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Leaders meeting fails to move the ball forward

Monday, Jun 29, 2015

* I’ll have more for subscribers about this meeting tomorrow. From the Sun-Times

With the state just one day away from shutting down its services, legislative leaders — including Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan — failed to reach a compromise on Monday with Gov. Bruce Rauner over an ongoing budget impasse.

“We’re no closer today than we were a month ago on negotiating a budget,” Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, told the Chicago Sun-Times following a Monday meeting between the four legislative leaders and Rauner. “Nothing’s changed. We are looking for reform, Democrats are looking for revenue.” […]

The meeting at the state Capitol in Springfield on Monday was initially seen as promising because Madigan, who has a powerful grip on his chamber’s supermajority, showed up to the meeting. Madigan, who Rauner has targeted in recent negative TV ads, had given the governor the cold shoulder recently, having been a no-show at recent closed-door meetings Rauner had called. […]

At the meeting on Monday, Rauner continued to ask Democrats to advance his so-called turnaround agenda in order to avoid a budget impasse. Earlier in the day, Rauner sent an email to state employees saying that Democrats had offered no compromises on the governor’s turnaround agenda items. Rauner has said he must have those pro-business, anti-union changes in law in order to move forward with a budget.

“We’ve offered other solutions that he’s rejected because he wants those pieces of the agenda that we think are harmful,” said Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman to Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago. “As a result, we are no closer to a resolution…He chose to move toward a shutdown through an outright veto.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      


He said, she said

Monday, Jun 29, 2015

* Classic AP

Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly insisted there is precedent for Rauner’s plan. During a 2007 budget impasse, the largest employee labor union, the Illinois Council of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, filed a lawsuit to compel distribution of paychecks in August. The court ordered payment based on agreement among the comptroller, attorney general and unions to pay in compliance with state and federal law, Kelly said.

“We simply want the same outcome here,” Kelly said. “We are ready to reach a similar agreement with state workers and hope the attorney general reconsiders her efforts to block state workers from getting paid.”

Madigan’s take on the events of 2007 differ. She said the AFSMCE lawsuit focused on a federal requirement that employers pay at least the federal minimum wage when checks are due or face financial penalties. Because a separate payroll reflecting the federal minimum wage was cumbersome, the court authorized the full payroll. The budget was signed into law in time for the month’s second payroll.

Madigan said the court noted it wasn’t setting precedent.

How about instead of doing a he said, she said, the AP just pulls up its own files and reports on what actually happened in 2007? I mean, really, is that so difficult?

* I found my own blog post fairly easily

*** 1:54 pm *** There’s an “agreed order” from the court hearing the AFSCME case to force the state to issue paychecks without a state appropriation in place to authorize them.

I have a person in the courtroom who tells me that the comptroller has been authorized to issue paychecks to workers through August 31. More later.

…From the person in the courtroom…

    Agreement only extends to Aug 31 and shall not serve as binding precedence on this court… Judge signs order and case will remain open. If need for hearing exists they should set for hearing. Over.

    Union members stood up and said thank you your honor and started clapping

…Adding… I was gonna hold this until tomorrow, but I’ll repost it. The SJ-R posted a document on its website with more details back then. Click here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      


AFSCME vows legal action on worker paychecks

Monday, Jun 29, 2015

* Press release…

Statement of AFSCME Council 31 executive director Roberta Lynch:

“Although there is no budget in place for the fiscal year beginning July 1, the public services that Illinois residents rely on must continue without disruption, and our union has been working to ensure just that. State employees will remain on the job, and as we have done in the past, AFSCME has prepared to take legal action to ensure that they are paid for their work on time and in full.

“But the lack of a budget still poses a real threat to the public good. We are extremely concerned about the harm to children, families and seniors served by state-funded nonprofit agencies, including those where more than 5,000 AFSCME members provide disability care, mental health treatment and other services, which face uncertainty and the threat of damaging cuts.

“The current situation can’t go on indefinitely. We urge the governor to stop demanding that the General Assembly approve his unrelated agenda items that would harm the middle class as a precondition to budget talks, and instead work with lawmakers to fairly fund state government and the important services it provides.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      


AG Madigan cites legal precedent in response to Rauner promise

Monday, Jun 29, 2015

* Press release…

ATTORNEY GENERAL MADIGAN PROVIDES CONSTITUTIONAL OFFICERS, LEGISLATIVE LEADERS INFORMATION TO PREPARE FOR BUDGET IMPASSE

Chicago – Attorney General Lisa Madigan today issued an overview of information her office has provided to Illinois’ constitutional officers and legislative leaders to help prepare for the possibility that a State budget will not be in place for the new fiscal year. Attorney General Madigan issued this guidance in an effort to make sure that all offices and agencies have a legally supported plan in place to ensure that the State provides services critical to the people of Illinois in spite of the budget impasse.

The State’s new fiscal year starts July 1, 2015. If a budget is not in place on July 1, the Illinois Constitution and State statutes severely constrain the State’s authority to make payments to fund operations and services. While there are limited payments that the Comptroller is authorized to make in the absence of a budget, Illinois law is clear that the State cannot continue to fund all government operations and services in the absence of a budget passed by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor.

