Friday, May 31, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller
* House Speaker Michael Madigan and his spokesman Steve Brown look up at the big board during a floor vote…
Photo taken by my intern Andrew Niebur.
|Cullerton issues statement on pension reform
Friday, May 31, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller
* From Senate President John Cullerton…
When I became Senate President I took an oath to uphold the constitution and I made a promise to make the Senate an open chamber where member legislation gets a fair hearing. Anyone following the issue of pension reform can confirm that I have honored those commitments this session.
I personally have worked to craft reform proposals that might satisfy the constitution and while achieving considerable savings. To date the Senate has worked to pass five different pieces of legislation designed to reform our systems within the confines of the constitution. Not one of these plans was brought to the House floor for a vote.
My preference for adhering to the plain language of the constitution hasn’t prevented me from working with other leaders who interpret the pension clause differently. That’s been evidenced by the fact that I refused to block votes on opposing pension plans.
I crafted a compromise plan that would have made unilateral cuts the law while including a default constitutional savings plan. I then voted for a second plan and sponsored a third plan to impose unilateral cuts pension benefits.
As Senate President, I could have buried those proposals to satisfy my personal political philosophy. That is not why I am Senate President and that is not how I lead.
The Senate has spoken repeatedly and consistently on pension reform. Still, this issue is not resolved. I am committed to staying at the table until a comprehensive solution is passed into law. I invite Governor Quinn, Speaker Madigan and all leaders of the General Assembly to continue with me.
Emphasis added for obvious reasons. But notice that there was no demand that Speaker Madigan call the Senate’s pension bill for a vote.
* All that’s needed now is Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature…
The state House Friday voted 89-28 to approve a compromise gun deal that preserves local gun laws, including Chicago and Cook County’s bans on assault weapons, and keeps gun owners from carrying their loaded weapons on public trains and buses.
But it hands gun owners a potent new right that would end the state’s last-in-the-nation prohibition on concealed carry and, in the eyes of gun-rights advocates, put a dent in the state’s crime rates. […]
The House’s action came after the Senate voted 45-12, with one voting present.
Quinn has kept his intentions about concealed-carry close to the vest. On Friday, as the legislation took a fast-track path through the Senate and House, his administration expressed neutrality toward the bill.
Asked whether he’d sign it, spokeswoman Brooke Anderson would say only, “The governor will review the bill once it reaches his desk.”
Think he’ll sign it?
* Rep. Elaine Nekritz may have shown the way forward today on stalled pension reform legislation. From the Daily Herald…
Nekrtiz said that given the Illinois Senate’s strong rejection of her [pension] proposal Thursday, she’d be open to an idea proposed by Senate President John Cullerton that would have lawmakers approve two competing plans. That would, in theory, let the courts strike one down plan and let the other stand.
Showing the immense legal complexities of the debate, Nekritz said she’d only go along if the two plans were approved in separate legislation, not in one bill.
“That’s something that I think we should consider,” she said.
I’m not sure how they could pass both bills as separate entities because it would be a legal nightmare, unless one was held up with a parliamentary hold while the other moved through the courts. That’s a scenario I told subscribers about weeks ago.
*** UPDATE 1 *** Rep. Nekritz’s spokesperson told me that the parliamentary hold idea (making a motion to reconsider and then keeping it on until it has to be lifted as a backup) is exactly what Nekritz was referring to when she talked to the Daily Herald.
*** UPDATE 2 *** They may need to get something done quick or trouble could be afoot. Reuters…
Moody’s Investors Service warned the state of Illinois that its credit rating could fall further if the legislature fails to fix the state’s huge public pension problem.
“Our view is that failure to enact pension reforms could drive the state’s general obligation bond rating lower from A2, which is already the lowest level for a U.S. state,” said Moody’s analyst Ted Hampton.
*** UPDATE 3 *** The obvious problem with the idea is that the court case on the first bill could end up lasting longer than the 98th General Assembly. If that happened, then the parliamentary hold would expire, along with the bill. So, it may very well be a no-go with the Senate Democrats.
* Joe Walsh admits that he didn’t even try to get elected state party chairman…
From what I hear, most if not all of the members of the State Central Committee have already made up their mind as to who they are going to vote for tomorrow for the Republican Party Chairman. They’ve been lobbied for weeks by certain candidates, all the usual political deals have been cut, and it sounds like tomorrow’s silly, closed door process of a five minute speech followed by 20 minutes of questioning in private executive session is just for show.
