* The regional superintendents will be back in Judge John Schmidt’s Sangamon County courtroom this afternoon in an attempt to force the state to pay their salaries. Gov. Pat Quinn, of course, vetoed out the appropriation for the salaries in late June and the superintendents haven’t been paid since. A Tuesday hearing was postponed until today. There were a few preliminaries this morning, but the action begins around 2:30 or so this afternoon.
I’m not sure how many reporters will be using Twitter in the courtroom, but I know of at least one, so be patient. Until the hearing starts, I’ll be posting some relevant stories and maybe some off-topic stuff as well.
* Blackberry users click here. Everybody else can just kick back and watch the show. The ScribbleLive program auto-updates so there is no need to hit your refresh button….
- Posted by Rich Miller
* The Illinois General Assembly passed a bill which Governor Pat Quinn signed into law that barred the Illinois State Police from releasing the names of FOID card holders. The Associated Press asked Attorney General Lisa Madigan to help pry the information loose and her office ruled that the names should be released.
The Illinois State Rifle Association filed suit earlier this year, but you’d think the lawsuit would now be rendered moot by the new law. Instead, ISRA is pressing ahead with its suit, even though they have a new law and the AP was dismissed yesterday as a defendant. The only remaining defendant is the Illinois State Police, which, ironically enough, supported the gun group’s position on the FOID card names.
The Rifle Association claims it wants the court to establish a constitutional precedent…
The Illinois State Rifle Association wants to continue the lawsuit in hopes a judge will eventually establish an unassailable constitutional right to keep the ID-card data secret, the group’s attorney, Stanley Tucker, said Wednesday.
“Theoretically, a future legislature could reverse (the new law)” said Tucker, speaking after a Circuit Court hearing in Peoria on the matter. “We will be pushing for a ruling on constitutional grounds for that reason.”
* But Jim Thompson, who is representing the Illinois State Police, pointed to another reason for keeping the suit alive…
“They want us to pay (court) costs and we don’t want to pay costs,” he added. “That’s the only disagreement.”
- Posted by Rich Miller
|Adventures in education
Thursday, Aug 25, 2011
* A school district near Peoria is demanding that its teachers submit to random drug tests. The teachers say no other district in the nation requires this and they went out on strike. Local Democratic state Senator and congressional candidate Dave Koehler is quite angry at the school board…
Koehler had strong words for the School Board, insisting that if there was an issue with drug use among teachers, random drug testing wouldn’t necessarily be the solution.
“Having this policy in place gives a false sense of security,” Koehler said. “I spent 21 years on the Labor Management Council dealing with this issue, and I know there are more effective ways to create a drug-free workplace.”
According to IFT President Dan Montgomery, no other school district in the country has instituted such a policy.
Many in the crowd, including Koehler, believed the School Board is making a “power play,” to gain leverage in future negotiations. Others handed out pamphlets alleging that the board’s actions are retaliation against the teachers.
But the teachers aren’t totally opposed to all drug tests…
The union has agreed to submit to drug tests if the administration can show probable cause.
* The school district has dug in deep and is now set to hire replacement workers…
On Wednesday, Karl Meurlot, the attorney and spokesman for the school board’s bargaining team, said the administration was conducting interviews later that day and said the district received more applicants than it has positions it needs to fill. He said the school hopes to open some time next week with replacement teachers.
However, filling the appropriate slots for the high school, where specialized teachers are needed for different subjects, could prove tricky and the high school may open later than grades K-8.
As for parents who have pledged to refuse to send their children to school to learn from replacement teachers, Meurlot said they will not legally have a choice.
“That’s not their option,” Meurlot said. “Those students will be truant. Parents don’t get to select teachers from the regular pool. The truth is if those students are not sent to school and we have classrooms available to them, they’re truant.”
