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Legionnaires’ Disease again plaguing state’s veterans home

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017

* Back in 2015, more than 50 residents of Quincy’s Illinois Veterans Home came down with Legionnaires’ Disease and nine veterans died.

The state spent almost $5 million upgrading the home’s water treatment system in 2016. But not long after that unveiling, two more veterans contracted the disease.

And here we go again

Two cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been confirmed at the Illinois Veterans Home Wednesday morning.

David MacDonna, a Public Information Officer with the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs says Legionella tests came back positive for two residents.

One of those residents is now deceased, however, the Illinois Veterans Home says the individual had a complex medical issue aside from Legionnaires’.

The second individual is being treated for the disease.

“We work continuously with the Adams County Health Department to identify any potential sources. We’ve done an extensive renovation, including a brand new water treatment plant to provide higher quality water,” said MacDonna.

- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      


Republican Party mocks Pritzker, Kennedy for not releasing their tax returns

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017

* ILGOP…

Pritzker and Kennedy Continue to Dodge on Releasing Their Tax Returns
Tuesday’s forum highlighted growing pressure on Pritzker and Kennedy to honor their word, release tax returns

Tuesday’s Democrat gubernatorial forum at Aurora University raised questions for the two candidates who have yet to release their tax returns, J.B. Pritzker and Chris Kennedy, drawing criticism from fellow Democrats.

Both Pritzker and Kennedy pledged to release five-year’s worth of tax returns six months ago, though neither has followed through yet. Daniel Biss set up a counter on his campaign website to mark the days since the candidates made the pledge to release their tax returns, as well as lambasting them publicly for avoiding the subject.

The candidates provided no details on a timetable for releasing their taxes other than saying they will be released “soon,” the same answer each has been telling the media for months.

While the Democrats debate who comes from a wealthier family and dodge on releasing their tax returns, they continue to prove that the Democratic gubernatorial primary is a race to the bottom.

* Background from the Sun-Times

Speaking after the forum, Pritzker told the Sun-Times he plans to release his tax returns “soon.”

“We’re compiling them and we’re putting them together. We’ll make sure we get them out soon,” Pritzker said. Asked why they haven’t been released yet, Pritzker called the process “complex.”

Kennedy too said he’ll release his tax returns when he files his financial disclosure form: “That way everything is together in one place.” He said the state’s financial disclosure form is limited and it’s helpful for voters to see tax returns “to give a little fuller picture of what’s going on.”

* WTTW

Candidates are under no obligation to release their tax information, though it is customary. Forms help to discern potential conflicts of interest, fiscal management, as well as a candidate’s priorities through charitable giving.

Elected officials are obligated to file public economic interest statements, though watchdog groups have long criticized Illinois’ disclosure requirement and forms as weak and riddled with opportunities for loopholes.

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      


Random Twitter likes

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017

* Sometimes I “like” tweets to remind myself to blog about a particular topic, sometimes I just like them…



Like anything good lately?

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


WBEZ Investigation: CPS Secretly Overhauled Special Education At Students’ Expense

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017

* Just go read the whole thing. Ugh.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


Question of the day

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017

* CNN

Sen. Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, said in a radio interview Sunday that his party could lose to President Donald Trump in 2020 if they “overdo it” and become too liberal.

The Illinois senator was asked on a local Chicago radio program about comments made by Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos, which the host characterized as a warning to fellow Democrats that if the party becomes too liberal, they would give Trump another term.

“We need to be balanced,” Durbin said on “Connected to Chicago” on WLS-AM on Sunday. “She’s right about that. And as downstater like her, I understand she represents a challenging district. We don’t give up on our values, but we better be sensitive too that there are people with more moderate views, and people who may disagree with some parts of the Democratic platform as they as they are presented. We’ve got to be open to that possibility.”

“So you could lose it by being too liberal?” asked the host.

“You can,” Durbin said. “I think you can overdo it. We have to really appeal to that sensible center. It’s a thin stripe now. It used to be a lot wider stripe, but it’s an important and determining factor in most elections.”

Keep in mind before you answer that Illinois is not a bellwether state. President Trump lost Illinois by 17 points, 56-39. Durbin was talking nationally, we’re talking statewide here.

* The Question: Do you think the Democratic candidates for governor are moving too far to the left? Click here to take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.

- Posted by Rich Miller   48 Comments      


Kankakee’s “innovative” plan will allow Amazon execs “to create their own incentive package”

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017

* Press release…

State Representative Lindsay Parkhurst (R – Kankakee) and Kankakee County Board Chairman Andy Wheeler announced today Kankakee County submitted its Request for Proposal (RFP) to Amazon outside of the Illinois RFP package. Rep. Parkhurst commented:

“The Governor submitted a Chicago only proposal for the State’s RFP for Amazon HQ2. We respect the Governor’s decision, but are not letting this discourage us. The Kankakee County RFP is an inspired, inventive, imaginative, and innovative plan quite different from most submissions. Chairman Wheeler and Kankakee County presented a visionary, comprehensive, and conceptual plan for Amazon H2Q. Our RFP thinks outside the box.”

Somebody got out the thesaurus.

* From the Illinois Policy Institute’s news service

Kankakee County Board Chairman Andy Wheeler sent their proposal Tuesday after hearing the news about Chicago’s submission. While he conceded that Chicago has the population, it isn’t necessarily known for being business friendly, which was among Amazon’s criteria.

“The amenities that Chicago offers are world class, but I wonder about the business environment,” Wheeler said. […]

Wheeler couldn’t give specifics of his county’s unique plan to persuade Amazon to overlook the lower population, but he said that the offer stood out by “allowing Amazon to create their own incentive package.”

