* I told subscribers this morning that no House Republicans were willing as of last night to put votes on Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle’s pension reform bill. No pension reforms have ever passed the House without at least a couple dozen GOP votes. So, big trouble.
Greg Hinz reached out to Leader Jim Durkin today…
“A number of our members continue to express concerns because this bill does not go far enough to achieve meaningful benefit reform — and worse, seemingly relies heavily upon increases in residential and commercial property taxes,” Mr. Durkin said in a statement.
In particular, he added, Ms. Preckwinkle’s bill provides more generous annual cost-of-living adjustments in pension payments than does the city bill, guaranteeing at least 2 percent a year, compounded, and potentially as much as 4 percent, as opposed to half of inflation, simple, with a 3 percent cap. “This bill does not match the structural changes previously enacted by the General Assembly. Furthermore, the business community has not weighed in on this bill as they previously have with the other state pension reform and Chicago pension reform bills,” he said. […]
And, for the record, both Mr. Durkin and other Republicans are denying that GOP gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner is behind the opposition. Mr. Rauner wants to completely abolish defined-benefit government pensions, moving to a 401(k)-style system
I talked with a labor lobbyist not long ago who said the union is holding their “No” votes so far, but that the situation remains “fluid.” If the GOPs stay off, President Preckwinkle has real problems with this legislation.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* If you’re checking the live session coverage post, you know that the House is currently debating legislation that would allow psychologists to prescribe medication. This is an agreed bill, written by the Medical Society, which is remaining publicly neutral.
A press release from the Coalition for Patient Safety has some dot points…
Psychologists have finally agreed to obtain biomedical education and clinical training so they can prescribe psychiatric medication:
• Clinical psychologists have to take a specific number of undergraduate biomedical science courses.
• And they will now receive a full-time practicum of 14 months supervised clinical training of at least 36 credit hours.
To further preserve patient safety, clinical psychologists have also accepted crucial limitations on their prescription privileges:
• Under the following circumstances, clinical psychologists will not be able to prescribe for:
o Patients who are less than 17 years of age or over 65 years of age.
o Patients who are pregnant.
o Patients who have serious medical conditions such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, or seizures.
o Patients who have developmental disabilities and intellectual disabilities.
• Psychologists CANNOT prescribe benzodiazepine, Schedule II controlled substances or narcotics, and there are significant limitations to prescribing Schedule III through V controlled substances.
• Out-of-state clinical psychologists CANNOT prescribe in Illinois unless they meet the Illinois standards required for biomedical education and clinical training, and abide by the patient safety measures outlined in SB 2187.
- Posted by Rich Miller
|Question of the day
Thursday, May 29, 2014
* Greg Hinz…
In the latest issue of Crain’s, I asked whether “Magic” Mike Madigan still has his good stuff and whether he remains the all-powerful speaker who can conjure up votes for just about anything he wants to pass.
We now have an answer: No.
Like an aging pitcher who’s been kept on the mound an inning too long, Mr. Madigan’s handling of the state budget this week and whether to extend the “temporary” income tax increase has been anywhere but on target.
Much of the painful, arduous work of recent years to get Illinois back on the path to fiscal stability is being undone, at least temporarily. Taxpayers are being tossed a mess they don’t fully understand and asked to make choices that won’t work for them. Kicking the can has replaced sensible governance, just like in the bad old Rod Blagojevich days.
* The Question: Has Speaker Madigan lost his touch? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* From a press release…
Quinn for Illinois today released a new campaign video featuring Billionaire Bruce Rauner continuing to shamelessly dodge questions about his budget. It has been 451 days since billionaire Rauner launched his bid for Governor, and the Republican candidate still refuses to reveal his plan to balance the budget.
Instead of providing solutions and being open with the people of Illinois, Rauner is hiding behind expensive TV ads and has even gone so far as to laugh at reporters who dared to ask him about his own budget ideas.
* The video…
Writing: Billionaire Bruce on his secret budget plan…
Rauner: We will be coming out with our plan, in due time…
Narrator: In the amount of time it’s taking Billionaire Bruce to release a budget plan, astronauts could have traveled to Mars and back
Reporters: What is due time?
Rauner: *laughs* At the right time…
Narrator: Thomas Jefferson could’ve conceived, written, and edited the Declaration of Independence 26 times
Reporters: Tell us what you’re for instead of what you’re against.
