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This just in… *** Important update at 10:38 am ***

Thursday, Jun 21, 2007

* 9:58 am - The House has adjourned until next Tuesday. Just 98 out of 118 members were present.

Today’s leaders meeting is scheduled for 11 o’clock.

Also, it appears that the governor’s flight back to Chicago last night was canceled, and there doesn’t seem to be anything scheduled this morning, so he may have actually stayed in town. Will wonders never cease?

* 10:19 am - There may be a glitch over at FlightAware because, I’m told, the governor did not stay in town last night.

*** IMPORTANT UPDATE *** 10:38 am - An open letter from several House Democratic members was just tossed over the transom.

The letter is addressed to all legislative leaders and the governor, but seems to be clearly aimed at House Speaker Michael Madigan, who refuses to back off the House-passed budget during leaders negotiations.

The letter is signed by 22 House Democrats. It reads in part…

(W)e voted for SB1132 [Madigan’s budget]. We understood this to be a “baseline” budget to serve as a point of departure for further discussion among all concerned parties, but far from an adequate budget to meet our state’s needs in the coming year.

Consequently, we would request that you continue to work for a realistic budget that both provides for the additional necessary investments as well as raising the additional revenue needed to assure that they are funded.

This could be interpreted as: “Hey, Madigan, stop with the ‘The House has passed a budget’ stuff and work out a deal.” At least, I’m pretty sure that’s how the guv’s office will parse it.

I can’t make out all the signatures, but the ones I can decipher are Reps. Ford, Arroyo, Phelps, Acevedo, W. Davis, M. Davis, Dugan, Reitz, Granberg, Verschoore, Mautino, Mays, Howard, Boland, Jeffries, Dunkin and Nekritz.

Click on the pic for a larger image…


* 10:51 am - Speaker Madigan’s spokesman has responded to the letter. His comments are aimed at the guv (whose office leaked the letter)…

“They don’t have a way to import more Democrats into the House or the Senate to pass a bill. That’s a critical reality. You have to pass a bill. [The governor’s office] can say whatever they want… [The governor] could set aside the study group topics and go onto a meaningful discussion of the budget… The House budget is the only thing alive.”

* 10:56 am - I think the governor’s office has found a way to game the FlightAware tracking system because I’m told his plane is about to land as I write this.

* 10:59 am - Here’s the full list of who signed the letter referenced above. It was provided by a major tax-eater group that wants to see lots more state spending…

LaShawn Ford, Luis Arroyo, Brandon Phelps, Edward Acevado, William Davis, Jay Hoffman, Monique Davis, Lisa Dugan, Dan Reitz, Kurt Granberg, Patrick Verschoore, Frank Mautino, Linda Chapa LaVia, Harry Osterman, Connie Howard, Karen May, Michael Boland, David Miller, Elga Jeffries, Elizabeth Hernandez, Elaine Nekritz, Kenneth Dunkin

* 11:02 am - Word is, the letter was circulated by Rep. Jay Hoffman, the governor’s House “floor leader” who is regularly on the outs with Speaker Madigan.

* 12:50 pm - The leaders meeting started about an hour ago.

* 1:00 pm - This could explain some things. FlightAware allows aircraft owners to block their planes from the tracking program.

* 1:09 pm - From the Tribune

House Republican leader Tom Cross says he will introduce a temporary emergency budget today to avoid a shutdown of state government in early July.

“The reality is somebody’s got to step up,” Cross says.

* 1:30 pm - A fire alarm at the Statehouse is forcing an evacuation. No word yet on whether the leaders meeting will reconvene.

* 1:44 pm - Just as everyone was streaming back into the Statehouse, another fire alarm went off and they were forced to evacuate yet again.

* 1:49 pm - Everyone is now back inside and the leaders are apparently still meeting.

* 2:28 pm - The leaders meeting is over. Audio will be posted after everyone has finished speaking to the press.

* 3:36 pm - [Paul]: The leaders emerged from today’s meeting with the first hint of agreement since beginning discussions. All five are supportive of the concept of a one-month budget aimed to prevent a government shutdown. Budgeteers and staff members from each caucus and the governor’s office will be working over the weekend to put the details together. The governor said that he is still confident that a 12-month budget deal could be reached by the end of the month, but it was necessary to look at other options to prevent a loss of essential services.

