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Today at the Statehouse

Wednesday, Oct 28, 2009

* Michael Randle is well on his way to being confirmed by the Senate

Michael Randle, who was chosen by Gov. Pat Quinn in May to serve as director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, was on the hot seat Wednesday as members of the Illinois Senate Executive Appointments committee considered whether to recommend Randle to the $150,000-per-year post overseeing one of Illinois’ largest agencies.

State Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, asked Randle about the results of an investigative report that accused Randle of not disclosing his personal relationship with college friend Keith Key when Randle was working in Ohio’s prison system.

The Ohio report notes Randle did not benefit financially from Key’s arrangement, but the deal cost taxpayers there about $40,000 in added costs. […]

“I would characterize it as not going a step further and actually reporting a relationship that started 25 years ago in college,” Randle told the panel.

The Executive Appointments Committee unanimously approved his nomination and sent it to the floor.

* Progress on mass transit funding…

State lawmakers today say they are negotiating a plan to cut back the blanket free ride privileges for seniors on Chicago area mass transit and replace it with a program that is restricted to people with lower incomes.

The proposal was outlined by Republican leaders following a morning meeting involving House and Senate leaders from both parties and Chicago transit officials. It has yet to be presented to rank and file lawmakers, but supports want to act on the plan this week during the remaining three days of the fall legislative session.

Under the proposal, the free ride program for all seniors would end March 1. After that, only seniors 65 and older who qualify for the state’s low-income Circuit Breaker program would be able to ride for free. For a single person, that translates to a maximum income of $22,218 a year.

The move is predicted to save the Regional Transit Authority an estimated $37 million, including $25 million for the Chicago Transit Authority, $10 million for Metra and $2 million for Pace. In addition, $8.5 million the Illinois Department of Transportation would have provided this year to offset the costs of the free rides would instead be used to help pay for paratransit, a door-to-door transit service for the disabled.

The House Executive Committee advanced the plan today, as well as this…

The House Executive Committee also approved a massive overhaul of state oversight of the cemetery industry. The 240-page bill was drafted in response to revelations that a Chicago-area cemetery dug up bodies and resold the grave sites.

The bill is drawing opposition from cemeteries owned by religious denominations, which said they will incur increased costs from the legislation while there is no evidence church-owned cemeteries have caused any problems.

Officials representing publicly owned cemeteries also expressed concerns about costs, including Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin.

* Most of us have known for many years now that Illinois is last or close to last in the number of state employees per capita. A new study by AFSCME shows we’re now just slightly behind Indiana

What [AFSMCE] did is examine U.S. Census data on employment in the 50 states, and then compare it to the latest state population estimates. What he found is that Illinois, which has been reducing its employee headcount for several years and is threatening to do more cutting, actually ranks 49th in state employees per capita.

Yes, you read that right. Next to dead last, just above Indiana. In a country in which the average state employs 85 workers per 10,000 residents, Illinois has only 54, just a few tenths of a point ahead of cheapskate Indiana.

Moreover, according to the data, Illinois’ relative position has been dropping. The state ranked 47th in 2002, but since then has failed to replace a ton of workers who left in a 2002-03 early-retirement program.

* The Senate recessed to the call of the chair shortly after 1 o’clock. Both parties will caucus before committees meet. The House has delayed the scheduled noon session start until 2:30. Here are a couple of “Retweets” from my Twitter page

@ILSenateGOP Sen. Righter will hold a press conference following the redistricting hearing this morning. [Presser] scheduled for 12:30

@melissahahn The Ill. Society of Civil Engineers was supposed to hold a news conf. here, but didn’t show up. Not very civil of them.

* Completely unrelated, but the Tribune is reporting that Chris Kelly died after injesting rat poison and a pain reliever.

* Related…

* Compromise sought on STAR bonds: With a potential $200 million amusement park waiting in the wings, supporters of a major Metro East development now are banking on a compromise to get a key tax incentive plan through the Illinois Legislature. The issue is expected to come up in Springfield as early as today, the first day of the three-day veto session. Sources say parties are negotiating what is being dubbed the STAR Bonds Recapture Fund, a measure that would give Metro East communities a potential funding replacement for sales tax money lost with the implementation of a STAR bonds district.

