* Greg Hinz writes about the Pritzker campaign’s press release this morning detailing the three debates it has agreed to do…
But what about the Trib, which has been hostile to the Democratic nominee on its editorial page and has published some highly damaging reports on his taped phone conversations with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich on its news pages? “We have put out a schedule for televised debates,” spokeswoman Galia Slayen emailed back. Is that a yes, a no or a maybe? “No comment.”
Okay, how about WTTW, which traditionally sets both candidates on the same stage at the same time and has one of its capable crew of political vets question them? “They’re not on the list,” the campaign replies.
One insider tells me the Pritzker people haven’t yet decided about the Tribune. As that source puts it, “They haven’t exactly been nice.”
“Nobody owes us anything. Candidates owe voters,” Tribune Editorial Page Editor John McCormick responds. “We’ve had nothing but good conversations with Mr. Pritzker, and will look forward to to another before the election.”
Lots of Democratic legislative candidates have, in the past, refused to attend the Trib editorial board endorsement sessions, so that wouldn’t be totally unprecedented. But skipping WTTW would not be cool.
* From the Sun-Times’ coverage…
But Rauner campaign spokesman Will Allison said the Pritzker camp did not reach out to them beforehand. Allison said it “doesn’t mean we aren’t going to do those debates,” but noted they were not given any “heads up.” Allison, too, said the participating TV stations were also not notified.
If the schedule goes as Pritzker planned, both candidates have a big stake in downstate Quincy. Rauner has been embroiled in controversy over his administration’s response to a deadly Legionnaires’ outbreak at the Illinois Veterans’ Home. He spent several nights there in January and a task force he created is poised to try to rebuild the flailing home. Pritzker has continually hammered Rauner over the outbreak, labeling the governor’s handling of it “fatal mismanagement.”
* Mary Ann Ahern…
Of note, the Quincy debate is the only one the billionaire Hyatt heir included outside the Chicago area in his schedule - avoiding both southern Illinois, as well as the Springfield-Decatur-Champaign market which candidates typically try to hit. Coverage from WCIA has been unfavorable to Pritzker at times, as the only television station in Springfield broke a story in January on his use of offshore accounts, dominating the political news cycle in Illinois.
Rauner has shied away from debates in the past, participating in just one face-to-face appearance with his conservative challenger in the Republican primary, state Rep. Jeanne Ives. The two faced off in a heated endorsement session before the Chicago Tribune editorial board, with Ives on the attack - likely a preview of the demeanor at debates to come, should Rauner agree to participate.
- Posted by Rich Miller
|Budget optimism abounds
Thursday, May 24, 2018
* Greg Hinz…
Sources in both parties and both chambers, and a source close to Rauner, all tell me the same thing: Real progress has been made by negotiators from the four caucuses, known as “budgeteers.” That progress has been affirmed by relatively tranquil if incomplete negotiations between the four legislative leaders and Rauner. […]
“We are doing absolutely everything we can to give the governor a reasonable budget that he can sign,” says one Democratic budgeteer. “I’d makes the odds 60-40 this gets done by the end of the month,” says one top Republican.
One factor that ironically may be working in favor of a deal is the latest flap over whether House Speaker Mike Madigan is serious about curbing sexual harassment by his associates and whether he retaliated against a House critic. With even many House Democrats not wanting a repeat of the budget standoffs of earlier years, the desire not to be in Springfield and under a harassment microscope “only increases the pressure on him” to finish up the budget quick.
But sources in both parties say they’re still not completely convinced that Rauner, running for re-election after last year’s budget and tax hike were enacted over his veto, really wants to move on.
One source close to him says he does, but laid down some conditions: The budget has to be balanced, more or less; it can’t include a lot of new spending; and there must be no new taxes in the plan.
* Peoria Journal Star editorial…
A year ago on this date, the Journal Star joined with other Illinois newspapers to publish front-page editorials under the headline “Unacceptable” as our state government approached a third consecutive year without a budget. To give you a taste: “There is nothing wrong with Illinois but its politics … Govern, for a change. Resolve never to return Illinois to this hellish place again.”
Fast-forward 365 days and the contrast could not be more stark, the silence out of Springfield more profound.
