* The State Journal-Register published an angry editorial demanding action right freaking now on a solution to the state’s terrible problem with past-due bills. While eloquent at times, there was only one paragraph on what’s holding up a solution…
Republicans are dead set on a “no borrowing” pledge, even though they concede that the current situation forces ordinary Illinoisans to carry the state’s debt load. Gov. Pat Quinn has pursued a borrowing plan that is too big. Rank-and-file Democrats say they’re hamstrung by the GOP.
Borrowing requires a three-fifths majority in both chambers. It’s never easy, and it’s impossible if one political party is dead set against any borrowing. It’s also impossible as long as Gov. Quinn is sticking to a large borrowing plan.
The Republicans want more cuts to pay off the old bills, but they’ve yet to put those cuts into an actual bill, and even they agree that their idea wouldn’t pay off all bills right away. Until they show their hand, or the Democrats can come up with cuts on their own (don’t bet your house on that ever happening) this thing is going nowhere. Gaming expansion would’ve provided some money for old bills, but Quinn is against that, too. So, everybody will just do their best to ignore the problem for as long as they can.
Obviously, what’s needed here is some sort of consensus, but there is no magic wand we can wave to achieve that consensus or even figure out what it should look like. I’m stumped as well.
Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, said he and other legislative leaders will work with him on shifting existing funds around in the budget to find the approximately $230 million needed to keep open the prisons, mental health centers, and developmental centers.
Cross said those seven facilities have one thing in common.
“To be blunt with this, I think (the governor’s) goal was to generate support for increased spending and/or his restructuring plan, and I think he thinks he needs to aim at Republicans. They were mainly Republican districts,” he said.
Even so, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, an Orland Park Democrat who chairs the House Personnel and Pensions Committee, said backers might not want to call the bill for a vote unless they’re sure it will pass, because “it could be more of a hindrance to get something done in the future.”
If it is brought back during the Legislature’s spring session, he said, “I think the support would be there with the general public.”
Again, there is no magic wand that can be waved to find a majority on this bill in both chambers.
Without giving away many details, Kotowski laid out what he calls a “framework” for an eventual agreement.
First, Sears’ 20-year-old tax deal with Hoffman Estates would be extended so the company could recover some of the millions it says it has spent on roads and bridges in the area. Whether Sears would have to give up any of the $125 million in total tax benefits it’s seeking is unclear as the company keeps some of the details of its proposal secret.
Then, Sears would be penalized if it left for another state while the deal was still in effect.
And finally, more money would be sent to District 300. How much is still unclear, as money the school district would get might have to come at the expense of other local governments or Sears.
*** UPDATE *** On the one hand, this may actually be a bit of good news for the Democrats because it means that the Madison and St. Clair county parties won’t go to war over this seat…
Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis said Monday she will not seek the congressional seat held by U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, who is not seeking re-election.
Callis issued a statement: “After receiving strong encouragement from numerous people that I respect and admire, discussing with my family, and seriously considering it, I have decided not to run for the 12th Congressional District, a seat currently held by a man I admire very much, Rep. Jerry Costello.”
The statement continues: “I came to the conclusion that at this time, I could not leave a community that I love, employees and colleagues of Madison County Circuit Court that have become like family to me. I consider it an honor to serve the people of the 3rd Judicial Circuit as their chief judge, and my immediate plan is to run for retention and hopefully continue to serve the citizens of the 3rd Judicial Circuit to the best of my ability.”
On the other hand, Callis would’ve probably been a far better candidate than the guy the St. Clair County people are backing.
[ *** End Of Update *** ]
* The number of Democrats declining to run for Jerry Costello’s seat keeps rising…
Office-holding Democrats are falling all over themselves not to run for the seat long held by outgoing U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville.
The latest name to surface as a possible Costello replacement is Democratic Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon. Her campaign office said Friday she was approached about entering the race by some individuals in the southern part of the 12th Congressional District, which runs from Madison County to the southern tip of the state. But she declined to do so in order to fulfill her four-year term that began in January.