I haven’t lobbied or spoken with any members of the SCC. My intention was to drive to Springfield tomorrow and tell them what the Republican Party needed if it wanted to avoid permanent extinction in Illinois. My message was going to be brief and clear — the next Party Chair had better be a reform conservative. Someone who can rally and energize the Party base of conservatives and independents behind our core principles of freedom, limited government, and individual responsibility and then develop a well financed plan to passionately take that message out to the rest of the voters in the State. Seems pretty simple to me. What the Party can’t do is pick another establishment insider who doesn’t know or care about its core voters.
Yeah. That’s somebody who would’ve been a great chairman. Don’t bother to do any legwork, just show up and pontificate.
Besides, there’s no way he was gonna give up his new radio gig for that party post.
*** UPDATE *** An e-mail from Joe Walsh…
your objectivity continues to amaze.
I never said i didn’t try to become chair — I said i wasnt going to lobby individual members of the SCC. My intention is to go down there tomorrow and make my case.
And…how do you know I wouldnt give up my radio gig if picked as party chair? Nobody would know that but me…
come on rich…do a little better
I doubt you can be state party chairman and host a radio show. But maybe I’m wrong.
|Question of the day
Friday, May 31, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller
* The Chicago Tribune’s editorial board opines again today about pension reform, demanding that the Senate pass the House’s bill…
Nearly seven years after the first warning that state pension funds are hurtling toward insolvency, the Illinois Senate took a few minutes Thursday to raise the likelihood of that doomsday. With their vote to kill this year’s best pension reform bill, the senators deserve to spend the summer trying to explain why they spiked a plan projected to save taxpayers $187 billion-with-a-b — and to eliminate unfunded pension obligations of nearly $100 billion.
Thursday night’s show of failure, orchestrated by Senate President John Cullerton, could be reversed Friday. That would require Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan, his fellow Chicago Democrat, to end a nasty spitting match.
* The SJ-R’s editorial board wants Speaker Madigan to call the Senate’s union-backed bill for a vote and forget about those three separate pension bills, which could be used to test the issue’s constitutionality…
The House has approved Madigan’s plan and sent it to the Senate, which has not voted on it. And the Senate has approved the Cullerton-backed plan and sent it to the House, which, you guessed it, has not voted on it. It’s gridlock, but there’s still time for lawmakers to find common ground.
Even after all the back and forth, Cullerton’s SB 2404 still appears to be the stronger legislation. The projected savings are significant. The plan has the backing of state workers and retirees who are being asked to share in the pain of pension reform. It is constitutionally sound, and it doesn’t potentially thrust added Social Security costs onto schools and other retirement systems already at a breaking point.
Forget about approving all or part of Madigan’s plan so it can be tested in a potentially lengthy court challenge. Pass the Cullerton plan now for the best, fairest and most logical shot at pension reform today.
* The Question: What should they do?…
1 - Should the Senate try again to pass the House pension reform bill?
2 - Should the Senate pass one or more of the three pension bills that the House passed earlier to test their constitutionality?
3 - Should the House call the Senate’s pension bill for a vote?
4 - Should both chambers find another way to reform pensions?
Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.
* A loud anti-fracking protester was physically escorted out of the House gallery after this vote yesterday…
The Illinois House passed legislation Thursday evening that would regulate horizontal hydraulic fracturing in the state in a 108 to 9 vote.
The legislation now moves to the Senate, the final hurdle for the bill before it reaches Gov. Pat Quinn, who urged the Senate to send the bill to his desk “as soon as possible.”
* A huge economic development bill passed out of the House…
The Illinois House approved a plan Thursday to give as much as $35 million in state and local tax breaks to help a Delaware-based company build a fertilizer plant in central Illinois.
The incentives are part of a massive 11th-hour package of economic development plans that include an expansion of the McCormick Place exhibition hall in Chicago to include a hotel and a new basketball arena for DePaul University. It also includes incentives aimed at developing a new third Chicago-area airport in Peotone.
The measure was sent to the Senate on a vote of 81-35.
The legislation approved Thursday — SB20 — allows the Illinois Department of Transportation to enter into a public-private partnership to develop the South Suburban Airport in Peotone. […]
The measure also authorizes financing for a new 10,000-seat basketball arena for DePaul University near Chicago’s McCormick Place. The facility also would be used as a hall for conventions and trade shows.
* Much of the budget is done, but some bills are awaiting action…
The House still needs to vote on budgets for K-12 and higher education. Better-than-expected tax revenues are allowing the legislature to avoid cuts proposed in the governor’s March budget next year for general state aid, transportation, bilingual and early childhood education. The legislature’s higher education budget also avoids a 5 percent cut the governor called for, as well.