As background on this issue, the Appropriations Clause of the Illinois Constitution provides that “The General Assembly by law shall make appropriations for all expenditures of public funds by the State.” Ill. Const. art. VIII, § 2(b). In keeping with that constitutional provision, the State Comptroller Act prohibits the Comptroller from paying vouchers that are not “pursuant to law and authorized.” 15 ILCS 405 /9(b) (2012). Additionally, the Finance Article of the Illinois Constitution provides the “The State . . . shall incur obligations for payment or make payments from public funds only as authorized by law or ordinance.” Ill. Const. art. VIII, § 1(b) (emphasis added).

The Illinois Appellate Court has specifically addressed the issue of whether the State can pay employees in the absence of a budget. During the budget impasse in 1991, a number of State employee unions sued the Comptroller and asked the court to issue an order compelling the Comptroller to issue paychecks due on July 15. In AFSCME v. Netsch, 216 III. App. 3d 566, 568 (4th Dist. 1991), the court held that the Comptroller could not pay State employees in the absence of an appropriation and “any attempt by the comptroller to issue the funds in the absence of an appropriation bill signed into law by the governor would create obvious problems under the separation-of-powers doctrine.” The Netsch court determined that an appropriation was necessary “to prevent government operations from being brought to a complete stop.” Id. at 568-69 (citing People ex rel. Kirk v. Lindberg, 59 III. 2d 38, 42-43 (1974)).

As the Netsch court clearly stated, the Illinois Constitution and statutes prevent the Comptroller from continuing to pay expenditures, including the State’s payroll, without a budget, and even a court cannot order all of these payments to be made. In requiring a budget before the State can expend money, with limited exceptions, Illinois law is similar to federal law and the law of other states. That is why the federal government and numerous states have faced shutdowns over the years when budgets have not been implemented.

The State has experienced budget impasses in two recent years – 2007 and 2009. In 2007, after the legislature and the Governor enacted a one-month budget, the State began August without a budget in place. In early August, while the legislature was meeting to consider a budget, AFSCME sued the State, asking a court to order the Comptroller to issue paychecks. The arguments in that case focused on whether the State was prepared to comply with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which mandates that employees who are covered by that law must be paid the federal minimum wage on the date that their regular paychecks are due or the State will be liable for damages and interest. Because federal law takes precedence over the Illinois Constitution, the State is required to comply with the FLSA, even in the absence of a budget. At the time that AFSCME sued in 2007, State agencies and offices were not prepared to pay a FLSA-compliant payroll in time to meet with August payroll deadlines.

The court’s order thus allowed the State to pay the full payroll only to the extent it was not feasible to pay a payroll limited to FLSA compliance. In doing so, the court made clear that the order did not establish any precedent for such an order in the future. No Illinois court has ever entered an order authorizing full payment of the State’s payroll in a situation where compliance with the FLSA was feasible and no budget was in place.

The only other recent example occurred in 2009, when the State did not have a budget in place in mid-July. AFSCME sued on July 14, 2009, seeking a court order to compel the Comptroller to issue paychecks. The Attorney General’s Office opposed that suit based on the clear requirements of the Illinois Constitution. On July 15, 2009, prior to the resolution of that suit and another suit by the Fraternal Order of Police, the legislature passed a budget.

Based on the Illinois Constitution, and consistent with previous litigation, the Attorney General has provided the constitutional officers with an overview of the application of the FLSA, so that State offices and agencies can be prepared to comply with that law in time for the payroll deadlines in mid-July. A copy of that guidance is attached.

Additionally, to ensure that all State offices and agencies are prepared, if necessary, to continue providing essential or core government services, the Attorney General also provided the constitutional officers with an overview of the process for identifying essential personnel and services. The Attorney General’s Office has indicated it will work with the respective constitutional offices to ensure that their essential government functions and personnel are appropriately identified and maintained in the interest of the health, safety and welfare of the people of Illinois. A copy of that overview is also attached.

Emphasis added.

* Additional materials provided by the AG…

* Guidance to Determine Essential Employees

* Determinations of Nonexempt and Exempt Employees in the Fair Labor Standards Act

- Posted by Rich Miller   61 Comments      


Question of the day

Monday, Jun 29, 2015

* Donald Trump spoke at the City Club today…


* The Question: Caption?

- Posted by Rich Miller   89 Comments      


Rauner pledges he will “fight any legal attempts” to prevent employees from being paid during shutdown

Monday, Jun 29, 2015

* From a blast e-mail…

FROM: Governor Bruce Rauner
TO: All State Employees

Good afternoon:

As we approach the end of the fiscal year, I wanted to update you on the status of our negotiations with the General Assembly and review some key points about the possibility of entering the new fiscal year without a budget.

Last week, I vetoed 19 budget bills that together would have created an unprecedented and unconstitutional $4 billion hole in our state budget. Soon after, I proposed a compromise to the leaders of the General Assembly - a reasonable way forward to much-needed reform and a balanced budget.

As of today, we have not received a response to our compromise proposals. Rather than coming to a bipartisan, common-sense agreement, the leaders of the General Assembly appear resolved to enter the new fiscal year without a budget. While our administration will continue to work diligently toward a compromise agreement, we are prepared to manage state government without a budget.

