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Friday, May 16, 2014

* Willie

I’ve been insane on a train
But I’m still me again
And the place where I hold you is true

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


An interesting development

Friday, May 16, 2014

* RxP Illinois, which is pushing a bill to allow psychologists to receive extra training and supervision so that they could prescribe medication. The group sent this e-mail to its supporters today

We are hearing from legislators that they are concerned by the number of psychologists calling in opposition to SB 2187. Please make some time to give your Representative(s) another call in the Springfield office today or early next week. They will be in Springfield every weekday until they adjourn for the summer.

If you have social worker, counselor, or nurse colleagues who are supportive of SB 2187 or have neighbors or friends who are supportive and have not called yet, please ask them to do so also. We need to keep making the point that many more psychologists and associated professionals and citizens are supportive of SB 2187 than are opposed.

I’m not sure yet if those are organized phone calls or not, but check out the comments under a recent op-ed by Sen. Don Harmon, the bill’s main Senate sponsor. You’ll see quite a few comments by opponents who say they’re psychologists.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      


Question of the day

Friday, May 16, 2014

* House Speaker Michael Madigan confirmed today that Gov. Pat Quinn will address the House Democratic caucus on Monday

Quinn will reportedly talk about his tax hike extension plan, among other things.

* The Question: Top talking points the governor will use to convince House Democrats to vote to permanently extend the income tax hike?

It’s Friday, so have fun.

- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      


Today’s numbers: 4 million and 20,000

Friday, May 16, 2014

* If true, that’s almost a third of the state’s population

Approximately 4 million people in Illinois currently have some type of arrest or conviction record that would show up on a routine background check, said Anthony Lowery, director of policy and advocacy with the Chicago-based Safer Foundation, an organization focused on reducing recidivism rates.

“You may find a few employers who may understand the need for providing second chances, but the majority of employers don’t,” he stressed. “This has been a long-standing battle over the years to just level the playing field [and] provide people who show that they’ve rehabilitated their lives the opportunity to just work. I think the simplicity of work is the most direct link to reduce recidivism, saving taxpayers in this state millions of dollars in the associated costs of incarceration.”

Illinois already prohibits state agencies from asking about criminal history on initial government job applications. Job applicants no longer have to check a box on state employment applications indicating whether they have pled guilty to or been convicted of any criminal offense other than a minor traffic violation.

* On to our second number

Under the Juvenile Court Act, both arrest and court records for juveniles in Illinois are confidential and sealed. That sounds pretty off-limits. So why should people have to spend time and money to expunge juvenile records, if they’re already protected? […]

These are jobs in which the application form will typically include a request for authorization to run a background check. Once a prospective employer sees that, “even while you may figure that these records are sealed and you don’t have to worry about them,” Hamann said, “there’s a whole number of exceptions where it’s within their right and it’s commonplace for them to consider juvenile arrest records.”

He says that includes the Chicago Park District and many government jobs. […]

In 2013 there were about 26,000 juvenile arrests in Cook County. A little over 20,000 of those were arrests that never led to formal criminal charges. Now, bear in mind that juvenile records can’t be expunged until a person turns 18. So each year you have people in the pipeline, coming of age, who are eligible for those expungements. But as you see in the chart above, in 2013, there were only 660 juvenile records expunged in all of Cook County.

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      


Credit Unions – Individual service, united in focus

Friday, May 16, 2014

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

As not-for-profit financial cooperatives, credit unions hold a strong belief in giving back to their communities at the credit union level and on a geographic basis. Twenty-four chapters unite the state’s 333 credit unions and are integral to fulfilling their mission for nearly three million consumer members. Like the boards at credit unions, chapter boards are also run by volunteers. The Illinois Quad Cities Chapter alone serves 10 credit unions and their 234,000 members in a three county area. Similarly to other credit union chapters, Illinois Quad Cities is particularly active in community charitable activities and worthwhile causes. This includes helping consumers protect their personal information by sponsoring community shred days to properly dispose of documents. The chapter also hosts “community nights” to provide local organizations a forum to request financial support. As a result, more than $15,000 has been provided to a variety of local charities. Motivated by their stories, credit unions separately hold fundraisers to support these groups, as well participate in events for others, including the local children’s hospital. Members know credit unions will be there for their daily financial needs and support their community – just some of the many virtues that define the credit union difference.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Rant of the week

Friday, May 16, 2014

* Fox 32 reports on the often contentious appropriations bill debates yesterday

The Illinois House was voting all day, and sent one appropriations bill after another to the State Senate. However, angry Republicans, and several suburban Democrats, complained that the Democratic majority is spending money the state doesn’t have.

They had signs asking, “Temporary?”

It was a mocking reference to the state income tax increase that is scheduled to roll back next January.

* One of the signs

* But the Democrats did have a response

Democrats, however, say Republicans only want to criticize, and haven’t put forth a plan of their own.

Representative Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea) says he searched for the Republican budget everywhere. He even asked his dog.

“And I said, ‘Willie, did you eat the Republicans’ plan?’ But he wouldn’t do that to you, he’s a good dog, he would never eat your plan,” he said. “You know what your plan is? Your plan is to not have a plan.”

Regardless of what you think of the debate, Hoffman’s full speech was hilarious. Our good friends at BlueRoomStream.com isolated it for me last night, but their live video host livestream.com has been down since late last night. I asked Amanda Vinicki at WUIS if she could post a copy of Hoffman’s entire rant. Listen to the whole thing

Heh.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** This Is Illinois

Friday, May 16, 2014

*** UPDATE *** AP

The 16 flights cost a total of about $7,400. This is the first year of a three-year program that’s largely funded by federal dollars.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* Scott Reeder

Our cash-strapped state government has found a new use for its fleet of aircraft – flying birds into Illinois.

I kid you not.

State aircraft are flying to Kansas and transporting prairie chickens back to the Land of Lincoln.

And at a time state lawmakers are looking at raising the state income tax, Illinois state employees have been hiking across Kansas trapping these chickens.

Talk about fowl fiscal deeds.

State pilots have flown between Illinois and Kansas not once, not twice but 14 times this year taking prairie chickens to downstate Jasper and Marion counties.

“Illinois is the Prairie State and prairie chickens are an endangered species here, so we thought it would be a good idea to bring them back,” said Scott Simpson, site manager for Prairie Ridge State Natural Area in Newton, Ill.

The feds are chipping in $337,000 toward the program and the state will pay $117,000. Some of the cost to state government may be offset by private fundraising done by the Audubon Society, Simpson said.

* The AP has the state’s response

Illinois Department of Natural Resource spokesman Chris Young says the greater prairie chicken is a threatened species. He says the state started a program this spring to bring the chickens to the Prairie Ridge State Natural Area near Effingham to increase their dwindling population. Young says the Kansas chickens are needed to improve genetic diversity. The state has brought about 90 chickens to Illinois on multiple flights.

Young says hunting and fishing license fees along with private donations pay the rest.

* And we’re getting the birds from more states than just Kansas. From Minnesota Public Radio

In the past few years, several hundred Minnesota chickens have been captured and relocated to help rebuild populations in North Dakota, Illinois and Wisconsin. There’s even talk of moving Minnesota birds to Texas to help save a cousin, the Atwater Prairie Chicken.

Missouri is also getting threatened birds from Kansas, but they’re driving the birds, not flying them.

