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*** UPDATED x1 - It gets even better *** “Adventures in Governing” with your host Pat Quinn

Monday, Aug 29, 2011

* Gov. Pat Quinn now has the ComEd bill

Legislation commonly referred to as the “ComEd bill” that would help roll out a sophisticated smart grid program but alter the way electricity rates are decided is on its way to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk.

The controversial legislation, backed by Chicago-based Commonwealth Edison Co., has been staunchly opposed by consumer advocates and others who call it is a “Trojan horse” meant to pad the utility’s bottom line by removing regulatory obstacles in place for 100 years.

Quinn has repeatedly vowed to veto the legislation, and a maneuver by Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) stalled the bill’s delivery to Quinn. Friday, Cullerton withdrew the motion in place since June, so the General Assembly has 30 days to send the bill to Quinn, who would then have 60 days to sign or veto it.

ComEd and its lobbyists have been using the time to meet one-on-one with legislators to try to win enough votes to override a veto.

The utility has been pushing hard for veto override votes. AARP is a staunch opponent. From a press release…

As Senate Bill 1652 has finally been released by the Illinois Senate, AARP urges Governor Pat Quinn, on behalf of our 1.7 million Illinois members, to come through on his promises and veto this awful legislation that would allow utility companies like ComEd and Ameren to hit the wallets of millions of consumers with higher rates while guaranteeing their own profits.

SB1652 narrowly passed both chambers in Springfield during the Spring session as ComEd and Ameren heavily lobbied legislators to approve a bill that would allow them to impose nearly automatic electric rate hikes, while securing company profits and diminishing needed regulatory oversight.

Yet SB1652 did not garner a veto proof majority, and Governor Quinn has promised to veto the bill joining with Attorney General Lisa Madigan, AARP, the Citizens Utility Board and many other consumer advocates and watchdogs in their stern opposition to the legislation.

SB1652 is bad news for consumers as it writes utility company profits into state law guaranteeing ComEd and Ameren a return on equity of over 10% or even higher. Additionally, SB1652 creates a formula rate and shortens the rate review process effectively tying the hands of the Illinois Commerce Commission. Through this bill, ComEd and Ameren are taking the voice of the consumer out of the ratemaking process and paving the way for even higher profit margins.

Now that the bill is finally on its way to the Governor’s desk, we urge him to step up to the plate again for millions of consumers as he had done so often in the past, and use his veto powers to kill this legislation as he has promised numerous times.”

* Meanwhile, the governor is being whacked for signing a bill that slightly dilutes the FOIA law

Illinois residents who repeatedly make open-records requests to their towns, school districts and counties could face new restrictions that would keep them from getting information quickly under legislation Gov. Pat Quinn signed Friday.

His decision unleashed sharp criticism from government watchdog groups that accused Quinn of eroding the Illinois Freedom of Information Act and retreating from earlier statements in support of open government.

For the first time, local governments could characterize anyone who files more than seven FOIA requests in a week or more than 15 in a month as a “recurrent requester,” giving the public bodies unlimited time to provide documents. Media, academics and researchers are exempt from the new standard.

Current law gives those governments five business days to answer a records request, with the option of an additional five-day extension.

“It is disappointing that Gov. Quinn, who once cultivated an image of himself as an advocate of open government, has approved a bill that takes Illinois’ FOIA law backward,” said Whitney Woodward, a policy associate with the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, which opposed the bill.

* I’m not sure if the governor’s proposed fix is any better than the underlying bill

Gov. Pat Quinn is calling for a two-minute timeout before a motorcycle driver or bicyclist can proceed through a stoplight that appears stuck on red.

The Democratic governor used his veto power on Friday to rewrite legislation that would have allowed a motorcyclist idling at a seemingly interminable red light to proceed after a “reasonable period of time.”

Quinn maintains that a specific time period is needed or riders would come up with different standards of what’s reasonable. As written, the measure is “too subjective and will result in confusion amongst law enforcement, the judiciary and motorcycle operations,” the governor explained.

A two-minute wait won’t confuse law enforcement? Who’s gonna run the timer?

* Typical

In 2007, the state spent $13.2 million to buy the former Franklin Life Insurance building in Springfield to serve as a new headquarters for the Illinois State Police, as well as a workplace for employees of other state agencies.

Four years later, State Police still are the only tenants. That’s led some officials to question whether space in the massive building is being used properly and whether the state is wasting money by continuing to lease offices when it could move people into a state-owned building.

“It is being totally underutilized,” said Ed Bedore, a member of the state’s Procurement Policy Board, which oversees state leasing. “It will cost some money to do some rehabbing, absolutely. But that will certainly be made up in a matter of months when you consolidate some other leases.”

