(T)he possession of 15 grams or less of cannabis is a civil law violation punishable by a minimum fine of $55 and a maximum fine of $125;
The bill will be held in the chamber until a House “trailer bill” is eventually passed by the Senate.
…Adding… Press release…
The Illinois Senate approved a bill 37-19 Thursday to remove criminal penalties for possession of a small amount of marijuana. The measure, which was approved by the House of Representatives in April, will now be sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) for his signature.
HB 218, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Michael Noland (D-Elgin) and in the House by Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), makes possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana a civil law violation punishable by a $125 fine. Individuals will no longer face time in jail, and the civil offense will be automatically expunged in order to prevent a permanent criminal record.
“Serious criminal penalties should be reserved for individuals who commit serious crimes,” Rep. Cassidy said. “The possibility of jail time should not even be on the table when it comes to simple marijuana possession. Criminalizing people for marijuana possession is not a good use of our state’s limited law enforcement resources.”
Under current Illinois law, possession of up to 2.5 grams of marijuana is a class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500; possession of 2.5-10 grams is a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500; and possession of 10-30 grams is a class 4 felony punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a $1,500 fine. More than 100 localities in Illinois have adopted measures that reduce penalties for simple marijuana possession.
“We hope Gov. Rauner will sign this important and broadly supported legislation,” said Chris Lindsey, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. “This is a sensible alternative to Illinois’s needlessly complicated and draconian marijuana possession laws. It’s time to stop destroying people’s lives over possession of a substance that is undeniably less harmful than alcohol.”
Illinois marijuana laws disproportionately impact communities of color, according to reports released by the Institute for Metropolitan Affairs at Roosevelt University in May 2014 and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in June 2013. African Americans in Illinois are 7.6 times more likely to be cited or arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite using marijuana at a similar rate, according to the ACLU.
“This legislation is long overdue in Illinois,” said Rev. Alexander Sharp, executive director of Clergy for a New Drug Policy. “Simple marijuana possession does not warrant harsh criminal penalties that can turn someone’s life upside down. Laws should protect people, not cause more harm to them than the activity they’re intended to prevent.”
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have removed the threat of jail time for simple marijuana possession.
(A) House panel advanced Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s plan to overhaul government worker pensions.
The proposal would cut benefits and raise retirement ages but also guarantee health care benefits for workers when they retire. It calls for the county to put almost $147 million more a year into the pension fund, though Preckwinkle continues to be publicly vague about how she’ll fund that increase.
But prospects for the bill to move forward are shaky amid opposition from Republicans leery of a tax hike that likely would fund the county’s increased contributions and some Democrats who don’t like that some powerful employee unions are opposed. Still, Preckwinkle said she remained “hopeful” that Rauner may support the bill and pressure Republicans to vote in favor.
In reviving the legislation, Preckwinkle argues that the county’s liabilities are rising by $30 million a month and a reform bill needs to be passed “immediately.”
The county’s proposal would withstand a legal challenge in part because, like Chicago, the county is not relying on the ‘police powers’ argument that the state used to defend its reforms, Preckwinkle said.
The county’s plan would also offer employees something they don’t have now - a dedicated revenue source for health care benefits, according to the county.
“Our plan, which was the product of over two years of negotiations with a cross section of unions and stakeholders, also confers on participants significant new value in return for changes in the pension system,” Preckwinkle said in a statement.
Is there any point after the Supreme Court slapdown? The city and the county say their proposals could thread the eye of the needle at the Supreme Court, though the odds seem to be against them.
The Supreme Court took dead aim at the state’s self-inflicted pension crisis. Cook County argues that it, unlike state government, has always made its legally required pension contribution. County officials believe that and other differences would prompt the court to give this legislation a fresh look.
We encourage Illinois lawmakers to pass Preckwinkle’s pension bill. Get it to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk. It may be a stand-alone reform or it may become part of a grand bargain to save state and local government from financial catastrophe. But let’s get it passed.
