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Dynegy Doesn’t Deserve Permission to Pollute Illinois Communities

Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

After years of dangerous pollution from Ameren’s E.D. Edwards coal-fired power plant in Bartonville, Ill., local community members are not willing to let Texas-based energy giant Dynegy walk into town asking for a free pass to pollute their community.

A new air modeling study released by the Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance found that the E.D. Edwards coal plant is allowed to emit toxic sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution at up to 7.5 times above the limit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says is required to protect public health.

Exposure to sulfur dioxide pollution for even five minutes can make it hard for a person to breathe and high levels of exposure to sulfur dioxide can send people to the emergency room

The decades-old, uncontrolled E.D. Edwards coal plant is part of Ameren’s no-cash sale of five Illinois coal plants to Dynegy. Peoria residents are extremely concerned that Dynegy lacks a plan to clean up the plant.

Dynegy, working locally as the unfunded Illinois Power Holdings subsidiary, has requested a variance from the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) to have until 2020 to comply with the Illinois State Multi-Pollutant Standard, a law established in 2006. The company is a willing buyer of Ameren’s coal plants, but falsely claims undue financial hardship as the reason it cannot comply with Illinois’ commonsense clean air standard. Dynegy is hinging the final sale agreement with Ameren on the IPCB’s variance decision.

Peoria residents know that they deserve more than Dynegy’s risky bet on coal in Illinois and years of more pollution. For the sake of Illinois’ future, Dynegy’s request for more time to pollute Illinois air must be denied.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Chamber attacks judicial “activism”

Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013

* Crain’s

The Illinois Chamber of Commerce is ramping up efforts to reform the state’s workers’ compensation system, issuing a report today that takes aim at specific judges and court opinions for “activism” that the business group says has badly hurt the state’s economy.

In a 74-page report called “The Impact of Judicial Activism in Illinois,” the chamber details 19 cases in which it says decisions by the Illinois Industrial Commission that would have limited payments to injured workers instead were overturned or otherwise weakened by appellate and supreme court justices.

As a result, it says, at least some of the benefits promised in a major workers’ comp package adopted by the Legislature two years ago have not arrived. As my colleague Paul Merrion recently reported, medical payments for workers’ compensation dropped just 4.6 percent last year, even though Illinois has ranked near the top of the 50 states in system costs.

* But the chairman of the Workers’ Comp Commission Michael Latz hotly disputes that earlier Crain’s report. From an e-mail with emphasis in the original…

In reporting that the reform resulted in total pre-claim payments being reduced by only one percent, Crain’s relied on a report which only looked at injuries which occurred before the reform went into effect. On page 13 of the Workers Compensation Research Institute’s (WCRI) Benchmark Study for Illinois, WCRI reports that “overall cost per claim with more than seven days of lost time decreased 1 percent between 2010 and 2011.” As indicated in the sidebar of the WCRI graph, the medical data reported reflected only 7 months of services under the new fee schedule rates and, therefore, the results show a partial impact. The data does not report on injuries which occurred after September 1, 2011 – therefore the effects of the AMA impairment ratings are not considered. The Crain’s report also neglected to mention that WCRI also reports: “The maturity of the data does not allow for the assessment of the indemnity impact from the 2011 reforms, which is why the sidebar of the chart clarified that the impact was likely related to the economic recovery.”

Insurance industry actuaries excel at assessing data – and the actuaries report that the 2011 reform is working. The 2011 reform of the Workers Compensation Act has resulted in the National Council on Compensation Insurance recommending reductions in insurance premiums each of the last two years. Those reductions in the advisory rates for insurance premiums – which come to about $315 million in savings for businesses so far – are a better indication of how the 2011 reform is working than the early study which looked at injuries occurring before the reform was in effect. If Crain’s wants to be accurate, it can learn from the sports editors and wait at least until the eighth inning before predicting outcomes.

* Back to Crain’s

The chamber does not want Illinois to join a “race to the bottom” in which injured workers are left to fend on their own, Mr. Whitley said. “I don’t want us to be Indiana.”

But Illinois has the fourth-highest premiums of the 50 states, when it used to be “somewhere in the middle, 24th or 26th or so.” As a result, employers in Illinois now pay $10.10 more in workers’ comp costs per $1,000 in salary than an employer in Florida and $12.30 more than an employer in Texas, he said.