* Local columnist remains hopeful

For Amazon to select Kankakee County over huge cities such as Chicago, New York, Boston, Washington D.C./Baltimore, Atlanta, Denver, Austin (Texas) plus Ottawa and Toronto in Canada, would be considered a one-in-a-billion shot at best.

However, this county was ticketed as a long shot in 2001 when the Chicago Bears were looking for a new summer home for their annual training camp.

There were more than 20 other Illinois universities in the running at the time. Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, one of the smallest, put this county’s best foot forward when the Bears’ brass came to visit.

* The Kankakee Daily Journal has the fall-back plan

Kankakee County’s quest to get in on the new Amazon headquarters might have become greater as the Chicago region officially submitted its bid to land the company’s prized second headquarters.

Kankakee County’s hope is that if the Chicago region were to submit the winning bid, then, perhaps, some portion of the Amazon headquarters could spill here. If nothing else, county residents could gain access to those jobs.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


Some “experts” confounded by latest bond sale

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017

* Tribune

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration borrowed $1.5 billion on the bond market Tuesday as part of a larger plan to whittle away at the state’s about $16 billion pile of unpaid bills and save money on interest costs.

The state received an overall interest rate of 3.5 percent on the bonds. That’s compared to as much as 12 percent per year in interest the state pays to contractors who have waited months to be compensated for their work because of Illinois’ cash crunch. The last time the state borrowed money, in November 2016, it received an interest rate of just less than 4.25 percent for $480 million in bonds.

* But…


* Still

The loan carries an interest rate of 3.5 percent — remarkable given Illinois experts expected the state’s poor credit to drive interest as high as 6.5 percent. But, more importantly, it’s far lower than taxpayers have to fork over in late-payment fees.

Maybe don’t consult those “experts” any more if they’re so bad at predictions?

* Deets from the governor’s office…

· $500 million of general obligation bonds, series of November 2017A were awarded to Bank of America Merrill Lynch with a true interest cost of 1.67 percent for the one-year maturity.
· $500 million of general obligation bonds, series of November 2017B were awarded to J.P. Morgan Securities LLC with a true interest cost of 1.75 percent for the two-year maturity.
· $500 million of general obligation bonds, Series of November 2017C were awarded to Bank of America Merrill Lynch with a true interest cost of 3.95 percent for the 12-year maturity.

* For the bond geeks…



* From the Illinois Policy Institute’s news service

Illinois paid a penalty for its poor governing decisions when it made its first bond offering Tuesday to pay off part of its bill back-load.

The state will pay 3.5 percent on the $1.5 billion in debt that it issued Tuesday. The state will offer up more debt in the coming days, totaling $6 billion in bonds to pay down some high-interest bills accrued in the budget impasse. The state’s backlog of bills had ballooned to $16 billion.

While analysts said the rate was lower than they expected, a fiscally sound state would have paid a little more than two percent for a similar loan, according to Municipal Market Data. More bonds are expected to be sold next week.

* Comptroller Mendoza made a good point…

The 3.5 percent rate the state of Illinois received on its competitive bond offering Tuesday will serve state taxpayers much better than the interest rates of up to 12 percent the state pays on parts of its bill backlog now. Once the negotiated sale is complete, my office will leverage federal matching funds to get taxpayers a good return on their investment and we will move swiftly to pay down the highest-interest-accruing parts of the state’s debt.

* Back to the Trib

The state’s nearly $16 billion backlog of bills is triple the amount when Rauner took office in January 2015. Though the state went two years without a budget amid fighting between the Republican governor and Democrats who control the legislature, government continued to spend money and rack up debt. A series of laws, one-time agreements and court orders meant money kept going out the door. And the Rauner administration continued to sign contracts, whether or not the money was there to pay for them.

Under state law, unpaid bills can accrue from 9 percent to 12 percent interest a year. The bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability has estimated that could cost the state as much as $2 million a day.

* And back to the governor’s office…

“The state received strong bids today for its bonds and is pleased with the market’s favorable reception of the sale,” said Scott Harry, director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget. “This bodes well for the state’s financing coming next week.”

Following the completion of next week’s $4.5 billion bonds to complete the backlog refinancing, the State will return to the capital markets later this year with a $750 million general obligation bond issue for 2018 capital projects, which will also be sold competitively.

* Related…

* Bond Buyer: First chunk of $6 billion in Illinois paper goes down easy: Illinois held spread penalties in check as enticing yields lured buyers to its $1.5 billion general obligation issue Tuesday.

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      


Rauner administration preparing cuts

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017

* Finke

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration has identified millions of dollars of cuts it will make to the new state budget, including to human services, agriculture programs and transportation.

Even then, the administration says the budget remains $1.5 billion out of balance, which will require further reductions. […]

Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, the lead budget negotiator for House Democrats, said the cuts included $89 million to various human services programs, including autism services, after school programming and immigrant and refugee services.

“He has the authority, I understand that,” Harris said. “If you look at the human service programs, it is the same vulnerable seniors, people with disabilities and children that he has consistently targeted year after year despite the legislature continually trying to restore the funds. Those are his regular targets.” […]

In addition to the human services cuts, the administration outlined $85 million in cuts to the Illinois Department of Transportation, $41 million to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and $21 million to the Department of Agriculture.

