere. I’ll leave it to you…
* They’re borrowing to make debt service payments? Uh-oh…
Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the rating on Zion Park District, IL’s general obligation (GO) debt to Ba1 from Baa3 and the rating on the district’s general obligation limited tax (GOLT) debt certificates to Ba2 from Ba1. The Ba1 rating applies to $1.9 million in outstanding general obligation (GO) alternate revenue debt and $540,000 in GOLT debt service extension base (DSEB) debt. The Ba2 rating applies to $400,000 in outstanding GOLT debt certificates.
The outlook is negative.
SUMMARY RATING RATIONALE
The Ba1 rating reflects the district’s rapidly declining tax base; limited revenue raising ability as the district is operating at property tax rate caps in almost all of its major operating funds, and narrow Operating Fund cash reserves. Also incorporated in the rating is the district’s reliance regular borrowing to support debt service payments on outstanding debt, including plans to fully leverage its debt service extension base (DSEB) to support GO alternative revenue source debt service.
The district’s Ba2 debt certificate rating reflects the lack of a dedicated property tax levy for repayment of debt service, along with the
district’s narrow liquidity position.
The negative outlook reflects our expectation that the district’s finances will remain limited, requiring regular borrowing to pay debt service
on existing debt, as well as expectations for continued, material tax base declines.
WHAT COULD MAKE THE RATING GO UP (or remove the negative outlook)
-Stabilization or growth in the district’s property tax base
-Growth in overall liquidity supported by balanced operations
-Formalized planning toward and the attainment of self supporting enterprises
-Discontinuation of the practice of borrowing to support recurring debt service on outstanding debt
WHAT COULD MAKE THE RATING GO DOWN
-Further deterioration in property tax base valuations
-Recreation Fund tax rate hitting property tax rate cap
-Erosion of operating liquidity
-Increased Enterprise Fund dependency on the General Fund
The district’s last Moody’s downgrade from exactly one year ago is here.
* We have probably discussed this before, but not as a stand-alone topic. Just one more example of why Gov. Rauner’s proposed budget (like so many budgets before him) is so phony. From CoGFA…
The Governor has requested that a total of $2.025 billion be appropriated for the State Employees’ Group Health and Life Insurance program for FY 2016. The requested FY 2015 appropriation request for the Group Health Insurance Program was $2.790 billion. […]
CMS estimates the FY 2016 liability to be $2.777 billion, a 6.8% increase from FY 2015. The CGFA FY 2016 estimate of liability is $2.803 billion, $25.9 million more than CMS.
So, the estimated liability is $2.8 billion and the requested approp is $2 billion, leaving $800 million in unpaid costs.
Currently, for the Quality Care Health Plan (CIGNA), the delay for preferred providers and non-preferred providers is 273 and 350 days. In FY 2016, the cycle is expected to be extended significantly… CMS has calculated the amount of time it takes to make payments to managed care providers (HMOs and OAPs) at approximately seven months, which is expected to increase to 14 months in FY 2016… PPO claims would be held up to 360 days in FY 2016, above the 273 days utilized in FY 2015. Out-of-network PPO claims would rise from 350 days currently to 380 in FY 2016.
Recently, ads on Capitol Fax have distorted the facts about the Illinois Low Carbon Portfolio Standard (SB 1585). Let’s set the record straight.
Myth:“Exelon is profitable, so they don’t need more money to keep these plants open.”
Fact: Much like a retail business with multiple stores, every location has to make money on its own. No retail chain could survive for long using profitable stores to keep unprofitable ones open. Exelon would not operate Plant A at a loss simply because Plant B is earning a profit.
The fact is, three of Illinois’ six nuclear plants are at risk of closing, and the consequences of these closures are catastrophic:
• $1.8 billion every year in lost economic activity
• Nearly 8,000 highly skilled jobs
• Up to $500 million annually in higher energy costs statewide, according to a PJM analysis
• $1.1 billion per year due to increases in carbon and other pollutants
• Hundreds of millions of dollars to construct new transmission lines
Only one legislative solution, the Illinois Low Carbon Portfolio Standard (LCPS), properly values all low-carbon sources of energy, including the state’s nuclear facilities.