Starting Wednesday, if there is no state budget in law, here are some key points to keep in mind:

    · State employees will be paid for their work - and I will do everything within my power to ensure you don’t miss a single payroll. Our lawyers are working hard to ensure that all employees will be paid on their scheduled pay dates. The precedent already exists. This is the right thing to do and I will work with union leaders to fight any legal attempts to overturn existing precedent. If certain parties take action to temporarily block pay for state employees, we will explore every option, including asking local financial institutions to extend temporary bridge loans to employees. Credit Union1, for example, has already agreed to offer no-interest loans for qualifying members of the credit union should salary payments for state employees be delayed.

    · All state employees must come to work according to their normal work schedules. Except for certain administrative steps announced by the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, most state services should continue.

    · The expiration of the state’s collective bargaining agreements on June 30th is not connected to the budget. There is no lockout and there is no strike. The state has reached a temporary agreement to continue negotiating with state employee unions for another 31 days. That means all union employees should continue to report to work even though there is no current collective bargaining agreement in place.

    · Services provided pursuant to federal consent decrees should continue without interruption. If there are any questions or concerns about consent decree service vendors being paid without a state budget in place, please contact the Governor’s Office of General Counsel.

    · Payments to other vendors that still have contracts, however, are likely to be delayed. Most vendors cannot be paid until a budget has been passed and appropriations authorize the Comptroller to pay their bills. For specific questions or concerns about communicating with vendors, please contact the Governor’s Office of General Counsel.

I am deeply thankful for your continued commitment to serve the people of Illinois. Our citizens depend on you every day and I know you will not let them down - even if we enter the new fiscal year without a budget.

Very truly yours,

Bruce Rauner
Governor

This could put the attorney general in an awkward position. We’ll see.

- Posted by Rich Miller   95 Comments      


Less like this, please

Monday, Jun 29, 2015

* The liberal Illinois Economic Policy Institute fact checks some of the Illinois Policy Institute’s recent claims. The most notable

Claim: “Illinois ranked 42nd nationally for wage growth, well behind all neighboring states.”

Verdict: False

This one is not even close. Figure 4 presents BLS information on average hourly earnings for private sector employees by state from January 2014 through May 2015, the latest month for which data is available. Over the previous 17 months, worker wages have increased from $25.05 per hour to $25.77 per hour in Illinois. This equates to a growth of 72 cents per hour, or a 2.9 percent gain. Among neighboring states, the next closest are Kentucky (+70 cents) and Iowa (+67 cents) while incomes have actually declined or remained stagnant in Illinois’ other neighbors. Hourly wages fell by 14 cents per hour in Wisconsin, and marginally improved by 4 cents per hour in Indiana and 9 cents per hour in Missouri.

Um, the Illinois Policy Institute used a different timeline, December 2013 through December 2014. But, guess what? Illinois’ wage growth was 2.8 percent for that time period - only slightly below the 2.9 percent figured cited by the liberal group.

It’s not that we shot way up, it’s that other states dropped a whole lot. North Dakota was on top of the heap during the December-December growth chart at 7.1 percent. Using January 2014 through May 2015 data, it’s at 1.3 percent.

An honest analysis would’ve pointed this out.

* More alleged fact checking

Claim: “Illinois ranked 29th nationally in job creation, behind most neighboring states.”

Verdict: Only Half True

The Illinois Policy Institute further asserts that “Illinois was tied for 29th nationally in job creation from December 2013 to December 2014.” The timeline from December 2013 to December 2014 may be suspect, given the unusually cold weathers that Illinois has recently experienced. On the other hand, an evaluation of seasonally-adjusted BLS employment data from December 2013 to December 2014 finds that the state added 66,800 workers during that time (Figure 3). This growth in jobs nearly matched similar employment gains in Michigan (+72,500 jobs), Ohio (+72,000 jobs), and Pennsylvania (+70,900 jobs) but was significantly ahead of Wisconsin (+47,100 jobs), Indiana (+45,000 jobs), Missouri (+25,800 jobs), and Iowa (+22,800 jobs).

This Illinois Policy Institute claim may be true when looking at employment gains in terms of the percentage growth rate– and yes, the economy would be better if Illinois’ growth rate were higher from December 2013 to December 2014– but why should Illinois residents care too much about percentage increases when actual jobs are being created in Illinois?

Why should people care? Because we’re twice as big as Indiana but didn’t create all that many more jobs than it did.

That’s a really weak bit of spin.

Back to the drawing board.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


SEIU airing Downstate TV ads

Monday, Jun 29, 2015

* Published reports have this ad airing in Springfield and the Quad Cities. It’ll also air elsewhere Downstate, but not in Chicago as of yet. Press release…

Featuring powerful images of real Illinoisans directly affected by his massive and dangerous budget cuts and contract demands, a new TV ad campaign debuting Monday in markets around the state focuses on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s efforts to dismantle the cost-effective and vital child care and home healthcare programs.

Two new 30-second ads began airing Monday on the eve of the June 30th expiration of contracts that represent 57,000 child care and home healthcare workers. Combined with massive budget cuts and poison-pill contract demands, Rauner is threatening mass layoffs and an end to services to tens of thousands of vulnerable seniors, people with disabilities, aging veterans, children and working families.

