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This just in…

Thursday, Aug 16, 2007

* 1:15 pm - Um… Not exactly anything to report from GOP Day. Everyone got along and the crowd wasn’t bad considering the weather. I may have straw poll details later.

* 4:30 pm - Romney, who bused a ton of people in, won the IL GOP straw poll with Fred Thompson, who had nobody here, in second. Ron Paul, who had a bunch of young supporter here, placed third. Giuliani was 4th, and McCain was 5th

Romney 40
Thompson 20
Paul 19
Rudy 11
McCain 4
Huckabee 3

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      

This just in… GOP Day will continue as planned

Thursday, Aug 16, 2007

* 11:20 am - Just talked to Mike Z with the IL Republican Party. Mike’s at the fairgrounds for GOP Day.

It’s starting to rain there and people are being advised to seek shelter. I’ve been hearing thunder at my house. Here’s the radar image from a minute ago. You can click on the pic for the updated radar…

Right now, we’ll have to wait and see if there will be a delay in the program. But if you were planning to leave soon, you might want to wait and check the blog. Mike said he’d call as soon as he knows whether anything will be delayed.

* 11:29 am - The Republicans do have a great big tent near the stage, so a bit of rain will not cancel the event. Right now, they’re waiting for everything to blow over. People have already started voting in the straw poll, and that voting location is under the tent.

My plan is to wait in my office to hear from Mike before I head over there. Y’all can do what you want.

* 11:36 am - State Fair officials have told the party that the storm has passed them to the south, so they’re getting ready to restart the program as I write this. Head on over there.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Question of the day

Thursday, Aug 16, 2007

In honor of yesterday’s race, the question today is: What do you think is the future of horse racing in Illinois? It always seems to be in trouble. Can it survive? How? Should it survive? Explain fully.

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      

State Fair notebook - Plus, race pics

Thursday, Aug 16, 2007

* As usual, hypocrisy reins supreme

Earlier this year, Blagojevich said high-priced lobbyists in “Gucci loafers” were working to defeat his health care ideas.

Just happened to notice that Blagojevich wore Lucky Brand Jeans to open the Illinois State Fair. Those jeans start at about $100.

* And while the State Democratic Party formally endorsed Barack Obama’s presidential bid, there were some objections

Shirley McCombs of Petersburg, secretary of the state party, voted against the resolution because she supports U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., for the presidency.

“In my lifetime, I want to see a woman get elected,” McCombs said after the meeting. “Women have been in the shotgun seat so long, and it’s time for the move to the driver’s seat, and the person to do that is Hillary Clinton.” […]

Also voting against the endorsement was Julie Kennedy Beckman of Darien, who helps represent the 13th Congressional District on the central committee. Beckman said after the meeting that she backs Obama for president, but knows that many in the party support Clinton. […]

Neil Hartigan, a former state attorney general and appellate court judge, spoke on Clinton’s behalf earlier Wednesday at a Springfield breakfast sponsored by the Democratic County Chairmen’s Association. At that breakfast, state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias was among those who backed Obama.

* Blagojevich said he plans to take his time with the electric rate relief bill…

“I’m suspicious when a company like Ameren is telling me there is a deadline for signing the bill,” said Blagojevich, who likened it to being pressured by a used-car salesman. “When Ameren is saying you’ve had the bill for four, five days and sign it by Friday or else, I think it is prudent to be a little suspicious and to take a good look and look at the fine print in the deal. We’ll see if we can make the deal better or not.”

* Sneed has a preview of Republican Day…

A Romney report: Craig Romney, son of GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, will stump for his dad at the Illinois State Fair today and, ostensibly, be queried by the press why none of the candidate’s five adult sons has ever served in the military.

• • Translation: Romney, whose son is here to see if dad will emerge victorious in Illinois’ first Republican straw poll, drew criticism following his straw poll win in Iowa from his response to his sons’ lack of military service.

• • Romney’s response: “. . .one of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping to get me elected.”

• • Romney’s response to the question whether they are going over to Iraq: “No, they are not.”

My. My.

* And, as promised, here are some photos from yesterday’s celebrity horse race…

✪ The contestants gather (Dave Dring was a late scratch, by the way)…

✪ Rich and his driver, Jamaica Patton, prepare for the race…

✪ They’re at the Gate…

✪ Here they come, spinning around the turn…

✪ Dismount…

✪ The winner glows…

✪ And we made the SJ-R

Wednesday’s card featured a celebrity race that was won by Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch and co-driver Marcus Miller, Ervin Miller’s 18-year-old son.

Rich Miller, publisher of the newsletter Capitol Fax and Jamaica Patton placed second. Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, and Andy Miller were third. Cindy Davidsmeyer, spokeswoman for Senate President Emil Jones, and Williamsville High School graduate Brandon Simpson finished fourth. Patty Schuh, spokeswoman for Senate GOP Leader Frank Watson, and Springfield’s Tom Simmons took fifth.