* One of the problems is that the governor estimates the deficit to be $1.7 billion, while the GA claims the budget has a $356 million surplus…


* You can click here to read the full analysis, which I obtained this morning. Scroll down for all the cuts. The analysis includes a cover letter from the Senate Democratic staff

FY18

GOMB estimates an original deficit of $1.7 billion and reduces it to $1.5 billion after initiating programmatic reductions totaling $156 million. There are four major factors driving the estimated budget deficit when compared to the General Assembly’s enacted budget which estimated a surplus of $350 million.
Those factors include:

1. A revenue estimate that is $511 million below the GA estimate

    a. Personal income is $250 million less
    b. Corporate income is $125 million less
    c. Sales tax is $51 million less
    d. Other sources total $62 million less

2. GOMB does not account for $500 million in savings associated with Tier III

    a. The systems have publicly stated they did not anticipate they would have the new option in
    place in order to achieve savings in FY18

3. Debt service costs associated with issuing $6 billion in bonds is estimated at $535 million in FY18

4. Due to the budget being enacted after the start of the fiscal year (enacted on July 6th) some automatic transfers out of GRF into special funds occurred on July 1, adding $234 million to FY18 statutory transfers out.

It’s worth noting that during all spring and summer budget negotiations the various working groups were using the same base revenue estimate. It was only after the FY18 budget was enacted that DOR readjusted their FY18 revenue estimate which lead to a drop in assumed revenues of over $500 million.

* More

Governor Initiated Savings

GOMB has implemented $156 million in GRF budget reductions. They chose to fully eliminated or reduce various grant programs to reach this savings level. For example, human services grant programs that the governor has repeatedly proposed to eliminate are either eliminated entirely or reduced by at least 5% from the FY17 enacted level. The FY17 enacted level already represented a 3% reduction from the FY15 base level. In some instances the reduction represents over a 66% reduction from the FY18 enacted funding level. There are at least five grant programs that GOMB has decided not to fund in FY18, despite an enacted appropriation for the program.

* Pritzker campaign…

Bruce Rauner is making another round of devastating cuts to crucial state spending on human services, agriculture, and transportation.

Rauner slashed funding for after school programming, autism services, business development and tourism grants, environmental programs, immigrant and refugee services, and para-transit. The latest round of cuts by this failed governor is all too familiar. In 2015, $26 million in funding for many of those same human services was eliminated in the aptly-named “Good Friday Massacre.”

“Bruce Rauner slashing vital programs that help Illinoisans build better lives comes as no surprise for this crisis creatin’ governor,” said Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh. “Bruce Rauner has no moral compass and he is hell-bent on repeating his same destructive mistakes with Illinois families paying the price.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


*** UPDATED x4 - Manar, DGA, IWT, IMA respond *** Illinois loses out on Toyota/Mazda plant

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017

* Greg Hinz

Illinois is out of the running for a prized 4,000-job assembly plant that Japanese auto makers Toyota and Mazda are planning to open in the United States.

The apparent reasons: lack of shovel-ready sites and the state’s failure to adopt a right-to-work law.

Mark Peterson, president and CEO of Intersect Illinois, the state’s privately run economic development corporation, said in an interview and email that while no formal announcement has been made, his sources tell him Illinois is not among the three or four finalists for the $1.3 billion facility.

“While we showed very well, particularly in the areas of workforce, and our proposal was very well received, in the end the site readiness of some other locations took us out of the consideration set going forward,” Peterson said. […]

“Recently, we have seen very public searches taking place for HQ and manufacturing facilities,” Peterson said. “The challenges with these is that although they are public in their media exposure, they are still very protected and confidential when communicating exactly what factors weigh in on final decisions. That said, many national site consultants charged with making recommendations for corporate relocations and expansions will not even consider a state that is not a right-to-work state. In this case, the three states I am told are still in the running are all right-to-work states.”

*** UPDATE 1 ***  Greg Baise, president & CEO, IMA…

“When will Illinois lawmakers wake up and realize that their actions have real life consequences? For years, the IMA has pointed out that the state continues bleeding manufacturing jobs and losing opportunities for new plant expansions because of the high cost of doing business in Illinois while other states are gaining tens of thousands of jobs. The sad fact is that the General Assembly allowed the primary incentive program (EDGE) to expire during the time that the state’s bid was submitted. Illinois has many advantages including location, workforce, colleges and universities, infrastructure, and clean water but self-inflicted wounds are damaging our state’s economy.”

*** UPDATE 2 *** Illinois Working Together…

Today, Intersect Illinois announced that Illinois is no longer in the running for the Toyota/Mazda plant expected to generate as many as 4,000 jobs. Illinois lost out despite the Rauner Administration taking the lead in recruiting the companies and Gov. Bruce Rauner himself traveling to Asia last month to pitch top executives. Illinois has lost more than 12,000 manufacturing jobs since Gov. Rauner took office.

“Today’s announcement is yet another example of the economic damage Gov. Bruce Rauner has inflicted upon Illinois,” said Illinois Working Together Campaign Director Jake Lewis. “Gov. Rauner has created widespread economic uncertainty that has caused long-lasting damage to Illinois’ business climate. While Gov. Rauner trashes’ Illinois economy, job growth has sputtered and our bill backlog has soared.

“Instead of blaming workers for his failure to recruit new businesses to the state, Gov. Rauner should invest in Illinois communities and work collaboratively to find new ways to bring new jobs to Illinois.”

*** UPDATE 3 *** DGA…

Today, Crain’s Chicago reported that Illinois will not be a contender for a new Toyota factory and, rather than take any responsibility, Governor Bruce Rauner’s team quickly pivoted to bashing the state. While running for governor, Rauner touted himself as a natural salesman due to his business background. Instead, Rich Miller wrote, Illinois voters got “two and a half solid years of Rauner running down his own state.”

Rauner’s Asia trip was supposed to be the return of Rauner the Recruiter with a new Toyota factory as the crown jewel. But after failing to land the big fish, Rauner’s team quickly returned to their normal messaging, blaming Illinois. The CEO of Intersect Illinois blamed labor laws for Rauner’s failure and even claimed that Illinois was never going to get the plant anyway. He did not mention Rauner’s two-year budget impasse which drove up debt, devastated higher education, and slowed the state’s economy.

At least Intersect Illinois got a good meal out of it.

