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Sometimes, it’s not just a bill

Monday, May 21, 2018

* From this past January

Illinois on Friday said it won’t get in the way of an 11-year-old girl whose parents want her to be allowed to use medical marijuana at school to regulate seizures, despite state laws that prohibit the use of prescription cannabis on public school grounds. […]

[Ashley Surin] has suffered from seizures for years. She was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 2, and subsequent chemotherapy triggered debilitating seizures and brain trauma that she continues to experience as an adolescent, said her father Jim Surin. For months last year, Ashley had to use a wheelchair after hitting her head during a particularly bad seizure.

Traditional medicines had limited success in helping Ashley with the seizures — she would suffer one to three seizures per day. Late last year, a physician prescribed a ketogenic (high fat, low carbohydrate) diet and medical marijuana for Ashley — what her parents say is proving to be a “golden cure.”

Legislation was introduced this year to protect Ashley and people like her. It passed the House 99-1 and cleared the Senate last week 50-2.

* From the Tribune

Ashley has been wearing a patch and using lotion containing cannabidiol, or CBD oil, with a small amount of THC, the psychoactive element in cannabis, since December. It does not get her high, but has eliminated her seizures, her parents said.

“We feel like we’re watching a miracle happen,” Maureen Surin said. “She thinks better, she talks better. She used to do one- and two-word sentences. Now she speaks in run-on sentences. Her life has been given back to her.”

Illinois law allows children under 18 to take medical marijuana if two doctors certify that they have a medical condition that qualifies. But the new proposal would change current law, which prohibits possessing marijuana on school grounds.

* I have a regular feature on this blog called “It’s just a bill.” But, sometimes, legislation can be absolutely life-changing. Ashley and her parents were in the Senate gallery when the bill passed and their reaction speaks louder than a million blog posts ever could

Gov. Rauner is not a marijuana fan, but I hope he watches that video clip before he decides what to do about this legislation. Frankly, everyone should watch it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comment      

Dueling press releases

Monday, May 21, 2018

* Rauner campaign

Today, the Champaign News-Gazette published an editorial criticizing JB Pritzker and Mike Madigan for failing to release specifics on their graduated income tax hike. The News-Gazette forecasted that raising the overall rate from 4.95 to 5.95 seems likely, which would mean a 20 percent income tax hike on every single hardworking taxpayer in Illinois.

Robert Martwick is the only elected Democrat to release a tax plan with specifics, and his proposal would significantly raise taxes on everyone making more than $17,300 a year. Between that plan and this forecasted 20% tax hike, it’s clear that Pritzker and Madigan are committed to raising taxes on Illinois families.

Read more from the News-Gazette:

    But as bold as he has been in announcing his general intentions, the billionaire businessman continues to shy away from the specifics voters need in order to judge his candidacy.

    Pritzker, who is running on a costly platform that includes universal health insurance, has forthrightly suggested a two-tiered approach to income taxes in Illinois.

    Legislators increased the state’s income tax to 4.95 percent last year, overriding Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of the measure. But Pritzker has indicated that the state needs even more revenue.

    So he has said that, if elected, he’ll concentrate first on increasing the 4.95 percent rate, although he has not said how much he would increase it. It probably would be in the area of 1 percent, lifting the state rate by another 20 percent to 5.95 percent.

So, the ed board takes a guess at the new rate (without noting that Pritzker also wants to boost exemptions to make the new rate more progressivey) and the Rauner campaign pounces.

* DGA…

Over the weekend, the Champaign News-Gazette Editorial Board sounded the alarm on Republicans’ disunity after a close and heated primary battle that nearly cost failed Governor Bruce Rauner his party’s nomination. Two months after the election, Rauner’s primary opponent still regularly attacks him and the Governor was forced to cede control of his party.

Read the full article from the Champaign News-Gazette Editorial Board here or excerpts below:

    “[O]ne of Pritzker’s greatest strengths is that the Democratic Party is united behind his candidacy…

    “Conversely, Republican Rauner is trying to put his fractured party back together after a bitter primary election he almost lost to state Rep. Jeanne Ives.

    “For Rauner to have any kind of chance, he has to make peace with GOP dissenters angered by, among other things, the governor’s decision to sign legislation authorizing taxpayer-funded abortions.