The K-12 funding is included in Senate Bill 2555. The higher education funding is included in Senate Bill 2556.
The Senate plans to take up two budget bills tomorrow as well:
* House Bill 214 is general services spending, the General Assembly’s budget and the constitutional officers’ budgets.
* HB 215 is public safety and transportation spending, Illinois Department of Corrections budget, capital construction spending for the next fiscal year and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources budget. Both have been approved by the House.
The higher ed budget just passed. Check the live session post for constant updates.
* But then there’s this…
Quinn and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees are backing a spending bill to cover the back wages, but as of [yesterday], the bill is sitting in the House, still on second reading. It could not pass in its current from before tomorrow’s adjournment deadline. However, the measure could be drafted into a different bill and still make it through by the end of the day [today]. “There is strong bipartisan support in the General Assembly for HB 212, the supplemental appropriation to pay wages owed to caregivers, correctional officers and other state employees dating back nearly two years,” said Anders Lindall, a spokesman for AFSCME Council 31. “Public servants shouldn’t have to wait a day longer for the wages they earned, and Illinois taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay another penny of interest or legal costs incurred by the state’s continued failure to fulfill its responsibility to its employees.” The raises were not paid to workers in 2011 because Quinn said that lawmakers did not approve the funding for them.
* Gaming hasn’t popped yet. Negotiators met until very late last night without resolution…
A plan to expand gambling in Illinois is still being negotiated and it’s unclear if lawmakers will take it up, with just hours left in the session to deal with other major issues.
* Fracking bill has a clear path to becoming law
* Illinois House approves new drilling rules
* Illinois Fracking Bill Passes House, Sponsor Says Bill Could Create 70,000 Jobs
* Quinn to sign bill lowering required school enrollment age
* Lieutenant Governor Election Process Unchanged
|Don’t Tax My Credit Union!
Friday, May 31, 2013 - Posted by Advertising Department
[The following is a paid advertisement.]
As Congress considers comprehensive tax reform, 96 million credit union members across the country, including nearly 3 million in Illinois, urge all lawmakers to keep credit unions tax exempt. Credit unions are not-for-profit financial institutions owned by their members, not by stockholders out to make money for someone else. All of the money that a credit union generates stays with the credit union to the benefit of its members - to the tune of $6 billion each year. In fact, for every $1 of their tax exemption, credit unions return $10 to consumers through lower fees on services, lower rates on loans and higher rates on deposits. And, when there is a credit union in the marketplace, bank customers benefit too – almost $2 billion a year. Put together, this $8 billion benefit greatly outweighs the $500 million that the Joint Committee on Taxation says the tax status costs the government. It’s a great return on investment and good public policy. But if credit unions are taxed, these benefits go away. That’s not what we need in tax reform. Taxing credit unions will eliminate real financial choice. Don’t touch the credit union tax exemption! Learn more about this effort today - http://www.donttaxmycreditunion.org/!
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Renewables Save Hundreds of Millions for Ratepayers
The Illinois Power Agency recently issued its 2013 report on the costs and benefits of renewable energy in Illinois. It found “a savings of $176.85 million” in total payments for electricity generation in both 2011 and 2012.
SB 103 Would Save Ratepayers $281 Million MORE Between 2014-2017
According to an analysis verified by the ICC, SB 103’s unified competitive procurement approach would save Illinois ratepayers an additional $281 million between 2014 and 2017.
87% of Illinois Voters Support Renewables
A Clean Energy Trust/Zogby poll of 700 likely voters earlier this month found 86.7% of likely Illinois voters support “policies to bring renewable energy to Illinois.” 77% support SB 103.
Unintended Conflict Has Broken Down the Law
As reported in the Chicago Tribune (“Energy Fund Lacks Power”, May 13, 2013) and Crain’s Chicago Business (“A Mighty Wind Problem”, April 8, 2013), the RPS law has broken down because of an unforeseen conflict with the municipal aggregation tidal wave.
A No-Cost Fix
SB 103 contains a simple solution to resolve this problem that preserves rate caps and increases efficiency.
Fix the RPS - Vote Yes on SB 103
|Kicking the can
Friday, May 31, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller
* We talked yesterday about the We Are One report on the Teachers Retirement System actuarial analysis of SB 1, the House’s pension reform plan. The union report claimed that Speaker Madigan’s reform plan would force teachers into Social Security, which would greatly drive up costs. The reason is that benefits would be less than the teachers would actually be paying into the system.