* Durkin and Connelly move to overturn Quinn’s EO 09-15: Unless EO 09-15 is rescinded families who care for their seriously disabled family members in their own homes will be forced to ward off purple-t-shirted SEIU visitors and AFSCME phone calls every year. Despite the fact parents overwhelmingly voted against joining either union last Monday, Quinn’s EO 09-15 opens the way for a vote to be taken annually.

* The Immortal Managed Care Myth: The latest Republican official to predict gigantic cost savings without showing any support for the claim is State Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Addison), who suggested Monday on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight that Illinois could save “over $1 billion dollars” by moving patients into a private managed care network.

* Funeral directors may soon double as traffic cops

* Adobe is Bad for Open Government

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Been There - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 1:49 pm:

    ===In a country in which the average state employs 85 workers per 10,000 residents, Illinois has only 54===
    I believe Illinois has the largest number of government agencies per state. If you layer in all of those employee at the township and other municipal levels I would think we would increase significantly in the standings.

  2. - bourbonrich - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 1:51 pm:

    I’d like to know the number of government employees per capita not just state employees especially townships, and there seem to be lots of over lapping governmental bodies.

  3. - Scooby - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 1:52 pm:

    Mayor Dwight Welch said he is planning a press conference within the next 24 hours to announce the toxicology report on Kelly.

    Mayor Welch, how can we miss you if you won’t go away?

  4. - shore - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 1:58 pm:

    Only those that live in state capitals and whose livelihoods depend on government excess would cry over the state having so few public employees. Yet this hasn’t stopped the state from a budget deficit and this preposterous sales tax I pay in cook county.

  5. - saywha - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 2:06 pm:

    Again, i am not sure how the move to ban seniors will “save” the regional transit authority any money. Where are the savings? Lost revenue, sure, but it’s not much because they are paying a reduced fare to begin with.

    I can’t imagine the CTA had to add bus service for all those rich Northbrook seniors who are flooding the CTA buses.

    Geesh, take a look next time you are on the bus or EL - and looks who’s riding. It’s not the rich taking advantage of the system, it’s the older poor folks on fixed income who can use a little help.

    I understand that if they are that poor they will still qualify, but anytime you put up barriers you will lose people from the program who don’t want to go through the hassle.

    Shame on them for taking this away from the seniors.

  6. - PalosParkBob - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 2:10 pm:

    Actually, that “state employee” number is very misleading unless contracted employees through private firms are included, as well as those in the multiple layers of government we have in Illinois.

    When the Ryan scandal and affects of Shakman were being felt, the “pay to play” paradigm shifted to hiring firms to fat contracts to perform state services, then the “shake down” was given to the business owners who were compensated with marked up fees.

    This made things much easier for the party leaders.

    Instead of shaking down employees for those $1,000 per table fundraisers (probably low now), they could just call on the deep pockets who would lose their access to the gravy train if they didn’t ante up enough, or give jobs to the politically sponsored.

    Rich, are you aware of any studies that include comparisons of all state and local employees, and factors in “outsourced” employment?

    Sorry if that steps into “subscriber” territory.

  7. - Anon - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 2:20 pm:

    Typo re Kelly — ingesting

  8. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 2:21 pm:

    I’m not surprised that Marin doesn’t question the managed care myth. Her column today suggests that capping contributions from state parties and legislative leaders would somehow prevent another Blago shakedown crew. How she arrives at that point, I can’t tell you.

    I’m old enough to remember when unlimited contributions to and from political parties WAS reform.

    Here’s an idea for pretentious and preposterous media “reformers.” The money is raised to spend on TV and radio ads. Start campaigning for the companies making billions off the public airwaves to stop charging for political ads. Then, there won’t be a need for so much money.

  9. - LaterDude - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 2:34 pm:

    Per the AFSMCE data
    Poli Sci: State Government
    Illinois has the second largest number of local governments. So more of the work occurs in our multiple layers of local government rather than at the state level.
    This is how you lie with stats. Since we are 49th, does this mean we are the least taxed state per capita? No. Not by a longshot.
    Actual Census Report says were 29th tax per capita.