- Posted by Rich Miller   46 Comments      

A complete lack of communication

Thursday, Aug 16, 2007

* If you want a good idea of how the leaders don’t communicate or listen well, just take a look at this

Despite disagreeing with the legality of Blagojevich’s maneuver, Madigan did sound an optimistic note about the health care plan [before the State Fair events].

Madigan said he could support an increase in the cigarette tax to pay for an expansion of the Medicaid program.

“I said from Day One it’s a good idea,” said Madigan. […]

Blagojevich was surprised to hear Madigan say a cigarette tax hike could be an option.

“When did he say that?” Blagojevich asked reporters.

Hmmm. Well, let’s see. This is from WBBM AM’s website on July 20th, almost a month ago…

House Speaker Michael Madigan tells WBBM he’ll support a plan that adds more people to those already covered in Illinois. But, Madigan says that plan should be funded by a hike in the cigarette tax

I wrote about Madigan suggesting the cigarette tax hike for health care here on July 25th.

Madigan’s comments were made on WBBM’s “At Issue” program. Listen here if you want.

Madigan had been suggesting this privately for quite a while before the At Issue program. And I know I’ve had it in the Capitol Fax at least twice.

In other words, Blagojevich could have had his $500 million for health care weeks ago if he’d been paying attention, or if Madigan had made his intentions known to him personally. This goofy, divisive veto wasn’t needed. The bizarre antics were uncalled for. The “war” could have been over.

All because the leaders don’t communicate.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      

Report: Gutierrez will run again *** Updated x1 ***

Thursday, Aug 16, 2007

From a subscriber who is at the meeting this morning…

US Rep. Luis Gutierrez just announced, at the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Business Expo, that he has reversed his prior retirement plans, and will indeed run for re-election to represent Illinois’s 4th Congressional District.

This is hardly a surprise. I’ve suspected it for months, as have many others. And Mark Brown wrote about the possibility earlier this week…

A letter imploring Rep. Luis Gutierrez to stay in Congress — signed by 10 elected officials from his district including one of his would-be successors — has provided the strongest sign yet that the eight-term House member is rethinking his decision to retire from office.

In fact, I’d say it’s now likely Gutierrez will run for re-election, although I couldn’t wheedle an admission out of him.

“I’m not going to lie to you,” Gutierrez told me Friday. The letter “has had an impact. We’re thinking about it.”


*** UPDATE *** From the AP

Congressman Luis Gutierrez says he’s changed his mind and he will seek another term in Washington.

The Chicago Democrat had said he wasn’t going to run, partly to spend more time with his wife, who had been having health problems.

But during a morning appearance in Chicago, Gutierrez said she’s better and he wants to run again because he still has work to do on immigration reform.

Gutierrez says a letter from community groups and other elected officials urging him to run helped change his mind.

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      

Disunity Day

Thursday, Aug 16, 2007

* I doubt the Republicans will be able to top yesterday’s Democrat Day events for newsworthiness…

Warring factions of Illinois’ Democratic Party turned unity day Wednesday at the Illinois State Fair into a display of name-calling, booing and apologizing for a feud that almost shut down state government.

Organizers tried to focus on their common goal of electing Sen. Barack Obama president, but the diversion couldn’t paper over deep cracks within the party, fissures caused by the caustic 10-week budget stalemate between Democratic leaders.

“It’s embarrassing — it’s not the way people envision their leaders acting,” Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias said. “I think the public is getting sick and tired of this.”

House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago) accused one another of being untruthful.

* And, as I told you yesterday, there was plenty of jeering

Members claiming to be from a Chicago job training group that’s received hundreds of thousands of dollars in state contracts courtesy of Gov. Rod Blagojevich showed up at a Democratic rally Wednesday to boo the governor’s chief political rival — House Speaker Michael Madigan.

“Veto Madigan,” the nearly two dozen people chanted when Madigan, also chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party, took to the microphone during the annual Democratic rally at the Illinois State Fair.

The group immediately left the rally and headed to buses bearing signs for United Services of Chicago. Group members said they were told not to comment to reporters but said they were with United Services and that Blagojevich paid for the bus trip. […]

United Services of Chicago was awarded a nearly $775,000 contract this year from Blagojevich’s economic development agency. And last year, state auditors red flagged nearly $30,000 in state payments to United Services by the state’s transportation department. The department was missing files and could not explain why United Services got a potentially $900,000 job training contract over others.

United Services is led by Eddie Read, a key supporter of former Cook County Board President John Stroger and chairman of the Black Independent Political Organization. That organization gave $2,500 to Blagojevich’s 2006 campaign.

The governor’s campaign denied any involvement, which nobody really believed, of course.

* There was also some booing yesterday in Chicago

Mayor Daley accused Gov. Blagojevich Wednesday of engineering a legally shaky and “dangerous” end-run around the General Assembly that threatens to jeopardize the mayor’s chances of getting sorely needed funding for the CTA and Chicago Public Schools.
One day after Blagojevich vowed to cut $500 million from the new state budget and redirect it toward his failed health care initiative, Daley openly questioned the legality of the maneuver as well as the political wisdom of it.