“There’s some available space there,” agreed David Vaught, Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget director and chairman of the procurement panel. “If we have that available space and we have an appropriate agency that does not impair the security needs of the State Police, it’s an opportunity to save some money.”

* The governor giveth

Local mental health officials are hoping that new legislation signed by Gov. Pat Quinn will be a true victory for the community – though some have their doubts.

Quinn signed House Bill 1530 at the Alexian Brothers Center for Mental Health in Hoffman Estates last week. The bill prevents insurers from including additional barriers within a policy – such as financial requirements, treatment limitations, lifetime limits or annual limits – to treatments for mental, emotional, nervous and substance abuse disorders if no such stipulations exist for other health conditions, according a release from the governor’s office.

Sandy Lewis, executive director of the McHenry County Mental Health Board, said this is an important step for mental health care.

“For too long, individuals and families have not had the opportunity to get the help that they needed when they’re insured by group health insurance because mental health and substance abuse weren’t covered the same way.”

* And taketh away

If Governor Pat Quinn ever wonders why the public, the press and the legislature find his approach to governing to be incoherent and frustrating, and at times cynical, he needs only to consider his recent whiplash-inducing turn on behavioral health care policy.

Last week Quinn held a bill-signing ceremony at the Alexian Brothers Center for Mental Health in Arlington Heights, and he issued a press release that stressed the importance to “improve behavioral health care throughout Illinois.” […]

[However] The governor proposed a Fiscal Year 2012 budget, which began on July 1, 2011, that sought to cut $33 million from mental health care, depriving care to approximately 20,000 individuals, principally the working poor. He also sought to cut all state funding, $63 million, for substance prevention and treatment, a move that would have eliminated care to 55,000 people out of the 69,000 currently served.

Additionally, Quinn had sought in March to drastically cut funding for mental health and substance abuse treatment in the last quarter of the 2011, throwing behavior healthcare providers into chaos. They turned away new patients and cut services to others.

* And your Pat Quinn moment of Zen

By now, most people know Quinn has a tendency to ramble in his public comments. Well, the ramblin’ man was in full voice at a bill signing last week.

Quinn started the ceremony by making some unprepared remarks that lasted about five minutes. During that time, Quinn said he once lived in a mobile home in Madison County, that state and local governments work together, Illinois believes in transportation, the state has the fewest traffic fatalities since 1921, it’s a tough economy, we’re Americans, his favorite words are “made in America,” 9/11, the state fair, Gold Star families, he’s been to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Old State Capitol, Abraham Lincoln and proclaiming America as the first democracy on planet Earth.

Quinn then signed the bill. It allows overweight trucks to drive short distances on some state roads.

*** UPDATE *** It gets better. With thanks to a commenter, here’s the video in all its rambled, messy glory

Pay special attention to the beginning of the video when Gov. Quinn announces that his “very good friend” Rep. Dan Beiser couldn’t be at the event. Beiser is standing less than two feet from Quinn at the time.

Hilarious.

I just called Beiser and he said he was trying to think of what he was going to say when it was his turn and didn’t hear Quinn announce that he wasn’t there. He had a good laugh about it, however.

…Adding… A persistent commenter prompted me to give it a re-watch, and Quinn could very well be speaking of Sen. Bill Haine, who was, indeed, absent.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* Roundup…

* Illinois DCFS chief steps down

* Former Sen. Rickey Hendon owes IRS $31,531

* Illinois National Guard stands down from hurricane duty

* Inmate wants out of Tamms; attorney says years of solitary confinement have harmed his mental health

* Program named after Demuzio has potential to save lives

* Chicago gang rivals band together to control neighborhood drug trade

* Brown Line renovations already need repairs

* Suburbs fight to keep foreclosed homes maintained

- Posted by Rich Miller   52 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY: This just in…

Monday, Aug 29, 2011

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Question of the day

Monday, Aug 29, 2011

* On a scale of one to ten, with one being the worst and ten being the best, rate US Sen. Mark Kirk’s job performance. Take the poll and the explain your answer in comments, please.


- Posted by Rich Miller   64 Comments      


Spiting your face

Monday, Aug 29, 2011

* A boycott would definitely be cutting off one’s nose to spite their face

Does a tollway hike in January mean thousands of I-PASS users flocking to alternate routes to avoid paying more at tolled ramps and plazas?

Illinois State Toll Highway Authority officials don’t think so.

But one I-PASS devotee who uses I-88 to get from Aurora to work in Naperville said “Diehl Road, here I come!” minutes after the tollway board of directors voted Thursday to increase rates to pay for a $12 billion roads program.