“Please take that as a good sign for the moment,” said state Rep. Ryan Spain, sharing a sentiment largely echoed by his Peoria-area colleagues on both sides of the aisle. “Cautiously optimistic,” said Rep. Mike Unes, R-East Peoria, with some identical nods. […]
We’re told that bipartisan, bicameral, orderly and productive meetings have been taking place on a daily basis, outside the media glare. If that’s what it takes to get a budget that is balanced and on time, so be it.
Illinois’ key budget deadline is barely a week away and one of the state’s budget negotiators says he believes lawmakers can break a three-year trend and get a budget done on time.
“I’m very encouraged by where we are at right now,” State Rep. Dan Brady declared. “We’ve got communication going between all the rank-and-file, that’s the budgeteers.
For the first time in years, budget talks are looking up at the Capitol.
The deadline is in just eight days, but those negotiating final details aren’t breaking a sweat. Many say they’re optimistic it will be done in time.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R) says communication is much better across the aisle this year. There was some fighting about a revenue estimate a few weeks ago, but he says they made it past that.
Durkin says this time around lawmakers are learning to trust each other. He anticipates a balanced budget, but says they’re still working to get there. He says they’re trying to work about five or six major issues first.
- Posted by Rich Miller
|Beware the hot mic
Thursday, May 24, 2018
By Hannah Meisel
* I was in the House press box yesterday when Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago) took a point of personal privilege to apologize to Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville) for “extremely inappropriate, intemperate language,” she had used earlier. The other reporters and I asked each other what had happened earlier, but no one knew.
Turns out, a hot mic had caught Currie calling Wehrli an “idiot” off mic during debate on SB427, which would allow the governor or mayor to appoint members the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Board for three terms instead of two terms. The rationale behind the bill, Currie said, is to not impose an arbitrary limit on the time someone could serve “if that individual is making major contributions to the success of this enterprise.”
Wehrli, and most Republicans who stood up against the bill pointed to the bigger movement (championed by Gov. Rauner) to implement term limits, while the bill would extend the amount of time someone could serve in a public role. Plus, Rauner has already vetoed a version of this bill…
Wehrli: Leader, in your opening remarks, you mention that this is somebody is making a major contribution to the board. Can you define what a “major” contribution is, as opposed to a minor contribution?
Currie: A major contribution would be in the eye of the governor or the eye of the mayor. All this bill does is to say either the governor or the mayor has the opportunity to appoint someone to a third term. And I don’t understand why the governor would veto that bill. He doesn’t have to exercise the authority if this bill were to become law. He doesn’t need to appoint someone to a third term. But why he would deny that opportunity to the Mayor and to any future governor makes zero sense to me.”
Wehrli: So when you’re saying major contribution, you’re talking about work product and not financial contributions in some way, is that correct?
Currie: What I said is it depends on what the mayor or the governor wants to do. This is permissive. This doesn’t require them to use my standard, your standard or anybody else’s standard. It just says that they have that opportunity.
After a two-second pause, Currie added, “idiot” off-mic.
Wehrli’s face on video doesn’t show that he reacted to the “idiot” comment. Debate went on and the bill ended up passing with 62 votes.
* About an hour later, Currie apologized…
“I certainly hope that Rep. Wehrli will accept this apology in the manner in which I offer it, which is to say with deep sincerity,” Currie said. “And I hope that you will still be my friend.”
Wehrli replied that he “warmly” accepted it, adding that he looks “forward to continuing our work collaboratively on solutions for the great state of Illinois.”
- Posted by Hannah Meisel
* New York Times…
The Internal Revenue Service is preparing to crack down on states that try to circumvent a new limit on the state and local tax deduction, saying on Wednesday that it will not allow local governments to find creative ways to help individuals fully deduct those taxes.
The I.R.S. warning comes in response to states, like New York, that have looked for ways to blunt the impact of a new $10,000 cap on the state and local tax deduction, known as SALT. The cap, which was included in last year’s $1.5 trillion Republican tax overhaul, hit predominantly Democratic, high-tax states hardest since it limits the amount of state and local sales, income and property taxes that residents can deduct from their federal taxes.
That has prompted a scramble among local lawmakers to find ways to allow constituents who owe more than $10,000 to continue to fully deduct those taxes and avoid a tax increase.
The I.R.S. said it would not tolerate states that try to flout the law — a stance that is likely to be challenged in court.
The IRS statement is here.
* Illinois News Network…
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have passed laws to allow taxpayers to circumvent the federal cap, according to the Tax Foundation.