Said James Muhammad, a vice president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, which represents the workers:

“Bruce Rauner has never personally understood the struggles facing everyday Illinoisans so we hope he takes an opportunity to listen. These TV ads show the heartbreaking consequences of his dangerous cuts and extreme contract demands of the child care and home healthcare workforce that will bring real hurt to our vulnerable neighbors. We hope that Rauner recognizes the broad bipartisan support for child care and home healthcare services in Illinois and changes his dangerous course.”

Both ads feature home healthcare worker Dori Curtis, who notes that, “People live longer if they are allowed to remain in their homes.”

Watch the first ad featuring Betty Wessing, an Illinois senior, here.

Watch the second ad here, which also features Wade Lango and his brother Terry Lango, who worries that Wade will be forced into a nursing home without care.

Facts about the programs and the Rauner cuts can be found at a new website, Dangerouscuts.org .

* Betty Wessing

* Wade and Terry Lango

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      


On Calhoun County

Monday, Jun 29, 2015

* From Slavery in the North

After the Missouri Compromise, thousands of slave-holders migrated across the southern tier of Illinois on their way to the new slave state across the Mississippi. The Illinois settlers scattered across the prairie watched with envy these processions of rich, educated, ambitious men from the east and their trains of goods and slaves, wishing the immigrants would settle in Illinois instead, and knowing what prevented it was the ban on outright slave ownership in the state.

Many people in Illinois decided that the state should open itself entirely to slavery. The new sentiment got a test in the elections of 1822. The governor’s contest was a four-way race: two of the candidates were outright advocates of slavery in Illinois. They got a combined 5,000 votes, but the winner, by a small plurality, was an anti-slavery candidate, Edward Coles, who had been born in Virginia and had freed the slaves he inherited. But the pro-slavery faction carried both houses of the state legislature.

Coles set out to persuade the state government to free the remaining slaves in Illinois (those who had been in the land before the ordinance of 1787), loosen the harsh black codes, and crack down on kidnappings of free blacks. The legislature responded by refuting Coles and recommending instead that a referendum be put on the ballot at the next state election asking voters to decide whether Illinois should call a convention to amend its constitution and become a slave state.

This required a two-thirds majority in the legislature, and while the senate mustered it, in the state house it seemed destined to fall one vote short. But the pro-slavery forces unseated a man whose election had been disputed, and they replaced him with one who voted their way. The convention measure passed.

Citizens celebrated in the streets, holding processions, parades, and public dinners. At one, this toast was offered, “The State of Illinois: the ground is good, prairie in abundance; give us plenty of negroes, a little industry, and she will distribute her treasures.”

The next election was Aug. 2, 1824. The political campaign that ensued was impassioned, fractious, and intense. The subject was preached tirelessly in the pulpits and the newspapers. The turnout on Aug. 2 was enormous. At the presidential election that fall, 4,532 voted in Illinois. On the slavery question, 11,612 went to the polls. When the votes were counted, the slavery faction had lost, 6,640 to 4,972.

* John Calhoun was elected vice president during that same 1824 campaign. He had been a popular and successful Secretary of War prior to that

Calhoun left the legislature in 1817 to become President James Monroe’s secretary of war and dedicated himself to strengthening the nation’s military. He succeeded, spurring revitalization of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point under the leadership of Superintendent Sylvanus Thayer and improving the army’s administrative structure with reforms that endured into the 20th century.

Check out all the towns, counties and places named for him.

Even Springfield’s original name was Calhoun - until 1832, around the time that Calhoun resigned the vice presidency under Andrew Jackson so he could more effectively lead the anti-North nullification battle in the US Senate. Calhoun residents decided a name change was in order.

* Anyway, after the 1824 election, on January 10, 1825, the Illinois General Assembly split Pike County into several parts and named one after the newly elected vice president. Calhoun County is up the river from Alton and is across the Mississippi from Lincoln County, Missouri. It’s a gorgeous place with lovely people.

* It didn’t take long for Vice President Calhoun to begin changing

In the 1820s, Southerners grew increasingly anxious about the North controlling the federal government and about how that situation threatened the South and its distinctive institutions. They looked to leaders who would limit federal power. Calhoun unexpectedly found himself the target of sharp criticism from leading South Carolina figures, including Thomas Cooper, the president of the state college. In 1824, Cooper published a widely circulated pamphlet attacking Calhoun. ‘He spends the money of the South to buy up influence in the North,’ Cooper grumbled.

If Calhoun wanted to maintain his status as a Southern leader and reach his political goals, he could not ignore the changing political landscape. He recognized it would be a mistake to maintain his association with Adams, whose ideas to expand the use of federal power to promote national economic, intellectual, and cultural development drew a cold reception in South Carolina. So when Andrew Jackson began preparing to challenge Adams in the 1828 presidential election, Calhoun switched sides. The Democrats rewarded Calhoun by making him their candidate for vice president, and the ticket won.