    “Complete unity may not be possible with GOP conservatives, many of whom would rather Democrat Pritzker win as a means of ideologically cleansing the GOP…

    “The GOP dilemma cannot be understated.

    “Just as family fights are the worst — leaving deep scars and long memories — so, too, are intra-party battles. Democrats and Republicans can fight ferociously over the issues, and it hardly matters because that’s what they are supposed to do. It’s different within a political party, where personal and political differences generate bitterness that only dissipates with time and sometimes not at all.

- Posted by Rich Miller   3 Comments      

Good politics isn’t necessarily good government

Monday, May 21, 2018

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

Last week’s press conference announcing his latest amendatory veto was, without a doubt, the best press pop Gov. Bruce Rauner has had since he fired his top staff last July and brought in that Illinois Policy Institute crowd (which he also fired).

The governor developed an unexpected and dramatic message and then stayed relentlessly on-message during his press conference at an Illinois State Police facility that featured plenty of law enforcement types by his side. Not a word leaked out in advance, either.

The result: Newspaper headlines and TV news lead-ins essentially copied and pasted Rauner’s press release headline: “Gov. Rauner proposes death penalty for mass murderers and killers of law enforcement officers.”

The event demonstrated a level of skill not seen in the governor’s office in a good long while.

Also, the governor clearly has a new campaign issue. And the strength of that issue could be seen in the lack of almost any immediate press releases from legislative Democrats criticizing Rauner’s announcement.

Abolition of the death penalty has been mostly a settled matter here, starting when Gov. George Ryan halted executions and then cleared out death row more than 15 years ago. But the public hasn’t lost its appetite for the blood of the guilty, so members generally kept their heads down.

What comes next is far more important than everybody eagerly chasing Gov. Rauner’s bright, shiny bouncing ball down a dead-end street. But first, a little bit of recent history.

The governor complained in late February that the General Assembly’s majority Democrats were not negotiating with either him or Republican legislators about criminal justice matters.

In March, the governor sent a letter to the four legislative leaders asking them to set aside the “weapons-focused legislative responses to violence,” and instead work with him to come up with better ideas. “Collaboration is our best hope of finding common sense solutions to gun violence,” Gov. Rauner wrote.

Rauner’s letter also asked the leaders to appoint members to a new task force. Senate President Cullerton penned a blistering response. Cullerton demanded the governor sign the bills sitting on his desk and help pass other bills in the legislative hopper before he’d even consider appointing anyone to yet another blue-ribbon panel. As the governor might say, Cullerton has always had a “weapons-focused legislative response to violence.”

Speaker Madigan complied, however, and Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago) agreed to serve on the governor’s new task force, which he says has met twice a week since its inception.

“It seemed like we were making progress,” Rep. Ford told me, adding the task force members were receiving “great research from experts.”

Ford complained that Rauner’s AV was “contrary to the agreement made between members and the governor’s team,” but also said he believed the group could still “meet and continue to work on meaningful legislation.” Ford insisted that the governor’s amendatory veto shouldn’t have an impact on the group’s work.

But will it? The amendatory veto can easily be seen as a defensive shield against any gun control measures that arrive on his desk. Rauner vetoed the gun dealer licensing bill in March because he said (about 20 times) he wanted a “comprehensive” solution. He has now proposed his own comprehensive solution.

The governor is also constantly asked about specific gun issues, like school shootings. Last week, Rauner started pointing to his amendatory veto. He wants to allow schools to use highly restricted local infrastructure sales tax money to pay for guards and counselors.

The real question becomes what the governor will do if he receives a stand-alone bump-stock ban, or a bill requiring a 72-hour waiting period to buy any gun, or a “gun violence restraining order” bill, or legislation to put more mental health workers in schools, or measures to counter interstate gun trafficking. All of those proposals and more were also in the governor’s sweepingly broad and likely unconstitutional amendatory veto.

Will Rauner accept half a loaf – or even a couple of slices? Or will he go with his usual all or nothing approach by demanding a “comprehensive” solution and then wind up yet again with nothing except his rhetoric?

A cynic would say that the governor probably prefers no real legislative results. He can run on the death penalty reinstatement when and where it suits him and use those other proposals to help him pivot to the center.

Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley once said, “Good government is good politics.” But way too many politicians get that quote bass-ackwards. Make no mistake, last week was good politics for the governor, but good politics isn’t necessarily good government.

