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Statehouse roundup

Friday, Mar 30, 2012

* I have a bunch of things to do today to get ready for Saturday’s big event, so blogging will be light. Sorry about that, but here’s a roundup to chew on for a while…

* Tuition break program survives attempt to put limits on it: The Illinois House killed legislation Thursday that would have put limits on a tuition break program for employees of the state’s public universities. The proposal mustered just 25 “yes” votes of the 60 needed for passage. It would have limited the current 50 percent tuition cut to families with household incomes of $50,000 or less.

* Juvenile Justice Dept. postponing work on detention center after lawmakers raise concerns: State officials postponed remodeling work on a juvenile detention center in northeast Illinois on Thursday after some lawmakers voiced concerns that the project was violating a law that dictates how state facilities must be closed. The Department of Juvenile Justice believes it wouldn’t be illegal to begin the $4 million upgrade of the Illinois Youth Center at St. Charles, even though it includes readying the facility for higher-risk offenders who are scheduled to be transferred from a detention facility in Joliet that’s slated to close. The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability said the work appears to violate an Illinois statute that bars officials from taking any “action” to close a facility until 50 days after the governor notifies the General Assembly of the plan. That would be May 5 in this case.

* Controversy swirls around St. Charles youth center work

* Senate OKs plan to require more information in state leases: Legislation aimed at disclosing more information about the owners of state-leased buildings and the third-party contractors managing them passed the Illinois Senate unanimously on Thursday. The bill creating the new rules, sponsored by Sen. Susan Garrett, D-Lake Forest, would not apply to existing contracts, which means it would not apply to the management company owned by convicted Springfield businessman William Cellini

* Panel: Cut, don’t eliminate, superintendents

* Illinois hits jackpot with online lottery sales

* Will park fees turn off tourists?

* New “Bullying” bill passes Illinois House

* Morrison School Relief Bill Killed in Committee

* Illinois Policy Institute analysis of the House Budget: Still too big

- Posted by Rich Miller        

12 Comments
  1. - Retired Non-Union Guy - Friday, Mar 30, 12 @ 11:36 am:

    re DNR Park Fees

    Here’s some thoughts for DNR. Don’t get greedy; keep it cheap, especially for residents, to minimize the impact. You’ll still get a lot of money from the volume.

    Annual fee for a DNR auto sticker good at all sites should be $25 or less and it might even include a bike sticker. If you needed more bike stickers, maybe just $5 a year per additional bike. Daily resident fee of maybe just $1 or $2 per car or bike. To cut down the admin overhead on the annual sticker, see if you can partner with the SOS license plate renewal process.

    Non-resident fees should also be very reasonable. Maybe a $2 per person or bike daily pass or between $3 to $5 per car daily pass with a weekly option of $20 per car. You don’t want the fees to be too far out of line with daily resident fees or the out of state people will feel like you are picking their pockets.

    Not sure I would hit campers with the fee since they are already paying to use the facility. Most the places I’ve been consider a camping pass valid for park admission also.

    Whatever they come up with needs to be simple but also cheap.

    One last thought. One of my peeves when passing through Indiana is having to pay an entry fee just to dine at a state park restaurant. There have been times I’ve paid the fee to get in just to find out the restaurant was closed or between serving hours. When that has occurred (I’m thinking of Turkey Run specifically), the answer was “file with the State for a refund”. There needs to be a way to deal with restaurants inside parks (I’m thinking of Starved Rock and Pere Marquette specifically but there are others); maybe you pay the fee on entry and, if you eat at the restaurant, they discount it off your meal price and DNR later (monthly?) reimburses them (lease payment offset?) for the “refund” … that way the restaurant doesn’t get penalized by the fee. Or figure out a way to reconfigure the entry so you don’t have to pay just to go to the restaurant … that would be fairly easy at Pere Marquette but a bit tougher at Starved Rock.


  2. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Mar 30, 12 @ 12:02 pm:

    @Retired non-union guy-

    Here’s some other thoughts:

    Eliminate free “camping” for seniors. If you own a Winnebago, you don’t need a taxpayer subsidy.

    Bring Illinois camping and admission fees in to line with surrounding states.