* Meanwhile, Doug Bartlett, a second grade teacher at Washington Irving Elementary School in Chicago, brought some tools to his class for show and tell recently. Along with wrenches, screwdrivers and pliers, Bartlett also brought a 2.25″ pocketknife and a box cutter. The kids were reportedly not allowed to touch the tools, but Bartlett is being investigated for “possessing, carrying, storing, or using a weapon,”"
Bartlett asked the Rutherford Institute for help and it assigned some attorneys to the case. The conservative Institute usually focuses on religious liberty issues, but they’re all over this one…
Institute attorneys are urging Valeria Newell Bryant, the principal of Washington Irving Elementary School, to immediately dismiss any and all disciplinary actions against Bartlett. “In an age where public schools face an unprecedented number of real challenges in maintaining student discipline, and addressing threats of real violence, surely no one benefits from trumped up charges where no actual ‘weapons’ violation has occurred and there is no threat whatsoever posed to any member of the school community,” stated the Institute in its letter.
* The Chicago Public School system decided this week to extend next school year by two weeks. School days will be lengthened by 90 minutes. The teachers’ union is opposed to this plan and has been openly threatening a strike for weeks. But one thing you can always count on with the CTU is rampant internal dissension. Tuesday’s House of Delegates meeting, called after the CTU walked out of the negotiations, was no exception…
[CTU president Karen Lewis] and several House of Delegates members said a 75 percent threshold [by all eligible voters to authorize a strike] is attainable because teachers are very upset about the board action to deny raises, to implement a longer day without input from teachers, and what they call an overall lack of respect.
However, there was some dissension among members at Tuesday night’s meeting. Members of the United Progressive Caucus, which until recently controlled the union, handed out fliers calling Lewis, who was elected just over one year ago, “clueless” and a “flip-flop” for her changing position on the legislation that increased the strike threshold.
* Check out one of the CTU demands in exchange for agreeing to various proposals from the school system…
An end to business relationships with five major banks — Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase among them — that are involved in the largest number of foreclosures for union members and their families. Doing so, the union said, would “turn up the pressure” and force these banks to renegotiate better loan terms that would enable families to stay in their homes.
* And here’s Mayor Emanuel’s rationale for supporting the property tax increase for the school system…
, Emanuel also defended a property tax increase the school board passed Wednesday. He insisted his pledge not to hike property taxes only applies to city government, not the schools.
* In our last little bit of news, the DuPage County Board has decided to pay their regional superintendent’s salary until the governor figures out how to solve a crisis he created…
DuPage County Regional Superintendent of Schools Darlene Ruscitti will continue to receive a paycheck as she and other regional superintendents mount a legal fight to have their salaries reinstated by the state.
County board members in DuPage this week agreed to pay a prorated share of Ruscitti’s $130,000 annual salary that will be retroactive to July 1 and continue through Nov. 30.
- Posted by Rich Miller
*** UPDATE 1 *** As expected, the toll hike was approved today…
Board member Bill Morris, who voted against the measure, criticized the plan as “incomplete and flawed.”
“If you’re poor and don’t have a credit card and can’t afford I-PASS, I don’t think we want to create an elite road system,” Morris said.
* The first press release I received on this vote was from the The Illinois Chamber of Commerce Infrastructure Council…
“The Illinois Chamber of Commerce Infrastructure Council applauds the Illinois Tollway Board of Directors’ decision to move forward on a comprehensive long-term capital plan.
The Tollway plan will create jobs and spur badly needed economic activity in northeast Illinois and will provide congestion relief that will save individual drivers countless hours and thousands of dollars.
As the capital plan is implemented the Illinois Chamber of Commerce looks forward to working with Tollway leadership to assist in efficient and effective project delivery.”
*** UPDATE 2 *** From the IL GOP…
[ *** End Of Updates *** ]
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady said that the 87% Toll Tax Hike supported by Governor Pat Quinn is yet another example of the state reaching in to Illinoisans’ already thin wallets and yet another broken promise by Quinn.
Last year, Quinn promised repeatedly during his campaign he would veto any tax increase larger than four percent. In 1994, Quinn called for an eventual abolition of tolls being charged to motorists. He has now broken both of those promises.