- Posted by Rich Miller   65 Comments      


AG Madigan files responses to pension lawsuits

Friday, May 16, 2014

* Attorney General Lisa Madigan responded yesterday to the multiple lawsuits filed against the pension reform law. The Tribune’s Rick Pearson has a very good story about her arguments

In arguing to uphold the law, Madigan’s office contended that since 2000 and the subsequent recession, the state’s underfunding of the pension systems “contributed significantly to a severe financial crisis…that adversely affected the long-term financial soundness of those retirement systems, the cost of financing the state’s operations and outstanding debt, and the state’s abilty to provide critical services to Illinois residents and businesses.

“Although the systems have been underfunded for many years, their underfunding now greatly exceeds the state’s annual budget for all categories of expenditure, including, without limitation, public education, public health and safety, medical coverage for the poor and for current and retired public employees, road construction, repair and maintenance, and all other public services provided by state employees,” the attorney general’s response to the challenges said. […]

The state’s response also argued that a significant driver of the unfunded liability, annual 3 percent compounded cost of living adjustments on retiree pensions, was not a “core benefit” that would be protected by the state constitution.

The law “is a permissible exercise of the State of Illinois’ reserved sovereign powers (sometimes referred to as the State’s police powers),” Madigan’s response said, adding that those challenging the statute “cannot sustain their burden of establishing that (it) is unconstitutional.”

* Here are AG Madigan’s four five responses…

* We Are One lawsuit

* ISEA lawsuit

* Doris Heaton et al vs. TRS

* State University Annuitants Association vs. SURS

* ADDING: RSEA lawsuit

- Posted by Rich Miller   88 Comments      


Another cart before the horse

Friday, May 16, 2014

* I’m assuming that we’ll be hearing more about this in the not too distant future. From yesterday’s approp bill debates, here’s a choice nugget from the Sun-Times

Republicans also injected some election-year politics into the debate, focusing on the federal investigation of Gov. Pat Quinn’s now-disbanded Neighborhood Recovery Initiative and asking whether anti-violence spending tucked into some of Thursday’s budget bills represented a continuation of that botched 2010 program.

In one instance, Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, zeroed in on a mysterious $15 million grant program for at-risk communities that Democrats inserted in the state Department of Labor budget with little to no explanation of its purpose.

“Can I have the criteria for qualifying for this grant program?” Ives asked Arroyo, who sponsored that spending bill, as well.

After a brief back and forth with Ives, Arroyo answered, “We’ll develop the program after we pass this budget.”

“You cannot make this stuff up,” Ives shot back in disgust. “I hope people are watching. This is appalling. This sickens me.”

I gotta agree with Ives on this one. Bad move.

* And speaking of the NRI, this is from the Senate Republicans…

The Legislative Audit Commission will begin its review of the NRI audit at a meeting scheduled for May 28, 8:30am. We anticipate Auditor General Bill Holland will present the audit, the findings and the recommendations before taking questions from Commission members. If time permits, the Audit Commission will hear from Jack Cutrone, CJIA head, as well.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


House budget roundup

Friday, May 16, 2014

* Reuters

Democratic lawmakers pushed dozens of fiscal 2015 appropriations bills through the Illinois House of Representatives on Thursday over protests largely from Republicans that the money does not exist to pay for higher spending.

The bills for the budget that takes effect July 1 were based on Governor Pat Quinn’s preferred spending plan that calls for making permanent higher income tax rates that were put in place in 2011 and are scheduled to partially expire on January 1. But instead of voting first on the taxes, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan decided to start with appropriations.[…]

At the beginning of Thursday’s marathon budget session, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said that the budget process was taking the wrong turn.

“We are voting today for an unconstitutional budget, plain and simple,” he said.

* Illinois Issues

The plan approved [yesterday] was largely based on Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget proposal, which calls for an extension of the current income tax rates. The rates are scheduled to begin stepping down in the second half of next fiscal year. The plan would increase spending for K-12 and higher education, as well as human services. The spending includes several line items specifically requested by Quinn, including increased funding to the Monetary Assistance Program (MAP) for low-income college students, additional funding for maternal and early childhood health programs, money to turn two shuttered youth centers into special treatment centers for mentally ill and substance addicted adult inmates and raises for home health care workers.

Still, the plan would not fully fund General State Aid to schools. GSA has been prorated for the last three years. The legislation passed today would fund GSA at 90 percent. Some Republicans argued that if there is going to be a tax increase, more of the money should go to education. The line item for transportation would be funded at 83 percent. “We’re spending more money than at any time in history and the question is where is the money? Cause it doggone sure is not in education,” said Rep. Chad Hays, a Catlin Republican. “Where is the money? This process doesn’t add up.” Lewiston Democratic Rep. William Davis, who is chairman of the House K-12 education budgeting committee, said that K-12 education would be getting a bigger chunk of revenue than other areas of the budget. “Tell me someone in this chamber who doesn’t run on some education platform—that they support education and want to see it fully funded? I think we all agree on that. But I think the reality is that there are always some limitations. We don’t have an unlimited pot of resources that we can use.”

* Daily Herald

On scores of votes, state Reps. Sam Yingling of Grayslake, Marty Moylan of Des Plaines, Anna Moeller of Elgin, Stephanie Kifowit of Aurora and Deborah Conroy of Villa Park voted “no.” The five could face tough Republican opponents in November.

“It’s irresponsible to vote for a budget with a fictional income source,” Yingling said in a statement.

And Moylan said he’s opposed the tax extension and therefore couldn’t vote for a budget that relies on its money.

Other Democrats who have had competitive races in the past — state Reps. Michelle Mussman of Schaumburg, Fred Crespo of Hoffman Estates, Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook and Kathleen Willis of Addison — voted “yes” on the budget.

* SJ-R

Among those voting for most of the bills was Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, who previously said she is against extending the temporary tax hike and even co-sponsored a bill in 2013 to immediately eliminate the tax increase. The bill never came to a vote.

Scherer received substantial financial support from House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, both in her first election campaign in 2012 and again this spring in the primary election during which she successfully fended off a challenge from Gina Lathan of Springfield.

Scherer said Thursday her votes for the budget do not indicate she will vote to extend the temporary income tax increase.

“My feeling has not changed,” Scherer said. “There’s not been a single vote taken today about taxes. I know there are people trying to say this is a tax vote. This is a budget vote, which is not an annual financial report. It’s a budget vote.”

* Illinois News Network

“I’ve been visited a lot today by people who know the extension is going to be very vital for social services, hospitals; they’ve all contacted me,” state Rep. Daniel Beiser, D-Alton. “What I’m trying to do right now is I’m trying to figure out what’s best for my district. … What if we don’t extend the tax? What’s going to be cut in my area? Because I don’t need one more job cut in my area. I don’t need anything else closed. I’m going to take all of that into consideration and I’m going to do what’s best for my district.”

His view was echoed by state Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale.

“We have two and a half weeks left in the session to look at whether or not people want to keep the … tax increase that was put into effect three years ago,” he said. “I think we could’ve done things a little bit differently. I’m a freshman down here and whatever they decide to do, I have to make the best of and make my decisions on how I would like to vote.”

* Sun-Times

In a late development Thursday filled with political intrigue, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, invoked a rare parliamentary maneuver that blocks the spending bills from being sent to the Senate, keeping them under House control. […]

The day offered no clarity on whether House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, was making any headway toward reaching the necessary 60 House votes from his 71-member caucus to keep the temporary income-tax increases from rolling back in January. At one point Thursday, the Capitol Fax political blog estimated that Madigan’s headcount stood at a mere 53.

“He hasn’t given me a number, but I think we’re a decent ways away,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said late Thursday, when asked how far his boss had to go to reach the 60-vote threshold.

That estimate was made before the votes were clear yesterday. Subscribers know more.

* Also

House Speaker Michael Madigan has filed a motion that will effectively prevent the more than 70 budget bills passed today from automatically going to the Senate. Madigan told the Chicago Tribune that the move was needed in case the House wanted to further amend the bills.

