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A very long to-do list

Monday, Apr 29, 2013

* As Doug Finke points out, there’s an awful lot to do in the next five weeks

The deadline has now passed for the House and Senate to act on bills that started in their respective chambers, marking the halfway point in the process. Let’s see where some big things stand.

The state budget? It’s not May yet, so of course it’s nowhere to be seen. Outside, that is, of Gov. PAT QUINN’s budget that was outlined in March and hasn’t been heard of since. Even Quinn’s budget probably wouldn’t be out there if the state Constitution didn’t force him to do it. Bzzzt. (Cue the penalty buzzer).

Gambling expansion with its lure of easy new millions for the state? Hasn’t’ passed either chamber. Bzzzt.

Concealed carry seems headed toward the state in one form or another after a court-ordered deadline of June 9. Surely the legislature has acted to put its stamp on that, right? Nope. The House has debated and voted on two concealed-carry bills — one restrictive, one not — and rejected both of them (guess they get points for consistency). That still puts the House ahead of the Senate, which has yet to publicly debate and vote on any concealed-carry bill. Bzzzt.

Compared to all of that, there’s been an explosion of activity on pension reform. The Senate actually passed a reform bill (on the second try) dealing with one of the five systems. The House has passed three reform bills over to the Senate.

Unfortunately, none of that stuff is the final version of pension reform. Plus, it all passed before the spring break that ended April 5. Since then, nothing

* Add Rep. Adam Brown’s bill to the list

Brown, in his second term in the House, is sponsor of HB 2496, a bill to provide state incentives to help lure a $1.2 billion fertilizer plant to Tuscola, a project that would be an economic boon to East Central Illinois. Iowa also is competing for the plant.

Brown had lined up two dozen co-sponsors for the measure, met with House leaders, the governor and others, got the bill out of committee unanimously and thought it was in good shape for passage.

“It was getting extremely close to being called. We had a meeting with Speaker (Michael) Madigan, (Democratic Leader) Barbara Flynn Currie and (Republican Leader Tom) Cross where we sat down and discussed all the issues at hand. They indicated they were supportive,” Brown recalled.

“And then a couple days later, John Bradley filed Amendment 3.”

Amendment 3 forgives a $15 million state loan to the Chicago Port Authority that was made 25 years ago.

The odd thing is that Rep. John Bradley is from Marion, about 310 miles from the offices of the Chicago Port Authority. But Bradley is also among Madigan’s assistant leaders.

The amendment was approved in a voice vote on the House floor, so now it’s part of Brown’s bill for the Tuscola fertilizer plant, a bill that was seemingly headed for approval. Now his bill is on hold.

“I tried to remove it,” Brown said. “But it turned out that wouldn’t work out.”

A pattern is developing in the House of holding off on all the goodies until the hard stuff is passed. Brown is a conservative, but he’s against pension reform. He’s also a likely “No” vote on the budget. The thinking may be to not give him what he wants for his district until after the hard stuff has passed.

But that means a ton of legislation (far more than listed above) is backlogged. It’s gonna be a crazy May. Either that, or nothing will get done.

* Related…

* Editorial: Don’t give state more money to throw away

* Vendors step up to pay Illinois’ bills

* Editorial: Illinois road paved with patronage

* Economic development, Texas-style: What Illinois can learn

* Bost: Link Card abuse out of control

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - walkinfool - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 10:08 am:

    Holding back local district benefits until the harder statewide votes are negotiated, is probably smart.

    Another “conservative” who is against spending unless it’s for a specific business, or in his district?

    It might be that if we’re giving away money downstate, it would have to be balanced with an upstate deal.

    Business as usual.

  2. - langhorne - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 10:16 am:

    politics is the accumulation of advantage under conditions of scarcity and change. so everything has a price. you can (almost) never do one thing. browns bill and the bradley amendment are at least somewhat related.

    very strange combinations emerge in late session deals.

    years ago, the state wanted to sell lottery tickets at ohare. mayor washington wanted the state cops to police the interstates in the city (they didnt used to do that). so the two got linked and they passed. probably not in the same bill, but that was the deal.

  3. - OneMan - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 10:17 am:

    I still have my Overtime In Hell t-shirt…

  4. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 10:22 am:

    –Amendment 3 forgives a $15 million state loan to the Chicago Port Authority that was made 25 years ago.–

    So does a round at Harborside go down now?

  5. - Sir Reel - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 10:23 am:

    The annual drill. Big complicated fiscally significant legislation waits till the last minute then legislators claim they didn’t know what was in the bill. Of course the public is in the dark too.