“Pat Quinn continues to campaign against his former self,” said Brady. “With more and more tax and fee increases, people need to ask the Governor, what’s next?”
“I guess with businesses leaving Illinois for Indiana and Wisconsin, Governor Quinn’s only plan to stop them is to raise tolls on the roads leading out of the state,” Brady said.
* A toll hike appears to be imminent…
Illinois drivers may soon see tollway fares nearly double, as the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority board could vote on the increase at a meeting Thursday.
The proposal would bump tolls for I-PASS users from 40 cents up to 75 cents - a nearly 86 percent increase. Drivers paying with cash would still have to shell out double the I-PASS amound, or $1.50.
The Illinois Tollway says all those extra quarters would add up to $12 billion to fund a massive, 15-year construction program. The plan calls for widening a long stretch of I-90, from near O’Hare Airport to Rockford. It would also finally allow for an interchange at the Tri-State Tollway and I-57 - two roads that cross each other, but don’t connect.
* Fare hike proponents flooded tollway board hearing this summer with supporters, and Gov. Pat Quinn used that effort yesterday to claim there was public backing for the idea…
“Clearly there is public support to make sure we do this and do it right,” Quinn told reporters Wednesday.
“An overwhelming number of folks support … the proposal,” Quinn said. “I think it’s important that we understand in Illinois that we’re not going to be able to have safe roads and lessen congestion on the highways unless we invest.”
* But the governor hasn’t totally departed from reality…
Quinn, who pushed through a 67 percent increase in the state income tax rate in January, was sympathetic to the toll hike idea.
“Well, I don’t think anybody likes toll increases. Who would like that? But the bottom line is sometimes it’s necessary if you’re going to have less congestion, which is a big issue,” Quinn said.
“I think a lot of families appreciate the fact that they can get from work to home faster and get home to work faster. That saves them time, and it’s worth money,” he said.
The governor added: “The bottom line is I think you have to understand the tollway has not had a general toll increase since 1983. At that time, the Chicago Tribune cost 25 cents. Today the Chicago Tribune costs $1.”
An income tax hike, state service cuts, ComEd rate hikes and massive outages and now this. Suburban voters cannot possibly be happy campers right about now.
* Truckers aren’t happy, either…
Critics of the plan say the tolls are already high, and commercial truckers who pay higher tolls say they will be forced to use local, congested roads to save money.
“The Illinois Trucking Association is deeply troubled by the Illinois Tollway’s most recent capital plan, and we question the authority in which the tollway board of directors is moving forward,” said a trucking association representative.
* Toll hike likely, but rival plan to be debated, too
* Profiles of tollway board members - Backgrounds of those who will make the rate-hike decision
- Posted by Rich Miller
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- Posted by Advertising Department
Thursday, Aug 25, 2011
* This seems timely, considering these two guys appear headed for a war…
Keep it clean, people. There’s no need for profanity. Elevate yourselves. Thanks.
- Posted by Rich Miller
[Bumped up for visibility.]
* Gov. Pat Quinn was asked today about House Speaker Michael Madigan’s attendance at US House Speaker John Boehner’s fundraiser. The transcript…
“Frankly, I’m disappointed. I know Mike and he’s been a strong Democrat as long as I’ve known him… He’s the head of our party in Illinois, the Democratic Party.
“I don’t think going to see John Boehner at some gathering at a house in Lemont supporting whatever his fund is, the John Boehner fund, sends the right message…
“I think Speaker Boehner let the country down, and I don’t think he deserves any support.”
* Asked whether Madigan should’ve gone to the Governor’s Day event at the State Fair, Quinn responded…
“I was disappointed that Mike couldn’t make that. I think when the President of the United States is in our state, as he was on that day, I went to Democrat Day in the morning and then I was at the rally briefly and then I got out to see the president in Alpha, Illinois. We’re proud of President Obama. He’s a great president and he happens to be a Democrat.
“And I think when you’re chairman of the party you should stand with the president.”
* Asked if Madigan should remain chairman of the party, Quinn mumbled…
“Well, that’s up to the, ya’ know, the members.”
