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Friday, Mar 26, 2010

* My dad is in the hospital again, so I’m not sure when I’ll be back to work. The interns will be covering tomorrow’s lite guv extravaganza and will be posting videos here. We may or may not post on Monday. Besides, it’s spring break and I need some time off.

* My dad was listening to AC/DC a lot this week, so this one’s for him


Gettin’ old
Gettin’ gray
Gettin’ ripped off
Under-paid
Gettin’ sold
Second-hand
That’s how it goes
Playin’ in a band

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


*** UPDATED x4 *** It’s official: Quinn wants Simon

Friday, Mar 26, 2010

* The governor just announced his choice of Sheila Simon for lt. governor

“This is a very important day,” Quinn said speaking at the Allegro Hotel in downtown Chicago. “I do want to commend the party for the open process. Having been Lieutenant Governor, I know it’s an important position…My choice is Sheila Simon.” […]

“I think its important to have downstate balance,” Quinn said today. “It’s important to have a downstater.”

More

Quinn said Friday that Sheila Simon has an exemplary record of public service and her family’s name is synonymous with public service.

We’ll have video of Rep. Turner’s reaction posted soon.

…Adding… Here’s the vid


*** UPDATE 1 *** This is a paraphrase, but hopefully we can find the actual quote

Quinn responded to black criticism over his pick by saying voters know he’s on their side and that Simon’s family fought for civil rights.

*** UPDATE 2 *** An interesting question, from the Daily Herald Twitter page…

Quinn picks Simon, won’t say who he voted for in Feb for lt gov “I believe in the right of privacy.”

*** UPDATE 3 *** Uh-oh

67th District Representative Chuck Jefferson is angry that Quinn didn’t select Turner. As a result, the Rockford democrat says he’s pulling all his support of Quinn and urging other black lawmakers to do the same.

Just about everybody else in the Black Caucus has said that they’ll support the ticket, but tensions are apparently starting to bubble up.

…Adding… The esteemed Charlie Wheeler posted these numbers in comments and they’re well worth a front page reference…

General Election, November 4, 2008

Total Ballots Cast
5,577,509

Cook County
2,933,502 52.6 percent
Collar Counties
1,345,166 24.1 percent
96 other counties
1,298,841 23.3 percent

Source: Illinois State Board of Elections.
“Official Vote–General Election–November 4, 2008.”

…Adding More… Louis Howe gives us the more pertinent 2006 numbers…

Ballots Cast 2006

Cook County 1,350,915 38%
Collar Five 764,409 21%
Downstate 1,472,352 41%
Total 3,587,676 100%

*** UPDATE 4 *** From Rep. Turner’s campaign…

Statement on Sheila Simon

“Sheila Simon was Rep. Turner’s son’s law school professor, and he speaks the world of her. But it is up to the Democratic State Central Committee to make this important decision on who should be the Party’s nominee for Lt. Governor. We still think Rep. Art Turner is the best qualified, most experienced person for the job. And we believe that the committee members are more interested in quality ideas, significant experience and proven leadership than in a home address or other demographics.”

Bryan Zises, Turner spokesperson

- Posted by Rich Miller   64 Comments      


Most misleading press release headline of the day

Friday, Mar 26, 2010

* Our not-so-prestigious award goes to ALEC, the conservative legislative group. The e-mail subject line was “IL and OK Legislatures Oppose Obamacare.” Here’s the text of the headline and the lede…

Illinois Is 40th State to Defend Health Care Choice; Oklahoma Health Freedom Bill Poised for Ballot

Washington, D.C.—Yesterday, Illinois became the 40th state where legislators have introduced, or will introduce, legislation modeled after the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act. Illinois House Bill 6842 prohibits a requirement to purchase health insurance and would provide the state with protection in a constitutional challenge of the federal health reform bill.

Introducing a bill with a handful of co-sponsors does not translate into the Legislature opposing something. If that was the case, the Legislature could be said to support gassing to death puppies and kitties en masse.