* Anyway, the Chamber’s report can be read by clicking here. One of the cases cited in the report

Mlynarczyk v. Illinois Workers Compensation Commission, 2013 IL App (3d) 120411WC.

In Mlynarczyk the Appellate Court unanimously ruled that a cleaning lady employed by a janitorial service to clean churches, offices and residences was a traveling employee because she did not work at a fixed job site and her duties required her to travel to various locations in the Chicago area.The Court held that injuries resulting when she slipped and fell on snow and ice at home as she was walking to the vehicle in her driveway that would transport her to her next cleaning assignment were compensable because, as a traveling employee, her “walk to the minivan constituted the initial part of her journey to her work assignment” and was both reasonable and foreseeable.

* Another case

Cox v. Illinois Workers Compensation Commission, 406 Ill. App. 3d 541, 941 N.E.2d 961, 347 Ill.Dec. 92 (1st Dist. 2010).

In Cox, the Appellate Court applied the traveling employee doctrine to and that it was foreseeable that an employee, assigned an employer-owned vehicle 24/7, would use the truck to perform a personal errand. The Court agreed that the errand constituted a personal deviation from the employee’s scope of employment. However, the Court ruled the deviation was “insubstantial”because the claimant had completed his errand and was on the way home when he was injured in an automobile accident.

Consequently, the injuries sustained by the employee while he was conducting personal business were compensable.

* And my own, personal “favorite”

Circuit City Stores v. Illinois Workers Compensation Commission, 391 Ill. App. 3d 913, 909 N.E.2d983, 330 Ill. Dec. 961 (2d Dist. 2009).

In Circuit City, the Appellate Court ruled that injuries sustained by an employee who shoulder-butted a vending machine in order to help a co-worker dislodge a bag of chips were compensable under the Good Samaritan doctrine adopted by the Illinois judiciary. In the past, the Good Samaritan concept has been used to provide benefits where employees left the scope of employment and were injured in efforts to provide assistance to another person in urgent or life-threatening situations. The Court held that “what the Circuit City case lacked in urgency, it made up for in familiarity and collegiality.”

Sheesh.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


Question of the day

Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013

* As long ago as July (maybe earlier), rumors were circulating that Gov. Quinn was looking at Chicago Treasurer Stephanie Neely as a potential running mate. Then in August, word was that Quinn may have started looking elsewhere. Is he back to Neely? Maybe. Tribune

City Treasurer Stephanie Neely today acknowledged she’s talked to Gov. Pat Quinn about being his running mate next year but said she has not made a decision.

“I have spoken to Gov. Quinn” about the lieutenant governor opening, Neely said after first discounting such talk as “rumors.”

“I think public service is just honorable. I love the city of Chicago. I love the state of Illinois. So any way I can serve. I’m trying to be the best treasurer I can be, and if I ran for higher office, I’d try to be the best whatever I can be,” she said.

Neely, a former banker who lives in the North Kenwood neighborhood, has long been mentioned as a possible Quinn running mate. The Democratic governor is looking for a new teammate because current Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon opted to run for state comptroller.

Though Quinn faces no formidable challenge for renomination in the Democratic primary, selecting Neely, an African-American woman, could help the governor secure his connections with black voters in the general election. African-American voters in the Chicago area are key for Democrats to win statewide office and a female running mate also could help the ticket on social issues against a socially conservative Republican opponent.

* The Question: Would Stephanie Neely be a good running mate for Gov. Pat Quinn? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


surveys

…Adding… Oops. Tyop. (Sigh.) Typo. “Np” = “No.” Sorry about that.

- Posted by Rich Miller   42 Comments      


Driver’s license pilot program for the undocumented previewed

Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013

* From a press release…

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced today that the Temporary Visitor Driver’s License (TVDL) for undocumented (non-visa status) individuals will be available — by appointment only – during a pilot program beginning in early December at four select Driver Services facilities, with a full rollout schedule in January. Joining Secretary White at the press conference were state legislators.

Beginning November 12, TVDL applicants may schedule an appointment by calling 855-236-1155 or visiting www.cyberdriveillinois.com. Advance appointments are required at all designated facilities; walk-ins will not be served.

