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Friday, Dec 21, 2012

* I want to thank all of you out there. Subscribers, readers, commenters. It’s been a heckuva year. We’ve had some fun, got angry, were surprised, were amused, but we were always in it together. Thanks so much for being who you are and I’ll talk to you next year.

* As is our custom, we will close out the year with Hardrock, Coco and Joe

* Suzy Snowflake

* And Frosty the Snowman

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all!

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


And the winners are…

Friday, Dec 21, 2012

* Thank you to everyone who contributed to our Golden Horseshoe Awards this year. Your nominations were so good that I often had a difficult time picking many of the winners. A big congratulations to all of our winners. These awards started as sort of an inside joke, but people now take them seriously, and I’m always amazed at the response. Some have even used the award to help them get a job, which is pretty darned cool.

* Let’s move on to today’s winners. The Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe Award for Best CapitolFax.com Commenter goes to Oswego Willy. Wordslinger said it best…

Lots of good friends and great choices, but I vote for Willy for the simple fact that he is desperately — and at times, it seems, singlehandedly — trying to get the Illinois GOP to wake up and compete seriously.

He has no use for the Litmus Testers, Puritans or those who just blame it all on Chicago. He takes no excuses, and demands hard work and accountability.

He won’t concede any part of the state and is adamant that the GOP needs to hit the streets and knock on doors with an optimistic message for the future, not just preach the politics of resentment to a dwindling base.

He’s a Happy Warrior and I hope he and those like him succeed, because this state could use a real, statewide, Republican Party like we had not that long ago.

Quite a large number of people come to this blog every day just to see what Oswego Willy has to say. I love the guy.

* Runner up is Michelle Flaherty. Here is Oswego Willy’s take…

Look back at some comments, and look at the incredible scope of topics she can comment on. Michelle Flaherty gives enough of an inside joke to get a knowing nod, and more than enough of a broad base statement to get a hearty laugh. Tough thing to do with many words. Now … do it in as few words as Michelle Flaherty does, yikes, that is getting it done.

Wordslinger has this award named after his unbeatable knack to be well versed in the topics at hand, and be as funny as can be and as serious as need be. There is Wordslinger, a space, then maybe another empty tier. Michelle Flaherty is beyond deserving with her spot-on commenting, comic genius, and clarity of thought in the fewest words possible. Michelle Flaherty makes you wait to see what really cool SENTENCE will be used to make her point, and she makes you read in wonder how she can be so concise, so accurate, and so funny. Well Done.

Consistently, the funniest person here.

* The Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Statewide Officeholder goes to Auditor General Bill Holland

Bill Holland, hands down. Holland is now, in essence, the parental unit of our state government. His work has saved taxpayers countless millions of dollars, and reports produced by his office instantly carry more credibility than anything issued by other state officers or agencies.

The reputation, integrity and diligence of his office are beyond reproach.

In Illinois politics, that’s really saying something.

There is no one better. Period.

* Runner up is Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka

As Comptroller, she pulls no punches about Illinois finances. I hear no complaints about her office in terms of efficiency and she rarely if ever showboats for the press. No fancy spin or press releases, just the facts. The way it should be. Way to go Judy!

I’ve always loved me some JBT.

* We received a ton of nominations for lobbyists, but very few for The Mike McClain Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Statehouse Insider. So, I’m giving it to Mike McClain

He’s the best in the business and the namesake of the award and is still operating at top levels.

Ain’t nobody better, or even close.

* Here is the complete list of this year’s winners, with runners-up in parentheses…

* The Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe Award for Best CapitolFax.com Commenter: Oswego Willy (Michelle Flaherty)

* The Mike McClain Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Statehouse Insider: Mike McClain

* Best Statewide Officeholder: Auditor General Bill Holland (Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka)

* Best “Do-Gooder” Lobbyist: Bruce Simon (Kathy Drea)

* Best Contract Lobbyist: Tom Cullen (Ed Peck)

* Best In-House Lobbyist: Rob Karr (Mark Denzler)

* Best Legislative Liaison: Bresha Brewer (Cameron Schilling)

* Best Illinois Congresscritter: US Sen. Dick Durbin (Congressman Bob Dold)

* Best State Agency Director: Malcom Weems (Amy Martin)

* The Mark Beaubien Lifetime Service award for the Illinois House: Rep. Skip Saviano, Rep. Joe Lyons (tie)