Preckwinkle says she recently had an “interesting” conversation with Republican Governor Bruce Rauner last week and says the ball’s in his court.
Preckwinkle says Rauner wants a package of pension bills to pass as the state, City of Chicago, Cook County, and several suburbs look to restructure their retirement benefits. A spokesman for Rauner had no comment.
It’s May 21st. Ten days to go. The budget process is in shambles and now he won’t approve Cook County’s bill until he gets a giant ominibus reform bill?
Chicago could reduce a looming $550 million hike in contributions to its police and fire retirement systems due next year by extending the deadline for reaching a 90-percent funded level, the city disclosed in bond documents on Thursday.
The city laid out options for dealing with the payment in documents relating to its plan to convert about $805 million of variable-rate debt into fixed-rate bonds to avoid accelerated debt payments and termination fees to banks. […]
Under a 2010 Illinois law, Chicago’s annual contributions must be in an amount that would enable the retirement systems to be 90 percent funded by 2040. The city said it was in talks with unions to amend the law to extend the 2040 deadline and create a phase-in period to reduce contributions in initial years.
Chicago has projected that contributions to all four of its retirement systems will climb to $1.1 billion next year from about $478 million this year. […]
In the absence of payment relief from the legislature, Chicago may have to increase its property tax levy by Dec. 29 to accommodate the full $550 million police and fire contribution, the documents added.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday he wants to see how the frenzied final days of the Illinois General Assembly’s spring session play out before asking the new City Council to begin the search for new revenue to solve the $30 billion pension crisis that has dropped Chicago’s bond rating to junk status.
“We’re in active discussions on a casino as a funding source to shore up” police and fire pensions, the mayor told reporters after a City Council meeting. […]
Emanuel said he remains hopeful on what he once described as a “mega, mega-deal” that may include a sales tax on services, partial restoration of the expired increase in the state income tax, a Chicago casino and pension relief for police and fire and Chicago teachers.
“We’re now in the final two weeks before the end of the session. And as you know, this is usually the time — not just in Springfield, but with legislative bodies [everywhere] — when days are weeks and weeks are like months,” he said.
“There will be a lot of activity. I’m gonna be out there pressing the issues that are related to Chicago and its future [to make certain] Springfield does not make decisions at the expense of Chicago because there’s not a healthy Illinois without a healthy Chicago,” Emanuel said.
I’m not seeing it, and hizzoner is the only upbeat guy on this particular topic right now. Maybe it’ll happen. Lot of movement needed, though.
He said he would much rather see a Chicago casino close to a convention and entertainment area, which people could avoid if they’re against gambling, than to see a video poker machine in scores of bars across Chicago.
I dunno. Why not put money in the pockets of scores of hard-working bar owners around the city rather than concentrate it into the hands of already wealthy casino interests?
Illinois law defines pension benefit payments as obligations of the pension funds, which are separate legal entities from the city, Moody’s noted.
“But if the pension funds are unable to fulfill these obligations, it is unclear which party will be responsible for paying annuitants,” Moody’s said.
The city’s position is that it would be legally required to make retirement payments to police and firefighters if their pension funds become insolvent, but not those covered by the municipal employees and laborers funds — unless the city’s pension reform law is upheld by the courts. […]
The municipal and laborers funds are projected to go belly up in 10 years to 12 years without a revenue infusion. The firefighters fund, which is in worse shape, could be insolvent in half that time.
At the point the city has to start directly paying its retirees, taking away money needed to provide city services, nobody will be doubting this pension crisis is real and affects everyone.
* Doug Finke obtained an AFSCME Council 31 bargaining bulletin. Harsh stuff...
A May bargaining bulletin from the union obtained by The State Journal-Register, also said the administration is seeking “deep cuts to health insurance benefits” that the union said could drive up employee costs by more than 500 percent.
“This week the administration made all too clear how little value it places on the work we do,” the bulletin said. “The governor’s negotiators presented the AFSCME Bargaining Committee with a lengthy list of economic proposals that amounted to a massive assault on the standard of living of every state employee.” […]
* The administration wants a salary freeze for the length of the contract.