“In the notice, the IRS emphasized the ’substance over form’ doctrine, meaning that the IRS cares about the actual substance of a payment, and not the name or form it may be given,” the foundation wrote in an email. “While the actual guidance remains forthcoming, this is clearly bad news for the charitable contributions in lieu of taxes approach.”
The Illinois Senate has been crafting a work-around bill, and there’s also been some activity in the House.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* From a letter to state legislators that went out this morning…
NO ABORTION FUNDING IN THE BUDGET
On September 28, 2017, Governor Rauner signed into law House Bill 40, which authorizes the use of taxpayer funds for abortions through Medicaid and state employee health insurance. This new mandate is not eligible for reimbursement by the federal government, putting the entire cost on Illinois taxpayers.
House Bill 40 did not contain an appropriation; therefore, funding for elective abortions will come out of state Medicaid and health insurance funding.
No one knows how many more abortions there will be due to House Bill 40, but no matter the number, the principle is the same: our state tax dollars should not go to pay for abortion. You have the opportunity to ensure that no taxpayer money is used to end the life of any unborn child.
We are asking all members of the Illinois General Assembly to refuse to provide the means for House Bill 40 to accomplish its deadly consequences by including language in annual appropriations denying the use of tax dollars for elective abortions.
Due to our less-restrictive laws, in 2016 there was a 40 percent increase in the number of people coming to Illinois from out-of-state to undergo an abortion, forcing Illinois taxpayers not only to pay for abortions of Illinois citizens but of those from out-of-state. House Bill 40 will accelerate this trend.
Please work with us to protect taxpayers and unborn children.
Robert Gilligan, Executive Director
Catholic Conference of Illinois
Mary Kate Knorr, Executive Director
Ralph Rivera, Legislative Chairman
Illinois Right to Life Action
Dawn Behnke, President
Illinois Federation For Right to Life
Bonnie Quirke, President
Lake County Right to Life
Eric Scheidler, Executive Director
Pro-Life Action League
This could make it more difficult to reach a budget deal. We’ll see.
Statement from Brigid Leahy, Senior Director of Public Policy for Planned Parenthood Illinois…
“Whether she has private or government-funded health insurance, every woman should have coverage for a full range of pregnancy-related care, including abortion. Last year, the Illinois General Assembly recognized the right of women to safe and legal abortion regardless of how much money they make or how they get health care coverage when it passed HB 40. And, Governor Bruce Rauner showed leadership when he signed the bill into law. Now, in the last days of the legislative session, anti-abortion groups are calling for legislators to hold up the budget process so that they can deny a woman health coverage and overturn HB 40. This move is dangerous for the women who rely on Medicaid and State Employee Health Insurance, and it is irresponsible to all Illinoisans who are relying on the timely passage of a state budget. We urge the members of the General Assembly to pass a budget that serves the interests of all Illinoisans and not be distracted by cynical attempts to insert the issue of abortion into the process.”
- Posted by Rich Miller
|Shouting into the wind
Thursday, May 24, 2018
* From the Illinois News Network’s story entitled “Lawmakers float various ideas to help shore up Illinois’ budget as deadline looms”…
State Rep. Steven Reick, R-Woodstock, said Illinois should cut spending instead of finding ways to increase revenue.
“Don’t talk to me about revenue until you can talk to me about how to control spending and things like that,” Reick said. […]
Reick said one thing lawmakers need to do is reform pension spending “where we’re not paying 25 percent of our budget toward past pension debt, allowing us to figure out how to do that without having to do taxes.”
I took a look at the freshman’s list of bills that he’s introduced so far. No pension reform bills. There were also no bills to reduce other state government spending. But there was at least one bill that would increase state costs a bit…
Provides that, if the amount of the credit for residential real property taxes exceeds the taxpayer’s liability, that amount shall be refunded if the taxpayer is 65 years or older and has a federal adjusted gross income of not more than $50,000.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* From April 26th…
REPORTER 1: “Should McCann be included in the debates? Would you attend debates in which McCann is invited with Pritzker?”
REPORTER 2: “Will you attend any debates? I don’t know if you’ve committed to any.”
RAUNER: [Laughs] “We’ll talk about the process of the election.”
REPORTER 2: “You can’t say now whether you’ll commit to being in-“
RAUNER: “Debates haven’t even come up yet, we’re barely getting started with the election.”