* 3:40 pm - Audio following the leaders meeting:

Governor Blagojevich

Speaker Madigan

Leader Watson

Leader Cross

- Posted by Rich Miller   114 Comments      

Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Poll; Full Kotowski statement; ISRA; Blagojevich; Jakobsson; Wind; Pekin; Stem cells (Use all caps in password)

Thursday, Jun 21, 2007

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Question of the day

Thursday, Jun 21, 2007

Who should get the most blame for the budget impasse? Explain fully, please.

- Posted by Rich Miller   48 Comments      

Dan Seals to run again

Thursday, Jun 21, 2007

* Dan Seals announced yesterday that he will run for Congress again next year. From Lynn Sweet

A Democratic primary is shaping up in the north suburban 10th congressional district, where Dan Seals, the 2006 nominee, will have to defeat newcomer Jay Footlik, who served in the Clinton White House, for the nomination to run against Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.).

Seals announced on Wednesday he will seek a rematch. In 2006, Seals — making his first run for office — gave Kirk a strong challenge, getting 47 percent of the vote to 53 percent for Kirk.

In the district with a large Jewish population, Seals said in a statement he expects support for Israel to be an issue in 2008 as it was in 2006.

* The Tribune has react and a bit of analysis…

Following Seals’ announcement, Kirk issued a statement outlining his efforts to address rising gas prices and dangerous imported toys, as well as dumping in Lake Michigan and economic development. […]

Campaign strategists for both parties expect Kirk’s seat, along with that of Democratic Rep. Melissa Bean, to be among the most hard-nosed races next year.

Bush adviser Karl Rove recently wrote a memo that Kirk’s seat was one of three of the nine Illinois congressional seats held by the GOP that the party needs to work hardest to protect in 2008.

* From Kirk’s announcement…

The differences between me and Congressman Kirk are clear. He has supported President Bush’s agenda and I do not. Congressional Quarterly reports that he has voted with the President almost 90 percent of the time.

Since the last election he has tried to reverse some of those key votes. He even went to the White House, as many papers reported, to tell President Bush that the war was hurting his reelection prospects. I couldn’t disagree more with this kind of leadership.

Congressman Kirk is putting politics before policy. On issues as critical as these we must have the courage of our convictions. His votes should be driven by what he feels is right, not what he feels is expedient.

* Here’s his announcement video…

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      

No end in sight

Thursday, Jun 21, 2007

* The Daily Herald succinctly sums up yesterday’s Senate action…

Senate Democrats rejected a $53 billion state budget plan Wednesday, saying it doesn’t spend enough on education, health care and elsewhere as they renewed their call for more gambling or higher taxes to come up with added billions.

In doing so, the political discord between the Illinois House and Senate — both controlled by Democrats —reached new lows with only days remaining before a potential government shutdown if there’s no deal.

Senate President Emil Jones Jr., a Chicago Democrat, criticized the House spending plan as a “no-good budget” and wondered if the House Democrats who’d passed it had bothered to read it.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, shot back that the House has passed a budget while the Senate has not, even as Senate Democrats’ ranks have swelled to the point they can pass whatever they want without needing Republican help.

* More

Senate Democrats all but demanded Wednesday that taxpayers fork over more money to boost state spending on education, health care and other state programs.

But rather than propose its own spending plan, the Democrat-controlled Senate merely approved a nonbinding resolution rejecting a leaner budget plan backed by House Speaker Michael Madigan.

The contentious move was described as a way to send Madigan a message that Democrats stand for bigger government.

If the Senate can’t even get 36 votes to reject Madigan’s budget, I’m not sure how its leaders believe that they can put together enough votes to pass a budget that spends a lot more money.

* The State Journal-Register editorial board has written an epitaph for Madigan’s budget proposal…

The speaker’s powerful, but even he can’t raise this one from the dead.