* WUIS

There are other possibilities: there are murmurs of meeting in the middle; instead of keeping the tax rate where it is or letting it drop to 3.75 percent, choose a number in between.

Other lawmakers say Illinois could come up with more cash by closing so-called corporate loopholes, or reducing the portion of state taxes shared with cities and towns. The problem is, neither of those ideas would match the amount of money Illinois would rake in through a higher income tax.

Which leaves Democrats scrambling to herd their members.

* The typical taxpayer is forking over about $1,100 more this year as a result of the tax hike, according to government numbers crunched by the AP

Number of Illinois taxpayers: 5.99 million

Average taxable income: $55,000

2014 average state tax liability at 5 percent: $2,750

Average liability at 3 percent rate: $1,650

Average liability at 3.75 percent if tax is rolled back: $2,062

Average reduction with the rollback: $688

* From House GOP Leader Jim Durkin’s press release…

Leader Durkin has sent a letter requesting an Attorney General opinion regarding the constitutionality of an appropriation of public funds in a state budget, where the appropriations listed in the budget exceed the funds estimated by the General Assembly for that fiscal year.

House Democrats are expected to pass further budget bills next week and the total spending number is expected to climb and could reach a record high of $38 billion before adjournment.

* And there was also this quite harsh press release from Democratic freshman Rep. Sam Yingling…

State Representative Sam Yingling will once again assert his independence by voting against a State budget proposal promoted by Democratic leadership in the Illinois House. The series of budget proposals are based on the assumption that Illinois’ temporary income tax increase will be extended or made permanent, something Yingling staunchly opposes.

“It’s irresponsible to vote for a budget with a fictional income source,” said Yingling from Springfield, “I will fight against the income tax increase and it would be illogical, hypocritical, to vote for a budget on a premise I believe is the wrong direction for taxpayers.” […]

“I was elected to fight the status-quo, no be part of it. My area has among the highest property taxes in the County, asking people to pay more is beyond comprehension.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


*** UPDATED x2 - Ives, Madigan in testy exchange *** Madigan moves non-binding minimum wage referendum to committee

Friday, May 16, 2014

* Sun-Times

House Speaker Michael Madigan plans Friday to push a plan to ask voters this fall to decide whether Illinois’ lowest-earning workers deserve an increase in pay. […]

Madigan’s legislation is posted for a Friday morning hearing in Springfield. Brown said a floor vote on the measure likely will come next week. […]

As much as Madigan is seeking input from voters on the question, his push also could help spur turnout in the Democratic Party base and help Quinn in what is a tight re-election bid against Bruce Rauner.

The referendum also keeps alive what key Democrats believe is a potent campaign weapon against Rauner, the multimillionaire private equity investor who has waffled on the question of whether to require employers put more in the pockets of Illinois’ lowest wage earners.

* Tribune

Under the measure, voters could voice their opinion on whether the minimum wage in Illinois for adults over the age of 18 should be raised to $10 an hour by Jan. 1. With the first-of-the-year trigger date, the referendum could place the matter on the legislative agenda in the post-election fall veto session, since it’s unlikely to pass before lawmakers go home at month’s end. […]

Democratic Sen. Kim Lightford of Maywood said approval of a referendum could help her bid to pass a minimum wage hike in the Senate, where she believes she is a couple of votes shy of the 30 needed to pass. The idea of a referendum gained currency as Madigan, who doubles as Illinois Democratic Party chairman, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., suggested the issue should go before the general public to build support, Lightford said.

As we’ve discussed before, this is a “win-win” for Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton. They avoid a fight-to-the-death showdown with groups like the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, put Bruce Rauner on the spot by making this a campaign issue and maybe gin up a little turnout in November.

*** UPDATE 1 *** From Dave McKinney…


*** UPDATE 2 *** Both unclear on the concept. Sun-Times

Madigan got into a testy exchange with one Republican on the panel, state Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, who opposes his plan and justified her position from observations she collected as a tax preparer for eight years.

“I can assure you that I have done a number…of tax returns for people at the bottom and when it’s all said and done — when you take into account all the public benefits they’re receiving — they receive an inordinate amount, well over their amount in earned income, in benefits back from the government,” Ives told Madigan. “There is a safety net already in place, and I personally think this is…anti-business.”

Madigan appeared to grow angry at Ives’ statement.

“I don’t think you should use the word ‘inordinate’ when you’re talking about people who are on government benefits. They don’t want to be on government benefits. They want a job where they can earn a living, support their family, live a nice life. So please,” Madigan continued, his voice rising, “don’t use the word ‘inordinate’ when people are on government benefits. They don’t want to have the benefits.”

Madigan missed Rep. Ives’ point. She was talking about the working poor, not the unemployed. Notice Ives mentioned “earned income.”

But Ives also missed the point. Those workers are on government benefits because they don’t make much money. And so those government benefits are acting as a direct subsidy of the businesses which employ workers at sub-par wages and don’t offer full-time employment. Ives is basically arguing to continue that government subsidy.

- Posted by Rich Miller   61 Comments      


*** LIVE SESSION COVERAGE ***

Friday, May 16, 2014

* The Senate is gone, so it’s just the House today

- Posted by Rich Miller   1 Comment      


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Friday, May 16, 2014

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Exelon threats kill clean-energy bill

Thursday, May 15, 2014

* Crain’s

An effort in Springfield to overhaul Illinois’ clean-energy law to jump-start stalled renewable power projects in the state is dead for this legislative session.

The initiative — pursued for more than a year by environmentalists who say the state’s law to require more of the power consumed here to come from clean sources is broken — has stalled. So says state Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, who has led the negotiations over the issue.

He confirmed the effort died after Exelon Corp., by far the most influential energy industry player in Illinois, threatened earlier this year to close two or three of its six nuclear power plants in the state due in part to subsidized wind farms that it says are dampening power prices and making some of its nukes unprofitable.

The issue, he said, “caused everyone to take a step back.”

* Not long after that story appeared, I received this press release from Speaker Madigan’s office…

A coalition of regional labor leaders, public officials and Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan have won assurances from Exelon to maintain operations at three Illinois facilities for 12 months

“I am happy to confirm that our efforts to preserve jobs in the Quad Cities and Clinton have been successful. The outcome is the result of a concerted effort by labor leaders and elected officials to ensure these families will continue on the job,” Madigan explained.

“When published accounts triggered speculation Exelon might alter operations, I went to work with others to ensure these working families would not be threatened. Today we can report success,” Madigan.

Shifting electricity usage and marketing patterns apparently triggered the speculation and led to discussions that produced the assurances to Madigan.

The Speaker also cited the willingness of Exelon CEO and President Chris Crane to discuss Exelon’s operations and publicly assure the government and labor leaders of the company’s plan. Exelon operates 11 nuclear reactors in six locations. More than 5,300 persons are employed at the facilities.

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      


Question of the day

Thursday, May 15, 2014

* Kurt Erickson quotes Speaker Madigan

The powerful Democrat from Chicago chided reporters for suggesting he would be twisting arms in the coming days, saying that’s not how he plans to win support for what amounts to an election year tax increase.

“We’re not in the business of issuing threats,” Madigan said.

He doesn’t need to issue threats. People know what to expect.

* Meanwhile, Greg Hinz

So how seriously should you take Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s proposal yesterday to rein in the state’s main job incentive program, so-called EDGE tax credits?

The answer likely depends on just how many votes the speaker has — or still needs — to pass a permanent extension of the state’s “temporary” income tax hike in the waning days of the General Assembly’s spring session. And on who might be inclined to provide those votes.