“Over and over again Illinois voters hear how Bruce Rauner’s failures are not his fault,” said DGA Illinois Communications Director Sam Salustro. “Governor Rauner just refuses to accept any responsibility. Now, his team is bashing the state for their own failure in recruiting companies, something Rauner promised voters he would succeed at. Rauner can’t blame away the fact that Illinois’ economy is lagging behind the state’s neighbors and the nation, and his failed leadership is at fault.”

*** UPDATE 4 *** Press release…

Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) responded today to assertions that Illinois’ failure to adopt a right-to-work law factored into a manufacturer’s apparent decision not to site a factory here:

“When you have a governor who spends a significant portion of his time publicly bashing the state he is supposed to lead, it should come as no surprise that manufacturers would look elsewhere for a more stable home for their factories.

“Contrary to what Gov. Rauner and his administration would have people believe, labor unions are not to blame for all of Illinois’ problems. Two years of a devastating budget stalemate under the governor’s watch did nothing to improve the state’s economic outlook or its reputation in the corporate world.

“Turning Illinois into a right-to-work state and lowering wages for our workers does not mean the state suddenly would become an attractive location for manufacturers. Many more factors are considered when companies make these decisions.

“Illinois will become a more attractive site for companies when its state budget is in order; when it can show a record of investing in universities, colleges and public schools; and when its governor stops bad-mouthing the state and its people.”

* Related…

* Can manufacturing make a comeback in Springfield?

- Posted by Rich Miller   83 Comments      


Kennedy and Rush keeping it all in the family

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017

* Tina Sfondeles

Congressman Bobby Rush’s son and brother are working for Chris Kennedy’s gubernatorial campaign — their paydays coming just weeks after Rush endorsed the Democrat for governor.

Kennedy’s third quarter contribution report, filed on Monday, shows Jeffrey Rush — one of the congressman’s sons — has been paid $11,120.19 from the campaign with his first paycheck dated Aug. 16. His brother Marlon Rush’s first paycheck was on Aug. 4 for $3,000, with his pay now adding up to $11,354.31. […]

Kennedy on Tuesday night said he didn’t see a conflict of interest in having hired relatives of Rush after his endorsement.

“I’m from a large family. He’s from a large family. It never occurred to me,” Kennedy told the Sun-Times after a candidate forum at Aurora University. “Look at the dollars involved and the hours that they’re putting in. It’s fair compensation, and I don’t think there’s any extra going to any..I don’t see it as a conflict.”

Kennedy said the two are working on “everything from meeting planning to event organizing, political outreach, interface with different interfaith organizations.”

“Pretty much soup to nuts in the campaign,” Kennedy said. “And they’ve been very, very helpful and probably surprised by the amount of work they’re being asked to do.”

Um, they’re surprised at how much work they have to do?

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


Manar: “There’s a financial incentive for Facebook to allow lies”

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017

* KMOV TV followed up on my Monday blog post about a Facebook ad which claimed Sen. Andy Manar voted for the ComEd nuclear bailout which, the ad claimed, would cause layoffs in his district

An Illinois state senator says Facebook refused to take down a recent political ad despite his claims it contained false information.

“There was little if anything I could do about it,’ said Andy Manar, a Democrat from Bunker Hill.

Manar says the ad, from the Christian County Republican Party, ran for several weeks on Facebook stating Manar had voted for a bailout of nuclear power plants. Manar had voted on the bill, but voted no.

“We did get though to Facebook and I’m going to paraphrase their response,” he said. “It’s not their job to match votes of public officials up to news stories that are promoted on their platform.” […]

“What’s most alarming is there’s a financial incentive for Facebook to allow lies, blatant lies, about the record of public officials to be told because the more provocative the lie, the more money they make on advertising,” he said.

Manar ran into more problems when Facebook rejected his response ad because it had violated Facebook’s policy of using another ad’s content.

* So did the Decatur Herald & Review

A Republican challenger for state Sen. Andy Manar’s seat said he took down a factually incorrect ad on Facebook, but it’s unclear whether the ad is still reaching local voters when they log on to the social media site.

“I think it was up there for a few days … when I found out that it was not accurate, I had it taken down,” said Seth McMillan, a Republican who announced he is running against Manar and chairman of the Christian County GOP. […]

Manar said he saw the ad still appearing on his personal Facebook account as recently as last week, after McMillan said the ad had been removed.

When McMillan explained the process of how his organization removed the ad, he described what Facebook calls a “boosted post.” This type of advertising allows the operator of a public page, like the Christian County Republicans, to pay Facebook to show the post on more people’s news feeds. […]

But McMillan said he was not sure if his organization also paid for another type of Facebook ad that’s meant to show up on the sides of the social media site, and if so, whether it had been deleted.

* Meanwhile

Fritz Kaegi has a mysterious problem: He’s running for Cook County assessor against a powerful politician, but someone has hijacked his online identity. […]

He’s just filed a legal action against GoDaddy, Facebook, Twitter, Crowdpac and others because someone created fake online web accounts in his name to raise campaign cash and connect with supporters. […]

The sham websites appeared shortly after Fritz announced he would challenge incumbent Assessor Joe Berrios, chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party.

A recent fake tweet mentions “orgies,” and a press release dated Aug. 29 says Kaegi was out talking about his campaign “with a deadly hurricane raging in Texas.”

“It’s creepy,” says Kaegi’s wife, Rebecca. “My children’s names and faces are on the fictional website.”

The Joe Berrios campaign denies involvement.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


Statehouse women fight back against sexual harassment

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017

* LA Times

A state legislator who was groped by a male lobbyist weeks after she was sworn into office. A legislative staffer-turned-lobbyist who for years would only wear pantsuits in order to project a “business-only” air. A government affairs director who faced inappropriate advances from an associate in full view of male colleagues who seemed oblivious as it happened.