* Rauner wants to eliminate step increases available to workers during their first eight years on the job and wants to take back longevity pay that is awarded to workers who no longer qualify for step increases.
* The administration is seeking to reduce vacation and holiday time off.
* The governor also wants to eliminate additional pay for working in maximum security facilities, being called back to work and for continuing education.
A state appeals panel rejected a union challenge Tuesday to a law that took collective bargaining rights from some state employees, such as general counsels and chiefs of staff.
In a 21-page opinion, a 1st District Appellate Court panel said the law was legitimately aimed at making government more efficient and did not infringe on employees’ due process or equal protection rights.
Affirming an Illinois Labor Relations Board ruling, the appellate panel also said the law did not violate state constitutional prohibitions against arbitrary legislation or delegations of power from one branch to another.
Concerned by the rising number of high-level state employees in unions, lawmakers two years ago gave the governor powers to prohibit thousands of them from joining unions.
Section 6.1 of the Illinois Labor Relations Act authorized then-Gov. Patrick J. Quinn “to designate up to 3,580 [s]tate employment positions collectively within [s]tate agencies directly responsible to the [g]overnor” and exclude them “from the self-organization and collective bargaining provisions” of the law.
It was reasonable for the legislature to make a determination that the Governor’s participation was warranted to remove certain high-level managers from collective bargaining units so that he could effectively run his executive department as he sees fit. The Governor is in the best position to know which employees’ positions entail policy-related and discretionary responsibilities and which do not. Rather than inefficiently micro-managing the process itself or requiring the Governor and the ILRB to go through the lengthy classification process for each employee, the General Assembly gave the Governor an efficient tool to reassign employees whose positions he believed were incompatible with collective bargaining unit membership. Giving the Governor the authority to classify those from whom the State demands undivided loyalty as unsuitable for collective bargaining unit membership is a reasonable method to achieve the direct objective of section 6.1. […]
If AFSCME’s arguments are correct, meaning that the individuals are not actually managers, AFSCME has provided no reason why the individuals cannot simply file a clarification petition to be reclassified as public employees thereby reobtaining collective bargaining unit membership. It seems as though AFSCME is simply trying to have it both ways: for the individuals to keep their managerial status and the benefits that come along with that; and also to keep their collective bargaining unit membership and the benefits that come along with that. […]
AFSCME argues that section 6.1 unconstitutionally impairs the collective bargaining agreement that was in place when the statute was passed… [But] the established procedures for adding or removing positions from the collective bargaining unit have long been in place and a reclassification of employees does not constitute a breach or an impairment of an existing collective bargaining agreement. The individuals here had no vested right, constitutional or otherwise, to remain in the unit until the agreement expired and changes to their status were foreseeable. Once an employee is reclassified as a managerial employee, he or she loses the right to any benefits flowing from the agreement going forward.
Seems reasonable. Thoughts?
[The headline on this post was changed and the Finke story was added above.]
* Perhaps the least surprising “news” item of the day…
State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, said he can’t get behind a bill that may be called for a vote on the House floor on Thursday that would tax individuals who make more than $1 million a year.
“I don’t think I can vote for it. I think it’s bad policy,” Franks told the Chicago Sun-Times on Thursday. Franks said neither Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan nor any representative from Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office has reached out to him on the vote.
Franks’ “no” vote is significant since the so-called Millionaire’s Amendment, which passed out of committee on Wednesday, needs a supermajority to advance. That means all 71 Democrats would have to vote in favor.
Franks has never voted for a tax hike, so he’s not about to start now. Besides, the millionaire’s amendment was not overwhelmingly popular in Franks’ district last year like it was elsewhere, winning 52-48. Gov. Rauner, however, crushed Pat Quinn in that district 65-31.
Expect at least two other Democrats to also oppose this.
Democrats have the numbers, but not the power needed to enforce their agenda. They’ve signaled they want and may need Republican votes on any deal to fix the state’s financial crisis. Rauner, meanwhile, has made overtures to woo independent Democrats to his side and wields a $20 million war chest with which he aims to support lawmakers who back him.