“Something like this really kind of separates people. . . . You’ve got Democrats and Republicans in the House. Once you start dividing them and divide the Senate, that is very, very dangerous in regards to — not only politics, but government,” he said.

* Madigan and Jones went after each other as well…

Senate President Emil Jones has promised to use his power to protect the governor from any attempt to override a half billion dollars in line item vetoes to free up money for the governor’s program, but House Speaker Michael Madigan vowed to try anyway and he accused Jones of reneging on a deal.

“I’ll be kind and I’ll say that I think Senator Jones changed his mind. For myself, I plan to keep my word and move to override,” Speaker Madigan said.

Jones fired back saying, “He’s not a man of his word, Keep his nose out of the [Senate’s] business, period.” When asked if he feels like the speaker double-crossed him, Jones answered emphatically, “Yes.”

* More on that topic

Jones, who is also a Chicago Democrat, accused Madigan and Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson of “a collusion” to breach the leaders’ agreement by derailing a capital bill for state construction projects. The bill failed last week in the Senate.

“So that’s why I changed my mind. That’s a fact,” Jones said Wednesday. “(Madigan) should not have interfered in what we were doing on capital.”

Madigan said Jones’ assertions are untrue.

* More on the Democrats’ “Disunity Day” activities…

After acting like carnies who claim their games are legit, Democratic leaders have developed such a surfeit of mistrust over a monthslong budget battle that Comptroller Dan Hynes decided to make a public apology.

“We’ve let you down, and there is no excuse for this,” Hynes said in opening the day at the traditional Democratic County Chairmen’s breakfast. “It’s supposed to be a day of unity. It’s certainly supposed to be a day of celebration. Frankly, I don’t feel there’s a lot to celebrate today.”

But even Hynes’ act of contrition became the subject of squabbling. Gov. Rod Blagojevich contended that Hynes apologized for “standing in the way” of state worker paychecks, which the comptroller has denied. The governor said he had nothing to apologize for as long as he kept pushing plans for expanding health care.

* The Hynes vs. Blagojevich feud was an interesting side affair

“In a best-case scenario, he is going to expand our Medicaid deficit by $500 million,” said Comptroller Dan Hynes. “In a worst-case scenario, he is defying the Constitution.”

* And things got plenty weird

A day after Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, infuriated legislators in his own party by vowing to go around them for health care expansion, he seemed to thumb his nose at them — in fact singing about the issue at one point in a Democratic Party rally at the Illinois State Fair.

“I’m just a red-blooded boy and I just can’t stop thinking about health care! Health care! Health care! Health care!'’ Blagojevich sang to the tune of Elvis Presley’s “Girls, Girls, Girls.'’

* More stuff compiled by Paul…

* Editorial: One man’s pork is another man’s health care plan

* Democrats clash on budget

* Editorial: State salaries bumped in the middle of the night

* Eric Zorn: State balancing act not for the faint of heart

* Internet predator law now in effect

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      

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Thursday, Aug 16, 2007

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Morning shorts

Thursday, Aug 16, 2007

* After meeting with foes, BP says it’s moving ahead; more here

* Sun-Times Editorial: Perfect water comes out of the taps

* Illinoize: HB 1 has been locked down for 111 days

* Editorial: Stable ACT scores can’t mask concerns

Illinois legislators already have made the smart move of toughening basic high school graduation requirements; high school administrators and counselors need to press the issue even further in their own schools.

It’s not necessary — or even desirable — that every single high school graduate go on to college. But something is wrong when so few are fully prepared for an increasingly competitive world in which highly educated U.S. students and American success must walk hand-in-hand.

* West point grad weighs running against Durbin

* Tollway has let cheats off the hook

* Count of 24 homeless was based on just 12-block area

Acting Housing Commissioner Ellen Sahli said a separate count conducted between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. on a cold night in January — in a much broader swath that includes all four community areas that take in parts of downtown — turned up 995 homeless people.

Of that number, 352 people were living on the street and in public places. The remaining 643 people were staying in shelters.

* Feds join in probe of city’s elite police

* McHenry Co. leaders to hold rally for road funds

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      

This just in…

Wednesday, Aug 15, 2007

* 11:43 am - From the AP

House Speaker Michael Madigan today called [the governor’s plan to veto pork and increase health care spending] “contrary to the Constitution.”

Madigan contends the governor can use his veto powers to cut spending, but it would be unconstitutional for him to increase spending in areas where the legislature had designated less.

Madigan adds that he hasn’t decided what, if any, action should be taken to block the governor.

There’s little Madigan can do to “block” the governor except try to renegotiate the budget. That might be tough to do, considering Senate President Jones’ stance.

* 1:40 pm - Hillary Clinton’s people brought 2 busloads of people here today. Kind of a cool reception on such a hot day.

* 1:55 pm - Speaker Madigan was loudly booed when he was introduced - mostly by people wearing Blagojevich t-shirts. Towards the end of his speech a handful began chanting loudly “Veto Madigan!” over and over again. They refused to identify themselves to reporters.

