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Sunday session live blog, with a new twist

Sunday, May 29, 2011

* We’re going to try something new today. I’ve set ScribbleLive to follow a few Statehouse types and I’ll be adding my own updates as well. But I’ve also enabled ScribbleLive’s comment function so that you can also update everybody on the front page. Just click the “Comment Now” button and post your session update.

Please, try to leave opinions out of your ScribbleLive comments. Just post updates and links to news stories you see pop up during the afternoon/evening (add a headline, though, or we won’t be able to figure out what the links mean). You can post your opinions in the blog’s comment section below. Thanks.

…Adding… I just realized that my account automatically moderates all ScribbleLive comments. So, don’t be alarmed if your comment doesn’t immediately appear. I’ll get to it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      


Question of the day

Sunday, May 29, 2011

* Scott Reeder is not happy that the pension bill excludes judges from paying higher contribution rates

A circuit judge in Illinois earns $170,000 — just $7,000 less than Gov. Pat Quinn.

As the Illinois Policy Institute pointed out last year, that’s $39,855 more than a circuit judge in Iowa, $43,908 more than a circuit judge in Indiana and $49,701 more than one in Missouri.

So with judges making so much, why would the sponsors of the bill keep judges out of the mix?

I’m no wizard at math but even I know that a judge who earns $170,000 a year puts a greater strain on the state’s pension system than a teacher making $40,000.

Shouldn’t they at least be paying the same percentage of their paychecks toward retirement?

Illinois judges currently make less than most first year associates at big Chicago law firms. Most surrounding states like Iowa don’t have a wealthy big city like we do.

But that last line, about judges paying the same percentage as teachers, ignores the fact that judges currently pay 11 percent of their salaries toward their pensions, while teachers pay about 9 percent. A floor amendment which would include the judges requires them to pay 34 percent of their salaries to the pension fund, compared to 14 percent for teachers. And many teachers union locals have already negotiated away their currently required 9 percent contribution. The school districts pick up the whole tab.

Then again, I can see the point he makes. Let’s discuss.

* The Question: Should judges be included in the pension reform bill? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please. Thanks.


- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      


Unintended consequences

Sunday, May 29, 2011

* Doug Finke reports on a recent Senate Appropriations Committee hearing which looked at the House’s cuts to the human services budget

Things like phones and travel also took hits. Cutting those things plays well back home, especially travel. Everyone knows that when you talk about state travel, it means public employees going off on junkets to resort areas, right?

Well, members of the state guardian’s office testified about what those cuts mean to their operations. Cut travel? That means cutting the money for staff to make the home visits required by state law. Cut telecommunications? Most of that money is used for staff to access computer files on clients.

It all falls under the general category of unintended consequences. Expect a whole lot of those stories in the days and weeks after the General Assembly adopts a new state budget that lawmakers from both parties vow will cut state spending.

Oops.

* The House passed a bill yesterday which cracked down on sex offenders

The latest bill would add conspiracy, “luring,” unauthorized videotaping and other offenses to the range of crimes that can land a person on the registry. It would also expand the minimum time on the list for misdemeanor offenders from 10 to 15 years.

Bills to expand the reach and restrictions of the registry are practically an annual requirement in Illinois for any lawmaker who wants to look tough on crime. “If it was your son or your daughter walking to school, you’d want to know who was trying to lure them,” said Dennis Reboletti, R-Addison, speaking in favor of Saturday’s bill.

But Kevin McDermott quoted legislators who had some serious concerns about what is usually a very popular category of Statehouse legislation

“We’re making it impossible for them to live anywhere, we’re making it impossible for them to work anywhere, we’re making it impossible for them to go anywhere,” said Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Des Plaines. “We need to take a step back.”

Nekritz is a liberal Democrat, but concern about this latest expansion wasn’t limited to that wing.

“You’re making this more and more onerous for people to comply” with the registration list, warned Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Sycamore, a conservative stalwart.

Another, Rep. Rosemary Mulligan, R-Park Ridge, acknowledged that “most of us will vote for it because it looks bad if you don’t,” but she expressed concern about the annual proliferation of “layers” of new laws regarding the list.

Pritchard and Mulligan both ended up voting “yes,” and the bill is now on its way back to the Senate for a concurrence vote. It will almost certainly pass, but the issue is clearly becoming less cut-and-dried than it used to be.

* I’m pretty sure that this Tribune headline was intended to have a very specific consequence

Lawmakers take holiday break with big issues left to tackle

They adjourned yesterday afternoon and are back this afternoon. That’s not much of a “holiday break.” Sheesh.

* Related…

* Backseat passengers need to buckle seat belts under bill sent to governor: “In the last year … 38 folks died unfortunately because they weren’t wearing their seat belt,” said Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), the bill’s chief Senate sponsor. “This bill is going to definitely save lives.”