  10. - Anders Lindall - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 2:37 pm:

    It’s indisputable that Illinois has a very small state-employee workforce per capita. It’s also a simple fact that this workforce has been slashed since 2002. What’s open to debate is what exactly those cuts have meant.

    I think the evidence is clear that our worst-in-the-nation staff shortage has caused:
    *State overtime costs to skyrocket,
    *DNA evidence to bog down in state police forensic lab backlogs,
    *Caseloads for Medicaid and food stamps to explode past 1,000 per caseworker,
    *Veterans homes to block aged veterans on waiting lists from filling empty beds,
    *Prison violence to worsen, and
    *DCFS to face federal court sanctions for violating a consent decree setting maximum caseload standards to protect kids, to name just a few consequences.

    If you disagree, I wonder how you would address such crises–reducing overtime, slowing the explosive growth of caseloads and reducing lengthy backlogs for basic services–if not by reversing cuts and hiring adequate staff.

  11. - TaxThePoor? - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 2:40 pm:

    Exactly, how does Illinois compare in the number of municipal, township, county, community college districts, regional superintendents districts, park boards, contracts to law firm after law firm after law firm, contracts for power washing, etc. compare to other states? S is only one letter in AFSCME, funny how they ingore the stats for the other letters.

    How about we compare all the money all the governments take in Illinois per capita and compare it with other states? That is a bit more honest than the obivous propaganda AFSCME and the tax wasters are putting out.

    4 of the top 5 employers in Chicago are government agencies. The other is Jewel. Not enough government jobs is NOT the or a problem.

  12. - Anders Lindall - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 2:46 pm:

    By the way, the number of units of local government are not germane.

    Local government employees don’t answer calls to the STATE child-abuse hotline, test evidence in STATE police labs, administer federal-STATE programs like Medicaid and TANF, maintain STATE parks, enforce STATE tax laws, oversee STATE-regulated industries, maintain STATE highways, or do any of the myriad other functions that fall largely if not exclusively to STATE government.

    The facts show that the state workforce has been slashed–to the point that we’re tied for dead last nationally. As Rich writes, this is not news to anybody paying attention. I suggest these cuts are the clear cause for why state services are suffering.

  13. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 3:11 pm:

    “I would characterize it as not going a step further and actually reporting a relationship that started 25 years ago in college,”

    I would characterize it as a lie told by a liar who knew that taking that additional step and reporting his friendship was the ethical thing to do, but chose not to. And in choosing not to do that, he fails the trust test for this important position and should not be confirmed.

    This is Illinois. We need to restore trust in government. This is not the way to do that, but to actually make the current situation worse.

    As to our per-capita state employee ratio - we have to stop allowing governors to balance our budget on the backs of our state workers. Quinn is wrong. Blagojevich was obviously wrong. Beating up public servants in order to score political points with angry voters is the wrong thing to do. We’re 49th! It’s over. Stop it!

  14. - Illinois Geologist - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 3:16 pm:

    The STAR bonds bill is also opposed by many in my profession because of this clause regarding the definition of “eligible area” “…and at least 30% of which is located in the 100-year flood plain.” Frankly, this is nuts. Why would we want to encourage building on properties that are “at least 30%” within the floodplain?

    An article in the Madison/St. Clair Record discusses these concerns with the STAR bill (scroll down to the 2nd half).

  15. - Ashamed to be from Illinois - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 3:59 pm:

    I think the Senate should have read the full report from Ohio. Not reporting that he was friends with that fellow was the only one of many errors Randle made. The sole sorce contract testimony was a big LIE. They need to ask him about that.

  16. - Anon - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 4:00 pm:

    ==This is how you lie with stats. Since we are 49th, does this mean we are the least taxed state per capita? No. Not by a longshot.==

    Actually, this is how you argue by setting up a strawman. Our ranking in per capita tax was not mentioned or hinted at, nor would it be relevant to AFSCME’s argument that cutting state workforce is folly. So bringing it up and shooting it down doesn’t address AFSCME’s argument.

    Citing the per capita number of state employees IS lying with statistics if the difference is due to differences between the states in local government vs. state government provision of services and hiring of employees, or in out-sourcing of services, or to the fact that Illinois has a lower percentage of useless patronage employees than other states, if Illinois’ percentage is still significant.