According to a State of Illinois report, the cost to Illinois of allowing nuclear plants to prematurely retire are as much as 12 times greater than the maximum cost of the Illinois LCPS.
MEMBERS OF THE ILLINOIS SENATE ENERGY AND PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMITTEE:
VOTE YES ON THE LOW CARBON PORTFOLIO STANDARD (SB 1585)
Creates the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. Defines terms. Provides procedures and requirements for the access and control by guardians, executors, agents, and other fiduciaries to the digital assets of persons who are deceased, under a legal disability, or subject to the terms of a trust.
The idea is to create a legal structure for taking over somebody’s online accounts and other “digital assets” when they pass away or become incapacitated. But there could be some big privacy problems with this idea. Your executor would have complete access to all your stuff, even if you didn’t officially appoint an executor, or your court-appointed guardian in the case of incapacitation. And there are some unintended consequences as well. What if a woman is incapacitated by her abusive husband, who then gets access to all her private info?
* From Dan Sachs, Facebook associate manager of state policy…
“The people that use our service should be able to control who has access to their digital archives, particularly their private communications, upon their death – not legislators and not a fiduciary that a person did not affirmatively select. There are many Illinoisans with online accounts. This bill would effectively ignore the wishes of all of those people when they die, set aside decades of settled law, and override the innovative tools and options companies provide to protect those accounts.”
Facebook offers a “Legacy Contact” function which allows users to select someone to manage their account after they pass on – or to decide if they’d like to have their account deleted upon verification of their death.
* From Bill Ashworth, Senior Legal DIrector, Public Policy, Yahoo…
“At Yahoo, we take our users’ privacy seriously. That’s why we’re concerned with the draft legislation currently before the Illinois State House of Representatives (HB 4131) which, if approved, would automatically–and without permission–give access to the online lives of our Illinois users to their fiduciary at the time of their death. Each of our users should decide when and how they share their personal emails, messages and photos. We believe that account holders and individuals—not legislators—should determine what happens to a person’s digital archives at the time of their death.”
* Companies almost never welcome these sorts of intrusions. But what about all the other online services one might have? A well-written statute would give us a uniform standard. Not saying that these bills are well-written, just sayin.
I personally haven’t set up any mechanism to give anyone authority to access my website, e-mail accounts, Facebook, Twitter, ScribbleLive, mobile phone, fax and e-mail distribution services, my computer password or even (come to think of it) my electronic gun safe passcode.
I really need to get that done soon. Not that I’m planning on going anywhere any time soon, mind you, just that stuff happens in life.
Anyway, to the bill…
* The Question: Regardless of how you feel about the particulars of this legislation, should there be a state law to determine a process for passing along digital assets when one dies or is incapacitated? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.
In an email to mayors across the state, the head of the lobbying organization for municipalities said Rauner has asked for city councils to consider a resolution asking the state to allow local right to work zones, as well as changes to prevailing wage laws and worker compensation laws.
“Voters in our community should be allowed to decide via referendum whether or not employees should be forces to join a union or pay dues as a condition of employment.”
Also included in the sample resolution sent to more than 1,000 cities and villages is a question about right to work zones.
“Local control of bargaining would allow voters or local governments to determine if certain topics should be excluded from collective bargaining, including contracting, wages, provisions of health insurance.”
The governor’s office claims that there is no quid pro quo here, meaning that they won’t take into account how many municipalities pass their resolution when deciding how much to ding the locals in the ongoing budget process. As you already know, the governor wanted to sweep a ton of state revenue sharing money this fiscal year, but was blocked by the Senate Democrats. He’s also proposed a big sweep for next fiscal year.
Gov. Bruce Rauner and legislative leaders appear on track to resolve an immediate $1.6 billion deficit and avoid running out of money for prison guards and day care programs, though there’s no guarantee the rare show of bipartisan cooperation will hold up when the stakes get higher over a new budget in just a few weeks.
The fast-moving, short-term budget fix also put on public display the new political dynamic at the Capitol.
