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Senate to take up smoking ban

Thursday, Mar 29, 2007

Democratic Senators decided in caucus this afternoon to take a vote today on the statewide smoking ban bill.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      


750 clears major hurdle *** Updated x4 ***

Thursday, Mar 29, 2007

As I always say, a committee vote usually means little in the House, but this might be another exception to the rule. House Bill 750 - the income/sales tax increase - cleared the House Education Appropriations Committee this morning on a vote of 12-3 with six abstentions.

Here are the services that would be taxed for the first time under Amendment One of the bill, which is the version the committee approved…

* Arts entertainment and recreation.
* Personal and laundry services.
* Personal and household goods repair and
maintenance.
* Travel arrangement and reservation services
* Investigation and security services.
* Services to buildings and dwellings.
* Other support services.
* Employment services.
* Car washes.
* Landscaping and architectural services.
* Specialized design.
* Lessors of miniwarehouses and self-storage units
* Rental and leasing (not auto).
* Nonscheduled air transportation.
* Taxi and limo.
* Scenic and sightseeing transportation.
* Navigational services to shipping and salvage
* Motor vehicle towing.
* Couriers (air and local).

Senate President Emil Jones has said he won’t call any tax hike for a vote except the governor’s gross receipts tax, so this definitely sets up an intercameral showdown. As of a few minutes ago, Senators were still waiting on an actual GRT bill, and it’s not known if they’ll see one this week.

The governor, of course, has said he will veto any income and/or sales tax increase.

*** UPDATE *** Two Republicans voted for the bill in commitee, Rep. Jerry Mitchell (R-Sterling) and Rep. Roger Eddy (R-Hutsonville).

*** UPDATE 2 *** A group of gross receipts tax supporters has sent a letter to House Speaker Michael Madigan…

(W)e do not see the merit of HB 750 compared to the Governor’s plan. […]

HB 750 is not an alternative to the Governor’s proposal. HB 750 fails to provide funding for health coverage, and it does not guarantee funding for school construction needs.

The signatories include SEIU, the IEA, the IFT, Illinois Hospital Association and Illinois Planned Parenthood Council, among several others.

The full letter is below. Click it to see it…

grtlettmjm1.jpg

*** UPDATE 3 *** Madigan’s office refused comment on the letter. HB 750’s sponsor, Rep. David Miller, did have some things to say and those comments will be included in tomorrow’s Capitol Fax.

*** UPDATE 4 *** Details of the governor’s statewide bus tour next week have been released. [Hat tip: My dad, who was somehow sent the link.]

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


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Thursday, Mar 29, 2007

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Thursday, Mar 29, 2007

I had dinner at Pao last night. Wow. What a great place to eat. So, I was thinking, what’s your favorite restaurant?

- Posted by Rich Miller   53 Comments      


Black, white and gray all over

Thursday, Mar 29, 2007

I’m an agnostic when it comes to campaign reform plans. It’s not that I don’t believe in reform, I do. It’s just that sometimes the arguments from the reform groups are so over the top that they undercut their own case.

The general rule in political journalism these days is that all contributions, no matter how small, are somehow tainted with corruption. That’s simply not true.

But it always makes for a good story, which is one reason we see so many of them. Reform group hyperventilates about corruption, big headlines follow.

Election reform activists on Wednesday proposed strict new campaign contribution limits in Illinois, saying the state’s long tradition of unfettered political donations has devastated public trust in state government.

Illinoisans “perceive that their government is for sale” after years of scandals involving the state’s unusual no-limit campaign finance system, reform activist Cindi Canary told an Illinois House committee. “Unlimited contributions … damage our democracy.” […]

Lawmakers pointed out that federal limits haven’t cleaned up politics in Washington…

This counter-argument is exactly right. DC is a cesspool of corruption, yet it imposes super-restrictive campaign finance regulations on itself. Moving to that system absolutely does not guarantee cleaner elections. Ask Jack Abramoff.

Also, an intricate system of campaign finance laws makes it way too easy to write pimpy little stories about how Candidate X “violated the law,” even though the violation may have been trivial and completely unintended. That potential is what really worries a lot of legislators.

At one point in the hearing of the House Election and Campaign Reform Committee, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, D-Orland Park, expressed anger that the presentation by the reform activists “makes it sound like we don’t return calls of people who don’t make contributions.”

McCarthy may have been overstating his case, but legislators receive hundreds of calls a week from non-contributing constituents, and most are conscientious about returning those calls. Nobody ever writes stories about that.

The measure also would limit to $20,000 per election what legislative leaders could give to individual legislators.

That’s something that sounds great on its face and I’ve been leaning towards it for years. Leaders have way too much influence.

I was talking to an old-timer the other day about when he was first elected to the House (he’s now a lobbyist). He recalled that in the late 70’s the House Democratic campaign fund had about $5,000 in the bank. These days, they raise almost that, on average, every single day.

But he was quick to add that this didn’t mean legislators were necessarily any more free from some type of party leadership influence. In Chicago and Cook County, local committeemen raised all the money for their legislators. Elsewhere, county chairmen were heavily involved in fundraising.

Anyway, the point is that despite what you often read, this isn’t a completely black and white issue. There’s a lot of gray and, believe it or not, there are a lot of decent people in politics.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      


McQueary: Where’s the outrage?