According to a variety of well-placed sources, revamping the Economic Development for a Growing Economy credits is one of a series of still-moving pieces on the wider income tax chessboard. Also reportedly in play are a possible cut in the state’s corporate income tax rate, an increase in the earned income tax credit for working families, Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposed $500-a-home property tax “refund,” and a permanent extension of the tax credit for research and development.

* The Question: Will Speaker Madigan pass the tax hike extension? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


panel management

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      


Unemployment rate down half a point, but big manufacturing losses

Thursday, May 15, 2014

* Halfway decent news for a change. From IDES…

The Illinois unemployment rate hit a new five-year low in April when it fell to 7.9 percent, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Illinois Department of Employment Security. More people working pushed the rate down 0.5 points, the lowest since December 2008 and largest monthly decline in the history of this data series which began in 1976. […]

In April 2014, the number of unemployed individuals fell -35,700 (-6.5 percent) to 516,000. Total unemployed has fallen -237,500 (-31.5 percent) since January 2010 when the rate peaked at 11.4 percent. The unemployment rate fell even though preliminary estimates indicate 7,800 fewer private sector jobs in April and 29,300 more jobs than one year ago. The unemployment rate and job creation numbers can move independently of each other because they come from different surveys.

The unemployment rate is in line with other economic touch points. First-time jobless claims have been trending lower for the past four years and at 48,697 in April are 20 percent lower than one year ago. Numbers from the independent Conference Board’s Help Wanted OnLine Survey show Illinois employers in April advertised for more than 200,000 jobs (201,500 seasonally adjusted) and 85 percent sought full-time employment.

Illinois employers added +249,600 private sector jobs since the low point of employment in Illinois. Leading sectors are Professional and Business Services (+114,600, +14.6 percent); Education and Health Services (+55,900, +6.8 percent); and Leisure and Hospitality (+38,000, +7.4 percent). Government (-25,600, -3.0 percent) continues to lead job loss.

* However, Illinois has lost 8,900 manufacturing jobs in the past twelve months, according to IDES, including a whopping 3,500 last month alone.

And while 20,000 new jobs were gained in the professional and business services category during the past 12 months, 7,100 jobs in that category disappeared in April.

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


Tax hike math

Thursday, May 15, 2014

* Remember the 2013 bill I wrote about recently which was co-sponsored by 11 Democrats to roll the income tax hike all the way back to 3 percent? Those co-sponsors were

Martin J. Moylan - Stephanie A. Kifowit - Sam Yingling - Katherine Cloonen - Natalie A. Manley, Deborah Conroy, Sue Scherer, Jerry F. Costello, II, Carol A. Sente, Patrick J. Verschoore and Kathleen Willis

* The Chicago Tribune editorial page dug up comments from individual House Democrats on the temporary tax hike and found five others who went on record against making it permanent

“I would vote to repeal the tax increase. I would not support extending the tax increase.”

— State Rep. Michelle Mussman, D-Schaumburg

“We made a promise to the taxpayers and we should keep to that promise. It was a temporary increase and it should be kept that way.”

— State Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates

“I do not support extending the increase.”

— State Rep. Kelly Burke, D-Evergreen Park

“I do believe the tax should be truly temporary. We should say what we mean and mean what we say.”

— State Rep. Fran Hurley, D-Chicago

“The tax should expire as planned.”

— State Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley

Add in Rep. Jack Franks as a sure “No” vote and newly appointed Democratic Rep. Anna Moeller and that’s 18 Democrats who’ve said publicly that they didn’t want to extend the tax hike.

Madigan has 71 Democrats. 71-18=53. 60 votes are needed for passage.

Of course, Rep. Mautino is a member of Madigan’s leadership team, so I assume some have already flipped.

But the task is most definitely difficult.

- Posted by Rich Miller   46 Comments      


Budget roundup

Thursday, May 15, 2014

* House Speaker Michael Madigan stated the obvious yesterday

Democrats in the Illinois House began advancing a budget Wednesday that is built on the presumption that the legislature will extend the state’s temporary income tax increase.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said setting the spending plan first will “set the bar” and help convince House members to vote for the tax increase.

But Republican House member Dennis Reboletti of Elmhurst said setting a budget, before knowing revenue, is putting the cart before the horse.

“That’s not how a business operates. That’s not how my family operates its budget,” Reboletti said, adding that you don’t buy a new house and “hope to have more money.”

* Madigan had some blunt words for those who believe that passing a budget without the tax hike revenues included could wind up as unconstitutional

Republicans also argued that the math being used by Democrats was unconstitutional, noting the nearly $4 billion shortfall that could result and pointing to a provision in the Illinois Constitution that states “appropriations for a fiscal year shall not exceed funds estimated by the General Assembly to be available during that year.” […]

Madigan dismissed the legal concerns as “fiction,” and Rep. Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat who chairs the human services appropriations committee, argued that lawmakers must first determine what they want to spend money on before asking taxpayers to pony up for it. He said there were other revenue ideas floating around the Capitol beyond the tax increase, such as the possibility of keeping more of the tax money sent to local towns, though that proposal has failed to gain traction.

* But some top Senate Democrats piled on

“It’s not responsible,” said state Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat and budget committee chairman. “I’d have a very hard time voting for a budget based on revenue that we don’t have.” […]

State Sen. Heather Steans, a Senate appropriations chairwoman who like Kotowski says she can’t support a spending plan without having hard revenue estimates in place, outlined a strategy in which the Senate would wait to act on any House spending plan until it also produced a revenue measure. Cullerton has said for weeks that he’s confident he has the 30 votes needed for a tax increase in the Senate.

“I think we sit on their budget for a period of time and see what happens on the House on the Revenue. Hopefully they will send that over too,” Steans said.

Steans noted, however, that the Senate’s approval of a House budget is no sure thing.

* The end of session clock is ticking loudly, but Madigan said he’s not concerned

“Don’t worry about the deadline,” the speaker said as he walked away. “Don’t.”

* And the Speaker still wants another big budget-buster

Along with backing a change in a business tax incentive program, Madigan said he supports legislation that would cut the corporate income tax rate in half.

“I’m prepared to advance that bill… as part of a balanced package,” Madigan said.

There’ll have to be a whole lot of reworking the numbers if he goes through with that, unless he finds other revenues.

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


New puppy mill proposal emerges

Thursday, May 15, 2014

* As I told you yesterday, the Humane Society decided to drop its efforts to ban pet stores from selling dogs and cats from breeders and require them to sell only animals from shelters. The bill was strongly supported by Gov. Pat Quinn, but they ran into opposition and they’ve considerably reduced the scope of their bill. From their fact sheet…

The Legislation
• Senate Amendment 3 to HB 4056 limits pet stores to purchasing dogs only from breeders who:

    1. Are licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA);
    2. Have not committed a direct violation of USDA regulations during the previous two years;
    3. Have not committed three or more indirect violations of USDA regulations during the previous two years; and,
    4. Have not received “No Access” violations from the USDA on their two most recent visits.

Promotes the Sale of Dogs and Cats from Reputable Breeders

    • Senate Amendment 3 to HB 4056 does not ban the sale of the dogs and cats by pet stores that have been purchased from breeders.
    • The Amendment simply requires that pet stores only obtain the dogs and cats they purchase for sale from reputable breeders who have not been in serious violation of USDA pet-dealer regulations.

Reasonable Approach

    • Senate Amendment 3 to HB 4056 is modeled after legislation recently passed unanimously in Connecticut.
    • The Amendment would address concerns of closing businesses, as this will not prohibit pet stores from selling puppies as long as they are in compliance.
    • This amendment reduces the likelihood that pet stores obtain their puppies from a puppy mill.