* Catching suburban texting drivers can be difficult

* Parents of disabled children giving up on Illinois - Families move to other states as Illinois’ social service funding shrinks

* IL lawmaker references own drug addiction to argue against immunity bill

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      


Caterpillar expresses strong reservations as workers’ comp bill advances

Sunday, May 29, 2011

* Caterpillar was at the heart of a huge controversy earlier this year after its CEO revealed he was being courted to move the company’s headquarters to another state because of Illinois’ business climate. The workers’ comp reform bill was seen by many as a chance to show Cat and other business leaders that the state was getting its act together. But Cat is dissatisfied with the workers’ comp reform plan which overwhelmingly passed the Senate yesterday. From a press release…

“At Caterpillar, our goal has been, and remains to help make Illinois one of the best states in the union for attracting investment and jobs. This legislation is a small step toward lowering the cost of doing business in Illinois. However, we remain concerned it will not put the state in a position to attract additional investments and jobs.”

“We are not opposed to this bill, but even with this change, more work needs to be done, or Illinois will continue to struggle to find companies willing to invest and grow their operations in the state. We will continue to encourage state officials to work toward meaningful reforms that will improve the business climate in Illinois.”

* Two Senators who represent the Peoria area, where Cat is based, went at it on the floor yesterday

Sen. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, charged the bill would not make Illinois competitive with other states. LaHood ticked off how Caterpillar decided to build an excavator plant in South Carolina and an engine plant in Texas as a “direct result of our workers’ compensation system here in Illinois.”

But Sen. David Koehler, D-Peoria, shot back with a frank question: “Is this better or worse than what the status quo is? I say it’s better.”

* Lots of Republicans who voted for the bill also expressed reservations during debate

“It’s important that we highlight, not to just the employers in Illinois, but to people who are looking at making investments around this nation that our job is not done here. This may not even be getting to first base,” said state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington. […]

“I would hope that we’re all open to a realistic review. If the costs don’t come down, we need to come back, but of course it needs a little bit of time to work,” state Sen. Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, said on Saturday.

* Sen. Brady also expressed regret at the 30 percent reimbursement rate hit taken by by the medical community. And the Medical Society made this point yesterday about that cut

Businesses said a 50 percent cut would be best, while medical groups said anything beyond 20 percent would be too painful for doctors and hospitals.

“Yes, Illinois competes for business, but you also compete for physicians,” said James Tierney, lobbyist with Illinois State Medical Society. “Fifty percent leave the state already. This legislation will make a very, very harsh practice environment that much worse.”

* Republicans say sponsoring Sen. Kwame Raoul’s harsh closing remarks cost him three SGOP votes

With the bill’s fate now in the hands of the House, which reconvenes today, Raoul gave a vigorous response to the lineup of mostly Republican critics who said the legislation didn’t go far enough.

“This is major reform, and you all cannot deny it. I refuse . . . to accept the characterization that this is just a step in the right direction. That’s political speak,” Raoul said. “This is major reform.”

Listen to Raoul’s remarks…

* Related…

* Senate approves workers’ comp reforms

* Editorial: Give OK to workers’ comp bill

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


Sunday Remapalooza: Republicans and Democrats begin to cannibalize

Sunday, May 29, 2011

* I’ve been told by a very top source that Kinzinger will run in the 16th. This report is from Kurt Erickson at Lee Newspapers

Mapped out of his home territory by a new Democratic map, Republican U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger could be gearing up to run in a district stretching from Livingston County to Rockford.

In a note distributed Saturday, Livingston County Republican Party Chairman John McGlasson said Kinzinger may be planning to run in the newly drawn 16th Congressional District in the 2012 election.

That would set up a potential face-off against fellow GOP colleague Don Manzullo. Freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh of McHenry also may be angling for a shot in the 16th after Democrats drew him into a district with Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren of Winfield.

The confusing jockeying by Republicans is exactly what Democrats had hoped would happen as they released a proposed new set of boundaries for Illinois congressional districts Friday. The map is drawn to favor Democrats and puts Kinzinger, a former member of the McLean County Board, into a tough-to-win district with Democratic U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. […]

In his note, McGlasson said Kinzinger “has called to say he intends to run for election in our new district.”

* And some potential primaries are taking shape for the Democrats as well

Former U.S. Rep. Bill Foster has plans to make another run at Congress. The Foster campaign on Saturday confirmed that Foster on Tuesday is expected to announce that he will be running in the Congressional district containing Aurora.

A filing with the Federal Election Commission shows that Foster, of Batavia, filed to run as a Democrat in the proposed 11th District, which would cover Naperville and Joliet in addition to Aurora. He would run in the 2012 election.

Foster, a Democrat, represented the 14th District for more than two years before losing the seat to Randy Hultgren in November.

* That district wasn’t meant for Foster

But state legislative leaders want Foster, a physicist and businessman, to run in an expansive new 14th district that includes his home in Batavia and runs from far north suburban Antioch and Harvard to southwest suburban Minooka.

Democrats, who control both houses of the state Legislature, could approve the new congressional map Sunday.

The new map of the 11th district includes Burr Ridge, where insurance broker John Atkinson lives. Atkinson, though, has already raised $500,000 to launch a primary challenge in the 3rd district against Rep. Dan Lipinski, a conservative Democrat from the Southwest Side.

“I have serious policy differences with Dan Lipinski — I would prefer someone in that seat who wanted to work with the president,” Atkinson said Saturday.