* Raw audio…
*** UPDATE 1 *** Madigan’s spokesman Steve Brown called Quinn’s comments “an interesting development”….
“Pat Quinn is the governor of illinois because of the efforts of the Democratic Party of Illinois… [Madigan] didn’t support the Boehner [campaign] fund. Apparently [Quinn] failed to read the two-week old story before he made his comments.”
So, there you go.
*** UPDATE 2 *** From the Sun-Times…
Madigan did not make himself available for comment but his spokesman Steve Brown responded, “Pat Quinn is the governor of Illinois because Mike Madigan and the Democratic Party reversed the avalanche that swept across America. The big message we took from the 2010 election is that voters would like to see more cooperation among Democratic and Republican leaders.”
Brown said Madigan did not indicate to him whether the two speakers spoke to each other at the Aug. 13 fundraiser for Boehner’s national GOP leadership fund.
“I don’t know that he espoused any support for Mr. Boehner,” Brown said. “Mr. Terry is a prominent, important, Chicago/Illinois businessman who’s been involved in a variety of issues and has raised questions about the state’s tax structure.”
Brown said Madigan viewed the results of last year’s elections that put Boehner in the speaker’s chair as a reflection that “the public wanted to see political leaders, government leaders, cooperate.”
- Posted by Rich Miller
* The sales tax haven scam is a very big deal. I’ve been covering the issue for months. And now it appears that two very large airlines are also in on it…
The two biggest airlines at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport route their jet fuel purchases through an outlying Illinois town, shaving millions of dollars off their tax bills but raising the hackles of Chicago officials.
The airlines’ tax break agreements with Sycamore, which have flown under the radar for years, have allowed United and American subsidiaries each to trim as much as $12 million to $14 million off their annual tax bills in recent years, documents show.
By routing big purchases through a lower-tax enclave, the airlines are taking advantage of Illinois’ unusual tax rules to avoid tax rates that are as high as 9.75 percent in Chicago. […]
United Aviation Fuel Corp. opened a small office in Sycamore after negotiating a sales-tax rebate agreement with the city in 2001, which was updated in 2003. American Aviation Supply LLC negotiated a pact in 2004, opening an office in a city-owned building the next year. Each operation employs only one or two people, city officials said. [Emphasis added]
* According to the RTA’s top lobbyist, Sears is also participating…
Matyas said his agency knows of 33 companies getting sales tax rebates from Kankakee and eight from Channahon. He said Sears Holdings Corp. is among the companies involved.
Sears gets all those state and local subsidies and then avoids paying regional sales taxes? Great. Just freaking great.
* However, as I told you yesterday, the suits filed by Chicago and the RTA against Kankakee - and the resulting publicity in the Chicago media - appear to be flawed. Kankakee has cut deals with a large number of out of state companies to be their Illinois sales tax nexus, which is why those dollar amounts claimed for the city are so large. Kankakee Mayor Nina Epstein responded via press release…
“There seems to be a great deal of misunderstanding with what we are doing here in Kankakee - a vast majority of these businesses are located outside of Cook County and Illinois, and in fact, we are actually bringing in revenue to Illinois.”
* Meanwhile, it’s absolutely baffling to me that WBEZ would allow these claims by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to stand without comment…
Daniels insists he isn’t trying to start a border war with Illinois and doesn’t take issue with it for raising its corporate income tax.
“It’s not for me to give advice to anybody else. Every state has to make its own decisions and I respect that,” Daniels said. “I never say anything negative about anywhere else…”
* He never says anything negative about anywhere else? You could’ve fooled me…
The burgeoning fiscal crises in state and local governments took a turn toward fiction Tuesday, with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels comparing Illinois’ problems to an episode of “The Simpsons.”
“You guys are nothing if not entertaining over there,” he said with a laugh on the Don and Roma show on WLS-AM. “It’s like living next door to the Simpsons — the dysfunctional family down the block.”