* The John Millner Lifetime Service award for the Illinois Senate: Sen. Susan Garrett (Sen. Tom Johnson)

* Best Illinois State Senator - Republican: Sen. Matt Murphy (Sen. Pam Althoff)

* Best Illinois State Senator - Democrat: Sen. Don Harmon (Sen. Dan Kotowski)

* Best Illinois State Representative - Republican: Rep. Jim Durkin (Rep. David Harris)

* Best Illinois State Representative - Democrat: Rep. Elaine Nekritz (Rep. Greg Harris)

* The Steve Brown Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Government Spokesperson: Joe Tybor (John Patterson)

* Best legislative campaign staff director: Will Cousineau (Brendan O’Sullivan)

* Best campaign staffer - Illinois House Democrats: Shaw Decremer, Kristen Bauer (tie)

* Best campaign staffer - Illinois House Republicans: Bob Stefanski (Nick Bellini)

* Best campaign staffer - Senate Democrats: Jill Dykhoff (Sam Strain)

* Best campaign staffer - Senate Republicans: Helen Albert (Rachel Bold)

* Best State Senate Staffer - Non Political: Giovanni Randazzo (Kim Schultz)

* Best State House Staffer - Non Political: Samantha Olds (Tyler Hunt)

* The Beth Hamilton Golden Horseshoe Award for Best House Secretary/Admin. Assistant: Carol Shehorn, Sally McDaniel-Smith (tie)

* Best Senate Secretary/Admin. Assistant: Robin Gragg (Melissa Earle)

* Best political bar in Springfield: DH Brown’s (JP Kelly’s)

* Best political restaurant in Springfield: Sebastian’s (Saputo’s)

* Best bartender: Mike at DH Brown’s (Jamie at Boone’s)

* Best waiter/waitress: Annie at Sunrise (Jess at Brown’s)

Congrats to all!

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY: Senate Schedule

Friday, Dec 21, 2012

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Let’s hurry, people

Friday, Dec 21, 2012

* I’m shutting down for the holidays today at 5 o’clock, so I really need you to finish your Golden Horseshoe nominations today. Click here for The Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe Award for Best CapitolFax.com Commenter, and click here for the Best Statewide Officeholder and The Mike McClain Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Statehouse Insider.

Nominations typically come in throughout the evening on these things, but today’s nominations just can’t wait. So get to it, campers. I’ll be announcing the winners at 5 o’clock.

Thanks.

* Also, I wrote this in comments today, but then thought it needed to be on the front page…

I love pretty much all my commenters, who I always say are the best - bar none - of any website anywhere in the US of A. […]

After some particularly bad experiences, I tried running a blog without comments. It just didn’t work. I do better when I have constant feedback, and so many readers craved the strong, credible and (usually) sober voices in my comment section that I had no choice but to bring them back. Eliminating comments was a bigger mistake than my doomed “New Coke” site format, which was dropped after less than a day.

You people have become almost part of my family. Some days, I just get so disgusted with reporting on this messed up state that I want to scream. But the commenters always bring me back.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of you. I just couldn’t do this without you. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Three quick points about today’s NRA press conference

Friday, Dec 21, 2012

* 1) Regarding NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre’s demand today that the government pay for an armed guard in every school, Columbine had an armed deputy sheriff assigned to the school

As Gardner stepped out of his patrol car, Eric Harris turned his attention from shooting into the west doors of the high school to the student parking lot and to the deputy. Gardner, particularly visible in the bright yellow shirt of the community resource officer uniform, was the target of Harris’ bullets. Harris fired about 10 shots from his rifle at Gardner before his gun jammed. Although Gardner’s patrol car was not hit by bullets, two vehicles that he was parked behind were hit by Harris’ gunfire. Investigators later found two bullet holes in each of the cars.

Gardner, seeing Harris working with his gun, leaned over the top of the car and fired four shots. He was 60 yards from the gunman. Harris spun hard to the right and Gardner momentarily thought he had hit him. Seconds later, Harris began shooting again at the deputy.

* 2) Regarding LaPierre’s comments today about controlling violent video games, research shows no actual correlation between violent video games and real life violence

In 2001, John and I were approached by McGraw Hill with a book idea that explored the research behind video games and violence. As fate would have it, we were nearly finished with a proposal about games and communities. While we rejected the idea of a book based on violence, we did include a chapter on the issue.

