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Madigan: Senate lacks leadership

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* Senate President John Cullerton has done his best not to rile things up between himself and House Speaker Madigan. It hasn’t worked

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan said the Illinois Senate’s failure to advance a pension reform measure he backed showed “a lack of leadership,” in that chamber.

The Chicago Sun-Times caught up with Chicago Democrat just moments after the Illinois Senate torpedoed his pension reform plan.

When asked what he thought of the vote he initially responded: “not much.”

* Background

The Illinois Senate tonight overwhelmingly defeated a major overhaul of the state’s heavily indebted government worker pension systems, throwing into question whether cost-saving reforms will be approved before Friday night’s adjournment deadline.

The measure, whose architect is House Speaker Michael Madigan, mustered only 16 votes in the Senate while 42 voted against it. The bill needed 30 to pass.

The defeat continued the pension reform stalemate between Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, who has long argued the speaker’s plan is unconstitutional while his own would withstand a legal challenge.

Although Cullerton did not speak out against the Madigan bill during debate, he pointed out that the plan “unilaterally” scaled back cost-of-living increases, required workers to chip in more from paychecks and put limits on the size of a salary that could be counted toward a pension.

- Posted by Rich Miller   90 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 - BIMP *** The mother of all development bills

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* McCormick Place expansion, a new third airport board, Rosemont convention incentives, a Downstate fertilizer plant, a brownfields redevelopment plan and who knows what the heck else, but there’s tons of projects in House Amendment 2 to SB 20. Go check it out.

*** UPDATE *** I haven’t had a chance to read it all yet and I missed the committee hearing, but the budget implementation bill (usually very much worth a read) is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      


Durkin to run for House GOP Leader, won’t vote for gay marriage

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* Subscribers have known about both of these developments for days

With ramped-up talk that House Republican Minority Leader Tom Cross is moving toward a statewide run for Illinois Attorney General, state Rep. Jim Durkin said he’s ready to fill the void.

Earlier this year, Durkin (R-Westchester) a former prosecutor and current corporate litigation attorney, was said to be interested himself in a run for Illinois Attorney General.

On Thursday, however, he said this: “I am pursuing the position as House Minority Leader, if and when that vacancy occurs — that may be in the near future,” Durkin told the Chicago Sun-Times. […]

The news comes as Durkin, 52, announced he would not back a vote on same-sex marriage. “I’ll be voting no.”

Durkin had been rumored to be leaning toward a yes vote.

Lots of others are interested in Cross’ job, as subscribers already know.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


Question of the day

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* Believe it or not, but the B.A.F.F.L.E.D. blog has a couple of posts about Statehouse style here and here. Go check ‘em out.

Yes, Statehouse style.

Springfield is not generally known for style, but there are some sharp dressers. Ron Holmes on the Senate Democratic staff is always styling…

Dude, tuck in your shirt!

* The Question: Who’s the most stylish person you know at the Statehouse? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   62 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Nekritz: House pension plan saves more state dollars

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* Rep. Elaine Nekrtitz’s spokesman has responded to the We Are One coalition’s research which shows that their pension reform plan saves more than the House’s plan off the unfunded liability…

This new report suggests more significant savings from SB 2404 than SB 1 if you calculate in health care savings from employee choices. But there are a couple of important points.

Senate Bill 1 makes important changes to how Illinois calculates and funds its pension systems according to actuarial science — changes intended to ensure we pay into these systems what is required to meet our obligations. These actuarially appropriate changes are not included in Senate Bill 2404.

Assuming the health care numbers cited are correct, unfunded liability savings are not the only important calculation here. Senate Bill 1 saves a proven $180 billion off the state’s 30-year pension spending — far more than anything saved under SB 2404. And it also provides certainty, predictability and a sufficient solution for a massive problem where SB 2404 falls far short. We remain hopeful this will be considered and SB 1 approved before session ends tomorrow.

So far, no response to the union coalition’s other claim, that the House bill will force teachers into Social Security, driving up costs.

