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Friday, May 22, 2015

* The House and Senate are convening Monday afternoon, so I expect to be back online just before then. I hope everyone has a great weekend. Sorry to shut ‘er down so soon, but I’m totally outta here, man

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Gaming bill could grow

Friday, May 22, 2015

* If Arlington Park wants table games, all the other tracks will want them as well. The gaming expansion bill could get much bigger

Arlington Park officials want to add table games to the gambling options at the track in addition to the slot machines they’ve sought for years, a suburban lawmaker said.

Previous proposals called for the addition to 1,200 slot machines at the Arlington Heights horse racing track. State Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, said adding table games is being discussed.

“It’s on the table,” Murphy said.

As video gambling machines in bars and restaurants become more common, the track might need table games to keep up with the competition, Murphy said.

What they essentially want are full-blown casinos at the tracks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      

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Friday, May 22, 2015

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Question of the day

Friday, May 22, 2015

* Who’s more to blame for the current Statehouse gridlock and pending overtime session? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.

customer survey

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      

He gone

Friday, May 22, 2015

* The guy who accused prison workers of taking Super Bowl Sunday off, even though part of the state was hit by a blizzard that day, has unexpectedly resigned after just two months on the job

Donald Stolworthy, acting director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, submitted his resignation to the Republican governor this week, but will remain on the state payroll while a search for a replacement is underway.

“We have accepted the resignation of Acting Director Stolworthy. At our request, he has agreed to help during the transition period to continue our transformation of the Department of Corrections while we identify the leader that will succeed him,” Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said in an email Friday.

Stolworthy was named to the $150,200 post on March 8 after serving as an official in the U.S. State Department’s prison bureau. The 54-year-old Arlington, Virginia resident replaced S.A. “Tony” Godinez, who had overseen the agency since 2011.

The governor’s office provided no reason for Stolworthy’s pending departure.

What a bizarre turn of events this is.

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      

Harmon: Rauner is “bullying” and “holding the entire state hostage”

Friday, May 22, 2015

* Senate President Pro Tempore Don Harmon responds to Gov. Rauner’s SJ-R op-ed, in which the governor threatened a long overtime session unless Democrats agree to support his reforms…

After reading Governor Bruce Rauner’s opinion piece I agree with the governor on some of the problems the state faces: Our pensions need to be funded and our property taxes are too high.

Unfortunately, we don’t begin to agree on solutions.

Let’s start with pensions. I voted for a major reform two years ago. The Supreme Court just struck it down, ruling that once someone is hired by the state, pension benefits cannot be diminished.

Yet the governor continues to call for diminished benefits “going forward.” We need pension reform, but we’ll never get there with a governor who ignores the Constitution, the Supreme Court and reality.

Yes, property taxes are too high. They’re also extremely unfair to hard-working families who end up getting hit much harder than the wealthy.

I’m working on a solution to provide tax fairness for the middle class.

My solution is a fair income tax, one where higher rates would apply to higher incomes and lower rates would apply to lower incomes. It’s logical and allows middle class families to keep more of their hard-earned money. Nearly every state that borders Illinois already has such a system.

What solutions does the governor offer? None that work for the working families.

He slashes funding for our communities and freezes property taxes. That results in fewer firefighters and police officers, slow snow removal and more pesky potholes.

Illinois deserves better.

It’s clear who Governor Rauner is looking out for and it’s not regular families.

Rauner’s looking out for his Wall Street friends, the corporate millionaires and billionaires who don’t want to pay their fair share.

More alarming is that the governor refuses to move forward on a balanced budget until we approve his agenda. He’s holding the entire state hostage until he gets what he wants, and in the meantime he’s putting real families and real programs in jeopardy. This isn’t leadership. This is bullying.

His plan cripples unions and lowers the wages and benefits of working families.

He wants to make it easier for employers to refuse to pay injured workers.

He wants to make it harder to collect unemployment if your company lays you off.

He wants to keep the minimum wage lower than the cost of living.

That’s class warfare, aimed squarely at the middle class. The only people who benefit from Governor Rauner’s agenda are his corporate pals.

I’m willing to work with the governor to balance the budget.

What I won’t do is dismantle the middle class, no matter what the governor threatens.

The middle class is not a “special interest.” The middle class is the key to a healthy, thriving Illinois.


