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Contrariness

Friday, Aug 26, 2011

* Back in February, two Illinois legislators sponsored bills to require drug testing for new welfare recipients

The bill introduced to the Illinois House seeks to require new applicants for Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) to undergo drug testing and subsequent substance abuse treatment if a drug test is positive. Rep. Jim Sacia, R-Freeport, introduced the measure, which also requires submission to random drug testing. Sacia’s proposal is a “pilot program” that exempts welfare recipients over age 65.

A parallel piece of legislation, proposed by Rep. Chapin Rose, R- is nearly identical to Sacia’s bill.

* However, Florida just implemented a mandatory drug test for new TANF recipients and only a tiny fraction are testing positive

Since the state began testing welfare applicants for drugs in July, about 2 percent have tested positive, preliminary data shows. […]

The initiative may save the state a few dollars anyway, bearing out one of Gov. Rick Scott’s arguments for implementing it. But the low test fail-rate undercuts another of his arguments: that people on welfare are more likely to use drugs. […]

More than once, Scott has said publicly that people on welfare use drugs at a higher rate than the general population. The 2 percent test fail rate seen by DCF, however, does not bear that out.

According to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, performed by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, 8.7 percent of the population nationally over age 12 uses illicit drugs. The rate was 6.3 percent for those ages 26 and up.

* Meanwhile, I really don’t care

Questions surrounding a gambling bill that is headed to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk have focused on regulation and on how much new casinos could raise for state coffers.

But casino industry watchers are also asking whether the gambling market will be oversaturated with five new riverboats, minicasinos at the state’s five horse racing tracks and slot machines at Chicago’s airports. Increased competition from neighboring states, an unpredictable economy and casino bankruptcies are raising distress signals for the industry nationwide.

I don’t see why the state has a moral duty to protect the monopolies of existing Illinois casinos. Some of these casinos haven’t remodeled in years. Competition is supposed to be good. Why is it so horrible in this case?

Also

The State Senate president, John J. Cullerton, Democrat of Chicago, said he was recently approached by a lobbyist hired by a Wisconsin casino who hoped to stifle competition by derailing Illinois’s expansion of gambling sites. The fact that neighboring states are worried suggests there is a market for more, Cullerton said.

Supporters also argue that a casino in tourist-rich Chicago would keep gamblers here instead of sending them across state lines. Dozens of buses depart from Chicago and its suburbs every day for gambling venues elsewhere. Emanuel has said Illinois should not allow Indiana to get “$20 million a month while our infrastructure is crumbling.”

* And speaking of the casino bill, House sponsor Lou Lang was asked this question by NBC Chicago

What about Gov. Quinn’s concern that there’s not enough oversight? The bill takes some of these positions out of the oversight of the Illinois Gaming Board, and he’s worried that organized crime is going to find its way into these new gaming positions.

Lou

He’s wrong. While we do create a Chicago Casino Authority, it in no way supersedes the Illinois Gaming Board. Its job is to help the city determine what to recommend to the Gaming Board. Its job is to help determine what gaming operator the city must hire. The bill requires the city hire a gaming operator, because we don’t want aldermen and ward committeemen deciding who blackjack dealers would be, and we wanted people running the casino who know about gaming. We don’t want it run by some committee of the City Council, so we created a casino authority, and yes, the people are appointed by the mayor, but they can only make recommendations. They have no force of law. They cannot tell the Gaming Board what to approve and what not to approve. Let me tell you what I told the governor. I said, “If the optics of this are such that you need different language to satisfy that, I’ll give it you.”

* Chicago-based Groupon has been taking a severe beating in the press ahead of its IPO. For instance

Groupon’s fundamental problem is that it has not yet discovered a viable business model. The company asserts that it will be profitable once it reaches scale but there is little reason to believe this. The financial results of Groupon’s traditional business continue to deteriorate, especially in mature markets, and new ventures such as Groupon Now also have failed to drive profits. And unlike the very few successful companies that scaled before they were profitable (think Facebook or Amazon), Groupon’s business model does not benefit from significant network effects.

And

Could the fastest growing company in history sputter out just as quickly? At this point, the better question may be: How could it not?

* But Groupon’s CEO is now fighting back

“While we’ve bitten our tongues and allowed insane accusations … to go unchallenged publicly, it’s important to me that you have the context necessary to brush this stuff off,” Mason addressed employees in his memo.