*** UPDATE *** Here’s the Nekritz spokesperson answer on the Social Security question…

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.

- Posted by Rich Miller   63 Comments      


Finally, a good bill passes

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* Personally speaking, this is the best bill of the session. From a press release

The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America has asked Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn to sign Senate Bill 1775, which would allow Illinois drivers to present electronic proof of insurance to state officials.

The bill, which enables insureds to present the proof without consenting to the access of any other information on their mobile devices, allows insurers to post policies to the Internet for policyholder access, although policyholders will still be able to request a paper copy.

“This legislation will allow insurers to satisfy increasing consumer demand for increased electronic communication and reduce printing and mailing costs,” Deirdre Manna, PCI’s vice president of political engagement and regulatory affairs, said in a statement. “Insurers will still be required to provide paper copies of any documents policyholders request, if that is their preference.”

The Illinois House and Senate both passed the legislation unanimously. The legislature has 30 days to send it to Quinn, who then has 60 days to decide whether to sign it into law.

I am always forgetting to put my new insurance card in my car. Last year, I went through a road block in Williamson County and didn’t have my insurance card in my glove box. So, I got a ticket.

Trouble is, Williamson County (southern Illinois) requires you to hand-deliver a physical copy of the insurance card to the courthouse before they’ll dismiss the charge. You can’t mail it, fax it, e-mail it. Hand deliver.

And Williamson County is a long way from Springfield, man. Thankfully my brother lives in the county and I e-mailed him a copy which he printed and brought to the court building.

Anyway, a good and sensible bill.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


Rush says Kirk idea is “upper-middle-class, elitist white boy solution”

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* From a press release…

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) [yesterday] met with U.S. Attorney for the Northern District nominee Zachary Fardon to discuss his confirmation process and the need to prioritize prosecution of violent crime in the U.S. Attorney’s office upon his confirmation. Kirk and Durbin urged Fardon to use the full power of the office to pursue and prosecute violent criminals in Chicago and across the Northern District.

“I would like to thank Senator Durbin and our joint bipartisan screening committee for all of the effort that went into recommending Zachary Fardon for U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois,” Senator Kirk said. “After meeting with Mr. Fardon today, I am more convinced than ever that he is the right choice for northern Illinois’ next U.S. Attorney. I believe he is the best pick to build upon Patrick Fitzgerald’s legacy and take down dangerous drug gangs like the Gangster Disciples that threaten our communities.”

* Congressman Bobby Rush followed up by playing the race card

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) is highly critical of a proposal by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) for mass arrests of 18,000 Gangster Disciples, telling the Sun-Times on Wednesday that Kirk’s approach is “headline grabbing” and an “upper-middle-class, elitist white boy solution to a problem he knows nothing about.” […]

Rush, asked by the Sun-Times to react to Kirk’s proposal said in a phone interview: “It’s a sensational, headline-grabbing, empty, simplistic, unworkable approach.”

If there is $30 million for Congress to spend, better most of it be allocated for “job creation and job training,” to address the gang problem, Rush said.

Rush’s House district includes communities plagued by gang violence. He said his criticism of Kirk is “not to excuse their activities.”

Rush said an arrest sweep “is not going to work. . . . It is not a law and order, lock ‘em up solution.”

Sheesh.

- Posted by Rich Miller   89 Comments      


They’re close, on paper

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* The concealed carry negotiations continue. SJ-R

The Senate’s top Democrat said Wednesday both sides of the debate have made “a lot of progress” as talks between both houses advance in an attempt to reach some middle ground.

“We’d like to pass a bill,” Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said. “If the two sides were so far apart, there’d be nothing to talk about (and) I’d say this doesn’t look good. But this looks very good.”