That a major national organization which deals exclusively with state legislative issues would make such a goofy claim is just beyond me. Here’s how ALEC describes itself…

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is the nation’s largest nonpartisan, individual membership organization of state legislators.

Everybody knows they have a conservative bent, but that press release shows they also have clear hackish tendencies. They certainly ought to know all the terms of legislative art.

…Adding… As we discussed the other day, NCSL did a study of the bills introduced nationwide on this issue and found ALEC’s claims lacking.

…Adding more… How’s about a question: What’s the goofiest press release you’ve seen lately?

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      


Afternoon videos: Black lavishes praise on Turner and Giannoulias slams Kirk on healthcare “repeal” vow

Friday, Mar 26, 2010

* Rep. Bill Black (R-Danville) gave a rousing speech on the House floor this afternoon and received a standing ovation at the end. Black praised Rep. Art Turner as a great legislator and a fine man. My intern Dan Weber caught the end of this speech and it’s a must-watch, even though the video quality is no good. That’s not Dan’s fault. It’s the cameras we’re using. I gotta upgrade over break. Anyway, watch it


* Also today, the Alexi Giannoulias campaign released a new Internet video blasting Mark Kirk over the Republican US Senate candidate’s vow to “lead the effort” to repeal the new healthcare reform law. Have a look


The Giannoulias campaign has also published a mock Facebook page making fun of Kirk’s repeal vow. Kirk really ought to come home and explain his statement.

…Adding… Zorn thinks Quinn blew it with the Simon pick, calling it emblematic of the governor’s “huge weakness for symbolism over substance.” Go read the whole thing

When the candidacy of Democratic nominee Scott Lee Cohen imploded, Quinn and party leaders had a chance to choose a No. 2 that contrasted with Plummer and with Quinn in ways that would appeal to independent and undecided voters — someone whose resume actually suggests a readiness to become governor if the necessity arose.

Instead Quinn has chosen an inexperienced downstater who’s his ideological clone. She contrasts with him only in her gender and brings little more to the ticket than a famous last name: Shallow symbolism where substance was called for.

Whatever her faults, Sen. Susan Garrett was loaded with substance. So is Rep. Turner, for that matter.

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      


Turner, others react to Simon, plus a recent history lesson

Friday, Mar 26, 2010

* Rep. Art Turner talked to reporters today about his ongoing campaign for lt. governor, the governor’s choice of Sheila Simon, why he thinks he ought to be picked even though the governor wants somebody else and what the whip count looks like at the moment. Watch it


Rep. Karen Yarbrough has been a strong Turner supporter and is on the central committee. She emphatically expressed her support for Turner today


Rep. Will Davis is the chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus. He talked about the Turner/Simon situation as well


Both Yarbrough and Davis said they’d support the ticket no matter what happens tomorrow.

Even Rep. Jay Hoffman got into the act


* Those who said they’re surprised that this LG selection process isn’t completely fair are either naive or skewing reality for their own purposes. They should also look at what just happened over at the Tollway. They also had an open applications process for a new director and a top aide to Gov. Quinn was one of those who applied. She won. It was a no-brainer of a prediction, although she’ll most likely do a good job over there and has bipartisan support

Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Hinsdale Republican, said Lafleur’s “background in economic development and transportation is well-suited for the tollway.” And, “as a suburbanite I want the executive director of the tollway to have the governor’s ear.”

State Sen. Susan Garrett, a Lake Forest Democrat, said “she’s on top of the issues and also is aware of past problems and seems determined to address those.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


Question of the day

Friday, Mar 26, 2010

* I know we’ve done a lot of these lately, but they’re fun and I need a distraction today. Here’s Sheila Simon with Gov. Pat Quinn…

* The Question: Caption?

