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Wednesday, Dec 18, 2013

* I’m giving a speech today to the City Club, so blogging is gonna be light to nonexistent.

If you’re coming to the event, make sure to remember to bring a toy or gift card for a child ages 3-5 in Lutheran Social Services of Illinois’ early childhood program.


You can use this post as a very rare “open thread.” Also, if something happens and I can’t get to the ‘puter, it’ll be a good place for any breaking news comments.

Later, gators.

- Posted by Rich Miller   68 Comments      

Question of the day

Wednesday, Dec 18, 2013

* The 2013 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Illinois State Senator - Democrat wasn’t even close. Sen. Kwame Raoul

The man ate crow on concealed carry and pension reform after his Leader spent all of his time trashing previous proposals, and he did it in order to get important pieces of legislation passed. And he did it with class. That’s a statesman.

* Runner-up is a popular freshman…

Senator Manar has a very diverse and geographically large district but manages to cover it from north to south and east to west with his town hall meetings. I have attended two of these meetings and still have not seen the Senator fail to answer a question thoroughly and responsibly. His depth of knowledge of issues (especially downstate) and how to get things done are true assets to his district. The new water line for Stonington and his hearings on equitable education funding are prime examples. Downstate is fortunate to have an experienced and strong voice.

* The 2013 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Illinois State Senator - Republican goes to Senate GOP Leader Christine Radogno. I don’t usually give this award to chamber leaders, but some of you pointed out that she was particularly deserving this year…

She leads that caucus in the right direction more often than not, and does it with more than her fair share of misfit toys. Pension reform doesn’t happen without her efforts. She beat back Madigan & Cullerton’s push for the pension cost shift, even while business interests and IPI supported it. She’s having more impact than she should be having under this map with 19 members. And like, Raoul, she does it with class.

Agreed. Some were skeptical that she could hold that caucus together on pension reform, particularly with Dillard jumping ship, but she did it.

* Runner-up goes to another popular freshman…

[Sen. Jason Barickman] voted for SSM because he believed it was the right thing to do. Despite the fact that he has a largely rural district. Despite the fact that he was Bill Brady’s attorney in 2010. He has also kept his head down and worked hard. He is clearly smart and a bright future ahead.

I also appreciate that he is willing to take risks. People forget that he was an appointed State Rep when he decided to challenge a sitting State Senator without a net. Granted it was Shane Cultra, but that takes a lot of guts. Something in short supply in Springfield.

* OK, instead of a question today, let’s move to the next category…

* Best Statewide Officeholder:

* Best Illinois Congresscritter

As always, make sure to explain your answers to both questions in comments, please. Drive-by and name-only votes won’t count. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      

Deep thoughts, but not by Jack Handy

Wednesday, Dec 18, 2013

* From the twitters…

Any other deep thoughts to share on this cold December morning?

- Posted by Rich Miller   63 Comments      

War of words over Medicaid purge

Wednesday, Dec 18, 2013

* From a press release…

The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) and the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) [yesterday] announced that an Arbitrator has issued a supplemental order impacting the State’s largest public employee union that will allow for a contract with an outside vendor that handles Medicaid eligibility screening to be amended instead of abruptly cancelled.

The arbitrator’s supplemental order allows the state to maintain the improved screening process put in place this year to verify that Medicaid clients remain eligible for benefits when they re-apply annually to remain in the program. The state was faced with the abrupt termination of the eligibility screening contract with Maximus, Inc., at the end of this year, under an arbitrator’s initial ruling - issued this summer- in response to a grievance by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31.

Under the supplemental order, the Maximus contract will be amended and the state will retain the ability to use Maximus to make preliminary electronic determinations through the end of June. In addition, the agencies will be able to retain the use of Maximus’s call center and mail room operations through June 30, 2015. The screening program, known as the Illinois Medicaid Redetermination Project, was authorized by the General Assembly as part of the “Save Medicaid Access and Resources Together Act” (SMART Act) of 2012. The amended contract will comply with State and federal law and the collective bargaining agreement.