Technically, yes, they’re close. But, as with any negotiation, those last items are always the toughest

But a leading pro-gun lawmaker and sponsor of a more permissive House bill, Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, said both chambers are still miles apart over how to approach a “pre-emption” provision pro-gun advocates are pushing that would wipe out all local gun ordinances — even those unrelated to concealed carry. […]

Last week, Phelps’ bill with absolute pre-emption passed the House with 85 votes, he said, adding pre-emption is something pro-gun advocates are not willing to give up.

“You already voted something (like) absolute pre-emption for the whole state; it’s hard to take back something on that because we’d feel like we’d be going backwards,” he said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   51 Comments      


Rutherford to announce Sunday

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* No surprise

After a year’s worth of saying he’s going to run for governor in 2014, Republican state Treasurer Dan Rutherford will formally announce his plans at a series of stops and rallies beginning Sunday.

The first-term statewide officeholder confirmed Thursday that he’ll launch a day’s worth of rallies in Chicago on Sunday and then head south for stops in Pontiac and Springfield.

He’ll make a formal announcement to the press on Monday in Springfield.

The 58-year-old Pontiac native will be the first to formally enter what could be a crowded GOP race. Other potential candidates include wealthy hedge fund manager Bruce Rauner of Chicago and state Sens. Bill Brady of Bloomington and Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale.

* This, however, is a bit of a surprise

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley gave some love last week to state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who is running for governor in 2014.

Daley was receiving a “Chicago Champion Award” at the Chicago Innovations Award Un-Gala, held May 22 at Untitled, 111 W. Kinzie St. At the end of his prepared remarks, he pointed out Rutherford.

Mispronouncing the treasurer’s name as “RUTH-er-ford,” rather than “ROOTH-er-ford” (Da Mare has not become more eloquent in retirement), Daley said he was a wonderful man and a politician who has done more than many for our great state of Illinois.

- Posted by Rich Miller   44 Comments      


Online voter registration advances

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* 18 states already have some form of online voter registration. If sent to the governor, the new plan would begin next July, after the primary

llinoisans could someday register to vote via the internet under legislation endorsed Wednesday by the Illinois Senate.

The measure, which is just one piece of a package of proposed state election law changes being considered by state lawmakers, is designed to make the voting process more appealing to a bloc of potential voters who rarely come out in force. […]

Under the plan, the state would set up a system in which applicants could register through the state Board of Elections website, using a driver’s license and the last four digits of a Social Security number. The state would then transmit the registration to the person’s home county. […]

Cook County Clerk David Orr said online registration could be cheaper than the current paper process. In a statement, Orr said other states have seen a drop in the cost of processing a registration from 83 cents to 3 cents.

* There are some controversial aspects to the omnibus bill, however

A political dispute over the future of elections in Lake County has consumed top officials, as its top Democrat favors turning voting control over to a new board and a bipartisan collection of other leaders is pushing back hard.

The Illinois Senate on Thursday approved lengthy statewide elections legislation that emerged this week. Tucked inside is a plan that would take away election supervision from County Clerk Willard Helander and create a five-member board to handle voting.

* And

Most local officials are poised to keep their controversial power to kick political opponents off the ballot after lobbying from those officials helped stall a reform proposal in the General Assembly.

Instead, a piecemeal effort is moving forward that will abolish panels that rule on candidate eligibility in school districts only, shifting such authority to the county level. The latest proposal leaves the controversial panels in place for cities, villages, community colleges and townships across the state.

While critics of the current system support changes for the school districts, they say the final proposal will do nothing to stop scores of other local candidates from being kicked off the ballot by political opponents for questionable reasons.

Cook County Clerk David Orr called it “disappointing.” And David Morrison, acting director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said it was “an unfortunate retreat” because city and village panels tend to be the most political and face the most criticism.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


Unions: Our pension plan actually saves more than House plan

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* AP

An Illinois Senate pension reform plan would reduce state indebtedness to current and future retirees by more than a rival House proposal if health insurance costs are counted, a new analysis by a league of union groups shows.