For more than a decade, Democrats controlled the legislature and the governor’s mansion, so Republicans were able to vote against budget measures without political repercussions while Democrats had to take tough votes. On Tuesday, Republicans in the House had to do much of the heavy lifting to support their rookie Republican governor, and Democrats had more political freedom to vote no. […]
Rauner would be given discretion to use a $97 million pot of money to help school districts that might be harmed by the cuts that come in the middle of the school year. He’ll also have access to another $90 million to help plug unforeseen budget problems that might arise.
The governor wanted complete discretion to make the cuts and transfers himself. He ended up with considerably less authority, but it’s a far better plan because legislators were not given a free pass.
“The (plan is) evidence of our discussions with the House and governor’s office as it relates to education, health care and local government funding,” said Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago. “Cullerton will be meeting with his caucus to measure support for passage.”
Two bills implementing the plan passed the House on votes of 69-48 and 72-45 on Tuesday. All House Republicans voted for the legislation except for Rep. Joe Sosnowski of Rockford, who was absent. All of the “no” votes on both bills came from Democrats. […]
Some parts of the budget will not be reduced. Pensions, state employee health care and programs to aid the mentally ill, developmentally disabled and autistic children will escape cuts.
Likewise, some of the special state funds will be left intact, particularly the local government distributive fund that channels state income tax money to cities and other local governments.
“This is not a perfect bill. It’s not a perfect solution. Some might say it’s not pretty but it responds to the governor’s request. It responds to the problem. It ought to be supported,” Madigan said.
Heather Steans, a Democrat and appropriations chair, expressed optimism that it could pass with fewer than half of Democrats supporting it and most Republicans.
Senate Democrats had resisted for weeks Rauner’s request for authority to move what he calls “nonessential” funds, fearing that he would take the money from programs Democrats support. The money is desperately needed to avoid child care, prisons and court reporter programs running out of money.
* House Speaker Michael Madigan’s spokesman Steve Brown endured a heart-rending tragedy last year. He writes about it today in the St. Louis Beacon…
About four months before the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, police less than 15 miles down I-70 in St. Charles shot another man named Brown. The event barely drew any attention from anyone except immediate family and friends.
The man killed was Martin Brown; Martin Brown is my brother.
St. Charles police were called to his home on Clark Court about 9 p.m. on April 16. One call came from his wife, and she said he needed a mental health evaluation. Another caller said the man was shooting fireworks and disturbing the neighbors. Police were told there were no weapons in the St. Charles man’s house. The fireworks complainant said, however, that the Brown had a “belligerent attitude and was pointing what looked like a large pistol.”
Within seven minutes of their arrival on the scene, one officer fired a failed Taser. Another repeatedly told Brown to drop the object in his hand and did not attempt a Taser shot. A third officer issued the same command, but did not fire a Taser. Less than three minutes after arriving on the scene, he had fired his SigSauer P226 nine times, and he was on the radio requesting an ambulance.
Martin Brown, 52, was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
Martin Brown was a brother, husband, father and grandfather. He had series of health problems in recent years. He had been drinking before the shooting. The medical examiner’s autopsy showed a blood alcohol level of 2.0, but no evidence of other drugs. St. Charles Police provided no records or reports of additional police incidents involving Brown.
* Brown also sent an accompanying note with his e-mail today…
Some of you know this story. Some do not.
A few months ago it was suggested this story might contribute to the efforts to help reform the use of lethal force. A version of this article is now part of the official record of the Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The following was published this morning by St. Louis Public Radio/St. Louis Beacon.
I think it is appropriate for you to have a little heads up. I am not certain how much attention, if any, it might draw. Several lawyers have reviewed the incident and determined there are not grounds for action. I am not sure Marty’s immediate family has reached the same conclusion.
I can only hope it might spur broader use of body cameras and more importantly better awareness by police on how to deal with incidents involving persons with health issues.
Police have a tough job, but they also have total control of lethal force . The combined elements create responsibility that must be treated very seriously.
Rep. Aaron Schock’s longtime fundraiser sent an email to the Illinois Republican’s donors, saying she feels “sad, angry, cheated” and filled with “total disgust, disbelief and disappointment” at the congressman’s alleged misspending of taxpayer and campaign dollars.