* And urges compromise…

The bad news: Neither Madigan nor the governor believe their budgets are dead. They both need to accept that fact and find a middle ground - something more than taking meals away from old people and something less than the state’s largest-ever tax increase.

* And this buried item clearly foreshadows the next budget showdown on the agenda…

Jones suggested consideration of a one-month budget to avoid a shutdown of the government in July, but Madigan said the focus should be on adopting a yearlong spending plan.


* Meanwhile, the leaders meeting was a total bust yesterday…

No progress was made in the afternoon leaders’ meeting. House Minority Leader Tom Cross didn’t hide his frustration, calling the process “rather embarrassing and a bit disgusting.”

The only thing discussed in the “show-and-tell meeting” was TIF districts in Chicago with no attempt to relate that issue to the state budget, said House Speaker Michael Madigan. The governor didn’t even send his spokespeople out to make comments after the meeting.

* Audio clips from after yesterday’s leaders meeting…

* Speaker Madigan

* President Jones

* Minority Leader Cross

- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      

Frequent flyer

Thursday, Jun 21, 2007

* Since this resolution was first mentioned in the comment section here yesterday, I figured I should front-page it now. [emphasis added]

RESOLVED, BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE NINETY-FIFTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, that the Governor reside in Springfield ready to negotiate during the General Assembly’s scheduled overtime session and any special session days filed pursuant to gubernatorial proclamation.

Yesterday, House Resolution 507 was quietly popped out of the House Rules Committee and into Rep. Jack Franks’ State Government Administration Committee. Rep. Franks has been a constant critic of Gov. Blagojevich.

Remember, these things don’t just happen on their own. The Rules Committee is tightly controlled by House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Considering all the interest in how much time and money the governor is spending flying back and forth between Chicago and Springfield this spring, the resolution may get some mainstream media attention.

* Here are a couple of stories about our frequent flyer governor. The Post-Dispatch

As Illinois inches toward a budgetary crisis, taxpayers this month have been spending almost $6,000 a day, several days a week, to fly Gov. Rod Blagojevich from his Chicago home to his Springfield office and back, records show.

The total bill in the past month may be as high as $75,000, the records indicate.

* AP

After seeing the AP analysis, Rep. Rosemary Mulligan, R-Des Plaines, said she was “highly insulted that he cannot get his butt down here to get things done in a timely fashion, and then go home and waste gas at the taxpayers’ expense.”

“He doesn’t seem to care,” added Naperville Republican Rep. James Meyer. “He comes down here when he feels like it for an hour or two, then back to the Chicago area to be at home with his family. I want to know when this governor is going to be serious about running the state.”

Past governors have either lived in Springfield or stayed in the capital while the legislature was in session. Blagojevich lives in Chicago and prefers to go home at the end of each day.

Lawmakers typically meet in Springfield three days a week, and Blagojevich has been flying to Springfield each day. If he arrived at the start of each week’s session and stayed at the Executive Mansion until the end, the cost of his flights would be about two-thirds less.

Blagojevich’s office refused to answer questions about the matter.

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      

Morning Shorts

Thursday, Jun 21, 2007

* Senate Dems says electric rate freeze vote unless deal reached

* Electric rate problems still unresolved

* Rep. Fritchey: Yeah, what they said on ‘pay to play’ bill

* Illinois joins primary crush on Super Duper Tuesday

Republicans expect to benefit from the new primary date and a large but fluid presidential field with no clear favorite. State GOP leaders already have proposed an Aug. 16 straw poll at Republican Day at the Illinois State Fair to tap into the quickening contest and gauge early organizational support.

* Illinois primary moved earlier

* Governor signs bill to move primary

* Illinois changing primary date for Obama’s bid

* Governor moves Illinois primary to Feb. 5th

* Obama’s liberal church under the microscope

* Stroger doc: Outlook good after prostate surgery

* Tribune Editorial: Candor and trust

* Ex-Ald. Troutman, where’s the $80K

* Former Alderman pleads not-guilty to taking $10K fine; more here

* Feds want CPS to repay $16.8 million

- Posted by Paul Richardson   5 Comments      

This just in… Senate to take up resolution that turns thumbs down on Madigan’s budget

Wednesday, Jun 20, 2007

[This update from below has been given its own post.]