- Posted by Rich Miller   57 Comments      

Today’s quotable

Friday, May 22, 2015

* Illinois Review

“Are you stoned or just stupid?” freshman State Rep. Chad Hays (R-Danville) asked Democrat colleague State Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Belleville) on the House floor Friday morning, when Hoffman presented one piece of legislation after another concerning workers compensation reform, for which he then urged a “No” vote.

“I didn’t put these proposals forward, the governor did - these are your proposals, not ours,” Hoffman said. “You can’t handle the truth. The governor hasn’t put a proposal forward, and we’re not working on the budget. Rome is burning.”

Friday morning, Hoffman proposed changes to the workers’ compensation system that would require the company to be at least 50 percent the cause for injuries, that American Medical Association’s injury guidelines to be used, and other proposals that had been discussed in legislative working groups.

But he asked that his colleagues vote no on each reform. Every one of the amendments the lawmaker proposed failed, just as he asked.

* Things are most definitely getting hairy…


- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      

Madigan tax hike defeated

Friday, May 22, 2015

* Speaker Madigan coined a new phrase after his millionaire’s tax proposal was defeated yesterday

All Republicans voting on the proposed amendment voted against it. Three Democrats also voted against the measure: Jack Franks of Marengo, Ken Dunkin of Chicago and Scott Drury of Highwood.

Even though three Democrats voted against his proposed amendment, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, blamed members of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s party for its defeat.

“The passage of this was in the hands of the Rauner Republicans,” Madigan said. “The roll call was very clear. The Rauner Republicans voted against the resolution. They don’t even want to give the voters of the state the opportunity to vote on this question. It’s very regrettable.”

* Rep. Carol Sente was opposed last time around

“As an individual, when I earn more I accept that I will pay more,” state Rep. Carol Sente, a Vernon Hills Democrat, said. “The approximate $1 billion per year in additional revenue is direly needed by our state to fund education.”

* But the Republicans got in some solid licks yesterday

Rep. Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove, took the opportunity Thursday to quiz Madigan about past votes by lawmakers that added to the state’s poor financial shape, including decisions to borrow money to make pension payments or skip payments altogether.

“Now, essentially the problem makers wish to be the problem solvers by asking taxpayers to come out of their pockets yet again without doing the real work necessary to solve our state’s financial problems,” said Sandack, who argued the tax would encourage high earners to leave the state.

Madigan said he had “no reason to disagree with your version of history” but said he was offering voters the chance to raise more money for local schools, which districts could use to ease their pension obligations.

* More

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, tried to pin down Madigan on whether he supported a term limit bill that Republicans have pushed.

“Mr. Durkin, I support term limits — as administered by the voters of the state,” Madigan replied.

Durkin retorted that Illinois residents were “voting with their feet” and leaving the state.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      

Another welcomed change

Friday, May 22, 2015

* Under current state law, if you have any THC in your system and you’re involved in a car crash, you can be sent to prison - even if you hadn’t ingested any THC in weeks. The new marijuana decrim bill amends that ridiculous statute

One little-reported provision of the measure would change the state’s zero-tolerance law for driving with marijuana in one’s system.

Marijuana remains in the body much longer than alcohol, after the effects of pot’s psychoactive component, THC, have worn off. So instead of drivers being deemed intoxicated with any amount of pot in their systems, the new limit, if the bill becomes law, would be 15 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, or 25 nanograms per milliliter of saliva.

Cassidy said the standard is based on federal studies that looked at when impairment occurs.

Police would still be able to use field sobriety tests to establish impairment regardless of blood levels, just as with alcohol.

Common sense.


- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      

Business as usual is right

Friday, May 22, 2015

* Tribune

Democrats have begun to craft their own budget without Rauner’s input. They’re looking to spend $36 billion on government operations next year, according to a Democratic source with knowledge of budget talks. That figure is the same amount lawmakers signed off on last year, which Rauner’s office has said was $1.6 billion out of whack. That shortfall will only grow next year after the January rollback of portions of an income tax increase, and questions remain about where the state will get the money to cover that level of spending.

While Democrats have made no secret of their desire to raise taxes to avoid deep cuts, they say a conversation on how to bring in more revenue likely won’t happen before the May 31 budget deadline.