Lisa Wagner is an Illinois-based GOP fundraiser who worked for Schock for the past four years, helping to catapult him to the top tier of the Republican money world.
Wagner’s email offers a window into the sudden fallout and acute anger in Schock’s world from the scandal that brought down the fourth-term congressman, who announced his resignation last week effective March 31. Schock is now under investigation by the Justice Department. Schock aides have been called to testify before a federal grand jury next month in Springfield, Illinois.
“You personally and generously supported Aaron in the past and were very kind to him,” Wagner wrote in an email, obtained by POLITICO. “He deceived us all.” […]
“I believe he should be held accountable for his choices…. whatever the consequences [may] be…I have no sympathy for the him right now,” she wrote.
Go read the whole thing. To some folks I’ve talked with, her letter almost seemed like a note to the G that she was completely innocent. Others, however, saw it as a perhaps unintentional likely dangerous beacon for the feds. And to others, it appeared to be a way of shoring up her place in Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign.
I talked with Wagner on Monday. She called me about my own subscriber commentary on Schock and said writing her letter was “therapeutic” for her. She was genuinely saddened by this turn of events and seemed to be quite concerned about him. But she long ago went out of her way to alienate candidate Bruce Rauner when Schock was considering a gubernatorial bid, so she is most definitely out of favor these days.
By the way, she also told Politico that she’d since spoken with Schock and “started to separate the sin from the sinner.”
* Meanwhile, from a Jil Tracy press release…
“There have been reports that I am running for Congress in the 18th District, that I am not running, or that I am seeking a different office. All of that is flattering and I appreciate all of the encouragement and pledges of support. My career spans private business, legal practice, and public service, and I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve. I loved my time in the legislature and I miss working on solutions to serious problems and finding ways to make living in this country better for people who want to raise a family, build a career, and enjoy the freedom and opportunities that have made our country, and our state, great.
“To clarify, I am exploring the possibility of running but I believe that making any formal announcement is premature. I will continue my discussions and exploring the practicality of running until Governor Rauner announces the timetable for the special election. At that time I will take a final look at the electoral numbers, cost, and logistical realities of running and will then make a public announcement about what I intend to do.
Whether I decide to run, or to support another candidate and look for a different way to serve, I will continue doing my best to make sure that our region continues to be a place where we fight government overreach and wasteful spending, embrace fiscal responsibility, support the family, promote education, agribusiness, and commerce, and are unwavering in defense of our constitutional rights.”
* And from Ed Brady…
“I am looking at this race very seriously and will not make a final decision on becoming a candidate until Governor Rauner announces the timeline for the special primary and general elections. It appears I could be the only viable candidate in the race who is outside the political system.
“Washington needs someone with common-sense business experience, with conservative values and with practical experience working with issues that impact our district. We need pro-business legislation and less government regulation to help create jobs, stabilize employment and improve our economy in Illinois and the 18th District.
“I believe I could bring that perspective to Congress. I am continuing to assess the race and reach out throughout the district. Once Governor Rauner issues the election schedule, my wife, family and I, along with advice from my political allies, will decide whether running is the right thing for me to do at this time.
“It has been reassuring, when making calls throughout the district, that the voters have an open mind to someone new. I look forward to listening to their challenges and working toward solutions as we work for a better district, state and country.”
Rep. Dan Brady told me much the same thing yesterday.
The governor can’t formally set the election dates until Schock officially leaves office at the end of the month. Stay tuned.
Kent Gray didn’t join the formal press conference at Saturday’s dinner, but said he’s also considering Schock’s seat. Gray said that as a Lincoln Land trustee, he represents seven on the 19 counties in the 18th Congressional District. He also remarked that 22 years ago he worked for Bob Michel, a former Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“I think if you talk to all the Republicans who end getting in this race, we’re gong to be very similar on our positions on pretty much everything,” Gray said. “My issues basically are government waste, cutting taxes and trying to get a hand on spending.”
Gray also said he’s focused on agriculture and free trade issues.