* - 12:24 pm - As I told subscribers this morning, the Senate Democrats talked privately yesterday about running a resolution that rejects the budget passed by the House last month.

The Senate appears poised to run this resolution today. The Senate Republicans have requested a brief caucus, so the debate will begin at 12:45 or so.

You can read the resolution here.

* 12:27 pm - The Senate resolution (SR 258) would be essentially the same thing that House Speaker Michael Madigan did to the governor’s gross receipts tax. The House, you will recall, passed a resolution that rejected the tax hike. And today, the Senate may reject Madigan’s budget.

Madigan has repeated time and time again that the House has passed a budget. The object is to take this argument away from him. Since the House budget is still on hold via a parliamentary procedure, the Senate can’t vote on the actual document yet.

* 12:52 pm - You can listen or watch the Senate debate here.

The Republicans don’t appear to have returned from caucus yet.

* 1:00 pm - The Senate is now back in session.

From the resolution

WHEREAS, Senate Bill 1132, as amended by the House of Representatives, includes appropriations for expenditures that exceed available revenue estimates and therefore does not meet the requirements contained in subsection (b) of Section 2 of Article VIII of the Constitution of the State of Illinois; […]

…does not include appropriations to meet the rising costs associated with providing assistance to Illinois’ most vulnerable citizens, including senior citizens, for needs related to healthcare, prescription drugs, and the mental health and developmentally disabled population; […]

…does not provide for a sustainable means to reduce or to maintain the current cycle of payments made to Medicaid providers, specifically for physicians that provide services under the Covering ALL KIDS Health Insurance Program; and

…does not appropriate funds to satisfy the Fiscal Year 2008 pension obligation contribution level certified by the individual State retirement systems; […]

…therefore, be it

RESOLVED, BY THE SENATE OF THE NINETY-FIFTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, that those voting ‘aye‘ on this resolution are voting to reject Senate Bill 1132 as amended by the House of Representatives, and those voting ‘no‘ on this resolution are voting to support the proposed budget for the State of Illinois for Fiscal Year 2008 that begins on July 1, 2007, as detailed in House Amendments 1 and 2 to Senate Bill 1132…

* 1:08 pm - The governor’s plane appears to be landing now. He’s late for the leaders meeting, which was supposed to start at one o’clock. But it looks like Senate President Emil Jones will be late as well, considering the debate on this resolution. He’ll likely have a nice arrival gift for the governor, however.

* 1:11 pm - Sen. Trotter, the resolution’s sponsor and the Senate Dems’ top budget guy, is now going through the problems he sees with the House-approved budget.

* 1:14 pm - Sen. Radogno: “We’re wasting a lot of time on a resolution that is absolutely meaningless” as far as resolving the budget gridlock.

* 1:17 pm - Radogno says she will vote “No,” to “send a message” that she isn’t in favor of this “gamesmanship.” Previously, Sen. Randy Hultgren had said he would also vote “No.”

According to the resolution, a “No” vote means support for the House bill. But the Republicans are using a “No” vote to express their opposition to the “gamesmanship” - a term that has been used several times so far.

* 1:22 pm - Cronin: “This process is shameful. It’s frivolous, it’s childish… The process is supposed to call on us to be responsible… We’re not taking our responsibilities seriously… I’m ashamed to be part of it and I’m voting ‘No.’”

* 1:26 pm - The Republicans have asked twice now why the Democrats haven’t just proposed their own counter-proposal to Madigan’s budget.

Trotter: It would be inappropriate to throw a budget on the table at this point because negotiations are ongoing.

* 1:29 pm - Sen. Hendon: Cronin, you should simply resign if you feel you aren’t doing enough here.

“What would you have us do, just lay down like little puppy dogs for Mike Madigan?”

“We’re not laying down for Mike Madigan… We’re not a rubber stamp… We are the House of Lords, they are the House of Commons… We shall not be led by the House of Commons.”