    Direct the collected fees to a foundation/nonprofit so we can rest assured they won’t be raided the next time lawmakers are looking for a piggybank to rob.


  3. - mokenavince - Friday, Mar 30, 12 @ 1:21 pm:

    YDD got it right.I can’t recall a State or National park that dosen’t have some sort of fee
    for admittance to the park.We have fine parks in our State if we want to keep them we should help pay of them.Quinn at least wants to keep them opened and maintained,unlike his predessor Blago.
    If we want to play we have to pay.


  4. - Plutocrat03 - Friday, Mar 30, 12 @ 1:31 pm:

    And can we protect the funds collected from those notorious sweeps?


  5. - Retired Non-Union Guy - Friday, Mar 30, 12 @ 1:36 pm:

    YDD,

    Since I’m retired, all I can afford is a 5 x 7 teardrop trailer …

    Also, I think the full service RV sites are only discounted, not free. It’s just the tent and non-service sites that are free. And in both those cases, it’s only during the week (M-Th) when usage is light, not on the weekends. Even us seniors have to pay full freight on the weekends (F-M).

    I’m not saying it isn’t a bargain, but it isn’t free for the RV’ers.


  6. - Demoralized - Friday, Mar 30, 12 @ 1:37 pm:

    Does anybody pay any attention to the Illinois Policy Institute? Somebody is wasting a lot of money funding them.


  7. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Mar 30, 12 @ 1:49 pm:

    @Pluto -

    See my third point above.

    If the fees are collected on behalf of a statutorily created independent, private foundation — call it “Friends of Illinois Parks” if you like — than the funds are not only immune from a sweep back by Illinois government, the board of that organization is legally obligated to refuse and oppose any sweep back effort.

    This has actually already been tested under Illinois law, when Blago tried to sweep funds that had been set aside to an independent foundation to promote energy conservation and renewable energy.

    The federal courts gave Blago a big smackdown when he attempted to raid $125 million from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, a move that was also opposed by Donors Forum.


  8. - cover - Friday, Mar 30, 12 @ 2:16 pm:

    Has anyone taken an honest, non-partisan look at the IPI recommendations? Some of them appear to be worthy of including in the General Assembly’s budget deliberations, but that Medicaid proposal looks to me like it would disqualify the state from federal matching funds, which would blow a giant hole in IPI’s plan.


  9. - Retired Non-Union Guy - Friday, Mar 30, 12 @ 2:24 pm:

    mokenavince @ 1:21 pm:

    Yes, there are free parks, at least for seniors and disabled. The Feds used to have a Golden Eagle Pass, now it’s called Interagency Senior Pass for anyone 62 & older. One time cost of $10 (in person) or $20 (by mail), lifetime free admission to all National Sites, etc. plus discounts on other services, such as camping.


  10. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Mar 30, 12 @ 2:35 pm:

    @Retired Non-Union Guy -

    Technically, camping is “free” for “seniors” in the Electrical Sites, but everyone pays a $10 a night charge for Electricity.

    I put the term “seniors” in quotes because we just raised the retirement age for state employees to 67, but millionaire CEO’s can start camping for free when they turn 62.

    To be clear: I have nothing against older people per se. I hope to be one some day.

    But government’s tax and spending policies are dramatically skewed to benefit older people at the expense of younger people.

    The exemption of retirement income from state income taxes is a big example. Universal health care coverage for seniors but not children is another.

    The exemption of “seniors” from camping fees is small taters compared to those, but it is something we ought to be able to fix.


  11. - Excessively Rabid - Friday, Mar 30, 12 @ 2:46 pm:

    RE: the tuition break. $50K ain’t what it used to be. My book says a couple filing jointly with two kids and earned income of $46044 is at the cutoff for the earned income tax credit.


  12. - mokenavince - Friday, Mar 30, 12 @ 4:19 pm:

    I’m senior but I still like to pay my own way.
    I know about the discounts at National Parks,
    what ever State PARKS charge its well worth it
    to keep them clean and maintained. @ YYD senior
    status comes quicker than you think.And I feel privilaged to be a senior in this great country.
    And I know you smart enough to realise it. Stay strong.


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