Another vowed to take Route 83 instead of I-355 on the daily commute between Lombard and Arlington Heights. It was a choice of spending 15 minutes more on the drive or paying roughly $300 more a year.

15 minutes extra commuting per day is 62.5 hours a year, with two weeks subtracted for a vacation. That unnamed person must not make much money if s/he can throw away that much time every year.

* Meanwhile, this number needs far more explanation

A $12 billion capital plan that would create thousands of jobs seems like a panacea for the metropolitan region’s woeful unemployment rate of 10.5 percent.

But predicting job creation numbers isn’t an exact science, experts say regarding the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority’s building program.

Tollway directors Thursday adopted a construction agenda for the next 15 years they say will create 120,000 permanent jobs and 13,000 temporary construction jobs.

Because

We’d point out that the big, $30 billion-ish statewide construction plan was estimated to create 40,000ish jobs. So would a $12 billion plan create three times as many?

Tribune

We’re concerned that the tollway has come to fancy itself an economic engine. Creating jobs ought to be a collateral benefit, not part of the mission statement. The system is supported by user fees — tolls — a concept we support. But we don’t think it’s fair to tap users to pay for projects that aren’t yet needed, all in the name of creating jobs. We’ll say it again: The Illinois Tollway is a highway system, not a jobs program.

* But not everybody is up in arms

[State Rep. Darlene Senger (R-Naperville)] addressed a question on the Illinois Tollway raising tolls by saying she was conflicted on the issue. She said she understood the reluctance to raise tolls, but understood the need for improving the state’s toll system, particularly for extending the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway and linking the state’s system with I-65 in Indiana.

“I kind of like the user fee, instead of taxing everybody,” she said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   55 Comments      


The war at home

Monday, Aug 29, 2011

* My grandmother and her sisters think I’m some sort of bigshot because I have a column in the Chicago Sun-Times. What they don’t know (because I don’t tell them - hey, it’s my grandma) is that my weekly syndicated newspaper column has a whole lot more readers because it’s in so many newspapers throughout the state. Here’s my latest

A few weeks ago, I ran into a fairly high-level Illinois Democrat at a party in Springfield. He said he’d taken my advice and was reading the New York Times’ “Disunion” Civil War blog. He also said he’d come to the conclusion that President Barack Obama should follow President Abraham Lincoln’s lead by suspending habeas corpus and then arresting all Tea Party-affiliated Republican congressmen.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, but he said he was dead serious.

I always thought this guy was a centrist, pragmatic sort. But he was obviously caught up in the national meltdown over the debt ceiling fight. He was furious beyond comprehension. Actually, considering that Congress’ job approval rating now is rapidly approaching zero, his bone-chilling anger is probably comprehensible to a lot of people.

So, I kinda get why some Democrats are all wigged out over Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s attendance at U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s recent fundraiser. Madigan, who also is the chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois, attended the fundraiser as a guest of Terry Duffy, who was hosting he event. Duffy also is chairman of CME, a very big company that has threatened to move part of its operations out of Illinois because of the state’s recent tax hike.

Anyway, a whole lot of Democrats I know are just furious about just about everything these days. They felt pushed around when George W. Bush was president and they wanted President Obama to push back when he was elected. Instead, Obama has cut deals with Republicans and allowed himself to be bullied, at least in many Democratic eyes.

Many of the Republicans I know are consumed with anger as well. I saw a poll last week which showed 96 percent of Republican primary voters in a southern Downstate region believe the state is on the wrong track. Considering that the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus four percent, that wrong track number could actually be 100 percent.

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, especially after all the calamities that this state and this country have been through the past few years.

The congressional debt ceiling fight seemed to bring everything to a head and became so vicious that at one point some pundit or another claimed that America was engaged in a “Cold Civil War.” Partisans aren’t shooting guns at each other, but their hatred and venom is more intense and the divisions between them are far wider than at any time I can remember.

So, attending a function for the benefit of the Republican House Speaker who battled the Democratic President is considered almost an act of treason by angry Democrats.

Gov. Pat Quinn also was apparently swept up in the national mania. Quinn can be a very partisan Democrat when he wants to be and he always has been a staunch defender of Obama, no matter what.

Quinn let out a little bit of anger when he was asked about Madigan’s attendance at that fundraiser last week. The governor whacked Madigan for his “support” of Boehner, which Quinn said Boehner did not deserve.

Quinn also chided Madigan for not attending a recent Obama event in a small town in Illinois, saying the party chairman should support the Democratic president, even though this was a White House event, not an Obama campaign function.