* 1:33 pm - Willie Delgado, who has occasionally expressed solidarity with Madigan this year (Delgado came over from the House) and has publicly broken with Senate President Jones on several occasions, is now excoriating the Madigan budget as woefully inadequate.

* 1:47 pm - Marty Sandoval: “It’s easy to cast stones today at a budget that was passed by the House of Representatives. It’s a very difficult day and a shameful day for the people on the Southwest Side of Chicago because they have no budget… Nor will they have one tomorrow… We have not resolved the crisis that relates to electrical rates… We have not discussed the crisis of public transportation… We have not discussed property tax relief… I am not prepared to vote on any budget, whether it’s the House budget or any temporary budget, or any two-month budget, or any six-month budget that doesn’t take care [of those issues]… This Senate resolution is either a manifestation of (massive?) testicular virility or a lack of it…”

* 1:51 pm - Carol Ronen: “It’s never a game when you’re standing up for what you believe in… We’re setting the tone for the negotiations for the next ten days.”

* 2:01 pm - Mike Jacobs just took a swipe at Rep. Mike Boland. He asked Sen. Trotter how much money was in the budget to operate Thompson prison, noting that Boland, one of his state Reps., voted for the budget. The answer was that the approp line was the same as the current fiscal year, which means it is a cut.

* 2:06 pm - AP Analysis: Blagojevich flights cost taxpayers $76,000

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has spent $76,000 on taxpayer-financed flights between Chicago and Springfield since late May.

* 2:07 pm - Senate GOP Leader Frank Watson: Today’s move shows “we’re a long, long way” from resolving the budget dispute.

Watson called for a vote on the gross receipts tax because the governor keeps bringing it up in the negotiations.

“There’s just no leadership. There’s none. There’s none.”

* 2:14 pm - Senate President Jones: “I’ve been waiting all session for this demonstration by the minority leader… I enjoy it.”

The resolution is designed to “send a clear signal that we should be in serious, serious budget negotiations. The Speaker did say that this is the high-water mark. It’s really the low-water mark.”

“We have patience, we can wait.”

“Real” problem with House budget: Pension contributions aren’t budgeted in the bill, so the education spending increase won’t be funded because the pension payments come right off the top.

“They need to know today that this is it. That when you sit down, sit down and be sincere as it relates to health care, education, cutting bilingual, cutting meals on wheels…”

“Sometimes I wonder what happens in the House as it relates to the members. Do they read? But you [Republicans] support that!”

“We are not playing games. Games have already been played.”

“This resolution sends a clear message, that the high-water budget that they talked about is really a low-water budget that the Senate is going to reject. And if that budget got over here and was called for a vote, I believe most of you on the other side of the aisle would probably vote for it.”

“It’s been a dull session until today. I was waiting for the papers to fly, the theatrics, playing to the cheers of the crowd.. Not sincere, not sincere whatsoever, but (they) want to play those… stupid political games.”

“When the agreement is made, I want to see you on the other side of the aisle, especially your leader say ‘I can support this.’”

* 2:26 pm - Vote: 33-19-2 [Lightford said her “Yes” button wasn’t working properly, so it’s 34.]

The roll call will be available here in a few minutes.

* 2:31 pm - The Senate is adjourning until next Tuesday.

* 2:33 pm - All Senate committees have been canceled today.

* 2:34 pm - The Senate has officially adjourned until Tuesday at noon.

* 2:49 pm -Democrats Munoz and Sandoval both voted “Present.” Sen. Viverito is not here this week.

* 5:45 pm - Here are the audio clips following today’s leaders meeting:

Speaker Madigan

President Jones

Minority Leader Cross

- Posted by Rich Miller   101 Comments      

This just in…

Wednesday, Jun 20, 2007

[I’ve removed the 12:24 pm update and started a new post here. Continue discussing other items mentioned in this post.]

* 11:02 am - The governor’s plane was initially scheduled to take off at 10 o’clock today, but it appears the vessel won’t be wheels up until noon. As I told you earlier, the leaders meeting is supposed to start at 1 o’clock, so he’ll be cutting it close.

* 11:08 am - While we’re waiting for the leaders meeting to start and the House and Senate to get going (listen to Senate here and the House here), let’s take a look at a couple of new websites.