* Calhoun became more radically secessionist as years went by, epitomized by his 1837 speech on the US Senate floor

It is easy to see the end. By the necessary course of events, if left to themselves, we must become, finally, two people. It is impossible under the deadly hatred which must spring up between the two great sections, if the present causes are permitted to operate unchecked, that we should continue under the same political system. The conflicting elements would burst the Union asunder, powerful as are the links which hold it together. Abolition and the Union cannot co-exist.

And

I hold that in the present state of civiliza­tion, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding States between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good - a positive good.

Emphasis added for obvious reasons.

Whether he was a political opportunist hoping to hold onto power or a true believer or both, there is no doubting that Calhoun laid the political, philosophical and legal foundations which directly led to the Civil War.

* Lake Calhoun in Minnesota got its name from surveyors sent to the area by Secretary of War Calhoun in 1817. A move is now underway to change the lake’s name

Today, Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds tweeted a link to a really strong story by KARE 11’s Jana Shortal on why we need to change the name of Minneapolis’s Lake Calhoun. For those who aren’t from Minneapolis, Lake Calhoun is the central feature of the city’s Uptown neighborhood. Uptown is diverseish by Minnesota standards, but is dominated by young White millennials with disposable income.

* Let’s get back to Illinois’ Calhoun County. Check out how the locals are using a rather oddly benign description of the man to promote it. From the Alton Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau

ABOUT CALHOUN

WELCOME TO CALHOUN COUNTY

Welcome to Calhoun County! Calhoun County is a narrow pennisula of mostly high ground located between the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. The county was organized in 1825, and was named for John C. Calhoun, Vice President of the United States and a proponent of State’s rights.

A “proponent of State’s rights.”

Sheesh.

* From GreatRiverRoad.com

The new county was named after John C. Calhoun, a lawyer, politician, and statesman, from South Carolina

Oy.

* Frankly, I think any official memorialization of that man in the Land of Lincoln should offend us all. It sure as heck offended the residents of what is now known as Springfield back in the day, and the guy only got much, much worse after that. Maybe we ought to belatedly follow their prescient lead.

For reasons that I’ve never been able to discern, we don’t have a Lincoln County in Illinois, even though plenty of other states do. Just a thought, but I’m betting the name “Lincoln” would draw a few more tourists than “Calhoun.”

And, really, isn’t it kind of an insult that the former slave state of Missouri has a Lincoln County right across the river from our own Calhoun County (even if it is named for a different Lincoln)?

* Look, this is obviously not the most important issue around. But at a time when people across the Old South are reexamining their governments’ glorification of their horrifically repressive pasts, it is most definitely relevant.

Besides, if the General Assembly can spend time debating our new state pie, we can surely take a few moments to reflect on this topic. And the county’s population is so small that a name change wouldn’t cost all that much. It could even be phased in over a number of years to keep costs lower.

* At the very least, the locals who are playing down the odious nature of Calhoun County’s namesake should just stop it already. It’s ignorant and insulting.

…Adding… Some folks are missing the point, perhaps willfully. This is not about Illinois places and things named after former slave owners. It’s about a county named after a notorious secessionist leader. There’s a difference here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   181 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Supreme Court upholds Arizona’s independent redistricting commission

Monday, Jun 29, 2015

* Today’s US Supreme Court opinion

In 2000, Arizona voters adopted an initiative, Proposition 106, aimed at “ending the practice of gerrymandering and improving voter and candidate participation in elections.” App. 50. Proposition 106 amended Arizona’s Constitution to remove redistricting authority from the Arizona Legislature and vest that authority in an independent commission, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC or Commission). After the 2010 census, as after the 2000 census, the AIRC adopted redistricting maps for congressional as well as state legislative districts.

The Arizona Legislature challenged the map the Commission adopted in January 2012 for congressional districts. Recognizing that the voters could control redistricting for state legislators, Brief for Appellant 42, 47; Tr. of Oral Arg. 3–4, the Arizona Legislature sued the AIRC in federal court seeking a declaration that the Commission and its map for congressional districts violated the “Elections Clause” of the U. S. Constitution.

* The Court just ruled against the Legislature

While exercise of the initiative was not at issue in this Court’s prior decisions, there is no constitutional barrier to a State’s empowerment of its people by embracing that form of lawmaking.

Illinois needs to get on board as well.

*** UPDATE *** Press relese…

Cynthia Canary, Executive Director of Independent Maps coalition issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission:

    The U.S. Supreme Court ruling erases any doubt about the constitutionality of redistricting by independent commissions.

    The Court majority opinion also made it clear that states with independent commissions have succeeded to a great degree in limiting the conflicts of interest that occur when legislators have control over drawing of legislative district maps. Independent redistricting commissions “impede legislators from choosing their voters instead of facilitating the voters’ choice of their representatives,” according to the opinion. The court said the people of Arizona used the initiative process to curb gerrymandering and restore the core principle of republican government – that voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.

    Today, it’s clear that there is no federal constitutional prohibition on any redistricting commissions.

    The petition drive to put the Independent Map Amendment before Illinois voters continues, full speed ahead.

    The current redistricting process in Illinois has state legislators in charge of drawing the boundary lines of their own districts. It has so damaged our democracy that nearly 60 percent of legislators elected last year didn’t even have an opponent. Redistricting by an independent commission will help restore representative democracy and give voters more choices.