Simon is at least the eighth prominent Democrat to decide against running for the seat since Costello made his surprise announcement Oct. 4 not to seek re-election to a 12th term.
I had a story for subscribers about this district today, but it got cut for space. I’ll probably run it Wednesday. The Democrats are in real trouble here if they don’t get their act together.
Former Belleville mayor Rodger Cook says the Republican Party chairmen of Madison and St. Clair counties Saturday tried to get him to drop out of the race for a congressional seat, but he’s in it to win it.
The two party leaders, Jon McLean of St. Clair County and Deb Detmers of Madison County, said the purpose of their meeting Saturday with Cook wasn’t to dissuade him from running. Detmers said the purpose was to give Cook “a realistic assessment” of what it will take to win the race.
Cook said McLean and Detmers “made it pretty clear” that they want him to bow out of the race so that fellow GOP candidate Jason Plummer of O’Fallon can win the party’s nomination in the primary election, which is March 20.
“I am grateful for the outpouring of support; however, at this point in my life, my personal life and my family are my priority, and I hope to dedicate more of my time with them in the coming months and years. Therefore, I will not be a candidate for re-election in 2012.
“I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to my constituents for the tremendous honor and opportunity to serve in the Senate and for the opportunity to serve Lake County for the past 25 years. I am thankful for the trust they bestowed upon me to serve them for so many years. I am humbled by their unwavering support and honored to have been able to represent them.”
On a 911 call her husband made during another fight, on Sept. 26, Schmidt can be heard in the background admitting she had bitten him. At first, she denied doing it but later is heard saying: “You bet I did.”
Neither Schmidt nor her husband ever was charged as a result of any of the calls.
In the aftermath of those disclosures, Schmidt clung to the possibility she could put the dispute behind her and remain politically viable, issuing a public apology, announcing she intended to seek counseling and stating she planned to keep circulating nominating petitions.
Her refusal to step down or drop plans to seek re-election triggered potential primary opposition. Former Lake County Board member Larry Leafblad stepped forward to say he intended to run against Schmidt in a Republican primary.
The word is that Joe Neal (who happens to be the son of Bob Neal, a long-time Lake County GOP Chairman) will run, and he may have the backing of some prominent Lake County GOP-ers. Joe Neal is currently Newport Township GOP chairman.
Round Lake’s Lennie Jarratt is announcing the formation of an exploratory committee to seek the 31st State Senate District.
Illinois has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Springfield and local politicians have raised taxes and fees driving businesses out of state. Illinois now has an unemployment rate of 10% and Lake County has the highest property taxes in the Midwest. We must change the people and the culture in Springfield. I am running to change Illinois; restore jobs; and lower taxes.
* In other news, I think I’ve told you about this before, but I don’t think we really discussed it. The state’s GOP chairman is making a big endorsement in a local primary race…
The state’s Republican Party chairman will help lead Kevin Burns’ campaign in the Geneva mayor’s quest to become the chairman of the Kane County Board.
Party chairman Pat Brady was named Tuesday as the first of Burns’ campaign chairmen. Burns will face state Sen. Chris Lauzen in the Republican primary in 2012. […]
It’s no secret that the powers that be despise Sen. Lauzen, but this is an unusual move for a party chairman.
* Freshmen struggle to meet 2012 bar: Among those drawing quiet scorn on the GOP fundraising circuit are… Rep. Joe Walsh, the cable news mainstay buffeted by personal and financial issues who raised just $150,000 last quarter and faces a tough primary against fellow GOP freshman Rep. Randy Hultgren
* 17th District: Gaulrapp behind in campaign fundraising
Several Occupy Illinois groups came together Saturday in Springfield for Occupy Your State Capital Day. […]
Next came the first reading of an eviction notice delivered to the lobbyists for the 1% and their servants in elected office who currently occupy the Illinois Capitol Building. It reflects that the same issues raised by the Wall Street Occupiers exist in Illinois state government. Rather than a request for temporary fixes, it’s an indictment of a broken, corrupted political system that’s largely unresponsive to the 99%.