Mason argued that rival services were “small and not growing” and waved off accusations Groupon was “buying customers” by splurging on marketing — two key concerns on Wall Street ahead of its market debut.

“Even if we wanted to continue to spend at these levels, we would eventually run out of new subscribers to acquire,” he wrote. “The real point is that our business is a lot harder to build than people realize and our scale creates competitive advantages that even the largest technology companies are having trouble penetrating.”

[Hat tip: Sullivan]

* And a federal judge essentially just deleted a section of Illinois’ election law

A federal judge in Chicago today ruled that candidates for Congress in next year’s election can go ahead and collect candidacy signatures after Labor Day despite a pending lawsuit filed by Republicans that challenges the Democrats’ redrawing of the state’s U.S. House district boundaries.

U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow’s order allows U.S. House candidates to gather petition signatures starting on Sept. 6 from voters who live within the Democrat-drawn districts. Under her order, if the congressional boundaries are subsequently changed by the actions of the court, the signatures of those people who find themselves in a different district will still be valid.

Lefkow’s order also said a candidacy petition cannot be ruled invalid if court action leads to a renumbering of a congressional district.

The judge’s ruling, which also ends a GOP-backed request to push back the petition-passing process, could make it difficult to challenge a candidate’s candidacy signatures if congressional boundary lines are shifted as a result of the federal court.

While that makes practical sense, shouldn’t this be for the General Assembly and the governor to decide? A judge changing state law to accommodate an undecided, ongoing federal lawsuit makes me more than a bit queasy.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

20 Comments
  1. - Cincinnatus - Friday, Aug 26, 11 @ 1:20 pm:

    How about a fast-track ruling on the underlying law suit? Get the filings and make a decision judge, don’t muddy the waters further.


  2. - Rich Miller - Friday, Aug 26, 11 @ 1:24 pm:

    Cincinnatus, agreed. Fully.


  3. - 47th Ward - Friday, Aug 26, 11 @ 1:27 pm:

    Somewhere in Oak Lawn, Burt Odelson’s head is exploding. He, Mike Kasper and other election lawyers just saw some pretty lucrative cases fly out of the window.

    2% of TANF recipients in Florida test positive for drugs. Does anyone think Rick Scott will apologize? Me neither.


  4. - wordslinger - Friday, Aug 26, 11 @ 1:51 pm:

    Let me applaud Reps. Sacia and Rose on their statesmanship in attempting to solve some problem or something or other with their proposal.

    Such vision is rare, and is usually displayed only by every loud drunk sitting by himself at the end of every bar I’ve ever been in.

    Let’s not stop with welfare recipients. Let’s take this to its logical conclusion. Everyone who receives any tangible benefit from MY tax dollars should be randomly tested for drugs. Social Security. Pensions. Disability. Student loans. State business handouts (line up, Motorola). Government contracts.

    In fact, anyone who uses any service or conveyance funded by MY tax dollars should be randomly tested for drugs. I’d hate to think someone could by walking on MY sidewalk packing potentially problematically polluted pee-pee.

    So, everybody in Illinois, grab a cup and line up. Reps. Sacia and Rose will be administering the tests. Their aims are noble, let’s hope our aims are true.


  5. - Small Town Liberal - Friday, Aug 26, 11 @ 1:57 pm:

    - Cincinnatus, agreed. Fully. -

    Me too, feels weird…


  6. - siriusly - Friday, Aug 26, 11 @ 2:11 pm:

    Totally agree about the existing casinos. They are run down and suck! Upgrade, compete or go away. That’s what the NW Indiana boats have done. It’s not our problem. The state didn’t force you to go into this business, we gave you the opportunity.


  7. - Give Me A Break - Friday, Aug 26, 11 @ 2:11 pm:

    Part of DHS’ opposition to the drug testing bill was fiscal in nature. They talked about the cost to have each person tested and the fact the DHS district offices are understaffed already so they would either have to hire new or cross train staff on drug testing or contract out the testing. Either way, it would cost the state more than they would save. And where do you drawn the line on testing? Should the state test vets and seniors who get state services too?

    Does the simple fact you recieve some form of benefits from the taxpayers presume you are a criminal? I guess mandatory testing of college students getting any form of assistance would make them suspect also.