- Posted by Rich Miller   66 Comments      


Resolution backfires bigtime on Bond; Plus a roundup

Friday, Mar 26, 2010

* On March 3rd, state Sen. Michael Bond introduced a resolution

WHEREAS, The members of the Illinois Senate are saddened to learn of the death of Mycol Jermaine French of Zion, who passed away on February 1, 2010; and…

WHEREAS, He loved to joke around; his pride was his business “The Booth,” a photography and music studio; he loved technology, dogs, and spending time with his family…

Sen. Bond has introduced 43 “memorial” resolutions since February of 2009. They’re pretty common. Families are sent a copy of the resolution, which can be comforting.

But this resolution was a bit different. It turns out that French was shot to death by the police while he was allegedly trying to run them over

Three north suburban drug task force officers were injured and a suspect was killed following a traffic stop late Monday afternoon.

The suspect had prior run-ins with police, the Lake County News-Sun reports.

Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Isaiah Vega said the Lake County Metropolitan Enforcement Group officers made a traffic stop at approximately 1 p.m. near Green Bay Road and 24th Street.

As the officers approached, the driver put the car in motion and struck two of the officers. One officer fired his weapon into the vehicle, striking the driver, identified as Mycol French, 29.

Oops.

Bond claimed that a staffer copied the info from an obituary, which didn’t list the cause of death. And now he’s doing some serious backtracking in the wake of a local uproar

Mundelein Police Chief Raymond Rose, a member of the task force’s advisory board, said Thursday night he found the resolution “outrageous.” […]

Told that Bond said it was a mistake made by staff, Rose said “there should be some editing of this practice.”

Rose said French had three outstanding warrants at the time officers tried to arrest him at a location where a drug deal was taking place.

“For the Senate of the state of Illinois to be recognizing a violent drug dealer is just outrageous,” he said. “This guy is a serious player.”

Bond said he plans to issue an official statement apologizing for the resolution and continue his calls to law enforcement to explain the mistake. He said he has worked with the task force in the past to pass legislation to help their work.

Bond is a Tier One target and those Republican mailers are gonna write themselves.

* And, now, a legislative roundup…

* Illinois school consolidation billed as cost-cutter, but data say otherwise

* Amateur mixed martial arts in Illinois sees less oversight

* New controls on red-light cameras

* State Senate tightens use of red-light cameras

* Illinois Senate Votes To Ease Up On Red Light Tickets

* Curbs on red-light camera tickets OK’d in state Senate

* Illinois House passes bill to slow down excessive speeders

* State Senate OKs school vouchers

* Illinois Senate Approves School Vouchers

* State senate approves voucher test program

* Keep state out of how cities evaluate police

* CVS Caremark Task Force Probe Includes Connecticut, Illinois

* Health law to expand access to Ill. high-risk pool

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - New poll numbers for governor’s race

Friday, Mar 26, 2010

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Enter your password to view comments      


The truth hurts

Friday, Mar 26, 2010

* There’s been a lot of umbrage, particularly on the Chicago Tribune’s editorial page, about how the pension reform legislation doesn’t touch the benefits of current employees. But Progress Illinois makes a very important point

It’s important to remember that these cuts do not effect current employees; opening those contracts (the benefits are outlined here) would likely violate the state’s constitution.

The state can’t just open up a union contract and change it. But that doesn’t stop people from demanding that magic ponies be found.

More misinformation

Mr. Madigan also apparently decided not to mess with Mr. Daley, who likely could have scuttled the deal. So he added a clause that allows Chicago Public Schools to reduce its required pension contribution by $400 million a year for each of the next three years.

As a fiscal matter, that’s stunningly irresponsible. As of June 2006, on a market-value basis, the Chicago teachers retirement fund only had 54% of the assets needed to pay its eventual liabilities, according to the fund. To get back to where it should be, around 90%, it needs more money, not less.

As of January 4th of this year, the system was almost 74 percent funded.

* This, however, is a keen observation

But given that schools chief Ron Huberman had been threatening to lay off hundreds of teachers to close a budget gap of nearly $1 billion next year, he now has an extra $400 million. Which means that, though the Chicago Teachers Union isn’t happy, the need for huge layoffs has dropped. Which means that it’s much less likely that teachers will go on strike just before Mr. Daley gets ready for his presumed re-election bid next winter.