We spent quite a bit of time reading 60 years worth of studies, interviewing folks, and sifting through medical research. What we found, not unsurprisingly, is that games with violent images (e.g. first-person shooters) have no effect on actual violence.

In the wake of recent events and the re-kindled discussion about games and violence, we thought we’d share that chapter with you. This is Chapter 8: Gamers, Interrupted from Dungeons & Dreamers.

Plus, isn’t Wayne LaPierre putting 2nd Amendment rights ahead of 1st Amendment rights? I thought the NRA was all about the Constitution. Apparently, I was mistaken.

And virtual reality guns must be controlled, while real life guns should not? What the heck is that?

* 3) By demanding that the government create a national database of the mentally ill, doesn’t that beg the question about why the group won’t support a national database of every gun?

This is not to say that LaPierre didn’t make some good points. But, all in all, those were some extremely ill-advised comments today. The NRA likely did its cause no good today, and maybe some real harm.

- Posted by Rich Miller   72 Comments      


Golden Horseshoe Awards, Round Two

Friday, Dec 21, 2012

* The Golden Horseshoe Award for Best “Do Gooder” Lobbyist goes to Bruce Simon

Bruce Simon really cares. He works constantly and effectively, and has done for a long time. He is very creative, honest, and a man of his word. He is also willing to let others take credit for his ideas and strategies as long as his clients get help. There are several safety-net hospitals which wouldn’t be in business if it weren’t for bruce. And to top it off he is a nice guy.

Not only is Bruce a great guy, he’s a major White Sox fan. So, I guess I’m biased. Whatever. He wins. There is no appellate process here - not that anybody would ever object to Bruce winning this award, mind you.

* Runner-up is Kathy Drea

She’s been the “No Smoking Queen” for years, but this year she took it to a new level. After passing a cigarette tax to help fund education and keep children from smoking, she passed bills regulating radon in daycares and new homes. She’s always worked against well-funded, powerful opposition, but nearly always gets the job done. Maybe not everyone agrees with her, but you have to admit she’s doing it for everyone’s health.

* The Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Legislative Liaison goes to Bresha Brewer...

It seems like Bresha has been a liaison for just about every agency. She’s easy to work with, has great connections and a good sense of humor.

There’s no doubt that Brewer is a star.

* Runner-up goes to Cameron Schilling

Despite his recent departure from the Governor’s office, Cameron was a hard worker, smart, and articulate. Cameron clearly knew the players, politics and policy; yet had a tough job as the Governor’s legislative (environmental) liaison. Cameron will be missed, but is sure do good things both at the ICC and throughout his career.

* Let’s move along to our final category…

* The Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe Award for Best CapitolFax.com Commenter

Also, try to nominate a winner and your pick for runner-up. Thanks.

Also, as always, intensity is what matters here. No explanation = no vote. Thanks.

…Adding… Last year’s winner was Steve Schnorf. Oswego Willy was runner-up.

- Posted by Rich Miller   62 Comments      


Question of the day - Golden Horseshoe Awards

Friday, Dec 21, 2012

* This is our final day, so we need to do two today to finish things up. Let’s go to the winners of yesterday’s first round.

* The Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Contract Lobbyist goes to Tom Cullen

He is a man always willing to help you out and if you’re his opponent on something, he’s never going to go behind your back. He’ll stick the knife in while smiling, but he will be completely and brutally honest with you while doing so, and that’s a trait that is critical to his respectability. He’s sharp as a tack, a master strategist, and a treat to work with - when he’s with you.

I’m assuming that Tom will also get a bunch of nominations for “Best Insider” this year. He’s that good.

* Runner-up is Ed Peck

I’ve worked with Ed on a number of big issues and as a member of staff, he provides valuable insight and gets back to you right away. I know that sounds simple, but working on the minority staff, you see lobbyists ignore our office. A testament to Ed that he works every angle and makes sure he does the job right. It is greatly appreciated.

I’ve known Ed for a lot of years. He most definitely goes the extra mile for his clients.

* The Golden Horseshoe Award for Best In-House Lobbyist goes to last year’s runner-up, IRMA’s Rob Karr

Rob is a consummate professional and well versed in virtually every issue having the slightest impact on both his members and the state’s business community. Even those who oppose Rob’s positions will agree that he is always willing to try and reach a compromise on differing opinions - a virtue that is seemingly lacking in the statehouse these days. As someone who has worked with Rob since his very first days in Springfield, retailers in Illinois are in very good and widely respected hands.