A study by the We Are One Illinois shows that if half of employees and retirees choose to forgo post-career health insurance as part of Senate President John Cullerton’s proposal, the state’s debt to two health insurance programs would be cut in half, by $26 billion. […]

In an analysis released last week, Nekritz pointed out that if roughly half of employees and retirees choose to forgo health care in favor of compounded cost-of-living increases in annual pension payouts, the Cullerton idea would only drop the pension liability by $6 billion.

The review acknowledged that it didn’t count savings in retiree health care - a bill of $52 billion in addition to the $97 billion pension shortfall.

* From the We Are One Coalition…

SB 2404: Health Care Savings Estimate

In contrast, evidence continues to mount that SB 2404 saves more than previously recognized. Leaders of We Are One Illinois have produced a new, preliminary estimate of $26 billion in health care savings in the coalition-supported legislation, Senate Bill 2404, based on the choice outcome suggested by SB 1 supporters. This brings the total immediate savings on the health care and pension unfunded liabilities to $31 billion – more than SB 1.

SB 1 supporters have wrongly argued that SB 2404 does not save enough. They estimate that because 50% will choose to opt out of retiree health care, that SB 2404 will save approximately $6 billion immediately off the pension unfunded liability.

But this calculation fails to include the significant health care savings that would accrue from a 50% health care opt out. If 50% of employees and retirees choose the health care opt out, approximately $26 billion in accrued health care liability would be saved, for a total combined liability savings of around $32 billion. If fewer opt out of health care, the pension savings would be greater. These are preliminary estimates calculated from the FY 2011 year ending actuarial valuation of Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) for the State Employees Group Insurance Program and Teachers Retirement Insurance Program.

“This is all the more reason the House should pass SB 2404 without change or delay,” Michael T. Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO.

Remember, this is only about the teachers’ pension fund. . Oops. Health savings are estimated for both State Employees Group Insurance Plan (SEGIP, covering SERS, SURS, GRS, JARS) and Teachers Retirement Insurance Plan (TRIP).

The TRS actuarial analysis is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      


Close or not? House gay marriage vote looms

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* As I told subscribers earlier today, the most pervasive rumor at the Statehouse is that the gay marriage bill will be called for a vote today. I’m not sure what to believe at this point. Here’s the Illinois Observer’s take

A top Democrat told The Illinois Observer on Wednesday night, “The roll call is in the high 50s. It’s close; it’s almost there.” […]

Some pro-marriage equality activists, who have been chafing at the Illinois House’s inaction this spring while other states have swiftly approved their own same sex marriage bills, have grown increasingly frustrated with House Speaker Michael Madigan, arguing that he only needs to “twist some arms” to get to 60.

“Madigan is loathe to force a member to vote against his or her district and to anger a majority of his or her constituents,” said an insider. “That’s how expensive primary challenges are created, which waste money needed to beat Republicans in the fall.”

The insider also noted that a string of controversial votes taken during the spring legislative session could ignite multiple primary contests for Democrats next year.

“The pension vote and the conceal carry vote have already exposed multiple Democrats to potential primary challenges,” said the insider. “A risky same sex marriage vote will just expand the pool of Democratic incumbents staring at a primary fight.”

There’s no doubt that Chicago-area Democrats could be looking at primary challengers because of this year’s controversial session.


* Meanwhile, President Obama
spoke about the gay marriage bill last night in Chicago

America is probably more tolerant, more accepting of difference than any time in our history. Obviously, you’ve got an African American President, a former and soon to be again female Speaker of the House. The work that we did together to end “don’t ask, don’t tell” is something that I could not be prouder of. But we also know that there’s still a lot of people who are excluded in our society and we’ve got more work to do.

Here in Illinois, we’ve got a vote on same-sex marriage that’s going to be coming up in the state legislature. And I just want to say for the record it’s something that I deeply support. I wrestled with this for a long time and I am absolutely convinced it is the right thing to do. And we have to make sure that wherever we go, we are reminding people that the essence of America is that everybody is treated equally under the law without exception.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


Photos: The wall comes down

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* Workers have been remodeling the western wing of the Statehouse since session ended two years ago. Large, wooden walls have blocked the view of the wing during the extensive reconstruction. Late yesterday, the 1st Floor wall came down and Statehouse denizens flocked to see the progress.