    Illinois voters don’t want district boundaries manipulated to benefit an incumbent or party. They want to choose their own representatives.

The Independent Map Amendment would create an 11-member commission representing the demographic and geographic diversity of the state. The commission meetings and records would be open to the public, and the commission would be required to hold public hearings throughout the state. The commission drawn maps would be required to protect the voting rights of racial and ethnic minorities, and the maps would be drawn without regard to incumbency or partisanship. Adoption of the maps would require approval of seven commissioners, including at least two Democrats and two Republicans.

The amendment text and more detailed explanation of the reform are available at www.MapAmendment.org.

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


Two-day hearing to focus on shutdown

Monday, Jun 29, 2015

* No word yet on whether any agency directors will appear…

House Speaker Michael J. Madigan released the following statement regarding the House’s two-day Committee of the Whole beginning Tuesday to hear from state agency directors on a looming government shutdown:

“We asked a number of agency directors to come before the House to give us answers to very specific questions about the impact of a shutdown. We’re looking forward to hearing from Governor Rauner’s agency directors on their plans if a government shutdown occurs, particularly their strategy for meeting the needs of those requiring services and how they plan to address continuity of care for individuals who will suffer as a result of services no longer being provided. This is important information for the people of Illinois to have if the state is moving toward a Rauner-imposed government shutdown, and these hearings will help shed needed light on how the Rauner administration plans to lead in that situation.”

Directors from 15 state agencies have been invited to testify before the full House on their plans should a budget agreement not be reached by July 1, including how their agencies plan to handle casework, phone calls and other requests for assistance from those in need. Invited agencies are:

    Department on Aging
    Department of Agriculture
    Department of Central Management Services
    Department of Children and Family Services
    Department of Corrections
    Department of Employment Security
    Department of Financial and Professional Regulation
    Department of Healthcare and Family Services
    Department of Human Services
    Department of Juvenile Justice
    Department of Public Health
    Department of Revenue
    Department of Transportation
    Illinois Emergency Management Agency
    Illinois State Police

* Some House Republicans are also concerned and curious about what’s going to happen next

Republican state Rep. Adam Brown of Champaign said he wants to enact a temporary budget to ensure that needed services continue to be funded during the impasse.

“At this point I think we should definitely start looking at that possibility because Speaker Madigan doesn’t seem prepared to talk about structural changes,” Brown said.

State Rep. Keith Sommer, R-Morton, was among those who said he had few insights to share with his constituents about the effects of starting the fiscal year without a budget in place.

“I wish I had the real answer for them,” Sommer said. “I wish I knew more than all these other people do, but I don’t. But it’s really frustrating for the people we serve.”

I’ll let you know if the governor’s office responds.

- Posted by Rich Miller   62 Comments      


Today’s number: 40,000

Monday, Jun 29, 2015

* AP

Arrests and court-related costs associated with marijuana possession in Illinois are estimated to be between $78 million and $364 million per year, according to the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy at Roosevelt University.

About 40,000 people are arrested for marijuana possession in the state each year, according to the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council.

Even though less than 10 percent of those arrested end up being convicted, the current system creates costs that would be saved under the bill, council executive director Kathryn Saltmarsh said.

The council, a unit of state government, estimates that the provisions in House Bill 218 would have saved more than $13 million over a three-year period from 2011 through 2013. Most of the savings is connected with the bill’s reductions in misdemeanor and felony penalties for possession of more than 15 grams but less than 500 grams. […]

The Illinois Department of Corrections gives a more ambitious estimate of savings associated with legislation: $21.2 million in prison operating costs and $3.4 million in construction costs over a 10-year period.

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      


This one’s on Rauner

Monday, Jun 29, 2015

* Riopell

Illinois government will keep the lights on Wednesday even if it can’t immediately pay the electric bill.

State police will stay on the roads. State parks will stay open for the July 4 holiday. Gambling regulators will keep working, allowing casinos to stay open. […]

Rauner’s administration will keep state workers on the job.

* The SJ-R editorializes about the pending closure of the Illinois State Museum

Preserving the Illinois’ history and sharing it with the people of this state has been a priority for Illinois leaders for generations. The museum’s value is immeasurable.

But today, Illinois’ elected leaders are so entrenched they can’t come to an agreement on a new budget, and the Illinois State Museum is in the cross hairs. The budget expires Tuesday, and there’s still no signal that Rauner and lawmakers are on the brink of a deal.

Closing a museum is complicated business. It’s impossible to simply lock the doors and walk away. The accreditation the Illinois State Museum has had for 40 years could be revoked if it closes. Donations of money and artifacts will be affected. Collections will have to be returned to rightful owners. Research will come to a halt. The museum could go into legal default on federal grants and contracts. Private collection donors could sue the museum for failing to live up to its promises. Local tourism would take a hit.

All of this upheaval just to save the state of Illinois $4.8 million a year in operating costs for a facility that generates an estimated $33 million in visitor spending throughout the state each year, based on Illinois Office of Tourism minimum estimates of visitor spending.

For 138 years, the Illinois State Museum has been a priority for the state, through wars, economic downturns and tough times. If leaders choose to close the museum, Illinois will invalidate decades of valuable and meaningful research and preservation work, as well as people’s interest in the state’s history and culture.