Rauner: *laughs* Soon, soon
Narrator: Kim Kardashian’s and Kris Humphries marriage could have been repeated six times
Rauner: We’re gonna be coming out with a plan, on taxes and in spending, in due time, at the right time
Narrator: In the amount of time Billionaire Bruce has spent refusing to disclose his budget or pension plans, you could watch the entirety of the show “LOST” over 90 times
Reporters: Why should anyone believe this after hearing it month after month after month? Aren’t you shortchanging the voters?
Narrator: After 451 days of shortchanging the voters, this is no laughing matter
Rauner: (Laughs) Soon.
Reporters: You’ve said this for months.
Rauner: All right, I understand. Next question.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* This has been an interesting bill to watch all spring…
The House gave final sign-off Wednesday to legislation that would give pregnant employees new civil rights in the workplace.
House Bill 8 provides that pregnant women be allowed “reasonable accommodations” on the job such as longer bathroom breaks, seating and time off to recover from childbirth.
The governor has said it’s the most important bill of the year. Business groups fought it in the beginning because they usually fight more government mandates. And quite a few Republicans voted against it when the bill first came up in the House.
But after some Senate changes, the bill unanimously passed both chambers.
* This bill also received some bipartisan support…
The House passed a bill Wednesday that would strike the arrest records of kids who haven’t been convicted of a crime.
The measure passed 74-40 in the House and goes to the Senate.
“Having a single juvenile arrest can impact the ability of youth to successfully compete for education, scholarships, employment and service opportunities later in life,” said the bill’s main sponsor Rep. Arthur Turner, D-Chicago.
Senate Bill 978 would require the Illinois State Police to wipe clean the arrest record each year for those under the age of 18, so long as they weren’t convicted of a crime. However, this does not apply to youth arrested for serious felonies or for sexual crimes.
Turner said the current process to expunge a person’s arrest record is “cumbersome” in that it takes time, money and is subject to all sorts of red tape. Turner said the fact that his bill automatically wipes these records for free will give young people a “fresh start” as they apply for a job or for college.
* And in the Department of Redundancy Department…
A Senate committee has approved a November ballot question asking if Illinois voters think prescription drug coverage plans should include birth control.
Illinois already requires insurance providers that cover prescription drugs to also cover FDA-approved contraceptive drugs for women. Sen. Iris Martinez, D-Chicago, sponsored that legislation, which became law in 2003. She told Senate Executive Committee members Wednesday that the goal of the ballot question is to make the argument stronger in light of the Affordable Care Act.
Republican Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, calls it “utterly meaningless” and accused Martinez of election-year politics.
- Posted by Rich Miller
Republican governor candidate Bruce Rauner has now crossed the $20 million mark for campaign contributions since launching his campaign in March 2013.
The latest disclosure report Rauner filed with the State Board of Elections showed $365,000 in new donations, bringing his campaign’s total take to more than $20.2 million. Of that, nearly $6.6 million has come from Rauner himself.
Rauner, a wealthy equity investor from Winnetka, has raised more than $5.2 million, since winning a four-way primary for the Republican nomination for governor on March 18. That includes $1.5 million from the Republican Governors Association and $526,000 Rauner gave to his campaign.
Gov. Quinn reported $8.9 million on hand at the end of March. He’s raised less than $100,000 since then.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* The Tribune once again demands that Gov. Pat Quinn sign the Chicago pension reform bill…
• The widely hailed state pension reform bill Quinn signed in December doesn’t rely on property taxes. But it relies heavily on the income tax — the tax Quinn is trying to keep at a high rate. So at the same time he knocks Emanuel for raising the issue of higher property taxes to cover local pensions, Quinn is reaching into a different taxpayer pocket and demanding high income taxes … to cover state pensions.
• In January, Quinn signed a Chicago Park District pension reform bill that relies in part on borrowing to reduce the district’s pension liabilities. Park District officials don’t deny they likely will turn to property taxes to pay off the bonds.
• A pension bill now zooming through the General Assembly addresses Cook County’s pension funds. Pushed by County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, the bill would require the county to pay more into its pension funds going forward. Preckwinkle isn’t saying where she’ll come up with the money in the county budget. But she hasn’t ruled out property taxes. “Everything is on the table,” she has said repeatedly.
So if Preckwinkle’s bill gets to Quinn’s desk, will he block it, too, out of deep (and newfound) concern for property taxes?