“The term supermajority, it’s a myth,” said Rep. Jack Franks, a Democrat from Marengo. “And it’s probably more of a hindrance than a help. It creates expectations that aren’t realistic.”
Franks is one of several lawmakers who pride themselves as independents. In his case, he’s the only elected Democrat in solidly Republican McHenry County and therefore wary of being seen toeing any Democratic line. He describes himself as a pro-labor Democrat endorsed by numerous unions, but also says he’s never voted for a Democratic budget or a tax or fee increase in his 16 years in the statehouse.
Franks and fellow Democratic Rep. Scott Drury of Highwood, who also crosses party lines on occasion, opposed last spring’s “millionaire tax” push by Madigan and other Democrats. Madigan withdrew the proposal within weeks, which would tack a 3 percent surcharge on income earned of more than $1 million, due to lack of support, but has reintroduced it this year. The two also were among about a half-dozen lawmakers who opposed extending the temporary income tax hike increase, which their Democratic colleagues felt was necessary to fund the $35.7 billion budget.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s formula for fixing Chicago Public Schools has always put a priority on building better leaders, so it could have been a setback for the mayor’s agenda when a prominent education nonprofit balked at funding a training program for principals in mid-2012. […]
Emanuel’s first schools CEO, already on the outs with the mayor, was soon replaced by a new boss — Barbara Byrd-Bennett, a veteran educator who just months earlier had been the lead trainer for SUPES Academy LLC, an education consulting firm.
Minutes after confirming Byrd-Bennett’s appointment as the new schools CEO in October 2012, the Emanuel-appointed school board voted to give SUPES a $2.1 million principal training contract, followed less than a year later by a $20.5 million deal. Both were done without competitive bidding or public debate. That arrangement is now at the center of a federal criminal investigation.
“I’d really rather not talk about it,” said Andrea Zopp, a school board member and former prosecutor who last week announced her bid for the 2016 Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. “There’s a lot in the public record on this already.”
Yes, much has been written, but as the Tribune notes the board met in secret before approving the no-bid SUPES contract without public debate . If Zopp wants to run for US Senate, she’s gonna have to answer questions about that meeting.
A new study of bipartisanship in Congress, released on Tuesday, ranks members based on how many co-sponsors from the other party they can get on their bills or how willing they are to cross the aisle in co-sponsoring legislation. […]
Actual votes on measures are not measured in the “Bipartisan Index” scoring by the nonprofit nonpartisan Lugar Center founded by former Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy.
Using this method, Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., is ranked as the most bipartisan Illinois House member, coming in at 16 out of 422 representatives included in the study.
In the 2016 Illinois Senate race, bipartisanship and the blunting of party labels is already a theme of Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., so far the only declared challenger.
Kirk, who highlights Vice President Joe Biden in his first re-election ad, initially televised last week, is ranked as the 6th most bi-partisan senator out of the 98 ranked. Duckworth is high on the House bi-partisan ranking, coming in at 39. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the No. 2 Democratic leader, comes in at 67.
* And speaking of Kirk, this is from the rather over the top group named Illinois Family Action…
Another day, another notch in the “Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned” belt that is squeezing the life out of conservatives: Mark Kirk has hocked another loogie in the spittle-splashed faces of conservatives who held their noses and helped elect him. He, along with U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), has introduced a resolution to remove the ratification deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment, which has long since passed.
This comes on the heels of his shameless pandering to homosexual activists at a marriage-deconstruction rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court a few weeks ago.
Chicago’s population grew by only 82 residents last year, giving it the dubious distinction of being the slowest-growing city among the top 10 U.S. cities with 1 million or more residents. […]
New York maintained its ranking as the nation’s largest city, gaining 52,700 residents last year, for a gain of 0.6 percent that pushed its population to 8,491,079. Los Angeles added 30,924 residents, up 0.8 percent and bringing its population to 3,928,864.