* But that’s not entirely true. The arbitrator’s “supplemental order” came after some negotiations

In order to bring down costs, the administration of Gov. Pat Quinn agreed to hire Maximus, a company with experience verifying eligibility for Medicaid in other states. But the AFSCME union objected, saying the job should be done by government employees.

An arbitrator agreed, and the Quinn administration, warned by its lawyers that an appeal might not succeed, cut a deal with the union.

* Two Republican legislators called the new agreement a “backroom deal” and defended Maximus

But lawmakers say the private company, Maximus, was “a stunning success” and should have never been fired.

“As of the latest update, 216,000 people who were receiving Medicaid benefits were taken off the program because the third-party contractor was involved,” said state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, adding that Maximus only looked at about a half million Medicaid files.

State Rep. Patti Bellock, R-Hinsdale, said before Maximus took over the review, state workers did a terrible job of checking incomes and addresses.

“These people were not even living in Illinois,” Bellock said. “They were (in) Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan.”

* AFSCME disagrees that Maximus was so great

The union, however, points to the same report to contend that Maximus has a roughly 30 percent error rate among those 127,000 cases. Union leaders also say Maximus was duplicating work being done by state employees and argue that the company “found favor with a small vocal minority of legislators and conservative lobbyists.”

“It’s time to end this failed experiment with outsourcing a critical public watchdog role to a private, for-profit corporation,” said Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31. “This order will bring oversight back to state government where it is directly accountable, and save money in the process.”

Actually, Maximus has some Democratic and regular Republican lobsters.

* Quinn defended the new arrangement

Quinn denied any “backroom deal.”

“That isn’t the case,” Quinn told reporters in Chicago. “The fact of the matter is that I respect everyone. But I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in court.”

Mike Claffey, a spokesman for HFS, said there was “nothing secret” about the deal, noting that legislators were told about the “two-track strategy” in September and it was in the department’s quarterly report.

* Look, the problem before wasn’t with the state employees, it was with management. If competent management is determined to cleanse the Medicaid rolls, then the job will get done. The question is whether state management is competent enough to do that and has the will to go forward.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      

ADM decides on Chicago

Wednesday, Dec 18, 2013

* Various news sources are reporting that Archer Daniels Midland has decided to open its new world headquarters office in Chicago without any state tax incentives.

ADM had asked for up to $30 million in tax breaks over 20 years. Gov. Pat Quinn said he opposed any such proposal until after pension reform was passed. The Senate overwhelming approved the incentive as part of a broader package earlier this month after passing a pension reform bill, but House Speaker Madigan refused to call it for a vote, later blasting unnamed corporations for trying to get a free ride on the taxpayers’ dime.

* In reality, everybody probably shoulda seen this one coming back in October when this report emerged

D. Cameron Findlay, ADM’s recently hired senior vice president and general counsel, paid $2.619 million for a 21st-floor condominium unit in a newly built Lincoln Park tower in Chicago.

Findlay closed on the unit in early September, before the company went public with its announcement that it’s planning to move its headquarters. It has said Chicago is its preferred city, although it’s seeking $24 million in tax incentives and is entertaining offers from other states.

* Crain’s

Sources said the new deal reportedly was struck after a series of conversations between Gov. Pat Quinn and ADM CEO Patricia Woertz.

If true, that’s yet another win for Quinn. He stood against the incentives while most everybody else jumped on board.

* In contrast, Bruce Rauner said Quinn was “avoiding responsibility” and “playing games” with ADM when Quinn tied the passage of pension reform to more corporate subsidies.