    While this strategy may make some political sense it’s a heck of a way to run a business (and yes I know government isn’t a business).

  6. - Secret Square - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 10:25 am:

    Re Rep. Bost’s comments on LINK card abuse: Forgive me if this sounds like a dumb question (since I don’t have personal experience with Link cards), but, how is it even POSSIBLE to use a Link card to bail someone out of jail? Wouldn’t the card have to be swiped with a machine coded and set up for that purpose? Since when do jails have those? And if these cards and machines are specially coded, how is it possible to buy liquor or lottery tickets, etc. with them — wouldn’t the card reader reject those purchases?

    Or, could Rep. Bost be referring to instances in which Link card holders exchange their cards for cash and then use the CASH to bail someone out of jail, buy lottery tickets, etc.? If that’s the case, I’m not sure making more laws about what you can and can’t buy with the card will make much difference.

  7. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 10:34 am:

    –years ago, the state wanted to sell lottery tickets at ohare. mayor washington wanted the state cops to police the interstates in the city (they didnt used to do that). so the two got linked and they passed. probably not in the same bill, but that was the deal.–

    Was that via legislation, or a handshake deal between Harold and Big Jim?

  8. - Happy Returns - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 10:38 am:

    Secret Square -

    As i understand it, cash assistance is distributed via the card, so its simply a matter of going to an atm, just like anyone with a debit card would do.

  9. - cassandra - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 10:47 am:

    How many people in Illinois get cash assistance (as opposed to in-kind aid-food, medical card, housing vouchers). I thought the actual cash assistance part was pretty small and time-limited.

    There is almost certainly a lot of waste and even fraud in Illinois state government. But the welfare cash seems like awfully small potatoes.

    So, how about looking at contracts and grants. I bet there is a lot of waste and fraud there. Takes some investigative work to find it though. The media outlets don’t have enough reporters to do, for example, a UNO-type expose every day. Too bad. They’d need a separate Fraud section every week. Every day, maybe.

  10. - Give Me A Break - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 10:47 am:

    What Bost is talking about is LINK cards can carry coding for two seperate funds. LINK benefits are restricted to certain items (established by the USDA. The cards can also carry the cash assistance program which is just that, cash assistance. A person can use the cash assistance program funds for anything as it is cash and there is simply no way to enforce or police how cash is used.

  11. - Secret Square - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 10:59 am:

    “the welfare cash seems like awfully small potatoes”

    In the grand scheme of things, it probably is, at least when compared to the waste and fraud potential of grants, pork projects, etc. However, I suspect it’s a lot more visible to the public. The average citizen doesn’t see project grant funds being wasted but they do frequently see people using Link cards at the grocery store (and indulge in mental or online critiques of what they buy, what clothes they wear, what type of vehicle they drive away from the store in, etc.)

  12. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 11:04 am:

    ===So does a round at Harborside go down now?===

    How good was that!

    To the Post,

    That might not be the last “Add-On” we see, especially as the Speaker does his math, and sees pressure points to get HIS vote through, then we will see if other Bills will “fly”.

    When you are “Super-Majoritied”, you tend to have a little more pressure on you, since you think you have these great Bills, and you think you can get the votes, but a simple Amendment here, procedure vote there, and you are reminded you are not in ANY position to ask for consideration.

    May is going to be rough.

  13. - titan - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 11:04 am:

    Rich regarding your line in today’s edition of the Fax
    ===This time around, Cullerton appears far more wedded to his own proposal, which uses the legal principle of “consideration” to make it more constitutional.===

    Something is or it isn’t constitutional. What the Senator is doing is trying to make his Bill constitutional. If it is “more constitutional” than the others, but still “not fully constitutional”, then it will be overturned in the certain to follow litigation (even if the unions compromise on it, not all of the impacted are union members). The courts won’t approve it on the basis that it is “more constitutional” than the others that the legislature considered.

  14. - Loop Lady - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 11:08 am:

    Word: keep your powder dry on the Port issue…more to come…

  15. - Rich Miller - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 11:13 am:

    ===Something is or it isn’t constitutional. ===

    Yeah, after multiple court rulings. Those rulings haven’t really begun here. The object is to craft a bill that’s more likely to be ruled constitutional. I used shorthand. Probably inelegant. But that’s what I meant.