Madigan’s spokesman angrily retorted that Madigan didn’t “support” Boehner because he didn’t buy a fundraiser ticket and added that his boss interpreted the 2010 election results as a desire by the public to force both parties to work together.

Madigan’s 2010 election analysis actually is shared by the president himself, yet hyperpartisans on both sides, including apparently Quinn, want no rapprochement of any sort.

For years, the Democrats in this state have made fun of the Republicans because the hardcore right wing and the “business class” set always were at each other’s throats. One side was accused of being “too pure” and the other was accused of “selling out to the Democrats.” The Republicans formed a permanent circular firing squad. As a result, they’ve been out of power for a very long time.

Quinn and some other Democrats apparently never learned that lesson.

* Mayor Emanuel’s reaction was far more light-hearted

Madigan meeting with Boehner has everybody wondering what’s Madigan up to – but not Mayor Emanuel. He sees it just the opposite because of the congressional reapportionment map Madigan drew at the expense of Republicans.

“What’s Boehner doing meeting with Madigan given that the map was pretty good – the map that Mike Madigan and John Cullerton drew! So I ask the inverse question. What was John Boehner doing meeting with Mike Madigan,” Emanuel said.

Heh.

* And the AP has a story about the fight between Quinn and Emanuel, without really moving the ball forward very much

Both Quinn and Emanuel downplayed the importance of their verbal sparring last week. But with Illinois in such bad financial shape, at stake is a Chicago casino that could be the biggest prize Quinn can deliver to Emanuel in the next four years, and some of their colleagues are praying the verbal sparring ends soon.

“This particular conflict threatens to get out of hand,” said State Rep. Lou Lang, a suburban Chicago Democrat who is a chief sponsor of the gambling measure.

Lang said he thinks cooler heads will prevail because otherwise the two men risk spoiling their ability to help negotiate a resolution to the gambling legislation, which proponents say could bring millions in revenues to a number of communities throughout the state if Quinn signs it.

Subscribers know a whole lot more, but cooler heads really need to prevail here. Illinois simply cannot afford another political war.

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


Caption contest!

Monday, Aug 29, 2011

* That would be Mayor Rahm Emanuel wearing a pink bathing cap in the Chicago Triathlon

Let’s keep it clean, people. I only brought up the pink cap to get the subject out of the way. Do not “go there,” OK? I’d like to be able to continue parking my car on the street when I visit my favorite big city. Don’t get yourself banned for life because I want to save myself from nasty retaliation. Seriously. Thanks much.

- Posted by Rich Miller   73 Comments      


Done with Dunn?

Monday, Aug 29, 2011

* I’m as frustrated as any other White Sox fan about Adam Dunn’s lack of performance, but I also really feel for the guy. I kinda fell in love with him during spring training, and it’s hard to be angry with somebody who is so self aware

A frustrated Adam Dunn accepts the probably that he won’t have a chance to salvage his season in the final 4½ weeks.

“I’m a realist,” Dunn said Sunday before Dayan Viciedo hit a three-run home run in his first game with the Sox this season. “I’m not like an idiot. We’re right in the middle of things. What do you do? What do you say?”

With a .163 batting average, 156 strikeouts and an .037 batting average (3-for-81) against left-handed pitchers, manager Ozzie Guillen had little choice but to talk Sunday with Dunn about a possible reduced role. […]

“These are the guys who matter when it comes down to it,” Dunn said. “That’s the hardest part about the whole thing. If it was me, I could get over it. But it’s the guys in here. I don’t know how else to put it. It sucks.

* Phil Kadner is less patient

Adam Dunn should not be allowed to play another game for the White Sox this season.

The designated hitter and backup first baseman cannot hit.

He has a chance to become only the second player in major league history to have his strikeout total exceed his batting average in a season.

Mark Reynolds, formerly of the Arizona Diamondbacks and now with the Baltimore Orioles, last season became the first hitter to accomplish that dubious mark.

Reynolds struck out 211 times and hit .198. Dunn, as of Thursday, had 153 strikeouts and a .165 batting average.

I don’t blame Dunn for this fiasco. I blame the White Sox organization.

Every time they send him out to play, they insult baseball fans across the country and damage the reputation of their entire team.

Your thoughts?

* Semi-related…

* With Hendry out, Park Ridge wants ‘Jim Hendry Way’ gone too

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      


Protected: *** UPDATED x2 *** SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today’s edition and a big campaign roundup

Monday, Aug 29, 2011

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* Reader comments closed for the weekend
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* *** UPDATED x1 *** Judge clears courtroom in Rauner lawsuit hearing
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