IRMA is without a doubt one of the most effective groups under the dome. Karr, under the tutelage of Dave Vite, is a major part of that.

* Runner-up is the IMA’s Mark Denzler

Mark Denzler is not only extraordinarily effective, I’ve never seen him take credit for other people’s work like some of the business lobsters. Pairing him with Rob Karr and you have Batman & Robin. But please Mark…no tights!

Agreed.

* Alrighty then, campers, let’s move along to today’s first set of categories…

* The Mike McClain Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Statehouse Insider

* Best Statewide Officeholder

As always, make extra sure to explain your votes. An unexplained vote will not be counted. Also, try very hard to nominate in both categories. Thanks much.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


More gun stuff

Friday, Dec 21, 2012

* This happens a lot after major nationally publicized incidents involving guns, but the buying appears to be pretty intense

Background checks for gun sales in Illinois have almost doubled since Friday’s school shootings in Connecticut, according to data from the Illinois State Police.

Gun sellers say some buyers appear concerned about self-defense, but many already own guns and appear to be adding to their collections amid talk of tougher restrictions on gun ownership. Semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15 used in the school shootings last week in Connecticut are generating much of the interest, sellers said. Those guns are being mentioned as the mostly likely target of tougher laws.

More than 12,500 background checks were done in Illinois between Friday, when 28 people were killed at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and Tuesday, according to data provided by state police. In comparison, 6,870 checks were done during the same time a year earlier.

The state’s Firearms Transfer Inquiry Program is processing about 2,500 requests a day, compared to about 1,370 a year ago.

* But this is what concerns me

Sellers said in some cases, people are buying weapons they don’t even know how to use. “It’s all panic buying,” Polhamus said.

My brother pointed this out to me the other day after he’d visited a few southern Illinois gun shops. A whole lot of amateurs who know little to nothing about guns are now stocking up.

* Meanwhile, a couple of pro-gun 2nd Congressional District candidates are retooling their gun messages

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, another candidate, has voted in favor of the NRA’s position on various gun measures that have come before state lawmakers more than 90 percent of the time, earning an “A” rating from the organization this year. But Hutchinson told Roll Call this week that while she stands firm on the rights of hunters, she has always supported an assault weapons ban as well as a plan to outlaw high-capacity ammunition magazines. Yet another candidate with a top NRA rating, former Congresswoman Deborah Halvorson, said this week that she may be willing to consider an assault weapons ban.

Hutchinson did not respond to a request for comment. Halvorson could not be reached.

* From Project Vote Smart via Huffpo, here are the gun rankings for the Illinois delegation. The higher the rating, the more the person is for gun control. So, at “A+” rating means strong anti-gun positions…


* Mother Jones took a look at Bill Clinton’s assault weapons ban, which Rahm Emanuel helped pass

The assault weapons ban proved of little value where it counted most: on the street. The legislation prohibited the manufacture, possession, transfer, and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, yet it defined assault weapons in a manner that would allow gun manufacturers to skirt the ban without much trouble. It exempted 650 firearms and grandfathered in weapons and ammo clips produced or purchased before the enactment of the ban. “It was better to get what we got than nothing,” the former Justice Department official says. And the measure’s prohibition on high-capacity clips was probably its most effective provision. “Ultimately, the 1994 ban was almost meaningless because it was so defectively drafted,” says Tom Diaz, a senior policy analyst at the Violence Policy Center, who worked for the House subcommittee on crime in 1994.

The law did little to affect gun violence. Prior to the ban, nervous gun owners and dealers stocked up on assault weapons and the high-capacity clips, and afterward gun manufacturers made cosmetic changes to semiautomatic weapons so these guns would not violate the new law. And the 1994 federal ban was passed with a built-in 2004 expiration date. When the time ran out, then-President George W. Bush did nothing to extend the law. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama called for reviving the assault weapons ban. But after he became president, his administration took no steps to do so. Guns were too hot (politically) to touch.

The .223 caliber Bushmaster AR-15 semiautomatic rifle reportedly used by Adam Lanza in the Newtown shootings was the sort of weapon gun control advocates had hoped to prohibit with the 1994 ban. Yet even though the state of Connecticut passed its own assault weapons ban, modeled on the 1994 federal law but with no sunset clause, this particular gun was legal in the state because Bushmaster had made a slight and insignificant change in its design to evade restrictions.