Sun Belt cities with more than 1 million residents — places like Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and Phoenix — all continued to see dramatic gains in new residents. But some smaller Midwestern cities also topped Chicago. Minneapolis, for instance, saw its population increase by 1.6 percent while Indianapolis’ grew by 0.6 percent.
“The boom of Chicago in the 1990s was due to immigration,” said Rob Paral, a Chicago-based demographer who advises nonprofits and community groups. “You take away that catalyst of immigration, and you see what we have. They’re going to different parts of the country, and there’s much less immigration to the U.S. than there was decades ago.
America’s civil justice system gives people a fair chance to receive justice through the legal system when they are injured by the negligence or misconduct of others—even when it means taking on the most powerful corporations.
This is more important now than ever because the drug and oil industries, big insurance companies and other large corporations dominate our political process— and thus, people cannot depend on the political system to hold corporations accountable.
When corporations and their CEOs act irresponsibly by delaying or refusing to pay fair and just insurance claims, producing unsafe products, polluting our environment or swindling their employees and shareholders, the last resort for Americans to hold them accountable is in our courts. To learn more, click here.
My nephew works at residential home for the mentally ill here in Chicago. With the help of his cousin they put together this video of clients being interviewed and the home they live in. The purpose of course is to show how our state money is being spent and on who.
I think it is well done and powerful. If you have any thoughts on how to better share this, please pass them on.
* The video was posted to YouTube yesterday and it already has more than 4,000 views. Watch it…
Greg Hass, President of Valley Construction in Rock Island, Illinois:
Since 1925, Valley Construction has been a family-owned business serving the Quad Cities and Illinois. I am proud of the legacy my grandfather began building 90 years ago, and proud of the 250 men and women of Valley Construction who work every day to continue that legacy.
For decades, we have done a lot of work at the six nuclear energy plants around Illinois. Three of these plants could close soon and I am deeply concerned about the severe impact that will have on my business and my workers.
A recent state report found that if these plants close, it could cost us $1.8 billion in lost economic activity and 8,000 jobs. I can’t afford that and Illinois can’t a¬fford that. That is why I support a legislative proposal called the Low Carbon Portfolio Standard. This proposal is crucial to our state’s economic health and thousands of small businesses like mine.
I urge members of the General Assembly to act now and vote YES on the Low Carbon Portfolio Standard - House Bill 3293 & Senate Bill 1585.
Insiders, including legislators, say the Democratic version is shaping up to contain cuts too, but drastically smaller ones. Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, who chairs the House Higher Education Appropriations committee, says universities will see cuts of less than ten-percent.
“This is where our talent gets trained and educated, and for us to dismiss them in a such a way — or to write them off … is not the right message that we need to send,” Dunkin said.
What appears to be missing from the equation, so far at least, is a way to pay for that spending, given that it’ll be the first full budget year with the new, lower tax rates. Democrats could be content to send Gov. Rauner a budget that dares him to make the drastic cuts he’d outlined.
While there’s been no action on revenue enhancers like a higher income tax rate, retirement tax, adding a sales tax to services (as Gov. Rauner had promoted during his campaign), there are revenue options.
Gambling is a possibility — a legislator involved with those negotiations say a proposal with five casinos (in Chicago, Lake County, the south suburbs, Rockford and Danville) is shaping up. The House Speaker, Michael Madigan, is also keeping alive a “millionaires’ tax”; a constitutional amendment that could lead to the surcharge on income over a million dollars advanced out of a House committee. It’s opposed by Gov. Rauner and his business allies.
While Democrats say a revenue hike is needed, they insist they won’t do it without the GOP.
That sets up a scenarios where Democrats send Rauner a budget without deep cuts or any tax increase. Basically, leaving it to Rauner to sign — or slash (that could put both parties in a political pickle. Democrats may look like the out-of-control spenders their critics paint them to be; Rauner could look like the cutthroat, out-of-touch millionaire. Will it be that Democrats throw the governor a hot potato, or will they play into his hands, making it easy on Rauner to throw the gauntlet?).