But state Democratic leaders want Atkinson to win a new seat for Democrats in the 11th rather than challenge Lipinski, an ally of powerful state House Speaker Michael Madigan, who lives in the 3rd district.

Atkinson said Saturday he was still evaluating what to do.

“I’m not going to be rushed — this is not about who plants a flag first. This is about who puts together a campaign to be able to win,” he said.

Best laid plans, etc.

* Meanwhile, the jockeying has begun in the 13th

The new 13th District includes the home of U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, but it is a virtually new district for him, including not only most of Champaign-Urbana, but also most of Bloomington-Normal, and Springfield, Decatur and some parts of Democratic Madison County.

It would be a politically competitive district, said Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign.

Frerichs was coy when asked if he would be interested in running in the district, which has a heavy tilt toward higher education and student voters. It has four public universities — the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Illinois-Springfield, Illinois State University and Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville — plus a number of private schools, including Illinois Wesleyan in Bloomington and Millikin University in Decatur.

“I’ve told people I’m interested in serving the people of East Central Illinois,” he said. “I think I am happy where I am today.”

* But don’t count on this happening

One feature of the new map is a district connecting Decatur with the east side of Springfield. It appears designed to oust freshman Republican state Rep. Adam Brown of Decatur and replace him with a Democrat.

Which got us to thinking: Is there a Democrat who lives in Decatur but works in Springfield and has extensive knowledge of both state government and Decatur city government?

Indeed, there is. His name is Michael Carrigan, a former member of the Decatur City Council who serves as president of the Illinois AFL-CIO.

We ran the scenario past him during a break in the action of the General Assembly last week. He laughed and said he was a bit too busy to contemplate the idea of running for the seat because of the crush of legislative business under way in the Capitol.

* And Democrats Ilya Sheyman of Waukegan and Brad Schneider of Deerfield have already opened campaign offices in the new 10th District

Sheyman, who was endorsed by former presidential candidate and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean this week, likes the look as well. He has lived and worked in the areas as a community organizer. He feels he knows the people and their needs.

“I’m extremely pleased Buffalo Grove where I grew up and Waukegan where I live are in the district,” Sheyman said. “These are communities I have organized for years.”

Though the campaign is young, charges have already been made Schneider has voted in Republican primary elections and donated $3,300 to Kirk. He explained he voted in the 2000 Republican primary to support close friend Andy Hochberg.

Local Democrats are looking elsewhere, however.

* In other news, Chinese-American groups are upset at the new congressional map. From a press release…

The Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community (CBCAC) is deeply disappointed with the Illinois Congressional map proposal, issued yesterday, which continues to divide the Greater Chinatown community area into three districts at the Congressional level. After a great deal of hard work to keep the community intact at all levels in the redistricting process, CBCAC considers this new development to be a setback in its effort to gain fair voting rights for the Chicago Chinatown community. Despite the community’s success with the state house and senate maps, which keep Chinatown intact, the result of Congressional redistricting indicates a lack of regard for the community that is unacceptable.

CBCAC is disappointed in the process that did not provide opportunity for input in the drawing of Congressional boundaries and asks that adjustments be made in the remaining time before the map is passed by the state legislature. For the past ten years, the Chinatown community has suffered from neglect and poor representation as a result of the way it was fractured at all levels during the 2001 redistricting process. According to the 2010 census, the Asian population in Illinois grew by 38.6 percent, the fastest rate among minority groups in the state. The area that is currently and continues to be divided between Danny Davis’s 7th District, Daniel Lipinski’s 3rd District, and Luis Gutierrez’s 4th District, includes about 30,000 Asian Americans, an increase of more than 50 percent since the 2000 census. The people in this community deserve better. We call on the Illinois Senate and House Redistricting Committees to address our community’s concerns so that we may be fairly represented all levels of government.

* Related…

* Editorial: Guv has every excuse to veto this map, too

* Map proposal for congressional districts unifies Macon County with Shimkus as incumbent

* Marion and Most Area Counties Put Into 15th Congressional District Under Proposed Redistricting Map

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today’s edition

Sunday, May 29, 2011

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

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Sunday video: Three more days

Sunday, May 29, 2011

* Ray Lamontagne kicks off our Sunday

I know it’s wrong to be so far from home
I know it’s wrong to leave you so alone

Everybody holding up OK?

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      


« NEWER POSTS PREVIOUS POSTS »
* Question of the day
* Here we go again...
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* Schakowsky, Gutierrez endorse Lipinski's Democratic opponent
* Rauner tied to Greitens, Pritzker tied to Blagojevich
* Some states looking for ways around federal tax law
* *** UPDATED x2 - Pritzker, Rauner, RGA respond *** Watch Dem candidates appear at Sun-Times
* Poll: Rauner leads Ives 65-21
* Not the governor's greatest day
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Kennedy needs to dig deeper, but can he?
* The fight for second place
* Group offers possible fix to problems with Rauner's AV
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
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* Our View: Focus on cost-cutting, then turn to taxes
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* University of Illinois trustee seat has been empty a year
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