As Hollywood takes a hard look at itself in the wake of the spiraling Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct scandal, the women of California politics are publicly declaring: Us too.

More than 140 women — including legislators, Capitol staff, political consultants and lobbyists — signed a letter calling out the “pervasive” culture of sexual harassment and mistreatment that plagues their industry.

The signatories include six of 26 women in the Legislature, two retired lawmakers, a Board of Equalization member and officials from the state Democratic and Republican parties.

The full letter is here.

* Our old pal Dan Vock at Governing Magazine

“Each of us has endured, or witnessed or worked with women who have experienced some form of dehumanizing behavior by men with power in our workplaces. Men have groped and touched us without our consent, made inappropriate comments about our bodies and our abilities. Insults and sexual innuendo, frequently disguised as jokes, have undermined our professional positions and capabilities,” the women wrote. “Men have made promises, or threats, about our jobs in exchange for our compliance, or our silence. They have leveraged their power and positions to treat us however they would like.”

Lawmakers in other states have spoken out as well. In Rhode Island, for example, a handful of political leaders added their own messages, as reported in the Providence Journal. “I can say that as an elected official, as a state representative I have experienced this first-hand,” state Rep. Teresa Tanzi told the newspaper. “I have been told sexual favors would allow my bills to go further.”

Such descriptions could apply to many other statehouses as well. So far this year, sexual harassment scandals have roiled state capitols in Iowa, Nevada, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Those incidents resulted in secret settlements, a seven-figure jury award and the departure of at least four state lawmakers, on top of the personal consequences for the victims. […]

For years, researchers and advocates thought that simply increasing the number of women in politics would reduce the amount of harassment and violence they encountered. But that hasn’t turned out to be the case, even in places where the numbers of women in high government office have been on the rise, says Mona Lena Krook a Rutgers political science professor. “The resistance to women’s participation has just taken new forms,” she says. “There’s been a pushback against women’s inclusion.” […]

At least 37 of the country’s 99 state legislative chambers had a written policy on sexual harassment in 2016, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But those policies vary widely in their substance and effectiveness.

Go read the whole thing.

Your own thoughts and/or experiences?

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      


New SEIU radio ad rips Rauner’s home services overtime cuts

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017

* Press release…

A new 60-second radio ad featuring a Chicagoan with a disability who is served by the DHS Home Services Program exposes the real-life consequences of Governor Bruce Rauner’s dangerous cuts to overtime care.

The new ad, which began airing Tuesday, October 17, features Jennifer Kostanski, who lost use of her limbs 14 years ago in a spinal injury suffered in a car accident.

The caregiver on whom Jennifer relies now faces suspension for working hours above the new overtime caps put in place by the Rauner administration; hours of care that Kostanski needs to live safely at home.

Nearly 1,000 caregivers have received similar disciplinary notices resulting from the strict cap put in place in August and all are on track for suspensions.

“I’m paralyzed from the chest down. I can’t imagine that I’d have any quality of life without my home care worker. I consider Melissa a godsend; she is my hands. I don’t see why Bruce Rauner is doing this,” Kostanski says in the ad. […]

Terri Harkin, a vice president with SEIU Healthcare Illinois, said:

“Jennifer’s story is a prime example of the dire consequences facing people with severe disabilities directly because of Governor Rauner’s strict overtime policy. The governor is threatening to take away trusted, dedicated caregivers from the people who need them most. We hope Gov. Rauner will hear Jennifer’s plea, change course and remove the threat of suspension to caregivers resulting from his illegally implemented policy.”

* Here’s the ad, which is airing in the Chicago and Springfield markets

* Script…

Jennifer: I was in a car accident… in a blink of an eye my whole life changed forever… I’m paralyzed from the chest down … I need 24 hour care for the most part

I can’t imagine that I’d have any quality of life without … my home care worker.. I consider Melissa a godsend… She basically is my hands.

VO: Governor Bruce Rauner is continuing his attack on people with severe disabilities and the caregivers they rely on. Rauner is threatening to suspend nearly one thousand home care workers and leave the people they care for with nowhere to turn to meet their most basic needs

Jennifer: I don’t see why Bruce Rauner is doing this…

VO: Rauner is taking away trusted, dedicated caregivers from the people who need them most.

VO: Call Rauner at eight five five nine nine nine zero two seven seven. Tell him to stop attacking Illinoisans with disabilities.

Jennifer: I rely on my home health care worker she’s my lifeline.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      


Rauner to unveil potentially huge Chicago project

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017

* Crain’s Chicago Business

Gov. Bruce Rauner long has argued that one of the state’s best economic bets would be to somehow bridge the 140-mile gap that separates two of its strongest assets: the University of Illinois main campus in Urbana-Champaign and the city of Chicago. He thinks he’s got it figured out.

Joined by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen, Rauner plans to announce tomorrow morning a project called the Discovery Partners Institute, which would be built on a 62-acre site along the Chicago River south of Roosevelt Road that is being developed by Related Midwest. Related calls the site “78″ in reference to hopes of becoming the city’s 78th neighborhood. The property also has been floated as a possible site for Amazon’s second headquarters, which the city and state jointly are pursuing. […]

The institute would be funded initially by as much as $200 million in private donors lined up by the governor, according to people who’ve heard the pitch. Exactly what programs will be represented is unclear, but it likely would involve both the university’s flagship campus and the University of Illinois at Chicago and both research and instruction activities. In broad strokes, the idea is to get academics and companies to collaborate on “pushing the art of the possible,” said one executive who was pitched on the idea by Rauner. It’s part of a broader innovation corridor envisioned by the governor that has multiple “nodes.”