  17. - Speaking at Will - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 4:01 pm:

    I dont understand why the vote was 8 - 0 to send Randle before the entire Senate for an up or down vote. Per Randle’s response, I would have thought at least Luectefeld would have voted no.

  18. - cassandra - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 5:14 pm:

    I’m still not clear on why food stamp and Medicaid recipients need “caseworkers.” Are they presumed to be in need of social services merely because they have applied for food stamps or Medicaid? That sounds pretty retro. And if the rules are so confusing that folks need help deciphering them,maybe the many, many highly paid DHS managers could figure out how to simplify them. In any case, I don’t believe the nation’s millions of Social Security and Medicare recipients have federal “caseworkers.” Time to treat all recipients of entitlements the same not way…not as deficient in some way.

  19. - Chi Gal - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 5:22 pm:

    Amen, VanillaMan. Amen.

  20. - Reality Check - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 5:28 pm:

    Cassandra - Little problem with your, um, logic. Social Security and Medicare are not means-tested. Food stamps, Medicaid and TANF are, of course. Who do you propose would determine eligibility if not DHS caseworkers?

  21. - dumb ol' country boy - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 6:00 pm:

    Yet these are the politicans that AFSCME continues to support in campaigns. They were all about Blago, Quinn, Obama, basically all Dems, then turn around and complain about how the Gov. or whomever are doing what the union wants. Maybe all unions need to get out of politics and stay into providing representation to their employees.

  22. - Carl Nyberg - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 6:07 pm:

    Did the AFSCME study examine the total number of people employed by state, county and municipal government?

    I suspect that if you total government employees outside K-12 education you’d get a different picture. County and municipal government employee lots of people in Illinois, not so much in New Hampshire.

  23. - cassandra - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 6:28 pm:

    And there are intake workers for SS and Medicare applicants as well. But the latter don’t have ongoing “caseworkers” , even thought there are various means tests with respect, for example, to how much you pay for Medicare (it varies depending on income) and multiple rules pertaining to the receipt of Social Security benefits by employed seniors, by survivors, and so on. And most of this eligibility could be determined by telephone intake or online.

    I have no objection to increasing access to food stamps and Medicaid including well into the middle class. But I do object to having to support an army of overpaid bureaucrats in order to get the benefits to those who are eligible for them. The benefits should go direct. And we have the technology to do that now.

  24. - Can't Say My Nickname - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 7:37 pm:

    Well said VanillaMan.

  25. - Donald Wareham - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 10:07 pm:

    Randle — Just another in a long line of Chicago people who can’t seem to figure out what honesty is. I expected Blago to make an appt. like this. Not mister holy than thou Quinn

  26. - Donald Wareham - Wednesday, Oct 28, 09 @ 10:11 pm:

    Oh as far as Randle not benefiting from the deal. That’s why they call it friendship. Otherwise if there was financial gain they’d call it bribery.

  27. - Cashier - Thursday, Oct 29, 09 @ 12:22 am:

    “The benefits should go direct. And we have the technology to do that now.”

    We’ve had it for decades if you count however long we’ve been able to cut checks with a
    computer. Surely we can get rid of the ‘Army’ and just have a computer cut checks to whomever asks for one. Surely getting rid of those bureaucrats would result in savings, and only those people who deserve it would apply…

  28. - PDF Up - Thursday, Oct 29, 09 @ 12:35 am:

    ‘Adobe Bad for Open Government’, ironically, returns a 404. (Funny that open technology like HTML and CSS can be improperly implemented so that content is hidden…)

    “The PDF file format, for instance, isn’t particularly easily parsed. As ubiquitous as a PDF file is, often times they’re non-parsable by software, unfindable by search engines, and unreliable if text is extracted.”

    I’d love to find out what the rest of their gripes are, but the 404 hides that from me.

    The gripes they do mention are either failures to implement PDF correctly or the result of scanned documents. I’m not trying to carry Adobe’s water here, but this doesn’t seem fair. What else is there besides PDF, that isn’t also subject to poor implemenation?

    And if ‘openness’ is the goal, I’ll take a scanned, un-OCR’d PDF on my home computer over a piece of paper in a file cabinet in a basement I can’t get to anyday…

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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