* 2:05 pm - Some of the disruptors went back to a bus with a United Services of Chicago sign on it. One protestor said they were “working” for the governor. Another said the governor paid for the bus. One said that Madigan is “against the people.” A few tried to prevent anyone from talking to the press.

* 2:20 pm - Jones just said that Madigan called Frank Watson during the SGOP caucus meeting and got him to pull votes off the capital bill at the last minute. So that’s why Jones broke the budget deal.

Also the guv’s campaign says they didn’t pay for any buses. Labor paid for it, they said.

* 2:40pm - SGOP spokesperson flatly denied that Madigan had anything to do with the vote on capital. It was purely the lack of trust in the governor for holding off votes from the bond authorization bill.

* 3:45 pm - The governor’s office finally won something. lol… Rebecca Rausch won the celebrity race. I was 2nd.

* 5:23 pm - Sorry for the typos in the above posts. Treo blogging in 100 degree heat while trying to talk to various friends and pals is difficult, to say the least.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my driver today. Jamaica Patton is the best. What a cool guy. And even though we didn’t have nearly the best horse today, he gave it a real run for the money. Man, is that racing some fun stuff.

- Posted by Rich Miller   135 Comments      

Question of the day

Wednesday, Aug 15, 2007

Today is Governor’s Day at the Illinois State Fair. Speaker Madigan has confirmed that he will attend.

Predict the very brief conversation that Madigan has with Gov. Blagojevich upon his arrival.

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      

If you’re not doing anything this afternoon…

Wednesday, Aug 15, 2007

I put this in today’s Capitol Fax, but thought I’d tell y’all about it as well…

If you get a chance, head to the Grandstand after about 3 o’clock. The Racing Associations of Illinois is sponsoring a “celebrity” harness horse race. I’ll be racing against the spokespersons for the four legislative leaders and the governor. Word is, there might be a little betting action in the stands - for charity purposes only of course.

See you there.

*** UPDATE *** I’ve been invited to appear on Jerry Agar’s WLS show at 9:20 this morning. Just a brief bit - 10 minutes - but thought you might be interested. Listen here.

Also… One other thing. Our charity store website has been completely revamped. Looks much better now. Go buy something, please.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Caption contest!

Wednesday, Aug 15, 2007

This is not photoshopped…

And, please, keep it clean. You wouldn’t want to be banned for life, would you? Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   92 Comments      

More on the threatened veto…

Wednesday, Aug 15, 2007

* The Tribune has a couple of good details about what’s ahead…

But the administration said it could accomplish its health-care plans through existing powers to shift a percentage of money from other budget lines, as well as by delaying payments to providers of health care to the poor. […]

[Besides the $200 million in “pork”] The governor also plans to eliminate what he called $300 million in legislative add-ons within agency programs and transfer the funds elsewhere. […]

Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago) said the governor can use a 2 percent discretionary transfer authority to create a pot of money worth hundreds of millions of dollars to help underwrite the health-care plans.

* Sun-Times

But as the day proceeded, a deep skepticism began to take hold that the governor may have overplayed his hand and merely was trying to save face from a disastrous legislative session.

* And the Sun-Times editorial board is clearly not happy, calling the move “the act of a dictator.”

The representatives of the people of Illinois soundly rejected the governor’s health expansion. Now he says he can do it by mandate.

* Carol Marin quotes Hunter S. Thompson’s famous line “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro,” and asks…

Did Hunter Thompson actually KNOW Rod Blagojevich?

* Daily Herald

On Tuesday, Jones abandoned a coalition of legislative leaders who’d cut their own budget deal last week without Blagojevich and agreed to stick together and override any vetoes.

Jones denied there was any deal to back up the governor in return for higher pay. “Oh no. I’ve been fighting for these pay raises for a year,” Jones said. But suspicion hung thick at the Capitol, where Jones’ move was viewed as a double-cross.

* Some of the comments on yesterday’s post were quite excellent. Here are just a few…

* Reverse field…

Emil gave Madigan his version of the operating budget, but without embarassing a Democratic Governor w/ an override..Madigan eventually gets his members projects back through negotiating a capital bill. Rod has declared “victory” on health care and he can move straight to capital. Takes 8 to stop emergency rules on JCAR so that is not an option for Madigan. Plus these are poor people w/out insurance! Without the employer payroll tax–Madigan has to do the capital bill or look like an obstructionist. Madigan retrieves the member intiatives and Rod gets his long sought capital bill. Frank Watson’s letter today is further proof that the Governor is moving on capital and is likely to move on Frank’s individual members soon. If a capital bill zooms out of the Senate Madigan has little choice but to negotiate. Give the Goernor credit he is finally taking the advice of his legisaltive allies.

* DuPage Dave…

The sad thing to me is that if the Guv had come out with this as a plan in March- increase breast cancer screening, expand CHIP, and other tinkering with the health care system as steps toward a more “universal” system- and with a price tag of only $500 million- he would have had it approved very easily, I think. Instead we had lots of bluster about Armageddon and being on the side of the Lord, etc., demonizing any opponents of his poorly defined, multi-billion dollar scheme. This whole ordeal has been embarrassing, but it is not even remotely amusing. It’s just sad, sad, sad.