With the clock running out on Rauner’s first term, the announcement would allow him to show some momentum on the economic-development front (along with hopes of landing Amazon and a Toyota-Mazda assembly plant, which the state also is pursuing). The question will be whether he can deliver.

…Adding… Tribune

Already, the proposed project has become the subject of political battles.

Rauner said project leaders have secured numerous commitments for private funding, though the governor would not identify those donors or reveal how much they planned to contribute. The governor also identified a source of public funding for the project that faces several hurdles: the sale of the James R. Thompson Center in the Loop.

Last week, Rauner said that he planned to use proceeds from the sale of the Thompson Center to help finance the institute. Rauner has said unloading the 1.2 million-square-foot building would fetch $300 million, though the state would have to pay around $60 million off the top to buy out the leases of the current tenants.

Rauner also said that though he was seeking some public funding for the initial stages of the work, over time he expected the institute to be primarily funded through private dollars.

Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, said Tuesday that legislative leaders were in talks about the institute but denied there had been any such accord, “in part because there was sort of a lack of detail about exactly how the state funds might be utilized.” Brown also said that the Thompson Center profits are incorporated into this year’s state budget, comprising a large chunk of new revenues.

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      


Dems talk taxes at forum

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017

* More from last night’s forum

When asked what income tax rate they would charge the top earners in the state, some offered approximate percentages, while others demurred and declined to state a rate.

Biss said he would look at Wisconsin or other neighboring states; he said top earners in Wisconsin, for example, pay 7.65 percent.

Kennedy said it’s “nearly impossible, with Gov. Rauner sitting as governor, to answer that question.” He said we don’t know if we’ll have a budget next year, or what the financial condition of the state will be. He accused Rauner of allowing the state to pile up its bills and its debt in order to “wound” state government.

Pritzker did not give a rate, but said creating jobs would “grow revenues in this state.”

Daiber said every person would pay $250 annually, with a one percent to six percent rate, with six percent for the highest income earners. Daiber said he based the six percent figure on neighboring states’ tax rates.

Hardiman said his rate would be one percent to 10 percent, with seven to 10 percent reserved for the highest income earners.

Whoever wins the primary, Rauner’s most crucial task next year is to make this race about two things: Speaker Madigan and higher taxes, as in he’s opposed, they’re in favor. That’s easier than explaining why they won’t be beholden to their party’s leader and what a graduated tax would mean for average citizens.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      


Chris Kennedy warns high-dollar campaigns could mean “the end of American democracy”

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017

* WSIL TV

John Jackson, a professor at SIU’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, says the amount of money spent in Illinois governor’s race so far is unheard of.

“This is the earliest I’ve ever seen this much money being spent,” he said.

More than a year out from November 2018’s election, more than 100 million dollars has been raised in what is on pace to be the most expensive governor’s race in United State’s history.

Campaign Finance reports for period from July through September were due Monday, and show unprecedented levels of spending so early in the race from Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and Democratic candidate JB Pritzker.

“They’re both spending like the election is this November instead of next November,” Jackson said.

* On to last night’s candidate forum. From the Tribune

The debate exchange on the merits of Madigan came after the candidates clashed on the growing influence of money in politics, as billionaire Pritzker defended using his personal wealth to seek office while those with fewer resources bemoaned average citizens were being shut out.

Pritzker, who is self-funding his campaign, blamed Rauner for opening the floodgates by giving his campaign $50 million late last year, contending Democrats will need cash to build up infrastructure that could defeat the GOP.

Biss said Democrats should focus on building support using people, not money. “We’ve got to decide: Do we want to have an election or do we want to have an auction?” he said.

Kennedy joked that he “thought” he came from a wealthy family before seeing the amount of money that’s flowed in the race, which prompted Pritzker to shoot back, “You do.”

* More from the Sun-Times

“Is this just a rich person’s game when we’re looking at this table? Is this just a rich man’s game of politics these days that regular people really can’t participate in?” [moderator Rick Pearson of the Tribune] asked the candidates.

“Unfortunately he set us on a course that I think is going to mean that we Democrats have got to build the infrastructure that we’ve lost. It’s important that we knock on doors, that we’re phone banking,” Pritzker said. “It also means that we Democrats have to join together to go beat Bruce Rauner. That is the campaign that I’m trying to put together. Not just here in the primary but also in the general election. For us to go out and beat Bruce Rauner and that’s why I’ve funded this campaign.”

Kennedy, heir of the famed political dynasty, too pinned the need to raise money on Rauner: “We need to respond to what they’ve done.”

But he noted his “outrage” at the amount of money in the race and the notion that you have to be wealthy to serve in politics.

“If that’s true, it’s the end of American democracy,” Kennedy said. Kennedy said people in the state must “rise up and make it clear that anybody can serve in office. You don’t need deep pockets.”

* Kane County Chronicle

Kennedy said “all of us are outraged by the amount of money that is flowing into this race, and every race.”

“I think J.B. rightly points out that this was started by the Republican Party in Illinois, and we need to respond to what they’ve done,” he said.

Biss said the Democratic Party needs to build its infrastructure “but we don’t build it with money, we build it with people.”

“I think the future of our democracy is at stake here,” Biss said. “We gotta decide if we want to have an election or do we want to have an auction.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 - ILGOP responds *** Pritzker responds to “The Madigan Question” by saying he favors term limits for legislative leaders

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017

* A new twist. From the Tribune

The Democratic candidates for governor sought to sell themselves to primary voters at a Tuesday night forum in Aurora, but much of the focus was on a guy who wasn’t on the stage: veteran Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who also heads the Illinois Democratic Party.

State Sen. Daniel Biss and businessman Chris Kennedy ripped Madigan, saying he’s been in office too long and wields too much power. Meanwhile, entrepreneur and philanthropist J.B. Pritzker, who has received the backing of much of the Democratic establishment, declined to say whether it’s time for Madigan to go.