* The Senate Republicans have revamped their site. Looks pretty good. What do you think?

* The Illinois Republican Party has a new website called We Are Illinois.

* 11:20 am - Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn will be the keynote speaker at the Taxpayers Federation annual meeting today at noon in Chicago. Since he may criticize the governor’s tax proposals again, the speech might get some coverage.

* 11:35 am - The governor has signed legislation into law which would move the primary date up to the first Tuesday in February. The bill passed both chambers last month, but wasn’t transmitted to his desk until last week. The legislation can be found here. [Hat tip to a commenter.]

* 11:44 am - Senate is convening now.

* 11:47 am - Orders are slowing down a bit for our charity project, most likely because I haven’t been promoting it much this week. If you haven’t ordered something yet, please get yourself over there and buy something. Thanks.

[I’ve removed the 12:24 pm update and started a new post here. Continue discussing other items mentioned in this post.]

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      

Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Kotowski says he received death threats; Poll Numbers (Use all caps in password) *** Updated x2 ***

Wednesday, Jun 20, 2007

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Question of the day

Wednesday, Jun 20, 2007

I think we did something like this last year, but I’ll ask it again because it’s summer.

Are you planning a vacation to any Illinois spots this year? Where and why?

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      

Another disaster

Wednesday, Jun 20, 2007

* Yesterday’s leaders meeting didn’t even broach the subject of the state budget…

With Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes warning of financial upheaval if the state’s budget impasse continues much longer, Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the four legislative leaders resumed their talks.

They did not talk about the budget. […]

“It was another show-and-tell meeting,” said House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. “There was no discussion about adoption of a budget for the state of Illinois.” We’re beginning to wonder when any of these meetings are going to find their way to a discussion of adopting a budget.”

“Did it move the ball forward on the budget? No,” said House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego. “It’s hard for me to speculate on why we are doing these types of presentations. We need to start having a hard-core discussion about how we are going to balance the budget.” […]

“I just don’t see where the realism has sunk in yet with the governor as to where we truly are in the process,” said Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson of Greenville. “No gross-receipts tax. No massive new programs. We have to live within our means, and that’s not something he’s willing to accept at this point.”

* Instead, as I told you yesterday, the leaders spent all their time talking about the governor’s health insurance plan, including brief comments by former congressman Dick Gephardt

Gephardt’s group is a coalition of labor union officials, insurance executives and others who argue that universal heath care is not only sound social policy, but an important economic issue. Inside the closed-door meeting, participants said, Gephardt helped open discussion of health care, but then turned it over to experts who were on hand.

“He just gave introductory comments about the importance of health care and working at the national level,” said Sen. Frank Watson, R-Greenville. He said Gephardt left the room after his remarks.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, was more charitable about the contributions of his fellow Democrat. “He’s a very strong advocate,” Madigan said.

But Madigan maintained his stance that Blagojevich’s health care plan isn’t fiscally realistic.

Watson and other leaders in both parties have expressed frustration at the pace of the budget talks. They’ve accused Blagojevich of turning the meetings into lobbying sessions for goals that are effectively dead this year, instead of making headway on practical issues impeding a budget agreement.

* Things didn’t go well at all yesterday

“I don’t see this really being productive at all. I told the governor that when we left. ‘Why don’t we talk about realistic issues like the budget?” said Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson

“It’s not the normal way we handle budget negotiations,” House Minority Leader Tom Cross added.

As he exited the Statehouse on Tuesday, Gephardt downplayed the fact the Democrats who control state government can’t come to an agreement on a spending plan.

“I was a leader of the Democrats in the House. I guess you could have said we were dysfunctional, too,” Gephardt said.

* Meanwhile, the SJ-R takes a hard look at Speaker Madigan’s budget proposal. It’s definitely worth a read

As budget negotiations trundle on between the governor and the four legislative leaders, Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, has reiterated that the House has already passed a slow-growth budget that would increase spending by $800 million - about 1.5 percent. Even though Madigan has acknowledged that the House budget is at least $600 million short of what’s needed for the full year, speculation has grown that it may be the only solution - albeit a temporary one - to the current deadlock.