  16. - Rich Miller - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 11:16 am:

    ===the welfare cash seems like awfully small potatoes===

    And the bill won’t change the aggregate amount of township assistance, so it doesn’t actually save the state a dollar. It just forbids spending the cash on certain items, with no real checking to see if people are following the law.

  17. - AFSCME Steward - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 11:21 am:


    Some retailers do not have itemized check-out. They just bill the total rang up to LINK. If they are dishonest it is possible to use LINK for alcohol or tobbaco.

    Since LINK is also used for dispersal of cash benefits, it is possible for a person to get cash from their case & use it for purposes that may not be in the taxpayers best interests.

    “And if these cards and machines are specially coded, how is it possible to buy liquor or lottery tickets, etc. with them — wouldn’t the card reader reject those purchases?”

  18. - Secret Square - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 11:59 am:

    Thanks everyone. I had assumed that Link was strictly for food stamp/SNAP benefits but apparently that is not the case.

  19. - Shore - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 12:03 pm:

    “And then a couple days later, John Bradley filed Amendment 3.”
    Amendment 3 forgives a $15 million state loan to the Chicago Port Authority that was made 25 years ago.

    -I have no dog in this fight, but that’s beautiful. a pro move. you want your fancy surf and turf, eat it with some of my special sauce.

  20. - Rich Miller - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 12:07 pm:

    Shore, my question is why didn’t Brown demand a roll call on a hostile amendment to his own bill. Heck, why even call it for purposes of amending it if the amendment was hostile? Something may have gone badly awry there.

  21. - illinifan - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 12:28 pm:

    To Cassandra’s question about 52,000 families in Illinois get cash assistance vs. a little over 1 million that get SNAP. Both benefits are issued via the LINK card (it is strictly and EBT card/debit card). As already said, you can only get cash if you receive a cash benefit. If a retailer uses the SNAP portion of the card to cover non-approved items, the retailer can be prosecuted for fraud…and the Feds do prosecute. To accept the LINK card a retailer has to be sign up and be accepted as an approved vendor. There are some people who will sell their card to another person and give the person their PIN to use the card. Like anything the street value is less than the actual amount on the card. If caught both persons can be prosecuted. What often happens is the card is sold after all the benefits have been used to some poor sucker on the street.

  22. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 12:31 pm:

    Is welfare really the game plan for leading the House Republicans out of the wilderness? Nostalgia for the 90s?

  23. - Langhorne - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 1:52 pm:

    I think one or both parts may have required a PA. Ihave a hazy recollection that the ohare lottery sales were worth $12 mil/yr back then.

  24. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 2:01 pm:

    –I think one or both parts may have required a PA. Ihave a hazy recollection that the ohare lottery sales were worth $12 mil/yr back then.–

    Langhorne, I’m a little hazy, too, but I recalled the airport lottery terminals and expressway patrols as a handshake deal. But I could be wrong.

    One thing I know for sure about the deal: the troopers are doing the heavy lifting.

    They take big risks every day patrolling the expressways, especially now with the texting and cell phone maniac drivers that didn’t exist then.

  25. - Reformer - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 2:09 pm:

    What kinds of fees do LINK card users pay? Is some big company swallowing up a big chunk of the tiny amount the State of Illinois gives these people?

  26. - Keep Calm and Carry On - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 3:59 pm:

    === Either that, or nothing will get done. ===

    Now that would be epic. And not in a positive sense.

    Democratic super majorities in both houses give the public a whole slew of things on the order of medical marijuana, civil unions, etc… but nothing on pension reform, paying down the bill backlog, reducing our debt loads, etc.?

    Even if the GOP essentially sat on their hands for the duration of session, it would be difficult to pin such failure on them during public discourse. Very hard to blame those wascally Wepubwicans for this session were that to occur.

    Madigan knows where to find votes and how to find them, but this should be an interesting finale.

  27. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 6:14 pm:

    ===Even if the GOP essentially sat on their hands for the duration of session…”

    Remember all those NVs, don’t think MJM is not going to use that against the 47 House members.

    You can not NOT do anything in these trying times and claim victory. Thatis what is wrong with My Party, “Let’s ‘Fire Madigan’, blame him, and win the House back”.

    That worked real well last time …

  28. - Just The Way It Is One - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 6:30 pm:

    Looks like the fun has just begun in our dear, ‘ol State Capitol. And I’m GLAD to see that they are reportedly tackling the tough matters 1st, before they get around to pondering over the goody gum drop issues. Mom always we insisted we finish off our Homework and clean our Room 1st before going outside to play Ball and start putzing around with the easier, recreational time!!!

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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