* Again, an “eviction notice,” no matter how symbolic, is not in any way democratic. From their press release…
TO ALL MEMBERS OF THE PRESS: The General Assembly for Occupy Springfield has agreed to stand in solidarity with National Occupy Your State Capital Day by posting a Notice of Eviction on the door of the State Capitol. Lobbyists and their servants in elected office will be notified their tenure in the Capitol Building is over.
A handful of protesters has no right to overturn elections nor deny people from exercising their 1st Amendment right to petition the government, no matter how much one might disagree with their employers. I fully support the occupy folks’ rights to protest. I flat out oppose any attempt to take away constitutional rights from others. When we overturn elections we don’t like or allow the government to decide who can and who cannot lobby, we’re gonna be in really big trouble.
* The Sun-Times asked Rep. La Shawn Ford last week how he felt about his voting button being pressed “Yes” during the “Smart Grid trailer bill” vote when he actually opposed the bill…
Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago), a rate-hike opponent who wound up having his vote cast mistakenly in favor of ComEd by a seatmate on the first of two measures, expressed frustration that the important vote was allowed to proceed when Democratic leadership knew members were off the floor.
“It’s not usual for a bill as important as this to not have the full body in the chamber in their chairs. I think there should be some explanation as to why a bill like this came up without checking out the chambers,” said Ford, who later wound up voting Quinn’s way on the override.
Ford, like several others, was off the floor during the vote.
Freshman Rep. Tom Morrison, R-Palatine, said he had just left a committee hearing when he arrived on the House floor and learned that the bill had already been voted on. He supported the ComEd legislation but was recorded as voting “no.” […]
“Obviously, the recorded vote makes the governor look bad, and so it doesn’t surprise me that he would make such a request (for an investigation),” Morrison said.
Black noted that if lawmakers believe there is something fishy about the votes cast to pass a bill, they can always demand a “verification.” That gives opponents a chance to determine whether everyone recorded as voting is present. They can eliminate the votes of anyone who isn’t actually in the room. Quinn’s legislative allies did not take this step on the vote that triggered his anger.
Black said he suspects Quinn is speaking out because he lost, not because of deep concerns about lawmakers voting for one another.
“To say that shouldn’t go on is technically true,” Black said, “but it’s been going on since time immemorial.”
The aggrieved legislators who were recorded as voting “Yes” when they wanted to vote against it also could have asked to reconsider the vote. None did.
* The Tribune paints this as an attempt by Gov. Quinn to save face and change the subject after losing so badly on both ComEd-backed bills. But saving face while blaming everybody else and implying dark motives by those who won puts Quinn directly in the same lineage as Dan Walker and Rod Blagojevich. It’s governing by press release, and it doesn’t work.
* By the way, Gov. Quinn also said during Friday’s press conference that he’d heard that the House had made a motion to reconsider the vote on the trailer bill, which, if true, could prevent the bill from reaching Quinn’s desk…
“I heard that they had a motion to reconsider. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I hope they’re not going to be like the gambling enthusiasts who passed a bill on May 31st and thought so highly of it that they put it in their pocket for the last four and a half months. Sometimes that does happen, and it is kind of a disturbing trend that their motions to reconsider are starting to interfere with the proper function according to the Constitution of our legislative and executive branches of government when they look at laws.”
* Unfortunately for Quinn this was yet another case of needlessly crying wolf. If Quinn had bothered to check the bill’s online history, he would’ve seen that the motion to reconsider was immediately tabled. From the House rules…
When a motion to reconsider is made within the time prescribed by these Rules, the Clerk shall not allow the bill or other subject matter of the motion to pass out of the possession of the House until after the motion has been decided or withdrawn. Such a motion shall be deemed rejected if laid on the table.
A plan to modernize Illinois’ utility infrastructure through customer rate hikes sailed through the Legislature. Lawmakers overrode Quinn’s veto of legislation that will have Commonwealth Edison Co. customers paying $36 more a year for electricity and Ameren Corp. customers paying $40 more a year for the next decade. […]
The state’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, or COGFA, voted against Quinn’s recommendation to close four downstate facilities that serve people with mental and developmental disabilities. […]
The Legislature overrode Quinn’s full veto of a measure that allows residents to collect the carcasses of animals dead on roads.