REPORTER 1: “We’ve reached out, we’ve reached out to you.”
RAUNER: “I’m sorry?”
REPORTER 2: “You haven’t-“
REPORTER 1: “We’ve reached out to your campaign.”
RAUNER: “Okay great, well you know what? There’s debates-”
REPORTER 2: “And we have not gotten any responses.
REPORTER 1: “No. No responses.”
REPORTER 2: “Collectively. So will you comment here, will you join debates?
RAUNER: “You guys sound like you’re as patient as me.”
REPORTER 1: The Pritzker campaign said yes.
RAUNER: “Of course we’re gonna – of course we’re gonna have debates, of course we’re gonna have debates.”
REPORTER 1: “Should – will Sam – Are you okay with Sam McCann being included in the debates?”
Sounds like some media outlets have been trying to get something scheduled for a while now.
* Pritzker campaign today…
After participating in over 50 forums and several debates in the primary election, today JB Pritzker is announcing that he will participate in three media sponsored debates ahead of the November 6th general election. This includes a downstate debate that will be broadcast statewide and reflects the same number of televised debates as the last gubernatorial election.
“This is a critical election for our state and it is important for all voters in Illinois to hear from the gubernatorial candidates about their plans to fight for working families,” said JB Pritzker. “I look forward to sharing my vision for creating jobs, expanding healthcare, and investing in education and comparing it to Bruce Rauner’s failed record of causing a 736-day budget crisis, attacking public education, and driving the state economy into the ground. It’s time for a governor who will fight for all communities and bring people together to put Springfield back on the side of working families. I’m ready to move Illinois forward.”
September 20th: Debate Sponsored by NBC 5, Telemundo, Union League of Chicago, and Chicago Urban League – Chicago, IL
October 3rd: Debate Sponsored by ABC 7, Univision, and League of Women Voters – Chicago, IL
October 11th: Debate Sponsored by WGEM and the Illinois Broadcasters Association – Quincy, IL
I’m told there were no negotiations between the candidates in advance of this announcement. The Pritzker people didn’t even reach out to the Rauner organization before distributing this press release.
* From the Rauner campaign’s Will Allison…
Governor Rauner looks forward to participating in debates to talk about how JB Pritzker is wrong on taxes, corruption, and Mike Madigan.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* From Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago)…
Tuesday, Speaker Madigan reversed course from his earlier denials over the concerns I raised about retaliation and requested an investigation by the Legislative Inspector General. While I applaud his openness to an inquiry, I continue to have very real concerns about the venue he’s selected.
The Office of Legislative Inspector General made headlines late last year after it was revealed that the position of LIG had remained vacant for 3 years, a situation many in the Capitol were completely unaware of, despite the early discussions about problems with harassment in our Capitol. During the time the office was vacant, several complaints piled up unaddressed and we had to pass emergency legislation to extend the statute of limitation on cases that had died of neglect during that time. Some members of the General Assembly, myself included, suggested that the statute empowering the LIG be overhauled at the same time to better equip a new LIG to truly operate independently, but the changes made were limited to the timeline extension at that time.
While the reasons for the lengthy vacancy in the office of Legislative Inspector General were never publicly reported, news reports at the time suggest that the issue related to a situation where the LIG found cause to launch an investigation and was denied permission to open an investigation by the partisan leadership appointees to the Legislative Ethics Commission. It bears repeating here - the Inspector General cannot proceed with an investigation unless a panel of members of the body they are charged with overseeing grants them the permission to do so. The flaws in the process don’t stop there though, it is riddled with trap doors, blind alleys and loopholes designed to allow political consideration to bury any complaint that is politically inconvenient. In addition to the lack of true independence in choosing whether to proceed to the investigative phase, other problems include:
◼ Neither the LIG nor the Ethics commission are required to publicly share any information about complaints, investigations, or findings by the LIG, which is the mechanism that allows the partisan nature of the Ethics Commission to keep facts from the public.
◼ The Legislative Ethics Commission, the group of General Assembly members appointed by legislative leadership (4 Democrats and 4 Republicans), has the power to reject any findings of an Inspector General.
◼ A simple majority vote is required to move an action forward and no provision exists for breaking the tie vote, so anything serious could die for the lack of one vote. As a result, party line voting on the commission all but guarantees no serious consequences exist.