There will be some “natural” revenue growth next fiscal year, but there’s no doubt that the Democrats’ budget will be way out of whack. Subscribers know even more about that gaping hole.

* The Tribune’s editorial page pounces

Gov. Bruce Rauner spent his first months in office fixing the phony budget his predecessor signed.

He’s made it absolutely clear he won’t play that game. If anyone needed a reminder, Rauner offered it Thursday in an oped in the Springfield Journal-Register. “I might be new around here, but I understand what I was sent to do. It was not to accept the dismal failure that our state government has become.”

Last year’s budget deal was, indeed, phony. It took $1.6 billion in patches to make it balance this fiscal year.

$1.6 billion is a big hole.

But compare that to Gov. Rauner’s proposed state budget, which built in a $2.2 billion hole with a completely phony pension savings, well over $700 million in phantom employee heath insurance cost savings, and around $100 million in illusory savings from human services.

Total hole: $3+ billion.

Yet, Rauner’s the savior.

C’mon. Ain’t anybody’s hands clean here.

* Back to the editorial

Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton complain that budget negotiations with Rauner have been fruitless.

From what we hear, it’s because they won’t give. On anything. Behind closed doors, Rauner has taken his most controversial proposals off the table. He’s pushing for workers’ compensation reform, term limits, an honest effort at restructuring state government. He will be flexible on their wishes, which would include more spending than he proposed in his budget.

The Democrats haven’t budged. That’s true. It’s their usual play.

But Rauner has most definitely not taken all of his “most controversial proposals off the table.” Subscribers know more about this. He has moved some, but, man, there are still a whole lot of things that Democrats cannot and will not agree to.

This is not a cartoon, even though some (*cough*Tribune*cough*) would like to portray it as such. And I’m sure we can expect more editorials like this as the summer progresses.

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      

Rauner to unveil actual bills today, with no “right to work” in sight

Friday, May 22, 2015

* Tribune

With just 10 days remaining in the spring legislative session, Gov. Bruce Rauner has finally put large parts of his so-called Turnaround Agenda into bill form, a move that follows months of criticism by Democrats who argued there was no way to vet his plans.

Rauner aides shared copies of five pieces of legislation with reporters late Thursday, including measures that would make changes to workers’ compensation insurance for employees hurt on the job, overhaul the system for awarding judgments in civil cases and freeze local property taxes. Also drafted were two constitutional amendments that would set term limits for lawmakers and statewide officials and change the way legislative boundaries are drawn.

Administration officials say the legislation will be formally filed Friday, but would not say who they’ve recruited to sponsor the measures. The governor’s office said it decided to release the information after Democrats walked away from the bargaining table.

* The administration won’t be filing a “right to work” zones bill, however

Not included in the stack of new bills is legislation to create right-to-work zones where union membership would be voluntary — a proposal that has drawn heavy protests from organized labor and that House lawmakers soundly defeated during a symbolic vote last week.

But the legislation will include measures to allow some local governments to opt out of collective bargaining with public-employee unions and prevailing wage agreements, which set a minimum level of salary and benefits for work on government projects. Rauner has said the agreements drive up the cost of public construction projects.

* AP

A spokesman for Rauner declined to comment on the proposals Thursday. But Rep. Ed Sullivan, a member of House Republican leadership, said the package represents Rauner’s attempts to compromise with Democrats who control the Legislature following weeks of closed-door, bipartisan meetings. […]

Democrats, who hold supermajorities in both chambers, said they would review the bills, but offered no guarantees they would advance.

It’ll be interesting to see what the Dems do with the term limits and redistricting proposals. No way does MJM want to deal with term limits on the floor. Everything else could likely be killed off without much worry.

* Sun-Times

Sources say the move by Rauner’s administration is to respond to complaints by Democrats that the governor has failed to give them specific language he wants included in reform measures he’s pushing.

“Democrats have all but abandoned his working groups,” one source with knowledge of the proposals told the Sun-Times. “This is his response to the Democrats’ failure to cooperate and meaningfully find common ground on his agenda items.” […]

One Republican said the six so-called “vehicle bills” to be filed Friday should at least get an airing on the committee level.