* amy…

surely his lawyers looked at this and said it is worth a shot. and why not. Pork or healthcare? That’s an easy call. and if Lisa Madigan has to weigh in on the legal dispute and does not side with health care, woe to her. this looks good for the people of Illinois.


- Posted by Rich Miller   87 Comments      

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Wednesday, Aug 15, 2007

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Morning Shorts

Wednesday, Aug 15, 2007

* Average CPS freshman, 19 absences, 2.6 Fs; more here

* Illinois ACT scores are up but still low

* Daley calls tax on bottled water good for budget, environment

Money-wise, it’s a good idea. Environmental-wise, it’s a good idea, too….There’s so much plastic in our lives. It’s amazing. Every time you look, there’s plastic all over,” Daley said Tuesday.

Asked whether it was fair to punish people for following doctors’ advice to stay hydrated, the mayor said, “Well, it all depends what effect you’re having upon the environment — not just upon their body, but upon the environment.”

* Transportation Dept. is clean new leader insists

* Three OTB sites win approval from the state

* Ameren plan for Illinois blackouts is presented

* EPA will ask BP to offset pollution

* Daley says to hold off on boycott, pressure building on BP

* PrairieStateBlue: Lipinski paranoia goes mainstream

* Circuit chief judge may join field vying to replace LaHood

* Lynn Sweet: Hastert hanging it up

* Hastert exit expected

* County worker allegedly took $169,000; more here

* Mayor selects new planning chief and other city positions

- Posted by Paul Richardson   3 Comments      

Checkmate on Madigan? Maybe not. *** Numerous updates ***

Tuesday, Aug 14, 2007

I’ve been away. Silly me. Big news today

Gov. Rod Blagojevich today said he would use his amendatory veto powers on a long-delayed state budget, diverting $500 million from programs including pork barrel projects for lawmakers and spending it instead on expanded health care coverage.

But the biggest news, of course, is this…

“We do not plan to move to override the cuts on spending that would put the governor into a position where he could not do anything for health care,” [Senate President Emil Jones] said. “That’s our position. That’s what we’re going to do. Case closed.” […]

The governor’s action on the $59 billion, full-year spending plan will send the legislation back to the House, where Blagojevich has been caught in a monthslong feud with Speaker Michael Madigan. But Jones’ announcement appears to foreclose the chance that lawmakers can reverse the governor’s changes to the budget.

Now, we see why the guv signed that pay raise.

…Adding… From the state Constitution… Highlights are mine…

(c) The house to which a bill is returned shall immediately enter the Governor’s objections upon its journal. If within 15 calendar days after such entry that house by a record vote of three-fifths of the members elected passes the bill, it shall be delivered immediately to the second house. If within 15 calendar days after such delivery the second house by a record vote of three-fifths of the members elected passes the bill, it shall become law.

(d) The Governor may reduce or veto any item of appropriations in a bill presented to him. Portions of a bill not reduced or vetoed shall become law. An item vetoed shall be returned to the house in which it originated and may become law in the same manner as a vetoed bill. An item reduced in amount shall be returned to the house in which it originated and may be restored to its original amount in the same manner as a vetoed bill except that the required record vote shall be a majority of the members elected to each house. If a reduced item is not so restored, it shall become law in the reduced amount.

(e) The Governor may return a bill together with specific recommendations for change to the house in which it originated. The bill shall be considered in the same manner as a vetoed bill but the specific recommendations may be accepted by a record vote of a majority of the members elected to each house. Such bill shall be presented again to the Governor and if he certifies that such acceptance conforms to his specific recommendations, the bill shall become law. If he does not so certify, he shall return it as a vetoed bill to the house in which it originated.

In other words, I don’t think he can do what he says he’s gonna do. Also, word’s going around about a constitutional crisis and a lawsuit.

By the way, the veto is not yet a done deal. We won’t have the actual veto message language until later this week, according to the guv’s office.

This looks like it may be a way to get everybody back to the bargaining table.

Stay tuned.

…Adding more… From a friend and Constitutional expert…

An amendatory veto only applies to substantive lanquage, not appropriations. Even if they did apply to line items, amendatory vetoes have to be approved by the legislature in order to take effect. Line items vetos eliminate spending authority. If the Gov line item vetoes $500 million he reduces his spending authority, he does not transfer it. He can move appropriated money around - remember stem cell research - but he can not create new spending authority. So he can not move $500 million directly from pork to healthcare.

[Emphasis added.]

…And more… This time, from the Governor’s press release (which was better for our purposes than the SJ-R story originally linked here)…

Using his executive authority, Governor Blagojevich will bolster state healthcare programs and give 500,000 more Illinoisans access to affordable health coverage and services, including;

* Every uninsured woman in Illinois will be eligible to get screened and treated for breast and cervical cancer, greatly improving cancer outcomes and saving lives.