* More stuff…

* Rahm Emanuel Blasts NRA, Calls for New Gun Laws: “I fully expect the NRA to do exactly what they always do,” Emanuel said at a press conference at Chicago City Hall, where he called for a ban on assault weapons of the kind used in the Newtown killings. “I expect the Washington gun lobby and the gun lobbies around to do exactly what they always do, which is to try to apply political pressure so you ignore the overwhelming public opinion.”

* Mayors push for assault ban: More than 20 mayors and local leaders are backing the effort, and Emanuel was flanked by eight mayors on Thursday from several cities and towns, including Gary, Ind., another community plagued by gun violence. Diamond Mayor Teresa Kernc, who leads the village of roughly 2,500 people about 50 miles south of Chicago, is also backing the effort.

* List of mayors in Emanuel’s new group

* Gun Violence Plays Heavily in Illinois Special: Finally, there’s the large roster of Democrats seeking the seat, including two previously backed by the Illinois State Rifle Association. Given the unwieldy field, any one of the seven better-known candidates — including those two — could win the Feb. 26 primary. “It’s going to make a difference in the Illinois delegation, certainly,” said Richard Pearson, ISRA’s executive director. “One 435th of a vote? We’ll take it.”

* More funerals in Newtown

- Posted by Rich Miller   59 Comments      


Bill Daley tells City Club audience he’s seriously considering a run against Quinn

Friday, Dec 21, 2012

* He’s talking a good game, but this is the third time he’s talked a good game, so we’ll have to wait and see

Former White House Chief of Staff William Daley talked a lot about a lack of “leadership” in Illinois government Thursday as he continued to mull a run for governor in 2014.

“I am thinking about it seriously. We are a way’s off [from the next gubernatorial campaign],” said Daley to applause from a packed house at a City Club of Chicago luncheon. […]

What’s changed is that his brother, Richard M. Daley, is no longer mayor of Chicago — which some political observers viewed as a stumbling block to him winning the state’s highest office because too much power would be concentrated in the Daley family. “I couldn’t convince Rich then to get out,” Daley joked to reporters.

He called Quinn “a decent, honest, good person” and refused to be pinned down about a run against the Democratic incumbent.

* He believes he’s diagnosed the problem, leadership

“I’ve had the privilege of working with great leaders,” Daley said. “I was in the situation room (when Obama made the call to kill Osama Bin Laden.”

Daley also focused on his father, Richard M. Daley’s, leadership, saying that the decision to raze Little Italy to make way for the University of Illinois Chicago campus took real guts. […]

Quinn, he suggested, does not possess those qualities — and failed to lead on pension reform.

“Gov Quinn’s proposals had promise but have been ignored. Divisiveness keeps winning out. …it’s not right to blame the workers. If Illinois is to solve the pension crisis political leaders need to put themselves at risk.”

But it’s not just pensions, Daley said. It’s education, energy and more.

“The list goes on and on of needs,” he said. “We’ve been forced to look inward at problems that should have been fixed long ago.It’s no wonder people of Illinois hunger for leadership.”

His work with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama would be positives in a Democratic primary.

But here’s my question: What Democratic primary voters does Bill Daley win over that Dan Hynes didn’t?

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   44 Comments      


Tamms to close by January 4th

Friday, Dec 21, 2012

* An Alexander County judge followed the state Supreme Court’s dictates this week and lifted his injunction against closing state facilities. As a result, the state has started transferring inmates out of the Tamms super-max prison

Illinois prison officials have started inmate transfers from the high-security Tamms prison in preparation for a Jan. 4 closing date.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Stacey Solano said 25 inmates from the “supermax” prison in far southern Illinois are moving Thursday to Pontiac Correctional Center.

That leaves just more than 100 inmates in the single-cell isolation portion of Tamms. Just less than 100 minimum security inmates must move too.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


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* Collins ranked MLB's No. 9 catching prospect
* With maturity comes lofty expectations for Eloy
* Pirates rebuild not met with enthusiasm
* Moncada guiding Robert during mini-camp
* White Sox announce player development staff
* Robert at ease during Sox hitters mini-camp
* Moncada guiding Robert during mini-camp


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