* Here in Illinois, the Republicans are bitterly complaining about the Democrats’ new state and congressional district maps. Elsewhere, though, the GOP is crowing about its wins…
Republicans romped last November, gaining 63 House seats to secure the majority, winning 11 governorships, including Ohio and Pennsylvania, and seizing control of the most state legislative seats they’ve held since 1928. The GOP is capitalizing on its across-the-board control in 26 states — governorship plus legislature — in the census-based drawing of a new political map that will be a decisive factor in the 2012 elections and beyond.
“Republican freshmen are finding the ground harden beneath them as their current swing districts become less competitive for Democrats,” said Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee. “Even seemingly small changes in district political leanings can mean big returns at the ballot box.”
Nearly half of the states have finished redrawing House lines based on population changes, although lawsuits and Justice Department reviews loom. The immediate post-election claims that the GOP could add 15 to 30 seats in the U.S. House through redistricting have proved unfounded, in large part because Republicans captured so many seats last November. Instead, the GOP has used the redistricting process to shore up its most vulnerable lawmakers, people such as Ellmers and Farenthold.
“Redistricting starts with Republicans at a peak,” said Tim Storey, an elections analyst with the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. “They hold a solid majority of seats in the House. It’s hard to gain much more.”
* Illinois has no school voucher program. Indiana does, however, and it’s starting to take off…
Weeks after Indiana began the nation’s broadest school voucher program, thousands of students have transferred from public to private schools, causing a spike in enrollment at some Catholic institutions that were only recently on the brink of closing for lack of pupils.
It’s a scenario public school advocates have long feared: Students fleeing local districts in large numbers, taking with them vital tax dollars that often end up at parochial schools. Opponents say the practice violates the separation of church and state.
In at least one district, public school principals have been pleading with parents not to move their children.
* A new report from Moody’s could presage what might happen here in Illinois if Chicago and several areas near our borders are given riverboat casino licenses…
Massachusetts leaders have ended more than a year of negotiating over proposed gambling legislation by agreeing to open three casinos and a slots parlor in the Commonwealth. Even before the plan is voted on by rank-and-file lawmakers, however, it is causing anxiety for adjoining states.
A new report by Moody’s Investors Service confirms what many state officials in Connecticut and Rhode Island feared: The opening of four gambling venues in Massachusetts will drive business away from their own casinos. That, in turn, could hurt tax collections in both states.
* In Illinois, our Democratic governor has focused mainly on tax hikes and some minor union concessions. He’s had to implement cuts only because of the Democratic General Assembly. Connecticut’s Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has taken a far more balanced approach…
$2.8 billion in increased taxes. Malloy’s changes added three brackets to the state income tax and raised the top rate from 6.5 percent to 6.7 percent, while adding an Earned Income Tax Credit for those with lower incomes. The sales tax also rose from 6 percent to 6.35 percent, with many sales-tax exemptions eliminated.
$1.8 billion in budget cuts. These cuts involve items that are required to be paid for by law or contract and are expected to grow based on caseload increases. The cuts would hit, among other things, Medicaid dental and vision benefits, as well as cost-sharing increases for seniors receiving home care.
$1.5 billion in labor-union concessions. Most unions agreed to a two-year wage freeze, plus changes to health-care and pension benefits, in exchange for protection from layoffs for four years.
When state troopers refused to accept a pay freeze, he laid off 56 acadamy grads…
In a step avoided by governors and legislators for the past two decades, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Tuesday that he will lay off state troopers to cut costs and help balance the state budget.
The decision to lay off the 56 rookie troopers marks the first trooper layoffs since the state’s fiscal crisis in 1991 under Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. The state has suffered through recessions, budget deficits, Wall Street losses and economic ups and downs during the 20 years since then, but troopers had always been treated as a specialized class in the state workforce and not subject to reductions.
* Tight state budgets are also a topic of discussion in the wake of Hurricane Irene…
The recession hit states’ budgets hard, leaving them fewer funds to respond to emergencies and in fiscal 2010, the latest year data is available, the median budget for crisis response fell to $3.3 million from $3.41 million the year before, according to the National Emergency Management Association.
North Carolina, for example, pulled money from its disaster relief funds and other reserves to patch a budget this fiscal year. To save money last year, New York consolidated its homeland security, emergency management, fire control and infrastructure offices. And New Jersey has implemented spending cuts of 10 percent and cut aid to local governments.
…Adding… From a recent Tribune story…
Frustrated, Tiawanda Moore quietly flipped on the recorder on her BlackBerry as she believed that two Chicago police internal affairs investigators were trying to talk her into dropping her sexual harassment complaint against a patrol officer.
But Moore was the one who ended up in trouble — criminally charged with violating an obscure state eavesdropping law that makes audio recording of police officers without their consent a felony offense. […]
The case against Moore as well as pending charges against a Chicago artist have drawn the attention of civil libertarians who argue that the state’s eavesdropping law is unconstitutional.
Illinois is one of only a handful of states that make it illegal to record audio of public conversations without the permission of everyone involved. Laws in Massachusetts and Oregon are similarly strict but not as broad, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Because the alleged victims in this case were the two police officers, Moore had faced a maximum prison sentence of 15 years for the alleged felony.
* That Massachusetts law may be about to end. From a federal appellate court decision this week in Boston…
In summary, though not unqualified, a citizen’s right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment.
* An Illinois roundup…
* ADDED: Judge gives preliminary nod to disabilities deal: Illinois could save $2,320 per person annually by providing low-income disabled people with services in their own homes instead of in nursing homes.
* Townships begin measuring value of road commissioners: Cook County township officials can soon start deciding if they want to do away with their road districts and highway commissioners, now that Gov. Pat Quinn has signed legislation to let them.
* New Illinois Law Mandates Insurance Coverage for Quitting Smoking
* COGFA override would cost taxpayers, lawmaker says
* SJ-R: Opinion: Confusion still part of health deal
* Joliet woman tormented by ex inspires new law to help others
* Records Broken at 2011 Illinois State Fair
* Alderman’s daughter gets state job
* New chief of schools looks forward to job, even though paycheck remains uncertain
* Sex offenders kept from children conceived through abuse
* Righter bill providing additional newborn screenings
* Cronin to lay down law to DuPage boards
* Quincy School District faces financial difficulty status, must create deficit reduction plan
* Interim East St. Louis schools chief sees hope for turnaround
* Cicero spends $120,000 at hot dog stand linked to board member