* Poor adults who are not eligible for Medicaid will have the chance to see a doctor regularly and get the prescription medications they need.

* By changing eligibility limits for the FamilyCare program, more working and middle-class uninsured parents will receive access to health coverage at affordable rates.

* Working with the Comprehensive Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the State will make sure children in the All Kids program who have pre-existing conditions will continue to have access to affordable health insurance up to age 21.

* Families struggling with the high cost of health insurance premiums will be able to apply for yearly subsidies worth 20% of their annual premiums, up to $1,000.

…And a bit more… From a friend in the know…

Basically, Rod’s saying… If you want your pork, you better get back to the bargaining table or I’ll take it out.

…And here’s some more… Krol offers up an explanation of how the guv can do this…

Here’s how he gets around the fact that he cannot by law spend the $500 million in special projects he plans to veto:

Blagojevich spends the Medicare money lawmakers have authorized and then lets the bills pile up. The governor either comes back and asks for more money when the Medicaid spending power runs out before the end of the fiscal year, or the bills get paid out of the next year’s budget.

The governor can do this because most of his health care expansions were passed into law without a lot of details. The specifics were hashed out at an obscure rules-making body later. That same body will consider Blagojevich’s new health-care expansions.

“That same body”… JCAR… is comprised of legislators who just had their pork taken away from them. No way would JCAR approve any new expansions. But the idea of just spending money without authority until it runs dry is an interesting take.

…But, wait, there’s more… From Rep. Fritchey’s blog

There was a reported understanding among the leaders to stick together on the budget vote and any subsequent veto overrides. So Emil’s standing with the Governor on this issue today would appear to be an outright 180 degree flip on the other leaders. Going back on an agreement is never good form, that truism is magnified exponentially under the dome.

And muses about how the governor might try to do what he says he will do…

One way that I think that he might try to do this (and I’m simply thinking out loud here, sort of) is via an agency reorganization. This would be an extraordinarily convoluted means of attempting to reach his goal, and I’m not sure that it would work in any event, but I just can’t think of another means by which he could do it. (Another reason that this wouldn’t make sense is that, if I am interpreting this section correctly, the House could nullify the Executive Order with a simple majority.)

Again, this looks more like a negotiating posture than reality.

…More, more, more… From Democratic blogger ArchPundit

…Blagojevich is saying he is appropriating money–something he is forbidden to do. His new rules will be hit with injunctions and then heard in court. The evidence is clear that he’s trying to appropriate money contrary to what the Legislature passed. He cannot do that and a court can use this sort of strategy as evidence of intent and thus, evidence that it was not simply delegated authority.

Larry also points out in comments here

He’s making up powers. He’s now in the same Constitutional fantasyland as the Bush signing statements and if we were to try and spend that money, it’s an impeachable offense. This isn’t about the person or the policy, it’s about the integrity of the institution. He cannot do this and if he tries, he must be stopped by the other two branches.

…More to consider… One additional observation by myself…

The governor can’t just take $500 million from other parts of the budget and spend it on healthcare. He has a 2 percent transfer authority in this budget, but the transfers have to be germane.

Again, we have a press release that wasn’t accompanied by any official language - which is his usual modus operandus. Until we see that actual language, I gotta figure this is pure posturing.

…Reaction starts to come in… From the AP

Democratic Senator Kwame Raoul says health care is important and the governor is doing everything possible to cover people who lack insurance. But he wishes the maneuver had been discussed with rank-and-file Senate Democrats.

There has been no reaction yet from House Speaker Michael Madigan, the leading opponent for most of Blagojevich’s proposals. The Illinois Campaign for Better Health Care is applauding Blagojevich.

…Audio clips… The Illinois Farm Bureau has two very brief audio clips and a short story online. Go there or just listen to them here…

* Senate President Emil Jones…


* Governor Rod Blagojevich…


…JCAR Update… Rep. Fritchey has added this update

For those that don’t know, I happen to be one of the members of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR). I have been advised that HFS will likely be filing rules for coverage expansion of both the ‘Family Care’ and ‘Assist, Primary Care, Rx, Hospital’ provisions of the Governor’s plans. HFS counsel is maintaining that the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening and Treatment and Working Families Premium Assistance programs will not require rules, a position not necessarily shared by JCAR staff. Any expansion of All Kids would likely require new rules for Comprehensive Health Insurance Program.

When one looks at the members of JCAR, it’s hard to tell how these rules are going to be received. Same fight, different battleground.

…More analysis… Chicago Public Radio has a report online now that makes a brief mention of the governor’s lack of Constitutional authority to redirect spending…


- Posted by Rich Miller   168 Comments      

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Tuesday, Aug 14, 2007

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Question of the day

Tuesday, Aug 14, 2007

So, I was reading this story today about why Abe Lincoln’s face was shaped the way it was, and something struck me. See if it stands out for you, as well…

The left side of Lincoln’s face was much smaller than the right, an aberration called cranial facial microsomia. The defect joins a long list of ailments — including smallpox, heart illness and depression — that modern doctors have diagnosed in Lincoln.

