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In a nutshell

Thursday, Apr 16, 2015

* Crain’s

Edsal Manufacturing, a Chicago-based firm that makes a wide-range of shelving products, is opening a facility in Gary where it will hire 300 people.

Edsal decided to open a new operation in the Indiana town because it is close to the company’s operations in Chicago, according to CEO Bruce Saltzberg.

He also cited the Hoosier state’s right-to-work law, which makes it more difficult for unions to organize and keep members, as well as a state minimum wage that stands at $7.25 per hour, the federal minimum.

- Posted by Rich Miller   122 Comments      


Pumpkin it is!

Thursday, Apr 16, 2015

* The bill now goes to the Senate…


Rep. Sommer has introduced just three other House bills this year, only one of which has made it out of committee

Amends the Flag Display Act. Requires the Governor to issue an official notice to fly the United States national flag, the State flag of Illinois, and the appropriate military flag upon the death of a resident of this State killed during on duty training for active military duty.

I think the pumpkin bill is the most publicity he’s ever received.

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      


Caption contest!

Thursday, Apr 16, 2015

* I gave a speech in Peoria last August. Jessica Newbold with Giordano Consulting Services spoke before me, and then-Congressman Aaron Schock spoke after me. I stuck around to listen to Schock’s speech and then chatted with him later. I was, as usual, impressed with his knowledge on a wide range of issues and with his political insights.

Anyway, with some trepidation because, man, I’ve lost a bunch of weight since this pic was taken, here you go…

Also, be nice to Jessica.

- Posted by Rich Miller   60 Comments      


Exelon Energy News

Thursday, Apr 16, 2015

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

EXELON ENERGY NEWS

Highlights

1. Exelon Just Received Up To $58 Million in 2015 For Clinton Nuclear Plant

2. Clinton To Stay Open Through At Least May 2016

3. Byron and Quad Cities To Stay Open Through May 2017

MISO Grid Auction Results: Up To $58 million for Clinton

A Good Day for Clinton:†On April 14th, the MISO Grid announced that auction prices in Illinois skyrocketed. The result? Clinton will earn as much as $58 million from ratepayers in ìcapacity revenueî starting June 1, 2015. The previous year, Clinton earned up to $6 million ñ an increase of $52 million.

Clinton Stays Open Another Year:†Because Clinton cleared the auction, Exelon is obligated to keep Clinton open through at least May 31, 2016.

PJM Grid Auction Delayed: Hundreds of Millions Still Expected

Auction Process Delayed to Summer:†The PJM Grid auction results were expected to be announced May 22. Due to a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission administrative process, the auction has been delayed by a few weeks. Auction results are expected in late July or early August.

Expected Results Unchanged:†Fortunately for Exelon, market analysts expect the results for Exelon to remain essentially the same. Exelon is expected to receive hundreds of millions in additional ratepayer dollars each year starting in 2016.

Byron and Quad Cities Stay Open Until At Least May 2017:†Because Exelon previously successfully bid these plants into the PJM Grid auction, Exelon is obligated to keep them open through at least May 31, 2017.

BEST Coalition is a 501C4 nonprofit group of dozens of business, consumer and government groups, as well as large and small businesses. Visit www.noexelonbailout.com.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Workers injured on the job deserve the right to reasonable compensation

Thursday, Apr 16, 2015

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

In 2011, at the strong request of business and insurance companies the Workers’ Compensation “Reform” package was signed into law, aimed at lowering costs for employers in Illinois. These changes have had a negative effect on workers in Illinois and their ability to receive fair and reasonable compensation when they are injured on the job and have not resulted in savings for employers in Illinois.

According to a study done by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, Illinois had a 24 percent reduction in workers’ compensation rates between 2012 and 2014 – the steepest drop in the nation. This reduction should have resulted in a $1 billion savings in insurance premiums for Illinois employers. Tellingly, insurance companies have refused to reduce their premiums in response to their own industry’s recommendations.

Cries from business interests for more so-called “reforms” will likely take away more rights from injured workers and increase the insurance industry’s profits. Any further changes in laws should instead look to promote insurance premium transparency and oversight – not further sacrifices by the injured worker.