* I’m not sure twenty-somethings who have a burning desire to teach really think all that much about pensions

“If this bill becomes law, Illinois will have the highest teacher retirement age in the country,” Illinois Federation of Teachers President Ed Geppert said. “New teachers will think twice before teaching in a state that makes them teach kindergarten or PE until age 67 to get a full pension.”

If they get into teaching at 22 for a pension, then maybe they shouldn’t be teaching anyway. But, this is a valid argument

One main problem the teachers union has with the bill is the change in retirement age, Stanley said. If teachers have to work until age 67 to earn their full pension, local school districts will spend more money paying their salaries than if they retired earlier and younger so less experienced teachers could be hired to replace them.

“While you attempt to save more money the state pays in pensions … you once again add an additional, significant cost of salaries for local school districts,” Stanley said.

It’s a burden-passing solution, which is never good.

* Related…

* Answers to questions about pension overhaul

* Can we change pension deals going forward for existing state employees?

* Applause for Madigan, Cullerton

* At last, lawmakers step up to the pension plate

* State pension reform pleases local officials

* Quinn: Pension Reform “Mother Of All” Spending Cuts

* Quinn says he’ll be conservative with pension savings

* The speedy sweep to a pension plan

* Governor Defends Pension Bill From Criticism

* Teachers Union President Blasts Pension Bill

* Watchdog: Illinois Pension Bill Doesn’t Go Far Enough

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      


Statehouse lobbyist says he cooperated with feds

Friday, Mar 26, 2010

* I was surprised that nobody followed up on my subscriber-only story this week, so I decided to use it in my Sun-Times column. Let’s all try to be very, very careful in comments, please. I don’t want to see any rumors posted and he’s innocent until proven guilty. With that in mind, read on

The biggest story under the Illinois Statehouse dome this week wasn’t the landmark change to public employee pension plans.

It wasn’t the Senate’s passage of a school voucher measure.

It wasn’t that state Sen. Susan Garrett might very well be Gov. Quinn’s choice as a running mate.

The story that had everybody talking was something I wrote for my newsletter subscribers about how a well-known Statehouse lobbyist admitted he had been cooperating with a federal corruption investigation for the past two years.

Bob Swaim has been around forever. He lobbies for the gaming industry and several other clients. Last week, a very brief story appeared in the Springfield newspaper that Swaim had been indicted by the Central Illinois U.S. Attorney’s office on tax charges. He allegedly owes the IRS almost $400,000 going all the way back to 1990.

On Monday, Swaim sent an e-mail to a group of friends that shocked them to no end.

“More than two years ago,” Swaim wrote, “I was pressured into cooperating with the Federal Government regarding their investigations of public corruption in Springfield and Illinois.”

Swaim claimed he did “everything” the feds asked him to do during those two years. But last December, the government allegedly revealed to him that some of his friends were “the targets of their investigation.” He stopped cooperating, he said, and the feds played “hardball” with him, leading to the indictment.

Everybody on that e-mail list probably choked on their coffee when they read those lines. If the feds really are playing hardball with him, they could grab that e-mail and see who belongs to his inner circle of friends. Not a smart move.

The first thing I did when I obtained the e-mail was call the U.S. Attorney’s office in Springfield. I wanted to get the standard “We can’t comment on an ongoing investigation” response and to make sure I wasn’t going to blow a case or something. I don’t need any trouble with the federales. No way.

After a very pleasant U.S. Attorney representative thanked me for the heads up, I called Swaim, but he understandably refused to talk.

I wanted to know how far he went. For instance, did he wear a wire? Was the probe related to Rod Blagojevich or were they looking at something completely different? I didn’t get a chance to ask much else.

Those same questions, and more, were asked by many folks under the dome this week.

Some tried to replay in their heads any conversations they had with Swaim during the past two years that could be taken out of context (or worse).

Others pondered whether there were any warning signs. Just about everybody debated who those allegedly targeted “friends” were and what the feds were up to.

The vast majority of people in politics are honest, even scrupulous. But it’s not hard to see how much pressure the feds can use to make their cases.