Rep. Elaine Nekritz, Madigan’s pension point-person, didn’t deny this and issued a statement…
Simple answer is it’s an issue that’s not immediate — probably 10-12 years down the road — and could be addressed later. It shouldn’t stand in the way of a real solution like SB 1.
* I checked with TRS this morning and they said SB1 is short $6-7 billion in payments between now and 2045. But that cost estimate is based only on the assumption that the money would be baked into the 32-year plan right away.
So, delaying this for 10-12 (or even 15, according to TRS) years from now will increase that $6-7 billion cost considerably. The more they delay, the higher the cost. Just like we got into this mess in the first place.
* And the TRS estimate doesn’t include the cost of fixing the exact same problem with the “Tier 2″ plan that passed in 2010. I asked TRS for those numbers, but they don’t have them yet.
Now, $6-7 billion is pretty small compared to the $100 billion unfunded liability problem, even with the added interest of waiting at least a decade. But if the House bill passes, the state would be essentially saving money now that it’ll have to pay in the future by slashing estimates of the benefits it will need to pay.
* Cost-shift pension plan clears House
* Pension cost-shift for higher education clears Illinois House
* Madigan’s pension-reform package goes down in flames
* Illinois Senate rejects House pension reform plan
* Illinois Senate defeats sweeping pension reform bill
* Editorial: Senators, hold your tantrums and pass SB1
*** UPDATE *** The new bill is here. There’s also a technical amendment here.
[ *** End Of Update *** ]
* The SJ-R has some deets about a tentative concealed carry deal…
Forby said an “absolute pre-emption” provision that wipes out all local gun regulations — even those unrelated to concealed carry — has been dropped despite objections from pro-gun lawmakers.
Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, who also was involved in negotiations, said municipalities could keep current gun ordinances, such as Chicago’s assault-weapons ban and Cook County’s firearm and ammunition tax, but would be prohibited from enacting ordinances that could potentially deter a person’s Second Amendment rights.
Municipalities also would have a window of time to enact ordinances if they hadn’t done so already, he said.
Despite strong objections from Senate Democrats, people will be able to bring their guns into bars or restaurants, depending on how much of their sales come from alcohol. But business owners could still post signs prohibiting weapons if they wish.
Chicago’s firearm registration ordinance appears to have been preempted as well.
But the revised version also would toughen penalties for carrying a firearm while drunk.
The bill would prohibit guns from being carried in places like CTA and Metra buses and trains, casinos, government buildings, stadiums and several other locations that were banned in previous incarnations, he said.
The proposal would require the Illinois State Police to review applications for concealed carry permits, but local law enforcement could object if they believed an applicant was a public danger. Those objections could be appealed to an independent board.
Passage depends upon keeping the Senate’s liberals on the roll call. So far so good, but nothing is ever easy or guaranteed. As of last night, the plan was to start the bill in the Senate. We’ll see.
|Can Dorgan pull it off?
Friday, May 31, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller
* Subscribers know more. Hinz…
A veteran Illinois GOP insider and Springfield lobbyist appears to have moved to the front of the pack in the competition to fill out the term of resigned state Republican Chairman Pat Brady.
Multiple high-level Republican sources tell me that Jack Dorgan, a Rosemont village trustee, is close to securing the votes he’ll need from fellow members of the Illinois Republican Committee when that panel meets on Saturday to elect a new chairman to serve until April 2014.
Mr. Dorgan, 53, declined almost all comment to me, saying only in a phone conversation that he’s interested in the job and is “excited about the opportunity to remind the voters that Illinois is a two-party state.” But he has a long, long record, one that has both made him friends and enemies in the party. […]
I predict a lively meeting on Saturday, with much to discuss. But Mr. Dorgan has friends, with sources suggesting that U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., will back him.
Dorgan didn’t decline to comment to me.
Dorgan, who is also a Rosemont Village Trustee, does not yet have the needed 50 percent-plus-one majority votes from the panel, but he’s closer than the remaining seven candidates, a knowledgeable source told the Sun-Times. Attorney Mark Shaw, businessman Jim Nalepa, Angel Garcia, Don Tracy, Lori Yokoyama and Joe Walsh are others still on list.
– Other developments: Cook County Commissioner Tim Schneider, who was once rumored to be the front-runner, has withdrawn his name from contention.
– Former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh is the only candidate not to provide a resume yet and is not actively calling people asking for support. (It’s thought that a party leadership role would threaten Walsh’s new radio gig).