This isn’t about the budget year expiring, it’s about Gov. Rauner declaring that the museum will be closed without a new budget. It wouldn’t be closing tomorrow had it not been for Rauner’s order.

* Also this

On Tuesday, the doors to the Illinois Smart Energy Design Assistance Center in Champaign will close, putting several dozen employees out of work, at least temporarily.

Across campus, a million-dollar project to improve the nation’s power grid is on hold.

And a pile of solar panels, designed to make the University of Illinois’ new high-tech Electrical and Computer Engineering Building consume zero net energy, sits in storage.

Those are some of the early casualties of the ongoing budget standoff in Springfield.

Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has called for deep spending cuts, placed a freeze on a number of state grants and programs until a fiscal 2016 budget agreement is in place.

- Posted by Rich Miller   57 Comments      


Madigan’s messages

Monday, Jun 29, 2015

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

House Speaker Michael Madigan likes to send “messages.” He doesn’t often explain what those messages are, but last week’s surprising defeat of a bill to give the Chicago Public Schools a 40-day extension on its $634 million pension payment due June 30th was most surely a message to somebody.

Despite his spokesman saying the day before that Madigan was “prepared to be supportive,” it’s clear that Madigan did not work to pass the bill, which was being pushed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. His staff did not urge members to vote for it before or during the roll call.

Madigan himself said he did not ask the Republicans for a specific number of votes for a structured roll call, which is another indication that he wasn’t ready to move the ball forward.

Madigan’s Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang presided over the proceeding. A newspaper reported that Lang voted “No” in order to file a motion to reconsider the vote that would keep it alive. OK, but if you watch the roll call, Lang pushed his red button right after the voting was opened, which probably sent a strong signal to the rank and file.

House Democrats don’t have to be told what to do at moments like these. As we’ve seen time and again, when Madigan doesn’t actively push a bill, his members automatically assume that things aren’t soup yet and they can vote however they want.

So, when Gov. Rauner’s office sent out a statement saying: “The only reason the Speaker’s Chicago caucus would vote against the Mayor’s bill is because Madigan wanted to kill it,” Madigan could deny to reporters with a straight face that he said that to anybody.

But whether the governor’s office is right or if Madigan simply stepped aside and allowed the bill to go down on its own, the end result is still the same. The bill failed.

‘This complicates things,’ cryptically said a high level Rauner administration official.” Yep. That’s how he said. He refused to elaborate further.

Despite the dark humor, the Rauner folks were in no mood for the usual Springfield parlor game of guessing what Madigan was actually trying to say without actually saying it. They thought they had a deal, they trusted Madigan to hold up his end, and instead the bill went down in flames. Their anger was palpable.

They also didn’t appear to have the patience to wait until the House returned to Springfield for another crack at the legislation (and, because of the looming deadline, when the bill’s passage seems much more likely).

OK, back to the “messages” parlor game. What the heck was Madigan up to?

Most likely, he was sending a message to Mayor Emanuel that if he wanted to cut deals with Gov. Rauner and Senate President John Cullerton, then he’d have to work his caucus to find the votes – or come to him and ask that he do it. And he also likely wants Gov. Rauner to “own” this steaming pile of kick the can.

Insiders have long said that Madigan has believed from the beginning that those three men would attempt to triangulate him. Mayor Emanuel lives in Senate President Cullerton’s district and he has a long-standing professional, political and personal friendship with Gov. Rauner. It’s always been the obvious play: Line up the mayor, the governor, the Senate Democrats and the two House GOP caucuses against the House Speaker.

But it’s also a dangerous game because trapping that old bull in a corner will have serious long-term consequences, which is why Senate President Cullerton has gone far out of his way to not make it appear that this was happening.

The Rauner administration, however, sent a clear signal before the House vote that, as far as they were concerned. the triangulation play had begun.

A letter to Rep. John Bradley from the governor’s chief legislative liaison about a Bradley committee request for some internal payroll information: “While we understand your desire to hold sham hearings to distract the taxpayers from your vote for an unbalanced budget and your desire to raise taxes without reform, we will continue to negotiate in good faith with Senate Democrats, Mayor Emanuel and Republican leaders toward a comprehensive bipartisan agreement to turn around Illinois.”

You can’t get much more clear than that.

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Credit Union 1 set to offer loans to state workers if paychecks aren’t issued

Monday, Jun 29, 2015

* From a press release…

In 1995, Credit Union 1 introduced an “Employee Loan Assistance” program designed to provide payroll gap assistance for its members facing the threat of a missed or delayed paycheck. In June 2007, this program was utilized for the first time to assist state employees that incurred a delayed paycheck due to the Illinois budget crisis that occurred. Most recently, Credit Union 1 offered the program to their members of the Illinois General Assembly and staff to assist during an interruption in the legislative payroll cycle.

Credit Union 1 is stepping up once more to help their members as the threat of a delayed paycheck for State employees looms again. While fortunately this program has only been needed on a limited basis since its inception, Credit Union 1 members are afforded great comfort and security in knowing that their credit union is there for them whenever the need arises.