Lincoln’s contemporaries noted that his left eye at times drifted upward independently of his right eye, a condition now termed strabismus. Lincoln’s smaller left eye socket may have displaced a muscle controlling vertical movement, said Dr. Ronald Fishman, who led the study published in the August issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology. […]

Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum described the left side of Lincoln’s face as primitive, immature and unfinished.

A weird, wandering eye? “Primitive” facial features? Heart illness? Depression? How could anyone get elected to anything these days with those sorts of problems?

To be sure, the President was roundly mocked…

Lincoln’s appearance was mocked by his political enemies, historians say. The author Nathaniel Hawthorne, a Lincoln fan, wrote of the president’s “homely sagacity” and his “sallow, queer, sagacious visage.” Hawthorne’s description was deemed disrespectful and deleted by a magazine editor, said Daniel Weinberg, owner of the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago.

But he won. Twice. Not to mention that he was a state legislator, a congressman and his US Senate bids made him a national star. I can’t imagine him having a shot in Hades for dog catcher today with a mug like that.

So, I guess the question is: What’s wrong with us?

- Posted by Rich Miller   50 Comments      

Let’s turn back to Cook for a bit today…

Tuesday, Aug 14, 2007

The session has had me pretty preoccupied lately, so we haven’t had a chance to talk about the upcoming Cook County races, particularly the state’s attorney contest

Another Cook County politician is jumping in the race to succeed retiring State’s Attorney Dick Devine. County Commissioner Tony Peraica, a Republican, will announce his campaign later this morning.

Here’s the audio from Chicago Public Radio’s story…


Have at it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   56 Comments      

Proposed tax on bottled water

Tuesday, Aug 14, 2007

* I’m not sure this has a chance of actually passing, but I was curious what your thoughts might be…

Chicago should cash in on the bonanza of bottled water sales — and help clean up the environment — by slapping a tax of 10 to 25 cents on the cost of every bottle, a Southwest Side alderman said Monday.

At a time when Chicagoans are bracing for post-election tax increases to close a $217 million budget gap, Ald. George Cardenas (12th) said he can think of no better or more lucrative idea to add to the menu than a bottled water tax. […]

Cardenas noted that there’s a nearly $40 million shortfall in the city’s water and sewer funds, in part because of a decline in water usage.

“How is this possible when we have a water system that’s won honors? It’s because bottled water has become a $15 billion industry that’s growing at a rate of 20 to 30 percent a year,” he said.

* And the other side

…Joseph Doss, president of the International Bottled Water Association, said he knows of no other city that has tried to tax bottled water.

“Bottled water is a safe, healthy, convenient beverage that consumers find refreshing. Any action that would discourage consumers from drinking this healthy beverage is a bad idea and not in the public interest,” he said.

Doss said the bottled vs. tap argument doesn’t hold water because 75 percent of bottled water consumers drink both. And bottled water companies are attempting to defuse the landfill argument. They’re using much lighter-weight plastics in their containers and have reduced the amount of plastic resin in those bottles by 40 percent over the past five years, he said.

Noting that plastic petroleum containers make up only one-third of 1 percent of the total U.S. waste stream, he said, “Any effort to reduce the environmental impact of packaging must focus on all consumer goods and not just target bottled water or any one industry.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      

More on the pay raise

Tuesday, Aug 14, 2007

* As night owls already know, the governor signed the pay raise bill late last night. Here’s the Sun-Times take

Gov. Blagojevich waited until after a big chunk of Illinois was in bed late Monday to authorize 9.6 percent pay increases for himself, lawmakers and other state officials.

Blagojevich’s move to sign legislation that had been on his desk for two months breaks a campaign pledge he made last year to veto any pay hikes. The state Constitution required him to act by midnight. […]

The administration had sought to use the political hot potato as leverage to help Blagojevich win passage of his health-insurance program and other priorities, but the strategy failed. That left many at the Capitol bracing for the possibility he would veto the pay increases to exact a measure of revenge against lawmakers who did a budgetary end run around him.

His signature buys peace among some Senate Democrats, whom Blagojevich couldn’t afford to lose as he contemplates how to revive his failed health-care initiative and restore spending priorities stripped from a budget proposal now on his desk.

* Post-Dispatch

His decision to support the raises comes just days after the Legislature publicly humiliated Blagojevich with its overwhelming passage of a new state budget over his opposition, denying him the major new health care and infrastructure spending he’s been demanding for months.

Blagojevich was in the position to deprive those lawmakers of a roughly $5,500 a year raise, their first in six years. When he waited 60 days to take action on the pay-raise bill — the longest he could wait under Illinois’ constitution — there was widespread specuation that he would nix the pay hikes.

The announcement that he had instead signed the raise into law came at about 11:30 p.m. Monday, half an hour before the statutory midnight deadline for gubernatorial action. The announcement from Blagojevich’s office didn’t offer an explanation for his decision, and a spokesperson didn’t return repeated phone calls during the evening seeking comment. […]

Under the legislation, state lawmakers will see their base salaries rise to $63,143 annually, from their current $57,619. That’s in addition to extra pay given for leadership posts and committee assignments.