The new amendment is here.

Your thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      


Ride-sharing regs pass key Senate committee

Thursday, May 15, 2014

* Sun-Times

Two bills advanced together out of committee Wednesday which would regulate ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft statewide, much to the dismay of the app-based entrepreneurs involved.

The legislative couple — House Bill 4075 and its trailer House Bill 5331 — passed 11-2 and 13-2, respectively, in the Senate Executive Committee.

“The bill creates regulations and requirements for commercial ride-sharing arrangements or transportation and personal-use vehicle prearranged through a dispatcher for a fee,” said Sen. Antonio “Tony” Munoz, D-Chicago, the bills’ chief Senate sponsor.

HB 4075 moves to the Senate floor while HB 5331, if it passes the full Senate, would go back to the House for final approval, a scenario that Munoz said he’s “100-percent” certain will happen.

In addition to mandating companies provide liability insurance, the combined effect of the bills would divide ride-sharing drivers into two tiers, based on the number of hours they work.

* From ride-sharing company Lyft…

Passing this legislation will place severe limits on Lyft and other ridesharing platforms, drastically decreasing the availability of safe and affordable rides. The bill prohibits ridesharing for cars that are more than four years old, even when stringently insured and background-checked, potentially eliminating 70 percent of Chicago’s Lyft drivers. This provision disproportionately affects lower-income drivers in the Lyft community who have come to rely on ridesharing as an important way to earn extra money to make ends meet.

* But Sen. Karen McConnaughay (R-Aurora) says some insurance regulations were very much needed

“I’m a huge fan of free markets and of Uber itself,” McConnaughay told Illinois Review Wednesday morning. “The core issue for me is how riders and drivers are insured while they’re taking UberX rides. I’m not entirely happy with the bill, but we’ve been working on this and there are problems the bill addresses.”

Uber says they carry a million dollar policy when passengers are in their vehicles, but UberX drivers provide their own private insurance that kicks in when they are not hauling passengers.

“That million dollar policy is to protect the company, not the driver nor the passenger,” McConnaughay said. “You sign a waiver when you sign up for the program. Right now, I wouldn’t want family or friends to get in a vehicle in which they are not insured. If there’s an accident, Uber is off the hook. This legislation addresses that problem.” […]

“There’s no question the taxi industry wanted to eliminate the rideshare programs,” McConnaughay said. “But we worked on the legislation to make changes, and while I’m not entirely happy with the bill, there is a need for insurance requirements to protect consumers.”

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      


*** UPDATED x2 - There could be a placard *** Caption contest!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

* Remember this Tribune story?

U.S. Senate candidate Jim Oberweis, who cites his successful push to raise Illinois’ speed limit as the top accomplishment of his first year as a state lawmaker, has been ticketed for speeding 11 times since 1988, according to public records. […]

More than half of Oberweis’ tickets have come since 2003. Many show Oberweis was driving a red Cadillac when he was cited.

* I went to the Conference of Women Legislators’ big annual event last night. It was raining, and almost everybody got wet before the show. But I passed a red Cadillac parked right in front of the hotel in a handicapped parking spot. The Cadillac had no discernible handicapped sticker or placard, but it did have Senate license plates…

House license plate numbers are based on seniority. Senate license plates are based on district numbers. Wanna guess who represents Senate District 25?

He also had a “Dump Durbin 2014″ bumper sticker on the back of the car.

*** UPDATE *** From Dan Curry…

“Senator Oberweis was parking legally in that spot. He has a handicapped placard for a disintegrated disc condition in his back. He sometimes has difficulty standing or walking long distances. Because of this, he isn’t able to walk in parades. He only parks in the handicapped spots when the pain is intense.”

Again, neither I nor the three people I was talking to about this last night while we were hanging out front of the hotel saw any sort of placard.

*** UPDATE 2 *** I went back and looked at the photo more closely. Keep in mind that I looked into his car and didn’t see a placard. Others with me went over and said they didn’t see a placard.

But the Oberweis people seemed so sincere that I took another look at the photo and made it much larger. If you look at the driver’s side front dash you’ll see what could very well be one of those handicapped placards which are supposed to hang from your rearview mirror…

So, I could’ve just missed it in the rain. I dunno.

- Posted by Rich Miller   154 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** An oppo dump gone wrong

Thursday, May 15, 2014

* I don’t recall ever seeing an opposition research dump attempt backfire so badly

[Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s chief campaign consultant John Kupper] emailed Tribune reporters to suggest several potentially negative stories about [Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. The pitch came in response to a Tribune story Wednesday about Blaine Elementary Principal Troy LaRaviere criticizing Emanuel for trying to silence critics of his education policies. […]

In the email, Kupper included what he called “some story ideas that might actually matter to readers.”

He then offered a list of story ideas, many centering on Preckwinkle’s handling of county government that could present her negatively, some based on rumor.

Oops.

* Kupper eventually fell on his own sword

“This morning, of my own volition and without consulting anyone, I sent what I considered a private email to a couple of Tribune reporters complaining about a story they wrote and what I believe to be generally unfair reporting about Mayor Emanuel,” Kupper said in an emailed statement.

“I regret any discomfort that I have created for Mayor Emanuel, County Board President Preckwinkle or anyone associated with their offices,” Kupper wrote. “From now on, I’ll keep my media criticisms to myself.”

* From David Ormsby’s Facebook page

PR Rule #1 - Nothing is ever off the record.

* Professional opposition researcher Will Caskey responded

Kupper shouldn’t have done that but this is about as newsworthy as if someone tried to blow up my clients based on the times I’ve mouthed off on Rich Miller’s comments sections.

Thoughts?

*** UPDATE *** A source close to Emanuel just called to emphasize Kupper’s point that the consultant acted alone and without anybody else’s prior knowledge.

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      


Sangamon County judge blocks pension law

Thursday, May 15, 2014

* Sun-Times

A Sangamon County judge stopped Illinois’ state pension overhaul law from taking effect Wednesday, issuing a stay on the law until the court can rule on its constitutionality.

Two lawyers representing plaintiffs in the case said that Circuit Judge Jon Belz issued the order to stop the pension law that reduces retirees’ benefits and increases their contributions from taking effect this summer. […]

The House author of the changes, Rep. Elaine Nekritz, noted that none of the savings officials expect to reap from the changes are factored into the state budget for this year.

“I would have been shocked had there not been a stay,” the Northbrook Democrat said. “It should have been stayed and we should wait to see frankly what the Supreme Court tells us.”

* SJ-R

“I do think it has led to great confusion … almost across-the-board confusion,” Belz said in a Sangamon County courtroom as he issued a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction blocking implementation of the law until further action of the court or resolution of the case. “There’s just too much uncertainty.” […]

The attorney general’s office had reached a proposed agreement that was much more limited — to delay for a year implementation of the law for university and community college employees.

But Belz’s ruling went further than that proposed agreement.

Aaron Maduff, a lawyer for the State Universities Annuitants Association, said the proposed agreement had been just “half a loaf” compared to the preliminary injunction issued by Belz.

* Tribune

Judge John Belz recognized the retirees and others in the pension systems could suffer “irreparable harm” if the law is allowed to go forward while the constitutionality issues is still being fought out in the courts, according to his order. The case is expected to wind up in the Illinois Supreme Court. […]

Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat and a pension expert, said she did not think the judge’s ruling would slow down attempts by Cook County to overhaul its retirement systems. But many at the Capitol are feeling what is being called “pension fatigue” following reforms approved for state plans, which the governor signed into law, and some of the city of Chicago plans, which Quinn has not yet said whether he will sign.