“He’s been around an awful long time,” said Pritzker, who suggested that putting in place term limits on legislative leaders is “an answer to that question.”

Pritzker said he and Madigan agree on some issues, but disagree on others, such as term limits and restrictions on the influence of politics when drawing legislative boundaries. […]

Biss contended Madigan’s grip has not only hurt Illinois but also prevented Democrats from pushing for progressive policies, saying it was “time for him to go.” Kennedy raised concerns about Madigan owning a property tax appeals law firm while also overseeing laws relating to property taxes, which are the primary source of education funding in Illinois.

* More from the Sun-Times

Pritzker, who has had to fight off ties to Madigan, said there are issues he doesn’t agree with the speaker on. He said he favors independently drawn legislative maps and leadership term limits. He called himself an “independent progressive leader” and said that wouldn’t change should he win.

Pushed on whether the speaker has been around “too long,” Pritzker pointed to term limits as the answer to the question.

“There’s no chance I’m going to be working for the speaker,” Pritzker said.

* Kane County Chronicle

“I don’t think that what Speaker Madigan is doing is illegal, I just think it should be,” Kennedy said. “He’s a state rep and he’s a property tax appeals lawyer. The problem with that is that it leads to us holding on to a system where we fund our schools through property taxes.”

Kennedy later added, “Mike Madigan makes money on a system that’s destroying our schools.”

Biss said Madigan has “been around too long” and is “too powerful.” He said he has supported term limits for legislative leaders, including proposing state constitutional amendments. However, Biss said Madigan is one person and is not the system.

“If we get too obsessed with just one person who has manipulated the system but did not create it, and then we don’t fix the system but just get rid of him, we’re going to be disappointed by how little changes,” Biss said.

*** UPDATE ***  ILGOP…

Another day, another attempt from J.B. Pritzker to cover up his close ties to Speaker Mike Madigan.

Last night at an Aurora debate with the Democrat candidates for governor, the candidates were presented with a simple question: should Madigan stay in power. Even though Democrats Daniel Biss and Chris Kennedy have their own close ties to Madigan, they took the question as an opportunity to attack him, with both saying he’s been in office too long and wields too much power.

When it came time for Pritzker to answer the same question, he balked, refusing to say whether Speaker Madigan has been around too long or if it’s time for him to leave state government, surprising no one, as Pritzker is running for governor with Madigan’s blessing.

From the Chicago Tribune’s story, Dem gov. debate: Kennedy, Biss bash Madigan; Pritzker won’t say if it’s time for speaker to go:

    The Democratic candidates for governor sought to sell themselves to primary voters at a Tuesday night forum in Aurora, but much of the focus was on a guy who wasn’t on the stage: veteran Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who also heads the Illinois Democratic Party.

    State Sen. Daniel Biss and businessman Chris Kennedy ripped Madigan, saying he’s been in office too long and wields too much power. Meanwhile, entrepreneur and philanthropist J.B. Pritzker, who has received the backing of much of the Democratic establishment, declined to say whether it’s time for Madigan to go.

Pritzker’s silent support of Madigan’s Speakership comes after he was asked about the same issue at a recent Chicago debate with the Democratic candidates for governor.

When asked about his relationship with Mike Madigan, Pritzker repeatedly dodged the question, fumbling over his inability to change the subject. His discomfort was so plain that after being challenged on the issue by moderator Mary Ann Ahern, Pritzker’s non-answers were met with laughter from the crowd of Democrat activists.

It’s clear - J.B. Pritzker is Mike Madigan’s candidate for governor and even other Democrats aren’t buying Pritzker’s spin.

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 - RAGA responds *** Ruiz announces for AG

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017

* Press release…

Jesse Ruiz, a prominent attorney and community leader, announced Wednesday that he is running for Illinois Attorney General.

“I became an attorney so I could use the law to protect and defend others, and be able to step in when people need a champion,” Ruiz said in a video campaign announcement released Wednesday. “For too long, many of us have felt forgotten and let down by our government. As Attorney General, I will use all of the powers of the law as a shield – and if necessary, a sword – on behalf of everyone in Illinois.”

The son of Mexican immigrants, Ruiz has been a strong advocate for the rights of minorities throughout his legal career. He said that Donald Trump’s attacks on immigrant and minority rights motivated him to run for public office.

“Donald Trump launched his campaign by saying, ‘When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best…. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” Ruiz recalled. “When I heard those words, I got angry. He was talking about my parents, and about the millions of hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding Mexican immigrants who came to this country to build new lives for themselves and their families. I feel that I would dishonor my parents if I failed to do everything I can to resist Trump and to put the law on the side of people who work hard and play by the rules.”

In his announcement video, Ruiz (52) talked about growing up in the working-class Roseland neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. “I learned so much – like the value of hard work and determination, and that if you have enough to eat, you have enough to share.”

Ruiz attended Marist High School, on Chicago’s Southwest Side – a commute that required taking three different CTA buses. To pay his way through college, Ruiz worked a number of different jobs, including stints as a sales clerk, a machine operator, a meter reader, and a handyman. “As I was growing up, my parents made sure I knew the value of hard work and determination,” Ruiz said. “The Attorney General’s job is to be the champion of hard-working people, and I will make sure everyone’s rights are protected – in the workplace and in the marketplace.”

After graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in economics, Ruiz spent four years working in the steel industry before entering law school at the University of Chicago.

While in law school, Ruiz took a seminar class on racism and law taught by then-faculty member Barack Obama. Ruiz became one of Obama’s earliest political supporters, knocking on doors with Obama and hosting one of his first fundraisers in his race for the Illinois State Senate. Years later, he worked as a volunteer on Obama’s presidential campaigns.