In December, the first phase of the rollout begins at four locations that will serve scheduled appointments. As of December 3, the TVDL locations are Chicago West, 5301 W. Lexington Ave. and Springfield, 2701 S. Dirksen Pkwy. Starting on December 10 locations at Chicago North, 5401 N. Elston Ave. and Bloomington, 1510 W. Market St. will be open. In January 2014, the second phase of the TVDL rollout will be available for scheduled appointments at 21 additional designated facilities statewide. For a complete list of locations, visit www.cyberdriveillinois.com.

* There are differences between the look of a drivers’ license and a TVDL. The TVDL has a different colored border and clearly marked “”Not valid for identification.” Also, the TVDL is not valid if the holder has no auto insurance.

Samples…

* Applicants also must follow certain guidelines, including…

• Scheduling an appointment with the Secretary of State Driver Services facility online at www.cyberdriveillinois.com or by calling 855-236-1155;

• Presenting various documents providing:

    o valid passport from the applicant’s native country or a Consular Identification Card from an approved country.
    o proof of name,
    o written signature,
    o date of birth,
    o current address and
    o 12 months of consecutive residency in Illinois,

• Purchase auto insurance upon receiving TVDL.

A photo of the applicant will be taken and then processed through the state’s facial recognition database. After the documents have been verified for authenticity, applicants will receive their TVDL through U.S. mail at a later date.

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   48 Comments      


“You are not valued here”

Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013

* Crain’s political columnist and blogger Greg Hinz is a gay man with a longtime partner and an adopted son. He’s mostly sidelined himself on the gay marriage bill, but broke his silence with a column this week. You should go read the whole thing, but this was his rationale for speaking out in his particular publication

(F)or those who might think that gay marriage is an odd subject for commentary in a business publication, I point you to what company after company has said in moving or expanding in Chicago: talent counts. And to the extent that legal gay marriage is the norm not only on the coasts but in the heartland states of Minnesota and Iowa, the message that’s going out to some talent is: Don’t come to Illinois. You are not valued here.

And if you think that we as a state might be sending the wrong messages because the House can’t yet find the votes to pass the gay marriage bill, what does it say when two viable Republican gubernatorial candidates speak at a Statehouse rally where gays were denounced by Jim Finnegan as “disease-filled” and “deviant”?

* Speaking of disgusting rhetoric, Andy Thayer of the Gay Liberation Network wants Rep. Greg Harris to resign if he doesn’t pass the bill next week

If Madigan is unwilling once again to buck the Catholic hierarchy and other religious bigots in Illinois and fails to push through a vote for marriage equality in the legislative session ending in early November, an embarrassed and politically impotent Harris should resign his seat in protest against his own Democratic colleagues, the same ones who in May promised to “return in November with their word that they are prepared to support this legislation.”

By refusing to give political cover for their cowardice, he would be doing the honorable thing. He would be a hero.

Andy Thayer is to the gay marriage proponents what Jim Finnegan is to the opponents. Screamers are almost always part of any controversial legislative proposal, and they can be useful to help move things along or scare legislators into submission. But these two guys are particularly outrageous and need to be marginalized.

* Meanwhile, some suburban and exurban mayors have announced their support for the gay marriage bill…

· Mayor Kevin Burns – Geneva
· Mayor Bob Hausler - Plano
· Mayor Stephan Pickett - Sleepy Hollow
· Mayor Dale Berman - North Aurora
· Mayor Ray Rogina - St. Charles
· Mayor Dave Anderson – Elburn
· Mayor Gary J. Golinski - Yorkville

Several other mayors have already announced backing for the bill.

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


Bulldozer in a china shop

Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013

* “Bulldoze the dirt out of Springfield” is the theme of one of Bruce Rauner’s Internet ads…

* The ad links to this page

State government is broken, and businesses are leaving and taking Illinois jobs with them.

That has to change.

Bruce Rauner will bulldoze the dirt out of Springfield.

Wreck the big spending status quo.

And level the job-killing tax code.

Join Bruce today to get Illinois back to work.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   76 Comments      


Bad and much worse

Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013

* SJ-R

A new study predicts the state will continue to face deficits for years to come even if the temporary income tax increase is made permanent.

If a major portion of the tax hike is allowed to expire at the end of 2014 as the law now stipulates, the problems will be even worse, says the Fiscal Futures Project of the Institute for Government and Public Affairs.