- Posted by Rich Miller   3 Comments      

Hampton’s attorneys to speak to the media tomorrow

Monday, May 21, 2018

* Media advisory…

TUES, 9:30AM: Ex-Madigan aide Alaina Hampton’s federal suit against Democratic Party begins court process
WHO: Attorneys Shelly B. Kulwin and Rachel Katz of Kulwin, Masciopinto & Kulwin, LLP

WHERE: Everett McKinley Dirksen U.S. Courthouse, 219 South Dearborn Street, Chicago, IL 60604

WHEN: Tuesday, May 22, 2018, 9:30AM

WHAT: Attorneys for Alaina Hampton will appear in federal court on her behalf regarding a suit filed against the Democratic Party of Illinois, Friends of Michael J. Madigan, the 13th Ward Democratic Organization and Democratic Majority, the political action committees associated with Madigan’s organization. Hampton brings the suit after filing a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in February 2018. Attorneys for Hampton will be available for comment.

- Posted by Rich Miller   1 Comment      

McCann lashes out after TRO denied

Monday, May 21, 2018

* Press release…

On Friday, Judge Andrea Wood cited Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady’s legislative immunity in her dismissal of gubernatorial candidate Sam McCann’s motion for a temporary restraining order in his lawsuit against Brady and the Senate Minority Caucus.

Judge Wood did not discuss the lawsuit, which was filed after McCann was denied access to various legislative support services on April 19, when he announced his intention to run for Governor in the new Conservative Party.

McCann issued the following statement:

    Bruce Rauner and his Republican Party are hiding behind immunity to try to silence me, but every attempt to weaken me and attack my constituents shows the Party’s need to resort to desperate tactics to protect its dwindling hope in November’s election.

    The truth is that Illinois has lost faith in Bruce Rauner and the Republican Party that he has purchased and poisoned. We stood witness to his weakness in the March Primary Election, but instead of allowing another candidate a fair chance to right the ship in Illinois, his allies are carrying out a war against many of the Conservatives who elected him, to the detriment of the constituents who are watching in disgust. More recently, the creation of a co-chairmanship of the Rauner Republican Party is yer another shameful backroom deal designed to silence those that disagree with his liberal positions.

    Rauner’s allies are relying upon immunity to wage a civil war because he has no true interest in defeating Madigan and the Chicago liberals whose agenda he has helped to advance in the past three and a half years.

    Conservatives who love Illinois won’t be fooled. It is time to rise up and fight back for the future of our great state. Rauner and his allies can attack me, but they won’t stop me, and every attack only solidifies Conservative voters against him and coalesces voters behind me.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      

Process police fails to understand process

Monday, May 21, 2018

* Tribune editorial

But back to the Girl Scouts and window dressing. The House on Wednesday met in session for one hour. It spent that time passing a resolution honoring U.S. Sen. John McCain and introducing friends and visitors observing from the House gallery. That was it.

Yes, it’s an election year. Lawmakers and, frankly, voters are accustomed to the derelict tradition of doing nothing in an election year — nothing transformative or controversial that could pinch them at the ballot box, that is. News flash: Illinois lawmakers don’t do much transformative or controversial in a non-election year either. They tinker. That’s all you can expect.

This year, they’ve hardly met at all. The House and Senate calendars for January, February and March were mostly blank this year. Legislators weren’t even required to report to Springfield except for a handful of days.

Um, last Friday was the House’s deadline to move Senate bills out of committee. Typically, they don’t do much work on the floor during committee deadline weeks because they spend so much time in hearings.

But the Tribsters are correct that the General Assembly’s session schedule is super light during election years. So far, the House has officially met just 33 days this spring session. Everything has been back-loaded.

- Posted by Rich Miller   3 Comments      

*** LIVE *** Session coverage

Monday, May 21, 2018

* The Senate convenes this afternoon at 2:30. The House convenes at 4. The House Judiciary - Criminal Committee meets at 2 to take testimony on a legislative replica of Gov. Rauner’s recent amendatory veto. Follow along with ScribbleLive

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comment      

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Monday, May 21, 2018

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* Sometimes, it's not just a bill
* Dueling press releases
* Good politics isn’t necessarily good government
* Hampton's attorneys to speak to the media tomorrow
* McCann lashes out after TRO denied
* Process police fails to understand process
* *** LIVE *** Session coverage
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
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