* That last bill, sponsored by Rep. Norine Hammond (R-Macomb) was the subject of Carol Marin’s column and the inspiration for today’s headline…
The governor could use a friend in Hammond’s part of the world. Though he loves to talk about how “The Land of Lincoln” is a big state, it’s really two states. There’s Chicago/Cook County and then there’s Downstate.
In the 2010 election, Quinn carried Cook but lost 98 out of 102 counties.
Quinn, who enraged lawmakers by slamming a veto stamp on the ComEd bill, got slammed right back this past week.
And the same thing will happen in a week when the Senate joins the House in overriding him on Hammond’s bill. What a wasted veto. And a squandered opportunity. And a perfect name for what happened: Roadkill.
In another blow to Gov. Pat Quinn, the Legislature voted this week to pull the Illinois Power Agency from beneath Quinn’s wing and hand it over to the Executive Ethics Commission.
The move was led by House Speaker Michael Madigan who tried through legislation in the spring session to have the IPA removed from Quinn’s oversight. On Wednesday, the General Assembly voted to override Quinn’s veto of that legislation.
The development comes less than a month after Quinn replaced Mark Pruitt, head of the IPA, with a retired 35-year veteran of Commonwealth Edison, a move that raised the ire of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office.
Quinn’s appointment of Arlene Juracek stunned political insiders who expect she will have a difficult time gaining the Senate’s confirmation because she helped spearhead an electricity auction in 2006 that caused consumer rates to jump and led to the creation of the power agency.
* The House also voted against Quinn’s solution to his summertime veto of regional superintendents’ pay last week, and some of Quinn’s other budget solutions appear to be in jeopardy…
Covering union pay raises may be a non-starter for budget negotiators. House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, said the four caucuses agreed to consider how they could reallocate at most $250 million. That would not include the $76 million the administration said is needed to cover the pay raises.
“That would avoid immediate closures and stay within the cap of $33.2 million,” Cross said of the $250 million reallocation.
The Quinn administration said enough money is available if lawmakers agree to additional budget cuts the governor made last summer. However, a significant part of those cuts - about $276 million - involve Medicaid payments, which will have to be made at some point.
Another $100 million involves cuts Quinn made to the salaries of regional school superintendents and to school transportation reimbursements. A plan to pay regional superintendents from personal property replacement tax money failed an initial House vote last week. And an increasing number of lawmakers are seeking restoration of some or all of the $89 million in transportation reductions.
The appointments Gov. Pat Quinn made to the Illinois Tollway board Monday were invalid because his office failed to file the correct paperwork — thus negating the actions the would-be directors took at a meeting Thursday, the Tribune has learned.
As a result, the tollway has had to schedule a new meeting of the board for Monday so the properly confirmed appointees can reconduct tollway business, including tentative approval of the agency’s $973 million budget for 2012.
Like his predecessor, Quinn often admonishes the legislature publicly. He criticized lawmakers’ support of the original casino bill and accused them of being bribed by campaign contributions on the electricity bill.
Representative Lou Lang, Democrat of Skokie, said the governor’s attacks had backfired. Support that Quinn might have received on a revised casino bill, Lang said, evaporated once he took aim at the Legislature.
“I like the governor,” Lang said. “I just don’t like how he has handled this issue.”
Most of those who were asked about the governor said Quinn’s heart was in the right place. His credentials as an honest person carried him through the 2010 election and still influence lawmakers’ feelings about him.
“I think he really cares about the people of Illinois, about people of limited means and education, and those are values a lot of us share,” said Representative Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat who works with the Quinn administration on Medicaid spending. “But there isn’t a clear, thoughtful path to get from point A to point B, and that lack of a comprehensive plan sometimes makes it difficult for us.”
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a governor have a worse veto session week than Quinn did last week. It was a total trainwreck. And we haven’t even talked about his over the top antics on the ComEd vote. I’ve saved that for another post.