The difference between income taxes and property taxes is that income taxes are (except when people go broke before tax day) based on the ability to pay. Property taxes are not. And, of course, the Tribune has railed and railed and railed against the higher income tax level, so it’s being as hypocritical as Quinn is here: Allow a possible property tax hike to pay for city pensions, roll back the income tax hike which pays the state’s pension obligations.
Other than that, it’s difficult to argue with the rest of the editorial’s logic.
* Mark Brown: Quinn on tax question: Exasperating? Yes. Deceptive? No: But the accusation that Quinn’s support for a tax increase breaks some promise to the people of Illinois, who had elected him in 2010 on a campaign platform that notably INCLUDED his support for an income tax increase, is off base.
- Posted by Rich Miller
[This story has been rewritten after a commenter pointed out something that I missed.]
* Legislators have decided to pay off part of a 2011 debt to state workers…
House Bill 3793 contains $50 million that will be used to pay workers at five state agencies who saw their scheduled pay raises canceled in 2011. They’ve been owed the money ever since.
However, the amount is less than half of what is owed to the workers. Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration puts the total amount at $110 million. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees puts it at $112 million. Most, but not all, of the affected workers are members of AFSCME.
But that’s not all they did…
It also included $50 million to be applied to the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund, $35 million for school construction grants in Chicago, and $40 million to pay for school maintenance grants for downstate school districts. The bill also contains money for water and sewer projects and to restore a theater in Chicago. […]
“We pay for all the downstate teachers’ retirement money, and we have been giving short shrift to Chicago over the years,” Currie said. “If we were going to fund them the way we’re going to fund their downstate colleagues, we would be spending not $50 million, but $543 million.”
I was orginally incorrect about where that back pay and pension fund money came from. After looking at the bill, the cash was actually appropriated from the General Revenue Fund.
* Back to the capital plan for a second. Sun-Times…
The Illinois House has approved legislation that funds continued work on $20 billion worth of capital construction projects and includes spending to help in the renovation of the Uptown Theater and to pay for Chicago teacher pension obligations.
The legislation is part of a $31 billion capital construction program that lawmakers approved in 2009. The package was largely paid for through legalizing video poker, raising taxes on candy, liquor and beauty products and by privatizing the Illinois lottery.
So, in other words, they passed a $31 billion capital plan five years ago, which was designed to spur the state’s economy, and have only spent about a third of the money so far.
The Illinois House has voted to expand Medicaid despite Republican concerns about how to pay for it.
Lawmakers voted 75-37 on Wednesday to restore funding for adult dental and podiatry services.
Actually, over a dozen House Republicans voted for the bill…
Bost, Cavaletto, Cross, Davidsmeyer, Demmer, David Harris, Hays, McAuliffe, Moffitt, Pritchard, Rosenthal, Senger and Unes.
Senate Bill 741 would rollback several Medicaid program reductions that were cut under sweeping Medicaid reforms approved in 2012. The bill would restore podiatry services and preventative dental care for adults. It would lift the four-prescription limit for people with “severe mental illness.” It would also remove the limit on the number of physical therapy sessions patients can access. The bill allows for more funding for programs that care for children with extensive medical needs, such as those on ventilators. “We are restoring this simply because we have found out from experience that these cuts actually did not save us money. They cost the people of the state of Illinois more money, and they brought suffering and hardship to families. They brought overutilization to our emergency departments and interfered with the delivery of health care to other patients in need,” said Chicago Democratic Rep. Greg Harris, who sponsored the bill. The restorations would cost $221 million upfront. However, the spending would bring in federal matching funds, so Harris said the net cost would be about $125 million in general revenue funding.
Opponents questioned rolling back changes to Medicaid that were put in place to ensure that the system remained sustainable at a time when the state was pushing billions of Medicaid bills from one fiscal year into the next. The reforms now bar the state from shoveling Medicaid bills into future fiscal years. “How are we going to pay for that, and how are we going to sustain the system for the people who need it most?” Rep. Patricia Bellock asked on the House floor today.
Those who have advocated to restore the cuts argue that they do not save the state money in the long run because Medicaid patients are forced to skip preventative care but later call on the system once their health deteriorates into an emergency situation.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* Will Reynolds at EcoWatch…
Illinois scored a victory this week against an attempt to sacrifice parts of the state to poorly regulated fracking. State Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion) introduced a bill to cut short the process of writing new regulation while also creating a fracking moratorium only in the Chicagoland area. The response showed that many Illinoisans are still opposed to fracking in our state.