Sen. Kirk Dillard’s running mate Jil Tracy claimed Quinn had displayed a “terrible lack of leadership to link these two issues,” adding

“We need to assess and analyze, and certainly not hinder or antagonize them in the public as the governor’s done,” said state Rep. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy)

* Both Dillard and Sen. Bill Brady voted for the ADM bill in the Senate this month. Brady demanded a special session to take up the issue after the House refused to act and Office Depot did what everybody expected and announced its new headquarters would be in Florida

Hours after the Office Depot decision was aired, state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, called on Gov. Pat Quinn to call the House back to town for a special session regarding ADM’s tax breaks.

“We have to do what we can to keep job creators in the state of Illinois,” said Brady, who is running for governor. “The leisurely, passive attitude of the governor and House sends a powerful message to all businesses in Illinois that they don’t really feel any urgency to protect jobs and assist employers.”

* The company won’t be creating new jobs, but, then again, it’s not getting any state money

According to multiple sources with first-hand knowledge, ADM has reached an agreement with the state under which the headquarters and 60 to 75 top jobs will be moving from Decatur, where the agricultural giant now is based, to an as-yet-unidentified location in downtown Chicago.

That’s less than the 100 headquarters jobs the firm originally had mentioned when it announced in September that it was in search of a location with better international air connections and a wider talent pool than are available in Decatur.

Also not included are the 100 jobs at a technology center that the company said it would open in conjunction with its new headquarters. The fate of those positions is being left ambiguous, I’m told, with the company perhaps feeling that it has a better chance to get incentives for newly created positions rather than to just move jobs from one corner of the state to another.

* Mayor Rahm Emanuel is jumping on board today with a press release…

Mayor Emanuel today welcomed the announcement that Archer Daniels Midland has chosen to move its global headquarters to the city of Chicago.

“I am pleased to welcome ADM to Chicago and I look forward to the company’s continued success out of their new home,” said Mayor Emanuel. “As I said throughout this process, our goal was to put the city’s best foot forward and highlight Chicago’s strengths: an outstanding workforce, globally renowned transportation and infrastructure, and excellent quality of life. These strengths will help ADM as it continues its growth in the future just as they continue to drive our economy forward every day.”

The announcement comes a day after IBM released its annual “World’s Most Competitive Cities” report, which ranks 100 cities around the world in several key categories. In the category of International Headquarters, Chicago ranked 7th globally and second in North America, and the ADM headquarters move will only serve to solidify this ranking. Additionally, attracting corporate headquarters to the city is a key tenet of the Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs, the city’s economic development plan that is implemented by World Business Chicago.

Throughout the several month process, Mayor Emanuel marshaled all of the city’s economic development entities toward the goal of attracting ADM, including World Business Chicago, and the city’s Department of Housing and Economic Development (DHED). He was also directly involved in the recruiting process on a number of occasions.

Emanuel’s refusal to publicly support ADM’s bid for state incentives and/or add in his own city’s money was blamed in part on Speaker Madigan’s reluctance to move the ADM bill. So, I guess it’s a sorta win for Emanuel, too.

Mainly, though, Quinn winds up looking pretty good here and at least three of his Republican opponents don’t.

* Also too, maybe ADM’s decision will finally get people to realize that Illinois can compete and that Chicago is our jewel in the crown for attracting corporate headquarters and more jobs. The Republican candidates for governor (and lots of others, myself included at times) apparently believed that Illinois couldn’t pull this off without a government subsidy.

Constantly running down your own state may play well in a primary, but as it turns out, doing so can be a dangerous little political game.

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      

* IEPA issues "seal order" on Sterigenics plant
* Reader comments closed for the holiday weekend
* Rep. Chapa LaVia will head IDVA after previous appointee bows out
* Question of the day
* Mary Morrissey named new executive director of DPI
* Transparency issues
* It's just a bill
* Amazon leads $700 million investment round for Rivian
* Hysterical much?
* Minimum wage roundup
* Poll: Five points separate five mayoral candidates as union money whacks Daley
* Should the state sell the Tollway to boost the pension funds?
* Southern Illinois state's attorney vows not to enforce assault weapons ban if it becomes law
* Daley would keep hope alive for those who want pension benefit cuts
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