* And then there’s the Illinoyed website and ad campaign run by Daniels’ adminstration…
* And the accompanying earned media hit by his commerce secretary…
“The new marketing slogan for Illinois must be: ‘Come for the higher taxes, stay for the corruption,’” said Indiana Commerce Secretary E. Mitchell Roob.
* The AP quoted Roob yesterday dissing us again…
Illinois Chamber of Commerce President Doug Whitley has been a harsh critic of the income tax increase, but he said regional cooperation makes far more sense than the scrambling states are doing now to lure jobs from each other. It’s an argument many economists make, too, saying that working to draw companies from one location to another doesn’t create new jobs.
“The reality is, our economies are very much intertwined; when a plant is built in Indiana there’s a very good likelihood that they’re getting products and they’re getting components from Illinois,” Whitley said. “It is in Illinois’ interests to have a better relationship with our neighboring states.”
Indiana Secretary of Commerce Mitch Roob, though, said his state sees no benefit in trying to work with its higher-tax neighbor.
“We’ve got to differentiate ourselves nationally and internationally from Illinois,” he said. “As long as Illinois is not a competitive location from a tax standpoint, there’s no way we can market with them.”
And, of course, there was this…
Daniels invited the company executives to a mock citizenship naturalization ceremony Tuesday to welcome them to the state.
But, hey, maybe if Mayor Rahm Emanuel threatened to site the Chicago casino in Gary, then Gov. Pat Quinn might finally get off the dime on the gaming bill.
* If suburban voters weren’t already angry enough about the income tax hike, the ruling Democratic Party ought to prepare itself for another hurricane of rage…
Illinois tollway leaders signaled they’ll vote on proposed toll hikes this week as a series of tempestuous public hearings concluded Tuesday.
“At this point, we’ve had nearly 1,400 people attend the hearings, and based on the comments we’ve received, about 85 percent have expressed support for the plan,” tollway Chairman Paula Wolff said in an email. […]
Tuesday’s hearings were in Schaumburg, Buffalo Grove and Montgomery. Construction unions and professional engineering associations were strongly represented at the Schaumburg hearing, with members speaking passionately in favor of the jobs that would be created by the project.
Wolff is dreaming if she thinks this price hike will be beloved.
* Power out to several Loop buildings after second ComEd ‘issue‘
* Competitive era begins in downstate electricity market
* Illinois granted $5.1M for insurance exchange
* City biz leaders back Emanuel’s call for casino
* Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates’ investment firm now owns nearly 6 percent of equipment maker Deere & Co.’s stock.
* Foreclosures keeping cleanup companies busy
* AIG launches search as it mulls downtown move
* Art Institute names insider Douglas Druick as president
* Head of Sears’ Kenmore, Craftsman brands resigning
- Posted by Rich Miller
* People are certainly all atwitter about this Sun-Times story…
Talk about strange bedfellows.
Two weeks ago, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) came to Hinsdale to raise money for Republicans to fight the congressional map drawn under the direction of state Democratic Party chief and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
The very next night, the congressman broke bread with Madigan (D-Chicago) at a fund-raiser for Boehner’s leadership fund at the Lemont home of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Chairman Terry Duffy.
Madigan’s spokesman said he didn’t contribute to Boehner and was at the leadership fund event as a guest of Terry Duffy, who has repeatedly said that he’s considering moving part of CME’s operations out of Illinois.
Speaker Madigan skipped Governor’s Day at the Illinois State Fair last week and was a no-show for President Obama’s Illinois visit the same day. But that was a week or so after Boehner’s event. By then, he was on vacation, as was US Sen. Dick Durbin, who was also a no-show for both events, but obviously didn’t go to Boehner’s shindig.
Madigan is not a party builder, except when it comes to his own legislative chamber. He is perhaps the oddest Democratic chairman of any state. Then again if he did get more involved in local party building activites, he’d almost definitely get whacked for trying to extend his “evil tentacles.”