Heck, even I’m scared of them, and I have no reason to be. There’s no telling what somebody might say under those circumstances.

Also, the stain on state politics that the Blagojevich indictment has wrought is making this business intolerable for some.

Another investigation will just make matters worse for the honest ones, at least in the short term.

“Just what we need,” one guy said with a sigh this week as he tried to pass a bill. “More heat.”

“Now I find myself in a strange and unfair place,” Swaim wrote to his friends.

Yeah, so does everybody else while we all wait around to find out what’s really going on.

Again, make sure to keep the comments free of rumors and other over the top stuff. You don’t want to be banned for life, do you? Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 - Turner responds to Simon choice *** More on the Sheila Simon pick

Friday, Mar 26, 2010

* This is some way to run a railroad. Sheila Simon apparently won’t be at the unveiling press conference this afternoon

Simon said teaching duties at Southern Illinois University’s law school will keep her in Carbondale Friday. The governor is expected to make his announcement in Chicago.

And she hasn’t yet been told by the governor that she’s his pick

[Sheila] Simon, 49, said Thursday night that she had not talked to the governor about his decision but said she was “excited” to hear that sources had confirmed she was his preferred candidate.

“If it is offered, I will accept,” Simon said.

* So, why the move away from Sen. Garrett? As I told subscribers today, Quinn’s tax hike was a big factor

State Sen. Susan Garrett of Lake Forest had been considered Quinn’s top candidate, but she recently declined to embrace Quinn’s call for an income-tax increase for education.

Unlike Garrett, Simon is fully on board

When Quinn and Simon talked before he made his decision, they “focused a lot on whether we would be compatible, and I said, ‘Yes, I support his proposal for a tax increase,’” she said.

And this trait says more than maybe Quinn meant to say

“I know Sheila,” Quinn said. “I’ve worked with Sheila. She has a servant’s heart, and that’s exactly what Illinois needs in a lieutenant governor.

Simon’s strengths

“I am someone who fits the bill geographically, broadens the ticket a little bit. I think women’s votes are a primary concern in the campaign, and I think I can help there. … I have some name recognition that will help get me in the door a few places.”

All true.

* Rep. Art Turner isn’t giving up. From an e-mail to supporters…

With all the phone calls and excitement surrounding Saturday’s selection by the Democratic State Central Committee of the party’s nominee for Lt. Governor, supporters have organized buses to leave on Saturday morning to hold our leaders accountable and witness this historic event.

Could things get raucous? We’ll have to wait and see. Turner’s supporters, including members of the state central committee, held a press conference yesterday

Rep. Charles Jefferson, D-Rockford, who like Turner is black, warned at a news conference Thursday that, if Turner is overlooked for the nomination, “there might be consequences.”

“We’re not here to threaten him today,” Jefferson said of Quinn. “We’re asking him to do the right thing.”

Deny he may, but this sounds like a threat to me

State Rep. Charles Jefferson, a Rockford Democrat, said the party’s selection of anyone other than Turner might be viewed as an affront to black voters, who overwhelmingly supported Quinn in the close primary.

“A lot of people are going to say maybe this is a slap in the face to the African-American community,” Jefferson said.

More

Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D-Maywood), a state central committee member, said Simon contacted her Thursday.

“She asked me for my support for being for lieutenant governor. I simply said I was going to be supporting somebody that actually ran in this process,” Yarbrough said.

*** UPDATE *** From the Turner campaign…

Statement on Sheila Simon

“Sheila Simon was Rep. Turner’s son’s law school professor, and he speaks the world of her. But it is up to the Democratic State Central Committee to make this important decision on who should be the Party’s nominee for Lt. Governor. We still think Rep. Art Turner is the best qualified, most experienced person for the job. And we believe that the committee members are more interested in quality ideas, significant experience and proven leadership than in a home address or other demographics.”

Bryan Zises, Turner spokesperson

- Posted by Rich Miller   77 Comments      


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Friday, Mar 26, 2010

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