For more information about workers’ compensation in Illinois, click here.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Thursday, Apr 16, 2015

* The Northwest Indiana Times editorializes about the sometimes vicious back and forth between its state and Illinois

This is a situation where a rising tide will float all boats. Illinois needs to repair some holes in its boat without trying to rip holes in Indiana’s economy.

There are many examples of cross-state collaboration in fields like higher education and the environment. Let’s add economic development to that list.

Let’s also tone down the rhetoric, including the “Illinoyed” campaign in Indiana and Rauner’s “rip the economic guts out of Indiana” speech, and find ways to work together.

We’re neighbors, after all, and should act more neighborly.

* The Question: Is it time for a truce with Indiana? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


surveys

- Posted by Rich Miller   55 Comments      


Legal fees, luxury hotels and donor gifts disclosed by Schock

Thursday, Apr 16, 2015

* The Tribune took a look at former Congressman Aaron Schock’s quarterly fundraising report

The campaign racked up $313,920 in legal fees during the first quarter, money still owed to the Jones Day law firm in Washington. […]

During the first quarter, his campaign incurred bills for “fundraising lodging,” including $4,000 paid to the White Elephant hotel in Nantucket, Mass., $2,137 to the Langham hotel in Chicago and $716 to the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, Pa.

The report says the campaign paid $3,114 for Tiffany bowls for the donors, but even more, $3,408, to Garrett Popcorn in Chicago for volunteer gifts.

Other spending included $2,698 to photographer Jonathon Link, who traveled widely with Schock, and $3,705 in salary to staffer Shea Ledford, who reportedly accompanied Schock on a trip to London during the Royal Ascot in 2011.

* Phil Rogers

Another of the congressman’s accounts, the Schock Victory Committee, listed hotel stays at the New York Palace and Beverly Wilshire in Los Angeles, and more than $12,000 in additional American Express expenses. He also transferred more than $81,000 to his own Pac, the Generation-Y fund. The reports for that committee have not yet been filed.

* Politico

In the first quarter, Schock raised nearly $130,000. Chicago billionaire Sam Zell gave Schock $2,500 on Feb. 12. Both William Stone and Albert Lord donated to Schock. Stone owns a Maryland golf course that Schock held a fundraiser on in the fall of 2014. Lord founded that private course. Schock never reported the cost of that fundraiser on campaign filings.

* Other stuff…

* Election expert: Lawsuit against Aaron Schock could face obstacles

* Sangamon Co. Will Not Ask Schock To Foot Election Bill

* District offices remain open despite Schock’s resignation

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


Rauner: No CPS bailout

Thursday, Apr 16, 2015

* Tribune

[Gov. Bruce Rauner] told a group of Downstate school superintendents that “I personally am concerned when I see the numbers, that Chicago can’t, Chicago Public Schools can’t meet their obligations. Even raising taxes they can’t meet their obligations.”

“The taxpayers of Illinois are not going to bail out the city of Chicago, that ain’t happenin’,” Rauner said, returning to a note he has hit in recent months. “But there are things we can do to help them restructure and get their government and their schools turned around, and I’d like to help them.”

* One of those options Rauner wants to give CPS is the ability to declare bankruptcy

“The idea that you would go to bankruptcy and yet you would leave in place a tax code that has dual taxation on Chicago citizens is wrong,” [Mayor Rahm Emanuel] said when asked about Rauner’s talk about CPS going bankrupt. “Nothing is worse economics and a worse strategy than leaving in place dual taxation on Chicago residents that are the only residents in the state that have to pay twice, and only get the benefit of one teacher.”

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   96 Comments      


Setting the Record Straight on Illinois’ Nuclear Facilities

Thursday, Apr 16, 2015

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Recently, ads on Capitol Fax have distorted the facts about the Illinois Low Carbon Portfolio Standard (SB 1585). Let’s set the record straight.

Myth: “Exelon is profitable, so they don’t need more money to keep these plants open.”