* Reuters

Maura Possley, a spokeswoman for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who is defending the law, said the ruling was under review.

“The goal of the pension reform law is to stabilize the pension systems. Unfortunately, this decision will likely further burden the systems and hurt taxpayers,” Possley said.

* Full react from the governor’s budget office…

We believe this law is constitutional. This landmark law was urgently needed to resolve the state’s $100 billion pension crisis.

It was also urgently needed to ensure that teachers, university employees and state workers who have faithfully contributed to the pension system have retirement security.

We’re confident the courts will uphold this critical law that stabilizes the state’s pension funds while squarely addressing the most pressing fiscal crisis of our time by eliminating the state’s unfunded pension debt, a standard first set by Governor Quinn.

Today’s stay was not unexpected and will have no impact in this or next year’s budget.

* From We Are One Illinois…

This stays the legislation in its entirety so that the pension systems and other defendants are enjoined from implementing or administering any provisions of the act until further order of the court or the court issues a final ruling on the merits of the act’s constitutionality.

The court found that plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on their contention that Public Act 98-599 violates the Pension Protection Clause of the Illinois Constitution.

“This is an important first step in our efforts to overturn this unfair, unconstitutional law and to protect retirement security for working and retired Illinois families,” said Michael T. Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, on behalf of the coalition. “We are pleased the court prudently chose to halt implementation of these sweeping changes, which have caused so much fear and uncertainty and are likely to be overturned.”

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   83 Comments      


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*** LIVE SESSION COVERAGE ***

Thursday, May 15, 2014

* An early start today for the Illinois House as budget floor votes begin

- Posted by Rich Miller   2 Comments      


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The sorry tale of Peoria’s mayor

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

* Nate Anderson has a great story, much of it generated by FOIAs, of how the mayor of Peoria hounded a Twitter user via the state’s attorney and the local police. Go read the whole thing. Part of his conclusion…

The case serves as a reminder of the true power of the state. Thanks to the Internet, even local cops can now track down random Twitter miscreants without leaving the office—something that would have been impossible in the days of anonymous handbills plastered to brick walls around town. And those local cops can get as much information about your life as even the FBI could glean in a major felony investigation.

In this case, Peoria police had complete details of Daniel’s Twitter account usage along with cell phones and computers seized from his house. In addition, the police swore out a fourth warrant on April 17—two days after the raid—for Daniel’s Gmail account. The warrant sought not just connection details, but all content in the account, including “any image file, document files, text files, and other stored files.” Police had broad latitude to search through anything they found. Between an e-mail account, a mobile phone, and a laptop computer, police can gain an almost complete window into someone’s life. Do we want them to have this much power simply to crack down on misdemeanors?

The state doesn’t always exercise this tremendous power under rigorous oversight, either. Though the apparatus of oversight was in place, the judges who signed off on the warrants never pushed back on them, even though the warrants misstated the day on which Ardis learned about @peoriamayor and even though one of them said that the offense in question was a “violation of child pornography laws” rather than the actual claim of “false personation.”

* Meanwhile, from the the ACLU of Illinois

The ACLU of Illinois now represents Mr. Daniel, the creator of the Twitter parody. Mr. Daniel, like other parodists, has a First Amendment right to post these tweets. He was engaging in a time-honored tradition of poking fun at public officials — even when the public official doesn’t like it. Because Mr. Daniel’s activities were protected, they should never have led to a warrant and search of his home. The police activity in this case was unnecessary and contrary to both the First and Fourth Amendment protections to which he was entitled.

In the coming weeks, the ACLU of Illinois anticipates bringing legal action in support of Mr. Daniel against those officials who are responsible for the violations of his rights. We hope this action will send a strong signal to all that wrongful use of the police power to suppress protected speech, even when it is critical or makes fun of public officials is an abuse of power and is not acceptable.

- Posted by Rich Miller   49 Comments      


Needed tax break reform or barrier to growth?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

* House Speaker Michael Madigan introduced several reforms of Illinois’ EDGE credit today. It was an amendment to HB 3890, which easily passed out of committee. Here’s one of the biggest reform categories…

New Rules for “Special” EDGE Credits — The amendment addresses the special EDGE agreements, which give qualified businesses the option of utilizing their credits earned against the income taxes withheld from their employees. These special agreements have been approved by the General Assembly by law in the past. Going forward, businesses seeking this special treatment from the General Assembly will have to meet higher standards:

    - The business must agree to create new jobs — this special treatment will not be available to businesses that are only retaining employees in this state.

    - The new jobs must be created in an area of high poverty or high unemployment; “high poverty” means a census tract with over 20% of residents living below the poverty level; “high unemployment” means a census tract where the unemployment rate is more than 3 percentage points above the state average.

    - The business must agree to disclose income tax information during the term of its EDGE agreement, including gross income, the amount of income allocated to Illinois, and net income before and after credits are applied. This information will be publicly available on DCEO’s website.

* The Illinois Chamber’s top dog was furious. From the Twitters…


- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 - Hearing canceled *** Question of the day

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

*** UPDATE *** * From the Humane Society…

I just wanted to send you a heads up that the bill regarding the sale of cats and dogs in pet stores will not be heard today. The parties are working on an amendment.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* From the Humane Society…

Representatives from The Humane Society of the United States and other witnesses will testify at the Illinois Senate Executive Committee hearing in support of HB 4056.

The first of its kind, the bill would allow pet stores across the state to only acquire dogs and cats from shelters and rescues.

* From CBS 2

A new report from the Humane Society of the United States lists the 100 worst puppy mills in the country and two of them are in Illinois. […]

“We’ve documented reports of dogs so horribly matted that there was a fur coat like mat going from one end to the other in a sold mass, dogs with injuries and illnesses and injuries that hadn’t been treated by vet and dogs in small stacked cages,” said Summers. Other documented problems included overbreeding, inbreeding, minimum veterinary care and the lack of monitoring of other health issues. […]

“The only thing that’s going to stop this is to ban the sale of puppies at pet stores,” said Ida McCarthy, Chicago Coordinator of the Companion Animal Protection Society. As many as 30 cities in the U.S. have done just that including Los Angeles. San Diego is the latest considering a ban. In Canada, Toronto has enacted a similar law.

“You have to stop the demand and the puppy mills – where are they going to sell their dogs? There are always going to be puppy mills but there’s not going to be thousands of them like there are now,” she said.

* From the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council

You, and other supporters of our cause, know that closing pet stores by banning the retail sale of pets in Illinois does not effectively address the problems associated with bad, out-of-state breeders. In fact, the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association-whose members include over 1,000 veterinarians in the Chicago area-echoed this in in a statement opposing the recent Cook County ban:

    “The Chicago Veterinary Medical Association strongly believes that ongoing education of the public is a much more effective method to increase pet owner awareness and bring about the desired positive change necessary to address valid concerns regarding unethical, unscrupulous breeders who are the ultimate problem.” […]

An Illinois-wide ban means consumers will have limited choice in where they obtain a healthy, happy pet as there will be no pet stores to sell them, which will:

    Hurt animal welfare since other sources (like rogue internet operators) are not regulated at all. In fact, Illinois pet stores are the most regulated source for consumers to obtain purebred pets in the state-while other sources for purebred pets have no veterinary requirement;

    Remove some of the most stringent consumer protection laws in the United States which only apply to retail pet sales;

    Negatively impact the state’s economy by putting people out of jobs and reducing tax revenue collected by Illinois and localities; and

    Limit the availability of pets and foster an environment for unregulated black market breeding.