“It seems clear that Illinois’ current revenue and spending policies are unsustainable,” the report concludes. “Illinois has a chronic structural fiscal problem and must either take action to reduce spending, increase revenue, or some combination to avoid fiscal imbalances for years to come.” […]

If the rates are allowed to drop, the report predicts the state’s deficit will increase by $13 billion by the year 2025, based on estimates of state revenue growth and spending. However, even if the tax hike is made permanent, the report concludes that the state’s deficit will increase by more than $6 billion over the same period.

Those would be annual deficit numbers, not accumulated debt. So, we’re looking at a $13 billion a year deficit by 2025 without the tax hike, but a $6 billion a year deficit if the tax hike stands.

* The full report is here. A handy graph

In other words, if you read the report you’ll see that if the income tax is made permanent, there is still a lot of cuts which will need to be made, but if those cuts are made early it is somewhat manageable, although still quite painful. Significant baseline spending will have to be cut (even above and beyond what they do with pensions, if anything) and the growth of all spending will have to be extremely limited.

If the tax hike is allowed to expire, however, the cuts will have to be gigantic - the annual deficit in FY 2016 alone will be close to $7 billion.

…Adding… Fiscal and economic news roundup…

* State prisons’ overtime costs jump 34 percent

* Quinn is asking lawmakers for additional money

* Police, fire pensions face underfunding

* Moody’s downgrades CTA’s credit rating

* Strong increase in U of I Flash Index signals economic growth, but unemployment remains unchanged

* Where the housing recovery is only a faint hope: Prices in some south suburbs have dropped to where they were in 1992

- Posted by Rich Miller   75 Comments      


Jackson tried to report to prison early, turned away, now in custody

Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013

* Yet another bizarre twist

Convicted former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. entered Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina just before 10 a.m. Chicago time today, according to the Bureau of Prisons.

“He is in our custody, as of about a minute ago,” bureau spokesman Chris Burke said.

Jackson had tried to report to the prison near Durham on Monday, four days earlier than a judge had ordered, but he was turned away. Burke did not know what transpired to let Jackson enter custody today.

A judgment signed by the sentencing judge in August had indicated that the former congressman shall surrender “no earlier than Nov. 1, 2013.” That is Friday. […]

The former warden at Butner, Art Beeler, told the Tribune earlier today that when a person shows up at a prison before his report date, the institution has no legal authority to hold him in custody unless the judge’s order is amended.

* The prison staff should be familiar with Illinois politicians from that part of the state

Jackson is not the first former Chicago congressman to serve time at Butner. His Second Congressional District predecessor, Mel Reynolds, also served time there for bank and campaign fraud.

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


Welcome to the machine

Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013

* Dave McKinney took a look at House Speaker Michael Madigan’s 2012 nominating petitions and found that Patrick Ward was one of 30 circulators. Ward was at the center of the Metra controversy. Madigan tried to help him get a raise, and when the agency’s top dog balked all heck eventually broke loose. Ward ended up with a state job that appears to have been created especially for him.

Anyway, Ward wasn’t the only one of the 30 circulators who had a patronage job

As many as 29 of the 30 people work or previously worked in government; a dozen acknowledge working for local governments. Another 17 appear either to currently be getting a government paycheck or to have been as of last year, based on payroll records that match their names and dates of birth or home addresses.

More about the circulators

◆ In many case hold jobs for which politics isn’t supposed to be a factor in hiring, including sanitation laborer, plumber, truck driver, cashier and court reporter.

◆ Collectively were being paid roughly $2 million a year in their government jobs as of 2012.

◆ In some instances — Ward, for example — are drawing a government paycheck and a public pension.

◆ Contributed more than $200,000 altogether to political funds for Madigan or his daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

◆ Work for arms of government including the Cook County sheriff’s office, the Chicago Department of Water Management, the City Council Committee on Finance, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the CTA, the Cook County recorder of deeds and the state comptroller’s office.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   54 Comments      


Session impact

Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013

* The impact of session on local businesses can be huge

Many downtown businesses look forward to session days because of the business they bring in.

We stopped by Porter and Hazel’s, a deli on Jefferson. Owner Jered Dennis told us he had extra stock ready for today, but was disappointed there was no session. He said session days can boost business there by upwards of 50 percent.

“Booming,” Dennis said. “Deliveries to the capitol several times per day. A bunch more business in here. It’s actually really good for business while they’re in session.”

As for what types of food are most popular with lawmakers, Dennis said they tend to go for things with beef.

No surprise about the beef. It’s what’s for dinner when you go out with a member or lobbyist.

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      


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