“What I think will happen with the budget is … we’ll pass one,” Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, D- said. “And people need to realize that we just give directive to the governor on .. how to spend the money. It’s up to him to write the checks. And he can take our advice or he can ignore us.
“That’ll leave things “in a big mess,” Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno says.”The fact of the matter is, if they do that, the governor will manage it and that will hurt the very constituents they’re talking about wanting to help. So it’s very incongruous. I think it’s very cynical. They need to get to the table and have a very serious discussion about reforms.” And then, she says, Republicans will have a serious discussion about raising taxes that could stave off cuts.
But that’s only after Rauner’s pro-business, anti-union agenda advances.
While Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget blueprint called for a 31 percent cut to universities in the fiscal year beginning July 1, the Democratic proposal would pare the reduction to 6.5 percent, the Herald & Review Springfield Bureau has learned.
The potentially positive change for higher education is among a number of alterations Democrats are expected to highlight when they begin debating their spending plan in the closing days of the spring legislative session.
Republicans said university officials should remain wary of the Democratic budget since Rauner could veto all or parts of the plan if it is unbalanced.
“That’s a facade budget. That’s not going to be the budget at the end of the day because the governor is not going to sign that budget,” said Republican state Rep. Dan Brady of Bloomington, who represents Illinois State University.
Sources also told FOX 32 News that the Democrats may call for spending up to $37 billion. Gov. Rauner said the state has only about $32 billion for next year.
So if that budget passes, the Governor could sign it. He has the power to spend only for the services he thinks the state can afford.
Or, Option 2: Rauner could veto it outright.
Democrats would then need a supermajority to override his veto. But that would leave the governor with the Democrats budget and he again would spend only on the services he thinks the state could afford.
Or, Option 3: He could go line by line vetoing the parts of the budget he doesn’t like, which the Democrats would have to override line by line.
* CTU to rally against Rauner turnaround plan: The Chicago Teachers Union is sending a delegation to Springfield this morning to lobby state lawmakers for more money, more benefits, cheaper housing and child care for union members, and higher taxes to pay for it all.
Marseilles City Council unanimously rejects Rauner anti-worker resolution and passes a pro-worker resolution.
* I didn’t see anything online about either Boone County or Taylorville, but I did find some Marseilles news…
Without discussion, the Marseilles City Council unanimously rejected Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Illinois Turnaround plan Wednesday night and passed a nonbinding resolution, which will be forwarded to officials in Springfield.
Mayor Jim Trager said the resolution was “a carbon copy” of the resolution passed May 5 by the Ottawa City Council.
Provisions of the resolution include:
* “Passage of a local ‘right-to-work’ ordinance would undoubtedly generate legal challenges that our government would have to fruitlessly defend at a significant cost to taxpayers.”
* “Prevailing wage laws create a level playing field for local construction contractors by forcing out-of-state contractors to bid on projects based on the skill and efficiency of their workplace, not how far they can drive down wages and benefits.”
* “By benefiting local contractors, prevailing wage laws greatly increase the likelihood that construction workers from our community will be employed on the projects that their tax dollars and those of our other taxpayers fund.”
I’m the new guy in Springfield. I’m proud of that.
Although being new means I’m not as familiar with how things historically have been done in state government, it keeps me idealistic and hopeful. I’m not jaded or cynical about what we can accomplish to make Illinois great again.
But I’ve grown concerned by what I’ve seen in the legislature during the past few weeks. We’re approaching the end of the regular legislative session with no apparent long-term solution to the state’s budget, pension and economic mess.
We’ve seen what happens to our economy, our taxpayers and our school children without reforms. Budget deadline or no budget deadline, I will not ask the people of Illinois to put more of their money into a broken system.
If legislators are willing to reform how we do business, they will find me an eager partner. If they are not, then they should expect a very long extra session because I will keep fighting for major reforms that will grow jobs and help properly fund services by shrinking waste inside government.
“Extra” session. Never heard that one before. Maybe it’s his way of avoiding the negative connotations of the word “overtime.”