That’s not good news, say advocates for the state’s children, senior citizens, disabled and lower-income residents.

“You end up getting what you pay for, unfortunately,” said the Rev. Jennifer Kottler, deputy director of Protestants for the Common Good.

The House budget, which is being held in that chamber on a parliamentary maneuver, essentially holds spending for social services at current levels, Kottler said.

* The leaders meeting today is set for 1 o’clock. It looks as though the guv’s plane is on its way to O’Hare and is scheduled to leave Chicago at 10 am. Track it in comments.

* Audio from after the leaders meeting…

* Speaker Madigan…

* Leader Cross…

* Leader Watson…

* Dep. Governor Nix…

* Dick Gephardt…

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      

Hello There *** Updated x1 ***

Wednesday, Jun 20, 2007

* I made sure I was around yesterday when Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen walked into the Statehouse.

Nielsen said he had heard about the Capitol Fax article I had written about his visit and the stuff I had posted here, which he jokingly referred to as “that slime blog.”

I told him that nobody appeared to understand the headline on a budget story yesterday entitled “Clock Strikes Ten,” a reference to the Cheap Trick song of the same name. He glanced at the headline on his copy of the Capitol Fax and deadpanned: “I don’t get it.”

* Aaron Chambers, of the Rockford Register-Star, had the best lede

Rick Nielsen entered the Capitol like the rock star he is: A flashy man in a zebra-stripe jacket, trademark ball cap and dark sunglasses — but he had to remove his jewelry to clear a metal detector at the front door. Officially, Nielsen was there to commemorate a resolution introduced Tuesday by Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, to proclaim April 1 “Cheap Trick Day” in Illinois. But his appearance was more of a midday party for his fans.

The Cheap Trick guitarist and Rockford native was off with a bang. For the next two hours Tuesday, he shook Illinois government free from its traditional decorum with a never-ending stream of wisecracks about sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll and criminal activity.

The 60-year-old rocker charmed state officials, lawmakers, legislative staff and bystanders during his first visit to the Capitol. He hugged most everybody who walked by and stood for photos with the hordes of people who lined up for a glimpse.

* But check out how the RR-Star and the State Journal-Register, both GateHouse papers, played the end of Chambers’ piece…

* SJ-R - On his way out of the Capitol, Nielsen stopped for a private meeting with Syverson in the senator’s office. When he emerged, he made a scene of coughing as if the two of them had just smoked reefer.

* RR-S - …When he emerged, he made a scene of coughing as if the two of them had been smoking … something illicit.

I asked him earlier whether drummer Bunn E. Carlos still smoked.

“Not cigarettes.”



* Reporters did get in a few policy questions, but he dodged them pretty well…

Nielsen, who still lives in Rockford, was asked if he thought it’d be a good idea for Rockford to have a casino.

“Personally? I don’t gamble … except playing in the music business and that’s enough of a gamble. So I’ll leave it at that,” Nielsen said. “How’s that sound for a Springfield answer?”

He was also asked about the lack of a state budget.

“You know, I gave them the rest of the day off to figure the crap out, I can’t help that.”

* More on the visit…

The chamber, where senators must wear coats and ties on the Senate floor, waived the rules for Nielsen, who appeared in sort of a zebra-striped sport coat, a T-shirt, tennis shoes and, of course, sunglasses. […]

To the delight and applause of senators, Nielsen pulled off another patented stage trick: He dipped into his pockets and threw fistfuls of guitar picks at the senators and their staff — and even a few into a press box.

“I know that’s probably very, very bad to do, but I’m only here today,” Nielsen said. “So I don’t care.”

* Audio…

* Sen. Syverson & Nielsen addressing the full Senate (courtesy of Metro Networks)…

* Nielsen with reporters after the presentation…

* A few pics follow. The first one is Nielsen laying on the floor looking up at the Statehouse dome…

*** UPDATE *** I didn’t realize that I was on the front page of the State Journal-Register today…

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      

Secrets and lies

Wednesday, Jun 20, 2007

* As you already know, the Sun-Times broke the story yesterday that Cook County Board President Todd Stroger has cancer. Stroger abruptly announced he was going to the hospital for a procedure, but his people wouldn’t talk about it on the record until after the paper ran its scoop.