– Each candidate will have five minutes to address the public before the committee goes into private session with the candidates.
I’ve known Dorgan for years, and I still don’t understand why he wants the worst job in Illinois. He thinks he can do some good. But, man, is he ever in for some tough times if he wins.
* Gay marriage proponents have known for months that they had big problems with the House Black Caucus. The proponents have several Statehouse lobbyists on the payroll, including two affiliated with the House Republicans who have produced just two votes so far. But until yesterday, they had just one black lobbyist, and he’s a former Senate Democratic staffer.
Yesterday afternoon, a day before the scheduled end of session, two former African-American House members were finally put on the lobbying payroll…
Veteran lobbyists Paul Williams and Coy Pugh, both African-Americans and ex-Democratic lawmakers from Chicago, have been hired by advocates backing the marriage equality bid to persuade House Black Caucus hold outs to vote for the bill sponsored by State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago).
I’m not sure what two guys can do in a day and a half. I talked to one of them yesterday, and he’s not sure what he can do, either. This sort of stuff takes time. And it’s truly amazing to me that it took the proponents this long to realize what they were missing at the Capitol.
There is a lot of finger-pointing going on right now about what should’ve happened. Maybe the Senate shouldn’t have passed the bill in February, before the votes were lined up in the House. But that sort of stuff is easy to see in hindsight. The lack of House-affiliated African-American lobsters, however, should never have been overlooked.
Even so, there’s no guarantee that the bill will fail today. If it’s not called for a vote, the recriminations will no doubt begin in earnest. Speaker Madigan will undoubtedly be in for some blame. But the proponents will also need to reexamine what they did.
* Meanwhile, competing Statehouse rallies are planned for today. From the Illinois Family Institute…
Lawmakers will be in Springfield one more day before they adjourn for the summer. Homosexual activists are pushing hard for a vote on SB 10, the same-sex “marriage” bill. They are planning a rally at the State House tomorrow at 11 a.m.
We need you to join us to make a strong showing for natural marriage. If you are at all able to join us tomorrow morning at the Illinois State Capitol, please do so. We will meet in the Rotunda at 10 a.m.
* And this is from Lambda Legal, ACLU of Illinois and Equality Illinois…
URGENT: Meet at the Equality Illinois office (3318 N Halsted) in Chicago tomorrow (Friday) morning at 7:30 for free buses to our marriage equality rally in Springfield!
Just a few hours ago, we emailed with an urgent message to call Speaker Madigan and ask him to schedule a vote on the marriage bill now.
Hundreds of calls have come into Springfield, but no vote has been scheduled. So here’s what’s next:
We need you to join us for an urgent rally at the State House in Springfield tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. Together, we’ll show the Speaker — and all our representatives — that we want a vote taken on the marriage equality bill before the House adjourns at the end of the day tomorrow.
The groups have a Facebook events page as well.
* No way this is happening…
As advocates and observers continue to wonder when the marriage legislation will come up for vote, and as House lawmakers remain in session to deliberate other bills, proponents of the marriage equality measure are calling Madigan’s Capitol and district offices to demand a vote before it’s too late. […]
Many of those callers were reportedly told by Madigan aides the bill will be considered on Friday; however, when pressed, Madigan Press Secretary Steve Brown denied the alleged messaging, noting, “The people who answer the phones don’t say things like that.”
Brown is right. They don’t tell people that sort of thing on the phone in Madigan’s office. First, the people who answer the phones wouldn’t know, and secondly they’d probably lose their jobs if they did say stuff like that.
There were tons of Statehouse rumors yesterday and it was almost impossible to keep up with them. Most of them were false.
* I’m told by the proponents that CNN is considering doing a live feed from the House during the debate, if it happens. There will be lots of attention on Illinois today. A press conference yesterday which announced basically nothing was mobbed by reporters.
* Things are also heating up on the Republican side of the equation. From Illinois Review…
Last night U.S. Senator Mark Kirk was on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight with Carol Marin. One of the topics covered was the resignation of Party Chairman Pat Brady. The discussion went like this: (see video below at 4:26 minutes)
Carol Marin: Has this [same-sex marriage] become sort of a fire line of this, “Who’s a conservative and who’s not?”
Sen. Kirk: Actually, I didn’t want the Republican Party to be run by the top anti-gay bigot in the state.
Marin: When you say the top Republican bigot, you mean Jim Oberweis?
Marin: Who do you mean?
Kirk refused to answer and moved the discussion to Apple and immigration.
* But Speaker Madigan is clearly becoming a target of the left. Via IR…
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