* The bill was signed so late that it was obviously past some newspaper deadlines. This appears to be an early version of a Daily Herald story…

With billions of dollars on the line for health care, school construction, services for the disabled and the people who care for them, Gov. Rod Blagojevich was refusing to take action Monday, pushing off his decision until the middle of the night.

Blagojevich had until midnight to act on a spending plan lawmakers sent him two months ago. Late Monday it was apparent that he would wait until nearly the last minute.

* But there is also this piece on the paper’s website…

Only days after blasting lawmakers for selfishly trying to increase the size of their paychecks while state needs floundered, Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed the raises into law as midnight approached Monday.

* And there was nothing in the Tribune this morning, including their little bloggy thing. And the early version of the AP story, which probably made it into most papers, didn’t have anything, either. Others, like the SJ-R, obviously tacked it on late.

* More budget stuff, compiled by Paul…

* Editorial: Sign the budget

* Editorial: Governor shouldn’t wait too long to act on budget

* Chicago Public Radio: Illinois Treasurer calls budget deadlock ‘embarrassing’

- Posted by Rich Miller   50 Comments      

Morning Shorts

Tuesday, Aug 14, 2007

* Hastert to decide on re-election

* States win points with sales tax holidays

* New deal for electric rate relief

* Coal power plant has funding, officials say

* Racetrack industry gambling on OTBs

* Daley may promote environment chief

* $300 city-wide parking permit gets few takers

Only 53 real estate agents and home health care providers have bought the new stickers — even after the city clerk’s office reached out to health care and real estate dealers’ associations to make certain they were aware of the parking perk.

Chicagoans already were bracing for an array of post-election tax increases to close a $217.7 million gap in the mayor’s 2008 budget. Now, the gap is closer to $220 million.

* State is moving unclaimed property auction online; more here

Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias announced Monday the state’s first eBay auction of unclaimed property.
“Using the Internet, we’re going to conduct a virtual yard sale,” Giannoulias said. “That’s what eBay — with its 241 million registered users — brings to the table.”

The items are among forgotten or abandoned property left in safe-deposit boxes. The state puts it on sale after officials try to reach the owners for at least nine years. Until now, an annual auction has been held at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, where a preview of the Internet sale is being held.

* Illinois GOP to host straw poll

- Posted by Paul Richardson   3 Comments      

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Tuesday, Aug 14, 2007

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This just in… *** Guv signs supplemental ***

Tuesday, Aug 14, 2007

[Bumped to a Tuesday post from Monday to give it some more visibility.]

* Monday, 4:36 pm - The General Assembly formally transmitted the operating budget to Governor Blagojevich this afternoon.

And Gov. Blagojevich has not yet taken any action on the supplemental appropriations bill, which contains the legislative pay raises. He has until midnight tonight to sign it, veto out the raises, or do nothing and allow it to become law.

* 4:55 pm - Don’t forget about the fundraiser tonight to help pay off Pat Thompson’s medical bills. It’s from 7:30 to 10:30 at Floyd’s Thirst Parlor in Springfield. 10 bucks, bottomless cups of beer, and pizza.

* 7:18 pm - CBS2 reports that Congressman Denny Hastert is expected to annnounce that he will retire at the end of this term. The station also reports that many of Hastert’s top campaign people have found other jobs and that Hastert’s campaign website appears to be offline. According to Project Vote Smart, this is Hastert’s website. It’s gone. More here.

* 10:47 pm - Still no word on the supplemental appropriations bill. I’m waiting just like some of you are.

* 11:15 pm - According to the Secretary of State’s office, the governor has signed the supplemental appropriations bill. Pay raises for everybody. (OK, not everybody.)

Adding… I’m told the governor signed the supplemental and five other bills and filed them all at 10:40 pm tonight. Not sure yet what those other bills were.

* 11:52 pm - From the governor’s office at 11:26 tonight…

Monday, August 13, 2007

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today took action on the following bills:

Bill No.: SB 241
An Act Concerning: Local Government
Description: Makes supplemental appropriations for FY07.
Action: Signed
Effective Date: Immediately

Bill No.: HB 1780
An Act Concerning: State Government
Description: Amends the State Finance Act.
Action: Signed
Effective Date: Immediately

Bill No.: HB 1832
An Act Concerning: State Government
Description: Amends the Historic Preservation Agency Act.
Action: Signed
Effective Date: Immediately

Bill No.: HB 1872
An Act Concerning: Education
Description: Amends the School Code.
Action: Signed
Effective Date: Immediately

Bill No.: HB 1919
An Act Concerning: Government
Description: Amends the Local Governmental Employees Political Rights Act.
Action: Signed
Effective Date: Immediately

Bill No.: HB 2858
An Act Concerning: Criminal Law
Description: Amends the Criminal Code.
Action: Signed
Effective Date: January 1, 2008

[Links added by yours truly.]

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      

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