“As a teacher, Barack Obama always encouraged students to challenge everything, to stand up for what they believed in,” Ruiz remembers. “His example is even more important today, when so many of our nation’s fundamental principles are under attack.”

Ruiz is a partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath, a nationally renowned law firm, where he has worked for more than 20 years. He also serves as President of the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners.

A tireless volunteer, Ruiz is best known as an advocate for public education. He served over four years as Vice President of the Chicago Board of Education and in 2015 stepped in to become Interim CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third-largest school district. In 2011, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan appointed Ruiz to serve on the U.S. Department of Education Equity and Excellence Commission, a post he held for two years. Previously, Ruiz served nearly seven years as Chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

As the head of ISBE, Ruiz took prompt action when a school district refused to enroll an undocumented student, in violation of federal law. In an unprecedented action, Ruiz led ISBE to cut off the school district’s state funding. The very next day, school district backed down.

“I want to serve as the people’s lawyer,” Ruiz said. “As Attorney General, I will work to bring the power of government back to the people of Illinois. I will fight back whenever our government goes too far – whether that means standing up against Donald Trump’s assaults on our civil rights or speaking out against Bruce Rauner’s radical agenda here in Illinois. Every day, I will work to make Illinois a better, safer place – for all of us.”

Ruiz and his wife, Michele Ilene Ruiz, met when they were both law students at University of Chicago. Ms. Ruiz is now a partner at Sidley & Austin. The couple live on the south side of Chicago with their two young sons.

* Rate the video

*** UPDATE ***  Republican Attorneys General Association…

“This race is clearly going to be a sprint to the left and Jesse Ruiz will lead the pack. Former President Barack Obama was Ruiz’s law professor in the mid 1990s, so Ruiz learned from the best how to circumvent the rule of law and impose crippling regulations on our hardworking job creators. Illinois needs a fighter, outside the political class, who will defend the rule of law and fight public corruption.”

Campaigning against Obama in his home state? That’ll work.

* Related…

* Ex-CPS board member Jesse Ruiz announces run for attorney general

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


Dem candidates make big promises on the environment

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017

* The Sierra Club’s gubernatorial candidates forum didn’t get a lot of media coverage, so here’s a press release from the group summing up the event…

Sierra Club held its first ever Illinois Gubernatorial Candidate Forum Saturday, October 14th at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a crowd of over 500 witnessed a spirited exchange between candidates who are rivals for the Democratic nomination, but in broad agreement that Illinois should do much more to lead on the environment.

“It is crystal clear, given the rollbacks, the cuts, the denial of science, and attempts to divide our communities that are coming at all of us from the Trump administration, that Illinois must step up to lead,” said Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter Director Jack Darin. “Illinois must lead if we are to make progress against threats like climate change and toxins in our drinking water, and even to protect the tremendous progress we have made together as a society.”

Trump’s moves against climate action, and steps by Governor Rauner’s Illinois EPA to weaken clean air standards for coal plants drew strong rebukes and commitments to move Illinois in an entirely different direction.

Candidates Tio Hardiman, Chris Kennedy, J.B. Pritzker, and State Senator Daniel Biss made bold pledges for the future, including:

    -Setting a goal of 100% clean renewable energy for Illinois, and joining the U.S. Climate Alliance of leading states,
    -New investment to remove lead service lines and reduce nutrient pollution,
    -Rebuilding the Illinois Department of Natural Resources after years of decline,
    -Promoting environmental justice for communities of color and disadvantaged communities, including state help for a just transition to a clean energy economy.

Governor Rauner did not respond to an invitation to participate.

* From a blog post

State Senator Daniel Biss said “I strongly support a firm commitment to move Illinois to 100% clean energy mix, and was the first candidate to do so.” Tio Hardiman agreed, saying “I plan to be a champion for renewable energy, and as a community organizer will build a movement for this goal.” Chris Kennedy pledged to begin with state properties, saying “we can make the State of Illinois commit to using 100% renewable energy for its buildings, and put the entire state on that same trajectory as well.” J.B. Pritzker said “we need to move this state to 100% renewables, and we must invest in clean energy and battery technology, as I have as an individual, in order to get to that goal,” before apologizing for leaving the event early to attend an event downstate, and introducing State Senator Heather Steans as his surrogate for the remainder of the forum.

The health of Illinois’ water supply was top of mind, with candidates sharing plans for protecting drinking water and Illinois’ rivers and lakes. Kennedy pledged to involve the public in the fight for clean water by informing residents about their water quality to inspire them to action.

Biss said that truly universal access to clean water would come at a cost, but that is clearly worth it to stop poisoning our children and put people to work on water projects in communities that need it most. Steans said Pritzker plans to replace 100% of lead service lines in Illinois, expand existing nutrient control programs, and develop a state water use plan to ensure sustainability of community supplies.

Biss and Kennedy each expressed opposition to the proposed Route 53 extension in Lake County. Kennedy also described the proposed Illiana expressway as “like one of those zombies in one of those movies – it’s time to put a stake in the heart of that thing and move on.” Biss said “investing in mass transit and sustainable transportation is an important part of acting on climate change and reducing carbon emissions. We have to have a holistic view of what transit means across the state – trains, buses, and access to economic opportunity.” Steans did not take a position on specific projects, but said that Pritzker would understand that we cannot look at road projects based on political considerations, but on technical merit. Hardiman also declined to take a position on specific projects, while noting his support for mass transit.

Each of the candidates lamented the long decline in staffing and budget at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and shared their personal connections to Illinois’ outdoors.

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


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* *** UPDATED x1 - ILGOP responds *** Pritzker responds to "The Madigan Question" by saying he favors term limits for legislative leaders
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