* My weekly syndicated newspaper column is about an unknown, but very big campaign finance loophole. I told subscribers about this last week, but as yet nobody else has picked it up. So, here it is…
An apparent legislative drafting error has created a massive loophole in the state’s new campaign contribution limit law, and ComEd and its parent company Exelon have been aggressively exploiting it since early this year.
State campaign finance reform laws that capped campaign contributions went into effect this past January 1st. One provision of the new law set a $50,000 cap on what political action committees could receive from other political action committees during a calendar year.
Yet, despite that cap, Exelon’s federal PAC has transferred over $189,000 this year to a state PAC controlled by its subsidiary ComEd. Those transfers appear to be almost four times higher than the law allows.
ComEd has, in turn, taken that Exelon PAC money, pooled it with its own cash and given large numbers of contributions to state legislators as it worked to pass a so-called “Smart Grid” bill, then override Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto of that legislation. The company succeeded at both those tasks last week. Gov. Quinn claimed campaign contributions were behind the company’s legislative success.
So, how did Exelon and ComEd get around the contribution cap law?
Well, ComEd officials insist that what they did was completely within state law. But the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform says otherwise.
“ICPR believes that these transactions are in violation of the Election Code,” said David Morrison, the group’s deputy director. “Only political parties are allowed to make these kinds of transfers, by our reading of the statute.”
ComEd officials claim they cleared these contributions with the Illinois State Board of Elections. The Board’s executive director, Rupert Borgsmiller, said he wasn’t aware of any specific contacts with ComEd, but said the statute in question “hasn’t been fully tested.” He also said the statute has been discussed quite a bit.
“By the plain reading of it, I would say that ComEd has a very good point,” Director Borgsmiller said.
Indeed, the company does have a decent point.
What I’m about to tell you may look technical and complicated, but it’s really not. Stay with me here.
The new campaign caps were outlined in Section 9-8.5 of Illinois law. Paragraph “c” of that section deals with limits on what can be given to state political party committees. Also in that same paragraph is this language: “Nothing in this Section shall limit the amounts that may be transferred between a State political committee and federal political committee.” That language is then followed by more limitations on political parties.
A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan said the intent of the law was to allow state political parties, and only state political parties, to transfer unlimited money from their federal PACs. The law, he said, was absolutely not designed to give companies like ComEd a way to skirt the PAC caps.
But the sentence that ComEd relies on clearly says: “Nothing in this Section.” The “Section” deals with campaign caps of every kind, not just political party caps. If it had said “Nothing in this Paragraph,” then ComEd and Exelon wouldn’t be able to use that sentence to their advantage.
This was a very dangerous mistake by the people who wrote the law. Left unchanged, this loophole could be used to get around all state caps.
Why? Well, under the ComEd/Exelon reading of the law federal PACs do not have to abide by any of the state’s new caps. They can give as much as they want to any candidate, political party, legislative leader, whomever. And, of course, state PACs could form federal PACs to get around all of Illinois’ campaign cap laws.
Neither Exelon nor ComEd have done any of that beyond transferring that money to the ComEd PAC, at least so far, according to an ICPR analysis.
But this is, without a doubt, a truly gigantic loophole that could easily be exploited unless the General Assembly closes it soon.
Director Borgsmiller said his office has been contacted numerous times about the cap rules. A Board of Elections’ task force recently recommended that the loophole be closed during the spring session. It ought to come even sooner.
Madigan’s spokesman said last week no decision had been made about whether to proceed with legislation. He suggested that the Board ought to just enforce the law the way it was intended. But the Board is so far interpreting the laws the way they are written.
* Jones says Legislature, not governor, looked out for consumers on ’smart grid’
* Lawmakers deny contributions affected their ’smart grid’ votes: State Rep. Wayne Rosenthal, R-Morrisonville, and state Sen. Sam McCann, R-Carlinville, each in their first legislative terms, received $2,000 apiece from the utility during their 2010 campaigns. McCann and Rosenthal voted against overriding the governor. McCann voted against the follow-up legislation, while Rosenthal voted for it.
* Editorial: Illinois utilities use ’smart grid’ to bypass regulators