For more information about the terms and conditions associated with the program please contact your local Credit Union 1 branch. Credit unions are “People Helping People” — dedicated to serving the needs of their membership as well as providing “peace of mind” that the credit union is always there. And that’s the credit union difference.

*** UPDATE *** This should help clear up some questions…

Illinois State Employees Loan Assistance Program
Credit Union 1 is pleased to provide assistance to the Illinois State employees should the State of Illinois budget issues temporarily delay payroll for the employees, through our Loan Assistance Program (LAP).

    • Credit Union 1 will offer members a loan with an interest rate of 0.00% APR1 during the Assistance Period.

    • The Loan Assistance Program does not apply to State contracted individuals or agencies.

    • You must be a Credit Union 1 member as of 5/1/15 to be eligible for the LAP. New members, and existing members after 5/1/15 can apply for a loan under our normal rates and terms.

To apply, stop by a Credit Union 1 branch or call our Member Service Dept. at (800) 252-6950, option 3.

APR= Annual Percentage Rate. Rates, terms and conditions are subject to change and may vary based on creditworthiness and qualifications. All loans subject to approval.

LAP Loans may not exceed 50% of the member’s gross salary that has been delayed. The interest rate will be 0.00% APR during the Assistance Period. At the end of the Assistance Period, the interest rate shall become 9.90% APR and member will have 30 calendar days to repay the entire balance owed. If the entire balance is not paid within 30 calendar days after the Assistance Period has ended, the entire balance owed shall convert to a repayment term no greater than 48 months at 9.90% APR and requires a minimum monthly payment of $100.

The “Assistance Period” is defined as the time period that a member is not receiving a paycheck from the employer and until the 31st calendar day after their payroll is reinstated by the employer.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


Report: DHS caseworker used state data to help boyfriend repo cars

Monday, Jun 29, 2015

* From a press release…

Acting Executive Inspector General Thomas Klein today discussed the findings of an OEIG investigation into improper use of government records at the Department of Human Services (DHS). The investigation, made public today by the Executive Ethics Commission, found that DHS Caseworker Laroddica White had improperly used government databases to assist her boyfriend with his private business.

“State employees may not use confidential information from State databases for their own benefit,” said Acting EIG Klein.

DHS Caseworker Laroddica White was responsible for determining eligibility for benefits, among other duties. In order to fulfill her duties, she had access to confidential databases containing DHS client information, including social security numbers and current addresses. The OEIG found over two dozen instances where Ms. White accessed the database to obtain information to assist her boyfriend with his private business, ML Enterprises, a vehicle repossession company. After Ms. White provided confidential information to her boyfriend, his business used the information to repossess the vehicles of DHS clients.

“Ms. White took advantage of her State employment for her own private benefit, and she used confidential information against the interests of DHS clients,” said Deputy Inspector General Joshua I. Grant, who supervised the investigation. “Her actions violated the public trust.”

The OEIG recommended that Ms. White be terminated. DHS concurred and initiated termination proceedings. Ms. White resigned from DHS prior to the conclusion of those proceedings.

Ugh.

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      


*** UPDATED x2 - Emanuel says “No” *** Is the pressure off?

Monday, Jun 29, 2015

* Combine this accelerated state payment with CPS’ billion dollar loan - $200 million of which is a credit line - and this takes a lot of the pressure off the House to pass the 40-day pension payment extension bill

Gov. Bruce Rauner is offering to accelerate state grant payments to help cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools make a $634 million pension contribution, according to a summary of the proposal obtained Sunday by The Associated Press.

The document, prepared by the Rauner administration, states the Illinois State Board of Education has identified $450 million in grants that normally would be distributed to CPS over the course of the fiscal year that could be provided as early as this week. The advance wouldn’t require legislative approval. […]

Madigan said there was controversy around the bill but said the House would vote on it again when lawmakers return to Springfield on Tuesday.

Such a vote wouldn’t be necessary if Emanuel and CPS take Rauner up on his offer, but it was unclear late Sunday what the next steps will be.

…Adding… It’s worth pointing out that this plan would use FY 16 money to pay an FY 15 bill, which could just make things worse for CPS. Stay tuned.

*** UPDATE 1 *** As expected

“We appreciate the governor’s gesture, but the use of this year’s dollars to pay last year’s pension payment follows the same path that got the schools into the current financial mess,” mayoral spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said. “We need a real solution like Gov. Rauner’s proposal last week—pension parity and funding relief so that Chicago schools are finally treated like every other district in the state.”

*** UPDATE 2 *** Mike Schrimpf…

The governor has proposed a long-term solution and stands ready to work with the Mayor and legislative leaders on passing a comprehensive plan to fix Chicago’s finances. The governor’s plan provides the city with short-term relief while we wait for Speaker Madigan to get serious about reform and helping the people of Illinois.

- Posted by Rich Miller   54 Comments      


Good morning!

Monday, Jun 29, 2015

* After posting “Livin’ on the Edge” on Friday, I spent part of the weekend listening to Aerosmith’s “Get a Grip.” Whatever the critics said at the time, those of us who were diehard fans in the ’70s knew down to our very marrow that this was their best album since those glory days. So, here’s one more

Now the word out on the street
Is the Devil’s in your kiss

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


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