* The Sun-Times found a hostile Democrat to comment on Madigan’s attendance…
“Going to a fund-raiser for the speaker of the House, who has done nothing to cooperate with the president of the United States, really is unfortunate,” Democratic Party strategist and consultant Kitty Kurth said. “I think that the speaker could strengthen the Democratic Party in Illinois if he showed the same kind of respect and cooperation with other Democrats, including Gov. Quinn.
“I would hope that the chairman of our Democratic Party in Illinois can find some time to attend events with Democrats across the state and support their campaigns,” she continued. “If you want Democrats to show up for you, you need to show up for them.”
So, the Speaker of the Illinois House meets the Speaker of the US House. Your thoughts?
- Posted by Rich Miller
* The Sun-Times drives another very large nail into the legislative scholarship program’s coffin…
A tan-bricked bungalow in the 4500 block of South Avers Avenue must be a popular hangout for college kids.
Five students certified that same home —owned by a paid campaign staffer to state Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Cicero) — as their permanent residence in order to qualify for highly sought tuition waivers handed out by Sandoval.
The senator told the Chicago Sun-Times he has no explanation for that peculiar coincidence and blamed the State Board of Education for not discovering it, even though Sandoval put his signature on each scholarship application before submitting them to the agency.
After being questioned about the oddity last week by the Sun-Times, a State Board of Education spokesman said his agency has turned the matter over to the FBI and to the Legislative Inspector General’s office for further investigation.
“It seemed strange five individuals who did not have the same last name would list the same address, and so we wanted someone to look into that,” board spokesman Matt Vanover told the Sun-Times.
State law requires that students receiving legislative scholarships live within the awarding lawmaker’s district, and providing any “false or misleading” information on their applications can result in the waivers being revoked and the students having to repay the colleges for the tuition freebies.
Sen. Sandoval blamed his staff, the Illinois State Board of Education and Rudy Acosta, who owned the home. He took no blame for himself.
* Meanwhile, the Legislative Inspector General wants much tougher ethics rules for legislators…
Illinois lawmakers should be subject to censure for misconduct, banned from voting on legislation where there is a conflict of interest and required to make more of their financial matters public, according to a state inspector general’s proposal.
The changes are needed because the 44-year-old law now in place has “proven to be weak medicine,” Legislative Inspector General Thomas Homer wrote in a letter to all 177 lawmakers. Ethics violations result in “no remedial action whatsoever” because the law suggests “merely ideals toward which legislators should strive.” […]
Lawmakers are allowed to declare conflicts of interest and then vote their consciences on legislation. But Homer, a former Democratic lawmaker, said legislators with conflicts should not be able to debate bills, let alone vote for or against them. He also said the current economic disclosure forms are too vague to be effective and need to be beefed up to require lawmakers to make public more financial matters.
Homer said he has seen “apparent violations” of the code of conduct from 1967 that could not be enforced because the law more or less outlines guidelines that “preclude enforcement.”
* As you already know, Governor Pat Quinn’s staff mistakenly sent out an amendatory veto late yesterday afternoon that would have addressed some of Homer’s concerns. The staff then withdrew the notification and asked that it not be published. The AV can be read in full by clicking here…
Recently, the Legislative Inspector General called for stronger provisions related to conflict of interest voting. For over three decades, I have supported ending conflict of interest voting by members of the General Assembly. In 1976, the people of Illinois signed a petition containing 635,158 signatures demanding a prohibition on conflict of interest voting. Today, the people of Illinois demand no less.
* The governor’s proposed (but not really, since they withdrew it) changes to the statute…
When a legislator must take official action on a legislative matter as to which he has a conflict situation created by a personal, family, or client legislative interest, he shall eliminate
should consider the possibility of eliminating the interest creating the conflict situation if that is feasible. If that is not feasible, he shall abstain should consider the possibility of abstaining from such official action. […]
He need not abstain if he decides to participate in a manner contrary to the economic […]
interest which creates the conflict situation.
Sections 3-201 through 3-205 shall
are intended only as guides to legislator conduct, and not as rules meant to be enforced by disciplinary action, including fines and censure as determined by the Legislative Inspector General.
- Posted by Rich Miller
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