  8. - Two Points - Friday, Aug 26, 11 @ 2:25 pm:

    Do people ever consider that the rate might have dropped because people stopped doing drugs so that they could continue to get the benefits. That’s the whole point behind the bill. Not to eliminate recipients, but to make sure the recipients are not acting in a way that hopefully leads them off welfare.

    This would be like criticizing a business for asking for ID when I write a check because they have never caught someone forging a check.


  9. - 47th Ward - Friday, Aug 26, 11 @ 2:29 pm:

    Well that’s one possible explanation Two Points, but I don’t think you’re right. Another possible explanation is the Whizzinator. Maybe we can find out if sales in Florida spiked after this stupid law was passed.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whizzinator


  10. - Montrose - Friday, Aug 26, 11 @ 2:32 pm:

    *Do people ever consider that the rate might have dropped because people stopped doing drugs so that they could continue to get the benefits.*

    Two possible explanations:

    A) Those applying for TANF in Florida had above average rates of drug use/addiction. In order to receive TANF, they stopped using drugs cold turkey (they certainly cannot afford treatment and I have a hunch the state’s substance abuse services are hurting like everywhere else) for long enough that they could pass the drug test.

    B) Not that many people were using drugs to begin with.

    I will stick with explanation B.


  11. - Rich Miller - Friday, Aug 26, 11 @ 2:35 pm:

    Montrose, the answer could very well be “A,” but that was still a whole lot of money spent for almost nothing.


  12. - Two Points - Friday, Aug 26, 11 @ 2:37 pm:

    going cold turkey off of marijuana is a piece of cake for most people, and that is the most common drug. (hey, it’s been awhile…maybe I’m wrong. :)


  13. - The Fightin 55th - Friday, Aug 26, 11 @ 2:50 pm:

    My only question with that 2% figure would be whether they are only testing the primary welfare recipient or if dependents above a certain age are included as well. That distinction could possibly make a difference.


  14. - Small Town Liberal - Friday, Aug 26, 11 @ 2:54 pm:

    - My only question with that 2% figure would be whether they are only testing the primary welfare recipient or if dependents above a certain age are included as well. -

    You think maybe some poor mothers who don’t use drugs are spending their welfare checks buying drugs for their kiddies? Seems plausible…


  15. - Could it happen? - Friday, Aug 26, 11 @ 2:59 pm:

    Along with drug testing for TANF recipients, how about IQ testing for members of the General Asssembly? It is all about assessments these days, isn’t it?


  16. - The Fightin 55th - Friday, Aug 26, 11 @ 3:21 pm:

    Small town liberal -
    I don’t think that poor mothers are going to buy drugs for their kids, but in some of these cases I’m sure they are finding ways of getting the drugs on their own. There is a sizable number of teens and young adults living as dependents under this or a similar program that are drug users, and I think we might be missing a large part of the problem if we just focus on whoever’s name is on the check


  17. - Small Town Liberal - Friday, Aug 26, 11 @ 3:34 pm:

    - There is a sizable number of teens and young adults living as dependents under this or a similar program that are drug users -

    Ok, so entertaining the possibility that there are, what does it matter if the welfare money is being used for the right things? Should the rest of the family suffer if one of the kids has a drug problem? Should they be forced to kick that dependent out to the streets?


  18. - Rich Miller - Friday, Aug 26, 11 @ 3:37 pm:

    ===There is a sizable number of teens and young adults living as dependents under this or a similar program that are drug users===

    Besides the desire to help aspect, this is our concern why?


  19. - Montrose - Friday, Aug 26, 11 @ 4:31 pm:

    *Montrose, the answer could very well be “A,” but that was still a whole lot of money spent for almost nothing.*

    I am applying Occam’s Razor here. Not that many folks using drugs just seems like the logical answer.

    That being said, you are absolutely right. I find it ironic that fiscal conservatives are typically the ones pushing for setting up costly testing regimens.


  20. - dupage dan - Friday, Aug 26, 11 @ 4:46 pm:

    Since the issue is regarding folks who are newly signing up for benefits is it possible that some just don’t enroll since they know they will test positive? I’m sure there is data to show whether or not the number of applications dropped after the program was initiated.

    Even still - 2% is a very low number.


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