* The Question: Should pet stores be forbidden by the state to sell dogs and cats from breeders and mandated to only sell those animals from shelters and rescues? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


web surveys

- Posted by Rich Miller   68 Comments      


Vote “Yes” for Health Care

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Illinois depends on the hospital community, but the important and vital work of our hospitals and health systems would be threatened by devastating cuts if the General Assembly does not enact a fully funded budget that maintains current tax rates. The Illinois Hospital Association and hospital community urge our state lawmakers to vote “Yes” to enact an FY2015 state budget that maintains current tax rates and avoids harmful cuts.

Every year, our state’s more than 200 hospitals and nearly 50 health systems:

    • Welcome more than 152,000 new babies into the world.
    • Perform 1.1 million surgical procedures.
    • Admit almost 1.5 million inpatients.
    • Treat 86,327 outpatients every day.
    • Treat 5.4 million emergency department patients.

Illinois hospitals are the largest employer in many communities, and among the top three employers in 48 of the State’s 102 counties. The total economic impact of Illinois hospitals is $83.4 billion a year.

This week, during National Hospital Week, we celebrate hospitals across Illinois, along with the men and women who, day in and day out, support the health of their communities through compassionate care, constant innovation and unwavering dedication.

Illinois’ hospitals provide care to all who enter their doors, regardless of their ability to pay, thanks to the hard work, dedication and commitment of their nearly 250,000 employees. They are there to care, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Vote “Yes” to maintain current tax rates, to avoid harmful cuts and to support hospitals as they care for people in every community throughout Illinois.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Today’s quotable

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

* George Will writes about Illinois politics

[Gov. Pat Quinn] is, as Winston Churchill reportedly said of an adversary, a modest man with much to be modest about. Hence Quinn’s campaign theme: Don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative.

- Posted by Rich Miller   61 Comments      


Ride-Sharing: Why do they want to be excused from the law?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Would you choose to ride with a driver who never received a proper background check or a drug test, in a car that is not properly insured?

Would you let your son or daughter ride with a driver whose background is unknown and who could be a criminal, like in a recent investigation by NBC 5 Chicago?

Why do ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft continue to fight the same public safety protections required of any other car service? Is it because these protections cut into their financial bottom line?

Is the fact that they force their passengers to pay a so-called “safety fee” and sign a waiver agreeing to use their service “at your own risk” because they are worried who their drivers are?

There’s a reason why the media is asking “Why Is Uber Charging You Extra to Not Get Assaulted?”

Ask Uber and Lyft why they think they should be excused from the law.

Vote YES on HB 4075 and support common sense public safety protections for all.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


A vote for this budget is “a vote for the tax increase”

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

* From BlueRoomStream

[GOP state Rep. Dennis Reboletti] says Dems are putting the cart before the horse by passing a budget assuming the tax hike will stay in place.

Yep.

* AP

Democratic lawmakers are moving forward with a 2015 budget that is based upon an extension of Illinois’ temporary income tax increase. […]

The move to approve the budget one of political expediency for Democratic leaders in the statehouse, as passing a budget before endorsing a tax increase could serve to force the hand of several vulnerable lawmakers who are on the fence about voting for a permanent tax rise. […]

“I think that a vote for this budget is effectively a vote for the tax increase,” state Rep. David McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican said.

All true.

* Finke

Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, an opponent of extending the tax increase, said House leadership has been polling members to gauge support for extending the tax.

“I don’t think they have the votes,” Franks said. “I’ve been doing my own polling and talking to members. I think they’re short.”

Franks also said he doesn’t see how the budget plan “has any validity whatsoever” since it is based on a tax extension that hasn’t been approved.

Yep.

* Dave Dahl

An idea floating around the Capitol is to pass the larger budget now, then save the tax vote for after the election and let whoever is elected governor then deal with it.

State Rep. Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley), a member of the House Revenue and Finance Committee, is not on board with that. “I would hope that before we left here on May 31 and voted on the budget that we would have our revenues set for next year,” he said, adding that the uncertainty, to say nothing of the reduction of income, would damage school districts expecting state money.

Let’s hope they don’t leave town with a completely phony baloney budget.

* Illinois Public Radio

[Democratic Rep. Greg Harris] says the revenue aspect of the budget will be handled separately. Extending the tax hike has been controversial, but Harris says the focus ought to be on what he calls the “important government services” that are at risk.

He also has a point.

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


Rauner lawsuit oppo dump continues

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

* The Sun-Times reports on yet another lawsuit against Bruce Rauner’s former company GTCR

In a federal lawsuit filed against GTCR, Universal American says Rauner’s firm essentially sold it a $222.3 million lemon after APS and GTCR executives engaged in a “deliberate campaign to conceal the truth.”

But this choice little nugget was buried way down in the piece

Without admitting wrongdoing, APS [which was owned by Rauner’s company from 2007 until 2012] agreed to pay $13 million to settle allegations from the federal government and the state of Georgia in 2011.

The feds said the firm “failed to provide the required services to a large portion of the Medicaid recipients and over-billed the Georgia Department of Community Health.” This allegedly occurred from 2007 until 2010.

“APS Healthcare took Medicaid’s money for itself and left some of our most vulnerable citizens without the aid they deserved,” Sally Quillian Yates, the U.S. attorney for Georgia’s northern district, said at the time the settlement was announced.

Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch.

* And the Quinn campaign followed up early this morning with a press release containing “Additional examples of fraud”…

Lason

“If his (political) narrative is ‘I’m a hands-on manager,’ this is not a firm where you would want to say that,” said Peter J. Henning, an expert on securities fraud and white collar crime. “If he was hands-on, he certainly might have gotten his fingers dirty. Henning said Lason might be recalled as “one of the worst accounting frauds ever” had it not been upstaged by similar scandals at much bigger companies — Enron and WorldCom.” (Chicago Tribune, 1/20/14)

 In an August 1999 interview with The Wall Street Transcript, a subscription newsletter that features interviews with business leaders, Rauner hailed Lason as a “great company … doing quite well,” and went on to describe an ownership philosophy at GTCR steeped in the kind of hands-on involvement he now vows to bring to the governor’s office if elected. “We spend a lot of time living with our companies on a week-to-week basis, understanding what’s going on, and being in the flow of information, so we can be helpful and knowledgeable about the operation,” Rauner said. (Chicago Tribune, 1/20/14)


Acartha

In 2004, Mr. Rauner made a personal $4.5 million startup investment in fund manager Acartha Group LLC, a suburban St. Louis firm founded by Burton Douglas Morriss. Before Acartha, Mr. Morriss had already arranged one deal in which the duo made more than $75 million. Mr. Rauner, an avid outdoorsman, also owned a hunting camp with Mr. Morriss. But in 2012, the SEC seized control of Acartha, accusing Mr. Morriss of defrauding investors of $9.1 million. Mr. Rauner was a “passive investor” who was “misled and defrauded” by Mr. Morriss, like dozens of others, Mike Schrimpf, a spokesman for Mr. Rauner’s campaign, says in an email. “Bruce is angered and outraged by Morriss’ actions.” […](“Rauner backed firm later shut down for fraud,” Crain’s Chicago Business, 2/24/14)

To acquire his stake in Acartha, Mr. Rauner traded his interests in Hela and another Morriss venture, for which he paid $2.5 million, and paid an additional $2 million in cash. The two men along with two others also owned a hunting lodge and farm in Canada. […](“Rauner backed firm later shut down for fraud,” Crain’s Chicago Business, 2/24/14)

    In a 2005 interview with the St. Louis Business Journal, Morriss said that two of his partners in the Acartha Group included New York financier Nicolas Rohatyn and Bruce Rauner, who operates a Chicago-based private equity firm. They did not return phone calls Tuesday. Morriss served as chairman of the board…”Morriss lived a lavish lifestyle, living in a multi-million dollar home, driving luxury automobiles, leasing a private airplane and helicopter, and taking expensive vacations,” the SEC complaint states. (“SEC accuses Clayton-based financier of defrauding investors,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/18/12)

“Bust Out” Nursing Home scheme

According to a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in Florida on March 14, Rauner can’t walk away from being at the helm of an elaborate “bust out” plan to avoid culpability for purchases and practices of a string of nursing homes.