Fact: Much like a retail business with multiple stores, every location has to make money on its own. No retail chain could survive for long using profitable stores to keep unprofitable ones open. Exelon would not operate Plant A at a loss simply because Plant B is earning a profit.

The fact is, three of Illinois’ six nuclear plants are at risk of closing, and the consequences of these closures are catastrophic:

    • $1.8 billion every year in lost economic activity
    • Nearly 8,000 jobs
    • Up to $500 million annually in higher energy costs statewide, according to a PJM analysis
    • $1.1 billion per year due to increases in carbon and other pollutants
    • Hundreds of millions of dollars to construct new transmission lines

Only one legislative solution, the Illinois Low Carbon Portfolio Standard (LCPS), properly values all low-carbon sources of energy, including the state’s nuclear facilities.

According to a State of Illinois report, the cost to Illinois of allowing nuclear plants to prematurely retire are as much as 12 times greater than the maximum cost of the Illinois LCPS.

MEMBERS OF THE ILLINOIS SENATE ENERGY AND PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMITTEE:
VOTE YES ON THE LOW CARBON PORTFOLIO STANDARD (SB 1585)

Learn More: http://www.NuclearPowersIllinois.com

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Emanuel again blasts governor’s “right to work” proposal while Chicagoland Chamber balks at statement

Thursday, Apr 16, 2015

* Craig Dellimore

Gov. Bruce Rauner has suggested creating so-called “right-to-work zones” across Illinois, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel and several aldermen have said that won’t happen in Chicago on their watch.

“I want to be very clear. As long as I’m mayor, Chicago will not be a right-to-work city,” Emanuel said Wednesday, after introducing a City Council resolution calling for public hearings to declare opposition to the governor’s plan, which would allow municipalities to limit the power of labor unions by giving the workers the option of not joining unions or paying dues even in jobs that have been unionized. The zones also would limit prevailing wage and worker’s compensation laws.

“This has been an issue the governor has been advocating. I firmly disagree with it on a series of fronts, economically and otherwise,” Emanuel said. “I do not believe that, as it relates to right to work it would be pulling — our goal is to build up the middle class, not to pull a rug from underneath them.”

The mayor said right-to-work zones could potentially dismantle labor unions that have protected workers’ rights, and helped support middle class families.

* Also

And Emanuel scoffed at the suggestion that if he agreed to work zones, the governor might restore proposed cuts to funding for the Chicago Transit Authority. “That the only way to continue to invest in the CTA, which has been an incredible economic and job creator in the city of Chicago, is if I accept lower wages for everybody else? That’s a Faustian bargain, and I would never accept that,” he said.

* On a related front, I e-mailed the Chicagoland Chamber yesterday…

Quick question: Does the Chicagoland Chamber support the governor’s local right to work zone idea?

Its response…

“The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce continues to hear from our diverse membership and the broader business community about Governor Rauner’s right-to-work zone proposals. Our focus remains on making Illinois more competitive by working with the Governor and state legislators on putting our fiscal house in order.

“We are focused on workers’ compensation reform, pension reform, and strong structural fiscal reforms related to the budget as the most immediate and long term way to improve Illinois’ financial situation and provide certainty to businesses that wish to invest and expand in Illinois.”

Hmm.

* And speaking of Chicago

Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez, speaking at a City Club of Chicago luncheon Wednesday, said Gov. Rauner’s desire to create “right-to-work” zones, where certain local wage and workplace rules would be suspended, would mean lower wages and a less-safe workplace.

“Right to work means you lose your voice in the workplace and as a result you create an easily exploitable work force,” Ramirez said, citing a study that showed right-to-work states made 6 percent less in wages on average, with minorities making even less.

“Not only are you making less money in a right-to-work state, you are more likely to suffer an injury or fatality in your place of work,” Ramirez said. “Rauner is saying he’s empowering workers through these zones. Well what is he really empowering? Lower wages? A less safe workplace? You see much can be done to truly empower workers. Getting rid of protections unions provide does not need to be the bedrock of this type of empowerment.”