“I welcome that opportunity. Look, from a minority perspective in the House, we’re fighting off bad bills and fighting off bad bills brought ostensibly in the name of the governor. They were examples of political theater only,” said state Rep. Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove. “I’d like to have a real debate. I think the issues are important enough to have a serious discussion.”

If they want committee hearings, though, maybe the Dems will oblige.

* Meanwhile, House Speaker
Michael Madigan has filed a package of amendments dealing with workers’ comp. A vote on tort reforms had been planned today, but that’s being pushed off until next week.

The business community is asking for “Present” votes from members…

Illinois job creators have consistently called for comprehensive and meaningful reform of the Workers’ Compensation Act that will significantly reduce costs for employers – private and public sector - while protecting the rights of legitimately injured workers and ensuring their access to quality health care. Despite the 2011 reforms, Illinois still has the 7th highest cost of workers’ compensation in the United States and it is consistently cited as one of the primary reasons that companies move out of state or choose not to invest capital and grow jobs in Illinois.

“At this time, we are asking all House lawmakers to vote present on the workers’ compensation amendments filed yesterday until our elected officials have reached comprehensive agreement on reform. Illinois employers stand ready to work with leaders on both sides of the aisle.”

    Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce
    Illinois Chamber of Commerce
    Illinois Manufacturers’ Association
    Illinois Retail Merchants Association
    National Federation of Independent Business
    Associated Builders & Contractors
    Home Builders Association of Illinois
    Illinois Self-Insurers Association
    Mid-West Equipment Dealers Association
    Mid-West Truckers Association
    Technology & Manufacturing Association

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      

Serving Consumers, Honoring Veterans – Credit Union Cooperative Values in Action

Friday, May 22, 2015

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Credit unions are dedicated to fulfilling the daily financial needs of their membership and serving the needs of their communities. The movement’s “People Helping People” philosophy also motivates credit unions to participate in meaningful and important local activities, such as honoring our veterans.

As a thank you for their ultimate sacrifice to our country, credit unions from across the state unite to sponsor wreaths to decorate the gravesites of veterans from each branch of the military during the holidays. This past year, through member donations collected at their branches and with funds directly provided by the credit unions themselves, nearly 570 gravesites were decorated with wreaths sponsored by Illinois credit unions at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, as well as at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. True to their mission, groups of volunteers from Illinois credit unions also participate in the ceremonial act of placing wreaths at the gravesites.

As not-for-profit financial cooperatives with a mantra of “People Before Profits”, credit unions are a highly valued resource by nearly 3 million Illinois consumers — and remembered for their efforts in serving their communities this Memorial holiday and every day.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      

Your daily “right to work” roundup

Friday, May 22, 2015

* Nothing so far from the governor’s office or the AFL-CIO, but The Tribune has a long story today about how the governor is pushing local governments to pass resolutions supporting his “right to work” agenda and other issues.

Pretty much everything has been covered by this site already, but click here and read the whole thing anyway

Only a fraction of the village and county boards across the state even took up the symbolic resolution of support that Rauner aides drafted. Most of the places that approved it are small, and the resolution sometimes ran into problems in larger locales that outright rejected, set aside or altered the measure to strip out the anti-union language. […]

Of the three dozen or so that have approved it, most have populations under 10,000 or are counties with less than 50,000 people. Rockford, Illinois’ third-largest city, adopted the resolution, as did McHenry County. And a few medium-sized suburbs have passed the measure, including Elk Grove Village and Round Lake Beach.. […]

Naperville isn’t known as a Democratic stronghold, but hundreds packed into the municipal center in late April when the council planned to vote on a modified version of Rauner’s resolution that contained softer language about collective bargaining. Dozens spoke against it during an extended public comment period that led the council to put off the matter.

Some council members said they had received personal phone calls from the governor on the eve of the vote, but were confused by the resolution and felt rushed to support something they didn’t fully understand. The Naperville situation highlighted what Democrats including Madigan say has been a flaw in the governor’s approach: His delay in putting out legislation detailing out how his proposals would work.

Again, read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      

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Friday, May 22, 2015

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Friday, May 22, 2015

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Good morning!

Friday, May 22, 2015

* If all goes as planned, I’m gonna see these folks later today

What’s so good about love
If it only lives in the past?

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      

* Speaker Madigan: Rauner should keep "non-budget issues" out of budget process
* Rauner blasts Madigan
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