◼ The minutes of the meetings of the Legislative Ethics Commission are not required to be publicly disclosed.
There are a couple of pieces of legislation moving through the Senate now, where members are working together in a bipartisan fashion to find workable solutions to the problems in both the Legislative Inspector General’s office and the Department of Human Rights. The proposed changes to the Ethics Act are simple and straightforward and I stand ready to support these changes when the bill comes over to the House.
The proposed changes to the Ethics Act, carried by Sens. Cristina Castro and Karen McConnaghy, include:
◼ Most importantly, the bill will remove the outrageous barrier to investigative independence by removing the provisions requiring the Legislative Inspector General to seek the permission of the Ethics Commission before opening an investigation. As mentioned above, Illinois is the ONLY state in the country with such a provision in their Ethics Act.
◼ The bill will bring desperately needed transparency and accountability to the Office and the Commission, requiring publication of case summaries in instances where a violation has been found as well as mandating public release of meeting minutes. A supermajority, which by the design of the Ethics Commission would require bipartisan cooperation, will be required to quash the release of any case summary.
◼ Critically important for restoring faith in the process, four members of the public would join the Ethics Commission.
◼ Ethics Commission members involved in cases would be required to recuse themselves and be temporarily replaced on the commission.
◼ Finally, the bill sets out a process for the timely replacement of the Legislative Inspector General in the case of a vacancy.
Each chamber has other pieces of legislation on the topic, but progress has been limited. Just as I suggested last fall when this all began, it would be ideal if we could have started this process with the creation of a bipartisan, bicameral task force seeking real solutions to improve the workplace we all share.
* DemToo? GOP fans out to hang #MeToo around Democrats’ necks: But Collin Corbett, a Republican consultant working on several legislative races, says the focus makes perfect political sense. “You’re going to see this in every campaign. It’s going to be highlighted in every campaign, whether it’s for state Senate or state House, unless the Democratic candidate is willing to go out and oppose Mike Madigan, which none of them have the guts to do,” Corbett said. Corbett said the #metoo movement “goes to the heart of Democratic support.” “It goes to the heart of Democratic control of the state because they control the suburbs, and suburban women are the most important bloc in any statewide campaign,” Corbett said. “You’re not going to see this as much of a problem in Downstate races. You’ll see it front and center in the suburbs.”
* Sen Kwame Raoul: “I’ve worked with Representative Kelly Cassidy for many years as a trusted colleague and close personal friend. She has my full support, not just in sharing her story this week but for the critical work she is doing on the bipartisan Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Awareness and Prevention task force.
I know they are working hard to address these issues and understand they will be releasing legislative proposals in the coming days. Representative Cassidy and I agree that this issue should not be politicized. It is too important, not only in her case but for all women. As Attorney General, I look forward to building upon this panel’s work to change the culture and ensure that all citizens have access to support and justice.”
* Ethics board says it lacks jurisdiction to take up sexual harassment inquiry into Madigan ally: In addition to the ethics panel, Hampton also wrote to City Hall’s top watchdog in her request for a review. On Wednesday, Inspector General Joseph Ferguson signaled there’s little room left for his office to pursue the Hampton request. “The Board of Ethics is the adjudicator,” Ferguson said. “When a judge says there is no jurisdiction, that effectively ends the matter.
* Republican calls Madigan investigation conflict of interest: Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D- Skokie), one of Madigan’s most loyal allies, says McConnaughay’s argument seems politically motivated and illogical. “The purpose of the ethics commission is to externally take a look at what’s going on in our system, whether it be staff or members and so there would be an inherent conflict in any claim made under that test and I just don’t think that’s appropriate,” says Lang. Lang says the commission is assessing rules internally but welcomes legislative changes if need be.
* Two anti-sex harassment bills go to Rauner’s desk: House Bill 4242 would require local governments and school districts to make public within 72 hours the name of any employee accepting a severance payment due to being accused of sexual harassment within 72 hours, unless there is a confidentiality clause in that employee’s contract. HB 4243 prohibits state legislators from using public money to pay off victims of harassment to keep quiet. Despite wide support in committee and in both houses of the legislature, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois opposes HB 4242. … [Ben Ruddell, an attorney with the ACLU] said the public posting requirement creates a “pseudo-sex offender registry,” which could lead to further invasions of privacy for government employees.
- Posted by Rich Miller
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