Ramirez told the luncheon crowd, which included Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, that Rauner is not only attacking workers, but “taking direct aim at the marginalized and most vulnerable segments of our society,” by cutting funding to vital social services.

* Meanwhile, from the Twitters…


* But it’s probably only a matter of time before Adams County (pop. 40,798) passes the resolution

A crowd of union members opposed to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda” were given a brief reprieve Wednesday night as the Adams County Board tabled a resolution supporting the plan.

County Board Chairman Les Post asked the board to table the resolution to avoid potential legal conflicts involving the Open Meetings Act.

“We had communication with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office today that there may be an issue with our time frame with our public speakers to sign up for meetings, and we didn’t have time to clear it up (Wednesday),” Post said. “Rather than do something possibly illegal, we felt best to table it until we had a chance to look at it.” […]

Post said the board will take action next month.

“Obviously, there are some things that people may not like, but the situation Illinois is in, we may have to do some things we don’t like,” he said.

*** UPDATE *** From the governor’s office…

Hi, Rich –

Westville passed the resolution last night.

Best,
ck

Westville, pop. 2,972.

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      


Back wages, Chicago schools and plaintiffs attorneys all awarded money

Thursday, Apr 16, 2015

* Erickson

Although state finances are stretched thin, the Illinois House approved a plan Wednesday to pay out more than $60 million owed to thousands of unionized state workers. […]

The dispute over the money dates to 2011, when former Gov. Pat Quinn reneged on wage increases for state workers approved under former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

At the time, Quinn said state lawmakers failed to provide the money for the raises, while House Speaker Michael Madigan said the governor should find money in the existing budget to pay the wage hikes.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union won a court order saying the money needs to be paid.

The vote was 88-23-2. All “No” votes were Republicans. Rep. Mike Smiddy (an AFSCME member) and freshman GOP Rep. Terri Bryant both voted “Present.” There’s no guarantee that Gov. Rauner will actually dole out the money if the bill also passes the Senate.

* Meanwhile

Chicago Public Schools would get $33.3 million to soften the blow of recent state budget cuts under a plan approved Wednesday by the State Board of Education.

The money is part of a $97 million pot set aside to help struggling schools after lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner agreed to cut education and other state services by 2.25 percent as the state faces a $1.6 billion funding shortfall in the current spending year.

For CPS, officials said that means what was to be a cut of $35 million will instead amount to a reduction of $1.7 million. The district is one of 32 that education officials identified as having less than 30 days cash on hand, though nearly 600 of the state’s 800 school districts will receive some money to offset the cuts.

However, officials acknowledged the cuts are still painful because they come late in the school year and districts had little time to plan for them. Robert Wolfe, the board’s chief financial officer, said it could take as long as three months for districts to receive the payments.

* And

Lawyers representing state retirees in a case involving their health insurance premiums will receive a little more than $1.5 million in fees and costs for their work.

The amount, determined by Sangamon County Associate Judge Steven Nardulli, is less than half of the $3.1 million in compensation (including a multiplier) the lawyers sought during a court hearing two weeks ago.

Money to pay the fees will come out of the roughly $63 million in health insurance premiums collected from retirees. The money was deducted from their pension checks.

In his ruling, Nardulli said the attorney fees amount to about 2.37 percent of the premium money paid. In other words, when refunds are made, for every $100 in premium refunds due to an employee, $2.37 will be deducted to pay legal fees.

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      


Feds probing CPS, COD

Thursday, Apr 16, 2015

* Tribune

Federal authorities are investigating Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and a $20.5 million contract the district awarded on a no-bid basis to a training academy that formerly employed her, sources said.

The CPS inspector general’s office began an investigation into the contract with north suburban-based SUPES Academy and Byrd-Bennett’s relationship to the company in 2013, a source said. The U.S. attorney’s office then started its own probe, and a grand jury has been reviewing evidence for at least a year, the source said.

CPS officials have discussed the possibility of appointing an interim CEO depending on the outcome of the investigation, a source said. Byrd-Bennett, who was appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in October 2012, attended a regularly scheduled meeting at CPS headquarters Wednesday and remains in her post.