The fracking debate has many southern Illinois residents talking about the region being a sacrifice zone. Like the Hunger Game’s District 12, a sacrifice zone is where people are expected to shrug their shoulders with defeated acceptance as the cycle of boom and bust poverty and destruction continue generation after generation. Southern Illinois is sacrificed to an extraction economy that breeds poverty, offers dangerous jobs with high mortality rates while green jobs are created elsewhere, and exposes the public to deadly pollutants.
That’s some seriously over the top rhetoric, if you ask me. District 12? Really?
* I linked to this story because of what the anti-frackers did after their press conference this week…
After the press conference, we held a procession to John Bradley’s office to deliver two MoveOn.org Fracking Fighter petitions, the coalition letter to support a fracking ban and a coffin to represent the death sentence he issued against downstate Illinois. Following a die-in, the coffin, tombstone and flowers were left in Bradley’s office.
A photo from Rising Tide Chicago’s Facebook page…
* Meanwhile, remember those 35,000 public comments generated on the fracking issue? The strategy behind this flood was laid out last October at Huffington Post by Jeff Biggers, the author of “Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland.” Check it out…
Over the Next 40 Days, We Need to Bury the IDNR in Comments About the Loophole-Riddled Fracking Rule – And Jump Start the Fracking Moratorium Movement: As Illinois native and renowned scientist Sandra Steingraber has admonished — and done well in New York — the only way to keep Illinois from fast-tracking the incredibly flawed rules into law is to bury the understaffed IDNR officials during the public comment period, who are required to respond. […]
By the end of the week, several citizens groups and environmental organizations, such as Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environmental (SAFE) and the Illinois People’s Action launch a daily comment email alert and website. Contact them or the many other grassroots groups who are working on this effort.
* To give you an example of how paranoid some of these folks can be, check out this section of Biggers HuffPo story…
Is IDNR rigging the fracking deck? On October 25, less than 24 hours after the news media reported that Mitchell Cohen was appointed the Director of IDNR’s Office of Oil and Gas Resource Management, he was huddling at a Holiday Inn in Mount Vernon, Illinois for the Fall Membership meeting of the Illinois Oil & Gas Association.
Wow. An IDNR exec in charge of oil and gas resource management attended an industry function? How horrid.
* Ironically, Cohen was eventually moved out of his IDNR job for some apparent anti-fracking activities…
The man overseeing the crafting of rules governing hydraulic fracturing in the state has been pulled from the job, apparently after concerns were raised regarding his views on fracking. […]
No reason was offered for the reassignment but state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, said the circulation of a recent presentation given by Cohen in Chicago was the likely cause.
The presentation included lyrics from an anti-fracking song, Phelps said.
“That got a lot of people talking. He told us before that he had to be neutral but his presentation didn’t seem neutral,” Phelps said.
The legislators obtained a copy of the PowerPoint presentation Cohen used in his speech, and it includes the parody songs. The lyrics stated, as an example, that “gone away is the bluebird,” due to fracking.
Another example: “Fire bells ring, are you listening? In the lane, oil is glistening. A terrible sight, the gas drills at night, walking in a fracked-up wonderland.” Also: “We’ll frolic and play when we run them away, walking in a fracked-up wonderland.”
Another lyric took a jab at legislators: “On the first day of Christmas, the Senate brought to me, a half-baked safety guarantee.”
The full presentation is here.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* Jury selection began in Chicago Democratic state Rep. Derrick Smith’s federal corruption trial yesterday. Opening statements could begin today…
Smith, 50, is accused of accepting a $7,000 bribe from a day care center seeking a $50,000 state grant — though the facility turned out to be fictitious and part of an FBI sting… Smith has pleaded not guilty to bribery, which carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence.[…]
Prosecutors plan to use Smith’s statements immediately after his March 13, 2012, arrest, which they say amount to a confession. Court filings describe him as distraught, cursing at himself and telling investigators he’d taken the bribe. […]
Smith even brought arresting FBI agents to his home, retrieved $2,500 in leftover bribe money — in $100 bills bound with paper clips — from the foot of his bed and handed it to the agents, prosecutors say.
- Posted by Rich Miller
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