I took some pictures and posted them on our live session coverage post, but you may have missed them since it was so late in the day. The view is obstructed by the scaffolding, but click the pics for larger images…

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


Possible end game, while unions claim unintended problems with SB1

Thursday, May 30, 2013

* A few days ago, I told subscribers about the possibility that the Senate Democrats might hold a vote on the three smaller pension bills that passed the House back in March, rather than pass the bigger Madigan bill, SB!. Those three bills are now starting to move

Thursday is shaping up as a pivotal day in the Senate on pensions, with Cullerton saying he intends to survey his 40-member caucus on Senate Bill 1 and other pension-reform options

One of those options may involve three obscure bills that the House passed in March and that quietly began moving in the state Senate Tuesday evening.

Legislation to hike the retirement age for employees under 45, cap “pensionable” salaries at Social Security wages and delay when retirees can get compounding, annual cost-of-living increases was discharged from the Senate Assignments Committee.

The House passed all three bills in March in a series of test votes on pensions to gauge support for a comprehensive pension-reform package. The three bills contain key pieces of what eventually got put into Senate Bill 1, which has faced a flurry of intense union opposition.

“All legislative options for a comprehensive plan are being considered,” Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon told the Chicago Sun-Times Wednesday.

Expect a vote on SB1 as well, but Cullerton expects that one to die.

* Meanwhile, I told subscribers a little bit about this earlier today. Sun-Times

A House-passed plan that Speaker Michael Madigan has endorsed to fix Illinois’ nearly $100 billion crisis contains a flaw that could amount to a legislative stake-in-the-heart in the state Senate, the top Senate Democrat said Wednesday.

Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) said the legislation contains a provision that eventually could leave retired suburban and downstate teachers with less in benefits than they are legally entitled to if they qualified for Social Security benefits, potentially forcing teachers and the school districts that employ them to begin paying into Social Security.

* The We Are One report relies on the Teachers Retirement System’s actuarial analysis. From the union report

Quotes from the TRS actuarial analysis and explanation follow:

“The Tier 1 employer normal cost is now negative.”

    • During her media availability, Rep. Elaine Nekritz characterized this as a good development for school districts, saying “[t]here would be no shift” if a TRS cost-shift bill passed.
    • This fails to recognize that TRS pensions would no longer qualify for a Social Security exemption. Far from paying nothing, under a TRS cost-shift, school districts would ultimately be on the hook to pay the employer’s portion (6.2%) of Social Security benefits.
    • Once school districts are required to pay Social Security taxes, this will almost certainly necessitate massive property tax increases across the state.
    • SB 1 would be the largest unfunded mandate imposed on school districts in history.

“The current proposal…creates a Social Security compliance issue for Tier 1 in addition to the existing issues for Tier 2.”

    • SB 1 creates the same problem in Tier 1 as exists in Tier 2 – an inadequate pension benefit structure.
    • Again, if SB 1 becomes law, school districts would eventually begin paying Social Security taxes because TRS pension benefits are too low to qualify for a Social Security exemption.
    • It is likely that the same problems for TRS will also affect SURS.

“SB 1 provisions result in Tier 1 and Tier 2 members paying for more than the cost of their benefits.”

    • The SB 1 pension cuts are so absurdly deep that workers would actually be paying more than what their pension benefit is worth.
    • This is more than just completely unfair. It is immoral and illogical. SB 1 creates a pension system that actually penalizes its members. The bill slashes pensions so aggressively that employees would face a monetary loss by being part of the pension system.
    • The bill goes to extremes to hurt working, middle-class families.

Discuss.

* Related…

* Senators expected to discuss pension plans

* Pension Solution Continues To Elude Legislators

- Posted by Rich Miller   64 Comments      


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