* Catalyst Chicago

The CPS inspector general has been investigating Byrd-Bennett and the controversial SUPES contract since 2013. Inspector General Nick Schuler declined to comment Wednesday on whether the investigation is ongoing or on the inquiries from the federal government. […]

When Mayor Rahm Emanuel was asked by reporters at City Hall about whether he had confidence in Byrd-Bennett, he said he “couldn’t answer that question,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

* Background from the Sun-Times

In the district’s largest no-bid contract in recent memory, SUPES received the contract from CPS to provide ongoing training on Saturdays for principals and network chiefs through 2016 at a cost of $20.5 million. According to the contract, the company was supposed to use experts who’d specialize the training according to the type of school the principal led — including schools set to receive children affected by the massive 2013 school closings.

It didn’t take long for the no-bid deal — approved unanimously in June 2013 by the mayor’s school board — to ignite criticism, especially as the district stared down a $1 billion budget deficit that year.

By October, principals were complaining about the quality of professional development they were receiving from SUPES, according to a newsletter produced by the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association.

The Principals Association “is sorry to report our members, in large numbers, are expressing dissatisfaction with the caliber of the `SUPES’ Academy,” the Association’s October 2013 newsletter said.

* Meanwhile

In a sign of intensifying scrutiny of the College of DuPage, federal prosecutors have opened a wide-ranging criminal investigation at the embattled community college, issuing two subpoenas this week that seek documents tied to spending and other matters, according to records obtained late Wednesday.

The subpoenas, which were served to college administrators Monday, cover three main areas: administrator expenses, contracts with the college’s fundraising foundation and credits awarded to police recruits at a law enforcement academy on the Glen Ellyn campus. […]

The federal subpoenas request many of the records sought by DuPage prosecutors. Federal investigators have asked for employment records, expense reports and conflict-of-interest statements for Breuder, all senior managers and trustees.

The federal investigation also seeks records relating to the Suburban Law Enforcement Academy. The Tribune recently reported that the college increased the number of credits given to recruits in the training program without increasing the amount of instruction — a change that boosted enrollment figures and led one top official at the police academy to question “the integrity of this process” before he resigned late last year. The revelation upset the school’s faculty union, which said the change should not have been made without consulting the campus’s curriculum committee.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      


Good morning!

Thursday, Apr 16, 2015

* Considering the news about federal probes into both the Chicago Public Schools and College of DuPage (which we’ll discuss in a few minutes), this request by a birthday buddy last night seems appropriate

Trying to get a clutch at what I could not touch

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


*** LIVE *** Session coverage

Thursday, Apr 16, 2015

* Real-time coverage via ScribbleLive

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comment      


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          * A DAY IN THE LIFE (of Chicago): To listen to the CTU, it’s Rahm’s fault!
          * Home Robberies In Buena Park
          * DNA Info: Poor, Black Chicagoans Overwhelmingly Picked Rahm Over Chuy
          * A comic book cafe
          * City council turnover...
          * Dumke: Will the new Chicago City Council still be a rubber stamp?
          * DNA Info: Planners Dreaming Up What's Next for Pullman National Monument
          * So the Regal Theater is on its way back...
          * Illinois Lawmakers Passes 'Right To Try' Law
          * Illinois Lawmakers Pass 'Right To Try' Law


          * Illinoisans Receive Governor’s Volunteer Service Award - 6thAnnual Awards Ceremony to be Held on April 20thin Springfield
          * Get Smart About College Planning During Money Smart Week® - College Illinois!® 529 Prepaid Tuition Program offers tips to plan for--and afford--the cost of college
          * Motorcycle Season Revs Up, Riders Urged to “Gear Up-Ride Smart” - New Campaign Touts Staying Safe Through Proper Gear, Education
          * IDOT’s Operation Teen Safe Driving Program Announces 2014-15 Winning Schools - Innovative Program Helps Save Lives, Promotes Safe Driving Habits
          * State of Illinois Takes Action on Medical Cannabis Dispensary Applicants





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