- Posted by Rich Miller   56 Comments      


More trouble for Dorothy Brown’s husband in state grant probe

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

* Sun-Times

Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown’s husband has been hit with a federal subpoena asking him to appear before a grand jury as part of an investigation into a state anti-violence program.

A source with knowledge of the investigation told the Chicago Sun-Times that the subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Springfield is directed at Benton Cook III.

It’s a sign that federal authorities, who already have requested documents from two state agencies regarding Gov. Pat Quinn’s troubled Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, are taking a closer look at Cook’s role in receiving grant money from the program. […]

Cook was paid more than $146,000 in salary and fringe benefits from Neighborhood Recovery Initiative grant funds, accounting for 7 percent of the total $2.1 state allotment to combat violence in the West Garfield Park neighborhood. Cook oversaw several subcontractors, including his own non-profit, which took in more than $3,300 in anti-violence grant money. The Sun-Times has previously reported that Cook is a felon, raising questions over how he qualified to oversee money in the program.

* Cook has hired Ed Genson as his attorney. Genson is a legendary criminal defense attorney and recently defended his client to the Sun-Times

An attorney hired by Cook County Clerk Dorothy Brown’s husband Benton Cook III, said his client has unfairly become the “fall guy” for a troubled state anti-violence program that’s been the subject of a series of investigations.

“If there were things that went wrong with regards to that program, neither he nor she had involvement,” Genson told Early & Often, speaking on behalf of Brown and her husband. “He was just a salaried worker who did his job.” […]

“He’s really the fall guy for this because of his relationship” to Brown, Genson said.

* Meanwhile, this is from the website of Cook County Clerk Dorothy Brown’s husband Benton Cook

Dr. Cook has conducted anxiety reduction and stress management groups at multiple community venues. He has taught in the Psychology and Management Departments and is an experienced meeting facilitator and focus-group leader. He has 25 years of management and administrative experience.

Dr. Cook earned his Doctor of Psychology and Masters Degree. He’s completed internships in clinical and counseling psychology. His Master’s focused on Management and Organizational Behavior. His psychology training and internship institutions are accredited by the American Psychological Association.

* So the Tribune asked the state whether Cook was licensed to practice psychology. He wasn’t and the state sent him a notice to appear before an administrative law judge on June 16. Oops

The civil complaint by state regulators cites Cook’s online description. Those claims “constitute the unlicensed practice of a clinical psychologist,” which carries a fine of up to $10,000 per violation, the complaint states. The aim is to get Cook to stop representing himself as a clinical psychologist, said Susan Hofer, spokeswoman for the regulatory department.

* More

The Chicago Area Project recently hired Rick Jasculca, a high-profile communications consultant, to answer questions about the state grant. In an email on behalf of the group’s executive director, David Whittaker, Jasculca said Cook told officials that he was married to Brown before they hired him and they “did not find that relevant.”

Jasculca wrote that Cook was hired because of his “seemingly relevant academic achievement, breadth of experience and deep involvement in the community.”

“Cook’s work and credentials were reviewed, and he was interviewed by CAP management,” Jasculca added. “In hindsight, it is clear that we should have used a more robust process to vet his credentials and background.”

* In other news

A prosecutor who helped convict Canadian media mogul Conrad Black and other high-profile figures is the new head of the criminal division at Chicago’s U.S. attorney’s office.

The office announced Julie B. Porter’s appointment Tuesday.

The announcement comes as the new U.S. attorney for northern Illinois, Zachary Fardon, makes various structural changes. He has faced pressure to find more ways his office can help stem street-level violence in Chicago.

Ed Genson defended Conrad Black, by the way. And Porter helped prosecute Bill Cellini.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Cook County pension reform bill coming soon

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

* No revenue stream is reportedly in this plan, but the Sun–Times reports that a new pension reform proposal by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle will “likely” pay for the $144 million in new state-mandated contribution costs with a property and/or sales tax increase

(T)he bill would require all employees hired before 2010 to pay 10.5 percent of their salaries into their retirement, the source said.

That’s a 2-percent hike for most county employees, who currently pay 8.5 percent of their salary into the fund. The increase for sheriff’s office employees would be smaller because they already pay 9 percent.

Future retirees would have to wait two years after retirement to get a cost-of-living increase, the source said. And those cost-of-living increases — currently locked in at 3 percent — would fluctuate between 2 and 4 percent, depending on the rate of inflation

Additionally, all retirees would also have their cost-of-living increases frozen in 2016. And cost-of-living increases would be frozen in the future if the accounts dip below 59 percent funding, according to the source.

AFSCME is opposed, but SEIU Local 73 supports the bill’s “basic components,” the paper reports.

*** UPDATE *** From Crain’s

“The funding of health insurance for retirees is a major gain, especially for those who are close to retirement and not eligible for Medicare yet,” according to a post this month on the website of Service Employees International Union Local 73, which represents Cook County workers and other government employees in the Chicago area.

According to another summary on a Teamster website, pension cost of living benefits would be suspended if the fund dips below 50 percent funding and would be increased if funding exceeds 100 percent.

But the cost of living adjustment for workers hired before Jan. 1, 2011, would remain generous by recent standards for pension deals, if the funding level remains between 50.01 percent and 99.9 percent.

According to the Teamsters website, the COLA would be at least 2 percent a year and up to 4 percent a year, depending on the consumer price index, and it would be compounded each year. If the funding ratio exceeds 100 percent, the COLA goes back to three percent, compounded annually.

“Just on the surface, it’s very generous,” said Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, a Chicago fiscal watchdog group that advocates for pension changes. “It calls into question whether they get enough savings” from the proposed reforms.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      


Credit Unions – Individual service, united in focus

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

As not-for-profit financial cooperatives, credit unions hold a strong belief in giving back to their communities at the credit union level and on a geographic basis. Twenty-four chapters unite the state’s 333 credit unions and are integral to fulfilling their mission for nearly three million consumer members. Like the boards at credit unions, chapter boards are also run by volunteers. The Illinois Quad Cities Chapter alone serves 10 credit unions and their 234,000 members in a three county area. Similarly to other credit union chapters, Illinois Quad Cities is particularly active in community charitable activities and worthwhile causes. This includes helping consumers protect their personal information by sponsoring community shred days to properly dispose of documents. The chapter also hosts “community nights” to provide local organizations a forum to request financial support. As a result, more than $15,000 has been provided to a variety of local charities. Motivated by their stories, credit unions separately hold fundraisers to support these groups, as well participate in events for others, including the local children’s hospital. Members know credit unions will be there for their daily financial needs and support their community – just some of the many virtues that define the credit union difference.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


*** LIVE SESSION COVERAGE ***

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

* The budget dance begins

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today’s edition

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

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Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today’s edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

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« NEWER POSTS PREVIOUS POSTS »
* *** UPDATED x1 - Checked wrong box *** Oberweis files FEC paperwork to run for US Senate in 2020
* Local 150 PAC promotes capital plan in two new TV ads
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Fundraiser list
* Illinois Credit Unions: People Helping People
* 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
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
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* Yesterday's stories

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