I’m told that Stroger kept the information about his cancer a secret from his family and close friends, as well as the rest of us. We can only hope that he has learned a valuable lesson from all of this.

[Todd Stroger spokeswoman Ibis Antongiorgi] said Stroger “is committed to being as open as possible,” drawing chuckles from media, given the lack of information officially provided so far.

That left commissioners delicately trying to express both sympathy and a sense of betrayal, as they have struggled to understand many of the moves Stroger has made since he took office in December and his public relations strategy. […]

Many of the commissioners endured similar treatment last year, as they and the public were repeatedly assured that Stroger’s father, board President John Stroger, would recover just fine from what turned out to be a devastating and career-ending stroke.

* The Tribune focused on how he had withheld the information from voters during the election, but provided a glance behind the scenes that appears to confirm that Stroger kept the cancer revelation to himself

County Commissioner William Beavers (D-Chicago), who is one of Stroger’s closest political advisers, said he only learned of Stroger’s cancer a couple of days ago.

* And Carol Marin makes a very good point [emphasis in original]…

So Todd Stroger’s burden, in addition to battling this challenge to his health, is to be different.

It is terribly important for him and for his family that he get better.

But it is just as important for the people he serves that he be better.

* Somewhat related…

* County may raise taxes after hospital chief calls for help

* Health bureau chief says patients will die

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      

Morning Shorts

Wednesday, Jun 20, 2007

* TV competition measure goes to governor

* IL legislature votes to open up pay TV market

* State Senate approves cable bill

* State Senate greenlights cable bill

* Cable competition bill passes

* Senate approves AT&T foray into cable

* Editorial: Free Ma Bell

* Opinion: McQueary’s tax analysis ‘dead on’

* Sun-Times Editorial: Reform ‘pay to play’ or we’ll all pay later

It’s clear most lawmakers want to approve something, and the competing versions of the idea aren’t so different that compromise would be impossible. If they are sincere about demonstrating that Illinois government is not for sale, then there’s no excuse for not passing this legislation.

* Higher speed limit for trucks needs green light from governor

* School’s use of camera assailed

The IEA and local teachers union contend that the video surveillance violated the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act and may also be in violation of state and federal laws governing illegal taping of individuals without permission.

* Daley picks up award, some flak

Daley, however, also got an earful from the senior Republican on the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, who used a Tribune report to club him on the efficacy of Chicago’s “green” initiatives.

* The nation’s Springfields vie to host Simpson’s premiere

* Carpentersville OKs English-only law

- Posted by Paul Richardson   7 Comments      

* More shenanigans!
* Saturday campaign money report
* *** UPDATED x2 *** Shenanigans!
* Tribune drops bombshell on Biss running mate
* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* Rauner: "Madigan has rigged the Democratic primary for Pritzker"
* New Ives radio ad claims Democrats are trying to help Rauner, while Brady does Rauner robocall
* *** UPDATED x1 - DGA responds *** Elections board says DGA should file disclosure for Ives ad
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY: Jones; IEA/IFT; Reis; Mitchell; Edgar
* ISRA, Drury both try to claim Raoul inserted "poison pill" into gun bill
* Pro-life group launches GOTV effort for Lipinski
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Rauner opens new online track against Ives
* Erika Harold still can't remember comments, but says "I was wrong"
* Rauner calls Madigan "a unified force of bad, of evil"
* Sen. Duckworth gets involved in another state central committee race
* *** UPDATED x2 *** Has Pritzker gone to ground?
* Illinois House Bill HB 4900 Wastes Government Resources
* McCann, barred from SGOP caucus meeting, claims Rauner threatened to "destroy you and your family"
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Caption contest!
* Obama mailer kerfuffle in Lipinski district
* Rauner attended Quincy campaign event after Quincy veterans' home presser
* After spending millions in Dem primary, Rauner accuses "Washington liberals" of "hijacking" the GOP primary
* Yesterday's stories

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