Thursday, Mar 29, 2007

* Southtown columnist Kristen McQueary climbs aboard the GRT bus

Let this sink in: From 1997 to 2005, 48 percent of corporations with annual sales of $50 million or more paid no corporate income taxes, according to Blagojevich’s office of management and budget. […]

Scott Reeder, bureau chief for Small Newspaper Group in Springfield, reported in February that Boeing took to flying executives over the ocean when signing sales agreements to avoid taxation policies. […]

In the meantime, be skeptical — of the television commercials, the data, the projections, the doomsday scenarios. If it means playing “chicken” with big businesses threatening to leave the state, deal me in.

No argument from me that big business needs to pay its fair share. But one major quibble: McQueary writes about companies grossing more than $50 million a year, but the governor’s GRT proposal kicks in at a mere $1 million a year gross. A well-run family restaurant would gross that easily - hardly a big business.

* The AP has a story up entitled “Three Democratic senators reject Blagojevich tax plan.” Not quite. I’ll post a copy of the letter signed by the three Latino Senators in the subscriber-only section, but it doesn’t flat-out oppose the gross receipts tax.

* Democratic state Rep. Frank Mautino expressed his doubts about the GRT yesterday…

“It does not have support in this chamber,” said state Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley.

* Schoenburg: Governor’s latest PR move puts pressure on nonprofits

“Here we have a state worker, on state time, using state equipment to generate a state-owned note that solicits providers with state contracts to use provided talking points to lobby their legislators to support the governor’s health-care proposals. […]

“The intimation is that support for the governor’s program will support our organization,” the social service agency person said. “If we do not, we have no way of knowing where we’ll stand after the dust settles.”

* According to Michael Sneed, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. opposes the GRT…

The injury will not stop Jackson, however, from battling Gov. Blagojevich’s proposed gross receipt tax, claiming it will devastate small businesses.

* More…

* Ads air opposing Governor’s tax plan

* Choice tough for school funding plans

- Posted by Rich Miller   49 Comments      


The Empire Strikes Back

Thursday, Mar 29, 2007

I had a long talk yesterday with people running both the Naisy Dolar and Berny Stone races in the 50th Ward runoff election. Dolar seems set to run a better campaign than she did in the first round, but Stone has also ramped up his efforts, bringing in Mike Noonan, one of the top campaign operatives in the state. I’ll have more on this specific race later.

As we all know, lots of incuments were forced into primary runoffs, but many of them didn’t bother to run even half-decent campaigns. There was not much mail touting their specific achievements and almost nothing attacking their opponents. That will change for many incuments in the coming weeks as the Machine gears up to fight back.

And it looks like some of them will be able to tap into a big warchest. From the Tribune

Some of Mayor Richard Daley’s most loyal supporters from his Bridgeport power base and from the business community have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to a newly created political account for Daley-endorsed aldermen who face strong challengers.

While labor unions have spent massive amounts trying to defeat the mayor’s City Council allies, Daley personally has given very little from his campaign fund to embattled aldermen who almost always vote with him. […]

But state records show that an obscure campaign fund established two months ago has quickly collected almost $300,000 for council candidates. The fund, led by longtime Daley supporter and real estate magnate Elzie Higginbottom, has received most of its biggest donations from clout-heavy 11th Ward players, including former top mayoral aide Timothy Degnan and Fred Barbara, a Bridgeport businessman and Daley friend.

The largest single donor to the effort, known as the First C.D. Victory PAC, was Commonwealth Edison, which provides electricity to Chicago under a franchise agreement with City Hall. […]

Almost $100,000 from the new fund already has gone to council incumbents opposed by union-backed candidates. The beneficiaries include Ald. Madeline Haithcock (2nd), Dorothy Tillman (3rd), Shirley Coleman (16th) and Lona Lane (18th).

Take a look at the committee’s details. Tons of developers are on the contribution lists, plus Machine stalwarts like Tim Degnan and Fred Barbara. ComEd’s PAC and top officials with the company have contributed $67,000. The Illinois Merchants PAC (read: “Big Box Ordinance”) kicked in $25,000.

The fund was apparently started to help Congressman Bobby Rush, but Rush bowed out as an officer in February and now the money is being funnelled to various aldermen.

* More local stories…

* 18th ward candidate decides to stay in the race; some say flip flop points to fraud

* Fioretti nabs endorsements

* The Second Ward in black and white

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Thursday, Mar 29, 2007

* Illinois lawmaker says electric rate relief could be near

State Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, the Senate’s lead negotiator with the two utilities in the continuing controversy over recent rate hikes, said Wednesday that he was “hopeful” that an announcement might be made today.

* Illinois likely to get early primary vote

* More state tests discounted under relaxed NCLB rules; helps schools dodge sanctions

* Illinois closer to having official state fruit

* The future of nuclear energy in Illinois

* New study in Illinois malpractice debate

* Editorial: Howe Development Center should not close

* House passes state driver’s certificates for illegals; Tribune

* Editorial: Put breaks on undocumented drivers

* Sanchez pleads not guilty to fraud; more here

“The people I’ve spoken to over the last few days thought that Al Sanchez deserved a civic award for the hard work he has done for the city of Chicago over 31 years of service,” Breen said. “So this is kind of a sad day for a very fine man. He’s disappointed and sorry about all of this but I think he’s very hopeful.”

* Cook County’s top health official under fire after comments

* City pitches 67% hike in air ticket tax

* YouTube video shows Rockford School Board politics can get caught in Web

- Posted by Paul Richardson   8 Comments      


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